South Dakota Top Blogs

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

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Widening the racial divide; reniggering America

In a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 94 percent of the African Americans said they intended to vote for Barack Obama; 0 percent for Mitt Romney.
The racial divide is stark.  While the poll does not delve into motives as to why absolutely none of the African Americans polled would vote for Romney, the reasons are abundantly clear. On the MSNBC show, The Cycle, Toure' called it Romney's "niggerization" of Obama.  Toure'  cited a specific example of what he meant from a speech Romney gave in Chillicothe, Ohio:  

“I mean, that really bothered me.  You notice he said ‘anger’ twice.  He’s  really trying to use racial coding and access some really deep stereotypes about the angry black man. This is part of the playbook against Obama, the ‘otherization’ — ‘he’s not like us.’”

“I know it’s a heavy thing, I don’t say it lightly, but this is niggerization. ‘You are not one of us, you are like the scary black man who we’ve been trained to fear.’
Toure' later apologized for his use of the word "niggerization" at the apparent insistence of MSNBC, but he identified a campaign ploy Romney has used since he first announced he was running for president.  Romney's entire criticism of Obama is based upon his contention that Obama fits the white stereotype named by the word nigger. 

From the outset,  Romney has denigrated the person of Barack Obama.  He has persistently focused not on the flaws he contends are in Obama's policies, but on the contention that Obama is inherently unfit and incapable.  Part of that is from the habitual self-inflating notion of business people that only they are capable of managing and running things, but Romney's denigrations of Obama define all those aspects of inferiority that white supremacists attribute to African Americans.  Romney does everything but use the word nigger.  His tactic is what Toure' terms niggerization

This tactic is certainly not lost on the black community, as is indicated by the 0 percent of blacks who would vote for Romney.  Nor is it lost on anyone who lived through and was politically active during the civil rights era.  Romney's campaign harks right back to the claims of racial inferiority that the segregationists clung to and invoked so fervently.

The attitude of superiority and patronization that some whites still have toward  blacks accounts for the disparities between the races.  There is good, justifiable reason for anger in the black community because of an attitude that invokes all the denigrations, humiliations, and repressions of slavery.  Many whites who grow indignant at the suggestion that they might evince racist attitudes cannot conceive of why black communities remain distrustful, cynical, and alienated when whites suggest that the problems in minority communities would be solved if the people would just become more like whites.  This is just the message that the GOP is trying to martial its forces around.  

The problem is exacerbated by the fact that Romney speaks for the ten percent, who strive to concentrate the country's wealth in their hands and to control the rest of the population by holding it for ransom, saying that if the serfdom submits and obeys the managing class, perhaps the ten percent will dole out something in the way of a reward.  It is not just the black communities who have reason to resent and revolt against the patronizing and insulting attitude that the ten percent holds toward the rest of the population.  The crucial political question is how long it will take for the 90 percent of Americans to to understand the implications of that attitude.  

During the heat of the civil rights movement, a black leader I knew had become disillusioned by an attitude that was apparent within the movement.  He said the for too many the American dream was not the realization of living by the rules of equality, justice, and opportunity but the dream held by many was to "give everyone someone to call nigger."  True equality of opportunity, he thought, was held in bondage by the bourgeois notions of status.  

The conservative movement in America has, indeed, regressed back into attitudes that justify exclusion and repression. Anyone who tends toward more liberal values is quickly labeled unpatriotic, socialist, Marxist, unionists, "not one of us."   The claim that there is faction of people who do not want to work and carry their own weight but want to freeload off those who do work has regained currency.  It is incomprehensible to the managing class that what the 90 percent objects to and resents is working under the terms of abject servitude which requires deference and obeisance to and dependency on the masters. 

The racial divide is widening, as minorities and women realize the realities of the attitude with which they are regarded by the corporate culture. The 0 percent of blacks who incline toward Romney is just an indication of the growing divide that defines the essential difference between the major political parties.  The question is whether the Occupy Wall Street movement of a year ago will become the Occupy America movement this November. To the managing class, niggerization is not limited to people of color.  Everybody, except them, qualifies.  

Monday, August 20, 2012

By their fucked-up language, ye shall know them.

Rep. Todd Akin's use of the term "legitimate rape" was not merely a verbal slip-up; it was a definitive expression of Akin's thinking, and of that of a segment of the population to which he appeals .  In my teaching days, I would have had to prepare for some smart-mouth kid to ask me to define legitimate rape which would seem to be when the act is sanctioned by law.  And that would lead to a discussion of whether one needs a license.  There are those out there who think that the act of rape is generally committed against women who are provoking it, and it is a bit surprising that the creative caucus has not proposed a law dealing with it..  One could apply for a rape license at the same time one applies for a concealed-carry gun permit.  Such a provision would cover motive and means and make the license-holder ready for any opportunity, 

Check out Akin's response in The Onion
 The term occurred when Akin said, "If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down."  The context provides the definitive evidence that Akin's politics are formed by Internet fictions and that he  does not function intellectually.  The term is expressive of the muddle in his brain.   

Society once operated on the assumption that what people said and the way they said it revealed their state of mind,  People who said stupid, uninformed things were considered to have proved that they were stupid and  uninformed.  The 21st century has introduced a new need for U.S. presidents.  Rather than giving a state of the union address, they now need to give an annual state of the president's mind address.

At least three books and a host of websites were devoted to recording the wit and wisdom of George W. Bush and what became known as Bushisms.  And he hasn't let the end of his term in office stopped the flow of Bushisms, as in this example:

"This is my maiden voyage. My first speech since I was the president of the United States and I couldn't think of a better place to give it than Calgary, Canada." --George W. Bush, as reported by the Associated Press, Calgary, Canada, March 17, 2009
During W.'s term in office, the Republicans were infuriated by those who cited Bush's verbal production as evidence of him being a dummy.  They raged that Democrats were devoted to ad hominem attacks.  They challenged the old rule that what a person says is how and what he thinks.  And we survived George W. Bush.  I think. At least he informed us that the severe economic downturn wasn't his fault and he did everything he could to stop it:  

"In terms of the economy, look, I inherited a recession, I am ending on a recession." 

"One of the very difficult parts of the decision I made on the financial crisis was to use hardworking people's money to help prevent there to be a crisis." --George W. Bush, Washington, D.C., Jan. 12, 2009
 I trust that is clear to everybody. 

However, he has been overshadowed by a roster of Republican candidates for president who all have vowed not to be outdone by W. in the verbal absurdity department.  They had Sarah Palin to prepare the way.   And the best verbal fuck-up won the nomination.  Mitt Romney has contributed many new kinks to the language, including these gems:  

"I'm not familiar precisely with what I said, but I'll stand by what I said, whatever it was." —Mitt Romney (May 17, 2012)

"I love this state. The trees are the right height." —Mitt Romney, campaigning in Michigan (February 2012)
"I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that's the America millions of Americans believe in. That's the America I love." –Mitt Romney (January 2012)

"It's hard to know just how well [the 2012 London Olympics] will turn out. There are a few things that were disconcerting. The stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging." –Mitt Romney, on the eve of the Olympics, NBC News interview, July 25, 2012 

On the horizon of America's future looms a gigantic verbal cluster fuck.

The American people, especially those who have benefited from the deterioration of education as the movement to run it like a business has swept across the country, love the verbally incompetent and clumsy.  They feel equal.

The future looks booming,  Except for those who respect and admire the skilled use of language.  But that is a dying breed.  

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ending tenure and continuing contracts for teachers

New York City has reduced the number of teachers for whom it grants tenure from 97 percent in 2006 to 55 percent in 2012.

While this measure may satisfy to some degree the rage against teaching, public education in general, and the notion that it is unfair for an occupational group to have the employment protections of tenure,  there is no indication that being more selective in granting tenure will do anything to improve teaching and raise the outcomes of education.  

A New York Times article points out:

Tenure does not afford any advantages in pay or job assignments, or guarantee permanent employment. Its most important benefit is to grant teachers certain protections against dismissal without justification, including the right to a hearing before an arbitrator. Teachers and their unions embrace tenure as an important defense against indiscriminate or politically tinged hiring and firing.

Michael Mulgrew, president of the United Federation of Teachers, the city teacher’s union, said that he had always supported a “rigorous but fair” process of granting tenure. But, he said, large numbers of teachers were quitting the profession early in their careers, a sign that the city had not yet figured out how to help them succeed.
According to the union, of the 5,231 teachers hired in the 2008-9 school year, nearly 30 percent had quit by the end of their third years. There are roughly 75,000 teachers in New York City schools, the nation’s largest public school system.
“If New York City hopes to have a great school system, it will need to come up with better methods of helping teachers develop, not only at the beginning but throughout their careers,” Mr. Mulgrew said.

Mr. Polakow-Suransky [the city's chief academic officer] said it was not uncommon in the United States for teachers to leave the profession in the first few years, when things are the toughest. Every new teacher in New York receives mentoring in the first year, as a “support system,” he said. “But if someone is not making it, and not happy, or the principal says, ‘You are not cut out for this,’ it is likely that they move on to something else, and that is not a bad thing,” he said.
The teachers' perspective is quite different:

One special education teacher in Queens who was given a second one-year extension this year said that school officials cited improvements she needed to make but were short on details of what criticisms her principal had. “No specifics were ever given,” said the teacher, who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

Also, she said, the new tenure evaluations were dividing teachers and lowering morale, with some newer teachers feeling punished for the smattering of more experienced ones they saw as using tenure as a “safety net,” but putting forth less effort in the profession.“The bigger picture is that they are trying to end tenure,” the teacher said. 

In South Dakota, a shortage of students going into education had a pronounced effect on the matters of staffing and teacher training. Low salaries and onerous working conditions begin to take their toll on education programs in higher education in the late 80s.  At NSU, the education majors were consistently among the best performing students.  However, as salaries lagged, but more significantly as the public discussion demeaned the profession, bright students chose other professions and other institutions to attend.  As a shortage of qualified teachers became apparent in some subject areas,  many school districts hired uncertified teachers and gave them provisional certification.  Colleges of education began to alter the standards for entering and staying in teacher education, and the abilities of people going into education clearly were on the decline.  

In one graduate program for teaching which provided advanced study in subject areas, the oral examination required a component on advanced courses in education.  One of my colleagues sat on a number of such oral examinations with me, and examined the candidates on educational history and theory.  Many of his questions dealt with common areas of knowledge that were covered in the introductory education courses and were developed in nearly all subsequent courses.  My colleague often was very frustrated and disappointed because many of the candidates could not answer the questions without being coached by him.  Some could not come up with answers even after the coaching.  Some, however, responded thoroughly and impressively, and we knew they were applying everything they had learned about education and were integrating it with the more concentrated knowledge they were acquiring in their discipline area.  

At one time, NSU supplied the majority of teachers throughout the state and its education majors were heavily recruited from districts throughout the nation.   Many factors involving declining salaries, political denigrations of teachers,  decisions by regents and administrations, and a pronounced shift in education that required teachers to expend more effort on classroom management and discipline than on subject matter had their effect on teacher education.  It got to the point where some of us thought that the graduation ceremony should borrow a part of the marriage ceremony which would ask the audience before each person received a diploma whether anyone knew any reason why the student should not.  We joked that in some cases, involving education majors, the faculty would rise to its feet and shout yes, hell yes.  

A factor in this is that colleges and universities went through some periods of severe retrenchment during the 70s, 80s, and 90s.  In the desperation for money, they stopped being selective about admissions and enrolled every warm body they could find.  This, in turn, required instruction to be altered to meet the needs of the poorly prepared, the untalented, and the uninterested.  We noticed that the talent level of people going into education was markedly lower than what we had witnessed in the past.  That is not to say that very talented and capable people were not going into education,  but they were overshadowed by a growing number with lesser talent and interest.

Teachers are under siege, and a New York Times columnist notes the problem and writes of a new movie which addresses the problems in education from a perspective that further demeans teachers and public education.  

At one point in my journalistic career, I was assigned to the education beat.  The newspaper had twelve school districts in its immediate circulation area, and I spent many evenings a week covering school board meetings and teacher-parent forums.  

As I have noted many times, one of the biggest changes in education has been in the relationship of school boards and school administrations.  At one time, the administrators and teachers initiated the programs and changes in curriculum and the policies which were presented to the school boards for critique and approval.  Now school boards considered themselves in the same role as a corporate board of directors; they no longer consider themselves the conduit of information between the public and the professional staffs.  The administrators they hire are not experienced, highly credentialed educators, but executives expected to carry out board policies and wishes. 

Rather than work out curriculum and policies with those who know the subject matter to be taught and the always-changing circumstances of the study body, school boards impose their notions on the system with little regard for what teachers know and deal with in classrooms.  The constant cliche is that schools must be run like  a business has become the guiding principle and teachers are merely employees who are regarded like the "teams" at Walmart and Target and the hamburger flippers at McDonald's.   No Child Left Behind is based upon the concept that successful education can be tallied like factory piece work and made the basis for employment policies.

The result is that school boards hire administrators who are executives charged with carrying out employment policies.  Few administrators have credentials as successful teachers in the classrooms.  At one time the term "principal" designated a person who had accumulated successful experience in the job of teacher and became the "principal teacher" because of proven success in the classroom.  Today principals are more like shop foreman whose job it is to keep the laborers producing, not senior teachers  whose job it is to help others hone their skills in instructing students.

Some school and district administrations are dreadful bureaucracies.   They apply the corporate-inspired policies of managing the workforce, but they have little or no knowledge of the processes of education  and the factors that affect it.    The administrators in such bureaucracies have no qualifications earned by successful experience in the classroom.  They have little actual knowledge of the skills needed to create learning and growth, and their assessments of their teachers are based upon a kind of occupational profiling.

During the 20 years I was a director of the Dakota Writing Project, which was part of one of the most successful academic improvement programs in the nation, I worked with many school administrations.  When some administrators were asked to supply recommendations for teachers to be admitted into the Project,  they told the teachers to write their own recommendations and would sign them.  They had no notion of what the teachers knew or practiced so that they could benefit from the program.  When it came time for teachers to apply the knowledge and skills presented by the Project,  one of which was developing the processes through which teachers taught and became resources for each other, they administrations could not and would not arranged time for teachers to plan together and consult with other to improve student performance in writing.

All the animosity and denigration of teachers and American public education is a distraction from the real source of America's education problems.  No one, so far, has addressed the performance of school boards and administrations.  Until we confront how bad many of them are,  teachers will not be given the kind of support and coordination needed to make education work.  

Tenure, continuing contracts, and teachers' unions are not the problem in education.  The incompetence is concentrated on the school boards and in the administrations.

There are boards and administrations that do a fine job in working with teachers and students to deliver effective and relevant education.  Until the nation makes a distinction between these districts and those mired down in corporate-style bureaucracies,  education will not improve. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Where did all the Democrats go? Update in the comments.

There is much discussion in the press and on blogs about the declining number of Democratic voter registrations in South Dakota. There is an explanation that most would not like to hear:

Democrats are leaving the state--both mentally and physically.

Some illustrative perspectives on that:

The demographics are changing, with young people migrating out and older people moving in.  As long as I have been in South Dakota in higher education, a perennial concern has been the outmigration of young people, particularly those with talent and ambition.  This has been a trend in South Dakota since statehood, when Hamlin Garland examined the forces that drove the children of homesteaders to look for and make lives for themselves elsewhere.  In the time I taught at a South Dakota university, the administration and faculty were in constant discussion over where young people were going and why.

The tracking of students revealed a pattern among college-age students that became an entrenched custom.  The most talented and achieving high school students left the state after graduation to attend out-of-state colleges which lured them with scholarships and prestigious programs.  Of those South Dakota students who attended state colleges, most of them regarded their education as preparation to find more rewarding and fulfilling lives in other places.  At one time, a college president enraged the regents and many citizens when he promoted the idea that an education at his South Dakota institution would prepare them for successful lives elsewhere.  He coined the slogan for Northern State as the "Gateway Institution" and was sternly advised to abandon that approach.  It did address the expectations of the students.  

The fact was that when most South Dakota students graduated from their state colleges, they did, in fact, seek and find work or post-graduate education outside the state.  Students of talent and ambition found that the social and political climate in South Dakota discouraged intellectual work and lifestyles.  Not until recent years did the regents acknowledge that fact and attempt to take measures for higher education that would be conducive to intellectual work.  The conversion of the Homestake Goldmine into the Sanford Underground Laboratory was catalytic in the attempt to change the state's reputation for intellectual work and research. 

Intellectual work thrives in a liberal climate, liberal in the sense that it is open to diversity, exploration, and innovation.  

The state struggles to provide opportunities for the educated and ambitious.  They generally trend toward Democratic political attitudes because of its support for equality in civil rights and educational opportunities which allow people to explore and choose lifestyles that the more staid citizenry is upset by.  So, the outmigration of the young and talented continues.

Other factors that reduce the number of people who have Democratic sympathies are in the attrition process.  In this aspect,  I have witnessed what takes place in a population sample.  For many years, I have been involved in maintaining a list of the most active Democrats in  and around Brown County.   We spent a considerable effort in compiling this list.  In recent years, it has shrunk to about half the size that it was at its peak.  Every month, when we make mailings, we get returned mail from those who have died or moved away.  And as older people are removed from the list for these reasons, there are few younger people to replace them.  It is not that the younger people incline to the other party; it's that the other party has become so offensively small-minded and obsessed with its scurrilous malignity and oppression of women and minorities that younger people of discernment find party politics too degrading and offensive to be a part of it.

This was illustrated before the election of 2010 when I was approached to help recruit some candidates to run for Senate against John Thune.   I have mentioned this a number of times, but some very qualified and able potential candidates emphatically declined to become candidates because they did not want to expose themselves and their families to the kind of destructive nastiness that campaigns have become.  The candidates were fully acquainted with the political process and pointed out the permanent damage that political campaigns inflict upon candidates and families.  As a result, John Thune ran unopposed.

One of the potential candidates had a very hefty file of materials from the Daschle/Thune campaign that he studied in making his decision.  He said the person who could meet the Thune campaign on the terms that Thune operated on is not kind of the person he could vote for.  The voters decided who they wanted, he said, and endorsed Thune's campaign.  In so doing, they have identified what they conceived the state to be, and that is not a state the potential candidate could serve, he said.  

That person is one of those who has, in effect, left the state.  He expanded his business interests to another state and has gradually shifted his concentration to that  state, where his family has moved.  The success of his business is the deciding factor for the family's move to another state over political climate, but politics cannot be dismissed as having an important role.  A big question is why some kinds of business, particularly those requiring high levels of education and intellectual skills, do not find potential for growth in South Dakota. The question goes right back to the reasons for the outmigration of young people.  

The man during a conversation once remarked that misplaced sentimental loyalties impede progress and damage lives that have great potential.  He remarked that many South Dakotans do not realize that the spirit of the settlers who formed the state moved with their children.  

In one discussion I had with potential candidates, one of them posed the proposition that for someone from South Dakota it was difficult to oppose bad programs that poured money into the state.  If one wanted to deal with South Dakota's professed conservatism while clamoring for federal funds, it would be better to be in another state where Congressional representatives could vote against South Dakota pork with impunity.   While the remarks were made somewhat facetiously, they say something about the South Dakota constituency and the stark opposition between what they want candidates to profess on the surface but practice on the Congressional floor.

Many Democrats have simply ceded South Dakota to the Republicans and are too busy trying to arrange their lives for other possibilities to devote time or energy to politics.  A dynamic leader might raise some hope in the minds of the liberal-leaning, but the reality is that the majority will cast the deciding vote that shapes the nature of the state.

For many people from South Dakota,  it is a good place to leave.   

Friday, August 17, 2012

Flouting Treaty of 1868 still at work,

Lakota teenagers await an incoming storm near Wounded Knee.

After publishing a series of photographs three years which took a  look at the poverty and despair at Pine Ridge, Aaron Huey has returned to look at and listen to some other aspects of Lakota life. The new series is in The New York Times.  

But the assault on sacred land which is invested with meaning of Lakota culture goes on. A ranch that was claimed as a homestead immediately after Custer invaded the Black Hills near Wind Cave is up for sale.  Larry Kurtz points at some attempts to raise money so the Lakota people can bid on it.  

Two writers at Indian Country Today explain the significance of the land.  Winona LaDuke has a piece titled "Black Hills:  Auction of the Sacred,"  and Ruth Hopkins has an article titled "Black Hills Auction:  Saving Pe' Sla."

In 150 years, there has never been a cease fire in the war on Indians.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Get out the gaffe hook, Noah. Here come the Republicans.

Since Mitt Romney has declared himself a candidate for president,  his campaigns have been one long expression of weirdness.  He says things that make people hit their heads and say, "Did I hear right?"  The press keeps reporting those things as "gaffes."  And he pours out one gaffe after another.  His recent trip to Europe was one gaffe-filled event after another.  And who can forget his  memorable performance in Michigan when he told his audience that Michigan is a great place because the trees are just the right size? The occasion rivaled Larry the Cable Guy's performance as Donny the Retard singing Christmas carols and suddenly blurting out "I like tater tots!"

One must wonder after someone commits one verbal mishap after another, day after  day, when the press will conclude that the person is essentially a dolt. And that he made millions because he is unencumbered by any intellectual baggage like an awareness that most people struggle and strive to live in a framework of consideration and decency towards others. 

In all the frenzy over Romney choosing Paul Ryan as his vice presidential candidate, few who comment have noticed that Romney has committed another one of his clumsy, insensate blunders.  Oh, they gave the there-he-goes-again chuckle when Mitt introduced Ryan as "the next president of the United States."   A number of comments noted that the contrasting personalities lend a balance to the ticket.  But very few noted that Ryan, like Romney, is a rich kid who has little tolerance for those of modest means, and whose concept of a national budget is to eliminate any obstacles to the unimpeded gathering and hoarding of personal wealth that might be caused by those who need help and support for health and well-being. In that regard, The Displaced Plainsman quotes Joan Walsh:   "The man who wants to make the world safe for swashbuckling, risk-taking capitalists hasn’t spent a day at economic risk in his entire life."

But the blunder of the greatest magnitude is that Ryan is a loudly self-avowed disciple of Ayn Rand. He also claims to be a bona fide member of the holy roman order of kiddie diddlers, as Larry Kurtz identifies them, which in this merger with a member of the latter day saints of sanctified undershorts provides aspects of peculiar cultish undercurrents.  The element of incoherence is intensified by the fact that both men identify themselves with some Christian affiliations, but Ayn Rand was stridently atheistic.  Both Madville Times and Displaced Plainsman have noted and explored the ramifications of these contradictory beliefs.  

It is possible and somewhat ordinary for a professing Christian to revere aspects of the thinking of an atheist, but Rand was stridently anti-Christian, dismissing the most basic tenets of Christian beliefs, especially in regarding other people, as foolery and folly.  Feeding the hungry and healing the sick was, to her, submitting to parasites.  

However, her philosophy of "objectivism" is also vehemently anti-democratic. Freedom, equality, and liberty were, in her mind, foolish and impertinent because they interfered with the individual's quest to realize "selflsh" ends.  Her assertion was that the ultimate morality was one's own happiness and the ultimate ethics was quided by becoming what one wanted to become.  Liberty was defined as the hero's freedom to pursue his self-interest; consideration for how that pursuit might affect others was dismissed as an irrelevancy. 

Shortly after her novel Atlas Shrugged  (1957) was published, I returned from service in the U.S. Army on the front lines of the Cold War.  That service involved two fronts:  in terms of armor, we were ready to fire guided missiles at any hostile aggression coming from the Soviet bloc; in terms of political ideas, we worked to counter the Soviet Communist propaganda that penetrated into the West.  Because Ayn Rand had escaped from Soviet Russia, her political philosophies received respectful hearings during that Cold War period.  

When I was released from active duty and returned home to finish my college degree, Atlas Shrugged was in circulation on college campuses.  Most of my fellow English majors were unimpressed, but the book was talked about.  Some talked of Ayn Rand's protagonists, but we were a generation well acquainted with Hemingway's code heroes and found Rand's to be crudely constructed stick figures in comparison.  As for literary style, we were acquainted with Melville, Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Fitzgerald, Sinclair Lewis, Willa Cather, Vladimir Nabokov, and that immense galaxy of wordsmiths that was our heritage. Rand was not a writer of that magnitude.  I don't think I can willingly read Atlas Shrugged again because I recall the irritation with which I tried to plow through her tendentious prose, and I did not find her plots to be as cleverly constructed or her characters to have the psychological veracity that her few advocates claimed.  Most of us regarded her as an overbearing bore.  

On the philosophic side, her exercises in logic led to frustrating snarls of tautology.  She wasn't as persuasive as she was domineering. But the biggest factor in assessing Rand was that all her literary efforts and philosophical pretenses were devoted to refuting the premises of Christianity and democracy.  She saw unfettered capitalism as the ultimate system of governance but could not see that she was merely casting feudalism in 20th century terms.  

As a scholar and teacher of Native American literature, I have taken deep, moral offense against Rand.  She claimed that the Native Americans did not produce a "heroically productive capitalist society" and, therefore, deserved to have their land taken from them.  That contention exposed her justifications of predation and force and greed as an acceptable motivation in self-realization.  

These are the values Paul Ryan embraces in his discipleship of Ayn Rand.  But they are the values under which the one percent have acquired so much of America's wealth and earnings.  It is those who embrace Rand's values that work to exterminate the poor and underprivileged by neglect if not more aggressive means and to push the middle class into the ranks of the expendable.  They are the disciples of Ayn Rand and their values are essentially misanthropic.  

The question is whether a majority of American people will come to realize the values operating in the Republican candidates and dismiss them as a "gaffe" or in order to be included as heroically productive capitalists will betray and give up the premises of Christianity and democracy.

Has the nation really descended into that morass of ignorance and greed?

Friday, August 10, 2012

Another Jackley investigation raises more questions than it answers

Vern Traversie's belly has become a federal case.  South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley sort of forgot that, or didn't want to acknowledge it.

Last fall when Vern was released from Rapid City Regional Medical Center after open heart surgery, the Attorney General was asked to investigate if someone at the hospital had carved KKK into Vern's belly.  He released  results of his investigation early this week, stating that no evidence was uncovered to indicate a crime was committed and that the scars on Mr. Traversie's torso were from side effects of his surgery.  He implied that all investigations into the matter were over and came to the same conclusion. 

A spokesperson for Traversie,  Kara Briggs, took issue with that implication and issued a statement that said, "There are two federal investigations ongoing, and neither has ruled out that a hate crime was committed,  Vern is just interested in accuracy."  The FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services are also conducting investigations.

There are two incidents in Traversie's accounts of his hospital experience that lie at the heart of why people think a hate crime may be involved.  Traversie is legally blind and cannot clearly see the scars on his body, so he is dependent on others to tell him what appears to be the case. His own sense of what happened comes from two encounters with hospital personnel.  He had been having hostile exchanges with a male attendant who swore at him when he requested pain medication.  And then just before his release from the hospital, a female nurse told him her conscience was bothering her. “I can’t stand it any longer. They did something bad to you. When you get home, have someone take photos of your front and back right away.”  Traversie said she then told him she did not want to be involved. “This is the last time you’ll ever hear from me,” she told him.

Any conclusive investigation must seek out the facts and circumstances of those two incidents, and also look into why Traversie and his care-givers were not briefed and instructed on the scars he went home with. 

As for Marty Jackley, his investigations into both the Secretary of State's office and the Traversie affair seem to indicate he is more dedicated to glossing over the investigations and providing political cover.

Before any conclusions can be drawn about the Traversie case,  a number of agencies have still to report. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Now, just what was it you claim to have built?

When President Obama  suggested recently, in effect, that it takes a village to build a good, successful business, he struck the most sensitive nerve of America's true entitlement class, and it howled with indignation and rage that the false myth it has constructed around itself would be torn away to expose the true nature of much of American business.

Mitt Romney took up the comment and applied his business ethic to it  and, of course, falsified it.  Here is what Obama said in full context: 

“There are a lot of wealthy, successful Americans who agree with me — because they want to give something back. They know they didn’t — look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own. I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so smart. There are a lot of smart people out there. It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.
“If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges. If you’ve got a business — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet. The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.”
Obama's offense was that he struck the most sensitive nerve of the corporate and business community.   The myth that he challenged is that business is the essential driver of the nation, which is dependent upon business to create the economy, and all employees should grovel in gratitude and obeisance for the jobs that business provides to allow workers to live.  The idea promoted is that the corporate hierarchy, a class of nobles, is needed to preside over the ordinary people.  This notion was applied from the time that the first white people came to America to be better off.  And it was debunked and resisted.

When the Virginia Company set up its colony of Jamestown, it designated Capt. John Smith to be one of the colony's leaders.  However, it sent along a number of "gentlemen" who wanted to function as overseers and managers, but it was Smith who is credited with saving the colony from starvation and total demise.  His biggest obstacle, he found, was the managing class that refused to participate in the strenuous, often drudged labor that it took to actually build a colony and make it run.  The "gentlemen of Jamestown" chaffed that Smith and the real workers did not give them their "deserved" respect.  In his reports to the sponsors back in London, Smith referred to them as "useless parasites" and chided the sponsors for sending them, saying repeatedly that  “twentie good workmen had been better than all them all.”  When the  Massachuseets Bay Company began to gear up for its venture, Smith advised it to avoid "such multitude of Officers, neither masters, gentlemen, gentlewomen and children as you have men to work, which idle charges you will find very troublesome, and the effects dangerous, and one hundred good labourers better than a thousand such Gallants as we were sent me that could do nothing.”

Thomas Jefferson was very wary about giving business a part in shaping the country.  At first, he was totally devoted to an agrarian democracy:

Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God, if ever he had a chosen people, whose breasts he has made his peculiar deposit for substantial and genuine virtue. It is the focus in which he keeps alive that sacred fire, which otherwise might escape from the face of the earth. Corruption of morals in the mass of cultivators is a phaenomenon of which no age nor nation has furnished an example.  
He feared commerce because to satisfy the demands of customers, it causes business people to "depend for it on the casualties and caprice of customers. Dependance begets subservience and venality."  Eventually, Jefferson conceded that some business enterprise was essential to creating an economic system that sustained a nation, but he warned about the dangers of allowing the nation to be dominated by business:  “Money, not morality, is the principle of commerce and commercial nations.”

Although Jefferson was a slave owner, he nevertheless condemned a nation that built its wealth on slaves.  Making money by appropriating the wealth generated by other people's labor and sweat was to him an abomination to humankind, and abolitionists held that view.  Some puritan churches were split when congregants found that the pews in which they worshiped were produced with slave labor.  The belief that benefiting from the labor of other people was the ultimate degradation was shared by Lincoln.  Lincoln's father loaned the young-rail splitter out to others and then collected and kept the wages earned.  Lincoln resented this and his understanding of being deprived of the benefits of one's own work was the basis for his abolition beliefs but also his beliefs about the role of business.

The basic premise of the labor movement has been to give workers a voice and negotiating power in the distribution of the profit from their labor and talent.  To  establish and realize a right to negotiate a fair share of the wealth it generates, labor found that by withholding its labor, it could force employers to negotiate a fair distribution of the profits it generated.  However, business owners and operators have long chaffed at giving workers a voice in determining how profits should be distributed and they have harbored festering resentment at having to do  so.  Although some employers are given to grudgingly acknowledging the contributions that employees give to their companies,  they have real problems with the freedom, equality, and justice concepts in the workplace.  Consequently, when the economy become more global and cheap labor markets became more available, businesses could not wait to dump their American workers in favor of cheap labor costs and the absence of laws and regulations regarding the health and safety of workers.  Manufacturing in America was literally decimated, as American companies managed to rid themselves of the workforce they found so onerous. 

The anti-worker attitude has been set into law in states such as Wisconsin, Indiana, and Ohio.  The anti-labor movement was launched when Ronald Reagan fired the air-traffic controllers when they went on strike and gave impetus to the trend that has seen the concentration of wealth into the upper 10 percent while the 90 percent of the population has seen a steadily declining share of wages and national wealth

A good portion of America has returned to the attitude that workers are a negligible part of the population, a bothersome group that is best done away with.  The feudal notion that the self-appointed class of nobles, the corporate hierarchies, provide the workers any right to live and the privilege of earning a wage has bloomed, and is a major premise of the Mitt Romney and the GOP.  They claim they create economy and the jobs.  If workers want to live, they had damn well subject themselves to corporate rule that is free from any government interference with rules that hold companies responsible for shoddy and defective products, for the health and safety of workers, or for the wholesomeness of the environment. 

America flourished with the industrial age and the development of a workforce which participated in determining its own destiny.  Work built America.  But the self-designated American nobility denies that.  It claims it build America and has special entitlements because it provides the capital and dispenses whatever freedoms and benefits that workers can aspire to.

It is hard to find a successful business that has not taken advantage of financial system the nation has provided, of the infrastructure, of the educations, and of the talents and efforts of employees.  But it claims an entitlement that gives it credit and control of the economy.

As with John Smith's "gallant gentlemen," businesses demand a "deserved respect" based upon their sense of entitlement.  The workers deserve no respect.

In this demand for entitlement, there are no bad businesses, no incompetent or crooked managers.  The near-failure of the American economy to which they brought the nation is a part of their entitlement to do what they wish with impunity.

And this entitlement to a failed nation is what they build.

History and the facts it records demonstrates that a successful society doesn't work that way.  But people are entitled to believe it does.  

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Vern Traversie case goes to court

The Huffington Post has picked up the news on the Vern Traversie case and quotes Rapid City Regional Hospital lawyers contention that all the scars on Vern's body can be explained by the surgical procedures he underwent.

The key question is why a hospital employee told him that he had been mistreated.  And then the question comes up as to why he and those who care for him did not receive a full explanation for post-surgical care after he was released from the hospital.  

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