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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, August 21, 2017

"Please let them disappear in their stench."

Ii isn't nice to make fun of the intellectually disadvantaged.  But sometimes they make us laugh,  just as children can make us laugh when they try out adult-like thought and expression .  The laughter is often at ourselves, because when children imitate adult behavior they often offer illuminating parodies of it.  However, the clumsy and inept use of language can be side-splittingly funny.  College professors often share ridiculous student papers with each other for the much-needed laughter they provide.

The following letter-to-the-editor supplied one of those occasions of hilarity.  I no longer can run down the office hallway to share a moment of humor with colleagues, so  I share it here. The last sentence of the first paragraph could win a Pulitzer if there was a category for T-shirt mottoes.  Here is the letter:
Just a short, easy-to-read letter from and to Americans. The recent gossip about impeaching our president of the United States is careless gossip from a few incompetent residents of this great nation. Please let them disappear in their stench.
The best of our knowledge, as American citizens, taxpayers, and regular voters: We the voters of this nation elected Donald Trump as our president. We are thankful for his participation in the leadership of the United States of America. We want him to be able to concentrate on the work of our nation and not have his time wasted by the shallow-headed Americans who cause trouble for our elected president, Mr. Donald Trump. Let's be intelligent enough to support him and the leadership he provides for this nation.  
We are faithful citizens of this nation and we are pleased to have a president who, as an American businessperson, was very successful. We support him and we are delighted as citizens and taxpayers to have a competent person at our nation’s leadership, and we want to be rid of forever the sneaky, incompetent and dishonest Obama crowd.
Just citizens of USA.
Arlee and Lyle Berg

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Trump is the creature of his party

The military led the desegregation of the United States.  Civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph pressured President Harry Truman to sign a desegregation order for the military. He pointed out that black men would boycott the draft if they weren’t treated equally with whites in the military service.  Black men who had served in World War II in support roles—not allowed in combat— returned home to a segregated society that treated them with abusive discrimination like the fascist society they had been told they were serving their country to prevent.  People like Randolph saw the trouble looming with men who realized they were, in fact, serving white supremacy.  On July 14, 1948,  Pres. Truman signed order 9981 to desegregate the military.

The order was implemented and carried out largely during the administration of Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961),  who had dealt with the segregated military as the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces during World War II.   During the Battle of the Bulge,  Eisenhower was running out of combat troops,  so he issued an order to transfer some black support troops into combat roles,  much to the consternation and opposition of some of his generals.  The major events in the desegregation process of the U.S. were set in motion during the Eisenhower administration.

I served in Germany with Eisenhower as Commander in Chief eight years after the desegregation order was signed.  Officially, the Army was desegregated.  Socially, segregation lingered on.  Blacks, whites, and Latinos tended to stick with people of their own color.   Racial and ethnic attitudes were barriers that an executive order could not breach.  Some of us were assigned to provide the Friday Troop Information and Education Sessions, and we were told that  racial prejudice was the designated enemy we were to help defeat.  

We  troops were sent to Germany as part of the Cold War.  We put up missile batteries to protect against any incursions from the Soviet Union.  But our real battle was against de facto segregation and racial violence.  Some Air Force personnel we encountered bragged about having caught a black man in a barracks stairwell and throwing him down it.  On my base, my bunk mate was black.  One night in the enlisted men’s club, some men got belligerent about me being a “nigger lover” and wanted to teach me a lesson.  Word got back to the orderly room and the officer of the day dispatched the guard mount to empty the club and escort everyone back to the barracks.  The segregation battle was actually our major concern.  The Army Brass wanted us to demonstrate equality as a way of convincing the German people that democracy was the way of life they should adopt.  But the fact of the time was that back at home in the U.S., Jim Crow still ruled, even if the military was taking measures against it internally.  

The resurgence of racism is not surprising.   It is like chicken pox virus which, once it infects one,  can lie dormant and then re-emerge as shingles, an affliction of misery.  When we elected Obama as president,  many thought we had achieved a state of racial equality.  But having a black man as president activated the virus of hate and it soon surged through society.  John Boehner and Mitch McConnell openly exhibited race-based opposition to Obama.  Their actions were not matters of mere political difference but were characterized by the need to insult and demean the black president.  Boehner refused phone calls from the president in ways that made sure they were demeaning slights that told the black president he did not deserve  respectful considerations. McConnell announced that his major purpose was not to legislate for the benefit of the people, but his sole purpose would be devoted to  denying Obama a second term.   The intensity and belligerence of McConnell’s campaign against Obama revealed a loathing that went much deeper than politics.  The insane reaction to the Affordable Care Act, as it carried over into the Trump administration, showed that McConnell and his cohorts were far more interested in exercising the power to put Obama in his place than they were in accomplishing anything for the benefit of the American people.  

Trump is the epitome of stupid depravity.  His words in defense of demonstrations of white supremacy and  Nazi racism are refutations of America’s long struggle to achieve equality for all people.  But he has the help and protection of the party that put him in office and supports his destruction of liberty, equality, and justice.     He wishes to undo what the military led the way for America to accomplish.  

Friday, August 4, 2017

Running government like a business with plenty of suckers and serfs

Front Page, USA Today,    July 28, 2017
When people who voted for Trump are asked why, they often say he was a businessman who could bring the efficiencies of business to government.  They cite his wealth as evidence of his business acumen.

First of all,  Trump's business history is full of bankruptcies, suits for fraud such as Trump University, failures, and stiffing contractors who worked for him.  But to those voters who voted for him because he's a businessman, criminality and incompetence are permissible as long one makes money.  To many Americans,  greed and venality are virtues as long as you are successful in making money,  no matter how many people are damaged in the process.  Honesty, integrity, competence, and good will don't count with the Trump voter.

Trump sits in the White House and runs his businesses with all the greed and dishonesty that he can muster,  while systematically dismantling democracy and the protections it has devised to keep people safe from predatory shysters such as him.  Historians and political scholars keep pointing out that any other person with the history of dishonesty and the conflicts of interest that Trump flaunts before the nation would be driven out of the White House.  Congress would rise up.  But Trump claims to be a billionaire, and those worshippers of greed and venality have a person in the White House who reflects their values and ideals.  

Tump is  changing government.  He is making the United States a subsidiary of the Trump Organization, and he puts CEOs and generals in the cabinet and as head of government agencies to expedite that transformation.  When queried about his choices for the cabinet, he said,  Like, I want a rich guy at the head of Treasury. I want a rich guy at the head of Commerce because we’ve been screwed so badly on trade deals.   I want people who made a lot of money for our country.”

Trump's cabinet is composed of people who identify themselves as part of the one percent, and their histories show everything they do is to elevate the one percent and further suppress the middle class.  Treasury Secretary Mnuchin as CEO of the One West Bank was a part of the mortgage schemes that triggered the Great Recession of 2009 that put the U.S. economy in a tailspin.  He was known as the "foreclosure king" of California.

Awaiting Senate confirmation for Comptroller of the Currency,  which regulates what kind of business banks can engage in, is another One West CEO,  Joseph Otting.  He was also a foreclosure enthusiast.  One West has been fined for fraudulent mortgage activities during the time that Mnuchin and Otting were running the bank.  And Otting further showed a dishonest side when he claimed to be a graduate of Dartmouth,  but had only attended a couple of two-week sessions of continuing education held on the campus.  

These two who will decide financial policies are typical of the caliber of people Trump chooses to direct the flow of wealth in the U.S.  

The most flagrant appointment of a business CEO who assiduously demolishes democratic principles and processes is Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.  He has turned the State Department into a shambles, because as a CEO he knows only how to fuck over people and make money,  not how to build constructive relationships with the rest of the world.

Other members of Trump's cabinet were chosen to enact corporate interests by:

  • promoting the development of coal and oil and curtailing non-polluting sources of energy.
  • curtailing environmental protection regulations.
  • withdrawing fair employment provisions for minorities and the LBGT community.
  • limiting further labor unions and workplace rules
  • furthering the industrialization of agriculture.  
  • eliminating affirmative action in college admissions.
  • providing larger tax breaks for the wealthy.
And one can go on and on citing the ways in which the country is being turned into corporate enterprise.

Most corporations and business are the antithesis of a democracy.  Corporations are run by a social structure which is in fact a continuation of feudalism.  There are a few corporations which try to incorporate democratic values and principles into the way they do business, but profit is their purpose.  And humane values get in the way of profit.  Businesses can commit all manner of social disruptions, oppressions, and  rip offs under the guise of "business decisions,"  which is regarded on the same level as an act of God.  No human laws can affect a business decision. 

The U.S. is being run like a business corporation, and its purpose has become the hoarding of wealth and power for Trump and his corporate cronies.  For the rest of us, we'd better like being serfs.   

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States