Saturday, February 23, 2008

Still Around

Whoever said it never rains in Southern California must never be here when I am as it seems that everytime I come out here it rains. This time around is no exception as the whole week has been damp and cold (cool for those in South Dakota). Of course it is still better than cold and snowy but it is my luck just the same.

Training has kept me quite busy but I did get the chance to head up and do some people watching on Venice Beach and on Santa Monica pier this afternoon in between rain drops and the picture below is of that famous landmark taken with what has to be one of the worst camera phones known to man.

santa monica pier

Anyhow, posting will continue to be light through next weekend but hopefully soon thereafter I can get back to some sort of regular posting.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Born And Died On Same Day

I had heard of this the other day but more details have since come out.
A Sioux Falls couple that was born on the same day has died on the same day. Diana Kraft and her husband, Kent, both 67, died together Saturday of separate illnesses. Both were born on Sept. 2, 1941, and they've been married for about 43 years.
I met Kent when he was still working for the TSA at Sioux Falls Regional Airport and hearing of his passing was sad news indeed but the added details of his wife dying on the same day as him and then to hear that they were also born on the same day has all the makings of a fairytale love story come true.

South Dakota Priorities

A couple of days back I wrote on how South Dakota's senior Senator, Tim Johnson, voted along with 17 other Democrats to give our government almost free reign to spy on us without needing to have warrants. As expected, the Democratic Party mouthpiece blog, Badlands Blue, was eerily silent on that vote though they did post Johnson's statement supporting "tax refunds" that in many cases will be larger than what folks actually paid. To be fair though, other than here, not one South Dakota political blog from either party that I am aware of saw fit to mention it nor did it receive much play in our local MSM.

While our 4th Amendment rights were being assailed by our elected officials in Washington and ignored by most, the big news instead in our state was whether South Dakota colleges were violating the 2nd Amendment rights of students by not allowing them to keep or carry weapons on campus.

Spy on us without a warrant? No problem. Prohibiting college students from carrying a "concealed heater" in English class, the sky is falling! How's that for priorities...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Johnson Vote Basically Guts The 4th Amendment

I know I said posting would be light but I just had to comment on this before leaving

One Tim Johnson press release you probably won't be reading on Badlands Blue is in regards to his vote yesterday to gut the Fourth Amendment and allow the government to invade our privacy. Johnson was one of 18 spineless Democrats who voted to give President Bush what he wanted, the authority to spy on Americans without warrants and almost limitless immunity for the Telco's that will assist or have assisted in spying on us up until now as well as in the future.

From Firedoglake
Not one of the 49 Senate Republicans stood up for the Fourth Amendment. And there are nearly 20 weak Democrats who simply cannot be relied upon to stand against the Republicans when fundamental rights are at stake.

These Democratic Senators will forever be remembered as having failed their oaths to preserve and protect the Constitution. Bayh, Inouye, Johnson, Landrieu, McCaskill, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Stabenow, Feinstein, Kohl, Pryor, Rockefeller, Salazar, Carper, Mikulski, Conrad, Webb, and Lincoln. Whitehouse voted to mitigate the worst provisions, but ultimately voted for the Bill.
Some highlights of what Senator Johnson's vote could allow.

-- The President can direct US spy agencies to intercept every e-mail, telephone or internet communication of every American and anyone legally in the US with only the most minimal safeguards. Although the bill was supposed to deal with exclusively "foreign" communications, the techniques it sanctions will in fact sweep up domestic and foreign combined.

-- Acting without individual or particularized warrants from any court, spy agencies can sweep up millions of communications without differentiating between those warranting surveillance and those not. Procedures for separating out totally innocent persons or communications that have nothing to do with foreign intelligence or any security threat to the US are minimal to non-existent. Procedures allowing a secret court to review such procedures have been weakened, along with measures to correct violations of even these limited procedures.

-- Persons spied upon have no ability to determine what information the government has collected, or to affect what the government does with the information. Americans will never know which persons or government agencies were shown private information about them, and if restrictions are placed on their activities or travel because of this secret information, it will be impossible for victims to determine why or to challenge the information.

-- Telecommunication companies who participated in government's illegal spying activities, and those who ordered this, would be forever immune from any consequences for their actions and cannot be required to disclose what they did.

Thanks Tim! (And of course Senator Thune as well but we already know he is in Bush's back pocket so this is not a surprise)

Super Delegates

Super Delegates are getting a lot of press lately because of the closeness of the Democratic primaries and the fact that these "special" delegates could possibly determine who gets the nomination despite who gets the popular vote. Along those lines I decided to see who holds that power in South Dakota.

U.S. Senate - Tim Johnson
U.S. House of Representatives - Stephanie Herseth
Distinguished Party Leader - Tom A. Daschle

State's Total Number of Super Delegates: 7

As a side note to show just how screwy this could end up being, supposedly one of these Super Delegates from Wisconsin is a 21 year old college student whom has yet to ever even vote in a Presidential election...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Going Dark For Awhile

As you might have noticed, posting has been real light lately and based on current circumstances it will continue this way through at least the beginning of March due to work concerns. I will be heading to Los Angeles  this weekend for 2 weeks and will try to check in as time allows but I do not foresee having the time to post much if anything for at least the near future. In the interim feel free to read some of the other fine South Dakota blogs listed in my blogroll and hope to see you back here on the flip side.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Thanks Mitt!

It seems that Mitt Romney's decision to suspend his campaign wasn't because of his poor showing last Tuesday but instead was to save us from terrorists.

Romney: ”If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win. And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign, be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.”

But besides us now being safer because of Mitt's heroism, the rest of the far right might not be feeling the Mitt love as much as he would hope, especially Focus on the Family chairman Dr. James Dobson. Dobson doesn't seem too impressed with his choices this time around and says that he and many of his followers will be sitting this one out.
“I am deeply disappointed the Republican Party seems poised to select a nominee who did not support a Constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage, voted for embryonic stem-cell research to kill nascent human beings, opposed tax cuts that ended the marriage penalty, has little regard for freedom of speech, organized the Gang of 14 to preserve filibusters in judicial hearings, and has a legendary temper and often uses foul and obscene language…. Given these and many other concerns, a spoonful of sugar does NOT make the medicine go down. I cannot, and will not, vote for Sen. John McCain, as a matter of conscience.”
With todays announcement, we have Conservative talking head Rush Limbaugh's last hope out of the race, right wingnut Ann Coulter pledging to support Hillary Clinton, and the religious right talking about staying away completely. Thanks Mitt!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Cold Dead Hands

As our legislature debates whether to allow our college students to bring guns on to colleges, the Brady campaign report card shows just how bad our gun laws already are in South Dakota as far as letting the bad guys get a hold of guns.

Out of a possible 100 points with 100 being the best, South Dakota scored a 6 with the lowlights below thanks to the RCJ.

* States can earn up to 35 points by taking all measures needed to “Curb Firearm Trafficking.” States can fully regulate the gun dealers within their borders, limit bulk purchases of handguns, provide police certain technology to identify crime guns, and require lost or stolen guns to be reported to the police. South Dakota scored zero points in this category.

* States can earn up to 25 points by “Strengthening Brady Background Checks.” This involves requiring background checks on all gun sales and requiring a permit in order to purchase firearms. Short of universal background checks, states can also close the gun show loophole, at least requiring background checks for all gun show sales. South Dakota scored zero points in this category.

* States can earn up to 20 points by “Protecting Child Safety” when it comes to guns. States can require that only childproof handguns be sold within their borders, require child safety locks to be sold with each handgun, hold adults accountable for keeping guns away from kids and teens, and require handgun purchasers to be at least 21 years of age. South Dakota scored zero points in this category.

* States can earn up to 10 points by “Banning Military-style Assault Weapons,” as well as banning high-capacity ammunition magazines. South Dakota scored zero points in this category.

* States can earn up to 10 points by making it harder to carry “Guns In Public Places” (except for trained law enforcement and security) and by allowing localities to “Preserve Local Control” over municipal gun laws. This includes keeping guns out of workplaces and college campuses, not forcing law enforcement to issue concealed handgun permits on demand, not permitting “shoot first” expansions in self-defense laws, and not preventing municipalities from passing their own gun laws. South Dakota scored only six points in this category.

Maybe instead of passing laws that look to increase the prevalence of guns in our state we should instead concentrate on keeping them out of the hands of people that shouldn't have them. But then again we are only 37th in the nation on this so we have a long way to go before we hit our comfort zone of last.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Perfect Timing

Last week I got on my "Bully Pulpit" to rag on my local cable company about not carrying our local Fox station's hi def feed. It really sucked that I had this nice expensive HD set all ready for the Super Bowl and wouldn't be able to take advantage of it. Somebody must be reading this blog from Golden West Telecommunications as to my surprise, they added KTTW's (our Fox affiliate) HD feed today. The day AFTER the Super Bowl...

Fly On The Wall

First it was Caroline Kennedy coming out in support of Barack Obama, and now another prominent name from the Kennedy clan has come out and supported Obama's run for the White House.

Wouldn't it be interesting to be a fly on the wall in the Governor's mansion in California?

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Usual Response

Jason Heppler over at South Dakota Politics links to a Glenn Reynolds piece about our legislature's attempt to allow guns onto South Dakota universities (HB1261). Following the usual NRA talking points Reynolds proclaims that being able to carry guns into the classroom could have saved lives at Virginia Tech, you even got to love Reynolds headline, "People don't stop killers. People with guns do".

Just what is needed to prevent gun violence, more people with guns and lucky us it is our own legislature that is seeking to bring that extra firepower onto our own OK Corrals, I mean colleges. If our lawmakers get their way I guess backpack manufacturers will have to scramble to add new pockets to their products as our college students will need a place to keep that .357 along with their English Literature textbooks...

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Are We Headed Towards A Recession?

Cory over at the Madville Times is asking just that question based on the myriad of conflicting reports coming at us from all angles regarding our economy. It all came to a head when the jobs report came out and showed a hefty loss of over 17,000 jobs in January which was the first decline in 52 months. But what got Cory and others going was that even with the downturn in jobs, the unemployment rate actually went down from 5-4.9% during the same period.

So now we have reports that show we shed jobs but fewer people are out of work? That contradiction has some saying (including Cory's favorite Harvard math guy) that based on the unemployment rate we actually only have a small chance of sliding into a recession.
The 4-week moving average of initial UI claims was reported yesterday at 325,750, which is 17,000 lower than 4 weeks ago and essentially unchanged from the October average. Alone, trends in UI claims suggest a 4 percent recession probability. The unemployment rate is 0.1 points lower than December, but 0.1 higher than three months ago, suggesting an 8 percent recession probability. Combined, this yields an overall recession probability of 6 percent
What isn't mentioned in all the talk over the drop in unemployment is why? If you read the WSJ article and other sources you will find out that while we did lose 17,000 jobs overall, most coming in manufacturing and construction, other sectors like retail and service actually saw large increases in jobs. Further skewing the unemployment numbers, apparently a large amount of chronically unemployed folks just stopped looking so were not included.

Call me stupid, you wouldn't be alone, but how is a huge downturn in good paying manufacturing and construction jobs that is offset by a similar increase in low paying service and retail jobs a good thing? Sounds like a recipe for a recession to me considering the decline in spendable income that comes along with the change in employment.

Now mind you that recipe doesn't apply in South Dakota where we think paying our teachers like a high school kid working at McDonalds is a good thing and where the Governor heralds a minuscule unemployment rate that is highly dependent on those McDonalds jobs, but in the real world the numbers tell me we should be worried.

I'm with Cory, some math guy touting only a slim 6% chance of a recession only tells me that there should probably be more mathematicians out of work and no $1000 dollar check from Uncle Sam will change that or the obvious slowdown we are seeing in the economy. Call it whatever you like, a recession, a slowdown, or even just a blip on the radar, those living through it don't care what it's called.

Happy Birthday

Boy has time flown by quickly, it only seems like yesterday that this lowly blog was born but today marks the 2 year anniversary of A South Dakota Moderate. I've had many different looks to the site and many different opinions (over 1200 posts to date) but many things haven't changed. I still have horrible grammar and I still can't write worth a damn.

Putting those obvious negatives aside, if this site shows one thing, just like a certain body part, everyone has opinions and most of them stink but the internet, and apparently KELO doesn't care and gives me an outlet anyway.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Common Sense Wins Out

SB185, the bill that sought to toughen regulations on personalized plates was shot down in committee yesterday.
A state law that says personalized license plates in South Dakota must be in "good taste and decency" will not be changed by lawmakers.

A bill that would have set tougher guidelines for messages that are displayed on vanity plates was killed unanimously Tuesday without discussion by the state Senate Transportation Committee.

SB185 said license plate messages may not be vulgar, profane, derogatory, obscene or racially offensive.
At least now we won't have to worry about whose idea of "good taste and decency" would be used to determine what appears on your license plate.

Exxon Heading To Poor House

Yesterday Shell set a record for the highest profits ($27.6 Billion), and remember I said profits not revenue, ever recorded by a company in the UK. Low and behold, Exxon Mobile released their 4th quarter earnings this morning and unfortunately for Exxon, they were less than half of Shell but a record just the same.
CNBC - Exxon Mobil said Friday record oil prices boosted its fourth-quarter earnings to $11.66 billion, the highest ever operating profit by a U.S. company.

Shares of the world's largest non-government-controlled oil company rose 1.7 percent in before-the-bell trading as the results beat Wall Street forecasts.

Net income rose nearly 14 percent from the year-earlier of $10.25 billion.
Two national profit records in two days. The supply vs demand way of pricing oil in the commodity market seems to be more geared towards increasing the supply of profits going to the oil companies than maintaining the reasonably priced supply of gas going to the pumps. At least one industry is weathering the recession...

McCain The Latest To Slap Labor In The Face

While probably not a big deal here in union unfriendly South Dakota (a previous employer threatened to shut down rather than allow employees to unionize), John McCain joined his new BFFL Rudy Giuliani on the Jay Leno Show yesterday. That appearance which required crossing a Writers Guild of America picket line, falls in line with earlier appearances on Leno by other GOP hopefuls Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Mike Huckabee, and again re-enforces just how much the Republican party cares about working Americans.

I used to think that labor unions had long since lost their luster and in recent times had caused more problems than they solved and union membership had followed those thoughts. But a funny thing happened last year that hadn't happened in at least 25 years, union membership actually increased.
For the first time in the past quarter of a century, in 2007 U.S. unions increased their share of membership among workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) annual union membership report released today. Unions added about 310,000 members last year, raising the unionized share of the workforce to 12.1 percent from 12.0 percent in 2006.
The same article goes on to mention that the small 310,000 member increase might be a statistical anomaly but it is an anomaly that hasn't happened in 25 years. Is this the start of a trend showing a growing dis-satisfaction with employers and big business and in turn the GOP whose platform is geared towards being pro-big business?

As much as labor unions might want you to think, they have nowhere near the political clout they once had, just ask John Edwards whom garnered just about every union endorsement out there and never won a thing. But, and this is still a big but, if our current do everything for business model despite what it means for the employee continues, will we be able to say the same thing in 4 or 8 years? If you think it's hard to understand the broken English of some tech support reps now...

McCain and the rest of the Republican's decision to slap labor in the face just for a few minutes of free publicity will likely not have any side effects for them this time around but I am sure if the labor union membership increase becomes a trend instead of an anomaly, 4 years from now might not be as rosy, or as forgiving for past transgressions by the GOP.