Remember how McGovern Middle School on the northwest edge of Sioux Falls had to ban kids from walking to school because of bad urban planning?

Turn with me to Lakewood, Ohio, a 52,000-strong suburb of Cleveland that embraces sensible, community-building urban planning:

As Lakewood grew, the city opted against setting up a school bus system, focusing instead on building schools to fit within the community. Most of the schools are multistory buildings on relatively small lots, making them easier to incorporate into residential neighborhoods. As the facilities aged over the years, officials chose to restore and upgrade the existing structures, rather than build sprawling new single-story campuses [Daniel Luzer, "The Town Where Everyone Still Walks to School," Governing, November 2014].

The result? Lakewood's schools offer no bus service, and nearly everyone can walk to school. Kids get more exercise hauling themselves to school, and the schools save money:

...[T]he Lakewood school district spends about $500,000 a year on transportation, about $1 million less than comparable school districts, according to schools treasurer Kent Zeman. That’s money it can use for other things, including the slightly higher costs of maintaining those smaller, neighborhood-oriented schools. As Zeman puts it, “If you’re going to spend extra money, I’d rather it be on a teacher than a bus” [Luzer, Nov. 2014].

Rural South Dakota schools can't get rid of buses completely. But when we save a little money by abandoning neighborhood schools and building big flat buildings out at the edge of town, we shift costs to kids and families who can no longer walk to school, and we impose ongoing costs on taxpayers by requiring bus service for in-town kids who used to be able to hoof it.


Stace Bare is a big man; he fits in my Bug the way Captain Kirk fit that K'normian trading ship through the passage between the approaching Klingon structures. He served in the Army in Bosnia and Iraq. He came back to America in 2007 with big problems: post-traumatic stress, adjustment disorder, depression and brain injury. After self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, Bare found salvation (yes, he uses the word saved, and later the word grace) in rock-climbing and the great big wilderness.

That's why he now directs Sierra Club Outdoors. That's why he takes fellow veterans on wilderness adventures. That's why he thinks the 1964 Wilderness Act is one of the best health care laws we have ever passed.

About a half hour after my TEDx Brookings talk, Stace Bare stood up in his hometown and delivered this oratorical masterpiece. (Again, what do you expect? He graduated from Brookings High School, and he debated for Judy Kroll.) He weaves personal pain and growth, American history, and love of nature into a compelling call to go outside:

Next time you hear someone call the Sierra Club and environmentalists in general a bunch of liberal un-American tree huggers, send them this video. Let big Stace Bare explain to them why the wilderness is essential to America's health and identity and why protecting that wilderness is a patriotic and humanitarian duty.


Hey, Pressler Democrats! Does this flyer help pull you back to Democrat Rick Weiland?
PP Weiland v Pressler 2014 front
PP Weiland v Pressler -back
Planned Parenthood MN-ND-SD's PAC has been filling South Dakota mailboxes with this mailer. Planned Parenthood has also put up to remind pro-lady Dems that Weiland supports their values better than Pressler. The pros for Weiland:

Let Women Decide, Not Politicians

We need leaders like Rick Weiland who will protect our right to make private medical decisions without government intrusion.

Protect Life-Saving Preventive Care

Rick will protect funds for lifesaving pre-cancer screenings and mammograms for millions of women and will fight against any attempt to defund Planned Parenthood.

Supports Expanded Paid Family Medical Leave

Rick will fight to expand paid medical leave to workers in companies with fewer than 50 employees [links mine; Planned Parenthood MN-ND-SD PAC,, downloaded 2014.11.03].

And the Pressler cons:

Voted 100% against the Pro-Choice Position

Former Republican Senator Larry Pressler voted against the pro-choice position 100% of the time.

Opposed the Family Medical Leave Act

Former Republican Senator Larry Pressler voted against the Family Medical Leave Act passed in 1993.

Opposed Life-Saving Preventive Care for Women

Former Republican Senator Larry Pressler said he probably would’ve voted against the legislation which has expanded life-saving preventive care to millions of women without a copay [links mine;].

One pale yellow flag: on preventive care, we're talking about the Affordable Care Act. (Preventive care with no copays—yeah, remember that benefit that Mike Rounds and Kristi Noem would repeal?) Yes, Pressler did say that, had he been in the Senate in 2010, he'd have voted against the ACA. But he has also said that the ACA is the law of the land, that repeal is unrealistic, and that we should work to make the ACA better. That puts Pressler somewhere in the neighborhood of where Stephanie Herseth Sandlin stood in 2010. Of course, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin didn't have to run against a Weiland....

So Dems, if you're still thinking of making Mike Rounds Senator by voting for Larry Pressler, does the pro-choice issue swing you back to Rick Weiland?


Anti-abortion crusaders are more concerned about political grandstanding than women's health outcomes. The Center for Reproductive Rights finds that states where such anti-abortion sentiments prevail in policymaking tend to have worse health outcomes for women and children.

Now the study doesn't say that abortion restrictions make women sick (although they should). The study simply affirms that policymakers like Mike Rounds, Dennis Daugaard, and Larry Pressler who are willing to ignore scientific evidence that abortion bans don't reduce abortions will probably do a worse job of making evidence-based, effective public health policy.

State abortion restrictions and health outcomes for women and children, Bridgit Burns, Amanda Dennis, and Ella Douglas-Durham, "Evaluating priorities: Measuring women’s and children’s health and well-being against abortion restrictions in the states," Ibis Reproductive Health and Center for Reproductive Rights, September 2014.

Bridgit Burns, Amanda Dennis, and Ella Douglas-Durham, "Evaluating priorities: Measuring women’s and children’s health and well-being against abortion restrictions in the states," Ibis Reproductive Health and Center for Reproductive Rights, September 2014, p. 11.

In kinda-sorta good news, South Dakota is not the most oppressive place for women. Like Texas, we only have twelve of the fourteen restrictions on abortion considered by the researchers. Kansas, Mississippi, and Oklahoma have all fourteen; eight states have thirteen such restrictions.


Where do you find the most careful people in South Dakota? Faulkton, Cresbard, and Orient:

Death Rate Due to Accidents by SD County 2008-2012

Source: South Dakota Department of Health (click to embiggen!)

According to state Department of Health data, from 2008 to 2012, Faulk County had the lowest rate of accidental deaths in South Dakota, just an age-adjusted 9.3 deaths per 100,000 population. (Given that Faulk County has a population of 2,377, you might not find anyone this year falling off a ladder in Faulkton.)

Faulk folk are anomalously cautious: the next lowest accidental death rate, in Walworth County, is 21.8 per 100K, followed by Lake at 23.1 (funny that no one's falling off the High Rise) and Douglas at 25.1.

Notice that South Dakota's accidental death rate is about 14% higher than the national rate. Motor vehicle accidents make up a third of our accidental deaths; falls account for another third.

The land of living dangerously is Jackson County, with an accidental death rate of 159.9 per 100K. Folks in Wanblee and Kadoka are are 17 times more likely to get killed in an accident that their Faulkton friends. You should probably wear a helmet in McLaughlin and Presho, too; Corson County posts the second-highest accidental death rate, 158.3 per 100K, followed by Lyman County at 155.0.



Bob Mercer and Leo Kallis gang up on the state of South Dakota for demographic density. Mercer reviews South Dakota birth stats for 2012 and notices that American Indians are having babies at more than twice the rate of us American Europeans. He also notes with interest that white births outpaced white deaths by 38%, while Indian births outpaced Indian deaths by 231%. Mercer says these numbers point to an important longer-term demographic trend that South Dakota is ignoring:

These aren’t short-term trends. These trends aren’t being addressed to any deep degree within state government, tribal governments or county governments in South Dakota. While there is some ado of late about 21 immigrant children being placed secretly in South Dakota by the federal government, there is very little focus on the changing population dynamics of South Dakota as a whole and there is very little looking ahead at what the changes mean for education, workforce and public services [Bob Mercer, "Births and Deaths in South Dakota," Pure Pierre Politics, 2014.07.26].

Kallis looks at the state's freak-out over a half-busload of well-immunized immigrant children and inaction over larger demographic trends and says, what did you expect?

One would need to work hard to develop a better description of the practices of South Dakota's Republican-dominated political leadership over the past decade. Make an "ado" about a minor event; use the minor event to excoriate political opponents, but refuse to properly prepare for the future by creating policies necessary for successful governance [Leo Kallis, "Quotation of the Day: South Dakota Government in a Nutshell Edition," The Displaced Plainsman, 2014.07.27].

Maybe the state is just counting on Indians to die sooner. The median age at death for white folks in 2012 was 82; for Indians, 58. White South Dakotans lost 5,510 years of potential life before age 75; Indians lost 19,587 years to premature death. Part of that disparate loss comes from the fact that accidents cause 5.0% of deaths among whites and 13.5% of deaths among Indians.

Here are a few other highlights from the DOH stats on birth in South Dakota:

  • 38.6% of the women having babies in 2012 were not married. Nationally, that percentage was 40.7%. Among whites, out-of-wedlock births were 27.8% of the total. Among Indians, that rate was 84.2%.
  • 117 white girls aged 15 to 17 and 105 Indian teenage girls had babies in 2012. For whites, that's 9.2 births per 1,000 teen girls; for Indians, 48.6 per 1,000. That Indian teen birth rate was the lowest in the past decade. Nationally, the teen birth rate (ages 15 to 17) was 14.1 per 1,000.
  • 104 infants died in South Dakota in 2012. Governor Dennis Daugaard formed a task force on infant mortality when he took office in 2011; in 2012, infant mortality increased to a decade-high rate of 8.6 per 1,000 live births. The infant mortality rate increased among whites, Indians, and multiracial infants. 6.37 out of 1,000 white babies died; among Indians, that rate was 13.43 per 1,000.
  • From 2008 to 2012, the infant mortality rate among non-smoking moms was 6.44 per 1,000. Among moms using tobacco—11.4 per 1,000.

We all fled here from somewhere.

According to the Office of Refugee Resettlement, the federal government placed 30,340 immigrant children who entered the United States without adult companions with sponsors around the country between January 1 and July 7 of this year. 21 of those children were placed with parents, relatives, or other legitimate sponsors in South Dakota. Governor Dennis Daugaard expresses concern—not for the children, but for the natives' health and welfare:

“It is disappointing that, despite assurances from federal officials, these children have been placed in South Dakota without notification to the state,” said the Governor. “Although federal officials indicate that these 21 children have been screened and vaccinated, we will be asking for more information so that the state can be sure that these children pose no risk to South Dakotans” [South Dakota state government, press release, 2014.07.25].

Governor Daugaard has touted South Dakota's relatively high vaccination rate, but between 1% and 2% of our kindergartners are still running exempt from shots. Governor Daugaard has raised no alarm about the ability of a parent to skip vaccinating her kids by signing a piece of paper saying Jesus told her not to get those shots (see SDCL 13-28-7.1). Let's see... 13,280 kindergartners, multiply by 1%... that's 133 kids running around without shots. And that's just one grade. If we're running a 1% vaccine-skipping rate through all of our 144,000-strong K-12 population, we can estimate about 1,440 South Dakota kids posing a risk to South Dakota's herd immunity.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement gives children shots and medical screenings, and it does not release children with contagious conditions. These new children boost South Dakota's herd immunity. They're probably so relieved to be safe with family and friends in a quiet, safe state like ours that they aren't thinking of posing a risk to anyone. South Dakota should be proud to provide these children safe haven and invite more of them and their families to make our great state their home.


Posting selfies is not necessarily narcissism. For New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, it's just a fun project to collect photos of himself with every one of his colleagues... and perhaps a way to build cross-partisan comity, just like other social media efforts to bring people of differing views together.

Chek out the love Democrat Booker shares for Republican colleague John Thune with a photo of the two ideological opposites sharing a bench on what looks like the Capitol Subway:

Senator Thune has become a valued colleague and friend who challenges me on issues in constructive ways. He is also hands down in the best shape of all the Senators. 8 years my senior, his work ethic in the Senate gym shames and inspires me to get in better shape. #DudeAreYouSeriouslyLiftingThatMuchWeight [Senator Cory Booker, Instagram post, 2014.07.08]

Talk about shape: Senator Thune, now age 53, has been known to beat a seven-minute-mile pace in long-distance races.


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