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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

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

The American lesion

  Prominent political observers have noted that the political divide in America could evolve into a civil war.  Anti-Trump Republicans, such as members of the Lincoln Project, have commented on the possibility in recent weeks.  The news media tends to treat the opposition to Donald Trump and his supporters as a matter of partisan politics, Democrats versus Republicans, liberals versus conservatives.  That is a grave mistake.

The contempt for Trump and his kind is far deeper and more fundamental than the political preferences that exist within a democracy.  America was founded on principles of equality, liberty, and justice.  Its history is one of a struggle to instill those qualities into the life of all its citizens.  There have been failures, but it has progressed through a civil war, world wars, and a civil rights movement to move the country toward those ideals.  The presidency of Donald Trump brought that movement to a halt and reversed the trend.  Trump represents the odious aspects of mind and character that America was designed not to be.   

Trump is a despicable person.  He is a prodigious liar.  He is petty and mean-minded.   He is vengeful. His history of bankruptcies and business failures show him to be incompetent.    We ask what there is about him that his supporters like, but it is more to the point to ask what kind of people admire  him.  The answer provides the reason some observers see the potential for a civil war.  And the answer identifies the lesion that festers and mars the American political  body.

Business executives do not make good public officials in a democracy.  A few try  to practice the concepts of a democracy in their business practices, but business corporations and democracies have opposing purposes.  Businesses are organized on hierarchical lines with ascending ranks of authority.  Executives measure their success according to how many people work under them, not how many people they serve.  Corporations are feudal in nature, and America's founders were committed to overturn feudalism on America's land.  Slave-holding plantations were an extension of the feudal system, and the Civil War was a battle between democracy and feudalism.  Walt Whitman stated the American agenda:

The United States are destined either to surmount the gorgeous history of feudalism, or else prove the most tremendous failure of time.

The election of Donald Trump to the presidency signaled a failure of democracy among the American people, a return to feudalism.  While commentators keep stating that he has put democracy itself in danger, the public seems to regard those warnings as the usual partisan rhetoric.  They fail to recognize that there is a significant segment of fellow citizens who define liberty as a right to discriminate against other people.  The Trump mentality from which these people draw their inspiration is not one embraces human rights and equality.  It stands in direct opposition to government for, by, and of the people. As noted in a recent Washington Post story, America is in a state of decline and the rest of the world has noticed.

And Trump and his followers are leading the way.  They are a lesion on democracy.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

When kids go to school and no teacher is there

The shortage of teachers has causes that are deeply engrained in our culture.   A Washington Post article outlines the many causes:

...pandemic-induced teacher exhaustion, low pay and some educators’ sense that politicians and parents — and sometimes their own school board members — have little respect for their profession amid an escalating educational culture war that has seen many districts and states pass policies and laws restricting what teachers can say about U.S. history, race, racism, gender and sexual orientation, as well as LGBTQ issues.

As we near the beginning of a new school year, there are news stories of districts scrambling to fill teaching vacancies.  At the beginning of the month, South Dakota still had 300 positions to fill.  A number of internet sources that track teacher staffing are reporting shortages with no prospect in sight for relieving them.  Schools of education are not producing enough graduates to fill the vacancies, so panicky measures with no regard for training and qualifications are being taken to get someone in the classrooms when the students arrive.  The Florida governor is trying to supplant the teachers with military veterans who have no training in education, in some cases very little education.  That act is evidence of how education is a negligible priority in the exercise of political power. 

South Dakota's shortage of teachers has gotten the attention of national media

South Dakota has long faced a teacher shortage due in part to low salaries and large class sizes, but a new factor seems to be worsening the problem: politicization of education, South Dakota News Watch reports.

The politicization of education actually has been taking place for a long time.  We are feeling the effects of it now.  Some years ago experienced teachers who were friends of mine were advising their children not to go into education for the reasons listed in the sentence above.  The Governor, whose college degree is questionable, has commissioned Hillsdale College, a bastion of conservative anti-intellectualism, to write a set of standards for teaching social studies, as if social studies teachers or the colleges from which they obtained their degrees or the schools they work in have never considered how effective teaching is done or been exposed to what the subject matter entails.   The Daily Beast details the political intrusions into education in South Dakota:

State officials are taking a more hands-on approach to education—recently, lawmakers have tried to regulate the treatment of transgender students, the state DOE removed references to Native American culture in social studies guidelines, and the governor banned critical race theory, even though it is not taught in public schools. Parental presence is also increasing, and some educators have faced criticism about their classroom decorations. The state’s secretary of education said there are programs to help recruit and retain teachers, but some education experts fear that the K-12 system may begin to unravel due to the heightened micromanagement of teachers

The news makes clear that the political interference is eliminating education and replacing it with indoctrination in our schools.   There is a national shortage of teachers, as people who would become teachers realize that they will not be allowed to educate in many schools.  Politicization is displacing education as the dominant principle in the management of our schools.  People who value true education cannot and will not teach under political dictatorships.  That unraveling of the education system that is so feared is well on its way.  Competent teachers will go to where they can teach, and that is not the South Dakota of Kristi Noem.

Saturday, August 6, 2022

It's the politics, stupid.

American democracy is being dismantled.  The fundamental and essential act for a democracy, the vote, is being subverted. People who want to abolish basic American rights, for various reasons, are putting elections under siege by making false claims that they are fraudulent.  Donald Trump and his loony goons have adopted the mantra that the election in which he was defeated was stolen.  There is no evidence of serious voter fraud, but a unanimous documentation that it was conducted with efficient integrity.  However, true to the Trump tradition of lying dishonesty, he and his cronies hew to the Hitlerian principle that if you persistently repeat a lie, people will come to believe it.  Trump is on record for telling 30,573 lies during his presidency.  He is persistent, if not good, at lying.

The Trumpists scheme that their way to  power is to undermine elections.  To do so, election officials try to overturn elections won by Trump opponents by attacking the certifications.  Officials at various levels of governed sign certifications that votes have been properly cast and counted.  The insurrection of Jan. 6, 2021, was an attempt to interfere with the 2020 presidential election.  While there may be much talk about election fraud, the body of laws and rules governing the vote makes cheating very difficult to get away with.  The process of checks and balances is in place from when individuals cast their votes through the counting and announcement of the tally.  Incidents of incomplete or miscounting are rare.  After the 2020 election, more than 70 suits were entered into the courts charging election fraud.  All were dismissed because there was no evidence to support charges of fraud.

Honest elections are simple to determine.  You count the votes, and who gets the most wins the election.  But when you get a group of people who think democracy is just a contest to see who wins the power, you get false and absurd claims about fraud and sinister conspiracies and a government that doesn't function.  And you get demands for recounts of the vote and constant bickering over how to count. Politics has become just a form of incoherence.

When incoherence rules, democracy doesn't.  Then, chaos rules.  A good portion of the country is wallowing in chaos.  Our politics have devolved into such a demented state that they no longer sustain democracy.  They are the enemy of democracy.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Speaking of pissing in the punch bowl...

Joe Biden stutters.   During his election campaign and his election to president, there has been much media coverage on this fact.  (Put joe biden on stuttering  in your search engine to see all the references.)  He did a television special on how he overcame the problem.  He said, stuttering doesn't define you.  The BBC pointed out that he is the first person with a stammer to be elected to the American presidency.   King George VI had this speech impediment and in 2010 a movie, The King's Speech, was made about it.

That information somehow evaded the writer of a letter-to-the-editor in the Aberdeen American News.

  Joe Biden recently put his cards on the table. More precisely, he turned his instruction card around for everyone to witness his feeble-mindedness. The leader of the free world needs a cheat sheet to undertake basic tasks like entering a room, sitting down and departing.  After all, that's a lot juxtaposed together, and Joe

wouldn't want to get them out of order.   

   The most interesting directive from Joe's handlers was, "You take your seat." Apparently "be seated" or "sit down" weren't specific enough and confused Joe. Clarity on who's sitting and standing is vital as Joe once encouraged a wheelchair-bound paraplegic to stand and take a bow.

   I'm sure it's amusing to the millions of legitimate voters, who'd have gladly voted for a reeking sock puppet over Donald Trump, that Trump lost to someone so cognitively diminished. As you laugh about that, think back a year ago when Joe Biden met with Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Switzerland. How many note cards do you think Joe needed? Do you think Putin noticed Joe shuffling through his cards? Did somebody slip in a "Go ahead, invade Ukraine" card or did Putin just assume that?

   Out of respect for Joe's mental decline, everyone who cast a vote for Joe should seek to emulate him. Take a 3-by-5 card and write "you wasted your vote" on it. Take it along to the grocery store, gas station, airport and everywhere else as a reminder that you got what you voted for. You took Dr. Jill's advice, held your nose and voted for Joe, the sock puppet. 

   Dan Oliver, Aberdeen

The newspapers I've worked for would never have allowed that letter to be printed.  It is premised on no factual basis and is totally devoted to committing a libel. The writer seems to think puerile taunts are witty, but the incoherent references make one wonder why the newspaper did not return it for some intelligible revisions before being published.  Such writers will howl with wounded claims of censorship if their letters are rejected, but reputable newspapers will insist on some standards of probity to justify what they choose to publish.

The letter is of the same level of communication as taunting cripples.  It only contributes to the evidence of how degenerate humans can be.  And it contributes no perspective on a political circumstance, but only offers an example of the befuddled state in which some people live their lives.  And the writing provides disheartening evidence of the failures of our education system.

We would never take a swallow of punch into which some demented soul has pissed, but we live in a democracy that is shaped by votes of people whose political choice is malicious libel.  The person who wrote that letter was allowed to exercise his freedom of speech, so we'll exercise ours by pointing out that feebleminded shouts of malice contribute nothing to the political dialogue.  The letter is just another dribble of piss in the punch bowl.

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Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States