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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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Cut taxes, close the universities

Talk is going around again (actually it always is) about closing a South Dakota university.  In South Dakota, such talk will probably always go around.  A predominant part of the electorate values low taxes more than it does smart people.

In fact, in looking at the public comments in newspapers, discussion boards, and blogs,  one finds that smart people are considered the bane of existence on the plains.   During my first year of teaching at Northern State, I attended a conference of state humanities faculty and went to a  reception sponsored by the regents of the state higher education system.  A few of us faculty were chatting with a staff member who was indulging liberally in  the white wine  that was otherwise being politely dispensed and sipped,  At one point he said, "Just remember that the regents have one major objective to carry out:  to make sure no brain cells or good ideas get out of the state alive."  To those of us listening, we had no idea what inspired his warning, but just weeks later news came that he got out of the state alive.  He took a job working for the higher education system in another state.

Those words haunted me throughout the 20 years I was a professor at Northern, because so many of the policies and decisions seemed to be based upon the premise that brain cells are dangerous and smart people are a threat to the values and way of life.  Although higher education officials and politicians constantly whined and moaned about the brain drain from the state, that most bright kids went to college out-of-state and never returned and those that did attend South Dakota institutions tended to skedaddle as soon as they had a diploma in hand,  they enacted policies and practices that discouraged ambitious students and faculty from staying.   And, of course, there are few opportunities for the bright and talented. 

Northern State University has undergone one of its periodic frenzies of self-justification. It has had an economist assess how much money Northern students inject into the Aberdeen economy.  I don't know how many such studies I have witnessed.  And the local newspaper always runs a big editorial on how important NSU is to the local economy.  Of course, if NSU were closed,  Aberdeen would experience  a pronounced decline.   But the prospects raised by these periodic assessments of NSU's value to the community are always put in terms of the money the university brings to the community.
I have still to see an assessment that outlines the intellectual, cultural, and, yes, educational benefits it supplies.

When I came to Northern, I experienced genuine culture shock.  Having studied and taught on campuses in Illinois and Iowa,  I was not prepared  to encounter the anti-intellectual, anti-educational attitudes that were part of the academic environment at Northern.  Many on the faculty resented the Ph.D. and the teaching experience brought from a college that celebrated the humanities, the arts, and sciences, its faculty, and its students.  That is not to say that there were not people at Northern who  valued the academic disciplines and practiced and taught them, but they did so with constant reminders from administrators and politicians and regents that they were merely employees, and nothing more. 

Over time, as I traveled the state in various programs that are part of the faculty work,  I learned of the role that NSU--and the other institutions--play in South Dakota.  In an account of a woman who homesteaded near Pierre, became a country school teacher, and attended Northern to get her teaching credentials, she recalls how her experiences with professors and studies inspired and sustained her.  Her most thrilling memory and lasting inspiration was when she heard a nationally known opera singer perform at Northern.  ;She saw that event as transforming in that she experienced Northern as a place that sent forth beacons of possibilities and modes of life that raised people above drudgery and struggle for survival.

Northern opened pathways to knowledge and more satisfying lives to  many South Dakotans during its century-and-a decade history.  One college president, who was obsessed with image and slogans, recognized the intellectual and artistic aspects of Northern as important reasons students came there.  He saw that Northern had acted as a gateway to better lives and he made up a slogan that termed Northern "the gateway institution."  This slogan quickly drew the ire of the regents office because it suggested that Northern was a way to get the hell out of South Dakota, and many citizens took offense to the suggestion that anyone would obtain an education in order to leave the state.  The slogan was withdrawn and suppressed.

During my time at Northern, it underwent considerable retrenchment.  The curriculum experienced cutbacks.  Foreign language majors were eliminated, even though the college boasts a major in international business, for which one would assume that the study of languages and cultures is important.  Faculty and course offerings in English--my department--were cut and largely limited to the service courses in composition with a smattering of literature, the basic essentials for maintaining accreditation for the baccalaureate degree.  Throughout the 1980s, Northern supplied more teachers to South Dakota schools than any other state university, but retrenchment, faculty infighting, and some horrendous leadership diminished the education program.  My department supplied many fine and effective teachers of English.  They were heavily recruited by systems from other states, who paid considerably more than South Dakota.  Many academic programs at Northern lapsed into mediocrity and below.

The number of lectures, performing artists, conferences, and academic-related events also diminished over the years.   Northern was the headquarters for the Dakota Writing Project, a program that greatly improved the teaching and quality of writing from the grades through graduate schools.  We literally ran the project from the trunks of our cars, and we raised the funds for it through grants.  It left the campus when the college president appropriated its funds for other extension purposes.  During the time I was at Northern, we sponsored some conferences and institutes that gained national recognition, but they were conducted through the efforts of a few faculty with little administrative support or promotion, and many people on campus dismissed them because they involved the humanities and the arts and not the hard core issues of making money.

It is absurdly ironic that people in and around Northern get severe knicker knots when the possibility of closing a state campus is brought up and they have been preparing for years by reducing the curricular offerings and diminishing the programs in the humanities and arts to the point that high school counselors refer their bright and promising students to other institutions.

The outmigration of people with talent and ambition intensifies.  And organizations whose operations require people of talent and ambition take their businesses to communities that supply a vital and vibrant community for such people.

Closing a campus will save little money.  But it will satisfy the cultural need for many people who see much of academics as merely something to disparage.  It will accelerate a population shift that has been going on for a century, and parents will follow their children to more conducive places.

It's called sedition

 Pres. Obama inherited two botched wars, an economic crisis with programs put in place by the Bush administration, and crises in North Korea and the Middle East that developed under the policies of the Bush administration.  As his administration attempts to work through the problems, he is accused of violating the Constitution and leading the nation into Marxism, even though none of the actions they cite began with his administration, and none of the things that are happening violate any express provisions of the Constitution or fit any of those policies that define Marxism.  

Like Jimmy Carter, we see the accusations against Obama as hate-accusations manufactured as expressions of what is essentially racial hatred.  There is no other explanation for the stupid pretenses of the lies.

The article below appeared on Newsmax, but was quickly taken down.  But not before a number of people noticed that it was an article of outright sedition. 


Obama Risks a Domestic Military Intervention
By: John L. Perry
There is a remote, although gaining, possibility America's military will intervene as a last resort to resolve the "Obama problem." Don't dismiss it as unrealistic.

America isn't the Third World. If a military coup does occur here it will be civilized. That it has never happened doesn't mean it wont. Describing what may be afoot is not to advocate it. So, view the following through military eyes:

# Officers swear to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic." Unlike enlisted personnel, they do not swear to "obey the orders of the president of the United States."

# Top military officers can see the Constitution they are sworn to defend being trampled as American institutions and enterprises are nationalized.

# They can see that Americans are increasingly alarmed that this nation, under President Barack Obama, may not even be recognizable as America by the 2012 election, in which he will surely seek continuation in office.

# They can see that the economy -- ravaged by deficits, taxes, unemployment, and impending inflation -- is financially reliant on foreign lender governments.

# They can see this president waging undeclared war on the intelligence community, without whose rigorous and independent functions the armed services are rendered blind in an ever-more hostile world overseas and at home.

# They can see the dismantling of defenses against missiles targeted at this nation by avowed enemies, even as America's troop strength is allowed to sag.

# They can see the horror of major warfare erupting simultaneously in two, and possibly three, far-flung theaters before America can react in time.

# They can see the nation's safety and their own military establishments and honor placed in jeopardy as never before.

So, if you are one of those observant military professionals, what do you do?
Wait until this president bungles into losing the war in Afghanistan, and Pakistan's arsenal of nuclear bombs falls into the hands of militant Islam?

Wait until Israel is forced to launch air strikes on Iran's nuclear-bomb plants, and the Middle East explodes, destabilizing or subjugating the Free World?

What happens if the generals Obama sent to win the Afghan war are told by this president (who now says, "I'm not interested in victory") that they will be denied troops they must have to win? Do they follow orders they cannot carry out, consistent with their oath of duty? Do they resign en masse?
Or do they soldier on, hoping the 2010 congressional elections will reverse the situation? Do they dare gamble the national survival on such political whims?

Anyone who imagines that those thoughts are not weighing heavily on the intellect and conscience of America's military leadership is lost in a fool's fog.

Will the day come when patriotic general and flag officers sit down with the president, or with those who control him, and work out the national equivalent of a "family intervention," with some form of limited, shared responsibility?

Imagine a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution through an interim administration that would do the serious business of governing and defending the nation. Skilled, military-trained, nation-builders would replace accountability-challenged, radical-left commissars. Having bonded with his twin teleprompters, the president would be detailed for ceremonial speech-making.

Military intervention is what Obama's exponentially accelerating agenda for "fundamental change" toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America. A coup is not an ideal option, but Obama's radical ideal is not acceptable or reversible.

Unthinkable? Then think up an alternative, non-violent solution to the Obama problem. Just don't shrug and say, "We can always worry about that later."

In the 2008 election, that was the wistful, self-indulgent, indifferent reliance on abnegation of personal responsibility that has sunk the nation into this morass.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The honkey and his ho

A new movie about global pollution is titled "The Age of Stupid," but climate change is not the only topic that seems to overstimulate those who regard stupidity as a virtue.  Journalism also provokes an outpouring of ignorance, illiteracy, and the fence-post brand of cognition.

The demise of journalism and its failings  are  favorite themes on blogs.  There is no doubt that the news media performs miserably at times. It deserves a constant stream of criticism.  That is why journalism reviews were instituted, and why many newspapers have daily editorial conferences to review performance and plan future coverage and assignments.  However, the criticism coming from blogs is mixed.  Many national blogs feature commentary by established, competent journalists.  A few South Dakota blogs also feature the perspectives of journalists.  But the most vociferous  anti-journalists in the South Dakota blogosphere have never read a real book on journalism. negotiated the first chapter of a journalism text, or, apparently, been exposed to even a high school course in expository writing.  The anti-journalists know one thing for certain:  they don't like journalism, whatever it is.  They sure as hell don't practice it or any of the fundamentals of writing that make communication possible and even productive at times.

The fact is that politics has shifted from being a representative forum for identifying and resolving issues to a game of malignant character assassination.  There are people possessed of witless malevolence throughout the political spectrum, but those who call themselves conservatives have adopted the presence of malice as the essential definition of their political belief system.  As is demonstrated on the South Dakota political blogs, character assassination, gross misrepresentations, insult and abuse are the only kind of grammar that the conservative faction can command.

What is ridiculous is that bloggers, on the basis of publishing a few bits of gossip and hearsay that turn out to have some truth, claim they are making the mainstream press irrelevant.  They take up the case of young Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe who dressed up as ho and pimp, like middle-schoolers going out to trick-or-treat, and went into ACORN offices to set up a sting by saying they were asking advice on setting up a whorehouse staffed with juveniles.  They videotaped the proceedings.  The conservative movement thinks the young pair set a standard of journalism that the mainstream should either emulate or get out of the news business.  Legislators and government officials have ended any federal funding that ACORN gets.  A few of us old hands in the news business are puzzled and disturbed that the press has taken this story seriously at all. The Columbia Journalism Review has two articles covering the matter.  (Number 1; Number 2.)

First of all, most credible news agencies have policies against investigative reporters misrepresenting themselves.  Investigative reporters do on occasion get positions at organizations to learn their inside operations.  An example is a series of stories about abuses in mental institutions  by a reporter who got a job as an orderly in one.  Editors questioned whether the reporter could use information obtained by deception, but the stories were not based upon setting up phony identities and deceiving people, but were based solely on careful gathering of documentary evidence.  The ACORN stings were based totally upon a deceptive scam and no documentary evidence was gathered.

The Better Government Association in Chicago often video-tapes reporters who confront government agencies about their finances and practices, but their videos deal with documents and the gathering of  evidence that can be brought into  court.  They do not record reporters misrepresenting themselves.

The New York Times public editor explains why that newspaper treated the story as one of political dirty tricks, not as one that qualifies as valid news in terms of what it claims to have revealed.

A new movie to be released in October, titled Yes Men, features the same kind of scam when two men represent themselves as business entrepreneurs and scam executives in major corporations with outlandish schemes.  In a Washington Post op-ed piece, its makers wonder when the government will take the same reponse to big business that it did with ACORN.

As I have suggested in a previous post, there are obvious aspects of the ACORN scam that raise questions  that have not been addressed.  The impersonations of pimp and ho are so childishly outlandish that it seems ridiculous that any hip community organizers would fall for it.  As was the case with at least one of the people interviewed, it seems more likely that the ACORN people were putting on a pair of presumptuous and foolish kids.   That some politicians, officials, and journalists did not examine the actual circumstances of the videos says  more about their fearful gullibility than it does about the activities of ACORN.  And if ACORN personnel were taken in by the pair of impostors and seriously gave the advice they did, then ACORN needs to be exposed as a refuge for the terminally stupid.  But these matters need thorough investigation and fact-checking,

The O'Keefe-Giles videos are part of the "new media"  hate-based campaigns that include blogs, talk radio, and openly propagandic cable news.  Michael Gerson in a Washington Post essay puts the real significance of the new media in the perspective of journalistic purpose.

...the challenge of this technology is not merely an isolated subculture of hatred. It is a disorienting atmosphere in which information is difficult to verify or critically evaluate, the rules of discourse are unclear, and emotion -- often expressed in CAPITAL LETTERS -- is primary. User-driven content on the Internet often consists of bullying, conspiracy theories and racial prejudice. The absolute freedom of the medium paradoxically encourages authoritarian impulses to intimidate and silence others. The least responsible contributors see their darkest tendencies legitimated and reinforced, while serious voices are driven away by the general ugliness.

Whatever the method, no reputable institution should allow its publishing capacity, in print or online, to be used as the equivalent of the wall of a public bathroom stall.

The exploitation of technology by hatred will never be eliminated. But hatred must be confined to the fringes of our culture -- as the hatred of other times should have been.

No doubt, the media, particularly print journalism, is undergoing some drastic changes. American democracy may well be changing in ways that its critics have warned about since its inception.  It may sink from popular rule to mob rule and the political structure of government may no longer be able to moderate the factions of hate and violent passions.

Or maybe the general populace may awaken from its media-drowse and become hip enough again where it cannot be taken in by juveniles carrying out a parody of a honkey pimp and his ho.  The big question is if the nation can survive The Age of Stupid.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Who opposes health-care reform?

We are the only leading democracy that does not support health-care for all citizens.  The cost of our health-care systems has squeezed a significant portion of our citizens out of the system, is squeezing more out daily, and is a major contributor to family bankruptcies.  The private sector, as in finance and banking and the auto industry, is putting on conclusive demonstrations that it has neither the interest nor ability to provide essential services to the nation.  So, people turn to government as the last, best hope.

Just who is it that supports the inadequacies in health-care and resists any federal mandate for reform.

An Aberdeen hospital executive for one.  Here is what he said, as reported in the Argus Leader, at a health-care forum:

"Truthfully, I wish it would go away. I don't think politicians understand our needs in small-town South Dakota," said Kellie Ecker, marketing and public relations director for Avera St. Luke's Hospital in Aberdeen.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Rep. Herseth Sandlin says there is some relenting of Blue Dog opposition to public option

 Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post reveals in an interview with Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin that there is some shift in the Blue Dog opposition to the public option in health-care reform.

The Blue Dogs have been surveying their membership over the last several days; coalition co-chair Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) has been collecting the responses. She listed the four top priorities that have emerged: Keeping the cost under $900 billion, not moving at a faster pace than the Senate, getting a 20-year cost estimate from the Congressional Budget Office and addressing regional disparities in Medicare reimbursement rates.
So, the Huffington Post asked, the public option is not a top priority?
"Right, the group is somewhat split," she said.
That leaves the Senate and the conference committee between the two chambers as the final battlegrounds for the public option. While several Senate Democrats have said they oppose it, no Senate Democrat has yet said publicly that he or she would oppose any bill that included a public option.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was the catalyst for the Blue Dog self-reflection when she floated the idea that roughly 20 Blue Dogs could support a public option.
"There was some suggestion that there were 20," Herseth Sandlin said. "There clearly are not. From the numbers that I have seen, although not everyone has submitted the surveys, even if they had and they all said yes it wouldn't be 20. Right now it's less than a dozen."
What about a public option not tied to Medicare rates?

Read more at:

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Puttin' on the honkey

This attractive young couple put on outlandish costumes as a whore and her pimp and canvassed ACORN offices looking for some kind of scandal.  They played stereotyped roles as conceived by privileged white bourgeois children of what they think black street life is all about. 

If this pair came traipsing into  my office  I would immediately know that some kind of tomfoolery was taking place.  And if they said to me that that wanted information on how to set up a brothel featuring the services of 13-year-olds,   I would go along and tell them that they would be missing out on the marketing of perversion if they  did not not include some sheep, chickens, and a pack of dogs for servicing the right wingnut contingent of  the South Dakota blogosophere.  When people make absurd presumptions about other people based upon their own prejudiced and bigoted notions, they deserve and leave themselves open for being fooled as much as they hoped to fool someone else.  This is an old motif in English literature called "gulling the fool."

One of the ACORN women interviewed kept asking if the interview she was involved in was a trick and, deciding it was, she gave the pair ridiculous stories about murdeirng her ex-husband.  They fell for it, and it resulted in the police investigating the woman's tales and finding her ex-husband alive and in good health.  She was  carrying out an old African-American tradition of gulling the fool called "puttin' on the honkey" or jiving the fool.    In it, you tell the white man what he wants to hear to confirm  his stereotypes and the certainty of  his ignorance.  The premise is,  "You want a wild, lewd, and scandalous tale, I'll give you a wild, lewd, and scandalous tale.  Other offices threw the couple out and some called the police on them for their fraud.

Many urban legends have their origins in circumstances where some presumptuous jerk is fed a line of jive, the more preposterous the better.  As one who has worked in folklore and literature, I find it extremely difficult to think that the people who worked for ACORN were taken in for a moment by the impostors.

The most famous example of jiving the honkey occurs in Ralph Ellison's novel Invisible Man.   The episode centers around a black brothel where white folks gather to have their sexual proclivities serviced.  One black man who lives in an old cabin tells a wealthy donor to a nearby black college a tale of incest there.   The story he tells puts the wealthy old white man--who some of the brothel inmates call old monkey balls--into a fit of gasping shock, but produces a generous gift of money from him for the black man.  The story deals with how the man came to have a huge scar down the center of his face.  Living in cramped poverty, the man and his wife share a bed with their teen-age daughter.  The story has the young woman feeling some sexual inclinations during the night and in turn arouses the man who consumates those urges with the girl while sharing the bed with his wife and i;mpregnates his daughter.  In the man's version of the story, his wife hits him in the face with an ax, leaving the scar.  The man, who also sings some of the spritiual songs of his ;people, makes money going around to academic "researchers";and tellling this tale. The black college students feel shame and chagrin at the man.  Ralph Ellison  lets the circumstance stand in his novel as a portrayal of the racial attitudes that pervade the general culture. 

Putting on the honkey is a game played in Native American literature, too.  One of the early first-hand accounts of a Pueblo childhood was written at the instigation of missinoary who paid his informant by the word and stressed that he wanted all the lascivious details of an Indilan boyhood.  The informant wrote and wrote to bolster his earnings.  One of the details he includes involves fornication with a chicken.  The problem in the narrative is that episode occurs when the lad was five years old.  To alert readers the improbability was apparen;t, but many professors of anthropology put the book on their reading lists and became the object of ridicule and scorn among the Indian people whose stories they presumed to tell.

One of the more profound fooleries involved the head of the Bureau of Ethnology of the Smithsonian Institution.  He worked extensively with the Mesquakie people of Iowa, recording their ethnology and, particularly, the accounts of their sacred ceremonies.  These ceremonies are often built around a sacred pack, which is a bundle of symbolic objects which form memory devices for the performance of the ceremonies.  Michelson made himself a bit of a pest by constantly asking informants to provide him with accounts of sacred rituals that are to be performed only by designated holy men.  Finally some young ;men decided to give him what he asked for.  They gathered together some old cow bones and other bits of trash, wrapped them in a cow hide, and made up a story about them.  They dubbed it the Whie Owl Sacred Pack.  Michelson took it all down and published it the Smithsonian proceedings.  It,f course, was totally made up to show the presmptuous attitude and gullibility of the white anthropologists.

Still today, if you go to the Mesquake settlement and mention the White Owl Sacred Pack, the people will break into laughtet at the ingenious trick and what it reveals about the general culture.

ACORN, like all organizations that become large enough to become bureacraciies, may have problems.  However, it stretches credulity that people who are expeienced on-the-street organizers fell for the poses of young Hannah Giles and James O'Keefe.  In his interviews, O'Keefe has said that his motive for the "sting" was because of ACORN's vogter registration efforts which he thought led to the defeat of Republican candidates for office.  In his explanation lurks a racial motive. 

The devastating irony is that this all occurs when there is a great furor over whether or not racism is driving the hate rhetoric and demonstrations against Obama and his programs.  While the right wing almost unanimously protests that their hatred is not racially motivated and the accusations of racism are unfounded and irresponsible, they laud the crude racial stereotypes assumed my Ms. Giles and Mr. O'Keefe, and conclude that their own attitudes and notions have been confirmed.

The question is just whose racial perceptions have been confirmed?  Who really got stung?

(The journalistic implications of the deception and the coverage given it are another story.)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A question that may save health-care

By Tom Toles in the Washington Post.

It's the racism, stupid.

Most progressives do not want to believe that the U.S. has regressed to the culture that their predecessors fought against during the civil rights movement. They, and many of the regressives, like to think that the election of a black president was evidence that the country has surmounted the racial hatred that shaped so much of American history. A few of us have noted that Barack Obama's success has agitated old hatreds back into life and, even though there is some reluctance for the demonstrators to openly shout old KKK slogans, the banners they unfurl contain obvious elements of racial hatred and the mindless cant that feeds a primal need to vent a rage that resides in the reptilian cortex and vanquishes any intellect they might possess.

The distorted renditions of Obama on the posters and signs follow the pattern of crude distortions that characterized the posters used to generate hate against the Jews in Germany of the 1930s and 1940s. One has to be in the advanced stages of dementia or cultural imbecility to miss the meaning of Obama painted as The Joker in white face.

The technique is a familiar to those of us who were sent to Germany to make the transition from the occupation of the country to a protectorate of NATO. In addition to setting up a missile air defense, with careful focus on what was then East Germany, we were charged with monitoring the propaganda we encountered. The Third Reich exploited racial and political hatreds as the motive force behind its fascist agenda. Part of our job was to note any outbreaks of ethnic hatred and report it so that the intelligence services could deal with it. The G.I.s who were sent to Germany at that time received constant troop information and education on the analysis of information we came across. At that time, there were many white American troops who were not too happy at having to share equal status with their African-American fellows. We were dealing with racism both internally and externally. The desegregation of the American military was a major factor in the civil rights movement, and Dwight Eisenhower and his military staff understood its importance and implication for the United States.

The tell-tale aspect of the so-called tea parties is the angry repetition of slogans and accusations that have repeatedly been debunked as total fabrications. To anyone who has a fundamental grasp of rhetoric and the general semantics of communication, it is apparent that the subjects of health-care, big government, bail-outs (that kept the nation from total economic collapse), the birther contention, undocumented workers, are merely plain, old-fashioned racism. One poster that has a picture of Obama with the slogan "undocumented worker" had his complexion considerably darkened to make sure no one missed his African blood.

The contention that the treatment of Obama is a tit-for-tat retaliation for the opposition shown his predecessor can be made only be ignoring the essential facts that define the differences. The circumstances of George W. Bush's 2000 election made many people wary of his political machinations, but after 9/11 he received near unanimous support from Congress and the people. Distrust and contempt grew out of what he did with that support as he used 9/11 as a pretext for violating the well-established standards for preserving the civil liberties of Americans and for declaring war. When no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, no links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, and the brutalities of Abu Ghraib and the use of torture came to light, a growing number of people expressed resentment at having their trust betrayed. Obama has not betrayed anyone or committed any breaches of trust, although his detractors constantly accuse him of those acts without any credible evidence. He continued the program of bail-outs instituted by the Bush administration, but the Republicans attack them as liberal profligacy and a design to take over the total economy by big government.

The attacks on Obama began early in the transition period shortly after the election, and they have had one constant theme: who does that uppity boy think he is? They have further elaborated on the theme that you can't trust those boys because they lie, cheat, steal, and stink. The raw racism was present throughout the campaign and the transition, and became a full-fledged point of attack by the time he was inaugurated. To anyone who lived through Jim Crow with any degree of sentience and perception, the attacks on Obama were familiar.

Clarence Page has noted that the success of Obama has produced intensified attacks on Jessie Jackson, Al Sharpton, Jim Wright, Charles Rangel, and all black leaders. The attacks have not been directed at their policies but at their persons, as racial-driven attacks always are.

A number of people are finally dropping their America-is-better-than-racism blinders and looking at the real substance that comprises the attacks on Obama. Maureen Dowd has stated that Rep.Joe Wilson shouted out "You lie" when his message was clearly "You lie, boy." Wilson's past attitudes and activities provide a context for her contention.  The psychology of the attacks on Obama is further explored in the New York Times Opinionator

Susan Jacoby further examines the racist aspects of the anti-Obama attacks in the Washington Post:

No one wants to admit this--the white male talking heads on cable TV are searching for almost any explanation other than racism--because what it says about the state of our union at the moment is too disturbing. Or should I say, the state of our disunion. Racism is a very real, driving force in the dangerous belligerence that animates the spectrum of irrationality from the birthers to the gunslingers.
She points out what the attacks have done to any debate:
 The new practitioners of the paranoid style are impervious to reason and facts It is impossible to have a rational discussion about policy differences with people who run around screaming about killing Granny and calling the president a communist, a socialist, and a Nazi.
The right wing raises the objection that any criticism of Obama will be termed racist, and some of the tea-party celebrants insist that they are merely good folks out registering their dissent.

But their defenders make no effort to explain the crude and stupid name-calling, the intensely perverse false accusations and libels, or the overall belligerence and mindless rage with which the partiers conduct themselves.  On the apologist's part, there is no attempt to explain the racist imagery on the signs and in the words of the protesters.  They are in a racist rage, but do not have the courage to voice the racist basis for their opposition. 

Jimmy Carter spots the racism in the protests, and has said as much.  President Obama cannot and will not  join the talk about racism.  Confronting the racism would divert attention from  the many more vital repairs he needs to make to the country.  However, NAACP chairman Benjamin Jealous concurs with Carter.  He said,  "He is correct that the so-called tea party folks are unfortunately part of a lineage of groups that have throughout the history of our country sought to divide us,  Over the past several decades, the number of people committed to a truly multiracial society has increased and the number of people who are really committed to a vision of white supremacy and old racial hierarchy is at an all-time low, but there is a much larger ambiguous uncommitted middle, and the Republican Party's far-right-wing contingent is definitely fighting hard for those people in the middle." 

John R. Bohrer sees the hate as a more generalized characteristic of the faction that is driving Republican politics:

Think back to the fall of 2007 (even earlier than that, maybe). Hillary Clinton was the Democratic front-runner, staking out a cautious path to the White House. And what did we see on what seemed like every Republican website? Big ads for black t-shirts showing Hillary with a red slash over her neck, sandwiched between the words, "RE-DEFEAT COMMUNISM; 2008."

He points out that the putative leadership of the GOP in people like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh  is certainly  exploiting the racist elements and welcoming them into their hate brigades. 

Whatever the prime object of their hatred, these people jeopardize the quest for equality, freedom, and justice more than any outside Islamic terrorists ever could.  The spirit of Timothy McVeigh pervades their words and their actions, as is evident in the signage they display.

The White House has to take a very quiet and gentle approach to try to keep the country together.  Open confrontations with the lurking violence in the hate factions would scuttle any chance for health-care reform, plunge the nation  into depression, and generally unleash the
violence that is looking for some reasons to break out.  So, how do people of good will and good purpose react?  Take a lesson from the civil rights movement.

While the street clashes of the Movement receive much attention, little is acknowledged about the people who quietly worked through boycotts.  They would refuse to patronize any companies that sponsored people like Beck and Limbaugh on the air.  They refused to patoronize local businesses, banks, and education institutions that in any way supported he racism that oppressed so many people.  People in the North provided means for blacks in the South to buy groceries, appliances, and other necessites without having to patronize those who supported the racist regimes.

A parallel is the automobile industry.  When people found that the Japanese designed and built cars were far more economical, reliable, and affordable than American cars, they bought what was best for them and sent the Big Three to Washington to beg for money for their survival.

The best way to deao with hate is not to feed it. What you buy and who you buy it from makes the difference.  Don't confront the haters.  Just don't feed them. 

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Health-care in one sentence

Former Senators James Abourezk and George McGovern were in town Thursday night to promote the campaign of Scott Heidepriem for governor, outlining why they support him and are raising money.

The question of health-care and the absurdities raised as objections to reform came up. One of the problems is the length and complexity of the 1,300-page bill on the floor of the House. While the bill tries to be comprehensive in its provisions, the maze of cross-references allows the perfidy-and-malice squads, led by the likes of Rep. Joe Wilson, to contrive misrepresentations and false accusations for which they can create obfuscations . The bill is like a huge Rorschach blot onto which the GOP is projecting its psycho-pathologies.

George McGovern says he can reduce the bill to one sentence: Extend Medicare to all U.S. citizens. .

He answers the questions of paying for by noting that the insurance industry claims $450 a year of our health-care dollars. That same money could better spent by applying it directly to the medical care of Americans. And there is the $907 billion we have spent so far on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The opposition can find funds to support the killing and maiming but they can't afford to help 47 million Americans who can't afford health-care.

In one sentence, the issue could be solved and the debate ended. But that would deprive people of an issue on which to impose their malevolent fantasies.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Glenn Beck Proposes Cap on Nation's IQ

Speaking at a massive rally of his so-called 9/12 Project in Washington, D.C., Fox News host Glenn Beck called today for stricter limits on the nation's IQ.

"Barack Hussein Obama would like to see our country's IQ rise - just like our taxes!" Mr. Beck thundered to the raucous crowd, who stopped drooling long enough to give him an enthusiastic ovation.

The conservative host proposed capping the nation's IQ "somewhere in the low seventies" and putting tight restrictions on the number of multisyllabic words allowed in the country.

Overall, Mr. Beck seemed to revel in the turnout of his 9/12 rally, which he called "The Million Moron March."

Read all of Andy Borowitz's send-up here.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Is there a proctologist in the House?

As an ABC reporter put it, Congress tried to hold a joint session last night and a town hall broke out.

Rep. Joe Wilson's doltish "You lie!" may have stunned people who think that important business must be done in an atmosphere of decorum, but his was not the only action that invoked the boisterous rabble. Like a petulant student who is asked to listen to material above and beyond him, Rep. Eric Cantor sat through the speech furiously poking away at his Blackberry. Other members of Congress held up signs, sheaves of paper, gave out insolent shouts and guffaws, and found many ways to throw their diapers into the proceedings.

Until this year, a town hall was a forum in which citizens could address leaders and obtain information. Now, as the ABC reporter used the term, a town hall has become a verbal lynching held for the purpose of subjecting someone to insult, abuse, humiliation and to escalate verbal disorder into violence. Obama ran on the promise of change, but his opponents have interjected their own kind of change, and is a change in the language, with what town hall has come to mean as a prime example.

Congress, at least part of it, is truly representing the people. Rather than displaying qualities of leadership that evince intelligence, purposeful dialogue, and aspiring goals, they have adopted the mien of the town hall with displays of intransigence and boisterous petulance.

The U.S. has incorporated a ritual portrayed by George Orwell in 1984. Everyday, activities would stop at a certain time and people would flock in front of television screens to watch and hear someone or some group being attacked in what was called the five minutes of hate. Now people gather in front of their radios and television sets to hear and watch Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and many other "media personalities" lead them in sessions of misinformation, disinformation, and hate. They have become the putative voices and leaders of the Republican Party. Last night many in Congress fell in line and adopted their way of doing the country's business.

That segment has been celebrating the resignation of Van Jones as an adviser to the President because Jones had the temerity to reveal why so many Republicans are opposed to the health-care reform proposals. According to Jones' terminology, the only medical service they require is proctology. Some members in Congress defined themselves as qualifying for that medical attention last night.

The emissions vented in the House chambers last night occur constantly in the blogosphere, on cable television, and talk radio. It is all becoming our culture. Soon the adjourning of Congress will mean a mindless brawl.

Proctology offers no cure for what is happening to the culture. But it is the speciality best qualified to work on it.

Monday, September 7, 2009

The sickness infecting health-care: a political party defines itself

The past weeks have been a time of travel with a laptop with a failing wireless card in places with no wireless access or cell phone towers. From a wacipi at Wakpala to a former Swedish communal village at Bishop Hill in Illinois, we've been trying to cut through the fog of raging malevolence generated as health-care "debate" and look for the real issues. We found that the subtext that drives what purports to be political discourse is plain, old-fashioned hatred. When a black president was elected, many tended to think his ascension to the highest office in the land meant we had at last surmounted the racial history that motivated The Great American Holocaust. Rather, the smoldering embers of malice were re-ignited.

When a black man was invited to preside in the White House, a portion of the population took pride in its generosity at inviting a field nigger to serve in the great house. But rather than affably shuffle around answering the door, bussing the dishes, and doing what he was told to do, he actually presumed to preside. And the charges that the boy is not ready or capable of presiding and that he is motived by old field-nigger resentments pervades the conservative talk about Obama. Nothing angers those who hold to the "old values" like an "uppity nigger."

Paul Krugman euphemizes the angry health-care protests as "racial anxieties." We found that "racial resentment" is more accurate. We witnessed a man berating a Congressional staff member with the usual malicious fictions that are circulated against health-care reform. After he finished, he turned to walk away, then turned around again, approached the staff member with a thrusting finger and a flushed-face, and said, "And no black man can speak for me."

An epiphany of malice.

The question we ventured forth to have answered is "What will happen if there is no health-care reform?"

South Dakota has a population of 804,000. Of that population, 184,000 have no health-care insurance. That's 22 percent of the population. Another 340,000 are seriously under-insured. That means that their insurance coverage has caps and high deductibles so that their medical treatments take up a huge portion of their income and the insurance severely limits medical procedures covered. These people comprise 44 percent of the population. As it is now, heath-care insurance premiums and co-pays take up about 20 percent of household incomes for those who have it. The rate of those under-insured and uninsured mounts on a monthly basis as families have to make decisions about what they need to spend their income on. And the income of South Dakota families ranks at the bottom of the 50 states. That 66 percent in South Dakota who are uninsured and under-insured mounts weekly.

At a health-care forum, someone submitted a question about the 46 million of Americans who do not have health-care. The question was if the people did not have health-care insurance because they could not afford it or because they chose to indulge themselves with a new car. (The questioner seemed oblivious to the fact that American automobile manufacturers asked for bail-out money because they are broke from declining sales.) The questioner intended to convey that many of the underinsured are making irresponsible choices, but ignores the fact that we have a workforce that must have reliable trransporation to get to-and-from work and often to use cars in their work. A good car for many is a prior necessity to health-care insurance.

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo summarizes the outlook:

You 'solve' the problem of the uninsured by passing a law forcing them to buy health insurance which, by definition, most a) cannot afford or b) are gambling they won't need because they're young and healthy. Either you end up with low subsidies which still leave it onerous to buy, thus creating a lot of disgruntled people, or you get generous subsidies, which cost a lot of money.

It's sort of like reform with all the cool political downsides but none of the reform.

The anti-reform protesters obstinately refuse or are incapable of dealing with the issues current in health-care. To the question of whether reform is needed, the answers are either: no, we are happy with what we have; or, yeah but not if government takes over. They offer no viable solutions. Their objective is to destroy the president and his political party, the sick and injured be damned. They offer no options to what has been proposed that would actually make possible the expansion of health-care to those who don't have it or who have inadequate coverage.

The underlying question is, who should receive health-care> Most people believe that there is a moral and philosophical obligation to care for the sick and injured. For many it is a doctrine of their faith. But others believe that health-care should be provided for those who "earn it." That means if you earn a living on the wage scale offered in South Dakota, you probably can't afford full health-care insurance, and that means you haven't earned it. Oddly--or perhaps not--this comes from some who accuse President Obama of fascism, Naziism, and whatever nonsensical terms they can dredge out of their lexicon of hate.

Certainly, much of the vengeful scurrility comes from those who are quick to point out the invective directed toward President Bush. But we recall that most of that invective arose from evidence that the nation had been deceived about the need to wage war on Iraq, that 9/11 was used as a pretext for intruding on the communications of Americans, that in violation of the law and a long-standing American ethic torture and humiliation were practiced, and that thousands of lives were lost and billions of dollars wasted on the inept handling of a war that had no valid basis in the first place.

But the motives behind the anti-reform movement do not address the central question of what happens if no reform is passed.

We have wondered why the congressmen of both parties are treating the protests so gingerly. For some, like Sen. Grassley from Iowa, the reasons are clearly a matter of defering to what is perceived as the Republican Party base. Many Republican congressmen and women are openly pandering to the falsehoods that they think comprises grass-roots thinking. Sen. Grassley, who is one of the gang of six working on Senate proposals, may not be as perfidious as some of his fellows, but his duplicity is astounding. In a campaign letter, he asks his supporters to help him defeat Obama-care.

The protests are treated gingerly beccause they represent the Republican base. However, some prominent Republicans have taken a refutational stance to Rush Limbaugh and Glen Beck as spokesman for the party in recent days. But why have the Democrats either chosen to avoid the confrontations or responded with such caution?

An Illinois congressman offered an explanation. "We've got to keep the lid on this thing and see if the political process doesn't offer some real solutions in the end. Everybody is giving attention to the protestors, but no one is listening to those in hopes of getting some health-care coverage that has gone beyond their reach. They are the ones who are quietly and patiently waiting for what was promised in the election campaign. If they don't get it through the legislative process, they will revolt. And they won't care about political affiliations. They'll go after the system, and it may generate a crisis in government that could rival the Civil War."

Sen. Obama made his biggest strides in public support when he rejected the slash-and-burn brand of politicals in seeking the candidacy during the Democrat primary seasons and pre-convention time. He offered that same possibility of reason and conciliation during the election campaign. The Repubilcan Party has defined itself as obstructing any attempts at bi-artisan solutions and has supported the incivility. Their effort is totally toward some kind of politcal defeat of Obama and the Democrats.

So far, President Obama has given Congress the responsibilty to come up with proposals that address the uninsured and under-insured. By now he and those who elected him realize that the GOP is not interested in addressing the health-care problems. It is only interested in extracting some revenge for the election it lost. Playing to the protestors will not be tolerated as Congress reconvenes to take up reform.

With wars to resolve, the economy in a crisis, and past transgressions of decency to rectify, a failure to produce a significant health-care reform is very likely to trigger an insurrection that will make the Iraqi fight between the Sunnis and Shiites seem like a picnic in the park.

The more perceptive politicians know this. In recent weeks, the GOP has defined itself. Now is the time to see what they and the Democrats do with the definition.

To those who have no health-care or have inadeqate health-dare, it is a mater of deprivation.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Anti-health-care propaganda sends the lie detector stylus off the chart

Factcheck.Org has two major headlines leading its list of assertions made about proposed health-care legislation.

Twenty-six Lies About H.R. 3200
A notorious analysis of the House health care bill contains 48 claims. Twenty-six of them are false and the rest mostly misleading. Only four are true.


RNC’s “Bill of Rights”
Republicans' rundown is a mix of false, true and misleading claims.

Click on the headlines to read FactCheck's full analysis.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States