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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

Saturday, June 28, 2008

What the language signals

We are at the SDDP convention. Many laptops are flickering away in the room. Cedar Shores has great wifi service. Epp is across the room atwittering away. Where I come from "twitter" is used to designate the semi-covert passage of gas. Cyber space has its own twists of language, however.

The significant thing I have noted about this convention is a general impatience with tentative language. Many of the items in the platform from previous years are couched in language that is weak in its assertions. It reflects the fact that Democrats are aware of being in a one-party state and have chosen a gentle mode of language to register their concerns in deference to a majority party that treats its opposition with disdain.

The attitude is changed. First of all, there is a strong possibility that the Democrats can make big gains in the state legislature and that issues can receive a hearing rather than the usual dismissal by the Republican leadership. But most of all, the deceptions and bumbling foolery of the Bush administration has left people with little tolerance for the semi-fascist attitudes of Republicans at either the national or state level. The Democrats and disaffected independents and Republicans are very serious about restoring the integrity of our democracy.

Some platform planks are changed in their predications from "should" to "must." The language reflects an attitude that bodes ill for Republicans, even should they win. Obama is seen as a great conciliator, but his supporters are in no mood to quietly endure what W. Bush and his state-level compatriots have done to the nation. The Republican notion of politics is seen as an erosion of democratic principle. If the nation is not restored by the firm intelligence of Obama, the protests against the degradation of the democracy will not be polite and gentle.

Language is the barometer of genuine change.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Drilling for Columbine

Among the silliest things the regressives believe is that big government is bad but big corporations are good--as if corporate bureacracies are virtuous but government bureacracies are inherently evil. Regressives long for the repressions and inequities of the Dark Ages, and huge corporate bureacraces are as close as they can come to the lavish and oppressive monarchies of the time. So, they revere and cherish huge, global corporations. To them, Enron, Worldcom and the merry band in the mortgage business were just exercising the royal prerogative to be stupid, venal, and dishonest. It all has to do with the worship of power, no matter how it is exercised.

The latest act of venal worship is to propose drilling offshore and in Anwar. That would reaffirm the privilege of the big energy corporations to gain further control over our energy future. Those folks who held their secret meeting in Dick Cheney's office have not exactly expressed much concern about $4-a-gallon gasoline, nor have they offered to turn some of their obscene windfall profits into enterprises that would help the country. While sitting on millions of acres that they can drill without any special exemptions from current law, they and their regressive idolaters can only wail about be allowed to drill offshore and to stick their nasty little drilling apparati into Anwar.

One regressive member of the blogosquare accused Rep. Herseth Sandlin of being responsible for the $4 gasoline because she voted not to drill in Anwar. Such is the level of reasoning enjoyed in our neo-Dark Ages.

The last thing the progressive world needs is for global energy companies to be given more power and authority to diddle with the economy. And while a few corporations run smarmy advertising saying that they are supporting alternative forms of energy, their record of energy leadership makes such statements preposterous. Only those longing for the Middle Ages can envision energy executives as King Arthurs.

If energy policy is taken over by progressives who don't keep their heads where the sun doesn't shine, it may well be that some drilling offshore might be allowed to help the country make the transition to alternative energy forms.

But at this time, we have only the word of coal companies that coal can burn clean without causing pollution and more global warming.

We have not the foggiest about what to do with nuclear waste.

We do have great potential to put wind and solar technology to use. We could be spending money on the development of alternative energy instead of the wasteful crusade the regressive knights imagine they are waging in Iraq.

And we could embark on an energy conservation program.

But that would jeopardize the feudal lifestyle that energy executives have come to think of as an inalienable right. Come November, we'll see if the American people have the will to release themselves from corporate serfdom.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Oh, how they danced around the N-word

Nothing is more absurd than regressive commentators and bloggers who offer what they seem to think is influential commentary on the Democratic Party and its candidates. Sometimes the absurd can be very funny. But usually it is despressingly stupid.

I have refrained from commenting much on the Clinton-Obama contest because I don't think there is much that needs to be said about it. It simply needs to be accurately reported without all the conjecture and contrived accusations. In cable news and blogs, one gets all sorts of prognoses from those suffering delusions of intelligence.

Obama did not win South Dakota. He did get 45 perecent of the primary vote, which is a strong showing nevertheless. They say he has problems with attracting the non-college blue collar and the women votes.

The real problem in South Dakota is probably that he is a black man.

A few weeks before the primary, I was in a Congressional field office when a prominent man in Democratic politics burst in with a letter he'd gotten off the Internet. It was one of those letters claiming that Obama is a closet Muslim (whatever the hell that is supposed to convey) and anti-American. This letter went so far as to say that Obama is being promoted by forces that are trying to set up America for its final destruction.

Even the most casual attempts to verify the claims of this widely circulated letter quickly show it to be an absurdity. But to this former legislature, it had to be true because was right there in black and white.

A few nights before the primary, we were having dinner in restaurant where another former Democratic legislator was at a neighboring table. He was discussing the primary with his friends, and he said loudly that he could not vote for a person like Obama.

People believe whatever affirms their prejudices and their hatreds of preference. They like to hate other people. And they love to make up malevolent nonsense to justify their hatreds.

Such hatreds are bipartisan. As the saying goes, they reach across party lines.

I can understand how people might prefer another candidate to Obama based upon political stance. People can have preferences for many reasons. But when their objections take the form of personal malignity and destructive speculations and falsehood, naked racial/sexual/ethnic hatred is hard to mistake. Do these regressive bloggers and commentators really think that the whole world is a bunch of semi-literate retards who can't see through their intolerance, their prejudices, their hatreds?

God. Please send us a little more elitism. And give us the courage to call a racist a racist.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Where have all the women bloggers gone?

A contributor to the DakotaWomen web log recently announced a suspension of her contributions when the discussion of Hillary Clinton became less than civil and valuable. This resulted in the observation that so few bloggers are women and some questioning of why. The Beacon has a perspective on the matter.

When the NVB started out, it was intended to be the electronic version of the newsletter of the Brown County Democrats, which was called the Northern Valley Beacon. The print version was very expensive and required a great deal of work. We thought the web log format provided a much less expensive option and made it easier to get the work done. The contributors included three women and one man, me. The idea of using the blog format was to develop talking points that party members might find edifying and useful. We had an editorial board that critiqued items before they were posted.

Blogging is very time-consuming. One of the women found very soon that the demands of the blogging process conflicted with family and job obligations, so she withdrew from the editorial board and asked to be an occasional contributor. However, she also was perturbed by the blog that John Thune paid for against Tom Daschle and resented being identified with that kind of activity. The nature of blogs has been a constant point of concern in the NVB.

Initially. we identified the individual writers at the end of their posts. One woman member of our board. Val, is a professional writer and editor who has worked for a number of prominent publications. Another board member, Erin, had worked on a number of campaigns, was manager of a congressional campaign, and had developed a critical interest in the theory and practice of rhetoric as applied to political discourse.

For a short time. the NVB worked fairly well as a web log, although we quickly realized that it did not have anywhere near the audience penetration of the print version in getting out factual information and posing talking points.

When members of the opposition party discovered the NVB, circumstances changed drastically. Val has a very forceful and evocative writing style. Her expository writing is meticulously documented and the cases she builds are frustrating for those who prefer not to believe the facts she presents. Val's posts received some insanely vicious comments. which we deleted. However, her detractors also began telephoning her with insult and abuse. The breaking point came when one of her children answered the phone and became the target of an obscenely abusive and menacing call. At that point, most posts were made over my name. but the experience created doubts in Val about the value of blogs in political discourse. Her husband was also in the field 9f communications and believed that it would be necessary to leave South Dakota to d0 significant work in his and Val's professions. After the election of 2004, Val also wondered if South Dakota was the place she wanted to raise her children. The family decided it would be better for all to relocate and devoted their efforts to making that happen. While Val intensified her writing, her blogging posts became infrequent, but very critical of South Dakota. Eventually the family left the state, and Val said the move did wonders to improve family attitudes.

Meanwhile, Erin had to assume the major role in producing the NVB web log. I was called away to help family members during times of extended illness and provided Erin only occasional posts, although nearly all of the posts in the NVB appeared over my name. At this time, South Dakota Politics began to make malicious accusations and comments on every post on the NVB. Erin found the attention obsessively perverse. She said it was cyber stalking. Our policy was not to engage other blogs in pissing duels, but on occasion we felt it necessary to respond.

Erin decided that the blogging atmosphere was so dementedly mean that she did not want to be associated with blogging. After some intense reviewing, we decided to intensify our e-mail efforts and the use of printed materials to reach our party members. We decided to close the Northern
Valley Beacon down, which act produced some revelations of character and mentality among other bloggers.

Erin who majored in social science in college had developed an interest in the theory and practice of rhetoric. The blogging experience convinced her that there had to be a higher level of thought and expression than what could be witnessed on most blogs. She went on to graduate school to study writing and rhetoric. She used her blogging experience as the basis of a thesis paper.

After some encouragement, I revived the NVB as largely a personal commentary blog. One of the people who encouraged resumption of the NVB was hoping we could lure more women
bloggers. We could not. Most women see blogging as the province of adolescent males. Val put the matter in a way that the women we contacted agreed with. She said blogging is like trying tp play with playground bullies with pretenses toward the macho. They carp and bicker and insult and abuse and try to dominate under the delusion that they have something worth saying. Most women have grown tired of their bully games before they are out of high school, said Val, and most blog posts and comments resonate with adolescent belligerence.

This may not be a definitive reason there are so few women bloggers. I suspect Val is largely right, as I find most that blogs, except for a few national ones. devolve into indignities on the language and the intelligence. There are exceptions. but blogging has developed a culture of petty meanness that taints the whole enterprise.

Like Erin, I am convinced that better use can be made of the Internet. We are working on some different approaches.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States