South Dakota Top Blogs

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

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The wit and wisdom of John Thune

John Thune, with the red tie, playing his background role.
John Thune has provided Congress some of its most absurd moments.  He has gained some stature as the subject of some of Donald Trump's malevolent tweets.  But he  became a fixture in the GOP leadership by not doing much at all.  Whenever the Republican leaders had an announcement to make about their latest grovel in serving Trump (not the country, of course), Thune was standing behind the leader, projecting whatever it is he projects.  That's about all he does, but it has earned him the number two spot in the GOP Senate hierarchy.  Midway through his Senate tenure, reporters noted his low key efforts.  One wrote:

"But the only reason people talk about him for President is because he’s a good looking guy in a city full of lesser looking people, is tall, and has an attractive wife. Other than that his greatest accomplishments are doing nothing.”

Another wrote:

",,,he has been in the Senate since 2004, -- preceded by six years in the House -- with no major legislative accomplishments to his name, although I assume he has amassed quite the collection of "Participant" ribbons in his trophy case just for showing up to vote."

 If Thune has any mettle, Donald Trump has provoked it.  When the Access Hollywood tapes in which Trump bragged about grabbing women by their pudenda came out, Thune recommended that he withdraw from his candidacy for president.  Trump never forgets those who do not support him every moment.  When asked about one of Trump's efforts to overturn the election of Joe Biden, Thune said it would go down in the Senate like "a shot dog."  Trump whipped out his twitter gun and said, " RINO John Thune, “Mitch’s boy”, should just let it play out. South Dakota doesn’t like weakness. He will be primaried in 2022, political career over!!!"

Nevertheless, Thune voted with Trump's agenda 93.6 percent of the time. He did seem to understand the inanely corrupt efforts of Trump and his enablers to overturn the election and distanced himself from them.

Thune's usual reticence, however, is probably because the leadership thinks it best that he keep his mouth shut.   He has earned a reputation for not being the brightest bulb on the GOP marquee of lights. He became a big occasion for derisive laughter when he introduced what became known as the Cow Fart Bill.

The background of that bill came out of a Supreme Court ruling that told the Environmental Protection Agency that it was required to get serious about addressing emissions that affected air quality.    A farm lobby group noted that livestock, particularly cattle, are great producers and emitters of methane gas, which is a greenhouse gas.  The group suggested that the EPA would control the livestock emissions by placing a tax on each animal for the gas it emitted.  Their calculations predicted that the tax was so onerous that it would put farmers out of business, so the lobby wrote a piece of legislation which prevented the EPA from placing a tax on cow farts.  John Thune happily signed on as sponsor of the legislation.

But there were major problems with the law:

  • The EPA  never proposed imposing a gas tax on the livestock industry.
  • The EPA does not have the authority to impose such a tax.
  • The tax figures were contrived by the American Farm Bureau Federation, not by any established scientific or regulatory agency.
  • It was a lobbyist-sponsored and lobbyist-written piece of legislation. 
  • It was a blatant attempt by dishonest conservatives to malign the government and the global-warming scientists with a false accusation.
Thune submitted a law to prevent something that was not happening and could not happen.  The press and his congressional colleagues were not impressed with his legislative relevance or competence.

But his biggest gaffe came in regard to the Affordable Care Act.  He posted this tweet:

@SenJohnThune  Jun 8, 2015  Six million people risk losing their health care subsidies, yet @POTUS continues to deny that Obamacare is bad for the American people.

Of course, those six million people would not have the subsidies in the first place if they were not on Obamacare.  

Thune's latest contribution to dimwit lore was over the proposal to raise the minimum wage to $15.  He tweeted out this  bit of wisdom from his past:

Senator John Thune


I started working by bussing tables at the Star Family Restaurant for $1/hour & slowly moved up to cook – the big leagues for a kid like me– to earn $6/hour. Businesses in small towns survive on narrow margins. Mandating a $15 minimum wage would put many of them out of business.

The New York Times noted that he was "roundly roasted for innumeracy. He was a teenager in the 1970s. Earning $6 an hour back then is equivalent to earning more than $20 an hour today, because inflation has reduced the purchasing power of each dollar."

John Thune is becoming a legend.



Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Can schools and vaccines save the republic?

The coronavirus pandemic has revealed to the country the essential role that schools play in our lives.  Many people were not prepared to deal with the reactions of their children to mitigation practices and school closures.  During the past year of pandemic,  the most insidious effect has been an increase in the suicide rate among children.

The pandemic has caused significant psychosocial sufferings, leading to the development or exacerbation of fear, distress, anxiety, depression, and other psychiatric disorders, including extreme suicidal thoughts among school children.

In many families, both parents work.  School and after-school daycare are an essential part of the daily family scedule.  When schools were closed or adopted modified scheduling, most families had to try to find solutions for what to do with their children during the day.  Some parents lost their jobs and stayed home with their kids, some had to arrange to work at home, and others had to find accommodations for their children that did not conflict with the measures for avoiding exposure to Covid-19.  On top of that, the parents had to confront the issues of learning patterns of their children.  What schools deal with routinely are beyond the experience and knowledge of most parents.  The reopening of schools became a major concern in dealing with the pandemic,

The internet and distance learning seemed to offer a way to compensate for the loss of direct teacher-to-student instruction time.  Serious shortcomings in computer-delivered instruction, where it was available, became quickly evident.  Some kids did not respond well and others rebelled.

That rebellion and confusion is something I have had experience with.  In the early 1960s, programmed learning was all the rage in education circles.  Introduced by behavioral psychologists, it was promoted as a help, sometimes a replacement, for teacher-centered instruction.  At the time, I was a technical writer for a research and development company which had designed a machine that could run the teaching programs.  The company and some professors obtained and wrote some programs and placed the teaching machines in schools to promote their adoption into school curricula.  

Part of my job was to collect data on the trials and assist in producing a study on the use of teaching machines.  Initially placements were in laboratory schools run by universities. As those schools have professors kids in attendance, they weren't a good place for assessing how teaching machines would work in the classroom.  Professors' kids will exert themselves when they realize that some professor's work product is being tested in their classes.  The teaching machines seemed to offer some promise in the lab schools.

When the machines were placed in regular public classrooms, they did not produce an encouraging result.  After the initial curiosity about the machines wore off, student interest was almost impossible to maintain.  Many students would operate the machines as fast as they could, skipping over the learning programs they contained.  This would jam the machines and result in distractions for the teachers and the other students.  Teaching machines intensified the boredom level among students, and our study concluded that they were more a hindrance than a help for learning.  We found that they created bad attitudes toward the material they were supposed to present.

That is a factor that parents were confronted with as they tried to engage their children in distance learning.  Educators thought that the interest kids show toward computer games could be channeled for educational purposes.   Computer games involve the destroying of adversaries, which is done by pushing buttons on a controller.  Instruction involves the acquisition of information by minds that can process it.  Computers can be  effective in educating children, but not in the gaming mode.  Games are a diversion away from the kind of concentration required for learning.  Teachers have found that the successful use of computers requires intensified control over those factors that produce real learning.  Young students need to have help to stay focused on the subject matter, and help is easier to provide in an organized classroom.  That is a point that frustrated some parents when their children had to resort to distance learning because of the pandemic.  

The pandemic has revealed how schools are integrated into family life.  Where schools were closed or attendance patterns were significantly changed, family life was disrupted.  People were forced to recognize that schools contribute a service, not only in educating children but in making it possible for adults to fully engage in making livings and making homes.  Courses in the foundation of American education stress how people who founded the republic understood the vital role education plays in establishing and maintaining the level of freedom, equality, and justice to which it aspires.  The school system which developed out of those aspirations became the standard for the world.  When nations reorganized themselves after World War II, the modeled their schools on the U.S. public education system.  The basic idea put forward was to give everybody, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or religion a chance to fully participate in national life.

Our schools struggle at times to meet that mandate.  There are many people who have endured discrimination in school.  And there are those for whom school is not a good place.  But for the most part, our schools have provided opportunity to their students have developed community trust in partnership with families,

Restoring schools to be fully functioning is generally acknowledged as an imperative.   The nation can't function without them. The psychosocial problems that closings caused in children show what a critical factor they are in American life. The quick development of vaccines has made it possible to fully open by fall.  However, the more astute schools will change the way they do some things in recognition of the pandemic in order to prevent and be prepared for pandemics to come.  

A poll has shown that 42 percent of Republicans are shunning the vaccines.  They deny the pandemic.  That poses a threat to restoring schools to full educational operation.  People who refuse to wear masks and get vaccinated can impede the business of learning.  They want to extend the opportunity of an agonizing death by coronavirus more than provide the opportunity of a good life through the acquisition of an education.

The pandemic has revealed a large segment of people that harbors malice toward their fellow citizens.  Once again, America finds a malevolent force that wants a more discriminatory and hateful country.

South Dakota is a test case.  In a study of how states perform in equality,  South Dakota comes in dead last.  That will motivate many people to get vaccinated, get educated, and get out.  

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Why should good South Dakotans care if you get sick and die?

 Almost 30 million Americans have been infected with Covid-19. The disease has killed more than a half million, 533,000.  Many of those who recovered have been left with health impairments. The CDC has issued guidelines for getting control of the pandemic, but a lot of South Dakotans blow them off.  Why should they care about a bunch of sick and dead people?

That attitude was expressed by a number of people.  The occasion was when I published a picture that had been posted on Facebook.  The picture was of a large group of Chamberlain high school students at a basketball tournament in Huron.  They are gathered behind a large Trump campaign poster without masks giving all manner of hand signals.  They were putting on a public display with political implications at a sports event where it would seem more appropriate to emphasize support for their team, not focus on an election that was over five months ago.  They were rallying around the same attitude that resulted in the attack on the U.S. Capitol, and I have questions about how and why they chose that emphasis.  It is the responsibility of school boards and education staff to set the tone and standards of conduct for such events, and I, like many, wonder how this came about with a group of high school kids at a sporting event. Why would they be demonstrating over an election that has been decided?

I published the school directory of board members and administrative staff so that people would know who the responsible people are.

Authorities in Washington, D.C., have charged more than 300 people from the attack on the U.S. Capitol and expect to charge 100 more.  How did high school kids in South Dakota decide to carry the banner for that attack to a basketball tournament?  What do the school authorities think about it?

The students exercised their First Amendment right.  We are exercising ours to ask how a demonstration in support of an insurrection and in violation of tournament rules (see below) came about.  

Below are some comments which indicate attitudes that support the motives of the insurrection, and find no problem with the message the kids delivered.  The political climate in South Dakota doesn't seem to enlist students in the war on the coronavirus but expresses approval of their endorsement of the war on democracy.  The issue obviously is not understood by the commenters on my blog.

The comments bearing names have been posted to the blog. We do not published anonymous comments. But we post them here, with our response, for information purposes about attitudes within the state.  Note how many of the commenters have trouble making coherent sentences.  That's the symptom of a serious problem.

Awaiting moderation

Unknown commented on "Basketball at tournament gets benched for Trump and white power hand signs"

23 hours ago

Are kidding me?! You truly think that was staged. Teenagers do what they want. Apparently, you have forgotten things from when you were a teenager. Teenagers do these kind of things on their own. Apparently, FREE SPEECH does exist anymore. White Power hand signs...huh? I am willing to bet no adults had anything to do with it. Just because, it may have been inappropriate to some people, doesn't mean it was done maliciously. I'm sure those kids will be reprimanded, by there school. Let the school district handle it. Encouraging adults to call and complain, is low and petty. Everyone needs to stop complaining about every little thing someone else does, and mind there own business. Publishing the names and numbers of school board members and school administrators is very wrong of you. It is going to cause malicious attacks on those people, who probably had nothing to do with it. Post your numbers, as well sir. So, people can give you their opinion, good or bad, on this subject as well. Mr. A. Bartels, in MT. American, concerned for the future generations.

These kids were flaunting the CDC guidelines to maintain social distancing and wear masks.  The arena also has rules:

With last year’s state tournaments cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there are safeguards in place for this year’s tournaments.

For those attending the games, Huron Arena Manager Terry Rotert reminds everyone of the Arena rules. 

There are no restrictions to the number of people allowed in the Arena, but masks are required for all spectators at all times.

The board members and administrators were listed because they are the ones responsible for the welfare and conduct of students at school related events.  
The kids will be kids but they are sent to school to learn how to be responsible citizens.  The kids were free to express themselves and people have the equal right to question what they are expressing.

More than a half a million Americans have been killed by the coronavirus and this little demonstration by s maskless crowd is blown off as kids just being kids.  What they need is better adult models.

As for people being able to register their complaints to me, you seem to have found your way here.

Awaiting moderation

Unknown commented on "Basketball at tournament gets benched for Trump and white power hand signs"

2 days ago

You don't know what their primary motive was!! Were you there?? No you just want to start crap!

No, I wasn't there. But a photograph with documentation was posted on the internet with the kids making hand gestures behind a big sign.  The message they sent was clear.  That's called evidence.  

Tim Begalka commented on "Basketball at tournament gets benched for Trump and white power hand signs"

2 days ago

What a bunch of crap ! These students are free to express themselves even if you don't agree with them ! I am proud of them ! Leave them alone ! White power hand signs ? Really ? If these students had all been black would you feel the same way ?

No comment needed here on the thinking of a former state legislator.

Awaiting moderation

Unknown commented on "Basketball at tournament gets benched for Trump and white power hand signs"

2 days ago

You are not in charge of anyone. People have freedom to do things that might be contrary to your views. Stop.being a Karen

In our nation, the people are in charge and have a right to know what is being done in their name.  Karen was my maiden name.

Awaiting moderation

Paul Revere2 commented on "Basketball at tournament gets benched for Trump and white power hand signs"

2 days a

Media. Doing the work of the gestapo

Half a million dead, Paul.  Not as efficient as the gas ovens.

Awaiting moderation

Talk about overreacting! Perfect example of an adult drama queen Marxist. These students have the backbone needed for true and honest future leadership America needs, and some snowflake adult tries to intimidate them with this article. Disgraceful behavior on the adults part.

Yes, it was disgraceful.  Do you have any idea what a Marxist is?

Tyler Frantzen

Fri, Mar 12, 12:28 PM (2 days ago)
to me
Your story on chamberlain is what’s wrong with the media today . There is no sign of white power . Let these kids be shaming them is also what’s wrong with you . You are no journalist just a bully to high school kids bet you feel mighty on your high horse . You are sick. I’m proud of these kids standing for what they believe in nothing wrong with that . They didn’t destroy anything or do anything wrong here . Time for you to go if I was the parents of these kids I would be making sure you never write a story again . 


Thursday, March 11, 2021

Basketball at tournament gets benched for Trump and white power hand signs

Basketball is benched for Trump.
Above is a photo posted on Facebook of Chamberlain, SD, high school students taken Tuesday at a basketball playoff game in Huron.  Note the school colors are red and white, which are in abundance in the photo.  But the presence of the American flag colors with the Trump 2020 campaign sign indicates the primary motive was not to cheer the Chamberlain Cubs team on in its 56-48 win over Flandreau.  And given that the 2020 election was held five months ago, the presence of the campaign banner is irrelevant to the occasion.  But it is relevant to what seems to be on the minds of the students in the stands.

Even if this occurred during the campaign before the election, it would raise questions about who sponsored and organized the demonstration.  Some commenters to the posting have already spoken to the school district superintendent.  An investigation will probably not produce the names pf parents and teachers, if any, involved, but the students certainly know.  That information is important as these kids are shown in defiance of every precaution for controlling the coronavirus:  gathering in a large group with no masks apparent.

Here are the people in charge:

Administrative Staff Directory

School Board




33147 245th St







24273 339th Ave











Jerri Ann


34933 225th St

Gann Valley






25705 350th Ave






Vice President

301 E King St







34650 245th St








































Activites Director





Sped Director





Tech Director




Food Service




Title 1







The school address is:  Chamberlain High School, 1000 Sorensen Drive, Chamberlain, SD  57325.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States