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, November 30, 2016

Semper Fidel

I was in Havana, Cuba, once for about four hours.  At the time,  Fidel Castro was off in the mountains somewhere conducting guerrilla raids.  I was with a bunch of men wearing U.S. Army uniforms.  

The circumstance was caused by bad weather.  We had been flown from Germany to Ft. Bliss at El Paso, Texas,  for some test firing of guided missiles.  We had just taken off on the return trip to Germany to transfer to a trans-Atlantic transport to take us back to our post, when our flight was diverted to Florida because a storm was wending its way up the Atlantic coast.  At first,  we thought we would be picking up the flight at Miami.  But the aircraft scheduled to take us was hunkered down in New Jersey waiting for the storm to pass.  We were told we would have a 12-hour delay before we could reboard our aircraft to meet the one in New Jersey.

While we were lolling about the air terminal,  a man who worked for a tour service told some of the men he could provide a tour at a "special GI rate" to Havana and have us back in plenty time for our flight if we could get enough men to sign up.  The men got permission from the officers, who got assurances from the tour service that we would be kept in a group and returned in time for our flight.  They quickly found enough men who did not want to sit around an air terminal for a day and we were soon loaded on to a DC-3 for a quick hop to Havana.  

It was a routine tour.  We took a stroll along the water front,  were shown the town's architecture,  visited a rum distillery where there was a sample tasting (some of the men had trouble getting past the dark rum),  saw a cigar-rolling demonstration,  (rum and cigars were, of course, for sale), and ended up at a casino that put on an extravagant stage show.  The big band that played Afro-Cuban jazz was for some of us worth the whole trip.

But what struck most of us was an attitude we received from people we encountered as we walked about town.  Some of the people were obviously prostitutes,  but they all gave us angry looks and many said things in a spitting manner.  We could clearly make out the world "Americanos."  Gonzalez,  a bilingual from Chicago,  told us what the rest of the words were.  They weren't complimentary,   and clearly conveyed that our presence was not appreciated.

This occurred some months before Castro came to Havana and drove the Batiste regime out.  American businesses owned most of the sugar cane business and much of the tourist operations in Cuba. An American mobster,   Meyer Lansky,  owned or controlled the casinos.  Batiste's government and the businesses were cozy with the American government.  While some people were well off,  most were not.  The best hope for young women from the rural areas was to become a prostitute in Havana.  Americans were regarded as part of the mob that operated Havana as their personal den of iniquity.  Castro's raids against Batiste and the successful guerrilla operations led by him and Che Guevara were raising the hope that Cuba could be something different.  Americans and Batiste were regarded as the enemy.

Those people we encountered on the streets of Havana let us know we were part of what they hoped to be rid of,  and Castro was coming.  Castro was regarded as a liberator,  not only by Cubans, but by many people in America.  After he succeeded in taking over Cuba,  he seemed friendly to America,  but after a few months denounced the USA and formed an alliance with the Soviet Union.  

The case in Cuba was a matter of a dictator being displaced by a dictator.  Castro enforced reforms that rid Cuba of the mob and his full-bore communist programs did give many people services that they had not been able to afford before. Tom Lawrence reports what George McGovern said about a tour Castro gave him:  "He wanted us to see there were no prostitutes on the streets, no gambling dens, no nightclubs," McGovern told me. "That all left with the Americans, he told us." However,  he followed the precedent of Stalin,  detaining, executing, and oppressing dissenters and others he thought to be dangerous to his regime.

More than a million Cubans came to the U.S. as refugees,  centering around Miami and making it a bastion of anti-Castro activity.  Others settled elsewhere, as opportunity presented itself.  One of my colleagues when I first started teaching college was a former Cuban newspaper editor who became a professor of Spanish.  He in the  loudest terms let those around him know of Castro's atrocities, including the 5,600 executions at his command.    

One of the ironies of our time is that many people who were welcomed and protected by the U.S. in their flight from Castro supported Donald Trump in his anti-immigrant tirades. 

Over the years,  there have been many leaders, leaders such as George McGovern and Jimmy Carter, who have extended friendship to the Cuban people.  They saw the embargo and other actions against Castro were hardening and justifying the anti-American attitudes among the people.  With full recognition of the part America has played in Cuba's history,  they saw the need to reach past politics and show a respect and a regard for the people.  They thought that non-hostile relations was the best way to neutralize a Soviet outpost situated 90-miles from our shore.  

Obama has tried to bring Cuba into full participation as a country in Latin America, as opposed to being a pariah.  Other countries in the hemisphere have normal relations with Cuba,  but the American blockade has been an obstacle.  Castro made Cuba a prison-nation for his people,  and Obama has contended that the past ostracism of Cuba by America has not produced any results politically, but kept the people of Cuba in economic bondage.  

At Castro's death,  the right-wing critics rose up against Obama.  The President chose not to  condemn Castro for his treachery,  but said he'd leave it to history to decide.  Given the facts of the oppression and executions,  history has in effect already decided,  but Obama thought it best not to further inflame the situation at the time of Castro's death.  Donald Trump took the occasion to assert that if Cuba did not bend to his will,  he would revoke the diplomatic relations.  

Those of us who took that little tour of Havana in 1958 were reviled by people on the streets.  It was not the first time.  When we landed in Germany to bring guided missile air defense as part of the NATO agreement,  we were greeted outside the Frankfort air base with signs that told us to go home.  The military command initiated a huge public relations campaign to assure the people of Germany that our missiles were for air defense purposes only to enhance the peace,  not endanger it.  We were asked to participate in good will events with the German people.  Some of us became curious about how Hitler had managed to gain control of the people in the land of Goethe, Beethoven, and Bach.  There was a tendency in the people, even during those Cold War years,  that hinted at attitudes of racial superiority,  a tendency to place blame for personal failures on scapegoats, an acceptance of platitudes that reinforced their prejudices and mindsets.  We also discovered a resistance among some of the people to those attitudes of national superiority.  People who had resisted the Nazis throughout Europe became important in establishing the direction that post-war Europe took.  

Trumps rise to political power parallels that of Hitler.  But it also shares similarities with Castro's.  Fidel conducted his campaign with promises of removing Batiste and replacing his regime with democracy.  He betrayed many supporters,  and millions of Cubans left.  But many more stayed behind to try to continue their struggle.  Their lives did improve somewhat, although they were not free and lived under the suppression of Soviet-style communism.  Fidel, however, had a magnetizing personality that many people saw as their protector. He took measures to see that they never saw or experienced the kind of freedom and possibility that existed in America.  Many who caught those glimpses, however,  defected to America.

People like George McGovern thought it would be in the U.S.  interest to develop a relationship with Cuba so that its people could see the advantages of democracy and exert an influence for change.  Now Trump threatens to end the relationship.  Cubans will not have access to a vision of America.  And with Trump,  neither will a lot of Americans.  

Sunday, November 27, 2016

It's the language, stupid.

If you want to demoralize a nation and turn it into a vassal state, attack the language.   You can't keep humans from making vocal noises or scribbling symbols on paper or poking at keyboards,  but you can make what they think are words mean nothing.  You can destroy their trust in language.  You can destroy their ability to see any meaning in language that actually registers on the brain cells.  You can reduce them to a state wherein language is only a noise, a command, such as "get up," "whoa,"  and "down, boy!" that directs their motions.

How do you do this?  By constantly making language useless.  American  Indians have experienced this.  The elders warned their people about learning the white man's language: it will endanger you.  A major part of the American subjugation of the Indian was in sending the children to boarding schools,  punishing them if they spoke in their native languages, and approving of their verbal responses only when they conformed to a degraded subservience to their "superiors."  It didn't work.  Elders hid their native languages and found ways to perpetuate them so that a means of conveying facts and truth could be retained.  While the white world found ways to deconstruct and make useless its own language,  people who value language as the vehicle of thought and truthful expression find ways to preserve the word as something that is useful and reliable.

The English  word was destructed by the use of deception,  by making promises never meant to be kept, by the making of agreements and treaties which were consistently broken,  by assembling a vocabulary which conveyed only insult and abuse as a means of directing hatred toward particular sets of people.  

This past election campaign has been a nuclear-level assault on  language.  Donald Trump is an anti-language warrior such as has been seen only in dystopian fiction.  His outbursts are incoherent, ungrammatical, and predication-free.   News organizations have termed his lying as unprecedented.    In checking out 334 statements Trump  made during his campaign,  Politifact found that 70 percent of his statements were false;  15 percent had a slight truth; and only 15 percent fell into the truthful category.  

And the American people chose him to be their president,  although the actual majority of Americans did not vote for him.  As of this post,  Hillary Clinton has 63,600,000 votes to the president-elect's 61,900,000, according to the Cook Political Report. Updated ballot counts show her receiving at least 48 percent of the national vote compared to Trump’s 46.7 percent. (The most recent update in the ongoing count puts Clinton's lead at 2,017,563 votes.)

What can make nearly half of the Americans be duped by a man who is termed worse than a liar? A liar, the experts on language say,  at least lives in a universe where the difference between truth and lies matters.  But Trump is a bullshit artist to whom truth and falsehoods do not matter.  Bullshit is dangerous because it wears away the ability of people to know the difference between truth and lies and ultimately they don't even care.  What is most alarming about the election of Trump is that almost half of the American people have shown that they do not care what is true or have lost the ability to discern what truth is.  

Harry G. Frankfurt, an emeritus professor from Princeton, is an expert on the dissolution of language and puts Trump in the category of a person who is lethal to language and culture:

Frankfurt’s key observation is that the liar, even as he or she might spread untruth, inhabits a universe where the distinction between truth and falsehood still matters. The bullshitter, by contrast, does not care what is true or not. By his or her bluffing, dissimulation, and general dishonesty, the bullshit artist works to erase the very possibility of knowing the truth. For this reason, bullshit is more dangerous than lies, since it erodes even the possibility of truth existing and being found.

An example of this destruction of language is found in the word "racist."  A racist, by dictionary definition  is "a person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another."  As Trump mounted his campaign of defamation and disenfranchisement of minorities,  the term "racist" was applied to him and those who support him.  But the GOP deflects the meaning of the term by saying it is just a matter of the liberals calling their disciples names.  A South Dakota legislator claims that such name-calling is why Trump got elected.  The people were just responding to the liberals for "Calling them racists and other juvenile names because they disagree with you?"  This is said by a legislator who lives in one of the most racist states in the Union,  South Dakota which is the home of Wounded Knee and nine detention centers called reservations.  But those reservations have been places where the language of Native Americans have been preserved along with a reverence for the land and a lingering preference for a society which cares for each other, rather than oppresses people of difference.  The hard facts about the history, past and present, of South Dakota's treatments of the Indians is dismissed when the term "racist" is just part of Trump's name-calling.   To this legislator and his kind,  the fact that people are being exterminated. persecuted, and oppressed for their disagreement with a political system based upon predatory capitalism can be erased by reducing the charge of "racism" to juvenile name-calling.  

President Obama recognizes the assault on facts and the ability to deal with them as part of the conservative agenda. “Donald Trump is not an outlier; he is a culmination, a logical conclusion of the rhetoric and tactics of the Republican Party for the past ten, fifteen, twenty years,” he said.  Trump was “able to distill the anger and resentment and the sense of aggrievement.”

The assault on language shows up in much of our communications,  Obama said.  “An explanation of climate change from a Nobel Prize-winning physicist looks exactly the same on your Facebook page as the denial of climate change by somebody on the Koch brothers’ payroll.  And the capacity to disseminate misinformation, wild conspiracy theories, to paint the opposition in wildly negative light without any rebuttal—that has accelerated in ways that much more sharply polarize the electorate and make it very difficult to have a common conversation.”

In submitting to Trump's destruction of language,  his voters chose the same path for the same reasons as the Germans of the 1930s chose the Nazis.  The German people were in a state  of humiliation for having lost the First World War.  Hitler and his followers promised to make Germany great again.  Trump pounded on the idea that during a time when America moved significantly to expand the franchise of equality,  America had  fallen into a state of disrepute.  Without looking at any facts regarding where the nation was as it has worked out of the Great Recession,  the people fell dupe to his words.  And they also showed the same tendency to blame a minority.  Whereas Hitler managed to put the blame on the Jews,  Trump broadened the base for blame to include Latinos, Blacks,  women, and, at times, the LGBT communities.  It is the same tactic.  And the American people bought it.  61,900,000 voters decided to end America's role as a leader  and an example of probity for the free world.   Joy Reid states the case:

You’ve lost the morality card. No longer can the U.S. go around lecturing the world about democracy, because, in our democracy, the person who got the most votes will not be president. Nor does the party that got the most vote control the House of Representatives. Again, we’re required to accept this affront to democracy, because that’s our system. But our acceptance doesn’t make it any less democratic. 
You have also lost the notion of an exceptional America. Because as it turns out, We’re just another western nation into the ethno-national forces sweeping and swinging across Europe… We, as it turns out, are not so different at all.’ 
You have ratified Trump’s vulgarity, his crassness. You saw exactly who and what he was and you chose it. You are going to have to own that. If the incoming president makes you feel proud, I am very happy for you. But please don’t tell the people who are afraid that they have no right to be.

The reign of Donald Trump signals the victory of the destruction of language. You can't believe him.  You can't believe those who support him because their knowledge of the world about them is submerged in the muck of false, malevolent, and corrupt language.  There can be no arguments of reason because the counterfeiting of fact-based language has destroyed any possibility of dealing with truth.  

Like the Native Americans have  learned,  for the survival of language as a tool and for our own survival,  it is necessary for us to trust only language that is guarded and protected by those who value knowledge, facts, and the language that records and transmits them.  Those who value those things won't engage with those who use the defiled language.  To do so is pointless and exposes honest language to the disease that destroys it.  The survival of a useful and productive language is dependent upon enclaves of educational and deliberative institutions that maintain a rigorous and unrelenting standard for the use of language.  It must be protected from those who seek to undermine human communication.

That means that there must be elite who protects language from any influence from the Trumps and those who support and condone him.  And that means a severely divided America.  The future of civiization and any viable culture depends on those who serve in reverence for knowledge and language.

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Happy Thanksgiving from the One Percent

The United States is now the subsidiary of The Trump Organization.  The One Percent is in full control.  Trump is the quintessence of the One Percent.  Seventy percent of the bilge that spews from his mouth has been documented as false.  He touts his wealth and his celebrity as a license to grab women by their genitals and toy with them whenever he pleases.  His business acumen includes bankruptcy and not paying people he has hired to do work for him.  But American workers voted for him to improve their lives.  Here come the improvements.

Trump's minions were expanded in Iowa when the GOP obtained full charge of the legislature for the first time in 20 years.  They immediately gathered to plan ways to attack working people like their neighbor Wisconsin has done under GOP control.  They froze the wages of state employees for the next two years.  And they plan to alter the collective bargaining laws, as they did in Wisconsin, to insure that state employees have no voice in their jobs.  

Then Trump put a major One Percenter in the post of secretary of education to lead the assault agains public schools.  He appointed billionaire Betsy DeVos who has been active in promoting charter schools, which cater to the wealthy.  She works to dismantle public education,  and give poor kids other opportunities.  She has donated to a "think tank" that would repeal the child labor laws so that kids can be sent into the workforce to learn the virtues of hard work, instead of sitting in classrooms learning useless stuff.  Other than attempting to dismantle it,  DeVos has no experience in  education.

In South Dakota,  the  Great Plains Education Foundation.  which was once in the student loan business,  has given $210,000  in scholarships to 280 students to go private schools.  In contrast,  South Dakota received $62 million in federal grant money to help American Indian kids get to college,  but most of it was embezzled away by the GOP bureaucracy in Pierre and its close associates in the Gear Up program.  South Dakota is a leader in undermining public education.

Trump has appointed another One Percenters to head the commerce department.  He named Wilbur Ross,  known as "the king of bankruptcy" to fill that post.  

Although Trump has not been formally inaugurated as the CEO of the United States of Trumpdom,  his regard for the working people is shown by his minions in Iowa and his billionaire friends in the new cabinet.  

And he wishes you Americans all to unite behind him for a happy Thanksgiving.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Fire the staff of the South Dakota Democratic Party?

If the staff is fired,  who will they be replaced with?  The Democrats get mired down in the blame game.  And inevitably someone will say we should come up with better candidates.  In recent years,  we have had candidates in Rick Weiland, Paula Hawks, Jay Williams, Cory Heidelberger and many others who actually know something,  work industriously, and conduct admirable campaigns.  But they do so with the constant carping and dismissive predictions that become the only message that gets heard.  Review the comments on the political blogs.  It is hard to be a successful candidate when your own party demeans you.  

On the national level, we now confront the kind of politics that has possessed South Dakota for the last decade or so.  After a year and a half of seeing Donald Trump daily indulging in petty, malevolent, and insidious behavior,  the people voted for him, and thus those traits of character to represent them to the world and to history.  There are all manner of speculations about what somebody did wrong to make him president.  What very few people have had the courage to face is that the American character has changed.  We still like to think of ourselves in terms of the Greatest Generation,  but we have become what that Greatest Generation fought against.  The parallels between the ascensions of Hitler and Donald Trump are stunning.  As Dana Milbank put it in a Washington Post column,  Trump made it safe to hate again. The hate was already festering.

When Democrats criticize strategy or the lack of it,  it is always something that someone else should have been doing in their view.  But often it is what they are doing that is so discouraging,  and what they are doing is usually nothing but carping and looking for someone to blame.  Just as the Trumpists blame immigrants, Black Lives Matter, Hillary’s e-mails, etc., etc.  So, fire the staff and find someone new to blame.  

It is possible that if the protest movement can be kept going, it can have the effect on Trump’s regime that it had on Lyndon Johnson when he decided not to run for election.  If there is one thing that Trump taught us,  it is that words no longer matter.  If you can’t reason or  persuade with words, the alternative is some  kind of action.  Or perhaps a passive resistance in which people refuse to participate in the kind of government that Trump will try to impose.  Maybe that can work on the state level.  But it won’t change the collective character that is in charge.  

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

A professor gets accused and arrested for a Trump-style grapple and grope

An Augustana University professor was accused by a woman with whom he had had consensual relations with foisting physical attentions on her after she said no.  She said she just wanted to cuddle.  Professor Reynold Nesiba, a Democrat, was just elected to the South Dakota Senate. The only news source which is dealing with the incident with anything akin to a comprehensive journalistic treatment is the Dakota Free Press.

The complication is that the arrest appears to involve some lengthy and detailed planning so that a television reporter confronted the professor with the arrest warrant before law enforcement informed him of it and so that the actual arrest  with the professor being hand-cuffed and loaded into a van could be recorded as a television production.  

In addition to making the arrest a large public display,  the timeline in processing the complaint raises questions of why law enforcement is making such a publicity production of it.

  • 26 Sept., Monday: Date of incident
  • 28 Sept., Wednesday: Date incident was reported,  Officer Van Dyke dispatched to obtain report.
  • 29 Sept., Thursday: Date incident was investigated by Detective Chris Schoepf.
  • 30 Sept., Friday: Date Nesiba agreed to an interview by Schoepf.
  • 11 Oct.: Date Schoepf’s warrant request was notarized.
  • 8 Nov.: Date warrant request was filed.
  • 14 Nov.: Date warrant was served and arrest was made.
  • [The warrant request made available contains no approval signature from a judge.]
The warrant request contains summaries of the accusation and of the interview response by Reynold Nesiba, which outlines the material that would be examined through legal due process,  but the subject matter is not what raises questions about law enforcement procedure.  What is unusual is that so much information is released to the public in a state where such information is often withheld.  

What is at issue is the discretion given to law enforcement agencies about releasing information to the public:

      1-27-1.5. The following records are not subject to §§ 1-27-1, 1-27-1.1, and 1-27-1.3: [required public disclosure].     (5) Records developed or received by law enforcement agencies and other public bodies charged with duties of investigation or examination of persons, institutions, or businesses, if the records constitute a part of the examination, investigation, intelligence information, citizen complaints or inquiries, informant identification, or strategic or tactical information used in law enforcement training. However, this subdivision does not apply to records so developed or received relating to the presence of and amount or concentration of alcohol or drugs in any body fluid of any person, and this subdivision does not apply to a 911 recording or a transcript of a 911 recording, if the agency or a court determines that the public interest in disclosure outweighs the interest in nondisclosure. This law in no way abrogates or changes §§ 23-5-7 and 23-5-11 or testimonial privileges applying to the use of information from confidential informants;

Over the years, a number of cases have been submitted to wrongful conviction and justice projects in South Dakota.  Few deal with major crimes, such as murder, but deal with lesser crimes which nevertheless give people criminal records which are questionable and which damage their lives.  Here is the Innocence Project’s statement on one of the causes of wrongful conviction:
  • Misconduct by Government Actors
  • Some wrongful convictions are caused by honest mistakes. But in far too many cases, the very people who are responsible for ensuring truth and justice — law enforcement officials and prosecutors — lose sight of these obligations and instead focus solely on securing convictions.
  • While many law enforcement officers and prosecutors are honest and trustworthy, criminal justice is a human endeavor and the possibility for negligence, misconduct and corruption exists. Even if one officer of every thousand is dishonest, wrongful convictions will continue to occur.
In trying to investigate cases referred to them,  innocence and justice projects have been stymied in South Dakota by the refusal of authorities to turn over full records for them to examine. 

In the case against Nesiba,  the press and, consequently, the public were given information which is unprecedented for South Dakota.  In nearly all cases that have been referred to justice projects,  law enforcement agencies invoke the above statute so that the public cannot find out what evidence is involved and how law enforcement performed in dealing with that evidence.  The unusual amount of disclosure in this case in conjunction with the timeline raises questions of why law enforcement is performing in the way it is over this incident.  

South Dakota has  no freedom of information law which permits the press and the public to obtain full records on the handling of police investigations and judicial procedures.  In many cases, the public has no idea about how law enforcement performed or why it made the decisions it did.  

High profile cases in South Dakota include the alleged suicide of Morgan Lewis, a professor at NSU, in 2004.  There were peculiarities about the crime scene and some partial witness accounts which seemed to indicate murder.  Initially, the coroner listed the cause of death as murder.  There were some unexplained resignations in the police department at the time,  one of them directly relating to the handling of Morgan Lewis' death.  After a period of months,  the Chief of Police held a press conference and said the death had been determined to be a suicide.  He said he had hired outside consultants to reach that conclusion,  but no records of the conduct of the investigation or the review of the materials was ever released to the press and the public.  It left the public feeling skeptical and wary about the handling of the death.

A most obvious case is the alleged suicide of Richard Benda in 2013,  who was a major player in the Northern Beef Packers-EB5 scandal.  No one has ever had access to the full investigative record and aspects of the crime scene suggest the possibility of foul play.  Reporter Bob Mercer tried to pursue the records all the way up to the state Supreme Court, but the court backed up the Attorney  General's right to withhold them, if he pleased.  State officials were clearly implicated in that  scandal, but without records of a full investigation, their exact role and participation in the scandal could not be examined by the public..

The 2015 murder of his wife and two children by Scott Westerhuis has conclusive forensic evidence about the deaths, but the investigative record on the many state officials and others involved in the handling of the federal Gear Up funds has never been made public.  Although some arrests and pending prosecutions of people involved  are in process,  a full accounting of the embezzlement and fraud involved is not available to the press or the public.

So, when the state code seems to be to withhold any detailed information,  the level of disclosure and orchestrated publicity on the arrest  of Reynold Nesiba stands out.  It seems compounded by the protection of the identity of the "victim,"  as Detective Schoepf consistently refers to the complainant throughout his report.  The names of minors involved in unsavory incidents are withheld by law.  The identity of rape victims is withheld in press accounts as a matter of discretionary policy,  but in sexual assault cases which are brought forward and pursued by a complainant when there is no corroborating evidence about the particular acts of offense,  the identity of the complainant is generally considered an essential part of the prosecutorial process.  The arrest, in this case, seems to have been justified on the word of the complainant.

Suffice to say at this point,  that the handling of this case raises many questions about why it is being handled in the way it is.  But in South Dakota,  don't expect any reasons.

Monday, November 14, 2016

And what about the disaffected who do not show up in polls or voting booths?

A former colleague of mine who works with market research and opinion surveys identifies a group of people who don't vote because they have given up on American democracy.  His observations explain a trend I have witnessed.

As the erstwhile keeper of party membership lists and voter records for a county party,  I have been aware on a local level of what is a factor in the sharp decline of registered Democrats in South Dakota.  Attrition is, of course, a factor.  People die and move away.  Of those who moved away.  many just did not like the political or cultural climate of South Dakota.  I was also aware that a number of people found politics so offensive and hopeless that they withdrew from participation.

That latter factor emerged in 2010 when I was involved in trying to recruit someone to run for the U.S. Senate against John Thune.  The group I worked with identified some very qualified and capable people who all declined.  A major reason given was that they all had families and did not want to expose them to the kind of campaign John Thune ran against Tom Daschle.  An underlying reason is that a people defines itself by the kind of people it elects to represent them,  and the election of Thune defined a kind of society that the potential candidates did not want to represent or even live in. The social and cultural character of a place is a determining factor in the kind of people it attracts or repulses.  

That experience relates to a point that my former colleague made about a frequently cited poll question during the last election.  The question asked the respondents if they thought America was on the right or the wrong track.  Most people thought it was on the wrong track.  The problem, my colleague points out, is that the polls did not further ask what was considered the wrong track.   Republicans, he said,  would opine that the Democratic presidency of Obama would be the wrong track.  Democrats would opine that the obstruction of the Republicans in Congress indicate the wrong track.  The news accounts did not dig into what the "wrong track" meant to the various respondents.

A further exploration of the motives behind the dissatisfaction would have revealed a segment of people who have given up on American politics.  It would explain the Democrats who did not go to the polls and cast their votes for Hillary.

The former colleague said some preliminary focus groups he was aware of had people express the opinion that if Hillary won the election she would be faced by the same obstruction that Obama dealt with, only intensified.  He said many conversations he had with knowledgeable friends and colleagues revealed the same kind of reasoning.

Hillary Clinton has been the subject of constant investigations ever since her husband took office.  They include White Water,  her husband's blow jobs, Travelgate, Benghazi,  the personal e-mail server,  and a multitude of others.  Trump and the GOP promised during the campaign to intensify the investigations and seek criminal convictions against Hillary.  No charges have every been substantiated through past investigations.  In fact,  some Republicans who participated in the investigations admitted no substance has been found to the accusations.  Many people saw these threats in the context of the GOP obstruction of Obama.

Although Obama led the nation to a recovery from the Great Recession over the attempts of the Republicans to thwart it,  many people do not feel they have been able to participate in the recovery.  The GOP has tried to blame Obama.  But the sluggishness of the recovery was the work of the Republicans.  They voted against and did everything possible to thwart his recovery measures. While the recovery, nevertheless, progressed and corporations realized burgeoning profits,  they refused to invest those profits in expansions that would create more jobs or in improving wages.  The people were not left out of the recovery by negligence of Obama, but by the deliberate designs of the Republicans and their corporate cronies.  

To many people who have bothered to track the facts of the recovery,  GOP congress members and corporations have shown that they could not care less about the general welfare of the country.  Their only interest is in maintaining power and thwarting any attempts of Democrats to facilitate benefits for the people.  To those people, the GOP has successfully sabotaged American democracy and effectively ended the America which has strived to make manifest the ideals of its founding documents.  The moral divide between Americans is permanent,  because Americans have lost respect for each other and see no common ground upon which to base compromise.  

TV anchor Joy Reid has stated the situation:
You’ve lost the morality card. No longer can the U.S. go around lecturing the world about democracy, because, in our democracy, the person who got the most votes will not be president Nor does the party that got the most vote control the House of Representatives. Again, we’re required to accept this affront to democracy, because that’s our system. But our acceptance doesn’t make it any less democratic.

You have also lost the notion of an exceptional America. Because as it turns out, We’re just another western nation into the ethno-national forces sweeping and swinging across Europe… We, as it turns out, are not so different at all.’

You have ratified Trump’s vulgarity, his crassness. You saw exactly who and what he was and you chose it. You are going to have to own that. If the incoming president makes you feel proud, I am very happy for you. But please don’t tell the people who are afraid that they have no right to be.
My friend sees the protests against Trump's election as the beginning of a movement that will embrace the Occupy Wall Street and Bernie Sanders supporters.  It may, he says, be just the factor that can draw those who have given up on American democracy back into an active role.  What do they have to lose? he asks.

He sees parallels to the kind of protest that convinced Lyndon Johnson not to run for the presidency in 1968.  But he also sees more ominous aspects.  He reports that some researchers he works with have seen a revival among extreme left wing groups that do not share the non-violent approach apparent in the protests so far.  They have embraced the NRA meme that the Second Amendment is in place so that citizens may resist the government if it comes to take their liberty and their guns away.  Only this group sees the government to be resisted as that of Donald Trump.

It will be difficult for a peaceful resistance not to be characterized by those who see a chance to foment a violent revolution.  And those who have given up on American democracy will simply watch from the sidelines because they have no dog in the fight.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Dear Barack, Hillary, and Donald: Please do not play us for fools.

After a year and a half of assailing the American people with insult, abuse,  juvenile bullying, and accruing an astounding, documented record* of spewing the most lies ever uttered by one  person in an election campaign,  Donald Trump was chosen as president by half of the American voters.  That election signals what kind of nation America has become.  All sorts of apologists have come up with analyses that liberal Americans failed to listen to their fellows and understand their feelings about a lack of jobs and being subjected to liberal snobbery and that attributing Trump's success to an endemic racism is a glib dismissal of reality.

The reality is that Trump began his crusade to the presidency with the racist charge that Obama was not an American citizen,  and he added a long, long list of racist, misogynist, ethnic, religious, and political defamations to that premise.  For a year and a half,  Trump used the media to spread all the claptrap of Nazidom.  His supporters said he spoke to them and their feelings as no one else had.  And that speech was predominantly racist, sexist, hateful insult, abuse, and defamation.  He gave Americans a clear and indisputable choice of oppressive malice,  and they chose it.  

The so-called conservatives like to prattle about people being responsible for their actions and held accountable.  Well,  they are responsible for a rejection of liberty,  equality, and justice and they will damned well be held accountable for it.  And that accounting includes the fact that America has lost its standing as a democratic beacon of light that has guided the rest of the world.  While racism is not the only issue that motivates the Trump people,  it was a most obvious one put forth by Trump and the GOP during the campaign.  

So after all the relentless Nazi-like propaganda of denouncing people for any differences they have from white supremacist America,  Trump gets up in front of the country and asks us to forget it.  He said:

"Now it's time for America to bind the wounds of division; have to get together. To all Republicans and Democrats and independents across this nation, I say it is time for us to come together as one united people."
Those wounds are ones he so deliberately, maliciously, and joyously inflicted with his message of charity toward none and malice toward all.  He was diligent in dividing people with every demonstration of human meanness and depravity.  He divided the nation and developed and exposed a faction that endorses  racial, ethnic and cultural intolerance and the forces of fear and division that the Republican Party has been exploiting for decades.  So now, he says we should come together as a united people.  We are not a united nation.  We are two nations divided by morally irreconcilable differences.  He represents an America that people of true decency want no part of.  As a CEO he expects that the people who opposed him will now, in the name of national unity, stand before him in suppliance.  But as Keith Oberman has tweeted,  "You can lie there and complain and accept fascism in America, or you can fight."

As members of the outgoing regime,  Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have a duty to make a transition in harmony with the Constitution.  They are sworn to uphold it in their official capacities.  Hillary has said,  "
Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead.”  President Obama has said,  "“The day after we have to remember we are all on one team.  We are not Republicans first. We are not Democrats first. We are Americans first. We’re patriots first. We all want what’s best for this country.”

Obama and Clinton are obliged to make these statements for a peaceful transition.  They must cling to the idea of democratic processes over open rebellion.  But to do so,  they must ignore everything Trump has said and done.  While their statements fall short of advocating total submission to Trump,  neither do they acknowledge all the things that Trump has said about them and the things he has threatened to do.  They seem to be playing Trump's opposition for fools.

Obama's words leave a bit of an opening for active opposition.  When he  says "we are  Americans first,"  he opens up a fact of Trump's campaign that is expressed in this tweet:

These protests can't b dismissed as anger over a candidate losing. We're protesting a loss of all that makes America great 

The biggest insult to intelligence is the Trump campaign advisors on cable news who are claiming that a campaign is not related to what a candidate will do when elected  They see a campaign as an all-out battle in which all the tactics of playground bullying and insult and abuse are fair,  but as soon as the election is over, the candidate becomes "presidential."  Just because Trump has said a few seemingly respectful about Clinton and Obama after the election,  we are to forget all that has gone before and make nice.  That is the most insidious kind of duplicity.

I put this in the context of how I came to be an American.  All of my grandparents were immigrants.  They left the Old World not only for better economic opportunity,  but to escape the system of vassalage that regarded them as inferiors to be ruled by superiors.  Just as Trump did during the campaign,  that system denied the human worth of many people.  While the America my ancestors came to was by no means a paragon of liberty, equality, and justice,  it ws free of the Old World systems that bound them to a condition of subservience.  They felt their old countries betrayed,  and so they left.  And they set about the business of building America.

When half the people voted for a man who represents the antithesis of those qualities that enabled our ancestors to make America,  the other half saw a serous betrayal of human worth.  To them,  Trump's election is a denial of America.  If they are Americans first,  they have no choice but to deny Trump and to resist.  Michael Moore, among others,  is calling for the organization of a massive resistance:  Must quickly and decisively form an opposition movement, the likes of which hasn’t been seen since the 1960s.

I compare the need for a resistance movement more to what was needed in Germany when people realize their neighbors were betraying the Jews to the Nazis.  Trump is not the biggest danger America faces.  The people who elected him are.  Trying to reconcile the principles of decency with the people  who reject them and want only the power to suppress and eliminate the people they hate is absurdity.  It would be  like joining the KKK in order to stop lynching.  I want nothing to do with those who have chosen the values of Trump.  I will strenuously take measures to avoid them from having any contact with my grandchildren.  And that includes the schools which the GOP has undermined over the years with their anti-science anti-tolerance doctrines.  

The GOP has adopted and promoted an official propaganda philosophy that has made the  election of Donald Trump possible.  It is the philosophy of defamation and personal destruction.   Tump pulled out all the stops in shouting falsehoods and defaming his opponents.  In South Dakota,  the GOP has successfully used lies and defamatory falsehoods in not only winning elections but in building and expanding a base out of people who get great pleasure from hatred.  It has been used in campaigns by John Thune and Kristi Noem.  In the last election, it was a major feature in South Dakota District 3 in the campaign for state senator when Al Novstrup used it against Cory Heidelberger.  Novstrup launched a series of postcard and newspaper ads against Heidelberger that fall into the half true, mostly false, and false categories in the representations made.  The tactics used in misrepresenting the truth are the same ones the Nazi regime used in fomenting the hatred against the Jews that fueled the Holocaust.  The moral and intellectual corruption that made Trump possible is fully operative right here at the neighborhood level.

Before Trump can  assume the role of president,  he must account for the things he has said and done.  And that includes prosecuting the trial on the fraud of Trump University.  The resistance movement must maintain a record of his statements and his deeds and require that a resolution of them be made.  If it takes street riots to produce that resolution,  so be it.  The same goes for Al Novstrup.  He must be made to confront his statements and his actions every day of his life from now on.  Resistance must be built on a foundation of hard, documented, and verifiable facts,  not the flaccid claims that characterize the internet media.  However, the internet can provide a convenient and effective repository for such facts.  

As a transition is in operation in accordance with the customs and requisites of our government,  the salient fact before us is that our government is in the hands of those who have rejected the principles of American democracy.  The many statements of Trump and the postcards and newspaper ads of Al Novstrup attest to that fact.  They have openly declared themselves as enemies of honesty and decency.  Good people have not only the right but the obligation to resist them.

The resources for mounting an effective resistance are in place.  The question is whether the resistance has the courage and the persistence to prevail.  If it doesn't,  America has failed.  The America of Donald Trump will be like the Old World our ancestors left:  not worthy of respect or loyalty.  Just a good place to leave behind.

14 (4%)
Mostly True
37 (11%)
Half True
49 (15%)
Mostly False
63 (19%)
111 (34%)

Pants on Fire
57 (17%)

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States