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

Friday, January 11, 2019

Those feckless f***ers

I am a bit of an expert on the f-word.  I can read and speak, haltingly, Old and Middle English, and can trace the fondness of English- speaking people for the fricative-plosive sound of that word through the ages.  Many non-English speaking people have appropriated the word even if they speak no other word in English because of the satisfactions of pronouncing that sound.  Many languages have close relatives, such as fycken in Swedish, but they lack the robustness of the English enunciation.  

 The word also has a myriad of meanings which are defined by their contexts.  The word obviously names the act of copulation.  And yes, in grammar we have copulative verbs, or linking verbs.  Technically, f**k is not a linking verb, until you've tried to explain it to a student who says "I don't care what grammarians say, it's a f**king verb."  We will let that rest, but the word evokes many other meanings than sexual intercourse, most of which deal the concept of foolish and pointless diddling around.

I received my advanced training in the use of word in the U.S. Army, which could never have operated without the use of the word.  As an instructor in a missile launching area, I sometimes had to act as a drill instructor.  We were supposed to march the men from task to task in order to emphasize order and discipline in the ranks.  When a man fell out of step, you could say something like, "Get in step, Smithers."  But that would not be nearly as effective as saying, "Smithers, I said forward march, not f**k the dog."  Smithers might not get in step, but the other men would smile, so that you could halt the detail and say, "What the f**k are you smiling at?"  And some wise ass would mutter, "At you trying to be a f**king drill instructor."  The word, as you can see, is essential to communication among the troops.

But the word has important imagery in portraying deficiencies and errors in performing the tasks of life.  Some such phrases are:

  • f**k up, as in screw up
  • f**k over, when oppressing and cheating people
  • f**king the dog, often translated as screwing the pooch
  • fiddle f**king
  • f**king the air
  • cluster f**k
  • f**k it, to convey "the hell with it"
  • f**king, the adjective, as in "who left the f**king Legos all over the f**king floor?
  • mother-f**ker, designating something really demeaned and demented
New Yorkers evaluate Trump
That gets us to those feckless f**kers. I speak of U.S. Senator John Thune and former Rep. and now Gov., Kristi Noem.  Congressional staff members refer to them that way because they have earned reputations as people who don't do much but diddle around.  Both of them have two attributes:  they aren't terribly ugly and they can recite the party line as written for them or repeat it as they've heard others say it.  They are decorative items often used to pose in party leaders' photo opportunities.  And they never take issue with those leaders. Beyond that they don't do much.

In 2012, Thune was mentioned by a few people as a potential presidential candidate.  Erick Erickson, an editor of the conservative said this about Thune:

"But the only reason people talk about him for President is because he’s a good looking guy in a city full of lesser looking people, is tall, and has an attractive wife. Other than that his greatest accomplishments are doing nothing." 

Kristi Noem does things, but mostly makes up defamatory lies about her opponents and obsesses over hate objects.  A lie that she got caught in involves the death of her father in a farm accident.  She claims that the death tax on the estate he left impoverished the family.  It turns out that he was covered by a $1 million insurance policy and the death tax was a figment of her mendacious imagination, not a reality that existed in the nation's tax laws. 

Her congressional record looks more busy than Thune's because she signs on as the co-sponsor of legislation advanced by other congress people.  But in the fact-check  department, Noem has earned a humongous Pinocchio nose.  Her lies about her opponents earn major points for their malice and explosive destruction of the facts.  She portrayed Nancy Pelosi as the evil witch of the universe and the characterized opponent Strephanie Herseth Sandlin as her hand maiden.  In fact, Herseth Sandlin was a Blue Dog Democrat that was often in disagreement with the Pelosi main stream.  In the primary for governor, she maligned GOP Attorney General Jackley with many false representations--although there was plenty factual points she could have made against him.  Then in the governor campaign against Billie Sutton, she continued her penchant for falsehoods.  Noem's rule seems to be that making stuff up or copying from someone else as you go along takes less work than trying to address facts. She prefers to lollygag.

Her state of the state speech was cobbled together from passages of Trump's repeated lies and other far right-wing sources.  It follows the outline of legislative issues posted by ALEC, the right-wing organization that dictates and provides ready-made far-right-wing propaganda to conservative state legislators.  She misdirects attention from South Dakota's problems by focusing on the financial problems in Illinois and Connecticut.  When she tackles the meth problem in South Dakota, she uses a case from Iowa to illustrate its effects.  Admittedly, like Thune, Noem is very adept at delivering the lines provided her.  While she claims to be in contact with the people of the state in forming her proposals, her conclusions come from the ultraconservative sources that promote fascism over democracy.  We know Noem's feckless performance from her dilatory record in Congress.  In her first speech to the state, she screwed the pooch before our very ears and eyes.

The most insidious part of her speech concerns economic development.  She commits to reducing regulations, creating an obedient workforce, and enhancing the ability of grifters to exercise their fraud.  In other words, she proposes steps that would make scams like the EB-5 and Gear Up scandals easier to pull off while reducing the chances of getting caught.

Her vow to increase the transparency of government is another vague one.  She says she will make government meetings more available to the people through broadcast technology.  And she wants a "commonsense" law that will shield reporters.  "Commonsense" most likely means specific loopholes that prevent reporters from obtaining embarrassing facts.  The transparency problem in South Dakota is in the loopholes in the state legal code that gives officials the power to withhold information.  When reporter Bob Mercer tried to obtain the investigative record into the death of Richard Benda during the EB-5 scandal, the State Supreme Court ruled that " state law is clear in denying public access to law enforcement investigations."  If anyone wants to increase transparency, they need to address the state legal code first.

The majority of South Dakota voters like the likes of Thune and Noem.  They don't want to hear about the facts of life that so many people turn to meth to deal with.  They don't want to face the corruption that pervades state government in South Dakota and puts it among the top three most corrupt states in the union.  The majority of voters want to see the legislature in an annual clusterf**k, feel important when they can f**k over their neighbors, and have all their fears assuaged by watching their elected leaders fiddle**k  and screw the pooch.  That's what they voted for.

Those who have schemes for getting rich by fleecing the taxpayers can rest happy that they have representatives in Pierre and Washington, D.C., protecting them.


Bearcreekbat said...

I enjoy and appreciate your writing and the meaningful substance of your essays. I check your blog daily for new material and although I haven't commented previously on your blog, your f**k essay stimulated my desire to share an example of the use of f**k in yet another context. I recently saw a flick on Netflix called "The Little Hours" that is set in the 1300's at a convent. The nuns at the convent frequently use the term F**k to denigrate and express emotion. The humor is dark and wouldn't appeal to everyone, but I loved it. I thought you or some members of your audience might too.

Anonymous said...

I would second Bearcreekbat's appreciation of your essays Dr. Newquist. I did notice one thing that maybe could be changed. The last sentence in your essay, at the very end, says "protecting them", it could read f**king them.

Donald said...

I stop by occasionally, and always like what you have to say. I like how you slide the "f-word" right into South Dakota's leaders. Quite appropriate.

A lot of people have problems with the word. My parents did. I ate soap a number of times. When I was a parent I did a good job of not saying it, but my daughter heard a string of the various f-words one day from some neighborhood boys and decided she had "learned to talk like a boy." She then proudly spouted a profanity-laced tirade she had just heard from the neighbor boys. I tried not to laugh and I tried not to get angry. She didn't know what the words meant. She just thought it would make it easier to talk to boys.

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