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

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Obama, the great appeaser? South Dakota, the great parasite?

Storm clouds on the horizon

If you read past the main stream media's search for conflicts and scandals in the deaths of celebrities, you get past the sound and fury of the surly village churls, there are some serious political undercurrents swirling in America.

One is the apprehension of Obama supporters that he has gone back on the promises that they elected him to carry out.

Another is the growing resentment and condemnation of the agricultural lobby.

Joseph Galloway
, the military columnist for McClatchy and former senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder, has unleashed a scalding criticism on what he sees as Obama's failures to carry out the mandate that got him elected. He says there was a golden moment when Obama could have accomplished the changes he promised, but that moment has slipped away.

  • Obama has called off investigations into past government incidents and into the people and companies that brought down our economy.
  • In working on the economy, he has reached out and accommodated the very people who created the mess.
  • He promised we would never use torture as a national policy, but he has accommodated and relieved of responsibility the very people who created and used torture.
  • He promised transparency in government, but he has adopted the very Bush practices that he promised to eliminate.
Galloway sums it up:

And bit by bit the possibility of change disappeared; bit by bit the hope of a renewed and reinvigorated American democracy and way of government faded away. Those who had held a dream in their hand closed their hand and crushed the dream.

The other complaint that is brewing is against the agriculture lobby and what is seen as the gross entitlements it expects and receives.

Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein notes the stance of the agriculture lobby on the climate change bill:

But, for farmers, it wasn't enough to get a free pass on carbon emissions. They are unhappy that the effect of the caps and pollution permits will be to raise the price of their fuel, fertilizer and electricity. No matter that other Americans will suffer similar effects. In the mind of the entitled American farmer, any increase in costs or reduction in revenue -- whether from natural causes, market forces or government regulation -- must be compensated for by the government. .

In regard to assuming any responsibility for the environment, Pearlstein says,

And they demanded to be paid not just if they do these things in the future, but also if they did them last year or the year before. They demanded the payments even if they are already getting a check from the government to do the same things as part of some other conservation program. And perhaps most notably, they demanded that the job of supervising this offset program be shifted from the Environmental Protection Agency, whose focus would actually be ensuring that the reductions are real, to the Department of Agriculture, which sees its mission as preserving, protecting and defending American farm subsidies.

In regard to the vote on the bill, Pearlstein notes:

Bob Stallman, president of the American Farm Bureau Federation and the self-proclaimed "voice of agriculture," yesterday urged all House members to vote against the climate-change bill, claiming it would "result in a net economic cost to farmers with little or no environmental benefit."

The next time the world's most selfish lobby comes to Washington demanding drought relief, rvvvsomeone ought to have the good sense to tell them to go pound sand.

Pearlstein's attitude is one that is growing throughout the country. South Dakota is the focal point for some of the resentments and disapproval of government programs that subsidize agriculutre. A growing perception of the entire West River economy is of a parasite that subsists toally on government programs and is incapable of surviving on its own.

If people want the government to get out of the auto industry as fast as possible, many people think it should also get out of private agriculure just as quickly. Up to now, agriculuture has been regarded as apart from the corporate economy. It is increasingly identified as part of the corporate structure that rules America and its special privileges and exemptions can not be justified.

For Barack Obama, some serious opposition is building among his most fervent supporters.

And for South Dakota's congressional delegation, there is growing disparity between what their constituents want and what the rest of the country thinks they should have.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Who doesn't have health insurance

Factcheck. org has tackled the question about there being more that 45 million people in the U.S who do not have health care insurance. Here are the facts they came up with:

  • The Census Bureau estimates that 45.7 million lacked health insurance at any given time in 2007. But fewer lacked coverage for the full year, and more did without for one or more months during the year. All three numbers are likely to be higher for 2008 due to massive job losses.
  • Twenty-six percent of the uninsured are eligible for some form of public coverage but do not make use of it, according to The National Institute for Health Care Management Foundation. This is sometimes, but not always, a matter of choice.
  • Twenty-one percent of the uninsured are immigrants, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. But that figure includes both those who are here legally and those who are not. The number of illegal immigrants who are included in the official statistics is unknown.
  • Twenty percent of the uninsured have family incomes of greater than $75,000 per year, according to the Census Bureau. But this does not necessarily mean they have access to insurance. Even higher-income jobs don't always offer employer-sponsored insurance, and not everyone who wants private insurance is able to get it.
  • Forty percent of the uninsured are young, according to KFF. But speculation that they pass up insurance because of their good health is unjustified. KFF reports that many young people lack insurance because it's not available to them, and people who turn down available insurance tend to be in worse health, not better, according to the Institute of Medicine.
Click here to read their full analysis.
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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Solution for health care costs: buy bricks for gas ovens

The real issue with health care reform is beginning to clarify. The Democrats believe that health care is something that should be available to everybody. The Republicans believe you should get health care only if you can afford it. The Democrats seem to labor under under some Christian foolery about feeding the poor and healing the sick and that it is better to serve than to be served. The Republicans have a much more realistic view that the real satisfactions of life are found in how many people you can screw over. This principle is constantly demonstrated in their marital lives and their politics and their defense of the bankers and corporate executives whose personal screw-overs have caused the worst recession since The Depression.

The case for health care reform is that almost 50 million people are not insured. Of those who have policies, the premiums, deductibles, and co-pays are major financial burdens. The monthly premium for some family plans has reached $2,000. While the Republicans raise their hysterical cries about socialized medicine, government-run medicine, and the horrendous costs of a public option, they totally avoid addressing if something should be done about the 50 million uninsured, the burgeoning costs of health care and their effect on family budgets.

Their major argument against a public-option is that insurances companies cannot compete with it. The costs of current plans is exactly why two-thirds of the voters in America would like to see a public option or a single-payer system. Few people who have current plans are happy with them, and they are looking for a more reasonable option.

A physician who works for Microsoft has stated the case. He says that we need to face the reality that healthcare is not affordable for many people. He makes no comment on what that fact portends for the people who can't afford it or even if they should be a considearation. He makes no suggestion as to what should be their fate, but he doesn't need to. If they can't afford health care, they can damned well get sick and die.

Humankind has faced this question concerning the care of those who can't afford to care for themselves before. Hitler and his Nazi regime found a solution. A final solution. Hitler called the indigent, the halt, and lame "useless eaters." He said they contributed nothing to society and consumed its resources. So, he ran them through gas ovens. This final solution was used on the ailing before it was widely adopted as a final solution for the Jews and other minorities in concentration camps.

Zyklon-B, the gas, has undergone extensive tests on humans, has been found to end all ailments and pathologies, and has the added virtue of killing lice. What goes around comes around, and here it comes again. Although gas ovens have not been proposed as yet, neither have the opponents of reform offered any plan for health care to those who can't afford it. All the arguments against health care reform are the same arguments used in support of gas ovens as a medical option. So, you poor ladies and gentlemen who find that health care is a luxury you can't afford, this way to the gas ovens. You won't suffer and you sure as hell won't ever vote again. And take your liberalism with you.


There are examinations of the problems in health care that might be looked at. Even the Democrats and other liberals might take a look at them. And maybe even the media might take its collective head out that great dark place that is the haunt of proctologists and examine a fact or two. The
Columbia Journalism Review is running a series on health care in the hopes that reporters and others might inform and elevate the debate on health care. Even bloggers can go there and read some aspects of health care reform that are not covered.

But the Democrats equivocate and quake and the Republicans deny and obstruct. So, this way to the gas ovens, ladies and gentlemen. Care to buy a brick? With your name on it?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A memory of Ed McMahon's broken hand

Amid the idiotic partisan cacophony of a desperate GOP trying to make up faults by Obama and then castigating him for things he did not do or say, and the junior senator of South Dakota and his would-be propagandists doing the same thing, it is a relief to reflect on a man who just tried to do his job well. The death of Ed McMahon may mark the passing of a type of personality that seems in danger of extinction.

I never met Ed McMahon, but he figured in a strange episode I was somewhat involved in. It happened at just the time I was preparing to move from Illinois to South Dakota. For some years, the Quad Cities of Illinois and Iowa were struggling to hold a golf tournament. In 1975, Ed McMahon agreed to b
ecome the host of the tournament, which was at first called the Ed McMahon Jaycees Quad Cities Open. He bolstered the attendance by bringing in many of his celebrity friends and by being on hand to socialize with the spectators. He was credited with saving a struggling tournament, which is now called the John Deere Classic.

After the 1979 tournament, Ed McMahon gave up his role as host, citing many conflicting commitments with his television career. However, there is a back channel aspect to that decision. I had been one of the principals in a moonlighting organization of writers, artists, and photographers. We specialized in industrial and technical communications. We were all experienced in the news and public information businesses and we found a way to keep our hands in the business and make some extra money, as most of us were professors or news people and could use it. Two of the organization's associates who were golfing addicts were involved in promoting the tournament. They volunteered to do some of the public relations and publicity work. While I was not directly involved, I and other members helped with some routine tasks because our offices were being used to do some of the production work. We had a running conversation going over how McMahon had been enlisted to lend his name and his skills to this tournament.

His efforts attracted an audience that established the tournament and saved it from cancellation. In a community that was undergoing an economic downturn, he brought hope and interest to the tournament and helped encourage some other enterprises.
During the 1979 tournament, a strange thing happened. A meeting of our associates in the moonlighting organization was called to provide some advice on an incident. During the tournament, McMahon operated from a hospitality tent where he chatted with people at the tournament, socialized, and generated good will. While he was talking with some people, a woman came up to him and said she wanted him to meet someone. While he tried to finish the conversation he was having with other people, the woman became belligerently impatient and grabbed him by the hand to pull him away. She broke his hand.

That's what the meeting was about. The question was how in the hell to handle the public relations. McMahon had put tremendous effort into making the tournament a success for a community not known for much, and while doing what he did so well, he was mistreated by this woman. What the tournament officials were concerned about was how the incident reflected on the community and its treatment of celebrities.

They were concerned because of an incident that occured up the river in Dubuque, Iowa, two years earlier. While shooting a movie in Dubuque, Sylvester Stallone had set up an event where he would greet and meet the public. During his time in Dubuque, he was mobbed by fans, mostly teen-age girls. A woman wanted his attention to introduce him to some other people, and when she didn't get it, she punched Stallone in the face. Dubuque took a public relations drubbing from the incident. Despite efforts to point out that the incident involved one person, not the community, Dubuque got the reputation of being a rude, inhospitable, and violent town. The golf tournament officials saw that a similar reaction to the breaking of Ed McMahon's hand could color the community and jeopardize the success of the tournament.
The meeting of the publicity people produced no real strategies. The only thing to do was to focus on the golf players and the positive aspects of the tournament and minimize reference to Ed McMahon's broken hand. Ed McMahon himself took himself out of the public spotlight and was mostly concerned about getting treatment for his hand and making it back to work on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. No legal actions were pursued that I ever heard.

For the tournament officials, the first night McMahon was back on The Tonight Show was the low point. There sat Ed McMahon with his hand in a cast, and of course Johnny Carson asked him what happened. In very low key, factual terms McMahon related how his hand was broken.

As plans for the 1980 golf tournament got underway, McMahon withdrew as host. He cited too many conflicts with his work schedule as the reason, but my colleagues who had worked at the tournament thought the broken hand played an essential part in the decision. They said that McMahon appeared to lose his enthusiasm for the tournament and; although amiable and gracious, seemed reserved and withdrawn after the incident.

The tournament survived, however, and has become a successful event as the John Deere Classic under the sponsorship of Deere & Co.

And apparently the public relations managers both in Dubuque and the Quad Cities did their jobs well.. If you search the internet, you cannot find mention of either incident. To find the information, you have to go to the newspaper archives.

But for five years, that hand which was broken had been extended in help and good will to the people of the Quad Cities.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Phrizzing up the Ph-bomb, dummying down the gym

The charge:

Past players and parents have left the program with such a sour taste in their mouths that they have no interest in attending games anymore or if they do attend, their stomach starts to turn when they walk into the gym.

This is a medical problem. It has to do to a lot of sour mouths attached to one churning stomach. There might be a surgical procedure to correct this. Someone really ought to check.

And it might be a matter of bad dietary habits. And if the symptoms strike only when those many mouths attached to one stomach enter the gym, someone should see if the problem emanates from the boys' locker room because some of those nasty boys have not taken their jock straps home to be washed all year.

This was not a description of medical symptoms, however. It is the lead charge in a petition to the Aberdeen School Board to do something about the girls' basketball coach. Presumably, get her fired The Aberdeen American News made it the front page, banner headline story.

Another charge is:
F-bombs fly all the time.

The Airbus company would like to know how to get something to fly all the time, because they and Air France had a bit of a problem with a flight leaving from Brazil that took a break from flying.

I could never be a school board member. I could never sit with a straight face and a posture of concern when presented with a petition like this. The board would be presented with a petition the next week to remove a snickering, smirking, smart-assed member. Maybe that is why the Aberdeen School Board moved to review the matter in closed session under the guise that it is a personnel matter. They need a quiet place to go out of public view so they can snicker a lot.

Oh, and another charge was that after the group of parents made earlier attempts at pushing this issue:
Coaches were mocking what parents' concerns were.
Oh, ding ding. Now the whole phucking adult, literate world is mocking them.

There is good grammatical and stylistic reasons, by the way, to use the word phuck It has certain qualities that arrest the attention for many people. It is like giving a child who is trying to ignore a remonstrating parent a sharp smack on the bottom to get the attention so that they might hear what is being said. For those already paying attention, a well-placed phuck can enhance the rhythm and the emphasis of what is being conveyed. For example, it would be ineffective if the mayor of Hiroshima simply said, "What was that?" It is far more effective that he said, "What the PHUCK was that?" And that Michelangelo said, "You want WHAT painted on the PHUCKING ceiling?"

What appears to the be the case with the Aberdeen Central girls' basketball coach, who has set a record for wins and tournament play, is that when players do not perform well or otherwise phuck up, she tells them. Among some quarters, one never discourages a child by telling them that they could put in more effort and do things a bit differently. That is why there are so many phuck ups on the loose who can't spell, do math, or talk and write in complete, coherent sentences. But, my God, they sure know how to whine

A further matter the petition whined about was that the coach, who I do not know nor have seen in the act of coaching, beat the shit out of a garbage can with a sledge hammer after a game was lost. I admit I am much taken by the imagery. But all I could say, if I were a school board member, is that there goes a garbage can by the grace of God instead of your whining, cretinous daughter. The coach knows how to find harmless release from aggravation.

South Dakotans have a habit of calling any kind of petition for the redress of grievances whining. 911 caller: "Someone is breaking into my home." Operator: "Stop your phucking whining." It is important that when someone has a grievance that it should be documented with specifics and delivered in a factual, intelligent manner so that the problems, if there are any, might be corrected. There is a difference between a valid complaint and petty bitching and whining.

That petition to the Aberdeen School Board was pure, unadulterated juvenile whining. And it was stupid. You can't fix stupid. You can't satisfy stupid. But you can tell people when they are being stupid. That is an essential premise of education.

When the Aberdeen School Board gets done snickering and comes out of its executive session, it will be very interesting to learn what it tells the concerned parents.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tom Daschle and other former Senate Leaders offer health care reform

This from Roll Call, which requires a subscription to access:

Former Senate leaders Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Bob Dole (R-Kan.) and Howard Baker (R-Tenn.) on Wednesday unveiled a blueprint that includes a public plan compromise and a requirement that all Americans must purchase insurance, a plan they’d like to see their one-time colleagues take up.


Though all three men represent private-sector clients with a stake in the health care debate, they said they arrived at their ideas through negotiations with each other and based on the efforts of their two staff directors, Democrat Chris Jennings, a health care consultant who served in the Clinton administration, and Republican Mark McClellan, who served as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during the recent Bush administration.

The plan, according to its backers, would ensure health care coverage for all U.S. citizens and legal residents. It would include both individual and employer requirements. The measure would not break the bank, its crafters say, because it also calls for savings with new health care information technologies and with such things as a cap to the employer coverage income tax exclusion.

The Daschle-Dole-Baker plan includes a public plan “compromise” that would allow states the option to establish programs of their own, with technical assistance coming from the federal government. The plan would make the states compete on a “level playing field” with private industry, they said.

Washington Post columnist David Broder writes about how Daschle tried to enlist Bob Dole's help in a bi-partisan effort to come up with health care reform during the Clinton administration. With interviews of Daschle and Dole, lhe details why the effort failed. And he tells how the men came to an agreement this time around.

Farting in church and other expressions of intellect

A Jesuit priest and adjunct professor who had the office next to mine said it took only one fart in church to destroy a service for hundreds of people. He said this in the context of discussing the complexities of communication and how hard it is to establish and maintain substantial and productive dialogues among human beings. A fart can characterize an entire church service to the exclusion of whatever else was the service's purpose and content. His point was that a few molecules of odious gas can so poison the atmosphere that people lose the sense of purpose and process in what is being communicated to them. This was during the time that the protests against the war in Vietnam dominated campus activities, and it was difficult, if not impossible at times, to keep words and minds on the work at hand.

Another way of describing the problem uses metaphors from the broadcast industry. There was so much "static" that the real point and substance of communication was lost in the noise.

And so it is in the "new media" and what the Internet has brought to blogs, discussion boards, and other "interactive" sites of information and discussion. While the odious emanations may come from a very small minority of people
, the new media amplifies them into a major and often controlling emphasis in the mental atmosphere. And it is manifestly evident that one political party has devoted itself to the production and emission of foul gas that is injurious and sometimes deadly to the sensibility. During the W. Bush administration, conservatives liked to rail about "liberal hate." Any criticism of the Bush administration was labeled as hate speech. People more thorough in their reading of news who were capable of exercising some modicum of independent thought could easily see that the claims of weapons of mass destruction were contrived as a reason to go to war on Iraq. Reports coming from weapons inspectors and the foreign media made these claims suspect. Yet those who opposed the war were said to be unpatriotic and traitors to America.

When Dick Cheney went into closed door session with energy company executives to formulate energy policy, some people protested the secrecy and total absence of public information. They were dismissed as Bush haters.
Still today those who opposed torture as a tactic that will come back and bite us in the throat are dismissed as people who would sell out their country to a few paltry scruples. There was a hatred of dishonesty, of incompetence, and of a total self-serving greed that has damaged and threatened the U.S. more than any outside enemy. There was a derision of Bush's intellectual abilities and his belligerence. What was termed "Bush bashing" was the routine response to a regime that went to war as a ploy to martial an uncritical spirit of patriotism and to the realization that the public was being duped. Some of us called Bush and his supporters fascist. That is because what they did, said, and professed fit the definition of fascism as it has been established by history. They believed in pre-emptive war, torture, government by the rich, and the systematic defamation of those who might not buy into rule by intimidation.

The regressives, the champions of ignorance and mindless meanness, have filled the air with shouts of fascism, socialism, communism, and all the other names they can think of. And plain old racism keeps erupting in some of the opposition comments. Many in the regressive sector are in a furor over the fact that an "n" is in the White House, and an uppity one at that.

New York Times columnist Frank Rich notes the circumstances of the hate campaign against Obama:

What is this fury about? In his scant 145 days in office, the new president has not remotely matched the Bush record in deficit creation. Nor has he repealed the right to bear arms or exacerbated the wars he inherited. He has tried more than his predecessor ever did to reach across the aisle. But none of that seems to matter. A sizable minority of Americans is irrationally fearful of the fast-moving generational, cultural and racial turnover Obama embodies — indeed, of the 21st century itself. That minority is now getting angrier in inverse relationship to his popularity with the vast majority of the country. Change can be frightening and traumatic, especially if it’s not change you can believe in.

We don’t know whether the tiny subset of domestic terrorists in this crowd is egged on by political or media demagogues — though we do tend to assume that foreign jihadists respond like Pavlov’s dogs to the words of their most fanatical leaders and polemicists. But well before the latest murderers struck — well before another “antigovernment” Obama hater went on a cop-killing rampage in Pittsburgh in April — there have been indications that this rage could spiral out of control.

This was evident during the campaign, when hotheads greeted Obama’s name with “Treason!” and “Terrorist!” at G.O.P. rallies. At first the McCain-Palin campaign fed the anger with accusations that Obama was “palling around with terrorists.” But later John McCain thought better of it and defended his opponent’s honor to a town-hall participant who vented her fears of the Democrats’ “Arab” candidate. Although two neo-Nazi skinheads were arrested in an assassination plot against Obama two weeks before Election Day, the fever broke after McCain exercised leadership.

He notes how the hate incitements have created the circumstances in which the wingnutjobs have been moved to committing public murders.

But hyperbole from the usual suspects in the entertainment arena of TV and radio is not the whole story. What’s startling is the spillover of this poison into the conservative political establishment. Saul Anuzis, a former Michigan G.O.P. chairman who ran for the party’s national chairmanship this year, seriously suggested in April that Republicans should stop calling Obama a socialist because “it no longer has the negative connotation it had 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago.” Anuzis pushed “fascism” instead, because “everybody still thinks that’s a bad thing.” He didn’t seem to grasp that “fascism” is nonsensical as a description of the Obama administration or that there might be a risk in slurring a president with a word that most find “bad” because it evokes a mass-murderer like Hitler.

The Anuzis “fascism” solution to the Obama problem has caught fire. The president’s nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court and his speech in Cairo have only exacerbated the ugliness. The venomous personal attacks on Sotomayor have little to do with the 3,000-plus cases she’s adjudicated in nearly 17 years on the bench or her thoughts about the judgment of “a wise Latina woman.” She has been tarred as a member of “the Latino KKK” (by the former Republican presidential candidate Tom Tancredo), as well as a racist and a David Duke (by Limbaugh), and portrayed, in a bizarre two-for-one ethnic caricature, as a slant-eyed Asian on the cover of National Review. Uniting all these insults is an aggrieved note of white victimization only a shade less explicit than that in von Brunn’s white supremacist screeds.

The fact that words are expressions of intentions and have consequences has been lost on large segments within the GOP. The results of words can have effects that go far beyond a malodorous detraction in church. They can be the symptom of a deadly malignancy. The smell of rotting morality pervades the environment.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Don't take your blogs to town, son

South Dakota War College has recently demonstrated and formally announced that its author, the aptly designated PP, wants to replace Jon Lauck, now a Thune staff member, as the state's major character assassin in the blogopotty. The piddling duel has become the S. D. Republicans' strategy of choice and the verbal squirt gun is their weapon.

While Sibby quotes the mindless malice of Rush Limbaugh incessantly, PP faithfully repeats and reproduces all the petty and absurd personal attacks generated by the GOP bladder boys. When it comes to actually addressing issues, PP often makes Sibson look like an Einstein. Character assassination is the only tool he seems to grasp.

His latest effort is to malign a Flandreau Santee Sioux lawsuit effort by making personal accusations against the law firm and one of its members, Scott Heidepriem, that represent the tribe. The post is an exercise in libelous innuendo. It calls for a state Supreme Court investigation of Heidepriem and the relationship of his firm and his role as state senate minority leader. While such an investigation would involve dealing with petty and baseless innuendos and be a waste of time, we wish Heidepriem would insist that it be carried forward. However much PP may wish to malign the character of Scott Heidepriem, he hasn't reached the point where he can spell his target's name correctly.

But the real issue that is obscured by the PP being squirted on it concerns equality and fairness under the law. Tim Giago, of the new Native Sun News and the Huffington Post (as well as a columnist for McClatchy and the founder of other Indian country newspapers) puts the lawsuit issue in an accurate perspective:

Unable to create growth through economic development because of the restrictions placed upon it by the state, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe brought a lawsuit against the state to change the law that prevented them from increasing the number of slot machines they could have in their casino. For more than 19 years the FSST has had to operate their casino while restricted to only 250 slot machines. The towns and cities around Flandreau have grown rapidly during this time and, ominously, the state of Iowa is in the process of opening a competing casino just across the border from Sioux Falls, a city that is the main source of revenues for the Flandreau casino. And while growth is happening all around them, the Flandreau tribe has been handcuffed and unable to join that growth.

Giago further explains an important aspect of the lawsuit:

Let's take a closer look at this ridiculous premise. First off, the profits from the casinos operated by corporations or individuals in South Dakota go into the private pockets of those individuals or corporations. The profits from the Indian casinos go to economic development, college scholarships, schools, road and building maintenance and improvement, health care, daycare for children while their parents work, law enforcement and tribal courts.

While the blogospher is filled with much self-adulation in its criticisms of the established media, its notes and commentary about blogs is limited to petty and irrelevant matters of personal animosities and taste, rather than the perfidy and falsifications involved in the character assassinations that some bloggers think is the stuff of political discourse.

As we near the 2010 elections, we promise that dishonesty and stupidity will not go unremarked. Some politicians and their henchmen will be held to account for past transgressions as well.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The latest model in lies about healthcare is ready for your consumption

Conservatives for Patients Rights is churning out misinformation about the health care reform.
Their latest effort in a television ad says that the proposals before Congress could "crush" your health care options and drive 119 million people off of current insturance plans onto a publically financed plan. points out that those statements are not true:

That's misleading. The 119 million figure comes from an analysis of a plan that would mirror Medicare and be open to every individual and business that wanted it. But that's not the type of public plan President Obama has proposed. Nor is such a plan gaining acceptance on Capitol Hill.

The author of the study says that while some have backed the Medicare-like proposal, using the 119 million number "overstates the impact of what now is being considered."

The ad also falsely cites the New York Times as the source of a statement that what's being proposed would leave no consumer choices and "government in control of your health care." The Times didn't say that at all. The newspaper was just quoting claims made by insurance companies and members of Congress.

Read the entire analysis by clicking on this link.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The insane hatred is even scaring Fox News

See Shepard Smith on the kind of e-mail and postings you find on the South Dakota blogosphere in a most casual survey of it.

Suicide is having nothing to lose at Ft. Campbell and Standing Rock

Standing Rock Reservation

A few weeks ago, Ft. Campbell, home of the 101st Airborne Division was put on stand down, meaning that all activities were suspended, so that the post could address the epidemic suicide rate it has experienced. During this year, 14 suicides have been reported there. The commanding general exhorted the troops “Don’t take away your tomorrow."

During the same time period, the Standing Rock Reservation in South and North Dakota has experienced 16 suicides. There is no stand down at Standing Rock. The reservation is in a state of perpetual stand down.

Suicide is a continual problem at Standing Rock. In the past, it has received some open attention in the press. This latest epidemic has been suppressed. I am not supposed to say what I have been told because the authorities fear that an open discussion of the suicides will inspire copy cat incidents. However, as some church-related groups have made public pleas for prayers for the people of Standing Rock and have cited the 16 suicides as the reason, I do not think I am constrained by any confidentiality agreements.

Standing Rock has all the problems that are usually associated with poor inner city neighborhoods. A year ago, Standing Rock was one of the reservations to which the Bureau of Indian affairs sent a task force of police officers to augment the tribal and local police. The town of McLaughlin was besieged by gang and drug related crimes. The suicide epidemic is just one of the many problems that beset a demoralized people.

The suicide rate among Native Americans is double that of the general population. But among the native people, the Aberdeen area of the Indian Health Service, as shown in the accompanying chart, has the highest suicide rate in the lower 48 states. The rate is more than 19 deaths by suicide for every 100,000 people. Among the individual reservations, Standing Rock has the highest rate in the Aberdeen region. Most of the suicides are among teenagers.

Many groups and organizations are trying to work on the problems at Standing Rock. One group has established an entrepreneural center, Sitting Bull College has a number of programs that address the economic and social problems, and some church denominations have programs of varying extent and success. Tribal leaders and groups are also working to deal with the constant problems. The harsh fact is that despair has been a prominent feature of the reservation since its inception. When the Sioux bands were forced onto the reservation, under the leadership of Sitting Bull, they tried to adapt to an agricultural way of life. A series of dry years when crops failed emphasized the realization that the land in West River cannot sustain the white man's kind of agriculture. (The whites are coming to that realilzation now.) When Sitting Bull showed interest in the Ghost Dance religion of the 1890s, he was skeptical but saw that it gave his people a glimmer of hope. When the Indian agent and the Army felt that they might lose control of the people to this religious movement, they ordered the arrest of Sitting Bull, which ended in his murder. The reservation has lived under a regime of schemes that don't work and the subsequent hopelessness since that time. The white way is the way of hopelessness.

Whether on a military reservation or an Indian reservation, an epidemic of suicides is the issue of lives that have oppressive presents that bear no hope for the future. When the commander of Ft. Campbell warned his troops not to take away their tomorrows, he seemed to miss the point. People generally commit suicide when they choose not to put up with tomorrows that offer no hope. By giving up their tomorrows, there is nothing to lose and a chance that they can gain some relief from the hopeless present.

Suicide is hard for the survivors to endure. The suicides reject the world we create. And we wonder why. Rather than wonder, we should examine what suicide epidemics tell us. We won't like it, but we just might start to understand what is so terribly wrong.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


Lusty dudes.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Revoke the Emancipation Proclamation, repeal the Thirteenth Amendment

No state is more anti-labor than South Dakota. When workers in the state walk through the doors of their places of employment each day, they step back into the Middle Ages and assume the status of serfs. In the work place, they have no rights. South Dakota is an "at will" state, which means that employers can fire employees at whim and without reason. The only modifying influence on that power is federal anti-discrimination laws, which give employees some recourse if they are fired or discriminated against because of race, gender, or creed. South Dakota is a lousy place to be an employee.

Unless, an employee is a member of a union. Unions give employees a systematic way to bargain for salary and benefit improvements and to establish some basic rights in the workplace. However, in South Dakota the labor laws provide loopholes which allow employers to nullify the collective bargaining process and to dismiss contract provisions. The state upholds the serfdom of employees.

The anti-labor attitude enjoys bi-partisan support in South Dakota. Some Democrats are as anti-worker as their regressive compatriots, who long for the old plantation system of utilizing human work. But the anti-worker attitude is not fundamentally an economic matter of people looking for the cheapest possible source of labor. It is more a matter of regressive social notions which place people who do the work in a status inferior to those who presume to manage any work to be done and to dictate who can do it. The anti-worker sentiment is rooted in the old dog pack mentality through which members of the pack aspire to alpha status by sending their fellows into the omega regions. It is an attitude that reveres inequality as the path to human distinction.

When South Dakota is touted for its "business climate," in addition to paltry taxes on corporations and the lack of worker rights, the studies cite the absence of egalitarianism as a major factor. In open refutation of that silly notion enshrined in the Declaration of Independence that all people are created equal, the South Dakota attitude is that all people may be created equal, but we sure as hell don't have to keep them that way. Especially in the work place.

Nothing has aggravated the anti-worker attitude across the nation more than the proposed Employee Free Choice Act. Groups lobbying for the inferior status of workers have launched an astounding campaign of disinformation, misinformation, and outright lies about this act.

They claim that the act will take away the employees right to a secret ballot in deciding whether to unionize their workplace. The fact is that the Act would give the employees the right to decide what kind of election they can have. Now, the union election process is under the control of the employers. The EFCA would give employees the right to either indicate their willingness to unionize by signing a card or to choose an election. What rankles South Dakota is that the EFCA would give workers the right to decide their future affiliations, not leave it up to employers to stall and set up obstacles that is the historic pattern.

The South Dakota business community has launched a vigorous opposition to the EFCA. Their main argument is that it would take away workers' rights to a secret ballot, as if the South Dakota business community ever gave a rat's rinktum about workers' rights or well-being.

Their second argument is that it would be bad for business. This is based solely upon the assumption that any worker rights is considered bad for business in South Dakota.

The Rapid City Journal takes up the vapid argument in an editorial that chides Sen. Tim Johnson for saying that he will vote for cloture on the EFCA bill and send to the Senate floor for debate. As expressed in the editorial, even debate on the bill violates South Dakota sentiments. Giving workers any kind of v oice is a taboo in the plantation culure of South Dakota business. There are, of course, some businesses which show some respect and regard for their workers, but such is not the official business attitude reflected by the South Dakota chamber of commerce and its allies. Or its mouthpiece, The Rapid City Journal.

During this recession, workers have been shown a warlike opposition by the corporate fascists. While the bailouts and the stimulus package are predicated for the benefit of saving the working class from disasters, the petit-fascists yell socialism, communism, and all the epithets that have always accompanied the subjugation of the worker class by the fascisti. It remains to be seen whether the American working middle class is revived or suppressed.

In South Dakota, the message, as trumpeted by The Rapid City Journal and the regressive bloggers is clear:

South Dakota is a lousy place to be a worker.

The Emancipation Proclamation and the Thirteenth Amendment, like the EFCA, are considered a nuisance in this state. The notion of equality is just more liberal claptrap.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Accused spy is from Aberdeen

The Washington Post states that Aberdeen was the place where retired State Department official Kendall Myers became associated with his wife Gwendolyn who have been charged with spying for Cuba.

The following year [1979], Myers moved to South Dakota, apparently to teach, friends said. He lived with a woman who would soon become his second wife, Gwendolyn Trebilcock, a legislative aide for then-Sen. John Abourezk (D) in her home town of Aberdeen.

Abourezk said in an interview yesterday that he liked both of them. "She is a very good woman," he said. "And I always thought he was a decent human being."

The Myers have entered not guilty pleas to the charge.

Update note: Mrs. Myers maiden name is Steingraber. Trebilcock, a name well-known in Aberdeen, is from lher first marriage.

Dachau on a beautiful spring day

It had to have been in 1958 during the month of May. I remember driving through some Alpine meadows sparkling with spring flowers. And I remember the acrid sooty smell of the barracks buildings at Dachau that has lingered on my mind ever since.

It was a short visit, but that was sufficient. The images left a permanent stain on the memory.

I was a surface-to-air guided missile crewman and instructor stationed at a little town on the Rhine. My brief visit to Dachau was not planned. In fact, to us soldiers it was an annoyance imposed on us by the convoy commander. I was not selected to make the trip to Bavaria. The truck I was assigned was chosen. In a guided missile battery, every soldier is assigned to a truck. If it is necessary to move the missile battery, the truck will haul the missile equipment you work on. I worked in the launching control trailer, so I, along with the other launching control specialists, was assigned to maintain and operate a 5-ton truck that would pull the launching control trailer and haul one of the generators that supplied the power to the launching area. In the time I was in Germany, that trip was one of the few times we actually operated the truck. Mostly we washed and maintained the truck during the weekly motor pool duty.

On this occasion, there was some equipment stored at our post that was needed at a post in the Bavarian Alps. The truck that the launching control crew maintained was assigned to haul it. And as the trip was scheduled for a day that I was not scheduled to be on the missile equipment, I was assigned to drive the trip. There was a certain air of mystery about the trip, but it was a very low-key assignment.

A senior non-commissioned officer came to our post to supervise the loading of the equipment and rode with me to Karlsruhe where we picked up a jeep and another truck and some more personnel who were acting as guards and relief drivers.

The trip to the post in the Alps was about 300 miles, but it was an all-day affair. Driving the 5-ton trucks in the German traffic--Comrades were not known to be the best drivers in the world--required vigilance and we had to traverse some mountain roads. The NCO in charge would sometimes switch places with the relief drivers and ride in the truck cabs instead of the jeep. He was a very competent and conscientious man.

His history was similar to that of a number of the NCOs in my battery. They were World War II veterans who participated in the invasion of Germany and met and married German women during the occupation. This NCO from the headquarters spoke fluent and flawless German and knew where we were going without having to use a map. I, with a couple of years of college German, was struggling to use the language and our conversation while he was riding with me was about learning the language and the GI presence in the country.

We made it to the station where we delivered the equpment, spent the night in transient barracks, and left early the next morning for our return trip. At that time, the NCO said we would be making a short detour to Dachau. I did not understand if this detour was part of the official trip or if the NCO had some personal reason for it. While there seemed to be some official task to be completed, the NCO had also indicated that he was involved in the liberation of Dachau.

The mountains were lush and the flowers were in bloom on the drive to Dachau. When we arrived, we found that the concentration camp was being used to house refugees. However, one of the barracks buildings was being used as a memorial. The NCO told us we would find it interesting to look at the displays, which were largely a collection of photographs taken during the liberation of piles of bodies and emaciated prisoners. But what struck me and the other members of the detail was that pungent acrid, sooty smell. We wondered if we were smelling the residual smoke from the crematorium where the bodies of the dead prisoners were disposed of.

Shortly, the NCO returned from wherever he went and we got into our trucks to return to our respective posts. While the NCO was riding in the cab of my truck I mentioned that disturbing odor. He said our assumption was correct. The oily smoke of burning human flesh had penetrated the wood of the barracks and left that reminder of what took place at the concentration camp. Then he said that the horrors of what the liberating troops confronted caused overreactions in some of the them. They killed German guards after they had surrendered. The NCO commented that the violence and atrocities of the concentration camps were "a contagious cancer on the minds and morale" of all who came into contact with it. We can't let this happen ever again, he said. And said no more.

I found out later from one of my NCOs that the shooting of guards by Americans at Dachau was called the Dachau Massacre and some soldiers were cited for discipline. The number of guards killed was put at more than a hundred. When the men were brought in front of Gen. Patton, he said they were trained to kill, that's what they did, and he dismissed the charges.

Many years later, one of the medical officers who was at Dachau the day of its liberation published a book which put the number of German guards killed at 560. He claimed that more than 400 were lined up against a wall and machine-gunned down. However, an official report by an officer who commanded the liberating force disputed that number and said about 120 guards were shot.

President Obama's appearance at Buchenwald and the commemoration of D-Day recalled these events. At the time I was stationed in Germany, Buchenwald was in East Germany, behind the Iron Curtain, and it was not a place tourists could go to visit at that time. However, about a year after my visit to Dachau, it was established as an official memorial site. I often thought that the NCO who led us on the visit was somehow involved in the establishment of Dachau as a monument to what should never be allowed to happen again.

The horrors committed upon the inmates there pushed good men over the edge into hateful violence. That NCO did not say so outright, but his concerned attitude made it clear that the reactions of the G.I.s were included in what should never happen again.

I for one can still smell that sick sooty odor of death by atrocity.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A lesson on how to misquote sources and influence idiots

Fairness in Accuracy & Reporting has compiled a detailed analysis of how Sonia Sotomayor has been misquoted deliberately by her critics and carelessly by the media. Their account follows:

At this point, the confirmation battle over Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor will hinge in part on whether the media want to fact-check her critics. So far, the press is largely failing.

Right-wing critics and politicians have been circulating comments Sotomayor made in 2001 at UC Berkeley. One quote has been replayed endlessly: "I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life." (Sometimes the quote is replayed without the "I would hope that" qualifier--e.g., NBC Nightly News, 5/31/09.)

Does Sotomayor believe that Latina judges are wiser than white judges? That's what her right-wing critics want the quote to mean. Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer characterized (5/28/09) her views as "the superior wisdom she believes her Latina physiology, culture and background grant her over a white male judge." And as CNN host Lou Dobbs put it (6/1/09), "She said more often than not a Latino judge would reach a better decision than a white male." That message has been carried mostly uncritically in much of the corporate media, thanks largely to a willingness to let right-wing pundits frame the discussion--often with little in the way of rebuttal from Sotomayor's defenders.

In the May 27 Washington Post, Howard Kurtz quoted that sentence along with a Fox News host calling Sotomayor a reverse racist. On May 28, the New York Times ran a story headlined "Sotomayor's Opponents and Allies Prepare Strategies." The piece recounted the controversial sentence, followed by the reaction of Newt Gingrich--he thinks she's a racist who should withdraw her name--and Republican Sen. Orrin Hatch, who doesn't think she should withdraw, but was nonetheless troubled by some of Sotomayor's views.

But anyone who reads Sotomayor's 2001 speech can see that the prevailing media discussion is totally misleading. Her point was that people's backgrounds affect how they see the world. This would seem to be a rather uncontroversial fact of life; justices Sandra Day O'Connor and Samuel Alito made similar statements about their own backgrounds to no great controversy.

In regards to cases involving race and gender discrimination, which was the topic under discussion, Sotomayor was arguing that the experience of facing discrimination may help in judging such cases--pointing out that despite the presumption that "a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases," such wise old men as Oliver Wendell Holmes and Benjamin Cardozo "voted on cases which upheld both sex and race discrimination in our society." She added: "Let us not forget that until 1972, no Supreme Court case ever upheld the claim of a woman in a gender discrimination case."

It's not so hard to explain the context, but NBC's Meet the Press host David Gregory bungled his attempt to do so on May 31, excerpting primarily the lines from Sotomayor's address that buttress the claims of her right-wing critics, while leaving out the lines that make it clear that Sotomayor was advocating that judges strive to put aside their prejudices. His excerpt closed with this line: "Personal experiences affect the facts that judges choose to see. My hope is that I will take the good from my experiences and extrapolate them further into areas with which I am unfamiliar. I simply do not know exactly what the difference will be in my judging. But I accept there will be some based on my gender and my Latina heritage." But Gregory left out her conclusion:

I am reminded each day that I render decisions that affect people concretely and that I owe them constant and complete vigilance in checking my assumptions, presumptions and perspectives and ensuring that to the extent that my limited abilities and capabilities permit me, that I reevaluate them and change as circumstances and cases before me requires. I can and do aspire to be greater than the sum total of my experiences but I accept my limitations. I willingly accept that we who judge must not deny the differences resulting from experience and heritage but attempt, as the Supreme Court suggests, continuously to judge when those opinions, sympathies and prejudices are appropriate.

Read the entire analysis here.

Guns come to the sanctuary

The Shepardsons and Grangerfords were dedicated to killing each other. They were in a feud. They had long forgotten the reasons they killed each other, but it was what they did. They took their guns to church.

Here is how Huckleberry Finn describes the experience:

Next Sunday we all went to church, about three
mile, everybody a-horseback. The men took their
guns along, so did Buck, and kept them between their
knees or stood them handy against the wall. The
Shepherdsons done the same. It was pretty ornery
preaching -- all about brotherly love, and such-like
tiresomeness; but everybody said it was a good ser-
mon, and they all talked it over going home, and had
such a powerful lot to say about faith and good works
and free grace and preforeordestination, and I don't
know what all, that it did seem to me to be one of the
roughest Sundays I had run across yet.

In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain satirizes the customs Americans clung to from the feudal past. They include slavery and the tradition of violence. The feud was a tradition of violence. The Grangefords and Shepherdsons went to the same church, but as Twain portrays in the passage above, the teachings of the church had little influence on the cherished traditon of violence and lethal force. As demonstrated by the guns resting against the sanctuary walls or between the legs of the worshippers, the violence was with them. But they did not open fire on each other while in church.

Such was not the case Sunday in Wichita. Dr. George Tiller was killed in a church, The Reformation Lutheran Church.. A church is a sanctuary, a place of refuge, asylum, protection. But no more.

I, too, am a Lutheran of the same denomination as Dr. Tiller. I am not a very good one. I once was. I was a deacon and did all those things deacons do like usher, help dispense the sacraments, and sit on the church board, conduct adult education classes. I became a Lutheran after I attended a Lutheran College at which I later taught. The church at which I was a deacon is in the core area of Rock Island, Illinois. The neighborhood had its problems as minority populations lived there and struggled with all those things that the poor and excluded struggle with. A major project of the church was to make it a sanctuary where children could go after school, adults could go when families erupted into anger and violence, where anybody could go if they were hungry or ill and needed help. The church tried to be all those things that Jesus ordained as the principle objectives of what was to become Christianity.

I was raised in a fundamentalist church which I rejected as a young teenager. When I was a child my mother took me with her as she went about the mission of feeding the hungry and ministering to the sick. I recall an endless succession of hobos and homeless sitting on our back porch steps eating scrambled eggs and toast and bacon that my mother prepared for anyone who appeared at our door and was in need. That part of what I learned through the church seemed consistent with the teaching of Christ. But as a child I could not reconcile some prejudices and condemnations practiced by church members with what was professed as the teaching of Christ.

I found the same problem in recent times. My spouse was a staff member for Sen. Tom Daschle. When he lost the election, some people in the church we attended saw fit to make gloating comments. My wife had lost her job, and some people seemed elated. We wondered, why go to church to experience petty hatreds and expressions of ill will? We found at the same time that one of our children was experiencing a full dose of pubescent discrimination in church. She detests church.

The sanctuary had been compromised. No longer was church a place to come for peaceful contemplation of the angers that beset the world outside. The message of good will and peace was negated.

Like most people, I have grave conflicts about abortion. It has been an issue among the students when some young women found unintended, unwanted pregnancies to deal with. All the stories were sad, whether they involved abortion, giving up newborn infants to adoption, or giving up planned lives to provide for unplanned children.

One of the greatest tragedies involved with the abortion question is that churches gave up their status as sanctuaries. Instead, they became hostile camps. The words that have led to lethal force have often originated in churches. Rather than being sanctuaries of good will and peace, churches became the incubator of open hatred and violence. Words, like guns, have consequences.

There is a deadly symbolism in Dr. Tiller being shot down in the vestibule of a church. The church can no longer claim to be a sanctuary, a house of Christ. It is a place where people go for the Word. And they have received it. With lethal force.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States