Sorry, Jeff Barth: your lawsuit is already too late to stop the state from destroying some EB-5 evidence. Seth Tupper finds the state deleted Richard Benda's e-mails just weeks after he jumped the ship of state with his half-million-dollar life preserver from Mike Rounds... in accordance with state policy:

The policy says that when employees delete an individual email, that deleted email is retained by the system no longer than 37 days; when an employee leaves state government, the employee’s entire email account is deleted as soon as 30 days later.

So last spring, when investigators were examining records from Benda’s final days in office for evidence of criminal activity, there was no state email account of his to comb through. Investigators obtained and re-created some emails through other investigative means, according to state Attorney General Marty Jackley, who acknowledged the task was made more difficult because of the deletion of Benda’s email account [Seth Tupper, "SD Email Policy: Don't Ask, Don't Keep," Rapid City Journal, 2014.09.28].

Governor Dennis Daugaard sends his poor spokesman Tony Venhuizen out to say silly things about how hard it is to store e-mail:

Venhuizen said the state’s current email system comprises 11 terabytes of storage.

“That’s large, and for that reason, backing up the older messages is kept to a minimum to keep down the expense of storing multiple copies,” he said [Tupper, 2014.09.28].

Tupper snorts milk onto his notepad and points out that one can buy a 12-terabyte external storage unit for $2,200. But always buy for the storage you'll need later, not the storage you need now. For $2,200 we can get order one Western Digital 12-TB unit for the current e-mail system for $650 and a Buffalo 16-TB unit for the next five years of e-mail for $1,317, have someone swing by Best Buy and grab three 1-TB portable drives for $62 a pop, and still have $47 left to take our tech guy out to Red Rossa.

The technological and financial difficulty of storing state e-mails for investigative and historical purposes is trivial. Using those portable drives, we can get a terabyte of storage for $62. Try storing that much information on paper, at two kilobytes per typed page (remember, kilo- means thousands; tera- means trillion), and you'll need one million reams of paper, which at a dollar a ream would cost one million dollars. Multiply that by the 31 terabytes of storage I just priced for the state at Amazon and Best Buy, and we're going to need 64 more EB-5 investors to turn Northern Beef Packers into Northern Leaf Papers.

Archiving the state's e-mails is no big deal. Appropriations, move a decimal point somewhere and buy the governor some hard drives.

p.s.: Seth Tupper appears to be back in his element. After a few months as publisher at the Mitchell Daily Republic, he's back in the game writing political stories for the Rapid City Journal. Maybe I'm just optimistically imagining things, but I sense a certain pent-up enthusiasm unleashed in his hefty report on the state's memory-hole correspondence policy. Perhaps Tupper realized about himself and journalism what I know about myself and teaching: offer me a promotion to principal or superintendent, and I will say no thank you. Some of us are born for the front line.


Ah, the Tuesday after Labor Day, when the reality of September hits us full force, and when school starts in a humane and moral society.

As I take my little one to her first day of school and then zoom across town to my first day in my new classroom (Bonjour, mes amis!), I read with relish this review of Garret Keizer's new book on the over-quantified state of American education. Keizer returned to the classroom after fourteen years and found some significant changes among the kids and his colleagues. Among the most appalling:

Besides the teacher who delivers pizza, there’s one who proclaims proudly: “We’ve just about eliminated class discussions.” Instead of conversing, his students record their comments using an app and vote in class polls with their phones [Nick Romeo, "A Teacher Returns to the Classroom and Gets Schooled," The Daily Beast, 2014.09.01].

Keizer suspects a vicious profiteering cycle in the technologization of classrooms:

Just as the economy profits from both the causes and cures of some health problems—smoking and chemotherapy, sugary sodas and diabetes medicine—schools sometimes pay companies for technologies that compound the very problems they pay other companies to solve. “We make kids illiterate by shrinking and/or wiring their libraries; then we build wired support centers to teach the illiterates how to read” [Romeo, 2014.09.01].

He recognizes my fundamental beef with Common Core and other reforms that take me away from students for the sake of codifying and quantifying our art:

The constant streams of evaluative data that teachers must generate present a similar irony. Every minute spent assigning numbers to student performance is time not spent imparting knowledge that could improve the skills the data is ostensibly measuring [Romeo, 2014.09.01].

Keizer knows that all this data we are gathering will be long forgotten when we and our students still remember those chance encounters.

There’s not an easy way to quantify the value of a conversation with a sophomore who has just decided to share her first poems with her English teacher. The poems were not mandatory, and the conversation occurs after class, so the event falls into a netherworld that the educational bureaucracy doesn’t recognize. But these are the moments that matter most to teachers and students long after the course material is forgotten [Romeo, 2014.09.01].

Good teaching is good conversation. Discuss. (You will be engaged and challenged, but you will not be graded.)


The bad news: the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday threw out evidence that helped convict a gang member and a drug dealer.

The good news: the Court ruled that police must get a search warrant to riffle through your cell phone. The enormous amount of personal data available through even the most basic cell phone deserves some protection from search and seizure, says the Court.

The bonus good news: The Court's ruling in Riley v. California recognizes that the absence of "precise guidance from the founding era" requires judges to think hard about new technology and new situations that Jefferson, Adams, et al. never conceived. Chief Justice John Roberts demonstrates that, in this case, our Justices are up to the task:

These cases require us to decide how the search incident to arrest doctrine applies to modern cell phones, which are now such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy [Chief Justice John Roberts, Riley v. California, 2014.06.25, p. 9].

The United States asserts that a search of all data stored on a cell phone is “materially indistinguishable” from searches of these sorts of physical items. Brief for United States in No. 13–212, p. 26. That is like saying a ride on horseback is materially indistinguishable from a flight to the moon. Both are ways of getting from point A to point B, but little else justifies lumping them together. Modern cell phones, as a category, implicate privacy concerns far beyond those implicated by the search of a cigarette pack, a wallet, or a purse...

Cell phones differ in both a quantitative and a qualita- tive sense from other objects that might be kept on an arrestee’s person. The term “cell phone” is itself misleading shorthand; many of these devices are in fact minicomputers that also happen to have the capacity to be used as a telephone. They could just as easily be called cameras, video players, rolodexes, calendars, tape recorders, libraries, diaries, albums, televisions, maps, or newspapers.

...Most people cannot lug around every piece of mail they have received for the past several months, every picture they have taken, or every book or article they have read—nor would they have any reason to attempt to do so. And if they did, they would have to drag behind them a trunk of the sort held to require a search warrant in Chadwick, supra, rather than a container the size of the cigarette package in Robinson [Riley v. California, pp. 16–17].

In 1926, Learned Hand observed (in an opinion later quoted in Chimel) that it is “a totally different thing to search a man’s pockets and use against him what they contain, from ransacking his house for everything which may incriminate him.” United States v. Kirschenblatt, 16 F. 2d 202, 203 (CA2). If his pockets contain a cell phone, however, that is no longer true. Indeed, a cell phone search would typically expose to the government far more than the most exhaustive search of a house: A phone not only contains in digital form many sensitive records previously found in the home; it also contains a broad array of private information never found in a home in any form—unless the phone is [Riley v. California, pp. 21–22].

The Court says case law offers two justifications for searching an arrestee's person and immediate surroundings: protecting the arresting officers and preventing destruction of evidence. Roberts writes that neither the phone nor the digital data it can access pose a threat to police. Arresting officers can secure any potential digital data mostly by handcuffing the suspect and setting the phone out of reach. The Court recognizes that digital data is still subject to encryption or remote wiping, but granting warrantless search authority does little to prevent those risks:

...the opportunities for officers to search a password-protected phone before data becomes encrypted are quite limited. Law enforcement officers are very unlikely to come upon such a phone in an unlocked state because most phones lock at the touch of a button or, as a default, after some very short period of inactivity. See, e.g., iPhone User Guide for iOS 7.1 Software 10 (2014) (default lock after about one minute). This may explain why the encryption argument was not made until the merits stage in this Court, and has never been considered by the Courts of Appeals.

Moreover, in situations in which an arrest might trigger a remote-wipe attempt or an officer discovers an unlocked phone, it is not clear that the ability to conduct a warrantless search would make much of a difference. The need to effect the arrest, secure the scene, and tend to other pressing matters means that law enforcement officers may well not be able to turn their attention to a cell phone right away. See Tr. of Oral Arg. in No. 13–132, at 50; see also Brief for United States as Amicus Curiae in No. 13–132, at 19. Cell phone data would be vulnerable to remote wiping from the time an individual anticipates arrest to the time any eventual search of the phone is completed, which might be at the station house hours later. Likewise, an officer who seizes a phone in an unlocked state might not be able to begin his search in the short time remaining before the phone locks and data becomes encrypted [Riley v. California, pp. 13–14].

The Court says that if cops are still worried about the remote chance of remote wiping, they have much simpler options than breaching the Fourth Amendment, like turning the phone off, removing the battery, or putting it in a Faraday bag (hey! I just learned something from the Supreme Court!).

As far removed from 1789 as our cell phones are, the Court still manages to put the question of digital data search and seizure into the Founders' context:

Our cases have recognized that the Fourth Amendment was the founding generation’s response to the reviled “general warrants” and “writs of assistance” of the colonial era, which allowed British officers to rummage through homes in an unrestrained search for evidence of criminal activity. Opposition to such searches was in fact one of the driving forces behind the Revolution itself. In 1761, the patriot James Otis delivered a speech in Boston denounc- ing the use of writs of assistance. A young John Adams was there, and he would later write that “[e]very man of a crowded audience appeared to me to go away, as I did, ready to take arms against writs of assistance.” 10 Works of John Adams 247–248 (C. Adams ed. 1856). According to Adams, Otis’s speech was “the first scene of the first act of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there the child Independence was born.” Id., at 248 (quoted in Boyd v. United States, 116 U. S. 616, 625 (1886)).

Modern cell phones are not just another technological convenience. With all they contain and all they may reveal, they hold for many Americans “the privacies of life,” Boyd, supra, at 630. The fact that technology now allows an individual to carry such information in his hand does not make the information any less worthy of the protection for which the Founders fought. Our answer to the question of what police must do before searching a cell phone seized incident to an arrest is accordingly simple—get a warrant [Riley v. California, pp. 27–28].

It's still pretty easy for post-September 11 authorities to get a warrant (15 minutes via iPad, says Chief Justice Roberts on page 26 of the ruling) or to declare the "exigent circumstances" that obviate a warrant. But Riley v. California is a small victory against the police state.


Last week my friend and Democratic District 33 Senate candidate Robin Page voiced her displeasure at the removal of cursive handwriting from the Rapid City School District curriculum. Blame that on Common Core: the new mostly nationwide education standards tell teachers to work on handwriting with kindergartners and first-graders, then focus on keyboarding.

And as much as I love computers, handing kids keyboards instead of pencils and pens may mean they they learn less:

Children not only learn to read more quickly when they first learn to write by hand, but they also remain better able to generate ideas and retain information. In other words, it’s not just what we write that matters — but how.

“When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated,” said Stanislas Dehaene, a psychologist at the Collège de France in Paris. “There is a core recognition of the gesture in the written word, a sort of recognition by mental simulation in your brain.

“And it seems that this circuit is contributing in unique ways we didn’t realize,” he continued. “Learning is made easier” [Maria Konnikova, "What's Lost as Handwriting Fades," New York Times, 2014.06.02].

An example of the benefits of handwriting appears in note-taking:

Cursive or not, the benefits of writing by hand extend beyond childhood. For adults, typing may be a fast and efficient alternative to longhand, but that very efficiency may diminish our ability to process new information. Not only do we learn letters better when we commit them to memory through writing, memory and learning ability in general may benefit.

Two psychologists, Pam A. Mueller of Princeton and Daniel M. Oppenheimer of the University of California, Los Angeles, have reported that in both laboratory settings and real-world classrooms, students learn better when they take notes by hand than when they type on a keyboard. Contrary to earlier studies attributing the difference to the distracting effects of computers, the new research suggests that writing by hand allows the student to process a lecture’s contents and reframe it — a process of reflection and manipulation that can lead to better understanding and memory encoding [Konnikova, 2014.06.02].

Permit me to contribute my anecdotal experience to the empirical data: I've seen the same effect in my own note-taking. I can type faster than I can write longhand. But whether I'm in class or interviewing someone for the blog, I feel as if I process and recall information better when I write it by hand. (I haven't noticed a difference yet between writing with pen on paper and writing with stylus on electronic tablet.)

Common Core opponents, you can keep arguing about the arcanities of government databases and Soviet-style homogenization. But if you really want to fight Common Core standards, I humbly suggest that a nuts-and-bolts research-based argument that dropping handwriting weakens kids' ability to learn will get ten times the traction for your cause.

Related: Diane Ravitch contends that Bill Gates should face Congressional hearings for short-circuiting federalism and buying the education system to promote Common Core.


The Sioux Falls School District used children as unpaid guinea pigs this spring in its field test of the Smarter Balanced Assessment, the new statewide, online standardized test our children will take to measure their fulfillment of the Common Core standards. Some computers crashed on both the student side and the testmaker side, but the District reports that its "technology and infrastructure performed better than expected." Sigh.

Here are some reasons from the District's report to be annoyed that we are trundling mindlessly along into another cycle of fruitless education reform churn:

  1. "Each classroom test administrator set aside from three to ten hours to read documents and view Smarter Balanced required test administration modules/videos." Up to ten hours: that's two full days of classroom instruction lost to learning how to administer someone else's test.
  2. The Smarter Balanced Assessment is two to two and a half hours longer than the Dakota Step test it replaces. Two and a half hours: that's as much as three class periods that each student misses to sit and answer questions instead of learning.
  3. Twelve parents asked the Sioux Falls School District to excuse their students from the SBA. The District told them state law and rules require all students to take the SBA. Then the District apparently kept tabs on those students during the tests; the District report says teachers observed five of those students "randomly answering questions or choosing the same answer and completing the test in half the time of the other students." The report offers no count of other kids blowing off the test. So try to opt out of an oppressive and wasteful testing regimen, and the Sioux Falls Schol District will single your kids out for special surveillance.
  4. Some kids knew their stuff but had trouble banging out answers fast enough on the computer keyboard. The report's response: we need to keep pushing keyboard and mouse skills. This is teaching to the test at its most offensive, not even teaching subject matter, but teaching specific technology skills that will let kids take tests about subject matter.

What does the report recommend the school board do? "Acknowledge the review of the Smarter Balanced Assessment administration 2013-14 school year."

Acknowledged. Ack!


Brookings native Scott Meyer, a brilliant and energetic entrepreneur with the world at his feet, came back to South Dakota in 2009 to build his future. He came in part because he saw the Internet leveling the playing field for rural places like South Dakota:

With equal access to the world’s knowledge thanks to the Internet, South Dakota again looked like the prairie of my great-great grandparents. I could:

  • Access the world’s knowledge on the Internet and sites like Wikipedia
  • Educate myself with online classes and videos
  • Sell products anywhere in the world thanks to sites like Amazon
  • Produce products in my home thanks to 3D printing technology

With equal access to these resources, I wouldn’t have to leave. I could share my brain instead of draining it away. Combined with the knowledge of everyone, everywhere, I could create almost anything [Scott Meyer, "Why the FCC Hates South Dakota," 9Clouds: Digital Homesteading, 2014.04.27].

Meyer sees the FCC's proposed unraveling of net neutrality, allowing the richest corporations to purchase fast lanes on the Internet to make their content more easily accessible than that of small businesses and regular citizens, as a recipe for recharging rural brain drain:

ISPs are excited by the chance to make more money with these special deals, but for businesses in South Dakota or anywhere else in the world trying to get started, this is the same old story.

  • If our website is slower than the larger competitor who can pay for fast access, who will visit our store?
  • If our new song or video can’t load on a mobile phone because we haven’t paid for fast access, who will listen or watch?
  • If our non-profit wants to raise money, but our tear-jerking video doesn’t load fast enough, how will it survive?

An open Internet provides a lifeline to rural communities and businesses. Any entrepreneur can create the next Facebook, the saying goes. They won’t be able to in a world without equal access to all content, a concept known as net neutrality [Meyer, 2014.04.27].

Net neutrality is good for small business and free speech. It is especially good for business and speech in South Dakota.

Eleven U.S. Senators wrote a letter to FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler this week calling on the FCC to remove "fast lanes" and protect net neutrality. Our neighbor Senator Al Franken from Minnesota signed that letter. South Dakota's Senators Thune and Johnson did not. Senator Thune cheered a court reversal of FCC net neutrality protections last winter He seems more interested in posturing about over-regulation than protecting the real South Dakota interests Meyer identifies. Thune has voted against net neutrality; Johnson has voted to protect it.

Add net neutrality to the list of questions for our U.S. Senate candidates (Thursday, May 15, 8 p.m., SDPB): as you seek to replace Senator Tim Johnson, would you continue his defense of net neutrality, or would you throw South Dakota entrepreneurs like Meyer to the rich ISP wolves?


...and do it with apps!

Cody Hausman spoke to the Sioux Falls Democratic Forum last Friday on behalf of his generation. The son of Brandon City Councilwoman and 2012 District 9 House candidate Jo Hausman discussed how Democrats (and any other interested party) should brand themselves to recruit youth voters and volunteers.

Cody Hausman speaks at Democratic Forum, Sioux Falls, SD, April 25, 2014.

Cody Hausman speaks at Democratic Forum, Sioux Falls, SD, April 25, 2014.

Hausman could have gotten himself thrown out at the start. He admitted that he worked for Ron Paul in 2012. Hausman said he helped organize a 3000-person rally in St. Paul for the good Texas doctor. Anyone who can use "organize" and "Ron Paul" in the same sentence deserves either extra credit or a medical exam.

Actually, I'll cut Hausman some slack. I recognize the youthful idealism that would lead one down the prim-Paul path. And Hausman's Paul story speaks to the idealism that he says is key to reaching his generation. Hausman says today's young people have a strong idealist streak... which stands at odds with the just slightly older Ryan Casey's assessment that millennials are practical problem solvers, in contrast to the baby boom idealists.

Hausman contends that Republicans do a good job of campaigning on emotions and ideals, while Democrats like to get all wonky. He says the Tea Party hasn't captured the youth vote, but their anti-government message does resonate with a generation that has a 1984 conception of government (suspicious of surveillance, zealous of privacy... even as they Facebook their lives?). Hausman recommends an Apple branding strategy: make government look sleek and stylish, show young people what value they can get from it, but don't trouble them with the greasy, gritty inner workings.

Hausman does identify some policies where Democrats seeking the youth vote should make noise. As we wait for the economy to reboot from the 2008 recession, young people are carrying big student debt from loans calculated on expected income from jobs that are not materializing. That makes young people kind of anxious. Hausman recommends expanding Pell Grants and creating a sort of Works Progress Administration for young management grads: invest in public worksand put young people in charge to give them management experience.

Hausman also stresses the importance of civil rights. He says current young voters are uniquely diverse; they've grown up with lots of people who don't look like them or love like them, and they're fine with that. On gay rights and marriage equality in particular, the morality train has left the station. No matter how icky the sex is (really, Steve Hickey? you want to go there?), young voters are already committed to the idea that whom you choose to love should not affect your legal rights. The rallies in Rapid City against the Legislature's outbreak of homophobia this winter show that Hausman has a point: Democrats can inspire young people by showing themselves to be bold leaders on that fight, willing to give those young people a chance to speak up and make real changes in South Dakota's marriage policies.

On practical party building, Hausman says Democrats should recognize the unique talents of his generation. He says his people are creative innovators who can bring technology to bear for the party. Hausman says sending young people door to door may not be the best use of their talents, that instead they might add more value by researching online apps to promote candidates and get out the vote.

I get the impression Hausman doesn't like knocking on doors much. A lot of people don't: it's scary, it's tiring, and it takes excellent conversation skills. I wouldn't have been good at it when I was 20. I still need practice at it at age 43. There will be folks with different strengths in every generation: even among Hausman's generation, we can find campaigners who are great at face-to-face campaigning. I'd hate to assume that, just because a campaign volunteer is under 30, she won't win more votes for me on the front porch than on Facebook.

In South Dakota, knocking on doors, retail politics, is a necessity. The Web and smartphone apps don't penetrate our older, rural electorate enough to turn a candidate from underdog to frontrunner. Social media is great for nationwide campaigning and fundraising, but if you want to win in South Dakota, you still have to knock on every door and face every face you and your volunteers can... and then buy a truckload of ads on KELO. If any party wants to engage youth in the campaign, yeah, apps are great projects, but we need to engage young people in our most important and most productive work. Sequestering all the young volunteers in the computer room while everyone else is out handshaking and jawboning donors and voters and really moving the needle will make those young people feel marginalized. Even if we have a great social media development team (and we need one!), there comes a point in every campaign where the boss walks in and says, "Everyone, drop what you're doing, hit the phones, and hit the streets!"

Hausman's speech brought lots of questions from the older-skewing Democratic Forum audience, and he handled all questions ably (chowing, Cody, that you might be better at door-to-door campaigning than you let on about your generation!). Hausman's roadmap gives Democrats interested in reaching across generations a lot to think about.


The Madville Times eagerly endorses Ashley Kenneth Allen's bid for the Madison City Commission. He has the youthful non-Establishment mojo that Madison desperately needs to face and fix problems. Allen vows to eliminate crony capitalism from Madison city government... and I give anyone who uses the phrase "crony capitalism" in a Madison city election debate bonus points.

Allen is the antithesis of former mayor Gene Hexom, who ended his seven-year run as top town talker just last spring but now wants to bring his brittle, defensive, "how dare you criticize our perfect little town" attitude back to City Hall as a commissioner.

Now joining the race, perhaps to help Allen fight off the zombies, is Jennifer Wolff. She does education and outreach at East River and teaches yoga at the Community Center (let's see if that mobilizes Madison's fundagelical anti-New Age vote). She alliterates—can you get a better slogan than "We Want Wolff"? And in tech-wisdom that would quite seriously sway my vote, she recognizes that PDFs stink:

Agreed: the Madison City Commission should archive all of its agendas and minutes online. Storage is a trivial issue, but the commission could save memory by using HTML instead of PDF.

Crony capitalism and PDFs: there are two issues I look forward to hearing Allen and Wolff challenge Hexom with in a city commission debate.


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