Light blog posting for the next two weeks

Over the next couple of weeks there will only be a few blog posts. Most of these posts will be ones I already have in the works and just need to finalize and publish. I will be spending this time getting ahead at work in preparation for October. In October this blog will focus on the 2014 ballot in South Dakota, starting with the political forum on October 1.

Since I hate to do a post without some sort of media… Here is a YouTube featuring a good little speech and song from the great Satchmo:

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Second political forum on Pine Ridge Reservation will be held on Oct 1

During the Primary election there was a political forum held at the Oglala Lakota College campus in Kyle, SD (see links below for my coverage of that event). I’ve been to a good number political forums and debates this year, and so far I think the first OLC forum was probably one of the best to actually get information from candidates. I thought the moderator, Tom Casey of KILI Radio, did a great job of picking questions that other forums seemed to avoid. Hopefully he will be able to do the same in the second OLC political forum.

Here is the info I have on this political forum so far:

Date: October 1, 2014

Time: 1:00 pm

Location: Woksape Tipi Library, Piya Wiconi Campus (Kyle, SD)

Moderator: Mr Tom Casey, KILI Radio

Confirmed Attendees: Susan Wismer (D), Mike Myers (I), Rick Weiland (D), and Larry Pressler (I).

Attendees which have not confirmed (candidates were contacted in August): Mike Rounds (R), Gordon Howie (I), Kristi Noem (R), Corinna Robinson (D), Dennis Daugaard (R)

I hope to attend this political forum and would urge anyone living on the Pine Ridge Reservation to attend as well!

My posts coming out of the first OLC forum be read as follows:

Here is the flier for this event released by the library staff:

2014-09-15_14-03-03

 

 

US Senate failed to overturn the First Amendment

Last week I noted the US Senate was debating restricting political free speech. Just two days after that post the Constitutional Amendment died with a cloture vote of 54-42 (60 votes were needed). There really wasn’t much of a chance for this Amendment to actually be passed and forever alter the US Constitution, but it was good to see it die right away.

SJ Res 19 if passed would have allowed Congress to regulate political speech. I know, some people will say “money isn’t speech” and “corporations aren’t people”. There are problems with both statements. The simple fact of the matter is that any speech done beyond spoken work costs money. I really cringe when I discovered a large mass of political bloggers around the country supporting SJ Res 19. Political bloggers are a group that should specifically be opposed to restrictions on political speech. I’ll give myself as an example. This blog site, SoDakLibery, costs me money. Had this Amendment been passed by the US Senate, the US House, and ratified by the States it would be possible for Congress and the States to regulate what I say on this blog. Would that be likely? Maybe not at first. But “maybe not at first” doesn’t give very much comfort. Giving Congress the power to regulate political speech means trusting the current and all future Congresses to do the right thing. I personally don’t have that kind of trust in Congress, and find it odd that others would.

As to “corporations aren’t people”. That is a completely separate debate. This amendment was not aimed just at corporations. The Amendment would have applied to political speech for “natural persons and corporations or other artificial entities created by law”. Basically any laws made on the grounds of this Amendment would have applied to anyone Congress wanted it to apply to.

Even if this had been aimed directly at Corporations it would have been bad. Here are a few short reasons why:

  • What kind of Corporations are being talking about? Does that mean just full Corps? Are Sub-S Corps also impacted? How about LLC’s? Corporations are created for a variety of tax and legal protective reasons. Corporations are created at the state level and there are various requirements of what an actual corporation is from state to state.
  • How about non-profit corporations? Would they be impacted? Some of the largest non-profits in the US also happen to spend a lot of money in politics. Here in SD think Avera and Sanford….
  • What about Unions. Unions are basically an artificial entity similar to corporations. Should they fall under the same restrictions?
  • Corporations currently have their income taxed as if they are a real person (well some do). Does that mean if Corporations are not found to have the same rights as people, that Corporations will no longer be taxed as people? If that is true I might get  behind a Constitutional Amendment saying Corporations are not people. Removing income tax from Corporations would do more to revive the US economy than any misguided stimulus spending.

I understand why the Senate Democrats brought this Amendment forward. Even though they knew it wouldn’t pass, they wanted to get their base excited. A lot of Democrats are rightfully worried about the vast amount of money in politics. People of both parties are getting tired of bought and paid for elected officials. The Senate Democrats hoped the debate surrounding this Amendment would be a launching pad to get more votes this fall. I think that is the saddest part of this whole Amendment. DC Democrats decided the best way to get their base excited was to propose a Constitutional Amendment that would restrict free speech. That says a lot about the current state of the Democrat party at the national level.

So if money in politics is the problem, what is the fix? There probably isn’t an easy fix. But I would start with making sure all aspects of political spending are completely transparent. There will always be a lot of money in politics. If DC Dems somehow got their wish and Corporations no longer had rights and Super-PACs went away, money would still remain. All that would change is how that money is spent. Instead of looking for ways to restrict free speech, I believe we should be looking for new an innovative ways to make the current system even more transparent. With true transparency it then leaves it up to the voters to decided whether politicians have been bought and paid for. Some tools of transparency already exists, yet they are typically avoided during this debate because neither side truly wants a lot of attention on where money comes from for their favored politicians.

Hopefully the US Senate won’t try to amend the Bill of Rights anymore this year. Even if the move was done in the name of politics to excite their base, it is a move that makes civil libertarians very nervous. Actually it should make anyone nervous to think about giving Congress the power to regulate political speech. It takes some mind-twisting to believe that allowing Congress to restrict political speech would somehow make Congress less attached to special interest moneys.

I think Remy has a good way to end this post. Here is his video made for the Center for Competitive Politics a few years ago:

PS. Here are a couple more Free Speech videos. The first one is a Metal classic. It is Danzig’s reply to Tipper Gore’s crusade against music. The second is explicit, and comes from Ice-T and his Heavy Metal group Bodycount.

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Guess who won the Brown County Democrats raffle for a gun?

Brown County Democrat chair Jennifer Slaight-Hansen presenting a gun to libertarian blogger Ken Santema.

Brown County Democrat Chair Jennifer Slaight-Hansen presenting a gun to libertarian blogger Ken Santema.

At the Brown County Fair the Democrats booth had one heck of a raffle drawing. The prize in this raffle drawing was a Ruger Red Label Over Under 12 Gauge shotgun. Last year the gun being raffled was a Stevens Model 512 Gold Wing 12-gauge shotgun. That gun was won by Brown County Republicans Chair Jason Williams. This years the raffle drawing was won by none other than the author of this blog!

The Chair of the Brown County Democrats, Jennifer Slaight-Hansen, was very gracious about the fact that a Democrat once again failed to win the drawing. When I received a voice mail from Slaight-Hansen earlier this week I figured it was to let me know about a candidate event coming up. Nope instead it was to let me know I had won the raffle and a time needed to be setup so the gun could be transferred to me.

And yes, being a good Democrat she made sure a licensed dealer handled the transfer and made sure I am legally able to receive the gun.

Now I have proof for my wife that it pays off to hang out in the political booths at fairs!

PS. To make this even more of a coincidence with last year. Jason Williams happens to be my wife’s cousin. It is a small world.

PPS. Too many jokes about the Democrats arming a libertarian came to mind…

Brown County Democrats Dollar-a-Month Club Meeting on Sept 12

Louie Liebig & Dennis Feickert at the Brown County Fair. Photo by Ken Santema.

Louie Liebig & Dennis Feickert at the Brown County Fair. Photo by Ken Santema.

Since I tend to bring attention to Brown County Republican events I thought it would be only fair that I bring attention to Brown County Democrat events as well.

Tomorrow, September 12, the Brown County Democrats will be hosting their Dollar-a-Month Club Meeting at the Pizza Ranch in Aberdeen. This luncheon will start earlier than normal, candidates will begin speaking at 11:15, so if you are attending I would plan on being there at 11:00. The special guests at this event are three Democrats running for Brown County Commissioner: incumbent Tom Fischbach, incumbent-like Paul Dennert, and newcomer Louie Liebig. This is a race to watch on the county level. Dennerts entry into the race makes it very competitive for the Democrats.

I would urge Aberdeen area voters that support Democrat candidates to attend this event. Actually I would imagine they would welcome anyone willing to listen to their candidates. The political process works best when more voters are actually engaged!

A chat with PUC Gary Hanson at the SD State Fair

PUC Gary Hanson & State Treasurer Rich Sattgast taking Ice Bucket Challenge at SD State Fair. Photo by Ken Santema.

PUC Gary Hanson & State Treasurer Rich Sattgast taking Ice Bucket Challenge at SD State Fair. Photo by Ken Santema.

While covering the Gubernatorial and Senatorial debates at the SD State Fair I took an opportunity to speak with Republican Public Utilities Commissioner (PUC) Gary Hanson. Hanson is running for re-election in another six-year term. This spot of is one of three total PUC’s for South Dakota. One odd fact about the PUC position is that it isn’t subject to the two-term limit that other Constitutional offices must follow. Hanson first won his PUC seat in 2002, and was re-elected in 2008. If Hanson is re-elected again this year he will begin serving his 3rd term in 2015. His opposition in this race is Wayne Schmidt for the Constitution Party and David Allen for the Democrat Party. The Libertarian Party had a candidate with Ryan Gaddy, but he was not allowed on the ballot.

I first asked Hanson what his top priority would be if he is to be re-elected again. He had an answer similar to that of District 3 State Senator Al Novstrup by saying it would be hard to choose one top priority. He said as PUC there are “so many balls in the air at the same time”. But if pressed he would say the function of a PUC should be to push for “safe, affordable, and reliable electricity”. He feels as PUC he has worked well to keep electricity prices among the lowest in the US. He noted some states have fifty to seventy percent higher electric bills than what South Dakota currently has.

For a while we talked about renewable energies. Hanson is quite excited about the possibilities that come with renewable energies. He also said how proud he had been to represent all of the nations utility commissioners on the steering committee for the National Wind Coordinating Collaborative (NWCC). Hanson explained the NWCC is a non-partisan group with about thirty-five to forty members representing various organizations. He says in this group they examine all issues surrounding wind. From looking at the NWCC website I see it isn’t just about power generation, but there is also a focus on protecting the environment and especially on wildlife issues.

I asked Hanson why SD doesn’t seem to have a big focus on more wind power in SD (I hear this talking point from people all the time). Hanson said there is a challenge with wind in South Dakota that comes down to basic math. He said at peak times SD consumes about 2,200 MW of power. Currently the state has 3,800 MW of power capacity to provide from all power generation sources. If any new power generation stations were to be created in SD a new market must be found for that power. It would be possible to sell some of that power to other states. But transmission lines going to and through other states is very costly. The cost of bringing that power to other states would make it hard for South Dakota power generators to compete in other markets.  I know many would like to shut down the current coal-fired plants and replace them with wind, but that route doesn’t seem to be economically feasible for the companies that own the plants at this point. I forgot to ask Hanson about doing that, maybe I’ll catch up with him this fall and get his thoughts on replacing coal with wind.

The conversation then went back to his commitment to finding solutions involving renewables in general. Hanson said he is excited about renewables because “fossil fuels are finite”. He noted that once finite resources are consumed, they are gone forever. At the same time Hanson believes we should be good stewards of the land. Going on, Hanson said it “makes sense to responsibly transition to renewable energy”. He understands economically it would not be feasible to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energies overnight. But he wants to make sure a transition is happening now so his great-grandchildren’s generation won’t have to deal with dwindling fossil fuels providing energy. Hanson went through some statistics about how much coal, natural gas, and petroleum the US goes through each year. The numbers were staggering (so much so that I spilled coffee on my notes, and cannot read those staggering figures).

I wish more politicians from both parties would take Hanson’s approach to dealing with fossil fuels and renewables. He is not waging a war on fossil fuels (as many on the left would prefer). He seems to understand fossil fuels are currently necessary. But at the same time he does not seem to be beholden to fossil fuels (like many on the right appear to be). Instead Hanson sees the future of power in the US is renewable energy and has a goal to help get SD that direction. By taking this middle-of-the-road approach it allows Hanson to actually work towards the end goal of renewable energy without negatively impacting current energy production.

Sometime this fall I hope to speak with the other two PUC candidates on the ballot. In particular I will try to discover their thoughts on renewable energies and see how they stack up against Hanson. At this time thought, it is hard to see either challenger putting up much of a race against Hanson.

PS. While looking through my SD State Fair photos I found this video of the SD Republican candidates taking the Ice Bucket challenge. I completely forgot I had recorded this video. It was just something I did because I was there. The GOP recorded and posted it elsewhere, but I don’t think it will hurt to have two videos of the challenge out there.

Brief thoughts on the televised US Senate debate missing Rounds

The secret to live-tweeting political debates. Photo by Ken Santema.

The secret to live-tweeting political debates. Photo by Ken Santema.

Tonight KSFY and CSPAN televised a SD Senate Debate. I won’t do a complete rundown of this debate, instead I will try to keep this post short and focused on just a couple of thoughts. The whole debate can be viewed on the CSPAN website and has a duration of one hour. The candidates were kept on track pretty well and I thought a lot of topics were covered.

A recurring theme from the candidates, especially from Democrat Rick Weiland, was the fact Rounds was missing from this debate. I don’t blame them for continuing to remind viewers that Rounds was missing. This is a debate that was not only televised to South Dakota, but to the nation. Independent candidate Larry Pressler, Independent candidate Gordon Howie, and Democrat candidate Rick Weiland showed respect for constituents by actually showing up and answering questions in front of the whole state (and nation). Yet Rounds appears to believe other commitments were more important. It is very difficult to imagine any commitment that would be more important to a candidate than answering questions in front of the very voters that candidate will supposedly pledge to serve. I know incumbent politicians (or incumbent-like in Rounds case) generally try to contain the amount of debates they participate in; because debates have the ability to backfire and allow the opposition to get too much press. But is that wise to concede a televised debate with such strategy? Isn’t there a greater risk of backfire from South Dakota voters who are disgusted by a politician that doesn’t bother to show up at one of the very few televised debates?

But now to the good news. Without Rounds in attendance I believe the debate went quite well. Rounds missing did allow for a couple more questions to be asked. So maybe Rounds in a roundabout way helped the other three candidates by allowing them to get more individual time in front of constituents conveying their talking points. I won’t give a win to any of the three candidates. I believe all three got their talking points out there, and probably made their supporters super-proud. I don’t know that any undecideds would be swayed by this debate. At most undecideds would maybe be pushed away from Rounds.

Overall I think this was a good debate for the people of SD to watch. I believe all three candidates represented their views well. This debate should be considered a valuable introduction to the US Senate candidates by the average (non-blog-reading) South Dakota voter.

 

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