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

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Blogging: a study in scatology

The number of blogs tending toward the progressive viewpoint are diminishing in South Dakota, while those that espouse the regressive cant continue to grow. The same goes with the comments under postings.

Because of personal business, we find little time to post, but we still believe that the Internet offers an opportunity for cogent and valuable discussion. There is a problem, however.

Our good colleague Dr. Silas, who directed research on political communications, and who hopes to retire from his academic position this spring, has some points about web logs that are in line with our thinking. He writes that blogging is like motorcycle riding. Many people like the freedom and sense of exhiliration that riding a motorcycle can provide, but when you ride in groups, people tend to identify you with gangs. And so it goes with blogging. In order not to be perceived as a menace, motorcycle enthusiasts have to find different ways in which to share their enthusiasm rather than roar down the highways in hordes. And so, many bloggers, are searching for different forums that are not dominated by--to paraphrase Skakespeare--the idiots spewing forth their sound and fury.

What time I have been able to spend on the Internet since the Virginia Tech massacre has been devoted to discussions of how professors of English deal with student papers that signal some portentous problems in some students. Some years ago, the Dakota Writing Project was involved in developing guidelines on this matter, and I have been sorting through archives trying to relocate the results of that work.

I might post a summary here as well as on the other discussion forums in which I am participating.

Friday, April 20, 2007

How to turn a massacre into a degradation festival

Monday on the Virginia Tech campus surpassed the blood-filled violence of the most dementedly vicious horror film. If someone submitted a screen treatment of the events that happened there before it happened, the reviewers would say that the violence was so extreme, relentless, and excessive that it did not have the element of plausibility that horror films require to make them effective. Cho Seung-Hui will have a mark on American culture because he escalated actual violence to a level that existed only in the imagination. Unfortunately, he had the motives and ability to make his imagination actual.

The demented horror of that mass shooting, with definite connections to Columbine, takes its place with the Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11 as events that diminish the freedom that once was the distinguishing mark of American life and replace it with a society consumed by procedures and apparatus for keeping it "secure." Cable television shows have gathered opinions of campus security experts about what to do, and they have advanced the proposal that students should be required to swipe an identification card at the door of each campus building before they can enter the premises. In effect, the idea is to imprison the campus population and organize it around security checks. These experts are so far removed from the purposes of the academic world that it cannot occur to them that such procedures would effectively eliminate the university as it has developed since the Middle Ages. But you can depend upon cable television news to come up with the truly ignorant and stupid.

One would think that people would not want to make one of the most horrific atrocities to ever be experienced in our country more atrocious. But the imaginative cable news media can always be relied on to find a way. Their purpose is to find sub-culprits to blame for what Cho Seung-Hui did, not find out what made him the way he was.

On either CNN or MSNBC Monday evening, the news host was interviewing the president of the VT student body. She asked if he thought that the university administration was remiss in not shutting down the campus after the first shootings and, thus, allowed a two-hour gap for the perpetrator to prepare and launch his final assault. The student body president replied that the focus of the campus was on regrouping its resources, healing, and getting on with its work, not placing blame. The woman repeated her question about six times. The young man refused to be badgered into giving assent to a leading question. However, over the ensuing days, this blame-placing theme became a staple of the television news reports. In other words, the cable news media set an agenda hunted down people who would affirm its supposition that the university misperformed and was negligent. They are still harping on this theme. They did not merely ask a question, which would be legitimate in its own right. They hammered on it until they got the answer they wanted. That is not journalism. It is setting an agenda and propagandizing it.

The president of Virginia Tech is a smart man. He immediately asked the Virginia Governor to set up a panel of qualified people to examine the performance of the University on Monday. We will wait for the report of that panel, and we trust it will include the role the media played in exacerbating this massacre.

Then NBC News received its packet of multi-media statements from Cho Seung-Hui. It immediately turned it over to authorities, but it also prepared the photos and edited the video clips for broadcast. As an old newsman, I firmly believe that all contained in the packet should be released to the public in a news context. NBC put on video clips of Cho addressing the television audience and not to be outdone in the furious scramble for ratings, CNN and the rest of the pack quickly followed. The question raised by the media is whether it was appropriate to let Cho dominate the airways by broadcasting the videos and, therefore, detract from the news of the victims.

The question is an exploitive sham. If the clips were published in a news context, they would not be exploited for their sensational aspects, but presented in a framework of developments that would emphasize the tragedy of Cho and what motivated him, not let him glare at the television viewers with his trapped-rat-like snarl and cast his invectives as if he were a living presence on the camera. The significant choice made by cable news media was to choose sensational television over journalism. As usual, horrific titillation won out over straight journalism. The latter might be found boring.

The families of victims were, according to some reports, further horrified at seeing the killer of the victims receive a public platform that displaced the acknowledgments of the students and professors who were killed while engaging in lofty and inspiring purposes. Still, these same people will want to know and understand what drove Cho to kill them in such a highly-planned, methodical way. Not just the relatives of the victims, but the entire country deserves to have these events reported for the information and understanding of the massacre, not to have it exploited by carping accusations against the authorities and through the badgering of friends, relatives, and campus people to see what outrage can be fomented to keep those suckers out there glued to their television screens.

To add to the tragedy is that mass shootings and bombings are becoming punctuation points that mark the direction our culture is taking. As much has we are repulsed and horrified by Cho, he represents something contained in our culture that produces events like the Oklahoma City bombing and the Columbine massacre. There are people in our culture leading desperate, volatile lives, and we do not know how to recognize them or understand them. Cho obviously had mental problems, but like those other perpetrators, he functioned in society up to a point. The very fact that he attended college and did his class work is evidence that he wanted something more at some point than recognition as a bloodthirsty monster.

Timonth McVeigh was executed before we ever found out just what combination of political attitude and personal pathologies drove him. In the Virginia Tech massacre, Cho Seung-Hui turned into a horrific personality. But in their constant attempts to badger witnesses, impose its less-than-intelligent accusations on administrators and officials, and appeal to the basest of human instincts, cabke television news assumes a role of drooling monster right along side of Cho.

Television news lost any claims it ever had to moral probity when it chose to no longer distinguish between news and the purely salacious.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Thirty-three are killed, and the gun loonies come slithering from under their rocks

The 33 deaths at Virginia Tech hit me hard. For one thing I am a professor, although retired, but I have a reverence for young people preparing themselves and, consequently, the world for a bright future. I hold a special regard for colleague professors who guide them in their preparation. I think strongly that there is a sacredness in knowledge and the development and transmission of it. I see those young faces and the professors going about their gentle profession and the sense of loss overwhelms.

Another thing about this latest incident is that my cousin's husband, an expert on special education, retired from Virginia Tech. The family lives in a neighboring town.

Another incident for which I felt a connection was the killing of five people at the University of Iowa on November 1, 1991. The place where it all began, Van Allen Hall, was a place where I met a fellow graduate student each afternoon. At the time I was finishing graduate courses and made a 100-mile roundtrip commute each day. The man I met up with at Van Allen Hall rode with me, and I stopped by to pick him up there before we began the drive to our homes.

In that incident a brand new doctorate who was one of 300 in the world with his specialty in astro-physics killed three professors, a research assistant, and an associate vice president for academic affairs. He also shot an undergraduate who was working as a receptionist in the vice president's office. The young woman is now a paraplegac.

Even though I was working in South Dakota at the time of the incident, I could visualize the place and the people who worked there. It was a place where one quickly got the sense that important knowledge was being developed there.

The shooter, Gang Lu, a Chinese national, left letters about what his motives were. He was recognized as a brilliant scholar, and he was in contention for a special prize for his dissertation. The prize carried a cash award of $1,000. The prize was awarded to the researcher Lu shot to death.

This incident is one in a number of in which academics who feel somehow slighted and humiliated wreak vengeance on professors and peers. There is no information at this time that such was the motive at Virginia Tech, but it is the most prominent factor in incidents that erupt in what is intended to be the tranquil and thoughtful environment of a university campus.

Such occasions must be unbearable for the families and friends of those who have been killed. They affect the nation, indeed the world, so adversely. So it is a particularly offensive and egregious and unforgiveable matter when the NRA and its loonies turn it into an occasion for its cause by saying that if other students had been carrying weapons, the shooter would not have taken so many lives. I am a gun owner. As I write this, I can look at the wall to my left and see a rack of shotguns and a rifle. And behind me are two black powder muskets. I enjoy shooting sports, I respect firearms, but I do not think they have a place in moderating the factional and personal issues that exist in society. There are problems that need to be solved, but their best chance of being solved is at Virginia Tech and all the places that try to apply human knowledge and understanding to human concerns.

Making some people think they are being demeaned and rejected as lower-order creatures is a problem that higher education has not cogently addressed. Any ranking and indicating the worth of people through some hierarchical scheme is inherently violent. That is the premise that drives our American quest for liberty, equality, and true justice for all.

As for letting everyone be armed to settle their resentments and disputes, we have an elaborate, and expensive, and life-costing experiment in just that.

It is called Iraq.

Monday, April 16, 2007

It's like a friggin' earth worm colony out there

We annoy the heck out of a lot of people because we think most blogs, at least those which presume political commentary, are dumber than fence posts. What the people who take the most offense at our contention fail to notice is that we are just as critical and dismissive of the more traditional news media.

This morning was a good example of cable television news being hopelessly inane. The channel was MSNBC and I did not catch the name of the news "host," but she is a pretty lady who smiles into the camera a lot and asks kind of dumb questions. This morning she was discussing with two other women of opposing viewpoints, who also possessed the requisite prettiness for cable news, a study on teaching abstinence to kids. Apparently, the study showed that teenage kids who have been exposed to abstinence indoctrination are as likely to screw as those who have not endured advocacy not to screw. One woman who was a pro-abstinence-advocate said the study was flawed because the control groups and target groups who were interviewed came from the same high schools.

I don't know what the other woman said. She was on the side of the screwers, but she responded to a question from the news host by calling the host a liar, and all of the sudden three pretty women were yelling and chattering like sex-starved chimpanzees and they were so pissed off and their faces so screwed-up (yes, I intend that) that they weren't pretty anymore. However, the host kept yelling at the screwing-advocate that she resented being called a liar and if the bitch (she didn't really use that word but it is precisely what she conveyed with her screwed-up face) didn't shut up, she was going to end the interview. She ended the interview, and the weather reporter or someone like that came on and saved the day by reporting that some folks on Long Island got doused with seven inches of rain and then showed a Lincoln Town Car that had been submerged up to its roof. Boy, was that a memorable image.

I am old man and, so, I recall some of my past fondly. And I am not speaking of teenage screwing or not-screwing. I am speaking of being a young print journalist at a time when television and radio began to compete with newspapers. Right off the bat, we noticed something that electronic folks did. While we were out hunting news sources and checking out the facts of what news sources told us, the people with microphones and cameras were lining up people of opposing viewpoints on topics at hand and getting their opinions--whether their opinions lent any information or insight to the topic or not. You see, one of the criteria for what has news value is conflict. And when you get two people who oppose each other and might even start yelling and fighting with each other, you've got good conflict going. Their yelling and pissing at each other might not have anything to contribute to the ostensible topic, but, by God, you've got good radio or television.

When you ask electronic journalists what journalistic principle is at work, they answer "balance." You've got two opposing viewpoints and, therefore, you've got balance.

We have often thought that electronic journalists do this because they do not know what journalism is. And because they are lazy. What I fondly remember is that an essential part of journalism was verifying any information that was published, even if it was contained in a quotation. I recall that fondly because people could trust the information and it was presented with full qualifications and context for the most part. It was sometimes not immediate, because it takes time to search out and verify facts. If you get two yo-yos on microphone or camera pissing in opposition to each other, the news gets lost in the heated and sometimes abusive exchange of opinions. The audience tends to get more interested in the conflict than the facts. And it is much easier to provoke a couple of yo-yos into abusing each other than it is to go out and dig up facts and verifications of those facts.

Another point that we have made--it is not original with us--is that with all the words and ostensible information flying through the air and over the wires, people get lost and disoriented and nothing much registers.

Well, Pew Research survey just released makes that point. In fact, it shows that people are dumber about what is going on than they were twenty years ago. Here is the opening paragraph of their report:


Since the late 1980s, the emergence of 24-hour cable news as a dominant news source and the explosive growth of the internet have led to major changes in the American public's news habits. But a new nationwide survey finds that the coaxial and digital revolutions and attendant changes in news audience behaviors have had little impact on how much Americans know about national and international affairs.

You can read the entire report at this link.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Did Bush himself pull the trigger on the firing of U.S. Attorney?

The Washington Post today carries an op-ed piece by Alberto Gonzales on his innocence in any political hanky-panky regarding the firing of U.S. Attorneys. The Justice Department has also released an advanced copy of Gonzales' statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee at which he will appear Tuesday. The full text is reprinted on this web log posting by Paul Kiel.

While Gonzales is busy protesting his innocence today, the Albuquerque Journal is running a story that traces the affair involving at least one of the attorneys fired right to the White House.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Nancy Pelosi is a nappy-headed ho: anatomy of a mindset

A fundamental principle of rhetoric is that matters of taste and personal preference cannot be argued with any profit or point. Still, a huge amount of verbal energy is expended on proclaiming quirky notions as God's truth and making cases against people who do not believe or think as the expenders do. A trait of expressions of taste and personal attitude is that they always devolve into ad hominem attacks because there are no objective reference points on which to base argument. Consequently, much of what the media, new and old, is devoted to is personal attack and examinations of personhood for the purpose of searching for things that can be contrived into defamations. Differences in cultural orientations and perspectives are tremendously difficult to analyze and resolve, but contentions and beliefs that arise from deep-psychological sets of mind that reach back into the primal motives of domination and violence in humankind are fairly easy to identify for what they are.

The instances of Nancy Pelosi's middle eastern trip which included a visit to Syria and Don Imus' racial denigration of the Rutgers' womens basketball team are easy case histories to examine. Well, maybe not easy, but examinable. They both involve expressions that have swept through the media in one guise or another and describe mindsets of their expressors, not matters of fact or reputable opinion.

It is all a matter of the new fascism, which is a misnomer. The fascism that we are experiencing in America is a very old fascism, but, make no mistake about it, it is fascism. It might better be called proto-fascism.


  • it touts a belligerent nationalism over reasoned dialogue with other nations; it practices racism and oppression in its lower timbres;
  • it practices, or tries to, suppression of its opposition through attempts at censorship and propagandic and legalistic terrorism;
  • it delves into the personal business of its subjects for the purposes of laying a foundation for defamations and legal actions against its own citizenry;
  • it assumes dictatorial powers; and it exercises socio-economic control through government agencies and corporate allies. The evisceration of the American middle class is the creation of an economic serfdom.

Fascism in its 21st century form is simply a return to feudalism, including the ignorance, the superstitious belief systems, and animal-herd social organization of the Dark Ages. The neo-clamor against evolution, global warming, individual rights regarding reproduction, humanistic and scientific exploration and dialogue about human existence, the belief in peace and the alternatives to violence, the acceptance of a militaristic state, the branding of free-thinking as heresy and traitorous are propaganda tactics that fall in line with every fascist and totalitarian state in history. To that mindset, Difference = Enemy. And so, the hate propaganda mounts.

The definition of fascism gained currency in 1995 when Umberto Eco, the Italian novelist and semiologist, wrote his definitions of contemporary Ur-Fascism in a New York Review of Books essay "Eternal Fascism: Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt." This essay launched an international discussion of how fascism has its origins in the social organization of animal packs--dog packs, chicken flocks, cow herds, etc.--in which individuals try to gain dominance and power over each other through establishing a hierarchical order through treachery and violence. Democracy is a rejection of this kind of social order and the assertion, as demonstrated by Christ, of good will and good purpose as what must be the controlling motives of mankind. In this context, the words of Imus and the false accusations against Nancy Pelosi take on the aspect of true regression into mindless hostility.

Some reports say that Imus is being pilloried for making one horrendous comment. That is not true. He sits before the microphone protesting "I am a good and decent person," but the "nappy-headed ho" appelation is not an isolated instance of when he has made a vicious denigration. A number of press and media-related organizations have recorded an accumulation of racial-based defamations by him. Much beyond his denigrations, however, he makes almost daily diminishing and degrading comments upon those on whom he presumes to pass negative judgment. He derogates people for being fat, Jewish, bald, unattractive, and on and on. His idea of humor is not parody and satire of presumption and fatuity in others but is malignant name-calling and abusive aspersions.

Imus' offenses go far deeper than racism and sexism. We have always been troubled that people find his crude maligning of people humorous and entertaining. Still, he and his slavering producer, Bernard, would often launch into doltish rituals of name-calling and abuse, accompanied with a near-cretinous snickering and guffawing as if it was witty or cogent. The maligning of other people on the basis of a personal negative attitude toward them, rather than verified words and actions, is not witty or humorous or the acts of good and decent people.

We watched Imus occasionally to hear what prominent journalists and politicians on his show had to say. Only infrequently did his guests protest his malignant assaults on people about whom they talked. He did feature people on his show who did parodies of some celebrities with point and wit. But his shows were always laced with strands of cruel ridicule and defamations that were personal, not directed at particular behavior.

Objection to Imus is not a matter of taste. It is a matter of recognizing the difference between intelligent satire and genuine wit and crude, name-calling disparagement without foundation. Name-calling is the first mark of malignant propaganda. The syndrome Imus exhibits has become a standard of American media. Contriving defects of character in others and accusing them of perfidious acts has become an industry--some like to call it interactive media. It is the basis for the popularity of Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and their ilk. It is the commercialization of proto-fascism.

That leads to the assault against Nancy Pelosi. Underlying the assault is that Ms. Pelosi is a woman who dares to assume the top leadership role in the U.S. House. This is upsetting to proto-fascists who cling to the belief that organization is a matter of bullying one's way to the head of the pack and that position is reserved for Alpha males. The Alpha-male wannabes are really pissed off at Nancy Pelosi's acension to high leadership. Their pissing gets ignitable when Ms. Pelosi disregards what she should have learned in obedience school and disobeys the commands of the master not to go to Syria. We won't dwell on the many congressmen from both parties who have traveled the Middle East and how it is their right and responsibility to

  • provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States
  • regulate commerce with foreign nations
  • define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offences against the Laws of Nations
  • declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water
  • make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces
  • provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States
  • decide, in the case of the Senate, by two-thirds vote on the making of treaties and affairs with foreign countries

Congresspersons go on fact-finding missions to obtain information so that they may carry out these charges with intelligence. Nancy Pelosi did not present Syria or any other country with an alternative foreign policy. As the people who accompanied her testify, she represented America's concerns in total consistency with national policy and objectives. The contentions that she didn't are fabrications that have no basis in fact.

With Congress given so much responsibility to counter the destructive antics of George W. and his Great American Stooge Show, the criticisms of Nancy Pelosi and her attempt to nudge the stalled peace talks between Israel and its recalcitrant neighbors along can hardly be seen as anything but peevish resentment. When people cite George W. as the commander-in-chief whose every word and notion must be obeyed, they ignore the layers of restraint and obligation imposed by the Constitution and its implementing legislation on that role. Nancy Pelosi's offense is that she is a Democrat who is Speaker of the House, she is a woman, and she will not take the place assigned by those who flirt with proto-fascism as a political ideology.

The accusations made against her visit are contrived. Some commentators even went so far as to say she committed a felony with her visit. Those contrivances are the moral and intellectual equivalent of what Imus and Bernard said about the Rutgers women's basketball team. They are statements intended to harm and damage. And the fact that Nancy Pelosi is a public figure while the Rutgers women are earnest and diligent young students does not mitigate the malignancy in the statements made about her. Nancy Pelosi and the Rutgers women provoke animus because they are women and they have achievements that are equal to, and sometimes surpass, that of their male counterparts.

Racism and sexism are the surface issues in all this. The fundamental issue is the malice behind the hate speech. Proto-fascism is based upon the presumption of a hierarchy in which there is no universal equality but in which some assert some kind of a right to oppress, damage, and subjugate other people. The charges of racism in the Imus matter put on display a sword that cuts both ways. The denigration of blacks and derogation of women in some rap and hip-hop music and culture are symptoms of a more primal attitude operating in the culture. Imus' devastating insult is the sign of a vicious malice that cannot be covered up by a chortling and guffawing delivery. The fabrications against Nancy Pelosi are the sign of a hatred that goes far deeper than a difference of political opinion.

Don Imus had a sizeable audience for his radio show and its simulcast that brought the networks about $50 million a year in advertising revenues. He has used some of his personal wealth for humane and charitable causes. The troubling aspect is how many people listened to Imus and found malicious insult and abuse of other people amusing and entertaining. Just as troubling is the audience of people who listen to rap and hip-hop and get enjoyment from the denigration and derogation that has become a characteristic of the culture. It is the fad and fashion, and corporations have been making huge amounts of money from it. It is part of the proto-fascist attitude that whatever profits one and gains power over people is fair game, no matter how destructive and demoralizing it is to some.

The firing of Don Imus does not reach the people who have profited and are responsible for spreading the malignant fashions and attitudes that are undercutting our nation and denying social freedom, equality, and justice to those designated for insult and abuse. It will be a matter of cable news and blogs being saturated for a time with the matter, and then it too will pass, and life will go on. As long as people send hate mail to the women of the Rutgers basketball team, the cancer will only gain more of a foothold. Eventually, it might kill us all. It might accomplish what Al Qaeda wants.

We do note that the more assiduous practitioners of malicious derogation fall into the camp of the political regressives. However, the so-called progressives indulge themselves, also. Ignorance, cruelty, and malice are characteristics that persist throughout the spectrum of political attitudes. When I commented on some foolish excesses publicly demonstrated by young people on election day, I earned the stereotype of being a crabby old man with a porkpie in a jumpsuit yelling at young people to get out of my yard. This was not from the regressive camp. But I doubt that its author understood that applying such a diminishing stereotype to someone on the basis of age is the intellectual and moral equivalent of calling a black man nigger. It is an example of the quality of the Imus-like insulting banter that is the stuff of the new media. That it is delivered under humorous guise does not mitigate the presence of malice.

This is the world we live in. In that world we have founded a new nation presided over by those who have made it the United States of Ignonimy. Nancy Pelosi attempted to restore some of the integrity of our status as an agent of peace and reason, but she is vilified. The vilification comes not out of the rhetoric of disagreement through informed opinions, but those who can disagree only by maligning others and portraying them with odious and false characterizations.

We are proud of America's leadership in the world for freedom, equality, and justice for all. We are proud of how it works out the injustices in its own society. But when criticizing the failures of our country are labeled as anti-American, we see the signs of past triumphs and accomplishments being undermined by those who long to dominate, derogate, and control.

The firing of Don Imus will not end the deep-seated malignancy that infects the contemporary human spirit. Proto-fascism threatens to overturn the 230 years of cultural progress that is America's history.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Is "Nancy Pelosi" the N-word?

Stephen Colbert suggested it. And all the furor about Nancy Pelosi's stop in Syria while she is touring the Middle East reflects nothing more than the inane, petty, and malevolent depths in which our political system has become mired.

We like to cite the Orwellian state into which America has been thrown--but we have to admit that a super majority of Americans now recognize that fact, according to the opinion polls. Another book of note, Herman Wouk's The Caine Mutiny seems more relevant at this juncture.

The movie version, featuring Humphrey Bogart and Fred McMurray, still plays on cable television with some frequency. The situation is that a would-be novelist on board The Caine foments a mutiny against a captain who shows signs of incompetence brought about by a mental disorder. When his ship is ordered to tow some targets for some naval artillery practice, the captain becomes so distracted by some petty business brought to him on the bridge, a crewman's shirttail hanging out, that he doesn't notice that his ship is sailing on a course that severs the tow line. This is an act of negligence and incompetence that brings into question the captain's fitness to command. Later, the ship's captain shows signs of cowardice when he is to cover a marine beach landing and later shows incompetence and fear when caught in a tropical storm.

The ship's officers use a military procedure to declare the captain unfit to command, confine him to his quarters, and have him cited before a military court. The ships' officers are brought up on charges of mutiny. A very shrewd lawyer gets them off by provoking Captain Queeg into putting on a demonstration of his mental disorder on the stand. But the lawyer raises the question of whether the officers should have deposed Queeg from command or whether they were provoked into such drastic measure by the would-be novelist. The officers are confronted with the question of whether they could have prevailed upon the captain to make the appropriate decisions in the matters in which he was at fault.

The 15 British seamen and marines held hostage by Iran for a time renew the questions of command. Some of we old soldiers have questioned whether the British military has a code of conduct which insists that captured soldiers need give only their name, rank, and serial number when captured. We also questioned where the support was from their mother ship and why they were putting on televised confessions. Those questions were answered today. They were not operating as combatants in boarding the ship they inspected. This was the 66th such inspection of ships traveling in Iraqi waters for the purpose of preventing military contraband from being sent to Iraq. Iran is not designated as an enemy, so the rules of engagement that require armed resistance to aggressive acts do not necessarily apply. The young naval lieutenant and his marine captain counterpart in the incident found themselves surrounded while they were trying to simply explain to the Iranian force that they were on a routine inspection. The young commanders decided that armed resistance would end only in disaster and wasted lives of the persons under their command. Put in the simplest of terms, the situation did not merit the risking of lives in their estimation, and the information they gave over television was "none operational." That means it did not divulge any substantive facts. Rather, they chose to affect a cooperative demeanor in the hopes that civil protocols could get them out of their predicament. And that is what happened.

The question is if Nancy Pelosi is doing something that is insubordinate to her commander-in-chief and if her independent action is somehow a mutiny. That is preposterous. George W. Bush would like to cast himself in the role of a commander-in-chief so that any disagreements and countermovements to his policies can be cited as insubordinate and mutinous. He won the election of 2004 by sending a majority into the fear that they would be cowardly and traitorous if they did not support his ridiculous, life-wasting war. A majority no longer believes that.

Nancy Pelosi and the other members of Congress have an obligation and a responsibility to insure that the person who assumes command of the nation is operating with full moral and mental faculties intact. They have the function and responsibility to see that the people's interest is being competently and honestly represented in world affairs. As shown in the post below, a huge majority of the people do not believe that the Bush administration is competent or honest in representing them to the rest of the world. The Public Agenda poll makes these further points regarding the war on Iraq:

  • 73 percent now give low grades (C, D or F) to the U.S. for succeeding in Iraq (32 percent give an F); up from 57 percent in June 2005 (F's up from 16 percent in June 2005)
  • 61 percent say America's safety from terrorism does not depend on our success in Iraq and 70 percent say we should leave within the next 12 months (19 percent say immediately)
  • 59 percent say they do not trust the government to tell the truth on foreign affairs, up ten points since September 2006

The question of removing George W. Bush from command has been posed. The failures of his adminstration are hard for even the most devout regressives to deny. Furthermore, the evidence compiled in numerous books by those with inside perspectives on the adminstration show that obsessive compulsion with power and control is the motive behind the war. The fact is that 3,200 American lives have been sacrificed to the vanities and compulsions of a faction that perceives American democracy as a fascist design. Power and control are its primary concerns. The Swift-boating of John Kerry, Valerie Plame, the many intelligence and anti-terrorism officers who have told of the Bush deceptions, and of the U.S. attorneys who did not display enough aggression in carrying out Bush policies are examples of the technique of "vaporizing," demolishing the reputations of those who disagree and show resistance. The Bush and regressive answer to any questioning of policy and action is to launch personnel attacks in attempts to discredit those who do not accept the dictates of a regime that is emerging as the new face of fascism. This practice is very, very Orwellian.

Nancy Pelosi will be vilified. But she has done nothing but exercise her rights and responsibilities. Those who long for the regressive oppressions and denials of basic rights will continue to line up behind George W. Bush and malign and vilify those who see what he is doing as intellectually and morally wrong. As a member of Congress, she has the duty to oversee the armed forces, "to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the militia, and for governing such part of them as may be employed in the service of the United States." She is not undercutting the commander-in-chief, as some regressives who confuse the presidency with monarchy and dictatorship contend. She is doing the duties required of her by the Constitution.

The last thing this nation needs is an impeachment--particularly one on the grounds that acts of incompetence demonstrate "an inability to discharge the powers and duties" of the presidency.

If the world has a future, it does not lie in the hands of George W. Bush. His predilection for belligerence, violence, deception, and wasting the lives of innocents for vain purposes are recognized by a huge majority of Americans as jeopardizing the world. Nancy Pelosi is performing her function as the grantor of authority for declaring war and to make the rules of government and regulation for the military forces and to oversee their funding. These powers reside in Congress, not in the commander-in-chief.

Let Nancy Pelosi show the alternatives to the George W. Bush and his merriless band of regressive-feudals throughout the world. Maybe she can head off our plunge into the neo-Dark Ages.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

While the world burns, the regressives fiddle and diddle

If you read the regressive commentators and bloggers, you'd get the impression that a huge majority of people do not think that George W. Bush is the most incompetent, bumbling nincompoop that ever occupied the White House. The latest plaint is that Nancy Pelosi has committed some grievous offense by going to Syria--despite the fact that some Republican congressmen preceded her by a few days.

Bush's complaint is that of an incompetent who is being displaced in his primary duties by someone who has the brains and know-how to carry those duties out.

When it comes to foreign policy, the people have no illusions that George Bush's policies and actions have done anything other than damage the nation. Nancy Pelosi and other people in Congress are our last best hope for re-establishing the integrity of the nation.

A poll by Public Agenda shows that the U.S. citizens view our foreign relationships this way:

  • 84 percent are worried about the way things are going for the United States in world affairs (32 percent worry "a lot")
  • 82 percent say the world is becoming more dangerous for the United States and its people (48 percent say "much more dangerous")
  • 73 percent say the United States is not doing a good job as a leader in creating a more peaceful and prosperous world (34 percent say a "poor" job)
  • 68 percent believe the rest of the world sees the United States negatively (34 percent say "very negatively")
  • 67 percent say U.S. relations with the rest of the world are on the wrong track Iraq

The whole report can be read at Public Agenda.

The regressives have been so completely brainwashed by Bush's Orwellian conditioning program that they have forgotten the decent things America once stood for.

And so they comment and blog on and on and on.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

The same priorities, but less time

The Northern Valley Beacon was started as a vehicle for fact-checking and amplifying information released to the public by the media and internet sites, including web logs. The problem with web logs is that postings get responses from other bloggers, both positive and negative, and sometimes we get tempted to answer them. When you do answer them, you find yourself either standing in the stream-play of a pissing match or in a finger-up-your-buddy's-hole crowing contest about how utterly precious we bloggers are. We find the latter more revolting than the former.

Bl0ggers of both ends of the political spectrum--except for a few like Doug on Dakota Today--persist in a logical fallacy and a cheap rhetorical trick. They drift off into the ad hominem representation of other people rather than respond to what the other people are actually saying. In its crudest form this practice devolves into name calling. In its more fanciful form, it involves casting individuals in stereotypical and belittling images. The mildest condemnation we can make of this practice is that it is a form of intellectual incompetence and often is result of a warped ego. And it is a form of intellectual incompetence that enjoys great bipartisan support.

In our efforts to avoid getting mired in blogging-games and trying to maintain a focus on information, we do not offer links to other blogs unless we cite them for some reason. We seldom respond to other blogs. Insofar as blogs do sometimes become facets of events and developments, we do review them. Actually, some of our silent supporters review them and call our attention to them on occasion.

For some time, we have been puzzling over how to use the efficiency and popularity of the Internet to contribute to a thoughtful and credible examination of public discourse. We keep running into something that Marshall McLuhan noted 40 years ago and coined in his epithet that "the medium is the message." Messages in blogs tend to get subsumed by the medium. Like the juvenile acronyms used in instant messaging and discussion boards, customs and terms in blogging establish a context that morphs away the orginal content and intent of postings by forcing them through what has evolved into a cultural filter.

Some time ago S. I. Hayakawa (a professor of linguistics, president of San Francisco State U., and a U.S. Senator) talked of the age of communication as thrusting we humans into a blizzard of words. Rather than serving as the intellectual lifeblood of humankind, words by their superabundance, became a stormy environment against which we have to battle for our bearings and our personal survival. The Internet has increased the blizzard exponentially. Most people are no longer educated in rhetoric so that they may discern words which give accurate reports of the real world and words which are mere symptoms of the mentalities of those who utter them. Reading critically and accurately has become a strenuous act. Most people do not have the time to sort through the drifts of words that encounter them each step of their life. We have been joining with other students of rhetoric and literature to explore how the Internet could be used as a clarifying force in human discussion rather than an impediment and barrier to understanding.

When we examine the false reports and logical failures in the traditional news media of our time, we are daunted. But when we examine the falsehoods, inaccuracies, and failures of logic in blogs, all compounded by slovenly and incompetent writing, especially in blogs with regional settings, we realize we are puny swimmers trying to surmount a tsunami of verbiage.

So, we are concentrating on other matters and not spending much time on blogging. Consequently, we have a backlog of subjects on which we should make postings but have to expend out time and energy on other matters. We hope to get around to them. They are:


  • Response to a letter we received on our blogs about the resistance to the Northern Beef Packers plant in Aberdeen and the racial attitudes in which that resistance has been mounted.
  • John Thune's visit to Aberdeen in regard to flagging use of the regional airport and his previous stances and actions regarding transportation in the Aberdeen area.
  • More on the control of energy production and distribution in this part of the state by foreign corporations.
  • The increasing barriers in government to public knowledge of what is going on and who is in control.
  • The serious problems that affect higher education in South Dakota and the serious threat to Northern State University's survival as a comprehensive institution.

Meanwhile, we are shoveling the April snow in our driveway and the perpetual detritus from the blizzard of words.

Monday, April 2, 2007

Sen. Tim Johnson: keeping the asps in their baskets

Sen. Tim Johnson's family and staff decided to keep his rehabilitation facility confidential so that his therapy and his resumption of his duties could proceed without the impediments of gawkers and their stupid speculations cluttering the environment. His injury was serious, but not fatal or incapacitating. If the busy-bodies who whined about not getting immediate and intimate information about his progress had bothered to check with ethical medical personnel, they would have been informed that a climate of disparagement and doom is the last thing anybody recovering from a serious episode needs. For the Senator's health and the political health within the state, family and staff took the responsible route and concentrated on getting the job done, not catering to idle gossipers.

A number of people, including a California physician who should be disciplined for it, some in letters-to-the-editor, one in a paid advertisement, and commenters on the Malevolent Blog Network, said the Senator should resign so that he could be replaced with someone who could represent the state. Although all the suggestions were accompanied with phony wishes for the Senator's well-being, few people are so mentally decrepit as not to recognize the petty and degraded political malevolence behind their suggestions.

As last week drew to a close, a number of reports on the Senator's condition were made by his staff:

  • The Senator has regained most of his verbal skills and is doing work with his staff and colleagues to stay current and informed on legislative and procedural matters in the Senate.
  • He is undergoing therapy four to five hours a day, six days a week to recondition himself physically.
  • The respect he has earned from his colleagues in the Senate have produced a concerted effort by his Democratic fellows to insure that the concerns and programs involving South Dakota are represented in the committess and on the Senate floor.
  • Although the Senator may not vote on matters brought to the floor unless personally present, he may vote by proxy on matters dealt with by sub-committees and he is doing so through his staff and colleagues.
  • His Senate colleagues are engaged in fund-raising activities for the Senator's 2008 campaign for re-election.

The Senator has made remarkable progress, and all the ill-wishing asps in the viper dens ain't going to stop it.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States

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