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

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Trapping weasels



As South Dakota Democrats go into the election year,  some continue to work diligently to insure they will lose and continue their fine tradition of whining, carping, and maligning candidates. And losing. After Dakota Free Press announced a candidate for the U.S. Senate seat, a number of commenters immediately piled on with disparaging comments.  They did the same when a candidate for the House seat announced.   The comments were joined, of course, by trolls from the dementia party.  They cannot understand that their responses to candidates are a reason qualified people do not become candidates and disassociate themselves from the party, as is a trend.   

They offer their critiques under the pretense of possessing political acumen,  but their political work is for the most part limited to their emissions of bad gas over their keyboards, and their actual experience does not include doing any actual, constructive work involved in campaigns and party business. (Some commenters excepted, of course.) And so, we face another dreary election year, where members of both parties sink the state further into small-minded disparagement. 

Still, there are stalwart people like Cory Heidelberger and Rick Weiland who work industriously and conscientiously to  address issues and try to steer political attention away from the mean-girl obsessions to things that can improve human life.  Rick Weiland conducted a campaign for Senate that was a model of industry and integrity.  Those aspects of human conduct don't matter in South Dakota.  Cory Heidelberger produces a blog, that unlike some from the opposing side,  rises above insult and abuse and focuses on facts , performance, and their consequences.  When fair criticism is merited,  he addresses misdeeds and foolery, and states his viewpoint.  However, many commenters cannot deal with life on that level.  

We have a cultural strain in South Dakota as represented by the dominant political party whose idea of success is determined by how many  people they can fuck over,  to use nomenclature from the military.  The constant and false defamations of minorities, the poor, and  the different-from-them in any way express the basic malice that drives them.  It is to them that "reality" figures such as Donald Trump have appeal.  Analysts pointed out that Trump and his kind know the dark underside of America and direct their appeals to the ignorant, maliciously bigoted, and stupid.   The chipping away at comprehensive education in the country by conservatives has created the undereducated, easily manipulated, enrageable dullards that meet the neocon standard of a docile. obedient electorate.  There is no other explanation for the quality of mind and character of many of the people elected to and retained in  office in South Dakota during the last 12 years,  if you examine the kinds of campaigns that have won elections during that time.  And there is no other explanation for why a huge segment of the electorate responds to the kind of things that comprise the campaigns of the  GOP presidential candidates.  

A hopeful note in South Dakota for Democrats is in recent efforts to review and publish the actual records of the GOP elected officials.  In January when Rep. Kristi Noem made noises of concern about the failings of the Indian Health Service,  the South Dakota Democratic Party issued a press release documenting her duplicity,  pointing out that she had voted against a bill to adequately fund the program.  Democrats have noted that the state's Republican Congressional delegation of Thune, Noem, and Rounds do nothing but recite the inane and false talking points provided by party hacks.  A few Democrats and some past campaign staffers have thought that the state party is remiss in not maintaining a record of the duplicity, the failures, and the inanities of Republican elected officials.  

Such a record would not be compiled as the pretext for attacks,  but as a record of what the elected officials actually have done.  It would gain credibility for citing actual accomplishments but hold them permanently accountable for things they did wrong, for corrupt practices, for false statements, and for failures.   John Thune has a long record of fecklessness and inane legislative statements and proposals.  Mike Rounds as governor presided over the corruption of the EB-5 scam and has been allowed to claim lack of knowledge of things that he was known to be involved in with people he appointed.  Kristi Noem closely copies Thune as reader of partisan can't and a devotee of false premises.

In South Dakota,  the majority of voters havel supported their Republican officials even with the smoke of corruption constantly whirling about them.  Keeping the record of those officials might not immediately win Democrats any elections.  The preponderance of voters are interested in pursuing the oppression of minorities, women, and the educated.  South Dakota is a leader in the trend toward regressive policies in which racism and corrupt  oppression are cherished principles.  However, such a record would lay a base of established verifiable facts by which citizens of the future and the rest of the world can define the state.  And it would the Democratic Party a substantial platform from which to  launch its campaigns.

It a time when the incoherent and factless rantings of Donald Trump and the puerile exchanges of insults dominate the news about political discourse,  it is unlikely that the truth matters much and will set anyone free from the chains of petty malice  in which the GOP has wrapped itself.  More likely, the nation will erupt into overt clashes of the kind experienced in the civil right era.  That's why a careful stewardship of the facts is needed as the basis for rebuilding a nation that has been shattered and rendered into dysfunction by one-percenters such as Trump and the culture that admires him.  While the U.S. is mired in the infantile rages of the GOP,  the rest of the world needs to see those Americans who stand for intellectual integrity and moral competence.  Someday, maybe the nation will seek to rebuild itself as a responsible participant in the affairs of humankind.  






Thursday, February 18, 2016

Who shall we oppress next?

Many people are upset over a South Dakota bill that dictates where transgender school kids can go toity. One argument against it is that it gives South Dakota a bad name.  That argument belies the provincialism of even the more tolerant, benign people in the state.  The state already has a bad name, which it got the old-fashioned way.  It earned it.  

During the 1980s South Dakota Governor Bill Janklow and Minnesota Gov. Rudy Perpich began to exchange some good-natured insult jokes about each others' states.  The public joined in.  Examples were:





Q: Did you hear that the governor's mansion in South Dakota burned down?       A: Almost took out the whole trailer park. 
Q: Why do ducks fly over South Dakota upside down?                                         A: There's nothing worth crapping on.
It wasn't long before the public exchanges were not good-natured.  Officials and community leaders became concerned that South Dakota was on the receiving end of some very derogatory comments that were affecting the public perceptions of the state.  A sports writer from Minnesota published a column that, while in a humorous vein, was dead serious about the state being a refuge for the stupid, mean, and degenerate.  This was at a time when our universities were very active in trying to recruit out-of-state students and administrators advised faculty not to engage in any between-state joke exchanges because they invited unfavorable  comments about South Dakota that many took seriously.  At a state meeting of humanities scholars,  one university president noted that the state had some cultural and intellectual shortcomings to face and urged faculty to work at rectifying them, not emphasize them by making jokes about them.  


Those aspects of the state have, over the years,  gotten worse instead of better.  A major source of derogations comes from the state's history with American Indians.  It has nine reservations within its borders and the racist denigrations and exclusions from the white population were intense.  The term "prairie nigger" was used in common parlance and people made jokes about playing "Indian golf."  That was a game occasioned by spotting an Indian walking alongside the road.  The objective was to drive up close to him in a speeding car and open the door to knock him into the ditch.  When explaining the game, it never seemed to occur to the explainers that they were revealing a stunning racial hatred and attitude of violence.  And a hopelessly stupid meanness. The attitude expressed informs the frequently cited estimate that the genocide committed by the white race in America against the Indians numbers 100 million.  



The same attitude has been expressed against other groups of people and has been used in election campaigns.  In history it was demonstrated against German-speaking Hutterites who were driven out of the state during the First World War and did not return until after the Second World War. The  Klu Klux Klan has a history in South Dakota, although it made Jews the major target of its oppression.  But the hatred and defamations have not been limited to ethnic groups.   The state  has developed a tradition of hate toward labor unions, teachers, environmental conservationists,  out-of-staters, the highly educated, and on and on.  Elections are won by castigating politicians and others for being successful in the larger world, for being educated at prestigious universities, and for showing tolerance and respect for women and social minorities and the poor.  

The state's recent legislative sessions have built upon the state's predilection for hatred and oppression by writing laws that have little or no basis in fact but are an expression of the hateful rage which an apparent majority of the citizens prefer as a lifestyle.  The bills aimed at transgender school children are merely the latest efforts at designating a group, which consists of a dozen or less students, so that they can be put on display for convenient oppression and defamation.  

For years I have written about how the dominant culture of South Dakota drives the young, talented, and ambitious out of the state.  I have noted hundreds of former students who retain a fondness for the families and the communities that raised them in South Dakota, but do not find the state a place where they can live.  A young lawyer from South Dakota who now lives in Denver has written about it, explaining how the need to live a constructive life overrules the loyalties that pull at one:


The harder part to explain is that many of those people are people that support these types of hateful legislation. 
Having to explain the context of backwards legislation brought by people we love is difficult and in many ways confirms why we left. But it doesn’t hold a candle to the idea of living in a place where our queer friends would be gawked at if they came to visit or worse: refused service. 
We left because it’s easier not to deal with those explanations and difficult situations. Or worse, we left because actually experiencing the effects of this ruthless discrimination and hateful rhetoric hurt us deeply. 
Bottom line: we left because it’s easier to come back and relish in the things we love and return to the comfort of other places we now call home, places that don’t use twisted ideas of religious freedom and “conservative values” to perpetuate discrimination and hate of things they don’t understand.

South Dakota, we love you and we miss you. And you’re right: we’ve changed. But we’re not coming back until you do.

The political climate is one that coddles corruption.  The same legislature that revels and rails its hatefulness and stupid prejudices ignores and even condones practices such as those apparent in the EB-5 scandal.  Still, the good people choose the corruption by electing its perpetrators and keeping them in  office. 

The South Dakota GOP has openly advanced an agenda of discrimination and hatred as its operating principle.  The people have fought back through initiated referendums, but find that the legislature is ready to overrule the will of the people.  The  GOP has established a record of fomenting and prosecuting its pet hatreds almost to the exclusion of legislation that helps and supports people, such as facilitating education and the maintenance of infrastructure.

It is not insignificant that the slate of GOP candidates for president, except perhaps for John Kasich, all subscribe to the same kind of hateful aggression.  In that regard,  South Dakota is a bellwether state.  Politics is  no longer about choosing the best ways to get constructive things done;  it is a battle between those who wish to oppress and those who wish to advance freedom, equality, and justice.  And it is about getting the benign people to recognize that those who oppose them are people who would betray them in the same way that Germans of the 1930s betrayed the Jewish people  And for the same kinds of reasons.

In response to the bills aimed at persecuting transgender kids and people of differing sexual orientations,  some are recommending a boycott of the state.  Bernie Hunhoff asks why hurt the good people engaged in the tourist industry?  He has a point.  However,  boycotts work.  Cory Heidelberger has proposed a boycott of the businesses that are associated with one of the offensive hate bills.  Carefully targeted boycotts are an effective way that the minority in South Dakota can register their objections.  But others are pointing out how dependent the state is on federal funds.  They resent their tax dollars being used to support a government that funnels the ;money into schemes of graft and embezzlement.  They are reaching out to legislators form other states to disqualify South Dakota and other states form receiving such funds when the money supports oppression and vicious discrimination.

But a lot of people simply leave the state or make plans for doing so.



Monday, February 15, 2016

South Dakots robots and Marco Rubio

The campaigns in the GOP for president are occasion for shame.  They have devolved into exchanges of name-calling, false accusations, and stupid-mean bluster that make elementary school playground brawls look like intellectual  summits.  Marco Rubio has stepped up as a leading force in juvenile dementia.  The shame is that the preponderance of American people take the demented squabbling as political discourse.  

Rubio's  obsessive hatred of Obama underlies his performance.  It appears to be in line with the intense racism harbored by some segments of Latino communities.  He expresses it with the false accusations and exaggerated distortions of fact characteristic of race-based hatred.  An example is his response to Obama's visit to a mosque and the speech of conciliation the President gave there.  Rubio's response:  


“I’m tired of being divided against each other for political reasons like this president’s done. Always pitting people against each other. Always. 
“Look at today: he gave a speech at a mosque. Oh, you know, basically implying that America is discriminating against Muslims. Of course there’s discrimination in America, of every kind. But the bigger issue is: radical Islam. And by the way, radical Islam poses a threat to Muslims themselves.They argue that. They'll tell you that. But again, it's this constant pitting people against each other. I can't stand that. It's hurting our country badly.”

Obama was addressing the matter of anti-Muslim statements made by Trump, and others.  Rubio's claim that Obama is being divisive, aside from being stated in an illogical, ungrammatical sentence,  ignores that Obama was advocating tolerance and conciliation, trying to counter the divisive invectives uttered against Muslims in  the GOP campaigns.

During the GOP debate preceding the New Hampshire primary,  Chris Christie made some observations about Rubio's political substance that defined Rubio as a candidate   He first addressed Rubio's actual accomplishments:

"You have not been involved in a consequential decision where you had to be held accountable. You just simply haven't."
Then he focused on the substance of Rubio's campaign:

"The drive-by shot at the beginning with incorrect and incomplete information. And then the memorized, 25-second speech that is exactly what his advisers gave him."
 The irony of Christie's attack is that he could just as well be talking about a lot of GOP politicians, particularly South Dakota's current Congressional delegation.  As legislators,  they have been involved in no  consequential decisions.  In a state with more voters with a little more brain power, that might be noticed and they would be held accountable for doing nothing.  

To dispense with Sen.Mike Rounds first, he is following the precedent set by Sadam Hussein.  He has tucked himself into a political hole in the ground to avoid any encounters with people who might have questions about his administration as governor,  especially the EB-5 fraud.  Although it happened through a cabinet member he appointed and a proposed beef packing plant with which he as known to be personally involved,  he claims ignorance of any of the  shenanigans.  Even though it all happened  own his watch as governor,  Rounds'' political party has rigged the system to prevent him from facing any accountability. Politicians such as Rounds  speak for and define the dominant political attitudes of South Dakota.  The people of the GOP in the state condone subterfuge and nefarious dealings as long as their kind are the beneficiaries, not the prey.  

Christie's description of a feckless, script reciting robot fits John Thune precisely.  When John Thune was in the House of Representatives,  members of his own party in the Aberdeen area had to force him to address matters of representation and understanding issues important to them.  They castigated him for not having a field office in the region and scolded him for assuming that just saying to no any proposals because they would required tax money or add to the responsibilities of governing was not competent job performance.  During one campaign, Democratic candidate Curt Hohn pointed out that Thune, although representing a rural state, did not belong to any agricultural or water development caucuses.

During his campaign for the Senate, he recited the scripts prepared for him by Dick Wadhams, although his recitations were irrelevant to the issues brought up.  During one debate he accused Air Force veteran Tom Daschle of giving comfort and aid to the enemy for his stance against the Iraq War.  Since then, his most notable moments in the social media have been wildly incompetent bumbling, such as in a Tweet that showed he had no understanding of how the Affordable Care Act worked.  

Thune is often mentioned in the press as a smart politician, but one would be hard pressed to come up with an example of anything intelligent that Thune ever did.

Kristi Noem follows that tradition.  She reads  scripts that are written to appeal to the mean and stupid.  She follows Thune's legislative example.  Whereas Thune's primary  legislative initiative was to sponsor legislation that would prevent the government from putting a tax on the methane emitted in cow farts, Noem sponsored legislation that would keep the government from regulating farm dust.  No one in the government ha ever proposed taxing cow farts.  Tune's legislation was an absurd accusation at the danger of big government.  And Noem's anti-dust legislation was an exercise in ignorance.  She chose to ignore that medical researchers in major universities were examining the dangers to humans of pesticide and herbicide residues carried in the air.  

One of Thune's stellar moments in his election campaign against Tom Daschle came when Thune, who has no military service, said in a debate next to Air Force veteran Daschle and accused Daschle of giving aid and comfort to the enemy.  He was referring to Daschle's opposition to going to war in Iraq.

Noel's campaigns have contained such equally brilliant stratagems.  Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin was notoriously a Blue Dog Democrat which opposed much of the legislative agenda of Nancy Pelosi and the House leadership.  But Noem claimed that Herseth Sandlin was a Pelosi puppet.  The stupid caucus in South Dakota ate that accusation up like hogs at the slop trough.  

She also castigated candidate Matt Verily because he was educated in prestigious schools outside the state..

The current federal legislative delegation in South Dakota stands strong and proud for their recitations of false and stupid scripts.  And they do not endanger the esteem in which they are held by doing anything.  Except for Mike Rounds.  Who has a whole bunch of scandals he hides from.  




Sunday, February 7, 2016

9/11 challenges religious faith

The attack by Islamic terrorists on the World Trade Center and the world-wide atrocities that have since followed in the name of Islam have affected religious belief in America.  While the terrorists' professed goal is to horrify people into converting to Islam, the effect has been to make people question and distrust all religions.

During the days following 9/11, most Americans, me included, were astounded that anyone could go on a suicide mission to kill thousands of innocent people in the name of God.  On some internet media in which I participate,  veterans speculated on what would happen if some military  leader asked G.I. troops to volunteer for suicide missions.  It was agreed that the officer would receive an insubordinate invitation to fornicate with himself.    To our culture, it seemed preposterous.  Fifteen years ago, it was near impossible to fathom that people would give up their own lives to commit the atrocity of mass murder of innocent people.  In the intervening time, the incidents of radical Islamic terror and the mass shootings in our own culture have become commonplace.  We may be puzzled at the psychology behind such acts, but we now understand that there are large numbers of people susceptible to it. 

The Muslim faith with its doctrine of jihad is a vector for indiscriminate terrorism that infects the susceptible minds.  The blanket accusations that suggest all Muslims must be terrorists because some terrorists are Muslim is, of course, an egregiously stupid logical fallacy,  a hasty and faulty generalization.  In response to it, many people who know a bit about history have pointed out that many religions have committed mass atrocities in the name of their gods,  including Christianity.  The inquisitions and the American Puritan's genocidal war against the native American "heathens" are examples often cited.  The moral and intellectual bankruptcy of jihadists who commit terrorist attacks strikes thinking people as an absurd and demented evil, but it prompts them to examine such acts in the history of their own religions and cultures.  And they find that people in their own traditions have been as mentally gullible as the jihadist terrorists and have descended into that mindless and deadly rage that results in the commission of atrocities.  

The result of this examination of the role religion has played  in history is that educated, informed people are likely to question the dogmas that make up much theology and meet them with critical skepticism.  This questioning is a factor that has produced a sharp decrease in membership in the Christian church.  A Pew Research Center study shows that the number of people in America who call themselves Christian has dropped almost 8 percent in 7 years while the numbers of those who are unaffiliated or affiliate with other religions have grown.  The study does not probe the reasons people change their faith, which are complicated, but in my associations with other people and browsing through available literature on the subject of faith and religious belief,  I find that 9/11 and terrorism is often a point of discussion in the matter of religious belief.  Radical Islamic terrorism is such a moral outrage that it has forced sentient people to examine the overall role of religion in the history of atrocities.  

The current situation regarding religious belief recalls the term "religionless Christianity" raised by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in response to Nazification of the German evangelical churches during the Holocaust.  I became acquainted with the concept as undergraduate in the 1950s.  I attended a denominational college in my home community which shared its campus with a seminary, the Lutheran School of Theology, which has since moved to the University of Chicago campus.  Religion courses and chapel attendance were required.  The religion courses I took,  however, were scholarly rather than indoctrinating in approach.  Courses in the Life and Literature of the Old Testament and New Testament examined the process and the historical context in which the Bible was written.  Those courses did not gloss over the conflicts and discrepancies in the Bibe, and confronted the conflicting values presented in the Old Testament and the New Law expressed by Christ in the New Testament.  My senior-level course in religion was the Philosophy of Religion, a comparative course in religions of the world and Christian theology.  The Bible was regarded as a record of the development of Christian spirituality, as the studies emphasized that the New Law professed by Christ was a severe departure from the angry strife recorded in the Old Testament.  As one theologian put it, the Bible is not a book of incantations and curses against humankind, but a vehicle that advances and explains peace on earth and good will toward all people.  

There were still World War II veterans on campus on the G.I Bill at that time, and they lent an illuminating perspective from the battle fields to the questions of how religion and church deal with assaults on humankind.  In the examination of the Christian church's response to the Holocaust, Bonhoeffer was a key figure.  He participated in a plot to eliminate Hitler,  about which there was vigorous arguments among the theologians.  Those arguments were raised in the chapel convocations, and students carried them on over their coffee sessions in the student union.  The role of churches and religion in the affairs of humankind were talked over with a very critical sense of the roles religion played in the history of human atrocities. 

At that time, which was the McCarthy era,  Arthur Miller's play The Crucible was playing on Broadway.  Although it was a rendering of the Salem witch trials, it dealt primarily with the perversion of the human spirit and the resulting atrocities under the guise of religious belief. (A signal moment in American history and literature is when Samuel Sewall,  a judge in the Salem witch trials,  stood before the congregation of his church and recanted his role in the trials.)   While the political world was going about its business of defaming people and destroying lives,  the intellectual world was looking at the ways humanity was striving to rise above the human propensities for oppression and violence.  

While there is much discussion in theological circles about whether Jesus Christ was an actual historical figure or a myth created out of aspirations of the human spirit to raise above the society of the wolf pack and the chicken flock, the case is made that the figure of Christ informed the images of freedom, equality, and justice that over threw the feudal world.  He carried forth the mission accounted in the book of Isaiah, which we sturdied in that college course Old Testament Life and Literature:


Is this not the fast that I choose to loose the bonds of injustice, to to undo the thongs of the yoke,  to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke?  Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless into your house,;  when you see the naked cover them, and not hide yourself from your own kin?  Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly...
If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger,  the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,  then your light shall rise in the darkness, and your gloom be like the noonday. [Isaiah 58:  6-8, 9-10  NRSV]

Many people have renounced the church,  as Bonhoeffer did when he responded to part it played or did  not not play in American segregation and in the Holocaust.  The ideas of freedom, equality, and justice were conveyed in the Bible because it reported on the aspirations of some humans who envisioned a humanity that rose above the conditions of oppression, malicious discriminations, and those things that motivate violent maiming and death among contending humans.  

I have been a student and appreciator of the role of churches in shaping our culture and society.  Churches are integral and sometimes inspiring in the history of American development, and they were essential in forming the rural communities of South Dakota.  But they also have their history as vectors of malice.  Although still a nominal member of a church,  I have not attended in twelve years, aside from the many funerals and weddings a person of my age has occasion to attend.   The reasons are complicated.  My children were brought up the church, two were confirmed,  one refused to go after a time.  Of the two who were confirmed,  I don't think they have entered a church for the purposes of worship since their confirmations.  The reasons as I see it is that church became an extension of the social factions and mean-girl discriminations that they encountered in school.   And my spouse and I stopped attending after she lost a job.  She was a staff member for Sen. Tom Dsschle, and when he lost the election in 2004, some members of the congregation exhibited a gloating and snarky attitude   We didn't need to go to church to encounter the kind of mean and petty malice we could find in any lowlife tavern in town.  So, I went from a member of the board of deacons and adult-class lecturer to a non-participant.  I joined the throng of the unaffiliated who find the church irrelevant to any higher aspirations we may have.

The jihad against America and the western world has certainly raised my consciousness of the failings and deadly hypocrisies in organized religion.  We condemn the perversions of the Muslim faith that motivate terrorists, but we pay little attention to the way our own religions try to re-impose the yokes of oppression and rejection on groups of people and to agitate for hatred and the violence it inspires.  

Those perversions of faith have been professed by the Republican debates and in the statements of most of the candidates who vie to impose their particular brands of oppression and hatred on segments of the people of America.  

If our country has a future,  it is in the "religionless" Christians and "patriotic less" citizens who still aspire to freedom, equality, and justice  





Wednesday, February 3, 2016

South Dakota's emigrant problem: the flight from a fraudulent democracy

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We like to talk a lot about holding public officials and others who work for the public accountable.  But no one talks about holding the public accountable for the crimes it condones.  

The primary definition of crime is  doing something that can be punished  as a violation of law.  The secondary definition is doing something "that, although not illegal, is considered to be evil, shameful, or wrong."  To take that secondary definition out of the realm of individual perceptions,  one can look at comparative law.  What is a crime in one state or nation may not be illegal by law in another.  In South Dakota, many things are permissible which bring down the force of law in other states.  And in South Dakota, there are many laws which are simply ignored. Those who  examine the state of democracies throughout the world use the term "fraudulent democracy" to describe those countries, such as Russia,  which profess democratic governments but are, in fact, dictatorships and oligarchies.  South Dakota has long been an oligarchy with its laws devised to give the power and wealth to the oligarchs and those who help them.  The U.S is well on its way toward oligarchy.  

Folks in South Dakota like to point to Chicago and Illinois as the epitome of corruption.  When matters such as the EB-5 scam or the 
 Mid-Central Educational Cooperative embezzlement apparatus come to light,  good old South Dakotans point to Illinois and say, 'Well, we ain't like them."  Those good old folks are right, of course.  Illinois has corruption.  But it also has laws and people willing to enforce them.  Four of its last seven governors were sent to prison.  The former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools has been  indicted for bribery.  The people see crime exposed and justice at work in Illinois.  South Dakota's incidents of the EB-5 swindle and the MCEC fraud were exposed with the alleged suicides of key players in the schemes.  Although both schemes were conducted with the knowledge and participation of high officials in state government, no honest investigation was ever made to determine just how these incidents of swindle and embezzlement involving millions of dollars took place.  That is because the laws are written to enable and protect the financial predators, and a majority of the people think it's okay because in their minds it is  the way business is done.   According to the laws of Illinois, however, such acts are crimes and require accountability to the public.  

Ultimately, corruption is the responsibility of the people who vote officials into office and keep them there.  When people repeatedly endorse subterfuge as the relationship between business and government through the people they elect to office,  they are defining their moral and intellectual character and that of the place in which they live.  Thus, South Dakota is not a place that has caught and punished corrupt officials.  The state and the majority of its people are corrupt.  Of course, there are good, honest, hard-working people in South Dakota, but they are not the dominant characteristic of the state.  The fact is that South Dakota is a rotten place for a good, honest, hard-working person to work and live.  

More and more, the U.S. is following the cultural trend of tolerance, even admiration, for corruption that rules in South Dakota.  The current slate of GOP candidates for president  degenerate democracy in the way they conduct themselves.  They defame each other, potential opponents, and large groups of people.  There is a near-absolute absence of any proposals that would benefit the people.  The only time the declining status of citizens is mentioned by the GOP candidates is when they need something to blame someone for.  The true significance of this is that people accept this as the state of political thinking and discourse.  And that tacit acceptance is the result of an education system that has been intellectually and financially  subverted by the conservative agenda and by  communications media that are the hand-maidens of corporate feudalism.   What is unnoticed or denied in the current national conversation is the number of people who have come to realize that American democracy is fraudulent and has been displaced by an angry, malevolent fight for power and control to oppress and exclude masses of people.  

As the former keeper of a list of active Democrats,  I have noted a trend in the decline of voter registrations that most people choose to ignore.  The most recent figure on South Dakota voter registrations as reported by Bob Mercer show 237.636 registered Republicans, 167,272 Democrats, and 108,766 Independents at the first of the year.  Those figures reflect a two-year gain of 2,900 for Republicans,  almost a 14,000 gain for Independents, but a 9,500 loss for Democrats.  The surge in Independent registrations appears to be a reflection of how many people are wary and distrustful of the state of democracy.  Those who comment on politics in South Dakota tend to believe that the losses of the Democrats and the gains of the republicans are because the Republicans set forth a more convincing, appealing agenda.  But in this context, one must consider the large gains of the Independents.  The Independents do not have a political organization that advances an agenda.  The shifts in registrations reflect something other than a contest for political affections.  They represent a more fundamental change in the state's demography.

I have written often on my experience in maintaining that list of active Democrats and of its declining numbers.  A huge factor is attrition:  Democrats die and move away and no people are taking their places.  But equally significant is the number of Democrats who have lost interest in politics.  They think that our current political system is not capable of honesty and fair play, and a majority of the voters in the state place power over integrity in making their choices.  Put starkly,  South Dakota is corrupt and members of the political party in power like it that way, and there is little hope for changing it.  Rather than get ensnared in degenerate political games, many people choose to disassociate themselves from South Dakota politics and remain aloof, while looking for the chance to escape. 

The state has a conflicting history with its white settlement by homesteaders and its subjugation of the American Indian people.  It has a culture that at once built rural communities while conducting nefarious  destruction of an entire people.  Those rural communities have been largely decimated by the integration of farms into the corporate economic structure, which set up the pattern of emigration from the state.  In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the 14-counry area around Aberdeen led the nation in the number of people emigrating, leaving for other places.  

That emigration was also noted in recent high school and college graduates.  For years, some state officials complained about the "brain drain."  The brightest high school graduates left to go to college in other places and did not return.  A second wave of emigrants was college graduates who regarded their college degrees as passports to better lives in other places.  There have been efforts in recent years to extoll the virtues of South Dakota, but the harsh reality is that state is corrupt.  It is attractive only to those who tolerate and esteem   enterprises such as the EB-5 fraud and the Gear-Up embezzlements--and the few who maintain some sentimental attachments to a time when the state did hold out some prospects for the honest and hard-working.  

South Dakota is among the many places that are facing a teacher shortage.  Oddly, district superintendents and principals are complaining about the difficulty in filling teaching staff positions while the governor insists that the state has 400 too many teachers.   Educators and their profession have been under attack by a public that is increasingly resentful of people who try to combat ignorance and stupidity and by  government officials who have devised programs such as No Child Left Behind which have further deteriorated education rather than improved it.  There is a diminished interest in going into a profession that is undercut and held in low regard by so many people.  But South Dakota has an added impediment in attracting teaching talent because it pays teacher the lowest wages by far in the nation for teachers.  The problem goes far beyond the conservative efforts to keep the young ignorant, stupid, and docile  The contempt for education and educators is a bi-partisan value.  A usually liberal-leaning  blogger in South Dakota recently wrote:

I’m not going to link all the feel good stories about getting taxed more to give a pay raise to people who work 9 months out of the year to educate children that are not mine.
I already pay their wages with my property taxes.
Those sentiments have been expressed with great frequency every time teacher pay comes up in the state.  And over the years, I have heard a consistent response from promising projsjpectife teachers:  why would anyone who values real education work in a state that devalues it ways reflected by those comments?  The fact is that people who want to teach and contribute significantly to the development of children know better than to try and work where the profession is so repressively demeaned.  

South Dakotans deeply resent being characterized as mean and small-minded.  But the things that happen on the floor of its legislature and in the halls of government and the things said on its blogs provide plenty of justification for such characterizations.  What person of some education and cultural discernment wants to live and workk in an atmosphere of small-minded malevolence?  And that is a factor faced not only by teachers with  talent and potential but by any person who wants to shape a good life.  

The corrupt and degenerative political culture of South Dakota has spread to the rest of the nation, as evidenced by the campaigns conducted by the GOP presidential candidates.  While a few of the candidates, such as Rand Paul and John Kasich,  have adopted somewhat conciliatory and positive tones (Paul has ended his candidacy), the thrust of the leading contenders is what insult and abuse they heap on groups of people and the damage they propose to do to them.  The messages of the contenders are hateful discrimination and overt oppression.   They speak to the attitudes held by a huge segment of the American population.   When they speak of the decline of America, they are referring to the extension of civil rights, the replacement of military aggression with diplomacy, and movement toward providing Americans with the kind of health care offered by the rest of the civilized world. 

That segment of the population does, indeed, take on the aspects of Germany of the 1930s.  

Many people with whom I know through political work have abandoned South Dakota as a lost cause.  I have watched many of them move out of state.  Some have resumed their political interests in their new  locations.  A couple of them are working with their new legislators to end the federal subsidization of states like South Dakota which complain about big government.   They think it is time to take federal programs out of such states and end the federal money.  But many of the people who have moved have resigned themselves to the fact that American democracy has failed and the country has deteriorated into a corporate oligarchy.  The distribution of wealth and power is evidence of it,  and a majority of the voters seem to endorse it.  

If there is hope, it is among young people who recognize the failure of democracy in America and the political fraud our government represents.  Many of those young have emigrated from South Dakota.  And many young people--and older ones, too--are examining where they can go now.  Their ancestors left the Old World when their opportunities were limited and restricted by the old feudal rules and masters.  America is now in the hands of the same kind of restrictive,  oppressive feudal masters.  

Europe is besieged by Middle Eastern immigrants who are trying to  escape the violence and horrors of discrimination and oppression.  But America has its set of incipient emigrants who are looking for places to go if America's descent into fraudulence,  hate-based policies, and economic serfdom cannot be somewhat reversed.  

What is happening occurs with the assent of the people.  The country will become what the majority wants.  South Dakota sets an example of what happens when corruption is legalized and promoted as a way of doing business.  What honest, hard-working person wants to live under such a regime?  And where can one go from here? 

Political leaders cannot reverse the trend.  It happens with the will of the people.  And the people have willed the failure of a democracy that strives for liberty, equality, and justice.   



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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States

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