The Board of Regents approved Dakota State University's request to offer to new graduate degrees: a Doctor of Science in Cyber Security and a Master of Science in Analytics. The latter is paired with a new M.S. in Data Science at SDSU.

The positive read of these degrees is that the Regents are responding widely to market demand and offering students skills to make beaucoup bucks. The negative read is that the Regents are aligning our university system more closely with the police-corporate surveillance state, promoting the use of Big Data to expand the knowledge and control businesses and government can gain over citizens.

While the new degrees will open some doors for students, the master's in analytics will close some other doors. UNL Department of Management Chair David L. Olson, acting as an external consultant for the Regents on this degree proposal, says DSU's faculty are already busting their chops, and adding this program will require easing up elsewhere. Who takes the hit? Students aiming for academia:

The DSU faculty is heavily involved with a large doctoral program, which frankly includes a far greater student-to-faculty ratio than is normal. This program seems to be quite successful in providing doctoral graduates for business and industry. However, possibly they should consider reducing the number of doctoral students targeting the academic market. The DSU faculty involved are all competent and dedicated and merit congratulations on their accomplishments, but this program adds a minor amount of work to a very stretched faculty. If they reduced Ph.D. admissions on the academic side of their doctoral program, that should more than compensate for the additional burden that might arise from the proposed program.

...The primary weakness I perceive is that faculty may have too much assigned responsibilities at DSU. I think this would be alleviated by reducing the Ph.D. admissions to focus on students in business and industry [David L. Olson, letter to South Dakota Board of Regents, 2014.03.19, Attachment III, Board Agenda Item 26-2(a), 2014.04.02, p. 29].

DSU has signaled its preference for producing practitioners over professors with its choice to offer the D.Sc. instead of the Ph.D. Olson's recommendation further clarifies what DSU's graduate program is and what it isn't. This new master's degree is for people who want to make big money working for the corporate-informational complex. If you're interested in knowledge for knowledge's sake, and if you just want to expand and share that knowledge, you'll need to apply elsewhere, because DSU won't have time for you.

2 comments

(In today's Freudian slip, I first type White Oaf.)

White Oak Global Advisors from San Francisco announced yesterday that it finalized its acquisition of Northern Beef Packers in Aberdeen. White Oak's press release (text below, as prepared by Sioux Falls ad firm Fresh Produce) is more about saying nothing than explaining anything. The previously publicized purchase price is $44.3 million, but White Oak is really spending only $4.8 million in cash; the remainder is White Oak cashing in chips it previously put on NBP's table to keep the state-backed money-mashing machine creaking along into its bankruptcy last summer.

Remember, Northern Beef Packers made $80 million in EB-5 investment and $152 million in total investment capital disappear in its five years of construction and nine months of abortive operation. White Oak—or, more accurately, the newest shell corporation to be tangled into Northern Beef Packers, New Angus LLC, which as of this morning does not appear in South Dakota's corporate database—is acquiring this asset for a bit more than three cents on the dollar in new money.

David Montgomery reports that White Oak/New Angus may have trouble recouping even that meager investment:

Cattle industry expert Steve Kay, publisher of Cattle Buyers Weekly, was doubtful. With the U.S. cattle market declining and a half-dozen competing meat-packing plants already open in the region, Kay said there’s not room for another packer.

“It’s tough for me to see that White Oak’s new operators can possibly compete against six other packers, all competing for the same shrinking supply of cattle in the region,” Kay said. “The new owners, I don’t know how well they know how the beef industry actually works. I wish them the very best, but they will need more than luck” [David Montgomery, "Investment Firm Completes Purchase of Beef Plant," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.04.01].

Here's the White Oak press release, which is all board-room bluster and the obligatory "move forward" but mostly a pointedly explicit refusal to say anything specific:

New ownership for Northern Beef Packers presents new opportunity

Sioux Falls, SD – White Oak Global Advisors, LLC (“White Oak”) is pleased to
announce the purchase of the operating assets of Northern Beef Packers Limited Partnership (“Northern Beef Packers”). The beef packing plant and associated assets (the “Facility”) were purchased free and clear of past liabilities and obligations by New Angus, LLC, a new entity established by White Oak.

The purchase removes the Facility from the Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding of Northern Beef Packers, providing the plant an opportunity to move forward
unimpeded by its previous financial obstacles.

White Oak is currently evaluating its strategic options and remains confident in the Facility’s future as an operating plant. The Facility has the potential to be a success for both the community and its stakeholders. White Oak views the purchase as an investment in both South Dakota and its surrounding
communities.

White Oak will not be available for comment at this time, but looks forward to
providing additional information as time and circumstance allow [White Oak Global Advisors, press release, 2014.04.01].

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Oh, how many times have I been biking up Spearfish Canyon or down the Mickelson Trail and thinking, "I could really use some pizza." But wait, what's that smoking down the highway? It's Spearfish's Mark Friedel coming to refuel me with his mobile pizza oven. Mobile pizza brick oven:

Brick ovens have been used in cooking for centuries, but Friedel had his oven custom-made by an individual in Boulder, Colo. The mobile oven includes a prep table in the back, a hand washing station, an awning, and service tables up front [Kaylee Tschetter, "Mobile Pizza Oven to Cruise Spearfish," Black Hills Pioneer, 2014.03.25].

A brick oven on a trailer, cooking pizza in two to three minutes. That's Reason #547 to live in the Black Hills.

Alas, Friedel won't be frisbee-ing pizza to riders on the go. But come May, he will be setting up Black Hills Pizza once a week in the Crow Peak Brewery parking lot, once a week out somewhere on the east side of Spearfish, and then hit local events around the Hills. He also plans to hire out to weddings, reunions, and other events. I don't know how many pizzas the oven can make at once, but I'll get in line for a Noah's Ark.

Now if Friedel can add flammeküche to the menu for Alsatian ex-pats and his large local Francophone population, he'll corner the Black Hills pizza market! Whoo-hoo, pizza!

comment!

There are some Democrats out there who think Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether is just peachy. I suppose if the former bank executive were running against Dennis Daugaard or Kristi Noem or Mike Rounds, I'd have to think about voting for him.

But I might have a hard time pulling the lever for Huether, because sometimes he comes across as a hair-splitting jerk. Consider Mayor Huether's appearance at the Sioux Falls Democratic Forum on Friday, March 14. Jennifer Holsen notes that after evading a question from Bruce Danielson about the city's selective effort in educating people about ballot measures, the former bank executive rather snootily shot down a comment from a fellow Democrat about government not being a business:

Audience member: Government is not a business. It was never made to be a business, it was never made to be run by a business. Businesses can do things behind closed doors. Businesses can be [inaudible]... Businesses can fire at will without any excuse or obligation [inaudible]... Government is not a business.

Mayor Mike Huether: And guess what: I never said that it was. You weren't listening strong enough. I never said... I said... we will run government LIKE a business.... I said we should run government more and more LIKE a business. That is exactly right. I've seen the trails and tribulations fo being in government and how different it is than [sic] business. I've seen it. I understand it. I understand that you've got more checks and balances. It takes longer. But where we can run government more and more like a business and ultimately get more and more things done, I think that we should [Sioux Falls Democratic Forum, 2014.03.14].

No, Mayor Huether, the woman in the audience is listening plenty "strong", as am I, as is anyone else who hears your rhetoric and concludes that you think you should run City Hall the way you ran Premier Bank.

Read Mayor Huether's campaign website. He doesn't position himself the way he momentarily pretends in his "you're not listening" response. He doesn't emphasize that government is different from business and celebrate the checks and balances of democracy (and notice that even when he talks about the differences, he seems to address them with disdain—oh, woe, the delays and inefficiency of checks and balances!). He looks for every opportunity to emphasize the need for more business-y practices in City Hall to justify keeping his all-business brain in the Mayor's chair.

Mayor Huether won't win this argument or justify his put-down of a constituent by putting like in a bolder font. It's like when I hear some political friends tell me that Democrats need to run more like Republicans—tack center, drop the Affordable Care Act, don't speak up for abortion rights. When I respond, "But we are not Republicans!" I am not saying that my interlocutor said we are Republicans; I'm making the point that running like Republicans is fundamentally incompatible with our nature and our goals.

In saying, "Government is not a business," the woman in the audience was not attributing a quote to Mayor Huether. She was attributing a mindset, a misguided, pro-corporate mindset. In snarkily semanticizing, Mayor Huether reinforced the woman's point, that he is committed to a mindset that is anti-democratic... and anti-Democratic.

Of course, Sioux Falls voters' only other choice for mayor is a Republican businessman. Can anyone tell the difference?

20 comments

Last month, the state Ag Department, the state dairy industry, and the Valley Queen Cheese factory ganged up to block Senate Bill 126, which would have undone some of the onerous restrictions the state put on raw milk sales last year. While a whole bunch of South Dakotans asked the Legislature to give them a little more freedom to sell and buy locally produced milk, Secretary of Agriculture Lucas Lentsch called raw milk "inherently dangerous."

Guns are inherently dangerous, yet the state recruits gun manufacturers to make and sell their product in South Dakota.

Health Secretary Doneen Hollingsworth said, "Current disease data shows people who drink raw milk have gotten sick.... We should do everything we can to prevent this.”

People who text and drive have gotten hurt, yet the Legislature refuses to impose a statewide ban on that activity.

Big-wheel Republican lobbyist Matthew McCaulley, speaking on behalf of Valley Queen Cheese (one of the big businesses selected by Dennis Daugaard to join his May trade mission to China), complained that if we allow more raw milk sales, "Consumers will have difficulty distinguishing between pasteurized and unpasteurized products." Therefore, "Valley Queen Cheese Factory would be in favor of, as some states have done, a total ban on the sale of raw milk."

You have local dairy producers selling milk they bottled themselves at farmers markets and small mom-and-pop shops. You have Valley Queen Cheese dumping massive quantities of industrial dairy products at the supermarket. Are you really struggling to tell the difference? But hey: when you're a crony capitalist trying to rationalize your request for the nanny state to ban your competitors from the marketplace, you end up saying some silly things.

Meanwhile, an eager reader notes that the nanny states of Europe are making it easier to buy raw milk:

In response to the first-rate benefits of raw milk, several European nations have installed self-service vending machines that provide access to the food 24 hours a day. Brainchild of dairy farmer Michel Cantaloube, the machines have been stationed around France, the UK and Spain – supplying local, sustainable and unpasteurized milk to surrounding communities. The dairy farms involved hope to expand the venture into a similar vending machine for raw yogurt.

Other countries like Italy, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands have begun to install their own raw milk vending machines as well [Carolanne Wright, "Europe Embraces Healthy Raw Dairy by Unveiling Fresh Milk Vending Machines," Wake Up World, 2014.03.11].

Bring your own bottle! Please tell me that vending machine moos when you hit the button.

20 comments

Opponents of uranium mining in the Black Hills just lost one cause for hope. Previously Powertech appeared so impoverished that it might run out of cash before winning its permits to use and abuse Black Hills water in pursuit of the uranium under Custer and Fall River counties.

But now Powertech has struck a deal to merge with the larger Azarga Resources. That means much more cash to fight for the opportunity to pollute the Black Hills:

“The biggest change is the fact that we’ve now become very well capitalized and have the capacity to move this project forward,” Powertech’s Dewey-Burdock project manager Mark Hollenbeck said, referring to the in situ uranium mine proposed in the Southern Hills.

Azarga injected more than $5 million into Powertech’s pocket between July and October of last year, rescuing the company from financial insolvency. In exchange Azarga gained controlling stake of Powertech’s proposed Centennial ISR uranium mine in Colorado and Azarga reps found seats on Powertech’s board of directors. Concurrently, Azarga steadily increased its stake in Powertech to an eventual 45.1 percent of all issued and outstanding common shares.

“Azarga has been our largest shareholder and main financier since mid-2013,” Clement said. “The merger importantly brings cash and undrawn financing facilities with its assets that put Powertech in a much more robust position moving forward” [Adam Hurlburt, "Powertech Plans Merger with Hong Kong-based Azarga Resources," Black Hills Pioneer, 2014.02.28].

A robust Powertech troubles Black Hills water-drinker and tourism profiteer John Tsitrian:

Where Powertech had been just barely hanging on, financially, and staked everything on Dewey-Burdock, its new incarnation as Azarga Uranium probably gives it significantly more financial staying power.  On the upside, a company like Azarga, with extensive interests in mines and deposits in the United States and central Asia, may not think the trouble and expense of developing Dewey-Burdock is worth the permitting risk that apparently hamstrung Powertech for the past few years.  We'll see.  Much as I'm glad  that Powertech finally ran out of patience and resources to pursue this thing, I'd be wary of Azarga's intentions.  This is likely to go on for a while [John Tsitrian, "This Is Interesting. A Few Weeks Ago I Told Powertech Uranium To Get Lost. Well, They Did . . . Sort Of," The Constant Commoner, 2014.02.27].

Powertech just got more ammo. Friends of the Hills, keep firing back!

4 comments

Senate Bill 46, this year's animal cruelty bill, is cruising through the Legislature. Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources passed it unanimously on Tuesday; the full Senate gave SB 46 the same favor on Thursday. False fears of evil out-state animal activists waging tyranny against our ranchers have disappeared. Senator Larry Rhoden threw some baloney forward about SB 46 permitting warrantless searches and seizures by non-governmental officials, but his two ayes (one in committee, one in the Senate) for SB 46 indicate he has taken the memo that animal authorities can already act without warrants thanks to legislation Rhoden himself backed in 2006.

I don't want to alienate good neighbors for changing their minds and supporting sensible legislation. But I can't help pointing out that last year, when South Dakotans Fighting Animal Cruelty Together brought forward a more limited bill on making cruelty to dogs, cats, and horses a felony, state vet Dustin Oedekoven, SD Farm Bureau lobbyist Mike Held, SD Farmers Union lobbyist Mike Traxinger, Agriculture Secretary Walt Bones, and Gary Sanborn of the South Dakota Pet Breeders Association all testified in successful opposition to the large but lonely cadre of animal protection activist fighting for the bill. This year, Oedekoven, Held, Sanborn, the Farmers Union, and the Ag Department all testified in favor of a much tougher animal cruelty bill.

In a similar flip-flop, last year, Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources chair Shantel Krebs, Meade County rancher and Senator Larry Rhoden, and five of their colleagues voted against making cruelty to dogs, cats, and horses felony. This year, Secretary of State candidate Krebs, U.S. Senate candidate Rhoden, and their fellow 2013 naysayers all flipped and voted for a broader law than what the anti-cruelty activists wanted last year.

"Finding common ground was easier than we might have guessed," said state vet Oedekoven at the top of his testimony. That's a heartening statement. If we look past our stereotypes and assumptions and just talk to each other, we South Dakotans will find we all want a lot of the same practical policies.

We should celebrate the Senate's willingness to find common ground on this practical policy to protect our four-legged friends. We should be glad that our legislators will act to change our embarrassing position as the only state to punish animal abuse as a mere misdemeanor.

Unfortunately, we should also recognize the unpleasant subtext to the SB 46 story: regular folks have a tough time being heard in Pierre. Get some conscientious neighbors together to propose a good idea, and lobbyists and legislators will dismiss your proposal as a mere "constituent bill" (shouldn't every bill be a "constituent bill"?). They'll dismiss you as "greenies from out of state" (I predict Rep. Betty Olson will spoil unanimity in the House).

But hand the bill to state officials and big business, let them take the lead in promoting it, and suddenly, the Legislature thinks your idea is great. Our legislators are much more inclined to listen to the Daugaard administration and big industry lobbyists than to grassroots South Dakota activists.

*   *   *
The only opponent testimony came from Anita Lee of Hereford, SD, whose argument against SB 46 consisted mostly of her concern that making animal cruelty a felony would have serious consequences. A felony conviction, after all, takes away one's right to vote, hold office, and carry a gun. In my own vein of old-fashioned conservative advocacy personal responsibility, I would suggest that SB 46 is all about making people realize that evil actions should have hard consequences. If you don't want to lose various rights, maybe you shouldn't run dog fights or skin cats alive.

comment!

Tell Republicans that businesspeople have to respect civil rights, and they go all "Free market! Free speech!" But sell one Republican a fritzy laptop, and it's time for government intrusion in the marketplace.

Senate Bill 136 comes to us from an all-star cast of noisy conservatives: prime sponsor Senator Al Novstrup of Aberdeen is joined by Senators Begalka, Jensen, and Lederman and Reps. Latterell, Craig, Jenna Haggar, Olson, Stalzer, and Stevens, all Republicans. SB 136 requires that manufacturers offering warranties on electronics, appliances, and farm equipment "containing embedded software" make replacement parts and service manuals available on the market for at least seven years after the manufacture date.

SB 136 seems a remarkable prioritization of consumer desires over business owners' rights. Suppose you make computers. You've been building laptops and offering one-year warranties. You see the market changing and decide you want to drop your laptop business and focus on tablets. You faithfully service your remaining laptop customers through their warranty period, then devote your resources to tablet manufacture and service. But Senator Novstrup would force you to maintain costly inventory for another six years. You'd have to keep production equipment and expert staff handy in case you ran out of spare parts before the seven-year mark and had to make more.

Good grief! To recoup those lost profits, you might have to sacrifice your religious liberty and do business with all those gay couples that Senators Jensen and Begalka said you could discriminate against!

I can only imagine that this legislation springs from the outrage of some legislator who found he or she couldn't get a replacement part for a five-year-old computer or fridge. I don't really mind this effort to combat planned obsolescence. But when government dictates economic decisions like manufacturing and inventory, isn't that socialism?

Senate Bill 136 may be good for consumers. But it also demonstrates Republicans' very selective commitment to keeping government out of the free market.

17 comments

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