No broadband in Rural America? Really?

I was surfing this morning a tripped over this article from The Center for Rural Affairs. The headline states “More than half of all rural Americans lack fast, reliable broadband internet connections.”

Here’s the link:

It talks about how more and more farmers are getting on line and then bemoans the fact they can’t get high speed internet. While I certainly agree that more and more farms are connecting, I could not disagree more with the the connectivity issue.

To state my case, I will speak from experience. I live in rural South Dakota. The population density in my county is under five persons per square mile. Considering about 40% of that population lives in the county seat, it makes things pretty quiet out here. My township population density is about two persons per square mile.

I not only have broadband connectivity, I have five choices for providers (six, if you want to include my smart phone as a mobile hot-spot). This is for a guy who lives 16 miles from the closest town (population 108).

My current provider (Northern Wireless Communications) uses an ingenious system of towers, roof top antennas and up-links to provide me 15Mbps + service. My land-line phone company (Venture Communications Cooperative) also has high speed internet through a recently installed fiber optic network. I have three additional satellite choices Hughesnet, Dish and DirecTV). There might be more. I am only aware of these because of their advertising.

So, to say rural America does not have access to high speed internet is not taking into account all the options. Many of the studies I have seen on this subject only consider hard wired (or fiber) connections. They do not include satellite communications.

Be careful with these blanket assumptions. My friend Ben Winchester of the University of of Minnesota Extension, coined a term, “Anecdata”. Here’s the definition as best as I can remember it, “Information which is presented as if it is the result of serious research, but which is actually based purely on what someone believes is true.”

There are a good many of these anecdotal untruths around us today and rural America having no access to broadband is simply another one.

Rick Skorupski is a writer and author living in Northeast South Dakota.

Published in: on August 26, 2015 at 9:08 am  Comments (1)  

Remember last year?

I distinctly remember this first day of February last year. It was in the middle of my “winter of discontent”. The temperature on the High Plains went below zero just before Christmas and when we got tired of that, it got colder.

January seemed to never end. It continued, day after miserable cold day, while our weathermen and women kept talking about the Polar Vortex. This was was the first time the furnace could not keep up. On many days I had roaring fire in the wood stove and the furnace on just to stay “room temperature”. I remember distinctly posting on Facebook, “Aren’t you glad there is no such thing as January thirty second?”

January last year set records for cold all over North America, Europe and the northern tier of Russia. There were natural gas shortages in Europe as well as propane shortages in the US Midwest. There were stories of Orange crop failure from ice as far south as central Florida.

Yes, we were all glad to see January of 2014 come to an end. There was an end to the misery on the horizon. Little did we know this Polar pattern would last four more long months into mid May.

Oh, wait a minute… Our President said in his speech that last year was the warmest on record. I must be wrong. I must have dreamed it. I must have imagined writing that check to my plumber for the repair of frozen pipes. How can this be? How can I be so wrong? My President wouldn’t lie to me. He, after all, is smarter than I am. I have to be mistaken. He must be right, He’s our President. He is the smartest president in decades.

I can only conclude that the proper scientific method is to ignore the highly accurate satellite temperature measuring data, then cherry pick ground sites with dubious reliability and jink those numbers to get a rise of .02 degrees (inside the margin of error of .1 degrees) and therefore conclude that the year that held “the winter of my discontent” and the summer that was too cool for swimming was, in fact, the warmest year on record.

If I did those kind of calculations with my bank account I’d be in jail.

So where do we military retirees go from here?

On this first day of 2015 I thought I would like to toss around an idea.

Once upon a time (when I was naive enough to believe a government agency could actually successfully perform its primary mission), I suggested to my Congresswoman that the retired military medical (along with the associated expenses and funding) should be moved to the VA and out of the DOD. That would free up the DOD to work on killing people and breaking things (their primary mission) and no longer have the drain of our medical care.

One of the VA’s primary functions is to provide medical care to Veterans. Since that is what they are set up to do, they would then get the dollars and the people to do the job.

To me, this looked like a win – win.

Like I said, that back when I was naive enough to believe the VA actually did their job. Then came the stories of VA Phoenix where people were dying waiting for an appointment. Stories about VA employees and administrators lying on records to hide their mismanagement. AND then those people getting bonuses and promotions even after the facts came out.

Now I am at a loss as to what to suggest. We who are retired military are the bastard step children of the DOD. Our medical expenses and pensions are a direct drain on their weapons building and people building ability. We are a pain in their butt, frankly. I can understand that. We need to get out from the DOD funding umbrella if we are to keep any of what little we have left of the broken promises.

VA isn’t the answer. What is? I would hate to see a new government agency start up to do this, at the same time I don’t see outsourcing as the answer.

What are your thoughts?

If we stay where we are, what we have will continue to erode as the DOD tries to comply with force needs in a climate of smaller budgets. If we go to the VA, we may not live to tell the tale.

By he way, I have nothing but good to say about the VA in South Dakota. I don’t deal with them often (annual physicals – eye tests, hearing tests and the like), but every experience has been a painless one.

Published in: on January 1, 2015 at 10:25 am  Leave a Comment  
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The riots, Ebola, Squeaky Fromme, the click and the Hand of God

I know it is a strange title but I think they all connect. I’ll start by telling a short story about tipping points. The year was 1975. The first appointed (spelled unelected) President of the United States (Gerald Ford) had chosen the second (appointed and unelected) Vice President (Nelson Rockefeller) the previous year.
For some, it was somewhat disconcerting to have the brother of David Rockefeller, arguably the man holding the world’s purse strings, sitting in the co-pilot seat of the most powerful man in the free world.

Along comes Squeaky Fromme and her Colt M1911 handgun. She pointed it at Ford and – click. Nothing happened. It turned out later that though she had rounds in the magazine, the chamber was empty. Click – Nelson Rockefeller never became President and thereby could not bring forth what ever diabolical plot the conspiracy theorists thought was afoot. Click – Ford continued as President tripping down air stairs and beaning people with golf balls.
Was it simply a mistake on the part of Fromme? Was it, as she said, an intentional act to aim and not fire? Was it the Hand of God preventing this nation from going past the tipping point?

Fast forward to this year.

We have had an economic collapse (called a correction) in the stock market. Click – The economy didn’t follow the lead and business went on as usual.

We have had an Ebola outbreak in West Africa, yet we don’t secure ourselves from the danger. In fact, we even bring the virus into the country and let it roam around unheeded and unchecked for days. Click – Despite the ease it is transmitted, the disease didn’t spread.

When the Grand Jury in Ferguson, Missouri came back with a decision in favor of Mr. Wilson. People gathered in that town and started a violent demonstration. It was an outburst of anger that destroyed several buildings but, thankfully didn’t kill anyone. At the same time there were people organizing demonstrations in several major cities around the county. The goal, some say, was to have them spin out of control and cause national unrest. This kind of unrest would result in Marshal Law and bring our nation fully into a police state. Well, the other demonstrations were few and never really amounted to much. Those that were held, were peaceful. Click – No nationwide rioting.

We again are very close to a tipping point. The United Sates of America is teetering on the edge of extinction (at least as we know it). There are powers on both sides of this debate that want to see the tip and want to see it fall in their direction.

Click – Something is stopping it. Believe what you will and say what you will. For me, I will continue to pray for my country.


We have been having this national conversation about just what the definition of marriage should be. Sometimes that conversation gets quite heated. This conversation has been going on for years in homes, in classrooms around the water cooler and in the taverns. It has also been discussed judges’ chambers, in State Legislatures, in the National Legislature and even in the White House.

There are many opinions. I have mine. Those who know me can guess where I am on thus issue. BUT that is not the topic I want to talk about this morning, so I’ll leave that alone for now.

I want to ask a different question:

Simply put, Why do I need the permission of government to marry? Who decided that? If I want to join in matrimony with my significant other, why do I have to ask my government for permission?

If two consenting adults want to make a binding contract merging their lives and assets together, why do they need the State’s sanction. A contract is a contract. Let’s let it be that.

I say the answer to same sex marriage, opposite sex marriage should be an individual answer and an individual decision.

If I were in the state legislature I would propose a bill that simply states, “As of Jan 1 (pick a year), the state of (your state here) will no longer record or require the recording of marital records. Counties and municipalities will from that date no longer record such events.”

That takes the argument out of the courts and the halls of government and puts it back in the homes, churches and bars where it belongs.


The news this week is all abuzz over a man jumping the White House fence, running across the lawn and getting into the East Room before being stopped.

There is a national !GASP! in the collective media. Congress is holding hearings. One Congressman suggested issuing a ‘shoot to kill on site’ order. Investigations will follow. Heads will roll! (well, actually they won’t – bureaucrats are a protected species). There will be a lot of talk about “This never happening again!”.

Is it time to answer the question, “How did we get here?”

Here’s a bit of history: In the eighteen hundreds, even into the early nineteen hundreds, people in Washington DC would hold family picnics on the lawn of what was then called The Presidential Manor. There were no gates, no fences and no gun laws. Teddy Roosevelt (one of my least favorite Republican presidents) would even walk around the grounds and talk with the folks picnicking on the lawn.

Today to even lean on the tall wrought iron  fence surrounding that building will get you, at the very least, a stern warning.

What happened? Why is this so. Are we not the same people as our great – great grandfathers and grandmothers? The DNA hasn’t changed. So the environment had to.

In the eighteen hundreds people were self reliant those who weren’t were aided by private charities. They, for the most part, went to church. They worked hard and raised families. The children of those families were taught Judeo-Christian values, manners and respect for others. Mothers and fathers were in control of their children’s upbringing and education. They were taught the American culture. Violence was minimal and literacy was significantly higher than it is today.

Today we have a new culture. A culture where government is father and mother. Government is the teacher and the disciplinarian. Government gives and takes as it see fit. Government is the new king. People in this new culture are raised by television (public or government television during the formative years) and government schools. There is no mom at home to set a standard, because mom has to work to pay the taxes this new king demands. Thanks to the Progressives in the ACLU, there is no God in school to provide any guidance or moral compass. Thanks to moral relativism there is no right or wrong. People are not restrained by this new faulty upbringing and have little to no respect for other individuals. Video games teach it is okay to kill and the schools teach that behavior is neither right or wrong.

So, no wonder we need gates, guard dogs and even “Shoot to Kill” orders to protect the current elected leader of this semi totalitarian kingdom. The king himself made it that way.

To rid ourselves of the disease in our culture we need to look back one hundred years, before the Progressive era. We need to look at what worked then and try very hard to make it work again today. It will not be easy. The Progressives have been in control of government, education and much of entertainment warping and distorting our concept of right and wrong for most of the last one hundred years. It won’t correct in a day. But it won’t correct at all if we don’t start reminding people of a once civilized culture that held family picnics on the White House lawn.

EDUCATION – A whole new approach for the twenty first century

I am going to suggest something that is far a field of what most who read this would consider. This is not to meant raise the ire of those reading. This is simply for the purposes of discussion. (And a lively discussion is what I expect).

I submit we are educating our twenty first century children with nineteen century methods.

What so I mean? In 1885 we had the Little Red Schoolhouse that had a schoolmarm teaching the three R’s. In one hundred thirty years, as man learned to drive, fly and even go into space; we still have the same thing, only bigger.

If you look at a typical classroom today you will see the teacher standing (or sitting) writing on a screen that transposes the information to a smart board. Look at the room and you will see the students with their heads down staring at their laptops, notebooks or tablets.

So, picture this,  you have fifteen to twenty five people all connected electronically with the teacher who is connected electronically to the smart board.

I pose a question. Why do we need the brick and mortar building?

Why are we putting our kids in a cage for six hours a day? Why do we force them to sit in a germ infested room all day? How many times have you heard the phrase, “It’s going around the school.”?

I have “attended” several webinars. I meet with and learn from people all over the country (and the world for that matter). I interact with them in the same manner as our teacher is interacting with the students in the classroom. I didn’t need to go to a room in a building to learn. Things such as on line webinars are using twentieth century technology. It is still an interaction with a teacher. BUT it is a far and away improvement from the brick and mortar style education we use in public and most private schools today.

I have not even touched on twenty first century technology. With artificial intelligence, a computer program can learn the student’s weak and strong areas and focus on those areas that need more attention. Now the student is self paced and is not held back or dragged forward by others trying to learn the same thing. That can’t be done in a classroom.

This is the way education should be working. It isn’t. Why? I have two theories to kick around.

One – The education establishment (spelled education monopoly) does not like it. It gives the power to choose back to the parent or guardian. The national teacher’s unions don’t like it. It takes power (and dues) away from them.

Two – Today’s parents have become used to a public paid baby sitting service. Tell parents that the school will no longer house students and they will revolt. They want their “free stuff”.

One more point and I’ll let this go to conversation:

Today in the United States of America we are graduating kids who can not read their own report cards. They can not do simple math, such as make change. The public education system in these United States on average is equal with Lartvia, the Slovak Republic, and Lithuania. That is not a shock statement, look it up here: The Programme For Individual Student Assessment results for 2012. It clearly shows that we are not only failing but slipping more behind with each year.

Now before the education lobby get all over me and insists that they don’t have enough money to do it right, I would like to point out that the report from PISA clearly states money is not the issue.

“While the U.S. spends more per student than most countries, this does not translate into better performance. For example, the Slovak Republic, which spends around USD 53,000 per student, performs at the same level as the United States, which spends over USD 115,000 per student.

Just over one in four U.S. students do not reach the PISA baseline Level 2 of mathematics proficiency a higher than OECD average proportion and one that hasn’t changed since 2003. At the opposite end of the proficiency scale, the U.S. has a below average share of top performers.”

I think it is time for our kids to get the advantages they deserve. It is time to “tear down this wall” of education malaise and unleash our kids’ full learning ability. To do that, we need to think in terms and practices of 2014, not 1885.

Published in: on September 24, 2014 at 9:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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Let’s avoid the circular firing squad.

The conservative community doesn’t like Mike Rounds as the Republican candidate for Senate.  They say Rounds is too liberal, that he favors big government.  I certainly can agree that Mike Rounds is not a true conservative. However, neither is John Thune or Kristi Noem. They have all done things that have set me walking in circles talking to myself.
Having said that, John, Kristi and Mike will vote 80% of the time to the right of the chart. A democrat (regardless of the place holder) will vote to the left of center nearly 100% of the time.
I surely wish we conservatives had someone on deck that could run a viable campaign against Mike Rounds but that isn’t the case. So… what to do? I’m stuck, again, supporting the liberal lite over the progressive left candidate. Voting third party or simply staying home is not an option. That just gives my vote to the left.
I  would like to stress one thing that I think is important. The one thing I will not do is join into this circular firing squad that is forming inside the Republican party. That simply gives more ammunition to the Progressive left. We need a deeper conservative bench. This is imperative. Today, we don’t have one. I have little to no enthusiasm with our current federal representatives or candidates. Our true conservatives (Stace Nelson, Betty Olsen, Brock Greenfield, Dan Kaiser et al.) are all good people, but they aren’t yet ready for prime time. That day will come and on that day I will blister my hands pounding in highway signs for them. BUT today….. I’m left with a bucket that has a hole in it.  Instead of this being a ringing endorsement for Mike Rounds, I’m giving an affirmative shrug.

Sometimes reality hits you right in the face

I found this paging through an 1883 Fourth Grade reader I was getting ready to sell on eBay.  

The following is the exercise at the end of an eight paragraph reading.  In other words, not an exam, just a typical homework lesson.  Just so you know, the numbers in (parentheses) are the paragraph numbers of the text in question.

I.  Explain “advertisement” (1); “townsmen” (4).  Give the distinction between “neighbor” and “friend” (4). What phrase (6) now and then? To work “by fits and starts” is the opposite of working  ——-  How?

II.  Write an analysis: — advertiser   clothier   industrious.

III.  Write the plurals of: service; salesman; child; quality; correspondence; duty.

IV.  Separate the compound sentence in paragraph 8 onto the simples sentences (prepositions) of which it is made up.

V. Write the form of a newspaper advertisement stating that an honest, industrious boy is wanted by a grocer.  Write an answer to an advertisement of this sort

I don’t think, 130 years later (with the government in control of education for the past 100 years) that even a fourteenth grade student could correctly answer all of these questions.

The current school system is the miserable failure that only government can create.

This is a shining example.  I believe it is time to get rid of the brick and mortar and get beck to education

Customoer Service?

I just spent the past twenty minutes on the phone with a very friendly but not very useful customer service company in India. The frustration was not their fault and it was not a communication problem. It was simply a case of “you can’t get there from here.”

HE: XYZ Corporation, How can I be of assistance today?
Me: Good morning, I would like to put the widget in the hole.
He: Yes, certainly sir, can I put you on hold to verify your widget?
Me: Yes, that will be fine.

Pause for indiscernible  music.

HE: Yes, sir, thank you for holding. I have found your widget.
ME: Great! I would like to put it in the hole.
HE: I have to check that the security code for the widget is valid. Can I put you on hold one more time?
ME: Okay.

More indiscernible music.

HE: Yes, sir, thank you for holding. May I have your account number please?
ME: The account number is B86reoePqrd89
HE: B86reoePqrd89 ?
ME: That’s correct.
HE: I’ll look that up for you.
ME: Thank You.
HE: I’m sorry, I have no record of that account.
ME: That’s odd. I’m looking at it right here on my screen. It is on your web site.
HE: Can you tell me the number again?
ME: Sure, B86reoePqrd89
HE: B86reoePqrd89 ?
ME: Correct.
HE: Yes, certainly sir, can I put you on hold to verify your account?
ME: Sure (with a sigh).

More indiscernible  music.

HE: Yes, sir, thank you for holding. Can I have the e-mail address you used when you signed up for this service.
ME: I think is was ******
HE: Okay, Thank for that. Can I put you on hold one more time while I check this out?
ME: GO ahead. (at this point I am trying very hard not to be the ugly American)

This time, along with the indiscernible music, was a recording telling me my representative will be back on the line shortly and the my phone call is important.

HE: Sir, I have found your account. How can I help you today?
ME: I would like you to put the widget in the hole.
HE: Yes sir, we can certainly help with that. Which hole did you select when you signed up for this account?
ME: I don’t remember, can you tell me from the account.
HE: I’m sorry sir, I can’t access that information. Can I connect you with a supervisor?
ME: Yes please.
HE: Please hold while I get a supervisor on for you, all right?
ME: Yes

Here comes the music again.

NEW HE: Good morning my name is Phillip. How can I be of service today?
ME: Good morning Phillip, I would like to put the widget in the hole.
PHILLIP: I Understand, sir. May I have your account number please.
ME: The account number is B86reoePqrd89
PHILLIP: B86reoePqrd89 ?
ME: That’s correct.
PHILLIP: I’ll look that up for you.
ME: Thank You.

More music.

PHILLIP: I have your account on my screen. How can I help you?
ME: I want to put the widget in the hole.
PHILLIP: Yes sir, I can certainly help you with that. Which hole did you purchase with this account?
ME: I’m not sure. Can you tell me from my account which hole I purchased?
PHILLIP: I am looking at your account now and sir and it appears you did not purchase a hole.
ME: Excuse me?
PHILLIP: There is no record of you purchasing a hole, sir.
ME: Why would I buy a widget if I didn’t buy a hole to put it in?
PHILLIP: I’m sorry sir, I do not understand your question.
ME: I bought a widget to put in the hole. I would not buy a widget if I could not use it. Are you telling me that your company sold me a widget without a hole?
PHILLIP: Would you like to purchase a hole today, sir?
ME: I think I already did purchase a hole.
PHILLIP: I have no record of that. I will send you an e-mail with your account information. Is ****** correct?
ME: Yes it is.
PHILLIP: I will send that right away.
ME: Thank you
PHILLIP: Thank you, and thank you for calling XYZ today. If we can be of any further assistance please call again.


Published in: on November 8, 2012 at 11:21 am  Leave a Comment  
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