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

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The voice of malice has spoken loudly and clearly

While Barack Obama has made some respectful, gentlemanly attempts to engage the Republican opposition with some good purpose and rationality, the propaganda war between those who represent the interests of the "managing class" and those who represent people who have to work for a living has intensified, and is being waged in the Capitol. The fact that all Republicans in the House voted against the proposed stimulus bill and justified their actions by saying that it was merely another pork barrel project denotes clearly that the exercise of power to destroy is more important to them than the exercise of power to repair and build. Nation first, indeed.


While CNN's Lou Dobbs promotes himself as an indepedent, he is among those figures in the national media whose biggest drawing factor is his displays of maniacal ego. Dobbs initially came on CNN as a newscaster specialing in business news. His over-inflated sense of self-importance soon moved him from concentrating on business news to throwing out accusations, insults, and malign speculations of the kind that has kept Rush Limbaugh on the air. During the election campaign, he cast aspersions against Obama's character and mentality, foreshadowing the tactics he would take once Obama became president. Dobbs no longer makes any pretense to being a newsman. He is a propagandist. Largely for himself.


His salvo on Wednesday night was to say that Obama resorted to fear-mongering to sell his stimulus plan like George W. Bush used it to sell his war on Iraq. During a week when hundreds of thousands of workers lost their jobs, Dobbs claims that citing the facts that verify the economy is in distress is fear-mongering. That is like saying that urging people to help put out a fire at a burning church is fear-mongering. It is one of those peculiar features of propaganda that has become so prevalent in America in recent decades.


The most notable propagandist of that stripe is Rush Limbaugh, who has disciples in people like Ann Coulter and the myriad imitators who infest the radio airwaves at night during the cross-burning hours. A significant portion of America has been infected with Limbaugh-brain, a disease that is characterized by constant malicious attacks and defamations of social groups. It also disables the people infected from distinguishing school-bully taunts and defamations from legitimate criticism. He borrows his tactics directly from the Nazi regime of the 1930s and 1940s.



Hitler found that he could isolate the Jews, the Gypsies, other minorities, and those who supported anti-fascist forms of government by blaming them for Germany's economic woes after World War I, for all the social turmoil of that period, and for any other problem, real or imagined, that he could place on them. He found that an appeal to the human capacity for hatred and assigning blame on others for their own ills was a great uniter. Hitler set about to dispose of those people who were a threat to his acquisition of power and his need to hold the people of his country in intellectual bondage by chains of malice. He termed the halt, the lame, and the infirm in Germany to be "worthless eaters" and he set about to empty the sanitariums and hospitals of Germany by sending those people to the gas ovens. They were the first batch to be processed in his Holocaust.


Limbaugh has used precisely this tactic. He has used it to portray liberals in America. He faults their intellects, their character, and their motives, and their acts. He blames them for the nation's economic problems, its moral problems, its social problems. Liberals and any group that can be related to them are people for whom Limbaugh can show only contempt, malice, and a desire to defame, and eventually eliminate. The main problem with Limbaugh's characterizations, as was true of Hitler's, is that they hold little validity in truth or fact. They are totally the fabrications of a diseased ego. Like Hiltler, Limbaugh warns of the nation being thrust into socialism, as if that could be worse than the massive oppressions and discriminatory actions against people that he and his ilk promote.


But those attitudes have an appeal. There is a segment of the population that feels so inconsequential and powerless that the only way to salvage some self-respect is to identify with the managing classes and hope their fawning support will be rewarded with a pat on the head, and the left-overs from the corporate banquet tables. They support the managing class. Never mind that this class imposed a war that sent more than 4,200 of our military to their deaths, created a huge financial plum for war profiteers to pick, and scuttled any good opinion the rest of the world had of this nation. Never mind that this political segment supports the managing class that exploited the mortgage market into near-oblivion, guided our financial firms into disaster so that federal bail-outs had to be offered to keep the country from disintegrating altogether. Never mind that these are the people who rewarded the destroyers of the American way of life with tax cuts. And then with federal bail-out money that went to executive bonuses and loading up the banquet tables for their luxury and amusement. And now they want more tax cuts for them and less money for job-creating. Just who do they want the tax cuts for? They are fawning for crumbs from the banquet table and the hope that they can somehow be identified with the managing class. When actually it is a class that has shown a talent only for gross mismanagement and incipient criminality.




While the Republicans in Congress have made an all-out assault on the working people, they are turning a benign eye to those who are rewarding themselves for their corporate failures with b0nuses from the federal funds intended to help save some mortgages and keep people working. Hitler had his "useless eaters." Limbaugh-brains have their "worthless workers."




President Obama may need to keep trying to keep lines of conciliation open with the Republicans, but he will take a flurry of stabs to his back. And the Republican Party can be depended upon to frustrate any attempt to restore the economy and the integrity of the country in its fervor to regain the power to deny and destroy. The Republicans are smarting from their political losses. With the agitation of the Limbaugh-brains, they resent a person they can call liberal being in the White House. And a black one, at that. Make no mistake about it, racism runs strong in the resentments against Obama.




The stimulus plan may well need some pruning here and grafting there. But the Limbaugh-brains have not identified where. They resort to their old chants about spending and more tax cuts, but have offered only their tired, Republican, Limbaugh-fed cliches in addressing the stimulus bill.




One criticism made by Lou Dobbs and echoed by the regressives is that the stimulus bill includes money which would go to NASA to study climate change. They ask how that can stimulate the economy.



The stimulus bill is directed at spending money to renew the infrastructure and prepare it for the production and delivery of clean energy. Part of the regressive belief system denies climate change and global warming as part of some great liberal conspiracy. Coordinated research into climate change could provide hard, factual data to settle that dispute. And the workers who are being thrown out of work are people with the educations and mental talents to do such research. The idea that research into climate change and its patterns is wasted comes from that segment that has deep hatreds of intellectual achievement and disciplined intelligence.



Presient Obama has vowed to change the way business is done in Washington, D.C., to work against the forces of hatred that Limbaugh and his kind try to fan into open conflagration--as in holocaust. The Republicans have vowed to retaliate against that black liberal for winning. As Obama reaches into the nation's talent and intelligence and experience to staff his administration, the petit-fascists keep crying that is not change. They reject the idea that the change people want is a change from the deep hatreds--thinly disguised for propriety's sake, from the chronic resentments against workers, the educated, and the aspiring. When people voted Obama into office on the promise of change, they were voting for a rejection of the culture of destruction and degradation that has emerged as the driving force of the Republican agenda.



The only quest for change that will convince the Republicans that the progressive movement means business seems to be open revolution. And enough working people--in this land of equality often referred to as "the little people"-- and which includes the intellectual and cultural workers are fed up enough with the malevolent denials and denigrations of human worth fostered within the Republican Party that open revolt is a strong possibility.



Obama was elected on a platform of restoring decency and honesty to the political system. Those are still values among a majority of Americans. The Constitution provides for the peacable addressing of grievances. U.S. voters tried to have their grievances against malicious and destructive governance addressed through the ballot box. If Obama cannot bring the Republicans into an effort to build the country rather than to destroy people who do not share their Linbaugh-brained malevolence, then the Constitution suggests other means. Our founders understood that revolution may well be the only way to deal with those who deny equality, deny the right to obtain healthcare, and who deny human worth of those who believe differently, and deny rights to build a more perfect nation.


By their words, you shall know them. The Limbaugh-brains have spoken. Or at least repeated the words of the prophet of denial and hatred.

{Here is another take on this subject.]

Monday, January 26, 2009

Whose budget are you reading these days?

The revised budget for Fiscal Year 2010 presented by Gov. Rounds has produced much more heat than light. But most people would not know it, because much of the discussion is what we might call "back channel." Blogger sometimes communicate with each by e-mail, and it ain't all that pretty, either. It is better to keep your face out of the back channels.

I have still to see any kind of definitive presentation of the facts on the budget, but that is okay because the back channel has not decided what the facts are. There are discrepancies among the various versions of the budget available online.

While there are some individual programs that are scheduled to take it in the collective shorts, I have a question about whether the total figures in the budget represent a cutback. The bottom line looks as if it has been revised for Fiscal Year 2010, but it still represents an increase. To find that bottom line, click on this: http://www.state.sd.us/bfm/budget/revisedrec10/final.pdf

Then scroll down to where it says TOTAL STATE GOVERNMENT BUDGET and then look under the line that says Expenditure Detail.

Here is what it shows:

  • Actual Expenditure for 2008: $3.133 billion
  • 2009 budgeted: $3.565 billion
  • Original 2010 recommended: $3.662 billion
  • Revised 2010 request: $3.590 billion
If you think you have digested that, then go down a few more lines to where it says Total State Government Budget again, and you will find entries that say:
  • 2009: $3.608 billion
  • 2010 original request: $3.670 billion
  • 2010 revised request: $3.599 billion [This one looks like a budget cut.]
Now some of the back channel boys saw my figures and cited different figures from a different llink. That link had the requested 2009 budget at $3.549 billion with $3.570 billion actually approved by the legislature. Go figure.

My bottom line is that the bottom line shows an overall increase, and the need to eliminate and reduce some programs does not seem justified . There is some consensus in the back channel that the revised budget does not add up. It has been suggested that someone is yelling crisis as a pretext for fiddling around with some programs that someone does not want.

The Governor of Iowa has called for a 6.5 percent cut across the board in that state's budget. So the revenue losses are experienced throughout the nation. But that does not explain the fact that the budget figures do not show a cut like is planned in Iowa.

Some of us have noted that a revision in the tax code might be called at this time. I have lived in states with income taxes, and the tax bills were much more equitable there. But I know better than to say "income tax" in South Dakota. That is like going to a mosque and yelling, "Hey, Mohammad, GFY." As it is expressed in the blogosphere.

Well, we have some luxuries in South Dakota. It gives us great choices in what budget figures we might wish to choose.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Through its budget South Dakota defines itself

Times of financial crisis provide opportunities for those in power to prosecute their personal hatreds and agendas. In providing the billions and billions of dollars to the financial and automobile industries, the government has mildly remonstrated the executives for their gross incompetence, their profligacy, and their criminal greed. But the company executives have fallen back into their status of the privileged class, taken the money, and then continued to spend it for their benefit, ignoring the plights of the many people who their schemes have brought to ruin. Mortgages are not being modified to help people stay in their homes and find ways to discharge their mortgages at a lesser but still profitable rate. Instead, the executive class has connived ways to use the money for continued bonuses and luxuries.

At the same time, the loans given to the automobile manufacturers were tied to provisions to nullify the collective bargaining agreements and to effectively break the unions. While it is permissible among those who identify with the managing class to subsidize the incompetence, greed, and criminal schemes of the managing class, it is a matter of outrage to them that some factory workers make more than subsistence wages and have health care benefits. The Republicans who put in the anti-worker stipulations are incensed that some American workers have bargained for wages of a higher scale than their competitors in China. The Republicans in the Senate led by Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee have cast the working class as the economic enemy, and the old fascist attitudes of tlhe 1930s have been revived and are being enforced, as the financial crisis has given them opportunity. Corker started a battle that has renewed class warfare.

In South Dakota, the budget cuts proposed by Gov. Rounds also reflect the cultural values of those who conceive of themselves as the state's managing class. The first rule is to go after the workers. State workers, whose wages have lagged behind comparable wages in other states, will not get a raise. That might be something the workers are willing to endure as part of meeting the budget shortfalls, but it is also clear that they are of much less than equal status and worth compared to other sectors covered by the budget. One cannot dismiss the class warfare involved in this proposed cut.

The next significant sectors to take the brunt of the cuts are the cultural enterprises and education. These cuts can be seen as practical measures, but also effectively eliminate or curtail programs while others receive budget increases. Rather than make general cuts across the board, those areas of cultural and intellectual industry that so irk the anti-intellectual segment in the state will suffer.

The plan to close down the South Dakota Arts Council by withdrawing all its funding is much more than a simple cost-saving device. It casts the arts, which some people find essential to their mental survival, as needless luxuries. At the same time, leisure-time activities such as hunting and fishing are scheduled to receive full support. The burgeoning prison system is slated for some cuts in the education and care of inmates, but the system itself is left intact. If the crisis is so dire, the sentences of non-violent offenders whose crimes have been against temselves could be commuted and some prison facilities closed and consolidated. Instead, the arts and education are targeted for the preponderance of cuts. The final choices in revising the budget will define the state.

When South Dakota some years back made a proposal to be the site for the Super-Conductor Super-Collider, the panel that reviewed the applications rejected South Dakota's on the grounds that the state could not provide the cultural and educational opportunities that research personnel and their families required of an intellectual-based community. The same factor has been raised with designating the Homestake Mine as the nation's Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory. Still, workers, education, and the arts are the main targets in the Governor's proposed budget cuts. Here are the 39 areas targeted:

  • · State employee salary improvements - $6.7 million.
  • · Community service providers raises - $5.5 million.
  • · TCAP teacher pay bonuses - $4 million.
  • · Building repair and maintenance - $2.45 million.
  • · Sales tax refunds on food - $2.35 million.
  • · Regional school service agencies - $2.2 million.
  • · Birth to Three child therapy - $2.1 million.
  • · Closing School for the Deaf - $2 million.
  • · University maintenance and repair - $1.6 million.
  • · Withdrawing special education increase - $1.6 million.
  • · Career and technical education - $1.5 million.
  • · Medicaid dental services for adults - $1.5 million.
  • · Cooperative Extension Service - $1 million.
  • · Catastrophic health care for inmates - $800,000.
  • · Department of Human Services cuts - $800,000.
  • · Eliminate state funding for State Fair - $775,000.
  • · Children's Health Insurance Program cuts - $753,000.
  • · Closing Division of Arts - $669,000.
  • · Adult Medicaid case-management cuts - $647,000.
  • · University system cuts - $500,000.
  • · Alternative education programming - $450,000.
  • · Nursing home client cost-share cuts - $430,000.
  • · Independent living rehabilitation services cuts - $378,000.
  • · State technology aid increase dropped - $309,000.
  • · Community mosquito control grants - $300,000.
  • · Closing archeological research center - $309,000.
  • · HPV vaccination cuts - $277,000.
  • · Public broadcasting tower maintenance - $230,000.
  • · Environmental funding shift to EPA - $230,000.
  • · Independent living services cuts - $222,000.
  • · Planned expansion of university system accounting staff - $213,000.
  • · Inmates adult-education cuts - $211,000.
  • · Inmates community-transition aid - $201,000.
  • · Inmates extra milk - $200,000.
  • · Data center staff for new high-speed Internet for universities - $155,000.
  • · Other education cuts - $341,000.
  • · Other public-assistance cuts - $991,000.
  • · Other protecting-public cuts - $548,000.
  • · Various other cuts - $617,000.
The revised budget proposal for 2010 shows some areas still receiving increases. Below are the departments with their actual expenditures for 2008 and their revised budget allowances for 2010 under the Governor's plan. The figures are in millions of dollars.

  • Executiive Management: 2008, $105; 2010, $122.
  • Revenue and Regulation: 2008, $66; 2010, $71.
  • Agriculture: 2008, $28; 2010, $36.
  • Tourism: 2008, $45; 2010, $68.
  • Game, Fish & Parks: 2008, $66; 2010, $70.
  • Social Services: 2008, $740; 2010, $830.
  • Health: 2008, $63; 2010, $74.
  • Labor: 2008, $31; 2010, $42.
  • Transportation: 2008, $400; 2010, $493.
  • Education: 2008, $543; 2010, $591.
  • Safety: 2008, $49; 2010, $51.
  • Regents: 2008, $544; 2010, $628.
  • Military & Veterans: 2008, $23; 2010, $31.
  • Corrections: 2008, $98; 2010, $106.
  • Human Services: 2008, $226; 2010, $247.
  • Environment & Natural Resources: 2008, $15; 2010, $18.
  • Judicial System: 2008, $37; 2010, $42.
The Governor has presented his revisions. His recommended cuts undeniably target culture, education, workers, and the disadvantaged. There is clearly latitude in the total budget to spread the cuts over a much wider range of state-supported activities.

Whatever budget the State ends up with, it will define its values and its priorities, and give people specific evidence for whether it is a place they want to live and support.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Big Stone II selected for midwinter falsehood festival

The Obama accession to presidential office has challenged the petulant and malevolent to put their best efforts forward in a festival of malignity, inanity, and misinformation.

The blogosphere is chock full of mentally and spiritually uplifting efforts this weekend. A couple of professors have decided that those literate enough to read blog posts need to be lectured on the evils of incest. One of those edifying sallies is illustrated with a family portrait of the Obamas.


Another of the great wits, who makes such generous contributions to the excellence of discourse in blogland, announced, under the guise of telling truth to wind power, that the "Obama environmentalists kill SD Energy Project." A string of South Dakota's finest thoughts and expressions follow the post.

However, journalist Bob Mercer takes the wind out of the gaseous assaults on credulity by doing some workmanlike reporting on the EPA's objections to the air quality permit issued to the Big Stone power plant. Here is his report in its entirety:


PIERRE - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wants changes in the clean-air permit issued last year for the Big Stone power plant in northeastern South Dakota.

The state Board of Minerals and Environment approved two permits in November. One is the new Title V clean-air operating permit for the existing Big Stone coal-fired electricity plant near Milbank. The other is the PSD clean-air permit for construction and initial operation of the proposed Big Stone II coal-fired plant that will be built next door.

EPA notified the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources by telephone on Wednesday that it had objections to the Title V permit. DENR received a 16-page letter from EPA detailing the objections on Thursday, the final day for EPA to complete its review.

"We're still trying to figure it out," state Environment Secretary Steve Pirner said Friday night. EPA's letter focuses on the Title V permit for Big Stone, not the PSD permit needed for construction of the Big Stone II. But both come into play in EPA's objections.

The Title V permit for Big Stone contains some provisions regarding Big Stone II, because the plants will be operated side by side. Under the clean-air permitting process, Big Stone II would need to apply for its own full Title V permit after it is built and has operated for a few months. One of the changes sought by EPA is amendment of the Title V permit for Big Stone to reflect the PSD permit provisions for Big Stone II.

Opponents to Big Stone II meanwhile have filed a lawsuit in state circuit court challenging the PSD permit for Big Stone II.Otter Tail Power, Montana-Dakota Utilities and three other utilities want to build the Big Stone II to meet an anticipated growing demand for electricity.

A Sierra Club official issued a statement Friday praising the EPA."This is a great day not only for clean energy and people's health, it's a victory for the rule of law," Bruce Nilles, director of the Sierra Club's Move Beyond Coal Campaign, said in a release. "EPA is signaling that it is back to enforcing long-standing legal requirements fairly and consistently nationwide."

"The press release was a total mischaracterization," responded Dan Sharp, communications director for the Big Stone II project.Neither Pirner nor Otter Tail's Sharp saw the EPA objections as a death knell for the Big Stone II project."It's a standard procedure for EPA to review Title V permit applications," Sharp said. "This is not unusual."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Pick yourself up: Obama sets the theme from the Great American Song Book

In an inauguration that paid special homage to Abraham Lincoln and his legacy in defining America, Barack Obama also reached into the Great American Song Book for a number from the Great Depression. He outlined the strenuous work, the diligence, and the courage it has taken from the many who built America over the last three centuries, saying it was not a task for the faint-hearted. In facing our current massive problems, he said, “Starting to day, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and begin again the work of remaking America.”

He was quoting from a song by Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields that was written for 1936 Depression-era film “Swing Time.” The song is a dance number performed by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers., a song of lilting lyrics and chord changes, a favorite of jazz musicians. It has been recorded by Anita O’Day, Nat King Cole, his daughter Natalie, Diana Krall, to name a few. I especially recall the George Shearing Quintet version that bolstered the spirits and resolve of us students when I was a college undergraduate.

You can go to this YouTube Link and pick from a number of videos to hear and see the song performed, including the original film version.

So, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, start all over again. And swing your booty to this tune.

Nothing's impossible, I have found.
For when my chin is on the ground,
I pick myself up, dust myself off,
Start all over again.

Don't lose your confidence if you slip.
Be grateful for a pleasant trip,
And pick yourself up; dust yourself off;
Start all over again.

Work like a soul inspired
'Til the battle of the day is won.
You may be sick and tired,
But you'll be a man, my son.

Will you remember the famous men
Who had to fall to rise again.
So take a deep breath;
Pick yourself up;
Dust yourself off;
Start all over again.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Woops. Don't put the hollerin' pot away just yet.

While the rest of the world expressed its elation at the intended revival of American democracy, the malign souls on the South Dakota blogosphere went about their usual business, expressing their usual malice, peevishness, and perversion of the facts. From the blog aggregator, here is a sampling of their deconstruction of the inauguration:

Obama vows to execute faithfully

Remake American Into Whose Image?

Looking Back, Looking Up: Reagan’s Inaugural Address, 1981

Liberal Angst in D.C. on Inauguration Day

Inauguration or Coronation?

The dilemma of praying for Obama

Several SD We-Love-Abortion events upcoming

Did ‘the God of Our Many Understandings’ Hear?

Pro-Life Rallies Mobilize as Pro-Abortion President Takes Office

Obama sides with the exterminators of the black race not the liberators

Why it’s ok for Conservatives to enjoy the inauguration - Because it’s Obama’s turn at the dunking booth.

Obama propaganda

The prize for total failure of sentience in contemporary times goes to this entry:


What I’m Confused About: Did that Pastor really say what I thought I heard?

So, during the benediction, that pastor really did say “when white learns what’s right”? What the hell was that supposed to mean?

For the record, such as it may be, here is who the Rev. Lowry is and what the heck he meant, which can be gathered from the full transcript of his benediction.

Transcript of Rev. Lowery's Inaugural Benediction

Rev. Joseph Lowery, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr., delivered the benediction at the inaugural ceremony. Below is a transcription of his address, provided by CQ Transcriptwire:

[*] LOWERY: God of our weary years, god of our silent tears, thou, who has brought us thus far along the way, thou, who has by thy might led us into the light, keep us forever in the path we pray, lest our feet stray from the places, our god, where we met thee, lest our hearts, drunk with the wine of the world, we forget thee.

Shadowed beneath thy hand, may we forever stand true to thee, oh God, and true to our native land.

We truly give thanks for the glorious experience we've shared this day.

We pay now, oh Lord, for your blessing upon thy servant Barack Obama, the 44th president of these United States, his family and his administration.

He has come to this high office at a low moment in the national, and indeed the global, fiscal climate. But because we know you got the whole world in your hands, we pray for not only our nation, but for the community of nations.

Our faith does not shrink though pressed by the flood of mortal ills.

LOWERY: For we know that, Lord, you are able and you're willing to work through faithful leadership to restore stability, mend our brokenness, heal our wounds, and deliver us from the exploitation of the poor, of the least of these, and from favoritism toward the rich, the elite of these.

We thank you for the empowering of thy servant, our 44th president, to inspire our nation to believe that yes we can work together to achieve a more perfect union.

And while we have sown the seeds of greed -- the wind of greed and corruption, and even as we reap the whirlwind of social and economic disruption, we seek forgiveness and we come in a spirit of unity and solidarity to commit our support to our president by our willingness to make sacrifices, to respect your creation, to turn to each other and not on each other.

LOWERY: And now, Lord, in the complex arena of human relations, help us to make choices on the side of love, not hate; on the side of inclusion, not exclusion; tolerance, not intolerance.

And as we leave this mountain top, help us to hold on to the spirit of fellowship and the oneness of our family. Let us take that power back to our homes, our workplaces, our churches, our temples, our mosques, or wherever we seek your will.

Bless President Barack, First Lady Michelle. Look over our little angelic Sasha and Malia.

We go now to walk together as children, pledging that we won't get weary in the difficult days ahead. We know you will not leave us alone.

With your hands of power and your heart of love, help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nations shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid, when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around...

(LAUGHTER)

... when yellow will be mellow...

(LAUGHTER)

LOWERY: ... when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.

AUDIENCE: Amen.

LOWERY: Say Amen.

AUDIENCE: Amen.

LOWERY: And Amen.

AUDIENCE: Amen

You can take your head out of the hollerin' pot, mama




In slavery times, slave holders did not want their slaves going to their own churches. They wanted to control whatever theological ideas were expressed. Their message was that God ordained slavery and any resistance to it was contrary to the will of God. Messages from the New Testament were particularly dangerous, so slaves were encouraged to memorize and recite the genelology sections of the Old Testament. That is where "counting the dozens" originated.

But the message of the New Law was not successfully suppressed, and black churches were formed and found ways to keep alive the messages of hope and freedom, sometimes in codes right in front of the slaveholders, but often in secret. It was common for slaves to hold church services at secret times in secret places. Accounts tell of slaves sneaking off to remote places on the plantations in the dark of night. Part of the service involved the confession of sins, and included the sins committed against the slaves as well as any they might commit. Because such sessions got noisy, it became the custom to make a big, iron pot a part of the service. The people would put their heads in the pot, cover up with a blanket, and pray away to God about how miserable life was. The did a lot of reporting on the sins perpetrated by Ol' Master, his family, and friends. One account records that one woman who worked in the plantation house tended to hog the hollerin' pot so that other people did not get a full turn at unloading their grievances.

When the Rev. Jeremiah Wright was shown on video tapes excoriating white society in Obama's former church, he was preaching in the tradition of the hollerin' pot. And in having made his grievances made public, he showed the need for a hollerin' pot. Good, white people don't like to have their transgressions against other people aired in public.

The inauguration of Barack Obama into the office of President has been one that has celebrated all the steps toward freedom for all people that the country has taken since Lincoln. Personally, I was a supporter of Obama when he ran for the U.S, Senate, and I recall being in Winnipeg one February Saturday when he announced his run for the presidency on the steps of the Capitol in Springfield, Illinois. All those messages shouted into the hollerin' pot resonated, and Obama's announcement suggested that the work started by Lincoln could be resumed in earnest. But I had doubts. My mother-in-law said that the people of America would never elect a black man president. As I heard some leaders in the state Democratic Party voice racial attitudes, I thought that her statement might well be true.

The celebration of Barack Obama's inauguration has a sense of liberation, as if we can retire the hollerin' pot. Hope, freedo;m, equality, and justice have once again been put at the fore.

The hollerin' pot can be put in the museum. But it should be carefully kept and maintained in case we might need it again.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A day when everyone did everything right







The crash landing of U.S. Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River is an inspiring story of competence, skill, and cool-headedness after a string of disasters in this country when no one seemed to know what or how to do anything.

Capt. Sully demonstrates what training, proficiency, intelligence, and professionalism are supposed to be about. He reminds me of the pilots who flew me and my Army colleagues between the U.S. and Europe a number of times and throughout Europe, and when we took hops on training flights to get free transportation when going on leave. Flight crews had great respect for the pilots who worked to keep up their skills and their mental edge, and they let we passengers know we were in good hands.

But in the stories about the successful ditching of the Airbus ( which also seemed to do what it is supposed to do in such situations), I have found nothing about the boat pilots and rescue crews that were on the scene immediately and took the passengers and crew to land. As an old river rat who has traversed river currents in everything from canoes to houseboats, I can appreciate the job these workers did in completing a successful rescue.

And it feels so good to have everything go right for a change.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Photography: it's back




The personal computer and the Internet have made one major improvement for the news media. It has rediscovered the slide show or photo gallery and the efficacy of written news copy illustrated with carefully composed and selected photographs.

As one who habitually, well, okay, addictively, searches for the most thorough but succinct and clear presentations of news, I find myself relying on the online versions of major newspapers more and more, and a few of the comprehensive online efforts such as The Huffington Post.

The Huffington Post uses an old newspaper device of providing a brief summary of its stories so that a reader can quickly decide whether to read a detailed version or go on to something else. Newspapers used to do this by providing sub-headlines under the major headlines so people could scan the newspaper and select those stories they want to read immediately, note those thely wanted to come back to, and dismiss those they found irrelevant to their needs or interests. The editors understood that most people do not have the luxury of unlimited time to spend on looking for and reading news--or the inclination, for most.

Photojournalism has added a deep dimension to news coverage. The problem with newspapers was that editors had to choose one or just a few photographs to illustrate a story. Even photo magazines, such as the old Life were limited as to the number of photos they could use, and often some very effective and informing photos had to be left out. Television brought the age of the video, and stories were written to explain the visuals rather than visuals being produced to amplify the story. Still photography maintained a place in reporting, but was regarded as a lesser form than motion photography.

The digital age has changed all that. With digital cameras, photo computer programs, and instantaneous transfer of images onto screens and printers, many disadvantages in photography have been surmounted. As a journalist, I could shoot basic pictures, but not with the skill and effect of our best staff photographers. In shooting an assignment, we generally carried three or four types of film so we could adjust to the lighting requirements, the nature of the shoot--action, still, landscape, etc. And then we had to process what we came up with--with factors like the freshness of the chemicals and the water temperature to be accommodated. A routine photo assignment would produce 25 to 75 negatives to examine, select from, and edit. Color photos required much more intensive and extensive labor to produce.

However, the still picture has had recognized advantages. The main one is that a good photograph can be studied and contemplated at length. An effective still photo arrests the senses and conveys quite a different experience than does motion photography.

The Internet has brought a resurgence of still photography. Most news photography on television is marginal in its production. Podcasts tend to be dreadful. Still pictures allow viewers to get into a moment.

Now news organizations put up slide shows or galleries of an event. The above photo of the crashing of the passenger jet into the Hudson River captures the significant emphasis of the survival of the passengers as they wait on the crafts wings for rescue. But a series of photos (click here) show more details of the rescue.

On the local level, this series of a boys basketball game in the Argus leader captures the event in a way that adds a dimension to watching the players in motion.

However, the main diffference is that the photography in these examples supports the writing of the stories and restores good reporting, writing, and editing as the essential basis for effective journalism.

Minneapolis Star Tribune files Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Another major newspaper is adding a graph to its obituary. The Minneapolis Star Tribune filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last night.

The most comprehensive account is this story by its rival, the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

When the great, white father is black

Timothy Egan in The New York Times explains why the inauguration of Barack Obama raises hopes on the Indian reservations and among tlhe native people generally.

He writes of the hopeless despair that seems to have a chance of being dispelled by Obama's message of hope:

The epic struggle for natives has been to avoid getting washed away by the flood of dominant culture, where Indians make up less than 2 percent of more than 300 million Americans.

That, and the physical toll that losing this big land has taken on them. Indians die younger than most other Americans, suffer from higher rates of suicide, alcoholism, debilitating dietary problems.
Obama has paid attention and acknowledged the Native Americans' subjugated status in America. While American Indians are skeptical and cynical of any politician, they are hoping that Obama can deliver on his promise of change:

But beyond the desire for urgent, fundamental infrastructure help, Indians look to Obama as a powerful narrative. People who were subjugated, with near-genocidal brutality, feel a kinship with people who were first brought here in chains, even though Obama is an immigrant’s son.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Wrapping it up

As many people try to make nice to George W. Bush as he exits office, others cannot so easily dismiss the wreckage he leaves behind. Dan Froomkin of The Washington Post summarizes it up nicely:

President Bush famously asserts that history's verdict on his presidency won't come until he's long dead. But far from waiting until his corpse is cold, the verdict is largely in before he's even left the building.

Some things just aren't gonna change, no matter how much time passes. Here is Bush's legacy, in part:

He took the nation to a war of choice under false pretenses -- and left troops in harm's way on two fields of battle. He embraced torture as an interrogation tactic and turned the world's champion of human dignity into an outlaw nation and international pariah. He watched with detachment as a major American city went under water. He was ostensibly at the helm as the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression took hold. He went from being the most popular to the most disappointing president, having squandered a unique opportunity to unite the country and even the world behind a shared agenda after Sept. 11. He set a new precedent for avoiding the general public in favor of screened audiences and seemed to occupy an alternate reality. He took his own political party from seeming permanent majority status to where it is today. And he deliberately politicized the federal government, circumvented the traditional policymaking process, ignored expert advice and suppressed dissent, leaving behind a broken government.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Newspapers are for burning

  • This graph from Pew Research shows the trends for where people get their news during the 21st century.
Newspapers are in trouble. The print media have been battling for some years now to survive the competition for readers and advertisers from the Internet. Newspaper chains of five years ago no longer exist in the same form. Few of the major newspapers of the northern Midwest have the same owners they did five years ago, except for those owned by Lee Enterprises, which includes the Rapid City Journal. And Lee stocks are so valueless that they are being removed from trade on the stock exchanges.

Tim Giago, founder of The Lakota Times, thinks newspapers will not solve their declines in circulation until they organize together and stop putting their work on the web. There is no doubt that people don't buy news that they can get free on the Internet. Newspapers are only one of the media to put news on the Internet. People will continue to get their information from from their computers as long as it is free. And newspapers do have a problem with timeliness. This morning's local newspaper carried stories in its first four pages that I saw three days ago from Internet sources.

Contrary to the conventional absence of wisdom, the fact is that newspapers have led the development of using new technology to disseminate the news they gather. However much bloggers may give their notions of the trouble with newspapers, this article in Slate traces their attempts to incorporate information technology into their operations. Bloggers have opinions. Few have actual information. Newspapers that value journalism as a discipline have the edge on accuracy and reliability, and the death of newspapers poses serious threats to democracy.

However, many newspapers do not deserve to survive. In their efforts to keep up with current notions of journalistic fads, they have dummied down their products to compete with cable news, its local versions on television, and Internet news aggregators. The dimmer journalistic lights have followed the alleged standard of writing to an eighth-grade audience and have lowered that to third grade. That rule has never been used in real journalistic organizations which concern themselves with clear, effective writing. Good writing elevates its readers. It does not cater to ignorance, mental laziness, and the celebration of platitudes and the seamy. Some newspapers have contributed to their own demise by dummying-down their content and the level of literacy on which they evaluate news and presentation. The tabloid press, however, seems to be more sucessful at weathering the economic crunch that besets the newspaper business.

While the current mis-mythology is that print journalism is losing readers--which is true--it is also true that print media are experiencing a growing schism between the intellectual and popular culture. Blogs decry what they call the Mainstream Media, and it is a fact that newspaper circulation even among the most prestigious is declining, but it is also true that people who want excellently written, reliable news, and competently informed opinion are dependent upon organizations such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and with all its financial woes, The Chicago Tribune for relevant, sharply focused, and literate information and ideas. That dependency does cause alarm among the more literate class.

There was and in some cases is an editorial process in newspapers designed to insure accurate, complete facts and competent, clear writing. When a reporter submitted a story, it would first go to the copy desk, which would correct any SPUG (spelling, punctuation, and grammar) problems, deal with organizational matters, and look for any omissions or improvements that could be made. Then, before it was set in type, an editor would review the story for newsworthiness, perspective, verified facts, essential background, and appropriate style. If a piece needed revisions, it would be sent back to the reporter or sent to the rewrite desk. Years ago, on some newspapers, all the writing was done at the rewrite desk. Reporters would call in or present their reports, and highly experienced and proficient writers would do the actual writing of them.

Electronics changed that process. Television and radio journalism became largely a matter of stringing sound-bites together. Electronic reports had no time for background, highly informative writing, or full development of news stories. The Edward R. Murrows and the McNeil-Lehrers are considered boring by the majority of listeners and viewers. With computers, newspapers also circumvented the editorial process. Reporters submit their writing to a server. In many newspapers, editors only place stories on the pages and write headlines for them. They do not get involved in actual editing and rewriting. This process cuts the need for editorial personnel and eliminates the many steps of the traditional editorial process.

As a section editor, I made the final decisions about what went into the sections for which I was responsible. However, my copy was reviewed for clarity before being set in type and was pro0f-read afterward. And every morning at 7:15, there was a conference with the editors that reviewed the previous day's edition and planned the work and layout for the day. If there were problems to be noted or improvements to be made, they would be covered at length in these conferences.

In all the conjecture and talk about the demise of newspapers, few comments deal with what journalism is as a profession and the process that establishes editorial integrity and quality. Initially, journalism was a literary art. Journalists prided themselves on being fine and knowledgeable writers. Over the years, journalism schools have become disassociated from departments of English in universities and have become allied with departments of business, marketing, and social science. The emphasis has shifted from reporting facts and a literary quality of writing to measuring and manipulating the audience.

Critics of culture of note that in the last three decades of the 20th century, American culture underwent some severe intellectual and moral failures, which the critics see as the result of a declining literacy. Low test scores in mathematics and science get much press because they are seen as more directly related to competitiveness in the economy, but reading and writing scores have also lagged. The most telling evaluation of the literacy of a culture is in the level of material it consults for information. The Pew graph above illustrates the trend.

Bloggers contemplate the death of newspapers with schadenfreude. They take a joy in thinking that they are driving newspapers out of business and will replace them as sources of news. A number of articles have appeared concerning the prediction that The New York Times will be defunct by May of this year. Some dispute the premise of the prediction. But the financial statements show a possibility that the newspaper business could disintegrate as rapidly as the financial markets. There will be no bail-outs for the news business, however.

The financial state of newspapers is depressing. The literate state of the Internet is deplorable. One of the reasons is that political hacks who tend to dominate the blogosphere think they are journalists. As a piece in the Columbia Journalism Review points out, they aren't. The real danger is that a readership is developing that does not make a distinction between real reporting and careful writing and the representations of fact made by people possessed by partisanship and opinions that demonstrate their warp. To them, facts are something to distort or make up.

There is much good journalism available online, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, and other publications that, like it or not, have set a literacy standard that is seldom matched online. Being online brings up another matter besides journalistic quality that does not get mentioned--the efficacy of print on paper. Print graphics is a science. It deals with the formats most conducive for human psycho-motor apparatus to effectively absorb and understand what is read. Newspapers, magazines, and books have an edge for heavy-duty reading, while television and computer monitors suffice for quick, superficial takes on a subject.

Whatever the format, there is an audience, however much in decline, for a high standard of reporting and writing. Many newspapers may die. Those people looking for quality writing and excellence in reporting will be served somehow. The real danger in the demise of journalism is in the expansion of the culture wars, which are somewhat in remission. Other countries have experienced class warfare between the educated and the ignorant and resentful. Our country developed because of a vigorous press striving to examine the best that is thought and expressed. It has from the beginning moved toward the acquisition of education and literacy.

The death of our best newspapers may well signal the end of that movement.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Huffington repudiates "debunking" of Al Gore and climate change

Three writers, David Roberts and Kevin Grandia, and A. Siegal, have responded to the post I cited in "Hacks, hoopleheads, and outright doofs" and demolished the arguments that Harold Ambler used to show that Al Gore is wrong. Arianna Huffington issued a statement repudiating Ambler's post:

Harold Ambler reached out to me about posting a critical piece on Al Gore and the environment. We are always open to posts that present opinions contrary to HuffPost's editorial view -- and have welcomed many conservative voices, such as David Frum, Tony Blankley, Michael Smerconish, Bob Barr, Joe Scarborough, Jim Talent, etc., to the site. We have featured also countless posts from the leading lights of the Green movement, including Robert Redford, Laurie David, Carl Pope, Van Jones, David Roberts, and many others -- and I myself have written extensively about the global warming crisis, and have been highly critical of those who refuse to acknowledge the overwhelming scientific evidence.

When Ambler sent his post, I forwarded it to one of our associate blog editors to evaluate, not having read it. I get literally hundreds of posts a week submitted like this and obviously can't read them all -- which is why we have an editorial process in place. The associate blog editor published the post. It was an error in judgment. I would not have posted it. Although HuffPost welcomes a vigorous debate on many subjects, I am a firm believer that there are not two sides to every issue, and that on some issues the jury is no longer out. The climate crisis is one of these issues.

The attacks on Gore among the regressives is a residual hatred because they know he garnered more votes than George W. Bush in the 2000 election and because most people know that W. became president and launched a war through chicanery. The denial of global warming and its human causes among the regressives is more reflective of their attitude toward science. They don't want to give up their belief in alchemy--that gold can be made from lead---and that human personality is made up of the four humors--blood, black bile, yellow bile, and phlegm. The intellectual stance of the regressives is called uncreative anachronism.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hacks, hoopleheads and outright doofs

"Hacks, hoopleheads and outright doofs"

The late semanticist, university president, and U. S. Senator S. I. Hayakawa talked of the burgeoning media which produced a blizzard of words in which people get disoriented and lost. South Dakota's Nicholas Black Elk envisioned a society experiencing an explosive disintegration when words lost the objects they were moored to and were dissolved by the miasma from the linguistic decay of people imposing their subjective notions onto words. Hayakawa proposed that the U.S. declare English as its official language. He said bi-lingualism is fine for individuals, but not for countries, which need to conduct their business in precise, unambiguous terms. Hayakawa understood the problem of people exchanging words in the same ostensible language but having different meanings for the words flying back and forth. It is the lesson of the Tower of Babel but all in the same language. The fad of deconstruction in English departments was a belief that language inevitably disintegrates, and there isn't a hell of a lot that can be done about it.

Other semanticists acknowledge the problem with the deterioration of language to the point where no objective meaning is possible, but do not think that declaring an official language can reestablish a language as the effective currency of thought and expression. They point out that people who are familiar with more than one language generally have a more precise understanding of denotation, connotation, and nuance, and that English has become the dominant language of the world because of its inherent grammatical capability of absorbing new information while maintaining the original referents of its words. This constructionist camp thinks the antidote to total disintegration of language is an intensification of education in literacy. The study of language and language arts, with rhetoric as a major component, will allow the language itself to re-establish its semantic reliabiity.



The effectiveness of words, as is true of democracy, is a matter of human will. People decide to either consult arbiters of meaning, such as dictionaries, or not. In a democracy, people decide either to respect and to honestly evaluate differing opinions or not. In either case, when they decide not, communication ends and interminable noise begins. People who respect language try to maintain its precision and reliability. People who wish to impose themselves on the rest of the world deconstruct and destroy language.


Hayakawa posited that people speak in two forms of language: the language of reports and the language of judgments. In the language of reports, they try to picture the objective realities we experience in common. As in the song from the Christmas opera Amahl and the Night Visitors, the language of reports begins with "do you see what I see?" In the language of judgments, people give us only the maps of their mentalities. And when the judgments are not formed from a rigoroous and thorough examination of reports what we find is ignorant presumption and decadent stupidity. In the field of rhetoric, forming judgments is a methodical process of surveying the reports about human experience. Both Hayakawa and Black Elk saw an end to communication when judgments displace information as the primary business of language.

People do have opinions and attitudes. They express them relentlessly. In this country, the right to express opinions is a basic freedom. Often, however, when exercising their right of free speech, people forget that other people have the concomitant right to choose whether they wish to listen, to dismiss other people's opinions as irrelevant nonsense--or to exercise some other critical judgment about what they hear. And when their opinions are rejected in some way, some souls howl and whine about their right to free speech being abridged.

That gets to the matter of blogs. I am often called an anti-blogger. Some assume an element of hypocrisy is involved because I criticize blogs but I blog myself. And as I have said repeatedly, I am not anti-blogging. I think that the Internet has the potential to be a huge boon to human commmunication. But it also has the potential to be used largely to exchange ignorance and misinformation and false witness. A large portion of blogs is devoted to the ignorant presumptions of their authors. Blogging is largely an ego-driven activity in which people labor under the delusion that their precious little attitudes and opinions are valuables that the world is waiting to receive. They are exercises in verbal masturbation, not productive intercourse. Some are devoted to maligning others. They are mean, petty, and display mentalities possessed of ill will.

Most news media go through an editoral lprocess in which the great editorial nurse smacks down the erectile ego with a wet towel, or a grizzled old editor asks a reporter to show him the verifications and attributions of facts, or tells a columnist basking in preciousness to demonstrate his thinking, not his opinion of himself. Such concern about the integrity of reporting and reasoning is not much practiced in the media anymore and never was much of a consideration among bloggers.

Of the blogs that try to carry a heavy news component, The Huffington Post is an example. But even some of its contributors flail away at their overheated egos on occasion. One example is a young man who presumes to debunk Al Gore and his campaign on global warming.

He enumerates points where he thinks Al Gore is wrong and begins by claiming that the term "climate change" is a redundancy. He claims that change and climate are synonymous. Climate is always in a state of flux, he states. Therefore, the term "climate change" is nonsensical.

First of all, the term is one in which climate is a nominal adjective used to modify the noun change. Secondly, one of America's best descriptive dictionaries, The American Heritage, gives these definitions for climate:

1. The meteorological conditions, including temperature, precipitation, and wind that characteristically prevail in a particular region.

2. A region of the earth having particular meteorological conditions: lives in a cold climate.

So, certain regions have characteristic climatic features.

Then that same dictionary defines change when used as a noun:

1. The act, process, or result of altering or modifying: a change
in facial expression.

2. The replacing of one thing for another, substitution: a change of atmosphere, a change of ownership.

3. A transformation or transition from one state, condition, or phase to another: the change of seasons.

In other words, "climate" is the prevailing meteorological characteristics of a region--or the globe itself--and they may change to other prevailing characteristics. "Climate change" is a perfectly grammatical, semantically valid term. The young man's claims of redundancy are specious and grossly, grammatically ignorant. He gives not an accurate report of concepts he tries to discuss, but instead the malformed designs of his mentality.

The young man does, however, what is very common among blogs. He does not use words defined by informed consensus. He makes up his own definitions and then discredits other people who do not subscribe to his definitions. This deconstruction of the language for the purposes of maligning and impugning other people is the reason people find blogs of no intellectual merit, a matter of intellectual decadence in many cases. But the dissemination of malignity is the very purpose for which some blogs came into being.

Some of the decadent blogs are the products of malformed egos, of otherwise inconsequential people who have found in blogs a medium for self-adulation and self-promotion. It is the kind of puerilism that contributes nothing constructive to the language or the culture. Other of the decadent blogs were created precisely to spread ill will and wreak destruction upon the language.

The blizzard of words is often detritus blown about by the winds of egotism. While the print media is in a state of decline because the Internet has changed the intellectual climate, it is also more essential than ever before to have a criticism of literature and language that discerns between the self-serving language of judgments and the communicative language of reports. Our educational institutions, as the language constructionists insist, are being charged with teaching the elements of valid grammar and the qualities of true literacy as they never have before. The evaluation of the effectiveness of our schools will not be determined by average scores on standardized tests but by the level of literacy on which our culture operates. A new way but also very old way of assessing education is being promoted, and it will emphasize integrity and competence in the use of language.

As Proverbs says:

10:14: The wise lay up knowledge, but the babbling of a fool brings ruin near.

And,

11:12: Whoever belittles another lacks sense, but an intelligent person remains silent. 13. A gossip goes about telling secrets, but one who is trustworthy keeps a confidence. 14. Where there is no guidance, a nation fails, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.

We'll see which way the blogs go on.


Friday, January 2, 2009

Have yourself a somber little New Year

I joined a fraternity when a student in a private Lutheran college. Instead of "hell week" the fraternities had "help week," during which the pledges assumed tasks that would help the community. Among other things, my pledge class painted the interior of a Salvation Army dormitory for the transient and homeless.


During the holiday season, we helped distribute food, clothing, and human kindness to the needy. This was a coordinated project of many agencies--the Salvation Army, Lutheran Social Services, Catholic Charities, etc. I was accustomed to doing this. When I was still a toddler my mother took me along to distribute food and gifts for her women's church group. I recall vividly visiting the homes of Mexican immigrants in the area with their meticulously swept dirt floors. Trying to be of help and encouagement to those in need was the major focus of the season, but such efforts were not limited to the holidays. Duing the late years of the Depression, there was always a transient sitting on our back steps eating the scrambled eggs my mother turned out. Our house was designated in some way as a place where food was always available for the asking. My grandmother said that one of those men could be Jesus Christ checking out the household's Christian hospitality, and, so, our families always kept extra eggs on hand to feed the hungry.

One holiday season a crew of my fraternity brothers were working around the clock to deliver food, clothing, and attend to the needs of people when one of the project coordinators warned us about wishing people merry Christmas and happy New Year. He said that when people have been reduced to receiving charity and have uncertain prospects for the future, being wished a merry Christmas and happy New Year is an impertinence. Christmas is a time to demonstrate peace on earth and goodwill to all people by showing them respect and concern, not by assailing them with empty expressions of good cheer which have a phony and presumptuous ring from their perspectives. Let your actions and demeanor convey the message of Christmas, he said. And so, our merry band was very circumspect about how we greeted people and about making merry in front of people who had little reason to be merry.

The South Dakota blogosphere was mercifully restrained this year in its holiday wishes. From those bloggers who spend most of the year maligning other people and expressing ill will, the words "merry Christmas and happy New Year" are obscenely malicious. Their real message is for hatred on earth and ill will toward some people. With a man dressing up like Santa Claus and shooting down nine former in-laws in California, with Hamas sending rockets into Israel and Israel striking back with massive attacks, and with thousands of our citizens losing their houses, their jobs, their retirement investments, and much hope for the future, holiday wishes are a presumptuous indignity. It is not a time for mouthing inanities; it is a time to contemplate the actual delivery of peace and good will and to decide if you believe in the message of of Noel enough to mean it.

For those who mean it, the word of hope and good will has to be made manifest to mean anything. Customary good cheer is not a nice treatment to people who are the casualties of venal executives and stupid bureaucrats.

One poster on the blogosphere occupied his Christmas with posts contending that liberalism is a mental disorder. His definntions of what identifies liberals had nothing to do with the political philosophy, but were the hate-based stereotypes of the kind that is associated with the N word. What is perturbing is that this blogger claims to be an "educator." I was struck by the intelligence and generosity of spirit, and coujd not but wonder what kind of education he delivers. At least he didn't make any mouthings like merry Christmas.

There are so many workers who need decent jobs, children who need genuine educations, and poor who need encouragement and opportunity, I decided to withhold holiday wishes until such a time as they seem possible to those many people.






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