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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

Monday, November 24, 2014

How do you build a progressive political party in a state that the smart people leave?

As the steward of a list of Democrats who contributed to the county Democratic party with funds and organizational support, I have been alarmed at the rapid shrinking of that list.  I have often mentioned it and have offered evidence from it to indicate that a factor in the decline of registered Democrats in South is that intelligent, talented, and educated people leave the state, and those who stay withdraw from social and political interaction.  Brown County has been a Democratic stronghold, contributing leaders like Tom Daschle and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin to national politics, but has shown a decidedly Republican drift in recent years. 

Attrition accounts for a great deal of the names that vanished from that list.  Many long-time Democrats have died; many have moved to gentler climes to live their senior years, and many have left to pursue more rewarding jobs, and many have left for more vital and sustaining cultural climates.  Loyal South Dakota Democrats resist facing the fact that many people, even those raised and schooled here and with family connections here, do not like South Dakota.  And their dislike extends to the people.  Many people who have been raised in South Dakota want out.

John Tsitrian who writes The Constant Commoner blog examines a study from Drexel University which analyzes the outmigration from South Dakota.  The statistics show:

  • In 2012,  47 percent (488,000 persons) born in South Dakota live in other states.
  • Of 1.03 milllion people born in the state, 570,000 remain, making it among the lowest ranking states in terms of birth residents who have remained in the state.  
  • Although, 262,000 people have migrated into the state, they are heavily weighted toward people with high school diplomas, while those leaving are heavily weighted toward those with  college and post-graduate degrees.

After the drubbing Democrats took in the national and state elections, efforts are being made in South Dakota to rebuild the party.  The problem these efforts face is that the people who incline toward liberal and progressive politics have left or want to leave the state.  Many people who habitually vote Republican are in the economic class that is harmed and discriminated against by Republican policies.  They are not intellectually inclined to examine how GOP policies and political schemes affect their lives, but rather think their Republican votes makes them part of the managing class. 

The harsh fact is that educated people leave the state, while the semi-educated vote for the people and policies that regard them as serfs whose virtue lies in their docile acceptance of low wages and suppressive work rules. 

Rebuilding the Democratic Party in South Dakota will have to involve educating and then giving voice to a constituency that is held in economic bondage, but does not understand how their “right to work” limits their opportunities and their standard of living.   The question is, if you can educate them about their plight, will they leave the state, too?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Why America is not the greatest nation in the world anymore

Kristal Nacht

Faulty link below has been repaired.  *An edited transcript of the video link is included at the end of this post.

The terrorist attacks of 911 were a huge success.  They succeeded in exercising control over the minds of Americans and pushing a plurality into a state of incoherent fear and confusion.  The attacks sparked a campaign of events that sent Americans into a state of mindless rage which reduces them to a helpless babble as those who would exercise power over them manipulate the strings of propaganda and make them incapable of an effective response.

With every beheading of innocents by Islamic mass murderers, with every mass killing by so-called jihadists or Mexican drug cartels, and with every school shooting or killing in the name of self-defense on our own streets, Americans slip further into mental dysfunction and respond only to commands from their chosen masters.  They can only respond to rage-induced resentment and hatred, and many have become incapable of discerning facts from fantasies composed solely to feed their rage and their mindless obedience to those attitudes to which the propaganda directs them.

This month on the ninth marked the 75th anniversary of Kristal Nacht, the night that launched the Holocaust in Germany.  It was a night of rage against the Jews during which synagogues were burned, Jewish businesses and homes were attacked, leaving the German streets covered with shards of broken glass. After the U.S and its allies defeated the Nazis and liberated the Jews who had not been killed, they vowed to never let such an atrocity happen again. 

One of the results of that vow was the intensification of the study of rhetoric and propaganda in our schools and colleges.  Kristal Nacht was instigated and led by Hitler’s regime, but the German people turned out massively on the streets to take part in attacking and capturing the Jewish people.  That participation was the result of a propaganda campaign by Joseph Goebbels and his propaganda ministry.  Goebbels was overwhelmingly successful in manipulating the people to think and do as he determined.  Americans and other western countries were convinced that a people educated in the differences between good rhetoric and false rhetoric and propaganda were a powerful antidote to appeals to political and racial hatred.  During my freshman year in college, we had a textbook for English composition that rigorously analyzed the false premises of propaganda and logical fallacies in rhetoric.  In high schools and colleges, the  techniques of legitimate rhetoric and the discipline of critical thinking were a feature of curricula up until the 1970s. 

Most Americans today are not equipped with educations that make them capable of critical analysis of the blizzard of communication they find themselves in from those who try to control their thinking.  Business corporations see such knowledge as a barrier to the success of their advertising effectiveness.  Political factions see it as a barrier to their indoctrination.  In response to these objections, school boards and many college administrations have eliminated courses in the language arts and humanities which expose students to critical thinking skills and the analysis of good language and literature.  As school boards no longer function as conduits of information between the public and the professional teaching staffs but as corporate boards of directors that dictate curriculum and policies, the curriculum has been reduced to preparing students to be docile, obedient employees.  Their learning achievements are measured by standardized tests used to determine how well schools are performing in their role of creating docile, obedient automatons who will not resist or protest if they are assigned to the class of impoverished serfs that America’s corporate managers want as a workforce.  A large portion of Americans have been rendered mentally defenseless against even the most crass propaganda ploys used to control them.

The denials of climate change and the baseless accusations against Barack Obama of being born in Africa and of being Muslim demonstrate the severe intellectual deficiencies that possess many Americans.  The conservative war against liberalism, as conducted by Rush Limbaugh and his imitators, uses the hate-based false accusations as Joseph Goebbels and his minions used them against the Jews.  A plurality of Americans are mentally incapable of recognizing and dealing with the recognizable falsehoods and appeals to religious and racial hatreds used to control them.  The war against public education has taken its toll in America.  In no category of excellence can America be saidto be the greatest country in the world anymore.  In large measure, that is  because of the way education has been compromised to serve a managing class, not the people. 

These factors in what has been called America’s culture war dominate politics.  There is little honest debate over the problems that afflict the American people and solutions to those problems.  Politics is all about character assassination and false accusations.  And the American people tolerate it all as business as usual.

In 1935, Sinclair Lewis wrote a novel, later made into a drama, titled It Can’t Happen Here,  in which he explored and satirized how what Hitler was doing in Germany could happen in the USA. In his literary work, Lewis explored those weaknesses and defects in American society that undercut democracy and tended toward social and political oppression.  The political party that takes over the country is called The American Corporate State and Patriot Party.  As in all of  Lewis’ satire, there are a significant number of people who embrace a gullible ignorance and a placid stupidity as a mode of life.  The attacks on education have produced that kind of constituency in our time.

Another book that foreshadowed what has happened to American education is Neil Postman’s 1971 Teaching as a Subversive Activity.    If the nation is to resist  being manipulated into its own versions of Kristal Nacht,  the liberals will need to abandon the dysfunctional government and focus on education, even if they have to go underground to accomplish it.  Our young people are our best chance of trying to restore freedom, equality, and justice as  the nation’s operating principles.  They need and deserve a chance to be educated in how our nation overcame oppressions and gave people respect and freedom.

South Dakota is a prime case in point of a state that has deteriorated into intellectual dysfunction.  It has been ruled by one political party which has withheld from the voter-taxpayers information about government transactions and the right to knowledge about what officials are doing.  It has allowed education to be neglected in its funding and tampered with in its function.  It has developed an uncurious and disinterested attitude toward government corruption.  In an instance that is defined with documents and the testimony of participants, the Benda-Bollen-Rounds EB-5 scandal, it has chosen to dismiss hard evidence and embrace the mendacity of its deniers.  It has lost the ability to function mentally and examine the evidence in a suspicious death, the misdealing in state funds, the vicious ripping off of foreign investors, and the incompetent, devious mismanagement of the Northern Beef Packers plant.  Instead, the people endorsed the perpetrators of the fraud and overwhelmingly elected them to control the state.  South Dakota has strongly defined itself as a corrupt state  by the will of the people.  And it demonstrates the reasons why Americais not the greatest nation in the world anymore.

A corrupt political system does not provide the means for decency to prevail.  Those who care will have to devise their own means to provide genuine education and make another try for a new world. 


We're seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies.

We sure used to be. We stood up for what was right! We fought for moral reasons, we passed and struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and cultivated the world's greatest artists and the world's greatest economy. We reached for the stars, and we acted like men. We aspired to intelligence; we didn't belittle it; it didn't make us feel inferior. We didn't identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn't scare so easy. And we were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed. By great men, men who were revered. The first step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one—America is not the greatest country in the world anymore

Thursday, November 6, 2014

The Rounds-Benda-Bollen EB-5 scandal is not going away

As it became apparent Tuesday night that the Democrats were headed for a debacle, some of nature’s malevolent twits crawled out from under their rocks to put on display their magnificent characters and intellects at Cory Heidelberger’s Madville  Times. Here are a couple of examples:

Dave D.
What an ASS kikkin these Liberals are getting tonight!! Well deserved!!! The people HAVE SPOKEN!!!

Tom w
I learned bully talk from kathy tyler, shes real good at it.
Did u sleep at all cory or r u just stunned that the rounds won by so much. Ppl dont care bout  eb5 stuff that u have been wasting ur time writing bout for the past 6 momths

Models of intelligence and literacy.

The term “liberal” in the posting above refers to those radical people who don’t think that secrecy, subterfuge, and graft are the way business should be done in government or anywhere else.  They, indeed, took a beating and this election defined  the kind of thinking and people who dominate the culture of South Dakota.

Other states, such as Illinois, have corruption, too.  But they expose it, make the misdeeds public, and put the culprits in jail.  In South Dakota, the misdeeds are kept secret, denied, and the perpetrators are voted back into office. In this election, the plurality has defined itself:  it condones secrecy, subterfuge, fraud, and embezzlement as the standards for doing business between government and corporations.

The case against Mike Rounds is not a political contrivance by the opposing political party.  It is a case revealed by official documents which have been made public and by his own testimony.  Even the state’s major newspapers made that point in their denials of endorsement for him.

The Rounds-Benda-Bollen scandal over the handling of EB-5 investments will not go away.  There is much more to be made public.  The FBI has indicated that an investigation into the affair is taking place.  If its investigation is thorough and detailed, all the information will be revealed.

South Dakota does not have a freedom of information law.  Its legal code gives public officials discretion about releasing information about their indiscretions committed as official acts.

The federal government has Freedom of Information Act based upon the premise that the public has a right to know what its elected officials and appointed bureaucrats are doing and have done.

When the U.S. justice department  completes its investigation, the public will know  the facts about the Rounds-Benda-Bollen affair.  And it will know a lot more names complicit in it. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

EB-5 is not the problem. What South Dakota did with it is.

The EB-5 program is not a great idea.  It came at a time when outsourcing jobs and wealth to other countries by major corporations seemed to need a balancing factor.   EB-5 invited foreign investors to put money into American business.  There are examples of where the investments did launch sound businesses.  However, the program was a very minor factor until the great recession.  Although U.S. corporations were rescued and benefitted from stimulus efforts through which they accumulated capital, they held on to the money rather than make investments in enterprises and jobs which would bolster the economy.  The reluctance of corporations to invest in America caused developers to do some serious recruiting of EB-5 investors.

The major defect of the EB-5 program is that it did not provide any regulatory means to vet would-be developers of business or to assess their competence and honesty.  Consequently, the program attracted the usual contingent of connivers and schemers with business plans that were suspect from their inception.  South Dakota’s handling of EB-5 projects is among the most flagrant for its fleecing of investors with shoddy business schemes. 

The bankruptcy of Northern Beef Packers triggered an examination of the EB -5 program in South Dakota and produced the revelations of a graft scheme between state government and business interests.  The beef plant scheme was shady and conniving in its origins.  Originally, the beef processing plant was to be a subsidiary operation to the turkey plant in Huron.  For a number of reasons which were never disclosed because of the secrecy with which business and government operates in South Dakota, the plan was canceled.  One of the reasons in circulation was because the governor, Mike Rounds, took issue with the people who were trying to promote the plant.  Then the promoters took their plan to Flandreau, where money invested by the Flandreau economic development and the South Dakota Farmers Union for planning was lost when the planning company sort of evaporated.   The schemers then contacted people in Aberdeen who revived the plan for a beef processor.

The plant was beset from the beginning by poor planning, the number of grafters who are always attracted to money schemes like flies on a dung heap, and a bevy of incompetents who had not the foggiest idea of how to build any legitimate business, let alone one as complex as a beef processor.

However, beef producers in the region saw a regional beef processor as a potential boon for their operations.  The challenge was to find a niche in a market that is dominated and controlled by the Big Four beef producers in the U.S., who control over 80 percent of the market.  There were smaller operations that found successful business, particularly those that were offering hormone and anti-biotic free beef and were also specializing in grass-fed beef, which was earning a premium price in high-scale restaurants.  Promoters of the beef plant, particularly Richard Benda, indicated that the plant was being set up to serve that specialty market, but there did not seem to be anybody developing the market.  NBP was signed up with a marketing organization to distribute its beef, but the agreement was canceled because of the bumbling and constant delays in the construction of the plant.  When the plant finally was operating, it produced boxed beef, the ordinary cuts of meat found at grocery cases.  Word was that this beef was shipped to Korea.  If that was the case, it meant that NBP did not have a U.S. market, no place in this country to sell its beef.  When it began layoffs leading up the bankruptcy, the company said it did not have funds with which to buy beef.  But generally, if a processor has a market to serve, it can find funds to buy the beef to process.  It appears that NBP lacked the most essential element for a viable business:  a market to sell its product.

The financing of NBP was a mess, covered up by business and governmental secrecy.  One must conclude that operation was doomed by incompetence, ignorance, and scamming schemes from its outset, and the people who understood the market did not have enough influence to establish the firm in a way that gave it a chance to succeed.

While EB-5 is not a well-conceived and administered program,  it has had its successes, but its failures are cases of incompetents posturing as business successes and fraud.  EB-5 is a negative title in South Dakota because of what the collusion between state officials and purported business interests did with.

As people go to the polls in the state, they need to remember that EB-5 in South Dakota is what the state made it.  They have a chance to change the way politics and business has worked.  By Tuesday night, we’ll know if the people of the state want to eliminate the secrecy and fraud, or if it will be business as usual. 

Sunday, November 2, 2014

The South Dakota GOP blew its Wadhams

It is hard not to notice that contemporary politics is no longer about building a country based upon principles of freedom, equality, and justice.  It is about tearing people down and holding power over them which is used for personal advantage, not the well-being of voter constituents. 

South Dakota has embraced the politics of personal attack, even if the personal defamations, not the actual concerns of people become the dominating order of business.  Much of South Dakota’s drift into meanness and calumny can be attributed to Dick Wadhams, who was John Thune’s campaign advisor in 2004 and is now devoting his malevolent talents to Mike Rounds.  As a politic strategist, Wadhams’ tactics seem limited to slanders and cheap, contrived defamations.  He does understand the constituents who like to have their own prejudices and malignancies fed, and as proven by John Thune’s defeat of Tom Daschle, defamation, no matter how contrived and false, has broad appeal in South Dakota.  John Thune, who accrued a remarkable record of fecklessness and insouciance as a congressman, merely dutifully recited the script Wadhams gave him and won.  Daschle’s performance as a leader inspired that resentment that many South Dakotans have for anyone who is good at what they do and are recognized for it outside the state.  Wadhams was able to cater to and intensify that resentment.

Wadhams is a creature of the great perversion of American politics.  The very people who decry same-sex marriage, force incarceration on those who have treated ebola patients, and want to impose a Christian sharia on the nation, are devoted to the political perversion of personal destruction.  The political shift to the right is, in fact, a repudiation of democracy.  Progress in civil rights, in negotiated legislation, and in personal liberties is stalling.  In many ways, the objectives of 911 are being met as people cling to hysterical notions that government wants to take away their guns, the instruments they need to protect against a predatory government.  Meanwhile, predatory corporations are funneling the nations wealth and earning power to a class of CEOs who could not care less about the people who work for them or working people in general.  What attention they give working people consists of moving jobs to cheap-labor China and maintaining a workforce that increasingly does not earn enough to cover itsd necessities.

At this writing, I am in Denver and am reading accounts of expected voter turnout.  According to the reports, Democrats are not voting.  People are quoted about how tired they are of politics.  A strong subtext in the accounts is the politics has mired down so deeply in petty attacks on personality thoat many people have become convinced that what politics has disintegrated into makes it impossible to run a country that serves freedom, equality, and justice.  It has devolved into an unprincipled grab for money and power. 

A political scientist I know in Colorado—a real scholar of politics, not a political hack who uses his title to advance an agenda, has been tracking the Occupy Wall Street movement.  He says that while the press has, happily, reported that this revolt against the predations of American capitalism has seemed to fail, the people who supported this movement have retreated into a penetrating examination of American politics.  He points out that the loss of belief in the ability of current politics to govern is the motive behind lack of interest in voting.  A significant segment of the population has concluded that voting in the current political climate is a sham exercise in democracy.  The serious examination of policy has been so degraded by the personal attacks that it has obscured the fact that the real choices offered the voters are between oligarchy and democracy.   And a plurality of the constituency has been so indoctrinated by corporate culture that it chooses oligarchy. 

The examination of the failure of American politics to serve democracy has spawned an examination into the failure of communism, and the failures come from essentially the same source.  European communism failed becabuse the power was concentrated in the Kremlin and its self-serving ideology.  American democracy has failed because the power is concentrated in global corporations that serve only the upper 10 percent—an oligarchy.

American politics and voting will not restore the priorities of freedom, equality, and justice.  It will take a revolution to do that. 

And so, South Dakota labors under the personal destructions of Dick Wadhams while the country slides into an oligarchy in which  freedom, equality, and justice are heresies. 

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States