Northern Valley Beacon

Information, observations, and analysis from the James River valley on the Northern Plains----- E-Mail: Enter 'Beacon' in subject box. Send to:

Thursday, June 23, 2005


New positions are advertised for South Dakota Democratic Party

The South Dakota Democratic Party is advertising for three positions to greatly enhance the organization and outreach of the Party this year. The positions are Field Director, Communications Director, and Legislative Campaign Director. The money for these positions is coming from the Democratic National Committee and reflects the grassroots interests of its chairman, Howard Dean. The announcement for the positions is reproduced below.

The SDDP has the following positions open for hire:
(Application closing date is July 11, interviews to take place shortly after).


Responsibilities Include: Grassroots organizing for entire state, working with local parties and political leaders, organizing meetings and events, and ground level communications. Working with SDDP staff to implement training, outreach and recruitment programs and serve as a “ground link” to local parties and candidates. Developing voter registration, education, identification and GOTV programs. Other duties as assigned. Applicants should have strong organizational and communication skills and be willing to work non-traditional hours.

Qualifications: A commitment to the goals and ideals of the Democratic Party is a prerequisite. Experience in political organizing, including local party building, district, county and precinct organizing, event planning, and voter contact programs. Must be organized, responsible and able to work under pressure in a challenging political environment. Must be willing and able to travel extensively throughout South Dakota. Computer literacy required. Bachelor’s Degree preferred.

Salary is commensurate with experience. An excellent benefit package will be included. To apply please submit cover letter, resume, salary requirements, and at least three references to Jason Schulte, Executive Director, 207 East Capitol Avenue, Suite 209, Pierre, SD 57501.

Responsibilities Include: Serving as the contact person at the Party for media organizations, working with the Executive Director to develop message, developing media plan, writing press releases, managing production of newsletter, coordinating press conferences, scheduling officials for PR opportunities, working with other Democratic communications staff, managing web communications, working with legislative leadership to take advantage of press opportunities, monitoring local and national press for relevant stories and developments, working with staff to develop rapid response methods. Other duties as assigned and may include preparing brochures, publications, research documents and training materials, compiling issues information and writing briefings for party leaders and donors, preparing talking points.

Qualifications: A commitment to the goals and ideals of the Democratic Party is a prerequisite. Experience with and knowledge of the media, experience with a campaign and/or other political organization, strong writing and research skills, ability to serve as spokesperson, ability to use modern communications technologies. Must be organized, responsible and able to work under pressure in a challenging political environment. Must be willing and able to travel when needed throughout South Dakota. Bachelor’s Degree preferred.

Salary is commensurate with experience. An excellent benefit package will be included. To apply please submit cover letter, resume, salary requirements, and at least three references to Jason Schulte, Executive Director, 207 East Capitol, Avenue Suite 209, Pierre, SD 57501.


Responsibilities Include: Organizing state legislative campaign activity on behalf of the Party, including but not limited to candidate recruitment, planning and executing organizing efforts and campaign planning for candidates; training of candidates, campaign staff, volunteers, and activists; building and maintaining relationships with elected Democratic officials, local Party organizations, community organizations, constituency groups and allied organizations. During legislative session working with Executive Director and Communications Director tracking, researching and promoting Democratic legislation and issues. Other duties as assigned.
Qualifications: A commitment to the goals and ideals of the Democratic Party is a prerequisite. Experience in political organizing, knowledge of campaign planning, including organization, budgeting, fundraising, message development and voter contact programs, issue research and tracking. Must be organized, responsible and able to work under pressure in a challenging political environment. Must be willing and able to travel extensively throughout South Dakota. Computer literacy required. Bachelor’s Degree preferred.

Salary is commensurate with experience. An excellent benefit package will be included. To apply please submit cover letter, resume, salary requirements, and at least three references to Jason Schulte, Executive Director, 207 East Capitol Avenue, Suite 209, Pierre, SD 57501.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


Dark Days at Northern State University

Some months ago Governor Mike Rounds stopped by Aberdeen during a flying tour of the state and commented that Northern State University needed to find a niche in higher education. It seems to have found one as a partisan university tied to the Republican Party. At least that is the perception of some people who do not include themselves in the conservative camp--and they include not just general citizens, but professors and students at NSU.

Political discussion is an important part of a university. That has been true at Northern. In the past third of a century, faculty from Northern have engaged in politics and joined the Congressional staffs of members from both parties. Professors have chaired local political parties and have taken leaves of absence to serve on campaigns. In pursuing their partisan interests, they have been meticulous about insuring that their political work was kept widely separate from their responsibilities as professors. They operated under the rule that a college or university must encourage responsible discussion and the free and open exchange of viewpoints, but it must never become the tool of any one political agenda or be seen as controlled by any party organization. There is a difference between the faculty at a university participating in politics by expressing their ideas and viewpoints and using the university to push their political agenda. Northern State University seems to have crossed over the line into a partisan alliance.

The statement on academic freedom that defines the line between responsible exercise of free speech and the involvement in political activities that compromise the integrity of the institution sets precise standards:
"When [faculty members] speak or write as citizens, they must be free from instituti0nal censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations...they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence, they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should indicate that they are speaking only for themselves." [S.D. Regents Policy Manual]

To many, NSU seems to have crossed the line into enlisting the university into a partisan cause. University resources appear to be used to support Republican politics. People are noting the partisan appearance of NSU with great caution, as most people see the University as a major asset to the region and hope fervently it has not become what one professor called a "patronage organization for the Republican Party." Still, the reports of incidents which have caused some people to feel insulted and offended mount up. Individually, the incidents do not amount to much. But taken together, they form the appearance of a university that is projecting strong partisan support and bias without much regard for its role as a medium and mediator for genuine debate.

The first incidents occured when canvassers for the Democratic Party approached professor of trumpet Grant Manhart. His anti-Tom Daschle comments to the canvassers, who were students, were more hostile than a mere expression of opinion, according to the students. They had the effect of drawing a political line. When a musical group lead by Manhart began to play dance music for one of the major charity balls held locally, a number of attendees left. One woman said, "I wish I could enjoy the music, but the political rancor keeps intruding." Later, the group played for the Lincoln Day dinner, causing many comments about whether this was in fact a Northern or a Republican musical organization. The hostility of the campaign lingered on. We do not know any specifics of exchanges between Prof. Manhart and students, but we do know that some perceive hostility.

Head basketball coach Don Meyer is also prominent in Republican affairs. He was master of ceremonies at the Republican Lincoln Day dinner. While we are told that he makes his Republican preferences known quite openly, we have not heard any complaints about Republican attitudes affecting his coaching and teaching. His prominence in the community does contribute to the perception of partisanship of the Northern Campus. Taken with other instances of the university supporting Republican activities, his participation seems to carry more to them than the participation of an individual.

The major factor in the perception of an agenda was when two political science professors joined the blog South Dakota Politics. This blog was begun by two men who were eventually put on the payroll of the John Thune campaign for their efforts. One of the bloggers, Jon Lauck, was a professor of history at SDSU. The other, Jason Van Beek, was a lawyer who, after the election, served on the staff of the state attorney general. Both men are now serving on Thune's senate staff. The blog the men started was devoted to generating ad hominem attacks against Tom Daschle. While the blog itself did not seem to have the readership to influence the election, the anti-Daschle messages it posted became the gospel for the Thune campaign. Professors Ken Blanchard and Jon Schaff joined the blog and quickly demonstrated that personal attack , insult, and abuse would take precedence over any analysis and discussion of issues.

Blanchard and Schaff discovered the Brown County Democrats' web log, the Northern Valley Beacon, and took it upon themselves to systematically misrepresent and falsify the posts. For a period of time, they did this to almost every post. They used partial quotations for which they supplied false contexts, habitually impugned the mental health and competence of the Beacon authors, and degenerated poltical discussion to a level of scurrility and petty malevolence that was offensive to Democrats and most people who became witness to it. The Northern Valley Beacon was ended to stop the degradation of politics by the bloggers, even though it was a passive target and had no intention of engaging South Dakota Politics or having anything to do with it.

Blanchard and Schaff did not make any attempt to keep their blogging posts on a professional level. They often alluded to the fact that they were Northern professors, which suggested that their efforts had the sanction of the University. Students of theirs who had occasion to visit their offices reported that they seemed to be doing their posting from their University offices at times. When Blanchard used a newspaper column to attack the Northern Valley Beacon and falsified quotations by changing words and putting partial quotations into false contexts, many Democrats complained. A letter pointing out the falsifications was submitted to the newspaper, but the editors declined to offer corrections other than for one of the minor fabrications by Blanchard.

The efforts by the two bloggers carried over into what may well be legitimate and proper political activity by others on the campus. Their failures to observe the standards of discourse required by policy and the general rules of valid debate tainted all political activity on the campus, particularly that in behalf of the Republican Party.

Then the Northern Foundation hired a former student who became a Congressional staff member for Bill Janklow and then a director of the South Dakota Right To Life organzation, Rachel Hansen. Previous to her working for the Foundation, a former member of John Thune's staff worked for it. It was this circumstance that caused a faculty member to ask if the University operated as a "patronage organization" that gives jobs to former Republican staff members.

Northern State University has an image problem among Democrats. It appears to be offering special services to the Republican Party and to be endorsing its agenda. We have received inquiries about supporting the University by sending students there and by contributing to the Foundation, and whether our tax dollars are being fairly and responsibly spent on what appears to be a partisan agenda.

Perhaps the University is unaware of how matters look from the Democratic perspective. If it all is a matter of appearances, we hope the University can take the proper measures to correct them. If the University is in fact endorsing a partisan agenda for a segment of its faculty, then the matter becomes one to take up with the legislature and the Regents. Northern State University has served its region for over a century. To some people, it appears that it is now serving a political cause. We hope they are wrong. A University is too valuable an asset to waste on partisan causes.

Monday, June 13, 2005


A primer on academic shysterism

This letter explains why we find that a column by Ken Blanchard violates professional journalistic and academic standards. The American News chose not to acknowledge his transgressions of fabrication. We disassociate ourselves from any organization that tolerates and endorses such practices.

May 2, 2005

Ms. Cindy Eikamp
Executive Editor and Vice President
Aberdeen American News
P. O. Box 4430
Aberdeen, SD 57402-4430

Dear Cindy:

I write to call your attention to falsifications of quotations from the Northern Valley Beacon web log made by Ken Blanchard in his April 12 column in the American News.

In response to questions and concerns about the column from Brown County Democrats, the Beacon published a print and e-mail edition that detailed Blanchard’s misquotations and fabrications. However, we recognize that this incident has journalistic and academic implications and, although it occurred in a political context, it is essentially a professional issue. As the column ran under the editorial auspices of the Aberdeen American News, we think it appropriate to allow the newspaper editors to examine the incident and deal with it to their satisfaction before we take further action.

The pertinent paragraph from the column is:

On a more local level there
Is the Northern Valley Beacon,
an Aberdeen-based blog. About
John Thune they write “His
ads show him to be a thing—
too debased to be called a
man.” As for Republicans in
general, they are an “oozing
malignancy,” a cancer that
must be cut out of the body
politic, by civil war if necess-
ary. “As long as one cell of
cancerous tissue remains
active, the body is
not healthy.” That is what is
known as hate speech.

This paragraph contains a number of instances of subreption, fabrication by splicing phrases from disparate sentences together, and supplying false subjects to sentence predications.

The sentence in Blanchard’s column reads: “About John Thune they write ‘His ads show him to be a thing too debased to be called a man.’ ”

Indeed, the post took John Thune to task for the ads that ran under his name as part of the divisiveness that has torn the country apart and cites the Republican dirty tricks tradition as the instigator of personal attack and malicious rhetoric as the campaign tactic Thune chose to employ. The full quotation from which the phrases were taken is:

The American News, like most newspapers in the Bush league, refuses to acknowledge that the nastiness is first perpetrated by the Republicans. Ever since Richard Nixon's dirty tricks squad was revealed, the Republicans have worshipped vicious defamation, blatant lies, and gross deception as the road to victory. The dirty tricks tradition is a part of those values the Republicans represent and practice.
Their opponents have to respond to the lies. Unfortunately, too many people are not literate enough to distinguish between the aggressive lies and defamation and the attempts to counter them. John Thune is a liar. His ads show him to be a
thing--he is too depraved to be called a man--possessed of the lowest, nastiest, and most malignant values. The ad his campaign mounted against the Daschle family is sufficient reason to disqualify John Thune from any claims to moral
competence, honesty, and decency.

While a writer may disagree with and protest our strong condemnation, fabrication of the passage divorced from its context and its subject is dishonesty. Blanchard also changed the original adjective “depraved” to read “debased” in his version.

Blanchard goes on to say, “As for Republicans in general, they are an ‘oozing malignancy,’ a cancer that must be cut out of the body politic by civil war if necessary.”

The falsifications in this sentence are numerous. The phrase “oozing malignancy” was not applied to Republicans nor does Blanchard quote it accurately. It was applied to the source of divisiveness in our politics. The sentence from which it was lifted states:

It would be a gross mistake to forgive and forget the malignancy oozing [emphasis added] away and not realize that every moment of its existence destroys what is American about America.

The metaphor of cutting a malignancy out of a healthy body also had the divisiveness of the campaign, not Republicans, as its subject. The role of a responsible press in eliminating the divisiveness was the point. The passage reads:

"When a person gets cancer, physicians do not talk of healing until the cancer is cut out of the body. As long as one cell of cancerous tissue remains active, the body is not healthy and will soon again be ravaged and destroyed by the malignancy.There can be no healing in America until we define and cut out the malignancy. It can be done by a responsible press doing its fact-checking, as many responsible news organizations and the Annenberg are doing. But it may boil down to a civil war of some nature. It would be a gross mistake to forgive and forget the malignancy oozing away and not realize that every moment of its existence destroys what is American about America.

"It is not time to heal. It is time to operate on the malignancy. It can be done through open, honest, robust intellectual dialogue through which the facts may be established. Or it may be done in the streets, as has happened before. The preferable way of approaching the moral bankruptcy is to let people of good will and good minds take over our political dialogue."

Our post was harshly critical of the American News and stated our objection to the malice and false accusations in the 2004 election campaign in strong terms. Our political opponents may have taken offense at our strong language and our pointing to the sources of the malice, but we did not make the statements as represented by Blanchard or engage in hate speech. I am enclosing a reprint of our post in the Northern Valley Beacon for your reference.

Brown County Democrats have responded with indignation and strong recommendations for action regarding Blanchard’s fabrications. I have requested that the American News editors be provided opportunity to fully examine the matter before it becomes a political issue.

As a long-time journalist and professor, I truly regret having to write a letter of this nature. I think the level of dishonesty exhibited in the Blanchard column requires it, however.

David L. Newquist

Sunday, June 12, 2005


Hatred and conservative politics as revealed through Bill Clinton

A group of political workers had been spreading out in South Dakota interviewing farmers and ranchers and people in agricultural-related businesses. They were working at the direction of their two Democratic U.S. Senators getting reactions to a proposed farm program that had White House interest directly from Bill Clinton. The idea was to give family farmers and smaller operators a strong voice in the marketplace that would eventually reduce federal subsidies and programs. The workers were gathered in an office in Aberdeen when the news of the Monica Lewinsky scandal hit.

The fact was that conservatives in South Dakota, as elsewhere, hated Bill Clinton with a blind passion. The hatred made it extremely difficult for field workers who were trying to explain the proposed program and assess its chances for acceptance and success. Time after time, the workers had to patiently let conservative farmers blow off their hostility and guide the discussion to the matter of policies and marketplace rules that would allow farmers to benefit and prosper from a fair market rather than federal subsidies. Sometimes the hostility never subsided, and they were ordered off the land, particularly in West River. Mostly, however, the idea of having a voice in the market that controlled their destiny appealed to farmers and ranchers and made it possible to talk about policy.

With these experiences directly from the land in South Dakota fresh in their minds, the workers met to draft a report of their assessments, and the Lewinsky affair hit the news. The workers, who had endured so much abuse and hostility, were dismayed and discouraged. It seemed to them that Bill Clinton had added to the hostility against him in such a way as to nullify the hard work the field workers had done in behalf of him and the Democratic Party. Instead of getting to work on the report of how they assessed chances for a new farm program, they worked on a memorandum asking Bill Clinton to resign the presidency.

Senators Daschle and Johnson shared their dismay. Bill Clinton seemed to undercut every positive thing he accomplished, and political workers were left to twist and turn in the winds of hostility he generated. But as the field workers toiled on the memo, the senior staff members from Sen. Daschle's offices, his Senatorial office and his Democratic leadership office, weighed in. They pointed out that much legislation that Democrats had worked on would simply get lost if Clinton were to resign. They made a strong case for not letting important political objectives get lost in the raging scandal over Bill Clinton's personal life. Consequently, the memo was put on hold and was never sent. The proposed farm program, however, got displaced by the impeachment agenda and never received serious consideration in Congress. The exercises in hatred of Bill Clinton siphoned away the energy needed to reform the agricultural marketplace in a way that gives producers a voice in how it operates.

This story is typical of the Clinton presidency. Alan Ehrenhalt explores the near-inexplicable hatred of Bill Clinton in his New York Times review of John F. Harris' book on the the Clinton presidency, "The Survivor."

He writes:

MILLIONS of Americans despise Bill Clinton. They have done so since he became a presence in national politics in the early 1990's, and they continue to do so today, more than four years after his retirement from public office.

The passion of the Clinton haters is a phenomenon without equal in recent American politics. It is not based on any specific policies that Clinton promoted or implemented during his years in office. It is almost entirely personal. In its persistence and intensity, it goes far beyond anything that comparable numbers of people have felt about Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan or either of the presidents Bush. It surpasses even the liberals' longstanding detestation of Richard Nixon. The only political obsession comparable to it in the past century is the hatred that a significant minority of Americans felt for Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Bill Clinton was a frustrating man to work for, even for those who never knew him personally. Like many people of genuine brilliance, he had personal traits that got in the way of his intelligence at times. Ehrenhalt notes, "Occasionally during the Clinton presidency, writers dredged up Scott Fitzgerald's definition of a first-rate intelligence: that of someone who could hold two opposed ideas in his head at the same time and still function. No one in the past century of American politics met that test better than Clinton." To know Bill Clinton, even as a field operatives remote from any personal contact with him, required the ability to carry opposing ideas about him in their heads.

John Harris' book does not shy away from Clinton's personal, often-devastating quirks of character, but it does manage to keep them from overshadowing the immense talents and intellect that made Bill Clinton the most effective politician of our time.

Neither Harris and Ehrenhalt come up with an explanation of the hatred that Bill Clinton inspired. That hatred carried over into the campaign of John Thune against Tom Daschle, and like Clinton, the Daschle-haters are getting more rabid in their invective. The haters won--narrowly, but they won. All one need do is look at the conservative blogs emanating from South Dakota to know that the major battle against mindless hatred lies before us. In the meantime, our task is not to let the hatred obscure what needs to be done to keep America as a place where good will and intelligence can prevail. And reading this book about Bill Clinton can define the task before us.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005


See posts regarding the northern plains at TPM Cafe

Here is a link to a blog we have joined.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005


The legacy of Deep Throat: A secret well kept

One of the most satisfying and exciting times in my life was when I was the coordinator of investigative reporting projects for a newspaper. I was used to dealing with sources who "leaked" information. After I began teaching full time in 1968, I maintained my relationship with the newspaper I worked for and with a press organization to which investigative reporters of the region belonged. During the time that the Watergate story was breaking, I was working with some colleagues on digging through records and interviewing people on some matters that led to the bankruptcy of a major international corporation that employed more than 10,000 people in the community. The identity of Deep Throat was the subject of much conversation and speculation for us at the time.

The newspapers I and my colleagues worked for had stringent rules about using information from anonymous sources. Any such information had to be verified by two other independent sources. Or an anonymous source who we knew to be reliable and credible could be used to verify information we obtained from other sources. That is how the Washington Post used information supplied by the now-revealed Deep Throat, Mark Felt.

In the aftermath of the Newsweek story about the Koran being flushed down a toilet, readers tend to think that journalistic practice is publishing a piece of information from one source. In the Newsweek incident, that was not the case. The magazine had multiple sources about disrespect displayed toward the Koran as a means of trying to disorient prisoners into revealing information. The problem at Newsweek was one of precision in stating the circumstances about the disrespect shown toward the Koran, not about the factual basis for the report. However, in reducing the story down so that a presumedly ignorant public could understand it and verifiedly ignorant bloggers could have a basis for attacking Newsweek, the press generally treated the issue as believing and publishing information from one source.

As Deep Throat, Mark Felt was largely consulted to check out the accuracy of information that reporters Woodward and Bernstein gathered from other sources. As the assistant director of the FBI, Mark Felt was a dream source for verfications. He knew everything taking place in the Watergate episode, but he did not simply tell the reporters what he knew. He guided them to sources of documented information that they could use in unraveling the Watergate story.

Over the years, the identity of Deep Throat was a recurring subject of conversation for old investigative reporters. Inevitably, a list of possible identities was compiled. Mark Felt was on the list, but among the people I worked with over the years, he was considered a possible source but not a likely one. The reason we did not think him likely was that he seemed too high up in the bureaucratic chain of command to be a leaker or anonymous source. However, the investigative journalists I worked with placed more importance on the fact that Woodward, Bernstein, and Ben Bradley used Deep Throat as part of the journalistic verification process and honored their commitment not to reveal his identity with unflinching commitment. We realized they had utilized a source according to the rules of integrity and that they had determined the credibility of the information he provided. Consequently, journalists were not restless to find out Deep Throat's identity. The information and the ability to trust it were the overriding concerns.

The significance of Deep Throat and the revelation that he is Mark Felt is in a journalistic enterprise that was done right. The best journalists make mistakes on occasion. The run-of-the-mill journalists, as in South Dakota, make them as a matter of course--but seldom go after the real stories that whiz by them day after day. Mark Felt's revelation as Deep Throat gives us a time to ponder what real journalism means to our democracy and culture and to honor those who practice it.

David Newquist


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