South Dakota Top Blogs

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, December 21, 2008

Here comes the revolution

Gerald Celente is a trend forecaster who is credited, largely by himself, for predicting such things as the end of the Soviet Union, the bursting of the bubble, the boom in the price of gold, the success of Starbucks, and many other booms and busts in human affairs. His latest predictions are that we are headed for a depression that will make the 1930s look like a summer camp outing. He says that this time around, there will be a social upheaval that will result in rioting and revolt. He even predicts that some states will become so incensed with the way the federal government is running things that they will secede from the union.

Celente joins that persistent chorus of voices that keeps predicting dire things for Obama. There is a stream of negative forecasting, especially among the regressives, that insists that Obama and his liberal notions will sunder the ship of state. The nature of the anti-Obama criticism--which is accumulating before he takes office and has a chance to implement his plans--makes clear that for some the first black president is not a cause for celebration. Many out there are smarting at the thought of having a you-know-what in the White House in a capacity other than butler. The real motive behind the derisive contempt expressed for Obama is clearly evident in the nature of the criticism.

However, there is a possibility for revolt that reaches far past the lingering racial resentments. Obama's efforts to civilize political dialogue through the appointment of cabinet members and officials of differing perspectives is being done at a time when corporate fascists are on a particularly damaging rampage. The real cause for potential revolt emerges from the stipulations attached to the loans to the auto companies.

The anti-union stance of the Republicans in the Senate is expressive of a class notion that is rooted deeply in the feudal past. The false information that UAW auto workers were making $73 an hour was circulated to appeal to the class rage of those who hope to identify with the fascist hierarchy. The Senate, and then Pres. Bush in stipulating the terms of the loans, insists that the workers be put on an "equity" basis with autoworkers in the foreign-owned auto factories. In other words, lump the proletariat into one big despised class. This insistence that union members have their wages and benefits stripped from them comes when the managing class in the American business world has put on a demonstration of incompetence and avarice that is the real cause of the depression we are entering. As a condition of granting the loan, the labor force will be required to have their jobs eliminated, their wages cut, and their benefits curtailed.

This demand is made at the same time that executives have collected $1.6 billion in perquisites from the $700 billion bailout fund. This kind of class-based discrimination is the stuff revolutions are made of. Elements of our government have sent a clear message that they embrace the fascist consignment of working people to an underclass whose lives are disposable while a privileged class lives high on the sacrificed lives of others.

Most people want Obama and America to succeed. But there is a virulent opposition to freedom, equality, and justice that wants to conserve only the fascist past and privilege. The question is whether they will push America's working people into a massive revolt.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The nostalgic odor of corruption

“I can smell the meat a-cookin’,” Illinois Secretary of State Paul Powell liked to say when he was working one of his political deals. When he died in 1970 , authorities found $800,000 in cash squirreled away in a shoe box in his closet. I don’t think they ever figured out exactly where the money came from, but as a journalist who worked with a corruption-fighting organization on a Paul Powell enterprise, I have a pretty good idea.

In its lip-smacking euphoria over the contemplated unspeakable acts of Rod Blagojevich, the media and its blogging parasites are recalling Illinois’ rich, as in lots of money, history of corruption. What it is ignoring are the efforts in that state to fight corruption. Before Lincoln ascended to prominence, the state maintained some of the busiest branch lines of the Underground Railroad. Its citizens fought the predations of a group of associates called the Banditti of the Prairies, which utilized the Mormon city-state of Nauvoo to peddle its stolen gains. A citizens group was formed to resist and overthrow the mob rule of the Capone era and later.

One of the corruption-fighters was a mentor of mine, George Thiem of the Chicago Daily News. An unassuming man of small physical stature, George won two Pulitzers for his investigative reporting. The first came when he and an associate from the St.Louis Post Dispatch uncovered the fact that Gov.Dwight Green was maintaining 37 newspaper editors on his payroll to write laudatory editorials about him. George won another Pulitzer when his patient, methodical searching flushed out $2.5 million from a kick-back scheme run by the Illinois state auditor. The Daily News was an early casualty of the shifting market for journalism, and ceased publication in 1978.

The Better Government Association works with members of the media to expose and correct problems it finds in Illinois. My newspaper received a call one hot July day asking if we would care to participate in an investigation of something that Paul Powell’s department seemed to be involved in.

I worked in Moline, Illinois, on the banks of the Mississippi River. At that time, two bridges crossed the Quad-Cities area between Iowa and Illinois. The Secretary of State’s office, which is in charge of regulating motor vehicles and their drivers, has its own police department to enforce the regulations. The Better Government Association had found out that Powell’s police had set up a check point in Rock Island at the foot of the bridge that came over from Davenport. They were stopping trucks that were not licensed to operate in Illinois. They would not let the trucks proceed into Illinois, but made them fill out applications on the spot and pay for the license needed for interstate commerce trucks to travel through Illinois. This practice seemed to circumvent more routine procedures for obtaining and issuing licenses, and the BGA was suspicious of it.

I spent a long hot day at the foot of the bridge with a BGA representative monitoring the business being conducted. A number of trucks did not have the required license and the drivers were filling out application forms and writing checks or paying in cash for permits that would allow them to proceed through Illinois. The transportation police were amiable and even let us sit in their air-conditioned cars, and, although the circumstance was unusual, we found nothing that was illegal.

However, we knew that the money being collected would have to be traced through to its deposit in a state account. That is where the investigation faltered. This kind of tracking of paper work was something George Thiem was an expert at doing. But by this time he had retired, had served a term in the state legislature, and was involved with a farm he owned in a neighboring county to where I lived. No journalists were available to go to Springfield and trace down the money being collected from truckers for their permits. We thought that money was not finding its way into appropriate state accounts, but we could take time off from our duties to do the necessary checking and no one else was available.

I think that at least part of the $800,000 in Paul Powell’s shoe box came from the collection for the trucking permits. In the 1990s, when George Ryan, who is a former Illinois governor now serving prison time, was secretary of state in Illinois, his office was selling driver’s licenses to truckers, rather than making them take the necessary tests to qualify.

Another man who did much to clean up and keep business clean in Illinois was the late Senator Paul Simon. He recognized the unusual talents demonstrated by Barack Obama in the state legislature and urged him to run for the U.S. Senate. Paul Simon also was a journalist who used his profession and his newspapers to make things right in Illinois.

George Thiem and Paul Simon represent the other tradition in Illinois.

Folks in South Dakota might have a tendency to feel superior, but at least Illinois has people and organizations who worked to get at the facts and hold people accountable for what they did. A few years back, South Dakota officials were putting funds from arrangements they had with bank card officials into secret accounts and would not tell the state treasurer where the money was or how much it was. When some legislators and other government officials probed into the matter, the governor got the legislature to pass a law (the infamous "gag law") that made it a crime for any state official to make public any investigations involving the state and its private dealings with corporations.

Just as we never found for sure what Paul Powell was doing with the money he was collecting, South Dakotans never found out what was in the secret banks accounts, where it came from, or what it was being used for.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Whirling around the Blago-sphere

I hate to seem unduly cynical and skeptical, but there are aspects of the Blagojevich arrest and its subsequent wetting-pants-with-delight reactions among the media that seem beyond credibility.

What sets off my poltical GPS alarm is the intensity with which Patrick J. Fitzgerald went after Blagojevich and the gingerly and gentle treatment he gave Karl Rove.

Perhaps as the case moves through the grand jury stage, we will have some insights into just how much partisan politics may be shaping this case.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

South Dakota blows off the wind

Sam Hurst makes some very shrewd points about the political climate of South Dakota. His comments regarding the state's development of energy are pertinent and prophetic:

South Dakota is perfectly positioned to lead the nation to energy independence, but will, no doubt, squander the potential and watch other states who are willing to tax for investment race past, while the legislature squabbles about taxes and...abortion.

The tough fact is that South Dakota is selling off its resources for the development of renewable energy and allowing foreign companies to reap benefits that could boost the economy of the state and give its people opportunities to create and determine their own destinies.

The state has, in fact, realized some benefits from the production of ethanol. However, ethanol is a transitional fuel. As the nation moves away from petro-power and into clean energy power, ethanol will be displaced as a major ingredient of the nation's fuel. Corn producers have realized some significant profits for the first time in decades while corn is the major commodity from which ethanol is made. But the shift from food-destined crops to fuel ingredients has caused a rise in food costs which, on top of exorbitant fuel costs, has hit the consumer hard.

For the purposes of making fuel, switch grass and other cheaper biomass crops are needed as a raw product. As the bankruptcy of Versa Sun and the shaky financial condition of other ethanol producers indicates, a cheaper commodity as the raw product is required for ethanol to be competitive. Crop producers have some tough decisions to make as to what they will grow on their farms, but for some time now it has been clear that the days of farm programs for food producers are coming to an end.

Farm subsidies have, in fact, subsidized cheap food for the consumer. Those days are probably over. Farm subsidies did slow down the integration of family farms into the corporate economic scheme, but the fact is that farming no longer operates on a free market. Through contracts and closed markets, food production has been fully absorbed into massive systems run and controlled by corporate headquarters.

Farm subsidies have also contributed to an assault on the wetlands again, as some farmers in the pothole regions have plowed them up to grow crops that are currently profitable. Agriculture is again experiencing conflicts between profit and conservation. The development of clean energy may make those additional croplands superfluous.

Farmers have missed opportunities to take advantage of opportunities to add the production of clean energy to their production systems. A few years ago, Deere and Co. announced that its financial division would make loans to farmers who wanted to construct wind generators for electricity on their farms. Deere's concept was that a farmer could have one or two generators on a farm joined to a network with neighboring farmers to supply electricity to a grid. There is opoposition in the corporate world to generators on individual farms. When a firm with plans for such a network in Dickey County, North Dakota, found it would have to observe zoning rules so that their wind generators would not interfere with other aspects of agriculture, they canceled their plan for such a network.

In South Dakota, as Sam Hurst suggests , non-corporate wind turbines were not even a consideration. While an officer of a small corporation that owns some land in the prime wind areas, I found that South Dakota indeed squanders ts opportunities to participate, let alone assume leadership, in the production of clean energy. When a few of us raised the possibility of organizing a cooperative wind turbine system, the electric cooperatives and the state immediately said the absence of transmission lines excluded that possibility. The site I was involved with was a little over a mile away from an electrical substation which could have served as a distribution connection. Farmers were not much interested, either. The prevailing mindset could not consider such a possibility. While we were trying to drum up interest, big foreign corporations came in and arranged to obtain electrical distribution facilities that state officials and electrical distribution organizations said prohibited participation in the production of electricity.

So, the major wind farms in South Dakota are being operated by for foreign corporations, not South Dakota ;businesses and individual.

Babcock and Brown, an Australian corporation is erecting a 34-turbine unit on 3,000 acres near Wessington Springs.

Acciona Wind Power in Madrid, Spain, whollly owns Tatanka Wind Power on the North and South Dakota Border. It operates 59 turbines in McPherson County, South Dakota, and 61 turbines in Dickey County, North Dakota.

Iberdola, a corporation headquartered in Bilbao, Spain, is developing 77 acres in Brookings and Deuel Counties where it will produce 306 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 148,000 homes. It has not as yet decided between putting up 204 1.5 megawatt turbines or 123 2.5 megawatt turbines.

South Dakota is rated as fourth in the nation for wind resources. It ranks 18th in the development of those resources.

South Dakota again wants to stay in previous centuries while global corporations take over its resources. It is getting late to participate in the development of 21st century energy.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

What's going on in North Dakota?

While the rest of the country sinks deeply into a recession, North Dakota has had one of its most prosperous years, according to an article in The New York Times.

  • North Dakota state government is working on how to handle $1.2 billion surplus.
  • New car sales are up 27% over last year.
  • The foreclosure rate is "miniscule."
  • Homes are making modest gains in value.
  • Unemployment is the lowest in the nation at 3.4 percent.
  • Currently 13,000 jobs in the state are unfilled.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The gas ovens of Wasilla. Or Dearborn. Wherever.

When the automobile big three were asked to come back to Congress with a plan before getting any bail out money, they did, indeed, come back with one. The individual corporate plans call for massive lay-offs, plant closings, and down-sizing. They also demanded, and got, renegotiations of union contracts.

These measures may save the automobile industry. But what happens to all the people who lose jobs and the health benefits that go with them?

Oh. They are expendable. We must save the auto industry. Not the people.

The American dream. Poverty, illness, and death are just around the corner.

We would not want to commit socialism to let a few worthless people live on. The workers of the world are still being sacrificed to save the monarchies, or those who play that role.

The fascists still are winning.

They shoot innocents, don't they?

My colleague Dr. Silas says that reading blogs for intellectual content is like going to a roadside latrine bespattered with graffiti for words of spiritual inspiration. Blogs do not strive to put forth the best that is thought and said, but quite the inverse: they revel in the mean, the petty, the carping, the uninformed. It is in that context that I came across militarism as a recommended measure for securing the world from terrorism. A writer said that the only solution to acts of terror such as in Mumbai is military and the perpetrators need to be hunted down and killed.

The writer seemed not to notice that the 10 young men who carried out this attack did not, as was also the case in 9/11, intend to survive it. When the perpetrators will be dead by their own volition, just who is left to hunt down and kill? Or is there such a thing as double-dog dead? We still have hopes of finding bin Laden, but once we start purging the support network of those who carry out the acts of terror, we run up against complications. We have held men at Gitmo whose roles in terrorist acts are dubious. We waged war on Iraq under the reasoning that we were going after terrorists who were plotting to destroy us. The WMDs were not found and were shown not to have existed, the link of Saddam Hussein with Al Qaeda was disproved, and we ended up killing 4,100 of our own troops, maiming another 26,000 and blowing billions and billions of dollars. We are still counting. Our military has paid a heavy price for a war that was contrived from a need to posture. The American people have paid heavily both in material and moral terms.

There are times when solutions to threats against us need military action. We do need to aggressively hunt out and nullify those who plan, contribute to, and support acts of terror. But when the troops are regarded as expendable pawns to be wasted on futile missions based upon someone's need for revenge against undefined targets, there is a serious betrayal of democratic principle involved. It is one thing to send troops on a mission that has a defined and understandable objective. It is another to set troops up for massacre because someone wants to bully or exact revenge from someone else. Such missions show a profound disrespect and a devaluing of the life of the troops. Fighting at the behest of war-mongering belligerents is not the same as fighting for our country.

As an old soldier, I witnessed the deep resentment that troops have when their countrymen give them patronizing pats on the ass and tell them to go be good soldier. We don't like to bring up how close the troops came to mutiny in Viet Nam when they realized they were perceived as expendable non-entities. Gen. James Jones, the National Security Adviser designate, recalls having doubts about his role as a platoon leader in Viet Nam. "Why am I doing this?" he asked himself, and considered resigning his commission. Soldiers have lives. When they fight, they fight for their lives, as well as for the good of their country. When it appears that they are being used stupidly or for the bad of the country, soldiers have doubts. They need to be assured that their commanders do not regard them as negligible expendables.

That is one of the reasons a military man with a record of critical sentience about the role of military is a huge step in the right direction with the appointment of Gen. Jim Jones as National Security Adviser. The troops will know that their value as humans will be a prime consideration in any military actions taken.

The military has found itself facing unprecedented circumstances after 9/11. We old soldiers spent much time discussing the fact that if anyone had said, before 9/11, that 20 or so men would hijack airliners and crash them into buildings, we would be reluctant to believe. As old American troopers, we could not imagine 20 of our colleagues volunteering to die in order to massacre thousands of civilians. Neither can we imagine strapping on an explosive vest and detonating it in a crowd of civilians going about their daily lives. We can imagine going on missions that had purposes of defense and security in which the likelihood of our own deaths is likely, but that is quite different than malicious suicide.

We Americans have little acquaintance with creeds that promote violence. We experienced it within the Christian community with the open warfare and terrorism between the Catholic and Protestant factions in North Ireland. Suicide, however, was not a part of that terror campaign. We find it difficult to understand the appropriation of Islam for the purposes of breeding suicide bombers. We tend to think that the Muslim religion shares our values of peace and good will. We find it incomprehensible that people are totally brain-washed into believing that they were given their bodies to sacrifice as weapons against those who believe differently than they do.

When Colin Powell addressed the accusations that Obama was a Muslim, he asked what is wrong with being a Muslim? He was addressing the conservative predilection for assuming guilt by association, that all Muslims embrace Islamic terrorism as part of their creed. In that distinction between the manipulation of young minds to become suicide killers and the promulgation of religious values to promote peace and good will is defined the real task of dealing with suicidal terrorists. To chase down and kill all those who may harbor and tolerate terrorists leads to genocide. The military can resist terrorism and protect the country from it. It cannot provide the solutions. Unless one accepts the massacre of the innocent as tit-for-tat fair play.

We cannot punish those who are already dead. We can make sure that the world knows just what goes into the creation of suicide bombers and shooters.

Carl Bernstein who along with Bob Woodward uncovered the Watergate plot has a suggestion that might be part of the solution. As he listened to the Richard Nixon tapes on MSNBC's Morning Joe in which the president listed his enemies and called for the fire-bombing of the Brookings Institute, he said we need psycho-biographers to help us understand the Nixon types and what shapes them. Boston Globe columnist Mike Barnicle added Dick Cheney's name to the list. He said former colleagues of Cheney's in Congress said the man he is now is not the one they knew. Both journalists suggested that there is something about the way we do politics that creates deformed and dangerous personalities.

When Ralph Waldo Emerson was chided for not being more activist in ridding the world of slavery, he said why should he be so concerned about what is taking place in the Barbadoes? He said it is the wood chopper in his back yard that concerns him. The idea fits the matter of terrorism. Before we go punishing people in other lands, we'd better take care of the monsters developing in our own. You want to know how to find them? Begin with the comments at South Dakota War College.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The myth of competition

A potentially more insidious bit of news than the 190 people gunned down in Mumbai and the eight gunned down in Juarez, Mexico, one of my old haunts, was the story about 64 percent of high school students saying they had cheated on tests, 36 percent said they had plagiarized from the Internet, and 30 percent said they had stolen from stores.

This information came from surveys conducted in classrooms containing 29,760 students. You have to take their answers with belts of tequila and liberal grains of salt. Kids of high school age find it hilarious to respond to intrusive questions about their personal attributes with answers designed to put the fatuously righteous into frenzies of tongue-clucking indignation. They aren't alone. When a researcher administered a questionnaire to students at a campus where I worked probing their sexual habits, they made up tales of innovation, agility, and endurance that astounded the researcher and kept the students amused for years.

The same thing happened when anthropologists interviewed Native Americans about their lifestyles. You want wildness, the Indians would say to themselves, I'll give you wildness. They were so annoyed by the persistent intrusions of one famous collector of data that they made up a myth that found itself a featured presentation at the Smithsonian. While the researcher pompously presented his findings, the Indians laughed and giggled and chortled--for generations.

So when one presumes to ask questions on a survey that probes private areas of people's lives, be aware that the respondents will give the researchers what they seem to want and then sit back and giggle at their inventions and at the dupes who so dutifully report them.

Nevertheless, the two-thirds of students who say they have cheated on tests and the the third that claims to have plagiarized off the Internet do reflect an attitude toward scholarly dishonesty, if not a true portrayal of dishonest acts committed. I have caught a majority of students in classes cheating. It takes extra work but it is not hard to devise a testing strategy that exposes the cheaters. And we used to call the research paper season the annual plagiarism festival.

Some students plagiarize because they are slovenly about the rules of documentation and paraphrase. Requiring that they submit their drafts to editing panels of their peers eliminates much of that, and computers have made such reviews a quick and efficient process. Others plagiarize with every intention of submitting someone else's work as their own. The underlying problem is that our culture demeans scholarship and intellectual integrity as the fixations of irrelevant teachers and nerds. Schooling is largely regarded as a hazing process designed to impose boredom on lively young minds. That explains why 93 percent of the students surveyed saw nothing wrong in the cheating they admitted to. It is all just a game, and the object is to see what you can get by with.

Students see examples of cheating everyday. When No Child Left Behind tests were instituted, multiple instances of cheating on the part of school administrations were uncovered. One district in Houston was even giving workshops for teachers on how to insure that the students under their charge got respectable scores. The educators feared low test scores more than being found out as cheaters.

We have adopted a simple-minded dogma that the world is divided into two classes: winners and losers. Nobody wants to be a loser, someone who does not rank at the top with test scores and any other enterprise that ranks humans. Gaining knowledge and working hard is for losers. Just ask any CEO involved in our economic crash. They may be incompetent, ignorant, and totally self-serving. But they are winners. And that's all that counts.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Better prospects for the economy

One of the prospects of the Obama presidency is that the nation is choosing intelligence over ignorance and stupidity. La Belle Ditz Sans Merci, the Republican vice presidential candidate, set up a striking contrast to Obama and his campaign and magnified the kind of bumbling fakery that put us in an unconscionable war that has ordered 4,100 brave and loyal troops to their deaths, that redefined "ugly American" for our international alllies, and that set the moral and intellectual conditions for the most threatening economic collapse since the Great Depression.

At least with the Obama regime, people who expect better of their government and say so will not be termed disloyal and unpatriotic. And people who expect better of our business community and say so will not be termed communist and anti-free-enterprise. And people who are smart and work hard and attain good educations and establish impressive achievements will not be dismissed as elitist. Although there are those malefactors out there who loudly protest that Obama should not consider 53 percent of the vote as a mandate, we can be assured he will not be dissuaded from carrying out the kind of thought and expression he displayed in his campaign and will work earnestly and intelligently to correct the regressive incompetence that has pushed the U.S.A. to the brink of Third World status. People who want to improve America and seek the redress of their grievances do not hate America.

We have been attacked from without by Al Qaida and Islamic extremists who do not respect equality, religious freedom, and the right to life. But we have been betrayed from within by a business community that mistakes greed for capitalism, predation for efficiency, dishonesty for business acumen, and incompetence for corporate culture. With Obama we have the prospects of a country throwing over rule by corporate fascism and re-establishing those democratic principles articulated in the Declaration of Independence.

I once covered a school board meeting where a self-important board member went on a harangue that the school district should be run like a business. The superintendent replied that the district could not afford to be so badly run. It had to establish and keep within a carefully planned budget, and was accountable to both the taxpayers who financed it and the children and parents who it served. While some people constantly harp about the efficiencies and innovations of the private sector, they neglect to mention how many businesses fail and how many businesses from Enron through Citigroup have failed their investors, their customers, and their nation. While there are scandals and failures in some public agencies, and some government bureaucracies lapse into incompetence and menace--such as the IRS did in the 1980s and early 1990s--most of them try to deliver their services with integrity and strive for efficiency. It is when they are run like businesses that they betray the public trust.

This does not mean that we are anti-business. It means we are anti-bad-business. There are corporations that offer excellent products and services and do so under a belief in corporate citizenship. When the free market works, businesses strive competitively to produce better products at better prices. This is what happened with the American automobile. The Japanese auto makers have garnered a huge share of the American market the old-fashioned way. They earned it with better engineering, more reliable motor cars, and more quality for the price. The free market worked for them and for the consumer.

The American free enterprise system has contributed immensely to the progress of our democracy. One of the things we can be thankful for this season is that prospects for returning the business community to responsible and effective free enterprise are bright.

Maybe the business community can be made trustworthy again, and free enterprise will no longer mean freedom to fleece the public.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What is there about restroom stalls in Minnesota?

First, Sen. Larry Craig got caught trying to arrange a horndog coupling at the Twin Cities International Airport. This couple got caught in the process of such an arrangement:

While the Iowa Hawkeyes were scoring at will on the field Saturday night, two fans from the Hawkeye State also were scoring elsewhere in the Metrodome.

Police say that a man and woman were "having relations" in one of the bathroom stalls as a crowd cheered them on. The man, 26 and from Linden, Iowa, and the woman 38 and from Carroll, Iowa, were cited for misdemeanor indecent conduct. He was released to his girlfriend and she to her husband, police said.

A security guard came upon the scene in the handicapped stall,
police said. Police were summoned, and they separated the two.
Both were intoxicated, said Deputy Police Chief Chuck Mine

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Expanded health care plans would include veterinary benefits for jackals

The jackals have been circling around the Obama transition process like a pack waiting for a mama water buffalo to give birth to a helpless but delectable calf. On the South Dakota blogosphere, the designation of Tom Daschle as secretary of Health and Human Services sent the jackals into a frenzy. One of those human pustules that keeps erupting in the comment section of South Dakota War College said things about Tom Daschle that are an uncanny parallel to what al-Zawahiri said about Barack Obama. There are many folks out there who have not grasped the fact that the election was a rejection of the petit-fascist meanness of mind that has been reflected in government policies and actions for the past eight years. The malevolent twithood is losing its influence on American policies.

There is a perennial puzzle in the regressive attitude toward health care that betrays the petit-fascist inclinations of their camp. Whenever universal health coverage is brought up, the camp screams socialized medicine. Their rationale is that we can't afford to provide health care for everyone. When the fact is raised that 47 million or more Americans cannot afford health insurance, it is dismissed with a shrug of the shoulders, and a hint that if those people can't take care of their own health care matters, it is their fault and something they will have to live and die with.

Their attitude strongly resonates with one of the true obsenities of history. The gas ovens of the Nazi regime were not invented for the holocaust and the killling of Jews. They were devised to take care of what Hitler called the "useless eaters." That meant the infirm, the mentally and physically disabled who required care. The Nazi cost accountants determined that they were undermining the German economy and needed to be eliminated. A "public euthanasia" program was implemented using gas ovens to eliminate these people.

While the opponents of universal health coverage have not proposed any public euthanasia programs, they are silent on just what is to happen to those who need medical treatment but do not have the means to pay for it. There is a disconcerting implication that these people will have to live with and eventually die from their diseases and infirmities.

The fact is that a huge number of people have jobs which do not offer health benefits or which do not pay enough for the workers to afford coverage. Globalization has put American workers in competition with a workforce in developing countries that get paid subsistence wages. For every car sold in America, the price includes $1,5oo per vehicle for Ford and General Motors, $450 for BMW in Germany, and $150 for Honda in Japan. As Americans have lost production jobs and taken on service jobs, they have also been disqualified from health benefits and wages with which they could purchase them. Under the Republican economic scheme, a growing portion of the work force has been determined to be disposable. The Institute of Medicine estimates that lack of health insurance results in 18,000 unnecessary deaths each year. And medical bills are the leading cause of bankruptcy in the U.S.

The most formidable opponents of health care reform are the factions for whom the status quo provides huge profits. In past efforts of reform, their profits have paid for the successful defeat of reform measures.

The Daschle-led effort to reform the health care system balance the health needs of the people with the fair compensation and reward for those who provide health care and the medicines that are part of it. He has proposed a Federal Health Board which, like the Federal Reserve Bank, will coordinate policies to enhance the functioning of the current system and encourage the work of the best medical minds in the world, America's health care researchers and practitioners. It will involve building on the current public-private mix of health care plans, but it will involve, most of all, combatting the ideological barriers to making the American standard of equality operative in the field of health care.

Daschle has a long history of working on health care issues from alchohol birth syndrome in babies to the effects of Agent Orange on our veterans. To him, the health care issue is a matter of our national security.

And that may well include rabies and distemper treatment for the jackals.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Requiem for the Fourth Estate

Much discussion is taking place in the blogosphere about the forced retirement of political reporter Terry Woster from the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. The parent company, Gannett, is cutting 10 percent of the jobs at its local newspapers because of a sharp decline in advertising revenues resulting from the economic crisis.

The most cogent comment on the demise of the news business comes from Bernie Hunhoff at South Dakota Magazine. His thoughts on the corporate media recall the reasons I ended my career as a full-time working journalist. The newspaper I worked for was owned by the two families that started the paper in the late 19th century. The editor of the newspaper was a half-owner. As happens with family-run businesses, no one in the younger generation in the families had an interest in continuing in the business. It became a point of discussion in our daily editorial meetings that the owners were looking for a buyer.

The inquiries were all coming from corporations. The younger editors began looking for jobs. Seven of us took out an ad in Editor and Publisher in hopes of finding jobs with reputable news organizations. In a short time, we all moved on, some to other papers, some to other businesses. I headed for graduate school.

The problem with corporate-owned media is the nature of corporations. Corporations are bureacracies. They operate on the same kind of self-interest that government bureaucracies do. The current economic plight of our country and the world, in fact, is the result of corporate management. Bureaucracies do not honor and reward high-mindedness. They cater to the greedy, the devious, the ill-intentioned. Their intellectual and moral guidepost is the bottom line. And so Gannett, which announced job cuts previously last summer, ordered a 10 percent staff reduction late last month. The objective is totally to carry out the management order. The quality of journalism is not a consideration.

An essential premise of corporate success is to elimininate competition and gain control of the market. Acquisition and merger produce more powerful corporations, but usually a decline in consumer choices and quality of products. The focus of operations is not the transactions at the point of sale but the bureaucratic maneuvering in the corporate headquarters. Corporations are in large part reversions to feudalism. They are obsessed with hierarchies and fealties and power and privileges. CEOs operate as dictatorial royalty with unreasonable wealth and power. Corporations are the obverse of democracy. And so when Gannett gets worried about its bottom line, the best journalists get cut. And the public is the ultimate loser.

Journalism has long departed from its function as the Fourth Estate. It is run by marketing people who try to contrive journalism as a product that must appeal to the fickle tastes of a consumer culture. Cable news channels such as CNN and MSNBC are run by people who think political wrangling sells better than straight news. The shows that are not done from an openly partisan perspective arrange confrontations between political hacks and let the bickering begin. Fox News is merely committed to disseminating the petit fascist propaganda line. And the blogosphere is a reflection of the cable news. People do not read blogs for news. They read them to have their preset notions confirmed and to find opportunity to vent malice at people with other preset convictions.

Some newspapers have managed to retain editorial accuracy and thoroughness. Others never tried. In the discussion about the media in South Dakota, the discussants seldom bring to their comments any knowledge of the purpose and practice of journalism as developed from the First Amendment and given the status of a Fourth Estate. In our Constitutional democracy, the four estates are the executive branch of government, the legislative, the judiciary, and the press. In South Dakota, the press's efforts to carry out its Fourth Estate function is sporadic at best. South Dakota newspapers are devoted to reflecting a conservative agenda, not reporting what government is doing or keeping a sharp eye out for pertinent news.

The loss of reporters such as Terry Woster is a step backward. There are a few very good reporters working in the state, but the news managers who decide what gets printed are either partisan censors or marketing bumblers. The Aberdeen American News is an example of the former. The Argus Leader is example of the latter.

While online news services and reporting are developing, and news organizations are finding ways to make them pay, blogs are not a replacement for professional news organizations. By a couple of recent counts over 24-hour periods, only about five percent of the blog posts contained any verified news. If the news was mentioned, it was as a launching pad for some blogger to twist the news into a condemnatory missile against some person or group.

Occasionally blogs do print some news. But the circumstance is like the proposition that if you put an infinite number of monkeys in an infinite room with an infinite number of typewriters, one of them would reproduce a classic novel. The blogosphere seems to be approaching infinity so an actual bit of information slips in now and then. A few bloggers do try to present opinions carefully derived from facts, but most of them are contriving and contorting facts to fit their prejudices.

A number of people who blog have questioned the purpose and wisdom of the blogosphere. Political blogs are filled with bickering, insult, libels, and falsehoods. Blogging has the aspect of drunken ranting down at the tavern, and many people prefer not to go there.

With the election of Barack Obama, there seems to be a shifting in the intellectual climate. Or it might just be fearfulness about the economic future. Possibly the audience for real news might grow and create a demand for professional journalism enough to attract advertising revenues.

More likely we'll be reading more death notices of real news organizations through cable news and blogs.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Election campaign forces invasive scrutiny

An anyone applying for a job will the Obama administration will have to reveal any statements or personal relationships that might be used to attack or embarrass the White House. The application form asks 63 questions about any possible e-mails, blog messages, internet aliases, or associations with anyone that could cause problems for the administration. One person who has vetted people for previous administrations said he is glad he is applying for a job in the Obama White House.

While digging into to personal lives and using it to embarrass and discredit political opponents has become standard operating procedure, it was elevated into a controlling practice during the presidential campaign. Obama's acquaintance with his minister, Professor Ayers, and his international relations were all used in attempts to disqualify him for the office to which he is elected. Many of the accusations were contrived, some totally false.

In order to keep his administration from being besieged and obsructed by petty slanders and false accusations, his administration is requring a level of personal disclosure that will make any person think twice about whether they want to work in public service. This is the legacy of the McCain-Palin campaign, but one that the country will have to endure as long as the mallicioius determine the nature of politics in our time.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A perspective from Brown County, S..D.

I was supposed to be blogging throughout the night, but from the moment I turned my laptop on here at the Ramkota Courtyard iln Aberdeen, people attending the Brown County Democrats election watch appropriated it to look at the election returns coming in.

First, I never thought I would see an African American elected to president in my lifetime. It is not that long ago that I had to be escorted by a guard mount on an Army base in Germany because I was labeled an n-lover and some men vowed to get me for betraying my race. The greatness of America is not in its bullying and intransigence in regard to dealing with internal and external opponents of its policies, but in the strides it makes in extending freedom, equality, and equal protection of the laws. I am happy that

I became a supporter of Obama long before he ever announced his candidacy for president. I was so because he was fully endorsed by one of the true bipartisan congressmen, the late Sen. Paul Simon from Illinois. Sen. Simon saw in Obama one of the most powerful intellects and one of the most skillful communicators to be in politics. At that time, Sen. Obama was still a legislator in the Illinois State Assembly. Genuine talent has to be recognized and supported, and that was Paul Simon's goal in Barack Obama's case.

Sen. Johnson's victory was satisfying and not totally surprising. He came close to losing an election six years ago against John Thune. Even before that election, it was clear that his engagement with the negative campaign of Thune was hurting him.

This time, he had the after-effects of a brain hemorrhage to deal with. As opponents and some members of less-than-cogent press begain to insist that he could not do the job of senator, longtime campaign strategists realized that his opponents were not defining Sen. Johnson, but were defining themselves. One of the factors that helped in the registration of new voters was the growing awareness that mean, small-minded, and ignorant people dominated South Dakota politics. All we had to do to clinch our case was refer them to comments on blogs.and the level of facts and reasoning in some of the media comments. One strategist out here in the Courtyard opened that the Rapid City Journal may have turned a fairly close election into a decisive victory. In our part of the state, the detractors made it easy to campaign for the Senator.

Sen. Johnson's heroic recovery and his constant and effective work in the Senate emphasized the scurrility and ill-motives of those who denied his accomplishment. To people who struggle witlh health issues and other debilities, Sen. Johnson is a leader of tremendous magnitude. He is a constant demonstration that people will some affllictions can still perform with great competence and effect.

As for Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, her campaign paralleled Obama's. There is simply no substitute for brains and magnanimity of spirit. Even people who do not agree with some of Rep. Herseth Sandlin's positions trust that they will be represened with great intelligence driven by a total devotion to good will and good purpose. People trust and rely on her.

As for the local races, District 2 is good hands with Sen. Jim Hundstadx, Rep. Paul Dennert, the dean of appropriations, and newly elected Elaine Elliot.

District 3 reflects the insane gerrymander contrived to preserve a Republican majority. Sen. Alan Hoerth's loss to Al Novstrup is a misfortune. While Novstrup commands a majority, the intensity of those who voted against him is not measured in the numbers. His "support" of education is contingent upon that education being confined to his regressive agenda. His detractors are not inspired by his policies but by his personal words and actions. Dennis Feickert, a longtime county commissioner, will represent the County and the Party with a deliberative integrity. The other Novstrup has been a bit of a non-entity, and the deep talents of Mark Remily have been overlooked. We hope he tries again in two years, as we do for Alan Hoerth.

Burt Ellliot, husband of Elaine, is turning his house seat over to her and is taking up a chair at the County Commission. Republican Duane Sutton will serve the Commission well, and has the respect of members of both parties.

Things happened in this election that have changed the way of doing politics in the U.S. The change had its glimmers up here in the provinces, but the standard of good will and inclusiveness is feebly grasped.

We will have much to say about the campaign as we match the statistics to the factions and demography.

On a national level, the politics of true representation and decency have had a triumph. We still have a way to go in the outer precincts.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Put Amendment H on hold, let Initiated Measure 9 pass

There should be a provision for euthanasia of corporations when they become too ill and feeble to perform their functions and when they are so diseased that they are a danger to their shareholders and customers. I say that because I have been a director and officer of a stock-held corporation whose ills are not curable and whose demise would be a benefit to humankind.

Corporations reach a point where they are the antithesis of free enterprise. People may rail against big government and its dangers, but we at least have the power of voting to change it. Recall the hearings and the reforms of the Internal Revenue Service a few years ago when it used police-state tactics to oppress and ruin taxpayers. Corporations reach a point where the motive to produce a better product or service in the marketplace is displaced by an all-consuming obsession with greed and power.

What the hell do you think is the fundamental cause of the economic plight we are presently in? Corporations need regulation. They need nuns to whack their greedy hands with rulers when they get caught trying to grope in the goody. They need proper householders to douse them with cold water when they begin humping each other on our national front lawn. This practice is also known as the merger and forced buyout. When corporations engage in such, they are not expanding and enhancing free enterprise. They are trying to restrict it and eliminate competition. That is why corporations are the worst bureaucracies that humankind can devise. They banish humankind's better angels and serve its worst demons.

I am not anti-business or anti-corporation. In fact, I am a wild advocate of free enterprise and the free market. I just acknowledge the tendency for some businesses and corporations to work for economic totalitarianism. They need rules to keep them in line with a free marketplace, and they need someone to keep an eye on them.

That brings us to proposed South Dakota Constitutional Amendment H. This amendment would repeal parts of the state Constitution that deal with the rules that govern how shareholders may cast their votes for corporate boards of directors. The repeal of this section would give state law the authority over such rules. There is a conflict between the Constitution which requires cumulative voting and a proposed state law that would give the corporate shareholders the choice of how they will cast their votes for their boards of directors. [See the ballot explanations here.]

There is really no issue at present that would affect corporations if the amendment is approved. It would remove a conflict between the Constition and the state law. The problem is in the revision of the business corporation act. It does not address other conflicts that restrict shareholders from determining the way their corporations should be governed.

I say vote no on Amendment H and do a more thorough job of addressing the conflicts and omissions in the corporate business act. Then bring up the Constitutional amendments.

As for Initiated Measure 9, I say vote yes. It gives state-level authority to prevent speculative manipulation of stocks and fraud against small investors. It requires full transactions of stock sales to be completed in three days. While there are federal laws that apply already, the application of them is spotty--as we have found in the business practices that have produced our current financial crisis.

We need rules to keep business fair and honest. And we need carefully crafted laws that facilitate honest business and protect investors and customers.

Another huge and important voice is gone

Studs Terkel died at the age of 96 Friday. A comprehensive obituary is at the Los Angeles Times.

A bibliography of his work is at the Chicago Tribune.

For those of us who grew up in and around Chicago, Studs Terkel was a mentor. His radio shows revealed and interpreted the world we were witnessing, and his giving voice to the overlooked gave us hope and courage.

There is an aspect of Stud's life that is glossed over. It is his work in television. During the early 1950s, New York was the center of the television industry, but Chicago was the creative force. Three shows come to mind from that time that are still regarded as standards of creativity, intelligence, and taste: Kukla, Fran, and Ollie; the Dave Garroway Show; and Stud's Place.

Stud's Place, featuring Stud's Terkel, was a restaurant that featured conversation, music, and pertinent musings on the affairs of the world. It reflected Terkel's truly democratic philosophy, which irritated the McCarthy right wing faction to a dangerous point. Because it openly emphasized equality and a recognition of the worth of each person as a prime ingredient in any true democracy, it was taken off the air. But at the same time, it exposed the totalitarian grip that the McCarthy faction was exerting on America.

Studs Terkel was literally the voice of America. His radio shows sang with American music. His books presented the personal histories of hundreds of Americans who gave the definition of our country, through the Depression, World War II, and daily work on their jobs.

In "Hard Times," what is now Northern State University is mentioned as a little "cold-water college." If anyone needs to be put in touch with how life is really lived in America, Studs Terkel has told the tales superbly.

Monday, October 27, 2008

A true voice is silenced

Tony Hillerman, 83, died yesterday.

A journalist turned fiction writer, Tony Hillerman wrote mystery novels featuring Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee, Navajo policemen, who never lost their sense of place or the vital drive for intellectual and spiritual sustenance that builds a sustainable culture. He took a genre much beset with hackery and feebleness of mind and literary sensibility and gave it a place among the finest works of American literature.

I keep prowling the bookstores looking for a new Hillerman book. That prowling is at an end, but the regard for a true and respectful voice will never die.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Meanwhile back at the old Alma Mater

I received my baccalaureate degree from Augustana in Rock Island, Ill., and I still think back on the convocations and the discussions they inspired among students in the Union. I get e-mails from the college and am happy that the tradition of involving the campus in examinations and analysis of what is going on about us still takes place somewhere. I am reproducing one of the recent press releases which provides as good a critique of journalism and current sources of information as any I have read of late.

Levey urges audience to demand better journalism

Rock Island, Ill. Oct. 15. Americans should demand more nuts-and-bolts journalism and less "American Idol" reporting from the national media, said veteran journalist Bob Levey, speaker at Thursday's Community Convocation Series at Augustana College.

Levey, a reporter, broadcaster and former Washington Post columnist, used the theme "Campaign Coverage 2008: Not the Media's Finest Hour." Pointing out that "it's almost over," he said reporters and editors soon will be looking back at how the campaign was covered. And what they see won't look good.

"We're going in an unhappy direction," he said.

Among the flaws he said editors should see in the coverage is "prognostication journalism," such as the October 2006 reporting that told the public Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani were shoo-ins for their party nominations. He said the trend toward personality journalism in the campaign coverage starting two years ago was the "first crack in the wall" of traditional reporting. Even serious media outlets have been infected by what he called "television values."

Looking back, he said reporters were not reporting candidates' plans and stands on the issues. Instead, they focused on topics such as Hillary Clinton's wardrobe, John Edwards' wife and her illness, and Giuliani's family problems and temper.

"Did you get the kind of coverage you deserved?" he asked the Augustana audience, adding that editors and producers think the audience won't care if the coverage is not delivered via gossip and personality.

Levey also decried the tendency of broadcasters to use talk show hosts -- whose political opinions are well-known -- as reporters, and not to let audiences know about potential conflicts of interest, such as allowing NBC's Andrea Mitchell, wife of former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, to report on economic affairs.

"The wall between straight reporting and opinion has begun to crumble," Levey said. News values are being lost in the struggle for market share, he added.

Levey also discussed the tensions produced by the pressure on media outlets to "get it out there" as fast as possible, and the difficulties reporters face in getting direct access to candidates.

"The worst thing to happen in the 2008 campaign is Sarah Palin's refusal to meet the press," he said.

For serious and thorough journalism to be revived, readers and viewers must get involved. "It needs a push back from you and it needs a push forward from us," Levey urged. "You have to demand it… and we have to find a way."

Getting information from the Internet may be one route, he said, citing as an example of a good news source. However, that outlet, like many others, falls into "horse race coverage," he added.
Another possibility, Levey said in answer to an audience question, is that philanthropic journalism could save the serious coverage, such as foreign reporting and investigation, that is increasingly threatened by the downtown in profit at large newspapers, . This could only work as long as the donors stayed in the background, he added, and did not dictate what would be covered.

evey was been on campus for several days, speaking to faculty and students and visiting classes. "You've got a wonderful school here," he told his audience.

Levey's column, "Bob Levey's Washington" appeared five days a week in The Washington Post From 1981-2004. During his 36-year career at the Post, Levey covered presidential politics, Congress, local news, features, and sports. His column won major awards from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Washington Journalism Review. He was named one of the top columnists in Washington by Washingtonian Magazine six times, and in 1999 the magazine named him "Washingtonian of the Year."

He also has had an extensive career in electronic media and has worked for seven radio stations, four TV stations, and one Internet site. "Levey Live," an hour-long chat that appeared twice each week on the Post's website, won consistently high ratings. He recently was appointed to the Hardin Chair of Excellence in Managerial Journalism at the University of Memphis, where he will teach courses in the newspaper/magazine concentration.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Check factual accuracy of debate statements here

In a tradition of journalism almost forgotten until this year, The New York Times assigned 12 of its staff members to check the accuracy of facts cited during the last debate. The Times joins fact-checking organizations which have monitored campaign statements during the year. See its analysis of last night's debate here.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hands on the tiller when they should have been on the throttle and the stick

John McCain was called an ace by some of his Navy peers. For some, it was a matter of sarcasm. He was at the controls of five aircraft that crashed or were damaged, including the fighter he was flying when shot down over Hanoi. Two of the incidents were not under his control.

The first was when he was sitting in his aircraft on a carrier deck waiting to take off. A missile from another fighter somehow was launched and hit McCain's aircraft. He exited the craft and was not injured.

The second was when he was hit by a missile over Hanoi and his craft's wing was shot off. He recalls in his autobiography that his instruments indicated a missile had locked onto his aircraft and he probably should have taken evasive action. But he was a know risk-taker and kept on course for the target he was assigned to hit.

When his craft was struck, he ejected and landed in a lake and broke a leg. He was taken prisoner and was a POW for 5 1/2 years. Americans respect and honor his service to his country and the years of torture and confinement he experienced. As one who approved of America's invasion of South Viet Nam initially, I am among those who grew dismayed and disappointed in the U.S. when it became apparent what deceptions and contrivances got us into that war, and more as the killing and ruining of the Vietnamese people mounted. However, as a veteran, I still respected and honored our troops, many of whom were draftees, because, for the most part, they did what they were ordered even at the cost of 50,000 American lives. As the fragging incidents in Viet Nam among the American troops took on the aspect of mutiny, I also understood. People lost respect for commanders who issued gratuitous orders for troops to go into battle of dubious merit and unplanned result. All the troops who served in Viet Nam were heroes, and John McCain was certainly included.

Gen. Wesley Clark was soundly castigated when, after acknowledging McCains service and record, he stated that McCain "hasn't held executive responsibility. … I don't think riding in a fighter plane and getting shot down is a qualification to be president."

Slate magazine suggested Clark's remarks were a matter of the resentments that grunts--infantry riflemen--felt toward flyboys. Clark was wounded while commanding an infantry company in Viet Nam. There is much more to the skepticism regarding flyboys as leaders and commanders. As many of McCain's peers and commanders pointed out, he was a risk-taker, often wildly heedless.

The three airplanes he crashed or damaged in non-combat situations demonstrate that point.

In 1960, McCain crash a plane into Corpus Christi Bay. The investigation into the crash said the plane crash was pilot error. McCain was flying with too little power to sustain flight for the maneuver he was making.

In 1961, McCain managed to bring a damaged aircraft in, but he left a good portion of Spain without power. He was "hot-dogging" over Spain in low maneuvers when he flew into some electrical transmission cables. The report said he landed with ten feet of cables dangling from his plane. By his own admission, it was a heedless moment.

In 1965, he used a Navy jet to fly to a Navy football game. As he returned, he said he heard an explosion and the craft lost power. McCain ejected. However, the investigators found no evidence in the wreckage to support the contention of an explosion or a loss of power.

As it does with Gen. Clark, McCain's history of sitting in planes and enduring 5 1/2 years in the Hanoi Hilton comprise honorable service, but hardly demonstrate leaderships. One can only wonder what he would do with the tiller if he were to steer the ship of state.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Media find more troubling factors in McCain's past

The McCain-Palin announcement that they are "taking the gloves off" in going after Barack Obama's character has resulted in more investigations into John McCain's past associations and activities. In the latest, MSNBC is running this story about McCain's connection with a group involved in the Iran-Contra business in the 1980s.

WASHINGTON - GOP presidential nominee John McCain has past connections to a private group that supplied aid to guerrillas seeking to overthrow the leftist government of Nicaragua in the Iran-Contra affair.

McCain's ties are facing renewed scrutiny after his campaign criticized Barack Obama for his link to a former radical who engaged in violent acts 40 years ago.

Ain't no elitist swine, lipstick or not, allowed in here

The 21st century has brought a deterioration of the English language in America. It has ushered in an Age of Illiteracy. Anyone who uses language well or reveres such usage is an elitist--that most despicable of creatures.

At one time elitist referred to a person who subscribed to the fascist-based notion that the world was divided into a superior class and a whole bunch of inferior classes, and it was an inalienable right of the superior class to rule over and determine the fate of the inferiors. In that context, the term had a huge ironic dimension in that most people who placed themselves in the elite class had little substantive reason for doing so. It conveyed that idea that some omega dogs were assuming the role of alpha dogs.

The deterioration of language is largely due to the deep, festering resentments people have toward those who possess natural attributes of talent or grace. No one is an object of such resentments more than Barack Obama.

Here is a man who is half African American, comes from a broken home, was raised by a single parent. But he is the embodiment of the American principle. He earned his way to and through Columbia Univeersity, then Harvard School of Law, and edited the law review. His success at rising from a broken family to a prestigious performance on the national stage is termed elitist.

There are, of course, racial resentments that intensify his offense. But the worst thing he is charged with is using language well.

The current issue of The New Yorker endorses Obama for president. It also confronts the deterioration and devolution of language that is apparent in our political life. The Republican party seems to have adopted a contempt for the competent use of language as a basic value of its political philosphy.

James Wood

Doesn’t this reflect a deep suspicion of language itself? It’s as if Republican practitioners saw words the way Captain Ahab saw “all visible objects”—as “pasteboard masks,” concealing acts and deeds and things—and, like Ahab, were bent on striking through those masks. The Melvillean atmosphere may not be accidental, since, beyond the familiar American anti-intellectualism—to work with words is not to work at all—there’s a residual Puritanism. The letter killeth, as St. Paul has it, but the spirit giveth life. (In that first debate, McCain twice charged his opponent with the misdeed of “parsing words.”) In this vision, there is something Pharisaical about words. They confuse, they corrupt; they get in the way of Jesus.

Sarah Palin's attraction to the Republican base is because, it seems, she epitomizes the attitude that effective use of language is an offense. George Saunders examines the case this way:

Now, let us discuss the Élites. There are two kinds of folks: Élites and Regulars. Why people love Sarah Palin is, she is a Regular. That is also why they love me. She did not go to some Élite Ivy League college, which I also did not. Her and me, actually, did not go to the very same Ivy League school. Although she is younger than me, so therefore she didn’t go there slightly earlier than I didn’t go there. But, had I been younger, we possibly could have not graduated in the exact same class. That would have been fun. Sarah Palin is hot. Hot for a politician. Or someone you just see in a store. But, happily, I did not go to college at all, having not finished high school, due to I killed a man. But had I gone to college, trust me, it would not have been some Ivy League Élite-breeding factory but, rather, a community college in danger of losing its accreditation, built right on a fault zone, riddled with asbestos, and also, the crack-addicted professors are all dyslexic.

Geroge W. Bush and Sarah Palin represent atitudes in the American psyche. The proficient use of language is suspect. It is offensive to many. The blogosphere, that region of "citizen journalism," illlustrates the attitude with abandon and abundance. Something that goes far deeper than politics is at work. Mere equality never was an acceptable eidea to some of those omega dogs. The deterioration of language is a prime symptom of something that is happening to democracy.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Palin's attacks on Obama unleash media investigations of McCain

When the McCain-Palin campaign decided (see the previous NVB post) to go after Barack Obama's character with the contention that his crossing paths with William Ayers makes him somehow a suspect in acts of American terrorism, it set up Sarah (the Bull Pit) Palin to go out and stir the pit.

Over the weekend, the media began publishing stories of its probes into John McCain's personal history and what it reveals about his character. It did not take much to find military officers who served with McCain and who cast shadows on McCain's self-promotional images of himself.

A Washington Post story takes a detailed look at McCain's first marriage to Carol Shepp McCain. According to the account, the marriage survived his five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war and an automobile accident that left Carol severely injured, but not McCain's ambitions and predilections for screwing around.

A Los Angeles Times story details McCain's career as a naval aviator. The military sources quoted state that anyone else would have been grounded, but being the admiral's son kept him flying. He crashed two airplanes he was flying.

The Rolling Stone takes an intensive look at both McCain's military career and his behavior as a prisoner of war. He earned the disdain of some of his fellow POWs.

Advisory for air travelers: the crap-flak is filling the air and flying might be dangerous.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

McCain-Palin announces character assassination campaign

The McCain-Palin campaign has announced that because it can get nowhere on the issues, it will spend the rest of the campaign assassinating Obama's character.

Here again, McCain and the regressive minions who long for totalitarian, police-state rule in the U.S. are taking the pages of Orwell's 1984 as their strategy manual in their desperate attempt to make W-style fascism the new national order. Their objective is to malign and eventually eliminate all opposition to their party line and rule. They have no compunction about altering the factual record with distortions and contrivances in order to give the "people" a motive to adopt a political philosophy of discrimination and oppression as the only expression of patriotism. We saw the technique used in the Swiftboating of John Kerry and, on the state level, in the beauty-queening of Tom Daschle by John Thune's little ministry-of-truth-style bloggers. (One of their favorite ploys was to incite proletarian jealousy by portraying Tom Daschle as living in palatial style in Washington, D.C., with a beauty queen for which he "dumped" his first wife.)

In 1984, one of the characters is a founder of "the party," Emmanuel Goldstein. As the party grew obsessed with totalitarian power, it branded Goldstein and his fellow founders as "enemies of the people" because their original political principles opposed totalitarian rule. Goldstein had written a book which contained implicit criticisms of the betrayal of those original principles and their displacement with mind-numbing slogans and lies. During Hate Week, Goldstein's picture was flashed on the television screens as the image for vilification and of the danger he posed to the totalitarian and repressive new world order. The McCain campaign plans to turn Obama into its Goldstein.

Brain-washed bloggers have been doing ministry-of-truth type denials and manufacturing of facts since Obama entered the presidential picture. They are determined to portray him as a smooth talking black dude who down deep is harboring racial and political resentments he plans to unleash on whitey should he obtain the power of the presidency.

They tried to use the Obama family's membership in the church of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright as evidence of a racial radicalism fueled by "liberation theology." When Wright said goddamn America for its history of slavery and racial discrimination and oppression, he was cited by the regressive goon squads as anti-patriotic and a threat. Obama, they surmised, must have sat in church and heard this view. That makes him an enemy of America.

When the Rev. Wright allulded to the Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment in his condemnations, he was fomenting racist angers, according to the Republican-regressive bloggers. Here from Tuskegee University's own web site is what the experiment involved:

For forty years between 1932 and 1972, the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) conducted an experiment on 399 black men in the late stages of syphilis. These men, for the most part illiterate sharecroppers from one of the poorest counties in Alabama, were never told what disease they were suffering from or of its seriousness. Informed that they were being treated for “bad blood,” their doctors had no intention of curing them of syphilis at all.

The data for the experiment was to be collected from autopsies of the men, and they were thus deliberately left to degenerate under the ravages of tertiary syphilis—which can include tumors, heart disease, paralysis, blindness, insanity, and death. “As I see it,” one of the doctors involved explained, “we have no further interest in these patients until they die.”

According to the Republican Party line, when the Tuskegee Experiment is mentioned, we are to jump to our feet and sing a rousing chorus of "God Bless America." No evidence can be found that Barack Obama took such action, so he is an enemy of the state, according to the mindset that guides the McCain-Palin campaign.

One of the facts that the McCain-Palin Maligning and Brain-Washing Cell are trying to use to prove Obama's radica, anti-American agenda is his service on the Chicago Annenberg Project, which was in charge of distributing $50 million of grant money on projects to improve education in Chicago. A person who advised the project directors was Bill Ayers, a founder of the anit-Vietnam War organization, the Weather Underground. The organization planted bombs in protest to the war. Ayers and his wife, Bernardine Dohrn were leaders of the organization.

Ayers is now a professor of education at the University of Illinois, Chicago Campus. He has written 40 books on education. He was utilized in this capacity by the Chicago Annenberg Project Board of Directors. He also happens to be a Hyde Park neighbor of the Obamas and has supported Obama's political campaigns. The McCain-Palin campaign is trying to inflate this into evidence that Obama is plotting a radical racial agenda for America. The New York Times, that medium of racial radicalism, has a comprehensive story on this episode in Obama's career.

McCain-Palin campaign is running television ads of the Emmanuel Goldstein kind showing images of Obama and Ayers as co-conspiring enemies of the state.

Let us now remember slavery, racial oppression, lynchings, the massacre at Wounded Knee, and the 4,100 dead soldiers in Iraq, and rise to our feet as the McCain-Palin campaign begins its Hate Month, and let us shatter the eardrums of the world with our chorus of "God Bless America. "

Friday, October 3, 2008

Smarmy doesn't work

Cable news media think that all Americans are suffering from terminal media mind. When it comes to talk of who has brains, cable news makes a constant self-admission that it doesn't.

In all the talk over who "won" the vice-presidential debate, the cable news yammer squad has posited that Sarah Palin wins if she just does not screw up. So, the standard is that one wins a debate if one does not implode. The wisdom is that if Palin does not screw up, she redeems her shambling and bluff performance on the recent TV interviews that have provided the hilarious moments in the election campaign. The commentators assume that a creditable debate performace will erase the memory of those revelations of an absence of knowledge.

Sarah Palin showed that she was trainable and could retrieve talking points from the campaign crib book on command. That just proves that she can do what she is told. It does not change the fact that she is a campaign gimmick who is far out of her depth.

And while the TV commentators lauded her for her folksy speech, many people who have some education and respect true knowledge and reason find smarmy references to Joe Sixpack and soccer moms an insult to the intelligence. While we might enjoy coffee with them occasionally, we don't want them at the world negotiating tables or shaping the policies of our country.

But the big factor that the media minds can't grasp is that the nature of campaigns tells us more about the qualities of candidates than their momentary performances.

Hillary Clinton at one point in her campaign decided "to go Republican." Her campaign took to maligning Obama. And many influential people--Sen. Ted Kennedy, Bill Richardson, and on and on--withdrew their support and gave it to Barack Obama. When individuals adopt character assassination as a campaign tactic, they brand themselves as power hungry to the point of being dishonest and malicious.

This happened to John McCain. After the Republican National Convention, he launched ads and made stump speeches that ranged from mean-trivial to out-and-out lies. Performance in a debate cannot erase the memory of someone who betrays the trust in his revelations of a malicious streak that calls his honesty into question.

Smarmy speech and attempts to "identify" with the ordinary folks are not the qualities we look for or need in the White House. Smarmy does not work for anyone.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Gagging on the Gag Law--IM 10

Last Friday, at the Brown County Democrat's $, 1-A-Month-Club, Aberdeen Mayor Mike Levsen and City Attorney Adam Altman spoke against Initiated Measure 10, pointing out the many flaws.

Actually, the measure grew out of a scientific experiment gone awry. The theory was that if you put an infinite number of Sarah Palins into infinity with an infinite number of keyboards, you would come up with manuscripts of every literary classic ever written. The experimenters could not come up with an infinite number of keyboards and not many Sarah Palins. The result was Initiated Measure 10 and its bluff and gibberish.

Our sights are set on something more that is needed. The South Dakota legal code is not that much more clear on open records than Initiated Measure 10. The party that has dominated the State House for so many years dribbles down its collective pants leg at the mention of truly open government. It had a chance last legislative session to improve open government laws, but the bill introduced by Sen. Nancy Turbak Berry had the effect on the dominant party of a diuretic overdose.

What South Dakota needs is laws that open all public records, with the exception of those covering proceedings that require confidentiality up to a point, such as law enforcement investigations and contract negotiations, and certain aspects of personnel records. Those latter instances need to be covered by a sunshine law which opens the proceedings up to full disclosure after a reasonable period of time, and then it needs a Freedom of Information Act to spell out the procedures through which records can be obtained and to guarantee that ALL citizens have access to them.

Such acts may be borrowed from other states, such as Illinois. And if they are borrowed, no one will accuse the drafters of plagiarism. They might be convicted on charges of democracy, however.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States