Alas, as he so often does, Powers confuses plural and singular. He asserts that the CFPB’s rules have aroused “widespread opposition.” Yet he cites only “one of the voices”, millionaire publisher Steve Forbes, whose October 5 Facebook post responds to the payday lending rules but focuses more on the generic rich man’s critique of the CFPB:
Read that last line: giving payday lenders more rope to hang consumers means allowing “the American people… to take control of their financial futures again”? Ha! What part of “debt trap” and “predatory lending” don’t you understand, Mr. Forbes?
But Forbes is the only person Powers cites in a post that headlined “a lot of people”. And Forbes says nothing to substantiate that there are “a lot of people” agreeing with him, only an unnamed survey that says nearly half of Americans struggle with finances (psst—they struggle even more when payday lenders take advantage of them!). Evidently, all the Benjamin Franklins in Forbes’s pocket count as “a lot of people” supporting his view.
Powers misuses the plural frequently, trying to falsely bolster a one-off claim (notice that when I say something happens multiple times, I provide multiple links to support that claim). I could say many people are saying that Pat should stop manufacturing pluralities to justify his singular observations. But I won’t. I’m saying it myself. We’ll see how many people join the comment section to agree or disagree.
Meanwhile, the President of the United States just threatened to “totally destroy” an entire nation and in literally the next breath called the ruler of that nation a playground nickname. Welcome to Presidency by a five-year-old.. or a madman.
Even if comments of this sort can be discounted as unprofessional and insensitive but not aimed at incitement, the silence of many other Republicans shows a disturbing unwillingness to condemn political violence from persons associated with the party’s electoral base. After the Trump administration’s difficultly in denouncing Nazism and white supremacy, one must wonder whether Mr. Trump and his supporters simply do not understand the consequences advocating or failing to condemn violence, or if they simply do not care because it would work in their favor [Frank O. Bowman, “A Comment on Roger Stone’s Predictions (or Are They Threats?) of Violence,” Impeachable Offenses, 2017.09.20].
Bubbling under the surface of many Trumpist backers’ words seems to be a hair-trigger desire to start throwing punches. We must watch closely any political speakers who fan that simmering desire for violence and promote all the more vigorously the right of citizens to speak, to protest, and to pursue remedies to injustice through due process of law.
A racist kook kills and injures fellow citizens with his car, and Rep. Lynne DiSanto jokes that “we can all support” that movement. One may reasonably contend that DiSanto’s statement was inappropriate. DiSanto seems to think so: she has removed the post instead of standing by it. Her majority leader Rep. Lee Qualm (R-21/Platte) also thinks the post was inappropriate:
“Obviously I think she wishes she had not put it out there, but she was quick to pull it down and it seems like one of those things you do without putting much though into it.”
Perhaps Qualm represents on fading thread of conscience and responsible use of words in the party of DiSanto, Tapio, and Trump.
Faintly, Faintly Related: Back during Session, Rep. DiSanto held out against Senate Bill 176, Governor Dennis Daugaard’s watered-down effort to quash public protest. Rep. DiSanto ultimately rolled over for the Governor on the final vote on the conference committee version of the bill.
Update 21:25 CDT: Lynne DiSanto (listed there under her hyphenated Hix-DiSanto nom de sales) had a profile page on the Keller Williams website as one of their realtors… or at least Google Cache says she did on September 10:
Google Cache also shares DiSanto’s realtor Facebook page, which is also inaccessible tonight.
The removal DiSanto’s realtor web pages sparks me to revisit another comment Majority leader Qualm made to Ferguson:
DiSanto is set to again serve as majority whip during the 2018 legislative session unless she opts to step down from the elected position, said Republican House Majority Leader Lee Qualm [Ferguson, reprinted now in USA Today, 2017.09.19 20:17 EDT].
That the Majority Leader even mentions the possibility that his whip might opt to step down suggests Qualm may already be thinking of joining Keller Williams in distancing his organization from DiSanto’s thoughtless online comment.
Update 21:28 CDT: DiSanto gives Seth Tupper the classic “I’m sorry if you were offended” non-apology:
“I am sorry if people took offense to it and perceived my message in any way insinuating support or condoning people being hit by cars,” DiSanto said. “I perceived it differently. I perceived it as encouraging people to stay out of the street” [Seth Tupper, “Rep. DiSanto Slammed for Facebook Post About Protesters,” Rapid City Journal, 2017.09.19].
Yet even Rep. DiSanto acknowledges the context that makes her statement inappropriate:
DiSanto said she failed to consider examples of violence against protesters when she shared her Facebook post.
“That was a lack of judgment on my part to not take that into consideration, the highly charged political environment that we’re in,” she said [Tupper, 2017.09.19].
Think before you post—that shouldn’t be a hard rule to follow… especially for an individual elected to vote on the laws that govern our fair state.
Tsitrian says his immigrant family benefited from learning English quickly through immersion 70 years ago, but that ideal (and I agree that swiftly adopting the native language of one’s new country is an ideal) isn’t practical today:
…we have to grapple with the fact that English immersion for immigrants will probably never be a fact of our state’s economic and cultural life again.Nostalgia for our historic character as a “melting pot” doesn’t get the job of building our economy done, as a lot of South Dakota enterprises are finding out. In Sioux Falls, the head of the local chapter of the Associated General Contractors tells the Argus Leader that immigrant labor is “hugely important” to the construction trade, a fact that anybody in the Black Hills who’s had a roof installed in recent years knows first hand. I’ve put up three roofs, two commercial and one residential, in the past four years and I’m pretty sure that each crew was close to 100% Spanish-speaking, with only the lead installer capable of communicating in a halting version of English on each job [John Tsitrian, “We Need a Multi-Lingual Workforce in South Dakota,” The Constant Commoner, 2017.09.05].
Ideally, every immigrant family would immerse itself in learning the language of its new homeland. Learning to speak English in America provides immigrants with more opportunity to participate in the economic, political, and cultural life of the community. But practically, even if many immigrants aren’t hitting the books and the language tapes, we still need them to lay our shingles, milk our cows, and drive our trucks.
The situation is akin to what public education faces. Ideally, parents would take care of breakfast. But practically, not all parents do. When kids show up at school hungry in the morning, we can gripe about how parents ought to do their job, and we may complain that school breakfast programs may accommodate further lazy parenting, but practically, we need to feed those kids so they can learn.
In a small way, providing driving exams in Spanish or other foreign languages takes the pressure off immigrants to study English. But as Tsitrian says, our immediate economic needs outweigh that concern.
Construction industry leaders in the Sioux Falls area want to change the state’s driving laws to make it easier for Spanish speakers to get behind the wheel. Language restrictions have created a drag on the workforce in a fast-growing industry that also drives the growth of the state’s largest city.
Most states offer driving tests in different languages. South Dakota does not.
The Legislature passed and Governor Bill Janklow signed a law (SDCL 1-27-20) in 1995 declaring English the “common” state language and designating that common language as “the language of any official public document or record and any official public meeting.” The “the” in that clause means that when aspiring drivers sit for the test to get their license, the official test that the state plunks in front of them must be written only in English.
Roadbuilder BX Civil and Construction of Dell Rapids tells Anderson that about 60 of its 100 workers are Hispanic. The construction execs talking about easing the language restrictions on driver’s license tests seem to be focusing on allowing Spanish versions of those tests. But if there is a civil rights issue with offering our driving tests in only one language, there’s a civil rights issue with offering those tests in only two languages. Employers can’t up and say they only want more Hispanic workers; whatever legal changes they propose need to offer equal opportunity to all workers, regardless of national origin or native tongue.
Most Senators have gotten around to condemning contemporary Nazis, but hey, there’s plenty of criticism to be dished out on both sides, and by not publicizing more condemnations of Senators by Nazis, the press is treating those Nazis absolutely unfairly.
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, except as otherwise provided in this chapter, the following acts are not unlawful and shall not be a criminal or civil offense under South Dakota law or the law of any political subdivision of South Dakota or be a basis for seizure or forfeiture of assets under South Dakota law for persons 21 years of age or older… [Recreational-marijuana initiative, Section 3, received by Secretary of State 2017.01.09].
The LRC recommended this revision to that provision [overstrike = recommended deletion; underline = recommended addition]:
Notwithstanding any other provision of law, except as otherwise provided in this chapter, the following acts are not unlawful and shall not be a criminal or civil offense under South Dakota the law of the state or the law of any political subdivision of South Dakota, or be a basis for seizure or forfeiture of assets under South Dakota law for persons 21 years of age or older… [LRC revisions, 2017.01.09].
In minor news, notice that the bad grammar—”…the following acts are not unlawful… or be a basis…”— of the revised initiative arises from following LRC’s recommended revision exactly.
But in major news, the accidental limitation of the initiative to local laws comes from the crucial omission of the change I highlight in red. LRC recommended rewording “under South Dakota law or the law of any political subdivision of South Dakota” to “under the law of the state or any subdivision.” Those phrases mean the same thing. The ballot question sponsors lost that equal meaning when they struck “South Dakota” but did not add “of the state.” The current, circulating language thus loses an important compound prepositional phrase and says only “under law of any subdivision.”
Interestingly, the sponsors kept the “under South Dakota law” that the LRC struck at the end of the seizure-and-forfeiture phrase. However, as written, that phrase appears to apply only to the nearest predicate—”be a basis for seizure or forfeiture of assets”—and cannot reach back beyond the “or” to apply to the preceding predicate—”are not unlawful….”
Petition sponsor Melissa Mentele of New Approach South Dakota tells Dana Ferguson that she’s not concerned about this “typo” and contends that “it’s one person’s perception of grammar versus another’s.” Those are two separate arguments. New Approach would lose in court on the grammar issue: the words as written in this section appear to leave most state laws against marijuana possession and use in place. To win its argument, New Approach should focus on the “typo” argument by showing how the flawed existing language arose from revisions, responding to LRC recommendations, that garbled the clear intent of the original draft and other 34 sections of this initiative, which clearly envision cannabis being grown, labeled, sold, taxed, and used as a legal product throughout the state of South Dakota.
But if a legislator is going to communicate in writing, he should try to write well. Rep. Schoenfish fails to demonstrate the basic composition skills I would expect of a high school graduate. Let’s start with his introduction, paragraph #1:
I was invited to speak at the Memorial Day Service in Canistota this year. We have the freedoms we have today because of the sacrifices our veterans have made. Memorial Day is the day we honor those who gave their lives fighting for our country. Last year my dad, Randy Schoenfish, gave the Memorial Day address in Menno. He served 21 years in the National Guard until he retired as a Lt. Colonel. The seven core values of the National Guard are loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. I see my dad exemplify those core values when he’s interacting with his friends and family, serving his clients and the taxpayers as a certified public accountant and serving in church and the community [Rep. Kyle Schoenfish, “Core Values; A Special Session,” Yankton Press & Dakotan, 2017.06.19].
I use the term paragraph lightly. A paragraph is a collection of sentences flowing in logical sequence to develop one topic. One of its sentences—the topic sentence—will explicitly state that topic, thus serving as the one-line summary of the paragraph’s intent. These seven sentences neither flow nor develop any unified topic. Schoenfish says he spoke in Canistota on Memorial Day, then doesn’t tell us what he said or what happened there. He interrupts his thinking about Memorial Day to issue a standard formula about freedom, sacrifice, and veterans. He returns to Memorial Day to describe its general purpose, to honor those who died fighting for America, then bounces to talk about his dad, who didn’t die fighting for America. Schoenfish switches topics to talk about the National Guard and its values. Then the National Guard disappears, and Schoenfish just tells us what great values his dad exemplifies at the office and around town. No one sentence on the page summarizes what this block of words is trying to do. Instead, Schoenfish rambles through three ideas—my dad and I make speeches; soldiers sacrifice for America; my dad’s a great guy—none of which is sufficiently developed to qualify this introduction as a paragraph.
I also use the term introduction lightly. An introduction is not just the first words out of one’s mouth. An introduction introduces the thesis of the essay. It tells readers the main idea that the writer is going to develop with the following paragraphs. A review of the subsequent paragraphs indicates there is no main idea.
I attended the retirement party for the superintendent of Freeman High School, Don Hotchkiss. The importance of quality, dedicated administrators like Hotchkiss in our schools cannot be overstated. It’s vital to have communication between school officials and legislators and Hotchkiss is a passionate advocate for our schools [Schoenfish, 2017.06.19].
Memorial Day, military service, Dad’s values—poof! All gone! And—spoiler alert—they aren’t coming back. Now Schoenfish praises Don Hotchkiss and (O, blind irony!) the importance of communication. “Passionate advocate” is a nice note, but “cannot be overstated” is a cliché. We can overstate the importance of school administrators: Without quality, dedicated administrators, our kids will all become criminals! Cliché indicates Schoenfish is thinking about details to develop his point; he’s just recycling fancy-sounding phrases he’s absorbed from other speakers and writers to fill space. For a retirement party, Rep. Schoenfish could have brought at least a couple sentences with specific details about Hotchkiss’s service.
But we mustn’t linger on any one topic too long. On to Rep. Schoenfish’s actual job as Representative:
A special session was called to address the issue of non-meandered waters. A study committee came up with a compromise that opens up the lakes that were closed due to a Supreme Court decision while also giving landowners rights that they did not have before the court ruling. This issue has been ongoing for years. The bill was HB1001; I voted yes, it passed 52 to 16. It was amended in the Senate to sunset in 2018; when it came back to the House; I voted yes again; it passed 54 to 12. Due to the sunset clause, it will likely be dealt with again in the 2018 session. The bill was an emergency, so it required 47 votes to pass [Schoenfish, 2017.06.19].
Here I give Schoenfish credit: this paragraph hangs together, focusing on the Legislature’s response to the complicated issue of access to new lakes that have flooded private land. However, nonmeandered waters and the new law are so complicated that Schoenfish should have dedicated several paragraphs—let’s say the entire column—to this topic. What lakes were opened—any in District 19? (Answer: yes! Island South in McCook County!) What new rights do landowners have? (Answer: closing access to unlisted nonmeandered lakes with signs and buoys, petitioning for closure of listed nonmeandered lakes like Island South.) Why has the issue been ongoing for years? Why was the bill an “emergency”? (Hmm… how was it an emergency if it was going on for years?) Why was the new law passed for only one year, and what if anything does Rep. Schoenfish want to do to make the law better in the 2018 Session?
With all those substantive questions to address, Schoenfish’s dedication of half of his paragraph to vote counts seems misplaced. The paragraph hangs together as an account of the special session, but it doesn’t say enough about how the new law resulting from the special session affects constituents.
But enough about constituents—let’s jump to a completely different topic!
I have been appointed to the workforce housing summer study by the legislative executive board. My experience as a CPA working on muncipal audits and housing/rental components of income taxes will be beneficial on the committee. Businesses across the state are looking to expand and hire more workers, but the workers need places to live. This is an issue in rural and urban areas all across the state. I have been reaching out to community leaders for their input on workforce housing issues. The committee had our first meeting the day after the special session. We heard from various stakeholders who spoke and took questions during the meeting. Speakers consisted of several mayors, representatives of housing associations and government agencies and others. Topics discussed were affordability, taxes, tax credits, dilapidated houses, lending and more. There are many components that make up our housing and rental system and the committee will continue to work on this major issue that South Dakota faces. The committee will meet again later this summer [Schoenfish, 2017.06.19].
Again, Schoenfish gets credit for keeping each sentence in this block focused on one topic… albeit a topic with no connection to anything mentioned above. Alas, as with nonmeandered waters, Schoenfish leaves the problem of workforce housing underdeveloped by crowding brief details about the problem and legislative procedure into one paragraph instead of dedicating a full essay to the issue. Imagine the above paragraph expanded into a few detailed paragraphs:
The Problem: Workers have trouble finding housing, so we’re having trouble finding workers. Give us some examples, and tell us why: Are wages too low? Are houses too expensive? Are we short on building contractors?
The Legislature’s Response:We’re conducting a summer study. Who’s on it? When and where are we meeting? This is the paragraph where Schoenfish could tuck in his mention of his involvement and qualifications… plus maybe an explanation of how municipal audits and income tax affect the availability of housing.
What We’ve Heard So Far:We learned a lot about the problem at our June 13 meeting. Give specific examples of who said what.
What I Think So Far: Given what we’ve learned (see how that flows?), we should look at the following policy actions. Give the public a preview of what you’re thinking and invite their feedback.
That multi-paragraph explanation would make a great essay all by itself. Do the same with the Special Session, Don Hotchkiss, and Memorial Day, and holy cow, Kyle! You’ve got material for a month! Your name and smiling face appear next to useful, informative prose every week in the paper. (Plus, you can further delay answering those darned questions Scott Ehrisman, Angela Kennecke, and your neighbor Senator Stace Nelson keep asking about you and GEAR UP.)
Instead, constituents get one slapdash, one-darn-thing-after-another pile of sentences that toss out at least four unrelated topics that don’t tell the voters as much as they deserve.
The President of the United States said on Twitter last week that he is under investigation for firing James Comey from the FBI:
The President’s private lawyer, Jay Sekulow, said yesterday that the President is not under investigation:
“The tweet from the president was in response to the five anonymous sources purportedly leaking information to the Washington Post,” he said, referring to the Post’s report this week that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the election now also includes a look at whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice.
Sekulow claimed the president is not spending a lot of time composing the tweets, but defended them as a means of speaking directly to voters, saying “he’s responding to what he’s seeing in the media in a way in which he thinks is appropriate to talk to those people that put him in office.”
The President’s own lawyer is telling the world that the President of the United States does not spend enough time crafting the messages he sends via his primary channel of communication to provide clear, reliable statements. In other words, we and the entire world cannot take at face value the words of the President of the United States.
I say this same thing every time Dr. David Newquist puts up a new blog post: he doesn’t write much, but when he does, his words are powerful. This weekend, Dr. Newquist explains how Donald Trump’s lies are destroying our democracy as surely as our government’s lies demoralized the American Indians.
As usual, it is hard to excerpt Newquist. Every paragraph is powerful, but every paragraph gains even more power in concert with the whole. Here’s just one passage, which should inspire every reader to read everything Newquist says about the lies of the “village idiot” in the White House:
The most serious damage lying inflicts is on the language. When words are used to deceive, they become untrustworthy. An environment of lies makes the language useless in conducting any kind of human transactions. And when people cannot trust words, they cannot trust anything or anybody. The misuse and consequent mistrust of language spreads into documents and the laws that govern us. People realize that laws are construed to oppress some people and exempt others from any kind of responsibility [David Newquist, “Pathological Lying Destroys Human Possibilities,” Northern Valley Beacon, 2017.06.10].
Read and share Newquist’s full critique. Forward these words to our elected officials. And fight the cynical linguistic nihilism that Trump is using to destroy our democratic institutions as he raids the national cookie jar.