Rebel Flags unfurled in the heartland. Does ignoring history make it all better?


A Minnesota volunteer firefighter says he’s been suspended for flying a confederate flag from an engine during a holiday parade, and that he expects to be asked to resign.


Neilsen says he flew the flag because he’s fed up with political correctness and didn’t realize how much trouble it would cause.

Read it here.

Well, that probably wasn’t the smartest thing to do, given it was his employer’s truck and not his to stage his protest against political correctness. And I don’t recall that Albert Lea Minnesota has ever been noted as a hotbed of confederate support. But I suspect it’s less that the man wanted to express a rebel yell, followed with a “don’t-cha-know” as much as make a statement against what seems to be an overreaching sense of hyper-sensitivity that infects our nation at this point in our history.

Ever since the media latched on to an image of a man who tragically killed several black church goers posing with a confederate flag, the flag has become a lightning rod and a symbol for racism in our society, and it’s instantly being erased in every context imaginable. It’s probably not the only time someone of ill-repute has posed with it, but for some reason, banning it has become the de facto response to prove one’s self as not being racist.

150 years after the war, should it be flown over statehouses? I’d argue no. It really doesn’t have a place among our state or national symbols. But, as a nation, the fact remains it was part of our history, and we should be able to display it in that context. Ever since the civil war, it has also been a symbol of rebellion and nonconformity. Some would say it’s display is more of a statement of “Don’t tread on me” as opposed to “we need to secede again.”

But in our society where we’ve now made up the term “Microagressions,” and include notations of America as the land of opportunity as a microagression, the banning of the flag has quickly moved to full blown hysteria.  I think the flag banning movement showed it’s extremes when the Apple Store went so far as to ban the confederate flag in games about the civil war:

“We have removed apps from the App Store that use the Confederate flag in offensive or mean-spirited ways, which is in violation of our guidelines,” a spokesperson said to BuzzFeed News. The company denied issuing a blanket ban however, stating that the flag can be shown for “educational or historical uses.”

The decision has, however, forced a number of American Civil War games off of the App Store, even though developers insist the Confederate flag was only used to be historically accurate.

Sources told BuzzFeed that Apple is working with affected game developers to get their apps back in the App Store. The company is reportedly asking them to remove or replace the offending flag, however.

Read that here.

So, how exactly does one re-enact the civil war without the confederate flag? And how exactly does banning the flag in that context make any headway in bridging the racial divide in this country?

Are we that far gone that we now have to call one side the shirts and the other side the skins? I’m not sure how they’re going to digitally replace the flag on top of the Dukes of Hazzard car to render the show airable again, but when you see things like that, I can maybe even sympathize a little with the firefighter in Albert Lea, Minnesota.

It doesn’t seem ‘Minnesota’s Confederate Flag guy’ was endorsing a symbol he thought racist. It seems he was protesting a society deep in the grip of a hysteria to ban ideas and symbols, as opposed to solving real problems.

For better or worse, the confederate flag is part of our history as a nation. If we as a society have people pressing to ban the use of a flag even in historical contexts, that should trouble us far more than whether it’s plastered on the top of a car in a TV show, or it’s used to represent the rebels in a civil war re-enactment video game.

And it does nothing to solve the root problems of racism in this country. That’s where the real focus should be.

Dems re-running candidate in District 12. And pro-pot campaigners claim she’s on their side.

A reader pointed out to me today that Dems are already spooling up one of their 2014 losing candidates for a re-run.

spawn_losesIf you recall, Ellee Spawn didn’t exactly ring the bell with her candidacy when she ran for the house in 2014 in the Sioux Falls’ area Legislative District 12.

Placing 4th out of 4 candidates, she trailed her fellow losing candidate Susan Randall by over 1100 votes, leaving her with a vote percentage of roughly 16%.

Spawn’s most notable contribution to the race last election came in the form of a bit of over-sharing on Facebook (which we noted here). Otherwise, she tended to run silent.

spawn_runsSo, what’s a Democratic candidate who was absolutely shellacked last election to do?  Apparently, run for higher office.

According to her Facebook page, Spawn decided and announced back in April that she was going to be a candidate for the State Senate in District 12.

Well, good luck with that. She’s going to need it.

If he runs again, this would tentatively pit Spawn against Republican State Senator Blake Curd, who most would argue boasts a much more conservative resume’ than one of last election’s liberal darlings of the SDDP.

Sen. Blake Curd (R-12)

Sen. Blake Curd (R-12)

In addition to his conservative bona fides, Curd is not exactly a slouch when it comes to campaign finance or campaigning.  Spending a minimal amount, he defeated his last Democrat opponent nearly 2-1, and ended the campaign with over $7500 in the bank. Comparatively, Spawn raised $2500 in PAC money, and only managed to finagle $500 from Paula Hawks.

I suspect it’s going to take much more that that to make a race against Curd competitive, much less stand a chance to defeat him.

Going into next years’ election, it would seem that Spawn’s strategy hasn’t been to re-invent herself and her views to make her more appealing to District 12’s conservative voters.


If anything, it appears that she could be shifting further to the left in her public political stances as hinted by this post from pro-pot crusader Ryan Gaddy.

While Spawn’s campaign web site doesn’t talk about a pro-pot stance, Gaddy expressly claims that Spawn is a supporter of the illegal drug in South Dakota.

The question is whether the campaign trail will find the candidate confirming support for pot use in a medical or other manner in South Dakota?

South Dakota has not proven very hospitable towards pro-pot measures despite multiple attempts from legalization advocates, and in fact has become more hostile over the last couple of attempts. There’s no reason to believe that the trend is going to change among people who get off the couch to cast a vote, no matter what advocates claim in opposition to medical evidence.

And if candidates are already out there taking stances in support of it, it may not reflect on them well at the ballot box when that time eventually arrives.

US Senator Mike Rounds’ Weekly Column: Supporting Science in South Dakota

RoundsPressHeader Supporting Science in South Dakota
By Senator Mike Rounds
July 2, 2015

MikeRounds official SenateWhile working as governor of South Dakota, securing the underground laboratory at the Homestake mine in Lead was one of our proudest accomplishments. Without the strong support of people across the entire state none of this would have happened. At that time, it was called the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory, or DUSEL, and managed by the National Science Foundation. During a competitive process and with a generous gift from philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, the facility was awarded to South Dakota. The Department of Energy is now the primary sponsor of the re-named Sanford Underground Research Facility.

Though the name has changed over time, the quality of the work at the lab remains first-rate. Researchers and scientists continue to explore modern physics by developing groundbreaking experiments that can only be done in this unique laboratory space deep underground that protects the experiments from cosmic radiation. In fact, physicist Ray Davis, Jr., earned a Nobel Prize for Physics in 2002 for his solar neutrino experiment at the mine.

I was honored to attend the recent grand opening of the Sanford Visitor and Learning Center on June 30, which is the result of years of hard work and planning. Many different people and groups have come together to make the Sanford Lab a world-class research facility, and I’m pleased that it will now be open to visitors from around the globe who are interested in the important work researchers are doing at the lab.

While working as governor, I worked with the South Dakota State Legislature to appropriate more than $39 million for underground science at the Sanford Lab. The new visitor center offers scientists of all ages from every state and around the world a first-hand look at the lab’s experiments. It also offers the town of Lead an opportunity to showcase its historic past as a mining town to tour groups and visitors from around the world.

We’ve also been preparing future leaders to work in science. Students are our state’s greatest asset, and just since 2003, 6,000 new scholarships have been awarded to make sure young people have the opportunity to receive a top-notch education and make their careers in South Dakota. Encouraging more students to study science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) has long been one of our priorities. The Sanford Science Education Center is a collaboration between Black Hills State University and the Sanford Lab to prepare students for future STEM-based careers. They offer internships, professional development courses, summer programs and more to inspire young people to pursue science-based jobs.

I look forward to seeing the Sanford Lab continue to expand and thrive. Future plans for the lab include a partnership with Fermilab in Illinois on the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), which could lead to new discoveries about neutrinos, proton decay and the elements necessary for life.  Scientists throughout the ages have questioned the origins of the universe, and with today’s technology, we may be able to discover more about what makes up the universe. This is South Dakota’s opportunity to be involved in exciting new discoveries which, not too long ago, seemed only to be part of science fiction. You will hear more about matter, dark matter, energy, dark energy, and of course, more about neutrinos! It is all happening in the Black Hills of South Dakota.


Congresswoman Noem’s Weekly Column: Taking a Swing at Breast Cancer

noem press headerTaking a Swing at Breast Cancer
By Rep. Kristi Noem
July 2, 2015

kristi noem headshot May 21 2014I have known Lynn Popham for a long time – more than two decades, I suppose.  We’ve spent hours together at ball games, rodeos, and our kids’ school events.  She’s an incredible mom to two young men, a hard worker, a trusted neighbor, and a tremendous asset to our community.  Last December, Lynn learned she had Stage 2 breast cancer.

This year alone, approximately 230,000 women are expected to learn that they too must fight breast cancer, according to the latest American Cancer Society data.  Just over 2,000 men will also have to battle the disease.  Each of these journeys will come with highs and lows, but I have to say that so far, Lynn has weathered her diagnosis and treatments with an unbelievably positive attitude.  While she has a ways to go in her journey with breast cancer, I believe her strength and perseverance for the first leg of the race deserves recognition.  This summer, I had the opportunity to give Lynn some of that well-deserved recognition.

Each year, women in Congress – both Republicans and Democrats – join to play in the Congressional Women’s Softball Game against female members of the press corps.  We do it as a way to increase awareness about breast cancer and help raise funds for the Young Survival Coalition, an organization that supports the women who have been diagnosed and helps move us closer to a cure.  This year, I was proud to play in honor of Lynn.

Through events like this and the dedication of groups like the Young Survival Coalition, we have increased Americans’ awareness about breast cancer to historic levels.  One of the tangible benefits of that work has been an increase in the number of mammograms. In fact, while just 29 percent of women had gotten a mammogram in 1987, 67 percent of women had gotten one in 2010.  Lynn was one of those women.

The increase in mammography has helped more women detect their cancer early, which in turn has boosted survival rates.  The American College of Radiology reports that mammography has helped reduce breast cancer mortality in the United States by nearly one-third since 1990.

As a result of early-detection efforts and stronger science, there are more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors living in the United States today.  That’s incredible.  Please join me in taking a swing against breast cancer this summer.  Find a way to support women like Lynn and their families.  Put together an early detection plan for yourself – the National Breast Cancer Foundation has a tool that can help at  Or support one of the many organizations fighting for a cure.  Together, we can beat breast cancer.


Governor Daugaard’s Weekly Column: Opening Of The Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center

daugaardheader Opening Of The Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:

DaugaardThis week I had the opportunity to attend the dedication of the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center in Lead. The visitor center will be something for South Dakotans and travelers from all over the world to see. Here people will learn about the history of Homestake and the Sanford Lab projects.

The Sanford Underground Research Facility is in the process of partnering with the Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois, to prepare for the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility and the associated Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (LBNF/DUNE). This future experiment is a result of groundbreaking research that occurred in the lab while it was still the Homestake Mine.

This research, conducted by Ray Davis from the mid-1960s through the 1990s, sought small, neutral particles called neutrinos which generally pass right through the earth undetected and unimpeded. Because of their lack of interaction, their existence was only theoretical. Ray Davis, through an unprecedented combination of chemistry and physics, developed a way to use the low background radiation environment in the mine to prove the existence of neutrinos.

Initially, other scientists wrote off Davis’ project as a failure because he was detecting just one-third of the neutrinos he had expected to find. Eventually he was proven right when other scientists at SnoLab in Canada discovered that neutrinos spontaneously change, or oscillate as they travel, changing between three types. Davis’ research changed physics forever, and in 2002 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for his neutrino experiment.

Now a new generation of physicists is building on Davis’ research to make their own discoveries deep underground at Sanford Lab. Scientists will use a high-intensity neutrino beam to send neutrinos from Batavia, Illinois, to Lead, South Dakota. Continuing the work Ray Davis started years ago, this experiment will attempt to explain properties of neutrinos, why they change and the nature of their changing states. While for most of us particle physics has many blind spots, the light this experiment can shed on at least one of them could be key to understanding the universe.

Sometimes in South Dakota, because we are small in population, and because we are largely rural, we have a bit of an inferiority complex. We sometimes fall into thinking that we can’t be the best or lead the way.

But that’s not true. And the things happening at the Sanford Underground Research Facility prove that we are a state that explores uncharted territory.

Since 1967, a panel of prominent scientists and academics, the High Energy Physics Advisory Panel, has advised the federal government about experimental and theoretical high energy physics. Recently this panel identified three physics projects around the world as high priority: one in Japan, one in Switzerland and the Long Baseline Neutrino experiment right here in Lead, South Dakota. In its P5 report, the panel called that experiment the physics project in America. It’s not hard to imagine that through this project another physicist working here in Lead, South Dakota, could win a Nobel Prize.

This Visitor Center will not only keep the Homestake story alive, but make it so the physics project in America doesn’t just stay below the surface. Updates about the Long Baseline Neutrino, Majorana and the LUX dark matter experiments will be available right here at this visitor center, so that people of all ages can learn about the cutting-edge research being conducted below. This new visitor center will play a role in passing a love of science on to future generations. It has the potential to spark in our young people a hunger for knowledge and a passion for possibilities.