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

Monday, September 24, 2007

Oh, General, Dismay Us

The regressive band on the political spectrum has taken up the manufacture of outrage as its principle business. Of late they are in perpetual states of gasping shock and indignation, like the good ladies of the altar society who heard an altar boy mutter the f-word as he tripped over the hem of his cossack.

One of the sources of the latest display of outrage is the MoveOn.org ad that taunts with the headline "General Petraeus or General Betray Us." It has bunched up more boxers and knotted more panties than all the middle school wedgies in the history of the world. Where MoveOn.org actually messed up was in not remembering that a goodly portion of the people out there would not and could not read past the headline. The organization has not given enough consideration to the fact that the Bush regime's greatest success has been in transforming its idiotic core of supporters into an idiot corps, better labeled the Bush Corps.

The B-Corps has put itself under voluntary thralldom to the industiral-military complex, even though the industrial part has largely deserted the homeland for the Pacific Rim, predominantly China. To the B-Corps, military commanders are deified and the war on Iraq is a santified crusade.
But the deity requires sacrifice. So far, the B-Corps worshipfully has offered up 3,800 lives and 30,000 limbs. God is great.

MoveOn.org's big mistake was in not anticipating with what the true believers could contrive from their wrath at having a deity criticized as if he is mortal whose judgment can be questioned. The commandment that you should never take the name of thy god in vain has been broken.

It is not as if we have not been here before. During the election campaign of 2006, the B-Corps labeled anyone who questioned the intelligence and integrity of the reasons for waging war on Iraq a traitor. Critics were called America haters, comforters of the enemy, libeals, tree huggers, book readers, and all manner of perverse and subsersive things. They were routinely told that if they didn't like the war, they could leave the country. You know, one nation, under god. Unless you are not part of the B-Corps.
Now the B-Corps is working up its outrage--about the only American product that has not been outsourced--and insisting that the Petraeus ad was an unholy desecration of the entire military. In fact, the military is mentioned only once in the ad when it cites Gen. Petraeus' statement that they might have to occupy Iraw for at least another ten years.

The real gist of the ad was that Gen. Petraeus is simply a liturgist for the B-Corps, "cooking the books for the White House." It makes the point that his conclusions are based upon widely contrived statistics and are refuted by every other independent assessment of how things are going in Iraq. Buy the B-Corps can only respond in outrage that a General of honorable service can be held accountable for the things he says and why he says them.

The B-Corps is a great wrecker of good generals. It got rid of Gen. Anthony Zinni when B did not like his assessment of what we were doing in Iraq. Good soldiers do what they are told without question. So it took an excellent Gen. Colin Powell and made him Secretary of State, but told him to be a good soldier and do only what he was told. He was told phony evidence to present to the U.N. for waging war on Iraq. And the B-Corps gets outraged over what MoveOn.org says about Gen. Petraeus, while it uses a very good soldier for dishonest purposes. And they wonder why some of us doubt Gen. Petraeus.

The B-Corps says that if presidential candidates do not denounce MoveOn.org, they are insulting every American soldier and harming America. Do not doubt for a moment that their accusations of being unpatriotic and against the military are not effective. The U.S. Senate bowed down and peed its collective pants. At least 72 of the Senators did.
We hear the outrage. We hear very little outrage at the 3,800 soldiers dead, the 30,000 wounded, and the billions of dollars spent on Iraw while the B-Corps calls proposed extensions of medical insurance for children irresponsible.

Outrage is a cottage industry for the B-Corps. It is time to outsource it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

The state motto: go suck Jello

Advocates of open, democratic government in South Dakota have repeatedly pointed to the statutes on government records in state law as the main obstacle to open, honest, and ethical government in the state. In its rejection of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader appeal on making public the invitation list for the Governor's Hunt, the state Supreme Court in effect makes that case. It contends that there is no specific law requiring the Dept. of Tourism to keep and provide records of who is invited to the hunt. The state has no obligation to give out the names. So, the Supreme Court keeps in effect the long tradition of feudalism in the state in which the serfs have no business knowing what the privileged classes are contriving for them. It is the job of no one in South Dakota to see to it that those idiot voters out there have a clue as to what transpires in the royal halls of the kingdom.

The Argus Leader contends that any record kept by an agency of government should be open for public perusal because in the law on records there is a presumption of openness. But the Supreme Court states that if all proceedings in a government office were to be a matter of record, the law would extend to "ephemeral notes and phone messages," and that, in an opinion quoted from another case, is an "absurd and unreasonable result."

These boys sure know how to sling the rhetoric. Like hash in an Animal House food fight. Comparing the keeping of a list of people carefully selected for privileged treatment and access to the governing powers to phone messages or ephemeral notes is like hurling a glob of cherry Jello into the ceiling fan. We note that the keeping of telephone logs is a major task in some government offices and they have played a role in some mighty big scandals at the national level. We are not sure what an ephemeral note is, but if it is, indeed, ephemeral it would not be around long enough to become an official record, like one of those recipes we write down on a used envelope and then lose from Chef Ephemeral LaGasse. This argument that the records law should not be given the widest possible application because it will lead to entering memory substitutes into the official record spatters verbal gooey stuff all over the house of government.

What the state Supreme Court did was fail to label its reasoning as the Cheney Principle. When Vice President Cheney invited a bunch of energy company CEOs to the off-White House to tell him how to write energy policy, he refused to give their names or any accounting of the meeting. Instead, he said that it was a meeting of American royalty and not the business of those peasants and serfs out there, who could go eat renewable sources of energy. Or yellow cake. Instead, the S.D. Supreme Court resorted to the Animal House principle. Which tells the serfs to go suck Jello.

In the Argus Leader appeal, press organizations submitted amicus curiae briefs. These briefs are apparently like scanty thong underwear. They are, in the vernacular, referred to as friend of the court briefs. Apparently they were not friendly enough or too scanty to be noticed. In any event, the Supreme Court chose to avert its collective eyes and dismiss them as if they were not there. (What do the boys in black wear under their robes, by the way?)The organizations that submitted them were the Associated Press, the South Dakota Broadcasters Association, and the South Dakota Newspaper Association. You can bet that these representatives of the serfdom will not get invited to the Governor's Hunt, unless they promise to parade around in their thongs and don't mind getting shot in the face. That's another Cheney Principle.

South Dakota has a tradition of haughty imperialism in the relationship of the government to the people. The people have the right to generate the revenues which run the government and to own assets in their name, but like minors or the mentally incompetent, they don't have the right to have a voice in the management of their assets. When the cement plant was sold, the negotiations were in secret and after the deal was completed the people were told that it was in their best interest. When South Dakota became the usury capitol of the U.S., the state did not tell its own treasurer where certain accounts were kept and how much was in them. When certain accounts and relationships between government and corporations became suspicious, the state made it a crime for state officials to tell anyone an investigation was being made. And when the people put up the money to buy abandoned rail lines, they were not allowed to know the terms being negotiated when the lines were resold to coporations.

South Dakota government likes competition. It is competing with Iran, North Korea, and China to keep the non-privileged citizens in ignorance and subservience to their superiors.

There is another pheasant season and Governor's Hunt coming up in a few weeks. Won't it be fun to guess who gets invited to make plans and decisions for our state? And to guess what is in store for us this time around?

Of course, the anticipation could be thwarted in January by a legislature that makes South Dakota a functioning democracy by changing a few words in the state's laws on open records and open government.

Dream on, baby.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

What makes liberals so smart?

Liberals are more agile of mind than conservatives, according to a new brain study conducted at NYU and UCLA. The report of the study is another wedge between those who call themselves liberals and those who prefer the conservative label. It suggests that political orientations are a matter of thinking style, not the result of a thinking process.

The conclusions are not new. This latest study was a neurological study. Previous studies of the rhetoric of the lliberal-conservative camps have produced much the same conclusions. Liberals tend to accommodate much more ambiguity and respond to more nuance with their rhetoric, while conservatives tend to be more rigid and hard-wired in their expressions of thought. However, one commenter on the study pointed out that it is not easy to distinguish between a person who is rigid and unresponsive and one who is principled.

There is a semantic problem in labeling thinking styles conservative and liberal. And that problem concerns what the defining characteristics of thought are that make up a liberal style or a conservative style. Are these substitute terms for what may describe degrees of dimness and brightness? Do they take into account the differences between people who are quick of thought as opposed to those who are more deliberate and methodical?

Back when I was a full-time journalist, the state editor whose office was next to mine said that political orientation was a matter of examined experience. He pointed out that most journalists were social liberals and fiscal conservatives. They got that way, he explained, because of the observations and reports they made each day on how the world works. This accounted for the perception by the public that the press tended toward a liberal bias. Reporters and editors tended to believe in openness and justice, and their social attitudes grew out of their experience and knowledge of makes society good and what makes it bad.

Similarly, professors gravitate toward liberality in social issues. As someone who had to administer budgets, I can attest that many professors were fiscal incompetents. But that is because they did not concern themselves with much outside of their own research and study. But dealing with a multitude of students, each with individual personalities, one tends to draw liberal conclusions about the makekup of society.

What is disturbing about the recent study is that it suggests that thinking styles are inborn, a matter of genetics. People think the way they do, it suggests, because they are genetically programmed to think as they do. That premise denies one of the basic reasons for education. Educators believe that cognitive skills can be built and developed and information fed into them, and educated people will produce thoughts and actions that lift the human race. The fact that American democracy grew out of the Age of Enlightenment is often cited as proof of that assumption about education.

Anyone who has been in education can verify that there are some people who cannot develop critical thinking skills and process information, but most people can. It just takes more time with some than others.

If people are, in fact, wired to a certain mode of thought from conception, politics seem to be a matter of dividing up territory between conservative thinkers and liberal thinkers, rather than engaging in exchanges of viewpoints which enable compromises in sharing the land and the planet.

If one looks at blogs and particularly reads the comments posted on them, however, there is good cause for hopelessness

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Islamist subversion of America

If you list the identifying values of America as expressed in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, you will list the very qualities of life that the Islamists want to eradicate: life, liberty, freedom of and from religion, equality, justice for all, and the basic right to an individual identity. As we can recall from the Cold War, our country would never allow any organization to operate in America with the expressed purpose of destroying America. But mosques have been established in this country for exactly that purpose.

This fact was documented last night in the PBS special "Islam vs. Islamists." The first bombing of the World Trade Center was planned and organized in a New York mosque, and the program cited other mosques financed by foreign governments and established for the purpose of attacking America. The freedom of religion that they want to destroy is the very cover they use to build their strategies and launch their attacks against the basic principles of freedom and justice that define America.

The television special covers how moderate Muslims and those who practice the religion as an expression of peace and good will and honor are vilified by the Islamists. The cant and rant of the Islamists sounds more like the expressions of the criminally insane than it does the expression of a religion that worships and honors a benign deity.

Former CIA and State Department officials have pointed to America's policies as the inspiration for the attacks on our country by Mideastern factions, but those explanations do not place responsibility for the atrocities committed in the name of Allah where they truly belong,which is on those imams who conceive of religion as a violent dementia.

Following 9/11, we lost some of our Constitutional protections and rights in the name of national security. We could lose another one, the freedom to practice the religions of our choice. When ministers in our churches deliver overt political messages, we threaten to take away their tax-exempt status. If religious organizations want to join in the political game, we believe they should have to play by the rules of politics, not lurk under the cover of the First Amendment to plan and launch their attacks on our freedoms and rights. We prohibit our state from establishing or supporting an official religion, but we have allowed other states to finance and support "religious" organizations for the purpose of destroying America and committing atrocities on its people.

America is a threat to those who lust for totalitarian states that keep their people in abject bondage. But the fact is that there are those who desire only the power to impose their beliefs and will on others.

We have no hesitation about our missions to fight the obscene atrocities of Nazi Germany or to take action against the racist forces that have oppressed people in our own country, but we get very reluctant to take action against those who plot our demise under the cover of religious freedom.

We need to be smarter and not let semantic smoke screens cover the fact of what our enemies actually do. By their acts, we shall know them. And we know who and what religious postures led to 9/11.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Hanging and blowing ungently in the wind

While a lot of hot air is being expended on energy independence, South Dakota is blowing it.

The profits from wind farms being developed in the state will not only leave the state, they will leave the country, following the precedent set with the state's cement plant. South Dakota farmers are experiencing a boom in the demand for corn and soybeans used to make ethanol and biodiesel fuel, which are highly subsidized and costly to manufacture, but when it comes to establishing self-sufficiency and independence from government subsidy and corporate integration, they are left blowing in the wind.

A few years ago, Northwestern Public Service was a local utility, headquartered in Huron. Then it started playing those corporate games that so often pass as "business." With the acquisition of some assets in Montana, it changed its name to Northwestern Energy and promptly went bankrupt. It has been purchased by Babcock and Brown, a firm based in Sydney, Austraiia. Early this spring, Babcock and Brown announced that it was building a 34-turbine wind farm on 3,000 acres near Wessington Springs. With the announcement came the news that the company was nice enough to sell the power it produced to South Dakota utilities.

[Note: The sale of Northwestern Energy to Babcock and Brown was scuttled in late July by the Montana Public Service Commission. Northwestern Energy has announced that it will not seek a new buyer and intends to operate as a "stand alone" public utility. Thanks for the alert by an anonymous commenter.]

To the north of Brown County in neighboring McPherson County and Dickey County in North Dakota, Acciona Wind Energy, a wholly owned subsidiary of Acciona SA headquartered in Madrid, Spain, is putting up a 120-unit windfarm. It is given the nice Dakota-sounding name of Tatanka Wind Power (Tatanka is the Lakota word for bison) and also will sell the energy it produces to the North Dakota electrical grid. They make it. We buy it.

A few years ago, when Deere & Co. announced that its finance division would lend money to farmers who wanted to add the production of energy to their operations, it envisioned individual farmers putting one or two large generating units on their land. These units would be joined in a cooperative way with units from neighboring farmers. It sounded like an opportunity for farmers to develop a source of energy that would boost their bottom lines and give them a degree of energy independence. The catch is that they would have to be able to sell the excess energy to someone. And South Dakota has no transmission lines that can send the electricity to a distribution point, nor does it have any utility laws that govern the sale of electricity from small producers to a utility.
Instead, South Dakota makes it easy and profitable for foreign companies to convert its wind energy into electricity which can be sold back to South Dakotans.

Many energy experts see another way to convert wind power into usable energy. Wind farms can drive electrolysis units that produce hydrogen from water. Although the development of fuel cell engines that burn hydrogen has taken a quickened pace, there is no infrastructure for handling the highly volatile hydrogen. Experts contend that if we have the technology to handle gasoline, we can develop the technology--and the infrastructure-- to handle hydrogen. But just as we have a lack of transmission lines to sell electricity to utilities, we lack any means to be part of the conversion to hydrogen fuel.

South Dakota has some of the best wind resources in the nation, but, as it does in many categories of resourceful enterprise, it ranks at the bottom in the development of wind energy. It's the same old story. They tell us we have no capacity to distribute energy we might produce, but we always seem to have the capacity to buy it from someone else, especially foreign mega-corporations.

And the people of South Dakota get to rank last in the nation once again.

Cross posted at KELOLAND blogs.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Sen. Larry Craig and those toilet stalls

I frankly hope that Sen. Larry Craig who pled guilty to an episode at the Minnepolis-St. Paul International Airport does get his case reheard. I understand why he may have entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor.

As a very young man who dropped out of full-time college to make money for tuition, I went to Chicago to work and attended night classes part time. I was invited to join the staff of the campus newspaper and assigned to work with a man who had served with the Marines in Korea and was working toward a career in journalism. I became part of an investigative project he was doing for that campus paper.

A student complained to him that the Park Police in Chicago were shaking people down by approaching them in public restrooms and other places and charging them with homosexual advances and solicitation of prostitutes. We found that it was happening, and most of the people charged were from out-of-town and quickly pled guilty to lesser charges simply to be allowed to go on their way and return home.

However, in one case, a man from Ohio refused to plead guilty. The police had charged him with soliciting a prostitute in the flower conservatory at the Lincoln Park Zoo. He posted a hefty bond and was given a court date.

When he returned to Chicago and appeared at court, the clerk of courts had no record of his arrest, the posting of a bond, or a scheduled appearance date. He had been the victim of a scam.

The story made the campus newspaper and was picked up by major Chicago newspapers, but especially the old Chicago Daily News and WMAQ news who had staff members who mentored us on the investigative technique.

In Chicago, the bond money was going into the pockets of rogue policemen. In the Twin-Cities, it sounds more like some cops setting up toilet stall stings to net some trophies. Like U.S. Senators.

Whatever the motive, toilet stings are odiferous. I hope Sen. Craig can clear the air.

How the L-word became the N-word

One of the more successful attempts of the right wingnut faction into Orwellian tactics is what it did in purging the word liberal of its accrued historical meaning and turning it into a pejorative label that carries all the weight of prejudice, hatred, and contempt that can be loaded into it.

When you hear the word liberals in the mouths of wingnuts, it does not recall the history of human thought and experience that the word names, as Orwell conceived language to function, but it is merely a trigger sound that fires malevolence and hatred in brains of those who have been conditioned to respond in that way. Purging words of their history was the job of the protagonist in 1984. By cutting words from their historical contexts and sometimes elliminating words altogether, people could be cut off from human experience and knowledge and become dependent on whatever Big Brother determined for them. This process is a basic strategy in mind control.

The thesis-novel 1984 is very relevant to conemporary circumstances because with the advent of electronic media, and especially web logs, we can identify and track the attempts to redefine history and note where such attempts have succeeded. Some web logs are constant repetitions of the we-against-them cant that is generated by those more interested in power than in democracy.

The objective of redefinition is to define the opposition in the most odious terms so that the public will be led to believe it is a threat and scourge to humanity.

The word liberal became a target for redefinition led by Rush Limbaugh and his imitators who talk on radio through the dark hours of the night. He applied to the word liberal all those characteristics that those with racist tendencies once associated with the N-word: laziness, dependancy on Ol' Massa in the form of big government, perverse orientations, and an inabililty to ratiocinate. The imagery triggered in the minds of many has nothing to do with the long and complex history of liberalism in America. It has simply become a hate term used to identify an enemy in those conditioned minds.

The charge that liberals like big government is a telling case in point. I have never heard a liberl opt for big goverment. I have heard many advocate good government. And I have heard many suggest that government should step in when forces in the private the sector are not performing well and people are being damaged and hurt. The reason that people look to government to solve some problems is that as voters they have a voice in the solutions, whereas they have little say when giant corporations are wielding the power. One of the greatest myths in America is that the private sector does things better than the public sector. As a former business editor, I often marvel at how badly many private enterprises are run. Private znd public do not correlate with good and bad.
In order to avoid the mindless rage invoked by liberal in the souls of the indoctrinated, some left-leaning people have chosen to idenfity themselves as progressives. That, too, is a term with a long and complicated history, but it generally designates a political movement toward better conditions, new ideas, and new policies and methods. The use of the word has bunched up the panties and galled the anti-liberals. They see it as an attempt to evade the opprobriums created around the word liberal, and they have set to redefine the word progressiveby imposing very limited and selective definitions on it. Put simply, progressives are those who want to move forward to better things while regressives want to move backward into conditions and policies that are more germane to the feudal past.

It might be nice to think about returning to a time when liberal and political stances rather than a brand of enemy who has to be vanquished by hate rhetoric and the imposition of definitions that have little to do with fact and history. But Big Brother is stalking the land and manipulating the language to implant stereotypes and hate imagery.
Whether he succeeds or not depends on whether American education gives students the abililty to discern between the meaning of words and the attempts at mind control.

Cross posted at KELOland Blogs.

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