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

Friday, March 25, 2022

You're planning to get $29.5 million from where?

Northern State University has received the signature of the Governor on a bill that would provide $29.5 million to tear down two buildings on campus and replace them with a new one for its business department's Entrepreneurship and Innovation Center,  the SDSU-based nursing program, and the admissions office.  The buildings to be torn down are Lincoln Hall, an old building with a formidable stair case at its entrance and a funky atmosphere because it was once a dormitory; and Briscoe Hall, which was a dormitory, but I have never been in it, so I can't attest to its degree of funk.  Lincoln Hall is more than a century old.  Briscoe opened in 1958, so it has been around long enough to acquire a respectable degree of funk.  

Funk can be a problem on campus.  Eight a.m. classes are the test.  Some students come to early morning classes with damp hair radiating the aroma of lilacs and roses shampoo.  Many throw on some sweat clothes from a pile on the floor and radiate the odor of festering pits.  An eight a.m. class does offer some olfactory challenges, particularly if the dorm food is heavy on the beans.

Anyway, the University has announced that it plans to defunk a corner of the campus with a pristine new building.  However, it is still searching for some funk-free architects, who will have a difficult task because the financing for the building is to come from the American Rescue Plan Act.  Northern State does not appear to be needing rescue from anything, except a couple of administrators who seem to be getting high from sniffing funk.  The American Rescue Plan Act contains no provisions for demolishing old but serviceable college buildings and replacing them with something that looks and smells nice.

The Governor of the state is already coming under scrutiny and criticism for misdirecting federal Covid pandemic relief money into the general fund.  Now she seems okay with tapping a fund for rescuing people adversely affected by the pandemic for a new building to ostensibly house some small college programs and the office that recruits and admits students.  That raises the question of when keeping up luxurious appearances takes precedent over people in dire need.  

Northern State has some nice new buildings and some slick new athletic stadiums.  However, it attained those facilities through the efforts of a president who raised $110 million, and then, about a year ago, was summarily fired with no explanations by anyone about the circumstances.  Usually, the faculty require a public explanation to protect their own reputations for operating under the standards of academic probity and freedom that define an accredited institution.  The current faculty project, whether intended or not, an obsequious passivity.  The symptoms of political dominance of the institution are pronounced.

The federal government must approve the use of money from the American Rescue Plan.    This seems unlikely because the Plan specifically denies the use of its funds for what NSU proposes:

a State shall maintain support for elementary and secondary education, and for higher education (which shall include State funding to institutions of higher education and State need-based financial aid, and shall not include support for capital projects or for research and development or tuition and fees paid by students)

The NSU people may have found an exemption to that clause, but I can't find one.  So, if the project is dependent upon the federal government, the money doesn't seem likely to come from the Rescue Plan.

Sunday, March 20, 2022

What are your plans for the coming civil war?


"I lost everybody and the meaning of life."
Intelligence specialists on language monitor when it is used for indications of bad things that are about to happen.  Words matter.  They reveal what and how people are thinking. Or if they are even capable of thought.  A lot of people are not competent thinkers.  Nevertheless, they blurt out the contents of their minds which reveals their intentions.  When they make a serious threat or talk over plans to commit a destructive act, they are breaking the law by committing a criminal threat.  

Many people in America misunderstand the First Amendment.  If they are rebuked or disciplined for something they say, they invoke the First Amendment as conferring their right to speak their minds.  They whine that they are being censored.  What they fail to understand is that freedom of speech also gives others the right to respond to what they say.  They have the right to say what they will, and others have the right to react.  The First Amendment does not exempt anyone from responsibility for the consequences of what they say.   They can be held liable for slander, libel, disorderly conduct and criminal threats.  And employers and public venues have the right to set and enforce rules about what kind of speech may be used in places where they have jurisdiction.  A person's speech may also be used to determine their fitness for a job or membership in an organization.  Denying  a person employment or membership and being fired for things posted on the internet happens frequently and is upheld in the courts if it is determined to be a matter of competence, honesty, or safety.

What is being said and how it is said are the primary concern of spies and intelligence analysts who are monitoring the affairs of the world.   Their purpose is to  get advance alerts on trouble brewing to prevent or be prepared for attacks like 9/11, in the case of American intelligence. Language is the human activity through which the plans for attacks on nations and people are devised and transmitted, so language is the prime focus of intelligence gathering.

When I served with the Army in Germany during the Cold War, the command in coordination with NATO gave training sessions to some troops in recognizing language which signaled danger in the making.  I was sent to one of these sessions, where we were instructed on language that might belie subversive intentions.  While being off post among the civilian population, we might be approached by people trying to get information from us or trying to influence us in damaging ways.  At the time, NATO nations were wary of a Nazi revival or the attempts by Soviet communists to undermine trust in democracies and recruit people to their cause. We were taught to recognize verbal utterances that might reflect malicious designs or acts of betrayal in the making.  We were also taught to be aware of problems that might be developing in our fellow soldiers.  A few years earlier when the end of the Korean War was being negotiated, America  faced a circumstance that stunned the nation.  Some Americans held as prisoners of war by North Korea refused to be repatriated to the United States.  They were labeled turncoats, and they chose to be  sent to communist China.  Most of them eventually came back to America, but the men were a matter of grave concern about what factors would make people held as prisoners defect to the regime that held them.   We were instructed in what verbal symptoms would indicate a severe disaffection with America in its citizens.

The matter of American turncoats in the 1950s laid the groundwork for the civil rights movement of the 1960s.  As the motives of the defectors were examined, racism, inequality and the consequent discrimination against classes of people emerged as  compelling reasons.  The defectors felt that the country they fought for betrayed its own people by denying them the equality, freedom, and justice it claimed to stand for.  

During my time in the Army, I heard some discontented comments from some students in Germany.  They didn't sound particularly threatening, but they fit some of the criteria for political hate speech.  The complaints these people made  were the issues around which the Red Army Faction later organized and terrorized West Germany in the 1970s.  The Red Army Faction condemned the Naxi past but campaigned with violence for a Communist future.

Word watchers who listen and look for the verbal signs of violence are alarmed at the chatter going on in America currently.  It has been building for some time and was put on parade with the presidency of Donald Trump.   The insurrection of January 6, 2021, produced the kind of language and actions that comprise an attack on the nation.  Some analysts regarded the insurrection as the first skirmish in a civil war.  Although the news media reports on the political division in America in a low key manner, the language analysts see a deadlock between American factions that is giving way to violent actions.  The insurrection is a case in point, but it is not clear to most Americans what the exact points of disagreement are.  They think of it largely as the usual partisan squabble.  But it is not something that can be resolved on the legislative floor or the ballot box.

Demonstrations of Black Lives Matter is a case in point in how the language associated with the protests relate to national security issues.  The frequent occasions of black people being indiscriminately gunned down by law enforcement is what the movement is reacting to.  A Washington Post editorial states its case:
"Black Americans are killed at a much higher rate than white Americans. Although half of the people shot and killed by police are white, black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. They account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of white Americans. Hispanic Americans are also killed by police at a disproportionate rate." 

When people respond with "all lives matter," they indicate that they either do not understand the disproportionate killings by the police or they are okay with it. It also identifies people who have no interest in racal equality and those who might wish to participate in racial extermination.  Those who do not like the liberal trend of extending equality, freedom, and justice to all and those who ignore or reject the Black Lives Matter protest are candidates for recruitment into subversive groups that have formed around ethnic and ideological hatreds.  The groups involved in the Jan. 6 insurrection are groups that openly espouse racism and fascism as their political cause.  They have limits to their idea of democracy:  they use the freedoms of democracy to gain power   but then deny it to those they dislike. The language not only denotes  a political divide;  it denotes  a political impasse that words can't resolve.  

The press has noted recently the trend in America for people to move away from others they don't like and to cluster with people who think and act they do..  Politicians talk of uniting the country and getting along, but that is a futile proposition.  America's left and right wings can't stand each other, don't want to live with each other, and don't want to speak to each other.  After some decades of adopting the accusatory and disparaging abuse from conservatives like Rush Limbaugh, the right wing has defined itself in relationship to liberals in an extremely toxic way.  The liberals have reacted in a way that conservatives call elitist.  A former colleague said it is more productive to converse with a pile of rocks than to talk to a Trump conservative.  He said he wanted nothing to do with them and his politics now was a matter of avoiding them and their anti-democratic ways.  That's not elitism,  he said, it is trying  to salvage the benign elements of the republic, but if some think it's elitism, so be it.

Conservatives have adopted the attitude toward liberals that white supremacists held toward people of color.  Consequently, political dialogue is not an exchange of ideas in these times; it is merely the recitation of hate speech.  Those are the words that portray the intellectual and moral state of the nation.    They are not the language of conciliation.  But they are the words through which America has defined itself.

The first Civil War resulted between states that held opposing views on slavery.  In the current division, race is just one of the issues that agitate the nation.  The array of issues today includes abortion, public health policy, substance addictions, to name a few, but it is all marshaled by a mindless belligerence as represented by the personality of Donald Trump.  That belligerence is demonstrated in the national legislature by some elected representatives, and it brings a toxic contamination to the processes of government that spreads throughout the national culture.

The national dialogue already shows a nation at war with weaponized language.   What will be the choice of weapons when we realize where our words have led us?

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Farewell to the Covid incubators

 KELO recently did a story on a couple who moved to South Dakota for its freedom.  They came from Oregon, which they apparently found oppressive.  The shifting demographics of South Dakota has been a powerful event during the last few decades, but the state's media and political analysts have chosen not to directly examine it.  South Dakota is now a single party state, just as the Soviet Union was a single party country before its breakup.  With the invasion of Russia into Ukraine, we see Russia returning to an autocratic status under Putin.  South Dakota is under the rule of an autocratic political party and it offers people of a like mind the "freedom" to live a life free of other people's political choices.

The political and cultural division in America is reshaping the nation.  People are moving to places where they can find people who think like they do.  The Covid pandemic accelerated that movement.  People who objected to Covid mandates resented being told what to do, and looked for places that did not require the wearing of masks.  Some GOP officials made resistance to mask mandates a matter of political doctrine and said mask requirements were an imposition of big government.  In an NPR story covering the migrations, a person  who had moved from California to Texas, rejoiced, "People weren't wearing masks — nobody cared. It's kind of like heaven on earth."

Of course, the wearing of masks during outbreak of contagious disease is not a matter of politics.  It's a matter of health science.  When people go to the dentist, they find that the people who work on their mouths wear masks.  Or when they go to their physicians or the hospital for certain treatments and procedures, they are attended to by people wearing masks.  By now, most people understand the scientific fact that masks can block the transmission of airborne infectious diseases.  Masks are not a cure or a certain preventative, but they are an effective measure of control.  We have known that for more than a century.  That's why healthcare workers can be fired--and usually are--for not wearing masks when they are prescribed to prevent the endangerment of patients and fellow workers.

With the death toll from Covid-19 nearing one million in the United State and surpassing six million world wide, the wearing of masks is a minor inconvenience when they can reduce the transmission of fatal diseases through the air.  But an attitude of belligerent stupidity has become a political fashion on one side of the partisan divide.  So, some people who resent being required to follow prevention measures against a deadly disease choose to move to places such as South Dakota, which allows them to be free to spread disease if they want to.

However, while those who move into the state as a gesture of their right to be belligerently stupid, little attention is paid to the motives of those who leave the state to avoid the belligerents.  South Dakota officials have for decades complained about the brain drain in South Dakota.  People of intelligence and talent leave the state, and politicians and other leaders have noted the outmigration and proposed ways to slow it down or halt it.  Ironically, the reason people leave the state is the same one that attracts people into the state.  Anti-maskers come for what to them is freedom.  People of intelligence and talent leave the state to get away from the stifling stupidity that dominates the state's culture.

A professional organization once characterized the state as an undesirable place to work for people whose occupations involve advanced education and creativity.  Back in the 1980s, the president of Northern State U. found from a student survey that a major expectation that students had for a college degree was to be competitive in finding good jobs in the national labor market, and they assumed those jobs existed mostly out of state.  To advertise that the university could meet that expectation, it adopted a slogan calling Northern "the gateway institution."  This set politicians and community leaders into a fury because the slogan appeared to endorse leaving the state as a reason for getting an education.  The regents forced the president to drop the slogan.  The fact is that bright and ambitious students go to college to develop the knowledge and skills that are a passport that qualifies them to make a life in a more intelligent and benevolent society.  They want to get out of state.

The demographics show that South Dakota is firmly in the hands of the belligerents.  The voter registrations show that with 280,955 Republicans, 152,182 Democrats and 140,429 independents.  The regressive majority likes to think of itself as South Dakota nice, but that posture is belied by their malice shown by their belief in the right to recklessly spread infectious disease.  They believe freedom is the right to declare biowarfare  against their fellow humans, if they so please.  They are in control of the state, and flaunt that control with absurd demonstrations in the legislature.  Watching the South Dakota state legislature at work is like watching a therapy session in the retard ward.

The state celebrates those who move into the state to exercise what they regard as their freedoms.  While it may bemoan the brain drain, it actually enjoys making refugees out of those who hold a more progressive view of humankind.  We celebrate those with intelligence and talent who make it out of the state with their faculties intact.

Friday, March 4, 2022

Where did all the women go?

There is something about blogging that seems to repel women.  There are very few blogs written by women.  And the few that I have read over the years have ended up being shut down and abandoned by their authors.

This blog, the Northern Valley Beacon, initially had three women contributors, Ann, Erin, and Val.  It was started as a project of the local Democratic party and was conceived as a way to provide information and discuss issues.  The three women and I posted information about party activities and talking points on political matters.  We signed our names after the posts we wrote and even included phone numbers so readers could contribute information and provide perspectives.  That did not last long, however.

We received contentious and sometimes malicious telephone calls, but the women received more menacing ones than I did.   One day when Val's 8-year-old son answered the phone, he became the object of an abusive and threatening verbal assault.  It was serious enough that Val and her husband reported it to  the police. Val decided not to participate as a contributor anymore if it put her family in jeopardy.  We monitored comments on the blog and did not allow abusive ones to be printed.

Another blog also posted a running commentary on our blog.  It was run by two professors from the political science department at Northern State.  Eventually, we decided not to post the women's names, but to post everything under my name to deflect the comments away from the women and the party. The comments on that opposing blog were seldom about issues.  Rather, it engaged in juvenile taunts and insults, and the women decided that blogging had become so demented that it had no social value.   They decided to disassociate themselves from it.  In fact, they decided that all political activity had become petty and characterized by aggressive malevolence, and it was not worth the effort put into it.  Consequently, the Northern Valley Beacon has evolved away from its original purpose.

Their experience is apparently shared by other women bloggers.  Over the years as many blogs I read have been shut down, I have expressed regrets over their absence and received explanations  that the belligerent climate on the internet dissuades the authors from trying to engage in reasoned, temperate discussion.  Women bloggers are confronted with misogyny in responses to their posts.  As with my former blogging partners, women bloggers find that the internet is the vector that brings misogyny into their lives, and eliminating blogging from their lives is like removing a malignant tumor, as one person explained it to me.

One blog based in South Dakota is ending this month,  It was a food blog, but contained accounts of daily life that provided some insights into how the author coped.  The experience of closing down the blog is like having a neighbor move away.  Life made the blog a very low priority.

Over the years, I have noted the passing of other blogs by women from the state.  Sometimes I disagreed with their observations, but they provided points of view and social contexts that made the world more understandable. 

The women bloggers I know have stepped away from blogging as a measure needed to protect and maintain their families.  That says much about the actual human condition in America.  

Tuesday, March 1, 2022

WTF do you think you're doing, Putie?

Ukraine citizens defending their homes.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union and Putin came into power, only a few observers noted that he was leading Russia back into the old Soviet Union way of life.  He managed to push aside hopes for a near-democratic rule and revived old animosities among his European neighbors.  

Russia is not now a communist nation.  It is not under the control of a Marxist-based apparat in the Kremlin.  It is under the control of a regime backed by oligarchs who are ruthless capitalists allied with the Kremlin.  

When Putin launched his war against Ukraine, he demonstrated something to the world.  Karl Marx delineated problems that oppress human society.  The problem with Marx was not what he saw as evil, but the ideas he had for solving humanity's ills.  What  Putin has shown us is that Russia did not need communism to make it an "evil empire," as Ronald Reagan called it.  It is the desire for power within the Russian leadership that makes the nation a menace to democracies. Power lust is what drives that leadership, whether is communistic or capitalist.  To them, democracy is what needs to be suppressed.   The obsession with communism among Americans is a distraction from facing the real problems that beset us.

Western democracies have expressed outrage at Putin's war against Ukraine, but he has admirers and supporters in the U.S.  Donald Trump has  praised him as a "genius" and "very savvy".  Trump has worshippers who take what he says as a papal decree.  The GOP, except for Mitt Romney,  has been silent about Trump's devotion to Putin.  When one GOP candidate for office was asked about the admiration and support for Putin in America, his reply was that he had no interest in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, my 9-year-old grandson came home from school Friday and asked if we were headed for World War III.  Despite our assurances that he was safe here in the middle of a nation that was not involved in Putin's invasion, he said he was scared.  Putin would be glad to hear that.  He would regard it as a success of his bullying.  Trump admires Putin because Putin is a dictator and an asshole, the two characteristics so revered by Trump.  What we are scared of most is that our nation could elect the Putin admirer president again and Putin could invade America in spirit, if not body.

Putin's invasion is not going that well.   It met with such resistance that Putin has threatened to bring out nuclear weapons by putting his nuclear forces on high alert. We just don't want to explain to a nine-year-old--or anybody else--that he has good reason to be a bit scared.  Fiona Hill, the former member of the National Security Council who testified at  Trump's first impeachment, is the author of a biography of Putin.  She says that Putin has threatened nuclear action in the past in his effort to restore  a Russian empire and told Trump as much, but Trump didn't understand the message.

There is much chatter among analysts on television that Putin seems to be losing it mentally.  No one is pointing out that he, a former KGB officer, has consistently pushed his country back into that old Soviet mindset.  The relevant question is if the Russian people, who once over threw that mindset, want it back.  News of Russian protesters against the invasion of Ukraine indicates that many do not.  News reports say that more than 4,000 Russians have been detained for protesting.  If Russia is jailing opponents to the war on Ukraine, is there any restraint that could reign Putin in?

Former Governor of New Jersey and ally of Trump, Chris Christie, says Putin has two options: he can call off his invasion of Ukraine or he can go forward with an occupation of the country.  Any occupation, according to world diplomats who know Ukraine, would be under constant attack from within supported by other nations who will funnel money and weapons to those forces who oppose Putin.

In that regard, the experts indicate that my grandson has a legitimate fear.  Putin could well ignite World War III.  

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States