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

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A state that gave up politics for character assassination and petty hatred

{Corrections have been made for omissions and errors made in the posting process.}

Some bloggers have berated the Democrats for not putting up a candidate for state attorney general to oppose Marty Jackley.  As I no longer hold an office in the party and am not active as present because of a medical regimen that keeps me occupied so I have no information on the efforts to recruit an attorney general candidate.  However, I was asked to help find potential candidates and recruit a prospect for the U.S. Senate race in 2010 and know the reasons that people, especially Democrats, are reluctant to enter politics. 

A case in point was made by independent candidate Mike Myers on a recent Argus Leader 100 Eyes video.  Myers' original running mate for lieutenant governor had to withdraw from the race because of some family health issues.  He was asked how he ended up with former Republican legislator Lora  Hubbel as a replacement.  Myers recounted how he had contacted a physician he knew who accepted the challenge.  But the next day the physician called Myers and said his wife objected.  Myers’ words are that she said she would do bad th ings to her husband if he ran for office.
That reason of family objections was a common one raised by potential candidates we talked with in trying to recruit candidates  o run against John Thune. Families, especially the effect on children, were a prime consideration.  So was integrity of character.

Democratic strategists realize that the only way to defeat a Republican is to launch a malicious campaign of character assassination that appeals to the penchant for the hateful rage that has become the political criterion for electability.  Most astute Democrats recognize that politics have changed and see nothing but harm and damage to themselves and their families coming out of  campaign.  That is because politics changed in South Dakota ten years ago.

I have written about this many times before, but people who have histories and strong attachments to South Dakota find it hard to admit that the essential character of the state has changed.

When Thune challenged Tom Daschle in 2004, he hired Dick Wadhams as the campaign manager and dutifully recited the  scripts Wadham supplied him with.  Wadhams returned to the state as a campaign advisor to Mike Rounds and is now employed by the state Republican Party.  Thune had acquired a record in the House of Representatives that was feckless and lacking in accomplishment.  To challenge Tom Daschle, who is a highly accomplished legislator, he could not afford a comparison of records or stances on the issues.

The strategy was to avoid issues, policies, and legislative record and accomplishment and attack Daschle personally.  A most successful ploy was to play to the resentment among South Dakotans of anyone who has accrued success and recognition outside the boundaries of the state.  The Thune campaign played up Tom Daschle’s attaining the majority leader of the Senate as an abandonment of the people of the state for the culture of Washington, D.C ., and declared it as his major residence.  He still owned and returned to his house Aberdeen, where his mother lived when he returned to the state.  The campaign also attacked the press for the coverage it gave to the Senator and Senate majority and played up the assumption the press had liberal leanings and gave Tom Daschle partial treatment.  Then it attacked Daschle because his wife who was a successful lobbiest for the airline industry had once been a beauty queen for whom, the campaign implied, he abandoned his first wife.  The Thune campaign also knew that Daschle is of a principled character that would not engage these personal assaults in kind. 

The  Thune campaign hired a history professor of the neocon bias at South Dakota State to write a blog dedicated to the character assassination of Tom Daschle,  In 2004, blogs were a recent development and very few people in the general public were aware of or read them.  The anti-Daschle blog gave voice to the campaign strategy that Thune and his surrogates were covering the state with.  The character assassination went so far that during a television debate show Thune accused Daschle of giving aid and comfort to the enemy for his opposition to the war in Iraq.  Giving aid and comfort to the enemy is how  the Constitution defines treason.  The Thune campaign also portrayed Daschle’s opposition to a Constituional amendment forbidding flag desecration as limiting free speech and because laws were already on the books dealing with the matter as an unpatriotic betrayal.  This imposed on a man who served in the Air Force as an intelligence officer from a man who had no military service. 

During the last months of the campaign I was a member of a group that campaigned for Tom Daschle in the East River part of the state.  What struck me was that people who opposed Daschle did not bring up issues and policies, but abused the campaigners with a personal hatefulness against Tom Daschle.  I and a few others registered concern about the intensity of the responses, but most of the campaigners were loyal South Dakotans who dismissed the reactions as that of a small minority of hateful people who did not reflect the more benign and wholesome aspects of the people of the state.

Daschle, of course, lost.  And as conservative blogs showed up on the Internet, they continued the personal discrediting and character assassination of  Tom Daschle.  In South Dakota, as is true of the Limbaugh believers in our nation, the GOP has abandoned any sincere discussion of issue for character assassination as the total purpose of its campaigns.  In South Dakota, character assassination is embraced or dismissed as acceptable among a majority of the voters. The designated voice of the state GOP,  South Dakota War College, when it is not posting hackwork tributes to its candidates is totally devoted to the discrediting and malicious besmirching of Democratic candidates. Its posts have a disregard for accuracy and factual truth.  It is simply an exercise in mindless scurrility.  If this is, as it claims, the most read blog on state politics, that defines a state with a cultural climate that people of good and good purpose wish to avoid.

The Argus Leader published an editorial after the state GOP convention berating the party for passing a resolution calling for the impeachment of President Obama.  Its main point is that it was a foolish resolution and made the state look like a conclave of backward rubes.  Like many loyal South Dakotans, the Argus Leader, because of circulation and advertising considerations, cannot afford to point out that the GOP is the majority party, it has controlled state government for decades,  it is electing its candidates to federal offices, and it, in fact, defines the essential character of the state.  The dominant attitude in the state is that of ignorant, malevolent rubes who love to hate and dwell on personal  resentments they harbor against those who achieve and have successes in other parts of the world.

When it comes to recruiting candidates to run against the South Dakota GOP and it’s  assassination squads, few people want to subject themselves to the toxic stress and damage against their characters, which have destructive effects on families.  As one person who rejected a run for the Senate four years ago put it, there is no point in campaigning among people who aren’t interested in solving problems but only want to hold power and demolish any opposition through their angry hatreds
The declining Democratic voter registrations probably reflect a trend.  People who think politics is about serving people, not defaming and insulting them, want out of here.  Good, loyal Democrats cannot face what the state has become, even though many studies point to it  as one of the most corrupt states in the union.  Like their ancestors who left the Old World to escape corruption and oppression, many South Dakotans are following that precedent in their culture rather than try to convert those who oppose them to a more benign, good-willed way of life.  What is represented in the defamatory campaigns of John Thune and Kristi Noem is what the majority has voted for.  The state is not the kind of place  that respects good will and good purpose. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Don't let SCOTUS distract you from what's happening to our schools

From Diane Ravitch:

We are living in an era when the very idea of public education is under attack, as are teachers' unions and the teaching profession. Let's be clear: these attacks and the power amassed behind them are unprecedented in American history. Sure, there have always been critics of public schools, of teachers, and of unions. But never before has there been a serious and sustained effort to defund public education, to turn public money over to unaccountable private hands, and to weaken and eliminate collective bargaining wherever it still exists. And this effort is not only well-coordinated but funded by billionaires who have grown wealthy in a free market and can't see any need for regulation or unions or public schools.
Read it all here.

How you lost your right to be left alone

Many people are confused by the unanimous Supreme Court decision striking down buffer zones at abortion clinics.  This includes The New York Times and Madville Times. 

The confusion comes from the justifications for the decision which seem totally unaware of the history behind the buffer zones and the nature of the confrontations that they were designed to prevent.   

The decision totally ignores an issue that Judge Louis Brandeis made an essential judicial consideration:  the right to be left alone. 

In this decision, one suspects that the judiciary decided not to seem obstinately and stupidly locked in partisan obstruction and lifted their robes and stuck their heads up each others’ butts to get alternative perspectives.  There seems no other way to explain such an inadequately rendered decision.

Justice Roberts who wrote the decision says, ” petition­ers are not protestors; they seek not merely to express their opposi­tion to abortion, but to engage in personal, caring, consensual conversations with women about various alternatives.”    This statement is a semantic boondoggle.  When people show up at an abortion clinic to approach patients and try to “persuade” them not to terminate a pregnancy, that act is a protest. 

The issue is one of the right of people to go about their personal business without being impeded or interfered with by other people.  When a women is about to enter a clinic, whether for reasons of health issues or to have an abortion, she is in a state of mind concerning her own well-being.  If she is to have an abortion, she has made a decision about the viability of her own life, a decision that providers stress is never made lightly or without deliberation and consideration.  The last thing she needs is to be approached by some fatuous and presumptuous ass for a “personal, caring, consensual conversation about various alternatives.”    A buffer zone provides the fatuous asses with the right to try to engage the women within an audible range, but it also provides space so that the women can go about their personal business without a personal impediment interfering with their access.  It grants them the right to be left alone in a stressful moment.

The rhetoric of Supreme Court decisions has deteriorated into stark propaganda at the minds and hands of the conservative element on the court.  First of all, it isn’t rhetoric.  It is popular to call any form of political communication rhetoric.  But to qualify as real rhetoric, an argument must be advanced on meticulously documented facts and rigorous logic and reasoning.  Recent decisions, such as the abolishment of buffer zones and the and Hobby Lobby decision are examples of faulty information and slovenly reasoning.  The Hobby Lobby decision is incoherent, as Justice Aiito flounders about in trying to grasp at arguments to support the prejudicial doctrine preferred by the conservative justices. Ultimately, the court has rested much of its recent decisions upon the concept that corporations are persons, which effectually gives corporations the right to dictate the terms of life for real persons.  Conservatives like rule by corporate dictatorship, and detest the liberal notion of individuals determining how they wish to live their own lives.  The Hobby Lobby decision removes the right of women to determine what is covered by their health insurance.

Consistently of late, the SCOTUS is abolishing the right to be left alone.  Andi it is trying to force our heads up Alito's and Robert's lower colons. 

Monday, June 30, 2014

Supreme Court establishes a record in 2014 for disenfranchising workers

The Supreme Court during the first half of this year has established a clear record for disenfranchising middle class, working people and enforcing privileges for corporations and the one percent.

The New York Times has assembled this list of decisions by the court this year.  

82 companies already lined up to drop contraceptive insurance coverage

Follow this link to read the list.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Who knows Shinseki from Shinola?

Problems with obtaining medical treatment for veterans from the VA have been perennial.  But the quality of service is spotty.  Some VA facilities are noted for providing top medical services to their patients.  Others have perennial problems and are snarled up in the dysfunction that bureaucracies tend to breed and promulgate. 

South Dakota has had its problems.  My spouse is a former staff member for Sen. Daschle and Rep. Herseth Sandlin.  As I am a veteran, as was her father, she often related problems with health care that veterans asked for help with from the congressional staffs.  Tom Daschle, a veteran himself, was a national leader in solving problems veterans faced.  When the Department of Defense and VA denied that Agent Orange had inflicted harm upon soldiers exposed to it,  Tom Daschle mounted a campaign among medical authorities and affected veterans to make a scientific investigation into Agent Orange and how it affects humans.  That effort led to the recognition of injuries and damages caused by Agent Orange and required  the VA to provide diagnostic services and treatment for it.  That experience with Agent Orange laid the foundation for recognizing Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome as an illness caused by experiences in the military service.

South Dakota has had its difficulties with the VA.  A case that comes to mind because my spouse was involved in working on it was the problems veterans in the Aberdeen area had with access to VA medical care.  They had to travel the 200 miles to Sioux Falls, which imposed a tremendous burden when follow-up care was required.  The congressional staff filed its regular reports on their work with  veterans and the issues they faced and they registered on Tom Daschle.  They recognized that for effective and quick treatment,  Aberdeen needed a VA clinic.  The funds and orders were arranged by Daschle and Aberdeen now has a clinic staffed by local medical personnel.  Sen. Tim Johnson supported and participated in the efforts to provide medical care to the  veterans. 

Following Tom Daschle’s lead, Herseth Sandlin also made veteran’s issues a priority in her efforts to serve her constituents.  Alas, we do not have that kind of attention paid and effort exerted by our Congressional representatives.  That attention involves monitoring the VA facilities to see that they don’t fall into bureaucratic dysfunction.  Bureaucracies in their management tend to bring out the worst in humankind.  Not just government bureaucracies.  Corporate bureacracies are the worst.

The problem with Gen. Eric Shinseki is that he was a general.  He gave an  order that any veteran seeking medical help from the VA must be provided an appointment within 14 days.  When a general sends down such an order through the chain of command, subordinates will make it happen or their asses will be roasted on an open fire like Christmas chestnuts.  Gen. Shinseki assumed that an order sent down the VA bureaucracy would be treated like a general order issued in the army.  It did not seem to occur to him that if the bureaucracy hit some snags, the bureaucrats would not inform him, but would create a way to hide their nonperformance so they would not jeopardize any bonuses coming to them.  Their greed and dishonesty had a higher priority than ailing veterans trying to get treatment.

The New York Times has a record of reports detailing problems within the VA dating back 15 years.  

When we had Congressional representatives who actually monitored and acted upon veterans’ affairs, progress was made.  But now two of our three Congress people only make the set speeches provided them by party hacks regarding the intrusions of government into healthcare, and they vote against appropriations that would help bring the VA up to an effective standard of service.  Neither do they have staff members who intervene when veterans need help in obtaining  treatment and who report their work so their bosses in Congress know the issues involving the VA. 

While some personnel in the VA did not do their jobs and ignored veterans to pursue their greed and dishonesty, while withholding  information from Gen. Shinseki,  the real culprit is Congress.  Unlike Tom Daschle and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin,  they did not do their jobs and carry out their responsibilities.

But they are what the people of South Dakota want. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States