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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

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Getting rid of Trump

A number of media have called on Trump to resign.  One of his ghostwriters predicts that he will.  There is a strategy at work to make sure he will.  It is a reason Trump so desperately wants to run for a second term.  Being president is what keeps him out of jail.

It all revolves the Department of Justice policy that a sitting president can't be indicted.  Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, has been sentenced to jail for campaign finance violations, tax fraud, and bank fraud.  These are all crimes that Cohen was ordered to commit by Trump.  Trump is an unindicted co-conspirator.  He is unindicted because he is a sitting president.  When he is no longer president, he can be indicted.  And there are a number of violations of law for which Trump can be charged.  

When Speaker Pelosi announced that the House would hold an impeachment inquiry, she specified that it would focus on the Ukraine telephone call exposed by the whistleblower complaint.  People have questioned that if we are taking the impeachment option, why not list all the violations he has committed?   The reason is that while the House may impeach him, the Senate with Mitch McConnell and his band of GOP Trump-sucks will protect him.  And that portion of the electorate which wants America to be one big mob family will vote with joy when the Senate endorses Trump's crookedness. 

If the impeachment inquiry establishes a case against Trump on the Ukraine telephone call, the facts of the case will be stated for the public record.  While the Senate may not vote to remove him from office,  it can't erase the facts from the case.  And it will not address the others cases against Trump, such as the one for which  Michael Cohen  is serving a jail sentence.  So while all the possible charges against Trump will not be included in the impeachment inquiry, evidence is being gathered and charges are being framed on his many violations. He will face those charges once he is no longer president.

The impeachment inquiry will intensify the pressure against  Trump and the demand to prove that no one is above the law.   His ghostwriter, Tony Schwartz, says Trump will negotiate a deal to resign if he is guaranteed an exemption from all future prosecution, and then resign as a triumph over those who oppose him.   The writer says this is consistent with the way Trump has behaved in the past.

The reality for those who oppose Trump is that he must be removed before he does any more damage to the country, and any deal that accomplishes that end is for the better.  A note that is circulating in the press is that 35 GOP senators would vote to impeach Trump if the vote were taken in secret.  So such a deal for resignation seems agreeable to both sides.

Schwartz Things this could happen before the end of he year.  But as Trump likes to say, let's see what happens.  Meanwhile, let's keep working on the case against him.

Friday, September 27, 2019

The resistance: trying to rescue America

Trump likes to brag about the size of the crowds he brings out to see him.  His real success is in the size of the crowds he brings out to protest him.  From the time he was nominated, people have gathered to show their opposition to him, sometimes in massive displays such as the Women's March across the nation.  A timeline of the protests against Trump can be seen here.

The crowd waiting to see Trump at Mountain View, CA.

Opposition to Trump is not essentially a partisan issue.  It is a moral issue.  People who are even marginally aware of what is reported in the news know that 
Trump's history is one of dishonesty, incompetence, fraud, and malice.  His scandals and business failures were reported even in the conservative media.  But once he had the presidency and began to use it to advance his ploys for self-aggrandizement and the subjection of others to his will, his GOP critics let their lust for power overtake any moral and intellectual objections they had toward Trump.  They are leading the nation into a moral and cultural decline in which it becomes clear that the principles around which the nation was formed have no value for them, nor for any Trump supporters.  Trump is a despicable man, but people are willing to join with  him because he affirms their pet bigotries, their desire for affluence at any moral cost, their resentment of the intelligent class whom they regard as elites, their willingness to give up decency and integrity for their personal exercise of malice toward those they choose to hate, demean, and oppress.  

As vile as Trump is, he is merely a symptom of the massive intellectual and moral failure that has overcome so many Americans.  Trump supporters have the right to speak out and hold opinions, and they have done just that.  They have stridently rejected the premises on which the country was founded and has strived to achieve:  liberty, equality, and justice.  They are against the very premise of America.  They want liberty only for themselves. They have no interest in equality.  And justice to them is the debasement of people they choose not to like.  Trump and his GOP adherents are engaged in acting out The Lord of the Flies in their juvenile obsession with power and malevolent plots.

The hard fact is that believers in the American way have trouble with the nature of the divide in the populace.  They like to believe that the differences are in the way we go about doing American business, when, in fact, half of that populace has no interest in the American way.  It is more interested in the pursuit of malice against those liberal elements on which America was founded.  The GOP likes to call itself the party of Lincoln, but practices none of those virtues which Lincoln stood for and advocated.  It has fully embraced authoritarian rule and illiberalism.   American liberals cling to the belief that there is a benignity in all their fellow citizens which can surmount the tendencies toward hatefulness, discrimination, and oppression.  They refuse to believe that our country has reached the point of Germany in the 1930s where fascism has a growing popularity and true democrats are finding it necessary to form a resistance,

That resistance has been formed on many fronts:  anti-misogyny, climate change, integrity of office, etc.  So far, protests have been massive and non-violent.  But the Trump administration's stiffing and stone-walling of Congressional efforts into activities involving Trump that look nefarious on their face demonstrate to many that civil procedures just don't work with Trump.  He flouts the laws and rules of presidential procedure.   The lawlessness of the Trump administration makes playing by the rules for the resistance to look foolish.   If the president and his minions choose to dodge and lie to evade questions about the way they conduct themselves, those who pose the questions have received an answer.  And that answer is that they have been played for fools and it is time to take action.  Peaceable demonstrations have had no effect.  Being nice has made Trump and his neo-nazi supporters bolder.  The divide in America has grown to be a divide between those who believe in liberty, equality, and justice and those who don't.  Trump supporters are the kind of people we once went to war to defend our nation against.

While the national press carries blather about the pros and cons of impeaching Trump and about the squabbling between and within the political parties, the group that is being ignored this time around is the one that knows exactly who Trump is.  They are the people who know about his business fraud, his perpetual lying, his dedication to malice, and his incompetence. They are aware that his image as a business tycoon is a total falsehood bought with his father's money.  These people are frustrated with a government that can be manipulated to cover and support him.  The government has proven that it is too corrupted to deal with him.  They are talking about how the republic has failed them and may as well be shut done.  Then, the real problem behind Trump--his supporters--can be confronted directly.

This is the group of people who have organized and participated in massive demonstrations to register their discontent.  They are the descendants of those who forced the country to end the Viet Nam War.  They are the people who are forcing others to face the realities of climate change.  And they realize the real obstacle they face is the mental climate that has made Trump possible.

They have been watching the protests in Hong Kong and the yellow vest movement in France.  They've seen the effects of mass movements elsewhere and know how they work.  Trump can attract huge throngs to force change on the country.  They may leave the country in a state that will need extensive rebuilding.  But that would be better than living in a criminal enterprise run by Trump and associates.
Hong Kong 2019

Sunday, September 15, 2019

The Democratic Party didn't die. Democracy did.

Columnist Kevin Woster, acting as a political coroner, has pronounced the South Dakota Democratic Party dead. He thinks that its few survivors should join the Republican Party to form a progressive faction within it.  However, his idea is an acknowledgement that what is actually dead in the state is  democratic rule. His advice to the remnants of the Democratic Party is to submit to the conquerers and make their progressive sallies within the single, ruling party, so that they can be controlled and dismissed internally and never heard in public  on a legislative floor.  The South Dakota GOP legislature has a record of punishing dissent within its caucus and will not tolerate even minor differences of opinion.

For many years as a county party treasurer, I maintained a list of active Democrats. For a time, Brown County leaned Democratic.  But stalwart Democrats in Brown County dwindled by attrition and were not replaced.  In that attrition was a factor that I had experienced as a professor with students.   That factor was a desire to leave South Dakota, and that desire was not just a matter of looking for better wages, better opportunity, or better climate.  Although South Dakotans believe that they have a superior work ethic and are "nicer" than people in more congested places, those qualities also exist in other places.  But along with the hard work and niceness, South Dakota also has malice, resentment, intolerance,  meanness, all fed by a devotion to ignorance.  Other places have those, too.  But some places acknowledge the negative in human society and people recognize it and work to isolate it so that it is not a presence in their daily lives.  

As a professor and academic adviser to students over the years, I was made aware of a common experience they had in South Dakota, especially in the smaller and rural communities.   Many of these students were of the first generation in their families to go to college. When they returned to their homes during their first breaks in their academic schedules, they often found that old friends from high school who did not go to college were resentful toward them.  The college kids wanted to talk about their college experiences, but their hometown friends took this as flaunting their higher education, suggesting that they thought themselves better than their high school peers.Thus, friendships ended.  And this rift was a frequent factor in the college students' determination to live their lives in places outside of South Dakota when they graduated from college.  It is a factor in the withering process of small towns.  It is a motive behind the brain drain.

However, there were also many students who planned to leave South Dakota while still in high school.  Many, in fact, left the state to go to college, comprising the first wave of outmigration of brain power.    As I analyzed the dwindling names on the list of active Democrats, it became apparent the the brain drain was a significant factor in the political makeup of the state.  

There was another aspect to why people leave the state and how it came to have one-party rule.  And that factor is politics itself.  What has become a fact about the way that politics is conducted, both on the state and national levels, is that it is resentful, mean, stupid and debasing.  There is an undercurrent of malice that runs through politics, and it is demonstrated when Trump stands in front of a rally casting insults, calling names, and telling outright lies.  He represents a deterioration of human culture in which what was once considered degraded behavior is now normal.  As one conservative columnist writes, “Telling entirely unconvincing lies has been a hallmark of the Trump administration..."  At the last Democratic debate, the presidential candidates contended that America is better than that.  Unfortunately, that is precisely what America has become.  And it is the kind of politics that was practiced in South Dakota long before Trump took charge of the country.

A sociologist colleague of mine has been working on a study of the decline of fraternal, patriotic, and cultural organizations across the country.  Within our city, organizations that once had large participation are gone or are greatly diminished.  He listed the Elks, the Eagles, the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars,  Westerners, and many other organizations with civic purposes.  He said these organizations were created for the opportunities of people getting together, but in today's divisive atmosphere people put more effort into avoiding each other.  

His study indicates a process through which communities take form as blue (Democratic) or red (Republican), but it also reveals that many people want to escape the conflicts of mean politics.  They physically move or mentally remove themselves from the resentful and degrading politics.  Some of the people on my list of active participants dropped away not because they thought the Democratic Party did not represent their views and interests, but because political activity in general had become so nasty that they found it degrading. 

An experience of mine illustrates the kind of occurrence that drives people away from politics.  One day when I was running personal errands, some party members asked if I could pick up a newsletter from the printers and deliver it to them so that they could  mail it out.  I stopped by the printers and said I was there to pick up a printing job for the Brown County Democrats.  A woman who was at the counter blurted "Democrats!"  And then started ranting at me for being a liberal baby-killer and all sorts of odious things.  The man working the counter motioned me into his office and said I could wait there while he took care of the woman and got the order for the Democrats ready to go.  He apologized that I was subjected to abuse while in his establishment.

The kind of abusive, insulting rant the woman went on has become common.  On The Dakota Free Press blog, here is a sample of a state senator's response when the subject of guns came up:

Rambo was Army, I’m a Marine.. Read a book, there’s a difference and don’t hate me because of my patriotic service to God & Country.. it’s like the unwritten Socialist rule “never tell the lady-abiding Americans you’re coming for their guns..” People don’t like Leftists when they really see them for who they are
You and Jerry are projecting and your “male” insecurities are telling. It’s the reason you cowards have to hide behind your new age KKK hoods of anonymity and chuck lies and fecal matter while driving people away from interacting on Cory’s blog. Several of you have been specifically cited by folks who read the blog in apologies by democrats who are ashamed to be associated with your ilk and blame “you” for many registered Democrat losses.
Law enforcement is not required nor or they responsible for any citizens personal safety. LE cannot protect people and you offer lies claiming otherwise. The only “responsible” thing is to empower law-abiding South Dakotans to protect themselves, which is exactly what I’ve done
I’ve yet to find anyone with the firearms & law enforcement training and experience comparable with own. Why in the world would I surrender my family’s safety and my own because of your unreasonable male insecurity over firearms. Go to a therapist, get some counseling, get some help for your pathological insecurities.
You keep up the good work for “Democrats,” Mike! What ever Dan Lederman is paying you, some of you guys are worth your weight in gold for the GOP.
Everything BcB said about me is horsecrap. You two clowns spew your ignorant partisan hatred and bile driving people away from Cory’s blog. Keep up the good work, let the engraver know your real names so they can give you credit on the SDDP’ tombstone.
If you can get past trying to figure out what a "lady-abiding American" is, you will note the incoherence and the mindless malice with which the senator conducts himself.  Who wants to live in a state where a person of this abusive ilk writes the laws?  And who wants to be involved in this level of  a discussion?  It is not an an example of democratic discourse, but rather a demonstration of how democracy fails.

But we now have a president who engages in just such diatribes.  People of some intelligence and decency realize there is no political antidote for this kind of toxic insanity.  For those of us who once proudly served our country, it is dismaying to realize our country has become what we defended it against.  

To note, with some glee, that the Democratic Party is dead and its survivors should resign themselves and submit to the hateful, malicious rule of the party that state senator represents is to abandon the hope for democracy.  It is to refute the course on which Lincoln tried to steer the nation:
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

It is not the Democratic Party that is in its death throes.  It is democracy itself.  Because there is a large contingent of people who have abandoned its principles which gives others a reason to give up on it.  Those facts must be confronted if democracy is to have a chance to survive.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Don't take your guns to Walmart, son.

Walmart has announced a policy that it will no longer permit people to carry guns in its stores.  People who have a concealed carry permit will be allowed in, however.  The store has also announced that it is limiting the kind of weapons and ammunition it will sell.  Other companies, such as Kroger, are following suit.

My question is how the stores will enforce the policy.  Are the greeters going to announce to each customer entering the store that they can't carry guns in there?  If someone is compelled  to come into a store wearing a gun on his hip or a long gun over his shoulder, is a greeter supposed to spread-eagle him over a shopping cart and disarm the retarded sombitch?  Or upon some prearranged signal will there be an announcement over the public address system that an idiot with a gun is loose in the store and everyone should take cover?  

The announcement of the policy has caused some members of the press to go into a fawning fit over the Walmart CEO's perspicacity and bravery in the face of the mass shootings which have become a favorite American pastime.  Actually the decision  probably had more of a bottom-line motive than a decision to confront the slavish members of the Second Amendment Cult.  The El Paso shooter set up his hunting stand at a Walmart store, as shopping malls, next to schools, are  favorite killing fields in the sport of atrocity.  The retail business is having a rough time with major chains closing stores all over the nation, and the Walmart executives want to counteract the image of their stores as a shooting gallery where customers are targets.  That image is one more reason why it is better to shop online than to be so foolish as to venture into a killing field.  If anyone is going to be blasted away while shopping, let the UPS or Fed Ex deliverymen do the physical travel involved with shopping.

Recent polls show that about two-thirds of the people want safety from guns.  But the nation's laws have worked in the opposite direction by allowing their presence almost everywhere.  The shootings have made people justifiably wary about other people carrying firearms into otherwise benign, peaceful environments.  Gun nuts make fun of people getting nervous about the presence of firearms, but the nuts can't grasp that when someone is of the mind to brandish a weapon in places people go to conduct the business of life, people have good cause to wonder what their intentions are with their weapon.  The gun cultists say they carry for self-protection.  The people going about the business of life think they should go protect themselves somewhere else.

When people make the case that they are carrying guns to protect themselves from other people with guns, the alternative to making every place a killing field is to do something about guns.  The Second Amendment, however, trumps the right to life and the purpose to "establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty."  At least, that is how the gun cult chooses to interpret the Constitution.

Walmart may prohibit guns to make it a more inviting place to do business, but in doing so, it also embraces a more fundamental Constitutional principle.  You want to shoot people?  You want to protect yourself?  Go someplace other than Walmart to demonstrate your self protection.  They've eliminated the need for it.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States