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

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Is there Covid-19 in your steak?

The largest and most frequent clusters of Covid-19 are occurring in meat processing plants.  Many have been closed, but a presidential order has been issued to keep them open.  The only factor offered so far as to why meat plants are such collectors and transmitters of the coronavirus is that the workers have to work in such close proximity to each other that the virus rapidly passes from one person to the other.  The question that occurs to most people but is seldom addressed in the press accounts is if the meat is involved in the propagation of the disease.

Back in 1906, a novel exposed the meat industry and produced some massive changes.  Upton Sinclair's The Jungle portrayed the horrible conditions under which immigrants were exploited in Chicago meat packing plants.  That was Sinclair's major concern in writing the book.  But he also described the unsanitary conditions and the tainted meat being produced.  Reader's were more affected by the depiction of contaminated meat than by the exploitive labor practices, so that the book's major consequence was the legislation that produced the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act.  It also brought about some labor reform in the industry, but working conditions did not improve significantly until workers organized and made them part of their union contracts with the meat packers.

The coronavirus pandemic has put societal focus on the meat packers again, and it appears that they have reverted to some of the conditions and practices that Sinclair had exposed.   The purity of the meat is not an issue in the current concerns, but the treatment of the workers is.  One worker said of his employers to USA Today,  Those people don’t care about us. If you die, they’ll just replace you tomorrow.”   But the question lingers if something as pervasive as Covid-19 that has shut down much of the world can infect the meat.

The Center for Disease Control claims, "Currently there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 associated with food."

The Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for meat inspections, makes a similar claim:  "We are not aware of any reports at this time of human illnesses that suggest COVID-19 can be transmitted by food or food packaging."

Both agencies state that they have no evidence of food contamination at this time, but make no statements of whether they are intensifying their inspection efforts which might find some problems.  However, the purity of the meat is not as prominent an issue as the working conditions.  A number of states, with the backing of GOP leaders, have issued warnings to workers that if they do not return to work, their unemployment benefits will be canceled.  Trump has issued an executive order requiring that packing plants stay open, despite the fact that they are major hot spots for Covid-19 infections and worker deaths.  Worker unions agree with the worker quoted above that their well-being is not much of a consideration by Trump or their employers.

Workers are not valued.  The responsible agencies advise that they have no evidence at this time of coronavirus in the meat, but you should cook the hell out of it just in case.  But it does look as if the meat industry has returned to The Jungle.

[For a detailed perspective on the meat packing industry,  read the South Dakota News Watch.]

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Idiots 'R Us: the boogaloo

Protesters in Michigan peaceably gathering at the state capitol.  Note the sign whose maker does not seem to know how to spell the name of the governor they are protesting against, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
The political division in America has become a part of Covid-19 pandemic.  The major media have reported how
"the debate over how soon to loosen restrictions on businesses and workers has moved from the hands of health experts to become an increasingly political fight over costs to the economy, which Mr. Trump sees as crucial to his re-election."

Trump is, of course, tweeting at his followers to take action. His tweets are:
"LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!"

NBC news reports:

Trump's tweets, however, pushed many online extremist communities to speculate whether the president was advocating for armed conflict, an event they’ve termed "the boogaloo," for which many far-right activists have been gearing up and advocating since last year.
 If you aren't aware of the term "boogaloo":
"Boogaloo" is a term used by extremists to refer to armed insurrection, a shortened version of "Civil War 2: Electric Boogaloo," which was coined on the extremist message board 4chan.
 This raises the question of if things get a bit dicey in South Dakota, could Trump be charged under Gov. Noem's new law against riot boosting:

22-10-17. Incitement to riot--Violation as felony.Any person who, with the intent to cause a riot, commits an act or engages in conduct that urges three or more people, acting together and without authority of law, to use force or violence to cause any injury to any person or any damage to property, under circumstances in which the force or violence is imminent and the urging is likely to incite or produce the use of force or violence, incites riot. For the purposes of this chapter, urging includes instigating, inciting, or directing, but does not include the oral or written advocacy of ideas or expression of belief that does not urge the commission of an act or conduct of imminent force or violence. This section may not be construed to prevent the peaceable assembly of persons for lawful purposes of protest or petition. A violation of this section is a Class 5 felony.

2) "Incitement to riot," any person who, with the intent to cause a riot, commits an act or engages in conduct that urges three or more people, acting together and without authority of law, to use force or violence to cause any injury to any person or any damage to property, under circumstances in which the force or violence is imminent and the urging is likely to incite or produce the use of force or violence, incites riot. Urging includes instigating, inciting, or directing, but does not include the oral or written advocacy of ideas or expression of belief that does not urge the commission of an act or conduct of imminent force or violence;

When interviewed, Republican governors who want to reactivate their states cautiously so as not to trigger a resurgence of Covid-19 deny that Trump is inciting riots.  With the death toll of the virus victims reaching 5 percent (it's 7.5 percent in Michigan) the GOP governors see the restrictions against public gatherings as the only means to combat the disease as the only way to combat at this time.  But they will not say anything critical about Trump.  Rather they follow the example of Vice President Pence:

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) pressed Pence on Trump’s Twitter feed at the end of (a conference) call, asking why the president was trying to incite division by tweeting “LIBERATE” Virginia, Minnesota and Michigan and aligning himself with protests in those states over their lockdowns. Pence said the administration is working with governors but that the president will continue to communicate with the American people as he always has.
Democratic governors see Trump's tweets as a clear incitement:
Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, who ran an unsuccessful bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, said Mr. Trump’s tweets “encourage illegal and dangerous acts” and said the president was “putting millions of people in danger of contracting Covid-19.” Mr. Inslee added: “His unhinged rantings and calls for people to ‘liberate’ states could also lead to violence. We’ve seen it before."
When one looks at how the social restrictions are playing out in the rest of the world, violence is beginning to erupt.  In South Africa, it is reported that ".People have broken into tuck shops. They have attacked people. The simple reason is because they are hungry.”  [A tuck shop is a small, food-selling retailer,  a term principally used in the UK, Ireland, Grenada, South Africa, Nigeria, New Zealand, Jamaica, Australia, Pakistan, India, Canada, The Bahamas and  other parts of the former British Empire.]

In the meantime, some folks are parading with their assault weapons, ready for the boogaloo.  One blog commenter said let those who want free reign for Covid-19 gather together and breathe on each other to their heart's content.  Just warn the rest of us where they are at.  As for the boogaloo, it is quite possible.  A few years ago, a gun dealer noted that more than half of his sales  of assault-type rifles and tactical shotguns were to people who thought they might need to defend themselves against the right-wing extremists at some point.  Covid-19 seems to be pushing us to that point in places.

A retired historian I once worked with says the political division we are experiencing should not be defined as a division between Republicans and Democrats.  It is actually a division between those who are not burdened with intellects and those who are.  Those who are not so burdened are faced with the choice of death by Covid-19 or by firearms.   That's what the boogaloo is all about.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Can America be resurrected?

Donald Trump is not the cause of America's decline into a fascist state.  He is a symptom, the result of something that happened to the American people.  He is the means through which people who reject the notion "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights" are dismantling the republic.  His tactics are in their extreme phase with the firing of seven inspectors general whose job it is to keep the federal government honest and fair.  After national attempts to increase voting participation by making the process more accessible and convenient, Trump and his minions have been systematically making it more difficult and out-of-reach for people who do not have the advantages of power and wealth.  

Trump was elected and works at the behest of people who hate and wish to destroy the basic premise on which America was designed to operate.  Inequality is now the ruling premise.  Trump has announced that he, not the the states, has the sole power to decide when the nation can open open up again after the mass quarantine.  The governors, and the U.S Constitution,  disagree, but his declaration is evidence of the totalitarian mindset with which he and his supporters try to govern.  While there is resistance to the efforts to curtail democracy, damage has been done.  That segment of the population that doesn't like democracy has made headway with Trump holding the presidency.  The electorate who believes in American democracy tends to forget that there is significant faction that does not.  

The news this past week has covered the social-distance provisions being put forward by governments throughout the nation.  The hard fact is that the only means we have at this time to control Covid-19 is limiting contact with fellow humans.  In order to have liberty and to pursue happiness, one has to have life.  Restrictions placed on human contacts are an effort to provide the right to life in the face of a virus that is lethal.  But the latest news casts show people protesting the restrictions on human gatherings to prevent the spread of the virus.  Those protesters seem oblivious to the fact that the preservation of life is at issue and that liberty and their pursuit of happiness is conditioned upon the right to life.  They openly disregard that there is virus killing people that we don't know much about as yet and they disrespect the measures to prevent people from being afflicted with the virus.  This is the mentality that  can't deal with the fact that more than 4,500 are dying from the virus each day, and the death toll is mounting every day.

The latest studies in tracing the course of the disease shows that people can carry and spread the virus days before they show symptoms of the disease, and to get a command over the disease will require extensive testing, tracing of points of viral exchange, and the development of medicines, including vaccines, to control the disease.  But until those measures are developed, people will have to stay away from each other.  Some people resent that they are being deprived of their liberty, but they have no respect or concerns for the lives being put at risk.

They taunt, "Don't you want the country opened up?"  No one wants the country closed down, but the question is do they want corpses left to rot in the streets, as has been experienced in Ecuador, or bodies stacked in closets, as happened in an American nursing home?    Trump's defenders display a dismissive attitude toward the lives of their fellow Americans.  Louisiana Senator John Kennedy said, "This isn’t a question of not valuing life. This is a question of making a hard decision with the cold, hard facts.”

Adolph Hitler faced those cold, hard facts in 1939.  Sen. Kennedy suggests the same conclusion.  Hitler regarded the "incurably ill, physically or mentally disabled, emotionally distraught, and elderly people" as having a “life unworthy of living.”  Kennedy seems to make the same dismissal.  Hitler's solution was to implement the T4 Euthanasia Program, the implementation of which led to the use of gas ovens and the mass extermination of six million Jews--the Holocaust.

 Declarations that some people are expendable are the foundations on which gas ovens are built.

When decisions are made by leaders that it is okay to sacrifice some people in order to open up the economy, the nation is following the precedent set by Hitler.  The question is if the nation even wants to reject that precedent. Or is even capable of doing so.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Aberdeen newspaper boots production staff on the path to end

The Aberdeen newspaper is on  a track that presages its closure.  It announced that it will no longer print the paper at its Aberdeen plant and it will now be printed in Sioux Falls on the Argus Leader press.  The second graph of the story states how many employees are getting the boot.

Twenty-one positions will be eliminated at the American News. As a result of this transition, Sioux Falls will be adding production staff in the pressroom and in packaging, including press operators and packaging staff. Affected employees will be invited to apply.
What the story does not cover is the context of this move, which is the closure of major retailers in Aberdeen:  Sears, Kmart, Herberger's, Conlin's, Shopko.  One may assume that the termination of advertising revenues from those retailers plays a significant role in the decision to close down the local production operation of the newspaper.  Of course, the impact of the internet is also a factor.

The publisher gives the usual folderol about the newspaper maintaining its place in the community, and inviting the booted employees to apply for jobs in Sioux Falls, but says nothing about who is actually making the decisions.  In January 2019, the then-owner of the American News, Schurz  Communications, was purchased by Gatehouse Media, which is owned by the New Media Investment Group.  In November 2019, Gatehouse completed an acquisition and merger with the Gannett Company, which owns the Sioux Falls Argus Leader.  The new company chose to operate under the Gannett name.  

The firing of 21 production employees and shutting down its press is the elimination of an essential aspect of the newspaper business.  It leaves the editorial and advertising staffs, and with the recent elimination of so many retailers, there aren't many places left to sell advertising to.  The story of its down-sizing  did not indicate if the design and layout of the paper would be done by local staff.  With computers and the internet, those tasks could also be done in Sioux Falls.  But the down-sizing also has implications for the editorial staff.  It could be reduced to a news bureau, a few reporters covering county and city government and any breaking events, and a few more on school sports.  One managing editor, who does not have to deal with production matters, could coordinate those activities.  And the market area around Aberdeen shows no evidence of growth.  Since 1970, the population of Brown County decreased by one percent.

The publisher states:
We will do all we can to ensure a strong community, by telling your stories, giving voice and holding the powerful accountable. And we will continue to deliver the news and advertising solutions this region so deserves.
News business in Aberdeen has diminished over recent years.  The local press once consisted of news departments from a local television station, three radio stations, and the American News.  Other media have given Aberdeen the kind of attention they thought Aberdeen deserved:  nothing. The electronic media have eliminated their news departments.  The trend is clear.  If the newspaper is to be printed in Sioux Falls, why can't the editorial and advertising management be centered there?  

You  can be sure the bottom-line managers have thought of that.  And who but the newspaper they own is left to call them into account?   

Monday, April 6, 2020

Update: Time to implement Section 4 and rid ourselves of Trump, at least virtually

U.S. Constitution, Amendment 25:
Section 4. Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.

This provision for removing a president who is unable to function will never be employed by the Republicans, as they will be loyal to a f***ing moron, as former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson labeled Trump, no matter what, in order to maintain power.  Despite his daily demonstrations of mindless incompetence and puerile malice, the Republican party grovels obscenely before their chosen master.  They chose not to remove him after an impeachment process over his  attempt to withhold aid from Ukraine unless they aided him in maligning the Bidens.  They chose to ignore the constant stream of lies and misinformation that come out of his mouth.  As TV actor and producer Larry David says, "The man has not one redeeming quality."

For those who refuse to join or be intimidated by Trump and his collaborators, they can mentally and culturally remove Trump from office and refuse to accept him as president.  Some protest that such an attitude would fragment the nation, but it could not be more irreconcilably divided than it is.  Removing the incompetent, the malice driven, and corrupt from office is provided for in the Constitution.  The GOP may refuse the formal actions, but knowledgeable citizens can do it virtually and cite the Constitutional process as their reason for so doing.  It may have an effect on the election, but the moral and intellectual rejection of Trump as a violator  of all that is just and decent in the premise of America is a priority matter.  As Al Franken recently wrote:  

 "We are left to proceed despite our president and find the leadership we need elsewhere. From governors and mayors and other civil servants. From health care professionals and scientists and economists. From community leaders and each other." 
The current actions of Trump's removal of the people whose jobs are to guard the integrity of government needs crucial attention.  They are a threat to the rule of law and "the most acute threats yet to our democracy."  Here is a list of the officials related to the impeachment proceedings who Trump has fired or demoted for doing their jobs to protect the government from malevolent dishonesty and its consequent corruption:

  • Michael Atkinson, inspector general of the intelligence community
  • Lt. Col. Alexander S. Vindman, National Security advisor
  • Lt. Col. Yevgeny Vindman, for being a brother to Alexander
  • Ambassador Gordon D. Sondland
  • Ambassador William B. Taylor Jr.
  • John C. Rood,  under secretary of defense
  • Joseph Maguire, acting director of national intelligence
  • Elaine McCusker,  Defense Department official
  • Jessie K. Liu, prosecutor of Trump's friend Roger Stone
  • Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff
  • **Glenn Fine (April 7:  President Trump has removed the chairman of the federal panel Congress created to oversee his administration's management of the $2 trillion stimulus package.
He endorsed the firing of Capt. Brett E. Crozier who saw the slow response of the Navy in dealing with infected crew members on his aircraft carrier as a serious threat to his crew of 5,000.  Trump's chosen Department of Defense  collaborators anticipated Trump's displeasure at being exposed and claimed they lost trust in Captain Crozier because he appeared to panic.  In their explanations there is not one word of concern about the infected and exposed personnel, which includes Capt. Crozier.  Trump and his collaborators are a menace to humanity and the respect for decency as serious as the Nazis were.  And in  Covid-19, they have found their equivalent to the gas ovens.

If America has a chance of surviving, it depends on an effective resistance to Trump.  And that means not investing hope in an election to get rid of the virulent malignancy that grips the nation.  There is a hope among many  that Trump's behavior has sparked a desire for decency in some of those who have supported him.  Such a hope is giving the  Trump collaborators credit for more intelligence and  benignity than can be justified.

During the 2016 election campaign, Trump's character was on display.  Even many of the contending GOP candidates at the time said that Trump was unfit  for the office.  The grab-'em-by-the-pussy tapes came out, the payments to hush up mistresses were revealed, his six bankruptcies and fraudulent business dealings were on the public record, and still 62,985,106 people voted for him.  (65,853,625 voted for Hillary Clinton.)  Those facts  say much about what has happened to the people of America.

The current voter registrations for South Dakota indicate what the political trend is for the upcoming election:

      • Republican   47.47 %
      • Democrat      28.18  %
      • Independent   23.76 %
People who think our constitutional republic will eventually right itself are unaware of the doubts that our founders had.  Ben Franklin, who was well acquainted with vagaries within the political constituency  expressed the basis for those doubts:

"This [the U.S. Constitution] is likely to be administered for a course of years and then end in despotism... when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic government, being incapable of any other."
With Trump chosen as president, we have reached that point of corruption.  It is wrong to think of the Trump voters and supporters as neighbors who  merely have a different political viewpoint.  They are collaborators who endorse the immoral, the fraudulent, the malicious, the vicious, the utterly depraved.  By the leader they endorse, you shall know them.

A virtual application by the people of Section 4 will mean a confrontation with Trump's collaborators.  It will mean an open expression of despising what they represent.  It may well mean an underground-like resistance to the despotism they are a part of and have imposed on the country.  But as Franklin also warned, "Make yourself sheep and the wolves will eat you."

Thursday, April 2, 2020

College presidents can be dangerous

About Northern State University, where I  taught for 20 years, a former long-time academic dean said, "Northern is a darned good school.  We had a couple dud presidents…"   He didn't name them.  But I think I can.  Although I won't at this time.  I will recount some things about them, however.

First, I note that when I left journalism to become a college professor, college presidents served as the lead scholars at the institutions.  They established themselves as accomplished scholars who were successful at transmitting their special knowledge to students and in orchestrating the faculty in that process.  During my first year teaching I daily encountered my college president walking across campus as he was coming from a history class he taught and I was on my way to teach a freshman composition course.  He often stopped me to chat about campus matters and how things were going with my teaching.

During that time colleges were entering what they called a period of "retrenchment."  They were finding it difficult to operate with tuition and their endowments.  To keep going, they would have to raise student tuition to a prohibitive level or find a way to increase their endowments.  While college presidents always had to deal with funding, it was not their major function.  Their first priority was knowledge, its acquisition, and its transmission.The time of retrenchment changed that, and college presidents found that fund-raising, financial management, and its related manipulation of faculty and programs, became their full-time function.  College boards of trustees concentrated on people connected to the corporate world when searching for new presidents and dismissed scholarly accomplishment and academic stature as essential credentials.  They wanted people who knew and could court other people with sources of money.  When the search committees released the resumes of candidates for a college presidency, they emphasized their fundraising and associations with money sources.

In my early years as a professor, faculty meetings with the college president involved reports and discussions on the status of academic programs and the progress of students.  During my later years, the meetings were largely taken up with reports on fundraising activities.  Professors understood that their jobs were dependent on the revenues their institution managed to raise, but their actual jobs were to teach subject matter, not become servants to the sources of the money, which many presidents saw as the function of their colleges.

One of those presidents was a Donald Trump type.  He lied constantly.  Many of his lies had no point.  The faculty decided he lied about everything so he wouldn't have to keep track of the truth.  He also engaged in mass firings of his staff so that he could replace them with his sycophants.   His tactic for getting rid of senior administrators was to call meetings for which targeted people were never notified, and then cite their absences as evidence that they weren't doing their jobs.  When one dean was out-of-town on college business, he called the president to get his concurrence on an administrative matter.  The president refused to take his call.

That president believed that image was all that counted and needed no substance to back it up.  He once told a faculty meeting that the college was "what it appeared to be."  A senior history professor responded, "And we appear to be liars."

The faculty, however, continued to do their jobs.  But a decade of the man's reign left the college damaged in terms of its reputation and its academic function.  

His replacement was a man that the faculty welcomed.  He had a style of speaking that seemed thoughtful and eloquent when he addressed the campus community as a candidate.  But when he took over as president what had promised to be a bright light for the campus turned out to be quite a dim bulb.  Northern was founded as a teacher's college and teacher education was one of its strong curricula.  Shortly after the man became president, the college lost accreditation of its teacher education program.  A professor from my department was on the teacher accreditation review committee and warned that some things needed attention and correction according to the standards on which the college was to be examined.  His concerns were dismissed and subsequently the college was discredited. The college was thrown into a some years of turmoil as it made a desperate effort to regain its accreditation.  Students graduating in education did not find a welcoming job market.  And teachers with degrees from Northern did not find a welcoming climate in which to work.  Finally, the regents became informed about the man's deleterious effect on the college and gave him an opportunity to resign,  which he took.

What saved the college from disrepute was the fact that the faculty did their jobs in presenting strong coursework and maintaining high standards of academic performance from the students.  Those facts were of essential importance when in the college's effort to become reaccredited, which was successful.  The college disassociated itself from the performance of those dud presidents.  That's why the former dean can say it's a darned good school.

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States