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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, July 24, 2014

When politics is a game designed by imbeciles to be played by idiots*

The Republican National Committee is sending out robocalls that connect Senate primary candidate Rick Weiland with Harry Reid.  Bloggers havetaken up the issue of why the national committee is coming to the aid of the a Republican candidate.

The robocall is an example of the supreme duplicity that has become a major definer of the GOP brand of politics.  When Weiland first announced his candidacy, the GOP minions reveled and chortled over the fact that Harry Reid would not support Weiland’s candidacy and preferred others. They launched a vigorous campaign with the theme that Weiland was doomed to failure from the outset. 

 Now the RNC is claiming that Weiland is merely a Harry Reid surrogate.  The factual conflict between Reid and Weiland is conveniently ignored and the mendacity is the basis for the latest propaganda tactic.

Why would the RNC push this claim at this juncture in the campaign?  Because it has worked for them in the past.  A major claim made by the GOP against Tom Daschle in 2004 was that he was tied so closely to the Beltway power elite that he no longer represented South Dakota.  The same tactic was used against Stephanie Herseth Sandlin when the GOP claimed she was subservient to Nancy Pelosi, although as a Blue Dog Democrat, Herseth Sandlin voted against some significant legislation that Pelosi promoted.  Of course, the GOP portrayed Pelosi as the Witch of the East from the West Coast to make the claimed relationship look more ominous.

The entire GOP agenda is to retain what power it has and gain more.  It no longer even attempts to take coherent stands on issues.  Its strategy is to demonize and assassinate character, and its level of mendacity in attacking individuals from Obama to candidate Weiland  Its entire political activity in the primary campaign for  Senate is to malign, ridicule and try to tarnish Rick Weiland as doomed to failure.   

That is the primary objective of the GOP.  If it can’t get its way, it obstructs the legislative processes and holds government in a state of dysfunction.  On neither the state or federal level, has the GOP  advanced legislation that solves problems or builds the state of the union.  It has refused to address the aging and failing infrastructure, care of veterans, a crooked financial system,  the real problems in health care, or the issues of immigration.  Rather, it has chosen to obstruct rather than to work out legislation.  While the Tea Party faction holds the GOP hostage and hides behind its insistence to reduce taxes and the size of government, its constant outpouring of defamation and mendacious accusations defines the real motives driving the movement.  The GOP adopts its hostage-holding tactics in its obstruction of government functions with the idea that voters will vote Republican in the hopes of getting something done in government.  

In South Dakota, the Tea Party driven agenda has had a particularly devastating effect on education.  It has reached the point where superintendents are testifying before legislative committees that the pay scale makes it impossible to hire people to fill the teaching staffs with qualified people.  However, the superintendents gloss over the attitudes and treatment of teachers in the state, something that comes up in any conversation with teachers about the status of teaching in South Dakota.

Democrats share some of the blame in the attempted pillorying of Rick Weiland.  They read South Dakota War College and get so incensed at the petty mendacity and character assassination that they let the GOP and that scurrilous wretch Powers set the discussion agenda, rather than mount their own advancement of the facts and the issues.

Another reason that the GOP douses Weiland with its disrespect and abuse is that they do have reason to fear him.  The press keeps insisting that Rounds is a sure winner, unless the scandals of his office become issues.  But as a former Daschle staff member, Weiland knows politics.  He knows South Dakota. His strategy has been to avoid engaging in the specious and malevolent sniping on the social media and legacy press and to take his message directly to the people.  His record of work is as a capable and effective administrator as a FEMA and AARP executive and he has an unblemished record for honesty, integrity, and forthrightness.  In those aspects, he is superior to the other candidates who vied for the candidacy for the U.S. Senate.

Rick Weiland has run a meticulous and honest campaign.  He has personally visited every town in South Dakota and is now conducting a second round of visits.  He has met with small groups of people in his meetings and town halls and the size of those groups is growing as his name and his message gets known.  But most importantly, there are now people in every town in the state who have met Rick Weiland personally and have had the opportunity to meet and talk with him.  That is a set of personal relationships that no other candidate for any office has made, and that is a powerful reason for the GOP to fear Weiland, and a reason to conduct its campaign of defamation with false and petty accusations. 

Many Democrats insist that Weiland has to “take the gloves off” and go after Mike Rounds' record.  But that would involve Weiland in the petty exchanges and put him on the level with the GOPers such as Powers and his retard chorus at the SDWC.  Rounds is in office because leading candidates for the GOP nomination for governor took themselves out of the race because of a pissing duel and the people chose Rounds over them.

Weiland is a populist and presents a platform that is quit liberal.  But every element in his platform confronts facts and offers solutions to problems.  He takes issue with many GOP stances, and that includes the record of scandals and mistakes made during Rounds’ terms as governor.   Except for the stance against the Affordable Care Act, the GOP has addressed no issues and proposed no solutions that involve a careful delineation of facts.  As stated before, its entire program is character assassination and mendacity.

Rick Weiland has laid out a clear platform.  He has met with people in every town in the state and explained and answered questions about his platform.  Thoughtful voters in every town in the state know Rick and his platform.  And that is something to fear among those whose campaigns consist of paid advertisements that defame and misinform. 

As for going after Mike Rounds on a personal basis, that is something that is best accomplished by the Democratic Party and Democrats throughout the state by making  a factual examination, not superficial accusations, about Rounds performance as governor and the way the GOP is conducting itself in the legislature and in the public media. 

But that is a tall order.  Up to now, the Democrats have let Powers and his cronies, which is most of the GOP, keep them stuck in the level of petty malignity that passes for political discourse.  They need to come to a better understanding of what Rick Weiland is doing and get themselves informed and campaign on the level of facts and issues.  When the people have to confront such things and the way they are affecting their lives,  they may vote more intelligently.  The Democrats have let the GOP dominate the state by letting the Republicans set the agenda.  The Democrats’ job is to repudiate that agenda, point out its meanness and dishonesty, and forcefully show why their agenda is more in the interests of the people and good, effective government.  They have to show that they are superior more trustworthy than those who can merely defame.  

*A line I appropriated from the play "Mr. Roberts" which describes war in those terms.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

How to kill civilians and their families and revel in glory, or whatever

The Nike Ajax which guarded the U.S. and its NATO allies in the 1950s.


The downing of Malaysian flight 17 puzzled me.  That is because I am an old surface-to-air missile crewman for the first anti-aircraft missile deployed by the U.S. to protect its borders and those of NATO allies, the Nike Ajax.

 What puzzles me is the information, particularly coming from Russia and its agents in Ukraine, seems so ridiculous that I wonder why the news media has not delved into the facts about missiles, how they operate, and what they can do.

Somewhere in my files is a small ring-binder that we crewmen carried in the breast pocket of our fatigues that contained the information given us during our training.  It was classified as secret and we had a notation mandated on the first page that the information was for the use and dissemination of crewmen only.  Much of that information is available on the Internet so I think I can disseminate.

The development of the Nike Ajax started in the late 1940s.  By the early 1950s it was widely deployed in the U.S. and  deployment continued throughout the world during the 1950s.  My unit, Overseas Package 5, was sent to Germany in 1957 to convert an anti-aircraft gun battery to a missile battery deployed in remote parts of, then, West Germany.

Here are the characteristics of the Nike Ajax that have to be compared what is said about the downing of MH17.

  • It was 18 feet long with a two-stage system propelled by a booster rocket and a sustaining engine.
  • It traveled at 2.3 times the speed of sound, breaking the sound barrier as it left the launcher.
  • It could reach 70,000 feet.
  • It was guided by ground radar, a tracking radar and an analog computer which tracked the target and guided the missile into it.
  • Its pattern of attack was to ascend to an altitude above the target, execute a high altitude turn back down to the target, and approach the target from above—it is very difficult for a target to evade a missile approaching it from above.
  • It did not have to make a direct hit on the target; its 3 warheads, which weighed 1455 pounds (the missile itself weighed 1000 pounds) could destroy a target by proximity.
  • The radar system contained a Friend or Foe indicator which could identify friendly, commercial, and non-combative aircraft and track only hostile aircraft as potential targets.
  • The firing procedure included a series of steps to verify the status of the target and to prevent any targeting of innocent, non-combative aircraft.

Sixty-some years after the deployment of this missile system, the downing of MH17 is incomprehensible.  The photographs of wreckage are pretty conclusive evidence that missile shrapnel shredded the aircraft. and its pattern of descent fits that of missile-hit aircraft.  The accounts of the drunken Russian separatist militia, the mindless statements of its leaders, and Putin’s assurances that he is advising restraint to the Russian separatists, while Russian ordnance continues to pour into the regions they hold, indicate the downing of MH17 was no accident. 

The real puzzler is why the press is so timid about putting the claims of Russia and its separatists in the context of facts as they are verified and established.  When things are said, the first task of the press is—or, at least, it used to be—to check them for veracity, verify the facts in terms of the circumstances they allude to, and present the confirmations or the discrepancy to the public in clear terms.

We are living in a time when atrocities are being committed under the rules of jihad and now in Ukraine and Gaza with a political aggression that rivals Europe of the 1930s. 

The dismaying aspect is that there seems to be few people in the world who understand the difference between the fact and propaganda that led to World War II and the Cold War that followed.  If blogs claim to be superior to the legacy media in presenting uncomfortable facts.  Maybe its time they dropped the snark and mindless bickering and start concentrating on facts. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A state that gave up politics for character assassination and petty hatred

{Corrections have been made for omissions and errors made in the posting process.}

Some bloggers have berated the Democrats for not putting up a candidate for state attorney general to oppose Marty Jackley.  As I no longer hold an office in the party and am not active as present because of a medical regimen that keeps me occupied so I have no information on the efforts to recruit an attorney general candidate.  However, I was asked to help find potential candidates and recruit a prospect for the U.S. Senate race in 2010 and know the reasons that people, especially Democrats, are reluctant to enter politics. 

A case in point was made by independent candidate Mike Myers on a recent Argus Leader 100 Eyes video.  Myers' original running mate for lieutenant governor had to withdraw from the race because of some family health issues.  He was asked how he ended up with former Republican legislator Lora  Hubbel as a replacement.  Myers recounted how he had contacted a physician he knew who accepted the challenge.  But the next day the physician called Myers and said his wife objected.  Myers’ words are that she said she would do bad th ings to her husband if he ran for office.
That reason of family objections was a common one raised by potential candidates we talked with in trying to recruit candidates  o run against John Thune. Families, especially the effect on children, were a prime consideration.  So was integrity of character.

Democratic strategists realize that the only way to defeat a Republican is to launch a malicious campaign of character assassination that appeals to the penchant for the hateful rage that has become the political criterion for electability.  Most astute Democrats recognize that politics have changed and see nothing but harm and damage to themselves and their families coming out of  campaign.  That is because politics changed in South Dakota ten years ago.

I have written about this many times before, but people who have histories and strong attachments to South Dakota find it hard to admit that the essential character of the state has changed.

When Thune challenged Tom Daschle in 2004, he hired Dick Wadhams as the campaign manager and dutifully recited the  scripts Wadham supplied him with.  Wadhams returned to the state as a campaign advisor to Mike Rounds and is now employed by the state Republican Party.  Thune had acquired a record in the House of Representatives that was feckless and lacking in accomplishment.  To challenge Tom Daschle, who is a highly accomplished legislator, he could not afford a comparison of records or stances on the issues.

The strategy was to avoid issues, policies, and legislative record and accomplishment and attack Daschle personally.  A most successful ploy was to play to the resentment among South Dakotans of anyone who has accrued success and recognition outside the boundaries of the state.  The Thune campaign played up Tom Daschle’s attaining the majority leader of the Senate as an abandonment of the people of the state for the culture of Washington, D.C ., and declared it as his major residence.  He still owned and returned to his house Aberdeen, where his mother lived when he returned to the state.  The campaign also attacked the press for the coverage it gave to the Senator and Senate majority and played up the assumption the press had liberal leanings and gave Tom Daschle partial treatment.  Then it attacked Daschle because his wife who was a successful lobbiest for the airline industry had once been a beauty queen for whom, the campaign implied, he abandoned his first wife.  The Thune campaign also knew that Daschle is of a principled character that would not engage these personal assaults in kind. 

The  Thune campaign hired a history professor of the neocon bias at South Dakota State to write a blog dedicated to the character assassination of Tom Daschle,  In 2004, blogs were a recent development and very few people in the general public were aware of or read them.  The anti-Daschle blog gave voice to the campaign strategy that Thune and his surrogates were covering the state with.  The character assassination went so far that during a television debate show Thune accused Daschle of giving aid and comfort to the enemy for his opposition to the war in Iraq.  Giving aid and comfort to the enemy is how  the Constitution defines treason.  The Thune campaign also portrayed Daschle’s opposition to a Constituional amendment forbidding flag desecration as limiting free speech and because laws were already on the books dealing with the matter as an unpatriotic betrayal.  This imposed on a man who served in the Air Force as an intelligence officer from a man who had no military service. 

During the last months of the campaign I was a member of a group that campaigned for Tom Daschle in the East River part of the state.  What struck me was that people who opposed Daschle did not bring up issues and policies, but abused the campaigners with a personal hatefulness against Tom Daschle.  I and a few others registered concern about the intensity of the responses, but most of the campaigners were loyal South Dakotans who dismissed the reactions as that of a small minority of hateful people who did not reflect the more benign and wholesome aspects of the people of the state.

Daschle, of course, lost.  And as conservative blogs showed up on the Internet, they continued the personal discrediting and character assassination of  Tom Daschle.  In South Dakota, as is true of the Limbaugh believers in our nation, the GOP has abandoned any sincere discussion of issue for character assassination as the total purpose of its campaigns.  In South Dakota, character assassination is embraced or dismissed as acceptable among a majority of the voters. The designated voice of the state GOP,  South Dakota War College, when it is not posting hackwork tributes to its candidates is totally devoted to the discrediting and malicious besmirching of Democratic candidates. Its posts have a disregard for accuracy and factual truth.  It is simply an exercise in mindless scurrility.  If this is, as it claims, the most read blog on state politics, that defines a state with a cultural climate that people of good and good purpose wish to avoid.

The Argus Leader published an editorial after the state GOP convention berating the party for passing a resolution calling for the impeachment of President Obama.  Its main point is that it was a foolish resolution and made the state look like a conclave of backward rubes.  Like many loyal South Dakotans, the Argus Leader, because of circulation and advertising considerations, cannot afford to point out that the GOP is the majority party, it has controlled state government for decades,  it is electing its candidates to federal offices, and it, in fact, defines the essential character of the state.  The dominant attitude in the state is that of ignorant, malevolent rubes who love to hate and dwell on personal  resentments they harbor against those who achieve and have successes in other parts of the world.

When it comes to recruiting candidates to run against the South Dakota GOP and it’s  assassination squads, few people want to subject themselves to the toxic stress and damage against their characters, which have destructive effects on families.  As one person who rejected a run for the Senate four years ago put it, there is no point in campaigning among people who aren’t interested in solving problems but only want to hold power and demolish any opposition through their angry hatreds
The declining Democratic voter registrations probably reflect a trend.  People who think politics is about serving people, not defaming and insulting them, want out of here.  Good, loyal Democrats cannot face what the state has become, even though many studies point to it  as one of the most corrupt states in the union.  Like their ancestors who left the Old World to escape corruption and oppression, many South Dakotans are following that precedent in their culture rather than try to convert those who oppose them to a more benign, good-willed way of life.  What is represented in the defamatory campaigns of John Thune and Kristi Noem is what the majority has voted for.  The state is not the kind of place  that respects good will and good purpose. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Don't let SCOTUS distract you from what's happening to our schools

From Diane Ravitch:

We are living in an era when the very idea of public education is under attack, as are teachers' unions and the teaching profession. Let's be clear: these attacks and the power amassed behind them are unprecedented in American history. Sure, there have always been critics of public schools, of teachers, and of unions. But never before has there been a serious and sustained effort to defund public education, to turn public money over to unaccountable private hands, and to weaken and eliminate collective bargaining wherever it still exists. And this effort is not only well-coordinated but funded by billionaires who have grown wealthy in a free market and can't see any need for regulation or unions or public schools.
Read it all here.

How you lost your right to be left alone

Many people are confused by the unanimous Supreme Court decision striking down buffer zones at abortion clinics.  This includes The New York Times and Madville Times. 

The confusion comes from the justifications for the decision which seem totally unaware of the history behind the buffer zones and the nature of the confrontations that they were designed to prevent.   

The decision totally ignores an issue that Judge Louis Brandeis made an essential judicial consideration:  the right to be left alone. 

In this decision, one suspects that the judiciary decided not to seem obstinately and stupidly locked in partisan obstruction and lifted their robes and stuck their heads up each others’ butts to get alternative perspectives.  There seems no other way to explain such an inadequately rendered decision.

Justice Roberts who wrote the decision says, ” petition­ers are not protestors; they seek not merely to express their opposi­tion to abortion, but to engage in personal, caring, consensual conversations with women about various alternatives.”    This statement is a semantic boondoggle.  When people show up at an abortion clinic to approach patients and try to “persuade” them not to terminate a pregnancy, that act is a protest. 

The issue is one of the right of people to go about their personal business without being impeded or interfered with by other people.  When a women is about to enter a clinic, whether for reasons of health issues or to have an abortion, she is in a state of mind concerning her own well-being.  If she is to have an abortion, she has made a decision about the viability of her own life, a decision that providers stress is never made lightly or without deliberation and consideration.  The last thing she needs is to be approached by some fatuous and presumptuous ass for a “personal, caring, consensual conversation about various alternatives.”    A buffer zone provides the fatuous asses with the right to try to engage the women within an audible range, but it also provides space so that the women can go about their personal business without a personal impediment interfering with their access.  It grants them the right to be left alone in a stressful moment.

The rhetoric of Supreme Court decisions has deteriorated into stark propaganda at the minds and hands of the conservative element on the court.  First of all, it isn’t rhetoric.  It is popular to call any form of political communication rhetoric.  But to qualify as real rhetoric, an argument must be advanced on meticulously documented facts and rigorous logic and reasoning.  Recent decisions, such as the abolishment of buffer zones and the and Hobby Lobby decision are examples of faulty information and slovenly reasoning.  The Hobby Lobby decision is incoherent, as Justice Aiito flounders about in trying to grasp at arguments to support the prejudicial doctrine preferred by the conservative justices. Ultimately, the court has rested much of its recent decisions upon the concept that corporations are persons, which effectually gives corporations the right to dictate the terms of life for real persons.  Conservatives like rule by corporate dictatorship, and detest the liberal notion of individuals determining how they wish to live their own lives.  The Hobby Lobby decision removes the right of women to determine what is covered by their health insurance.

Consistently of late, the SCOTUS is abolishing the right to be left alone.  Andi it is trying to force our heads up Alito's and Robert's lower colons. 

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States