Monthly Archives: November 2009

Mark your calendars

The governor’s budget speech is set for 1 p.m. CT next Tuesday, Dec. 8, in the House chambers at the state Capitol. Key dates for the 2010 legislative session include opening day, Tuesday, Jan. 12, when the governor delivers the State of the State address; Monday, Feb. 1, the final day for individual legislators to introduce bills; Monday, Feb. 22, the final day for a committee to deliver a bill to the floor of the first chamber (House bills to the House floor, Senate bills to the Senate floor); Tuesday, Feb. 23, the last day for the first chamber to consider a bill (unless the members suspend the rules, which has often happened); Tuesday, March 8, the final day for a committee to move a bill to the floor of the second chamber; and Wednesday, March 9, the final day for the second chamber to consider a bill. Conference committee days to work out differences between House and Senate versions of the same bill are set aside for Wednesday through Friday, March 10-12. After a two-week break, legislators return for the thirty-eighth and final day of the regular session on Monday, March 29, to consider any vetoes and handle any other unfinished business. The Legislature decided to limit the 2010 session to 38 days, a compromise between the traditional 35- and 40-day sessions of recent decades.

Recommended reading: William Clark

The relatively new 2008 biography “William Clark: Indian Diplomat” should be required reading in South Dakota. The work by Jay H. Buckley chronicles Clark’s life with a focus on his post- expedition work on behalf of the U.S. government as an Indian agent, territorial governor and superintendent of Indian affairs. Clark was responsible for many of the treaties. Butler isn’t antagonistic in his treatment of Clark, but he is realistic. In South Dakota, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark are honored as heroes by state and local governments as well as many historians and tourism promoters. We have two state highways, 1804 and 1806, numbered in recognition of the years they traveled up and down the Missouri River on their exploratory mission; likewise, the Lewis & Clark trail, the Chamberlain I-90 rest stop and the recreation area at Yankton. In the context of Buckley’s book, Clark’s record as superintendent at St. Louis is mixed. He works for accommodation during relocation and is empathetic to suffering. He prized peace and ordered extermination of Black Hawk’s band. Writes Buckley: “Clark’s evolving Indian policy consisted of executing federal policy in a friendly but firm manner, helping Indians when they cooperated and punishing warlike or unreceptive Indians. He endeavored to secure Indian friendship in a way he thought most beneficial to them and most effectual and economical to the United States.” In the context of our state government’s emphasis on changing place names which are now considered publicly offensive, where does Clark’s treaty work as the great dispossessor situate him on the spectrum of modern political correctness?

Bud Wood, 1922-2009

Few South Dakota legislators served longer than Royal J. Wood. Everybody knew him as Bud. He spent 26 years in the state House of Representatives. He held the distinction of presiding over the House as speaker during the centennial year of 1989 and the year after. A Republican from the Warner area of southern Brown County, Bud wanted to stay longer. But redistricting after the 1990 census pushed him into a tougher political situation. He ran into a pair of tough Democratic opponents, Al Waltman and Craig Schaunaman, in the 1992 elections. House elections in South Dakota allow voters to select two candidates because the district has two House seats. In Bud’s case, he went alone against Craig and Al in the District 3 contest. Al had been serving from District 2 but he was moved to District 3 after redistricting, putting three incumbents in one district for two seats. Bud hoped Republicans in Brown and McPherson counties would “bullet vote” by casting just one vote, for him, and not voting for either of the other two. The strategy wasn’t enough. Craig Schaunaman came out the top man with 6,915 votes. Al Waltman finished ahead of Bud Wood 5,412 to 4,945.

That was the end of Bud’s career in the Legislature.  It was a tough November for Republicans generally and a great election for Democrats. Nationally, Bill Clinton was elected president over Republican incumbent George H.W. Bush. In South Dakota, Democrats took control of the state Senate 18-17 for the first time in two decades (their majority lasted one term until the 1994 elections). In Brown County, Democratic candidates swept five of the six House and Senate seats up for election in 1992. The defeat of Bud Wood marked the final blow to a 26-year dynasty for Brown County Republicans in the Legislature that began with the 1966 victories by Bud and Joe Barnett. In many ways, Bud and Dorothy Wood were the center for Republicans in Brown County for three decades.

Bud was a buddy of another Republican legislator of long-standing repute, Walter Dale Miller, who went on to become lieutenant governor and later governor; while other legislators partied downstairs in the aptly named “Dungeon” in those looser days, Bud and Walt went for late-night malts upstairs at the old Kings Inn coffee shop. At least twice Bud and Dorothy found their allegiances torn between old friends, first when Gov. Bill Janklow challenged and lost to U.S. Sen. Jim Abdnor in the 1986 Republican primary; and again in 1994, when former Gov. Janklow challenged and beat Gov. Miller for the gubernatorial nomination in the 1994 Republican primary.

Township governments had no better friends in the Legislature than Bud Wood and Bob Weber from Strandburg.  On a personal note, Bud Wood was the first to teach this reporter as a rookie at the Legislature about the deep financial damage which South Dakota suffered from state government’s Rural Credit farm-lending scheme of the late ‘Teens and early Twenties.

All these years, for some odd reason, I’d kept on a bookshelf in my office a campaign card Bud used in his final run. On the front, he was pictured on the Capitol steps, looking country dapper in a suit, boots and white cattleman’s hat, a folder clutched in his right hand, the man of the people heading to work to do the people’s business. On the back was a map of the district and a bit about Bud (“Farmer Businessman Auctioneer”) as well as a campaign theme: “We Need An Experienced Voice & Proven Leader for SD Legislative District 3” it said. And off to the right was a final message that summed up Bud’s way of politicking: “Your VOTE & Support Will Be Appreciated Election Day.”

Only eight men served longer than Bud in the Legislature. The 30-year men were C.S. Amsden of Milbank, Jim Dunn of Lead, Gordon Pederson of Wall, David Pulford of Madison and Alfred Roesler of Deadwood. Those with 28 years were Bob Weber, Albert Risty of Corson and Art Anderson of Sioux Falls. Joining Bud Wood in the 26-year rank were Harold Halverson of Milbank and Henry Poppen of DeSmet. Bud passed away Nov. 19. His funeral will be held Saturday in Bethlehem Lutheran Church at Aberdeen, followed by burial at Warner Township Cemetery. He gave 26 winters of his life to the people of South Dakota. I never heard him once doubt that it was worth it.

Nelson, Jackley drop case against Hunt

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley announced this morning that he and Secretary of State Chris Nelson are ending their legal pursuit of state Rep. Roger Roger Hunt in the Promising Future secret-donor case. Circuit Judge Kathleen Caldwell recently ruled in favor of Hunt, saying that Nelson and former Attorney General Larry Long were incorrectly applying the state’s campaign-reporting law. The law provides for a criminal penalty. Long had granted Hunt criminal immunity as Nelson pursued a civil lawsuit attempting to require Hunt to disclose the origin of $750,000. That’s how much Promising Future Inc. gave to the Vote Yes for Life committee, during the battle in 2006 over South Dakota’s abortion ban. On Wednesday, Jackley’s office announced that he and Nelson wouldn’t pursue an appeal of Judge Caldwell’s ruling, and Hunt in return agreed he wouldn’t seek attorney fees and court costs from the State of South Dakota. Jackley’s statement concluded, “While the parties do not necessarily agree upon the legal issues and obligations of campaign finance laws as they existed in November 0f 2006, the recent legislative amendments to South Dakota’s campaign finance disclosure requirements address many of the concerns raised in the litigation.” Time will tell to what degree that statement holds true. Two measures on the 2008 ballot showed that the initial round of changes didn’t solve the dilemma of groups which use incorporation as a means to hide the origin of money they spend on ballot campaigns. More changes were made in the 2009 legislative session. For Nelson, November has been a tough month in court. After the Caldwell ruling on Promising Future Nov. 6, Nelson lost a second time, when Circuit Judge Kathleen Trandahl ruled that opponents of South Dakota’s expanded ban against smoking had sufficient petition signatures to force the ban to a statewide vote next November. Nelson also decided, after conferring with Jackley, to not appeal that ruling.

Something to share from the Homestake project

lux-cutaway12Here’s the latest, along with pictures, from communications officer Bill Harlan at the Homestake science lab complex:


Lead, S.D. — The water level at the Sanford Underground Laboratory at Homestake was

5,027 feet underground Monday, about 5 feet lower than the level that has been

maintained for the past few weeks. Meanwhile, crews are preparing to install the first

physics experiment at the 4,850-foot level of the laboratory.


Homestake gold mine was closed in 2003. The former gold mine was filling with water

until last year, when the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority began pumping

it out to convert the mine into a laboratory. Pumping has slowed recently while Sanford

Lab crews are rehabilitating the 5,000-foot level. Two new pumping stations there will

dewater the deepest levels of Homestake, down to 8,000 feet underground.


Sanford Lab crews also are driving a second tunnel to the Davis Cavern on the 4,850-foot

level of the lab. That cavern, excavated in 1965, is where nuclear chemist Dr. Ray Davis

installed an experiment to measure subatomic particles called neutrinos produced in the

sun. Now the cavern is being prepared for a new experiment that will search for an

elusive, never-detected substance called “dark matter.” The Large Underground Xenon

detector, or LUX, will use 350 kilograms of liquid xenon in a cryostat that will be placed

inside a sleeve of water in the Davis Cavern. Experiments to detect and measure

neutrinos, dark matter and other subatomic phenomena are installed deep underground to

shield them from background cosmic radiation.


Sanford Lab personnel and contractors also have remodeled a former Homestake

warehouse as a LUX surface lab, complete with clean room, where scientists will

assemble and test the LUX detector before sending it underground in 2010. The first-ever

detection of dark matter will be a major step toward better understanding the fundamental

nature of the universe.


Bad streak of fatal crashes

Twelve people have died as the result of vehicle crashes in South Dakota since October. Through midnight Sunday, there have been 88 fatal crashes and 104 fatalities, according to the state Department of Public Safety. Through the same point in 2008, there had been 93 fatal crashes and 101 deaths. The total fatalies for 2008 reached 121.

Fidel Castro’s opinion of the Myers’ spying

Here’s an interesting perspective which The Huffington Post website reported back in June, shortly after Walter and Gwendolyn Myers were arrested for spying for Cuba (see Saturday post below on their guilty pleas Friday). According to The Huffington Post, Fidel Castro issued a public statement praising the Myers. Here’s what THP said Castro said:

The retired Communist leader declined over the weekend to say whether Walter Kendall Myers, 72, a US intelligence official, and his 71-year-old wife Gwendolyn really had passed secrets to his regime, but he said they deserved praise if they did.

“I can’t help but admire their disinterested and courageous conduct on behalf of Cuba,” he wrote in a web column published three days after the couple’s sensational arrest.

“Those who in one form or another have helped to protect the Cuban people from the terrorist plans and assassination plots organised by various US administrations have done so at the initiative of their own conscience and are deserving, in my judgment, of all the honours in the world.”

The puzzle of H1N1 flu

Clearly the H1N1 type of flu lived up to expectations in South Dakota by sweeping through our youth. Yet the fatalities have come among the rest of the generations. The latest weekly report from the state Health Department shows 2,236 confirmed cases in South Dakota so far, with 1,011 among children ages 9 and younger, and 532 cases among young people ages 10 through 19. While those two age groups comprise roughly 70 percent of the confirmed cases, there’s been just one fatality.  The other 18 fatalities have been spread among the seven older age groups, rather uniformly.

Guilty pleas from South Dakota lefty spies

The Washington Post reports Saturday morning that Walter Myers and Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers pleaded guilty in federal court Friday “that they spied for Cuba over the past three decades, receiving coded instructions over a shortwave radio and passing along information to intelligence operatives in ‘dead drops’ and ‘hand to hand’ passes.” (See the full story by reporter Del Quinten Weber at Myers, age 72, gets life in prison, his wife, age 71, six to seven-plus years. The story says they agreed to become spies for Cuba while living in South Dakota.

According to a long piece reported by Toby Harnden and published earlier this fall by Washingtonian magazine, the couple met in Washington, D.C., while she worked on the staff of then-U.S. Sen. Jim Abourezk, a Democrat from South Dakota. The Harnden story notes, “Among her colleagues were Tom Daschle, later Senate majority leader, and Pete Rouse, now a senior adviser to President Obama.” She had married during high school in Yankton, according to Harnden’s account, and later lived in Aberdeen with her first husband, Chuck Trebilcock, and their four children. She divorced in 1973 at the age of 37 and moved with the children to Colorado, where she married a second time to a man 13 years younger. Harnden wrote that she was working on Abourezk’s staff in Washington, D.C., within two years, the marriage dissolved. While there, she met Myers. The couple in turn met their initial Cuban contact at a gathering at the home of Wendy Greider, who was Abourezk’s staff member for foreign affairs.

Abourezk strongly favored ending the U.S. embargo against Cuba. Myers was working as an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and was on contract as an instructor at the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute. When Abourezk didn’t run for re-election in 1978, she received political refuge in Pierre, working at the state Public Utilities Commission. She was one of four ex-Abourezk staffers hired at the PUC by commissioner Ken Stofferahn, a political ally of Abourezk.

Myers moved to Pierre with her and they lived at a small home on North Grand Avenue; across the alley was the old mansion of one of South Dakota’s best-known politicians, the late Peter Norbeck, who had been governor and U.S. senator from the early twentieth-century progressive wing of the Republican party. Myers took his first trip to Cuba in January 1979, staying about two weeks. A Cuban operative later traveled to Pierre and secured their agreement to spy for Cuba when they returned to Washington, according to Harnden’s story. A police raid at the Pierre house in 1979 found Mr. Myers and one of her sons smoking marijuana; the raid also found marijuana growing in the basement. The state Supreme Court upheld the validity of the police search.

The couple moved back to Washington, D.C., in about 1980. Following on the advice of his Cuban contacts, Myers reportedly applied to work at the CIA and the U.S. Department of State in 1981. The couple married in May 1982. While working at the State Department, Myers began spying for Cuba. The couple used a shortwave radio and coded messages to arrange information exchanges at locations such as  a grocery store, according to the federal indictments. During a clandestine trip to Cuba in 1995 under false names, they met with Fidel Castro. The CIA reportedly warned the State Department in 1996 of a “mole” with Cuban connections. After their federal indictments and arrests earlier this year, the first call she made was to Abourezk.