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Lakota Country Times

Political Mind Reading
By Dr. Jim Wilson

I have received many positive comments on my pre-election article, “If Democrats in Washington, better balance in Pierre and new blood in Pine Ridge don't show a marked improvement, try again.” Several people commented on my political sagacity, forgetting what I have focused on in recent writings; searching for patterns of behavior. I discussed the apparent opposite of patterns; chaos. We use the word ‘chaos’ to describe unpredictable behavior of both creatures and objects, but it is more accurate in saying erratic, dissimilar or skewed behavior.

In my earliest boarding school days we played a clever gambling game called ‘Marbles.’
Later I learned to play pool in the Big Boys’ Dorm. Still later in life I learned to play Billiards.

I group these games as incidences of humans trying to control inanimate objects. Some people develop great skills while others never get beyond the minimum skill levels. The people (players) were operating on emotional and psychological rules of behavior and the inanimate objects were acting (responding) on rules of nature (physics). That is where I learned that careful observation and understanding of the rules of any game leads to skill in playing the game and that frequently intelligence trumps when skills are similar. Thus, I became a people watcher.

One can extrapolate people observations to numerous other situations and appear to be a skillful mind reader to the less observant bystander. When dealing with large numbers of politicians it is useful to understand the ‘theory of central tendencies.’ This theory is quite well developed and accepted, but is a long way from absolute in reliability. A simplistic explanation of the theory is that when there are a large number of occurrences of any kind such occurrences tend to develop a predictable pattern with a tendency to occur most frequently near the center. The result is a pattern of occurrences which resembles a bell and is often called the bell-shaped curve. If you have been in a class where grading was ‘on the curve’ you know what I’m talking about.

Once you understand the ’theory of central tendencies’ you can easily discern aberrations and when such aberrations accumulate you have a ’trend’ which serves as a clear indication that the future holds a probable reaction leading back toward the established central tendency.

So, that explains my political wizardry and I hope all of my friends will put this knowledge to work. But, first, let me add a caveat! Too few samples can be very misleading. So, we social scientists have developed some simple tests of the reliability of our samples. We are all familiar with our national ‘exit poll’ reports and the so-called levels of confidence. One simple test is to divide the numeral 1 by the square root of the number (n) in our sample. Example: 100 in a sample gives us a square root of 10. 1 divided by 10 gives us .10 or 10% possibility of error and 90% reliability. Not good. But increasing our sample to, say 900, gives us a square root of 30. 1 divided by 30 gives us .03 or 3% possibility of error and 97% reliability. Much better. Thus, we learn that larger samples are more reliable.

Assuming that 300 million Americans represent an adequate sample, it is easy to see that public polling can be very informative, reliable and, therefore, useful. When our President says he does not pay attention to the polls he is telling us he is ignoring us. When any administration, the Congress and the Supreme Court are all of the same party we are in great danger of roaring off on the wrong road. Especially when the driver (President) doesn’t read (the road signs) or listen (to the passengers)!

Now that the citizens have jerked the steering wheel from the stubborn, stay-the-course ‘Decider’ and expelled a few bad apples from the Congress we can breathe a sigh of relief. For the next two years we will see a dramatically different Congress with a lame duck President focusing on finding our way out of the darkened, smoke-filled fire-box of the Fertile Crescent where nearly 2,000 years of dissonance has prevailed.

And the good news is that we will get some good legislation! There are two reasons for this prediction; the only legislation that can get through now is that on which both parties can agree, and, every Congressperson and every Senator will (should) be on their best behavior!

And back at the Statehouse we should also see some dramatic changes. The number of issues on the state ballot clearly (and loudly) reflected a broad public dissatisfaction with both the Legislature and our Governor. Rebalancing the Legislature should reduce bad legislation, increase good legislation while defeat of the numerous ‘reactionary proposals’ and delay further such efforts. The greatest need in our state is for a complete review and revision of our tax system.

The state Republicans can’t get it through their heads that the property tax burdens that they both complain about and defend have the people locked in to limits for people investments. Paying property taxes means you first pay taxes on the money spent for the property and then paying taxes on the property every year, so you we limit such taxes, thereby limiting available resources. There are better ways, but first we must put all ideas on the table for discussion.

Meanwhile, back at the Rez! The struggles of Tribal Government really emphasize the tribal aspect of governance. Tribal governments suffer from numerous natural consequences. Foremost is the tribal belief that any leadership role makes one a Chief. Chiefs tend to act like Chiefs. How do Chiefs act? Look at George W. Bush! Another problem is that many tribes think themselves poor victims and do not hold their elected leaders to high standards. Ask any Pine Ridge politician what is the highest priority of the Tribe and 99.44% will say, “Education.” Then ask them how many ‘degree holders’ they elect or hire and the response is, “Next question.”

Now that we have ‘new blood’ (we really should say recycled blood) in a new Tribal Council most observers will point to an urgent need for resolving the problems encountered in recent months, but I beg to disagree.

Here are some thoughts to consider: until a person decides where they will go on vacation they will not know what to pack, how to get there or what it will cost. On the other hand if that person bought only shorts, tee-shirts and sunglasses, there are limitations on where they can go.

We do not need to ignore the necessities of internal management systems but we do not need to be pouring cement (like Rapid City on the Civic Center expansion) before we know a lot more about our goals and costs. The single greatest need for my tribe (Oglalas) is to define some goals and intelligently pursue them.

Management systems that are too rigid are as bad, or worse, than none. A few simple fixes and we will be ‘good to go.’ With little or no separation of powers it is very much like being your own Grandpa! The solutions are clear and simple, but we need the willingness to make a few changes. We must prohibit Tribal Council members from sitting on Boards of tribally Chartered Organizations, more clearly define the authorities and responsibilities of Boards serving the Tribe, and step back from interfering with the operation of the Tribal Courts.

The central question for my Tribe should be, “What do we want to do?” There should be numerous things we want to do and that will require some prioritizing until we can also learn multi-tasking. After we decide what we want and how to get it we can start talking about money.

One early thing should be to arrange a sit-down with the Governor and key state legislators to begin setting up a formal process of Diplomatic Relations between each tribe and the state to exchange Ambassadors. Our nine Sioux Tribes with over 70,000 members, millions of acres and nearly a $1 billion economy are now important social, economic and government partners.

There is a steady Indian population growth rate that is greater than the state’s non-Indian growth rate, increasing migration of tribal members to the cities, increasing intermarriage, growth of Tribal Colleges with many non-Indians discovering benefits of attending them, increasing Indian enrollments in all of the state colleges and many other patterns of social, economic and political interactions which the Governor and Legislators surely must see.

Three indicators of our stuck-in-the-mud situation are: almost no Indians employed by the state, almost no Indians serving on state Boards and almost 40% of the state penitentiary inmates are Indians (about 50% in Rapid City). As the saying goes, “What is wrong with this picture?”
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