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News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Congress rewriting education law to make graft easier for places like South Dakota

Congress is rewriting the No Child Left Behind law to remove oversight from the federal government and make the states the determiners of where and how the $14 billion 
is spent.

This is great news for the South Dakota Education Department which has presided over the syphoning of federal money in the GEAR UP and College Access programs into corporations set up to steer the funds into the pockets of department operatives and their cronies.  

Those few people in South Dakota who do not think that graft is merely free enterprise at work have little recourse.  They might want to write to a senator or congress person from a neighboring state to see if a little honesty, competence, and responsibility can be brought to bear on educational funds.  Legislators in other states might be interested to learn what happened with the GEAR UP and College Access funds.  Click on the state listed for members and their contact information:

                               North Dakota



Sometimes the corruption is the people

There are people, some of them native South Dakotans, who detest the state.  They do not think that the state is a place of nice, benign  people who unwittingly elected predatory and devious people into state government.  They think the people responsible for the EB-5, GEAR UP, Secretary of State shambles, and other instances such as the abject cronyism of the current Brown County Commission, are elected into office because they represent the values and attitudes of a majority of the voters. 

A hypocrisy particularly galling to the South Dakota detesters is the state's reliance on federal money while it constantly berates and denigrates programs that help the needy and build the infrastructure.  Leaders of the state garner voter support by flaunting the dishonesty.  They think the EB-5 and GEAR UP schemes are smart and clever, even though some participants  who got caught in the scheming seem to have resorted to suicide and murder to remove themselves from the schemes.  

Federal aid to state budgets, 2012
StateTotal federal aid ($ in thousands)Federal aid as a % of general revenueRanking
South Dakota$1,630,22040.84%4
North Dakota$1,750,13424.76%45
SourceUnited States Census Bureau, "State Government Finances: 2012," accessed February 24, 2014
Staff for Congressional members from other states have reported that the people they work for have been getting calls and letters from South Dakotans who ask if something cannot be done about the mishandling and misuse of money coming into South Dakota through federal programs.  People in nearby states who are aware of the news of the financial scandals have also registered with their  representatives that they resent taxpayer money being put to   dishonest and wasteful use, and they ask if the state cannot be excluded from getting such money and if the federal government does not have the authority to take action when fraud and incompetence are discovered.  

When the state declined to make a thorough investigation and report on the EB-5 scandal, people assumed that the investigation conducted by the FBI would  eventually produce a comprehensive explanation of who was all involved and what they did.  The people were stunned when the Department of Justice dismissed the case saying there was no evidence for any charges.  Requests under the Freedom of Information Act for documents produced by the FBI investigation have not, as yet, been responded to.  However, the absence of any information from the U.S. Attorney's office when there is so much prima facie evidence of wrong doing has cast deep shadows of doubt that extend over party lines.  Congressional sources have said there is a desperation on the part of some South Dakotans who are looking for some accounting from officials who are supposed to be looking out for their interests as citizens.  

The state hides behind the exemptions in state records laws and the absence of a freedom of information law.  In a 2008 ranking, the Better Government Association Integrity Index put South Dakota at the absolute bottom at number 50 among the states.  A 2013 review moved it up to 47, but noted its laws as impediments to any public access to information.  The control and suppression of any information about how the fleecing operations with EB-5 and the Mid-Central Education Coop-GEAR UP grant clearly is designed to deflect any responsibility of government agencies and officials under whose auspices they were run. 

When people resort to appealing to elected officials in other states to rein in the tax money poured into South Dakota and to get control of the graft it spawns,  they indicate that their only hope for a voice in a responsible government is to find an honest politician in another state.  

As long as the vote of  the people chooses the government,  the people are utimatey responsible for what kind of government they have.  Corruption has deep sources in South Dakota. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

That bill to subject Syrian refugees to more scrutiny is really needed

1. Registration with the United Nations.
2. Interview with the United Nations.
3. Refugee status granted by the United Nations.
4. Referral for resettlement in the United States.
The United Nations decides if the person fits the definition of a refugee and whether to refer the person to a country for resettlement. Only the most vulnerable are referred, accounting for fewer than 1 percent of refugees worldwide. Some people spend years waiting in refugee camps.
5. Interview with State Department contractors.
6. First background check.
7. Higher-level background check for some.
8. Another background check.
The refugee’s name is run through law enforcement and intelligence databases for terrorist or criminal history. Some go through a higher-level clearance before they can continue. A third background check was introduced in 2008 for Iraqis but has since been expanded to all refugees ages 14 to 65.
9. First fingerprint screening; photo taken.
10. Second fingerprint screening.
11. Third fingerprint screening.
The refugee’s fingerprints are screened against F.B.I. and Homeland Security databases, which contain watch list information and past immigration encounters, including if the refugee previously applied for a visa at a United States embassy. Fingerprints are also checked against those collected by the Defense Department during operations in Iraq.
12. Case reviewed at United States immigration headquarters.
13. Some cases referred for additional review.
Syrian applicants must undergo these two additional steps. Each is reviewed by a United States Citizenship and Immigration Services refugee specialist. Cases with “national security indicators” are given to the Homeland Security Department’s fraud detection unit.
14. Extensive, in-person interview with Homeland Security officer.
Most of the interviews with Syrians have been done in Jordan and Turkey.
15. Homeland Security approval is required.
If the House bill becomes law, the director of the F.B.I., the Homeland Security secretary and the director of national intelligence would be required to confirm that the applicant poses no threat.
16. Screening for contagious diseases.
17. Cultural orientation class.
18. Matched with an American resettlement agency.
19. Multi-agency security check before leaving for the United States.
Because of the long amount of time between the initial screening and departure, officials conduct a final check before the refugee leaves for the United States.
20. Final security check at an American airport.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Regents: the coyotes watching the foxes raid the henhouse

When the state Department of Education canceled Its contract with the Mid-Central Educational Cooperative to administer the multi-million dollar federal grant for the Gear Up program, it proposed turning the administration of that grant over to the Board of Regents.  Which it did.  There were murmurs of approval in the press and the internet posts, as if the problem with the wasteful and apparently greed-syphoned dispersal of those funds was solved. 

A number of stories and letters bloomed forth extolling the virtue of the program and  the people who delivered it.  When it comes to the people who actually deliver programs to students that benefit them and help them advance to a more accomplished status of education,  those people are for the most part diligent and effective.  But trying to redeem a program on the basis of their honest, productive  work misses the point.  The  Mid-Central administrators set up a layer of incorporated sub-administrators to insure that the trickle-down theory was in operation.  Instead of seeing that a healthy, clear and steady stream of finances flow down to the delivery points of the Gear Up program, it set up an apparatus of diversion that directed the money to  executive basins, which allowed only a measly trickle through to the intended recipients of the program.  It fully committed the program to being run like a business, which meant that the CEOs, or those who think of themselves as such, would capture a  large portion of the cash for themselves and their sycophants who assisted them in the capture.  

This is not to say that all of those who oversee educational programs connive ways to serve their greed.  Many are after power and the prestige of having a bevy of underlings to fuck over, to put the motive most precisely.  They are the ones who deeply resent the idea of being equal to those over whom they rule.  

When people say that educational enterprises need to be run like a business, they are setting up the justifications which lead to the exercise of power and the raiding of treasuries.  Their rationales are listed on an internet site which purports to list those values and philosophies which distinguish capitalism from communism.  Those distinctions are:

  • Driven by free enterprise 
  • Wealth distributed unevenly 
  • Class distinctions: upper class, middle class and working class 
  • When people compete against one another, they achieve greater things 
  • Some people have more than others because they make better use of their abilities 
  • Governments should not interfere with the rights of individuals to make their own living 
  • The government should interfere in the economy as little as possible 
And that leads to the reasons why putting the Regents in charge of administering the Gear Up grant is absurd.  Perhaps, duplicitous.  The Regents are the ones who set up the mechanisms for the EB-5 scandal.  In 1991, they established the Center for Excellence in International Business at NSU, which puzzled the state's faculty and most of the administrators on sister campuses.  Then in 1994, the Regents incorporated the South Dakota International Business Institute, which became the facility for raising the EB-5 funds and the schemes those funds were to finance.  A university had become an arm in the activities which, according to the preachers of predatory, anti-demoractic capitalism, serve their ideology and their motive.  

So, now the designers and advocates of that scheme are the overseers of the federal Gear Up funds.  

First of all, there exists a philosophy of honest capitalism in which businesses compete to create the best goods and services for the consumer.  But according to the canons of predatory capitalism, as listed above, businesses should be allowed to compete without government interference in the  generation of wealth by any means it devises,  even when the money it is after comes from the government .  Predatory capitalism's primary need is to refute the principles of democracy.  

In the 1980s when Gov. Janklow purged the Board of Regents of anyone who represented education at its delivery point,  he stacked the board with people who saw professors and other teachers as the working class that needed to be ruled by the overclass.  

After this coups,  I was on the negotiating team for the faculty with the Board of Regent.  Their side had a member from the business office of the Regents who constantly complained that the faculty thought it had a mission and place in society different from the rest of workers.  Explanations that all professions have rules of ethics and procedure and specially defined relationships with their clients that guide their responsibilities were dismissed by him as pretenses.  He represented the Regent's philosophy and attitude toward their professors and their institutions,  which was that the essential goal of education was to prepare docile, obedient workers to make the job of ruling by the overclass easier.  The underlying notion was that higher education was to further the schemes of capitalism, making no distinction between democratic enterprises and those of predatory and parasitic classes.

So, the body which created an entity within the higher education system for the function of advancing predation and parasitism of educational funds is now in charge of  the Gear Up grant.  

At one time,  I thought that South Dakota higher education could be improved if the Regents were elected rather than appointed.  But a plurality of the electorate clearly believes in running education like a business.  If students have no other opportunity,  I point out that there are people of competence and integrity at the delivery points of education.   But if they want the knowledge and experience of an education committed to the democratic principles in our nation's founding documents,  they should look elsewhere than the institutions under the direction of the state's educational bureaucracy. In South Dakota where  they are likely to to get caught up in one of its fraudulent schemes.  

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A tale of corruption still in the telling

In trying to suppress information that explains why South Dakota is  ranked as one of the most corrupt states in the nation, the state tries to portray matters such as the EB-5 fraud and the MCEC bunco as matters of a few people who have gone rogue.  In the EB-5 affair, it first put the blame on Richard Benda,  largely because he was dead and beyond being able to show and tell who was all involved in the scheme.  Now that the scandal will not go away and the federal government is excluding the state from any more EB-5 activity,  it is taking civil actions against a principal player in the affair, Joop Bollen.  

Bollen has been documented in numerous violations of law and policy,  but he has been exempted from any accounting that, as many university faculty have pointed out, would be required of any other person.  The question, of course, is why?

The story goes back to when Bill Janklow eliminated anyone with professional education experience from the Board of Regents.  His appointees were largely lawyer cronies, and when he had one woman on the board who was a former teacher and not a member of Janklow's clique, he and his cronies drove her off the board.  They did not include her in any board communications and did not notify her of meetings.  They got rid of her and thereby eliminated any perspective on the board that addressed issues of learning and scholarship.  It is in that context that the focus on EB-5 finances had its origin.  

In 1991,  Northern State University was declared by the Board of Regents a Center for Excellence in International Business.  There was confusion on the NSU campus and much criticism from its sister campuses about this designation.  It was assumed that, following the patterns of other institutions for such programs,  that students would pursue a course of study that entailed  rigorous education in foreign cultures and languages and the way other countries do business.  Northern had developed a history with Saudi Arabian and Chinese students, and initially there was some effort to expand the course offerings. In 1994, the Board of Regents incorporated the South Dakota Institute of International Business at Northern and named Joop Bollen its director. 

NSU had on staff a former Peace Corps volunteer who knew Mandarin and a linguistics professor who was Chinese and offered a course in Mandarin and specialized teaching of English as a Second Language.  However, the College of Business, or whoever was presiding over the international program,  divorced itself from any cooperation and coordination with other academic departments and established its own programs.  It set up its own English department.  There was a noticeable diminishing of the role of the College of Arts and Sciences on the campus as changes were made to accommodate the new international program.

As the EB-5 scandal broke and officials at Northern were questioned about Joop Bollen's activities, comments by the School of Business dean made clear that he understood Bollen was not accountable to him through any line of authority.  By this time the SDIBI was associated with the Governor's Office of Economic Development and the assumption was that  that Bollen was accountable to that office.   But the Governor's office also denied knowledge of or responsibility for Bollen's activities.  Among faculty and other informed people who understood the mission of the universities,  his role was a puzzle.  In a story in the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank newsletter, he  was quoted:  
"We're closing the gap between academia and business," says Joop Bollen, SDIBI director. "Business people say, 'What do they know, they haven't done it.' But we have shipped cars to Romania and tea to Switzerland," Bollen adds.
To professors throughout the state, the quote was met with the questions of what that had to do with the mission of a university in teaching and research and just who in the hell was sponsoring this person?  When President James Smith took charge at Northern,  he apparently asked the same question.  In dealing with budget matters,  he saw that the University was contributing hundreds of thousands of dollars to the SDIBI whose activities by then were devoted to economic schemes which were irrelevant to education or research as defined by university mission.   He closed down the SDIBI and evicted Bollen's operation,  which found refuge in the offices of the Aberdeen Development Corporation, which was a major supporter of the Northern Beef Packers plant for which Bollen was raising EB-5 money   When Bollen left the Northern campus,  he took all the records of his activities with him.

Cory Heidelberger noted in South Dakota Magazine that Bollen committed a number of legal violations in his activities.  There was never an attempt by anyone in authority to use the law to rein him in.  Although a civil suit was recently brought against him by the Attorney General's office, it appears more as a ploy to defend the Attorney General from accusations of misfeasance while protecting Bollen from answering to criminal charges.  The Attorney General's office has demonstrated how ferocious it can exercise its law enforcement authority in the case it supported against Brandon Taliaferro, a Brown County deputy state's attorney and Shirley Schwab, a child advocate, who were working on a child abuse case.   When Taliaferro found that the Department of Social Services was not properly discharging its responsibilities to some Indian children in a faster home,  he also found that Brown County State's Attorney Kim Dorsett had a contract to act as counsel for the department.  This among other things enraged her and she, with the full support of Attorney General Marty Jackley filed charges of witness tampering and suborning perjury against Taliaferro and Schwab.  The Division of Criminal Investigation, which is under the command of the attorney general came into the offices and homes of Taliaferro and Schwab and, under subpoena, confiscated their records, including their persona computers.  It was not a problem at all to get a search warrant.  

So, now Bollen is served with a civil suit which asks for some indemnification and the surrender of any records produced by Bollen's work for the state.  The question is why dither around with a civil suit when the state has the right to subpoena the records under state law.   It did not hesitate to execute search warrants on Taliaferro and Schwab, although the case involved was dismissed for lack of evidence by the judge.  

1-27-10. Records as property of state--Damage or disposal only as authorized by law.  All records of public officials of this state required to be kept or maintained by law are the property of the state and may not be mutilated, destroyed, transferred, removed, or otherwise damaged or disposed of, in whole or in part, except as provided by law. 
 22-11-25 Unlawful retention of public record--Misdemeanor. Any person who, lacking the authority to retain a public record in his or her possession, knowingly refuses to deliver it up upon proper request of any person lawfully entitled to receive such record, is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor. However, if the knowing refusal to deliver is committed by a public officer or employee having custody of the record, the offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Under those terms,  the state has the right and means to execute a search warrant and obtain its records.  Instead, it takes civil action which can permit a lot of negotiation and deal-making and produce a "settlement" agreeable to the parties.  

How does Bollen get such deferential treatment when the state can take such decisive action and file criminal charges as it did against Taliaferro and Schwab?  Bollen had a special status while he worked at NSU, as he was clearly designated an untouchable.  The Board of Regents created his job and established the South Dakota International Business Institute under its own incorporation.  Since the early 1980s,  NSU had a number of presidents who held their jobs not because they had the credentials and experience to be chief academic officers, but because they gave obsequious service to the Board of Regents.  

The longtime regent from Aberdeen is Harvey Jewett, IV, who until recently has been listed as a partner in the law firm of Siegal, Barnett, and Schutz.  Jewett has been chair of the Board of Regents and in addition to being an executive in the Super 8 hotel business has been much involved in the business of Hutterite colonies.  A member of the law firm, Jeff Sveen, has organized the incorporation of a number of Hutterite colonies and acted as their registered agent.  A number of the colonies are owners of Dakota Turnkey Growers, LLC, which operates the Dakota Provisions turkey processing plant in Huron,  which was established with EB-5 funds.  Sveen is the registered agent for the corporation and chairman of the board.  He is Joop Bollen's attorney.

Bollen seems safe from any applications of  law.  

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States