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The South Dakota 2015 Legislative session is in full swing. This is my 21st winter in South Dakota, and it still kind of makes my hair stand on end when Pierre gets rolling.

This year, Republicans continue to use their supermajority status to basically cement their stranglehold on our political process. Two great examples this time:

And if the power grabbing isn't ugly enough, they have a bill in the mill to prevent our high-school activities association from setting any anti-discrimination or anti-bullying policies that concern sexual orientation or gender identity, and of course we have  the obligatory ask to the SCOTUS to repeal Roe while shaming women. Of course, I could go on (they certainly do).

I'm just glad the session only lasts a few fortnights (39 legislative days). Can you imagine what damage they would do if they were there longer?


Why do they vote for these people?

20%6 votes
13%4 votes
34%10 votes
3%1 votes
27%8 votes

| 29 votes | Vote | Results


(I'm reposting this on behalf of Equality South Dakota.)

Judy and Dennis Shepard, and friends
The Black Hills Center for Equality hosted a wonderful first annual Dakotas Equality Summit January 16/17 in Rapid City. Other sponsoring organizations included the Center For Equality (Sioux Falls), Common Ground, PFLAG Sioux Falls, and Equality South Dakota.

More than 85 individuals registered and we estimate 150 were in the room Judy Shepard's keynote address after dinner in the evening. (Remember, we're talking about Rapid City, South Dakota.) Change is coming!

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I shared this on FB:

A long time family friend, who had a very economically tough upbringing, and now is a conservative Christian who is dedicated to helping those in need, responded:

Thank you, this has not effected the ability for the upright to help the poor. We are still feeding them.
I felt compelled to write this response, and since I spent so much time, I thought I'd share it with you as I think the point is worth pondering when we have these conversations with our family, friends, and members of Congress.

Here's what I wrote on Facebook:

I'm going to step in for my mother here (miss you, Mom); I'm pretty sure she would have responded somewhat along these lines if the question was presented to her:

I couldn't disagree more. We're not. Individual charity is redemptive and should be encouraged, but a great nation's social policy cannot be based on it. Volunteers and charities can only do so much. Trained social workers and directed resources (such as WIC) can (and have) changed entire societies for the better. Life for the poor was a lot worse before the govt changes in the 1930s and 1960s, and we have been a better nation for it. I applaud the professionals that have chosen this career and am saddened that they aren't allowed to do their important work.

A relevant story that I heard the other day is that uber-billionaire David Koch was moved to tears by hearing from scientists at MIT (he's an alum) that lack of childcare was making their lives difficult. He wrote a check for 20 million dollars to build a new daycare center. However, the political movement he and his brother have generously supported have kicked MILLIONS of toddlers out of preschool through their opposition to the law. And now with WIC running out some will be going hungry. The "upright" of course will help some, but the "upright" don't have enough to feed them -- and they do not have the resources a govt does to identify the needy and provide help fairly that a great nation does. Unlike in Biblical times, we citizens are the government in our Republic. It's our ethical duty to support social policies to help the poor.

I have a lot respect for what you have been through in your life, the faith it has brought you to, and your point of view, which is based on your experience. If many in Congress could discuss policy, like we are here, for real, instead of attacking each other's motives, we wouldn't be in this awful place.

Update:  added some links

Fri Oct 04, 2013 at 12:41 PM PDT

The non-excepted

by robbinsdale radical

A comment supporting the dedicated Capitol Police on Facebook reads:

But [the Capitol Police] won't stay home, and those that decided who was "nonessential" know that. They have too strong a sense of duty.
Just to clear this up. We "excepted" and "non-excepted" Federal employees have no choice in the matter, so in that way, we are at best, pawns and at worst, hostages (and unsympathetic ones at that).

The way Federal employees have been beaten around by political rhetoric ("government is the problem", etc etc) in the last 30 years has brought our defenders to a place that reminds me of a great West Wing line:

Toby: I hate this issue. It's like walking around town carrying a dead chicken.
I'm a 26-year "non-excepted" Fed scientist, so I am speaking from personal experience as well as the guidance has been provided to me. The Capitol police are "excepted" -- they did not volunteer -- they are required to come into work, and, they will (eventually) be paid. In my agency, which is within the Department of the Interior, 50 of our 8000+ employees are "excepted". This includes a skeleton staff needed to maintain critical assets : for example, animals under our care, and a nuclear reactor.

I will provide some on-the-ground details on the current reality for the "non-excepted" majority of Feds -- below the fold...

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I got an email with a VERY long signature list at the end, and just had to write a response with the facts. Was it worth it? Who knows.

I'm sure you have seen this, another rehashed internet chain letter:


It does not matter if you personally like or dislike Obama. You need  
to sign this petition and flood his e-mail box with e-mails that tell  
him that, even if the House passes this bill, he needs to veto it. It  
is already impossible to live on Social Security alone. If the  
government gives benefits to 'illegal' aliens who have never  
contributed, where does that leave those of us who have paid into  
Social Security all our working lives?

Given the real battles we're up against, I could not resist a reply, bcc'd to the list. You can read it here, below the orange cruller.
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USGS realtime streamflow map
USGS WaterWatch
If you are near water, USGS has improved a real-time science service that could get you down to the creek just in time for the best fishing or tubing -- or save your life in an emergency. I think this is really neat; as usual I'm proud as ever of the organization for which I've worked for more than 25 years.

USGS WaterNow

When I started at the USGS in 1987, people who needed to know (like the Delaware River Master) would call us on the phone daily for this information - now, thanks to the dedicated and creative efforts of my colleagues, real-time streamflow information is readily available to everyone with access to internet or text.

Two things I need to say:

1. A flow gage near you is likely to be discontinued in the near future due to the sequester and anticipated FY14 budget cuts, putting both the scientific value of long-term data records, and the data's usefulness to save lives and property, at risk.

2. In contrast -- what has your congress-person (who BTW is NOT going without pay this summer) done for you lately, besides discouraging young people to choose a career serving the public? by freezing pay and cutting benefits?


Nationally, the 2012 general election was very encouraging to me. In general, voters came out against the crazy. Apparently, unfettered corporate money and tea-party rhetoric and Republican efforts at voter suppression in Ohio and Florida did not work: voters came out in large numbers on both sides and voted their conscience.

Unfortunately, in South Dakota it was more of the same, and nowhere this more obvious than in My Fair City, Robbinsdale. (Robbinsdale is my neighborhood in south-central Rapid City, SD.)

You just wonder why Robbinsdalians continue to knock down their own state rep's votes, while consistently returning them to Pierre to churn out more bad ones. Do they enjoy electing them just so they can slap the finished product around?

More beyond the orange crüller:

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Wed Sep 19, 2012 at 08:00 PM PDT

A Friend of the Pe' Sla

by robbinsdale radical

The Black Hills local paper of record, the Rapid City Journal, has published a profile of a friend of mine, Mother Linda Kramer, lives in the Heart of the Black Hills and has been working to preserve it for years. (Protecting "a gift from God," Episcopal priest works for prairie preservation, RC Journal, 9/16/2012) Kramer lives and works at Borderlands Ranch a working farm and spiritual center in the heart of the Pe' Sla.

The piece also has more background on what is currently happening up there on the ground.

Kramer is doing what she can to help preserve [the sacred lands]. As a non-Native involved in sensitive Native issues, Kramer knows she is open to criticism from both sides. But she counts on her many Native friends and mentors, who have urged her to carry on with her work, for guidance. And she gets essential support from her Borderlands board of directors, which includes Native and non-Native members.
The acquisition of the Reynolds Prairie land may open up possibilities to preserve even more of this beautiful place.
"I'm totally working with the understanding that this is a sacred site, like a cathedral or, more than that, the holy land of the Lakotas and others," Kramer said. "And I'm also a priest. And part of my responsibility as a priest is to protect places of worship. If we destroy Pe' Sla, we destroy a gift from God."
Google Map of the Pe' Sla, Borderlands, and the Reynolds Ranch

The bow-tie shaped tract in the center of the image above is the original Borderlands Ranch. The purple area just north of it is an adjoining tract that Borderslands purchased in 2007. The much larger area north of that is the area of land currently in negotiation between the Reynolds family and the Sioux. The large pale orange area is the main high plain that composes the Pe' Sla.
Google map here.


Sun Sep 16, 2012 at 01:14 PM PDT

David Gregory gold...

by robbinsdale radical

David Gregory tries to push PM Netanyahu into common on Mittens incendiary Israel comments.

If only he would push Mittens like this.

GREGORY:  But prime minister, with respect, if I may just interrupt you…
Very impressive.

Thu Sep 06, 2012 at 12:50 AM PDT

Tonight I felt history

by robbinsdale radical

I did not know what to expect as I drove to Rapid City's Memorial Park Wednesday night. I was there to witness a celebration of "The Return of the Pe' Sla" -- and an update on the breathtaking recent events which appear to bring an unexpected, grace-filled moment of hope for a better future for the Great Sioux Nation.

It's a simple news story, but earth-shaking in its ramifications: A small, but very important area in the center of the Black Hills may be have been saved from development and returned to its rightful owners. (For a price.)

I captured video of Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Councilwoman Robin LeBeau sharing an update of what's happening, and thoughts about what is at stake in the Pe' Sla and the awesome power this moment could have for Native people:

(Some context -- for those in this Native culture, speaking in front of a group is a grave and responsibility, and a moment of great humility. Given the culture, Ms. LaBeau's words have even more passion and urgency.) (Note, Ms. LaBeau gave me permission to post my video here on DKos.)

It sounds overly dramatic but it is true... while standing there this evening, I felt overwhelmed by history, and almost giddy with delight. In this group of probably 95% Native people, I felt the outsider, but welcomed, and so fortunate to be witness to the moment.

I kept thinking: Can this be true? Could the arc of history truly grant some justice?

(Pictures below the golden thingie)

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If you have a mind to support a state legislative race worth fighting for in the High Plains, I recommend to you South Dakota State Senator Angie Buhl, arguably the most progressive fighter we have in a very cold, red State House.

Why should you, a random Kossack who has not heard of her before, throw a little librul lovin' to Angie? For one thing, Angie has been challenged by "independent" Kathy Miles who has an unsavory past from the South Dakota Abortion Wars...

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I have landed on a few conservative mailing lists -- I think I signed a petition just so I’d get some of the scoop from time time. At least they waste a stamp on me. So, although I wasn't surprised to get the letter, but I was impressed that Governor Walker and is friends are worried enough to be reaching to the big moneybags of South Dakota like me for help with his impending recall.

The letter drips with victim language (who says only the left can play the persecution card), (deft) projection, and (masterfully done) misdirection. Walker claims again that his attack on unions is to save the state budget (false), but somehow knowing that we all know he’s lying, he quickly pivots, and probes for any conservative erogenous zones:

Big Unions | President Obama’s Political Machine (1) | | George Soros’  (2)  attack organizations | Ultra Left Wing Elites from Hollywood and Manhattan | Thousands of Big Labor protesters bused in from Chicago and Las Vegas (3)
(1) The President’s team has kept the upper hand over Walker by masterfully saying and doing absolutely nothing in support of the workers and voters of Wisconsin.
(2) Very  impressive that they got the apostrophe right I’d say
(3) Chicago, I get that... (in 1956 maybe) ... but ... Las Vegas? I thought the Sin City rank-and-file were Ron Paul types!

If you have the stomach for it, the letter (with its carefully cropped and enhanced pictures the Madison protests) was posted and very well dissected by Amanda Terkel on HuffPo back in January. Nothing new here really.

But this warning totally got my attention:

Mark my words, if they [“Big Labor Bosses” -- Boss Tweed reborn in Oshkosh?] barge and bully to their way here, your state’s next.
OMG -- South Dakota is next?
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