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

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Bain in the ass, the Bain of our existence, etc.

Let us first dispense with the stupid puns.  Then: 

In the  early years of our nation,  a company like Mitt Romney's Bain Capital would not have been permitted to operate.  The founders and early proponents of the republic firmly believed in government's role in watching over the "enterprise system to insure the usefulness of all economic activity."  The role of government was to protect the citizens from both political and economic tyranny and "to aid and foster certain activities or kinds of business that strengthen a nation." (Johnson, E.A.J. (1973). The Foundations of American Economic Freedom: Government and Enterprise in the Age of Washington. )

Colonial and Federalist Americans were a litigious lot.  Early diaries and news accounts are filled with instances of people taking other people to court for accused acts of negligence or taking advantage that affected their livelihood and families.  Any act, including the charging of interest for loans, that put  one person in a position of power and control over another person was regarded as anti-social and damaging to the community.  Business success was a matter of supplying a value in terms of goods and services which contributed to the function and integrity of the community.  Business which operated on any basis other than diligence and integrity was considered predatory or parasitic and was forbidden and subject to legal action.

The history of America is largely a history of how the industrial revolution and the era of robber barons changed the American ethic through bribery, force, and intimidation and took over the American government.  Safeguards and measures were taken in the early 20th century by Theodore Roosevelt and the like to restrain monopolies and the extension of their power have eroded away.  In the name of economic growth, politicians--including Democrats like Bill Clinton--have allowed a consolidation of industry that has resulted in global companies that have no interest in the communities in which they operate or the economic strength of the nation.  Their only interest is in the profits they can derive by hook or crook.  

The ultimate rule of American life is the business decision, which displaces the will of god as the imperative of American life.  No matter how many people  or how much of the environment is damaged by some business enterprise,  the damage is justified if it results from a business decision.  When individuals do some of the things that businesses do routinely, they are considered criminal acts and individuals get prosecuted and jailed for them.  

The consolidation of the economy into the hands of a very few creates the one percent that the Occupy Movement talks about and protests.  That one percent decides how and what the nation does.  The 99 percent have no effective voice.  America has long since given up being a democracy in every way except pretense.  It is a corporate plutocracy run on tyrannical principles.

  • The top 1 percent of Americans hold 23.5 percent of the wealth.
  • The top 10 percent of Americans hold 83 percent of the wealth.
  • The top 1 percent of Americans gather 10 percent of the income.
  • The 10 percent of Americans gather 49 percent of the income.
  •  The bottom 90 percent of Americans share 27 percent of the nation's wealth.
  • The bottom 90 percent of Americans divide 51 percent of the nation's income.  
That distribution of wealth and income is the result of the way business has been done in America for the last 4 years through consolidation and the unrestrained power given corporations and business interests.  
Bain Capital is an illustration of what business has become and what is regarded as shrewd business today.  As a private equity company it dabbles in the entire range of manipulations:  forced buyouts, consolidations, mergers, pillaging, and junking out.  It feeds on companies and devises ways to make money out of them, often destroying them in the process.  It's motives are not to contribute to and refine enterprises to strengthen the country, but to satisfy the greed for power and wealth that is its purpose in being.  

When Bain Capital claims it has created jobs, it doesn't mention the companies it has raided and the jobs it has eliminated, or the effects its job elimination has had on people.  Bain does not represent that extremely small segment of the business community which tries to grow its companies by competing with better products and better services at competitive prices.  It depends upon the ruthless and cruel manipulation of those businesses it acquires and sees the sacrifice of people who the wealth and power of its company members as its mission and purpose.  It is not the least interested in what strengthens communities and the nation.  It merely serves those who aspire to be in that one percent.  

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Stephanie Herseth Sandlin becomes general counsel for Raven Industries

Stephanie Herseth Sandlin announced on Facebook today that the moving of the Herseth Sandlin home to Sioux Falls is because she has joined the Raven Industries executive team as the company's general counsel.

While this might excite the blog speculators into a frenzy about her political future, it also poses more contrasts between Herseth Sandlin's competence in working to reconcile private business interests with government regulations and the floundering vacuousness of the current congresswoman.

In regard to joining Raven whom she has represented as a client, she said, "Raven is doing extraordinary work in designing and manufacturing products that seek to feed a growing population, protect the environment, advance renewable energy and help make our people, communities and country safer."

In her announcement, she stressed her intention to stay, work, and raise her family in South Dakota.  

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Two new grandsons, Columbine, and Tyler Clementi

Julian Estlin Peterson  b. May 15, 2012

 Politics and the like have been displaced by family business.  My mother-in-law,  Elizabeth Girton Snyder, 93, died in April  A few days later my first grandson, Kace, came into the world.  Then this month, my second grandson, Julian, took up residence on the planet.  

Both boys had hastened entrances.  Kace's birth was induced because he did not seem to be gaining weight.  The umbilical was hardening and he wasn't getting enough nutrition so he was urged into the world a bit early.  His mother is my daughter Andrian.

Julian was born by C-section.  My daughter Leslie is diabetic so Julian's progress was also monitored closely and the obstetrician thought he wasn't moving around enough and decided to get him out into the world. 

Kace LeRoy Patrick Sommers  b. April 12, 2012

Both  boys were put on oxygen to give their lungs opportunity to catch up to where they would be for a full-term birth.  They also were boosted along with IVs.

The factors that the obstetricians monitored so closely were not brought up when my children were born.  That's because the technology of ultra-sonds and other devices to track the weight and development of babies has advanced so much in the past few decades.  

Kace was born in Aberdeen at St. Lukes Avera.  Julian was born in Littleton. Colo., at Littleton Adventist Hospital,  just a few blocks from Columbine High School.

The thought persists that we have progressed so far to bring these lives into the world but we seem to be losing ground when it comes to keeping them here.   We have allowed an adolescent culture to develop which is treacherous for many young people and over which adults have little influence.  What influence adults do exert over adolescent society seems to be mostly in the negative areas of alienation and hostile discrimination.

The illustrative event in adolescent culture is the Columbine massacre during which students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 people on April 20, 1999.  We went to Denver to help out looking after Brian and Leslie's household while she was in the hospital with Julian.  Brian stayed there with her, so we had charge of the animals and preparing for Julian's homecoming.  The drive each day to Littleton, a very attractive suburb of Denver, was a reminder of that episode at Columbine High School 13 years ago.  Like most people who have been involved in education and young people, I am troubled by Columbine, all the school shootings and general acts of domestic terrorism and what they portend for our children and our future.  

The significance of Columbine was not just that two young men would plan and attempt to execute a plan to kill masses of their fellow students, teachers, and anyone who came upon the scene.  Just as troubling was the way society in general reacted.  In its initial accounts, the press was dead wrong about the details it reported.  Law enforcement agencies were giving out bad information and were grand-standing in the light of sensationalism.  And the furor of blame-placing and accusation that occurred across the nation indicated that American culture was overtaken by a mean streak.  The parents of the two shooters were vilified and defamed by the self-righteous.

Columbine put the focus on something that adults--parents, teachers, social scientists--cannot comprehend and, therefore, have not talked about.  That something is the huge and sometimes unbridgeable divide that has developed between adult and juvenile society.  Parents are reluctant to talk about the fact that their children engage in many attitudes, activities, and practices that their parents are unaware of and are shocked when they are made aware.  Parents are not even aware enough to argue with their children.  In the cases of Harris and Klebold, the boys told adults what they wanted to hear, and as reported by USA Today on the tenth anniversary of the massacre, "they saved money from after-school jobs, took Advanced Placement classes, assembled a small arsenal and fooled everyone — friends, parents, teachers, psychologists, cops and judges."  They seemed like busy, productive, if aloof, kids.  

Their values and their motivations have been analyzed and explained, but remain a puzzle as to why the young men would develop the attitudes that moved them and how they so successfully hid what they felt and thought.  

In this time of vicious political division, thoughtful adults are very reluctant to confront the cultural forces that are working on the Harrises, Klebolds, and the multitude of young people who engage in anti-social and terrorist activities.  In this time of strident, rigid political doctrine, it is probably impossible to engage in an analytical dialogue about what our culture is doing.  Everybody wants to accuse; no one is capable of considering that we, as a national culture, could have any blame in what is happening to our young people.

One of the best pieces of journalism that presents some of the facts about how young people think--and don't think-- is The New Yorker piece on the matter of Tyler Clementi who committed suicide after his Rutgers roommate, Dharun Ravi, videotaped him having a homosexual encounter.  Ravi was brought to court on 15 charges, sentenced to a month in jail, and has issued an apology for his actions

Before the college term started, Ravi discovered through the Internet that his assigned roommate, Tyler Clementi, was gay and Ravi had Internet conversations with friends about it.  He showed some signs of uneasiness,  and commented more on his perception of Clementi as a violin-playing, technologically clumsy nerd, characterizing him to a friend as "“a gay person who asks a lot of questions, is mostly techno illiterate, and makes tshirt ideas.”  He wrote to his friend that he was not perturbed about the prospect of a gay roommate, saying, "I still don’t really care, except what my parents are going to say."

The only thing Ravi said that approached hatefulness was when he found that Clementi was not well off.  He wrote his friend, “Dude I hate poor people.”

That mention of economic class is a telling expression of how young people have come to view each other and what at least one basis for an adolescent judgment is.  

In my own children's experience in school, I have noticed how their contemporaries are divided by hostile discrimination and a crude sense of class.  They operate on an imperative of exclusion.  The desire to include and encourage that was once a part of adolescence, as I noted it in my college teaching, has given away to hostilities based upon trivial distinctions.  But there is nothing trivial about the school shootings and motivations of hate, whatever their basis, that are behind them.

As I hold and look at my grandsons,  I can only hope that our society will return to the accepting and encouraging culture that benefited me and so many students I encountered throughout the years.  I have not the foggiest idea of how to make that happen. Or if it can. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Why college degrees aren't worth much anymore

I am in Denver at this writing caught up in a fury of family business, which came at the same time as some final readings of editorial projects for which the last call for updating and revision was made.  

During all the hectic activity, a recent moment over coffee with some colleagues who were winding up their classes for the year has lingered.  The colleagues were from two institutions and both are in the sciences.  One of the professors was troubled.  He said he had given incompletes to half the students in one class.  They had failed the final examination, and, therefore, the course, and he gave the incompletes so they could retake the final and bring their grades up to passing.  And, he pointed out that failing half of the class would be regarded as a deficiency on his part.

This professor is known for his strenuous efforts to help students succeed by holding special tutorial sessions outside of class and working intensively with them in the laboratory.  Still, he says his efforts produce meager results.   He goes to the extra efforts because most of his students come into his classes poorly prepared, and he wishes to give them all opportunity to bring themselves up to a competitive level.  However, few avail themselves of the opportunity.  The problem is that they don't study.  That was a point agreed upon by all the professors at the table that day:  students do not come to class prepared and they do not put much effort into their studies.  

My colleague said that the  class in which he gave the incompletes is one required for a number of professional programs the students are enrolled in.  Even a passing grade of C might not indicate the level of knowledge of his subject that a professional in these fields is expected to command.  

Professors find themselves caught between two forces.  On one hand, there is a  general expectation that all levels of education should be producing high levels of competence.  The public and politicians go ballistic at low graduation rates and reports that college graduates are not performing competently in areas they are presumed to have studied.  On the other hand, teachers at all levels are under pressure to accommodate the preferences and notional demands of students and their parents.   Faculty are held responsible for the failures of students.  The failure of students is now regarded as faculty failure.  At the college level, as in K-12, there is tremendous pressure to dummy down courses and inflate grades, but those who exert that pressure also express concern over America's lagging test scores and competitive academic status.  

My colleagues in colleges say that placing blame on faculty for poor student performance has exacerbated an attitude and trend in colleges for students to slough off.  My colleague who gave the incompletes predicts that the students who failed his final examination will not perform well in taking the test over.   He says they simply do not study enough for his efforts to explain the material to them to have much effect.  They simply do not put in the effort needed.  His colleagues at coffee that day concurred.

National Survey of Student Engagement, 2011. The Washington Post. 

So does some national surveys of college student study habits. The National Survey of Student Engagement shows that since the 1960s, the amount of time the average student studies outside of class has diminished from 24 hours to 15.  College has, in effect, gone from a full-time job to part time for most students.  The gauge for how much time students should study was based upon the 40-hour work week.  It was that for every hour a student spent in class, he/she should put in two hours outside of class.  If a student was taking 12 semester hours in courses, the student would be expected to put in 24 hours of study for 36 hours a week expended on studies.  However, the fact was that the top students put in much more than that.  

During my time as an undergraduate, school was totally geared toward supporting study.  Study time and opportunity was the priority, and extra-curricular and social activities had to be scheduled around study time.  Perhaps the busiest place on campus from early in the morning until closing time at night was the library.  Dorms had quiet hours until 10 p.m. so that students had a quiet environment in which to concentrate and work.  The hour between 10 and 11 p.m. was when phonographs, for the few who could afford them, could be played and students could socialize.  After 11, quiet hours were imposed again so students could sleep or resume their studies.  Weekends were more relaxed, but students who had work to do could go to the library if there were too many distractions in the dorms.  The operating principle was that a college existed for the purpose of study and its primary concern was to facilitate and support that activity.  

In my case, my last years of undergraduate study involved 60 to 80 hours a week.  As an English major and philosophy minor, it took about 40 hours a week to keep up with the assigned readings.  As a graduate student, the 100-hour week was normal.  During the time papers were due, one could expect 16 hour days 7 days a week.  

In those years, many students also had part-time jobs. Leisure and recreation were not given much consideration in the academic scheme of things.

When I became a professor, I noticed that customs had changed.  Dorms were cacophonous places.  However, students in those early years of teaching still made studies a full-time proposition, even if they did so in a distracting environment, which did compromise the thoroughness of their work at times.  However, they did come to class prepared, and professors had to be ready and able to field a barrage of questions about the materials, and students came to class with the assigned material well in mind and demanded clarifications and explanations raised by supplementary readings.  The diligent students set the pace and the standards for the class work.

When I came to Northern State University,  I experienced some real culture shock.  It was apparent that many students had not read assigned materials and that they had not the foggiest idea of what lecture and discussion were covering.  In my early years at Northern, there was a sharp division in the student body between those who prepared for class and worked hard at their studies and those who sloughed off and made, at best, a very casual acquaintance with the materials.  The difference in quality of work was stunningly apparent, but the serious students who wanted the knowledge and worked for a diploma that signified knowledge and accomplishment set the standard.  And they were resented for it.  However, that faction of students became smaller and smaller as the years progressed.

One incident illustrates the situation.  Two young women, who were both striving for graduate school scholarships, shared a room in one of the coed dorms.  While they tried to spend the evenings at their studies, other students harassed them and chided them for making college difficult for other students.  The harassment got so serious that the two women decided to break their dorm agreement and move off campus.  Another professor and I were asked to intervene on their behalf in breaking their residence hall lease.  The matter became one of threatening the college with a law suit for not providing an environment which enabled the students to perform their work, and the college very quickly approved their move off campus.

However, the matter did not end there.  Some of the young men who had been harassing them gathered outside their apartment one night and attempted to continue their disruption of the students' work.  It escalated into a law enforcement incident when neighbors called the police.  And the women were subjected to menace and disparagement when they came to  class.  

A common complaint among the serious students was that their work was compromised by other students who cheated.  This matter became so wide spread that the faculty union issued an advisory on the matter and urged professors to give multiple versions of any multiple-choice tests and to include essay questions.  It also became a policy among many professors that anyone caught looking at another student's test paper would be disqualified from completing a test.

South Dakota students contend that their home state provides them with a superior work effort.  Still, my visits to campuses throughout the country shows many students who work more diligently and display a work ethic vastly superior to that demonstrated by many of the students I have encountered in South Dakota.  The claim is not supported by the facts.
An unfortunate aspect of the anti-academic student attitudes was that it gave the institution a reputation.  A number of faculty were recruited to travel to Sioux Falls to participate in a college recruitment fair, where each college had a booth where prospective students could ask questions and meet faculty members.  We were chagrined, to say the least, when high school students would pass us by giggling about Northern State Junior High School.  Even though such a reputation does not fairly represent the serious and hard academic work that takes place on the campus,  the fact is that the attitudes of the anti-students forms the public perception of a college.  

Many students have the attitude that a college diploma is merely a piece of paper and all it signifies is that a student has jumped through another hoop by whatever means to satisfy some arbitrary qualification for entrance into the work world.  It does not represent for those students evidence of intellectual achievement and accomplishment.  

Some schools have grown alarmed at this devaluation of a college degree and are taking measures in more stringent admissions and more rigorous course work.  The result is a growing trend to make a distinction between serious institutions of higher learning and the "diploma mills" that cheapen the meaning of a college degree.

This distinction has, in fact, been operative for some time.  In admitting students to graduate schools or hiring for jobs that require substantial demonstrations of competence,  degrees from some schools do not qualify.  

At many institutions, the recruitment and retention of students to meet budgetary needs has resulted in an effort to make a degree easier to come by.  The decline in student effort is something many institutions accommodate in order to meet their budgets.  Tuition gets higher but the value of degrees gets lower.

In the discussion over my colleague's efforts at bringing his students up to a level of competence, we agreed that many students do not want to do the work and should not be in college unless they do.  This might mean that students will have to come to terms with their failure and either bring their work up to standard or flunk out.  And that means that some colleges should probably close rather than perpetuate inferior and inadequate standards.  

If colleges compete, it should be to see who produces the best scholarship among its students, not who provides the most pleasant and work-free environments for obtaining a degree.  

The harsh fact is that some degrees are not academically worth anything.  

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The evolving of an asshole

 In an effort to combat the prevailing image of Mitt Romney as woodenly detached and given to a constant stream of verbal clumsiness and foolery, his campaign has insisted that anyone who knows Romney knows him as a funny, fun-loving, kind soul who doesn't have mean bone in his body.  The staff encouraged reporters to look to his past and people who knew him then.  A Washington Post reporter did just that and came up with some detailed accounts of what a fun-loving, hilarious lad Willard Romney was in prep school.

One incident came about when, during the early 1960s, Willard saw a young man on campus with hair too long and too bleached for Mitten's taste,  He said, “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!”  And so a couple days later he rounded up a posse, ran the young man down, held him on the floor, and cut off his hair, while the young man yelled in fright for help.  Boy, did that send chuckles and chortles of affability through the student body, even though five men who were interviewed about the incident express shame and regrets today.  

The real thigh-slapper involved an English teacher with Mr. Magoo eyesight.  He walked into closets and became the object of pranks from his adolescent charges.  The one recounted is when the teacher and some students, including Mitty, accompanied him to the library, the entrance of which had a double set of glass doors.  Romney opened the first door to graciously allow the teacher to pass.  At the second door, Romney gave a gracious after-me gesture with his arm toward the unopened glass door.  The teacher walked into it, which sent Romney into spasms of mirth and glee.  Oh, that Mitty was a card.  

The reactions to the story about Romney's boyhood escapades falls into predictable categories.  Some find the stories a definitive revelation of his personality.  Others insist that citing boyhood moments of insouciance is irrelevant, because all humans are subject to the vagaries of puerile thought and culture as they mature.  However, those who study the development of the human psyche say that the element of malice involved in adolescent acting out and whether a person develops and shows a responsible attitude about it over time is the significant factor in personal history.  Some personality traits that show antisocial hostilities are apparent in childhood and, rather than being surmounted, become a part of a person's operant character.

In the case of Romney's boyhood pranks, the significant aspect is they they were not general pranks anonymously targeted, but were aimed at specific individuals  and were expressions of Romney's attitude about them.  He wished to inflict humiliation and dominance on them as an expression of his level of regard for them, not merely to elicit laughter at some general human foibles.

Part of Romney's trickery in these cases was to humiliate and elicit denigration and contempt of personal traits on which Romney was passing judgments.  His classmates who were witnesses or participated in the acts expressed shameful remorse in remembering incidents of 50 years ago, while Romney claims he can't recall them.  

Incidents which in most cases would be regarded as part of those childish things that are put away with manhood in Romney's case inform the strange insouciance he demonstrates in manhood and particularly on the campaign trail. 

Some of his peculiarities elicit humor but bewilderment.  One of his themes on the campaign trail gave a friend of mine, who is a forester from the days I was actively involved in silviculture, a mind-stopping WTF-is-he talking-about moment.  It is Romney's peculiar judgment about the trees of Michigan.  As if the trees can vote.  

He first broached the subject when he was campaigning in 2008, when addressing a social club in Detroit:  "I love being in Michigan.  Everything seems right here. You know, I come back to Michigan; the trees are the right height. The grass is the right color for this time of year, kind of a brownish-greenish sort of thing. It just feels right.”

During his primary campaign this year, he revived that theme, telling one audience,
"I love this state. The trees are the right height," and another, “This feels good, being back in Michigan. You know, the trees are the right height."  

My forester friend said it is one thing to look at, say some oak trees, and note that the average mature oak is 80 feet tall and that the oak trees one is looking at appear to be in good health and developing as oak trees are supposed to do.  But to say the trees in Michigan are the right height is like saying, "Hey God, you got the trees in Michigan right," and suggesting that one's personal judgment matters on the way nature is performing.  There is a disturbing egocentrism in that repeated statement.  It demonstrates the way Romney thinks.

One can apply it to his work at Bain Capital and wonder if in assessing the companies he bought he decided if they felt right and were the right size or if he said, "This one is too big; I'll cut it down to size."  He seems to be imposing his personal judgments on trees and business enterprises, as he did on the fellow student whose hair he decided to cut off or the teacher whose dignity could be sacrificed to his whim of humor.  When Romney cites his business experience in the "real world" and his accomplishments, it seems to be informed by this strange mentality of notion and ego-centered whim.

This disturbing aspect of Romney's personality forms the essential basis for his campaign against President Obama.  He does not cite specific elements of the policy and say this is the specific result this policy produced and this is why it is wrong.  He cannot explain why his health care plan for Massachusetts, upon which many parts of the Affordable Health Care Act are based, is right while the plan endorsed by Obama is wrong.  He retreats into the ploy of saying the Obama plan is wrong because Mitt says it is.  Similarly, he insists on the claim that his plan for allowing the Detroit auto-business to go bankrupt was right, while Obama's was wrong.  Although the auto executives point that they turned to the government for bail out help because there simply was no private capital available, an assumption on which Romney's bankruptcy plan was based, Romney insists on his rightness.  And then he takes credit for the success of the bail out in re-establishing the auto industry to viability.  Romney's notional claims have no correlations with facts. 

The Romney campaign is premised on the charge that Obama is ignorant, incompetent, and unfit for the tasks of office.  Rather than cite objective evidence of Obama's shortcomings, Romney employs the tactic he did against his classmate: “He can’t look like that. That’s wrong. Just look at him!”  And one cannot dismiss the fact that Obama is a black man, a representative of a group which Romney's creed has historically excluded from the status accorded to white men.  

Romney has a history of imposing personal judgments and dismissals on people he has deemed as unworthy.  His campaign is premised on such dismissals.

And so, Mitt Romney is evolving. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Give Mt. Rushmore back to the Indians

A native Mt. Rushmore:  Chief Joseph,  Sitting Bull, Dull Knife,  Geronimo
The headline in Huffington Post said: 

Mt. Rushmore Site Should Be Returned To Indigenous Native American Tribes, U.N. Official Says

But that is not what the U.N. official actually said.  It is what the Huffington  Post thought he said. Whether made in error or in deliberation, the statement  is bad journalism. 

What James Anaya, the U.N. special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people, actually said was that "he'll recommend in an upcoming report that some of the tribes' lands be restored, including the Black Hills of South Dakota," according to the Associated Press account:
Anaya said land restoration would help bring about reconciliation. He named the Black Hills as an example. He said restoring to indigenous people what they have a legitimate claim to can be done in a way that is not divisive "so that the Black Hills, for example, isn't just a reminder of the subordination and domination of indigenous peoples in that country." 
He did not specify Mt. Rushmore, although it is in the Black Hills.  He did recognize, as has the U.S. Supreme Court that the appropriation of the Black Hills by the U.S. was a violation of a treaty through fraud, deadly force, and genocide.  In an interview with Indian Country Today Media Network, he said:

I think there are a lot of issues and a lot of specific programs the federal government, in particular, is implementing to address those issues that I think are making some headway. But what I think needs to happen—this is what I heard [on my tour]—there needs to be a real reckoning of the history that indigenous people suffered and an understanding that the social conditions you mentioned—high suicide rates, alcoholism, domestic violence—are a direct consequence of this inter-generational trauma… And until there’s a reckoning and a reconciliation of this history… it’s going to be very difficult to fully address this laundry list of specific issues.
He noted that this kind of appropriation of indigenous lands continues today:
You have two tracks going forward simultaneously. That is, the recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ rights but at the same time greater facilitation for multi-national resource companies to go on indigenous territories to extract the resources often in violation of Indigenous Peoples’ rights. And there doesn’t seem to be a coherent posture in many countries on how to reconcile those two tracks and if anything, the movement forward in extracting resources from indigenous lands is accelerated compared to the movement forward in implementing Indigenous Peoples’ rights.
The return of the Black Hills to the control of the native people in restoring the integrity of the Treaty of 1868 is what is at issue in the settlement of the issue.  Although the tribes have been offered a cash settlement, they have been adamant in their insistence that they want the return of the land, not the cash.  The proposed Bradley Bill of the 1980s the Great Sioux Nation would get 1.3 million acres of the 7.5 million acres returned to them. The 1.3 million acres would be strictly U. S. National Forest Service land. No municipalities, no state owned land, no private land or no federal monument lands would have been threatened.  That proposal has not been agreed to by the Great Sioux Nation, but remains the best negotiating point for the settlement of this issue. Of course, it exempts Mt. Rushmore, the national and state parks from the restoration of lands.

The major defect in the Huffington Post error is that it inflames America's right wing that is waging a militant obstruction to any movement toward equality and justice.  It sends the country's dialogue off into another tantrum of rage, and that is the last thing the native people, whose heritage has been one of deprivation and denial, need right now.

The dialogue has to be about observing the Treaty and restoring the lands.  

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Why the gridlock on hate crime charges?

The most frustrating aspect to the charges by Cheyenne River Sioux elder Vern Traversie that he was mutilated with a KKK carved into his belly while in Rapid City Regional Hospital for heart surgery is that no agencies with authority are taking any action one way or another. 

Vern Traversie says he is getting some help from the Cheyenne River Tribal Council officers:  

Traversie said he’s been working closely with Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman Kevin Keckler and his District 5 representative, Robin LeBeau, to sort through the many incoming offers for legal counsel. He said their assistance is invaluable.

“I don’t know anything about this, and I don’t have the resources to do background checks,” he explained. “We’re getting calls from all over. I hope to have representation this week.”

Chairman Keckler confirmed that his office is working with Traversie to sort through the deluge of offers.

Yakima Tribal Chair Harry Smiskin

 A Yakima tribal chairman on the West Coast summarizes the puzzling inaction in a public statement he made in behalf of his tribe.  Chair Harry Smiskin said: 

As a former tribal and Bureau of Indian Affairs police officer, I am particularly disturbed by what has not taken place in the aftermath of the assault upon Mr. Traversie. Upon the Yakama Nation’s inquiry of his tribal leaders and other relatives, I understand that there has been a complete failure of any federal, state or local law enforcement agency to take any initiative on the matter – despite that the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Police have determined conclusively that a hate crime has been committed against Mr. Traversie. In particular, the United States seems to ignore the trust responsibility it owes Mr. Traversie as a Sioux Indian. Like the assault itself, this federal and state inaction is grossly unjust.

To be clear, the federal Civil Rights Act makes it illegal for a person to be discriminated against based upon his race. In particular, private individuals and corporations who deprive a person the equal protection and equal privileges provided by law, based upon racial or other class-based motives, violate the Civil Rights Act. Likewise, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, recently signed by President Barack Obama, says that: “Indigenous peoples have the right to the full enjoyment, as a collective or as individuals, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms.”

Monday, May 7, 2012

GOP: the de-energizer dumb bunny

The GOP, on the national and state levels, has fallen into the mindset that the only purpose worth working and living for is the total subjugation of opponents and anyone else who departs from their party line on any subject whatever. Nowhere is this more apparent than on matters of energy.  The current party line contradicts  what Nixon advocated and retreats into the hagiography of Ronald Reagan with a scriptural devotion.   

Reagan believed that the development of energy should be totally governed by the market.  His Secretary of the Interior James Watt was fanatically anti-conservation about any natural resource.  He promoted unrestrained exploitation of natural resources by business.  The strain of belief that ruled during the Reagan-Watt era has developed to the point of being militantly anti-science, a large element in the current war on education and teachers.  

The conservative  movement is paradoxically opposed to anything that conserves the health of the planet.  It advocates the unbridled rule of business interests over humanity and nature in the name of a free market,  no matter how rapacious, negligent, destructive, and oppressive.  The conservative philosophy of full, unrestrained exploitation and devastation of the natural world in the name of free enterprise has come against an opponent that it has come to hate:  science.  Over the years, scientists have found compelling evidence that mindless exploitation is lethal to the health of humans and the life-sustaining working of the planet Earth itself.  The conservative movement's response to this evidence is to deny and denounce it.  Science stands in the way of greed and the lust for power, the main driving forces of the conservative version of the free market.  In the current conservative mindset, science is okay as long as it can be applied to plundering the planet.  But when it is in employed in behalf of preserving and conserving the planet, science is reprehensible and despised.  

Science has measured damage to the planet that is deleterious to human life.  It provides ideas for limiting human contributions to global warming, for reducing the damage to the air and the earth from our extraction and use of energy, for limiting the use of chemicals and organisms in the production and marketing of our food that endangers human life.  But these ideas require regulations and restraints that impose requirements on commerce, and that is an evil according to the gospel of the market and interferes with worship of the god of mammon.

The idea that the nation should move to renewable and sustainable forms of energy was at one time one that held an appeal across the political spectrum.  In fact, some true conservatives who believed in conservation were its most dedicated advocates.  The membership of conservation organizations which worked to clean up and preserve earth were not divided along party lines in the early years of environmental advocacy.  Partisan affiliations were irrelevant to that work.   During the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, the facts of plunder and pollution were inescapable.  They were in the air we breathed, the rain whose acid scorched forests and plains, and etched deeply into the landscape.  They confronted communities and organizations.  In the early 70s I was a member of a church council that each summer spent considerable money to paint the church parsonage, only to see the paint flaking and peeling and dissolving away by spring.  The church was near a factory area where foundries sent toxic and corrosive fumes into the air.  Emphysema was a common ailment among men who worked in that environment. There was no disagreement between Democrats and Republicans that what we were burning for fuel and the emissions it sent into the air needed to be changed. 

As concern about the environment and physical quality of life registered on the mind of the public, nuclear power emerged as a clean solution.  However, nuclear power turned out not to be safe or without environmental hazards.  Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima a year ago have shown  how nuclear power can produce disasters of huge magnitude and lasting consequence.  And, of course, we haven't figured out what to do with spent radioactive fuel waste.  We bury it in lead vaults and try to forget it, knowing that it will be lying in potent wait thousands of years from now.  

 The obvious candidates as sources of clean, renewable energy emerged as hydro, wind, and solar, and geo-thermal.  The main problem with clean and renewable energy is that in its raw forms it cannot be controlled and manipulated in the market place to produce the huge profits that gas, oil, and coal companies make.  The big five oil companies made $137 billion  in profits last year, a 75 percent increase over the previous year in a time when the world is struggling with a recession.  

This ability to manipulate commodities is the reason that huge energy companies are reluctant to join in a conversion to clean and renewable energy.  They cannot control wind and sunlight and set up ways to make the profit margin gigantic.  The biggest obstacle, therefore, to the development of a clean and renewable energy supply is the big carbon energy companies.   Clean, renewable energy is a threat to their luxurious existence.  And so, they use part of their profits to mount a campaign that insists upon cleanness of their products, denies that there is such a thing as man-influenced global warming, and asserts that wind and solar as major sources of energy are foolish, impractical, and unfeasible.

Solar and wind energy are not without problems.  Wind turbines do take up much landscape, pose some hazards to wildlife, and do make some noise.  They also can be pricey.  Solar also can take up huge blocks of landscape.  And both are dependent for production of energy on the wind blowing and the sun shining. Hydro-electric systems also take up huge chunks of riverine landscape and interferes with drainage and natural food production.  Geo-thermal is efficient for cooling and heating, but does not produce energy to power transportation, industry, and agriculture.  But no advocates of converting to clean, renewable energy have said there would not be problems to face and technology to be created.   However, China is developing entire renewable energy cities in anticipation of a conversion away from petroleum and coal into renewable fuels. 
China is designing renewable energy cities.

Furthermore, the advocates have explained time and again that a new energy economy would have to come from multiple sources, not just wind and solar.  Electricity from wind and solar sources would be used in the production of hydrogen, which would create a steady reliable supply of energy when the wind is not blowing and the sun not shining. If scientists ever manage to achieve nuclear fusion, a hydrogen fuel economy would be almost assured.  But such a prospect is not a happy one for the energy corporations.  They would find themselves obsolete and irrelevant.  Unless they became committed to the delivery of cheap, clean  energy. 

Understanding the development and growth of energy as an industry helps to demonstrate why the biggest obstacle to renewable, inexpensive energy is the energy companies.  They faced the cheap energy factor in their beginnings.  As the American frontier expanded and developed, cheap, accessible heat and power was a key.  Heating homes and cooking was a requisite for survival and development.  Heat was supplied largely by wood.  Power for developing the frontier was supplied by oxen and horses, which ran on grass and grains.  The prairie sod was broken by oats converted to power through equine digestive systems.   Light was supplied by candles and oil lamps, which burned everything from whale blubber, to lard, to kerosene.  Self-sufficiency was the operating principle in the growth of America.  That's why the energy business had such a difficult time getting started in rural and small-town America.

People on the frontier had to be self-sufficient in supplying their energy needs.  There was no one else to do it.  It was common for town developers to include a parcel of land outside of town for each lot they sold in town.  That parcel was for a wood lot on which to grow and harvest firewood.  

People who came to the frontier avoided any business arrangements that could intrude on their independence by tying them to any outside forces that could exercise authority over them.    They avoided mortgages.  And when electricity became available, they weren't interested, although they saw great advantages to the convenience of it.  Electric companies did not want to serve rural areas because they said they could not recover the cost of the infrastructure.   Farmers did not want to be made financially obligated to business companies and and they were very frugal about using electricity.  It  was said that farmers would be satisfied with one light in the milking barn so that they could have some quick lighting to do their milking in the dark early morning hours.  However, farmers also saw that their standard of living could be vastly improved by electricity used in food preparation and preservation, in heating and cleaning, and by making the labor expended in running a farm more manageable.  The Rural Electrification Act of 1936 provided a  means of bringing electricity to rural America without putting the people under a stifling burden of debt.  When electricity did come, the rural attitude was to use it sparingly and frugally, and rely on farm-produced energy as much as possible to keep the farm free from corporate obligations.  Supplying electricity to rural areas was simply not profitable for the private companies,  and energy companies do not want a return to cheap,self-produced energy that would reduce their profit-making ability.

That fear of energy self-sufficiency, independence from corporate producers, and cheap supplies is what underlies the resistance to clean, renewable sources under development.  The GOP stance against such energy is not derived from good science and the advances in technology that could put the energy economy on a clean, renewable, inexpensive basis.  The GOP policies reflect their allegiance to corporate domination of the economy, not what can lift the standard of living and improve the lives of the working people and consumers who use and  pay for the energy.  

The GOP policy is driven by the opposition to providing some economic and social benefits to the 99 percent, which they wish to keep in economic thralldom to the energy companies that top the Fortune 500 list.  And, of course, to keep the huge corporations free to exploit, pollute, despoil, and subjugate in the the name of the free market. 


Friday, May 4, 2012

Something named Union really needs to win

Update, Friday Morning:  Union Rags is the number two favorite behind Bodemeister, although many track writers think he has the edge.

Another horse, he raced against and lost aganst is Hansen, but many question if Hansen has the ability to prevail on the Derby course.

Union Rags snickers.

Hansen thinks he can take Union Rags. 

Union Rags

It's time to make the mint syrup and polish the silver cup and salute the horse nation.  The Kentucky Derby runs this Saturday, and some extremely handsome horses are entered.  As of this  writing, the draw for gate positions is still a few hours away.  You can take a look at all the entries here

I am going to follow Union Rags, the big brawny in the photo above.  He is one of the favorites, although he didn't do as well as hoped last Saturday to win the Florida Derby.  Up until then, he was the favorite in the Florida Derby, but he came in third.  Some track analysts insist he had a fluky day and not a very good ride. The winner of that race was Take Charge Indy ridden by Calvin Borel, who will give Union Rags a chance to redeem himself as part of the field this Saturday.

My partiality is a name thing.  If we working types are to have any equity in this country, we need some big wins from the unions.  And Union Rags is ridden by Julien Leparoux, who bears, almost, the same name as my grandson, Julian, who is slated to begin his run of a lifetime May 28 in Denver.  I plan to be at that starting gate.  At least in the room outside.

My grandson Kace LeRoy Patrick, who was burdened with my middle name, began his run three weeks ago and will carry that handicap throughout his career.

 Union Rags
Take Charge Indy


UPDATE:  Here are the post positions drawn Wednesday evening and the morning-line odds:

PostHorseJockeyMorning Line Odds
1Daddy Long LegsC. O’Donoghue30-1
2OptimizerJ. Court50-1
3Take Charge IndyC. Borel15-1
4Union RagsJ. Leparoux9-2
5DullahanK. Desormeaux8-1
6BodemiesterM. Smith4-1
7Rousing SermonJ. Lezcano50-1
8Creative CauseJ. Rosario12-1
9TrinnibergW. Martinez50-1
10Daddy Nose BestG. Gomez15-1
11AlphaR. Maragh15-1
12ProspectiveL. Contreras30-1
13Went The Day WellJ. Velazquez20-1
14HansenR. Dominguez10-1
15GemologistJ. Castellano6-1
16El PadrinoR. Bejarano20-1
17Done TalkingS. Russell50-1
18SabercatC. Nakatani30-1
19I’ll Have AnotherM. Gutierrez12-1
20LiaisonM. Garcia50-1

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Why the U.S. has the best healthcare system in the world.

For the same reason the Easter Bunny keeps us in eggs, the Tooth Fairy keeps us in pocket change, and Santa Claus chose Willard Romney to run for president. 

If you don't want to entrust your healthcare to myth and fantasy, you might wish to consult this news story from Reuters:  

U.S. scores dead last again in healthcare study

The main points of the story are:

(Reuters) - Americans spend twice as much as residents of other developed countries on healthcare, but get lower quality, less efficiency and have the least equitable system, according to a report released on Wednesday.

The United States ranked last when compared to six other countries -- Britain, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand, the Commonwealth Fund report found.

The current report uses data from nationally representative patient and physician surveys in seven countries in 2007, 2008, and 2009. It is available here

In 2007, health spending was $7,290 per person in the United States, more than double that of any other country in the survey.

Australians spent $3,357, Canadians $3,895, Germans $3,588, the Netherlands $3,837 and Britons spent $2,992 per capita on health in 2007. New Zealand spent the least at $2,454.

This is a big rise from the Fund's last similar survey, in 2007, which found Americans spent $6,697 per capita on healthcare in 2005, or 16 percent of gross domestic product

The report looks at five measures of healthcare -- quality, efficiency, access to care, equity and the ability to lead long, healthy, productive lives.
[For the full Reuters story, click the headline above]

To read the full Commonwealth Fund report, click here.  


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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States