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Friday, September 23, 2011

Update on the Black Hills shootings. Both "suicides by cop."

The South Dakota Attorney General released the report today on the shooting death of Cory Engen who was killed by a state trooper during a shootout in Custer.  One thing these reports do not address, largely because it is far out of the scope, is the effects of such deaths on families and friends.  But this report did reveal something that we surmised, but drew no conclusions about.  Cory had been diagnosed with post traumatic stress syndrome, apparently from experiences he had during four years in the Marines, serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan. 

[The report by the Division of Criminal Investigation may be pulled up in PDF format from this link at The Rapid City Journal.]

The most important details in the report are that Cory forced the officers to shoot him,  his own weapon was empty when he was shot, and his rampage was directed at law enforcement officers. 

Something we have known for years about the after effects of being involved in war is that extreme behavior is caused as much by the society which soldiers return to as the incidents during their service which disturbed them.  In both the cases involving death by law enforcement officers, the young shooters directed their rage at law enforcement officers, who are seen as part of the law and order in a society in which law seems arbitrary and disordered.  

There is much to learn and understand about PTSD gone violent.  

The first comment on the original version of this was left. Usually such comments are deleted because they contribute to the raging disorder that casts such a malignancy over political and social life.  It is left in place as an example to be examined, especially in the context it was made.  

Cody Engen in a photo supplied by his family
Daniel Tiger in a police mug shot

They were both 22.  They were both killed by law enforcement officers during shoot-outs. One was a native American with a deeply troubled past.  The other was a recently discharged U.S. Marine.

They were both young, very young, at a stage when most people are building their lives with hope and expectations.  These young men did not seem to have much hope and expectation.

Daniel Tiger had a court record of 14 misdemeanors and one felony. He was, according to news accounts, being considered for new charges.

On Tuesday, August 2, about 4:30 in the afternoon, Daniel Tiger was walking with some companions in a neighborhood in north Rapid City.  They apparently were carrying liquor and were drinking.  They were stopped by three police officers who talked with them in what was reported as a non-confrontational manner for about 2o minutes.  The officers did not know they were dealing with a man with a record of assault on a police officer, for which he had served time.  He would not provide them his correct identity, however.  Suddenly Tiger pulled out a .357 magnum handgun and opened fire on the police officers.  He put all three of them down, but one got off some shots from which Tiger would later die.  He killed two of the officers, and wounded the third, who is now back on duty.

Friends of Tiger say he talked about committing suicide by cop.  That is, forcing a confrontation during which police would be forced to shoot him down.  He contemplated this, according to friends, because he did not want to go back to jail, and apparently he knew more charges were being considered against him.  And up to this time, he had not lived a life which offered much hope or better expectations. 

Cody Engen had quite a different background.  From childhood, he was enamored about becoming a Marine.  The day after he graduated from Custer High School in 2007, he joined the Marines.  He finished a 4-year enlistment this past May and was honorably discharged.

During the early morning hours of Tuesday, Sept. 6, a man on the streets of Custer while the bars were closing was yelling "Custer County Sheriffs: Come out, come out!"  It was Cody Engen.  His dad is a Custer County deputy sheriff.  Cody went on a rampage in downtown Custer, driving over things with his pickup and firing shots from a handgun.  He crashed his pick-up into the sheriff's office, then went inside and vandalized the place.  When law enforcement came to put an end to his rampage, there was a stand-off and a state trooper shot him.  The shot ended the brief insurrection and Cody's life. 

Cody, a scout-sniper, served in both Iraq and Afghanistan while in the Marines.

At this writing, the official report has not been issued on the incident which resulted in his death.  The 22-year-old ex-Marine may well have suffered trauma during his service.  No information has been provided about the direction his life took after discharge.  He may  have been one of those many  veterans who returned to the country he served to find it had no place for him.  However provocative such conjecture is, it is pointless.  The fact is that two 22-year-olds engaged in aggressive, deadly behavior and were cut down by deadly force.

At the current time, this is not unusual.  During a recent trip to the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa, I read of two incidents involving shootings by police officers.  In Davenport a man who threatened to detonate what he claimed was a homemade bomb was killed by police.  In Rock Island County, a man who had run a barber shop for many years and was president of the East Moline downtown business association pulled a gun on a sheriff's deputy during a traffic stop.  He was wounded and hospitalized when the deputy opened fire.  The man in Davenport had a life-long battle with alcohol.  The man shot in Rock Island County may have financial problems. 

But for the young men killed in the Black Hills, there is the fact of the confrontations they forced. They both targeted law enforcement.  Law enforcement represents the authority of our government and culture.  It is required to enforce the rules established by our government, sanctioned by our culture.  The badges and uniforms law enforcement wears represent the state of the nation.

The officers shot in Rapid City were not that much older than the man who opened fire on them.  They had hopes and expectations and were building their lives.  They were in engaged in the act of community policing when they were shot.  Community policing means going into neighborhoods, becoming acquainted with the people who live there, and addressing problems before they become law enforcement issues.  Community police is another term for peace officer, the well-established role of keeping the peace.  The young officers killed in Rapid City had their weapons holstered and were trying to keep the peace when Daniel Tiger drew a weapon and fired on them.

Across the nation, the killing of police officers is on the rise.  So far this year, there have been 132 fatalities of police officers in the U.S.  Fifty-three of them  were from gun fire. Statistics on how many people were killed by police or how many times police drew and fired their weapons is a different matter.  No agencies appear to keep a tally on those incidents.  But it is clear that the situations in which police are fired upon and in which they use their weapons is on the rise.

Identifying the causes of such confrontations is the issue.  Daniel Tiger and Cody Engen had widely different life histories, but they shared a social and political environment that is causing unrest in many parts of the world, and is showing unrest in America. 

People who are trained to deal with confrontations cite the rule that the way to head off deadly confrontations is to never put a person in a situation where the person is convinced he has nothing to lose.  What did Daniel Tiger and Cody Engen have to lose?  Did they have anything to gain?  Or were they caught in a state of hopelessness with no expectations
The unemployment rate is cause for despair, not only among those who have not found jobs, but among those who have taken jobs far below their education and skills and who qualify for better paying more engaging jobs.  The jobs just are not there to be had.  They have been eliminated through a process of outsourcing.  There is not much hope or expectation for members of the working middle class.  And certainly none for the economic lower class, which is growing exponentially.

The poverty level in the US. has grown to 15 percent of the population; one person in every six is in that category.  There is no hope and expectation for  this class.  And what do they have to lose if they revolt?   Whether they submit meekly to the destiny of their designated class or engage in flaming revolt, their  prospect is ignominious  death.  What do people of this class have to lose?

During the debate among Republican candidates early this week, there was a moment from the audience that has been avoided by most of the legacy media.  It came when the moderator raised a hypothetical question, which for many among that 46 million living in poverty is not hypothetical, about whether a person who needed healthcare but did not have insurance should be allowed to die.  The audience intruded with a resounding "Yeah."  What the media ignores is the message that "yeah" conveys to the growing class of poor in this country.  It is the same message being sent in regard to jobs and the flagging economy.  Class warfare and the  propaganda that fuels is not a war declared by the poor against the wealthy or the Democrats.  It is a war being conducted by the wealthy and the political party which has taken up its cause.

Congress is caught up in a gridlock because it is more consumed by engaging in a political fight in which the defeat of the current administration has towering priority over the welfare of the country.  But Congress is a reflection of the values and attitudes of the country, and while the misanthropic who have announced they are quite ready to disenfranchise the poor and struggling from any of the promise that once defined America may not be the majority, they have  managed to control the national dialogue.  The fixation of the media on the petty pissing duels among the petty pissers in Washington provides a surface gauging of the thought processes of the populace.  Reading blogs and comment sections of the news media show a population that is dominated by those who education has failed and who have failed education.  They cling to misinformation, defamatory allegations, and a belief that their hatred of the poor class that they have helped to create and enlarge is somehow an expression of Americanism.   They revere the ministers of malice and misinformation such as Palin, Bachman, Perry, and Romney, who see serving them as the road to power.  The message to the poor is no matter what those struggling in the current economy do, they have nothing to lose.  They have been designated as the post and  expendable to the plutocracy that has emerged as the ruling force of America.

There are problems to be defined and faced.  But those who conduct the campaign of misanthropy and  oppression under the banner of conservatism deny the problems and refuse to engage in defining discussion and the formulation of real solutions.  Their solution is to further the advantages and privileges of the rich, who have sucked up the nation's wealth, and to cling to the belief that the notional beneficence of the wealthy is the salvation of the poor and middle classes.

There appears to be no desire or ability to confront the problems that underlie our faltering economy.  A few economic historians say that the days of economic growth and power are over for America, as it becomes more thoroughly tied to the global economy.  They point out that American growth was fueled by abundant, cheap energy and abundant, cheap minerals.  Those resources have been depleted and can be extracted and made usable only by expensive and complex processes.  The twentieth century, they say, was an anomaly in terms of economic expansion.  The world is returning to a "more normal" pattern of economic growth and distribution.   There are ways of confronting and dealing with the forces that are moving the world back to feudal times, but those who are unable and unwilling to consider the implications have co-opted the dialogue.  They are happy that they are contributing to the burgeoning growth of a class of serfs, who they despise.

Their message is a denial of any cause for hope and expectation and what is promised in the American pledge to liberty, equality, and  justice.  They are interested only in a concept of liberty that permits them to dismiss and deny those who have not claimed any part of America's wealth.

Those who wear the badges and uniforms of American authority do not realize that they no longer signal messages or hope and expectations of opportunity, equality, liberty, and justice.  Rather they signal a dismissal and a rejection of those qualities for anyone who does not identify with the privileged class, with those who come to realize that hope and expectation are systematically being denied them.  Daniel Tiger and Cody Engen were recruits in the army of the hopeless.  They attacked the emblems of what America is becoming and has largely become.

What did they have to lose?  And how many will follow their lead?  What does the vast majority of Americans have to lose at this point?  No one in the political leadership at this time has the sentience or the desire to assess the situation.  The only vote they cast that gets attention comes out of the barrel of a gun.

Any messages of  hope and expectation are dismissed as liberal fatuity.  And so, America goes.   Suicide by cop.



Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The DUSEL is dead. Long live the neutrino.

The Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL) project at the Homestake Goldmine has been canceled.  Its demise has not been announced officially.  A much smaller part of its life work will be carried on by an offspring, one that may be part of the cause of its end, the Sanford Underground Laboratory. 

Officials and the media have not acknowledged that the project  so widely and extravagantly touted to turn the Homestake Goldmine into a major national scientific research center--proclaimed as Gov. Mike Rounds' signal achievement-- has come to an end.   The National Science Foundation has indicated that the conversion of the mine into a laboratory is beyond the scope of its mission and has eliminated it from any of its funding priorities.  However, the NSF has other problems with the Homestake conversion which are alluded to, but not specified, in a number of reports from committees which have been involved in working on the project.  State officials have been loathe to admit the failure of the project.  Under the Sanford Underground Research Facility, development of the lab will be limited to one facility at the 4,850-foot level with only a few experiments scheduled to be conducted there.

The death blow, which became fatal during intervening months,  was delivered last December, when the National Science Board, which sets the policy and programs for the National Science Foundation, announced that it would not provide a $23 million bridge grant which was to carry forward the work on design and development of the Homestake Goldmine into a national underground laboratory.

The National Science Board has not been clear or forthcoming about its decision to end its support of the DUSEL.  That fact is puzzling to everyone involved in the project because its parent organization, the National Science Foundation, took a leadership role in declaring the Homestake site as the location for a national DUSEL and was integrally involved in the planning and development.  The NSF had solicited competitive nominations for the location of the DUSEL and awarded that designation to the Homestake Mine. 

The NSF was the main sponsoring organization of the DUSEL project with the Department of Energy,  The South Dakota Science and Technology Authority, the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory at the University of Southern California, and the Sanford Lab as cooperating partners.  The NSF was the major source of development funds and support.  Now the Department of Energy is the main financial sponsor with the South Dakota Authority as the main overseer.  The plan as announced with the appointment of a director of the lab last week is limited to the Sanford Lab at the 4,850 level. The SDSTA had been scrambling for funds to pump water out of the mine at its lower levels.  The water filled the mine shaft when Barrick Gold, which corporation owned the mine, shut off the water pumps when it got into a dispute with the state over liabilities from the mining operation it had conducted.  In the announcement of recent developments, no mention has been made of plans concerning what water level will be maintained in the mine shaft. 

When the National Science Board announced its decision to withdraw funding for further development, its officers made some comments about being unhappy with the management arrangement, indicating that it thought the DUSEL had become an infrastructure project while the NSF's  mission is to sponsor scientific experiments.  The Board seemed to have some resentment about the role of the Department of Energy, which now is the agency that determines what future the lab has as a vehicle for a scientific advancement. 

The closest to an official announcement was a story in mid-July by Wendy Pitlick of the Black Hills Pioneer, who has supplied the most consistent and intensive news coverage of the developments at the Homestake Goldmine.  Her story bore the headline "Dusel no more."

The media made a more specific announcement on the change in plans for converting the Homestake Mine with the announcement last week of a new director for the Sanford Underground Research Facility (now bearing the acronym SURF):

 The SDSTA, which is reopening Homestake as the Sanford Underground Laboratory, will work with the Department of Energy, or DOE, to further develop the lab. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, a DOE facility, will work directly with the SDSTA, which also continues to work with the University of California at Berkeley and with the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City.

The degree to which the scientific community anticipated the development of the DUSEL is expressed by the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory website which proclaims:  "Someday DUSEL will be the deepest, biggest underground laboratory in the world."

That statement, still on the website as of today, indicates the unexpected and abrupt decision by the National Science Foundation not to pursue the DUSEL any further at this time.  The Lawrence Berkeley site also stresses the important role the lab could have for neutrino research"Neutrino science is the keystone of the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL), a multidisciplinary lab proposed for the former Homestake Gold Mine in South Dakota, where thousands of feet of rock will shield experiments from cosmic rays and background radiation."

The original DUSEL plans placed major underground facilities  at the 800 foot level, the 4850 foot level, and the 7400 foot level, with provisions to place additional small experiments at various other levels. Plans also included a large surface campus.  The plan was to accommodate experiments in particle physics, biological sciences, geological sciences, and engineering.  Now it will host only  experiments in dark matter, double beta decay, and long baseline neutrino research. However, plans include  room to grow in the future, developing more science at the facility if funds are available.

The National Science Foundation has not supplied specific or detailed reasons for its withdrawal from the project.  The only near-definitive explanation is supplied by an articled in Science Magazine which summarizes the considerations that confronted the Foundation in making a decision:

Particle physicists want to convert the Homestake mine in the Black Hills of South Dakota into the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL), the largest underground lab in the world. In it they would seek the elusive "dark matter" whose gravity binds the galaxies, a type of radioactivity that would blur the line between matter and antimatter, and protons falling apart as predicted by some particle theories. Advocates say the $875 million project is too good an opportunity to pass up. But DUSEL is not a typical project for the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), which historically builds scientific instruments such as telescopes. Instead, DUSEL is mostly an infrastructure project to provide lab space for a host of experiments in a variety of disciplines. Moreover, the biggest experiment in it would be a gargantuan particle detector funded primarily by the Department of Energy (DOE), not NSF. The project must win approval from the National Science Board, which sets policy for NSF, and observers say that board members will want good answers to three important questions before they sign off on the project. How would DUSEL stack up against other underground labs around the world? How will NSF and DOE coordinate efforts to ensure the project stays on track? And will DUSEL yield enough science to justify the investment?

While the decision was in process, a sub-committee of the National Science Foundation charged with assessing the project for its importance to the geological sciences (the Advisory Committee on Geosciences)  was informed of the National Science Board decision when it gathered to meet.  Its report states:  "On Feb. 16, the first day of the subcommittee's meeting, NSF personnel informed the subcommittee of significant findings by the National Science Board's Committee on Programs and Plans."  Those "significant findings" are not explicitly mentioned, however.   

The advisory committee noted the NSF withdrawal of funds at the outset of its report and suggests some of the reasons for the withdrawal as well as the fact that the NSF might put its funds for particle research into some other enterprise:

"Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL): NSF eliminates funding for DUSEL, which had been pursued in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Office of Science. This termination is based on National Science Board reviews that concluded the cost and scope of DUSEL were inconsistent with the agency?s role in advancing fundamental research and education across many fields and disciplines. NSF will continue to solicit proposals for future particle physics research."

The report contains other suggestions of problems that the NSF had with the DUSEL at Homestake:
  • The panel identified some experimental facilities that require significantly more
    analysis and development of safety protocols.
  •   In general, a number of physics experiments at DUSEL may collect data that have geological implications but are not of interest in particle physics. 
  • ...the scientific opportunities should be evaluated in the context that future changes in funding or redistribution of facilities and research costs between NSF and DOE may correct the problems identified by the National Science Board. Evaluations are made in this report, assuming that the DUSEL facility re-emerges as a scientific priority.
Prior to the total withdrawal of the NSF from the DUSEL project, the Foundation and the Department of Energy had commissioned an evaluation of the project from the National Research Council, which is an independent advisory organization of the country's leading scientists.  In the minutes for the NSF's Committee on Planning and Programs (CPP) from a meeting late last spring, it was noted that Dr. Andy Lankford, who chaired the NRC committee writing the report on the DUSEL, briefed the NSF committee on NRC findings.  The NRC has published a preliminary version of its report which seems to strongly support the development of the DUSEL.  Among its conclusions are:

  • In response to this charge, the committee concludes that three of the proposed physics experiments (1) a direct detection dark matter experiment on a scale of one to tens of tons, (2) a long-baseline neutrino oscillation experiment, and (3) a ton-scale, neutrinoless double-beta decay experiment are of paramount and comparable scientific importance.
  • Among the proposed experiments are regulated studies of the influence of fracture systems on rock response to applied loads and of the interdependence of the thermo-hydro-mechanical-chemical-biologic aspects of subsurface systems, and efforts to make rock more "transparent" by developing imaging techniques that would allow the exploration of subsurface material at a distance despite its visible opaqueness. Enabling the geoscience and subsurface engineering fields to conduct such studies would be a huge step forward for these fields.
The conclusion of the NRC report suggests that, as with any scientific investigation in progress, some modifications and design changes are to be expected, but that the overall plan for the DUSEL would be a huge contribution to science and American's place in leading scientific research:

Conclusion: Development of an underground research facility in the United States would supplement and complement underground laboratories around the world. A U.S. facility could build upon the unique position of the United States that would allow it to develop a long-baseline neutrino experiment using intense beams from Fermilab. It could accommodate one of the large direct detection dark matter experiments and one of the large neutrinoless double-beta decay experiments that are needed by the international effort to resolve these critical scientific issues, while sharing infrastructure among these three experiments that are of comparable import. It could also host and share infrastructure with other underground physics experiments, such as an accelerator to study nuclear astrophysics, and with underground experiments in other fields. An underground research facility would benefit the U.S. research communities, and would guarantee the United States a leadership role in the expanding global field of underground science.
Despite the drastic down-scaling of the DUSEL into the Sanford Underground Surface Facility, the appointment of Michael Headley as director of the lab anticipates a possible re-emergence of the old goldmine as a major scientific resource for the U.S.  Headley was the project director for the DUSEL before NSF abandoned the project.  He has a long relationship in dealing with the Department of Energy, the Lawrence Berkeley Lab, and the Fermilab in Illinois.  Headley was with the EROS Data Center north of Sioux Falls for a number of years and has successful experience in dealing with the scientific community.

Many people in the scientific community who were early supporters of the DUSEL project at Homestake have said that the issues raised by Barrick Gold's flooding of the mine and the state's attempt to promote the project as an economic development scheme were seen by scientists as evidence that the science was not given serious consideration and precedence.  Some are convinced that this lies behind the NSF abandonment of the project.  

The Sanford Underground Laboratory, if it demonstrates scientific credibility and success, could be used to develop further experiments along the scale proposed in the DUSEL plans.  The National Research Council compared the Homestake DUSEL project to other facilities throughout the world.  There are many other facilities in the U.S. and throughout the world, including China, who are ready to host some of the experiments the DUSEL was designed to accommodate.  The competition will be tough.

Here is a schematic of the current plan for the Sanford Underground Laboratory at the 4,850-foot level as scaled down from the DUSEL proposal that the National Science Foundation no longer supports. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

GOP stance on health care finally gets defined

The most significant moment in the CNN-Tea Party debate by GOP candidates for president came when moderator Wolf Blitzer asked a hypothetical question.

Since President Obama introduced the health care plan, opponents have been asked if they prefer that those without health care simply be allowed to die.  Last night Wolf Blitzer posed the hypothetical question to Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas): "What do you tell a guy who is sick, goes into a coma and doesn't have health insurance? Who pays for his coverage? "Are you saying society should just let him die?"

Members of the audience yelled out a resounding "Yeah!"  They provided an answer for those reluctant, probably for reasons of courage, to answer the question.

The moral divide between the political parties is becoming much clearer.  The differences are not minor ones over how a generally set value set should be applied.  The differences are a huge difference in values with which reconciliation is neither possible nor desired.  Despite the insistence of many in the GOP that America is founded on Christian principles, they have real trouble with the cure the sick and feed the poor part.

The current divide among Americans is more pronounced and fundamental than the slavery issue that resulted in the Civil War.  The difference is one of basic morality.

View the defining moment of the debate here: 


And then, this:,-you-a$$holes

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Since when is a lying contest a debate?

I have never been a debate coach, but since my freshmen year in college, I have been involved in it.  The college recruited students who had courses in rhetoric to get involved in the debate contests on campus.  They started you out as a time-keeper and then assigned you to judge as you became familiar with the criteria used to evaluate the debaters.

I have since judged many debates and mostly have enjoyed watching young people get involved.  At NSU we had big tournaments during which faculty were moved out of their assigned classrooms so the young debaters could use the rooms for their contests.  I enjoyed seeing the young people with their stacks of note cards reviewing the facts and the arguments they planned to shape around them.  I did not judge in those tournaments but enjoyed seeing the energy and intelligence put to work.  

That exposure to actual debate and the practice of actual rhetoric has made me cynical and skeptical about any actual value that the televised political debates may have.  While the pundits and commentators go into a frenzy of declaring winners and losers, I can't help but think that the country in general comes up as the big loser.  The so-called debaters posture and proclaim, but their exchanges seldom involve real debate.  Making negative and often false characterizations and accusations of opponents is not debating facts.  In fact, that practice makes facts irrelevant.  They become contests of who can get away with the biggest misrepresentations of the opponents and the facts.

So it was with the Republican candidates' jabber-fest last night.  However, some journalists have finally gotten back to doing their job of trying to state the facts and get them right.

The New York Times within minutes of the debate had put up a story addressing the misrepresentations of the facts cited.  The Washington Post's resident fact-checker, Glenn Kessler, had his coverage of the false facts up by this morning.  

However, with politics having deteriorated into the idiotic noise of personal attack and making up defamatory facts, I wonder if anyone but a few such as I, who live in the nostalgia of times when humankind strove for a higher intelligence and integrity, really gives a shit.  

In scanning the blog posts referring to the lie-fest, I doubt it.  Most commenters are more interested in disenfranchising and terminating those who do not share their political affections.  I think the Republicans are dedicated to throwing more and more people out of work and taking away any voice that those who do work have in their endeavors and then going ballistic about the lack of job creation.  

The current politics is leading us back into a new dark age of would-be lords and serfs.  I for one will resist going back there.  And so I will track who is lying and who is trying to deal with actual facts. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Who that boy think he is? The President?

Back in Illinois over Labor Weekend to visit my brother, I had two things happen that brought back some times in life when things were moving in a different direction than they are at the present time.

The morning paper, one that I worked for, carried the obituary of my boss on that paper.  Jack Sundine, co-owner and editor, died on Friday. He was a complicated man, and we had our ins-and-outs, but I was not singular among his editors in that respect.  Jack made the Moline Dispatch one of the most powerful newspapers in Illinois outside of Chicago.  An ostensible Republican, he was often invited on a television talk show with the Democratic state's attorney (who later became a state supreme court justice) to analyze issues of the day.  Jack was in many respects to the left of the Democratic state's attorney.  He opposed the death penalty for reasons that became manifest 40 years later when 13 men on Illinois death row were released from prison when DNA evidence proved their innocence.  He was a staunch supporter of civil rights, and he backed up his verbal stance with action.  He worked behind the scenes to see talented African-Americans put into positions they deserved, find housing commensurate with their positions in previously all-white neighborhoods, and he supported his editors and reporters when they ran across stories that were not necessarily complementary to business and political leaders.  However, he detested tabloid journalism, and any stories published in his paper had to have airtight documentation.   

I have often said, much to the consternation of university colleagues, that my job on the Dispatch was the best one I ever had.  The reason was mostly that any rivalries among the talent on that paper were subordinated to turning out a good newspaper.  When it came to the journalism, we worked together.  That is why the newspaper was a downstate force in Illinois.  It held to a standard of journalism and thorough and fair coverage that I have not witnessed since.

Toward the end of my time at the newspaper, six of us editors advertised in Editor and Publisher that we were available for hire elsewhere.  The reason was that word got out that Jack and his co-owners were getting ready to sell the newspaper, and we didn't think that any new owners would let the newspaper continue as a strong, independent voice.  It turns out we were right.  

But something else was going on in the Quad-Cities over Labor Day.  I do not recall seeing a Labor Day parade since I was a child. But the Quad-Cities, once the place where most of the farm equipment was manufactured, was gearing up for parades in the various communities.  In fact, as I drove out Monday morning, I had to take detours around blocked-off streets to find my way to the Interstate.  Labor is on the move again, in a very political way.

Among the other things revealed over the weekend was that the approval rating for Obama and the direction of the country is plummeting.  The flagging job market is causing many people to lost confidence in the way he is handling things, but that disaffection reflected in the polls has quite a different aspect for some people.  An African-American community  and union organizer explained this when asked if he was anxious to see Obama's speech on jobs.  He said he wasn't going to watch it:  "I don't need to see that man niggered one more time," he said.  For those who are not familiar with the definitions of that term, he was using it to mean someone being treated with the disrespect and discourtesy that segregated America once treated black America.  He said that John Boehner flaunted this kind of treatment against Obama:  one time during the debt talks when he did not give Obama the courtesy of a telephone call to tell him he was walking out on the talks; and the next time when he rejected Obama's request for a joint session of Congress for the presentation of his proposals on jobs.  Boehner made sure that his rebuff of the President got full public play.  

The man said that Obama has worked on the premise of eliminating partisan gridlock and trying to work with the opposition, but that effort has gone past any reasonable courtesies.  Now Obama's efforts look like he, in the man's words, "is Uncle Tomming Congress."  "All he is going to do with the speech," said the  man, "is create an opportunity for the plantation owners to put that nigger in his place one more time.  They can't disagree or deal with him with any respect.  And Obama thinks he is rising above it all by not calling them out."  Race problems have always been with us in subtle ways, but they have surged with public demonstrations of niggering, the man commented.

The polls that show declining support for Obama show a great contempt for Congress, with an approval rating of 12 percent.  That contempt is apparent among the working people and those who would like to be working,  One union man pointed more directly at the Republicans, as he extended the remarks of the community and union organizer.  The one thing Republicans have done is make disrespect and contempt for others something that crosses the color line.  If you are in the working middle class, you are an offense to the Republicans.  He said the insults and accusations of greed and avarice that Gov. Walker of Wisconsin directed toward union members was sheer hate propaganda.

The community-union organizer was asked who he would vote for if he was not nappy with Obama.  'The last election was fool's play," he said," and there are no choices. There are other things to do beside vote.  Remember what a general strike is?  We can  bring this sorry government to its knees like we did with corporations years ago.  This is a fight between workers and plantation owners, and it's time to get rid of the plantation system."

Then the Labor Day parade started to move through the streets. 

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States