News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to MinneKota@gmail.com

Monday, July 30, 2012

No country for nice guys.

A billboard in Idaho comparing Obama to the Aurora mass shooter.

Messages such as the one above have been  made against Obama since he took office.  They say little about Obama.  They say much about a segment of the  country,  what motivates its politics, and what its essential values really are.  There is an intensity in the propaganda that attempts to discredit any human worth of Obama that has only one explanation.  A good portion of the nation has reverted to the kind of    racism that once was the province of  the Klu Klux Klan, and many of Obama's opponents do not hesitate to use that old racist appeal against him.  

When confronted with the racist basis for their attacks on Obama, they erupt in furious indignation and insist they are only using their right of free speech to make legitimate criticisms of the president.  But they continue with ad hominem attacks that go far beyond any argument against policy and assail the worth and mental capacity of the person in speech that is deeply rooted in and resonates with the old language of racial hatred. The tactic is so commonplace that it is used by the right wing in much of its propaganda against any liberals.

Obama's failure to confront this speech is his big failure.  He and his advisers have been reluctant to even acknowledge such speech because it might tear the country apart.  But the country is already divided between those who long for the days of overt discrimination, segregation, and the enforcement  of human classes that were the underpinnings of slavery, and those who think that the business of America is to promote freedom, equality, and justice for everyone.  

Drew Westen in the Washington Post  lists the three major mistakes made in dealing with the Republican opposition:

  • Obama’s first mistake was inviting the Republicans to the table.
  • The second mistake was squandering the goodwill that Americans felt toward the new president and their anxiety about an economy hemorrhaging three-quarters of a million jobs a month. That combination gave Obama, at the beginning of his term, a power to shape public policy that no one since Franklin Roosevelt had held. But instead of designing a stimulus that reflected the thinking of the country’s best economic minds, he cut their recommended numbers by a third and turned another third into inert tax cuts designed to appease Republican legislators whose primary aim was to defeat him.
  • The third way the administration created opportunities for Republican obstructionism will someday become a business-school case study: It let a popular idea — a family doctor for every family — be recast as a losing ideological battle between intrusive government and freedom.
 Westen cites Obama's clinging efforts for bipartisan work as behind the problems in letting his programs work full force:  


The GOP had just decimated the economy and had been repudiated by voters to such an extent that few Americans wanted to admit that they were registered Republicans. Yet Obama, with his penchant for unilateral bipartisanship, refused to speak ill of what they had done. 


Westen sees this as a flaw among Democrats in general:  




If self-interest and self-righteousness are at the heart of the Republican Party today, cowardice lies too close to the spine of the Democrats.
The middle class is going to continue to be pushed into poverty unless someone is willing to name the  villains, confront the racism, and speak openly of what underlies the motives of those who oppose them and wish them ill.  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Dementia is big business. Can it restore the economy?

If, like me, you are an insomniac and turn to night-time radio to lull you back to sleep or occupy those restless hours, you know the night is populated with messengers of hate and derangement.  That is particularly true in Aberdeen, where the BBC night service can be, perhaps, a bit too boring; where the other alternatives are either the incessant and silly chatter about sports, or country music--for which I am restricted to very small doses.  That leaves so-called religious stations who are frantically warning the world that Obama is devil (After all, he has origins in the land of gargoyles.) and talk radio.


You can pick up some distant stations which offer a secular version of Obama as satan, but the dominant noise in the night is supplied by the widely syndicated Coast-to-Coast AM, usually presided over by George Noory, who is unusually qualified to address and propagate the benighted.  His program focuses on UFOs, alien abductions,  ghosts, the falsehood of all science, and the like.  The specialty is conspiracy theories.  In the Coast-to-Coast view, the universe is just one massive conspiracy theory out to get all the true believers out there.  


Over the years, talk radio has become a major source for feeding the dementia whose advocates are having so much success in dismantling education, the biggest threat to our constitutional freedom of bearing conspiracies.  Some of what comes out of talk radio fits only in the category of criminal insanity.  Last night was one of the toppers.


The host on Coast-to-Coast last night was the big voiced John B. Wells, who seems unusually steeped in the rich lore of dementia.  His specialty is the conspiracies that American government and other institutions harbor to do in the whole human race.  His guest was a man named Roger Tolces, who claims to be an expert in the use of electronic surveillance devices for getting control of America--control by whom is left to the imagination or identified by conspirators of one's choice.  


Tolces took on the mass shooting at the theater in Aurora, Colorado, last week.  The shooter, James Holmes, according to Tolces, is a kind of Manchurian candidate, conditioned by his conditioners solely for the purpose of carrying out the mission for a massacre in Colorado.  When asked what the purpose of such a massacre is, Tolces said it was to create such a revulsion against guns so that the people who are gaining control of America can have the pretext for disarming the citizens--as he claims Hitler did in Austria.  


America's Manchurian
James Holmes is just a creation of the conspirators.  

And the dementia goes on and grows day by day.

On the bright side,  Willard Romney, who found the trees in Michigan to be just the right size, found the organizers of the Olympics in London coming up a bit short.  

It is really hard to keep up with all these advances of the intellect.  

Thursday, July 26, 2012

It's back!

Mascot of the Wart Collage:  all that is ugly all the time. 
The South Dakota Wart Collage is back with a full display of the deformed and ugly.  Ain't no way to make this sucker look good, so you might as well go with extreme ugly.  

The significant aspect of its reappearance under open authorship of the Powers that be, and probably always were, is that it reaffirms the role of the blog as the official voice and spirit of the Republican Party in South Dakota.  While Pat Powers has officially resigned from his job in the Secretary of State's office,  he is still working the office for any tidbits he can contrive into defamatory falsehoods with which he kept the blogidiotocracy supplied in the past, whether openly or as an inside undercover operative through pseudonymous persona and other party stooges. 

When Powers deleted all of his blog archives upon taking his job with the Secretary of State's office, most people who monitor the political scene assumed that getting rid of old blog posts, many of which contained false defamation against people who inspire malice in Powers, was a condition of employment.  The Secretary of State's office could be harmed by being associated with someone who posted with fully intended malice.    Prior to deleting the posts altogether, he often deleted individual posts or made revisions to eliminate portions that ventured into dangerous allegations. 


However, erasing the blogging record did not eliminate the record of offenses, the distrust, and the disgust it had built over the years.   When Jason Gant took over the Secretary of State's office, there was a mass change of personnel.  Old, trusted, and respected workers quit or were forced out. The trust and respect that they had earned over the years was replaced by the distrust and resentment that Powers brought with him into the office. 

That distrust and wariness regarding partisan schemes and ploys became most apparent when blogs, such as South DaCola, noted that Powers seemed to using the office to promote some of his partisan schemes.  Protests and investigations resulted, and Powers resigned.  The Attorney General said there was no evidence that warranted criminal prosecution, but the Secretary of State's office, both from the schemes of Powers and Gant's own performance, has been tarnished to the point that raises the question of whether it should any longer be the office that supervises elections for the state.  


There is some sense of relief that Powers is no longer in charge of operations, but that doesn't mean that his connections and access to the office as a political operative have ended.  Prior to his vaporizing his blog archives, the Wart Collage was coordinated with the state GOP party office and the attacks and allegations against anything Democratic were given the Wart Collage treatment simultaneously with their issuance as press releases.  It was apparent that the party headquarters and Powers were working in full complicity.  This was a working pattern with which the party was familiar.  As a candidate,  John Thune's campaign paid Jon Lauck, then a history professor at SDSU, for blogging defamations against Sen. Tom Daschle.  The GOP widely claimed that the blog was a big factor in defeating Daschle, and the party was hoping that the Wart Collage could carry on in that tradition for the state GOP. 

Now that Powers is back in full charge of the Wart Collage, he appears to be resuming his practice of malicious fabrication full throttle.  And that he will be using his connections and access to the Secretary of State's office to accomplish those ends.

In his latest foray into misrepresenting facts and maligning the Democrats,  Powers uses two filings that the Democratic Party made to the SOS office.  He cites two letters that inform the SOS of when the party's state convention is to be held for 2012.  The first letter states the convention will be held in June, the second that it will be held in July.  The one in June was held at the Ramkota Convention Center in Aberdeen; the one in July was held at the party headquarters in Sioux Falls.  Powers contends that the June convention was a "fake" to fool the party constituents into thinking that they were participating in a democratic process while the real decisions were made at the July meeting.


The most important aspect of the convention report filings is that official candidates for statewide and national offices are fomally endorsed by the party.  Reports for both convention dates list the same candidates.  The reason that two dates were established was because of a concern about recruiting and obtaining candidates.


The procedure was covered by reporter David Montgomery at the time the letters listing convention dates were filed and in a follow-up blog following the Wart Collage post.  Montgomery asks, "Was this maneuver by Nesselhuf good strategy, or deceitful manipulation of the democratic process?"

 It is difficult to find any hint of deceit in all this, except in Powers' attempt to turn it into an act of deception.  It has more to do with trying to satisfy the stipulations of the state party constitution, the Roberts Rules of Order (which the party adheres to in its parliamentary proceedings), and the requirements of filings with the SOS.  


What the two listings do, in effect, is indicate that the June convention was adjourned to the July meeting date.  As the June meeting approached, the party was in the process of recruiting and confirming candidates for the state Public Utilities Commission.  There was some concern that a roster of candidates was tentative and could not be confirmed by the committee-as-whole session of the delegates at their June meeting. If candidates had not given full consent by the June meeting, the party had 30 days after to make final its official list of candidates.  Ben Nesselhuf indicated to David Montgomery that the July meeting of delegates would be held by teleconference, if it was necessary.


As it turned out, the convention business concerning candidates was finished at the June meeting so the the adjournment to July was not needed.  The report for the July meeting merely confirmed what had occurred at the June meeting of all delegates.


I suppose there might be other ways to handle these kinds of contingencies, such as the delegates authorizing the executive committee to make the final confirmations of candidates within the time required.  However, it is preferable that the final list of candidates be made by vote of the convention and not by delegation of authority.


But the Wart Collage is back.  And that means that South Dakota politics is returning to its usual dreary business.  





Saturday, July 21, 2012

A national holiday to celebrate mass shooting

Mass murder by gunshot has become a great tradition in America.  It is beginning to eclipse the stars and stripes and apple pie as the national cliche.
It is the expression of American exceptionalism and what it is to be free, equal, and just.   It is a celebration of one of our great freedoms and of the deaths of those who have been sacrificed in the name of that freedom.


We have the ritual and liturgy worked out in detail. 


Monica Hesse summarizes it:


The president makes a statement. The leader of the other party makes a statement. The anti-gun Brady Campaign and the NRA make statements. The statements all express sorrow and regret and a desire for justice for this tragedy. It’s always “a tragedy.” The statements all see the horrible deaths as unfortunate arguments for their sides. It wouldn’t have happened if the country had stricter gun-control laws. It wouldn’t have happened if citizens had the right to carry concealed weapons. No one will try to politicize the shooting, but some might accuse others of trying to politicize the shooting. It will be disgusting.


We will get reactions from the man-on-the-street.

We will discuss our perpetual culture of violence.

We’ll feel sorry for the killer’s mother.
The Onion also points out that we have got this routine down pat:  
According to the nation's citizenry, calls for a mature, thoughtful debate about the role of guns in American society started right on time, and should persist throughout the next week or so. However, the populace noted, the debate will soon spiral out of control and ultimately lead to nothing of any substance, a fact Americans everywhere acknowledged they felt "absolutely horrible" to be aware of.
All we need now is for the government to stop intruding on our freedoms and name a day to celebrate them.  In fact, this holiday is so huge and significant, a day cannot do it justice.  It needs at least a week.

A week-long celebration of fire-arm mayhem and death would speak to America's most cherished values and traditions.  It could contribute massively to the American economy and the spirit of competition.

The Aurora theater massacre is, according to the press, the biggest mass shooting in American history.  That gives the next competitor a very high bar to shoot over.  A national week for mass shooting would give the public a chance to prepare and organize to enjoy it, and it would give the shooters a very attentive, focused audience.  

Retail centers could devote 7 or 8 months to stock their stores and promote merchandise to celebrate National Mass Shooting Week with.  Maybe we could incorporate it with Christmas and New Years and make it a two-week affair. 

Education could be made more relevant and engaging for students.  Educators could emphasize our great tradition behind our greatest freedom by exploring the subjugation and massacre of Indians;  the joys and jubilation of slavery, segregation, and lynchings; the thrill of gang wars; the thrill of any wars; the potential of firearms and murder in domestic disputes; the art and science of planning a massacre.  The teachers who produce the most successful shooters in the national competition could be awarded merit pay.  Education would be revolutionized.  

The economic benefits go without saying, and the magnitude is hard to imagine.

The benefits to national pride and stature in the world would cement America's number one position in all those areas of power and glory that really count.  

We need a national holiday that speaks to our strengths, inspires in our children a new sense of competition and excellence, and provides a joyous occasion for all Americans to demonstrate their pride and mettle.  

A national mass shooting holiday could save the world.  If we can figure out from what.  


 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Update on Vern Traversie affair.

A Cheyenne River attorney has filed a lawsuit against the Rapid City Medical Center in behalf of Vern Traversie, who thinks he had KKK carved into his torso while undergoing heart surgery at the hospital.

The CBS News account can be read here.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Crucifying Joe Paterno and education

In no way do I defend or support Joe Paterno and the football program at Penn State that made him famous.  However, all the fuss and furor over him covering up the pedophile predations of his assistant coach Jerry Sandusky is misplaced.  The fact is that Joe Paterno did exactly what he was hired to do, what his bosses in the administration and board of trustees wanted him to do, and what the students and alumni at the university demanded of him.  

He protected and nurtured the image that Happy Valley existed in a perpetual Saturday afternoon. Former FBI Director Louis Freeh explains why in his investigation of the whole business:  

The avoidance of the consequences of bad publicity is the most significant, but not the only, cause for the failure to protect child victims and report to authorities.  
The Freeh report also lists nine subsidiary reasons, but they all deal with maintaining the pristine reputation of Penn State and its football program. Penn State does not stand alone as a higher education institution that will go out and find buses, if necessary, to throw people under in order to avoid negativity publicity.  The first commandment of higher education is to never let out any information that would disturb donors and alumni, especially the ones who donate.  

While there is little disagreement that Joe Paterno and the administrators at Penn State totally dismissed any concerns about any possible victims and devoted their efforts to keeping the image of Happy Valley unsullied.  But there is probably not a nigher education institution in the U.S. that hasn't sacrificed some people in attempts to avoid scandal and embarrassment for the institution.  The first priority in higher education is not education and contributing to the human community.  The first priority is maintaining the pretenses of the institution, not the reality of what it does and how well it does it.

In Joe Paterno's case, he contributed mightily for developing Penn State, as  a New York Times reporter Pete Thamel put it,  "from a being a state-centered university with 9,500 students to a booming, internationally renowned institution with nearly 45,000 students. The influence Paterno had on Penn State on and off the field is so vast that it is almost unquantifiable."

Paterno's influence and efforts were not limited to the football program.  Thamel remarks upon Paterno's love of the classics and recounts his efforts in their regard at Penn State:  "Paul B. Harvey Jr., the head of the university’s classics and ancient Mediterranean studies department, said that Paterno helped raise more than $150,000, some of it his own money, for his department over the years, essentially saving it from extinction." 


But his positive efforts, as Thamel explains it, did not qualify Paterno for sainthood:  
Paterno was not perfect. His players, especially for a stretch in the last decade, had too many brushes with the law. E-mails emerged in the wake of the Sandusky scandal that showed how Paterno attempted to bully and manipulate administrators. He had a short temper, cursed frequently and remained the team’s coach for far too long. In his final few years, he had little effect on the day-to-day machinations of the program. Paterno did not work nearly as hard at recruiting as many of his competitors, especially in his later years, but Penn State administrators, knowing what he had accomplished and built, swallowed hard and settled for having a living icon on the sideline.
Those of us who have been college faculty know that the sports programs are a key to maintaining support and funding for the institutions.  This applies to high schools, also.  If academic programs are threatened, the public shrugs its shoulders and clucks in tongues.  If the sports programs are threatened, then the public rises up and gets active, spouting all manner of stuff about character building and the like, and generally contributes to maintaining the programs.  The fact is that the public seems quite willing to let academic programs fall by the wayside if it means the sports can be saved.  So, faculty generally offer tacit support to  athletic programs, even at some expense to academics in order to maintain some degree of function for academics. 




An incident at the University of Colorado less than ten years ago illustrates the custom.  Its football team had a woman place kicker who charged that she was sexually assaulted by male team members.  The coach dismissed the allegations and commented snarkily about her performance as a kicker. 





When the University wanted to award its retired professor Vine Deloria, Jr. an honorary degree for his scholarship and leadership in Native America studies, Deloria declined because of the way the football scandal was handled.  He said the University's handling of the matter was an outrage and, "It's no honor to be connected to these people."










The devaluing of people and their sacrifice for excitements and delusions of the sports arena is an American value.  In all the natter about the state of education, there is no mention whatever of the role that sports programs and their degree of support and attention have played in the quality of our classrooms.  

Women place kickers and lost and forlorn little boys can be a detraction.  As are students struggling away in squalid classrooms under the tutelage of harassed and harried teachers.  

Compared to the attitudes and interests of the majority of people out there, maybe Joe Paterno was a saint.  He did what was expected of him by the University and people, and at least he did something.  


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Parasites and predators as citizens

The biggest and most consequential issue confronting America is being ignored in the current political campaign.  Except in a tangental way regarding Mitt Romney and Bain Capital.  That issue is that business is hugely corrupt, is the cause of the recession we are struggling with, and is the obstacle to any significant recovery.


Most Americans know that:


The misconduct of the financial industry no longer surprises most Americans. Only about one in five has much trust in banks, according to Gallup polls, about half the level in 2007. And it’s not just banks that are frowned upon. Trust in big business overall is declining. Sixty-two percent of Americans believe corruption is widespread across corporate America.

Much that goes on in American business is hard to justify, as it contributes nothing to the economy or the quality of life.  In many cases, it acts in the obverse.  In those cases it degrades and devastates what it touches. 

This is the big argument against privatization of activities that maintain stewardship over enterprises such as Social Security, pension funds, and health care insurance. Private organizations that take over government institutions such as prisons and probation services set up processes that can best be described as scams and shakedowns.  Likewise with for-profit colleges. 

The New York Times has a feature on how a private probation company escalated an unemployed woman's $179 speeding ticket into 40 days in jail and a $3,000 bill--and mounting--that she now owes.  Furthermore, the private companies do not adhere to the procedures of due process that are stipulated by the Constitution.  Some argue, that being private agencies, not government agencies, they have no obligation to observe the niceties of the justice system.  Without leaving the country, they claim offshore status.   In their policies and behavior, they reject the very premises of American loyalty and justice.   

 If private citizens conduct themselves as big businesses do, they could be charged with treason. Now that the Supreme Court has bestowed the full status of personhood on corporations with its Citizens United decision,  they should be allowed full recognition of that status and their claim to citizenship.  They should be subject to the same criminal and civil laws as every other citizen and in their relationship to their country should be held to the same standards of loyalty and affiliation.  If they wish to betray their country and damage its economy, they should be held to the same rules that govern acts of subversion and treason of individual citizens.  


If they wish to place their wealth off shore and pledge loyalty and affiliation to a foreign entity, whether country or corporation,  they should be relieved of the encumbrance of U.S. citizenship and the rights and privileges that go with it.  


The natural world is developed by  creatures which produce and build the natural communities.  They are preyed upon and leeched upon by  parasites and predators, which are seen as population controls that keep the producers from over-reproducing and depleting the resources in the natural environment. In nature, predators and parasites are seen as checks on the natural order that keep nature in  balance.  The human economy is often compared to the natural economy in terms of the checks and balances that various functionaries perform.  Some business practices, such as forced buyouts, acquisitions which dismantle companies and rake off assets, dealing in junk bonds and bad mortgages are justified on the basis that they serve to eliminate the weakest businesses and business practices.  They are to the human economy what parasites and predators are to the natural ecosystem.  The flaw in that comparison is that the human economy is designed to support civilization, and civilization is meant to surmount the tooth-and-claw death balances of nature with human brain power, creativity, and good will.  Disease and death from parasites and predators are what civilization strives to control and eliminate.  


Right-wing America hates illegal aliens.  They say they take jobs away from Americans and leech off of our welfare system.  They take the money they earn here and send it home for their families in Latin America.  Private equity firms take over companies and take away American jobs, some through elimination and some by outsourcing to foreign countries.  They take advantage of tax breaks and financing programs paid for by American taxpayers.  They take the money they make off of the predations and put it in offshore accounts.


Right-wing America cherishes its image of the poor and unemployed.  It claims they don't want to work; they just want to line up for welfare benefits, paid for by the people who produce.  It also loves its images of the executives who give themselves huge bonuses, garner and exploit huge tax breaks for their companies, and condemn the poor and unemployed because they are not contributing more to their wealth.  A snarky person might call this the real class war.   

Business claims that it initiates and presides over the American economy.  The essential role it claims in forming and sustaining America exempts it from the moral and ethical standards that are applied to individual citizens.  Anything done under the rubric of a "business decision" has priority over those notions of liberty, equality, and justice that apply to individual citizens' treatment of each other.  Business rails furiously against any regulations that attempt to apply the general legal, moral, and ethical standards to the way business conducts itself.  Such regulations, business claims, hampers the excercise of free enterprise.


Corporate America, however, is not satisfied with the mere status of equality with other citizens.  It claims a special reversion of power over employees.  Employees are expendable and disposable.  The free enterprise of the slave market applies.  Strong, healthy individuals will bring a nice price for their owners for the labor they can produce.  But when they can no longer be as strong and productive, they lose value, are considered negligible, and can be disposef at the whim of their masters.  That is the problem business has with labor unions.  The rights it has established for workers runs counter to "business decisions."  And that is why Wisconsin and many other states are eliminating the right to collectively bargain and have a voice in the terms and conditions of employment for public workers.  Once business interests have established the right to determine the negligible status of public workers, it can move on to all workers.  Unions interfere with the exercise of free enterprise as the corporate mentality defines it.  So, they must be deprived of any sources of power and funding and eliminated, if possible.  


CEOs have set their role as being feudal lords.  There is great profit in fiefdoms.  The overhead of keeping serfs can be controlled and kept to a minimum.  


As shown by the history of fiefdoms, they get their wealth and power by being predators and parasites of the producers.  


This is not to say that there are no businesses that try succeed by creating beneficial products and services and dealing honestly and fairly with customers and employees.  But good businesses get absorbed into the corporate matrix and soon operate under the rules of depredation and parasitism.


A fact that patriots and optimists do not want to face is that America is being run for the benefit of parasites and predators, not for producers.  Business decisions and those assertions of human rights enumerated in the establishing documents of America conflict and oppose the premises on which predators and parasies can thrive.


The business news of the past four years is a chronicle of what happens when parasites and predators rule.  


American democracy was an interesting experiment.  But it is a deposed anathema to the corporate rulers and the politicians who they hold in thrall. 

  
 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Don't take your chainsaw to church, son.

There are guns in my house.  Most of them are old because I obtained them when I was young, and now I am old.  They include shotguns, a rifle, some Civil War re-enactment muskets, and a handgun which I hid so children can't find it, and I can't remember where.  

A Model 97 in its take-down state. 
I have always been around guns.  My dad had some, and I still have his Winchester Model 97 12 gauge.  That model designation, by the way, stands for 1897, not 1997.  My father kept his guns in a tool chest with the Swedish saws my grandfather brought when he immigrated to America.  That is the way my family regarded fire arms.  They were tools.  

I often stayed on the farm of bachelor uncles who provided a home for my grandmother.  Across the yard from the kitchen door was a utility building with three rooms.  One contained the cream separator.  The middle one is where the heating stoves were stored during the summer.  And the one on the end closest to the kitchen door was the wash house.  It was also closest to the well.  It had a small stove for heating water, a washing machine, and some big galvanized tubs for bathing humans.  The wash house smelled of lye soap and gun powder.

Both clothes and guns were cleaned in that room.  Above a shelf which held the soap was a shelf that held ammunition.  And above the ammunition was where the guns were racked.  They had the same status as tools, like washing machines and wash tubs.   One of the reasons they were in the wash house was because that was the most convenient place to have them so they could be quickly grabbed and loaded in the middle of the night when coons were heard in the hen house or foxes were going after baby pigs.  As they were tools, we children had no inordinate interest in the guns.  They were common tools and held about the same fascination for us as pitchforks and manure scoops, which were not among our favorite things.  Tools were not kept in the house. 

That is not to say we did not learn to use these tools.  I had a Red Ryder BB gun with which I became something of a marksman.  It developed a skill which was handy when I graduated to fire arms and participated in the hunting.  Back then, we did not hunt for sport as much as for meat.  Rabbits, game birds, and the occasional deer helped manage meager family budgets. Shooting skill was also handy when I was drafted and was provided an M-1 Garand as my principal soldierly tool.  

Guns were part of the culture and a set of cultural rules governed their use.  It was common for children, some children, to run through neighborhood playing cowboys and Indians or war and pointing and firing toy guns at each other.  Not in the culture I grew up in, however.  Once a cousin and I were fooling around and I shaped my hand into a gun, pointed it at him, and said "pow."  My Dad came up behind me, grabbed my pointed finger, and said if he ever caught me doing that again, he'd break it off.  In that culture, one never, never pointed a firearm, real, toy, or imaginary, at anyone.  To do so was to show the ultimate disrespect for another person's life.  It was considered an expression of disregard, disdain, and a desire for the other person's  death.  It was a serious threat.  

I tell people that story today, and of course, in this age when children are thoroughly grounded in the processes of killing by films and video games, it is incomprehensible.  

In that culture, the right to own and bear arms was fully exercised, but it carried with it a prodigious responsibility about when and where those arms could be used.  That was also true in the Army.  

The literature of the west and its "taming" with guns has two versions:  the popular fictions of gun-slinging heroes, and the facts of history in which the carrying and use of arms was strictly regulated to eliminate the menace they created in the hands of the mentally and morally challenged.  

Guns don't kill people.  Cowards, gangsters, and the cohort of mentally and morally challenged kill people with guns because guns make it so easy.  The fact is that there are is an awful amount of babies out there with guns.  

I don't haul my guns around town for the same reason I don't take my chainsaw to church and fire that baby up when the tone-deaf old battle ax behind me tries to quaver through "A Mighty Fortress."

I don't take my guns to church because I am not a member of the Taliban or any of its Christian versions.  


Generally, I don't talk or write much about the Second Amendment, because it guarantees that one will be deluged with stupid.  And the bearing and use of arms is a matter of intelligence, not of establishing a right which permits people to exercise their malice. 

The worst place to be an Indian: the USA: Update

Update from Indian Country Today Media.  


It's been a month since there has been any word about investigating what happened to Cheyenne River resident Vern Traversie at the Rapid City Regional Hospital last September.

That word was that Federal Bureau of Investigation, the South Dakota Attorney General’s office, and Health and Human Services are looking into the case.

Home from the hospital.
Traversie, who is legally blind, was in Rapid City Regional Hospital for heart surgery.  Just before he was released and returned to Cheyenne River, a hospital worker came to him and said that she was deeply troubled about what happened to him and that he should have a health care worker look at his torso when he got home.  A visiting nurse examined what look like mutilations on his stomach and report it.  It included some scars that look like someone carved KKK into his skin.

The circumstance is that Traversie has minimal vision.  He did not know what was on his person; he had to have someone tell him.

Traversie and the people who have gotten involved with the incident claim the carving was the act of a hate crime.  Traversie reported the matter to law enforcement authorities and consulted a lawyer, but they did nothing.  He then made a video that went on You Tube.  That inspired responses from a number of tribal officers throughout the nation,  It also resulted in a couple hundred people protesting outside the Rapid City Hospital.  So, all the agencies named above claim to be working on the case.

At this time, there is no  explanation of what made the mess on Vern's belly. He apparently did not receive any explanation or instructions from the hospital, except for the worker who told him to have his torso looked at by a health care worker.  That is not the usual procedure when people are released from hospitals.  They are usually given full explanations of their  medical condition and instructions on what to do next.  Apparently, Vern received none of that.

The hospital and some authorities do not seem to think that either Vern or  public deserves an explanation of what happened to him.  We await what the state Attorney General, the FBI, and Health and Human Services think.  




Monday, July 9, 2012

A video just made for right-wing America




It has it all.  A man demonstrating the efficacy of an assault rifle in defending his home from intruders and his homeland from creeping invasion by socialists, communists, LGBTs, and people of color sneaking over the borders.  It has the domination, humiliation, and proper extermination of a woman whose vagina no longer seemed useful.  And a bunch of encouraging dolts celebrating manhood by applauding the brave and honorable defender and the death of the woman.



I hesitate to post it, because it might distract some of the discussants at Madville Times from further contributing their incisive wisdom about how America was built on the firm foundation of the Second Amendment, as they so generously interpret it for us.  


In the wisdom of their god, who they also will so generously define, even the Taliban has something to teach us. 



Sunday, July 8, 2012

Will there ever be any beef here?

Northern Beef Packers continues to inspire doubt and despair in the Aberdeen community.  The local newspaper has put together a special online section on the company, most of which chronicles the mechanics' liens filed against it for non-payment of its contracting bills.  This year alone, 13 liens for $1.3 million have been filed against it, and some contractors have abandoned their work until they are paid. 

 The shady origins in the formation of the company shadow its efforts to be viable.  This shows up in its inability to pay contractors.  Some of the development capital was expected to come from its sale of TIF bonds.  The Northern Beef Packer TIF bonds have not found an enthusiastic market.  Part of the reason is that TIF bonds throughout the nation have not found a vigorous market.   Investors are looking for more vigorous financial returns, and stocks, despite the tepid economy, are performing well.  The President of NBP says the contractors will be paid when all the TIF bonds are sold.  But investors are wary of a company that has cultivated such a bad relationship with its contractors.  


As a business venture, NBP was proposed as a packing business in Huron, which has had a long history of the business, but has largely been abandoned by the packing industry.  It has a turkey processing plant, which involves participation by the Hutterite colonies.  Then the plant was proposed for Flandreau, but was abandoned when its promoters  were accused of bad faith and development funds seemed to be misused.


The promoters then found some people in Aberdeen who were sold on the idea.  From the outset,  the project caused some doubt because of a shakey business plan, exacerbated by some intrusion by people with loopy business schemes.  Some of the principles in the project's start up postured as savvy and hard-nosed businessmen, but had no real acumen about to establish and develop a company.  They floundered, and some of the local supporters compounded the mistakes with fatuous and presumptuous pronouncements that turned off knowledgeable and shrewd investors and supporters.  The company was distracted and misdirected its efforts with subsidiary projects which were silly, if not fraudulent.  An example was a a scheme to divert the plant's waste water into holding ponds and then sell it to farmers for irrigation.  


On the positive side, the idea for a regional beef packer had merits.   It came at a time when a significant number of consumers have become dissatisfied with beef from the big four processors (Tyson, Cargill, JBS, and National Beef Packers).  Consumers are concerned about the chemicals, anti-biotics, and hormones used to produce beef in the huge feedlots and the confinement operations. The diet trend is to eat less red meat, and that puts an emphasis on quality.  In turn, that creates a trend for buying meat which has traceable origins, is largely grass fed, and does not come from factory beef production.  The management which has taken over NBP at one point announced provisions for producing specialty beef, including South Dakota Certified Natural Beef, Northern Beef Packers Premium Black Angus Beef, Northern Beef Packers Premium Beef, and Northern Beef Packers Grass-fed and Pasture-fed beef (with enough customer interest).  However,  only South Dakota Certified Beef is currently listed on the company's website

The company has expressed confidence that the Dakotas and Nebraska produce enough beef to keep the plant supplied, and producers see profit potential in a regional plant which reduces their shipping costs for cattle.  Beef producers are among the  most hopeful supporters of the plant, but the constant delays and problems with paying contractors give them qualms, too.  




Late last week, the Meat and Poultry Journal reported that NBP's financial problems were solved and the plant intended to open within the next few weeks.  No date was specified, nor were any detail given on the finances.


Much of the financing for the plant has come from foreign investors under the EB-5 program which gives the investors immigrant green cards for making a minimum investment of $500,000.  In a story in today's Aberdeen American News on that program, a July 15 date is cited for the plant opening.   


That is a week away, but no specific information was provided about when workers will report and when incoming shipments of cattle will be received.

The plans remain vague and unsettled.  And skepticism mounts.   

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The gas ovens of denial

Mouth of the GOP
The GOP holds the keys to power.  If you deny and lie a lot, you can often find a majority that believes you.  Especially when those denials and lies are expressive of their hate for having a black man presiding in the White House.  America has been here before.  A current majority wants desperately to go back.  Conserve those old values.  

In recognition of the approaching July 4 celebration, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell put on a pyrotechnic display of denial on "Fox News Sunday" for the loyal conserves.  When asked how Republicans would provide health care coverage to 30 million uninsured Americans, McConnell said, "That is not the issue.  The question is how to go step by step to improve the American health care system. It is already the finest health care system in the world."  [Emphasis is the Beacon's.]


That finest health care system in the world slogan is one of the great lies and denials of the whole issue.  In no comparative studies does the U.S rank anywhere near the top.  Of course, the GOP's mouthpieces for lying and denying, such as the Wall Street Journal, find fault with those studies, but they can cite no studies which place America at or near the top on any components that make up the process of health care delivery.  Except cost.  America maintains the highest per capita expenditure on health care of any nation in the world.  The latest Commonwealth Fund Report surveying health care among the nations says,


Despite having the most costly health system in the world, the United States consistently underperforms on most dimensions of performance, relative to other countries. This report—an update to three earlier editions—includes data from seven countries and incorporates patients' and physicians' survey results on care experiences and ratings on dimensions of care. Compared with six other nations—Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom—the U.S. health care system ranks last or next-to-last on five dimensions of a high performance health system: quality, access, efficiency, equity, and healthy lives.


The World Health Organization, which has  been labeled a commie fraud for doing so, ranks the U.S. 72nd in world delivery systems.  That's right behind Argentina.  


That bastion of commie fraud, The New England Journal of Medicine, finds:  


Despite the claim by many in the U.S. health policy community that international comparison is not useful because of the uniqueness of the United States, the rankings have figured prominently in many arenas. It is hard to ignore that in 2006, the United States was number 1 in terms of health care spending per capita but ranked 39th for infant mortality, 43rd for adult female mortality, 42nd for adult male mortality, and 36th for life expectancy.

McConnell explains away all this commie fraud.  He says, 

We're not going to turn the American health care system into a western European system," McConnell said. "That's exactly what is at the heart of Obamacare. They want to ... have the federal government take over all American health care. The federal government can't handle Medicare or Medicaid.
 McConnell should know, as he shows his deftness at handling facts.  

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States

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