Brendan Johnson, alas, is changing jobs. Kristi Noem, alas, is not.

Tony Mangan at KCCR runs two stories of nearly identical and minimal news value on the non-intentions of U.S. Attorney, soon-to-be-just-Citizen Johnson and Congresswoman Noem to run for the offices for which everyone else likes to speculate they are running. Johnson offers the firmer rejection of any political notions:

Brendan Johnson

U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson

Outgoing U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson says while others may be thinking about his political future, he is not.

Johnson announced Wednesday that he is resigning March 11 to go into private practice in Sioux Falls. Johnson, the son of retired Democratic U.S. Senator Tim Johnson, has long been rumored to be a possible candidate some day for a statewide office.

But Johnson, who has declined in the past to speculate about any such intentions, tells KCCR News that he is not now thinking about that possibility [Tony Mangan, "Johnson Not Thinking about Politics," KCCR Radio, 2015.02.19].

Rep. Noem actually announces her intention to re-up in 2016 and admits she's deciding whether to run for Governor in 2018:

Rep. Kristi Noem

Rep. Kristi Noem

U.S. Representative Kristi Noem says she has received encouragement to run for Governor in 2018, but says it will be some time before she makes a decision on whether to actually run.

...Noem, who was on KCCR Radio Thursday, says there may be opportunities available in the future. But Noem says her current plan is to keep serving in the House and run for re-election in 2016.

The Congresswoman says there is no timetable for a decision on the Governor’s race. Noem says she is not afraid to wait until the last minute to enter a race [Tony Mangan, "Noem Not Thinking about Governor's Race Yet," KCCR Radio, 2015.02.20].

Tony, reread your headline. Noem's words indicate she is thinking about the Governor's race.

An objective reading of the two articles suggests that Noem's statements are bigger political news than Johnson's. But the Republican spin machine, which remains miffed that it didn't get to run all the character assassination it had planned for Johnson in 2014, chooses to focus on the threat they fear from Johnson. Press-release peddler Pat Powers spotlights the Johnson non-article as a "hint" about Johnson's political future while ignoring the Noem news.

Brendan Johnson is going into private practice. Kristi Noem wants another term as a do-nothing Congresswoman and Twitter selfie queen while she teases the electorate and warns other candidates with a reminder that may jump into the 2018 Governor's race late. You tell me which is the bigger, more concrete political news.

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Rep. Kristi Noem has long touted big government in the form of the Lewis and Clark Regional Water System. Her latest press release on the long-delayed project celebrates spending almost three times more on Lewis and Clark than socialist redistributionist President Obama proposed.

Why would Rep. Noem and the rest of South Dakota's Congressional delegation work so hard to spend more money than President Obama and pump more water up the I-29 corridor? Perhaps Lewis and Clark is one more prop in South Dakota's push for more megadairies:

At the World Ag Expo in Tulare, California, more than a half dozen states—Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Texas, and Nevada—have booths to recruit milk producers.

"Increasingly every year, there are more states showing up at the World Ag Expo to entice California dairies to move to their states, and they're finding a receptive audience," said Joel Karlin, a commodity manager and market analyst for Western Milling, a large agricultural livestock feed manufacturer exhibiting at the show. "California has been losing cows to other states such as Idaho, Texas and New Mexico—and now a lot of operators are looking at the Midwest more favorably since feed is cheaper, labor is cheaper and water is more plentiful" ["States Dangle Water to Tempt California Dairy Farmers," NBC News, 2015.02.10].

One dairy Holstein may drink 25 to 30 gallons of water per day.

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Rep. Kristi Noem says she is "thrilled to put Keystone XL pipeline legislation on the President's desk." She apparently is just as thrilled to put a dangerous and unnecessary pipeline on South Dakota farmers' and ranchers' land via eminent domain.

But her new colleague in the opposite chamber, Senator Mike Rounds, makes a comment about the creation of that Keystone XL bill that should chill our lone Congresswoman's thrill:

The Keystone debate was positive because there was a free flow of ideas, but there wasn’t always time to look into amendments carefully before voting on them, Rounds said [James Arkin, "How Being Governor Did (and Didn't) Prepare Mike Rounds for Senate," Real Clear Politics, 2015.02.09].

Senator Rounds suggests the Republican leadership was so hell-bent on passing this Keystone XL bill that they couldn't pause enough to allow their members to read and study the issue in full. And Congresswoman Noem is thrilled to pester the President with an ill-informed bill to usurp executive authority and approve a pipeline whose policy significance, amidst falling oil prices and growing job numbers, "comes close to nil.'

Mr. President, please do not hesitate to veto the Keystone XL bill.

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Yesterday Rep. Kristi Noem and the U.S. House voted for the tenth time to usurp executive authority and force immediate federal approval of the Canadian tar sands pipeline and eminent domain land grab known as Keystone XL.

Rep. Noem retreads this excuse for her vote:

Delaying Keystone is depriving South Dakota of good jobs, millions of dollars in revenue for cash-strapped counties, and relief for the roads and rails that are currently crowded with oil transit. Moreover, the White House has released more than 20,000 pages of reviews showing Keystone is in the best interest of our environment and our national economy – even admitting in a State Department report that the pipeline would support approximately 42,100 jobs.

In the time that it’s taken to approve Keystone, 10,000 miles of pipeline have been laid in the U.S. – that’s equal to eight Keystone XL Pipelines. We’ve debated Keystone long enough; now is the time to build it [Rep. Kristi Noem, e-mail to supporters, 2015.01.09].

Rick Weiland says Rep. Noem and the House are confused by Big Oil and Big Money:

There isn’t a more egregious example of the stranglehold that ‘big money’ has on our Congress and elected officials than this effort to build the Keystone pipeline.

As I stated throughout my campaign for the United States Senate, this is all about greed -- billions of dollars of it every year.

Early on, the perpetrators of this con, TransCanada, a foreign oil corporation and their ‘big money’ investors, boasted about creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and making America more energy secure. They began their ‘big money’ television campaign and commenced convincing the people of South Dakota and around the country that this was a good thing.

In fact, during the last weeks of the campaign, there was a ‘big money’ effort to tie the rail car shortage and grain problem South Dakota is experiencing, as another reason to build Keystone. The lie was if you build the pipeline, it would move oil so that the rail system would be freed up to move grain.

Fact is, there are no real jobs -- thirty-five permanent jobs according to the GAO and another 1800 temporary jobs for the entire project.

Fact is, Keystone XL is an export pipeline. Most of the oil is moving from the tar sands of Canada to the state of Texas for export to China. We get very little of the oil, so where is the ‘energy security’? We are nothing more than a pass through, taking on the risk for no reward.

With regard to relieving the problem of the inability of our railway system to ship grain, fact is, the oil coming out of the Bakken fields in ND, not Canada, ties up the rail system. These producers have very little interest in using Keystone. They want the flexibility to move their product by rail and truck to markets here in the United States.

In fact, I cannot think of one reason to build this pipeline other than to placate ‘big oil’ and their ‘big money’. I can think of lots of reasons not to. Did you know, TransCanada, a foreign oil corporation, can take South Dakota farm and ranch land without landowner permission through ‘eminent domain’?

Did you know that Keystone One, built in 2010, leaks on a regular basis -- some big leaks too, and that Keystone XL is going to be built over the Ogallala Aquifer, a vital source of water for our region.

And did you know, that the energy it takes to extract the tar sand oil, liquefying it for transport, refining and shipping it overseas for sale, will dump 100 million tons of additional carbon into the atmosphere.

When the threat of climate change has 99% of the scientists in the world seriously worried about the future of the planet and the human race, this greed is inexcusable and needs to be exposed and rejected. We should be transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy, not doubling down on Keystone [Rick Weiland, press release, 2015.01.09].

On the same day the House repeated its mistake, the Nebraska Supreme Court came one vote shy of requiring pipeliner TransCanada to draw a new route for Keystone XL through Nebraska. Pipeline opponents needed five judges out of the seven to agree with a lower court that a state law giving the governor authority to approve the pipeline route instead of the Nebraska Public Service Commission violated the state constitution. Four judges agreed, but three avoided the issue and said the plaintiffs lacked standing.

(O.K., new rule: from now on, before any lawsuit proceeds, we get a clear ruling from the court on who has standing and who doesn't. Or better yet, on Keystone XL, where we have Congressmen from Minnesota and Ohio voting for a pipeline that doesn't cross their state because they say all Americans will benefit from shipping Canadian oil to China, all Americans get standing!)

The Indigenous Environmental Network and Dakota Rural Action say their fight to block Keystone XL in South Dakota will continue. They encourage President Barack Obama to help them out:

“The Nebraska State Supreme Court decision does not change the facts on the matter. The Keystone XL pipeline still remains a threat to the livelihoods of America's farmers, ranchers, tribal nations, and individual landowners. And the fact remains that TransCanada cannot build Keystone XL in South Dakota.

We South Dakota pipeline fighters stand strong in our commitment to see the Keystone XL permit rejected by our state's Public Utilities Commission and by President Obama.

The President has all the information he needs to act and reject Keystone XL today. This pipeline fails the President's climate test. We encourage him to make the right choice to the benefit of us all" [Indigenous Environmental Network and Dakota Rural Action, press release, 2015.01.09].

President Obama has said he will veto the Keystone XL bill that Congress will shortly send him. Remember that his veto will not stop Keystone XL; it will only reject Congress's effort to force approval. The President will still render his own decision on TransCanada's permit application to the U.S. State Department. But remember, President Obama has been playing a coy but clever waiting game. He appears to be letting the clock run to give other forces—the Nebraska Supreme Court, the South Dakota PUC, and now the plunging price of oil, which may not kill tar sands but does change the politics—to stop the pipeline for him.

But President Obama's waiting game is about to run up against its own deadline. Hillary Clinton has only a few months to announce whether she's running for President or not. If she runs, she will run clearly center. She has already been dodging the Keystone XL issue with groups who'd like her to plug tar sands opposition into her pro-environment rhetoric. Clinton's ties to tar sands lobbyists suggest she knows who butters her bread and will advocate the Keystone XL pipeline to win votes from the moderate middle.

That gives President Obama two reasons to take Keystone XL off the table before Clinton's Presidential aspiration becomes official:

  1. Reading P&R Miscellany, the President knows that Keystone XL could split the Dem base. He can take the issue off the table, take the heat as a lame duck, and help Hillary focus on keeping Dems together.
  2. If the Obama–Clinton feud is real, and if the President knows his former Secretary of State supports Keystone XL, he'll want to knock this leg out from under her before the campaign really gets going. President Obama won't go for a direct, distracting confrontation with Clinton during her campaign, because he, unlike Harry Reid, would put winning before personal grudges. But he will take a chance to do what's right, block the pipeline, and force Clinton to campaign on other issues.

Expect Senators John Thune and Mike Rounds to jump on the Keystone XL bandwagon again next week. Expect the President to veto Congress's latest maneuvering, but then watch for a proper Presidential decision some time this year, before Hillary Clinton dclares her candidacy.

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As we discuss the merits of different districting schemes for better democratic representation, David Newquist notes that our Congressional delegation is leaving northeastern South Dakota out in the cold on constituent service:

When Democrats were in office, Aberdeen had three offices carrying on the business of government. Now it is down to the one office that John Thune grudgingly established when his party supporters insisted that he have a presence in our part of the state.

Noem has never offered much in the way of response or service to this part of the state. Rounds has indicated he will follow her lead.

The voters ultimately get what they ask for. In the cases of Noem and Rounds, nothing [David Newquist, "No Access to Congress for Aberdeen," Northern Balley Beacon, 2014.12.28].

Newquist provides a description worth reading of the value good staffers add for constituents on the ground.

If you're thinking that Rounds and Noem are shunning Aberdeen as a partisan swipe at all those Herseth/Wismer/Knecht Democrats up in northeastern South Dakota consider these election numbers: Nearby Day, Marshall, and Roberts counties picked Rick Weiland over Mike Rounds by slim margins (5%, 0.5%, and 1.5%, respectively). Brown County itself, which Aberdeen seats, gave Rounds an eleven-point edge. To the west, Rounds doubled up and more on Weiland, 54–24, while Charlie Hoffman and his neighbors delivered McPherson County to Rounds 66–17. Noem beat Corinna Robinson in all six of those counties this year, from a 9.5-point margin in Day to 63.8 points in McPherson.

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Rep. Kristi Noem releases a year-in-review column. She leads with her son's growth of three inches, then reels off several other "achievements" for which she deserves little if any credit.

Rep. Noem trumpets the "long-awaited" Farm Bill and says she got "so many provisions in place for South Dakota producers and consumers." Crop insurance, livestock indemnity, pine beetle eradication—she's claiming credit for socialism here. If we accept that farm socialism is good for South Dakota, Rep. Noem is ignoring the fact that she and her party denied South Dakota those benefits for the fourteen months that they delayed the farm bill over their insistence that poor people deserve less help than wealthy ag corporations.

Rep. Noem says she wrote a provision that directs $31 million to a rural water projects fund from which the long-delayed Lewis and Clark pipeline may draw. Again, socialism. Again, delay—if it's so great, Rep. Noem, why aren't you just getting it done?

Rep. Noem highlights the passage of her mostly uncontroversial Black Hills Cemetery Act. The only earth this law moves is a few more acres of the Paha Sapa that will be torn up to bury the corpses of mostly white colonizers.

Already out of things she got done, Rep. Noem turns to human trafficking. Of all the concrete actions she could take to end global slavery, Rep. Noem brags up a minor policy change, one that didn't allocate new money to police and prosecutors, didn't offer any stronger penalties for treating humans like chattel, but simply promised to stretch existing funds to make more shelters for trafficking victims available. Rep. Noem couldn't even sell that meager action to her Senate colleagues.

Rep. Noem expresses her support for government-run health care in Hot Springs, talks about a lot of talk, but can point to no achievement beyond hanging a bauble in the latest stopgap spending bill to prevent the VA from saving money in this fiscal year.

Rep. Noem touts the ABLE Act, pending legislation that would create tax-exempt private savings accounts for disability-related expenses that would not count against income/asset thresholds for various government benefits. This band-aid bill doesn't help low-income families who don't have money to contribute to savings accounts. Once again, Rep. Noem ignores the truly needy.

Rep. Kristi Noem uses a lot of shiny wrapping paper, but the boxes she puts under our tree are mostly empty.

Related Right-Wing Rage: Bob Ellis calls Rep. Noem "feckless" and longs for something other than the coming triumvirate of ineffective Republicans in South Dakota's Congressional delegation.

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America tortured detainees. We tortured human beings.

The world is rightly outraged. We have it coming. We call ourselves the exceptional nation, and I'm fine with that if we can live up to that claim. We should be a beacon of democracy, justice, and humanity, not criminal monstrosity. Instead, in our surrender to the terror wrought on us by evil men, we committed evil that undermined our moral authority and did more durable damage to our national interest than the loss of any buildings or lives.

In response to the Senate Intelligence Committee report on our use of torture under the George W. Bush Administration, South Dakota's Congressional delegation splits predictably. Our Republican members ignore the real moral crime and try to paint those who expose our crime as the bad guys:

Republican Sen. John Thune said while some of the findings of the report are disturbing, the "conclusions are misleading and do not represent all the facts."

"With growing national security threats from our enemies around the globe, the release of this report on a program that ended eight years ago puts our military and intelligence operatives in jeopardy today," said Thune, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate. "This seems more like a politically motivated report, rather than an honest attempt to improve our intelligence-gathering practices" [Christopher Doering, "S.D. Delegation Divided on Torture Report," that Sioux Falls paper, 2014.12.09].

Yes, yes, stay afraid. Wave the flag, support the troops, pay no attention to the torturers behind the curtain.

Rep. Kristi Noem expressed concern that the details of the report could allow U.S. enemies to "to twist our intentions" and use its findings to promote aggression against America. "Congress must continue to provide thorough oversight over our intelligence activities, but the manner in which this was done puts America in danger and does our country little to no good," she said [Doering, 2014.12.09].

Differing from these cowards, Senator Tim Johnson puts the focus back where it should be, saying we made mistakes and need to admit them:

Today’s release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on CIA interrogation practices was the right thing to do. The American people deserve to know the truth – that the CIA tortured detainees during the Bush Administration using interrogation practices contrary to our American values. We are stronger as a nation when we admit our mistakes, learn from the past, and move forward. I strongly believe that the use of torture is intolerable and inexcusable. These practices failed to make our nation safer and must not happen again [Senator Tim Johnson, press release, 2014.12.09].

Senator John McCain, who bears the scars of torture, agrees with his Democratic colleague:

[The report] is a thorough and thoughtful study of practices that I believe not only failed their purpose – to secure actionable intelligence to prevent further attacks on the U.S. and our allies – but actually damaged our security interests, as well as our reputation as a force for good in the world.

I believe the American people have a right – indeed, a responsibility – to know what was done in their name; how these practices did or did not serve our interests; and how they comported with our most important values [Senator John McCain, floor statement, United States Senate, 2014.12.09].

Senator McCain says America's torture failed to produce useful intelligence or forward our goals in fighting terrorism. But Senator McCain says efficacy is not the main point:

...[T]orture’s failure to serve its intended purpose isn’t the main reason to oppose its use. I have often said, and will always maintain, that this question isn’t about our enemies; it’s about us. It’s about who we were, who we are and who we aspire to be. It’s about how we represent ourselves to the world.

We have made our way in this often dangerous and cruel world, not by just strictly pursuing our geopolitical interests, but by exemplifying our political values, and influencing other nations to embrace them. When we fight to defend our security we fight also for an idea, not for a tribe or a twisted interpretation of an ancient religion or for a king, but for an idea that all men are endowed by the Creator with inalienable rights. How much safer the world would be if all nations believed the same. How much more dangerous it can become when we forget it ourselves even momentarily.

Our enemies act without conscience. We must not. This executive summary of the Committee’s report makes clear that acting without conscience isn’t necessary, it isn’t even helpful, in winning this strange and long war we’re fighting. We should be grateful to have that truth affirmed [McCain, 2014.12.09].

Senator Thune and Rep. Noem should listen to Senator McCain. The torture report is not political hackery. It is a truthful admission of America's sins, and a necessary step in re-establishing our claim that we are better than the terrorists we fight.

We tortured human beings. We committed crimes against humanity. We will likely never prosecute those crimes. But we must admit those crimes and vow never to commit them again. We must vow to be Americans — not terrorists, not tyrants, but Americans.

Related Reading: Douglas Wiken wisely notes that the CIA's use of torture could encourage overly aggressive law enforcement practices here at home.

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Like Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, President Barack Obama is using his executive authority to tackle immigration problems. Specifically, President Obama announced last night that he is inviting more than four million illegal immigrants who are parents of U.S. citizens to "come out of the shadows and get right with the law." Here's the deal, in the President's own words:

We expect people who live in this country to play by the rules. We expect those who cut the line will not be unfairly rewarded. So we’re going to offer the following deal: If you’ve with been in America more than five years. If you have children who are American citizens or illegal residents. If you register, pass a criminal background check and you’re willing to pay your fair share of taxes, you’ll be able to apply to stay in this country temporarily without fear of deportation. You can come out of the shadows and get right with the law. That’s what this deal is.

Now let’s be clear about what it isn’t. This deal does not apply to anyone who has come to this country recently. It does not apply to anyone who might come to America illegally in the future. It does not grant citizenship or the right to stay here permanently, or offer the same benefits that citizens receive. Only Congress can do that. All we’re saying is we’re not going to deport you [President Barack Obama, address to the nation, transcript posted by Washington Post, 2014.11.20].

Speaker John Boehner says the President is sabotaging efforts to pass legislative immigration reform, even though in his speech last night, the President explicitly invited Congress to pass a bill that would render his action unnecessary, and even though Speaker Boehner has had an effective, bipartisan immigration reform bill on his desk since June 2013. Speaker Boehner says the President is showing he can't be trusted to enforce the law, even though the Boehner Congress has given the President only enough funding to deport 400,000 out of the nation's 11,000,000 illegal immigrants, requiring the President to choose on which minority of illegal immigrants to enforce the law. The action the President announced last night allows law enforcement to focus on crooks and terrorists.

Someone in Rep. Kristi Noem's office types up a response saying that "'my way or the highway' negotiation won’t work." This from the office of a Congresswoman who supported shutting down the federal government and crashing the economy when the President wouldn't yield to GOP demands to repeal health care reform.

Rep. Noem claims that the President is defying the will of the people of South Dakota. On what basis Rep. Noem divines that popular will is unclear, since South Dakotans all seem content to enjoy the cheap produce and other labor made available by those millions of illegal immigrants and unwilling to crack down on the businesses that exploit those workers.

Rep. Noem mentions something about the President's being unconstitutional, but she has yet to enunciate the legal grounds on which she would prosecute the President... probably because there are none:

...[T]he president’s discretion to enforce the immigration laws has always been the cornerstone of a de facto guest-worker (or, if you want, caste) system from which most Americans have greatly benefited. That’s why Republicans’ claim that the president is shredding the Constitution sounds so odd to people knowledgeable about immigration law. He’s just doing what countless Congresses have wanted him to do, and have effectively forced him to do, so that Congress itself could avoid charges that it has created a two-tier system of citizenship where the bottom tier is allowed to stay in this country and work, but is not allowed to vote, to benefit from welfare programs, to travel freely, or to enjoy the full protection of workplace laws. Of course, you might say that the whole illegal immigration system, with its two-tier system of rights, violates the Constitution or at least constitutional values, but the fault for that lies with Congress, not with the president [Eric Posner, "Obama's Immigration Plan Is Perfectly Constitutional," Salon.com, 2014.11.21].

The President is taking legal and practical action to solve problems. We can only wish Speaker Boehner and Rep. Noem were similarly committed to practical action for the good of the country.

Scripture tells us, we shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger. We were strangers once, too.

My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forbearers were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like or what our last names are, or how we worship. What makes us Americans is our shared commitment to an ideal, that all of us are created equal, and all of us have the chance to make of our lives what we will. That’s the country our parents and grandparents and generations before them built for us. That’s the tradition we must uphold. That’s the legacy we must leave for those who are yet to come [President Barack Obama, 2014.11.20].

Related: Under President Obama, illegal immigration from Mexico has declined, but overall numbers of illegal immigrants in the country have remained relatively stable, dropping just a bit from 11.3 million in 2009 to 11.2 million in 2012.

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