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

Monday, January 30, 2023

A Not-Wanted Poster of Malicious Liars

After a man, David DePape, attacked Paul Pelosi, husband of U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, in his home with a hammer last fall, a number of prominent people made false claims in trying to cast doubt about the incident.  Some claimed it was staged. Others claimed it involved a homosexual relationship.

DePape in a call to a television station admitted that he attacked Pelosi.  And, there are videos of DePape.  A surveillance video shows him breaking into the house. A police body camera video shows the attack itself when DePape fractured Pelosi's skull with a hammer.

That crime inspired those prominent people to create some malicious defamations about Pelosi in an attempt to falsely portray what happened.  When Alex Jones was hauled into court for contending that the Sandy Hook massacre was a staged fake, the judge ordered him to pay $4.1 million in compensatory damages and $45.2 million in punitive damages.  And Jones credibility was devastated.  Jones has declared bankruptcy.

It would benefit the country if Paul  Pelosi would sue those who made false claims about the attack on him.  Some hold political office, and their malicious dishonesty disqualifies them from holding office and they can be removed and prevented from holding office in the future.  Others are television anchors and commentators, and they should be forced to present what they regard as evidence or face the consequences.  They are in professions which do not tolerate perfidious conduct.  If our country is to re-establish any standards that transcend malice in the conduct of public business, these people must be removed from their positions of influence.  

The Seattle Times has compiled and published a list of those who have been caught in the lies and hav been exposed.  It follows:

Saturday, January 28, 2023

The medium that could and should change policing.

Three American events have been captured on video that show police at work and have been circulated throughout the nation and the world.  They are:

March 3, 1991:  Rodney King was stopped and beaten by police in Los Angeles,  Ca.   George Holliday, a plumber who lived near the site of the beating, recorded it on a video camera.

May 25, 2020:  George Floyd was arrested in a car outside of a store in Minneapolis on suspicion of passing counterfeit money.  A policeman held him down with a knee on his neck. Seventeen-year-old Darnella Fazier recorded Floyd's death by asphyxiation on her cell phone.

January 7, 2023:  Tyre Nichols was apprehended in a traffic stop in Memphis, Tn, and was severely beaten by several policemen, dying three days later from his wounds.  The videos from car and body cameras were made public January 27.

The King and Floyd videos were circulated as evidence of white officers killing black men.  The Guardian points out, "Nichols is at least the 80th person killed by police in the US so far this year."  His death is particularly troubling because it was at the hands of five black officers, who have been charged with murder.

Criminologists who have analyzed the Nichols video are puzzled by the viciousness, the relentlessness, and the intensity of the attack.  They commented that it appears motivated far beyond any law enforcement purpose, and it raises questions about motivation and police culture that any reform of police departments must answer.

People who think that the police killings of unarmed black men are wrong are pushing for legislation for police reform as a matter of civil rights, along with some intelligent gun control measures.  People have a right to life--a right not to be killed.  The U.S. has a deplorable record in that regard.

Some people think the killings are a patriotic act.  They think it is unAmerican to kneel in protest or demonstrate that lives matter.

The question is if America can embrace decency as a principle again.   Or is it competing with the Nazis to excel in lethal degradation?  Will the videos be regarded as objects of shame and atrocity, or will they comprise an entertaining night at the movies?



Friday, January 27, 2023

Today is Holocaust Remembrance Day


                    It can happen to us.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

America, home of the grave--for victims of mass shootings

The Washington Post tallies the number of mass shootings during the first 23 days of the year,

If you read the international press or communicate with people from other countries, you know that America is no longer reputed as the citadel of freedom and democracy, the home of innovation and enterprise, or protector of character and individualism.  It is the begetter of mass shootings.  And its people are regarded as something beyond a little stupid and degenerate for putting up with them. 

As we begin the fourth week of 2023, we've racked up 39 reported mass shootings with at least 69 deaths resulting so far.  Happy new year, shooting fans!

When it comes what national devices are the most famous for evil and cruel and efficient ways to kill people, America's gun violence ranks right up there with Hitler's gas ovens.  Mass shootings are something for which America is truly exceptional.

The analysts who study mass shootings, point out that the obvious common factor is the overabundance of and easy access to guns.  Another factor is the copy cat aspect.  As more and more mass shootings take place, more people are inspired to do them.  And some join the competition to have their names marked in history.  Once they have killed and wounded enough people to get noticed, most of the shooters then turn the guns on themselves to boost the number of casualties in the carnage.  They've achieved everything important to them in life.

Experts also note that mental health is a major factor, and they look for evidence that the shooter was bullied or mistreated at some point in their life. The motive of malice and how it takes possession of the shooters combines with easy access to guns to create a pandemic that not only kills and maims people, but leaves communities in a state of wreckage that cannot be repaired.  Mass shootings are the result of nation which does not live up to its pretenses of liberty, equality, and justice.  There is a lot of hatred operating in the nation and the verbal incitements can be seen at work in our state and national legislatures, as when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, D.-Ga.,advocates the execution of Democrats.  When members of law-making bodies agitate for violence, we should not be surprised when it happens.

While we are confronted with news  of malevolence and the resulting mass slaughter daily, the governor and some legislators, as well as officials in some other states, are working on bills that require our schools to teach how wonderful America is.  Kids are told what a great nation we are between the drills that teach them to take cover when the shooters come.  Those officials seem to think that making hypocrisy official is what makes America great.  

What greatness America can claim came when it confronted evil and corrected it.   It came when we fought a war over a Constitution that declared that an Afro-American was only three-fifths of a person and put in place the Thirteenth Amendment that freed the slaves and acknowledged their full personhood.  Then it realized that women were denied a voice in the republic and gave them the right to vote with the Nineteenth Amendment.  But many states had laws that still denied the rights to women of color and to Native Americans.  The Civil Rights Act of 1964 addressed those issues.

The governor and other members of the South Dakota imbecile caucus are in a tizzy about the Critical Race Theory.  It posits that "racism is inherent in the law and legal institutions of the United States insofar as they function to create and maintain social, economic, and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites"  The governor has issued an order prohibiting its teaching.  But the history of racism, sexism, and other oppressions in America are irrefutable facts written into its constitution and laws.   The theoretical question is not whether that such insidious discriminations have been part of our system of government, but the degree to which they are still operative without correction.  To prohibit the teaching of America's oppressive past is to deny the actual improvements our democracy has made since its founding.  And it is to teach students a lie which the factual record refutes.

And the record of America's struggle for equality, freedom, and justice is written in the earth itself in graves of people killed in mass shootings.

 Guns and lies being taught to deny our past are lethal to our democracy.  As long as we have people protecting and promoting malice and the freedom to have the means of mass extermination, the great American experiment in democracy has to be declared a failure.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

What happens after the lights go out on a college campus?

The closing of Presentation College is a stunning development for higher education in the Aberdeen area.  Although its primary reason for being established was to train medical workers, it expanded its curriculum to give students a grounding in the arts and sciences.    During my time as a professor at Northern State, I had many interactions with staff at Presentation, who attended some of the same professional activities I did.  My ex-spouse taught a math class there.  From that experience, I recall that the college hired a dean who created dreadful turmoil among the staff.  He didn't last long, but his time on campus raised questions about what characteristics the college projected about itself.

At the time, I was an officer in the state universities' faculty union, and was asked to consult along with some other colleagues about personnel issues at Presentation.  When disagreements came up, there was no due process, and people would just get booted out the door.  There really was not enough faculty there to consider organizing, and most of the teaching seemed to be done by adjuncts.  Most of the faculty I knew were Catholic nuns.  Some former instructors had a bitter attitude toward Presentation, and one could hear a disparaging undercurrent circulating in the community.   Still, the college had some hard-working and effective staff members, too, who provided good educational experiences for students and bolstered the reputation of the institution.  It seemed to be holding its own.

However, we live in uncertain times for many institutions.  The Covid pandemic has jeopardized many institutions and left failures in its wake.  And the college-age population has diminished.  College officials are noting declining enrollments, rising expenses, and effects of the pandemic among the problems confronting them.   But other factors are at work, too:

Numerous factors challenging small private colleges existed before the pandemic. Pressures stemming from college costs, student price sensitivity and economies of scale in operations predate the crisis. So do declines in birth rates around the Great Recession that have long been predicted to drive down the overall number of high school graduates available to enroll in college in many parts of the country. 

The closing of a reputable college is tragedy.  It diminishes the community it served.  Colleges serve aspirations.  They are a means of realizing hopes.  They provide a means to leave a community, but they also provide the substance for building a community.   

A problem not addressed in the closing announcement of Presentation is what happens to the campus and its buildings after the college is shut down.   The college has some fairly new suite-style dormitories, which could be converted to apartments, but it also has an athletic dome and, of course, classrooms and laboratories.  What will happen to these facilities?

The press coverage of the circumstances of the closing is sparse.  It did point out that the college experienced enrollment growth to 625 students in 2020, but a decline when the pandemic stuck.  Last fall's enrollment was down to 517.   The news release from the college stated, “Its rural location, difficult for many out-of-state students to access, was already a known factor, along with a significant dependency on tuition revenue and gifts. The impact of COVID exacerbated the college’s challenges.”    The Best Colleges analysis points out that colleges show  "the telltale signs of stress [which] include lacking a national reputation, relying heavily on tuition income to fuel the school budget, discounting tuition above 40% to attract students, having a small endowment and significant debt, and lacking online programs to produce revenue."   This fits Presentation, except it does have online revenue from its single productive program.

Aberdeen seems not to be a good setting for a college.  Whereas Northern State in the past seemed to be a solid performer in attracting students, its attendance ranking among sister institutions is now lagging.  It has the least amount of full-time equivalent students of the state public colleges.

However, it does provide a perspective on Presentation's situation.  Tuition and fees at Northern is advertised at $8,845.  Presentation is cited at $22,006.

Money is clearly the problem behind Presentation's demise.  The remaining question is, what happens to a ghost campus?

An increasingly familiar sight across America are the abandoned shopping malls.  No one seems to know what can be done with them, except eventually demolish them.  What can you do with an abandoned college campus?

Friday, January 13, 2023

Did you have yourself a malicious little Christmas?

 While we were in the season for celebrating peace on earth and good will to all people, some of our political leaders demonstrated what grotesque, malevolent assholes humankind can be.  Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) led the exercise in Christmas spirit when he put about 130 migrants who crossed the border from Mexico on a bus with instructions to dump them off at Vice President Kamala Harris' house in Washington, D.C., in 18-degree (F.) weather.   Fortunately, some groups who had learned of the matter met them and provided food and shelter and assistance in resolving their plight. Groups that believe in the humane, respectful treatment of fellow humans are being put to the test on many fronts in this age of Trump.  A current White House spokesman called the incident  “a cruel, dangerous, and shameful stunt.”  It marks the basis on which America has become divided.  On one hand,  there are people who maintain some moral rectitude in their relationship with others; on the other, there are those who measure their sense of a successful life in terms of how  many people they disdain and humiliate.

 Our politics is no longer defined by love of country, but by who we hate.  Our country's leadership changed two years ago, but the antics of Donald Trump still dominate the news.   His recent events of note included having dinner with a notorious anti-semite and calling a New York Magazine reporter  “a shaky and unattractive wack job”. He casts a dark shadow of malicious dementia over a country struggling to find its moral and intellectual bearings.  Trump is the voice of intellectual and moral ignorance which is the state in which a significant portion of the American population lives.  Although he left office, the press tracks his words and actions.  He gives voice to the anti-democratic citizens who prefer an autocracy to government that operates with the permission and direction of the citizens.  In the latest Republican fiasco of trying to find Congressional leadership, the GOP extended its routine of bumbling and denigrating large segments of the human population.  The GOP has abandoned any pretense of advocating for good will and peace for all humankind.  It has devolved into an incredibly unintelligent quest for power and status.  Its actions resemble those of grade school bullies fighting over who will be the meanest presence on the playground.

The MAGA age is devoted to the cultivation of pettiness and meanness as the preferred human behavior.   MAGAs think they comprise an elite.  However, the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg, was sent to prison for five months for tax fraud.   Trump was caught mishandling classified documents, and now questions have been raised about some classified materials uncovered in offices once used by Joe Biden.  People will use these incidents as the basis for the perpetual piddling duels that make up much of American political discourse.  During the holiday season, it was difficult to avoid the petty meanness that so many Americans have adopted as their standard demeanor.  After four years of Trump, they seem to assume that they have been given permission to be the assholes they really want to be.

And so, we are at the beginning of a new year which already promises to be one of resentment and recrimination.  It has shown the absence of good will and the presence of malignity.  In America people have the freedom to express stupidity and malice, and some are exercising that freedom to its fullest extent.  

Happy New Year.

Blog Archive

About Me

My photo
Aberdeen, South Dakota, United States