Monthly Archives: September 2016

A note as Black Hills GOP gathers

This likely was covered by at least one other blog at some point in the past two months, but I didn’t find it until this week while looking for something else. It seems appropriate to re-print it as Black Hills Republicans from six counties gather Saturday afternoon for a Rapid City rally at Rimrock Event Center. Ben Treadwell posted the following note on the Pennington County Republicans website on July 19:

AS CHAIRMAN OF THE PENNINGTON COUNTY REPUBLICAN PARTY, I ASK ALL REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES TO RUN THEIR CAMPAIGN BASED ON HONESTY, CHARACTER, INTEGRITY, AND ISSUES AND TO DISTANCE THEMSELVES FROM UNETHICAL, UNDERHANDED AND DISHONEST APPROACHES SOME HAVE USED IN RECENT CAMPAIGNS. DURING THE JUNE 7TH PRIMARY, CAMPAIGN MAILERS WERE DELIVERED TO VOTERS THAT WERE IN APPROPRIATE, UNETHICAL, DISHONEST, AND DISGUSTING. AS CHAIRMAN OF THE OFFICIALLY RECOGNIZED PENNINGTON COUNTY REPUBLICAN PARTY, I DO NOT CONDONE THE USE OF THESE MAILERS AND TACTICS. THEY DO NOT REPRESENT THE VALUES OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY, NOR IS IT IN KEEPING WITH THE STANDARDS OF THE SOUTH DAKOTA REPUBLICAN PARTY PLATFORM. I CALL ON THOSE FEW CANDIDATES IN PENNINGTON COUNTY USING THESE TACTICS TO DISCONTINUE THEIR USE. WE ARE BETTER THAN THAT!!

An example of why the Twins are headed to 100 defeats

Miguel Cabrera stands 6-4 and weighs 240. He turned 33 in April. He hasn’t stolen a base all season. The past two seasons, he tried stealing four times. He was successful twice. His salary this season is $28 million. He played in the major leagues for the first time in 2003 at age 20 for the Florida Marlins.

Byron Buxton stands 6-2 and weighs 190. He turned 22 in December. He has two assists from centerfield in 80 games this season. Last season, his first in the major leagues, he had two assists in 35 games. The Twins drafted him as their first pick in the 2012 draft. His salary this season is $512,500.

John Ryan Murphy stands 5-11 and weighs 205. He turned 25 in May. He has played in 18 games as a catcher for the Twins this season. He was obtained in a trade with the New York Yankees for centerfielder Aaron Hicks after the 2015 season. Murphy appeared in 65 games for the Yankees as a catcher last season. His salary this season is $528,700.

Kennys Vargas stands 6-5 and weighs 290. He turned 26 in August. He has played first base in 21 games this season. He has 10 assists this year. The Twins signed him in 2009 as an amateur free agent. His salary this season isn’t shown by Baseball Reference, but it was listed as $517,500 last season.

Now that we’ve set the cast, here’s a small story from the Detroit Tigers 8-1 victory over the Minnesota Twins last night. It helps explain why the Tigers are in second place in the American League’s Central Division with 80 wins and 70 losses and the Twins are in last place 55 wins and 96 losses.

With the Tigers leading 1-0, Cabrera led off the fourth inning. He was behind on a 1-2 count after three foul balls when he zapped the fifth pitch into the right-center gap of the Twins outfield. Cabrera legged out a double, sliding into second base and beating the throw. He ran like it mattered.

The next Detroit batter, Cameron Maybin, drove a 1-2 pitch to centerfield. It was average depth. Buxton facing the infield caught the fly for the out. Cabrera, evidently armed with knowledge about Buxton’s arm strength, advanced to third base, sliding and beating the throw.

Twins pitcher Hector Santiago got the next Detroit batter, Justin Upton, to hit a ground ball to third base. The throw from Eduardo Escobar to Vargas at first base was on the mark. Cabrera meanwhile headed for home plate. Vargas made a good turn to relay the ball to Murphy. The throw easily beat Cabrera.

Murphy waited with ball in mitt– and then didn’t completely wait for Cabrera to reach him. Instead Murphy reached a bit with the tag up the runner’s leg. Cabrera looked to be out – but he wasn’t. Detroit appealed and the replay showed Cabrera’s foot got to the plate just before Murphy’s tag got Cabrera’s leg.

The old master’s running – not once, but on three consecutive plays — produced a run and gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead. Later in the game, Cabrera pulled an inside pitch and homered to left. The home run wasn’t a surprise.

Cabrera is well known for his hitting. But ihis legs got him from first to second on what might have been merely a long single, and then from second to third on a routine fly ball to center, and from third to the plate on a ground ball to the third base side of the infield. His hustle in the fourth inning showed the difference between playing hard at 33 and the Twins still learning in their early 20s.

Is he worth $28 million? He was clearly still earning his keep on Tuesday night.

Four more defeats, by the way, and the Twins will have reached 100 Ls this season. There are 10 games left on the Twins schedule, including the final five home games today through Sunday versus the Tigers and the Seattle Mariners. Tickets reportedly are available.

Engineer who led B-1 production has died

The Rockwell International engineer who oversaw the final development and the first delivery of 100 B-1 bombers for the U.S. Air Force died earlier this month in California. Ellsworth Air Force Base outside Rapid City is one of the centers for B-1s. The production manager was Sam Iacobellis, who retired in 1995 as the executive vice president and deputy chairman for Rockwell. The B-1 became the replacement for the B-52 as the long-range bomber for the Strategic Air Command. The program began under President Richard Nixon and then was set aside by President Jimmy Carter. President Ronald Reagan revived it in 1981 and Rockwell delivered the first one less than four years after the contract became official. Obituaries in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal said Rockwell’s rapid delivery of the B-1 was a decisive moment in the U.S.-U.S.S.R. “cold war” for world military superiority. Sam Iacobellis died Sept. 3 at age 87.

Williams states debate schedule with Thune w/update

This isn’t an endorsement of Democratic challenger Jay Williams or Republican U.S. Sen. John Thune. In a news release today, Williams laid out the debate schedule. He said:

“Jay Williams, South Dakota’s Democratic U.S. Senate candidate announced that he will be discussing issues with his opponent, Senator John Thune, in four head to head debate/forums in October. Mr. Williams and Mr. Thune will discuss the issues on a televised forum on South Dakota Public Broadcasting television on Thursday, October 13th starting at 8:00 PM. KELOLAND television is sponsoring a moderated forum that will be aired live on KELO TV on Friday, October 14th at 8:00 PM. They will debate the issues live on KSFY TV on Tuesday evening October 25th at 6:30 PM. (THIS HAS CHANGED. SEE UPDATE BELOW.) The KSFY debate will also be carried on KOTA in Rapid City and on KEVN in the Black Hills. The forth forum in which Mr. Williams and Mr. Thune will meet is at the regular meeting of the downtown Sioux Falls Rotary Club at noon Monday, October 24th at the downtown Holiday Inn.”

TV debates and forums are a good way to learn about candidates before you vote. Voting will be under way starting Friday, Sept. 23. That’s three weeks before the Senate debates start. Just something to consider…

UPDATE: This from Williams on Tuesday morning…

“The debate between the Senate candidates Jay Williams and John Thune originally scheduled on KSFY TV on Tuesday evening October 25th at 6:30 PM has been rescheduled to Monday evening October 24th at 6:30 PM. Senator Thune had a conflict with the October 25th date that made the change necessary. The October 13th forum scheduled to air at 8:00 PM on South Dakota Public Broadcasting TV and the KELO TV forum scheduled to air October 14th at 8:00 PM are not affected. The Downtown Rotary Club forum at noon on October 24th is still on schedule as well.”

Probation not prison for habitual felon

One of the debates roiling South Dakota’s law enforcement and judicial communities is presumptive probation, the policy adopted by the Legislature at the request of Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s administration, to hold down prison populations. For Class 6 and Class 5 felonies, circuit judges are instructed to sentence offenders to presumptive probation rather than prison time if the offenders don’t pose a risk to the public. Law enforcement’s general position is that too many criminals are staying on the street as a result.

Now the South Dakota Supreme Court has decided an admitted drug felon named Yolanda Marie Flowers, who admitted to two prior felony convictions, should have received probation rather than a 10-year prison sentence from Circuit Judge Joni Cutler of Sioux Falls. The state’s highest court directed that Flowers should return to Cutler’s courtroom and be re-sentenced. Cutler failed to cite aggravating circumstances necessary to step around the probation requirement. Instead, the judge used the two prior felonies as the reason for giving Flowers a longer sentence as a habitual criminal. Justice Steven Zinter said in the unanimous opinion from the Supreme Court that the circuit judge didn’t properly follow the law regarding habitual criminals. It is 22-7-7 in state code and says:

“If a defendant has been convicted of one or two prior felonies under the laws of this state or any other state or the United States, in addition to the principal felony, the sentence for the principal felony shall be enhanced by changing the class of the principal felony to the next class which is more severe, but in no circumstance may the enhancement exceed the sentence for a Class C felony.”

Judge Cutler’s reason appeared to be that Flowers wouldn’t qualify for presumptive probation because her Class 5 felony would become a Class 4 felony and presumptive probation isn’t available for Class 4 and worse felonies. (The smaller the number the worse the felony.) According to the Supreme Court opinion, Flowers was a long-time drug user:

“On June 25, 2015, Flowers was arrested pursuant to an outstanding
federal arrest warrant. She admitted having methamphetamine in her purse. At
the time of her arrest, she was on state probation for felony convictions of
possession of a controlled substance and failure to appear. She was also on federal
supervised release for violating federal probation.”

This is the cross-current that South Dakota law enforcement and courts are now in.

Seeking something positive at Platte

The online auction today for the property and goods remaining after the deaths and fire at the Westerhuis home south of Platte might be a turning point. The Platte ministerial association is seeking to purchase the property and convert it to a church camp for young people. The ministers’ goal is to offer help to young Native Americans as part of the overall effort. Pastor Daniel Daum of Trinity Lutheran Church said the ministers association members set a target amount they needed to participate in the auction. The donations exceeded the target, he said. Because it’s an auction, their maximum possible bid remains private information. As Pastor Daum described the situation, they’re putting themselves in God’s hands, and if God wants the project to move forward, their bid would prevail — and if God’s hand isn’t it, the property would sell for “way over” the maximum bid they have set. Saturday marks the one-year anniversary of the shotgun killings of Nicole Westerhuis and the four Westerhuis children and the apparent suicide of Scott Westerhuis. The sprawling house burned to the ground in the early hours of Sept. 17, 2015. Since then, state investigators and auditors have determined at least $1 million or more of federal grant money was siphoned away from the GEAR UP program intended to help Native American students and their families understand what is necessary to seek further education after high school. The Mid Central Education Cooperative where Scott and Nicole Westerhuis is dissolving. Three people associated with the co-op face state felony charges, including former co-op director Dan Guericke of White Lake, former co-op employee Stephanie Hubers of Platte and former GEAR UP director Stacy Phelps. The state criminal investigation and financial auditing are continuing.

UPDATE: The ministers group purchased the property for $375,000, according to a report.

Some random notes on DAPL

Chris Nelson, chairman of the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, said this week he hopes work continues in South Dakota on the Dakota Access pipeline. He said the construction has reached the point where it’s nearly complete in South Dakota and the main work that remains is seeding the land that was disturbed. Nelson’s point is landowners need to be able to return to fully using their property as soon as possible and there’s nothing to be gained by leaving the soil exposed as the freeze approaches. Here’s the latest weekly progress report.

On a semi-related note, it’s worth reading the decision by state Circuit Judge Mark Barnett from earlier this year. The Yankton Sioux Tribe attempted to appeal the PUC’s permit decision for South Dakota. The tribe’s legal representation didn’t meet the normal process and schedule for filing in state circuit court. That document is here.

As the Aberdeen American News noted in an editorial this week, the North Dakota protest is a good expression of constitutional rights but there were many opportunities previously to speak when it counted, at least in the case of the South Dakota permit process.

The problem that is highlighted once again is the disconnect between South Dakota’s permitting process, which is required to be completed in one year, and the longer timeline that federal agencies can follow, such as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. That disconnect is a big reason why the pipeline’s construction is now at a conflict point. State governments push ahead to timely consider permits at a pace faster in many cases than the federal government takes. Companies eager to put investment money to work (and winter weather to beat) push ahead with construction as soon as possible. Tribal governments accustomed to working at their own pace and at the federal government’s pace don’t always mesh well with state government processes. Now we see that steering around tribal reservation land doesn’t guarantee there won’t be a conflict for a private business. Perhaps some future good can come out of this current dilemma.

Meanwhile, from Fort Yates, N.D., the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe issued a statement Tuesday through a Seattle-based public relations firm. Dave Archambault II stated:

“The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will continue to explore all legal, legislative and administrative options to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The pipeline has already led to the destruction of our sacred sites.

“It is unfortunate that the corporate world chooses to ignore the millions of people and hundreds of tribal nations who stand in opposition to the destruction of our lands, resources, waters and sacred sites.

“Energy Transfer Partners has proven time and time again that the bottom line for them is money. The bottom line for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is and will always be protecting our lands, people, water and sacred sites from the devastation of this pipeline. Our fight isn’t over until there is permanent protection of our people and resources from the pipeline.”

The stand-off at Cannonball continues.

Book give-away: Chess and sports

This is week one of the book give-away. Topics this week are chess (I can feel your excitement) and sports (primarily baseball). If any of these interest you, send an email to Bobmercer2014@gmail.com and I’ll ship the book to you free of charge. Again, all I ask is that you make a very small donation in turn to some local organization or buy another book at your next local AAUW used-book sale.

The chess books are Weapons of Chess (Bruce Pandolfini); Winning Chess Openings (Bill Robertie); Chess Opening Trap Of The Day (Bruce Alberston); Pandolini’s Endgame Course (Bruce Pandolfini); and The Amateur’s Mind (Jeremy Silman).

Most of the sports books are about baseball. Two are larger-format photo books. They are Baseball: The Perfect Game (Weil) and Diamond Dreams: Thirty Years of Baseball Through the Lens of Walter Iooss.

Other baseball books include the DiMaggio biography (Durso); Moneyball (Lewis); The Arm (Passan) The Heart of the Order (Boswell); a modern reprint of Ring Around The Bases (Lardner); The Teammates (Halberstam); a 2005 Minnesota Twins record and information book (Santana and Viola on the cover); and the 2011 and 2013 editions of Who’s Who In Baseball.

Other sports books awaiting new owners are two larger-format volumes SportsCentury (ESPN); and For The Love Of The Game: My Story (Jordan); and the Lombardi biography When Pride Still Mattered (Maraniss).

I’ll post several more lists of other topics in the coming days. And more after that. And more after that.

UPDATE: A reader has spoken for the Lombardi book.

State making more from losing lottery players

The information packet for the South Dakota Lottery Commission meeting scheduled for Thursday shows larger state revenues from video lottery and jackpot lotto games in the first two-plus months of the 2017 fiscal year.

Video lottery revenue is up 3.5 percent as of Sept. 5. State government gets 50 percent of the money lost by players at video lottery. Players lost $37.8 million from July 1 through Sept. 5 in the privately-owned terminals. Carried through a full year, that would mean state revenue of $106.8 million for the 2017 fiscal year, an increase from the $102.8 million received in fiscal 2016.

For what it’s worth, there are more video lottery terminals in the field compared to one year ago. As of Sept. 5, there were 9,007 terminals. One year earlier there were 8,928. There also are fewer establishments: 1,336 vs. 1,348 last year.

Jackpot lotto sales as of Aug. 31 were an astounding 37.8 percent ahead of one year ago. The $4.79 million of sales might be unsustainable; Sales returned to 2015 levels in the second half of August after a big July. Sales last year through the end of August totaled $3.17 million.

Instant ticket sales are lagging somewhat. They totaled $3.95 million from July 1 through Aug. 31. They were $4.01 million for the similar period one year ago.

Water districts pause on nitrate testing kits

The consensus at the board of directors meeting Thursday  for the James River Water Development District was to find a better plan for landowners to conduct their own nitrate testing on their water. The South Dakota corn growers had previously shown interest in acquiring funding from water districts for providing boxed testing kits similar to what’s been done in Iowa. But the executive directors for three of the large water developments districts — East Dakota, James River and Vermillion Basin — don’t think the $50 boxes are the best investment. Jay Gilbertson, the East Dakota district’s executive director, said the $50 boxes are basically a pamphlet that can be produced for $3 and a vial of 25 test strips that can be purchased for $22. He said that leaves a box costing $25 and what he described as a gap. Gilbertson said there isn’t anything in place for the landowner to record the findings and to report the findings. There also isn’t anything in place for people involved in watershed protection to link with the landowners about what to do. Gilbertson said his district has the equipment already to conduct water testing for nitrate levels. He said what’s he’s seen through the years is that people don’t want it publicly known if they find high levels of nitrates but they do want technical help to deal with the situations. For now the initiative is on hold while the professional staffs of the districts and the government brainstorm on a South Dakota way to move forward. There is a major fight is Iowa over agricultural effects on waterways that supply municipal drinking water. South Dakota is starting to see some of the same issues surface but not yet to the same degree of conflict.