A friend of the blog calls to express her annoyance and puzzlement at being pestered by the Republican National Committee at home today. My correspondent reports receiving a 35-second robocall this morning from some outfit with the words American, research, and survey in its name, although the robocall appeared to be doing neither of the latter. The call  instead maligned President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and urged my correspondent to weaken those two leaders by not sending Rick Weiland to the Senate. The call did not mention Mike Rounds's name. It concluded by saying it was paid for by the RNC.

My correspondent expressed puzzlement for three reasons:

  1. It's July. One might expect calls like this to roll out right before people go to the polls.
  2. My correspondent is a known Democrat. My correspondent reports that one other strong Democrat in her black book received the same RNC robocall. What political consultant thinks throwing Obama and Reid and Democrats is the most effective way to get them not to vote for Democrats? Is the RNC worried that Elizabeth Warren is going to inspire South Dakota Democrats to stop apologizing and work even harder for her friend Rick Weiland?
  3. It's South Dakota. Nobody in the national media has declared South Dakota's Senate race competitive. What evidence would the RNC be looking at to motivate them to spend money on the South Dakota Senate race?

I invite your interpretations of this minor RNC engagement in the Rounds–Weiland race. And if you get such a call, I welcome your transcript thereof!

16 comments

The United States kicked 17 women and 21 children out of the country on Monday. It flew these illegal Central American immigrants to San Pedro Sula, Honduras. In the first five months of this year, over 2,000 unaccompanied child immigrants fled San Pedro Sula for the United States, trying to flee the city's gang violence and the highest murder rate in the world.

On sending these women and children back to mortal danger, the Obama White House yesterday issued this discouraging statement:

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the return of the Hondurans should be a clear signal to those thinking about crossing the border illegally that "they're entitled to due process but they will not be welcome to this country with open arms" [Steve Holland and Gabriel Stargardter, "U.S. Says Deportation of Honduran Children a Warning to Illegal Migrants," Reuters, 2014.07.15].

Not welcoming women and children fleeing danger is one of the most un-American and un-Christian (and probably un-Jewish, un-Muslim... heck, how about simply inhumane?) policy positions we can formulate.

President Obama evidently needs another meeting with Pope Francis, who issued a letter from a church conference in Mexico City calling on the U.S. to welcome and protect the thousands of children fleeing the violence in Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala:

In a Monday letter, Pope Francis urged "intervention" from the U.S. government to make sure "these children are welcomed and protected." He also called for sympathy, citing the children's desire to get to the United States "in pursuit of a hope that in most cases turns out to be vain." Francis also recalled the children's struggles as "they are forced to leave their families and unfortunately still subjected to racist and xenophobic attitudes."

...The pontiff also reiterated his sentiments from an August statement on the plight of immigrants and the role of immigration in the world, suggesting the need for a "change of attitude towards migrants and refugees by all." He also said more understanding toward immigrants is the "only way to build a more just world" [Ross Gianfortune, "Pope Urges Protection for Unaccompanied Minors Flooding the Border," Government Executive, 2014.07.15].

Los Angeles is listening to the Pope:

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said Tuesday that the city would help shelter immigrant children who have been detained after crossing the border and has begun talks with a federal agency about doing so.

"Before you get partisan, before you tell me where you are on immigration--these are children," Garcetti said Tuesday at a forum hosted downtown by Politico magazine.

"As a father, who are we as Americans if we don't step forward first and say, these kids who are isolated, alone ... let's get them someplace safe and secure," the mayor told the crowd ["L.A. Welcomes Children Crossing the Border," McClatchy via Governing, 2014.07.16].

I understand that we should follow the law. But if the child next door is being beaten by her stepdad and runs to your yard to hide, do you call the cops to arrest her for trespassing?

I understand that if you're in a lifeboat, you can only fit so many people. There comes a point where picking up one more drowning child would capsize the boat and sink everybody.

But America is a big lifeboat. The wide open spaces from North Sioux City to Peever tell me we're not out of seats. The money we spend on drones and bombers at Ellsworth and the Sanford Sportsplex tell me we're not out of rations. The United States has never declared itself full. We've never seen fit to declare a one-child policy to limit population growth. Certainly there must be some ceiling to food production, water supply, and living space, but until we hit that ceiling, it seems immoral to turn away from our borders any person, child or adult, seeking safety.

Senator John McCain and Rep. Jeff Flake from Arizona want to speed deportation of the 55,000 unaccompanied minors who've immigrated illegally to the U.S. this year but also allot 5,000 more refugee visas each to Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

How about we go one better... or 40,000 better? Let's revamp the EB-5 visa program. While we send frightened children who've hiked alone across Mexico back to violent Central American cities, we currently let rich foreigners buy their green cards by investing a half million to one million dollars in economic development projects, like a lot of those dairies that sprung up in the I-29 corridor over the last decade. Let's shift that EB-5 money to humanitarian assistance. Let rich foreigners keep jumping the queue with their money, but use their money to make the rest of the queue move faster. Use those millions in EB-5 money to place more visa application stations along the Mexican border, along with dedicated child advocates to handle these young, frightened refugees. use EB-5 money to provide those children and their caretakers with food and housing allowances. Let's require that EB-5 dollars go not to crony capitalist projects but to aid refugee assistance groups like the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (which agrees with the Pope that deportation of children fleeing violence is wrong).

And let's remove the cap on refugee visas and help all the kids we can.

That's what a humane country does. That's what a pro-life country does. That's what a rich country does. That's what America should do.

49 comments

In our discussion of the various Obama outhouses, one of my commenters suggested that the next time Governor Dennis Daugaard and impeach-happy South Dakota Republicans came asking for disaster assistance, the President should respond, "'And how many outhouses would you like?' He might even send them pre-loaded for our convenience."

I don't think the President would poop on all of South Dakota for a cheap, half-hearted partisan insult. But he's not sending Governor Daugaard any disaster money this week:

...the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has rejected the state’s request for Individual Assistance programs to help residents impacted by tornadoes and flooding.

The denial of Individual Assistance came in a letter from FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, who said damage to homes and businesses fell short of the severity and magnitude to warrant federal assistance.

...Governor Dennis Daugaard called the denial disappointing but said South Dakotans will continue to work together to help individuals and communities recover over the coming weeks and months. He said the state is examining all its options, including a possible appeal of the federal decision [South Dakota state government, press release, 2014.07.10].

Republican Senator John Thune is also disappointed and is encouraging South Dakotans suffering from the storms to seek other federal handouts.

Note that the three counties most affected by last months tempests—Jerauld, Lincoln, and Union—all voted against the SDGOP's presidential impeachment resolution. So denying these FEMA handouts can't be direct political retaliation.

Impeachment talk is supposed to be a way for Republicans to make money. The ironic possibility that such talk is losing South Dakota money is unlikely.

But hey, if the Governor feels that the storms were bad enough that local folks can't bear the cost of cleaning up the damage themselves, and if the federal government just won't come through, why doesn't the Governor Daugaard just bite the bullet, do the right thing, and help those storm victims with some state funds?

28 comments

Golly, that July 4 parade float of President Barack Obama's someday library as an outhouse sure got some attention. Dan Peters and Todd Epp discussed it on KSOO this afternoon. The Nebraska Democratic Party says the float was among the "worst shows of racism and disrespect for the office of the presidency that Nebraska has ever seen."

The veteran who made the float, Dale Remmich, tells the local paper he's not racist:

The rural Norfolkan who created the float in Friday’s Fourth of July parade — which has generated considerable discussion ever since — said the point of the parade entry was to express displeasure with President Barack Obama’s oversight of the Veterans Administration and the treatment of individual veterans.

“I am not a hate-monger. I am not a racist. This float was not disrespectful of the office of the presidency. I am sorry if there was misunderstanding about that,” said Dale Remmich, a longtime Northeast Nebraska and military veteran [Kent Warneke, "Parade Float Generates Discussion," Norfolk Daily News, 2014.07.07].

Remmich says the figure on the float wasn't even the President; it was a zombiefied self-caricature expressing his own disgust with the President's VA policy:

“I’ve got my bibs on, my walker, I’m covering my ears and I’m turning a bit green — I intended it to look like a zombie who has had enough,” Remmich said Monday morning in an interview with the Daily News.

“The float was political satire and an expression of political disgust — no more, no less,” Remmich said. “There was no racism involved, no hate for anyone” [Warneke, 2014.07.07].

If you really want to see President Obama in an outhouse, you have to go down to Bridgewater, where friend of the blog Owen Reitzel finds this seasonal installation of political satire:

Display showing President Obama in an outhouse, Bridgewater, South Dakota. Photo by Owen Reitzel, 2014.07.06.

Display showing President Obama in an outhouse, Bridgewater, South Dakota. Photo by Owen Reitzel, 2014.07.06.

Display showing President Obama in an outhouse, Bridgewater, South Dakota. Photo by Owen Reitzel, 2014.07.06.

Display showing President Obama in an outhouse, Bridgewater, South Dakota. Photo by Owen Reitzel, 2014.07.06.

Reitzel didn't catch whether the Bridgewater biffy bore any "Presidential Library" signage.

The Norfolk float was crude satire and political expression. The Bridgewater display could be seen as mere humor—President in an outhouse! Don't see that every day, ha ha! Neither rises to the level of the overt and vicious racism of the Romney backers at the Circle H Motal in Lake Andes in 2012 or the vileness of the presidential outhouse Mr. Kurtz discussed that same election year in Montana.

I'm a bit uncomfortable with political partisanship on our high holiest day of democracy. Taking partisan jabs at a Fourth of July parade feels as unseemly to me as campaigning at church. In honor of our Founders (or perhaps in an effort to be better than they were?), I'm willing to refrain from throwing blog bombs at Fourth of July parades and picnics (although if my crazy cousin Aaron brings up Ron Paul while passing the potato salad, I'll say game on!).

Still,the July 4 Declaration the struggle to which it committed us made the First Amendment possible. Plenty of patriotic pols home in on the Fourth of July crowds to hand out candy and pamphlets. If the firecracker you choose to light on July 4 is filled with heartfelt political content rather than Chinese gunpowder... well, I may not oooh! and aaah!, but I will nod respectfully at your exercise of the greatest amendment.

As for my Bridgewater neighbors, I can imagine they could be just as nice as the folks down the road (and there must be some) who promote violent misogyny with their wooden cutouts of Grampaw smacking Grammaw's bottom. The Bridgewater folks could rotate their display and give us twelve months of famous people on the looimagine the laughs they could get if they folded Cardboard Mike onto the throne! But hey, you should only put so much effort into toilet humor.

I see no need for to throw the racism flag, but I'm open to a discussion of the civility of these displays, especially of the Norfolk float. The First Amendment says we can make partisan political statements at civic events on the Fourth of July; does that mean we should make such statements, or should we all hold our fire on the Fourth, have a hot dog, and save the partisan debates for after we all shower off the smoke and mosquito spray?

77 comments

What do you get when you combine the Hobby Lobby ruling, executive orders, and Indians? A formula for one of South Dakota Republicans' worst nightmares: the Alito-Roberts Court opening the door for Barack Obama to give the Black Hills back to the Great Sioux Nation.

Ruth Hopkins lays the groundwork:

To say that the Black Hills (Kȟe Sapa) hold special significance for the Oceti Sakowin (The Great Sioux Nation) is an understatement. They’re not only our traditional homelands, where our ancestors once lived, they’re sacred. The Black Hills are the birthplace of our Nation, where we rose from Mother Earth’s womb. Our legends took place there. The Black Hills itself is a terrestrial mirror of the heavens above and thus forms the basis of our ancient star maps and Lakota astronomy. The entirety of Kȟe Sapa is a sacred site. Our rituals observe the natural cycles of the planet and our Universe. There are ceremonies that we must conduct at specific locations within the Black Hills. These ancient ceremonies benefit the whole of humanity. No, we aren’t talking about dirt protected by ‘No Trespassing’ signs. Kȟe Sapa is holy ground. It is where we are meant to pray [emphasis mine; Ruth Hopkins, "Reclaiming the Sacred Black Hills," Indian Country Today, 2014.06.28].

A core doctrine of Justice Alito's majority opinion was that we (the Court, the State, the people making laws) do not inquire into religious claims. We don't throw out a lawsuit from Hobby Lobby or the Lakota people just because we think the religious beliefs on which it is based are poppycock. If we adopt the thinking that Alito adopted to accept without scientific inquiry Hobby Lobby's religious (and counterfactual) claims that certain birth control methods cause abortion, then we must accept without judgment Hopkins's assertion that her people must perform their prayers at Bear Butte, Pe 'Sla, and other holy sites and that said prayers benefit all of humanity (awfully generous of you folks, Ruth!).

If the government must exempt Hobby Lobby from a federal law to ease its owners' religious queasiness about remote moral culpability for female employees' medical choices, then surely the government must act to protect the ability of the Oceti Sakowin to carry out one of their fundamental religious mandates to serve humanity with prayers in the Black Hills. And how better to protect that religious exercise than to hand the Black Hills back to its rightful pious owners, if not by legislation, then by a stroke of the Presidential pen?

Working with both Tribal and Treaty councils, the group is hopeful that they can develop a realistic plan to present to President Obama, and perhaps, the U.S. Congress. New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley introduced a bill in 1985 that would have transferred 1.3 million acres of forest in the Black Hills back to the Great Sioux Nation. Unfortunately the bill was unsuccessful. Even if Congress is unwilling to pass legislation to return the Black Hills to the Oceti Sakowin, it is within the President’s power to perform the task by Executive Order [Hopkins, 2014.06.28].

I'm still looking for the statute or precedent that makes clear the President's authority to transfer federal land like the Black Hills National Forest to any other entity, sovereign or private. But what better land to surrender than land that serves a crucial religious purpose and that nearly everyone, including the courts, recognizes was taken illegally in the first place?

Hopkins says Oceti Sakowin leaders will meet with President Obama to discuss the Black Hills in 2015. Just imagine President Barack Obama signing that order, shaking hands with Ruth Hopkins and her friends, and saying, "Threaten to impeach me? This is what happens."

Handing the Black Hills back to the Oceti Sakowin would be payback in many ways. It would also be one logical extension of the Supreme Court's view of religion expressed in the Hobby Lobby case.

52 comments

My Republican neighbors like to complain about "activist judges" and President Obama's executive orders.

But when it comes to gay rights, these conservative complainers should take a chill pill. By overturning gay-marriage bans and extending benefits to same-sex couples, judges and the President are saving Republicans' necks:

One Democrat makes a smart point to me this morning: In many ways, executive actions and the courts are saving Republicans from themselves on gay rights. A lot of the work is getting done without them having to lift a finger. They are increasingly going mute on the issue in the face of announcements such as the one promising executive action to end gay workplace discrimination [Greg Sargent, "Another Test for Republicans on Gay Rights," Washington Post: Plum Line, 2014.06.20].

Republicans deserve no plaudits for standing on the sidelines instead of actively obstructing civil rights, maybe just fewer rotten tomatoes. More praise goes to brave politicians like Independent Larry Pressler, who in the midst of running for Senate in blood-red South Dakota, filed an amicus curiae brief this week in Rosenbrahn v. Daugaard, the lawsuit seeking to overturn South Dakota's same-sex marriage ban:

Pressler Amicus Curiae Rosenbrahn v Daugaard 20140618 p1 Pressler Amicus Curiae Rosenbrahn v Daugaard 20140618 p2

Pressler expressed similar moral and practical sentiments prior to his candidacy. In April 2013, Pressler argued publicly that forbidding gay marriage could cause South Dakota to lose Ellsworth Air Force Base and other economic development opportunities. He consistently defended that position after he declared his Senate candidacy when he opposed the vile gay-discrimination SB 128 floated in the South Dakota Legislature in February 2014. And as we see above, Pressler says that civil marriage is a "fundamental right" and that conservatives ought to be all about protecting civil rights and the equal opportunity they provide for every citizen.

Democrat Rick Weiland has also vocally and fearlessly supported marriage equality throughout his campaign. Weiland and Pressler deserve credit for their active support of civil rights. Their Republican opponents deserve derision for at best ignoring civil rights while the judges and President they deem evil do the work of equality for them.

11 comments

Lunchtime Solutions Inc., the North Sioux City company that profits from the privatization of 42 school lunch programs, is catching heck from its Dell Rapids customers. The Dell Rapids school board renewed LSI's contract this month, but not without expressing grave concern that 80% of sophomores say that hot meals aren't served hot. Superintendent Summer Schultz says she's seen LSI wreck pizza:

“Last year … I talked with (LSI management) about the pizza that was so severely undercooked and poor tasting that the kids (wouldn’t eat it). If kids don’t eat pizza, what are they going to eat?” she said. “I was told that you get many complaints about the pizza, and a year later, we’re still talking about the pizza issue that doesn’t get addressed” [Joe Sneve, "School Lunch Provider Defends Service," Dell Rapids Tribune, 2014.05.21].

Sneve reports that LSI is "strategizing to make improvements." Um... Strategy #1: put the pizza in sooner and turn up the oven.

But that would be too simple for LSI regional manager Tam Edgar. She prefers to blame President Obama:

Inconsistent food temperatures, she said, might be caused by changes in nutrition standards implemented by the Obama administration two years ago, she said.

“It takes more time for the student to go through the line than it used to,” Edgar said. “Each student has to stop at the fruit and veggie bar. They have to make sure they have at least a half a cup or the point of sale person is required to send them back and get more” [Sneve, 2014.05.21].

Wow—is Edgar a Republican running for Senate?

Undercooked pizza is not caused by President Obama or by kids dinking around in line. Undercooked pizza is caused by undercooking.

53 comments

President Barack Obama addressed the White House Correspondents Dinner last night. As usual, the President leveraged his executive gravitas into sharp comedic delivery:

Among the most brilliant lines composed by the Oval Office writers comes around 9:30, when President Obama delivers a double-barreled blast that brilliantly combines easy physical insult with acute political and social commentary in six words:

...I'm feeling sorry, believe it or not, for the Speaker of the House as well. These days the House Republicans actually give John Boehner a harder time than they give me, which means orange really is the new black [President Barack Obama, White House Correspondents Association Dinner, Washington, D.C., 2014.05.03].

Good show, Mr. President.

12 comments

Poll: SDLP A.G. Nomination

Lib AG: H H or 0
If no one else runs, whom should the SD Libertarian Party nominate for attorney general?

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