Rep. Isaac Latterell (R-6/Tea) takes his anti-abortion crusade over the top by saying that Planned Parenthood is worse than ISIS:

There are certain revolting methods of execution, such as beheading, that no state would ever permit, even against murderers who use this method on their victims. It is this revulsion that leads us to rightly condemn the beheadings committed by unconscionably violent soldiers in the Middle East....

Planned Parenthood abortionists in Sioux Falls are similarly beheading unborn children during dismemberment abortions...

No state, no religion, and no organization should ever be allowed to use this unspeakably horrifying method. While we rightly take the speck out of our neighbor’s eye by holding ISIS accountable, let us be sure to take the plank out of our own eye by holding Planned Parenthood accountable [Rep. Isaac Latterell, "Planned Parenthood Worse Than ISIS and Lying about It," blog, 2015.02.17].

Rep. Latterell gets his specks and planks mixed up. Planned Parenthood is not kidnapping and killing innocent citizens. Planned Parenthood and other providers of counseling and health services do not make gory, sensationalist videos to radicalize and recruit disaffected youth (actually, that's what the anti-abortion crusaders have done to Isaac, and that's what he does now).

Planned Parenthood isn't even performing the kind of abortions Latterell discusses in South Dakota:

Planned Parenthood said it does not perform this abortion procedure and only performs first trimester abortions in South Dakota. Planned Parenthood spokesperson Jennifer Aulwes told TPM that the type of abortion described by Latterell is only performed after the first trimester, and any such abortions would have been performed by a doctor outside of a Planned Parenthood clinic [Caitlin MacNeal, "South Dakota Lawmaker: 'Planned Parenthood Worse Than ISIS'," TPM Livewire, 2015.02.18].

Rep. Latterell simply dismisses Planned Parenthood as liars, saying they must be performing the procedure and not telling the Department of Health. Latterell decorates his irresponsible diatribe with a lie of his own, a photo of a healthy, born baby, who unlike a fetus has constitutional rights and cannot be aborted.

Planned Parenthood promotes women's rights, public health, and science-based education. ISIS uses gore and lies to promote a brutal political regime that would endanger women's health and deny women their rights. If Rep. Latterell really wants to open the door to debating South Dakota legislation by comparing opponents to global terrorists, then he invites the critique that Isaac is a lot like ISIS.

p.s.: The Legislature appears not to recognize the irresponsibility of Rep. Latterell's rhetoric. They have so far failed to behead House Bill 1230, the legislation that commits the same ISIS confabulation about abortion that Rep. Latterell is peddling online. Say it again, people: abortion is a constitutional medical procedure, not terrorism.

99 comments

My rage only grows at the murder of cartoonists, artists armed only with wit, by masked gunmen shouting Islamic slogans in Paris today. The bursting slogan, Je suis Charlie, says "I am Charlie." If you speak, if you question, if you criticize, if you ridicule, you are Charlie Hebdo.

Philippe Val was very much Charlie. Comedian, singer, journalist, Val also helped resurrect the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 1992 and edited it until 2009. He now directs radio station France Inter. In an interview on France Inter today, he said, "I have lost all my friends today." He proceeded to eulogize his friends and demand a memorial of fearless defense of art, speech, and liberty. (He spoke in French; I translate and accept responsibility for any errors.)

These were people so full of life, whose hearts' desire was to bring pleasure to others, to make them laugh, to give them fertile ideas. They were good people. They were the best by far among us, like all people who make us laugh, who are for liberty, like all people who believe we should be able to come and go freely and in security. They were assassinated. It is intolerable butchery.

We must not let silence settle in. We must really help. Now we must come together against this horror. Terror must not put an end to the joy of living, to liberty, to expression, to democracy—all of that is at stake. It's this type of brotherhood that makes life posssible. We must not let this go; this is an act of war. Perhaps tomorrow it would be good if journalists would call themselves Charlie Hebdo. If we all would call ourselves Charlie Hebdo. If all France were Charlie Hebdo. That would show that we're not o.k. with this, that we will never let laughter be extinguished, that we will never let liberty be extinguished.

We can't let this go. These were absolutely magnificent people. Cabu was a genius, a genius of kindness, of talent. Charb, all these people, they are all dead, my friend Bernard Maris, all. We can't let this go. We should form a front, we should stand quite united. These weren't evil people; these were people who just wanted everyone to live happily. These were people who wanted humor to have a place in our lives, that's all. That's all, that's it, and that's what they were assassinated for.

This is just not tolerable. We must act. I'm sorry for speaking like this, but all these years, the media haven't been on top of this radicalization. Lots of Muslims should be devastated by this. They are in danger themselves. We haven't discussed enough this increase in fundamentalism in France. We haven't sounded the alarm enough. We've done what we could. We've often been alone. Today, I'm practically all alone. All my friends are gone. And they didn't die for some bad cause; they died just because they wanted everyone to be able to live, they wanted children to be able to come and go without danger.

There, it's horrible what's happened. This event marks a before and an after. Our country will no longer be the same. They've wiped out a certain way of doing journalism. They've wiped out all the people who could make us laugh about such grave ideas. It's an appalling death that descends upon us, but silence must not win. Elisabeth Badinter said of the [2007] lawsuit of cartoons, "If they are condemned, it's silence that will beat us down." So today, more than ever, we must say what we think.

I don't have religion. It's too bad; I would like to have religion today. If I did, I would say to my friends that I love them. I'd say how indispensable they were to my life, how indispensable they were to everyone else, how indispensable they are to all who need liberty to live.

(Nicolas Demorand): They made us laugh.

(Philippe Val): We laughed so much. Today laughing is very difficult, but that's the perfect weapon. Laughter is that weapon of brotherhood. We must let people laugh, let them ridicule the bastards. We must hold our ground, we must all be together. What has happened is very grave. We cannot live in this danger. We cannot live in fear.

[Philippe Val, radio interview with Nicolas Demorand, translated from transcript, Libération, 2015.01.07]

Nous sommes Charlie—we are Charlie. We must not be silent.

24 comments

Small sacrifice to fight Putin and jihadis?

Bob Mercer notes that county emergency responders lack the training and resources to deal with oil train accidents. County emergency management officials don't even get updates on what sort of toxic train materials are moving through or parking in their counties. State Emergency Response Commission chairman Bob McGrath says that in response to this increased risk to emergency responders and the public at large, the Legislature is likely to do nothing:

The commission’s chairman, Bob McGrath of White, said training money is available, but he doesn’t know where equipment money would be found.

McGrath said he doesn’t foresee the Legislature imposing fees and won’t allow special tax assessments. “I think the legislation approach probably is not going to work,” he said [Bob Mercer, "Oil Trains Present Unmet Challenges for South Dakota," Aberdeen American News, 2014.12.16].

The Emergency Response Commission called for no action.

As we wait unprepared for the next messy derailment, let us take comfort in the fact that we are sacrificing our local safety to support the global war on bad guys. Our oil production is putting a serious crimp in Vladimir Putin's style:

Putin's Russia, like the USSR before it, is only as strong as the price of oil. In the 1970s, we made the mistake of thinking that the USSR's invasion of Afghanistan meant that we were losing the Cold War, when the reality was that they had stumbled into their own Vietnam and could only afford to feed their people as long as oil stayed sky-high. The USSR's economic mirage, though, became apparent to everybody—none less than their own people, who had to scrounge in empty supermarkets—after oil prices bottomed out in the 1980s. That history is repeating itself now, just without the Marxist-Leninism. Putin could afford to invade Georgia and Ukraine when oil prices were comfortably in the triple digits, but not when they're half that. Russia can't afford anything then [Matt O'Brien, "Sorry, Putin. Russia's Economy Is Doomed," Washington Post: Wonkblog, 2014.12.15].

We and the Saudis are also helping beat the Islamic State thugs, who can't command as high a price for the product of their commandeered oil fields. Well, that, and we're blowing up the oil infrastructure they control.

So anyone willing to trade local emergency responder safety and environmental integrity for geopolitical wins against Russia and the caliphate?

6 comments

Hey, New Yorkers! Want a reason to be a bit miffed at South Dakota? Try reporter Joe O'Sullivan's list of the states that got the most Homeland Security dollars per resident in 2011. New York, where al-Qaeda terrorists killed 2,977 Americans and ushered in the police-state era, ranks tenth, at $4.70 per person. South Dakota, where terrorists haven't killed anyone since, well, ever (AIM debate, anyone?), ranks sixth, at $6.20 per person.

O'Sullivan notes that we'd have a hard time proving to our New York neighbors that South Dakota is really combatting terrorism with all that anti-terrorism money:

All that spending came in a state that arguably has very little threat of terrorism. According to a 2010 Washington Post report, South Dakota is one of 15 states that federal intelligence agencies ruled has "no specific foreign or domestic terrorism threat."

...a federal government report released in May has questioned South Dakota's ability to even measure whether the homeland security money is being put to good use.

"We were unable to determine the extent to which the [federal homeland security] grants enhanced the state's ability to prepare for and respond to disasters and acts of terrorism," according to the Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General Report. "The state does not have a system to measure preparedness" [Joe O'Sullivan, "State Gets Millions in Homeland Security Grants, But Where Does It Go?" Rapid City Journal, 2014.06.08].

We have a state government demanding more tests and more accountability before they'll deign to give schools any more money. But scare us with terrorism, and we'll throw all sorts of money at the police and never ask for proof that that money is addressing real threats and making us safer.

43 comments
Corinna Robinson speaks to Lincoln-Union County Democratic potluck, Beresford, SD, 2013.10.19. Photo credit: Lorri May.

Corinna Robinson speaks to Lincoln-Union County Democratic potluck, Beresford, SD, 2013.10.19. Photo credit: Lorri May.

Corinna Robinson made her first public speech as a Democratic candidate for South Dakota's U.S. House seat last night in Beresford. I'm sure she said more than this, but that Sioux Falls paper runs just two sentences from her speech... one of which has the Bosworthesque ring of trying too hard to stretch one's résumé to cover the job:

Robinson also cited her experience in counterterrorism as a way to back the state Democratic party’s efforts to raise the minimum wage.

“I knew firsthand that we could get on top of a lot of issues with minimum wage, so people can get jobs so they don’t have to commit crimes so they don’t have to get into terrorist groups,” Robinson said [Nick Lowery, "Veteran Corinna Robinson Touts Experience in Run for Congress," that Sioux Falls paper, 2013.10.20].

I'll cede this one point to Pat* and shout Fumble! Robinson's expertise as an anti-terrorism expert is not central to the debate over raising the minimum wage.

We hardly have terrorists in South Dakota, let alone folks driven to terrorism by our low wages. I Google around for examples of terrorists in South Dakota and come up really short of examples that could support Robinson's claim:

  • Self-proclaimed former terrorist Walid Shoebat makes good money coming to South Dakota to make anti-Islam speeches that win him the praise of our conservative wingnuts. But Shoebat appears to be stretching his résumé.
  • A financially and academically stressed Mines student wrote a terroristically threatening letter in April 2012. He was expelled and ended up working fast food... which suggests toying with terrorism could lead you to making minimum wage.
  • Various South Dakota public officials and reporters want you to believe that opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline and Powertech uranium mine. Regardless of our income, we have committed no acts of violence in our campaign against extractive corporate violence.
  • Rep. Kristi Noem did real damage to real people and voted to blow up the global economy in an effort to substantially impair public services and influence the policy of our government, thus almost meeting South Dakota's statutory definition of terrorism, but she makes much better than minimum wage. (Corinna! Make this point!)
  • Noem's example makes me think that the real risk of terrorism comes from ignorance, not income. But one National Bureau of Economic Research working paper contends that the link between terrorism and economic factors is weak at best. Politics, not economics, motivate terrorists. Terrorist groups, says the working paper, are more likely to recruit well-educated operatives, not impoverished illiterates. (Dang: if that's the case, South Dakota Republicans could contend that their policies to keep South Dakotans poor and dumb reduce the chances of terrorism!)

Trying to win votes by scaring voters into seeing terrorists around every corner is a Republican trick. Democrat Robinson should avoid going down that road and focus on the core reason to raise the minimum wage: our commitment to human dignity and even free market fairness demand that citizens who put in a full day's work deserve a wage that takes care of their families.

Now, someone get me a transcript of the rest of Robinson's speech!

*Please do note the irony of Pat Powers dinging a candidate for stirring fears of terrorism even as he manufactures fear of animal rights terrorists.

25 comments

Remember how South Dakota public safety officials unapologetically labelled opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline and Powertech uranium mining projects terrorists out to kill your children? Kevin Woster jumps on the Bob Mercer bandwagon and says we had it coming:

As for Keystone XL, I don't expect to see the ranchers I know who oppose or question the pipeline running rampant over TransCanada property or threatening to burn down the homes of pipeline employees.

But emotions of opponents run high on Keystone XL. Some have implied that they were willing to take strong actions against the project. And the camouflaged clothing, masks and imposing demeanor of the protesters in the photo above sends a vague-but-ominous message.

If you want not to be misunderstood in your intent, it makes sense to be clear in your message [Kevin Woster, "Keystone XL and the Mixed Message of Environmental Protests," Mount Blogmore, 2013.07.15].

Woster's blog post includes no example of any eco-terrorist ever blowing up a school to achieve environmental ends, which was the thesis of the bomb-threat exercise in the Black Hills this spring. Instead, Woster cites the example of Wisconsin oil-exploration protesters cussing and threatening to burn down oil workers' houses. But in the only relevance to South Dakota environmental disasters in the making, Woster accompanies his blog post with the photo of two fatigue-wearing Keystone XL opponents making reporter Bob Mercer nervous at a September 2011 pipeline hearing in Pierre. Some protesters wear camouflage and look tough, and we can excuse the government labeling a whole political movement as terrorists. Of course, just as women who wear high heels and short skirts ought to be labeled whores and expect to be raped.

R. Dennis, K. Woster, C.A. Heidelberger, Mount Blogmore Hunt, 2010. Photo by D. Montgomery.

Robert Dennis, Kevin Woster, Cory Allen Heidelberger, Mount Blogmore Hunt, 2010. Photo by David Montgomery.

Look out, Kevin! There's one of those camo-wearing anti-Keystone, anti-Powertech extremists right behind you! And watch out—he's carrying a camera! Totally fits the TransCanada profile of a terrorist!

Update 13:32 CDT: Even Woster acknowledges that South Dakotans of good conscience don't plan or need to blow schools up to make their point that Keystone XL and Powertech pose serious risks to South Dakota's health. An excellent example of that sensible South Dakota opposition to Powertech: Ginger Heinzen of Hot Springs. She's not afraid of skinny guys in fatigues blowing up her school (and the Hot Springs school was among those labeling environmentalists as terrorists). She's worried foreign predators like Powertech will plunder our resources and ruin our precious water supply.

Friends and Neighbors:

On July 3rd my husband and I came home and found that we had almost no water in our water taps. First, I would like to thank the city of Hot Springs and the water works department for working so promptly to repair and restore our water.

Second, this got me to thinking about our water and how much we depend on clean, adequate water. What would it be like if our water was not clean and safe from harmful uranium compounds and other pollutants. Would you be comfortable bathing your child in that kind of water.

I urge you to step up and support our Grass Roots movement for keeping our water clean and safe.

How can you help: sign a petition for clean, safe water. Voice your opposition to Local and State elected officials and urge them to help keep our water safe and clean.

Join our Grass Roots group, we meet every other Wed., at 5:30 at the Hot Springs Library.

There are 2 very important hearings this Autumn and we will need your support . Please plan to attend.

The Large Scale Mining Permit Hearing is Sept. 23rd, starting at 8:30am, The Water Permits and Ground Water Discharge Hearing will be Oct. 7th, starting at 8:30 am. Both will be at the Ramkota in Rapid City.

The Governors phone number is 605-773-3212

It's All About The Water
Ginger Heinzen [letter to the editor, submitted 2013.07.11]

12 comments

Hey, kids! How would you like your local law enforcement, at the behest of our foreign corporate overlords, to brand you as a terrorist threat? Here are some quick and easy "suspicious activities" you can do to make yourself the envy of all your jihadi friends:

  1. "Photography, observation, or surveillance of facilities, buildings, or ritical infrastructure and key resources": take pictures of roads, pumping stations, big pipeline storage depots, or TransCanada personnel (what resource is more key than one's people?), and you, too, could be a terrorist!
  2. "Eliciting information beyond curiosity about a facility's or building's purpose, operations, or security": Curiosity kills the cat and the creepy eco-terrorist. Keep your questions to yourself, and let corporations do what they want.
  3. "Material acquisition or storage of unusual quantities of materials": And how many of you have unusual quantities of ammunition and MREs in your Black Hills bunkers? Heck, how many of you bought more pickles and beans than you really need at Sam's Club last weekend?

TransCanada, a foreign corporation, is advising your law enforcement officials, via suspicious Homeland Security Fusion Centers, to keep an eye out for the above activities, for fear that Constitutionally protected activities by American citizens could hinder their pipeline profits. Pay attention: while right-wing criers distract us with fabricated scandals about the IRS challenging your ability to violate non-profit tax code, corporations are pushing your police to limit your ability to seek information and goods and speak up against injustice. You tell me which is the greater threat to your liberty.

10 comments

Regular readers know I don't go for conspiracy theories. But give me three instances of the powers that be portraying anti-Keystone XL activists as terrorists, and I can't help thinking we face an orchestrated corporate PR campaign.

First public officials in the Black Hills publicly portray opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline as terrorists in a fictional scenario completely unnecessary to their emergency drill.

Then well-connected journalist Bob Mercer defends that propaganda by pointing to "people in the guerilla fatigues with masks" who stood in silent protest at a State Department hearing on the pipeline in Pierre. Mercer makes no mention if the intimidation factor of burly union reps bused in from other states to the September 2011 Pierre hearing wearing t-shirts declaring their support for Keystone XL.

Now Bold Nebraska finds TransCanada documents showing that the pipeline company is waging a PR campaign to make state and local law enforcement officials view Keystone XL protestors as a terrorist threat:

TransCanada, the Canadian corporation behind the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, is providing security briefings to Nebraska authorities warning them to look into the application of "anti-terrorism laws" on people who oppose the pipeline despite the fact that no Nebraskan has committed a crime in the state in their efforts to stop the pipeline.

Bold Nebraska obtained TransCanada documents from the Nebraska State Patrol through a Freedom of Information Act request and was alarmed to discover what they describe as efforts to build distrust between Nebraska police and citizens who have organized to oppose the pipeline which threatens their air, land and water.

...The preponderance of opposition in the state has come from farmers and ranchers, whose threat level TransCanada describes as "low" while calling them "abusive and aggresive." In the presentations, dated December of 2012 but presented last month in Nebraska, TransCanada warns authorities that actions in Texas and by Anonymous could be coming to Nebraska and are "potential security concerns." They warn authorities to prepare for coming incidences of property destruction and "monkeywrenching." No such incidents have occurred in Nebraska to date [Mark Hefflinger, "TransCanada Calls Nebraska Ranchers Aggressive and Abusive, Talks of Terrorism," BoldNebraska.com, 2013.06.11].

Bold Nebraska posts TransCanada's offending anti-American propaganda for you to read and judge for yourself. But it seems the only real violence happening anywhere along the Keystone XL construction route down south is police roughing up protesters.

TransCanada uses our courts to take our property rights. Now they try to co-opt our police to take away our rights to assemble, protest, and petition. And those corporate-state tactics intimidate some people less than a couple hippies in Army jackets.

7 comments

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