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

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Why the prospects are better for Ukraine than for South Dakota

It is not as if there is not plenty of evidence of corruption in South Dakota or that organizations that monitor integrity in government have not listed South Dakota's deficiencies in the openness-and-honesty department.  The Better Government Association has published its ranking of South Dakota as 47th of the 50 states on its Integrity Index.  In  a multi-organization integrity project, South Dakota is one of seven states to be graded F in integrity and its individual report card places it at 49th of the 50 states.  

Corruption Risk Report Card
Rank among 50 states: 49th

  Overall grade: F
Click a category to see detailed scores and notes.
 South Dakota reporter Denise Ross supplied the basis for these ratings.  

Only through strenuous and obstinate denial is it possible to escape the fact that the state has serious moral and cultural problems with openness, honesty, fairness, equality, and justice.  That is why, despite the constant measures of deficiencies in moral character which brand the state, nothing changes.  No movements to improve go beyond a few disapproving mutterings and a few legislative attempts that never get out of the committees in the GOP-run legislature.  However, the self-deceit that allows the people to accommodate such inferiority of state character is bipartisan.  People of all political persuasions insist on referring to the "great state of South Dakota."  But by the measures of the human values of decency, forthrightness, honesty, and good will, South Dakota dwells on the bottom.  

South Dakotans like to brag about their work ethic.  That has bothered me since I moved to this state over three decades ago.  They believe that no people in the rest of the world are as enterprising, conscientious, and effective as they are.  Like many professors who moved here from other places,  I found the amount of work students were willing to do dispiriting.  The kind of assignments that would send students scuttling off to get the work done in other places was met with whining and complaining in South Dakota.  Students resented foreign students because they set such a high standard of study and accomplishment.  And students who transferred from other places were dismayed at the low expectations they encountered in South Dakota. Many South Dakota students did not distinguish  between appearing busy and engaging in actual, productive work. 

Perhaps, the most difficult attitude to deal with in South Dakota involved academic cheating.  One day a delegation of advisees came into my office to register a complaint about something that happened in a class they were in together.  The professor thought it was instructive for students to grade each others quizzes.  In seeing mistakes in others, he thought, students had a better understanding of their own learning processes.  The students who came to see me informed me that the majority of students in his class actually corrected the answers on their classmates' papers by changing them.  The delegation told me that the result was that they were punished for being academically honest because their errors were marked off instead changed and they were consistently getting lower grades than those who collaborated on cheating.  As one of the students commented,  that kind of widespread dishonesty makes a fool out of anyone who actually studies and does the work honestly.  

I brought the matter up with the dean of the college, who spoke to the professor and convinced him he needed to change his grading practices, but the dean also raised the issue in a faculty meeting.  A response from some of the faculty was that cheating was probably no worse on our campus than at any other.  Those of us who studied and worked at other places confronted that notion.  At other places, intentional plagiarism meant not only an automatic failure of the paper, but an automatic failure of the course.  So did cheating on tests.  The policy was to let the student know that academic dishonesty disqualified a student from a degree, but by taking a course over again, the student had a chance to rectify the matter.  However, a severe or repeat violation of academic honesty would result in the expulsion of a student.  For those of us who studied, earned our degrees, and worked in institutions that arduously protected the integrity of the degrees, the casual and sometimes mocking attitude toward cheating among some South Dakota colleagues was devastating to any sense of professional ethic.  They promoted, perhaps unwittingly, the idea that academic work is a game and anything you can get away with is fair.

That attitude toward cheating is reflected in the notion prevalent in South Dakota about  business practices and what constitutes an entrepreneurial enterprise.  Anything a business can do to make money and gain power is fair game.  Honesty is a posture one projects for the fools who are customers and possible investors, but it is an unnecessary encumbrance to the actual running of a business.  There are honest businesses, but there are many people who pose as business leaders who promote the idea that good business decisions are matters of making money, not matters of how those decisions will affect a community or the people touched by them.  Profits trump all  other considerations. These leaders insist that the only purpose of a business is to make money and that is the sole criterion in making business decisions. 

The complications that have been revealed in the bankruptcy of Northern Beef Packers and the investigations into the EB-5 loans, the layers of financing by companies that operate by stealth, and the blanket of laws that make the stealth legal, and prevent the public from knowing what has actually occurred are expressions of a great tolerance for cheating and dishonesty in the South Dakota culture.  Other states, such as Illinois, are regarded as corrupt, but that is because the corruption is exposed and dealt with.  Illinois has freedom of information laws and rules that require all actions involving the state to be recorded and made public.  South Dakota has laws that provide ways to keep the public ignorant.  The real problem is that the majority of people take refuge in that ignorance and prefer to bask in the notion that they live in a great state.

Currently, there are protests and demonstrations in Ukraine over the government's corruption and oppression.   They started when the people indicated they wanted an alliance with the European Union and the president rejected it in favor of an alliance with Russia.  That triggered a revolt and brought the protesters out on the streets.  The people in the streets decided it was time to address the corruption and oppression, too.  As is usually the case with corruption, the complicity of government with businesses looking to gain advantage through under-the-table dealings siphoned money and opportunity away from the people and gave it to the predatory interests at work. 

The government decided to meet the public demands with more oppression.  At the instigation of the president, the parliament rushed through a series of laws that criminalized the protest tactics used by the people.  However, the people increased their resistance and opposition, and the president and parliament repealed the laws

In South Dakota, the legislature doesn't have to pass laws to suppress and control any opposition from the people.  The blanket of laws that authorize the government and its chosen business partners to operate by stealth and make organized crime legal are already in place.  They prevent people from access to information about what officials are doing and how government operates; they uphold a system of justice largely devoted to enforcing those suppressive laws and diverting public attention from what officials are doing by filling the prisons with petty offenders who take to drink and drugs as a way of dealing with oppression and injustice. The intimidation in those acts of using criminal punishment keeps the public in line.  

When the state treasurer found that the governor's henchmen were accruing funds from their business cronies, the governor would not say how much money was involved, where it was banked, or where it came from.  As the treasurer called for investigation, the governor had his  legislative cronies make it a crime for any state official to reveal to the public that an investigation into  possibly illegal activities was taking place.  The treasurer backed off from any investigation because he said he did not want to go to jail.  In Ukraine, the people rose up in demonstrated opposition to such laws.  In South Dakota, they complied.  

Cory Heidelberger's Madville Times has tracked and reported on the developments in the Northern Beef Packers bankruptcy,  the financing by stealth, and the handling of the EB-5 loans. A majority of the comments on the blog express concern and disapproval of the fact that 400 people who went to work for NBP in good faith lost their jobs and that Chinese and Korrean EB-5 investors lost $60 million, and that the Aberdeen community had been jerked around with misleading, often false information.  Some commenters insist that all is right in state government and that what happened with NBP-EB-5 scandal was merely a matter of a business plan gone awry.  A self-appointed spokesperson for the GOP majority presents Madville Times readers with a screed of denial.  He is a former member of the state government's economic development department, and defends the whole affair as business as usual, and dismisses any concerns about the stealth financing and misinforming the public by stating "to assert there was rampant 'misdealings' is not supported at all by the facts."  The facts are that from conception to eventual failure, the NBP project  is a history of misdeal after misdeal, and representatives of state government were involved every step of of the way.The plan originally slated for Huron suddenly collapsed amid rumors that the Governor became displeased with it.  It migrated to Flaudreau where its failure cost the Flandreau Development Association and the Farmers' Union hundreds of thousands of dollars. When the plan was revived in Aberdeen, the spokespersons for the state government, the development agencies, and the developers carpet-bombed the people with claims about what the plant would do for them and the cattle industry in the region, but the difficulties it was experiencing with financing were never openly addressed.  It turns out the state, which committed millions of dollars in loans, knew of them. but the shaky and shady nature of the project was not known until contractors began filing mechanics' liens in order to get paid for their work.  NBP was granted TIF bonds, but they wouldn't sell.  Investors scorned the idea.  It was not reported in the news media until very late in the development that $60 million of the money came through EB-5 loans. And that information did not get reported until some of the Chinese and Korean investors sued the South Dakota Regional Center, broker for the loans, for not supplying full information about the risks of the investments.  Then the bankruptcy hit, the loan monitor committed suicide, announcment was made that both state and federal agencies were investigating the scheme, and the story of offshore stealth companies were shuttling money around. In the history of this scheme, there is nothing but incident after incident of misdealing.  

The economic devleopment and business-as-usual defender echoes that attitude toward cheating in his appraisal of what happened to the EB-5 investors:   "I don't get the consternation about the lost money from the Chinese and Korean investors." he said.   "They invested this money with two objectives: To get a return on their money and a permanent green card. They were sophisticated investors who made a mistake."  To get the green card, an investor of half a million dollars must put the money into something that produces 10 jobs.  NBP never had a workforce commensurate with the EB-5 investments and no jobs were maintained, a condition of earning a visa, so it is unlikely that any of the investors received their green cards.  As for being sophisticated investors, even the most careful investors rely upon accurate information for their investment decisions..  The South Dakota way of doing business is to withhold information and give out misleading information when it is furnished.  If these investors made a mistake, it was not recognizing NBP as an enterprise of fraud with government sponsorship.  It is that same attitude that cheating is fine, make grades or money any way you can.  It's all a competitive game,

There are good people and honest businesses in South Dakota that deliver valuable goods and services to the people at a fair price and make money.  There are many people in South Dakota who believe in and practice fair and equitable treatment of others.  Buy they are not the majority and their values do not influence the level of integrity at which business is done by the dominant culture.  The dominant culture reaches back into feudalism and thinks that business people are the lords of the land, and their employees and customers should bow before them in obedience and gratitude.  The dominant culture is not one that recognizes equal rights and works to extend the benefits of democracy to all people, but thinks in terms of game in which winner takes all.  Therefore, winning is the only consideration.

South Dakota Republicans, like their national cohorts, prefer a restrictive corporate fascism to an equal democratic society.  There is a cultural aspect.  There are those who, as matter of what they consider success, have a need to dominate.  The majority that currently rules South Dakota equates status with bullying and inflicting abuse and damage on those who do not subscribe to their prejudices and sets of bigotries.  This need for domination shows up in the philosophy of business and state government.  Business by stealth, closed government, and  systematic defamation of other people are driving motives of the system that has earned disreputable integrity ratings.

The good people of South Dakota have not found a way to have their equal status and rights acknowledged by that portion of the culture that is so obsessively devoted to domination and bullying.  Democratic voter registrations have  declined.  The perennial outmigration of the young and the talented is relentless.  South Dakota needs improvement.  It can be improved.   But it can only be done when those who insist that it's a great state face up to its faults.  Its stealthy, bullying, oppressive dominators are huge fault.  
It is a fault defined by those integrity indexes.

So, the first matter is to face the faults.  The second is to recognize that those faults are getting worse because no one confronts them aggressively.  The people in Ukraine finally took to the streets.  The officials who had previously dismissed them paid attention.  The people are being listened to because they started acting on their concerns.  If that could happen in South Dakota,  it might be a great state. 

Friday, January 24, 2014

The triumph of the defecators: dummying down education

South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley is doing his best to make the ship of state a ship of fools. One of his latest verbal ventures is the kind of thing tenured professors get fired for.  David Montgomery of the Argus  Leader noticed it.  The Talking Points Memo picked up his notice.  

The occasion was the recent Supreme Court decision that affirmed South Dakota's right to use the death penalty.  Jackley's office sent out a press release expressing pleasure at the decision in which Jackley is quoted as saying:

“The United States Supreme Court’s order today affirms that South Dakota has taken proper precautions in drafting and implementing its death penalty statutes to assure that they meet constitutional requirements. Donnivan Schaeffer’s family has waited 22 years in their search for justice. In the wake of yesterday’s day of remembrance, it is well to recall what Martin Luther King Jr. recognized in his Letter from the Birmingham Jail: ‘Justice too long delayed is justice denied.’”
First of all, Martin  Luther King attributes the statement to someone else.  The paragraph from his letter containing the quotation reads:
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was "well timed" in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation. For years now I have heard the word "Wait!" It rings in the ear of every Negro with piercing familiarity. This "Wait" has almost always meant "Never." We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that "justice too long delayed is justice denied."

  King was writing from memory in a jail cell, not in an office equipped with a library. so that he could check his sources.  Nevertheless, he acknowledges that someone else was the source of the quotation, a basic act of honesty and clarity.  Martin Luther KIng's letter from Birmingham Jail was quickly recognized by the literary world as a masterpiece of rhetoric, and by the mid-1960s (it was written April 16, 1963), it had found a place in major college anthologies of writing used in the study of critical reading and writing.  In 1968, the standard textbook for freshman composition where I taught was the voluminous Norton Reader, which contained the letter and still does. The purpose of studying essays and other forms of literature is to make students aware of what legitimate rhetoric is and how to recognize and practice it in a culture where most of the language coming at them from the media is for the purpose of destruction, deception, and domination.  

Scholars have spent much effort in trying to determine who the "distinguished jurist" was that King quoted.  That precise quotation cannot be identified, but some have contended that it is a paraphrase of what a number of prominent jurists have said.  However, to people informed of the history of black culture,  it is a very familiar concept that circulated in  black literature.  It forms the main image of the poem "Harlem" by Langston Hughes:

      What happens to a dream deferred?

      Does it dry up
      like a raisin in the sun?

      Or fester like a sore—
      And then run?
      Does it stink like rotten meat?
      Or crust and sugar over—
      like a syrupy sweet?
Lorraine Hansbury borrowed a line from that poem for the title of her award-winning play, "A Raisin in the Sun."  The idea that deferment is denial was a driving force of the civil rights movement, and is an essential fact of life that propels the quest for equality forward.  

Jackley's citation of Martin Luther KIng's letter is a gross falsification of what his letter from Birmingham Jail is about and what King advocated in regard to the death penalty.  A main concern of King in the letter concerned what constitutes just laws:
 ...there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all.
In his commentary on Jackley's citation,  David Montgomery cites an essay by David A. Love who quotes King on the death penalty:
"I do not think that God approves the death penalty for any crime, rape and murder included," King said. "Capital punishment is against the better judgment of modern criminology, and, above all, against the highest expression of love in the nature  God."
In a 1959 letter, King explains his argument against the death penalty more precisely:
I sincerely believe that capital punishment is wrong.. Let me assure you that I say this in all humility because I am still humbly groping for truth. It is certainly possible that I am wrong in my position. But I have always felt that the purpose of punishment is to improve the character and life of the person punished, rather than pay him back for something that he has done to society. Now if the ultimate aim is to improve the character of the person, can their character be improved when the person is inflicted with death?  So on the basis of this I don’t believe in capital punishment for white people or Negro people.
  When we teach students writing, we stress that plagiarism is a crime against the essential honesty and integrity on which useful and constructive discourse must be based.  The misrepresentation and falsification of information is a worse crime, because it deceives readers and defames the author being quoted.  As alluded to in the opening of this post, Ward Churchill, a high-ranking professor at the University of Colorado was fired for misrepresenting data in his scholarship.  Marty Jackley commits the same act for which Churchill was fired in his misrepresentation of Martin Luther King.  

If Jackley takes such egregious license in representing what Martin Luther KIng has said and stood for, what must he be doing in his reading and writing about the law?

Often in South Dakota we are reminded that its system of justice is run by sheep-shearing shysters.  These are people who use language not to define and refine the concept of justice they allege to adhere to, but to use language as as the tool for fleecing their clients and the citizens who depend upon the law for that liberty, equality, and justice that we like to think are the purposes of our country.  We call those fleecers shysters, which is explained in the Urban Dictionary:
Shyster is derived from the German term scheisser, meaning literally “one who defecates,” from the verb scheissen, “to defecate,” with the English suffix -ster, “one who does,” substituted for the German suffix -er, meaning the same thing.

Generally used to describe someone who is untrustworthy, money grabbing and full of crap, particularly in the field of legal work for some reason.

In falsifying Martin Luther King,  Marty Jackley has chosen to serve the role of shyster by taking a humongous dump on the people of South Dakota.   The question is if the legal profession and justice system cares enough about honesty and integrity
in this state, as the higher education system did in the State of Colorado. 

The underlying issue in Jackley's performance, especially as it involves the state in the fleecing of Chinese and Korean investors in the EB-5 scandal and in keeping the public uninformed about the crucial aspects of that case goes back to the purposes of education. In a literate society which values honesty and integrity as necessary elements in a workable democracy,  Jackley would not be allowed to get away with such falsifications as he made in reference to Martin Luther King.  But for many decades,  there has been a political agenda in South Dakota to diminish the study of language and its constructive uses to the point that many students come out of its education institutions ignorant of how language is used with integrity to arrive at truth.  Supplanting the dialogue and interaction with standardized tests as a means of assessing student knowledge has accelerated the dummying down of school curricula so that students are too ignorant to know when they are getting verbally dumped on. The agenda, as illustrated by Jackley's falsfication is to make democracy safe for lying and fleecing the public.

What Marty Jackley did in a press release is symptomatic of a state being systemically geared to producing generations of fools conditioned to defecation as a standard of public service. Shystering the public has become the hallmark of governance in South Dakota. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Chris Christie and Bill Janklow

 News that Chris Christie is a bully who screws over those who don't support him or otherwise displease him should come as no surprise.  Aside from the coverage of him and President Obama making nice to each other after Hurricane Sandy, he has accrued a rather extensive public record of being an asshole.  

People in South Dakota are inured to such carrying on.  They lived through four terms of Bill Janklow.  Despite some things he did that were the post mortem focus,  for many he is remembered as being the consummate bully.  He was unrestrained in his use of intimidation and vindictiveness to attain his political goals. 

What prompts this post is an offhand remark someone made in my hearing that he had little interest in the Christie matter and could not understand why the news media made such a national case out of something that was irrelevant to folks in South Dakota.  So that such souls won't feel left out,  I remind them of Janklow's machinations.  The difference is that New Jersey and New York have a press that digs for all the facts.  South Dakota doesn't, as demonstrated by the handlling of the Northern Beef Packers bankruptcy and the EB-5 investment program.

On that point, a comment was made on a blog that the people of South Dakota for the most part do not understand the EB-5 business.  Again, that is because South Dakota does not have a press that reports or explains things. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

South Dakota just keeps striving for distinction

41. South Dakota: highest rate of forcible rape 76.5 per 100,000

The Fix makes a map of shame.  

Friday, January 3, 2014

"I would love to teach, but you just can't anymore."

Before anyone writes another word about the plight of teachers and the quality of education,  here is a piece from the Washington Post you need to read before you enter any discussion,

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States