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.

22 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

Bob Mercer noted earlier this week that the October 1 voter registration numbers from the Secretary of State's office show Independent registrations in South Dakota cracking 100,000 for the first time. Indies have increased their official numbers by 6.5% percent since the 2012 election, in a period when total voter registration has increased just 1.3%. Republicans are up 0.7%, Democrats are down 0.5% (come on, guys! momentum!), and Libertarians are up 13.2% (Ken! Call your pals and tell them they'd better register back to Republican to help Stace in June!).

But the biggest change that caught my eye was the drop in "inactive voters," folks who are still technically registered but haven't voted for four years and haven't responded to state efforts to verifying their status. Inactive voters are still registered. They can walk in on Election Day and vote; they just have to fill out a new voter registration card.

Last November, there were 53,132 names on the inactive roll. Now there are only 15,940.

The voter registration list shows previous purges of inactive voters, but none of this magnitude. 37,192 inactive voters disappearing? Aaah! Naturally, my Jason Gant-monkeyshines radar went off.

But not to worry: I called the Secretary's office in Pierre and had a nice conversation with senior elections coordinator Brandon Johnson. He explained that the 70% culling of the inactive rolls is nothing nefarious. It's mostly better bookkeeping.

Last year the Secretary of State's office got every county onto a new centralized voter tracking system (what? centralization? isn't that socialism, doomed to fail?). The old system was cutting off data, leaving Pierre blind to changes made and information entered at the local level. The new system let Pierre see all sorts of data that it couldn't before, data revealing thousands of names, mostly duplicates, that should have been purged from the inactive rolls years ago.

So the problem isn't this October's remarkably low figure in that Inactive column; it's the numbers we didn't realize were inflated in previous tallies based on gaps in data uploaded from the counties in the old system.

This data purge and the number in the Inactive column doesn't have a major impact on daily politics. Most candidacy, initiative, and referendum petition requirements are based on votes cast in the previous election, not total voter registration. Municipal initiative and referendum petitions are based on registered voter count, which means purging those duplicates and other erroneous entries from the rolls will actually help local groups seeking to put municipal measures to public votes.

Take, for example, the most prominent (and still pending!) municipal referendum, Save Our Neighborhood's effort to keep Walmart out of their south Sioux Falls neighborhoos by reversing a city zoning decision. On August 30, SON filed petitions at City Hall with 6,362 signatures. They needed 5,089 signatures, 5% of the official 101,783 registered voters, active and inactive, on the books in Sioux Falls when the petitions were filed. If the city had purged from its voter rolls a percentage of inactive voters similar to what Pierre did for the October 1 count, it would have dropped something like 3,000 voters from its registry, lowering the number of require petition signatures by around 150. Of course, if the counties had their data right in the first place, and the error was only happening in transferring that data to Pierre's records, then we wouldn't expect any harm done to local petitioneers.

(Interestingly, I check with the Minnehaha and Lincoln County auditors: since the SON petitions were submitted, registered voters in Sioux Falls have increased to 106,048, up 4.2%. Anyone walking a municipal petition around Sioux Falls today would need to gather 113 more signatures than SON did in August.)

So as far as I can tell, the big purge of inactive voters is just good bookkeeping, not Jason running more people he doesn't like through the Gantlet. Clearing duplicates and other errors from the inactive voter rolls gives us a better picture of who's out there to vote, and it may give local petition organizers a little break in achieving their goals.

8 comments

Don't be fooled by Annette Bosworth's Noem-plagiarizing campaign video: the only thing she knows about farming is how to spread manure.

Vscan handheld ultrasound device, available in Canada.

Vscan handheld ultrasound device, available in Canada. Photo from Annette Bosworth, Facebook, 2013.09.29

On Facebook and apparently in airports, Bosworth shows off her $7,900 Vscan handheld ultrasound device. Dr. Bosworth, who is not an ob-gyn, claims she had the following interaction:

On a jet-plane. Shared my ultrasound with a Canadian Pregnant woman. Access to an ultrasound is not possible when there is no free market. She was fascinated [Annette Boswroth, Facebook post, 2013.09.29].

The young mother from Canada was fascinated that such technology existed ... Big government reduces the drive for innovation & competition found in our free market [Annette Bosworth, another Facebook post, 2013.09.29].

Perhaps the young mother for whom Bosworth shook out the contents of her medical bag was fascinated. But she was also naïve. Canada has handheld ultrasound devices. Canada licensed the Vscan ultrasound device at about the same time the United States did. A Vancouver hospital got them in 2010. This Canadian doctor tried it out and found the handheld device solid but too clunky for convenient portable use. Innovators in ultrasound technology have included Canadians, Germans, Brits, Norwegians, and others whose socialized health systems have helped them provide better care to expecting mothers for less money than it would cost in America.

Bosworth's identification as a Republican stems from opportunism, not principle. But she epitomizes one core GOP strategy: never let facts get in the way of a good ideological talking point.

16 comments

Press-release puppet Pat Powers makes himself and his sponsor Senator John Thune look like an idiot with today's repost of a letter from Senator Thune and 16 Republican Senate colleagues. These hardy Republicans are calling for Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to extend the Electronic Health Records Incentive Program, the program that paid anti-government GOP Senate candidate Annette Bosworth $21,250 to use computers in her clinic. Senator Thune and his GOP colleagues want more doctors to have more time to qualify for more government money.

Senator John Thune (R-SD)

Government money is bad... except when it's good!

Whu-whu-whu-whuzza-fuzza?

Let me repeat that:

Senator Thune and his GOP colleagues want more doctors to have more time to qualify for more government money.

Put that hot coffee down. It gets better.

The EHR Incentive Program comes to us courtesy of the HITECH Act, which was enacted under lucky Title XIII of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. You know, the stimulus.

Senator John Thune voted against the ARRA. So did all 13 of his fellow letter signers who were in Congress in 2009 (see the ARRA final roll calls in Senate and House on Feb. 13, 2013). They weren't voting against the stimulus because they thought the Stage 2 EHR adoption deadline was "artificially aggressive." They were voting against EHR incentives and the rest of the bill because they said President Barack Obama was spending money we didn't have on things that wouldn't work.

Now they say EHR incentives work great:

The Electronic Health Records (EHR) Meaningful Use Incentive Program has played a significant role in advancing the adoption of health information technology across the country [Senator John Thune et al., letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, 2013.09.24].

I don't know if Pat Powers even reads the press releases his sponsors tell him to run, but Senator Thune sure doesn't read them in the full context of history and his own voting record.

27 comments

Senator Dan Lederman (R-16/fake golf course town built on flood plain) tweets last night to his target market:

Yes, the Lederman Bail Bonds iPhone app is here!

Lederman Bail Bond app screen cap

Lederman Bail Bond app screen cap

"Tap To Arm"—yep, because if you have money, this Republican legislator wants you to get you out of jail as quickly as possible.

2 comments

The Lake County Planning Board met yesterday to review a proposed tax increment finance district. If the board was reviewing for grammar and accuracy, they found a hilarious cut-and-paste error on page 5 of the August draft from TIF seeker Lloyd Companies of Sioux Falls:

Excerpt from "Tax Incremental District #2, Lake County, SD, Project Plan," Lloyd Companies, August 2013. Error highlighted by CAH

Excerpt from "Tax Incremental District #2, Lake County, SD, Project Plan," Lloyd Companies, August 2013. Error highlighted by CAH

In the middle of pasting together the vast swatches of boilerplate and baloney that go into convincing the county to cover about 20% of the construction costs for a residential project that the Madison market is screaming for, someone at the office writes "wish i am lying there too lol".

I'm at a loss to explain how that phrase could have landed in that definition. Such a simple, uncapitalized text hardly seems worth the effort of cutting and pasting from Facebook into Twitter. Did the office computer suddenly develop Bluetooth telepathy and read a bored Lloyd worker's phone?

Now if only that telepathic computer had included the picture of where that person wished he were lying... and with whom!

I'll have details and analysis on the TIF district plan itself later today; i'm not lying there lolstay tuned!

1 comment

I've had friends and even state legislators call me while they are driving. That's part of why it's so hard to get the South Dakota Legislature to pass a texting/phoning-while driving ban: the majority of legislators are trying to catch up on business with every spare minute, including their long, lonely weekend stretches on the highway.

I've wondered if I might have an obligation to hang up on my friends and legislators when I hear the highway rushing in the background of the phone call, to tell them, "Call me back when you've stopped."

A ruling from the Superior Court of New Jersey suggests I might. Three New Jersey judges heard an appeal from David and Linda Kubert, who lost their left legs when 18-year-old Kyle Best crossed the center line while texting female friend Shannon Colonna and hit the Kuberts' motorcycle with his truck. The Kuberts sued and got a settlement from Best, but they also sued Colonna, saying that by texting Best while he was driving, she was "electronically present" and contributed to the accident.

The lower court dismissed the suit against Colonna, and the appellate division upheld the dismissal. But the court sets this standard, which the Kuberts didn't satisfy but which other plaintiffs could:

We hold that the sender of a text message can potentially be liable if an accident is caused by texting, but only if the sender knew or had special reason to know that the recipient would view the text while driving and thus be distracted [Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, Kubert v. Best and Kolonna, Docket No. A-1128-12T4, 2013.08.27].

Interesting: our legal obligation to keep it down back there! may extend from the back seat to the couch at home.

Colonna got off because, the judges concluded, "Colonna did not have a special relationship with Best by which she could control his conduct. Nor is there evidence that she actively encouraged him to text her while he was driving." However,

When the sender knows that the text will reach the driver while operating a vehicle, the sender has a relationship to the public who use the roadways similar to that of a passenger physically present in the vehicle. As we have stated, a passenger must avoid distracting the driver. The remote sender of a text who knows the recipient is then driving must do the same [Kubert v. Best and Kolonna, 2013.08.27].

This ruling underscores an important philosophical point about our evolving technology: legally, morally, attentively, we can be someplace other than where we are.

...texting someone can sometimes be the same as actually being with them. The implication of this point is a bit larger: The physical world doesn't exist separately from cyberspace; technology and life often overlap, sometimes with lethal consequences.

"I think the court is right to define 'presence' as not only rooted in physical space, but also by attention -- something digital communication can garner a substantial amount of, even over great distance," said Nathan Jurgenson, a digital theorist who has written about these issues [Matt Pearce, "New Jersey Court: Texting with a Driver Can Get You in Trouble, Too," Los Angeles Times, 2013.08.27].

Perhaps the justices and Jurgenson offer a digital-age reformulation of Home is where the heart is... an interesting point to make as I blog South Dakota from outside South Dakota.

But trust me: I won't be blogging from behind the wheel. And if you call or text with a tip, I won't respond until I'm done driving. After all, I wouldn't want to get you in trouble.

8 comments

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