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

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

When a truly rotten person is elected president

He was retired, but had been a top commercial bank executive in Chicago.  He had also been on the boards of cultural organizations and had over time been president of an opera company, an art museum, and a library. He was often consulted about business and civic ventures.

I met him at my brother's house when he was staying there.  We often talked about his work with the cultural organizations.  We had a common interest in the buildings in Chicago designed by architect Louis Sullivan. But when he found out I had been the business editor of a newspaper, he pumped me for stories about some of the shady characters I had encountered.   In his work as a banker, he developed a concern about deceptive business characters and schemes and pondered writing a book about them.

We were discussing architecture that detracted from a city.  Donald Trump's name came up, and the retired banker got very animated. He told me how much Trump was detested by the Chicago business community for his inanely petty and juvenile character, his unscrupulous business practices, and his "whorehouse renaissance" taste in architecture.  He said he and his associates avoided any association with Trump and tried to discourage any Trump business ventures in Chicago.  Trump was deeply despised and business leaders thought he gave business a bad name.

Trump Towers in Chicago with its name obscured by golden pigs.


My banker acquaintance has passed on, but mutual acquaintances say his fervor against having anything to do with Donald Trump lives on in the business community.  A group of architects with the support of other business drew up plans to have huge balloons gilded and floated in front of Trump Towers in Chicago for a day of protest.   The City denied them a license, but plans are still in the works for next year.

The opposition to Trump in Chicago was demonstrated when he canceled a campaign rally on the University of Illinois=Chicago campus.  

The opposition to his building reflects opposition to his politics.  But budiness people in Chicago oppose him because they think he is a vile person who they do not want as part of Chicago business.  

Most Trump voters say they supported him because of his business expertise.  But real business people revile him for his fraud, his overall dishonesty,  his bilking of contractors, and his many failures in business.  

The people who elected him president had no notion of who he really is, but what happens to the country was their choice.  

Monday, October 23, 2017

The retired lieutenant general discharged himself dishonorably

The making of a three-star liar

As a general  [pun alert!] rule, I am not impressed with people who hold the top military ranks.  That is largely because of what I learned about them in the Army.  At the time, the Commander in Chief was Dwight Eisenhower,  and many of the cadre in the unit  i was in were veterans of World War II and Korea.  They generally held Eisenhower in high regard.  There were other generals that they spoke of with great respect.  They had doubts about some others, like Patton.  And they regarded many as useless.  A man who held most of the highest decorations for service, made it to the rank of sergeant major, eventually was busted down to corporal because of alcoholism, summed up the attitude of experienced soldiers:  a few generals earn their rank because they are smart, know what they are doing,  and work hard,  but most of them get there because they suck hard.

When Trump larded his cabinet with CEOs and generals,  the uninitiated into the ways of business and the military thought he was appointing people who could get things done.  
What he was doing was choosing people who could put on the trappings of authority and do what they are told.  As we are reminded, when Harry Truman fired General MacArthur, Generals are not to go off on their own and dispute the policies of the Commander in Chief.  On the other hand,  the president needs men who insist upon hard facts and competently assessed intelligence to advise him while he is formulating policy,  and who can then competently carry them out.  Generals do not have to be servile lackeys to their commander-in-chief, but Trump's generals seem adept at playing that role.


Trump's current disinformation team makes Baghdad Bob look like a boy scout.

When Gen. Kelly appeared at the White House daily briefing to defend Trump's telephone call to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson,  he used two tactics that has become standard procedure in the White House with Trump.
1.  He made a personal attack to discredit and defame Rep.
Fredrica Wilson, who reported on the tenor of Trump's call to the press.
2.  He out-and-out lied about a speech Rep. Wilson made during the dedication of an FBI building in 2010.

In his presentation, Gen. Kelly's ploy was terribly dishonest and stupid.  It did not take long for  the South Florida Sun-Sentinel newspaper to come up with video of Rep. Wilson's speech which proved Gen. Kelly to be a liar.  His lie, furthermore, was told with malicious intent, meeting the definition of deliberate libel.  

It did not take long for the fact-checkers to detail the extent of Kelly's libel.  
When the chief of staff of a U.S. president uses a news conference to publicly lie to the American people, the occasion marks how far a country that was once regarded as the leader of democratic virtues has sunk into the dystopian state that Orwell envisioned in 1984.

Kelly's act of character assassination is a rejection of the basic ideals for which America once stood.  And he has brought the country down to a level that it is no longer a place to which one wants to pledge allegiance.   Unless, of course, the resistance rises up and restores the integrity of America.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Harvey Weinstein likes to jerk off in front of women; Trump likes to do it before the whole world

Anyone who has worked in the world has encountered people like Harvey Weinstein.  He treats women as if they are slaves,  chattel put on earth to indulge his whanker.  Men who treat women that way usually treat other men the same way.  Their mentality is driven by the need to exercise power, make others bow down before them in servile, humiliating obedience.  They form bonds with other men who can help them in their quests for power, but they regard all others as their serfs.  They derive great pleasure from fucking over people.  And they make great displays of sexism, racism, and the other forms of misanthropic perversion that titillate them.  Bullying is a way of life for them.

How do people like Harvey Weinstein get to be so powerful?  Because so many people share the desire to fuck over other people as a badge of their social status.  People flock around and support and emulate Weinstein and his kind because they want to be associated with that they regard as the power elite.  That is also true of Donald Trump and what constitutes his base.  There is the infamous video of Trump bragging about pussy-grabbing, and a multitude of women accusing him of sexual assault.  But to Trump's apostles,  those are demonstrations of his power, not offenses.  Trump lies to Americans an average of 5 times a day, but to his followers that is not an offense;  it is a demonstration of his power.  

As the week drew to a close, Trump has put on a demonstration of his power to destroy that sends his base into orgasmic glee.  Trump has found his greatest successes by appealing to and inflaming the racism and misogyny of his base.  He started his campaign by repeatedly stating that Obama was not born in America, and he has since attacked everything Obama has done.  At his post-election rallies, he still brings  up Hillary Clinton so that his base can chant their hate anthem "Lock her up."  But this week he has put a a power demonstration of destroying some of the things Obama did, despite that fact that that destruction will end up inflicting mortal damage on the country.


 Trump's exhibitionism is not directed only at subjugating women,  but at hurting great masses of people.  He gets off on watching people suffer.  It is the ultimate expression of power.  And so many people love to watch him get off.



  

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Emmett Till and Philando Castile died for your sins

Philando Castile was shot five times while sitting with his seat belt buckled, a friend and her child in the car.



Emmett Till, 14, flirted with a white woman and was lynched

I am not a football fan.   i began my journalism career on the sports desk of a morning newspaper and became aware that many athletes in contact sports suffered debilitating injuries.   I realized that many football fans were attracted to the sport because they liked to see men smash together and limp or get carried off the field.  The irony that we outlawed dog fights but made a thriving business out of getting humans to bash and lash each other was not lost on me or other sports writers. 

The sports editor I worked under had often served as a boxing referee and had made many friends in the sport.  Old boxers often dropped in on him and they would repair to the saloon that occupied a ground-floor niche of the newspaper building to talk about old times.  Almost invariably, these men showed signs of being "punch drunk," which was how we referred to the brain damage they had suffered.  That and the behavior and attitude of many "sports fans"  focused my thinking on the role of sports in our society.  I enjoy sports that emphasize the use of skill and athleticism, but disdain those sports--and their spectators--that attract those who enjoy the infliction of violent damage.  

That's where you have to confront some tough facts about humanity.  We are divided.  The division goes far beyond political preferences.  Or religion. Some people love violence, either directly or vicariously.   They revel in ill will.  Other people seek peace.  They try to maintain a sense of good will.  Some people enjoy maiming and killing.  Others get pleasure from peaceable and friendly pursuits.  The two groups live for opposite purposes.  They have directly opposing values.  This divide is the basis for the cultural divide.  There is no way the two groups can reconcile their differences.

These differences underlie the silly, amazingly stupid argument about whether football players should stand during the national anthem.   In July 2016 a black man in Minnesota, Philando Castile, was pulled over while driving with his girl friend and her little daughter in the car.  Castile, who had a permit to carry a gun, told the officer.  When Castile reached down to his pocket, presumably to extract his driver's license,  the officer blasted him five times, while the girlfriend sat next to him and the child sat in the back seat.  The girlfriend recorded part of the episode on her cell phone. The officer said he feared for his life, and was acquitted of any wrong doing.  It was this incident which motivated Colin Kaepernick to refuse to stand for the national anthem as a protest to the unarmed or unthreatening black men being gunned down by police in the streets of America.  

The NFL men who kneel during the national anthem are paying reverence to victims who have had their lives taken in acts of inequality and denials of justice that are the actual rejections of the flag and everything it is supposed to stand for.  They are not showing disrespect to the flag, but are showing sorrow that the country and its flag have betrayed its people.  During 2016, the police killed 258 black men.  Thirty-nine of them were unarmed.  They were shot down as if they were rats in the town dump.  Those who kneel during the national anthem are, in fact, honoring the quest for freedom, equality, and justice that the flag symbolizes.

Those who say that the kneeling is an affront to the principles that America professes and those who fought for those principles are the ones who besmirch the national honor.  The NFL football players who kneel have stated clearly and precisely that they kneel to call attention to the racist acts of violence that have besmirched the flag.  When Trump and his minions say that the kneelers are dishonoring the nation and those who have served, they are indulging in one of the many malicious lies they engage in to aggravate the racist divide that they have revived and widened during Trump's reign of malice.  Trump and his hate squads are fanning the lust for blood and death in the people who love and live for moments of atrocity.  Watching football players deliver concussions is not enough.  Trumpists defame the kneelers in the hopes that they will be fired and left to roam the streets where anxious and avid guns await them.  

When Vice President Pence walked out of the Colts-49ers game Sunday,  he emphasized the lie that the kneeling was disrespect to the flag and its meaning and put his support behind Trump's endorsement of the Nazis at Charlottesville and the shooting of black people in the streets.  

The killing of Philando Castile was an act of the revival of the racial violence that tortured and killed Emmett Till.     Instead of using the overt hatred of black people as the motive,  the shooter used the currently acceptable pretext that he was afraid for his life.  And that gave good reason for all black people on the streets of America to fear for their lives.  The lynchers of Emmett Till were acquitted od charges against them after an hour of jury deliberation.  Castile's killer was also acquitted by a jury of manslaughter and endangerment  of lives.  

And so the flag flies and people honor it, condemn the kneelers, and celebrate the racist renaissance of America,  as it puts all people of color on notice.  

When the flag has come to stand for the freedom to kill in the name of white supremacy,  it may be time to take it down,  fold it up, and give it a decent burial.  And then people of good will may try again to build a nation of liberty, justice, and equality, and design a flag that, in fact, honors those qualities.  And does so in remembrance of those killed under the old flag by those who said they were serving it.





Saturday, October 7, 2017

Morons are US: Running the country into the ground like a business

The Trump administration has given the country--and the world--a detailed illustration of how many businesses are run.  For those who want government and public life run like a business, Trump has demonstrated how badly businesses can be run.  While there are benign businesses and malignant businesses,  his have been a detriment to society.

Business corporations are not democracies.  They are feudal states presided over by those who regard themselves as  a privileged royalty that dictates the terms of life for the serfs over whom they rule.  Liberty, equality, and justice are not even in the business vocabulary.   The only word that matters in business is profit.  It is the god to which human life is sacrificed, and which justifies destruction of habitat and moral life.

That is not to say that there are not good businesses which contribute essentially to the human community by providing necessary and beneficial goods and services.  And there are corporations that do run themselves in ways commensurate with democratic principles.  But they are rare.  Most businesses regard the public as a gigantic herd of sheep to be fleeced,  after which they are disposable.  

Most people who voted for Trump say they did so for his business acumen.  His business acumen is expressed through the constant stream of lies which are usually exposed, his stiffing of contractors,  his fraudulent scams such as Trump  University, his insult and abuse of others, his bankruptcies, and his unceasing malevolence.  The one thing Trump excels at is stupidity, which sells well among the greedy and malevolent. It's what makes many people think "he's one of us."

Trump  is a typical rather than an atypical CEO.  While people do question the wildly exorbitant salaries paid to corporate CEOs,  they seldom ask exactly what they do in their jobs.  As  I found out during the years I was a business editor,  a great many CEOs are posturing narcissists like Trump.  They are appointed by boards of directors who want a puppet as lead executive who will simply carry out their wishes, not work actively to make and keep the business vital.  They in turn choose sub-executives who will blindly obey orders and suck up to the CEO.  The power of the CEOs is in creating the image of an all-powerful drama queen whose lavish lifestyle is the envy of those driven by the lust for money and power.  That image is built upon lies, vicious infighting, suppression of facts, intimidation, and fraud.  Much of American corporate business is run just like the Trump Organization and what we see daily going on in the White House.  Trump has in word and deed made the country a subsidiary of the Trump  organization.

Many huge corporations make profits in spite of, not because of their CEOs and upper echelon executives.  People who are enamored of running government like a business seem unaware that 8 out of 10 business fail in their first 18 months.  Or that big business slumps and failures are usually attributed to their CEO.  The fascination of so many Americans with flagrant and ostentatious lifestyles is the most vulnerable weakness in American democracy.  But there are other aspects of the CEO character that undercut democracy.  In carrying out their CEO duties to corporations, many CEOs do things and practice policies that are overtly anti-democratic.

Trump's quarrel with his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson shows CEO mindsets and egos a work.  Because Trump has undercut Tillerson's announced policies with his tweets,  the press has sided with Tillerson as the victim of Trump's nefarious ways.   But focusing on the squabbling misdirects attention from Tillerson's performance.

An expert on international diplomacy has called for Tillerson's resignation.  He says Tillerson has been an "unmitigated disaster at every facet of his job."  A comprehensive profile of Tillerson in The New Yorker details how his business experience gives him disqualifying experience for his role as the nation's lead diplomat.  At a speech at the University of Texas, when asked how he regarded American policies when doing business as Exxon Mobil CEO, he said, I’m not here to represent the United States government’s interest.  I’m not here to defend it, nor am I here to criticize it. That’s not what I do. I’m a businessman.”  That statement makes clear that he won't let national interests interfere with the corporate agenda.

The first reason international relations experts give for claiming that Tillerson has not the vaguest notion of what he is supposed to is that instead of filling key positions with competent people, he eliminates the positions:  

Tillerson’s proposed budget cuts would considerably reduce the number of American diplomats working abroad, possibly by thousands. In addition, Tillerson suspended the hiring of new Foreign Service officers, including many who had accepted fellowships in the expectation of a job. (He has since allowed two Foreign Service classes to move forward.) “These cuts will decimate the Foreign Service,” Nick Burns, a former Under-Secretary of State, told me. “The Foreign Service is a jewel of the United States. There is no other institution in our government with such deep knowledge of the history, culture, language, and politics of the rest of the world.”[Dexter Filkins,The  New Yorker]
The second factor is that as a business executive, he surrounded himself with a small clique of lackeys who carried out orders without question.  When he first was in a situation someone obviously disagreed with him, a witness said.  "“He got red-faced angry.  He lifted out of his chair in anger. My impression was that he was not used to people with different views.” 

Like most business executives, Tillerson is trained in and is a devout practitioner of the totalitarian power that executives.  To him working with people of vast knowledge and drop, analytic intelligence is like dealing with aliens from another planet.   It seems  against Tillerson's sense of politics to allow and encourage abundant knowledge and vigorous discussion.  Reporter Filkens writes:
Some observers believe that Tillerson is overwhelmed by the volume of decisions that he and his team have to make. According to current and former diplomats, Tillerson has centralized decision-making so aggressively that he is unable to keep up. A senior Trump Administration official told me, “Where things fall in the cracks is in the area of management and leadership of the organization, and in leveraging the immense amount of expertise in that building.” Why isn’t Tillerson making better use of his people? “I can’t explain it,” the official told me. “I cannot frickin’ explain it.”  [Dexter Filkins,The  New Yorker]

People who want government and its agencies to be run like a business do not understand that the authoritarian principles of business are anti-democratic.  Business executives such as Trump and Tillerson are not equipped by training, mindset, or personal political preference to operate in a democracy.  They know only how to give orders and sacrifice all principles of liberty, equality, and justice to the attainment of a  'winning" goal.

Business executives and business oriented people are unfit to be in democratic government because they are fundamentally against democracy.

And we can seen the destruction of democracy in the daily words and actions of the Trumps and Tillersons.  












Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Maybe we should just have a national kill-a-bunch-of-people day

The U.S. Constitution is a monument to America's passionate love of hypocrisy.  It says in its Preamble that its purpose is to:

establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity...

Then it nullifies all that with its Second Amendment.  Our experts on Constitutional law have decreed that the Second Amendment is the sacred word that guarantees the right of any American to shoot the shit out of anyone and all if he/she feels like it.  The official interpretation of the Second Amendment is fuck justice, fuck domestic tranquillity, fuck the common defense, and fuck, fuck, fuck all that general welfare because it sounds socialist, and fuck other people's liberty.  The Constitutional experts saw that the Founding Fuckers made a huge mistake in the Preamble and put a potential obstacle in the way of people exercising the divine right to kill other people.

If we didn't have  occasions during which people blow away other people,  think how dull life would be.  Well, thanks to the celebrants of our divine right to kill,  out of the last 477 days we had 521 mass shootings to keep the true meaning of America alive.  The shooting over the weekend at Mandalay Bay is said to be the most  successful of all with 59 kills and 520 maims, if you don't include slaughters of black people and Indians, such as at Wounded Knee.  That record won't stand long, because this is America.

The national pride fills our hearts when we get to see a picture of some woman in cowboy boots trying to push some old dude wearing a cowboy hat in a wheel chair out of the line of fire.


Or a couple of chicks lying either dead or scared shitless with a beautiful pattern of blood splatter on the legs of one wearing cut-offs.  Makes one rise up in patriotic pride.  


We can't help but reminisce about some of our finer moments.  Although it had only half the kill-count, we fondly think of Sandy Hook.  What is more American than blasting away a a bunch of public school kids and school teachers?  What a demonstration of our basic values!  We thrill at a line of cowering kids and their teachers trying to lead them to safety, which a good, old AR-15 can blast away with the flick of a trigger finger.

There are some liberal types who threaten our true freedom with the thought that the Preamble to the Constitution means something.  What we need is a day to show that the Second Amendment is the only constitution we need.  Let Congress make the first Tuesday of November  a national holiday when we can have the time off to honor and worship our freedom to see how many people we can terrorize, and see how much we can set new kill-count records every year.  That ought to melt those libby snowflake asses and show them what American values really are.

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