Don't you remember Hitler's and Stalin's successes?
In a demonstration of bon homie and support for the American tradition of a smooth transfer of power, President Obama urged everyone to hope that Trump succeeds. My head, like many others, snapped back. Does the president mean succeed in doing the many things Trump said he would do and does? thought my head. Such as lock up Hillary? Ban Muslims? Grab some pussy? Build a wall? Withdraw from the Paris climate accord and heat up the world and the environment with coal and oil?
Or did Mr. Obama mean succeed in becoming a sentient being who could deal with facts, not lie all the time, keep his hands out of unwilling crotches, and refrain from insulting and abusing people all the time? I would not put words in his eloquent mouth, but after watching him conduct the presidency for eight years, I tend to think he meant this latter kind of success. Which is to succeed in practicing some semblance of decency and intelligence.
President Obama has faith in the prevailing decency of the American people. I don't. I live in the wrong state for that. I live in South Dakota, which is the ultimate product of the Republican Party. Now we can watch the nation follow that path of development. Or more accurately, that path of moral and intellectual disintegration.
The Republican Party is not just a political party with a conservative approach to governing. It has developed into culture, a peculiar mindset that holds itself and its opponents to antithetical standards of behavior. In South Dakota, Republicans demand the strictest integrity and competence of Democrats. But they submerse themselves in corruption and celebrate it as the mark of success, the ultimate attainment of power and wealth.
In November, the people of South Dakota passed Initiative Measure 22, which provides a number of rules to eliminate corruption in government, by 53 percent of the voters. Columnist John Tsitrian reminds us that a watchdog group gives South Dakota an F for integrity in government. The governor's explanation of this vote is that the dumb fucks of South Dakota were too ignorant and stupid to know what they were voting for. There is some merit to that argument. Because those same voters put into office the very people who have amassed the record of corruption that has become the South Dakota trade mark of governance. Or were they so smart and shrewd that that they would vote for IM 22 so the rest of the world would see the state as South Dakota nice but then also vote for the bastions of corruption, knowing they would never let such a measure take force? In any case, that is what happened. The Corruption Caucus went to work and showed how expeditious it can be when an expression of true honesty and decency threatens the good, old South Dakota tradition of corruption.
A longtime leader in the corruptive party protests the characterization of South Dakota as corrupt. He says, show me something besides the EB-5 and Gear Up scandals that is corrupt in South Dakota. Actually, one doesn't have to look for more evidence, because those scandals were so large and their rottenness so wide and so deep that one of them by itself and the efforts within state government to gloss it over reveal a tradition, not an isolated incident, of corruption.
State officials try to make the EB-5 scandal look as something that was the scheme of a just a few--Richard Benda, who is alleged to have committed sluicide, Joop Bollen, who the state is prosecuting on a flimsy charge, and a few unwitting dupes in government. But it has a history that involves an extensive network of government officials and business-types planning and executing schemes for obtaining and possessing money and power. The history of the Northern Beef Packers plant is one of bilking money from and engaging in complicity with communities throughout East River--Huron, Flandreau, and Aberdeen. But when EB-5 was identified as a source for funds, the schemes spread to West River casinos and Hutterite turkey farms. There were deliberate money predators and unwitting accomplices involved throughout the state and up and down government agencies. Early on when the beef packing scheme was focused on Huron, Gov Mike Rounds was engaged with investment types in Huron and was known to be part of the decision that ended plans for building the beef plant in Huron. However, he claims that he knew nothing about the particulars in the way his Governor's Office of Economic Development was involved in promoting the beef plant even though he was part of the plant's initial scheme.
Richard Benda and Joop Bollen had a lot of help throughout the state and throughout the reaches of state and local government to pull off the EB-5 schemes, and Mike Rounds was rewarded for his collaborations by being elected U.S. Senator. The main reason that his connivances are not known is because the state has passed laws to keep all the records of government complicity with business schemes secret and it has no sun shine laws which can eventually reveal what the politicians have enacted in the people's name with the people's money. This case alone demonstrates the extent of collusion and covert actions that earn the state the title of corrupt
And then there is Gear Up. The list of people in state government and so-called educational agencies throughout the state who participated in dispensing and taking federal grant money is extensive. Again, a few people, with a focus on another suicide, are tagged for prosecution, but participants throughout the educational community from local collectives to current and former university officials are blithely carrying on, enjoying the rewards they helped to siphon away from a program meant to help young people make it to college. With this degree of collusion and complicity, the state as a whole is a damned good candidate for the title of corrupt.
But the corruption is not limited to money-making scams. There is the matter of the child abuse case which involved a state agency, the Bureau of Criminal Investigation, the Attorney General's office, county State's Attorney offices, and the judiciary system itself, which finally blew the case wide open when a judge threw a case out of court and revealed the corruption. That case involved a young assistant state's attorney and a court-appointed child advocate who in looking after the welfare of child victims of sexual abuse went against the wishes of state and county officials in carrying out their obligations. The Brown County State's Attorney retaliated by filing criminal witness tampering charges against them. When they were brought to court, after hearing testimony, the judge threw out the case because the charges were false and were filed as a vindictive retaliation for revealing a cozy conflict of interest that the state's attorney had with a state agency. Although the court transcript contains clear evidence of malicious prosecution and abuse of process on the part of the state, nothing has been done by anybody, especially the state bar association, to rectify the corrupt proceedings. That's because again the case reaches into the highest offices of state government down to county and city participants. The perpetrators have never been called into account. And so, corruption in the justice system continues unimpeded.
That case is just an indicator of the kind of justice being dispensed in court houses throughout the state on a daily basis. It is the kind of government that the GOP is dedicated to maintaining and protecting. Its guiding principle is that when you have a good scam going, don't let anybody threaten it.
This standard can be seen in the cabinet that Trump has nominated. Many have conflicts of interest, such as the nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga. Price bought stock in a medical company. A few days later, he introduced legislation that would benefit the company's profits. The GOP is dismissing the matter as a small hitch in the process and plans his confirmation.
Contrast this situation with when Tom Daschle was nominated for the same office. While awaiting for confirmation, Daschle was informed by the IRS that he owed some taxes. After he was defeated as U.S. Senator, he went to work for a legal firm and a friend donated a limousine and driver for him to carry out his work. He was told that he had to regard that not as a gift but as income. So, he paid his back taxes and informed the president of his error. People close to Daschle later said the error was not his but his tax accountant's in interpreting the tax law. The GOP raised the charges of tax evasion and Daschle opponents in South Dakota took up the cry claiming he had committed a major crime. He withdrew his name from nomination rather than have the transition to a new cabinet get mired down in rancorous politics. But Tom Price will slide into office on GOP ethical grease.
The GOP protects its own and protects its right to have conflicts of interest and self-interest no matter what violations of ethics are involved.
GOP governance in South Dakota has constructed a moral cess pool over the years. It thinks government should be run like a business and business preys on people in any way it can to gain money and power, as long as keeps up the pretense of South Dakota nice. And South Dakota nice means hypocritical duplicity. The real South Dakota is seen in the EB-5 scandal, the Gearj-Up scandal, and the Talliferro-Schwab court trial. The people may cluck their tongues and shake their heads for public display, but they vote for the people who keep the corruption humming.
Donald Trump understands South Dakota. He knows the program. He knows how to stiff people who work for him. He knows to hide his tax records like South Dakota hides the records of its business. He knows to appoint people who share his predatory and mendacious way of doing business. The governmental cesspool built by the South Dakota GOP is his vision for America.
You can bet that the majority of South Dakotans want him to succeed. That's the way business is done.
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, January 23, 2017
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