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Saturday, September 15, 2007

The state motto: go suck Jello

Advocates of open, democratic government in South Dakota have repeatedly pointed to the statutes on government records in state law as the main obstacle to open, honest, and ethical government in the state. In its rejection of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader appeal on making public the invitation list for the Governor's Hunt, the state Supreme Court in effect makes that case. It contends that there is no specific law requiring the Dept. of Tourism to keep and provide records of who is invited to the hunt. The state has no obligation to give out the names. So, the Supreme Court keeps in effect the long tradition of feudalism in the state in which the serfs have no business knowing what the privileged classes are contriving for them. It is the job of no one in South Dakota to see to it that those idiot voters out there have a clue as to what transpires in the royal halls of the kingdom.

The Argus Leader contends that any record kept by an agency of government should be open for public perusal because in the law on records there is a presumption of openness. But the Supreme Court states that if all proceedings in a government office were to be a matter of record, the law would extend to "ephemeral notes and phone messages," and that, in an opinion quoted from another case, is an "absurd and unreasonable result."

These boys sure know how to sling the rhetoric. Like hash in an Animal House food fight. Comparing the keeping of a list of people carefully selected for privileged treatment and access to the governing powers to phone messages or ephemeral notes is like hurling a glob of cherry Jello into the ceiling fan. We note that the keeping of telephone logs is a major task in some government offices and they have played a role in some mighty big scandals at the national level. We are not sure what an ephemeral note is, but if it is, indeed, ephemeral it would not be around long enough to become an official record, like one of those recipes we write down on a used envelope and then lose from Chef Ephemeral LaGasse. This argument that the records law should not be given the widest possible application because it will lead to entering memory substitutes into the official record spatters verbal gooey stuff all over the house of government.

What the state Supreme Court did was fail to label its reasoning as the Cheney Principle. When Vice President Cheney invited a bunch of energy company CEOs to the off-White House to tell him how to write energy policy, he refused to give their names or any accounting of the meeting. Instead, he said that it was a meeting of American royalty and not the business of those peasants and serfs out there, who could go eat renewable sources of energy. Or yellow cake. Instead, the S.D. Supreme Court resorted to the Animal House principle. Which tells the serfs to go suck Jello.

In the Argus Leader appeal, press organizations submitted amicus curiae briefs. These briefs are apparently like scanty thong underwear. They are, in the vernacular, referred to as friend of the court briefs. Apparently they were not friendly enough or too scanty to be noticed. In any event, the Supreme Court chose to avert its collective eyes and dismiss them as if they were not there. (What do the boys in black wear under their robes, by the way?)The organizations that submitted them were the Associated Press, the South Dakota Broadcasters Association, and the South Dakota Newspaper Association. You can bet that these representatives of the serfdom will not get invited to the Governor's Hunt, unless they promise to parade around in their thongs and don't mind getting shot in the face. That's another Cheney Principle.

South Dakota has a tradition of haughty imperialism in the relationship of the government to the people. The people have the right to generate the revenues which run the government and to own assets in their name, but like minors or the mentally incompetent, they don't have the right to have a voice in the management of their assets. When the cement plant was sold, the negotiations were in secret and after the deal was completed the people were told that it was in their best interest. When South Dakota became the usury capitol of the U.S., the state did not tell its own treasurer where certain accounts were kept and how much was in them. When certain accounts and relationships between government and corporations became suspicious, the state made it a crime for state officials to tell anyone an investigation was being made. And when the people put up the money to buy abandoned rail lines, they were not allowed to know the terms being negotiated when the lines were resold to coporations.

South Dakota government likes competition. It is competing with Iran, North Korea, and China to keep the non-privileged citizens in ignorance and subservience to their superiors.

There is another pheasant season and Governor's Hunt coming up in a few weeks. Won't it be fun to guess who gets invited to make plans and decisions for our state? And to guess what is in store for us this time around?

Of course, the anticipation could be thwarted in January by a legislature that makes South Dakota a functioning democracy by changing a few words in the state's laws on open records and open government.

Dream on, baby.

1 comment:

n0chance said...

go suck jello? or go put something you don't like in jello? =) How to put stuff in jello

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States