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Monday, February 2, 2009

Pierre, the Bridge Builder, comes to South Dakota

Doug Wiken of Dakota Today posted recently on an article in which a professor of the history of science makes the point that the Internet has led to a deterioration of the information we receive rather than an amplication. Professor Proctor says that the information circulated on the Internet contains "agnotological rot." "Agnotology" is the study of culturally constructed ignorance. In the fields of English and communication, we used to call it illiteracy or "static," but the Internet has made it a cultural, rather than an individual, enterprise.

I cite the discussion in the light of Tom Daschle's problems with paying taxes. I have carefully made the point that I have no idea of what circumstances are involved in this matter. Therefore, I have neither defended nor condemned him for having to pay back taxes. But you have to read what I said to know what I said.

Rather than make any conjectures about the matter, I have posted links from real journalists for reference. You know, real journalists, as in people who give a damn what the facts are and what kind of reasoning produces valid judgments of those facts. There are plenty of opinions expressed, but few facts cited, and quoting the unproven and false claims from bloggers during the 2004 election campaign and since are not facts about Daschle, but only facts about the mentalities of their authors and their quoters.

I do express surprise at Tom Dashle finding himself in this circumstance. It is no secret that my spouse was a staff member for Tom Daschle, and I have been involved in campaigns and other projects from his offices. Like many of his Senate colleagues have said in the real news reports, I find this tax matter totally inconsistent with Tom Daschle's character and mode of operation as I have known it. Tom Daschle was meticulous in avoiding anything that appeared questionable. He held his staff to that same standard. During the campaign of 2004, when people came up with some negative factual matters that could have been used against his opponent, the word not to engage in that kind of campaigning came directly from Tom Daschle.

Furthermore, I have had two experiences with the IRS for which I was billed taxes and interest. In both instances, I had sought and followed the instructions of people in the state IRS office when it was in Aberdeen. In both instances, I had been given the wrong information by IRS personnel about how to handle grant money. The Aberdeen IRS office was a hotbed of bullying and incomptence, and eventually its status as a state office was closed down and its duties were assigned to Fargo, I believe. In one instance, the IRS changed a rule in August that affected money I received in June. My point is that no matter how hard you try to be sure you are meeting the rules, you can be wrong according to the IRS, and there is nothing you can do about it, but amend your tax forms and pay.

So, I have withheld judgment and comment about Tom Daschle's plight. It reminds me of the story of Pierre (pronounced pee-air), the Bridge Builder. Pierre was complaining about the reputation he had acquired.

He said, "I have designed and built bridges all through France and Europe. Do people call me Pierre, the Bridge Builder? No."

"I have designed and built some of the biggest cathedrals of our times throughout Europe. Do people call me Pierre, the Cathedral Builder? No."

"But just suck one cock.."

As I say, I will depend on real journalists and Senate committees for any information that I trust or believe in.

My posts which have implied some criticism about the cultural habits, including agnotological habits, of South Dakota have produced the usual invitations for me and anyone else who criticizes to leave. That, too, is a cultural custom. Many people accept the invitation. It is called the brain drain.

South Dakota has its merits. It also has its demerits. Of the 50 states, its government is rated as the most closed. Many people have cited the politics of Illinois, but blithely ignore the state government's dealings with credit card companies--or making it a crime for any state official to reveal if any investigations are being made of those companies. Its history of dealing with non-nordic races is also one of the worst in the country. Its antipathy toward education is so embedded as to be a cultural trait. Once again, we are confronted with organizations that deal with bringing higher culture and art to the state are on the chopping block to be closed down. These are just a few of the matters that affect the quality of life in South Dakota.

But no one will pay attention to those matters as long as they can berate Tom Daschle for riding around in a limousine in D.C. Nor does it matter that he caught the problems himself and took measures to rectify them. It is much more pleasurable to post headlines on the Internet that state:

More on Daschle's Tax Fraud

And so, we can talk endlessly about Tom, the Tax Cheat.

I assume those who are not satisfied with rectifications and who do not wish to see what facts emerge are working for his withdrawal from the nomination. It would not do much for the country and its health care problems, but it could sure limit some of the agnotological rot in South Dakota.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States