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, April 28, 2011

Will you please stop moving the rocks and letting the idiots out?

This was in my e-mail box just now:

IMMEDIATE NEWS RELEASE
Albuquerque  NM  28 APRIL 2011

OBAMA BIRTH CERTIFICATE IS PHONY!

Just another media-hyped communist con-game - and cracked within an hour of release
- despite media coverage ever since without mention of the obvious forgery (deliberate suppression?).

While it remains available, download the pdf document from the White House site;

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/birth-certificate-long-form.pdf

Then open it in Adobe Illustrator - the LAYERS are clear and absolute!  A pdf file shouldn't have LAYERS and a pristine file shouldn't have evidence of tampering.
 This phony document has both!

Anyone can do it and EVERYONE who does will know the damned thing is a manufactured forgery.  Only communist media and politicians will continue to hype this atrocity as valid; and only RINOs (closet communists) will keep silent about, or dismiss, the issue.

We Support Responsible Email Compliance:  Didn't subscribe?  Getting Dupes? 
Reply with the word "REMOVE" in the subject line. 

Colonel Robert F. Cunningham
1826 Poplar Lane SW
Albuquerque  NM  87105
505 247 4843
Editor [editor@theakuriansmail.com]



What is fueling the stock markets is damping down the general economy

Corn went from $3.50 to over $7.50 a bushel in one year
While the Dow Jones Industrial Average has chugged right along in the economic "recovery" and is pushing toward 13,000 points, unemployment lingers in the 9 percent range, fuel prices have skyrocketed, and food prices are taking an upward surge.  At the same time, many states are following the direction of Wisconsin in reducing the wages and benefits of public workers, which sets the trend for all workers.  

What it all means is that working people are paying more and more for everything in an economy in which they earn less and less.


While fuel costs are the more obvious strains on family budgets, food costs, which are affected by fuel costs, are taking some jumps upward, a fact that people in the U.S. are noticing and which are a major factor in uprisings elsewhere.  Bloomberg News notes:

Riots prompted partly by rising costs have toppled governments in Egypt and Tunisia and contributed to unrest in other parts of northern Africa and the Middle East. China is now battling increasing pest infestation in its wheat-growing regions, while U.S. winter-crop conditions are rated at their worst since 2002.

In the U.S., the price of ethanol, which is largely touted as a means of reducing the dependence and costs of foreign oil, is getting more costly to make because its major ingredient, corn, has doubled in price during the past year, from $3.50 a bushel to more than $7.50 a bushel.   The diversion of corn from feeding livestock and being exported for food purposes into the making of fuel is blamed by some economists for adding to a growing shortage of food in the world. 

The USDA expects a 5 or more percent rise in food costs during 2011.  Prices for meat poultry and fish will jump 5 percent to 6 percent, led by beef, which may climb 8 percent, and pork, which could gain 7.5 percent.   Fresh fruits and vegetables have gone up 6.5 percent so far this year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Field grown tomatoes alone have jumped up one third in price since the beginning of the year and are now $2.086 a pound.

 The economic signals for corporations are looking bright.  For working families, they are for lower wages and higher prices.  And the consequence of that can be seen in north Africa and the Middle East. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Keeping America safe from elephants

Asian elephants come in the night to devastate farms.
South Dakota's GOP Congress people are industriously insuring that the state's farmers are kept safe from an invasion of Asian elephants, which are as voracious and prolific as Asian carp, only they wreak their havoc on land.  In this case, the Asian elephants come under the auspices of the Environmental Protection Agency, which was created totally to oppress and destroy agriculture.  The elephants trample crops, rip up trees, and terrorize farm families in the dark of night, and generally impede the spirit of free enterprise in an industry that racks up about $35 billion a year in direct federal handouts.  

Of course, no Asian elephants have ever invaded America, and such an invasion is not even a remote possibility, but our ever-diligent GOP congress persons have dedicated their lives to insuring that such an invasion never takes place.  It is their first-priority political mission.   Sen. John Thune took the bold move in the Asian elephant fight in 2008, when he introduced his cow fart legislation

Thune sponsored a bill that would prevent the EPA from regulating livestock digestion emissions that contain methane, which makes holes in the ozone layer of the atmosphere.  The EPA repeatedly said it had no intention of attempting to regulate farts and burps of livestock, but the Farm Bureau insisted that such a threat was imminent.  Factcheck.org found that "the farm lobby warned that EPA "could" push for such a tax, but EPA never proposed any such thing and says it lacks authority to impose one anyway.It added,"This one is a case study in how lobbyists sometimes justify their own salaries by loudly fighting against hypothetical but non-existent threats from Washington."   

John Thune never wavered in his stalwart crusade to protect farmers from dangers that don't exist, cow fart regulation and Asian elephants.

Now comes his understudy in the war against figments of imagination.   Kristi Noem has sponsored legislation that would prevent the EPA from regulating dust on farms.  However, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson "has said that claims that the EPA plans new regulations of farm dust are mischaracterizations." “We have no plans to do so,” Jackson said during testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture last month.

Noem and the farm lobby, however, are not to be dissuaded.  They insist that the EPA and the Asian elephants are on the prowl, just waiting for the chance to sneak in and wreak havoc on American agriculture.  That is the nature of the beast that keeps Noem, Thune, and the constituents they claim to represent cowering under their beds at nights.  


The big challenge facing agriculture today is the bogey creatures that Thune, Noem, and the fruit loop caucus conjure up as evidence that they are serving their constituents.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

10,000 weed lovers gather on campus green at 4:20 on 4/20 for a tea party

They came, they lit up, they blew on the Boulder CU campus   

It has become a tradition at 4:20 on April 20 each year.  Pot lovers gather on the University of Colorado campus in Boulder and light their joints, their pipes, their bongs, whatever they have lugged along.  Yesterday's gathering was about 10,000.

University officials say that only about a fourth of those gathered were students.  But a 4:20, a huge cloud covered the campus as 10,000 sets of lungs expelled smoke into the afternoon air.  Boulder's newspaper, The Daily Camera, covered it. 

Over the years,  a lot of pot lore has accumulated on campuses.  The police react differently than they did in the lore of yore.

While I was attending graduate school at the University of Iowa, an incident happened down the Interstate a piece at the ramp to Grinnell College.  The police noticed a horde of students scouring the Interstate 80 median.  At first the police thought the students were volunteering to pick up litter off the roadside, but then they noticed that the students seemed to be harvesting something.


During World War II, a bit crop raised for the war effort was hemp.  It was loaded on box cars and as it bumped across the country, the raw material dropped its seeds along the way.  Those seeds took root in places like railroad right-of-ways and roadsides that weren't cultivated.  The students had discovered a motherlode along the Interstate, and when the police realized what they were doing, they gave chase and tried to round up a bunch of pot inspired kids who felt like playing with them.  The kids had a good time and the police were pissed.


Conventional wisdom said that rope-grade hemp was not the best for ingestion purposes, but students told me it would do.


At Northern during my first year, some entrepreneurs flew a DC-7 loaded with bales of pot up from Columbia and landed along the Missouri River at Akaska.  Some nosy ice fishermen thought that was a suspicious thing to do and called the police, who confiscated the airplane before anyone had a chance to unload.


The pot was impounded as evidence along with the plane, and after the entrepreneurs went to trial, the state burned all the pot.  Or so officials said.  However, students informed me they would not be in class the day of the burning because they would be standing down wind from the big bonfire of their dreams.

That gathering at Boulder is the kind of tea party that suggests that maybe the country might be alright after all.  So, blow, babies, blow.  

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Great Britain has a royal wedding; the U.S. crowns many kings.

I have often  been deeply puzzled about the extravagant salaries and privileges given to corporate executives.  As a news paper editor who once covered the business, I had frequent contact and interviews with a number of corporate executives, including CEOs.  Some were brilliant and clearly made a difference in the success of their companies.  Others made reporters and many of their employees wonder how they landed the jobs they had and why them kept them.  They were not intelligent, skilled, or particularly good at what they did.  They seemed to retain their jobs out of some kind of royalist mystique, like the titular kings and queens still ensconced on thrones in parts of the world.  Some were simply egregious assholes.

The pay of executives is particularly distressing at a time when so many governors are telling their workers that they get paid too much in salaries and benefits.   

A new web site put up by the AFL-CIO deepens my puzzlement.  It details the salaries of CEOs at the Russel 3000 corporations.   It points out in a study of 299 companies on the Standard and Poor's 500 index that the combined total of the CEO's pay was $3.4 billion in 2010, enough to support 102,325 jobs paying the median wage.

I have also been puzzled by the pay of college presidents, although they do not receive anywhere near the amount of corporate CEOs.  However, I worked during a time when their salaries jumped up dramatically while some of them were literally destroying the institutions over which they presided.  

Many of the executives on the web site are among those who created the Great Recession that besieged us in 2009.  Go figure.  If you dare. 

Monday, April 18, 2011

Libya: a glimpse of America's future?

Time out from battle  

To get a real sense of what is going on in Libya, check out this slide show at The New York Times.

The most haunting aspect is that these fighters are trying to throw off the kind of oppression and disregard that many governors, such as Scott Walker of Wisconsin, are subjecting their working people to.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that pursuant to the passage of Walker's budget bill, more than 30 school principals in the Milwaukee system have opted to take their retirement.  The question is what the workers who do not have that option will do.                                  




Sunday, April 17, 2011

Liberals as "sanctimonious morons" **

General semanticist S.I. Hayakawa, former president of San Francisco State U. and U.S Senator, called it a "blizzard of words."    It refers to when words are swirling around people in such a fury that no coherent message can be discerned.  And even if a somewhat clear message is shouted into the howling winds, it is lost in the cacophony before it reaches any ears. The situation is addressed in the old conundrum "If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?"   The question is not if the falling tree or shouted message makes a sound; it is if any sound it makes registers on any mind.  It doesn't.  At least not at the moment it happens. 

The matter was suggested last week when former U.S. Rep. Stephanie Sandlin Herseth gave a lecture at SDSU.  During the question-and-answer portion of the lecture, a retired history professor asked her why Democrats were so ineffective at getting the message across to the public that the Republicans are the ones responsible for running up the national deficit when they were in control of the presidency and Congress.  Her reply was that the Democratic Party embraces a more diverse range of people and interests, so it is difficult to co-ordinate a single message that all members of the party recite. Republicans, she pointed out, are more disciplined in the recitation of political cant.  Actually, she did not say the "political cant" part, but she did say the part about being disciplined to say what the party has determined its members should say.  Which is the same thing,

The matter, however, goes far beyond discipline.  And it goes beyond the fact that Republicans and Democrats have differing political viewpoints.  There has developed a growing cultural divide between Republicans and Democrats, which affects the noises they make and how they receive those noises.  The right wing often complains that higher education institutions and the legacy media have a liberal bias.  The bias is not in their political stances as much as it is in the way that the way they regard communication shapes their political stances.

Sally Kohn in The Washington Post frames the differences between liberals and conservatives in social science terms:

Social science research has long dissected the differences between liberals and conservatives. Liberals supposedly have better sex, but conservatives are happier. Liberals are more creative; conservatives more trustworthy. And, since the 1930s, political psychologists have argued that liberals are more tolerant. Specifically, those who hold liberal political views are more likely to be open-minded, flexible and interested in new ideas and experiences, while those who hold conservative political views are more likely to be closed-minded, conformist and resistant to change. As recently as 2008, New York University political psychologist John Jost and his colleagues confirmed statistically significant personality differences connected to political leanings. Brain-imaging studies have even suggested that conservative brains are hard-wired for fear, while the part of the brain that tolerates uncertainty is bigger in liberal heads.
She concludes that the difference has these results:  "... liberals are not willing to defend against the rigid demands of their political opponents, who are emboldened by their own unwavering opinions, their full range of open-minded positions will be destroyed. Liberals are neutered by their own tolerance."  She concludes that:


Tolerance plays by the rules, while intolerance fights dirty. The result is round after round of knockouts against liberals who think they’re high and mighty for being open-minded but who, politically and ideologically, are simply suckers.


Social science, which some of my humanities colleagues persistently call pseudo science, does not take into account the role of  language and how it operates.  Language operates in a cultural context.  The differences between Democrats and Republicans cited by Sally Kohl can also be accounted for by the differences in the level of literacy practiced by liberals and conservatives.  They perceive the values of literacy and education with different objectives in mind.  Liberals want to complete the communication process in which a message is sent, received and registered, and responded to.  Conservatives want to use communication as a means of imposing their will.  The only response they are interested in  is compliance to their commands.  Kohl suggests that liberals need to be less tolerant in their responses to conservative demands.  From the standpoint of communications, liberals need to be more insistent on the integrity and completion of the communication process.

The conservatives may be present in the forest when the tree falls, but they choose not to hear it.  They may hear the voices calling out with messages, but they choose to block them out with contending noise or simply refuse to hear and respond.  If they do respond, it is to take the thread of discussion off message, which technique is consistently and persistently evident in blog discussion threads.

A good case study in this technique is Gov. Walker of Wisconsin.  When he formed a bill to shape Wisconsin's budget, he included cuts in wages and benefits and more contributions from workers to their benefits, but he also included provisions to make the labor unions powerless and ineffective.  The unions gave him the concessions he said he needed to balance the budget, but the unions also asked what union busting had to do with balancing the budget.  He said that the anti-union provisions were simply needed, and then claimed he was not anti-union.  He refused to respond to how breaking the unions contributed to balancing the budget.  Until, he appeared before the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.  Here is the account of his testimony from Wisconsin's Cap Times:

Your proposal would require unions to hold annual votes to continue representing their own members. Can you please explain to me and members of this committee how much money this provision saves for your state budget?” asked Kucinich.

Walker tried to avoid the question.

Kucinich pressed him. “Did you answer the questions?” the congressman asked. “How much money does it save, Governor?”

A reluctant Walker finally responded: “It doesn’t save any.”

Rep. Kucinich refused to accept a non-response.  He forced an admission that the anti-union measure has nothing to do with balancing the budget and is, therefore, an act of union busting for the purpose of busting unions.  Kucinich's persistence in obtaining an answer revealed Walker's true motives.

The Republicans may be disciplined to hew to the party tactic of evading full communication, as Ms. Herseth Sandlin suggests, but the real factor in the message process is that the messages are not held to adequate scrutiny by either the press or the liberal contingent.

Complete exchanges in sending, receiving, and responding to messages may not have much effect on a larger audience which is so lost in the blizzard of words that it hears nothing but noise.  But for those who want to be told the truth, persistence in messaging is a starting point.  It identifies those who communicate with some integrity and distinguishes them from those who would simply impose power on those they regard as opponents.  The battle lines would be more clearly drawn and the nature of the battle made more apparent.
 


** The phrase is Pat Robertson's.  Read the Kohl link for the full context. 


Friday, April 15, 2011

The French Revolution comes to America

A point that scholars of early American literature and history make is that the revolutions taking place in the world in the late eighteenth century were markedly different in character.  The American Revolution was a battle to gain independence from Britain and to establish a system of government that eschewed any privileges of class.  It is also often said that the American Revolution is a continuing process of making the country conform to the principles underlying our documents of formation, and that process will continue, or America will fail.  Initially, the country was very selective about on whom it bestowed liberty, equality, and justice, but over time events such as the Civil War, the labor movement, the civil rights movement, the feminist movement brought us closer to our ideals.  In the American Revolution, people forged and wrested their rights largely through the exercise of free speech and assembly, and, as a number of historians have pointed out, the real revolution was carried out in the press, in pamphlets by Thomas Paine and the rhetorical exchanges of the Federalist Papers.  No nation, as scholars state, has a more  exhaustive literary record of its conception and founding than America.  The real battles of the American revolution were in the struggle of words, not the confrontation of troops.


The French Revolution differed from the American in profound ways.  America threw off the political bonds of Britain, which tried to rule from across the Atlantic.  It was not a revolt of people against people within the country.  The French revolted against the established, medieval rule by royalty.  The people rose up and made the guillotine, not the press, the emblem of their revolt.  Marie Antoinette is a signal figure in the history of the French Revolution.  When the poor complained about not having bread, she did not, historians stress, say "Let them eat cake."  That contention is a classic case in which people manufacture a justification for their hatred and the violent course it takes in sending Marie to the guillotine.  They make up accusations and charges more indicative of mindless hatred than of actual events and actions of the people they target.

Americans of the liberal persuasion have taken pride in the absence of class hatred in the formulation of its government, although the Indian wars interject another aspect of class-based hatreds.  America does not escape the violence of unthinking hatreds; it redefines them.  It shifts from the animosity between masters and serfs, which has its effect in the overthrow of slavery, and moves the quest for equality into the arena of culture. The culture wars are a conflict between those who want to extend the concepts of liberty, equality, and equal justice and those who oppose that extension.


Taxation is an issue to which combatants in the culture wars apply their mental proclivities and about which they make stuff up.  The current tea party movement tries to associate its motives with the taxation-without-representation action of the protestors in the the original Boston Tea Party.  Britain imposed taxes on its American colony under the assumption that a colony was a venture in commerce which was expected to provide a return to its investors.  The Crown extracted its dividends in the form of taxes.  The tea party movement proceeds as if it has no representation in government because its followers did not get their way.  They had their opportunities to have representatives of their persuasion elected and have, in fact, succeeded.  Their tack has been to insist that anyone who does not agree with their fascist-based politics is un-American.  In their rewriting of history, they contend that liberal  politics has no role in America's founding and is foreign to its development.  


However, they also raise the cry of class warfare in a tacit claim that the political strife in America is, as was the case in France, a conflict between wealthy ruling class and a serfdom.  This claim has credence because 10 percent of the American population controls 70 percent of the nation's wealth.  Since the 1980s, while wealth accrues to this relatively small group, the middle class has seen its earning power stagnate and decline, as more and more of the middle class is being push into poverty, and those productive occupations which make things have been outsourced, leaving Americans to low-pay service jobs.  When it comes to dealing with the sinking wages and the rising cost of everything, and in a coordinated effort to deprive American workers of their collective bargaining rights, the Republican Party has effectively said "Let them eat cake," but in this case the attitude is clearly expressed by the Republican politicians and is detailed in the policies they are imposing on the country.  The dismissal of the working class, which includes all wage earners, as expendable and not worthy of its aspirations for equality and opportunity is not something it has made up to justify revolutionary violence.  It is a reality promoted by the Republican Party.


Taxation is an issue that exposes the real social and political attitudes involved.  Those who charge class warfare insist that the suggestion that the wealthy should bear a larger burden is a matter of class resentment directed at individuals.  However, there is a difference between taxing the wealthy and using the wealth generated by the country as the basis for sustaining its people.  The concept is not to tax the wealthy but to expect a return on the wealth.  It is the fascistic notion that those who have gained control of the nation's wealth deserve special privileges which is an offense to those who find those privileges contrary to the ideas of liberty, equality, and justice.  The Republican schemes of political control are blatant reversions to the feudal concepts that so enraged the French and resulted in the violence of the guillotine as the emblem of their revolution.  


In addition to demanding privileges in holding 80 percent of the country's wealth, executives in the firms who practiced the larceny that caused the Great Recession have continued to reward themselves with absurdly exorbitant salaries and to reward their moral failures with huge bonuses.  They are the ones engaged in vicious class warfare.  

Ben Franklin analyzed the misappropriation of  taxes and the nation's wealth when he examined the practices of Great Britain and described them in the "Rules by Which a Great Empire May Be Reduced to a Small One:"  

Another Way to make your Tax odious, is to misapply the Produce of it. If it was originally appropriated for the _Defence_ of the Provinces and the better Support of Government, and the Administration of Justice where it may be _necessary_, then apply none of it to that _Defence_, but bestow it where it is _not necessary_, in augmented Salaries or Pensions to every Governor who has distinguished himself by his Enmity to the People, and by calumniating them to their Sovereign. This will make them pay it more unwillingly, and be more apt to quarrel with those that collect it, and those that imposed it, who will quarrel again with them, and all shall contribute to your _main Purpose_ of making them _weary of your Government_.
 
The use of the tax code and the country's wealth to augment the salaries to those would-be rulers who have "distinguished themselves by their enmity to the people" are the offense against all those things that America is alleged to stand for.   A government which persistently subjugates and demeans its workers will not long be tolerated. The Republican Party has officially adopted that attitude attributed to Marie Antoinette and is setting up those conditions through which class warfare descends into violence.  



An absurdity is that the Republican Party still likes to identify itself with Abraham Lincoln but has moved as far way from the principles Lincoln represented as it can get.  In fact, it has embraced those very political and social attitudes that Lincoln detested.


The question is whether the American  or the French form of revolution will prevail.  And whether great America will be reduced to small America.   

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Denial is a river in South Carolina

The 150th anniversary of the start of the Civil War with the firing on Fort Sumter has revived one of the most odious and absurdly conceived myths.  The myth is that many black men (one estimate thrown around the last few days is 30,000) served in the Confederate Army, and it is exacerbated by suggesting that they did so with a sense of honor and pride.  

What is most disappointing is that this contention has been aired in interviews marking the 150th anniversary on public radio.  

I find the contention fits in the mold of the claims that Barack Obama was not born in the U.S.  One can get a good hint as to the direction some people in the nation are taking by touting slavery as a great humane enterprise.  

My personal objections to this claim come out of my work and my experience.  Some years ago, I became interested in how the Underground Railroad operated when I found that the folk song "The Rock Island Line" was not about the actual railroad, but about the routes along the Mississippi River, primarily on steamboats, for slaves to escape and make it to Rock Island, Ill., which was a major transfer terminal for the Underground Railroad.  The research I did on the Underground Railroad was informed by scholarship I have done on African American Literature,  oral and written.  If there were black slaves in the Confederate army, they were not there
willingly and were probably brought along by their masters to serve as personal valets.  One of the major scholars on the Confederate Army, however, says he has been able to find records for only about a dozen of such instances.  Suffice it to say that no slaves with any mental faculties intact at all would willingly fight in behalf of the institution that kept them enslaved.

Another  aspect of my experience is that I have been a re-enactor in the recreation of a Civil War unit that was stationed at and did the construction on Fort Sisseteon (named Fort Wadsworth at the time).  The Unit is Company F of the First U.S. Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  The Regiment was formed with Confederate prisoners of war.  Provided they signed a loyalty oath to the U.S. Army, they were allowed to join the Union army and serve, mostly on the frontier to fight in the Indian wars.  There were a number of these regiments.   A common attitude was that the men joined the Union army because they wanted their freedom and saw s that the Southern aristocracy did not have any more respect for ordinary white people than it did slaves.  Called Galvanized Yankees, many of these men traveled north and west after the Civil War ended.  

Two writers in some of best magazines, The Atlantic and The New Yorker, have provided more scholarly rebuttal for the slaves as Confederate soldiers falsehood. 


But if you like the budget proposal the Republicans have up before the U.S. House, you will love this myth.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Herseth Sandlin accepts teaching job at SDSU

As well as working for a law firm that concentrates on agricultural issues, Stephanie Herseth Sandlin announced tonight that she accepted a position as an adjunct professor to teach at SDSU.  It looks as if she is maintaining contacts both in the state and in Washington, D.C., and is not closing out any options.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

What a little journalism can do

Begin with a reporter named Daniel Bice.  He works for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.  As 

Daniel Bice
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, of union-hating fame, filled his administration (one might say stocked it), Bice noticed something fishy about a young man who had been appointed to a $64,000-a-year job as a bureau director in the Department of Regulation and Licensing in January.
A little later, the young man was promoted to a "$81,500-per-year job in Gov. Scott Walker's administration overseeing environmental and regulatory matters and dozens of employees at the Department of Commerce," as Mr. Bice tells it.  

The young man, Brian Deschane, had very little work experience, no college degree, and two drunk driving convictions.   These facts apparently gave Mr. Bice a serious WTF moment.  He looked into the matter, viewed state records, which one can do in Wisconsin, and asked people about the appointment.  Deschane's father, it turned out, was an industry lobbiest who had directed a very hefty contribution into Scott Walker's campaign.   Bice wrote a column about it.


The column attracted a great deal of attention and was circulated throughout the U.S.  Gov. Walker then fired young Deschane, demoting him back to his original appointment.  Apparently, the position he was promoted from had been filled, so he ended up resigning his government job altogether.

 The real catch in all this is that when Deschane was promoted to the executive job, he was appointed over two highly qualified people who had applied for the job but were not even interviewed.   Mr. Bice reports: 

The first, Oscar Herrera, is a former state cabinet secretary under Republican Gov. Scott McCallum with a doctoral degree and eight years' experience overseeing the cleanup of petroleum-contaminated sites. The second, Bernice Mattsson, is a professional engineer who served since 2003 in the post to which Deschane was appointed and has more than 25 years' experience in state government.
As Republicans rail against "union thugs," which in party  parlance is any worker who looks for some rights and equity in the work place, the story about the appointments of Brian Deschane rips open the mask of fiscal responsibility so loudly claimed by Gov. Walker and reveals what he and his administration are really all about.
  
You can access the three articles Mr. Bice had written about the matter here.





Friday, April 8, 2011

The Great Republican Deficit Putsch

Oooooooo-bama
Like dogs gathering around the house of a bitch in heat, the anti-Obama-ites are out there on the front lawn of America snarling, howling at moons, real and imagined, and chasing their tails in a frenzy over his actions in regard to Libya.  At first, they castigated him for not moving more quickly to come to the aid of the rebels, then they reviled him when he did.  The Obama Derangement Disorder (ODD) is like rabies:  it makes its victims snap and bite at anything, all reason suspended.  On one hand the howler chorus berates Obama for not coming to the rescue of the Libyan resistance, on the other it condemns him for the fact that he might be helping devotees of Al Qaeda if he does. 


Of course, these very considerations are behind the deliberation in the decision to do something about the imminent killing of innocent civilians in Libya.  It is difficult to understand the concerns that the dog chorus has for any of the protesters in the Middle East when they could not care less about the economic underclass in their own country, which they are furiously working to enlarge, in regard to employment, wage scales, healthcare, rights of women, rights of labor, voting rights, and religious freedom for anyone but their own Jesus-loves-fascists brand of theology.

People who think that the slaughter of ordinary, hope-grasping people by mad-dog tyrants is wrong and triggers a moral responsibility in behalf of humane decency are in a quandary.  Intervention tends to suck anyone giving assistance into a war, and war is at the root of our deficit, moral and economic.  Some are quick to delve into the archives of misinformation and compare what we confront in Libya with Viet Nam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. But, in Viet Nam, we were already allied with a regime of doubtful integrity and supported it out of fear of a communist take-over,  that if Viet Nam was a domino that fell in Asia, it would push over all the countries around it into the slough of Marxism.  In Iraq, we were duped into a war with false claims that Iraq was developing weapons of mass destruction to unleash on the world, especially us.  We had legitimate reason to invade Afghanistan and chase down the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, but we got trapped into a war that has managed to turn the Afghan people against us through military and diplomatic blunders.  (The killings of innocent UN workers by Afghanis over the burning of the Koran in Florida has probably foreclosed any constructive action we can take in Afghanistan.)  Libya is more like Bosnia and Kosovo.  Our reason for intervening was to prevent the slaughter of civilians who oppose a corrupt regime bent on mass homicide against those who want to be free of it and have a chance at life. We know what the Libyan government is from its involvement in the Lockerbie Pan Am Flight 103 bombing.  The Libyan revolt raises the question about what responsibilities in behalf of our professed democratic values we should exercise when innocent people are threatened with slaughter.  When we fail to attempt to save lives, we share in the guilt over the atrocities.  Pres. Clinton has expressed this guilt over his failure to attempt an intervention in Rwanda.  The problem in America regarding atrocities in other places is that we have a major political party that has forged a hard policy of misanthropy as its basic tenet.  Anyone who does not profess an abject obeisance to the current form of medieval royalty, corporations and their culture, is not worthy of consideration.  People of any other culture are considered expendable.  In fact, it is considered desirable that they be eliminated.  So, the Republican test for responsible action is only if it serves to maintain the plutocracy and the corporate culture, and what is defined by the GOP as American  interests is the corporate interests. 

Obama has  taken criticism from both wings on Libya.  He has taken pains to stress that U.S. military action will be taken only to protect civilians and, in a message verified by Defense Sec. Gates, no U.S. troops will be on the ground there.  After the initial use of American air power in Libya to defend the protestors from massive military attack, Obama withdrew the planes and missiles.  This prompted charges of incoherence and indecision from the dog pack out there on the front lawn.  In this cacophony, the GOP and its adherents define themselves.  

Obama has become the touch stone that reveals the fundamental misanthropy of the contemporary conservative movement in the U.S.

The fact is that American conservatism has dipped its toes in the toxic waters of fascism for decades, but after the election of Obama, it dove in head first.  A combination of militant chauvinism, racism, and a passion for medieval class inequalities has a compelling appeal for many Americans.  Their main ambition in life is to attain status in the upper echelons of the dog pack.  To them, a black president in the White House signaled a serious disruption of their sense of class and privilege.  


Since the presidency of Ronald Reagan, middle class America has experienced the neo-conservative fascination with enlarging the under class.  Wages have stagnated;10 percent of the people control about 70 percent of the nation's wealth; and 47 million people, about 15 percent, have been pushed into poverty.  


There is no doubt that the deficit in our national spending is a crisis and that nearly  everybody wants to address it.  Democrats want, if possible, to bring back the budget surplus that Bill Clinton handed over to George Bush.  But the Republican Party has a different agenda that is being pushed in the House of Representatives and governors in the states of Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, to name the most aggressive in pursuing that agenda. 

Those states, among others, have taken a number of measures directed at the subjugation of the middle class and the American work force.  Wisconsin has become sort of the advance guard in the assault on the middle class.  Many commentators have pointed out that Gov. Walker's proposals for cutting the budget have been agreed to and that the elimination of the collective bargaining rights of the public worker labor unions has nothing to do with the budgets.  Walker claims that in order to deal with budgets state and local governments need to be freed of collective bargaining.  But collective bargaining does not guarantee workers pay and benefit increases; it merely give them the opportunity to come to the bargaining table, express their concerns, and work out a deal that employees and employers can agree on.  That fact reveals that Walker is using the budget to take away any democratic process for workers in the work place and to reduce them to the status of serfs whose lives depend on the whims of their masters. The problem is the number of people who cannot perceive the absence of reason and the overload of guile in Walker's position.

 The fact that people are arguing that unions have the power to dictate wages and benefits represents what is the real serious deficit in America:  a severe shortage of brain cells. And that applies to the left equally with the right; it takes a marked lack of intelligence for liberals and progressives not to see the intent of malicious deprivation being forced on them and to think it is merely a matter of differing opinions.  Every thought, word, and deed issuing from the Republican minions is laden with misanthropy and anti-intellectual, anti-cultural attitudes.  The strategy is possible.


Since the founding and the promotion of education by the likes of Jefferson and Franklin, it has been understood that democracy succeeds when the populace is educated and strives for a sustaining culture.  People are truly only free when they are free of ignorance and the bondage of creeds and thought patterns of the past.  Many slave states made it a crime to teach slaves how to read and write.  Literacy would give them the tools with which to understand the obscene state in which they were held and to plan paths to freedom.  Ignorance and oppression were essential to the maintenance of slavery.


Nothing is more dangerous to the neo-conservative agenda than informed and thinking people.  The way to vanquish an opposing point of view is to destroy those things which feed it and to take away the voices of choice.  That is why the Republican agenda, under the guise of cutting the budget, obsesses over those programs which give people choices and opportunities for self-determination:
  • Women's rights, particularly regarding health, reproduction, and family planning.
  • Labor unions and the right to have a voice in determining the role of workers in the work place.
  • Environment, and the right to put public health and safety over the right of corporations to exploit and destroy the environment.
  • Education--nothing threatens conservative rule like an informed, critically thinking populace.
  • Public broadcasting--like education, a news source that focuses on facts and avoids partisan cant is a danger to the conservative ideology.
While South Dakota is not touted as a front for the assault against rights and access to information, it has not been a laggard.  Despite the fact that Democrats offered an alternative way of dealing with the budget deficit that would not require the drastic diminishing of education and social programs, the Republican-controlled legislature went along with the Governor's plan to cut public broadcasting off at the knees, to require reductions in education programs and the firing of teachers, but to give corporations special opportunities to obtain state money.  South Dakota already has collective bargaining laws that make collective bargaining a sham by allowing state and local government to impose a contract on workers without arbitration.  

The Republican mindset of misanthropy and anti-intellectualism is expressed in every measure passed in South Dakota and contemplated in other states.  You have to hate people to oppress them and push them toward poverty and you have to quell those aspects of culture that feed them facts and information from which they might develop opposing ideas.  

In the Middle East, the people have taken to the streets to protest oppressive and freedom-hating governments.  What forms of government will prevail is undetermined at this time for them, but America is their model of freedom that has been transmitted to them over the Internet.  Ironically, America is undergoing an intensive effort to create a ruling class which holds the working class in the same kind of status that the people in the  Middle East are trying to throw off.


The American middle class needs to come to terms with the fact that the conservative movement does not regard it as a class deserving equal opportunity and equal justice and a voice in its destiny commensurate with equality.  It wants to hold it in a state of thralldom that, along with the environment, can be exploited without restraint to put more of the wealth and power into the twenty percent who already control 85 percent of the country's assets and 92 percent of its wealth.  


If 80 percent of the Americans are going to regain their freedom and their rights, it is going to take a lot more than restrained dinner conversation over the wine, rants on the Internet, or polite demonstrations in state capitols.  Marxism is a repugnant and desperate alternative.  However, it is better than what the Republicans and its conservative neanderthals are offering.  Americans will have to do more than dutifully go to work to restart the republic in order to regain the idea of freedom, equality, and justice. 

And it won't be done by going out in the front yard with the dog pack and trying to have an adult conversation with it. 
 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pirates in Somalia, Republicans in D.C.

www.nytimes.com
The House holds the government hostage to get its way on abortion and the environment.

Friday, April 1, 2011

An Eqyptian saves the American Union

Her quest for freedom inspired a nation.  Well, scared the shit out of part of it. 

Her name is Carlotta the Cobra.  Actually, she hasn't been named yet, but the authorities who hold her captive or look after her welfare, whichever way you want to look at it, plan to hold a contest to give her a name.  She resents the welfare reference and that resentment is partly what is behind her break for freedom.  However, as soon as her freedom was made public, those who so despise that this alien is receiving support from the state wanted her captured again.  My god, they said, an escaped Egyptian?  Is she in this  country legally?  She could be a member of Al Qaeda. Or  worse, a Muslim.

Carlotta is an Egyptian cobra.  She is very young, and watched intensely as her youthful compatriots back in Egypt took to the streets and city squares and demonstrated for their freedom.  That's not a bad idea, Carlotta thought, why don't I join them?  She slipped out of her incarceration place at the Bronx Zoo and set the U.S. in a tizzy.   Some folks were panicked at the thought that a cobra or a Muslim could be slithering around in their midst.

However, people in the U.S. were a bit wrought up over the fact that the American Taliban, er ah, Tea Party minions were successfully taking away the rights of women to make choices, the rights of laborers to have a voice in their working conditions, and were  limiting the ability of education at all levels to educate--as dangerous to them as a loose cobra--and were creating new ways to enhance the wealth and privileges of America's corporate sheiks.  The loose cobra provided a few moments of diversion that made some Americans titter and twitter and they found it more constructive to think about a cobra lurking somewhere in a search for freedom than to take to the streets and face their oppressors.

A cobra saved the union.  At least for this week. 

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