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.
This is not a battle between different faiths, different sects, or different civilizations. This is a battle between barbaric criminals who seek to obliterate human life, and decent people of all religions who seek to protect it [Donald Trump, speech to leaders of 50+ Muslim countries, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, as transcribed by CNN, 2017.05.21].
Terrorists are engaged in a war against civilization, and it is up to all who value life to confront and defeat this evil….
Civilization is at a precipice—and whether we climb or fall will be decided by our ability to join together to protect all faiths, all religions, and all innocent life. No matter what, America will do what it must to protect its people [Donald Trump, statement, 2017.05.26].
For Donald Trump, words are mere accessories, thrown on like his too-long neckties to tickle and exaggerate his manhood. Looking for logical consistency in such fire-and-forget blurts is an oral fixation not worth pursuing.
I’ll offer this one faint attempt at finding some consistency in Trump’s civilization/war statements. Trump’s words still contradict the thesis of Clare Lopez and his anti-Muslim base, who contend that the Muslim Brotherhood is waging civilization jihad to replace Western civilization with Islamic civilization. However, when he said there is no war between civilizations, he did not logically exclude the possibility that there are extra-civilizational evildoers who are trying to tear down the whole idea of civilization. These two statements five days apart thus allow Trump to cling to the rhetorical position that we face a battle not of civilization versus civilization but of all civilizations versus anarchy.
But there I go again, putting far more thought into Donald Trump’s words than he himself puts into them.
The other day I noticed that Holabird political expert Nick Nemec claimed on Facebook that “contrary to recent reports,” he actually coined the term “priming the pump.” I didn’t understand the reference until this morning, when another friend forwarded this incredible transcript of Donald Trump explaining economics to editors from The Economist:
[The Economist] Another part of your overall plan, the tax reform plan. Is it OK if that tax plan increases the deficit? Ronald Reagan’s tax reform didn’t.
[Trump] Well, it actually did. But, but it’s called priming the pump. You know, if you don’t do that, you’re never going to bring your taxes down. Now, if we get the health-care [bill through Congress], this is why, you know a lot of people said, “Why isn’t he going with taxes first, that’s his wheelhouse?” Well, hey look, I convinced many people over the last two weeks, believe me, many Congressmen, to go with it. And they’re great people, but one of the great things about getting health care is that we will be saving, I mean anywhere from $400bn to $900bn.
Mr Mnuchin: Correct.
President Trump: That all goes into tax reduction. Tremendous savings.
But beyond that it’s OK if the tax plan increases the deficit?
It is OK, because it won’t increase it for long. You may have two years where you’ll…you understand the expression “prime the pump”?
Yes. We have to prime the pump.
It’s very Keynesian.
We’re the highest-taxed nation in the world. Have you heard that expression before, for this particular type of an event?
Priming the pump?
Yeah, have you heard it?
Have you heard that expression used before? Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just…I came up with it a couple of days ago and I thought it was good. It’s what you have to do.
But Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine explains that Trump not only didn’t invent the phrase but isn’t using it correctly:
…Trump did not invent the phrase “prime the pump.” It has been around since at least the 1930s and is extremely familiar to economists. Nor does it describe his plan. Priming the pump refers to a program of temporary fiscal stimulus to inject demand into an economy stuck with high unemployment. Trump is instead proposing to permanently increase the deficit in an economy with low unemployment. Telling The Economist you invented the phrase “priming the pump,” to describe a plan that does not prime the pump, is a bit like sitting down with Car and Driver, pointing to the steering wheel on your car and asking if they have ever heard of a little word you just came up with called “hubcap” [Jonathan Chait, “Donald Trump Tries to Explain Economics to The Economist, Hilarity Ensues,” New York Magazine: Daily Intelligencer, 2017.05.11].
As a bonus, Chait cites this chart showing that Trump’s claim that “we’re the highest-taxed nation in the world” is also false:
I don’t know if we need a new pump, but we need a new President, one who can get basic facts straight.
At yesterday’s crackerbarrel in Watertown, rookie Rep. Neal Tapio (R-5/Watertown responded to a question about getting rid of Medicaid by saying (timestamp 54:35), “I want to kill it altogether.”
Three minutes and fifteen seconds later, in response to a follow-up question about how we proposes to take care of elderly, children, disabled, and other folks currently on Medicaid, Rep. Tapio said, “I’m not saying that we get rid of it.”
It is quite easy to blame politicians for our problems. We have more power than politicians to bring change to our lives, but this requires that we reach out and connect with each other. It requires that we discover our mutual needs and try to help each other. It requires a mutual protection pact with all Americans and, by extension, to all humanity. It requires that we search for, discover and value what we have in common over the few things we have in difference. This does not require the permission of the government or anyone else [Lawrence Diggs, “Time for the Country to Unite Again,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.12.23].
Yet I also read in this gentle populist tone a retreat from the war that decent people must fight against darkness. As Diggs exhorts us to smile and be nice to the neighbors around us, he turns us away from the language we must use to criticize and reject the evil that is taking hold of our government:
We can be more flexible. It is too easy to write people off as “sexist,” “racist,” “deplorable” or some other term that writes people off as “unredeemable.” It is useful to remember that change is hard and we are all victims of the same brainwashing that pits us against each other. We need to practice seeing each other as collaborators [Diggs, 2016.12.23].
We can only be so flexible. It is easy and necessary to describe Donald Trump and those around him as sexist, racist, and deplorable because they are sexist, racist, and deplorable. It is vital to remember that the change Donald Trump wants is not just hard but destructive. We are not all victims of the same brainwashing: some of us recognize that Donald Trump is a menace, and saying otherwise makes us collaborators in tyranny.
Yes, be nice to each other. Recognize our common humanity. But resist at every turn the greatest threat to our common humanity, the tyrant who is getting the nuclear codes for Christmas.
During the last election, America was looking for a moderate voice, someone that had an accomplishment of getting things done in government, someone who could reach out to everybody and understand what it’s like to be really really poor as well as have you know maybe some on that opposite end of the stream too [Mike Huether, on The Greg Belfrage Show, 2016.12.21 ].
Huether used that point to springboard to talking about himself rather than elaborating on his analysis of the national electorate (expect a lot of that focus from the Huether campaign). But what is he saying here? Is he explaining why Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.87 million votes? Is he saying America wants something other than the President it’s getting? Or is he just in campaign mode, projecting his own slogans onto the entire country?