Sunday, December 5, 2010

Double D, Dusty & Chris

Front Bar – Another delay in posting on 2011 Redistricting; I have wanted to post on the Governor’s appointment of Dusty Johnson to Chief of Staff and announcement of his intent to appoint current Secretary of State Chris Nelson to take Johnson’s place on the Public Utilities Commission. Additionally I wanted to look at what the election means in terms of change in the leadership and management of South Dakota Government. Both subjects are combined in this what I expect will be a lengthy post.

From the outset, I have known Dennis Daugaard for 15 years, have worked with him on his political campaigns and learned from him. He is of the highest character. Dennis Daugaard is easy to like. Based on 14 years in public office we don’t know all that much about him. During his quest for out State’s highest office over the past 3 years I never had a sense of his vision and consequently expected little change from the passive Round’s administration. Much of his campaign was spent on his biography, compelling personal story and South Dakota work ethic.

In my experience, you have activist Governors or passive ones. Think Kneip (activist), Wollman (passive – served 6 months), Janklow (activist), Mickelson (both active and passive), Miller (passive – a little under 2 years) Janklow (activist), Rounds (passive to the point of caretaker though very high public approval ratings).

Sidebar – Ron Volesky when he was a candidate for Governor in 2006, in his stump speech asked his listeners to take out pen and paper and write down three accomplishments of Mike Rounds’ administration. A pretty good test I think for any Governor.

In retrospect based on events and support that Dennis Daugaard had, I expected more of the Rounds’ passivity. Daugaard had Mike Rounds’ endorsement, the support of the Pierre establishment, and Round’s inner circle and the extended regular GOP establishment. Compound that with a three year run up to the Primary. What insiders, high level State appointees, or contractors were going to go somewhere else three years out? The Daugaard campaign was well organized and executed. The fact that Jason Glodt, a former SD Party ED and Governor Rounds’ inside political guy was involved gave the Daugaard inside access to the party apparatus.

The Lt. Governor talked conservative, is against raising taxes, pro gun, and pro life – all requisite Republican primary voter positions. The DD campaign raised over a million dollars early on and basically both in the primary and general election ran as the front runner, saying little, avoiding controversy, really just a run out the clock campaign. Compound these advantages with a personality that is easy to like and a great work ethic, it was a winning combination.
Dennis Daugaard received over 50% of the vote in a five way primary and winning in a landslide in the general election.

Daugaard threaded the needle in his support of Rounds and stating his own positions. During the primary he denied there was a budget crisis or even a big problem that we could not grow out of. During the general election campaign he continued with this line of response offering little more specifics except to say that he would not spend money that he did not have. Only on election night did he say he was going to work on the budget problem.

Consequently after the election, I felt South Dakota was in competent hands but had little expectation of much change.

The reorganization of the Governor’s office staff, the dismissal of about one half of Governor Rounds’ cabinet, and the appointments of Dusty Johnson and Chris has altered my opinion.

Dennis Daugaard may be more of an Activist Governor.

Sidebar – for another look at gubernatorial management style see this recent article by Bob Mercer.

Dusty Johnson – I have been involved with South Dakota government and politics for just over thirty years, with the exception of Bill Janklow there has not been a more completed policy package than Dusty Johnson.

Disclaimer – I have known Dusty for over 15 years since he was Chairman of the South Dakota Teen Age Republican organization. I was one of the people who encouraged him to seek the Public Utilities Commission seat in 2004, and have advised and worked with him on both his Statewide campaigns.

Dusty is extremely smart and bright but is no egghead. He plain just gets it! He is balanced and fair, analyzes and does not jump to conclusions. Dennis Daugaard made a great selection in Dusty. There has been discussion and speculation that Johnson might be sidetracking his career in elected office, but this was not an overriding consideration in his accepting the Governor’s request. Dusty is not in this for personal fame or gain. He wants to make a difference! He understands managing policy for 10 activist agencies and divisions (including Economic Development, Game Fish & Parks, Environment and Natural Resources, Commerce, and Agriculture among others) for the Governor is a far broader portfolio than the Utilities Commission. Dennis Daugaard could not have made a better pick.

Chris Nelson – I have know and worked (to varying degrees) with Chris Nelson also for about 16 years. He was Director of Elections in the Secretary of State’s office when I served as Party Chairman as well as an outstanding candidate for Statewide office in 2002. I have not always agreed with Chris but he is always consistent. He has two outstanding traits; he is always faithful to the law and he is focused. While I agree that there is appearance of the GOP playing musical chairs on the Second Floor of the Capitol, in this case the Governor elect could not have made a better choice. Chris Nelson will be an outstanding Commissioner (fair and balanced one) and a good candidate for his Party.

Note – there has been a lot of carping that someone qualified was not named. Horse puckey – since when is qualifications an issue. Was Laska Schoenfelder, the Davison County Register of Deeds qualified? Or Jim Burg a farmer, Pam Nelson a former legislator and self described consumer activist qualified? Ken Stofferahn? Get over it. With the possible exception of Bob Sahr who is an accomplished Attorney, few are qualified the first day on the job. Chris Nelson will be outstanding.

I note the Secretary of State’s remark upon his appointment that he recognizes the important balance between the consumer and consistently reliable service that can only be provided by vibrant utilities.

With these two appointments, Dennis Daugaard shows thought and action and I applaud him.

I am a little more circumspect about his office reorganization but because of the actions noted above give him more than a big Straight Talk Benefit of the Doubt.

It is now well known that the Governor elect has decided to become hands on CEO Governor. He has formed what is essentially a governing council. The Chairman of his Transition Committee is Jeff Erickson, who it appears suggested the Governor elect adopt a management organization more similar that is found in the private sector. In effect there will now be five or six persons doing what previously one or two were doing. How this provides for better government I am unsure, maybe even doubtful, but Governor Daugaard was elected and is entitled to shape his administration to his liking and as said previously deserves the benefit of doubt. (I certainly don’t see the efficiency and any cost savings.) The proof is in the government.

It will be interesting to see how it works out with the Lieutenant Governor Matt Michaels also now going full time.

There has been criticism of Tony Venhuizen, Daugaard’s son in law serving on the management committee. Tony provides pluses and minuses. The minuses are the political; the Governor elect has noted that there would be criticism. On the plus side Tony is extremely bright and energetic, and experienced. He served on the Board of Regents for five years and did a clerkship in a rural Judicial Circuit with Judge Tim Bjorkman in Salem and Mitchell. Tony also managed the Daugaard campaign. No one seriously believes Tony is not capable of managing his portfolio.

Overall Dennis Daugaard is off to a decisive, speedy and first class start.

Endbar – Governor Rounds will give his Budget address this coming week. News reports are that it will be an austere budget. The Governor elect has indicated that he plans to offer his own budget. What similarities there are will be interesting. Several months ago Governor Rounds asked his Cabinet Secretaries to look for cuts. Times being tough and revenues not meeting projections have been the case for the past couple of budget cycles. Thus it is interesting (and perhaps cynical of me) that Governor Rounds is now looking for cuts when he will not be governing with reduced expenditures. Throughout the Rounds’ Administration we have been operating with what Governor Rounds has termed a structural deficit (an interesting phrase).

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Festival of Lights

Straight Talk Commentary – Chanukah is here, my third favorite holiday ((1) Passover (2) Thanksgiving). Following is the thought provoking holiday message by Israeli Statesman Yoram Ettinger.

As Ambassador Ettinger refers to our National motto, “In God We Trust.” I read recently that the essence of our Nation (The United States of America) can be found succinctly on our coinage. As Ettinger points out tshe message of the Macabees suggests the divine providence of America.

Like Passover, Chanukah is a Freedom holiday.
Chanukah 2010 Guide for the Perplexed
By:Yoram Ettinger

December 1, 2010
1.George Washington first learned of Chanukkah while at Valley Forge,Pennsylvania, 1778: "Perhaps we are not as lost as our enemies would have us believe. I rejoice in the Maccabees' success, though it is long past...It pleases me to think that miracles still happen."
2. "In God We Trust" was inspired, also, by the Maccabees’ battle cry, which adopted Moses battle cry against the builders of the Golden Calf. A literal translation of Moses' battle cry is “Whoever trusts G-D; join me!
3. The Maccabees' sacrifice and political-incorrectness inspired PatrickHenry's "Give me liberty or give me death" and New Hampshire's "Live Free or Die." The Maccabees followed in the footsteps of Abraham, Phineas the High Priest, Joshua & Calev, King David and Elijah the Prophet, who walked against the grain, in defiance of the establishment and conventional wisdom.
4. Inspiration to Benjamin Franklin's "Rebellion against Tyrants isobedience to God." The Maccabees were a tiny minority of “rebels” -condemned by the "loyalists/pragmatists" - rising against an oppressive super-power. They were condemned, by the Jewish establishment, as "enemies of peace" and "extremists." They prevailed due to their principle-driven, determined and can-do state-of-mind and adherence to roots and long-term vision against any odds. They demonstrated the victory of the few over the many, right over wrong, moral over immoral, truth over lies, faith over cynicism and opportunism. The Maccabees became a role-model for the US'Founding Fathers, including Paul Revere (who was referred to as a "modern day Maccabee") and the organizers of the Boston Tea Party. They realized that no free lunches were available for freedom-seeking nations.
5. "Chanukah has a special significance in Montana these days. In Billings in 1993, vandals broke windows in homes that were displaying menorahs. In a response organized by local church leaders, more than 10,000 of the city residents and shopkeepers put make-shift menorahs in their own windows, to protect the city’s three dozen or so Jewish families. The vandalism stopped" (New York Times, Dec. 4, 2009, Eric Stern, senior counselor to Gov. Brian Schweitzer).
6. Historical context Alexander The Great - who held Judaism in high esteem and whose Egyptian heir, Ptolemy II, translated the Torah to Greek - died in 323BCE following 12 glorious years. Consequently, the Greek Empire disintegrated into five, and thirty years later into three, kingdoms: Macedonia, Syria and Egypt. The Land of Israel was militarily contested by Syria and Egypt. In 198BCE, Israel was conquered by the Syrian kingdom. In 175BCE, a new king assumedpower in Syria, Antiochus (IV) Epiphanies, who viewed the Jews aspro-Egyptians and held Judaism with contempt. In 169BC, upon his return to Syria from a war against Egypt, he devastated Jerusalem, massacred the Jews, forbade the practice of Judaism (including the Sabbath, circumcision, etc.) and desecrated Jerusalem and the Temple. The 167BCE-launched rebellion against the Syrian (Seleucid) kingdom featured the Hasmonean (Maccabee) family: Mattityahu, a priest from the town of Modi'in, and his five sons, Yochanan, Yehuda, Shimon, Yonatan and Elazar. The heroic (and tactically creative) battles conducted by the Maccabees, were consistent with thereputation of Jews as superb warriors, who were hired frequently asmercenaries by Egypt, Syria, Rome and other global and regional powers.
7. The Hasmonean dynasty *Mattityahu son of Yochanan, the priest-led rebellion – 166/7BCE *Yehuda the Maccabee, son of Mattityahu – 166-161BCE *Yonatan the Maccabee, son of Mattityahu – 161-143BCE*Shimon the Maccabee, son of Mattityahu – 143-135BCE *Yochanan Hyrcanus son of Shimon – 135-104BCE *…*Mattityahu Antigonus – 40-37BCE
8. Key geographic Maccabee sites are located in Judea and Samaria: Mitzpah (also Samuel's burial site), Beit El mountains (Judah's first headquarters), Beit Horon (Judah's victory over Seron), Hadashah (Judah's victory over Nicanor), Beit Zur (Judah's victory over Lysias), Ma'aleh Levona (Judah's victory over Apolonius), Adora'yim (a Maccabees' fortress), Elazar & Beit Zachariya (Judah's first defeat), Ba'al Hatzor (Judah defeated and killed), the Judean Desert, etc. Jerusalem (beyond the "1949 Lines") was the Capital of the Maccabees. Are the descendants of the Maccabees "occupiers"in thecradle of their own history??? Is Chanukah a holiday of "occupation," or is it a holiday which highlights Jewish moral-high-ground in their historical land?!
9. The legacy of Shimon the Maccabee. He succeeded Judah and Yonatan the Maccabees, while responding to an ultimatum by the Syrian emperor, Antiochus (Book of Maccabees A, Chapter 15, verse 33): "We have not occupied a foreign land; We have not ruled a foreign land; We have liberated the land of our forefathers from foreign occupation." Thus he responded to a super-power's ultimatum to end "occupation" of Jaffa, Jerusalem, Gezer, Ekron and Gaza.
10. Chanukah's uniqueness. Chanukah is the only Jewish holiday whichcommemorates a Land-of-Israel national liberation struggle, unlike Passover (Exodus from Egypt), Sukkot/Tabernacles & Shavouot/Pentacost (on the way from Egypt to the Land of Israel), Purim (deliverance of Jews in Persia), etc. Chanukah is the longest Jewish holiday (8 days) with the most intense level of Light (8 consecutive nights of candle lighting).
11. The origin of the name – Chanukah – is also education-oriented.According to the first book of Maccabees, Yehuda (who succeeded Mattityahu) ordered the Jewish People to observe an eight day holiday on the 25th day of the month of Kislev, 165BCE, in order to commemorate the inauguration (Chanukah, çðåëä, in Hebrew) of the holy altar and the Temple, following Syrian desecration. A key feature of Chanukah is education of the family (Chinuch, çéðåê, in Hebrew). The Hebrew word, Chanukah, consists of two words, Chanu, çðå,(they rested/stationed) and Kah, ëä, (25 in Hebrew), which refers to the fact that the Maccabees re-consecrated the Temple on the 25thday of the month of Kislev (purging it from the idolatries installed by the Syrians/Seleucids). Some have suggested that the celebration of Christmas on December 25th and the celebration of the New Year 8 days later (January 1) have their origin in the 25th day of Kislev (which always “accompanies” December) and the 8 days of Chanukah as well as the 8 days of circumcision.
12. Holiday of light and remembrance. The first day of Chanukah is on the 25th day of Kislev, the month of miracles (e.g. Noah's Rainbow appeared in Kislev). The first and last Hebrew letters of Kislev – åë - equal (in Jewish numerology) 26, which the total sum of the Hebrew spelling of Jehovah. Moses completed the construction of the Holy Ark on the 25th day of Kislev, as was the date of the laying the foundation of the Second Temple by Nehemaya. The 25th (Hebrew) word in Genesis is Light (OR, àåø, in Hebrew). A Jewish metaphor for the Torah is light. The 25th stop of the People of Israel - on their way from Egypt to the Promised Land - was Hashmona (same root as Hasmoneans in Hebrew). Chanukah commemorates the victory of Light (Maccabees) over Darkness and Remembrance over Forgetfulness (the Hebrew spelling of darkness – çùëä – employs the same letters as forgetulness - ùëçä).
13. The origin of the name, Maccabee (îëáé or î÷áé). Yehuda’s middle name was Maccabee, derived possibly from the Hebrew word Makevet (î÷áú), Power Hammer), which described Yehuda’s tenacious and decisive fighting capabilities. It may have derived from the Hebrew verb Cabeh (ëáä, to extinguish), which described the fate of Yehuda’s adversaries. Another source of the name suggests that Maccabee, îëáé, is the Hebrew acronym of “Who could resemble you among Gods, Jehovah” (“Mi Camokha Ba'elim Adonai” îéëîåê áàìéí é').
14. Eight days of Chanukah represent divine capabilities and optimism. The ancient Temple Menorah consisted of seven branches, which commemorated the seven days of creation. The Chanukah Menorah has eight branches, reflecting the additional level of divine capabilities over and beyond human expectations: The victory of the few over the many and the lasting of one day supply of oil for eight days. Some have suggested that the eight day celebration was designed to make up for the holiday of Tabernacles, which could not be celebrated by the Maccabees due to their war of liberation. The shape of the digit 8 represents infinity: No end to divine capabilities to enhance human fortunes, as evidenced by the survival of the Jewish People against all odds. The root of the Hebrew word for 8 (Shmoneh, ùîåðä) is "oil" (Shemen, ùîð), which is also the root of "Hasmonean" (Hashmonayim,çùîåðàéí).
15. Chanukah-Purim-Passover. The heroes of Passover and Purim had nochoice but to defy their enemies. The Maccabees turned down the option of physical peace in return for spiritual assimilation. They refused to sellout the cradle of Jewish history. They were willing to pay any price for adherence to their roots, values and heritage. Chanukah symbolizes the victory of monotheism over paganism, conviction over convenience and opportunism/cynicism (sometime presented as "realism" or "pragmatism"), compassion over egotism, self-control and restraint over temptation and promiscuity, endurance over vacillation.

16. Seven Chanukah (inauguration)-like events: Chanukah of the Creation (Genesis 2:1-3), Chanukah of the Sanctuary (Numbers 7:1-11), Chanukah of the First Temple (Kings 1, 7:51, 8:1-11 & 62-66), Chanukah of the Second Templeand the Ingathering (Ezra 6:13-18), Chanukah of Jerusalem's Wall (Nehemiah 6:15-16), Chanukah of the Temple Priests in 165BC (Maccabees 1, 4), Chanukahof the After World. Some attach the significance of each such Chanukah to a corresponding day of the Creation