South Dakota Top Blogs

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 MinneKota@gmail.com

Wednesday, May 22, 2024

On shooting the pooch

Gov. Noem has published an account of shooting her dog Cricket because he, among other things, enjoyed chicken dinners, but did not obtain them from Col. Sanders.  He got them from neighboring farms in their live state and processed them himself.  When it came to chicken coops, Cricket was foxy.  But Gov. Noem chose, rather than train and restrain her errant mutt, to take him out to a gravel pit where she served the role of executioner. She shot him, and bragged about it in the book she wrote.  While she was at it, she also shot a goat that apparently displeased her. 

Her explanations claimed her shootings were a matter of protecting her family and public safety.  However, her actions were widely condemned by people in both political parties.  When it comes to killing a family pet, there is much consternation among the public.

I recall one occasion in my family when an uncle shot the family dog.  I was staying on their farm with my cousins  when we children were summoned to come in the house.  They had a dog named Lucky.  We were told that Lucky's luck had run out, and he was showing the symptoms of rabies.  We were to stay in the house until my uncle and the hired man resolved the situation,  Their first effort was to try to catch Lucky and take him to the veterinarian, but the vet said if the dog was showing signs of aggressive behavior, there was nothing he could do to help the dog, as the disease had progressed beyond the point at which there was any treatment available.  The dog was shot and wrapped in a tarpaulin.  Then everybody was equipped with buckets or pressure  sprayers and we disinfected the places the dog had been during his last moments of life.  The dog's body was hauled to a vet's laboratory where it was confirmed that the dog had rabies and then incinerated.  Lucky had been a constant companion with my cousins, and they never had another dog again.  The loss of Lucky was too painful for them, and they didn't want to hazard such a loss again.

My family had a dog for years.  They got her when my brother was two, so Fluffy was two years older than me.  She was a mixed breed that included Chow and some shepherd breed.  She helped raise me.  When I was an infant, my mother would put me in a baby buggy in the back yard to get some fresh air, and Fluffy would lie under the buggy to guard it.  When I became old enough to  toddle around,  Fluffy, much to my annoyance, would herd me away from the busy street that ran past our front yard.  She was my guardian.  I think of her in this context because of the way she ended her life.

On a brisk autumn day when I was 14, I was playing  catch with some friends using a baseball size rubber ball.  Fluffy was with me, and would retrieve the ball when we failed to catch it.   Then we had to catch Fluffy to get the ball back.  We had much fun with Fluffy as our play became a game of keep-away from her.  She was 16, and playing like a puppy. Our game ended as supper time approached and we went to our homes.  After supper, we realized Fluffy was not home, and we called for her, but she didn't show up. We weren't too concerned because she was part of the neighborhood and some neighbors would let her in their houses to be petted.  At bed time she hadn't returned, but we had an enclosed back porch where we put food and water for her.  We were confident that she was visiting a neighbor and could eventually seek the shelter of the porch and the warmth of an old rag rug we keep there for her.  Her regular bed was in the basement next to the furnace.

The next morning, my mother got a telephone call from a neighbor across the street,  The woman said they found Fluffy on their front porch and she didn't seem able to get to her feet.  I carried her home, and we put her in the car and headed to the vet.  We were puzzled that she could have shown so much life the day before, but seemed so ill.  The vet explained that her age was a factor.  She went to the neighbor's porch to rest but was further stressed by the cold night coming on, and it triggered many problems of canine old age, including arthritis, failing kidneys, and other internal malfunctions.  He said he could keep her at the animal hospital and treat her as much as was possible to see if she recovered, but she was so old and fragile that she might need to be put down to spare further suffering.  She didn't improve and showed signs of pain, so we ended up at the vet clinic to say our goodbyes to Fluffy, and she was put quietly to sleep.

Then there was Seth.  My grandmother lived on a farm with two bachelor uncles.  Seth was mostly German Shepherd, and was unusually intelligent.  When my uncles needed to go in and out of fields containing livestock,  they would say, "Seth, watch the gate," and he would position himself by the open gate and keep the livestock in until my uncles closed it.  This might be for hours.  

Seth also was a  helpmate for my grandmother, who suffered from rheumatism. The farm at that time did not have water running to the house.  The well was located outside the fenced-in yard.  When my grandmother open the  storm door to go get water, a door-closer which held the door tightly shut made a snapping sound, at which Seth would come running.  He would open the fence gate for my grandmother as she passed through it.  He was the master gate keeper on the farm.

His death was brutal.  The neighborhood thrashing gang was on the farm harvesting oats.  There were five teams of horses hauling oat bundles in from the field to the thrashing machine, and they were lined up to be unloaded into the machine.  One team was composed of a pair of broncos, and Seth was lying in the shade of the wagon they were pulling as the men pitched the oat bundles into the thrasher.  Something spooked them and they suddenly bolted.  The men were sent sprawling, and the rear wagon wheel ran over Seth.  He yelped, ran to the house, and sought refuge under the porch, where he died of internal injuries.  My uncles never replaced him, and my grandmother came to my parents' house in town to live.  She often talked about how much she missed Seth.

There can be another side to farm dogs.  While I was farm editor for a newspaper, there was a rash of sheep killings in one of the rural neighborhoods.  Farmers speculated about wolves, coyotes, and cougars,  all of which were very rare in that part of the country.  One morning I received a call from the county conservation officer, who was a distant relative,  that there had been a mass killing of sheep.  A photographer and I went to the scene.  Because of prior killings, there were many experts in the area looking into them.    In this case, about 80 sheep were killed.  A large group of investigators were already on the scene when we got there--the sheriff's department, game conservation officers, wildlife biologists, veterinarians, and agricultural officials.

They determined that dogs in the area were forming packs at night and going feral.  They found witnesses who had seen the packs and after inspecting some suspected dogs found evidence that they were the culprits.   One dog in particular was the instigator and leader of the pack.  The farmer who owned the sheep filed a law suit and the lawyers worked  out a settlement in private, so we had scant information about how the matter was resolved.  However, the incident was reported throughout the nation, and legislatures passed and revised laws on the predation of domestic animals by dogs that have gone feral.  South Dakota law makes it legal to shoot a predatory dog.

So, Kristi Noem was within the law.  But she was far outside the propriety expected of a government leader.  The question:  Is someone who goes around shooting dogs and goats capable of running a democratic state?  No one has ever accused Kristi Noem of being overburdened with intellect.  But the fact that she was elected governor falls on the people who elected her governor.  The contention that South Dakota comes up a bit short in the intellect department is grounded in demonstrable fact.  South Dakota got that reputation the old-fashioned way.  It earned it.  And Kristi is its emblem.











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Sunday, March 24, 2024

24 former Trump associates who denounce him

 Many people think that if Americans voted Donald Trump into the office of president again, it would effectively be a vote to end the democracy.  Some think that he doesn't know the difference of presiding over a corporation in which he is a dictator and presiding over a democracy of free people.  Others regard him as a bumbling fool.  He has a long list of bumbles and mendacious episodes.  He has accrued a long list of associates  who denounce him as candidate for president.  CNN has created a list of 24 associates who disapprove of him along with their reasons.  The list follows:

1. His vice president, Mike Pence: “The American people deserve to know that President Trump asked me to put him over my oath to the Constitution. … Anyone who puts himself over the Constitution should never be president of the United States.”

2. His second attorney general, Bill Barr: “Someone who engaged in that kind of bullying about a process that is fundamental to our system and to our self-government shouldn’t be anywhere near the Oval Office.”

3. His first secretary of defense, James Mattis: “Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people – does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us.”

4. His second secretary of defense, Mark Esper: “I think he’s unfit for office. … He puts himself before country. His actions are all about him and not about the country. And then, of course, I believe he has integrity and character issues as well.”

5. His chairman of the joint chiefs, retired Gen. Mark Milley, seemed to invoke Trump: “We don’t take an oath to a wannabe dictator. We take an oath to the Constitution and we take an oath to the idea that is America – and we’re willing to die to protect it.”

6. His first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson: “(Trump’s) understanding of global events, his understanding of global history, his understanding of US history was really limited. It’s really hard to have a conversation with someone who doesn’t even understand the concept for why we’re talking about this.”

7. His first ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley: “He used to be good on foreign policy and now he has started to walk it back and get weak in the knees when it comes to Ukraine. A terrible thing happened on January 6 and he called it a beautiful day.”

8. His presidential transition vice-chairman, Chris Christie: “Someone who I would argue now is just out for himself.”

9. His second national security adviser, HR McMaster: “We saw the absence of leadership, really anti-leadership, and what that can do to our country.”

10. His third national security adviser, John Bolton: “I believe (foreign leaders) think he is a laughing fool.”

11. His second chief of staff, John Kelly: “A person that has nothing but contempt for our democratic institutions, our Constitution, and the rule of law. There is nothing more that can be said. God help us.”

12. His former acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who resigned as US special envoy to Ireland after January 6, 2021: “I quit because I think he failed at being the president when we needed him to be that.”


13. One of his many former communications directors, Anthony Scaramucci: “He is the domestic terrorist of the 21st century.”

14. Another former communications director, Stephanie Grisham: “I am terrified of him running in 2024.”

15. His secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, who resigned after January 6: “When I saw what was happening on January 6 and didn’t see the president step in and do what he could have done to turn it back or slow it down or really address the situation, it was just obvious to me that I couldn’t continue.”

16. His secretary of transportation, Elaine Chao, who resigned after January 6: “At a particular point the events were such that it was impossible for me to continue, given my personal values and my philosophy.

17. His first secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer: “…the president has very little understanding of what it means to be in the military, to fight ethically or to be governed by a uniform set of rules and practices.”

18. His first homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert: “The President undermined American democracy baselessly for months. As a result, he’s culpable for this siege, and an utter disgrace.”

19. His former personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen: “Donald’s an idiot.”

20. His White House lawyer, Ty Cobb: “Trump relentlessly puts forth claims that are not true.”

21. A former director of strategic communications, Alyssa Farah Griffin, who is now a CNN political commentator: “We can stand by the policies, but at this point we cannot stand by the man.”

22. A top aide in charge of his outreach to African Americans, Omarosa Manigault Newman: “Donald Trump, who would attack civil rights icons and professional athletes, who would go after grieving black widows, who would say there were good people on both sides, who endorsed an accused child molester; Donald Trump, and his decisions and his behavior, was harming the country. I could no longer be a part of this madness.”

23. A former deputy press secretary, Sarah Matthews, who resigned after January 6: “I thought that he did do a lot of good during his four years. I think that his actions on January 6 and the lead-up to it, the way that he’s acted in the aftermath, and his continuation of pushing this lie that the election is stolen has made him wholly unfit to hold office every again.”

24. His final chief of staff’s aide, Cassidy Hutchinson: “I think that Donald Trump is the most grave threat we will face to our democracy in our lifetime, and potentially in American history.”


Friday, March 22, 2024

Aberdeen is a killing field

On a balmy, clear Wednesday last November about 15 minutes after noon, two cars pulled into the parking lot at the YMCA.  The occupant of one car murdered the occupant of the other. The local media reported it this way: "Officers had determined by Wednesday [a week after the incident] that two vehicles pulled into the north entrance of the Aberdeen Family YMCA parking lot and one person shot the other, [Police Capt. Tanner] Johndahl said."  Although the police were called to the scene minutes after it happened, it took a week to figure out that one person shot another.

It took two months for law enforcement to decide there was nothing to do about it.  That included  to not explain to their constituents what happened.

Here is the outline of how the matter was reported:

The police were summoned.

  

The name of the person who was shot had not been released as of the Friday after it happened.

“The individual who is believed to have fired the gunshot was on scene when law enforcement arrived,” per the release.

Life-saving measures with the help of YMCA staff were attempted and the victim was transported to St. Lukes Avera Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The hospital went on lockdown, but nearby schools and the YMCA didn't. 

The agencies responding were the Aberdeen Police Department, the Brown County Sheriff’s Office, the South Dakota Highway Patrol, the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, Brown County Emergency Management and Aberdeen Fire & Rescue.

The person believed to have shot the gun was initially detained, but released the following day.

The State's Attorney said the investigation was ongoing.

Six days after the shooting, the name of the victim, Donald Michael Heinz, was released.

More than two months after the shooting, the State's Attorney announced that the shooters name is Trenton Milton, the stand-your-ground  law had been investigated, no charges were filed, and the case is closed.

So, what was the cause or reason for the shooting?

Local law enforcement seems to think its constituents are a bunch of gullible dolts who know nothing and deserve to be kept ignorant.  The premise of democracy is that the people rule and to do so have the right to know what is going on in their government so that they can make intelligent choices.  In this case, as in others, we get this bewildering account of a violent death which gives us no information about the motives and circumstances behind a brazen killing or about the basis for its decisions.

One thing we do know is that democracy in this part of the country is a failure.  In recent years, we have a single party government with no leaders or candidates who note the failures and offer to make the instruments of democratic process work for us again.

Donald Michael Heinz was 70 years old, worked for 43 years at Hub City Manufacturing, and had a family.  When he drove into that parking lot was he in pursuit of Trenton Milton?  Did he have a weapon with which he was menacing Mr. Milton?  What was the relationship between the two men?

There are those who say it's none of our business.  But in a real democracy, the moral and social health of the community is our business, and we need to understand the forces and resolution of this morbid episode.  Is the failure to provide coherent information a matter of dysfunction in law enforcement?  We note that the  sheriff and chief of police promised to address a conflict between their agencies.  Is that conflict part of the cause for the incomprehensible handling of this case?

And, of course, Aberdeen no longer has a full-fledged newspaper, which means that coverage of city hall and the police station doesn't have a journalist devoted to tracking the personalities, issues, and events involved in running the city.  However, I note that the coverage of the city has never been as intensive in Aberdeen as it was for the cities in newspapers for which I worked.

I also note that this incident occurs in the context of some setbacks for the city, the closings of Presentation College and Banner Engineering.  Many other businesses have left town in recent years.

With the handling of this shooting, Aberdeen has become a killing ground.  No explanation has been offered for why Donald Heinz was killed.

That makes Aberdeen a good place to leave.  It's a trend.


Saturday, March 9, 2024

Oh, didn't he dither?

When Sen. Katie Britt (R-Ala.) rebutted Joe Biden's state of the union speech, she based her comments on the contention that he was dithering away and lost control of the country.  However, much you may disagree with what Biden has done, you cannot validly say he hasn't done it.  Saying that Biden can't perform because he's old is like saying Obama couldn't perform because he's black.  Ageism is a prejudice just like racism.

As my spouse has been a staff member for both  U.S. senator and a congress woman, I am familiar with the reputations of many people who have worked in Congress, Joe Biden being one of them.  Biden is a task man.  When there was a  particularly difficult issue to address in Congress but something had to get done, he was often assigned to help get it done.  He has an affable and kindly demeanor that could cool down partisan rancor.  He was friends with many people from the opposing party.  

Joe Biden is a stutterer.  He has had to learn a therapeutic procedure that stutterers employ so that they don't stutter when they speak.  Stutterers can generally read aloud without stuttering. (https://www.nytimes.com/2024/03/11/us/politics/trump-mocks-biden-stutter.html)

During my first year of college teaching, I had two stutterers in my classes.  I was concerned about how to treat them during a class discussion.  I didn't want to put them in an embarrassing situation in front of their peers.  The college I was at then was known for its speech therapy program, so I asked the chair of that department for advice.  He explained that stutterers process language differently than those who don't stutter, and a technique that stutterers are taught to help them with their speech is to write the words in their heads that they want to say before they pronounce them.  As it turned out, the reason that the two young men chose that college was because of its speech therapy program.  I gained a great respect and admiration for stutterers from that orientation and especially for those young men.  I note that Joe Biden often refers to notes at his press conferences and often hesitates a bit as he answers questions.  His occasional stumbles are not a matter of age.  And he joins Winston Churchill as a world leader who stuttered.

As an old person myself, I am well aware of the vicissitudes of age.  One of them is the huge amount of information one acquires.  When asked to give a perspective on some matter, there are so many facts to sort through.  It may take a while to give a considered answer because there is so much information to consider.  When we call up information on our computers, we get that whirling circle or a notice that the computer is gathering and loading the data.  But we seem to expect humans to be instantaneous in their thought processes.  It has nothing to do with age, but with process.

However, there is a fatigue factor to consider.  This is something that affects people of any age, and people who do intellectual work know that there are times when you have to rest and renew your approach when dealing with vast amounts of information and difficult issues.  We warn people about making decisions when they are tired and advise them to tackle a problem in the morning after a good night's sleep.  Competent decision-makers avoid being impetuous and give their information and their own thought processes careful deliberation.   Taking care and time is not a matter of age;  it's a matter of competence and integrity.

Acts of competence, care, and thoroughness should not be considered dithering.  Calling Biden a ditherer is in the same class as calling Barack Obama a n*gger.  We should hope to lift our politics up out of that level if the American experiment in democracy is to have a chance to succeed.



Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Procto-America

 procto-

combining form

indicating the anus or rectum: proctology

   

The election of Donald Trump to the presidency signaled a drastic change in American values.  It was a rejection of what Tom Brokaw termed The Greatest Generation, and everything it stood for and accomplished.  It was an expression of America's fascination with and love of assholes.  The United States have become a procto-nation, a nation of assholes, which they want led by a preeminent asshole, Donald Trump.

There is a segment of Americans who admire success and for whom the measure of success is wealth.  They admire Donald Trump, therefore, because he has acquired millions, or is said to have, at any rate.  In their minds, wealth is the mark of leadership.  But Trump has established a record of saying stupid and malevolent things that call unto question his fitness for office.  He is such an obstreperous jerk, an asshole, that he seems unfit to be involved in any human activity that requires intelligence, probity, and respectfulness.  What is disturbing about Trump is not his politics, but his demeanor and what it portrays about his mind and his motives.  What is more disturbing is the number of Americans who approve and support such a person.

An aspect of America's system of freedom is that Americans have the capability to vote away their democracy.  It has developed a pronto-caucus which seems interested in doing just that.  They threaten to change the land of the free and home of the brave to land of the servile and home of the dolt.


Sunday, March 3, 2024

Elegy for a dying town

More than 300 more people will lose their jobs in Aberdeen in coming months as the town faces another episode in its history of abandonment.  Banner Engineering is closing its plant which had 311 employees.  Just a year ago, it expanded its Aberdeen plant.

The nation is experiencing a high point in the economy, but Aberdeen seems to be left out.

This is the latest in a series of major manufacturing companies closing down their operations in Aberdeen.  In the 1980s. Control Data shut down its Aberdeen plant with 1,340 employees to move the jobs to the Pacific Rim.  More recently, Molded Fiber Glass left town, joined by Hub City, Inc., which had been in town for 125 years.

The closure of Presentation College last summer marked a trend that community leaders don't want to talk about.  And they don't.  But it demonstrates a reality, which is a community in decline.  That decline is more evident in the retail sector which in recent years has had the closings of Kmart, Shopko, J. C. Penney, Herbergers, Sears, and Conlin's.  Aberdeen has lost its role as a shopping destination for the region. 

The most significant closing was Presentation College because it indicated that its  sponsors did not see a future in Aberdeen. In their statements on the closing, the leaders listed the demerits of the town as a  factor:  its remoteness was the major one cited. 

As the business editor for a newspaper, I covered many business changes, relocations, and closures.  Mergers and buyouts often signal an eventual closing.  Smaller companies which are merged or purchased by a larger one disappear into the corporate murk.  An example in South Dakota is the Gateway computer.  Once prominent in the midwest, it disappeared when the company moved to California.  Decisions to move or close a facility are often notional.  Executives decide to make a change for personal reasons or just because they have the power to do so.  Business reasons are often not good reasons.  They are a matter of executive choice.

A lot of executives have chosen to shut down their operations in Aberdeen.  Why Banner decided to abandon its operation here a year after expanding it is a matter of someone's choice.  Given the circumstances, it is difficult to understand how it could be the only rational choice.   

Someone or a group of someones decided to abandon a newly expanded plant and get rid of 311 people.  Corporations are not democracies.  They are dictatorships.  The people affected by their decisions cannot call them into account.  

Northern State University has a strong business department.  It cooperates closely with some business ventures.  It was involved in the EB-5 scandal  a few years back when some corporate magicians made millions of dollars disappear.  Although not primarily a research university, it is in a position to study the community which supports it.  While it can make nice with the businesses in the community, it can also exercise its academic function of examining how companies are going about their business.  Are they pursuing the good business practices taught in the classrooms?  Are they meeting the standards of competence and integrity that contribute to an honest democratic society?

And what happened to the people who have lost their jobs in recent years?  I recall when Control Data dumped its employees into the job market, many came to Northern to prepare for new careers.  But what has happened to the people let go by Molded Fiber Glass and Hub City?  What will happen to the people from Banner Engineering?

Economic development and business promotional people customarily suck up to and bow down to businesses to attract them and keep them in a community.  No one keeps a serious check on how the businesses are performing as corporate citizens.  And being a corporate citizen is a matter of how one contributes to and lives in the community. 

In a statement about its closing, Banner said, "We regret having to take this action and will work to provide the resources and tools to make this transition as successful as possible.”  From the business standpoint. a successful transition means getting out of town as fast and unobstructed as possible.  It doesn't mean having anything further to do with the community.

At this time, state officials are commenting on a shortage in the labor force.  Aberdeen will contribute 311 people to alleviate that shortage, but where will they gave to go and what will they have to do?  Finding a commensurate job in Aberdeen seems unlikely.

The city manager recently issued a glowing prospective on Aberdeen's outlook.  When asked about specific developments, the only thing he could cite is the upgrading of the waste water treatment plant.  Could some of those 300 people be hired for that job?  As a neighbor put it, dealing with more of Aberdeen's shit.

But at some point, Aberdeen leaders will have to face reality.  And reality can't be dispensed with by glowing predictions that do not address the facts.  



Friday, March 1, 2024

Prattle is all the rage

Friday night is the night for discussion shows on television.  For a while, I watched  some network discussion about presidential candidates during which some people registered their attitudes about Joe Biden and Donald Trump.  There was much talk about age and how it affected ability to do the job.  I was struck by the absence of any facts about what the candidates have done or not done.  There was mention of both of the men visit\ting the southern border and of an immigration bill that is floating around Congress, but there was no reporting on what the bill proposed or what issues were being raised about it.

So, I turned to the Northern State University channel, and four professors were chatting on the same subject.  They were sprawled in easy chairs around a coffee table in very casual clothing.  Very casual, hell.  They looked downright unkempt.  Although that was appropriate for the level of discussion.  It seemed to have no point of examination.  It consisted of asserting some contentions, but were expressive of the attitudes of the speakers, not the characters or accomplishments or lack thereof the candidates.

We, the general public, used to refer to such exchanges as tavern talk.  But this session didn't offer the compensation of a cold beer.  It did inspire a trip to the refrigerator, however.

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