Northern Valley Beacon

News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to MinneKota@gmail.com

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ballot issue in preparation for open and conceal carry on campuses








JUST MY BOOK, OFFICER.



Some South Dakota citizens are preparing a ballot issue that would permit students and others on college and university campuses to open or conceal carry books. Proponents say citizens have to arm themselves against stupid, which has launched relentless attacks on the state legislature. 

In response, legislators have hog-housed the education-funding bill and replaced the content with a requirement that any issue must require signatures of 110 percent of the voters to be placed on the ballot.  Sen. David Novstrup (R-Lower Colon), leader of the hog-housing, says having ordinary people dork around with education and stuff makes him nervous.  “Books contain all sorts of dangerous and unpatriotic ideas,” he said.  “We have to protect our young people from this menace.”

Critics have pointed out that a book-carry law is not needed because colleges were sort of created for consorting with books.  Proponents of the ballot issue say that being seen with a book on some South Dakota campuses is considered a social offense and results in harassment and abusive treatment.  Hog-house supporters say that the ballot issue is not needed because the market place of ideas regulates the use of books in South Dakota.  “We ain’t like some other states,” said Novstrup. “And there is nothing in the Constitution that gives the right to read.  We can’t have people running around violating the founding principles.”

Les Worthy, a leader for the ballot issue, stated that the unforgivable sin in South Dakota is the earning of a Ph.D., as it implies that the holder has read and maybe even understands a lot of books.  Most campuses employ many Ph.D.s and, Worthy explains, while libraries act as carefully regulated arsenals for keeping books, you can’t keep them under lock-and-key all the time and there is often a need to carry them about.  Those Ph.D.s need to look like they’re doing the jobs they were hired for now and then.

The ballot issue includes Kindles and Nookbooks in its carry provisions, although they seldom received much resistance on campuses because you can view pornography on them and use them to say mean and stupid things on the social media.  “How do you think legislators get informed?” said Novstrup in that regard.  “But we can’t afford to have those crucial resources in the hands of the unqualified.”


 


Friday, February 6, 2015

Rapid City Journal demonstrates what it means to suck



The Rapid City Journal’s handling of the incident in which the occupants of a luxury box at a hockey game are alleged to have spattered 57 native American children with beer and abuse is a symptom of degraded state of journalism.   The Journal has apologized for screwing up, but its apology did not grasp what was screwed up.

In a follow-up, now taken off the web, to stories on the original incident, the Journal cited an anonymous source who claimed that the abuse directed at the children was a response to the children’s failure to stand during the playing of the national anthem.  The headline to the story read, "Did Native Students stand for National Anthem".  However, the story itself reported that people who accompanied the children said that was not true. 

In its reporting in this story, the Journal committed a basic error.  It did not try to establish the facts.  In recapping the fundamental premise of journalism, the Pew Research center restates,  “[The] ’journalistic truth’ is a process that begins with the professional discipline of assembling and verifying facts.”  The Journal made the mistake of concentrating what people said about the facts without  verification of the facts themselves. 

First of all, the issue in the incident is about adults mistreating children between the ages of 9 and 12.  The abuse, according to those who witnessed it was racially driven.  Quoting an anonymous person who claimed to be a bystander in the VIP box is a violation of a basic standard of journalism for those who believe journalism has professional standards.

The use of anonymous sources as the basis for a news report verges far into the region of incompetence.  Sometimes a source will present information to a reporter that is essential to explaining a story if the source's account can be independently verified.  In my time as a journalist,  that meant that a reporter had to find two other sources who were not in collusion with the original source to verify the account.  If the account was not verifiable, it was dismissed as unrealiable or false. 

There is also the matter of using anonymous sources. It is also a reporter’s responsibility to make clear attribution of any information used in a story.  If a sources does not wish to be identified, the information the source provides is suspect, unless it can be verified.  A responsible, professional news organization would not have printed the accusation. 

The Journal compounds its errors in its apology for mishandling the story.  The paragraph that tries to explain away the reason for using an assertion by anonymous source totally fails to address the rules of responsible journalism involved.  It claims it withheld the identity of the source because of a death threat: 


Questions also have been raised about the use of an anonymous source in the article. On the day the article was written, the business owner who rents the suite where the harassment took place — who was neither present nor
involved — received a death threat.


A source in such a state of advanced retardation that he would claim the failure to stand for the national anthem as a motivation for abusing children is already brain dead.   But the issue for the Journal is its failure to follow basic journalistic procedure in dealing with factual matters, and its apology dissembles on that point.   Furthermore, if it wants to cite death threats, it needs to specify the nature of the threat, who received it, and how it was transmitted.  Its citation of a death threat is as specious as the claim that the kids did not stand for the anthem. 

The Journal is by no means the only news organization that sacrifices journalistic competence and integrity for a chance to provoke degradation.  As a medium that reflects community attitudes, it is a fitting voice for a town that has a well-earned reputation as a racist snake pit.  But some of the failings it embraces are a general state of affairs among news media which abandon good journalistic practice to compete for an audience with the Internet social media.  Polls have established that comments people make online about news stories affect the journalistic credibility of news organizations very negatively.  News media have to decide, apparently, whether to practice journalism and endanger their existence or join in the competition for stupidity and scurrility. 

Part of the the decline in news standards is the contribution of radio and television.  To connect with their audience and utilize the capabilities, the electronic media use sound bites as a required element in their stories.  Sometimes the person they show commenting is involved in the story, but whether or not the commentary verifies facts or contributes to an understanding of the story is not an issue.  Getting some kind of graphic or auditory element comprises the objective of a sound bite.  Often, the sound bites are not from anyone who can contribute information, but are only for providing an audio or visual element, whether it contributes to the story or not.

The other fallacy that pervades the contemporary news media is the idea of balance.  It is based on the notion that controversy is the primary criterion for evaluating newsworthiness as far as what an audience responds to, and so the media looks for controversy.  Although there can be disagreement about what  the facts are in a given situation, the facts are usually clear and straightforward if the journalists have done their primary job of assembling, clarifying, and verifying the facts.  Controversy is introduced in comments about the facts where commenters have differing attitudes concerning what happened.  Consequently, the media emphasizes what controversies they can find rather than hard facts.

They cite balance as the reason for including opposing viewpoints about a situation, even though there may be no disputing of the facts.  Controversy to the contemporary media is a matter of people getting into nasty and accusatory spat.  The veracity and quality of things they contend do not matter.  What attracts audience is the spectacle of watching people cast verbal and sometimes physical abuse on each other.  Journalism to many means inciting people into degraded and vile behavior of the kind that Jerry Springer promoted on television.  Balance is showing “both sides” no matter how inane and stupidly mean the contentions are.  Such is contradictory to what effective, responsible journalism is.

The Rapid City Journal had opportunity to be balanced on the abuse kids were exposed at the hockey game.  One if its own staff members wrote an account which related the experience from one of the chaperones who accompanied the incident itself.  Rather, the Journal chose to feature the idiotic claim that the kids did not stand for the national anthem.  Stupid sells big in South Dakota.  It makes a lot of people feel like somebody.

The state legislature demonstrates every day it is in session a retrograde movement away from an aspiring democracy.  It is enmeshed in the idea that the will of the people is to limit, eventually eliminate, liberty, equality, and justice for all.  The Rapid City Journal is more devoted to the opinions behind this movement than in reporting the facts of what is happening to people.

South Dakota’s intellectual and moral failure is rooted in the journalistic failures of its media.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Lakota medicine man charged with rape dies in prison

A well-known South Dakota medicine man who had been charged with abusing and raping at least six girls on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation died in prison Tuesday night, according to law enforcement officials.

The entire Washington Post story can be read here

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Disrespecting the police in the hinterland


As a newspaper reporter and editor, I never had the police as a regular beat.  But I often filled in for regular police beat reporters, and dealt with the police often on an investigation team of which I was a part.  When interrogating suspects in the investigation of crimes, police often play the roles of good-cop, bad-cop.  In reality, outside the role-playing, there are good cops and bad cops.  And there are times when police departments give in to the temptation of corruption.  JT,  the managing editor of the last newspaper I worked for and a longtime city beat reporter, said police corruption had about a ten-year cycle, when crooked cops came to light.

The corruption involved bribes and pay offs, not police killings and racial harassment—although those things did happen.  Shootings by police did not become common until police departments began to form SWAT teams, which put police into combat roles.  Up until that time, police regarded themselves more as peace officers with armed conflict a comparative rarity.  They did not face as much danger from shootings because gun laws were much stricter and the police did not encounter as many people who were armed as is common now.  The combat role of police emerged as necessary when they began to encounter the use of military-type automatic firearms used in the commission of crimes. 

I witnessed a number of police scandals over the years.  One night a vice team of officers composed of county sheriff deputies and city police raided a brothel in Rock Island, Ill.  The whorehouse was such an institution in the town that it was nominated for inclusion as a  historic site.  When the madam was taken to the police station and allowed her telephone call, the person she called was the chief of police at his home.  She said, Claude, you know we are supposed to have a warning before police raid our place.  That’s what we pay you guys for. 

Needless to say, Claude was not the chief of police much longer.  He went into the antique business.

My first encounter with police corruption was as a student reporter on a university student newspaper in Chicago.  The editor was an ex-Marine Korean War veteran going to school on the G.I. Bill.  An acquaintance of his was arrested at a basketball game for soliciting a prostitute.  The acquaintance said he had been approached by a woman who asked for a cigarette light and he found himself taken into custody by the police.  He was asked to post a hefty bond, which he did to the police, not to a court.  He was told that his court date could be foregone, if he wanted.  The incident motivated the editor to investigate the situation and see if the police had an organized extortion system.  A mentor for the student newspaper was a Pulitzer-winning reporter for the Chicago Daily News, who helped us find more victims of the scam.

One was an Ohio businessman who was arrested at the Lincoln Park Flower Conservatory, when a woman approached him and engaged in a conversation.  He posted a bond and was given a court date.  He returned from Ohio with a lawyer to keep his court date.  When they  got to the court, they found he was not listed on the schedule, there was no record for his arrest, nor any record of the bond he posted. 

We found other victims who had been arrested in the men’s room of the basketball arena for making homosexual approaches to other men.  At that time, it was a felony in Illinois law for being homosexual.  Bonds were readily posted.  The young student reporters, however, were able to work with some of the scam victims to identify the police officers involved, and that led to a series of stories in the student newspaper that exposed the scam and sparked a purging of the offending officers from their jobs.  Actually, most of them were merely transferred to a different precinct.  However, the stories alerted a Chicago watchdog group, the Better Government Association, to the scam, and brought the department under public scrutiny.

Police departments throughout the nation have histories of corruption and malfeasance which form the backdrop for the concerns and protests over the killing of unarmed people, particularly of African American men. The New York Police Department in its petulant dissing of Mayor DeBlasio is earning the contempt of many people who have experienced and witnessed crookedness or unwarranted violence and oppression on the part of the police. Department members are angry that the Mayor has listened to the complaints of citizens and has been tolerant of demonstrations in which citizens have protested the actions of the police, particularly in the deaths of unarmed citizens.  The police turn their petulant backs on the Mayor rather than face up to the problem actions some of their fellow officers have done that have created distrust and even contempt of the police.  Rather than work with elected officials to confront and correct their problems, the police want to be praised as heroes who put their lives on the line everyday to serve and protect the public.  Their real problem is that too much of the public do not see heroes, but see bullies who are only protecting and serving their inflated and often corrupted egos. 

 The bad attitudes toward the police extend to the hinterlands in places such as Aberdeen.  Devious and incompetent police actions taint the entire justice system.  Prosecutors and judges go to court with evidence of questionable integrity because of they way it was handled by police. 

In recent years, I have spent quite a bit of time monitoring court proceedings.  These proceedings have largely involved matters concerning judicial intervention into religious matters, such as disputes in Hutterite colonies,  Indian reservations, and cases in which South Dakota’s laws that permit government secrecy are involved.  I came across a comparatively minor case involving assault charges against an individual in which evidence provided by the police was disputed.  The state’s attorney and the defense attorney chose to ignore the dispute of evidence.  The defendant in the case was convinced by the defense attorney that going to trial would be so expensive that the defendant could not come up with the money and that it would damage the family involved.

I have often worked with wrongful conviction projects in checking out information and court actions.  In that assault case, I recognized that it was a classic example of how wrongful convictions are made.  The defendant, because of financial reasons, took a plea bargain to a lesser charge, although he contended the testimony supplied by the police was false.

This case led to an examination of other cases that came to the attention of wrongful conviction organizations.  Many young people, we found, have pled guilty to minor offenses because they could not afford the price of a trial, and court appointed attorneys do not think a full-scale defense is worth the money the courts provide them. 



One night I was in an emergency room with a child that had developed a dangerously high temperature.  That night, EMTs rushed in with a young woman who had overdosed.  The police were there trying to get evidence of what drug the woman had taken and where she got it from. The ER physician was getting very agitated.  He finally told the EMTs to “get those fucking idiots out of here so we can do our jobs.”

There is a consequence to this situation.  Most of the young people we have interviewed in Aberdeen regard the police force as a gang that is claiming turf over which it wants to rule.  They respond with derision to the idea that the police have any connection to the administration of justice.  They feel that the police are a force they need protection from, not which protects them.

Police say they feel betrayed by President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder.  They ignore how much of the public feels betrayed by them.  It is not just the killing of unarmed citizens that shape the public’s perception;  it is the multitude of miscarriages of justice in less publicized incidents and the history of corruption that clings to many police departments.

I have many friend who have been law enforcement officers.  In Aberdeen, the shooting death of a professor on the NSU campus involved the resignation of one of the investigating officers.  Most of the friends I have who were police officers have resigned because of the internal politics of their departments and the taint of corruption that fellow officers cast upon those who were trying to be upstanding. 

In South Dakota, the cases that earn the suspicion and mistrust of law enforcement are those such as the malicious prosecution and false accusations involved in the Taliaferro-Schwab case and the refusal of the Attorney General to release the investigative record in the death of Richard Benda. 

If the police want respect and support, they need to earn it.  To earn it, the good officers will have to help weed out the bad, not whine petulantly that they feel betrayed.  Instead, they have decided to castigate officials who have bothered to listen to the citizens’ reasons for mistrust and disrespect. 

The whining from the police departments, instead of efforts at reform, merely deepens the suspicion and mistrust that the departments have earned over time.  They could remedy the public disrespect by facing the killings and miscarriages of justice their fellow officers have wrought  and by showing some respect for those they are supposed to serve. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

No access to Congress for Aberdeen



An aspect of Congressional offices that is never mentioned in campaigns or accounts of representative’s and senator’s service is the work their staffs do for constituents.  Senator Tim Johnson’s office went through the closing process this month.  It won’t be replaced.  His successor as U.S. senator for the state will not have a field office in Aberdeen. 

Rep. Kristi Noem does not maintain a service office in Aberdeen, either.  She has a staff member who comes to Aberdeen occasionally, but she does not have any staff members who consult with constituents and  on their behalf to resolve issues.  Sen. John Thune has an office in Aberdeen, the one vacated by Tom Daschle’s staff.  However, that office was literally forced on him.  As a congressman, Thune decided not to have an Aberdeen office, but prominent members of the Republican party in the Aberdeen region were incensed by
his neglect of their part of the state.  He was opposed to or showed no interest in projects for developing this part of the state.  Party members dragged him into the area and “educated” him on the projects and insisted that he have a functioning line of communication that a field office provides for the Aberdeen area. 

In contrast, the Democratic congress people have had fully staffed and very busy offices in Aberdeen.  My spouse worked on the staffs of Sen. Daschle and Rep. Herseth Sandlin.  While staff members worked on legislative business in representing their employees, a huge part of their job was helping constituents navigate the government bureaucracies. Such help might range from someone encountering visa problems in a foreign land and needing action by the state department, someone needing help in solving a social security problem, a farmer needing advice and assistance with a conservation program matter, or someone who has encountered confusion and difficulty with any aspect of government.  Often people seek federal help in coordinating matters involving state and local government.

After Tom Daschle and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin lost elections and their offices were closing down, the staff members spent days shredding the case files the offices had accumulated working in behalf of constituents.  Staff members not only worked in their offices to be available to constituents, they were assigned counties which they visited regularly to represent their  Congressional employer and meet with people to answer questions or offer assistance.

The question in the operation of the field offices is not a matter of big government.  It’s a matter of making government work for the people and providing direct communication between constituents and their elected representatives.  For 8 hours a day, the offices were busy with people who needed consultation or assistance from Congressional representatives, and the phones were ringing constantly.  As one who volunteered for work in the offices,  I was often asked to fill in when the staff members had to be out of the office at staff meetings or constituent business to take messages so that staff members could get in touch with any constituents who came to the office or called.  The staff members conscientiously followed up on all inquiries and concerns.  The field offices were incredibly busy and productive in providing information and services to constituents and making government work for the people. 

The GOP congress people make nominal staff appointments of people who occasionally visit the county, they don’t believe in providing the vigorous service that actually solves problems and otherwise makes government work for the people.  The difference between the parties is most starkly apparent in they way they regard and treat their constituents.

When Democrats were in office, Aberdeen had three offices carrying on the business of government.  Now it is down to the one office that John Thune grudgingly established when his party supporters insisted that he have a presence in our part of the state. 

Noem has never offered much in the way of response or service to this part of the state.  Rounds has indicated he will follow her lead. 

The voters ultimately get what they ask for.  In the cases of Noem and Rounds,  nothing. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

How do you build a progressive political party in a state that the smart people leave?




As the steward of a list of Democrats who contributed to the county Democratic party with funds and organizational support, I have been alarmed at the rapid shrinking of that list.  I have often mentioned it and have offered evidence from it to indicate that a factor in the decline of registered Democrats in South is that intelligent, talented, and educated people leave the state, and those who stay withdraw from social and political interaction.  Brown County has been a Democratic stronghold, contributing leaders like Tom Daschle and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin to national politics, but has shown a decidedly Republican drift in recent years. 

Attrition accounts for a great deal of the names that vanished from that list.  Many long-time Democrats have died; many have moved to gentler climes to live their senior years, and many have left to pursue more rewarding jobs, and many have left for more vital and sustaining cultural climates.  Loyal South Dakota Democrats resist facing the fact that many people, even those raised and schooled here and with family connections here, do not like South Dakota.  And their dislike extends to the people.  Many people who have been raised in South Dakota want out.

John Tsitrian who writes The Constant Commoner blog examines a study from Drexel University which analyzes the outmigration from South Dakota.  The statistics show:

  • In 2012,  47 percent (488,000 persons) born in South Dakota live in other states.
  • Of 1.03 milllion people born in the state, 570,000 remain, making it among the lowest ranking states in terms of birth residents who have remained in the state.  
  • Although, 262,000 people have migrated into the state, they are heavily weighted toward people with high school diplomas, while those leaving are heavily weighted toward those with  college and post-graduate degrees.

After the drubbing Democrats took in the national and state elections, efforts are being made in South Dakota to rebuild the party.  The problem these efforts face is that the people who incline toward liberal and progressive politics have left or want to leave the state.  Many people who habitually vote Republican are in the economic class that is harmed and discriminated against by Republican policies.  They are not intellectually inclined to examine how GOP policies and political schemes affect their lives, but rather think their Republican votes makes them part of the managing class. 

The harsh fact is that educated people leave the state, while the semi-educated vote for the people and policies that regard them as serfs whose virtue rlies in their docile acceptance of low wages and suppressive work rules. 

Rebuilding the Democratic Party in South Dakota will have to involve educating and then giving voice to a constituency that is held in economic bondage, but does not understand how their “right to work” limits their opportunities and their standard of living.   The question is, if you can educate them about their plight, will they leave the state, too?


Monday, November 17, 2014

Why America is not the greatest nation in the world anymore

Kristal Nacht

Faulty link below has been repaired.  *An edited transcript of the video link is included at the end of this post.


The terrorist attacks of 911 were a huge success.  They succeeded in exercising control over the minds of Americans and pushing a plurality into a state of incoherent fear and confusion.  The attacks sparked a campaign of events that sent Americans into a state of mindless rage which reduces them to a helpless babble as those who would exercise power over them manipulate the strings of propaganda and make them incapable of an effective response.

With every beheading of innocents by Islamic mass murderers, with every mass killing by so-called jihadists or Mexican drug cartels, and with every school shooting or killing in the name of self-defense on our own streets, Americans slip further into mental dysfunction and respond only to commands from their chosen masters.  They can only respond to rage-induced resentment and hatred, and many have become incapable of discerning facts from fantasies composed solely to feed their rage and their mindless obedience to those attitudes to which the propaganda directs them.

This month on the ninth marked the 75th anniversary of Kristal Nacht, the night that launched the Holocaust in Germany.  It was a night of rage against the Jews during which synagogues were burned, Jewish businesses and homes were attacked, leaving the German streets covered with shards of broken glass. After the U.S and its allies defeated the Nazis and liberated the Jews who had not been killed, they vowed to never let such an atrocity happen again. 

One of the results of that vow was the intensification of the study of rhetoric and propaganda in our schools and colleges.  Kristal Nacht was instigated and led by Hitler’s regime, but the German people turned out massively on the streets to take part in attacking and capturing the Jewish people.  That participation was the result of a propaganda campaign by Joseph Goebbels and his propaganda ministry.  Goebbels was overwhelmingly successful in manipulating the people to think and do as he determined.  Americans and other western countries were convinced that a people educated in the differences between good rhetoric and false rhetoric and propaganda were a powerful antidote to appeals to political and racial hatred.  During my freshman year in college, we had a textbook for English composition that rigorously analyzed the false premises of propaganda and logical fallacies in rhetoric.  In high schools and colleges, the  techniques of legitimate rhetoric and the discipline of critical thinking were a feature of curricula up until the 1970s. 

Most Americans today are not equipped with educations that make them capable of critical analysis of the blizzard of communication they find themselves in from those who try to control their thinking.  Business corporations see such knowledge as a barrier to the success of their advertising effectiveness.  Political factions see it as a barrier to their indoctrination.  In response to these objections, school boards and many college administrations have eliminated courses in the language arts and humanities which expose students to critical thinking skills and the analysis of good language and literature.  As school boards no longer function as conduits of information between the public and the professional teaching staffs but as corporate boards of directors that dictate curriculum and policies, the curriculum has been reduced to preparing students to be docile, obedient employees.  Their learning achievements are measured by standardized tests used to determine how well schools are performing in their role of creating docile, obedient automatons who will not resist or protest if they are assigned to the class of impoverished serfs that America’s corporate managers want as a workforce.  A large portion of Americans have been rendered mentally defenseless against even the most crass propaganda ploys used to control them.

The denials of climate change and the baseless accusations against Barack Obama of being born in Africa and of being Muslim demonstrate the severe intellectual deficiencies that possess many Americans.  The conservative war against liberalism, as conducted by Rush Limbaugh and his imitators, uses the hate-based false accusations as Joseph Goebbels and his minions used them against the Jews.  A plurality of Americans are mentally incapable of recognizing and dealing with the recognizable falsehoods and appeals to religious and racial hatreds used to control them.  The war against public education has taken its toll in America.  In no category of excellence can America be saidto be the greatest country in the world anymore.  In large measure, that is  because of the way education has been compromised to serve a managing class, not the people. 

These factors in what has been called America’s culture war dominate politics.  There is little honest debate over the problems that afflict the American people and solutions to those problems.  Politics is all about character assassination and false accusations.  And the American people tolerate it all as business as usual.

In 1935, Sinclair Lewis wrote a novel, later made into a drama, titled It Can’t Happen Here,  in which he explored and satirized how what Hitler was doing in Germany could happen in the USA. In his literary work, Lewis explored those weaknesses and defects in American society that undercut democracy and tended toward social and political oppression.  The political party that takes over the country is called The American Corporate State and Patriot Party.  As in all of  Lewis’ satire, there are a significant number of people who embrace a gullible ignorance and a placid stupidity as a mode of life.  The attacks on education have produced that kind of constituency in our time.

Another book that foreshadowed what has happened to American education is Neil Postman’s 1971 Teaching as a Subversive Activity.    If the nation is to resist  being manipulated into its own versions of Kristal Nacht,  the liberals will need to abandon the dysfunctional government and focus on education, even if they have to go underground to accomplish it.  Our young people are our best chance of trying to restore freedom, equality, and justice as  the nation’s operating principles.  They need and deserve a chance to be educated in how our nation overcame oppressions and gave people respect and freedom.

South Dakota is a prime case in point of a state that has deteriorated into intellectual dysfunction.  It has been ruled by one political party which has withheld from the voter-taxpayers information about government transactions and the right to knowledge about what officials are doing.  It has allowed education to be neglected in its funding and tampered with in its function.  It has developed an uncurious and disinterested attitude toward government corruption.  In an instance that is defined with documents and the testimony of participants, the Benda-Bollen-Rounds EB-5 scandal, it has chosen to dismiss hard evidence and embrace the mendacity of its deniers.  It has lost the ability to function mentally and examine the evidence in a suspicious death, the misdealing in state funds, the vicious ripping off of foreign investors, and the incompetent, devious mismanagement of the Northern Beef Packers plant.  Instead, the people endorsed the perpetrators of the fraud and overwhelmingly elected them to control the state.  South Dakota has strongly defined itself as a corrupt state  by the will of the people.  And it demonstrates the reasons why Americais not the greatest nation in the world anymore.

A corrupt political system does not provide the means for decency to prevail.  Those who care will have to devise their own means to provide genuine education and make another try for a new world. 


*

We're seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies.

We sure used to be. We stood up for what was right! We fought for moral reasons, we passed and struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world's greatest artists and the world's greatest economy. We reached for the stars, and we acted like men. We aspired to intelligence; we didn't belittle it; it didn't make us feel inferior. We didn't identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn't scare so easy. And we were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one—America is not the greatest country in the world anymore


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