South Dakota Top Blogs

News, notes, and observations from the James River Valley in northern South Dakota with special attention to reviewing the performance of the media--old and new. E-Mail to

Monday, January 30, 2012

Freddie Mac bets against homeowners

NPR and ProPublica have found that Freddie Mac, which is chartered to facilitate home ownership, has used its investments to bet on the failure of homeowners.  Here is the opening of the story at NPR, which you can read in its entirety through this link:

Freddie Mac, a taxpayer-owned mortgage company, is supposed to make homeownership easier. One thing that makes owning a home more affordable is getting a cheaper mortgage.

But Freddie Mac has invested billions of dollars betting that U.S. homeowners won't be able to refinance their mortgages at today's lower rates, according to an investigation by NPR and ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom.

These investments, while legal, raise concerns about a conflict of interest within Freddie Mac.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Stalking the poor teachers

A couple of sentences from an editorial in the Rapid City Journal typifies what has become a cliche: "We can support an initiative that rewards good teachers and roots out poor ones. School districts need a way to get rid of poor teachers, and if ending tenure helps accomplish this, it will be a welcome change."

 The current wisdom is that our public schools are impeded by a horde of bad teachers and all we have to do to improve education is fire them.  Which means getting rid of union contracts which require that firings be done for cause with procedures of due process to  make the case.  

 The issue is, just who are these bad teachers?  What are they doing or not doing that make them bad teachers?  

Colleges of education were the main controls on the quality of teaching in the past.  Students had to meet academic and behavioral standards to be admitted into teacher education.  Once admitted, their performance was carefully monitored and their student teaching experiences were carefully evaluated to insure that they would be effective teachers.  One of the most difficult jobs professors had was to redirect a few students into different careers when it became apparent that they were not effective as teachers.  Students who could not maintain the required grade average were simply dropped from the teacher education program.  But for some, problems showed up during their student internships as teachers.  Those problems often were matters of classroom management and discipline, not intellectual competence.

In the 1990s, we professors were confronted with some changes in South Dakota.  We noticed that our best students in education were hired out-of-state.  I recall writing letters of recommendation to schools on the West Coast, Nevada, Arizona, Florida, other upper Midwest states, and New England.  What was attracting our students to other places was better pay, better administrators, and cultural opportunities. 

 A U.S. Dept. of Education list shows teacher shortages for the 1990=91 school year in South Dakota only in  two areas:  gifted and special  education.

However, the shortages in the state for recent years have grown considerably:


Foreign Language (K-12)
Math (7-12)
Music (K-12)
Science (7-12)
Special Education (K-12)
Speech Pathologists

2008-09 thru 2011-12

Art (K-12)
Career & Technical Education (7-12)
English as a New Language (K-12)
Health (K-12)
Language Arts (7-12)
Mathematics (7-12)
Music (K-12)
Physical Education (K-12)
Science (7-12)
Social Science (7-12)
Special Education (K-12)
Speech Pathologists
World Languages (K-12)
The shortages affected teacher education in two major ways.  The first was that school boards were asking for "provisional certifications"  so that teachers could teach in subject areas for which they had insufficient or no training.  The second was that in order to get a sufficient number of students into teacher education, colleges of education and professors in the subject area disciplines were asked to relax or change the standards.  During my last years of teaching, I and my colleagues, noted a very significant change in the levels of talent in those in the teacher education program.  

There were instances of shock in some cases.  After student teaching experiences, some students whom we assumed would find top teaching jobs informed us that they decided not to go into teaching.  They found that they and their supervising teachers spent an inordinate amount of time dealing with discipline problems so that little was devoted to teaching the subject matter.  And they found school bureaucracies to be absurd.  And as teachers retired, a significant number indicated that they would not choose teaching as a career if they had it to do over again.  This attitude, as reflected in polls taken by professional education organizations, stemmed from the classroom management problems and the attitude of the public toward teachers.
In the schemes to improve education, these trends are never discussed, even though a number of organizations and agencies have noted them and their effects.  The notion that education can be improved by identifying good teachers and giving them more money and identifying bad teachers and firing them only intensifies the diminishing of education as a profession anyone wants to pursue.  

The editorial in the Rapid City Journal indicates how badly the press performs in observing and reporting what is really going on in our schools.  The Governor's proposed legislation to award merit pay and abolish continuing contracts provides another big reason why a talented and conscientious person would not go into education.

When asking the people who promote merit pay and firings as the way to improve education just who the bad teachers are, their response is that the evaluation process will reveal them.  And when one examines the proposed evaluation procedures, one finds fatuous silliness on the part of the educational bureaucracies that design them.  They try to apply business world evaluation processes, not noting that those processes have not worked in the business world.  The lavish and ridiculously extravagant bonuses given CEOs and executives is a form of merit pay, and one need only observe what those bonuses have done for the country.  

The legislature and other groups are raging about making it easier to fire teachers, but they are ignoring how hard it is getting to find people to fire.  Smart people are not going into education that is being ruled over by so many truly stupid people.  

It is not the teachers who are causing the failures in public education.  But the governments and the public want to expend their efforts on blaming them. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Hillary Clinton loves Saul Alinsky

She wrote her senior thesis about him at Wellesley College. Which is probably the reason that Newt Gingrich keeps bringing him up.  

But what is more significant is what Gingrich is trying to do by bringing him up.  Gingrich is one of the preeminent word shysters operating in today's political culture of word shysterism.  Willard Romney is right behind him snapping at his ass. But to understand just what is going on with throwing Saul Alinsky's name around, you have to get into the field of literature a bit.  And that is something that discussants at Madville Times about Gov. Daugaard's legislative plan to de-educate South Dakota youth are largely against.  They don't wan't no literacy around here.  It's superfluous to training robots in math and science for service in the corporate world.  

But to get the full gist of what Gingrich is doing, you have to go to one of the most cited, but unread and misread books in the language:  George Orwell's 1984.  The Republican Party has adopted the propaganda and mind control tactics of the totalitarian regime that rules Oceania as its official political playbook.  And Gingrich is out there to show the world that he is the best at employing the playbook. 
The arch-enemy of the state in 1984 is Emmanuel Goldstein.  As Wikipedia explains him, "He is the number one enemy of the people according to Big Brother and the Party, who heads a mysterious and possibly fictitious anti-party organization called The Brotherhood. Despite being a key part of the story, he is only actually seen and heard on telescreen, and may in fact be nothing more than a useful propaganda fabrication of the Ministry of Truth."

And that explains quite well what Gingrich is trying to do with Saul Alinksy.  He is trying to besmirch Saul Alinsky as an enemy of the state and then identify President Obama with him.  Both Alinsky and Obama were community organizers in the same neighborhood in Chicago, but at different times.  

Gingrich's ploy is to keep using Alinsky's name in a contemptuous, disparaging way as a pariah of the nation on the order of Hitler, or John Wayne Gacy, or Miley Cyrus to induce the gullible into accepting him as a Satanic figure.  The success of this tactic depends upon a lot of stupid, ignorant, and mean people.  And there is no shortage of them.  They are the sub-bullies who line up behind the big bully, like Newton Gingrich, out there on the playground and participate in the menacing and abuse.  The only way they can feel consequential is to persecute some person or some group.  The GOP draws its major strength from them.  (Snicker, snicker, wheeze, wheeze, gasp, gasp.)

One of the things that really ticks Gingrich and the GOP off about Alinsky is that he wrote in his book Rules for RadicalsThe Prince was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. Rules for Radicals is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away." He is a threat to the Haves that Gingrich wants to suck and serve.  Except for Willard Romney.  

He also said some provocative things like "if you think you've got an inside track to absolute truth, you become doctrinaire, humorless and intellectually constipated. The greatest crimes in history have been perpetrated by such religious and political and racial fanatics, from the persecutions of the Inquisition on down to Communist purges and Nazi genocide."  That really torques off the religious, political, and racial fanatics in the GOP. 

While Saul Alinsky has accomplished some significant things in organizing the poor and oppressed, I am more a bemused observer of him than a defender or follower.  He has received recognition from many organizations, including the Catholic church, for what he has done to help people rise up from oppression and poverty.  His genius in organizing communities was that he turned the anger they felt toward their oppressors into action.

Some things he advocated were amusing, but tactics I would not want to encounter.  During a dispute with the Rochester Symphony Orchestra, he proposed that the protestors eat large quantities of baked beans and go to the concert and hold a fart-in.  The idea was to let their rinktums sing out to compete with the cellos.  If I went to the symphony and was met by a chorus of noisy assholes emitting the reek of flatulence into the concert hall air, I would not be happy.  I could not forgive the mink-clad woman who sat in front of me one night and let one slip, God only knows what she had been ingesting, and tarnished a performance of Beethoven with the stench, although she did provide some diversion during the intermission and gave people sitting behind her something to gossip and titter about.  

The fart-in never happened, but it did advance the discussion'

In Chicago, Alinsky proposed a piss-in at O'Hare Airport by having a bunch of well-dressed black people occupy the urinals.  This was over some dispute with the city.  It did not happen but it did result in some serious discussions and concessions at the negotiating table.  

So, Newton's objective is to paint Saul Alinsky as a nefarious, scheming scourge of the earth and identify Barack Obama with him.  For those who know nothing about Alinsky, Gingrich will convey the idea that he was a malignancy on the pristine soul of America and Obama is just like him.  For those who know something about Alinsky,  Gingrich's mention conveys that, hey, there is a fucking negra-person community organizer from Chicago occupying the presidential urinal in the White House.  Willard Romney says that 's one of the few things he and Newton can agree on.  Bill Clinton once occupied the lavatory off the Oval Office and ejaculated in it as the result of a Lewinsky, not to be confused with Alinsky, blow job.  We are told. 

American democratic politics is the model for the world.  

(Snicker, snicker, wheeze, wheeze, gasp, gasp.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Corporate patriotism: the unAmerican way

 {Or, when Chinese communism beats American capitalism}  Click here for update.  

 Election or American Spring?
It is not that sometimes the mainstream media shows a preference for liberal policies in its editorial stances that bothers conservative America.  It's when it digs up and reports facts that ties the knots in the regressive panties that gall so much.  To the GOP, God came to earth and revealed himself as a person in the form of a corporation.  And "Thou shalt have no other god before me" means total obeisance to the corporation that supplies your livelihood, monitors your life, and decides whether and how you shall live.  The worship of business is how you are expected to show your god-fearing patriotism.  Even if it means betraying your country.  

Before we go on discussing the nature of  God, we should acknowledge his omnipotence.

Our corporate father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy brand.
Thy dividends come,
Thy bonuses granted on earth,
As it is in the CEO mind.
Give us this day our daily wage,
Reduced and without healthcare benefits,
And forgive our presumptions of equality,
As we forgive them who fire us,
And lead us not into equity,
For thine capital is the kingdom,
The power that grants us life
And the glory of your perks
For ever, or whatever you decree.
Now., we hope  we will not be struck dead for bringing up a New York Times--the text of Satan--piece on Apple and how the corporate god loves all the children of the world, especially those in China whose government in effect subsidizes Apple.  It is unthinkable for the U.S. government to regulate corporations, but it is just fine to reap profits from the subsidies of the Chinese government and the labor of the people over whom it exercises authority, in the  name of the corporate godhead.

Apple is a company that many of us admire.  It has produced superior and innovative products.  It seems to embody the idea of free enterprise, a company started by a couple of guys working out ideas in a garage.  At one time it proudly boasted that its products were made in America, and Steve Jobs at one time said he was as proud of one its factories as he was of the products in produced.

But things change.  The products change.  And so  does the way of doing business.  Apple just announced one of the most lucrative quarters in its history with profits of $13.06 billion which earned stockholders $13.87 a share.  The story in the New York Times tells how the Chinese people with the collaboration of the Chinese government contributed to that success.  In this country such a collaboration would be called socialism.   It begins with summarizing the current attitude of Apple executives:

It isn’t just that workers are cheaper abroad. Rather, Apple’s executives believe the vast scale of overseas factories as well as the flexibility, diligence and industrial skills of foreign workers have so outpaced their American counterparts that “Made in the U.S.A.” is no longer a viable option for most Apple products.
Then the story goes into details of why the Chinese workforce is so superior and how it got that way.  It uses as the case in point the year 2007 a month before the company was to release its new iPhone in stores.   Steve Jobs was not happy with the phone.  It had a plastic screen which he thought would scratch and be a big detraction  from the product.  Instead, he announced that he wanted a hardened glass screen that would not scratch and he wanted it in a month when the iPhone was scheduled to go on sale in the stores. 

One executive explained the situation:

A '"critical advantage for Apple was that China provided engineers at a scale the United States could not match. Apple’s executives had estimated that about 8,700 industrial engineers were needed to oversee and guide the 200,000 assembly-line workers eventually involved in manufacturing iPhones. The company’s analysts had forecast it would take as long as nine months to find that many qualified engineers in the United States.”

Apple executives say that going overseas, at this point, is their only option. One former executive described how the company relied upon a Chinese factory to revamp iPhone manufacturing just weeks before the device was due on shelves. Apple had redesigned the iPhone’s screen at the last minute, forcing an assembly line overhaul.

In mid-2007, after a month of experimentation, Apple’s engineers finally perfected a method for cutting strengthened glass so it could be used in the iPhone’s screen. The first truckloads of cut glass arrived at Foxconn City in the dead of night, according to the former Apple executive. That’s when managers woke thousands of workers, who crawled into their uniforms — white and black shirts for men, red for women — and quickly lined up to assemble, by hand, the phones. Within three months, Apple had sold one million iPhones. Since then, Foxconn has assembled over 200 million more.

A foreman immediately roused 8,000 workers inside the company’s dormitories, according to the executive. Each employee was given a biscuit and a cup of tea, guided to a workstation and within half an hour started a 12-hour shift fitting glass screens into beveled frames. Within 96 hours, the plant was producing over 10,000 iPhones a day.

It was Steve Jobs who set in motion the actions that illustrate the motive forces in American industry: 

 “I won’t sell a product that gets scratched,” he said tensely. The only solution was using unscratchable glass instead. “I want a glass screen, and I want it perfect in six weeks.”

After one executive left that meeting, he booked a flight to Shenzhen, China. If Mr. Jobs wanted perfect, there was nowhere else to go.

But while Apple is far from alone, it offers a window into why the success of some prominent companies has not translated into large numbers of domestic jobs. What’s more, the company’s decisions pose broader questions about what corporate America owes Americans as the global and national economies are increasingly intertwined.

“Companies once felt an obligation to support American workers, even when it wasn’t the best financial choice,” said Betsey Stevenson, the chief economist at the Labor Department until last September. “That’s disappeared. Profits and efficiency have trumped generosity.”

 Though components differ between versions, all iPhones contain hundreds of parts, an estimated 90 percent of which are manufactured abroad. Advanced semiconductors have come from Germany and Taiwan, memory from Korea and Japan, display panels and circuitry from Korea and Taiwan, chipsets from Europe and rare metals from Africa and Asia. And all of it is put together in China.

For technology companies, the cost of labor is minimal compared with the expense of buying parts and managing supply chains that bring together components and services from hundreds of companies.

The Chinese government had agreed to underwrite costs for numerous industries, and those subsidies had trickled down to the glass-cutting factory. It had a warehouse filled with glass samples available to Apple, free of charge. The owners made engineers available at almost no cost. They had built on-site dormitories so employees would be available 24 hours a day.
The article says:

What U.S. plant can find 3,000 people overnight and convince them to live in dorms?”

Today’s new jobs are disproportionately in service occupations — at restaurants or call centers, or as hospital attendants or temporary workers — that offer fewer opportunities for reaching the middle class.

“We shouldn’t be criticized for using Chinese workers,” a current Apple executive said. “The U.S. has stopped producing people with the skills we need.”

Mr. Jobs even suggested it might be possible, someday, to locate some of Apple’s skilled manufacturing in the United States if the government helped train more American engineers.
 The recounting of the iPhone story provides a stark glimpse into why American workers are under attack by corporate interests and why the reduction, possibly the elimination, of a middle class has become such an important part of corporate strategy.   The Chinese workers live in dormitories and work 12-hour shifts.  They, in effect, live in a  labor camp.  And this is the  model of a workforce that American corporations see as the key to  their success and profits.

The dismantling and weakening of the American workforce began with the anti-union and trickle-down economics of the much-vaunted Ronald Reagan.   From today's vantage point, the vision of a labor force working in prison-like conditions is the model that corporate America thinks working people must submit to or be expended as impediments to corporate prosperity.  A signal as to the corporate dedication to that policy is the fact that corporations are operating at huge profits while the workforce in America is being pushed into poverty.

A scarcely noted fact about life at the Foxconn work camp is that last year 14 workers committed suicide and earlier this month 150 workers gathered on the roof of the plant and threatened mass suicide over the working conditions.  

 Free enterprise has been redefined in the corporate world to mean the freedom to exploit people held in thralldom and the freedom to fuck over a majority of the population.

The current political campaign does not involve disagreements on how to get the economy to improve for the benefit of all Americans.  It devolves into a basic conflict between those who are against equality and those who strive to achieve it.  America has divided itself along philosophical premises in which the  very concepts of equality, liberty, and justice are being challenged and disparaged by the right wing.  It defines the political divisions within the nation.  The Displaced Plainsman cites an article from the Wall Street Journal which claims that inequality has spread from economic circumstances to a national system of cultural belief and preference.

The GOP derides discussion of inequality as class warfare.  But it is the  corporations and their policies that have declared war on the working class and are forcing a worldwide movement.

In America, there is growing pessimism that the 2012 election will have any relevance in resolving the issue of inequality.  America is poised to join people throughout the world who resist the tyrannical and demeaning rule by and of corporations and those who support them.

Before we ever get to an election in November,  America is poised to have an American Spring and join the disaffected people throughout the world.  The issues are well defined by the campaigns of the political parties, and the democratic process of elections seems impotent and irrelevant to resolving the fundamental issues raised by the corporatocracy of liberty, equality, and justice. 

[Keith Bradsher, Hong Kong bureau chief,  covering Asian business, economic, political and science news,Charles Duhigg , based in New York. are the writers of the New York Times story.   David Barboza, Peter Lattman and Catherine Rampell contributed reporting.]

Saturday, January 21, 2012

That old black racism has us in its spell

 That old black racism that we know so well

The second Republican debate in South Carolina was a historic re-enactment  that took us back to the time George Wallace stood in a doorway at the University of Alabama and proclaimed segregation forever.  Newt Gingrich was the principle performer in reviving a languishing racism that brought the audience to its feet in raucous applause.  Rick Perry took the re-enactment back even further when he declared that South Carolina was at war with the federal government.  

The reinstatement of race as a political issue was all the more poignant because it was done on Martin Luther King Day.  

The provocateur who inspired Newt Gingrich was the African American journalist Juan Williams, recently deposed from NPR and given refuge by Fox News, who asked:  "Speaker Gingrich, you recently said black Americans should demand jobs, not food stamps. You also say poor kids lack a strong work ethic and proposed having them work as janitors in their schools. Can’t you see that this is viewed as at a minimum as insulting to all Americans but particularly to black Americans?"

Newt Gingrich:  " No, I don’t see that."   And the audience responded with loud cheers and applause.   Juan Williams received boos and jeers. 

The South is rising again.  

Only the most dissembling supporters of Romney and Gingrich who want to preserve some sense that they are not supporting racist politics refuse to admit that racial politics is fully in play.
And with Gingrich's unabashed performance in South Carolina and his win of its Republican primary, he has taken the lead in recognizing what  Charles M.Blow   sees as a way to exploit old racial animosities:  "Gingrich seems to understand the historical weight of the view among some southern whites, many of whom have migrated to the Republican party, that blacks are lazy and addicted to handouts. He is able to give voice to those feelings without using those words. He is able to make people believe that a fundamentally flawed and prejudicial argument that demeans minorities is actually for their uplift. It is Gingrich’s gift: He is able to make ill will sound like good will."

The Republican campaign as practiced by Gingrich and Romney is propelled by good, old-fashioned hate propaganda.  While Romney has not used the N-word against Obama, he has methodically used all the stereotypes and images that define the word to denigrate Barack Obama.   Gingrich goes after African America on a group basis.  He calls Obama the "food stamp president" in contending that Obama is serving a culture of dependency and unearned entitlement.  When he says that Obama put more people on food stamps than other president, he promoting a racist image of black folks who never work lining up for their handouts.  He studiously fails to mention that more people are out of work because of the nefarious machinations of the financial corporations that the GOP worships so devoutly, and that many of the people on food stamps are working at jobs that do not pay enough to feed a family.  It is not a culture of dependency; it is a culture of planned impoverishment in an attempt widen the gap between the self-appointed over class and a massive, weakened underclass.  Class warfare?  Of course, it's class war fare.  It's those who are being impoverished who have not begun the real fight.

The tactic of racial politics has its risks, as detailed in a New York Times article.  It may appeal to voters who harbor old racial hatreds, but to other voters it makes clear that those old racial hatreds are a platform the GOP wishes to stand on.  A group of Catholics sent letters to Gingrich and Santorum warning them to stop the race baiting in their campaigns. 

This campaign seems to be boiling down to simple choices between rich and poor, black and white. 

Jesus returns, joins lobby firm as hack for corporatocracy

Don't hassle me with your Christianity.
 I say, don't lay none of that jive on me.
What it did to you is plain to see.
Ain't no fool gonna jive that way with me.
                                  Ol' Massa's church

It's making the rounds on Facebook.  It's a series of cartoon panels called "Coffee with Jesus."  Some otherwise liberal-leaning people are liking it.  It says some things that Christ would clearly approve of like caring for others, as in this panel:  

Jesus is portrayed, as you will note, as a  bearded, coiffed dude in a suit.  If you read all the panels, you will find that he is also a bit of a snarky asshole.  And the people on whom he vents his snarks are portrayed as whining, back-biting malcontents who hate their bosses and are dissatisfied with everything as they crave and envy luxury and status.  Well, Jesus puts them in their place.  He not only tells them to stop bitching and be happy with what they have, but damned well be glad for a lot less.  He sounds like Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin,   He portrayed his state's working people as greedy thugs, and he damned well did something about it.  He took away their collective bargaining rights.

Jesus in this setting gets right down to cases regarding the right and privilege to work.  Carl who is featured in these panels, it seems, lost his job as a time shares salesman.  He is now operating a lawn care service at half the money.  Jesus, as you will read in this panel, tells him to be happy in his work and to be even happier by cutting his prices so he's competitive with the Mexican lawn laborers. 

It is from Carl's wife, Lisa, that we learn Carl is so much happier in his new work.  She is so distressed at her new, lower status that she implores Jesus to come back and redeem the earth right now.  He tells her 7-Eleven is hiring.

And so, Jesus rebukes Carl and Lisa for that entity we call the American Dream.

He does not advise them simply to face and work out of their reduced circumstances.  He castigates them for desiring a better life and to have somewhat equal status with others in the economic scheme of things.  He does make a snarky implication about what comprises the corporate world--lying, cheating, and swindling.  But it is presented as kind of a moral condemnation of Carl's ambitions, not that there may inequality and injustice in the circumstances Carl finds himself in.

These panels resurrect a theology that was preached to the slaves.  In a speech Frederick Douglass, a former slave, made to a group of Irish abolitionists, he recounts that form of Christian theology:

The Ministers of religion actually quoted scripture in support of the most cruel and bloody outrages on the slaves. My own master was a Methodist class leader (Laughter, and "Oh"), and he bared the neck of a young woman, in my presence, and he cut her with a cow skin. He then went away, and when he returned to complete the castigation, he quoted the passage, "He that knoweth his master's will and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes." (Laughter.) The preachers say to the slaves they should obey their masters, because God commands it, and because their happiness depended on it. (A laugh.) Here the Speaker assumed the attitude and drawling manner so characteristic of the American preachers, amid the laughter of all present, and continued—Thus do these hypocrites cant. They also tell the slaves there is no happiness but in obedience, and wherever you see poverty and misery, be sure it results from disobedience. (Laughter.) In order to illustrate this they tell a story of a slave having been sent to work, and when his master came up, he found poor Sambo asleep. Picture the feelings, they say, of that pious master, his authority thrown off, and his work not done. The master then goes to the law and the testimony, and he there read the passage I have already quoted, and Sambo is lashed so that he cannot work for a week after. "You servants," continued the preacher, "To what was this whipping traceable, to disobedience, and if you would not be whipped, and if you would bask in the sunshine of your master's favour, let me exhort you to obedience. You should also be grateful that God in his mercy brought you from Africa to this Christian land." (Great laughter.) They also tell the wretched slaves that God made them to do the working, and the white men the thinking. And such is the ignorance in which the slaves are held that some of them go home and say, "Me hear a good sermon to day, de Minister make ebery thing so clear, white man above a Nigger any day." 

Here we are living in the era of what Newt Gingrich calls the Food Stamp President, and Jesus comes back in a cartoon to set us straight.  In response to being read scripture and preached to about being obedient and content with their lot,  the slaves formed their own worship groups at which they sang "sorrow songs," sometimes called negro spirituals, which offered messages of equality, cause for hope, and some specific directions for boarding the underground railroad to escape out of slavery.  This version of Jesus which condemns working people for greed and class envy is not the Jesus of The New Testament which records what Jesus actually said.  This is a descendant of the old plantation Jesus as portrayed in the slave owner's manual.  But we have texts which can lift us out of the insulting and disparaging castigation of working people and give us a view of the real American dream that can redeem the nation.

One of the texts is Langston Hughes' "Let America Be America Again," as excerpted here:

 Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Romney did not win the Iowa caucuses

For some days, information has been circulating that a recount of the Iowa caucus votes put Rick Santorum in the lead.  The Des Moines Register reported that Santorum came out 34 votes ahead of Romney.  However, the tallies from some precincts cannot be found, so the Republican party is declaring a draw. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Truth in photography

As those who read my cranky posts know, I think the Internet has done as much to destroy language as to develop its communicative traits.  But it has also revived still photography by providing a medium in which one can explore the world through images, like I did as a child perusing the pages of Life magazine.  On the regional level, I love it when Bob Newland posts photographs on his blog Decorum Forum.  

Here is a gallery for photography lovers.  Last week Eve Arnold, a consummate photographer, died at the age of 99.  Here is a gallery of her portrait of America from The New Yorker.  

Wisconsin Farmer

Monday, January 16, 2012

Land of the resentful and home of the petulant

It was common intelligence among Democrats that the Republican candidate who could most effectively challenge Barack Obama on his own ground was Jon Huntsman.  It was not surprising that Huntsman garnered such tepid support from the Republican party because it has adopted anti-intellectualism and anti-accomplishment as primary values for determining what is a real conservative.  Accomplishment is revered, of course, when it means the practice of predatory capitalism and the aggressive diminishing of the middle  class into a new mass of the poor.  (The GOP hollers about class warfare, but elates over the pogrom against working people, probably because they think their groveling before the rich will earn them a place in the one percent.)  The militant and near-violent assaults on anything deemed liberal comes from people who can conceive of success only in terms of who possesses the most toys, the most wealth.  The nation has, indeed, strained to become, in Oscar Wilde's words, a people who know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

Jon Huntsman possessed some traits which are anathemas  to the GOP ideals.  He showed evidence of some talents beside money grubbing and some experience that required intelligence and education in the discharge of duties.  He spoke Mandarin, played the piano rather well, and got off of the conservative message on topics such as global warming.  Mitt Romney accused him of a treason-like betrayal for accepting an appointment as ambassador to China from President Obama.  And although he repeated some of party-line anti-Obama slogans, he did not do it sufficiently enough like Joseph Goebbels castigating the Jews and blaming them for all the ills of the world.  His Republican opponents, such as Rick Santorum, used the nasty m-word on him:  moderate.  His experience as governor of Utah earned him little respect in the GOP (Gangstas of Petulance).

The depth of resentment Huntsman could inspire came out in the Washington Post following his suspension of his campaign.  Two columnists, Alexandra Petri and Jennifer Rubin, wrote pieces that were supposed to be couched in humor but came off as bitter and bitchy.  

The pieces seethed with jealousy and resentment of that kind the small-minded exhibit when some one does something that surpasses and outclasses them.  They both descended into a juvenile, witless derision: 

Petri:  "Each of the Huntsman voters had a different reason for supporting him. One liked his hair. Three more were confused and thought this was the Democratic primary. Another one just thought he looked the “most Mad Men” of the Republican field. The last turned out to be Jon Huntsman in disguise."

 Rubin:  "The most amusing thing about the campaign — and there wasn’t much to amuse — was the foolish attention it extracted from the mainstream media. Sometimes the coverage was laughably fawning. His spread in Vogue magazine induced cackles on the right. (“His left eyebrow is pitched slightly lower than the other, and the eye below it has a slight squint. This gives him a perpetual expression of thoughtful engagement, the look of someone listening intently to what others are saying.”)"

Some South Dakota bloggers who show that great penchant for pettiness might take lessons here in how it is done in the big leagues. 

The demise of the Huntsman campaign is a great comfort to those who fear and loathe anything resembling an intellectual challenge.  And so, Jon Huntsman throws his support behind Mitt Romney, and we will get to hear paeans of praise to a free enterprise system that has brought the country to its knees and condemnations of those unpatriotic and treasonous souls who endanger America by having an occasional original thought or an actual accomplishment.

They will take America back.  Right to the primal soup.  

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Do not try a colonoscopy at home. You might lose what little freedom you have left.

The prohibitive cost of health care may be the explanation.  Colonoscopies are a highly recommended part of preventive medicine.  But they cost so much, and one has to fool around purging fecal matter that might obstruct the view.  So people must be practicing self-examinations.

Why else would so many American people have their heads stuck so firmly in their lower colons? 

There seems to be a large movement to Occupy the Lower Reaches of the Alimentary Canal because hardly anyone seems to have noticed that America is no longer the land of the free.

One of the people who has noticed is Jonathan Turley, Shapiro professor of public interest law at George Washington University.  He has detailed the purging of freedoms in an article in the Washington Post.  Professor Turley states:  

In the decade since Sept. 11, 2001, this country has comprehensively reduced civil liberties in the name of an expanded security state.
He explains:

Americans often proclaim our nation as a symbol of freedom to the world while dismissing nations such as Cuba and China as categorically unfree. Yet, objectively, we may be only half right. Those countries do lack basic individual rights such as due process, placing them outside any reasonable definition of “free,” but the United States now has much more in common with such regimes than anyone may like to admit.
The ten ways we have lost our freedoms are:
  1. Assassination of U.S. citizen
  2. Indefinite detention
  3.  Arbitrary justice
  4. Warrantless searches
  5. Secret evidence
  6. War crimes
  7. Secret court
  8. Immunity from judicial review
  9. Continual monitoring of citizens
  10. Extraordinary renditions
 Another reason so many heads are lodged in so many rectums may be that those who shout racial and personal attacks against President Obama finds that the resonance gives their inane charges and denials a ring of authority because no facts or reason penetrate those teeming colonic walls.  

They can even use the N-word down there and no one hears.  Up in the free air that claim that their charges that Obama is not a U.S. citizen, or even a Christian, has forged a birth certificate, and should go back to Kenya are not racist, but that particular device does not escape the semiotic test of what is being said.  Semiotics is the science of what words designate and how they do it.  The stereotypical definition of the N-word is a person of black or brown color; a person who is inferior; a person who steals and cheats and is untrustworthy; and a person incapable of civilized thought and action.  We break down the designations:

  • Black or brown:  the color speaks for itself among those who use it as a denigration.
  • Kenyan=black and brown ancestry; inferior African class.
  • Unchristian=inferior, uncultured unciviled.
  • Forged birth certificate=dishonest, untrustworthy person. 
N=black person from Kenya with forged birth certificate and is unChristian.

You don't have to say the word if you use all the synonyms.  We all get the point.

And that goes for those who say that Obama's policies are inferior and his personal conduct is inferior because he is a black person from Kenya whose Christian credential are dubious.

The point here is that people don't have to try the racist tack to attack Obama.  They could challenge his support of policies that have cost us freedoms in ten ways. 

But they sound more authoritative when their shouts resonate in their colons.
Passers by can't hear the N-word or its synonyms.  It all just sounds like passing gas.  Has that odor, too.  

But for those who have their heads out in the sunlight and air, we aren't free like we used to be anymore.  And that is a policy issue worth debating in the open.  

An encroachment on freedom that Prof. Turley  does not mention is the loss of individual liberties and equality to corporatism.  The supporters of Mitt Romney say any attack of predatory, destructive venture capital organizations is an attack on free enterprise.  Those free enterprises want the freedom to raid, pillage, and plunder corporations in ways the return exorbitant rewards for the venture capitalists, but leave the majority of Americans without any voice in the market and a huge middle class that is drifting into poverty. 

Those venture capitalists insist, like the birthers, that their efforts held build the country and the economy.   Oh, really?  The last I looked ten percent controlled 80 percent of the wealth and earnings, and the poverty roles are growing exponentially.  

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Making the world safe for stupidity

If there is one place that one might expect a bright ray of intelligence to break through the benighting smog that covers America, one would expect it in a discussion of education.  Actually, the subject of education seems to turn the fog into an impenetrable darkness that a laser can't penetrate.  

Governor Daugaard's proposals to reform and improve education in South Dakota are evidence of what is wrong in education, not what can improve it, but they incited a storm of ignorance driven by the winds out of the stupid.  

Cory Heidelberger at Madville Times posted that the Governor's proposal on merit pay seemed to receive some reserve from the head of the educational bureaucracy in Pierre.  What ensues is a long series of comments which suggest that what South Dakota--and by implication the rest of the country--needs is a total revision of the education system so that what we now call special education becomes the norm and what is now mainstream education is limited to those students who show a glimmer of intelligence. Some of the commenters, who happen to be involved in education, try to bring elements of fact and empirical-based reasoning into the discussion, but they are drowned out by those with differing illusions and delusions and the discussion turns into a cacophony of name-calling and insults.  A sign of those in need of special education and custodial care is that they cannot engage with other people in ways that focus on objects that they can see in common.  Instead, they conjure up their favorite phantasies and excitedly engage in masturbatory frenzies during which the objective world is lost in the excitement of getting off.  The current wisdom is that such outbreaks cannot be prevented, so those who are  engaged in the stimulation of their erectile little egos are advised to go their rooms and stimulate themselves in private where no one else has to witness the obscene sessions of self-absorption. 

Mr. Heidelberger's blog contains a supreme irony.  In the post just preceding the one on Governor Daugaard's plan and the apparent reception of it by the Secretary of Education, Cory has a post lauding politicians using blogs to address issues and clarify their stances.  Cory, who is currently teaching high school French, L.K another teacher in communications and language arts, believe, as I do, that discussion is worthy and essential part of democracy and sharing opinions and information is a requisite.  But then, my work as an editor and teacher of writing kicks in and I note, as I have about the comments at Madville Times, that freedom of speech does not make all speech valuable.  There is some speech that is pernicious and destructive of any positive impulses.  Good discussion that is based upon actual facts and competent reasoning is like a good wine or single malt Scotch.  But it takes only a few drops of piss to turn the nectar into a lethal, contaminated potion.  Freedom of speech is necessarily accompanied by a free exercise of knowledge and reason, if it is to be of any value.  Some commenters who turn blogs into stupid exchanges of ejaculatory spatter protest that they are being censored and their freedom of expression is being denied them if their efforts are deleted.   Blog editors have the right, constitutionally, and the obligation, professionally, to keep the focus of their lenses free from spatter and let the light of well-informed and well-chosen language shine on the foggy areas of human endeavor.  One cannot discuss facts with those who dwell in their phantasies or reason with those incapable of it.  Where engagement is impossible it is wrong to engage.  It is appropriate for the health of the language and the democracy to tell those who produce only spatter to go to their rooms when they feel that urge.  

At some point, the misinformation and intellectual failures on which Governor Daugaard's recommendations on education are based will have to be discussed where the substance of the discussion is kept free from those who think they are contributing to the world by relieving themselves on it.  

Thursday, January 12, 2012

America, the corporatocracy

So some peons lose their livelihoods and their lives.  Who cares?

That is the attitude that is revealed in the discussion of what venture capitalist organizations contribute to the country.  The argument in favor of them is that they raise money to buy out companies and engage in "creative destruction":   they buy up companies, break them up, and sell off their parts.  They make money by selling off the good parts for more than they paid for them; and they eliminate the bad parts.  Mitt Romney made millions doing this with Bain Capital, and he is said to be the richest man running for president.  The apologists say that with venture capital the money for failing companies comes from the private sector and does not, at least, involve taxpayer money. 

The argument against such capital ventures is posed by people like Rick Perry, who sees the companies as vultures which consume all the good from the companies they  buy, then leave worthless carcasses behind for the rest of the world to deal with.  Newt Gingrich says that Mitt Romney “is gonna have to explain why would Bain have taken $180 million out of a company and then have it go bankrupt, and to what extent did they have some obligation to the workers?”  Even some Republicans see venture capital companies as parasites and scavengers.  The money they make goes to a few of the carcass-feeders and does little to contribute to the economy.

The defenders of creative destruction insists it creates value, but it creates value only for those few in the companies who receive the benefits; it creates poverty and disaster for those who lose their jobs and for the communities where the destroyed companies once operated.  It is clear that in the minds of people like Mitt Romney that their concern is only that the privileged get exorbitant wealth and power.  The people who are damaged by the acquisition of wealth and power are expendable and count for nothing.  To criticize the destructive excesses of venture capitalism, says Mitt Romney, is an attack on free enterprise and unAmerican. 

This is one of the factors that defines the one percent that the Occupy Wall Street movement identifies.  In talking of the poor, Hitler had his useless eaters.  We now have useless feeders off the weak, the dying, and vulnerable.  The GOP has become totally subservient to the useless feeders. 

Another factor is that the profits gained by venture capitalist enterprises gets a huge tax break.  

One must think of those workers in China who threatened a mass suicide after a company they worked for in jobs largely outsourced from America reneged on a wage improvement.  In 2010, fourteen workers in the plant committed suicide because of complaints about wages and working conditions.  One would hope that in America, the workers would take out the corporations before they would take themselves out. 

Aside from venture capital companies, there is a matter of consolidation--mergers and acquisitions--in general that affects business and how it gets done.  These matters affect local communities and individuals.  The question is whether these consolidated business produce good or better products and services or whether their cost cutting also cuts quality.

John Huntsman has announced that he is for breaking up the huge oil companies so that they do not monopolize so much of the economy and to break up the financial companies that are too big to fail.  In his view, these gigantic companies operate on their own whims and jeopardize the economy.

The oil companies and their products and services are an example of where their hugeness affects local consumers.  As one who  traveled extensively for my work, I found that petroleum companies were an essential part of my ability to function.  Both as a customer and one who oversaw other people's travel arrangements, oil companies were a large consideration in they way we operated.  

One of the factors was credit cards.  They made it much easier to pay for, track, and reimburse travel costs.  But there were other conveniences and essential services involved, too.  A card that I used often was Union 76.  They had truck stops and convenience stores located along the major travel routes and some of their outlets had communications provisions.  Before the age of the Internet and cell phone,  Union 76 truck stops operated communication centers where one could stop, pick up, and leave messages as you traveled across the land.  The message service was a way to avoid delays in trying reach people by telephone and lose time and patience by playing phone tag.  

At that time, I had a number of  credit cards from oil companies that stations in Aberdeen and could be used across the land, so that I was always near fuel and maintenance services when needed.  Those cards included Mobil, Amoco, Texaco, Phillips 66, Conoco, and Union 76.  The Mobil station in Aberdeen closed many years ago; it is now the site for Blockbusters.  After the station closed, my card lapsed because I did not use it.  That was an inconvenience because the oases on the interstates around Chicago feature Mobil service products.  

Then one year as I traveled to Michigan, a trip I made a couple times a year, I found that the Union 76 stations were gone.  There was one just west of the Twin Cities where I stopped regularly.  It changed brands to something I did not have a card for.  When I got near Madison, Wisconsin, a Union 76 station where once I checked for and left messages was gone.  When I got to Indiana, the Union 76 station where I regularly fueled up was gone.  And when I got to Lansing, Michigan, the station I patronized there was gone.

The disappearance of Union 76  foreshadowed what was to happen to the places I patronized in Aberdeen.  The Amoco stations were changed to BP, and then BP decided not to do business in this part of the country.  Most of those stations are Sinclair, who turned down a request for their credit card to replace the useless BP cards.  So now I do not patronize those former BP stations.  There are still BP stations in Brookings and Sioux Falls, so the card is useful for instate travel.

Then Texaco was merged into Shell, who automatically issued new credit cards after the merger.  Phillips 66 and Conoco also disappeared completely from Aberdeen, which leaves Shell the only major brand in Aberdeen where I use a credit card.  However, I stopped using the Phillips and Conoco cards anyway because an organization for which I traveled took them off their list of places for which it would reimburse expenses.  They had some dispute with credit policies and products and put those two companies on the "avoid" list.

Most of the gas I buy locally now is from a convenience store down the  street that gives a discount to regular customers who pay cash.  

But the point is that, as with venture capital ventures, mergers and acquisitions among big corporations may pad the bottom line for the companies, but they often represent a reduction in the quality of products and services.  They benefit the stockholders, but ignore the customers. These corporations affect the lives of people by the power and influence they exert on government, but more noticeably by the nature of the presence in local communities.  

The simple fact is that these companies are making huge amounts of money off the people, but are not doing much to earn that money in terms of quality of products and services.  And certainly not in terms of providing jobs. 

Mitt Romney says it is unAmerican to criticize these corporations.   If individual citizens operated like the corporations they would be regarded as very bad citizens, even criminals.  But that is the corporatocracy that America is becoming. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

No idiot left behind

Chris Hedges addresses my conscience.  He was on C-Span for three hours Saturday morning where I saw him sporadically as I, in my role of treasurer, tried to fulfill the financial needs of the  Snow Queen Festival being held in Aberdeen this weekend and next.  The young people participating in the festival break my calloused, old heart.  Chris Hedges reminds me of why.  Unless the liberal, progressive movement throws off the tar-and-feather besmirching by the entrenched fascisti who have paralyzed the democratic impulse of America, the dreams and expectations of these bright and talented young people will wither and die as they face the  realities of the char-duties to which the presiding over class consigns the middle and lower economic classes.  Of course, prostitution--or at least the arts that make it profitable--always appeals to an over class that offers special dispensations to those who fawn and grovel and massage the egos and other erectile organs of those who presume themselves the rulers.    And, after all, No Child Left Behind, the enforced indoctrination which rules our children's lives, is about nothing but fawning and groveling.

Chris Hedges

In his recent book, Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, Hedges confronts the reasons why we are a generation of dupes.  The title sets forth the thesis.  America has undergone a conditioning which has purged a large segment of the population of the ability to make literate discernment and is well on the way to becoming a nation of slavering dupes whose mentalities are devoted to the spectacles of celebrity, a pants-drooping sense of fashion which is virulently anti-intellectual and anti-cultural.  It shows in the kind of candidates  the GOP is considering for president.  The minions who comprise the GOP have made a concerted attack on intelligence and have expressed a bitter disdain for anyone who might possess some.  Among there own, they have disparaged Jon Huntsman because he can speak Mandarin Chinese and, as ambassador to China, has served the country in ways that require intelligence and knowledge.  In the current GOP mind, those qualities are fatal demerits.

Chris Hedges explores the subversion and suppression of the thought processes needed to create this class of surly, menacing anti-intellectuals who will do the bidding of their handlers anytime their anger buttons are hit.  In Empire of Illusion, he details the conditioning that shapes the generation of dolts:
Life is about the personal humiliation of those who oppose us. Those who win are the best.  Those who lose deserve to be erased.  Compassion, competence, intelligence, and solidarity with others are forms of weakness.  And those who do not achieve celebrity status, who do not win the prize money or make millions in Wall Street firms, deserve to lose.  Those who are denigrated and ridiculed on reality television, often as they sob in front of the camera, are branded as failures.  They are responsible for their rejection.  They are deficient.

Chris Hedges examines the conditioning processes defined by George Orwell.  The use of popular media as the instruments of operant conditioning have come to pass, and Hedges examines them in detailed specifics. 

In The Death of the Liberal Class,  Hedges summarizes the role of the media in this conditioning process:

The media, the church, the university, the Democratic Party, the arts, and labor unions—the pillars of the liberal class—have been bought off with corporate money and promises of scraps tossed to them by the narrow circles of power. Journalists, who prize access to the powerful more than they prize truth, report lies and propaganda to propel us into a war in Iraq. Many of these same journalists assured us it was prudent to entrust our life savings to a financial system run by speculators and thieves. Those life savings were gutted. The media, catering to corporate advertisers and sponsors, at the same time renders invisible whole sections of the population whose misery, poverty, and grievances should be the principal focus of journalism. 
The GOP mission to make America a corporatocracy adheres closely to the way Mussolini envisioned fascism

  Fascism combats the whole complex system of democratic ideology, and repudiates it, whether in its theoretical premises or in its practical application. Fascism denies that the majority, by the simple fact that it is a majority, can direct human society; it denies that numbers alone can govern by means of a periodical consultation, and it affirms the immutable, beneficial, and fruitful inequality of mankind, which can never be permanently leveled through the mere operation of a mechanical process such as universal suffrage....
...Fascism denies, in democracy, the absur[d] conventional untruth of political equality dressed out in the garb of collective irresponsibility, and the myth of "happiness" and indefinite progress....

...For Fascism, the growth of empire, that is to say the expansion of the nation, is an essential manifestation of vitality, and its opposite a sign of decadence. Peoples which are rising, or rising again after a period of decadence, are always imperialist; and renunciation is a sign of decay and of death. Fascism is the doctrine best adapted to represent the tendencies and the aspirations of a people, like the people of Italy, who are rising again after many centuries of abasement and foreign servitude. But empire demands discipline, the coordination of all forces and a deeply felt sense of duty and sacrifice: this fact explains many aspects of the practical working of the regime, the character of many forces in the State, and the necessarily severe measures which must be taken against those who would oppose this spontaneous and inevitable movement ...
This is not to suggest that Obama represents an alternative to the incipient fascist direction of the GOP.  In his 2008 campaign, he promised change and that change included a pledge to deal with the partisan paralysis and bitterness.  He tried to do this by attempting to utilize the old traditions of discourse that leads to acceptable compromise.  However, from the outset, the GOP indicated that it would not consider any compromises and that its single concern was defeating Obama and removing him from office.  It made clear that Obama would be treated with some amiability only if he shuffled, shucked, and muttered "yes, massa" in obsequious subservience.  The signal moment came when during the attempts to come to an agreement on the debt ceiling, Speaker John Boehner walked out and refused to acknowledge or return telephone calls.  Only those GOP loyalists who are dedicated to foolery and self-delusion cannot see the overt racism in this tactic and many other instances in which GOP leaders have demanded deference and have heaped on denigrations about Obama's personal worth.  

Liberals became restive when Obama did not call a spade a spade by objecting to his, in effect, being called a spade.   By trying to stay above the partisan fray, which resonates so strongly of Mussolini's vision of fascism, Obama allowed the GOP to designate him "a loser" and to appeal to that  callow winner-loser mentality upon which the GOP is dependent for its support.  The little playground bullies were able to cower behind their leaders and call names of denigration and chant the slogans of insult and abuse that they have been taught is political discourse.  

The process that Hedges describes of de-mentalizing the populace eliminates any possibility of thought and discussion.  The only possibility for expression is, as in Orwell's daily five minutes of hate, for the obedient minions to stand before their leaders and repeat the chants and slogans in which they are led.  There is no possibility of arguing with minds that have been sealed and can be reached only through those behavioral triggers to which they have been conditioned to respond.  This eliminates liberals from any part in what passes for the political dialogue.  The objective is to condition a majority of the populace to this mindless state.  The mindless will become the voting majority.

That majority is being carefully constructed by the GOP agenda.  The No Child Left Behind law was implemented in a way to purge the education curriculum of the literate arts and sciences, and transform it into a process of conditioning and rote memory which is what is assessed by the standardized tests.  Those schools which do not score sufficiently on teaching-to-the-test subservience will be punished, and those teachers who show insufficiency in conditioning their students away from literacy will be fired.  No Child Left Behind defines educational success in terms of mindless subservience.  

Then other sources of political diversity are purged.  Collective bargaining is taken away from labor unions, funds are denied from Planned Parenthood, and religious freedom is granted only to those denominations that speak and act against diversity that does not conform to social and behavioral norms dictated by the GOP.

Liberals who try to accommodate what passes for conservatism in their considerations are doomed.  Nowhere is that fact more apparent than in the lose of Rep. Herseth Sandlin to Kristi Noem.  Nancy Pelosi became the object of the GOP five minutes of hate and because Noem could identify them as being in the same party, the gullible minions voted against Herseth Sandlin to register their hatred for Pelosi.  In trying to address what she thought were the conservative concerns of her constituency,  Herseth Sandlin lost the confidence of the more liberal segments of her own party.  The result is Kristi Noem, who like her colleague John Thune in the Senate, is a puppet who gives voice to whoever is pulling her strings at the moment and can only produce sham legislation against the regulation of farm dust, which never was an issue to be regulated, just as Thune's signal legislation was against the regulation of cow farts.  But with those conditioned to the GOP agenda, these are issues of passion, which divert attention from matters like health care, poverty, and the fact that the lack of jobs stems from corporate policies that the U.S. government is to weakened to change. 

Chris Hedges is among those who find refuge from the idiocracy in the Occupy movement.  On one hand, he identifies the massive ills that the one percent is responsible for in the country and the world.  On the other hand, he addresses how the traditional institutions of liberalism have failed to counter the corporatocracy and the disease it spreads to shrivel the collective brain pans.   

The greatest hope for an informed, intelligent and free and equal society that once comprised the American dream is enough people refusing to participate in a political system that can only defeat those who cling to that dream.  Perhaps, we can do nothing but say no, and refuse, at least, to be conditioned into idiots.   


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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States