Northern Valley Beacon

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

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Bob Mercer charges press with dishonesty

Bob Mercer writes that after reviewing the national press's coverage of Donald Trump,  he finds that it has been dishonest.  He says,  "Trump was, and is, right, in the allegations, the accusations, that some news organizations were, and are, dishonest in their treatment of him."

His basis:  "He brought some of this upon himself, but I’ve carefully read and I’ve carefully listened to some of the news accounts: Some of those some clearly went against him. Opinion from national news outlets replaced news reporting."

And he lights into the process that decides what is to be covered:  "I have often thought we have little objectivity, or none, in news. We as reporters and editors make choices — what we cover, what we don’t cover — and that isn’t objectivity."

That matter of how editors decide what is to be covered is a difficult one.  There are criteria for evaluating what makes an event or person newsworthy.

  • Prominence
  • Proximity
  • Timelines
  • Uniqueness
  • Consequence
  • Human interest
Editors make decisions on what relates to their particular audience in deciding coverage.  It is true, in many markets editors gear coverage to the desires of their advertisers and the predominant political attitudes of their readers.  But the overall process of deciding what is newsworthy is not all that arbitrary. Cable news sometimes demonstrates a desperation in trying to fill a 24-hour news cycle.  And some networks, such as Fox news,  operate from a particular political stance.  But for most of the major national media,  the coverage is based upon professional evaluations of the significance of what it is covering.

Bob Mercer takes particular issue with the use of the first 100-days of an administration as a gauge of how well it is doing in carrying out its political goals.  Mercer points out that Trump deprecated the hundred-day measure and pushed back against it.  But FactCheck.Org points out the facts behind the application of that 100-day measure to Trump:

As a candidate, Donald Trump issued a “100-day action plan to Make America Great Again.” It contained 28 promises, and Trump says he is “mostly there on most items.” But is he? Our review of his action plan found he has kept some promises, broken a few, and there are many that are still a work in progress. 
Once in office, Trump criticized “the ridiculous standard of the first 100 days.” He even questioned who within his campaign came up with a “100-day action plan.” He recently told the Associated Press “somebody put out the concept of a hundred-day plan,” even though Trump himself unveiled the 100-day plan at a campaign appearance on Oct. 22, 2016, in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

We take no position on the significance or merits of the 100-day milestone, which dates to the days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. In a fireside chat on July 24, 1933, FDR spoke of “the crowding events” of the first 100 days of a special congressional session called to counter the effects of the Great Depression, as explained by Penn State political science professor Robert Speel.
The question of honesty is troublesome.  Trump constantly proclaimed what he would do his first day in office and during his first hundred days, making threats and accusations against his opponents.  What is dishonest about tracking how he is carrying out his expressed intentions.

But the matter of dishonesty is one that Trump has created for the press to handle.  In the history of the U.S., no person of national prominence has been as blatantly and consistently dishonest as Donald Trump.  The Washington Post Fact Checker has found that during his first 100 days in office,  Trump has issued false or misleading claims 492 times.  

A public interest group is raising funds to hire experienced journalists and analysts to compile a daily list of everything Trump has said and done during his campaign and his presidency.  Trump has changed the U.S., and many people think it needs a documented record of what happened to it so that future generations can understand how a democracy fails.   Why did it adopt malicious dishonesty as a routine aspect of governance?

Some news organizations have opposed Trump,  but they have documented the reasons why.  His record as a "businessman" and a political candidate is consistently one of deceit, incompetence, and abject dishonesty.  Terming the press dishonest for exposing dishonesty is difficult to get the mind around.

But it is a crucial symptom of what happened to America.  

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The biggest threat to higher education--and democracy-- is business

I have been hard on some fellow professors in the past.  Some of the most vile humans I have come across, in the magnitude of Donald Trump, have been professors.  As an officer in professional faculty organizations,  I have dealt with them.  Some professors have egos that are much larger then their intellects and find it difficult to refrain from stroking their nasty egos in public--acts which often show a meagerness of mind but an abundance of self absorption.  They are simply assholes but nevertheless are found competent in their chosen discipline.  The ones that I rage against the most are the ones who practice academic dishonesty:  plagiarism,  fabricating or misrepresenting data,  misrepresenting their accomplishments, and other acts of mendacity.  They harm the profession and do damage to their students, their colleagues, their institutions, and the country.  However, the profession has standards and measures to use for eliminating these people from the profession, and I fully support their implementation and use.   I have participated in such actions.

On the other hand,  most professors are people of competence, integrity, and industry. I have been proud of their professionalism. They work hard for their students and to meet the requirements of research, scholarship, and service required by institutions to hold the rank of professor.  And often, they work effectively despite attempts by administrators to manage them.  The idea of running colleges like businesses instead of organizations in which the members have shared responsibilities has created an overlay of practices that are more befitting of a sales force  for vacuum cleaners than of an intellectual enterprise.  Instead of setting standards of performance that individuals strive for,  many administrations pit professors against each other in competition for promotion and tenure.  Some professors fall into the trap.  Most, however, maintain the role they have chosen, to learn and teach and stay true to what it means "to profess" a discipline.  That desire to stay true to the academic tradition has saved institutions from abject fraud and made it possible for students to obtain real educations.

However, there are professors who fall into the corporate mindset and become the instruments of a subversive value system.  I made a mistake by placing trust in some who betrayed their profession and engaged in a campaign to oust a professor who had incurred the wrath of the corporate-driven segment that purports to run our universities.  The mistake I made was in not maintaining my skepticism about the integrity of higher education boards of directors and their administrative lackeys.

It began when Ward Churchill,  a well-known professor of Native American studies,  wrote an essay the day after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in which he referred to the people who occupied those buildings as "little Eichmans,"  a reference to a key facilitator of the Holocaust.  The point of his essay, titled "Some People Push Back," was that the attack on the Trade Center and the Pentagon was an act of war in response to the massacre of a half million children in Iraq by American forces and the corporate structure which supported them.  Using a phrase from Holocaust historian Hannah Arendt,  he called the corporate technocrats who were aiding and abetting the war on Iraq "little Eichmans," the term Arendt used to describe the good Germans who did the same for the Holocaust.  His contention was that 9/11 was American foreign policy "coming home to roost."  At the time,  the essay received little attention.  

About four years later, some academics brought the essay to the attention of media types such as Bill O'Reilly, who expressed raging offense at the "little Eichman" designation and began the call for Ward Churchill's firing from the University of Colorado.  They were in a fury because they thought that Churchill had insulted the memory of innocent victims of terrorism.  However,  CU officials recognized that Churchill could not be fired for using his protected rights of free speech,  so they looked for other pretexts to dismiss him.

An academic opponent of Churchill's had made complaints about his scholarship previously, but they were ignored.  They were then grasped as a means to go after him and he was charged with academic misconduct.   A committee of faculty was assembled to investigate the charges  against him, and it recommended his dismissal.  Churchhill was fired, but fought the case against him in the courts.  He won the case to get his job back, as the circuit court found that his comments on 9/11 were the actual reason for his firing.  However, he lost on appeal and the Supreme Court declined to hear his case.  

The mistake I made, as did many professors, was to think that if the committee composed of his professor peers found Churchill guilty of scholarly fraud,  it must be so.  We put  our trust in academic due process, believing that the thorough examination of the evidence and a critical discussion of it by experienced professors would arrive at the truth.  What we did not understand is that the Investigative Committee which issued the report was not comprised of people who were well qualified to examine the scholarship in Churchill's particular field of study.  Some had declared opposition to Churchill. The committee was stacked to create findings against him in retaliation for his exercise of free speech.

However,  Churchill's fellow professors in Colorado understood this.  The Colorado Conference of the American Association of University Professors undertook a critical examination of the report which supported Churchill's firing. It found that the committee and its findings were contrived and that it committed the very acts of "plagiarism, fabrication and falsification of evidence" that they accused him of committing. 

In the executive summary of its report,  the Colorado Conference observed:

  1. As this report will demonstrate, the allegations against Churchill for fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism are almost entirely false or misleading; the slivers that remain standing are trivial in the extreme, given the volume of Churchill’s work and the high regard in which it is held by other experts in the field. Few scholars’ work would survive under the microscope held to Churchill’s work. In our opinion, the members of the IC would be condemned as academic frauds if their report were subjected to the scrutiny that they applied to Churchill’s work—and if they had said “little Eichmanns.” 
    According to experts in the field of American Indian Studies, the IC report, upon which disciplinary recommendations against Churchill were based, is an extended series of falsifications and fabrications offered in the name of correcting the scholarly record. 
Colorado's universities are among the best and most productive in the world.  But that is because of the abilities and integrity of its faculty,  despite the actions of politicians and the lackeys they hire to run them.  The University of Colorado at Boulder has a reputation for being a party school, but at the same time is a prestigious leader in the arts and sciences,  as is its sister institutions.  It's administration has racked up some serious demerits, however.  The handling of the firing of Ward Churchill is one of them.  

CU also hired on  its faculty another leader in Native American studies,  Vine DeLoria, Jr.  He taught law and history there from 1990 to 2000, when he retired.    During the period  of time around 2001, a football scandal hit the campus.   The universities football coaches had recruiting parties which hired escort services from Denver and at which a number of coeds charged they were sexually molested and raped.  It had a woman place kicker on its football team who said that she had been raped by  teammates.  The coach responded by belittling her abilities as a player.  The University tried to make the business look like trivial incidents that occur occasionally.  However, when the University of Colorado wished to recognize Deloria's work  with an honorary degree and a special citation,  he rejected it.  He said, "It is no honor to be connected to these people."

The American university system is an asset that has driven the nation to its position of prominence.  Its advancements rest on the accomplishments of thinkers who were provided a venue for carrying on their work with the establishment of the land grant colleges.  However, the history of that system, as with the history of the University of Colorado,  is studded with attempts by commercial interests to subvert the universities into schemes of greed and wealth.  Recent history in South Dakota with the EB-5 and Gear Up scandals demonstrates further how business interests try to pervert universities to their own uses.  

As long as there are professors such as the Colorado Conference of the American Association of University Professors to confront and expose the nefarious at work in their system,  the universities will be good places to study and to work.   But when business and political interests have their way,  the universities become a danger.  Universities cannot be run like businesses.  When they do,  they become intellectual and moral failures that destroy democracy and the spirit to advance humanity.  During this time,  professors of integrity have a strenuous job to conserve the true meaning of higher education.  Let's hope they keep working.  The business mentality would prefer that they didn't.  


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Return of the witch trials

Remember what you have seen, because everything forgotten returns to the circling winds.  Navajo Wind Chant

When people need to understand the world around them,  they turn to literature.  It is the repository of the cultural memory.  Our lives find meaning and direction in the stories we tell.  The literature of Salem and the  witchcraft trials is particularly pertinent and informing today.  The hysteria in the colony of Massachusetts in 1692 and 1693 is recorded by participants and observers of the time and is part of the canon of American Literature.  Samuel Sewall, one of the judges at the witchcraft trial, kept a diary, which records how he came to recognize the  serious error he made in judging, but also the mental process he went through to come to that recognition.  Five years after the trials, he prepared a statement of repentance which his minister read before the congregation of his church while he stood before it:

Samuel Sewall, sensible of the reiterated strokes of God upon himself and family; and being sensible, that as to the Guilt contracted upon the opening of the late Commission of Oyer and Terminer at Salem (to which the order of this Day relates) he is, upon many accounts, more concerned than any that he knows of, Desires to take the Blame and shame of it, Asking pardon of men, And especially desiring prayers that God, who has an Unlimited Authority, would pardon that sin and all other his sins; personal and Relative...
Sewall had fourteen children, few of whom survived childhood,  a fact of the hardships of colonial times.  But he was particularly affected by the anguish of an adolescent daughter as she tried to deal with the puritan doctrine of predestination.  In his daughter's suffering, he saw the injustice inflicted upon those accused of witchcraft.  

That time of hysterical paranoia was taken up as a major literary concern of Nathaniel Hawthorne whose great grandfather was also a judge at the witch trials and was distinguished by being the only one who never repented his participation.  A modern examination of the lethal hysteria of that time is playwright Arthur Miller's "The Crucible,"  which has become a classic of American theater.  That hysteria,  when remembered through the stories about it, has ominous relevance for our time.

The ascension of Donald Trump to the presidency has moved many people to turn to literature to understand and deal with what he means and portends for the nation.   They turned to an obvious book,  George Orwell's 1984, and 68 years  after its first publication, they put it on the best seller list again.  The psychological derangement it describes is a combination of hatred and abject fear induced through political conditioning,  a form of brain washing, that is recognized as what Trump has brought to America.  And it might be said that the particular derangement is what brought Trump into prominence.  A huge segment of the American population lost or has rejected science and factual information,  endorses the malignant spread of lies and defamation, and scoffs at probity as a condition of democracy.  To understand why about half the population abandons the cognitive principles on which democracies and any advanced civilization are based, one must turn to the accounts of humankind's biggest failures.  The Salem trials show the causes and consequences of the mindless hysteria that gripped the people at the time,  later repudiated when heads cleared and facts and reason and moral conscience prevailed.

The most obvious and significant parallel of the Salem hysteria to our time is the vilification of Hillary Clinton for things she did not do.  In Salem, the accusations of witchery were directed primarily at females from as young as 9 to elderly woman.    Mysogyny is recognized as a contributing motive behind the witch trials combined with other mental and moral failures and derangements.  The women accused of being witches were blamed as the cause of every social and natural disorder.

There are many reasons one can find to politically oppose Hillary Clinton.  Those  given to prejudice based upon personality can also find cause in their minds,.   But the behavior of Trump and the GOP went far beyond political premises into malignant derangement.  The main pretexts for the Hillary derangement were her email server and Benghazi.  Multiple investigations have been made of those matters by political opponents  dedicated to bringing her down and by federal agencies,  and they all ended up finding no cause for legal or executive actions against her.

She admitted that the private email server was a mistake.  Mixing personal emails on the same server with State Department business was unwieldy.  She initiated her  own server after being advised by predecessors that emails often became serious impediments in carrying out diplomatic duties.  However, the issue that the Republicans tried to pursue was that documents with security classifications had been put on a server that was not protected with official government devices.  The paradox is that her server was never hacked although the servers of security agencies in the government have been.  She did turn over all the emails that were not personal for review,  although some Republicans claim that she withheld 30,000 emails.  The FBI director said the handling of secure messages was sloppy, but there was no breach of security for which Clinton could be held liable.  

Congressional committees have conducted 12 investigations into Banghazi.  None of them produced information that Hillary did or failed to do anything that led to the deaths of four men, the ambassador and his security staff.  The families of the victims except for one have absolved Clinton.  One bereft mother, Patricia Smith, was exploited at the Republican National Convention where she was a featured speaker and accused Hillary Clinton of being responsible for her son's death,  of lying to her about why it happened, and stating that Clinton should be in jail.  The mother of the dead ambassador, Chris Stevens,  asked the Republicans to stop using Benghazi and her son as political propaganda.   

What Patricia Smith claims Hillary lied about was the motive behind the Benghazi attack.  She takes up the GOP party line used to besmirch Clinton and Obama's security adviser Susan Rice.  The day that Benghazi was attacked, there were anti- U.S. protests in Egypt and Libya against a video that mocked Muhammed.  In initial reports of the attack on Benghazi that killed Ambassador Stevens and his three staff members, it was assumed that the attack was part of that protest.  In her early comments,  Susan Rice referred to that protest.  Secretary Clinton was condemned by Republicans of holding to that explanation,  but the record of her communications show at the outset that she said the attack was carried out by an organized group.  Patricia Smith claims Clinton lied to her and the families of the men killed by insisting that their deaths were the result of the protest.  Other families say they never heard her mention the video protests.

In order to support their claim that Clinton lied,  the GOP tries to insist that the protests and the Benghazi attack were totally separate incidents.  Intelligence analysts make the point that the group that attacked Benghazi used the state of unrest created by the video as an occasion to launch their attack.  The most recent testimony indicates there were attacks by both disorganized protestors and by an organized group with a detailed plan. The main perpetrator of the attack has said that part of his motive was in revenge for the video mocking his religion.

The attempts by the GOP to use differing perspectives on a complex event as the basis for branding Cinton and Rice as liars are perhaps the most significant facts to come out of the turmoil.  The Republicans don't care or wish to determine just what actually happened.  They wish merely to use the incident as a pretext for maligning Clinton and Rice.

After Patricia Rice made her accusations at the Republican National Convention,  the Republicans instituted, as right out of Orwell's 1984, the 15 minutes of hate in which crowds would rise to their feet at the mention of Hillary Clinton and chant "Lock her up" and other threats to her person.  It was the re-enactment of what Orwell describes:

A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one's will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic.
This kind of malicious frenzy was experienced during the Salem witch trials, as neighbors turned on neighbors and accused them of evil.  Perhaps the latest example is in the accusation that Susan Rice in her role as security adviser asked for the names of people mentioned in intelligence reports about spies from other nations.  That is part of the  job, but Trump and the GOP try to make it a crime.  Susan Rice is a prime target for the reals motives of Trump and the GOP:  she's a woman and she's African-American.  Which adds another dimension of hatred to that "hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness."

Trump's accusations and threats against Hillary Clinton are wild, malicious hysteria not based on any facts.  The fact that so many people join in the frenzy indicates a reversion to an episode in America that is remarked in  literature as a matter of shame.  But that portion of people who join in the hate sessions are not that literature portion that reads and understands why episodes like the witch trials are recorded in literature as knowledge which warns of the dangers that lurk in the uninformed human mind.  

And once again humanity regresses to mindless rage.  

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Just another boil on Trump's nasty, festering ass

It is hard not to notice that since Trump became president, there are a lot of people who are not proud to be American.   He has reduced America to the status of a banana republic,  a contender with North Korea for being defined by leadership with a bad case of arrested development,  a petulant, deranged juvenile.  Kim Jong-un and Trump are temperamental cohorts.  They like to fire off missiles.  And threatening insults.  And  neither are equipped with the mental or moral restraints against carrying out their threats.

Trump has been useful to those who want to break America. Mitch McConnell is one of the most prominent and effective destroyers of democracy in America.  A native of the South,   McConnell was a fairly temperate politician,  but as he rose in power in the Republican Party,  he found political success in fulfilling the image of Jim Crow.   While his state of Kentucky  was not part of the Confederacy,  declaring itself neutral during the Civil War,  it was a slave state and the attitudes arising out of slavery are a tradition in the state.  McConnell's Jim Crow image came into focus with the election of a black man to President of the United States.  The intensity of McConnell's opposition went beyond policy disagreement to a malicious dedication to obstruct anything Obama proposed by any means possible.  His actions and demeanor went far beyond political disagreement into  unbridled racist fury.  He made clear that he was willing 
to break the nation to inflict his Jim Crow vengeance on  Obama.

Trump won McConnell's devotion by having launched his political efforts with the birther lie about Obama not being born an American.  He further endeared McConnell with his stream of denigrations and insults against Obama.  McConnell became a fanatical destructor of anything to do with Obama.

The act that set up Trump's only success in office so far was to refuse to acknowledge in any way Obama's candidate for the Supreme Court,  Merrick Garland.  At McConnell's order, the GOP-controlled Senate refused to even acknowledge the nomination with interviews,  let alone committee hearings and a vote by the Senate.  The insulting discourtesy and abuse of process was right out of the Jim Crow play book, and the Republicans carried it out with the viciousness and vengeance that characterizes racial hatred.  And so, Neil Gorsuch was whisked into the Supreme Court.  Republicans think it was a victory.  The majority who did not vote for Trump don't think it matters.  For them, America is over.  Its laws and rules are superfluous.  Good people do not abide by bad laws.  They do not obey bad leaders.  They snicker with derision at consequent court decisions.  Gorsuch may have qualifications, but they are meaningless because his appointment is the result of McConnell and Trump breaking America apart. He is merely a boil on a festering ass.

The nation's president is a pathological liar.  No one of intelligence believes a word he utters.  Those people long ago stopped listening to him.  We have a national congress whose majority thinks perfidy is clever politics.  Congress has been reduced to a mental institution.  The non-Trump and non-GOP supporters regard its antics with bemused distaste, as they lead lives apart from what happened to America.

There is much talk about resistance, but it has gone quiet.  That is part of the resistance. What person of intelligent values wants to contribute to the cacophony of a nation that has become an abomination?  Who wants to expose themselves to the festering asses?

Trump attacked America and its standing in the world when he campaigned with a barrage of disparaging lies.  But as president,  he made them come true.  A friend who is traveling in Europe writes:  "Experienced a new standard in arrogant, dismissive wait service tonight. The Muse  [his spouse] reminds me that we're Americans, not quite equal in humanity to Europeans now. The EU parliament just voted to require visas from American travelers. This would have made this impromptu excursion impossible. America First renders Americans second or third-class world citizens."

The idea of America will not die.  Its true adherents will, as their ancestors did,  will find a place where it can work.  Meanwhile on this continent,  it has become a subsidiary of the Trump Organization,  the United States of Jim Crow.

The face of Jim Crow

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Obituary for a democracy

    The Preamble of the Constitution is  straightforward in explaining the document's  and the nation's purpose

  • form a more perfect Union, 
  • establish Justice, 
  • insure domestic Tranquility
  • provide for the common defence
  • promote the general Welfare
  • and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.

  • Those people who fret over the size of government ignore the goals of the Preamble.  If one is to take that sentence seriously,  our efforts should be to improve government and the implementation to achieve its goals,  not obsess over its size.  There is often much to decry in government.  Bureaucracies often are managed to accommodate the basest human motives.  Many operate as extensions off the pecking order model of social organization.  People get caught up in rivalries and resentment,  and spend more effort in competing for attention and undermining their perceived rivals than in carrying out the business of making government work.  The significant political question is not size of government,  but the honesty and competence of government in meeting its purpose.  Corporate bureaucracies in the private sector do not even put up the pretense of democratic values; they largely demonstrate human avarice and malice at its worse.  

    The matters of the integrity and efficiency of government get lost in a debate over the meaning of "general welfare" that began when the Constitution was being written.  Madison thought that Constitution authorized only the power to levy taxes, not to get involved in anything not specified as a duty of Congress.  Hamilton took "general welfare" to require the exercise of responsibility for anything dealing with the well-being of the nation and its people.   Contemporary citations of the two interpretations define the motives behind the divide that separates the political factions in our nation.  The "conservatives" use limiting taxes as the pretext to designate part of the population as undeserving, to exclude them, denigrate them, and oppress them.  The conservative movement is misanthropic, regards equality, freedom, and justice as a privilege for its members only..  The "liberals"  regard general welfare as a mandate to see to the well-being of all people,  something the conservatives claim we cannot afford.

    Healthcare is focal point that provides a stark contrast between people of good will and people of ill will.  As Bernie Sanders keeps reminding us,  the U.S. is the only major country in the world that does not provide healthcare to all its people as a right.  Furthermore,  the quality of healthcare in the United States ranks last compared to other leading countries.  The fact that a huge segment of the American people deny healthcare to those who cannot afford it defines the true moral state of the country.  And it is a moral state which is comparable to Nazi Germany.

    The gas ovens of the Holocaust were not originally designed to kill Jews.  They were designed to kill the handicapped and disabled in German institutions because they were considered a financial burden.  They were among those Hitler called "useless eaters."  So that no money was wasted on the disabled and infirm,  they were fumigated with Zyklon.  The anti-healthcare Americans aren't as humane.  If people can't afford healthcare,  it is assumed, that they aren't working or are spending their money on frivolity,  and so deserve to get ill and die.  The moral wonders of America rally to save the unborn so they may enjoy the full benefit of knowing exclusion and oppression when they are out of the womb.  Then maybe they can understand the denial of equality, freedom, and justice that the GOP so fervently has prepared for them.  

    The denial of healthcare is just one of the moral devices that is the Zyklon of our age. Another is the right of "law-enforcement"  to execute black people when they feel like it.  All they have to do  is say that they feel that their life is in danger.  Then, they can blast away,  The Obama administration made agreements with offending police departments to eliminate such abuse.  But the Trump administration under the orders of Attorney General Sessions will review those agreements to see if they infringe on the right to kill useless eaters.  

    Admit it or not,  but many nations have been more successful in achieving the goals in the Preamble than the United States has.  While conservatives rage about following the Constitution,  the one they follow conspicuously omits the preamble.  When the Constitution states a national purpose to promote the general welfare, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, and extend the benefits of liberty,  it is an affront to the right to hold and prosecute ill will, and it conflicts with the Second Amendment,  which is all that matters in the GOP mindset.  

    But a savior has arisen to champion cause of ill will and abuse in Donald Trump.  Ill will reigns with full-throated triumph throughout the land:
     Our father  in Trump Towers 
     holler out your name,
     your companies come, 
     your will be done
    with pussies grabbed 
    on earth as in Mar-a-Lago.
    Give us today our daily Tweet,
    and take on great debt
    and conveniently go bankrupt
    And lead us not into liberalism
    but deliver to us the joys of evil
    For you are the corporation,
    the abuse of power,
    and the gory narcissist
    for ever.

    Democracy in America died an obscene death.  The city on the hill is on other shores.

    Wednesday, March 29, 2017

    Russia a friend? Follow the spies.

    Many Americans like to think that when the Soviet Union dissolved on Christmas 1991,  Russia became a friend.  The man who led Russia for the next decade, its first freely elected leader, Boris Yeltsin, seemed to be friendlier to the United States.  He privatized state-run businesses and adopted free-market principles, promoted a free press, and promoted democratic measures in governance. gives a succinct summary of his  reign:  "But although a select few oligarchs became shockingly wealthy, many Russians lapsed deeper into poverty due to rampant inflation and the rising cost of living. Yeltsin’s Russia also struggled with the taint of being an ex-superpower and with corruption, lawlessness, decreased industrial output and falling life expectancies."

    Americans have been conditioned to think of free-market capitalism as equated with honest, democratic government.  After almost a decade, Yeltsin resigned the presidency of Russia and turned it over to Putin.  Putin forged an alliance with some of the oligarchs who owned Russia and re-established a totalitarian government that often rules with savage violence that characterized the Soviet days.  As has happened in the U.S., a few people have garnered ownership and control of Russia.  Putin, the ex-KGB officer, has returned to tactics characteristic of the Soviet Kremlin.  Many thought that once Russia rid itself of communist rule,  it would join westerns democracies.  But communism is not the factor that made Russia our prime enemy in the Cold War.  Other social attitudes and political ambitions  were at work, and they prevailed after communism was abandoned.  In Russia today, capitalism rules with a vengeance;  Putin's greatest source of power is his alliance with the capitalist oligarchs.

    In fact, as Russia moved from a communist state to the federation it terms itself now,  its attitude toward the United States never changed.  In 1985, when Mikhail Gorbachev was Secretary General of the Communist Party and was making nice with Ronald Reagan, the KGB recruited two moles in the top U.S. spy agencies.  They recruited Aldrich Ames in the CIA and Robert Hanssen in the FBI.  Both men continued their work for Russia through the transition and beyond as if no regime change had taken place.  Ames was caught in February 1994, and Hannsen in February 2001.  Both man supplied the Russians with names of moles who spyied on Russia for the U.S., which led to their execution by the Russian spy agency.  While Americans felt that the Cold War had ended on Christmas 1991, the Russians did not think so.

    Many American businesses and executives exploited the Cold War detente with Russia to further their own agendas.  Typical is the case of current Secretary of State Rex Tillerson while he served as CEO of Exxon Mobil.  He helped the oligarch friends of Vladimir Putin make profitable deals in oil and received Russia's Order of Friendship.  Russian oligarchs have created a network with American corporate executives which can be exploited by Putin to achieve his agenda,  which is to regain the power the Soviet Union once held equal to,  if not surpassing America's.

    Russian interference in America's election of 2016 is not the only case in which Russia tries to destabilize countries and influence their politics.  The Czech Republic, which has become a member of the European Union, claims Russia's spying on it is worse that it was during the height of the Cold War.  European nations say that Russian espionage against them is booming.  

    Americans do not understand that the inequality they experience with the U.S.  one percent owning and controlling a preponderant percentage of the nation's wealth is a global trend of which Russia is a part.  Giant global corporations recognize no matters of national security or loyalty when it comes to acquiring and controlling the world's wealth and its distribution.

    During the Cold War,  Americans were conditioned to fear a Marxist takeover.  When the Cold War ended the takeover of the world's wealth by corporate interests and their cronies, such as the Russian and Chinese oligarchs proceeded apace.  They have achieved an infiltration and takeover of America that died-in-the-wool Marxists could not.

    If you want to know who our enemies are,  identify who is spying on us most vigorously.  Many are citizens of other countries,  and many are "citizens" of corporations.  They all aim to exploit America and make it vulnerable to their designs.  One such person and his billionaire and millionaire cronies operate out of the White House.  As with Russia, before and after the Soviet dissolution,  their aim is to weaken America and bend it to their purposes.  

    Monday, March 27, 2017

    Being a resident expatriate

    In the 1920s, America's most important writers, artists, and thinkers left the  United States to live in other places, predominantly Paris.  Gertrude Stein is attributed for labeling these expatriates the "lost generation."  She said America was her country, but Paris was her home.  An expatriate is one who withdraws from residence in  or allegiance to his or her country.

    By that definition,  I am an expatriate. I cannot bear allegiance to a country that has embraced the moral and intellectual degradation of Donald Trump.  I am by no means alone.

    The expatriates of the 1920s left their country for a complex of reasons, one of which was captured in a post-World War I song "How are you going to keep them down on the farm once they've seen Paree?"  But there were more profound reasons for the sense of alienation in the United States that went beyond the experience of a less restrictive and more tolerant style of life that Paris represented. While many white Americans gathered in Europe to  pursue the arts,   the Harlem Renaissance was blossoming for African Americans in New York City and providing a beacon for those living under Jim Crow.  Art, literature, and music provide alternative ideas and the stuff out of which an alternative culture can be constructed.  The 1920s was laying the cultural foundation with which America faced the Great Depression, another world war, and the need for civil rights.  Called the Jazz Age,  the 1920s was a time when black culture was adopted by the larger culture through music.  It was a time of intense literary activity when the moral implications of the premise of the nation were under examination.  It was the time when the character of what Tom Brokaw has called The Greatest Generation was formed.  

    Expatriates found that they needed a distant perspective from which to judge the values of their country.  Some did it from the vantage point of Europe; others did it through the vantage point of disengagement from American society.  I have seen a parallel movement to social disengagement at work in South Dakota.   There are many people who reside in South Dakota but find their home in other places.  A number of people I know center their "home life" in the Twin Cities.  They subscribe to the Minneapolis and St. Paul newspapers and organize their social and cultural lives around events and reources in the those cities.  And over the years, many South Dakota friends have relocated their residences when they found the opportunity.  

    For many people, the dominant culture of South Dakota has nothing to offer them.  Once when  i was teaching college,  a nationally prominent person from South Dakota was in the state for a speaking engagement.  Some of we professors were able to combine our classes and have him speak to our students.  A student asked him if he ever considered returning to South Dakota to live.  The man replied that the last he thing he could do is live in a state where the ultimate activity is "to blast away at the world's dumbest bird with shotguns or sit in a boat by the world's biggest stock dams fishing for the world's dumbest fish."  The students understood that the response was humorous hyperbole, but nevertheless reflected a cultural fact of life.  

    For many Americans, the nation has come to represent the kind of cultural deficiency that South Dakota had for that man.  While the nation fusses over old conservative and liberal arguments,  many people see that other nations in the world have in fact surpassed the U.S. in social progress.  The election of Donald Trump represents a giant leap backward into a world of small mindedness and petty resentments.  America is no longer the shining city on the hill. It is the cultural shanty town near the dump. 

    As an Army veteran who served in Germany during the Cold War,  I find that the country I was once proud to defend no longer exists.  During that time,  our radars and intelligence gathering antennae were trained on the Soviet Union, but the battle being fought was an internal one.  In 1948, President Truman signed the order to desegregate the armed forces but that did not purge them of racist attitudes and Jim Crow practices.  We dealt with racial incidents constantly, and did not eliminate racism,  but we did make progress in seeing that racial oppression and discrimination would not be tolerated.  

    The election of Barack Obama as our first black president was more than many people could bear, and dormant racial attitudes were revived.  Pundits spend much time talking about mistakes by Democrats that resulted in the election of Donald Trump, but few have the courage to admit that Jim Crow won the election.  And people who endorse Jim Crow are not people with whom there is any possible reconciliation.  Despite the fact that Trump has a record of astounding business failures, bankruptcies, and a history of ripping off people who work for him,  people keep saying that they voted for him because he's a business man and can get things done.  With his actual business record, an 18-month display of acting out like a fifth-grade bully, and his anti-science, anti-fact, anti-decency agenda,  supporters still insist that they voted for change.  The change they voted for was to halt and reverse all the progress the country has made in extending the benefits of freedom, equality, justice, and over all health and well-being to the nation.  These are people who cannot be engaged in fact-based reasoning.  And so, there is a nation of expatriates.  The expatriates are that majority who voted for someone else.  

    The expatriates step back and take a long view and visualize what a genuine America looks like.  And think about where it can be built.  

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    Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States