“[W]e might hope to see the finances of the Union as clear and intelligible as a merchant’s books, so that every member of Congress, and every man of any mind in the Union, should be able to comprehend them, to investigate abuses, and consequently to control them” [Thomas Jefferson to Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin, 1802.04.01].

We're not that great at running elections (how'd your great-idea voting centers do on poll wait times in Sioux Falls yesterday, Secretary Gant?), but South Dakota gets good marks for online budget transparency. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group has scored states on offering online access to government spending data. South Dakota gets a B+, tying with North Carolina in the "Advancing" category, and just missing joining eight "Leading" states. Our only neighbor in the Leading category is Iowa, scoring 90 compared to our 89.5 (so close!). Minnesota and North Dakota both get D's.

South Dakota was among the top ten improvers, boosting its public finance website score from 70 to 89.5 in just one year. The big improvement was adding searchable datat on "Tax Expenditures," the tax revenue that South Dakota could collect under uniform application of existing laws but which it gives up in the form of sales tax exemptions, preferential rates, and other special favors. (The total listed this morning for all tax expenditures: $632,450,622.00. That's enough money to raise our teachers' pay to the highest in the nation and still have $304 million left. Or we could pay the $510 million it would cost to send all 36,000+ plus students in our Regental universities for free.)

Of course, since our EB-5 program went private, I can't find the checks Joop Bollen, Richard Benda, and friends were able to cash under his contract with the state. Open.SD.Gov allows us to follow the money... just not all of it.

 

We also get special mention for auditing our state checkbook each year. The online checkbook is fun: it allows to discover fun information like the fact that so far in the current fiscal year, the state of South Dakota has paid Lawrence & Schiller, the ad firm founded by state GOP chair Craig Lawrence, $3,039,006.20. It also lets us itemize state payouts to Northern Beef Packers over its unproductive five years for a total of $2,327,815.47. What fun!

 

4 comments

...says unquestionable authority Google Maps.

There's an odd kerfuffle going on with the fake Senate campaign of Annette Bosworth. Team Bosworth and her mouthpieces claim that I have somehow tied the names of various political figures and her own son to my Lake Herman address. A Saturday press release paid for by the Bosworth Senate campaign alleges that I have thus stolen a minor child's identity and committed mail fraud.

These allegations are false and defamatory. I have e-mailed the Bosworth campaign and requested  a formal retraction and an apology from Bosworth personally. Bosworth has not responded.

But if we're going to play this game (yes, we're giving in, walking into the trap Chad and Annette like to set, talking about anything other than the fake campaign, the petition fraud, the direct-mail scam, the raffle scam, the unpaid employees, the violation of non-profit and campaign finance laws), then let's play.

Go to Sioux Falls on Google Maps. Punch in "Annette Bosworth." What comes up this morning?

Annette Bosworth on Google maps, screen cap, 2014.04.07

Annette Bosworth on Google maps, screen cap, 2014.04.07

"Annette Bosworth... Permanently closed."

Boy, if only that were true. But you just can't believe everything you read on the Web, can you?

20 comments

An eager reader notes an odd Google quirk. Search "Celebrate Church," he suggests. I do, and here's what I get:

Google search results for "Celebrate Church" 2014.02.22

(Google screen cap, 2014.02.22; click to enlarge)

Celebrate Church in Sioux Falls tops the search results. To the right, we get the church's Google+ information: map, address, phone number, and a picture a nice couple, probably the lead pastor and her husband...

...wait a minute. That's not Pastor Loy. That's featured church singer Annette Bosworth and her committed if marginally employed husband Chad Haber. How nice! The church demonstrates its inviting, community-oriented, non-hierarchical structure by featuring photos of parishioners in its social media channels. Who else from the congregation do we find among their Google+ photos?

Celebrate Church Google+ photos, screen cap, 2014.02.22

Celebrate Church Google+ photos, screen cap, 2014.02.22 (click to enlarge)

Huh. Whoever was in charge of creating this strand of Celebrate Church's Web presence must have gotten tired or distracted or something, because who would ever create a church web page and post just one photo of one couple from the church, as if that one couple is somehow the face of the entire church?

This bit of unfinished Web business will surely make the humble Chad and Annette blush. Not wanting to create the false impression that they are the brand for Celebrate, I suspect the couple will chat with their church's social media guru tomorrow and remind her or him to finish up that project and populate that Google+ page with photos of all the Celebrate parishioners they can find. Quite the photo hound himself, Chad will probably volunteer to upload a bunch of pix of his fellow congregants straight from his iPhone.

Update 2014.02.24 12:01 CST: Within 36 hours of my posting on this topic, whoever controls Celebrate's Google+ account added another logo image to the church's photo page, thus supplanting the Haber-Bosworth photo as the lead image on Google search results. However, the Haber-Bosworth photo remains the only personal image on the Celebrate Google+ page.

18 comments

A Bosworthy exercise in logical syllogism:

  1. Fake Senate candidate Annette Bosworth paid Facebook 19 disbursements totaling $1,635.40 in 2013 Q4.
  2. Facebook is run by Mark Zuckerberg.
  3. Zuckerberg donated 18 million shares of Facebook stock in 2013 to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. That stock is worth $992 million.
  4. SVCF gives money to Planned Parenthood.
  5. SVCF has Planned Parenthood members among its directors and index advisors.
  6. Planned Parenthood, according to Bosworth supporters, murders babies and manipulates women.
  7. Ergo, Annette Bosworth murders babies and manipulates women.

But seriously, candidates vying for the title of true conservative alternative to Marion Michael Rounds must now boycott Faceboo, right?

8 comments

How nice! Pope Francis wrote a new Madville Times mission statement:

....[M]edia can help us to feel closer to one another, creating a sense of the unity of the human family which can in turn inspire solidarity and serious efforts to ensure a more dignified life for all.  Good communication helps us to grow closer, to know one another better, and ultimately, to grow in unity.  The walls which divide us can be broken down only if we are prepared to listen and learn from one another.  We need to resolve our differences through forms of dialogue which help us grow in understanding and mutual respect.  A culture of encounter demands that we be ready not only to give, but also to receive.  Media can help us greatly in this, especially nowadays, when the networks of human communication have made unprecedented advances.  The internet, in particular, offers immense possibilities for encounter and solidarity.  This is something truly good, a gift from God [Pope Francis, "Communication at the Service of an Authentic Culture of Encounter," Pope's Message for the 48th World Communications Day, 2014.01.24].

So if my blog is part of a gift from God, I can declare 501(c)3 status, right?

The Pope says some more useful words about communication (translate: the act of building common understanding), neighbors, and networks:

Whenever communication is primarily aimed at promoting consumption or manipulating others, we are dealing with a form of violent aggression like that suffered by the man in the parable, who was beaten by robbers and left abandoned on the road.  The Levite and the priest do not regard him as a neighbour, but as a stranger to be kept at a distance.  In those days, it was rules of ritual purity which conditioned their response.  Nowadays there is a danger that certain media so condition our responses that we fail to see our real neighbour.

It is not enough to be passersby on the digital highways, simply “connected”; connections need to grow into true encounters.  We cannot live apart, closed in on ourselves.  We need to love and to be loved.  We need tenderness.  Media strategies do not ensure beauty, goodness and truth in communication.  The world of media also has to be concerned with humanity, it too is called to show tenderness.  The digital world can be an environment rich in humanity; a network not of wires but of people.  The impartiality of media is merely an appearance; only those who go out of themselves in their communication can become a true point of reference for others.  Personal engagement is the basis of the trustworthiness of a communicator.  Christian witness, thanks to the internet, can thereby reach the peripheries of human existence [Pope Francis, 2014.01.24].

Pope Francis is speaking to Catholics and Christians, but I've got to think he's got something to say to the rest of us, too:

We are challenged to be people of depth, attentive to what is happening around us and spiritually alert.  To dialogue means to believe that the “other” has something worthwhile to say, and to entertain his or her point of view and perspective.  Engaging in dialogue does not mean renouncing our own ideas and traditions, but the claim that they alone are valid or absolute [Pope Francis, 2014.01.24].

Attentive, alert, neighborly dialogue. Keep your comments coming—Pope Francis says so!

2 comments

Are you having trouble accessing  old bills on the Legislature's website? I've got the fix, straight from Pierre.

Since the Legislative Research Council's revamp of the Legislature's website, I've been having a little trouble linking to bills from previous Legislative sessions. For instance, this morning I wrote about Senate Bill 171, the animal cruelty bill, from the 2013 session. From the LRC's home page, I click on Legislative Session>>2013, then on Bills, then scroll down and click on SB 171. Up comes 2013 SB 171's main page, with its sponsors, purpose, actions, and links to text and PDF versions. Those links all work.

But check out the URL that appears in the browser address bar when I view the main page for 2013 SB 171:

Compare that to the URL that appears when I access a bill from the current, 2014, session, like this year's Senate Bill 6:

See the similarity... and the problem? The only difference between the URL displayed for a 2013 bill and a 2014 bill is the bill number at the end. When I copy the URL for the 2013 bill and add it as a hyperlink in a blog post or share it in an e-mail, the person who clicks on that shared hyperlink will get the current 2014 version of SB 171, which has not yet been filed but which when filed will be an entirely different bill. The same happens if I try to share the link for 2012's House Bill 1234 (Gov. Daugaard's referred and defeated school reform bill) or 2010's HCR 1009 (Don Kopp's infamous climate-astrology resolution).

The Legislative Research Council took a moment this morning to explain the problem and help me fix it. The new website accesses sessions back to 2008 through a new query system. When you click on the 2013 session, the system stores "2013" as a variable and assumes your subsequent queries apply to that session. If you leave the LRC website and come back later, or if you pass the URL on to someone who hasn't been on the LRC website today, the system defaults to interpreting any bill URL as a request for the bill from the current session.

Here's how to fix that problem: if you have a URL for a bill from a previous session and want to share the link, add a session variable to the end of the URL:

LRC indicated that they will look for a way to remove this problem to make it easier for citizens to share links to bills. How's that for responsive government?

13 comments

Dead link alert! The Legislative Research Council has launched a redesign of the South Dakota Legislature's website. The old URL, legis.state.sd.us, now redirects to a new site, legis.sd.gov. LRC has gone from this:

South Dakota Legislature home page, archived Nov. 4, 2013

South Dakota Legislature home page, archived Nov. 4, 2013

...to this:

SDLeg-screencapNov212013

New South Dakota Legislature, screen cap Nov. 21, 2013

Flip the main menu from vertical left to horizontal header, tuck a few things into buttons, add a distracting rotating album (stop, stop, stop! leave the info available out where I can see it consistently!), and replace the sunny header photo with a grim cloudy photo.

But the main reason I'm underwhelmed is that so far, I don't see any substantial new functionality. The LRC appears to have imposed a new style sheet on pretty much the same list and structure of resources (good resources! resources I love!). The LRC has addedI see no increased interactivity for voters and reporters, no sign of adding outside research resources on bills, and (of particular interest to fans of Stace Nelson and open government) no sign of any new voting record tracker that would allow interested citizens to check complete voting records for individual legislators.

I find just two new functions, the site search and "Current Bills Search" plopped right of the dome in the header. The latter I can't really take for a drive yet, since we won't have current bills to search until Christmas (Santa, come quickly!). The former is a useful addition, but it pops up a new Google window instead of keeping me within the site, the way my own free WordPress plugin does here on the Madville Times (this stuff isn't hard or expensive!).

Another big blog disappointment is link breakage. Friends of the blog know that I love linking to South Dakota Codified Law, the state constitution, and House and Senate bills. LRC preserved and redirected links to laws and the constitution, but links to the archived Legislative sessions are toast. I dread spending my spare time updating eight years worth of blog posts to the Legislature's greatest hits... but wait! I find 2007 HB 1293, another South Dakota Handmaid's Tale abortion bill, redirecting nicely! So does Frank Kloucek's 2008 TransCanada pipeline accountability bill. But the 2010 Blog Control Acts (ah, the good old days, when Pat Powers and I could work together for the common good) come up snake eyes, as do many subsequent bills, like the infamous 2012 HB 1234 on education. Keep working, LRC! We need those links preserved, for education and research purposes!

The Legislature's website redesign isn't a terrible step in the direction of form; let's hope it's just a first step to improved function that LRC will roll out for the surely hurly-burly 2014 session.

3 comments

In the absolutely not-news department, KELO discovers that kids can use computers to find racy pictures on the Internet and that Web filters are imperfect.

In the absolutely not-politically-consistent department, champion of personal responsibility Dakota War College concludes that since some kids use Sioux Falls School District computers to access these racy pictures, the Sioux Fals School District is a bunch of jerks:

So, they don’t block them adequately, but students who stumble across them, regardless of intent, are suspended!  What an awesome school district!

The Sioux Falls School District. Providing naughty photos, and suspending kids for biting the apple dangled in front of them [Pat Powers, "The Sioux Falls School District. Providing naughty photos, and suspending kids for biting the apple dangled in front of them, while I remain too lazy to condense my thoughts into a manageable journalistic headline, but since I'm not really a journalist, that doesn't matter, does it?" Dakota War College, 2013.11.19.].

By Pat's logic...

  • When a student whacks another student over the head with a French textbook, blame the school for issuing such dangerous books.
  • When a student scrawls naughty graffiti in the school bathroom, blame the school for handing out pencils and putting up walls.
  • When P.E. students snap each other with school-issued towels, blame the school for providing those towels and a locker room in which such bad behavior can take place.
  • When a kid chokes on a chicken nugget in the cafeteria, blame the school for serving something chunkier than applesauce.

Schools provide students with all sorts of tools for learning. A few students misuse those tools. Schools would be remiss if they did not hold students accountable for the use of those tools.

Only a bad craftsman blames the tools... or the guy at Ace Hardware (or the school district, or Google) who handed out the tools.

36 comments

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