Showing posts with label South Dakota. Show all posts
Showing posts with label South Dakota. Show all posts

02 December 2021

Yesterday's Gossip is Today's Headline


The problem with living in a small state (or town) is that it's almost impossible to keep a secret.  You can try, but you're not going to succeed.  The stories float out on the wind, like the breath between your neighbors' lips.  But it's also a gift, because there is endless entertainment. 

A few examples:

(1) Back in October the South Dakota Supreme Court unsealed the search warrant records for South Dakota's own billionaire, T. Denny Sanford, but most of us had heard about this and have been discussing it, and what it was for, 2 years or so.  So, you who aren't South Dakotan might ask, "What were the search warrants for?"

"Sanford’s electronic devices came to the attention of investigators with the South Dakota attorney general’s office after a technology firm reported that child pornography had either been sent, received or downloaded on his device, according to one of the people who spoke to AP. Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg determined there was sufficient evidence to move toward prosecuting Sanford, but passed the case to the U.S. Department of Justice because it spanned to Arizona, California and Nebraska, according to both people." (AP News) (my emphasis added – also, that's quite a span, don't you think?)

There has since been fallout, including National University in San Diego putting a hold on changing its name to Sanford National University specifically because of the charges.  And a lot of executives at Sanford Healthcare have quit, some with 8-figure golden parachutes. And… Well, any more would be just repeating the gossip. I'll report more when it finally comes out on the news.

(2) Corey Lewandowski. Everyone's been talking about that hot mess since 2019.  

(3) The Covid-19 outbreak at Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls back in 2020:  I (and others) first heard about it well before it came out in the news, from people who were desperately trying to get the word out and warn everyone what was coming, while the CEO and other executives (and certain SD officials) were trying to cover it all up like a cat in a litter box.

My note:  This is why I don't have my knickers in a twist over China's supposed malfeasance about Covid-19, because I don't remember many cities, states, or businesses in America being really open and forthcoming about having a Covid outbreak in early 2020… Everyone tried to cover it up here in the United States, too.

(4) The story of Governor Kristi Noem's 2020 meeting with Executive Director of the South Dakota Appraiser Certification Program to discuss her daughter's getting an appraiser's certification had been circulating for some time. It finally made the news in October of this year, as someone pointed out that the same executive director was apparently urged to retire and given a $200,000 payout. (Argus)  The investigation is ongoing.

BTW, my favorite story about Governor Noem is an on-going lawsuit by "Blue State Refugees" (hereinafter referred to as the BSR) who wanted to protest Covid vaccine mandates at the Capitol on Pierre. Now the BSR is an unofficial organization of people who responded to Governor Noem's call last year to "Move to South Dakota and enjoy your freedoms!" And they came. And they want to protest. "The state, though, says it has banned all political demonstrations from the capitol grounds in November and December to accommodate the annual holiday and Christmas displays and decorations at the Capitol." Well, Governor Noem  quickly announced that they would indeed allow the Blue State Refugees to assemble, and the Blue State Refugees – via their lawyer – announced “We resolved the issue whether the protest will take place next week. The lawsuit is not dismissed. It’s going forward.” Why?  "We need to have some kind of assurance that they will not be enforcing this policy, not just now but into the future." (KELO) (Argus) If you're surprised that the BSR can't take "yes" for an answer – I'm not. If you invite people to come, promising them total freedom to do anything they want…

Speaking of doing anything they want:

(5) Our State Senate Majority Leader Gary Cammack was arrested for a DUI and driving without a license on January 18, 2020, and (after spending the night in jail) plead down to a misdemeanor of careless driving (a popular charge given to powerful people arrested for various problem driving incidents, see AG Ravnsborg), and then on October 4, 2020 got the court to seal the records.  But word got around:

“The sealing of Mr. Cammack’s record was the final step in a common and lawful process occurring thousands of times a year in South Dakota,” Nelson wrote. “But the coincidental timing of those events did nevertheless appear suspicious, even though it was not.”   (Cammack: Sealing of Court Case...)  (My Note: I'm trying to think of anyone who is not a politician or mover/shaker who has gotten a record sealed and can't think of one.  Thousands? I doubt it.) 

 And from "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" file:

(6) Cammack's son, Chris, received more than $700,000 in state coronavirus relief funds designed to help businesses in South Dakota recover losses suffered during the pandemic, plus more than $300,000 in forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans from the federal government to keep 10 workers employed. His business? A taxidermy business called Prairie Mountain Wildlife Studios.

BTW, up here in South Dakota, the first question that most people asked was, "What taxidermy place has 10 workers?" Seriously, try 3.  Maybe 4.

Anyway, Prairie Mountain Wildlife Studios was listed as being in Union City, SD, and it once was - but in 2014 or 2015, Chris and his family and the business all moved to Cypress, Texas. 


NOTE: This image from Google Maps shows the Cypress, Texas properties owned by Chris Cammack. The Brush Country/Prairie Mountain studios building has a red roof at the top of the image, and the home just to the south has a gray roof. Photo: Google Maps See the link at SD NewsWatch below.

Not only that, but back in March, 2020 Chris lobbied hard for special hunting licenses for non-residents (like him) of South Dakota to hunt on land they still owned in South Dakota.  Oh, and Chris also received PPP loans at the same time in 2020 and 2021 for two taxidermy businesses that have nearly the same names in both South Dakota and Texas totaling $798,217 to pay employees at both locations.  And it gets worse - but read it all for yourself at (SDNewsWatch).  We'll see if any of the money - loans, relief funds, etc. - gets clawed back.  I'm not holding my breath.  

And a reminder that domestic abusers are dangerous to more than the folks at home:

(7) I read with shock, horror, and absolute revulsion the story of the man who ran through the Christmas parade up in Waukesha, WI. Apparently the driver had a history of violence at home and abroad, and had used his fists, his gun(s), and his car as weapons before. No surprise to me, because back in the 1990s, I experienced sitting in my car, trapped between a berm and other cars, as a man gunned his car directly at me. He was a domestic abuser, with an expired license, who'd just smashed out the windows of his house, and, still angry, decided to use his car as a weapon against the first woman he saw. Which was me. I was lucky: at the last moment he swerved away. But it was still pretty damn scary.  I wrote my fourth blog with Sleuthsayers on it - read it here:  (The Circuit Administrator's Tale)  

And now for something completely different!

A true Thanksgiving-ish story: 

A few years back, I was walking on a trail in Lake Herman State Park here in South Dakota. Now that park has wild turkeys, deer, fox, coyotes owls, hawks, seagulls, pelicans, and once in a while some eagles, roaming free. And this day, the flock of wild turkeys was right there, in the middle of the trail, eating and gobbling. Well, I did a big loop around them, because I didn't want to disturb them. And I got back on the trail further up, and walked on.  Well, after a while, I realized there was this tremendous rushing sound behind me, almost like water. So I looked over my shoulder, and by God, there was the whole flock coming towards me. RUNNING towards me. So I stopped. And they all skidded to a stop around me.

So there they were: gobble-gobble-gobble. Hooking their necks and looking up sideways at me. Gobble-gobble-gobble. I mean, it was interesting, but I didn't have any corn with me or anything, so after a while I said, "Well, you caught me, now what are you going to do with me?" Gobble-gobble-gobble. And after a while, they finally got tired and went on. And so did I, chuckling away. But later, I thought, "I wonder if that's how a wooly mammoth felt, surrounded by humans in the Ice age?" and then, "If turkeys ever learn how to make and use tools, we're screwed." 




BTW, one of the ways we South Dakotans can tell a BSR is by the 4-way stop test.  There aren't a lot of traffic lights in most small towns around the state, because we (used to be) frugal, and low population, so what we have is a lot of 4-way stop corners. A South Dakotan knows to pull up to it, stop, and take turns, starting with whoever got there first or the person on the right. A BSR invariably just blows on through, leaving us all shaking our heads and muttering under our breath...  

18 November 2021

Things Fall Apart


[Sherlock Holmes said,] “It is my belief, Watson, founded upon my experience, that the lowest and vilest alleys in London do not present a more dreadful record of sin than does the smiling and beautiful countryside.”

“You horrify me!”

“But the reason is very obvious. The pressure of public opinion can do in the town what the law cannot accomplish. There is no lane so vile that the scream of a tortured child, or the thud of a drunkard’s blow, does not beget sympathy and indignation among the neighbours, and then the whole machinery of justice is ever so close that a word of complaint can set it going, and there is but a step between the crime and the dock. But look at these lonely houses, each in its own fields, filled for the most part with poor ignorant folk who know little of the law. Think of the deeds of hellish cruelty, the hidden wickedness which may go on, year in, year out, in such places, and none the wiser."

— Arthur Conan Doyle, The Adventure of the Copper Beeches

Living in South Dakota, and most of that time in a small town, I agree with Holmes' assessment 100%.  

I've related in many a blog the ins and outs of various government corruption and malfeasance, from EB-5 to Gear Up! to the death of Joe Boever, and more.

I've also sat in a courtroom and watched as a grandfather, convicted of molesting all four of his grandchildren, was given a slap on the wrist from a judge because the man "had an unblemished record."  

And then there's the petty stuff: small towns where "everyone takes care of each other", so they don't have to enforce the rules.  With predictable results:  people don't shovel their sidewalks unless they feel like it, a noted person (with money) was allowed to turn numerous private properties into private junkyards, and the memorable time when one man threatened to shoot anyone that set foot on his property.  And then complained because the volunteer fire department watched his house burn down. 

BTW, there's no feud like a small town feud, unless it's a small town church feud.

Back on January 13, 2019, in my post "What We're Best at Being Bad At", I said that South Dakota was really good at embezzlement. And we are. To quote myself:

"Besides grifting on the state level, there's also one heck of a lot of small potatoes embezzlement here in South Dakota, much of it fueled by gambling addiction and/or medical bills. $500 from the local VFW; $1,500 from a doctor's office; $2,500 from a nursing home. Interestingly, other than the public humiliation, the punishment is usually a slap on the wrist: the main penalty is to pay the money back and do community service. Rarely is there any jail time. Perhaps that's why it's so common…
But sometimes it's bigger: Just recently, up in Kingsbury County a family-run grain elevator has gone bankrupt because the family was hedging commodities and lost as much as $15 million of other people's money." (HERE)

At the time I didn't go into details, because so much of it was "gossip".  Well, it's now two years later, and "Jared Steffensen of the Arlington, S.D., area, pleaded guilty to theft by deception in his H&I Grain Inc. business, at a June 29, 2021, hearing at the Beadle County, S.D, courthouse at Huron. He speculated on grain trades, and then failed to pay millions to farmers. He and his wife, Tami, could face five years in the state penitentiary. His mother, JoAnn also pleaded guilty to a felony of failing to inform state regulators that her company was failing financially." (AG Week)

SD grain elevator

Former H&I Grain Inc. site at Hetland, S.D, original location for a family business that ran into legal trouble when Jared Steffensen of Arlington, S.D, accelerated speculation in grain trades, costing ~32 farmers and companies millions of dollars.
Photo taken May 6, 2019, Hetland, S.D. Mikkel Pates © Agweek

Citing“criminal mentality” (for one thing, the scam went on for months) and “lack of remorse,” Circuit Judge Kent A. Shelton sentenced Jared and Tami Steffensen each to terms of five years in state prisons and made them liable for restitution of $4,966,491.80 to farmers, as well as other costs. And had them marched out of the courtroom, in handcuffs, back to jail. (Ag Week)

But the neighbors know, in the words of Greg Albrecht, whose family lost more than a million dollars, "We're never going to see nothing out of it." And they probably won't.

And that's not the worst scam:

On November 4, 2021, Robert "Bob" Blom, a feedlot operator in Corsica, South Dakota (pop. 592) was sentenced to 91 months in prison after pleading guilty to a Ponzi scheme. Basically, he ran a custom cattle feeding operation in which he resold cattle he didn't have in inventory to investors, falsified invoices and used the money to pay back old investors.

He owes $24,282,865.94 to people he conned – life-long neighbors, who definitely feel that he's getting way too little for his crimes. "Was there any plea bargaining for me?" asked Rod Myer, a cattle feeder that worked with Blom for 14 years and was a victim in the case. "I hear a lot in the courtroom today on how Bob felt. Well, how do you think I felt?… There goes my life savings." (Argus)

That's TWO multi-million dollar peculations occurring in TWO rural counties in South Dakota.

Now here's the deal: if you live in Corsica, SD (pop. 592), in Douglas County (pop. 2,835), or if you live in Hetland, SD (pop. 46) in Kingsbury County (pop. 5,187), you know just about everyone in the entire county.  You went to school with them, to church with them, etc. You've known them all your lives.  You trust them. "A man's word is his bond" is a common saying.  A handshake could seal major contracts.  And suddenly, one family in each of these counties, in absolute cold-blood, screwed everyone - life-long friends and neighbors – out of their life savings. 

It's not even the money, as much as that hurts. As Jeff Hampton, a friend of Blom’s for over 50 years, said, "Bob should never see the light of freedom again — those are hard words coming from a friend.” Then he turned to Blom. “You’ve destroyed the trustworthiness of a man’s word.” (Ag Week)  And he only got 7.5 years in prison.  

Let's put it in perspective:

In South Dakota, you get drunk and kill someone in a bar-brawl, you can - and many do - get life without parole for 1st Degree Manslaughter.  If you hit and kill someone while driving drunk, at least 10 years.  (Does not apply to state officials driving late at night on rural roads who run into deer with glasses. They get misdemeanors. And complain about that.)  One recent case involved 4 young men who were all charged in the shooting death of a man named Jordan LeBeau. The actual shooter got 40 years, but Kevin Rice got 60 years - not for shooting the victim - but for not stopping the shooting.  (Argus)  

Meanwhile, financial crimes get a slap on the wrist. 5 years. 7.5 years.  You have to be Bernie Madoff to get a life sentence.  Otherwise...  Well, all those people shouldn't have trusted them, right?  We'll set up a payment plan.  And - sort of related - Smithfield Foods in Sioux Falls recently finally admitted to not doing enough to stop Covid back in the beginning, when 1,294 workers got Covid and 4 died - and paid a fine of $13,000.  This is around $10 a survivor OR $3,250 per death, which tells you how much a meat-packing plant worker's life is worth.  

Watch your backs, folks. There is no Eden, and even in Eden there was a snake.  Why not in South Dakota, where we talk like Mayberry, and act like Goodfellas?  God, I wish I was joking.




07 October 2021

Pandora's Box


Who Let the Dogs Out?


Last week was our Governor's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week, as the following stories broke wide open:

(1) Governor Noem's daughter flunked her appraiser's test so our Governor met with her daughter and the supervisor of the state employee who oversaw her application in a closed meeting. The result was that the daughter got her license and the employee was "encouraged" to retire. Gov. Noem has been tapdancing as if she's in a house infested with cockroaches trying to explain that none of this had anything to do with political pressure, just an attempt to "streamline" the process of becoming an appraiser, and "eliminate barriers to licensure". At least for her daughter. (AP News) (Meanwhile, someone on the appraisal board has since leaked that the daughter flunked her test 4 times, not once.)

(2) Corey Lewandowski. Read it all here: (The Bulwark; The Daily Beast) BTW, Ian Fury, Noem's official spokesperson, said “Corey was always a volunteer, never paid a dime (campaign or official)." To which I instantly responded, "So, you are saying that he did it for love."

(3) AG Ravnsborg (the one who hit a deer with glasses, remember?) has referred Noem’s use of the state plane for various things (private trips, campaigning for Trump, fundraising, etc.) over to Government Accountability Board for review. (Dakota News) Considering that Noem's been calling for Ravnsborg's impeachment / resignation (to be fair, so have we all), this may end up being filed under Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold.

And

(4) The Pandora Papers:


By now, you'd have to be under a rock not to have heard about the Pandora Papers, leaked documents from a coordinated, global investigation of how the wealthy and powerful store millions of dollars in secretive trust funds, leaked to the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and reported on by the Washington Post and other partners. Naturally, the state which leads the list in housing these very dicey funds is South Dakota.

"South Dakota now rivals notoriously opaque jurisdictions in Europe and the Caribbean in financial secrecy. Tens of billions of dollars from outside the United States are now sheltered by trust companies in Sioux Falls, some of it tied to people and companies accused of human rights abuses and other wrongdoing." (Washington Post)

Now I am proud to say that in one way, I actually broke this story, on SleuthSayers, back on June 20, 2012. It's just that no one listened. As the once and [probably] future AG Marty Jackley once told me, "Call me when there's a crime." To quote myself:

And the latest hot businesses are shelf corporations. These are entities that are created by lawyers incorporating a bunch of corporations that exist in name only—no assets, no employees, and no board members except the agent filling out the paperwork. (It’s sort of like the residency corporations, who have an owner and a person doing the mailings, and that’s it.) Anyway, if you want to start a business, you pay a fee to the incorporator, and you’ve got a corporation. And you the purchaser get complete anonymity. And no taxes. And no accountability. The following is a pitch from Corp95.com: https://corp95.com/

“South Dakota is one of the best kept secrets in the corporate formation world. The state has NO corporate income or franchise taxes. Their annual fees are minimal ($50 per year) and they allow for the most privacy of ownership than in any other state. South Dakota is a low key environment and does not require that its businesses maintain any physical presence in the State. Formation is fast and requires a minimum of personal information. You will pay no more and sometimes less than some of those states that claim to offer privacy but do not actually do so. Why form your company in a state that claims to have no taxes, but then charges high fees to compensate for this. South Dakota truly does offer the most privacy at a very reasonable ongoing fee. Call us at 800-859-6696 and let us provide you with the details for formation of your business entity in this friendly state.” The Wild West Continues (my emphasis)

Corp95 is still making the same pitch, and has been joined by a host of other sharks looking for chum.

But the whole thing started with the late, great[ly interesting] multi-elected Governor "Wild Bill" Janklow, who changed South Dakota law to allow all kinds of things that just weren't allowed in other states. For example, in the 1970s Citibank, which had invested heavily in credit cards, was going bankrupt what with high national interest rates. South Dakota was in a major recession. Citibank promised 400 jobs RIGHT NOW if Janklow abolished the "anti-usury" laws that South Dakota (and all other states) had, so he did - in a single day.*

Seeing the success of that repeal, Janklow went on to deregulate trusts. Back in the 17th century, 'judges fought back against a permanent aristocracy by creating the “rule against perpetuities”, which limited the duration of trusts to around a century, and prevented aristocratic families turning their local areas into mini-kingdoms. In 1983, Janklow abolished the rule against perpetuities and, from that moment on, property placed in trust in South Dakota would stay there for ever.'

“It’s a clean industry, there are no smokestacks, we don’t have to mine anything out of the earth or anything, and they’re generally good paying jobs,” said Tom Simmons, an expert on trust law at the University of South Dakota, when we chatted over coffee in central Sioux Falls. Alongside his academic work, Simmons is a member of South Dakota’s trust taskforce, which exists to maintain the competitiveness of the state’s trust industry. “Janklow was truly a genius in seeing this would be economic development with a very low cost to the government,” he said. (By “the government”, he of course means that of South Dakota, not that of the nation, other states or indeed other countries, which all lose out on the taxes that South Dakota helps people avoid.) The Guardian

Anyway, the ICIJ's and Washington Post's reporting focuses on two Sioux-Falls based trusts: Trident Trust, an international company that opened its Sioux Falls office in 2014, and the South Dakota Trust Co., created by a founding member of Janklow's task force in 2002.

Details from the Washington Post and ICIJ investigations include:
  • The family of Ecuadorian brothers William and Roberto Isaias created trusts with South Dakota Trust Co. in 2012, soon after the brothers were convicted of embezzling government bailout money for their failed bank. Their conviction was later overturned.
  • Family members of Carlos Morales Troncoso, the former vice president of the Dominican Republican, opened several trusts with Trident in 2019 that contain $14 million in personal wealth and shares of a sugar company. The company is "accused of human rights and labor abuses, including illegally bulldozing houses of impoverished families to expand plantations."
  • Federico Kong Vielman, a powerful businessman from Guatemala, moved $13.5 million to Trident 2016. His family is linked to a former dictator and gifted free hotel stays to a former Guatemalan president, likely in exchange for "political favors." U.S. labor officials have accused his family's palm oil company of underpaying workers and exposing them to toxic chemicals. U.S. environmental authorities later found the company released pollutants into a river and the issue was resolved in an arbitration panel.
  • Guillermo Lasso, president of Ecuador, opened two new trusts with Trident in 2017 after his country made it illegal for public officials to store assets in tax havens and as media reports questioned his interests in a bank in Panama.
  • José “Pepe” Douer Ambar, a businessman from Colombia, had a trust with Trident. He settled a case with the U.S. government after an investigation found he was involved with "a vast enterprise to sell drugs in the United States and launder the proceeds."
  • Horst Happel, a business leader from Brazil, created a trust with Trident in 2018. Happel settled a case with the Brazilian government after allegedly colluding to underpay local farmers. He also settled a case with the U.S. government after he allegedly violated limits on futures trading.
  • Christopher Pallanck was formerly married to Cleopatra Cameron, an oil heiress from California who put millions in a Trident trust. Pallanck was granted full custody of their children and Cameron was ordered to pay child support. Trident successfully argued to the South Dakota Supreme Court in a 2017 case that it didn't need to pay out the child support, SDPB previously reported.

"Trident told the Post it complies with all regulations and cooperates with authorities. South Dakota Trust Co. declined to comment on its individual clients but told the Post it exceeds review standards by screening clients for criminal activity and legal or regulatory concerns. Bret Afdahl, director of the South Dakota Division of Banking, told the Post that the state audits trust companies and can penalize firms that do not meet standards, such as confirming the identities of all customers. He said foreign clients and assets receive extra scrutiny." (NPR) (my emphasis)

HA HA HA HA!!! Remember Paul Erickson (former Vermillion, SD Republican operative) and Maria Butina (the Russian spy who loved him and the NRA)? They founded two LLCs which were obviously shelf corporations. Bridges LLC was set up in 2016, and Medora Consulting LLC in 2018 - both "located" in an apartment complex in Sioux Falls, both without any stated purpose or partners. But may well have been laundering money from Aleksandr Torshin and an as-yet unidentified Russian oligarch with a net worth Forbes estimated to be about $1.2 billion. (Vox) Nobody, as far as I know, ever checked into them.

Still it's all harmless, right? Just a place to park money, and it's their money, and someday I might win the lottery, so we need this, right?

"Well, here is an example from one academic paper on South Dakotan trusts: after 200 years, $1m placed in trust and growing tax-free at an annual rate of 6% will have become $136bn. After 300 years, it will have grown to $50.4tn. That is more than twice the current size of the US economy, and this trust will last for ever, assuming that society doesn’t collapse altogether under the weight of this ever-swelling leech.

"If the richest members of society are able to pass on their wealth tax-free to their heirs, in perpetuity, then they will keep getting richer than those of us who can’t. In fact, the tax rate for everyone else will probably have to rise, to make up for the shortfall caused by the wealthiest members of societies opting out, which will just make the problem worse. Eric Kades, the law professor at William & Mary Law School, thinks that South Dakota’s decision to abolish the rule against perpetuities for the short term benefit of its economy will prove to have been a long-term catastrophe. “In 50 or 100 years, it will turn out to have been an absolute disaster,” said Kades. “Now we’re going to have a bunch of wealthy families, and no one will be able to piss away that wealth, it will stay in the family for ever. This just locks in advantage.” (The Guardian)

And every year "the legislature passes an annual bill supporting the industry, following updates by a task force that holds unadvertised meetings to discuss trust laws around the world." Nice. (Dakota News Now)

And, of course, some South Dakotans are making money off of it. USD Law Professor Tom Simmons says “A lot of my students are working in the trust industry, they’re great jobs, they enjoy them and they are raising families in South Dakota, where otherwise they may have left." (Kelo-TV) Really? according to Republican State Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, 500 people are employed in South Dakota's mysterious trust industry, which is 0.1% of total SD employment. (And I'll bet most of them are administrative assistants making $25-40K.) There are also "Help Wanted" signs everywhere you turn in Sioux Falls, so I think 500 people could find other work in South Dakota as we get going with "BUST THE TRUST" slogans, signs, legislation…

But, but, but…

  1. This is a nice state, full of nice people, who would never do anything wrong;
  2. This is a nice state, full of nice people, who would never be so impolite as to raise a ruckus no matter what. (Most South Dakotans avoid conflict as if it were an unsedated colonscopy)
  3. This is a nice state, full of nice people, which is why we can have basically a one-party government with no accountability, no transparency, and no public access, because what could possibly go wrong?
  4. This is a nice state, full of nice people, but we're freaking broke (again), because we don't have a big labor force, we don't have any taxes (other than sales and property tax), and all the big money we get seems to go in other people's pockets or just freaking vanishes (EB-5, Gear Up, and probably a few of these secret trusts), so we have to get money from somewhere, and we just won't look into it too deeply BECAUSE
  1. This is a nice state, full of nice people, who would never do anything wrong. (Repeat on an endless loop.)

$50.00 a year, folks, and this too can be your dream LLC in South Dakota, where we talk like Mayberry, but act like Goodfellas.




*The elimination of usury laws led to the meteoric rise of T. Denny Sanford, who founded First Premier Bank, which made its name and its money on being one of the major subprime credit card providers (high interest - try 79.9% on a $300 credit limit in some cases - to those with low credit ratings ). Mr. Sanford, currently [semi-]retired, is the patron of Sanford Health (formerly Sioux Valley Hospitals & Health Systems), and much, much, much more.

26 August 2021

One Dark Night


Vanity Fair has done a damn good job of summing up the situation with regard to South Dakota's Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (pronounced Rounsberg), who on September 12, 2020, more or less at 10:22 PM, swerved over on the side of the road and hit what he is still claiming he thought was a deer.  Instead, it was a man:  Joseph Paul Boever.  Mr. Boever went flying into the air and into Ravnsborg's windshield, leaving his glasses in the front seat of Ravsnborg's car.  Which Ravnsborg never noticed until investigators told him about it. 

Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek came out after Ravnsborg's 911 call that night, checked the area over, found nothing, and then gave Ravnsborg a ride to his home. There he loaned the AG one of his personal vehicles to drive to Pierre. At no time that night did the sheriff give our AG a sobriety test. The next day an alcohol test showed no alcohol in Ravnsborg's system, which is exactly what you'd expect from a test given 15 hours later.  



(Above:  The Highmore Road at night.  BTW, the victim was carrying a lit flashlight.
Vanity Fair)  

Five months later, Ravnsborg was finally charged with 3 misdemeanors: careless driving, driving out of his lane and operating a motor vehicle while on his phone. Maximum sentence $500 fine each and 30 days in jail, and we all knew that there was no way he would ever, ever, ever serve a day in jail. The obvious thing to do was plead guilty, pay the fine and go on his merry way.  

But he wouldn't. And nobody in South Dakota has been able to figure out why.  

Instead, his attorneys - as you may remember - tried to defend the AG by saying that the victim was attempting to commit suicide by throwing himself in front of Ravnsborg's car. A number of people quickly pointed out that this plotline literally came straight from the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful, where a man threw himself in front of one of the heros in order to send him to prison for murder.  (Soap)  

And his trial started tomorrow.  Except!  Ravnsborg is going to take a plea deal tomorrow, according to his attorney, and put an end to the whole show.  (News)  So why now?  Why not before?  Who knows?  

But:  The gag order ends after the plea deal. Back in February, Governor Noem had called on Ravnsborg to resign and then the investigators' interviews with Ravnsborg were released by the South Dakota Department of Public Safety (undoubtedly with Noem's permission).  Ravnsborg's attorneys, understandably enough, were furious at this tainting of the pool, and got a gag order on any further information, interviews, evidence, that might be in the record. After the plea deal, all of that can come out in a tsunami.

And:  In 2022, Governor Noem and AG Ravnsborg's are up for reelection.  Marty Jackley, the former AG, has already announced his plans to run against Ravnsborg.  And I'm willing to slap a five on the table right now saying Jackley will win.  

Because:  Let's just say Ravnsborg doesn't have that many friends in South Dakota. Each and every one of us knows that he got special treatment all the way:
  • The Sheriff himself came out, and gave him a ride home, loaned him a car, and gave no alcohol test on the night of the crash.  
  • The investigation took almost 5 months, during which Ravnsborg was never arrested, booked, or had to post bail.  
  • Three misdemeanors.  Three misdemeanors.  Three misdemeanors.  There are people sitting in prison for vehicular manslaughter.  
(Yes, there are people who say, "Well, he's innocent until he's proven guilty", but if you ask them what would have happened if they'd hit a person and left them for dead, almost all say, "Oh, I'd be in jail.  If I was Native American, I'd be in prison right now."  We know how the deck is stacked.)

Also:  Boever's widow has filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit against Ravnsborg.  (See above about the tsunami of evidence waiting for the end of the gag order.)  (Argus)

Also:  There was a significant cry in last year's legislature for Ravnsborg's impeachment. But the result was a 57-11 vote to suspend further impeachment action until the criminal case against him is resolved.  Well...  

Meanwhile:  Right before Ravnsborg hit Boever, he'd been reading an article on a right-wing website about Biden and corruption and China.  The cell phone data proved that.  Now last I heard, you're not supposed to read while driving even if it is a dark night on a lonely road where you really don't expect anything but deer to be.  And we all know that.  So, from the very beginning, if Ravnsborg would have been willing to admit that he had been driving distracted, and missed seeing Boever on shoulder and hit him.  Or if he'd at least given a press conference at any time saying "I cannot express my sorrow and my heartbreak at the death of Mr. Boever.  It was not deliberate, it was a horrible accident, and I will always regret that night," etc. - if he'd done that, he just might have kept his reputation and his career.  But I think it's shot.  He ran away.  He kept his mouth shut.   He admitted nothing.  

All it takes is one dark night to ruin everything.  And Mr. Boever is still dead.



(Memorial on Highway 14 for Joseph Boever.
Vanity Fair)

24 September 2020

A Little Touch of Manslaughter


As you may or may not have heard, South Dakota has hit the national news a lot lately. 

  • Governor Kristi Noem has been talking regularly on Fox News, promoting South Dakota's freedoms, and is currently traveling around the upper Midwest to campaign for Trump.  (Fox News)
  • She has also been spending CARES money on ads around the country urging people to move to South Dakota, where "we respect your freedoms" and "We're open for business!"  (AP News)
  • We hosted the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August, where 460,000+ bikers came to a town of 7,000 and held one hell of a week-long party. The national COVID-19 repercussions are debated (Politifact) but I can tell you it's a fact that Meade County (Sturgis) went from 71 cases before Sturgis to 487 and counting (that's 1 out of every 14), and most of the other West River counties show large spikes as well.  (Pennington County - Rapid City, etc. - went from 942 cases to 2,091.)
  • We hosted the Sanford International golf tournament in Sioux Falls September 7-13th, which was the first golf tournament to allow spectators, and we can hardly WAIT until the COVID-19 figures come out from that.  (Argus Leader)  
  • As a result of all this stuff, South Dakota is in the top ten, and may still be the #1 hotspot for COVID-19 in the country for a couple of weeks now, thanks to a 10%+ positivity rate.  A popular response to Gov. Noem's "We're open for business!" ad slogan is, "And we're wide open for COVID!"  (Argus Leader) (NYTimes)
  • And, most recently, our Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg drove home from a GOP political event in Redfield, SD, and hit and killed a man walking along the shoulder of Highway 14, just west of Highmore, SD around 10:30 PM on Saturday, September 12th.  (NYTimes)


From the beginning, AG Ravnsborg has said that he thought he hit a deer.  This has been met with considerable skepticism and some derision here in the Mount Rushmore State, because everybody in SD has either missed or hit a deer at some point in their driving lives.  When we first moved up here, we asked why collision insurance was so expensive and mandatory - since we do have a low population / population density - and were told it was because of the deer.  We have a lot of deer.  


And to be purely informative, I must tell you that humans do not look like deer.  For one thing, we have fewer legs.  We also wear clothing, walk upright, and have arms that flail a lot as we soar through the air.  


Despite an on-going investigation, shrouded in secrecy for almost two weeks now, AG Ravnsborg put out a two-page statement (via his campaign office, on his official Attorney General letterhead, two days after the accident) about what happened. Since my fellow blogger Cory Heidelberger has posted, analyzed and summarized this and other aspects of the case, please check out his blog HERE. The following quotes, etc., are from Cory: 


Ravnsborg apparently views “ongoing investigation” as a conditional excuse for silence: he refuses to answer questions from the media out of “respect” for the “process” and a his desire to let investigators do their work “without any interference or appearance of impropriety on my part.” Yet he feels arguing his case in public, without cross-examination, does not interfere with the investigation at all.

Ravnsborg says he had drunk no alcohol Saturday night.

Ravnsborg fudges his story a bit, saying now that he initially thought the man he hit was “a large animal (likely a deer)”.

Note also the grammatical distancing: Ravnsborg says, “My vehicle struck something….” Making the subject of that sentence “my vehicle” instead of “I” is like saying “My firearm shot something” or “My pen wrote something.”

Ravnsborg says he stopped, called 9-1-1 immediately, and investigated the scene with Hyde County Sheriff Mike Volek. He and the sheriff saw no sign of the large animal they were looking for.

Ravnsborg reports his car was too damaged to drive safely. That level of damage suggests Ravnsborg was moving at a pretty good clip coming out of Highmore.

Ravnsborg says Sheriff Volek, who lives near the accident site, loaned him his personal vehicle to go back to Pierre. Ravnsborg brought the car back in the morning with his chief of staff and spokesman, Tim Bormann, to drive him back.

Ravnsborg says he and Bormann stopped at the accident site on the way to Sheriff Volek’s house. The debris from Ravnsborg’s car was still on the road. Ravnsborg and Bormann walked the shoulder and “discovered the body of Mr. Boever in the grass just off the roadway. My chief of staff and I checked and it was apparent that Mr. Boever was deceased.”

“Just off the roadway”—that’s a key detail. The victim was not thrown far away from the road into the beanfield. The grass in the ditch was not high: Boever had hit a hay bale in that ditch with his truck earlier Saturday; a KSFY photo also shows a bale in the ditch, indicating the ditch had been recently mowed. The body does not seem to have been hidden by vegetation.

Ravnsborg drove to Sheriff Volek’s house immediately to tell him they’d found a dead man. The Sheriff came back to the site with Ravnsborg and asked him to go back to Pierre.

An investigation suddenly graduates from car-deer accident to human fatality, and the sheriff on the scene tells the suspect apparently responsible for the death to leave the county?

Interesting... Very interesting... But coming from the state that has given us two big juicy scandals (EB-5 and GearUp!), well, anything's possible.

Meanwhile, KELO-TV has a photo of the car Ravnsborg was driving (Kelo-TV). The windshield is almost gone on the passenger side.

Meanwhile, of course some people are already blaming the victim for taking a walk at night on a rural road.  (See Here)  (The writer of this is a GOP State Legislator.  Politics is EVERYWHERE.)  
My response:  Why Boever took a walk is totally irrelevant. The last I heard, this is South Dakota, in the United States of America, and each and every one of us have the right to take a walk whenever and wherever we want as long as we're not trespassing. Unlit, rural highways are a really excellent place to see the stars, for one thing. For another, he might well have wanted to get something he forgot out of his truck. And finally, his mental condition, history of alcoholism, or anything else is irrelevant. He was the victim, not the driver. It is the driver's responsibility to explain why he hit and killed a human being. QUIT BLAMING THE VICTIM. Someday it might be your cousin lying by the side of a road, dead, while someone else says, "well, what were they wearing?" 


Meanwhile, this is the victim's cousin (SD State Legislator Nick Nemec) on going to the accident scene (KELO):

At the time the brakes were applied (clearly visible due to tire skid marks) the right hand tires of the car were well onto the shoulder of the road. This stretch of US14 has wide paved shoulders with rumble strips at the white line.

I stepped off the tire skid marks and they went on for over 200 feet before there were two parallel blood skid marks on the paved shoulder. This first blood marks were about 6″ wide and 6′-8′ long.

There was then a skip for about 20 feet before a wider blood skid mark closer to the edge of the shoulder that was about 1′ wide and 20′ long. There was then another skip of about 20′ until a dried pool of blood in the grass on the edge of the road. 

The pool of blood was 2′ from the edge of the pavement (I measured with a tape measure) the grass here had been mowed late this summer and had regrown to 8″ tall (I measured it). This was the very edge of the grass and the ground was nearly level with the shoulder of the road at this point, the ditch slope had not really begun yet. Black flies were buzzing in the air just above the blood pool.

As I stood there a flatbed truck drove by carrying a red Ford Taurus with a huge hole in the passenger side of the windshield. The truck turned into the SD DOT yard near the speed limit sign and drove into the shop and the overhead door quickly closed. Highway patrolmen and other authority figures immediately surrounded my vehicle as I drove up to the building and parked. I requested permission to photograph the windshield of the vehicle and was denied...

I saw traffic cones marking stuff and new paint marks of a different color on the road. I don’t know how long the road was reduced to one lane but a friend told my brother Victor that FBI agents were seen on the scene later that afternoon.” 

I will, at this point, allow you all to consider all the clues that are given as to what happened and make your own pre-investigation report conclusions.  Personally, my view is that - with his consistent statement that he thought he hit a deer, and the body was not discovered until the next day - there is no way that AG Ravsnborg could have been looking at the road at the time of impact.  Texting?  Nodding off?  Distracted by something else?  

Updates will follow as they're released from South Dakota, where we talk like Mayberry and act like Goodfellas.  And sometimes we just BS all over the place.  




04 June 2020

Roadkill


I had another blog all written out for this week, about the death of George Floyd, the ongoing protests, peaceful and those that morphed into riots, the government's reaction, etc. And it was pretty good. But other people have said it better.

In fact, I summed up pretty much all I had to say about protests and powerlessness in an earlier blog, which you can read here: https://www.sleuthsayers.org/2014/12/absolute-powerlessness.html

So instead, I want to talk about roadkill.

We've all seen it, every day. Some of it's so old it's easy to ignore - just a stain on the road. Deer carcasses last longer. It used to be that either the person who hit the deer would take it home and eat it, or the knacker man would come by and pick up dead carcasses, but now they lie there and rot for a long time. Deer and possums, skunks and raccoons, cats and dogs, squirrels, snakes and turtles.

Of course, some animals are very hard to avoid. Squirrels, as most of us know, are adrenaline junkies if not downright suicidal. They race back and forth across the road, and sometimes, just as you think you've managed to avoid the damn thing, it races back right under your wheels. I've killed a few squirrels in my day.

And we've all seen deer leaping across a road at night, in some frenzied attempt to get somewhere. When we moved up to South Dakota, back in 1990, we naively asked why we needed auto collision insurance, forgetting that young guns get drunk and drive fast everywhere. And old farmers: well, there you are, doing the legal limit of 55, and instead of waiting for you to zoom by, they pull out in front of you doing 20. I've stood on my brakes many a time. Anyway, we were told that up to 50% of all collisions in SD were with deer. Sort of like with moose up in Alaska, Maine, etc.



So far, I've been lucky and haven't hit a deer. But I do have a friend who hit a cow, at night, at a speed that caused the cow to ride up the car hood, through the windshield, and partly on him. He ended up with long lines of stitches on his face that would gain him street-cred in prison if he ever had to go there. Whenever anyone asked him about it, he'd always growl, "Yeah, but you should see the cow."

Meanwhile, I always wonder about the cats and dogs and other smaller mammals. Accidents or on purpose? You'd have to have been there, I guess.

But I know about turtles. That's on purpose. You can always miss a turtle. They do not - I repeat - do not move quickly. I've been behind too many trucks and seen them deliberately swerve in order to hit the turtle.

A 1996 study done in Ontario, Canada, noted that a lot of reptiles were killed where vehicles usually don't drive, i.e., the side of the road, the median strip - in other words, it was done on purpose. So in 2007, they set up a research study using reptile decoys of snakes and turtles. The found that 2.7% of drivers intentionally hit they decoys, "speeding up and positioning their vehicles to hit them". And (sadly) male drivers did this more often than female drivers. "On a more compassionate note, 3.4% of male drivers and 3% of female drivers stopped to rescue the reptile decoys." (Wikipedia)

BTW, I'm one of the drivers who stop to pick up turtles and move them out of the way. They have a tendency to express their gratitude all over my feet, but hey, that's the way it goes. If an alien ever picks me up and carries me across a road, I'll probably be expressing fluid gratitude myself.

In most Native American cultures, turtles represent "healing, wisdom, spirituality, health, safety, longevity, protection, and fertility. Some Native Americans believe that the turtle contributed to creation because the turtle dove into the primeval waters to retrieve mud to create Mother Earth. Additionally, the shell of the turtle represents protection and perseverance... Lakóta mothers make a leather amulet shaped like a kéya (Lakóta for turtle) for their newborn babies. Within, they place their child’s umbilical cord and sew them closed for protection. The amulet keeps the child grounded and connected to its mother and Uncí Maká [Mother Earth]." (Native Hope)


Why would someone deliberately swerve to hit a turtle? Smash its back, leave it splayed out and broken and bloody and drive on? I don't understand it, but I know why they do it: 

Because they wanted to kill it. Because they wanted to kill something.

And I know something else: I don't want a person who would kill a turtle anywhere near me. I don't want them in my family. I don't want them in my place of employment. I would not hire or recommend them for any job. Especially for a job in law enforcement of any kind, whether as a police officer, corrections officer, border patrol officer, etc., etc., etc.

Because they like to kill things.

Maybe we need a new question on job applications:

"When I see a turtle by the side of the road, I ____"

There are a lot of scavengers in the world - coyotes, jackals, vultures, maggots, blowflies - that come out of nowhere and grab and loot whatever they can. And in times of protests and riots, they get all the attention, because - and this is just the brutal truth - in this country (and many others) property gets a whole lot more respect than people, especially the poor or minorities. "When the looting starts, the shooting starts" was said in 1967 by Miami Police Chief Walter Headley, in 1968 by presidential candidate George Corley Wallace at a campaign rally, and a few days ago by President Donald Trump. Meanwhile, not a lot is said about the systematic looting of our money and property by corporations and the wealthy through tax breaks, tax shelters, special rules, deregulation, and the highly under-reported and frequently used eminent domain (for dams, condos, fracking, pipelines, border walls, shopping malls, golf courses, etc.) See: Wikipedia and also see 7 Maddening Examples.

Scavengers - of all kinds - aren't good.

But you know something? Scavengers only show up after the killers have done their work. "Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather." (Matthew 24:28)

15 August 2019

You Can't Make This Stuff Up


by Eve Fisher

Let's start off with the case of Stephen Jennings of Oklahoma, who (along with passenger Rachel Rivera) was arrested after a traffic stop by Oklahoma police and was found to be driving a stolen car, on a suspended license, with a unlicensed handgun, a live rattlesnake, a canister of powdered radioactive yellow uranium, and an open bottle of Kentucky Deluxe whiskey.  Oh, the questions we could ask!  Was he on his way to make the world's first nuclear rattler?  Was the rattlesnake getting his fair share of the whiskey?  Will some brilliant lawyer claim that the whole adventure was the rattlesnake's idea?  That the rattlesnake provided the uranium?  As The Week implied, have the Coen brothers been out-Coened?  (Oklahoma's News)

Meanwhile, there's the guy who took out a full page ad in USA Today on 7/25/19, with the solution to the Great Climate Change Hoax, which involves the law of force, the moon and a $20 billion check.  They must have some money - a full page ad doesn't come cheap - but what they heck, you have to spend money to make money.  Don't believe me?  Read 'em and weep:


If anyone one out there is brave enough to actually tackle the e-mail, phone number, M&M Co., Ltd. (my bet is that they're NOT the candy makers), let me know what's there. 

Now I've seen crazy full-page ads before, mostly because in small towns, a full-page ad in the local newspaper can come pretty cheap.  (NOTE:  Free speech is not always free, but it can always be made more inexpensive.)  This allows a wide range of alternative realities to be presented to us, the reading public, and up here in South Dakota, I've read some pretty strange stuff.  My favorites are the Sovereign Citizen sales pitches calling for everyone to sign up for their Government ID card which allows you to ignore the laws of the false United States with impunity.  BTW, these are actually fairly pricey, especially since no one shows up to help out at the [inevitable] trial after they're used.  But I've never seen an ad that asks for $20 Billion flat out with an apparent expectation that someone will cough it up.

On a lesser note, a guy in Longmont, CO, decided to fix his missing tail light with a red sports drink.  (Source)

Two stories that recently infuriated me were:
Trump administration reauthorizes use of 'cyanide bombs' to kill wild animals  (Read article HERE)
Trump administration weakens the Endangered Species Act (NYTimes)

Apparently we just aren't killing enough wildlife, fast enough, in the United States.  But God knows we tried up here in South Dakota, thanks to Governor Noem's own personal initiative, the Predator Bounty Program, which allowed state residents to go out and kill all those animals which might be eating pheasant eggs or otherwise disrupting the great Pheasant Hunting Season which God knows is a huge money-maker up here.  And get paid for it at $10.00 a tail!

Did I mention that our South Dakota pheasants are Chinese ring-necked pheasants, which are not native to South Dakota?

Anyway, to preserve these Chinese immigrants from natural predators, the Governor decreed that certain nest predators (i.e., they eat eggs) must be destroyed: raccoons, striped skunks, badgers, opossums, and red fox, all of which are native to South Dakota. The bounty season was from April 1-August 12, 2019.
South Dakota Game, Fish, Parks Logo

Did I mention that opossums eat 5,000 ticks a day, and are a major soldier in the battle against spreading Lyme disease?

Anyway, to prove that someone had killed them, and not just picked up road kill, they had to bring in the tails, and including bone, etc.  (The directions were grisly.)  And the animals had to be "harvested" with a trap.  (Speaking of traps, they were built by the inmates at the South Dakota State Penitentiary, labor costs 25 cents an hour, which is why the State could give away the traps for free.)

The really grisly part, to many of us, is how the capturing of an animal in a trap, killing it in cold blood, and then sawing off its tail, was been presented as good old fashioned family fun. While I am not going to post the pictures of Governor Noem's children -  one with a terrified live raccoon in a trap, and then one with the same, now-dead raccoon on top of it - you can find them posted proudly on her official Governor Kristi Noem Facebook site, April 6, 2019 with the following blurb:
"Love seeing kids this excited about being outside!! Our nest predator bounty program launched this week, and we’re seeing great results. Let’s get kids away from the x-box and out with the live box! To learn more about the nest predator bounty program, check out gfp.sd.gov/nest-predator-id/."
Apparently Governor Noem hasn't heard about the studies that have shown that kids who torture and kill small animals are prone to... unpleasant behavior... later on in life. 

Thankfully, the Program closed on Monday, August 12th, "after receiving 50,000 nest predator tails from nearly 3,000 participants.  The bulk of submissions came from raccoon tails at 37,720 followed by the submission of 5,529 skunk tails."  (KotaTV)  This means the State of South Dakota paid out $500,000.  That's a lot of money for something that most environmentalists, scientists, and even members of the Game, Fish & Parks don't think is going to do anything but increase the wild rodent population.  And wild rodents eat eggs, too.

Okay, everyone, let's get calm.  Deep breaths. 

Here is our Picture of the week, your Moment of Zen:



Bear watching sunrise from hotel in New Hampshire.  Who knew they had that kind of vacation money?  (White Mountains)

Meanwhile, I'm recovering steadily from my hernia surgery, and I will spare everyone the grotty details of what hurt where, when, how, etc.  I will only say that, because I had a laprascopic/robotic procedure done, I look as if someone took a very large three-tined fork and stuck it in my stomach to see if I was done.  I had a great surgeon.  A great home care nurse in my husband, Allan.  And I cleared my calendar of everything for 2 weeks.  Life is pretty sweet sometimes.  Especially when you have Medicare!  Huzzah!





28 March 2019

Florida Man


In case you haven't heard, there's a Florida Man Contest out there, where you Google "Florida Man" for your birthday or some such date and see what comes up.  Jack Holmes at Esquire provides quite a list: FLORIDA MAN 2015.   But every state has its own crazies.  So I thought I'd add a few from South Dakota to the mix.  Only one of these is not a true story!
Florida Man Covers Himself in Ashes, Says He's a 400-Year-Old Indian, Crashes Stolen Car

Florida Man Puts Dragon Lizard in His Mouth, Smacks People with It

Dakota Man Known for Exposing Himself, Takes His Talent to Florida

Florida Man Killed 5 Gators, Ate Them for Super Bowl Dinner

Drunk, Machete-Wielding Florida Man Chases Neighbor on Lawnmower

Ride Naked, Ride Quiet, Ride An Indian [to Sturgis, SD]

Florida Man Tries to Sell 3 Iguanas Taped to His Bike to Passersby as Dinner

Florida Man on Bath Salts Head-Butts Car, Slaps Fire Chief

South Dakota Man Sentenced for killing Bald Eagle in Nebraska.

Drunk, High Florida Men Post Video to Facebook of Themselves Driving Around at 3 AM with Wounded, Possibly Endangered Owl

Aliens Converge on Sioux Falls, SD.

SD Breastfeeding Bandit Sneaks Into Home and Suckles Stranger's Baby

Florida Man Impersonating a Police Officer Pulls Over Real Cops

Florida Man Advertises "Legit Counterfeit $" on Craigslist, Is Arrested


South Dakota Man Gets $190 Fine for Snake Without a Leash

Florida Man Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn to Demand Campaign Finance Reform, Is Arrested

South Dakota Man Sues Over Burst Exercise Ball

Florida Man High on Meth Jumps on Strangers' Cars, Surfs Them

Florida Man Interested in Getting Tased Runs Through Airport in Underwear Waiving Nunchucks


Identical Twin Florida Men Arrested After Getting in Brick Fight

Florida Man Arrested for Grand Theft After Trying to Walk Out of Store with AK-47s Stuffed Down His Pants

82-Year-Old Florida Man Slashes 88-Year-Old Florida Woman's Tires with an Ice Pick for Taking His Seat at Bingo

Florida Man Dances on Top of Police Cruiser to Ward Off Vampires

Clark, SD, Home to World Famous Mashed Potato Wrestling Contest

Florida Man Rips Hole in Store Ceiling, Steals More Than 70 Guns, Flees on 3-Wheel Bicycle

Florida Man Dressed as Pirate Arrested for Firing Musket at Passing Cars

Doing Black Hair at Home No Longer Illegal in South Dakota

Florida Man Steals Operating Table from Hospital

Florida Man Steals $2 Million in Legos

Crack-Smoking Florida Man Drinks Capri Sun to Rehydrate During Police Chase

Florida Man's Fishing Trip Interrupts Weather Report

SD man stuck in tree bites firefighter during rescue.

Florida Man Flees Library on Scooter After Smelling Woman's Feet

Dakota Man Accused of Stripping, Getting Into Holy Water Fountain

Florida Man on the Lam Butt Dials 911, Is Arrested

Dakota Man Found Asleep in Truck in Miami With an Arsenal of Guns

Florida Man Too Drunk to Be Honored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Florida Man Catches Shark That Bit Him, Pledges to Eat It

Florida Man Crawls into Cracker Barrel Bathroom Stall to Proposition Occupant for Sex

Florida Man Crashes Car into Business While Trying to Time Travel




I'll post the answer to which one is fake in the comments section later.

Enjoy!

06 December 2018

A Corporate Christmas Carol


It's December, and we've had a lot of news to deal with over the last year, so some things have just gone under the radar.  But it's time to let some of those rats out of the woodwork, and the current scene with nursing homes around the country - including 19 of them here in South Dakota - has enough rats to kill every cat in the country.  That and make Ebenezer Scrooge wonder why he ever listened to the Ghost of Christmas Future when there was money to be made out of starving old folks.

Now I'll admit, I'm fascinated by nursing homes.  My parents lived in a massive retirement center complex in Knoxville, TN, that allowed you to buy a house, then a town home, then an apartment, get assisted living, and then go to their nursing home premises. For ten years, I spent my vacation visiting them and living on-site, and I always found it somewhere between fascinating and scary as hell.  And yes, I've set a few stories in that milieu.  A lot can happen in retirement centers and nursing homes.  In fact, the same things happen there as happen among any other group of people.  Just cause you're old doesn't mean you haven't stopped working on your life, for good or ill.  But it's better when the crazy stuff happens at the instigation of the residents, and not come down from on high.

Back in May, 19 nursing home facilities were going bust in South Dakota, thanks to their (mis)management by Skyline Healthcare of New Jersey. Skyline had gone on a nursing home buying binge between 2015-17:  110 nursing homes in six states at bargain prices, mostly from Golden Living, a large national chain that was sued by the Pennsylvania attorney general in 2015 for providing poor care. Golden Living wanted to lease out a lot of its nursing homes, and Skyline gladly took them over. 

This is the picture you get when you Google
Skyline Healthcare
Now here's one of the problems:  Skyline Healthcare was and isn't a large corporation with the kind of bucks to run 110+ nursing homes. Instead, it's owned by a single family, the Schwartzes (Joseph, Rosie, Michael and Louis), and nursing home industry watchers used to joke about the fact that their office was above a pizza joint in Wood-Ridge, N.J.  

But it wasn't so funny when Skyline quit paying the bills to, among others, nursing home vendor Health Care Services Group in Pennsylvania for housekeeping, laundry and dining and nutrition services. Then they stopped paying in Massachusetts, Florida, Arkansas, Kansas, and most lately, South Dakota. (Kansas City News
According to the complaint argued by Pierre attorney Margo Northrup, Skyline did not pay bills for the facilities, including from vendors and employee salaries. More seriously, “there are hundreds of patients currently residing at the (nursing facilities) who receive varying levels of care and whose health and safety have been put directly at risk by Defendants’ many defaults,” according to the complaint. On April 26, Skyline, the defendants, notified the state health department “that they no longer had sufficient funds to purchase food for the patients.” (Capital Journal)
The former Golden Living Nursing Home in Madison, SD
The result is all the Skyline nursing homes were put in receivership, and most of them are going to close. Where do the residents go? God only knows.

What the hell was the deal? Well, apparently Skyline Healthcare was a classic example of buy, gut, and sell - or outright abandon. And none of the sellers - Golden Living, among them, apparently bothered to check the Better Business Bureau ratings (D+, and God only knows how they got that) or their employee reviews (HERE).   So Skyline Healthcare bought the nursing homes using borrowed money, hosed up all the money in the nursing homes' accounts to repay their debt (and pay themselves, and their investors, of course), and then dumped the nursing homes.  And leaving the residents holding nothing but eviction notes.

And - WARNING, WARNING, WARNING! - this appears to be a (relatively) new trend in elderly care. Witness this article from The Washington Post. Back in 2011, The Carlyle Group bought the ManorCare nursing-home chain - the second-largest nursing-home chain in the United States. The financial deal "extracted $1.3 billion from the [ManorCare] company for investors... Shortly after the maneuver, the company announced hundreds of layoffs. In a little over a year, some nursing homes were not making enough to pay rent. Over the next several years, cost-cutting programs followed, according to financial statements obtained by The Post."

Among those costs were staff, utilities, rent, and patient care:
"The number of health-code violations found at the chain each year rose 26 percent between 2013 and 2017, according to a Post review of 230 of the chain’s retirement homes. Over that period, the yearly number of health-code violations at company nursing homes rose from 1,584 to almost 2,000. The number of citations increased for, among other things, neither preventing nor treating bed sores; medication errors; not providing proper care for people who need special services such as injections, colostomies and prostheses; and not assisting patients with eating and personal hygiene." (The Washington Post


The Carlyle Group is disputing all of these claims.  But the result was bankruptcy and sale, this time to non-profit ProMedica Health.

The Washington Post points out that private-equity firms have been moving - like sharks - into businesses serving some of the nation’s poorest or most vulnerable people, including payday lenders, nursing homes, bail bond providers, low-income homes for rental and prison phone services.

"Ludovic Phalippou, a professor at Oxford who wrote the textbook “Private Equity Laid Bare,” says it is a question of whether private-equity methods are appropriate in all fields. He has praised the ability of private equity to streamline companies but he has also described the firms’ approach as “capitalism on steroids.” (my emphasis)  He said, for example, that while private-equity ownership of nursing homes is accepted in the United States, people in some other countries would be “aghast” at the idea. “People will wonder whether this pure capitalism is appropriate in nursing homes,” Phalippou said. “The health and welfare of the old people who live there depend on them.” (The Washington Post)

But who cares about health and welfare?  That's so oldfashioned!  From The New Yorker:
Ron Shaich, founder of Panera Bread
"Wall Street has embraced the idea that companies exist solely to serve the holders of their stock. Under this way of thinking, managers of companies should focus their actions on driving short-term value for their shareholders, and should pay far less (or no) regard to other constituents who may have a stake in the business, such as employees, customers, or members of the community. [Ron] Shaich... believes that the fixation on short-term profits is jeopardizing the future of American business, and creating social instability that has contributed to our current state of political polarization."

And adding to the fears and worries of a lot of elderly people in nursing homes who literally have nowhere else to go.  Up here in South Dakota, there were 111 nursing homes, so closing 19 of them is taking away 17% of all the nursing homes in this state.  There aren't enough beds left in this state to take all the residents.  Where is Granny going to go for Christmas, this year, anyway?   Does anybody care? 







25 October 2018

October Chills


It's October in South Dakota, and the leaves are turning, where they're not just being whipped off the trees by bellowing winds.  It's pheasant season, so there are a lot of people in camouflage, carrying weapons, running around.  At least, I hope they're pheasant hunters.  Play safe, boys, and remember that pheasants are pretty dumb and pretty skittish!
It's also election season, and if I see one more political ad, it will be too late.  If I were god-empress of the universe, I'd ban them all.  For one thing, they cost a fortune, millions are being spent that could go to something useful, like education, or perhaps putting a few more poverty-level full-time employees (like teachers) back on Medicaid, now that the last shreds of the ACA is being gutted like a fish.

As a freeze-dried hippie liberal, I've been just standing in shock when I hear the President of the United States declare that we are all "radical socialists, Venezuela, open borders, the party of crime."  (Washington Examiner)  And then there's the Future45 (dark money super pac) "Any Democrat" ad runs every single morning on the national news, claiming that voting for "any Democrat" will lead to "screaming, violence, smears, and death threats..." if anyone votes for any Democrat.  Really?  As Bette Midler said, "What do they think we're gonna do, attack them with our PBS gift bags?"


Meanwhile, as of this very morning (October 24, 2018), there have been explosive devices mailed to the homes of George Soros, Bill and Hilary Clinton, and former President Barack Obama, as well John Brennan at the offices of CNN and Maxine Waters at her offices.  (New York Times)  Since I do not believe for one second that these bombs were manufactured and sent by liberal operatives, my question is,
"Has the Republican base been ginned up enough yet?"  
Or do we have to have another Charlottesville, this time with more victims?

Meanwhile, our South Dakota gubernatorial race has hit the national news, because for the first time in forty years, there's a viable Democratic candidate. Billie Sutton (D) is running against Kristi Noem (R) and they both look good on a horse:

  Image result for kristi noem on horseback 
Noem retweets hubby's crop insurance biz 2016-05-30.
(In fact in one ad, Sutton had his whole family up and riding the ranch.)  They're both ranchers, they've both served for years in the South Dakota legislature, and Noem, of course, more recently was our Representative to the US Congress.

Sutton also has a strong personal story:  a professional rodeo rider in his young days (top 30 worldwide), in 2007, a horse flipped upside down on top of him in a chute, paralyzing him from the waist down.  Even though he's in a wheelchair for life (he rides in a special saddle) he still ranches, still rides, still works.  He is also an investment counselor.

Noem's husband owns and operates Noem Insurance, which sells federally subsidized crop insurance (see Rep. Noem's interesting retweet on the right, put out on her Congressional feed).  Kristi's family farm - the Racota Valley Ranch, still hosts fishers and hunters - pheasant, turkey and waterfowl - with a lodge and bunkhouse.

Disclaimer:  I have never voted for Kristi Noem, who has consistently voted against authorizing and reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, for a variety of non-reasons.  (Dakota Free Press and its links)

Meanwhile, November 6th - election day!  And even better, November 7th - no more political ads!

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