• Tag Archives Bob Ellis
  • Podcast 014: Joe Berns, First Amendment, Elections, and More!

    Joe Berns discusses capitalism and more!
    Joe Berns discusses capitalism and more!

    Whoo-hoo—new podcast! In this week’s awesome hour of audio from Dakota Free Press, local music teacher Joe Berns tells us what he learned about the Koch Brothers’ vision of “capitalism” at an astroturf meeting in Aberdeen last week. As he critiques some of the claims raised by the Americans for Prosperity speakers, Berns leads us through a delightful adventure in economic philosophy (and really, how could such a philosophical discussion not be delightful?) as we consider “systematic coercion,” slavery, class struggle, Germany, and how maybe healthy capitalism depends on strong labor unions to protect us workers from our corporate overlords… or a world in which there are no giant corporations and we all run our own businesses.

    Wow—that by itself is worth ringing the Blog Tip Jar

    But first, co-host Spencer Dobson and I recap the Aberdeen election, Trump’s proposed cuts to rural economic development, Bob Ellis’s departure from right-wing blogging, and the First Amendment implications of blocking people from the President’s Twitter account. Listen here:

    Below are resources for this week’s conversation. If you like what you hear, ring that Blog Tip Jar to help us make the podcast even better!

    Aberdeen Election Results (and an invitation to Pope Francis and future contenders to the papacy to join us on the podcast!) [2:15]

    Trump Budget Attacks Rural Economic Development [5:00]

    Bob Ellis Quits Blogging [11:20]

    The First Amendment, Twitter, and Responsible Presidential Communications [15:45]

    Interview: Joe Berns [33:10]



  • Bob Ellis Quits Blogging; 99.999% of South Dakotans Don’t Notice

    Another blog bit the dust this week. Long-time radical right-wing shouter Bob Ellis posted his last post on American Clarion this week.

    You may not have noticed, because, despite all the attention Ellis says his website got him (links by Limbaugh, USA Today, BBC; interviews with NPR, Newsweek, NBC, BBC… really?), Ellis appears never to have entered into South Dakota’s mainstream consciousness. I chose not to include his American Clarion RSS feed or the Dakota Voice feed that preceded it in my South Dakota Blogosphere ticker in my blog sidebar because Ellis usually strayed from actual South Dakota news to focus on recycled rants from the national arch-right third-tier media. Ellis’s most recent content reflects that bias toward far-flung rhetoric with no connection to South Dakota. Prior to his farewell, Ellis’s six most recent posts pop up in his National feed…and tellingly, five of those articles drew zero comments, while the sixth drew one. His South Dakota feed shows only five posts between March 24 and May 10, and one deals with a presentation on “How to Speak Communist” and another is about World War II history. Ellis put up a lot of videos of legislative crackerbarrels but not much analysis. Ellis offers nothing about nonmeandered waters, nothing about our gubernatorial candidates, and nothing that doesn’t fit his paradigm of guns, patriotism, and the evils of liberalism. If you wanted to keep up with South Dakota politics, you didn’t read American Clarion.

    Ellis uses the word whore four times in his article to blast the fellow conservatives whom he feels have sold out their professed values. Yet right next to that blistering critique is Ellis’s sidebar filled with clickbait ads with busty women promising better results than Viagra in stiffening one’s willie, plus a Biblical cure for body fat.

    American Clarion, screen cap, 2017.06.04.
    American Clarion, screen cap, 2017.06.04.

    Whoring? Takes one to know one, Bob.

    Ellis been offering the same tired recitations of extremist right-wing fantasies for over a decade. The critique I offered of his exertions in 2007 remains valid—he and fellow conservative warriors against the evil Left (like Steve Sibson, long lost in anti-Heidelberger obsession) are missing the real corporate fascist threat to their professed religious values:

    Bob and Sibby aren’t completely wrong. There is a vast secular, globalist threat to Christianity and family values, perpetrated by amoral agents devoted only to increasing their own power. it’s called global corporate capitalism. Corporations have no God, no morality. Corporations care by design and duty for nothing but increased profits. They don’t care what god you worship or what country you live in: they just want your money, your labor, and your loyalty/slavery [CA Heidelberger, “Bob Ellis and Steve Sibson: Deluded Tools of the Plutocracy,” Madville Times, 2007.12.28].

    Ellis makes no mention of his conservative competitor Pat Powers (we should say ally, but Ellis would surely lump Powers in with the whoring RINOs he sees corrupting his party and country). Powers says less about Ellis than I do, dismissing him as “bitter,” sarcastically calling Ellis’s swansong as a “gracious exit,” but chickening out of a complete analysis, response, or fare-the-well.

    Ellis heads out the door by redirecting his few lingering readers to the same sort of narrow, echo-chamber bloggings that will leave his readers uninformed and detached from the practical politics of South Dakota:

    I’d encourage you–one of that remnant of people who is still dedicated to what is right–to stay informed (as I will be) by patronizing good sources of information that won’t whore out their values, that won’t water down the truth to curry favor with feckless betrayers of what we believe in, that will tell the truth even when it costs them. Here in South Dakota, a continuing source is the Right Side; I wish there were more, but the Right has become so corrupted here that most of the good people have beaten into silence or seduced into joining the dark side.  Nationally, you can find the straight stuff at places like RedState and Resurgent.  Don’t waste your time on “Right” wing propaganda sites (that use to be reliable) like Breitbart, Drudge and Fox News. And now that Rush Limbaugh can no longer be relied on to stand for conservatism, Steve Deace is my go-to guy on a daily basis (and in addition to hard-hitting conservatism, Deace brings to the table what Rush Limbaugh never did: the life-transforming Truth of a Biblical worldview) [Bob Ellis, “The Final American Clarion Article,” American Clarion, 2017.06.01].

    The only South Dakota blog Ellis finds worth mentioning is Gordon Howie’s Right Side. I like Gordon. I’ve sat down and done blog videos with Gordon. I’ve had fun interacting with Gordon, whose legislative experience seems to help him keep at least one toe in the world of practical South Dakota politics. But for the most part, Gordon’s blogging is a fluffier-puffier revival tent version of Bob’s, dwelling on generic anti-Left hollerings that reinforce prejudices rather than informing readers about what’s happening in South Dakota. (That, and he fell for Annette Bosworth. Gordon, Gordon, Gordon….) That lack of South Dakota-specific information is why Right Side won’t be popping into my sidebar feeds… and why, like most of the soon-to-be deleted content on the now-defunct American Clarion, most posts on Right Side go without comment. If you want a blog to last, you have to write something worth talking about. That’s why Bob Ellis is gone and why almost no South Dakotans will notice.



  • Ellis: 21 Reasons Conservatives Can’t Vote for Trump

    Ultra-conservative blogger Bob Ellis bangs out 6,750 words on why he can’t support Donald Trump and tells us his essay is “not even remotely exhaustive or all-inclusive” but “merely highlight[s] some of the most important and most tangible reasons.”

    Let me try to summarize why Ellis says conservatives should not vote for Trump:

    1. Trump was pro-choice and still calls for abortion-ban exceptions for rape and incest.
    2. Trump has hired foreign workers and illegal aliens and donated to advocates of sanctuary cities.
    3. Trump has supported single-payer health care and the Affordable Care Act insurance mandate.
    4. Trump signed a letter supporting the Left’s “hoax of anthropogenic global warming as their Marxist vehicle” (Ellis’s words, not Trump’s).
    5. Trump includes pro-abortion, anti-religion judges on his Supreme Court nominee list.
    6. Trump opposed our invasion of Iraq in 2003.
    7. Trump likes tyrants (based on, for example, the debatable claim that Trump admires the Chinese Communist Party for putting down the Tiananmen Square “riot” with “strength” and that Mikhail Gorbachev was a terrible leader for not having “a firm enough hand“—Trump’s words!).
    8. Trump would attack the press and the First Amendment by “open[ing] up libel laws” (Trump).
    9. Trump supports the “homosexual agenda” (Ellis).
    10. Trump supports progressive taxation instead of the flat tax.
    11. Trump is a “serial adulterer” (Ellis) who objectifies women.
    12. Trump makes money on casinos and strip clubs that undermine families and public morality.
    13. Trump makes “gratuitous use of profanity” (Ellis).
    14. Trump has encouraged violence at his campaign rallies.
    15. Trump is maybe occasionally racist (Ellis can’t quite commit to affirming Trump’s racism, since “racism” is a “favored demonization tactic of the Left” used to win over the “weak-minded”).
    16. Trump calls people childish names out of pure spite (unlike Ellis, who calls people “socialists” and “RINOs” because that’s what they are!).
    17. Trump tells lies.
    18. Trump has contributed to Democrats (“the termites, the acid, the toxic sewage,” Ellis calls us, but again, that’s not childish, spiteful name-calling).
    19. Trump doesn’t think he needs to ask God for forgiveness.
    20. Trump believes in salvation by works, not grace.
    21. Trump doesn’t know his Bible.

    I can only agree with Ellis on 10 of his 21 reasons (#2, 7, 8, 11–17) for voting against Donald Trump, and some of those only in part. On #2, I don’t have a problem with hiring foreign workers (nor do several Aberdeen businesses), but I recognize the hypocrisy of Donald Trump’s business practices and his opportunistic political stances. On #11, I hesitate to dig into candidates’ personal lives, but I appreciate Ellis’s willingness to point out his fellow Republicans’ hypocrisy in dragging Bill Clinton to impeachment over marital infidelity in the Oval Office but nominating a man who shows even weaker commitment to the sanctity of marriage. On #13, I cuss on various occasions, but even I can agree that Trump’s public word choice would cast the Presidency and the United States in an undignified light.

    I cannot adopt the rest of Ellis’s complaints against Trump, but, as with #11, Ellis points out to his fellow conservatives their complete hypocrisy in accepting Donald Trump as their Presidential nominee. To avoid hypocrisy, Ellis says he will vote for Constitutionalist nominee Darrell Castle, who would undermine democracy, civil rights, and world peace. Castle will win no more than 2% of the national vote, but that’s fine: Ellis can keep his conscience intact… and enjoy four more years of calling a centrist Democratic President a Marxist tyrant (not because he’s being mean, but because he’s convinced that’s what she really is.)

    [6750 words summarized and annotated in 581—that’s 91% savings!]



  • Ellis Mistakes Open Non-Partisan Primaries for Marxism, Misses Opening for Party Purity

    Bob Ellis continues to construct his own reality, alleging that Democrats have an “infatuation with Marxism and anti-Americanism.” (For the record, I am infatuated with pizza rolls, not Marx, and I know no active American Democrat who is anti-American.)

    But before Ellis collapses in that puddle of hyperbolic goo, he lodges an almost reasonable critique of Amendment V, the proposal for open non-partisan primaries on our ballot in November. Almost.

    Ellis contends that each political party ought to be able to nominate its own candidates, without interference from outsiders:

    Currently, Democrats elect their own Democrat nominee and Republicans elect their own Republican nominee, and these nominees then go on to face each other in the general election. That’s how it ought to be.

    Primaries belong to the respective parties. The primaries are the mechanism through which each party chooses the nominee it wants to field against competitors in the general election for the elected office in question [Bob Ellis, “Constitutional Amendment V,” The Right Side, 2016.04.17].

    As I said, almost reasonable. If primaries belong to the parties, why should the state run them? In the current system, the state decides who belongs to each party and can thus participate in each party’s primary. I’d think arch-conservative Ellis would revolt at such state interference. Ellis complains that his party is already overrun with Republicans in Name Only, but he strangely embraces the state’s lax registration process that allows RINOs and DINOs and other fakers to participate in each party’s primary process:

    People who want a say in this primary or that are free to join the respective party of their choice; all they have to do is fill out a voter registration form. There are no requirements whatsoever, it doesn’t cost anything and no further action is required to join that party; you don’t even have to vote if you don’t want to.  But you do have to show a minimum amount of “buy in” to that party by taking the time to register as a member [Ellis, 2016.04.17].

    The current state-run primaries saddle parties with ideological fakers like Annette Bosworth and Mike Rounds. Amendment V would allow Ellis and other party faithful to out such fakers sooner. Under an open, non-partisan primary, Ellis and his fellow Republicans could hold a pre-primary convention (like in North Dakota and Minnesota), set up all the rules they want to ensure that only the truest Republicans can enter and vote as delegates. Those delegates could then endorse one Republican in each race as the bearer of their pure, conservative, Republican standards and authorize their party to actively campaign during the primary on that candidate’s behalf. Unendorsed RINOs could still run in the primary if they wanted to, but that stinging rebuke from their own party would surely put them at a disadvantage.

    Bob Ellis thinks government is too big. I would think Ellis would prefer a system that takes party nominations out of the hands of government and empowers each political party itself, by its own rules, to choose its nominees and then fight for their victory in both the primary and general elections. If Ellis weren’t so infatuated with imagining that the rest of us are infatuated with Marxism and anti-Americanism, he might realize that Amendment V is quite reasonable.



  • Blue Ribbon Brainstorming Boxes Out Common Core, Conservatives, and Cuts

    The cosmos is off kilter when the most instructive and interesting reportage on the Rapid City meeting of Blue Ribbon Task Force on Teachers and Students (BluRTFTS) comes from right wingnut Bob Ellis. But there it is, 1,875 words telling us more about the Governor’s effort to delay action on South Dakota’s K-12 teacher shortage and perennially abysmal teacher pay than any of the mainstream media.

    BluRTFTS hosted meetings with Black Hills teachers, businesspeople, and the general public on Wednesday, the day after 19.5% of Rapid City voters killed an opt-out tax increase to fund their schools. The Governor’s office has asked the media to restrain itself in reporting citizen comments at these meetings, so maybe that’s why KOTA-TV tells us nothing of the ideas proposed at Wednesday’s meeting. KOTA does report that we can follow the “progress” of BluRTFTS online, but we can’t really, not yet, since I see no report of either Wednesday’s Rapid City meeting or Tuesday’s Chamberlain meeting on the Blue Ribbon website.

    The Rapid City Journal did better, reporting Rochelle Schultz’s specific concerns about funding STEM education for girls:

    “I also want to come up with solutions to take some of the burden off of individuals who are paying higher property taxes,” said Schultz, who wanted to attend the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology in 1995, but ended up going to Minnesota for her education after feeling a lack of support for women in the science and engineering field.

    “The support for girls taking science and math courses is growing, though,” Schultz added. “But you have to show up (to these meetings) to make a difference” [Emily Niebrugge, “Community Members Suggest Potential Solutions for K-12 Funding,” Rapid City Journal, 2015.06.04].

    Niebrugge summarizes the educator and business meetings’ input as concerns and suggestions about “teacher salaries and benefits, classroom support, transparency, holding leadership accountable and corporate support for funding classrooms.” (Corporate support for classrooms should be a concern, not a suggestion: my classroom will not be brought to you by Pepsico or TransCanada.) My commenter Ray Tysdal, who was at Wednesday’s meeting, heard other suggestions:

    …tax increases such as 3-month increase in summer sales tax to target tourist, income tax , tax on billboards, more community involvement, more emphasis on art and music especially in grade school (No art in elementary schools in Rapid City, now). But there was nothing new” [Ray Tysdal, comment, Dakota Free Press, 2015.06.04].

    No art in elementary?! Now that’s the sign of an education system gone terribly wrong!

    Niebrugge also mentions that BluRTFTS got my warning and boxed out folks who showed up to beat the Common Core horse.

    That Common Core snub provoked Bob Ellis to provide the most detailed summary and critique of Wednesday’s BluRTFTS meeting. Ellis gives us some of his crazy stuff—the panel is a Leftist plot using the Delphi technique to promote socialist groupthink, yadda yadda—but he also details how the Blue Ribbon meetings manage the conversation at these public meetings:

    The way the Delphi technique took place at the meeting  last night was that the people gathered at the round tables in the room were given a predetermined “question” to address, were instructed to throw out ideas, put them on yellow sticky notes, then decide at each table which of those ideas were the “best.” After about 15 minutes were allowed for addressing this “question,” each table was allowed to read one if its “best” ideas. Then each table picked its best three sticky notes and took them to a big board on the wall. Then the group moved on to the next question.

    Instructions to those in attendance included: Be fully present at the meeting, make room for everybody’s voice, and listen to understand. Those in attendance were asked to address three questions:

    1. What possibilities are there for meaningfully funding K-12 education for our kids and our communities?
    2. When you think about funding schools in your local community, what is important to you?
    3. What ideas or new approaches might make those priorities more possible for schools in your community?

    It was made clear at the beginning of the meeting that things like Common Core–which will cost the state millions to implement for dubious results–would not be discussed at all in the meeting [Bob Ellis, “South Dakota Task Farce on Education,” American Clarion, 2015.06.04].

    I understand the anti-Common Core crusaders’ disappointment at not being able to take the mic and command the room with their call to arms against Mongolian Soviet education standards. But I’m disappointed at their apparent lack of creativity. I can think of plenty of ways to work Common Core into the three questions framing Wednesday’s discussion:

    1. We can meaningfully fund K-12 education by ending Common Core and other centrally imposed standards and tests and diverting the savings to teacher pay (and art supplies for elementary kids!).
    2. It is important that our local school spend less time testing kids and more time teaching kids (and doing art!).
    3. We can make these priorities possible by ditching Common Core and the Smarter Balanced tests trusting our teachers to decide curriculum and assess student performance (and help kids make art!).

    Ellis notes that some conservative legislators who attended Wednesday’s meeting, including three who urged defeat of the Rapid City opt-out Monday, were told they were unwelcome at the meeting and were expected to “keep their mouths shut.” I can understand how such a directive might arise—a meeting designed to gain input from the public should be dominated by elected officials, who get enough exclusive floor time during Session. However, in Wednesday’s small-group setting, I suspect regular citizens could keep individual legislators from monopolizing the conversation and pose them some tough questions, while the legislators themselves could provide some enlightening information to promote better solutions.

    Ellis cites an unnamed “experienced legislator” who writes on Facebook that BluRTFTS is a “sham” designed to promote the Governor’s as-yet-unstated agenda. Ellis doesn’t put a name to this statement or the legislator-muzzling allegation… but then that’s a fundamental flaw of the brainstorming format of the meeting as well. The meeting format, which commenter Tysdal says was professionally done but gimmicky, involves individuals in groups writing down ideas, picking their groups’ top ideas, and tacking them to a wall. There’s no personal accountability for statements or proposals, as there will be in the committee hearings and floor debates when legislators amend and vote on whatever legislation the task force births.

    Ellis complains that Wednesday’s attendees (mostly liberal fanatics and members of the education establishment, he insinuates) talked mostly about raising taxes and not cuts:

    I don’t recall any mention of cutting wasteful spending, cutting programs that don’t deal directly with educating students on real knowledge, getting by with less than the latest in computers and other equipment, and there was relatively little discussion of consolidation.

    …Cutting overhead would be a great way to save money and get more money into the pockets of teachers–and that includes the education bureaucracy itself. But of course, our “leaders” aren’t interested in cutting that, because they might be cutting their own jobs, and the jobs of some of their good campaign contributors [Ellis, 2015.06.04].

    As usual, Ellis is mostly wrong on policy—twenty years of Janklow-Rounds-Daugaard austerity have starved our schools to the point where there’s little fat left to burn, including in administration. He recommends cuts because he is part of the conservative clique who want to destroy public education so his homeschoolers and rich private academicians can inherit the earth. But at least Ellis details the focus and format of the Blue Ribbon meetings so we can be ready for the East River events June 16–23.