Wait a minute: now addiction is a workforce issue?

Leaders of Face It Together say support for people with that disease is especially important during the state's current worker shortage. An Aberdeen affiliate plans to open later this year.

...Because addiction can lead to less productivity and even the loss of skilled workers, leaders of Face It Together believe helping those employees is a money-saving investment for businesses, especially when workers are in short supply.

"We need to be able to help them seek recovery and treatment so they can stay in the workforce and stay in the community and be a vital component to our community," [business owner Troy] McQuillen said [Erich Schaffhauser, "Face It Together Expanding to Aberdeen," KELOLand.com, 2015.01.22].

What? Helping people overcome addiction is no longer rooted in supporting the intrinsic worth of every human being, but now arises from an instrumental view of people as cogs in the economic machine?

No, Face It Together simply understands its audience and is tuning its pitch to business-minded donors:

Through partnerships with Aberdeen businesses and other donations, the group is hoping to raise $150,000 to start offering services in the Hub City by June.

...The organization is looking to partner with any sector that could benefit from fewer people facing addiction [Schaffhauser, 2015.01.22].

Maybe we can adapt that workforce approach to sell raising money for teacher pay, too. We don't raise teacher pay to recognize the fundamental dignity of teachers and the moral worth of their work. We don't raise teacher pay to show our love for children or our appreciation of the inherent value of knowledge. We raise teacher pay because teachers are instrumental to building our workforce. Arbeit und Wirtschaft über alles!


The Chamberlain School Board won't even talk about allowing the Lakota members of its student body and community present a Lakota/Dakota honor song at its high school graduation ceremonies.

Fine. Let's take it outside. Chamberlain alumnus, now doctoral student Nick Estes posts this video of the Lakota/Dakota honor song presented to graduates as they left the official Euro-ceremony at Chamberlain High School on Saturday, May 17, 2014.

We marginalize our Lakota and Dakota neighbors, yet they still come, as close as their oppressors will allow, and raise their voices in song for all the children, ours and theirs, in the strange red robes. We can learn much about honor from this gesture.

And not to facilitate the racist resistance, but we may make an argument that the honor song sounds better outside, where it may rise unbound to the sky.

p.s.: In a March 2013 essay, Estes contends that our state does not deserve the name Dakota. He thus refers to his education at the University of South X and his home as Chamberlain, SX.


Some South Dakota legislators think it's fine to discriminate against certain kinds of human beings but not to discriminate against certain kinds of dogs.

Senate Bill 75 appears to be a manifestation of pit-bull obsession. Its purpose is to "prohibit local governments from enacting, maintaining, or enforcing regulations on certain dog breeds."

SB 75's prime sponsor, Senator Dan Lederman (R-16/a country club near Sioux City), is co-sponsoring SB 67, a measure that authorizes individuals and businesses to refuse service to homosexuals, racially mixed couples, remarrying divorcees, and anyone else whose marriages and life choices annoy them.

Joining Senator Lederman in treating dogs better than humans are the following misguided Republicans:

  • Sen. Tim Begalka (R-4/Clear Lake)
  • Sen. Bob Ewing (R-31/Spearfish)
  • Sen. Ryan Maher (R-28/Isabel)
  • Sen. Jeff Monroe (R-24/Pierre)
  • Sen. Tim Rave (R-25/Baltic)
  • Rep. Betty Olson (R-28B/Prairie City)
  • Rep. Mike Verchio (R-30/Hill City)

These folks come from the same political party that gives us an attorney general who thinks it's o.k. to quote Martin Luther King, Jr. in celebrating the death penalty.

Say whatever you want about what wonderful pets pit bulls are. I find that discussion trivial until South Dakota grants all humans justice and equal rights.


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.


Marriage-wrecking adulterer Mark Sanford won a South Carolina Congressional seat last night. Quick check—yup, ring still on my finger, heart still committed to my wife.

But we can now take family values off the table as a distinguishing voting issue between Republicans and Democrats, right?

Dr. Blanchard, who may blog more now that finals are done, tries to get the bad taste out of his mouth by reminding us that Bill Clinton was sleaze, too:

The left undermined a lot when it circled the wagons around Bill Clinton, not the least of which was Bill Clinton. If Daschle had managed to lay down the law when the first bimbo eruption occurred during the campaign, Clinton might not have wasted so much of his presidency trying to weasel out of his many indiscretions. I am sorry to see Republicans doing the same thing in SC 1. Of course, they netted that seat. Maybe that's the only thing we care about anymore [Ken Blanchard, "Colbert Retort," South Dakota Politics, 2013.05.08].

For what it's worth, Bill and Hillary are still married. Congressman-elect Sanford apparently still believes in marriage: he's engaged to his Argentinian mistress.


Can the church and South Dakota keep her?

University of Sioux Falls student Dannika Nash points to the hopeful example of 5,000 young people in Sioux Falls cheering marrige equality:

I got to go to the Macklemore concert on Friday night. If you want to hear about how that went, ask me, seriously, I want to talk about it until I die. The whole thing was great; but the best part was when Macklemore sang “Same Love.” Augustana’s gym was filled to the ceiling with 5,000 people, mostly aged 18-25, and decked out in thrift store gear (American flag bro-tanks, neon Nikes, MC Hammer pants. My Cowboy boyfriend wore Cowboy boots…not ironically….). The arena was brimming with excitement and adrenaline during every song, but when he started to play “Same Love,” the place about collapsed. Why? While the song is popular everywhere, no one, maybe not even Macklemore, feels its true tension like we do in Sioux Falls, South Dakota....

Before the song, Macklemore spoke really simple words along the lines of: “Hey, you can all have your own opinions on how we treat gay people in this country, but this is mine.” And I held my breath in anticipation of some kind of uproar or walk-out…but the crowd cheered louder than they had yet. In our red state, in our conservative little city, the 5,000 young people in that arena wanted to hear about marriage equality [Dannika Nash, "An Open Letter to the Church from My Generation," blog, 2013.04.07].

Nash reacts to the "hateful preaching" she's heard in her church upbringing. She says that hateful preaching drives 70% of twenty-somethings away from church.

Nash also points to a techno-cultural phenomenon that could keep those young people from leaving conservative South Dakota:

So many of us were brought up in churches and Christian homes, and even if we weren’t, we’ve experienced the traditional Christian culture that just resonates from South Dakota’s prairie land. We know conservatism; we know tradition. But we also have Twitter, we watch SNL, we listen to Macklemore, and we read Tina Fey. We’re more in touch with the rest of the country than the Midwest has ever been. Some of us love the church and some of us hate it, but there aren’t too many people for whom it’s irrelevant [Nash, 2013.04.07].

There's an interesting question: if modern media technology can help South Dakotans feel more connected with a more tolerant national culture, will that give their progressive values enough reinforcement to make living in conservative-soaked South Dakota bearable? Or will that ever-increasing exposure to the big world out there simply entice them all the more quickly to the bluer climes where they can enjoy the better-than-Twitter huggable company of like-minded neighbors?


Bob Mercer mistakes Ken Blanchard's sporadic narrow-minded only-ism for the deepest thinking in the state. Dr. Blanchard says past performance does not indicate future climate results:

I have been skeptical of world climate modeling projected into the future for the same reason as I am skeptical of anyone who claims to have discovered a formula that will predict the next winner of the World Series. It is possible to build a formula that corresponds to what has happened so far; it is another thing to guess what will happen next [Ken Blanchard, "Global Warming Flatlines," South Dakota Politics, 2013.04.06].

That sounds familiar.

Then Dr. Blanchard then asserts that past performance of technology and economic growth does predict future results :

One thing that we cannot project into the future is the nature of technological development. New sources of energy under the ocean floor will be exploitable very soon and it may be possible to put some of the carbon back when we got the energy. If we really want to solve the problems that our environment poses, the only hope lies in new technologies. The only way to get those is to promote economic growth. This is a lesson that the environmental left desperately wants not to learn [Blanchard, 2013.04.06].

Um... economic growth is also the only way to create environmental problems—eat more stuff, make more poop. Technology can make things cleaner (cars reduce manure on street; antibiotics reduce disease); it can also make things dirtier (cars make smog, antibiotics on dairies promote more resistant bacteria).

Technology and economic growth don't solve environmental problems; values do. Assuming that not-yet-invented technology will someday clean up our messes disinclines some of us from making less of a mess in the first place. Promoting economic growth as the only salvation for the ecosphere keeps us from seeing that we can remedy or avoid some messes by consuming less.

You can get rid of all the junk accumulating in your house and yard by inventing a Mr. Fusion to turn all your trash into energy. Or you can just buy less junk. You can use less gas by buying a Prius. Or you can choose a lifestyle in which you can depend on your feet and a sturdy bicycle to get you where you want to go. You can increase GDP by buying a bigger Case IH tractor and more Monsanto seed, hoping that those corporations will invest that money in research on miracle food pills. Or you can choose to farm organically and conscientiously to conserve the land and water for future generations.

Economic growth and technology are not the only ways to solve environmental problems. Without the right values, economic growth and technology can just as likely be our ruin.

Related Reading:

  1. I wrote a similar critique of commentary from Dusty Johnson in 2008.
  2. Wendell Berry's farmer-father said you can't plow your way out of debt. Berry says much more about conservation and economy in his 2012 Jefferson Lecture. A key passage:

The problem that ought to concern us first is the fairly recent dismantling of our old understanding and acceptance of human limits. For a long time we knew that we were not, and could never be, “as gods.” We knew, or retained the capacity to learn, that our intelligence could get us into trouble that it could not get us out of. We were intelligent enough to know that our intelligence, like our world, is limited. We seem to have known and feared the possibility of irreparable damage. But beginning in science and engineering, and continuing, by imitation, into other disciplines, we have progressed to the belief that humans are intelligent enough, or soon will be, to transcend all limits and to forestall or correct all bad results of the misuse of intelligence. Upon this belief rests the further belief that we can have “economic growth” without limit [Wendell Berry, "It All Turns on Affection," National Endowment for the Humanities Jefferson Lecture, 2012].


I haven't rewatched It's a Wonderful Life yet this year, but I get a little verklempt just thinking about it.

I wonder if maybe we ought to show Frank Capra's masterpiece on July 4 as well as Christmas.

Robert Reich gets that Frank Capra was telling us much more than "Merry Christmas":

...we are still in danger of the “Pottersville” Capra saw as the consequence of what happens when Americans fail to join together and forget the meaning of the public good.

If Lionel Barrymore’s “Mr. Potter” were alive today he’d call himself a “job creator” and condemn George Bailey as a socialist. He’d be financing a fleet of lobbyists to get lower taxes on multi-millionaires like himself, overturn environmental laws, trample on workers’ rights, and shred social safety nets. He’d fight any form of gun control. He’d want the citizens of Pottersville to be economically insecure – living paycheck to paycheck and worried about losing their jobs – so they’d be dependent on his good graces.

The Mr. Potters are still alive and well in America, threatening our democracy with their money and our common morality with their greed.

Call me naive or sentimental but I still believe the George Baileys will continue to win this contest. They know we’re all in it together, and that if we succumb to the bullying selfishness of the Potters we lose America and relinquish the future [Robert Reich, "Where Are We Heading—Bedford Falls or Pottersville?" blog, 2012.12.22].

As you watch tonight, think about two of the most jarring parts of George Bailey's otherworld experience. In Pottersville, fear withers and overwhelms Mary. Fear makes her timid and nearly unrecognizable.

And then Bert, the man who in Bedford Falls serenades George and Mary on their honeymoon, opens fire on the friend he does not know. In Pottersville, when a man needs help, bullets fly in a public square.

It's a Wonderful Life addresses faith in God, but it's more about faith in our fellow Americans. It's a call to stand against fear and greed. It's a call to live the Christmas spirit in all of our business and civic affairs.

Watch tonight, 7 p.m. Central on KDLT, 7 p.m. Mountain on KNBN,


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