South Dakota is not a state that is known for open access to public records.
But it is now plowing new ground in ridiculous reasons for keeping public documents secret. Bret Afdahl, the director of the South Dakota Division of Banking, refused a request from the Argus-Leader newspaper in Sioux Falls for the applications that payday loan and title loan companies submit to acquire licenses in South Dakota.
Afdahl denied an Argus Leader request for the applications, in part by quoting a law whose title notes that banking division records are "open to public inspection."
Yeah, it's pretty bizarre. But it gets really absurd.
The Argus Leader also requested all consumer complaints received by the division since Jan. 1, 2014. Afdahl denied the paper's request for those records, arguing they aren't in the public interest and could be used to harm people or banks.
Alabama will eventually be forced to accept the reality of same-sex marriage -- but some folks will kick and scream the whole way there.
Take, for instance, the Rev. David Gonnella, pastor of Magnolia Springs Baptist Church in Theodore.
Rev. Gonnella was given the honor and privilege on Tuesday of opening the Alabama Senate's session with a prayer. Did he ask the Lord to impart the senators with wisdom and to act in the best interests of Alabamians?
Did he seek divine intervention for help in solving the intractable problems of joblessness and poor educational opportunities throughout the state?
This is one of those things that you just can't believe still exists in 2015, even in Alabama.
Years and years ago the state of Alabama passed a property tax to fund pensions for Confederate soldiers and their widows.
The tax once brought in millions for Confederate pensions, but the old soldiers and their wives slowly died off and by 1939 they were all gone and the Alabama Confederate Soldiers Home that was funded by the tax closed down.
The tax, however, lives on and today a small portion of it (about $400,000) funds the 102-acre Confederate Memorial Park, where Confederate battle flags still fly on the site of the old veterans home.
What makes this especially galling -- other than the obvious fact of state taxpayers funding a Confederate park -- is that the Confederate park is swimming in money thanks to the dedicated tax while the state is threatening to close down several state parks for lack of funding.
Professor Juan Cole asks this very pertinent question regarding the media coverage of the nuclear deal with Iran.
Why has Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu been all over American TV but there haven't there been interviews on major TV networks of Iran's foreign minister?
In the aftermath of the Kerry-Zarif initial framework deal on nuclear energy in Iran, it seems obvious that an interview with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif would be newsworthy. But to my knowledge none of the networks or major cable news shows had him on.
Or you could have talked to the British, French, German, Russian or Chinese foreign ministers, all of whom were principals and all of whom would have had interesting insights.
Republicans have long pushed the idea of putting Ronald Reagan on a US coin. The dime was suggested but that went nowhere because it would have meant replacing FDR and the March of Dimes theme that inspired it.
But now they are getting their wish -- albeit with a coin that will hardly ever be seen in circulation. Reagan will soon be on a dollar coin.
This is happening because the US Mint is nearing the end of its program to issue dollar coins with the portraits of America's presidents.
The Mint has been issuing them at a rate of four per year, starting with George Washington. They have made it all the way to Harry Truman this year.
The original plan was to stop after Gerald Ford because the Mint has a policy of not issuing coins that honor people who are still alive. And since Jimmy Carter is still alive, that was made the cutoff point.
But now the Mint has reversed course. It plans to skip over Carter and issue a dollar coin to honor Ronald Reagan in 2016.
Alabama awakened on Monday to the realization that gay couples could, for the first time ever, apply for an Alabama marriage license and actually get one -- instead of being mocked or arrested or worse.
So, quite naturally, some folks wondered if this would somehow alter the trajectory of the universe as they know it, whether the wrath of God would descend upon the Heart of Dixie in the form of clouds of locust, whether goats and sheep would be wanting to get married, whether the earth would open up and swallow everything from Mobile to Huntsville.
One resident, J.T. Addaway, bravely walked into his yard in Blount County, northeast of Birmingham, to see how much things had changed
The U.S. Supreme Court has notified attorneys for the state of Alabama and plaintiffs that there will be no ruling this weekend on the state's request for a stay of Judge Callie Granade's ruling striking down Alabama's ban on same-sex marriage.
Translation: The court has decided not to decide, which is tantamount to allowing the ruling to stand.
David Kennedy, an attorney for plaintiffs Kim McKeand and Cari Searcy in Mobile, said he expects same-sex marriage licenses to be issued first thing Monday morning. He said it is somewhat unusual that the high court would not rule one way or the other since the justices of issued rulings on request to delay gay marriages from beginning in other states.
"I haven't seen one that moved this quickly, either," he said, noting that the state's petition to the court is less than a week old. "It seems like its moved pretty quickly."
MSNBC is in the doldrums as far as the ratings are concerned. The slide has been going on for a while now, but things seem to be hitting bottom.
And that is setting off a new flurry of speculation that network chief Phil Griffin is about to shake up the lineup of hosts that he himself is largely responsible for creating.
The liberal cable news network drew an average of 55,000 viewers in the all-important 25- to 54-year-old demo on Tuesday, its lowest full-day rating since July 2005, according to Nielsen ratings provided by an industry source. CNN had nearly three times as many viewers in the demo, Fox News nearly five times as many.
That low reflects a more general decline in recent years. In January, MSNBC's daytime ratings for January were down 20 percent in total and 37 percent in the demo when compared to the previous year. In prime time, total viewership was down 23 percent, while the demo dropped by 39 percent.
I'm not sure why Tuesday was especially bad -- although CNN often surges when there is a lot of big breaking news like the Jordanian pilot, the commuter train wreck and the stunning video of the Taiwan plane crash.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta today refused to issue a stay of the ruling by a federal judge in Mobile that Alabama's constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.
The judge had issued a 14-day stay of her ruling to give the state time to ask the appeals court for a permanent stay, but that was denied.
That means that as of Feb. 9, same-sex marriage will be legal from Muscle Shoals to Orange Beach and all points in between and probate judges can begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.
If you have ever wondered how designs are selected for the various coins and medals produced by the US Mint, the process includes a panel known as the Commission of Fine Arts.
This commission reviews design proposals and makes recommendations to the Treasury Secretary about what should be selected. The commission was created a while back when there were many complaints that some of the commemorative coins being minted were rather ugly.
So, the commission met to consider designs for a new $75 gold coin and a companion silver medal. They picked two designs -- one of which gives Miss Liberty, a standard on American coinage since the 1700s, a decidedly diverse look.
As a result, the commission will send Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew recommendations that he select the image of a young African-America woman or a less specifically ethnic woman holding an American flag and torch as the most modern Liberty that has ever graced a U.S. coin.
The trend in major media these days is to do without as many warm bodies as possible, especially warm bodies that require things like paid vacations and health insurance.
Sports Illustrated, which is probably the best known sports magazine in the country, is no exception. On Thursday they informed their six remaining photojournalists that their jobs were being eliminated.
Sports Illustrated director of photography Brad Smith confirmed the move this morning to News Photographer magazine.
"It's true," Smith said. "There was a decision made through the company to restructure various departments, including at Sports Illustrated. Unfortunately economic circumstances are such that it has cut the six staff photographers."
So, how do you put out a magazine without staff photographers?
Yes, you read that correctly.
There is at least one Republican in the Heart of Dixie who is not afraid to come out and say that President Obama actually has a proposal that should be seriously considered.
The proposal is Obama's call for universal community college access for high school graduates. The Alabama Republican is Mary Scott Hunter, a member of the Alabama Board of Education from Huntsville.