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:

Sunday, July 31, 2005


Does Dick Durbin owe anyone else an apology?

Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, apologized for stating that the treatment of prisoners in our alleged war on terror was more consistent with the philosophies of totalitarian, anti-democratic regimes than with the principles of American democracy. His apology came after Democrat colleagues endorsed the Bush-camp fabrication that he trivialized the Holocaust and insulted all our troops sent to Iraq by implying that they were all part of the scheme to haul prisoners around on dog leashes and make them wallow in their own feces. He did not say or imply those things, but the leadership of the party that cowers and pees in its pants over any accusations of assertiveness by their opponents bent over, dropped its pants, and said "Punish me again for daring to incur your wrath."

The fact was that Sen. Durbin read accounts from an FBI report and said the actions described were more consistent with those of viciously repressive regimes we have experienced in the past. His point was that Americans do not behave that way, and someone high in the military command let it happen. Sen. Durbin was speaking out for the values that every military person who ever dealt with prisoners was taught to practice. Sen. Durbin's apology indicates that America no longer holds those values.

Blogger JG on TPM Cafe said of Durbin's apology: "How infuriating. How unnecessary."

"This is miserable -- not simply because Durbin had nothing for which to apologize. The cultural symbolism of an abject, teary eyed Democrat relenting in the face of puffed-up nationalistic rhetoric by Republicans feeds into all of the entrenched political stereotypes that have for thirty years plagued the Democratic Party: that it's weak, morally rudderless, craven, and anti-military."

JG had it absolutely right. In apologizing, Sen. Durbin had it absolutely wrong. The Senator apologized for something he did not, in fact, say and for speaking out on the principles of equality, due process, and justice that our democracy proudly stood for at one time. Now to demonstrate patriotism and support of our troops, we are to accept the mistreatment of prisoners, ignore what is quickly becoming the most absurdly obscene war our nation has ever been cowed into, and to forget the fact that the fallen soldiers of Iraq are the dutiful and honorable victims of incompetence and dishonesty.

A number of veterans have pointed out that when they served their country, the higher links in the chain of command would be held responsible for the treatment of prisoners detailed in the FBI report from which Sen. Durbin read. Former non-commissioned officers have pointed out that they would have been court-martialed if enlisted personnel under their supervision had committed such acts and so would the commissioned officers over them. For the stupid shenanigans at Abu Ghraib, the military and its civilian commanders made a near-retarded woman their scapegoat. And got by with it, largely because Democrats did not want to risk being called unpatriotic by the slavering war-junkies who derive pleasure from seeing prisoners on dog leashes wallowing in feces.

Once again Democrats got diverted from the war on terror and let themselves become party to the war on liberalism. While a segment of rightwing nationalists are refining their hate rhetoric and propaganda, Democrats are doing exactly what Karl Rove accused them of--making nice and looking for some therapeutic way to conciliate with the quasi-fascist belligerence in our foreign policy that pushed us into Iraq. Humiliating and abusing prisoners does not get information; it only feeds the hatred behind the bombings. America needs to be a model of effectiveness and decency; not ineffectual indecency. It is right and proper to call the military who disgrace our standards of honor and decency into account. Doing so demonstrates the respect and support of our nation for those who discharge their duties with honor.

Sen. Durbin was assailed by playground bullies and made to say uncle. His apology misdirected attention way from the real moral issues revealed in that FBI report. It is tempting to say something smart like now he needs to apologize to all those people who feel that America was, in fact, disgraced by the actions described in that report. The commanders under whose watch those actions took place are the ones who need the military discipline.

But enough of this assinine demand for apologies. We need action based upon brain power. And we need brain power that knows how to practice the mandates of truth and justice. We need an opposition party to the Republicans that is not afraid to point out that they are engaged in a propaganda campaign of abuse and intimidation straight out of Orwell's 1984. Most of all, we need a few good people who refuse to relinquish their right to free speech and a redress of grievances to those who confuse belligerence with patriotism.


Forget the energy bill; follow John Deere

I do not like corporations, for the most part. I do not like corporations because they are bureaucracies. And bureaucracies--unless they are under constant scrutiny and disciplinary threats if they aren't honest, fair, and decent--always end up doing the stupidest and the worst that humanity can conceive.

My antipathy for corporate bureaucracies stems from a time I worked for some, and it was brought to full bloom while I edited the business section for a newspaper. I was daily witness to how badly most businesses, especially corporations, are run. One of the great fallacies of American culture is the notion that privatization of public enterprises will make them more efficient and useful. Government bureaucracies are bad, but there is always the possibility, as happened with the IRS a few years back, that actions taken at the ballot box will bring them to an accounting for what they do. Corporate bureaucracies have no one but stockholders to call them into account, and as long as the bottomline looks good, stockholders are not concerned about moral and ethical issues. People invest in stocks to make money, not to enhance the moral and intellectual conditions of the communities in which corporations operate.

There are corporations that are concerned about being good corporate citizens, and they are the strength of our country. Deere & Company, for example, is an asset to our nation. Corporations such as Enron, Worldcom, and that great model of war-profiteering, Halliburton, are national disgraces and liabilities.

Deere & Company, the producer of the John Deere brand of agricultural, forestry, lawn, garden, and construction equipment, is an asset because it has built its business on being a productive and responsible corporate citizen. I do not say this because one of my brothers is a Deere retiree. (I worked for now-defunct competitor International Harvester.) I say it because the company works hard to make superior products (some stock analysts accuse it of "over-engineering") and to contribute to and build the communities in which it has operations. When Business Ethics magazine came out with its list of the 100 Best Corporate Citizens last year, Deere & Company ranked sixth.

Last week, Deere announced that it is expanding its product and support line to include the harvesting of wind energy. Following the path of the company's founder, John Deere, who invented a plow that worked in mucky but rich prairie soils so that homesteaders could reap livings from the land, the company has turned to helping farmers harvest energy from the wind.

It created a business unit to provide project development, debt financing, and to manufacture winds turbines for farmers interested in harvesting their own wind. The company's program envisions individual farmers putting up one to two units a year on their land. Deere president Robert Lane says the program is consistent with Deere's objective of helping farmers improve profitability and productivity in their invdividual operations.

Deere has invested $8 million in model projects in Texas and Minnesota. It expects to invest $60 million in the product project by the end of the year. In 2004, wind power produced less than 7,000 megawatts of energy. Projections are that it will produce more than 100,000 by 2020, and Deere plans to help the nation reach that goal--if not surpass it.

While politicians from both parties are crowing about the energy bill which contains nothing to reduce the cost of energy, which is cutting deep into household incomes, Deere & Company is taking action that can lead to real energy independence. If it can be done, Deere will do it. The government and oil companies can flap in the wind while Deere helps farmers make electricity from it.

Saturday, July 30, 2005


Leo died

Leo J. Neifer died July 13 at a nursing home in Ipswich. I first learned this news from a daily e-mail update I received while in Illinois. Then I got more details as I sifted through a stack of mail and news clippings. Leo was 81.

I am saddened by news of his death. I am also saddened that newspaper obituaries are now regarded as revenue-producing items, like advertisements, and families of the deceased write them and pay to have them published.

Although Leo lived over in Hosmer on the Edmunds County and McPHerson County border, he frequently drove to Aberdeen to participate in events of the Brown County Democrats. He participated in and contributed to many political activities, and wrote articles and letters for publication from a Democratic perspective.

Born and raised on a farm in McPherson County, Leo served in the military as a commissioned officer, obtained a degree from (then) Northern State Teachers College, a Master's Degree from the U. of Arkansas, and eventually a doctorate from Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. He taught in public schools, small colleges, and retired as a professor of English from Clark Atlanta University, a college with a predominantly African-American student body.

Leo often sent me manuscripts for review and commentary and we talked of politics as they affect education. I worked closely with Leo in supplying background information for him when he was appointed by the governor to a commission to study and make recommendations about assessment testing in public schools. Leo was the only person on the commission who saw a false premise in the mass testing program system proposed by the state. He pointed out that the tests themselves were dubious measures of what they purported to test. And he pointed out that the tests made no allowances for the wide disparity of resources among South Dakota school districts. And finally, he asked, when tests were refined and reasonably reliable in identifying students with needs and diagnosing those needs, what did the state plan on doing about them? As a token Democrat on a commission stacked with political hacks and academic party-liners, he was patronized and dismissed.

Leo used his academic knowledge and skills in the Germans from Russia Heritage Society. He gave many lectures and presentations and did translations of documents and papers from German to English. Among the items he translated were obituaries that contained important data and information about the German people who emigrated from Russia to America.

At every newspaper I worked at, either as a full-time writer-editor, or as part-time stringer, at least one writer was employed full-time on the obituary desk. Their job was to insure that every obituary contained accurate information about the identity of the people who died. The obituary clippings were kept in the morgue--the news jargon name for the clipping and note library maintained by larger newspapers. The morgues were busy not only with staff members researching background information on stories but with scholars, genealogy searchers, and other people who needed biographical and historical information.

Obits were considered so important that the obituary editors had the authority to press senior writers on the newspapers into service tracking down information and writing when circumstances warranted it. The editor at the paper where I last worked full time insisted that every person deserved an acknowledgement in their obituary and the information had to be thorough and correct. I do not recall the obituary editor ever having to run a correction, except when a family member gave inaccurate information. And we still ran the correction to insure that the record was right.

Newspapers, as is the case with the local one, will run a 75-word death notice that generally announces only the time and place of a funeral or memorial service. If the family wants a full-fledged obituary, it must write it and pay for it. I recall Leo commenting to me once how badly many of these family-produced obituaries are, how unreliable the information, and how clumsy the writing. As a scholar and writer, Leo observed how many lives will in effect be lost to history by the absence of information or by badly written obituaries.

We will miss Leo's visits to Brown County and his work to improve education and the knowledge of our heritage. He donated his body to the medical schoool at USD. Even after death, Leo was committed to education. His story is like that of many who were educated at Northern and left the region to utilize their talents and find prospects. Leo came back.

Friday, July 29, 2005


Burning pork

If the new energy bill, which should be sailing through the Senate today, passes, it will reduce our dependency on foreign oil only if we can find a way to burn the pork it produces. It insures a lavish lifestyle for the CEOs of a number of large corporations. Not having royalty in the U.S., corporate CEOs are the only thing those who long for feudal pageantry have. And Halliburton gets a special provision, just in case morality and intelligence prevail and we bring our troops home from Iraq instead of putting them up as sitting ducks for IEDs. Halliburton has a safety net if war profiteering ends.

The bill does offer some incentives for wind and solar and energy, the technology for which is improving all the time. As a country, we are behind other industrial-technology nations in developing those forms of energy. The bill also provides incentives for increasing the production of ethanol. And that gives me pause.

One of the attractive features of ethanol is that it seems to offer a way to slow down the corporate consolidation of farming. It gives smaller producers a chance to get a price for their corn without the federal farm programs that are losing the support of urban legislators who see the total dependence of states like South Dakota on federal dollars as a burden. States whose primary economies are agricultural are regarded as welfare states by a majority of voters.

The problem with ethanol is that it takes more energy to produce than it yields as a fuel. A number of universities, Cornell the latest, have produced studies to show that the production of ethanol is largely the conversion of one form of energy to another. It does not increase the amount of energy available. That is not to say that some improvements in distillation technology could not change that, but presently ethanol does not add to our total energy inventory.

An engineer in the ranks of the Brown County Democrats said that all ethanol plants should be powered by a wind-generator farm. But he also said that the power might be more efficiently used to process hydrogen.

Energy is one of the largest expenses for farmers. Back when the power needed for agriculture was supplied by horses, farmers received an economic benefit when they could grow their own fuel for powering-up the horses. When crop prices were low, farmers did not get caught in the squeeze between low crop prices and high energy costs. Early experiments with ethanol and methane as fuel were conducted with the idea of having small production facilities on every farm so that farming could remain energy independent and self-reliant. One of the earliest contraptions for producing ethanol burned corn cobs in the distillation process. Those schemes were quickly suppressed. The last thing corporate America wants is a farming industry that generates and refines its own fuel.

The new energy bill does nothing to address soaring fuel costs. It does leave ANWAR alone for a time. But mostly it takes good care of corporate America., the de facto rulers of our nation. Folks fascinated with feudal times can save money one way. They won't have to go to Renaissance festivals or the Society for Creative Anachronism to see what it's like to live in feudal times.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005


Stephanie Herseth, disaffected Democrats, and labor union woes

The MinneKota Consortium has given us permission to reprint these items of interest to South Dakota from its newsletter.


A growing rift among South Dakota Democrats

Shortly after the 2004 election, web logs by Democrats were noting that the members of the Tom Daschle campaign were angry with the Stephanie Herseth campaign for undercutting Daschle on some issues and taking a Republican stance on other key issues. Herseth's vote in support of Republican proposals to extend provisions of The Patriot Act has further caused discomfort among South Dakota Democrats. One Democrat blogger wrote, "No, the GOP doesn't need a candidate in the House race next year. It and Bush have about what they need in office already."** Backchannel communications is full of chatter about who could be put up to run against Herseth in the primary. This rift comes at a time when the South Dakota Democratic Party is in the process of hiring field directors to enhance its organization and unity.

One prominent South Dakota Democrat commented that the Democratic Party no longer supports the Democratic position on issues that matter. He said the flag burning amendment is a ludricous way to repeal the First Amendment and take away the right to seek a redress of grievances. But the attack on civil liberties through The Patriot Act puts the U.S. solidly in the ranks of Big Brother countries. He said if the liberal Democrats totally roll over just to win elections, the best option is move to a more compatible state.

Since the Daschle defeat, South Dakota has become a case study in what options disaffected liberals might pursue.

**[BEACON NOTE: The blogger stated this in a later post: "When she supports things like a flag burning amendment and an amendment to ban same-sex marriage and to extend the Patriot Act, I'm going to call her on it. It doesn't make much sense for me to call John Thune on those subjects and then give Herseth a pass. Rest assured strong Herseth supporters, that I still understand she is much preferable to the alternative."

Unions also experiencing rift

A number of unions within the AFL-CIO have walked out of the national convention held in Chicago this week. There are many disagreements about union strategies and agendas. The Democratic Party is nervous over the disagreements because it depends on unions for much of its organizational work. However, some union leaders from organizations not under the AFL-CIO umbrella, say the disagreement boils down to a tussle between those who see unionism as adhering to the old labor-based tactics and those who see unions as needing to change to represent the growing number of professions that are in collective bargaining, such as teachers, medical personnel, engineers, service workers. The professional unions contend that the shrinking numbers in union membership results from the lack of appeal and effectiveness that the labor-based programs have for professionals.
On this matter South Dakota again is the center of some controversy. It has labor laws that do not enhance collective bargaining, but provide ways of avoiding it.

The state has laws giving public employees the right to organize and bargain collectively. However, it also gives management the right to declare an impasse and impose a contract on the employees. Two counties in South Dakota imposed contract provisions on their employees that relinquished the right to bargain. The state supreme court struck down the imposed contract, but not on the grounds that the law was flawed, but on the technical detail that the counties did not provide a rationale for what they were doing.

Many workforce watchers think the disagreements among unions is the prelude to a resurgence in collective bargaining organizations. But no unions seem to have picked up on the absurdity of law in South Dakota. It is a place to watch.

MinneKota Consortium A clearinghouse for information on public policy.


Why we ain't going fancy

I returned from another long sojourn at the place where the Mississippi flows from east to west. It is in the midst of a drought. This area is nature's greenhouse. It is humid, often hot (103 Sunday and Monday), and things grow with a vengeance. Not this year, however. This is also the place where I was a working journalist and public information editor and college professor for 25 or so years. My education from kindergarten through bachelor's degree was acquired here. (My other degrees were obtained fifty miles to the west along another river.)

I have spent much time there recently helping a brother who just underwent his third major surgery this year at a time when he was moving from a house high on a terrace with too many staircases to a condo that sits right across the ravine from the last place I lived in Illinois. I returned to my family in South Dakota with some reluctance because this is the weekend of the Bix Beiderbecke Jazz Festival, with its prinicipal venue being the LeClaire Park band shell on the river in Davenport, Iowa. I will miss the music and the ruminations with old musicians about when we still had embouchures and diaphragms that could force a trumpet up above high C above the staff. I will really miss the music.

In recent weeks, I was able to do join some old colleagues in analyzing matters of the media, including web logs. People have noted that when we took down our more public version of the Northern Valley Beacon, we immediately converted to this site which looks much like a paper newsletter with few electronic bells and whistles to add to the titillation. Our discussions involved my explanations of why.

To boil it down: Marshall McLuhan was right when he stated that "the medium is the message." Electronic-based media create their own environment with all sorts of currents eddying around. The essential message that one might shape gets lost in the sensory turmoil. My colleagues and I have noted over the decades that the resources of the media often leave people more befuddled than informed. In the mid-1990s, I undertook a hypetext book with two other authors. It was a piece of laboriously documented work that went through six editions as we tried to solve the problems and keep up with the constant advances of computer-based texts. We found that the advantages of being able to click on a word and call up the documents that supported and verified the facts presented in the book often turned into distractions and misdirections for readers. People tended to create their own incoherence and obfuscation. The book also challenged the computers on which most people read the book, and their memories of the book are more vivid about the crashes it caused in their machines and the frustration of trying to keep its lines of thought in mind while trying to retrieve the text. After six editions, we were admittedly a bit dismayed when we found that the people who successfully read and enjoyed the book were the ones who printed it out and read it from paper without all the electronic referencing. When they did want to check on a source, they called it up and printed it out. Our publisher found that this was NOT because we as a culture are print-oriented and have difficulty adjusting to electronic forms. It is because of matters of physiology and the way the human mind is structured to process information.

The incoherence implicit in computer-based texts makes it particularly vulnerable to contextual distortion and fabrication. The contributors to the old Northern Valley Beacon found this time after time when some of the troll blogs purported to quote from it and tell others what it said. A graduate student undertook a class project to catalog the occasions when this was done and to show how deliberate misquotations were formed. This student's work provided much material for our analysis of media in recent weeks. We were looking at it at a time when web logs are being brought to a new level of electronic sophistication with the addition of sound and video.

We enjoy some of the new blog sites. And we find they make it easy and convenient to review what is going on in the world of blogging, but we still are grappling with issues about the integrity of the word. We note that blog writing has picked up its own style, a style that is borrowed heavily from celebrity gossip magazines. We note that precision of diction and control of semantics is not much of a concern in web logs. But the major matter of concern for writers and journalists is that there is no editorial process in web logs that lets the reader know that someone has checked the facts and fine-tuned the language so that it can be trusted. The age of the media has produced the Rohrschach concept of text as an ink blot onto which readers can impose whatever they have a notion to impose.

We would like to fool around with electronic snaz and see what we can do to enhance texts. However, that takes time. Meanwhile, we will still fuss and worry about whether the words are conveying what we want them to when we write and read. And that is why we aren't going fancy. There are too many facts to be checked and too many ideas that need thought and care in the discussion. And there are too many stories out there that are not being told by either the media or the web logs. We will worry about that. With black words on a white background.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


The blogs are missing the story; so is the media

Moline, Ill.--The Northern Valley Beacon went after John Thune before he was elected to the Senate. We have been excoriated, principally by Thune's nasty little suck-buddies, for the harsh language we used in condemning John Thune. However, our words were chosen with deliberation and care. We do not approve of John Thune. We do not think he is capable of representing the democratic values that are the essence of our country. We opposed John Thune, on one hand, because he accrued a record of negligence and incompetence in the House. We condemn John Thune because he is a malicious liar.

His campaign against Tom Daschle was one of vicious and mendacious character assassination. Ads which compared Tom Daschle with Osama bid Laden and Saddam Hussein and which alleged his devotion to interests other than South Dakota, and the multitude of other petty and nasty accusations were not signed by John Thune. We found in the closing days of the campaign, however, strong evidence that the Thune camp was full participants in devising and orchestrating these ads. Finally, Thune did sign his name to an ad that charged Daschle with dumping his first wife for his present spouse, Linda, a beauty queen. This was all done at the instigation of those who do Thune's thinking for him, put his words in his mouth, and coach him on how to conduct himself. We despise John Thune because he has never shown one shred of personal integrity or honesty.

In the closing days of the campaign and the weeks that followed the election, we found mounting pieces of evidence of a man who posed as virtuous but was a treacherous bag of sleaze in reality. We knew of his connections with MetaBank as well as strange circumstances concerning his activities as a lobbiest. The evidence is that Thune acted on the board of MetaBank just as he did in the House and during his campaign. In exchange for being promoted as a "political star," he was selling out and giving himself over to those who created and controlled him--a group of Republican insiders allied with Karl Rove, who employ Rove's values and tactics, and who have absolutely no interest in America as a democracy. They envision America as a place that holds the people in despotic thralldom. John Thune is their agent. He has sold himself out. He is selling South Dakota out. That is the story the blogs are missing. Instead of pursuing the evidence and the narrative of what John Thune has done, they are allowing themselves to be distracted by the blogs that John Thune bought and paid for.

Increasingly, the political story is the pissing duels among the blogs. The left wing blogs did break an important story on Thune's connection with the economically and morally bankrkupt Dan Nelson Auto and MetaBank. Instead of pursuing the evidence of Dan Nelson's corrupt business practices--the many consumer complaints lodged against him--the blogs have had their attention diverted by counter accusations of the right wing blogs. From a journalistic standpoint, the Orwellian propaganda ploys of the right wing and its bloggers are a big part of the story of how John Thune and his controllers operate.

The real story will probably not be told in the blogs. Nor will the wimpy and self-serving South Dakota press ever develop the story. The national press is beginning to examine this story with real journalists looking at the total picture and the real facts. The big story is still to come.

Sunday, July 17, 2005


Being deceived by a press that suffers from moral cowardice

Moline, Ill.--As a practicing journalist for 49 years (it began on the sports desk of the Davenport, Iowa, Morning Democrat), I am not surprised or startled about the shallowness and crassness of our current manifestations of the press. I can remember as a reporter working in the area indicated by the dateline of this piece being terribly offended when the top executive of a major lobbying group referred to the news media as the publicity media. He discounted the idea of the media serving democracy with thorough and reliable factual accounts and portrayed it as solely a public relations and marketing vehicle. I was offended more because he reflected the direction in which the press was moving. As I work on some assessments of the press with old colleagues and competitors in the region where I once worked, I must concede that the press has arrived at the place it was headed for.

The administration of George W. Bush, like the executive to whose words I took offense, has understood and used the press with great effect. Its manipulation of the press is the one area in which the administration can claim great success. It understands the role the press plays in the Orwellian manipulation of the public mentality. The Karl Rove business is just one small revelation of how a state-controlled press works in a seemingly free society. A more frightening perspective is gained by reviewing the many books that analyzed the systematic lying of the Geroge W. and its orchestration of information that led us into the war on Iraq that were published at election time. The belligerent right wing has learned well the effectiveness of intimidation through insult, abuse, and personal defamation. It has also learned that constant repetition of falsehoods will eventually result in their acceptance by many people. The reason-believing, peace-seeking left wing has been too reluctant to admit the de facto totalitarianism that rules the country by exercising control over its information.

Getting control over the press is no subtle and arcane process. Except for the Christian Science Monitor aand PBS, the major media all depend on advertising revenues. As any journalist with a few years of experience and a modicum of moxy about how the press works can tell you, advertisers exert a tremendous amount of editorial control. While journalists can cite a few cases where the media has stood up to the threats of advertisers to withdraw their revenue-producing advertisements, they also know that there is a constant pressure against doing anything that might upset advertisers or the business community in general by printing news that does not present them with glowing praise. That pressure is what kept the press from looking into Enron, Worldcom, and the myriad of regional and local business disgraces that sap the economic energy and moral will power from America. In South Dakota, that pressure defines the editorial thinking about covering Sen. John Thune and his relationship to the Dan Nelson Auto bankruptcy and fraud investigations. The Bush administration won the election of 2004 largely on its posture as the protective big brother behind which people with little intellectual or moral gumption can cower.

You will find no commentators in the media pointing to the fact that a wimpy electorate chose war and economic totalitarianism over peace and economic freedom and opportunity. When a government of the people, by the people, and for the people fails, the people are at the root of the problem. They have fallen prey to the war mongering fed them under the guise of the Bushite phony patriotism. It takes tough discernment and resolve to do something to save the lives of our troops. Rather, the people slap yellow-ribbon decals on their cars, call the dead soldiers heroes, and dismiss their wasted lives as the cost of bringing democracy to a recalcitrant culture. They have fallen prey to the idea that the country should be run like a business and, therefore, the country should be turned over to corporations, like Enron, Worldcom, and Halliburton, that wants to extend a Wal-Mart standard of living and employee rights to every citizen. We are not slamming Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart has its place. Our point is that it should be kept in its place, not be crowned ruler of America.

A dismaying fact is that the media has abandoned its Fourth Estate function and now is devoted to serving the administration, because that seems like a majority wish, and servicing its advertisers, which it does for its economic comfort. The days when editors and publishers struggled with the conflict between news and the wishes of advertisers are over. Except for a few die-hard old news dogs, the media has largely abandoned any concern about the professional handling of news and submitted to its role as primarily a marketing and propaganda tool. Reporters live in fear of being called biased liberals, and so they devote their energies to avoiding any stories that might prompt that accusation from the rightwing squawk squads.

Oddly, publications with the most lavish advertisements and revenues are the ones who are acknowledging the disconnect of the media from its news function and the malaise of the American people. In the August Vanity Fair, writer James Wolcott examines the situation. He says, the media “would be much happier if Iraq would resolve itself or, better yet, go away…recede like Afghanistan into the hazy distance, reduced to three column inches on page A18.” The editors introduce his piece by stating, “If Iraq is “Vietnam on crack,” as some claim…America is in serious denial about the horrors its leaders are inflicting.”

Wolcott berates the reality-show level of dementia that grips the media mentality:

It’s hard for cable-news networks to amp up the umpteenth American soldier
killed by a roadside explosive or another bushel of Iraqi recruits blown to
scatteration when it’s so much juicier chasing the latest “Amber Alert” for an
abducted white girl, choppering over a tense hostage standoff, or swarming the
hot celebrity trial that’s inciting Nancy Grace to spit tacks at any defense
lawyer who dares defend his or her client (you know, just on the quaint off
chance that the bozo might be innocent). When Terri Schiavo and Pope John
Paul II took turns dying and eclipsing other news, Mr. Media was able to put
Iraq on the back of the shelf behind the canned peas. Once the eulogies
were completed, however, Iraq re-inserted itself into the news with an
intensified round of bombings marking new coordinates in chaos.

The majority of people until recently have supported the war on Iraq as part of the defense against terror. But as the number of flag-draped coffins of American troops has reached half of the number killed in the 9/11 attacks, the people are beginning to question the contention that anybody is any safer because of that “Vietnam on crack.”

Ironically, the war may not succeed in bringing democracy to Iraq. But it may well be the motivation for bringing democracy back to America...if the people go past the media and demand information about what is really going on.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005


Thune is connected to auto dealer bankruptcy and bad bank loans

The blog Clean Cut Kid has a story that connects John Thune to a bad loan made by Metabank to the Dan Nelson automobile company that declared bankruptcy recently. Nelson was Thune’s campaign manager in his first run for Congress. Thune sat on the board of directors of Metabank which loaned Nelson more than $28 million. Nelson has debts of $30 million. For the blog story, go to

Other liberal blogs that are covering the story are at



Saturday, July 02, 2005


Conservatism or Alzheimers? Paul Harvey revives old horrors

Paul Harvey is a very old man, 86. His radio shows have been fixtures for years. Although he clearly espouses a conservative point of view, his commentary has for the most part been restrained and couched in democratic terms. Last week he went over the line. He celebrated killing native Americans with small pox-infested blankets, slavery, bombing Hiroshima, and genocide. Most alert people recognize that something terribly malicious lurks under the benign face put on Bush-era conservatism. In a radio broadcast on June 23, Harvey articulated precisely what progressives fear is driving the insane war on Iraq, the erosion of civil liberties, and the repressive discrimination being advanced on the country in the name of religion. In that broadcast, Harvey, indeed, told the rest of the story. Here is a transcript of his comments from Eric Zorn's column in the Chicago Tribune:

After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill said that the American people…he said, the American people, he said, and this is a direct quote, “We didn’t come this far because we are made of sugar candy.”

That was his response to the attack on Pearl Harbor. That we didn’t come this far because we are made of sugar candy.
And that reminder was taken seriously. And we proceeded to develop and deliver the bomb, even though roughly 150,000 men, women and children perished in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. With a single blow, World War II was over.

Following New York, Sept. 11, Winston Churchill was not here to remind us that we didn’t come this far because we’re made of sugar candy.

So, following the New York disaster, we mustered our humanity.

We gave old pals a pass, even though men and money from Saudi Arabia were largely responsible for the devastation of New York and Pennsylvania and our Pentagon.

We called Saudi Arabians our partners against terrorism and we sent men with rifles into Afghanistan and Iraq, and we kept our best weapons in our silos.

Even now we’re standing there dying, daring to do nothing decisive, because we’ve declared ourselves to be better than our terrorist enemies -- more moral, more civilized.

Our image is at stake, we insist.

But we didn’t come this far because we’re made of sugar candy.
Once upon a time, we elbowed our way onto and into this continent by giving small pox infected blankets to native Americans.

Yes, that was biological warfare!

And we used every other weapon we could get our hands on to grab this land from whomever. And we grew prosperous.
And, yes, we greased the skids with the sweat of slaves.
And so it goes with most nation states, which, feeling guilty about their savage pasts, eventually civilize themselves out of business and wind up invaded, and ultimately dominated by the lean, hungry and up and coming who are not made of sugar candy.

Reconcile these words with those of the Declaration of Independence or the Pledge of Allegiance. Conservative bloggers will.


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