Northern Valley Beacon
Information, observations, and analysis from the James River valley on the Northern Plains-----
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Monday, August 28, 2006
A meditation for Labor Day
Pay is low, productivity is high, there still aren't enough jobs, and wages are losing ground to prices. Happy Labor Day.
Read the whole account in the Star Tribune
The anti-abortion militants miscarry
The physician from Aberdeen said to the young people manning the Campaign for Healthy Families booth at the Brown County Fair, "You people are disgusting."
That was after he so brilliantly displayed some syllogistic thinking. The pattern for his syllogism is:
Men are living creatures.
Dogs are living creatures.
Therefore dogs are men.
His version ran like this:
Humans are living creatures.
Zygotes are living creatures.
Therefore zygotes are humans.
Zygotes can become incipient humans if they are nurtured by someone who desires to take the time, the special effort, and the personal sacrifice to bring them to that point. The good doctor claims that science has changed the definition of a zygote from the "union of two gametes" to a "full-fledged person." He said, "A zygote is a person." We have not been able to locate the scientific literature that makes that assertion, but this M.D. says it is an accomplished fact of scientific knowledge.
The doctor asked how killing babies relates to the healthy families. In the argument and accusations over abortion, one gets the feeling that the anti-abortion ragers are not so much interested in saving life as having a pretext to call someone a "baby-killer." As one of our correspondents pointed out via e-mail, the epithet "baby-killer" takes on the same aspect as when good Germans called Jews "Christ-killers." A semantic need is the real issue. They need a pretext to express hatred and vilification against someone.
Well, the good physician, who eventually left the booth to presumably heal the sick and succor the afflicted, was not alone. The Novstrup family singers were also there. Al and David Novstrup make up the Republican slate for the South Dakota House of Representatives for District 3.
The song they sang was "When does life begin?" Al boomed forth with the chorus, "We KNOW when life begins." The question is probably "When does human life begin?" There is a lot of life swarming all around us. Everytime we swab out the toilet with Lysol, we take thousands, perhaps millions, of lives. Those creatures were with life, until we decided to tidy up the bowl. Murder is committed in the household every day.
Then the Novstrup genius went to work with "When do you get rights?" The gremlin in the background muttered, "When get the honkies get scared enough of you that they'll give them to you." But that was followed with "How do you balance out the rights of the unborn vs. the rights of the mother." The gremlin said, "With the South Dakota abortion ban, the mother has rights? Where? When? How?" The gremlin is right. The South Dakota Abortion ban gives the state all the rights. The mother has no voice in whether she wants to develop a zygote into a human. And she ain't gonna have no rights until she can scare the honkies into allowing her some.
Young David Novstrup piped up with the penetrating observation that an abortion "punishes two people." To which the gremlin interjected, "How long does the punishment go on when a woman is forced to carry a zygote to term when she really does not have the resources for doing so?" Impertinent imp.
Spouse Novstrup said that "Rape and incest were only one percent of all pregnancy cases. That is not enough to matter." Not even to the woman who is forced to carry to term the child of someone she has reason to loathe and despise. Such things don't matter.
The fact is that no one, except a few misanthropes, regards abortion as anything other than a desperate medical measure for women who find themselves in desperate circumstances. Forcing women to develop zygotes into viable humans is a return to slavery, when women were forced to give birth to increase the slaveholdings and wealth of their masters.
The entire anti-abortion movement hinges on their semantic insistence that life begins when sperm meets egg, and sometimes before. This is religious doctrine for some sects. There is also theological grounds for giving women special, individual privilege in deciding how and when to bear children. But those grounds are ignored by certain church groups which are more interested in forcing their doctrine on others.
The biggest problem with the anti-abortion militants is that their claim to caring about saving life rings so hollow. If they cared, they would seem to demonstrate more respect for the living.
You disgusting people, you baby-killers, hear that?[This acc0unt was taken from notes supplied and verified by Dena, Lindsey, and John.]
Sunday, August 27, 2006
UPDATE: The Koran Curtain is up
See the news below that broke on Sunday.
A number of we old Cold Warriors have had a sense of deja vu. I was a guided missile technician on the old Nike Ajax system. It was designed for air defense. We could track and shoot down menacing aircraft headed our way, and the system was primarily designed to protect against bombers that could deliver nuclear war heads. At that time, Intercontinental Ballastic Missiles and Intermediate Range Missiles were in stages of development. When my package unit was sent to Germany to convert anti-aircraft gun battalions to guided missiles, we discovered something else we could do with Nikes.
A missile battalion consists of four batteries. In a rotating system, one battery is kept on full alert at all times. That means that personnel are on the equipment and the missiles are ready and can fire at a target in minutes. The nights get long on full alert status and the personnel found things to do, like track targets flying the border in East Germany or doing nerdy things with the analog computer, or in general finding ways to relieve the boredom while maintaining vigilance.
A characteristic of the Nike missile was that it was boosted up to a very high altitude and dove down on its target at supersonic speeds. Some personnel began using the clutter plots on the radar to locate very sensitive targets within their range. They were able to lock the target-tracking radar on a ground target and hold it there. If a Nike were fired, it would act like a precision bomb and crash into a target with tremendous accuracy. It did not take long until we found "special warheads" being stored in our munitions bunkers. And it did not take long before a list of ground targets within our range was posted complete with coordinates. We surmised the new warheads included nuclear devices.
Before I left Germany, the battalion began to prepare for being upgraded from Nike Ajax to the Nike Hercules system. Part of that preparation was to accommodate the Hercules ability to take out possible ICBMs and IRBMs and to hit ground targets. Some of the warheads being shipped to the munitions bunkers were clearly labeled radioactive nuclear.
When NATO deployed ICBMs and IRBMs, the targets were already established. The targets are locked into their guidance system and they do not need ground-based radar to steer them to their target once they are aloft. That is a reason that the Cold War remained in a state of restraint. The Soviet Union knew that its most sensitive targets were locked into the guidance units of some guided missiles, and it knew that other missiles could be directed wherever we wanted them by radar commands. This is the capability of ship and submarine-based missiles. The folks behind the Iron Curtain were busy cataloging and recording coordinates for our most sensistive targets. This knowledge kept the world in a state of restraint and deadlock.
Here is where the deja vu comes in. We old missilemen cannot help but assume that in the long hours of the night, some crewmen are programming missiles for Iran and North Korea and crucial targets of some other Islamic belligerents.
The difference is the suicidal aspect of Islamic militants. They might launch a nuclear strike even knowing that western forces could turn entire nations into martyrs in a few hours. Would the threat of total annihilation be a deterrent to nuclear aggression?
Probably not. The Islamic militants are convinced that the infidels, which includes almost everybody but them, are out to commit genocide against Islam. The factors of the western world that eventually led to the dismantling of the Iron Curtain are the very things Islam regards as sinful and decadent.
Nevertheless, we would be foolish not to have our targets plotted and our missiles ready. And my old fellow-missilemen are looking for signs of some missile silos being reactivated in the Dakotas. In 1990, as the old Soviet regimes toppled down, it never occured to us that a Koran Curtain was being woven.This story appeared in Sunday's The New York Times:Iran Tests Submarine-to-Surface Missile
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published: August 27, 2006
Filed at 12:19 p.m. ET
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran test fired a new submarine-to-surface missile during war games in the Persian Gulf on Sunday, a show of military might amid a standoff with the West over its nuclear activities.
A brief video clip showed the long-range missile, called Thaqeb, or Saturn, exiting the water and hitting a target on the water's surface within less than a mile. The test came as part of large-scale military exercises that began Aug. 19.
''The army successfully test fired a top speed long-range sub-to-surface missile off the Persian Gulf,'' the navy commander, Gen. Sajjad Kouchaki, said on state-run television.
Iran routinely has held war games over the past two decades to improve its combat readiness and to test equipment including missiles, tanks and armored personnel carriers.
But Sunday's firing of the missile came as Iran remains defiant just five days before a deadline imposed by the U.N. Security Council
for Tehran to suspend the enrichment of uranium, which can produce both reactor fuel and material usable in nuclear warheads.
Iran said last week it is open to negotiations but it refused any immediate suspension, calling the deadline illegal.
Tehran has expressed worry about Israeli threats to destroy its nuclear facilities, which the West contends could be used to make a bomb but which Iran insists are for the peaceful purpose of generating electricity. The Islamic country also is concerned about the U.S. military presence in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan.
In an advance for Iran's weapons industry, the Thaqeb is the country's first missile fired from underwater that flies above the surface to strike its target, adding to the country's repertoire of weapons that can hit ships in the Gulf.
Iran's current arsenal includes several types of torpedoes -- including the ''Hoot,'' Farsi for ''whale,'' which was tested for the first time in April and is capable of moving at some 223 mph, up to four times faster than a normal torpedo.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
I've got one, you've got one, all God's children have reptilian cortexes
The policy of the NVB is not to directly engage in direct disputes or exchanges with other blogs. That does not preclude our correcting falsehoods or commenting on perfidious tactics that mark the descent of American politics into the primal rituals of degeneration and malice that are the preconditions for violence, as in places like Iraq. Look at the quality of democracy brought to Iraq, and you have a glimpse of what the current regime in power is doing for us. Shiites/Sunnis, red states/blue states, conservatives/liberals, the divisions are defined and the words that provoke mindless hostilities make up a good portion of the verbal environment. They are directed at what some communications theorists call "reptilian hot buttons." They circumvent the centers of higher order thinking and stimulate the primal instincts of fright, flight, fight, and domination.
Except for a few blogs that have established reputations for accurate information and reasoned analysis, I pay little attention to political blogs. When the Northern Valley Beacon becomes the subject of blog posts that misrepresent its words and thoughts, I generally would not be aware of them if other people did not call them to my attention and urge me to make a corrective response.
My writing has been accused of being hysterical. I suppose it appears that way when I happen to strike some hot buttons and inadvertently send their possessors into hysterical, uncontrollable frenzies of denial, denigration, and accusation. It takes the active application of the higher regions of thought to connect subjects to predicates, sentences to their grammatical referrants, and paragraphs to the thesis they are developing. When the reptilian hot button is struck, only those words and phrases that elicit the hysteria and its primal malevolence matter to those in the throes of instinctual response. On the other hand, some are versed enough in communication theory to isolate words from their semantic contexts and contort them into missiles directed at reptilian hot buttons. They know that they will strike the hot buttons of hatred and aggression in a number of people out there.
Brain theory, rhetoric studies, and communications theory converged about a half century ago when advertisers began what they called motivational research. (I was employed by an advertising agency that was a leader in this field in the mid-1950s.) Their aim was to find ways of controlling and prompting human responses to messages so that people could be programmed to uncontrollably buy what the advertisers promoted. Two major theories of pyschology came into play. One was behaviorism which posits that all animals, including humans, can be conditioned to give a desired response on command. The other was brain theory, which recognized that the first layer of the human brain is a primitive one we share with reptiles and messages that appeal to that layer of the brain and circumvent the more complex layers can produce behaviors in humans that are determined by the messages they are hit with.
The brain's three layers
are: Brain One, the reptilian cortex or R complex; Brain Two: the limbic system or "old mammalian brain," which is wrapped around Brain One; and Brain Three, the neocortex, or cerebrum, which is wrapped around Brain Two and is the center of higher order perception and thinking. The brain is also divided into lobes which are connected and coordinated through a complex "wiring" system.
Some advertisers and some political factions are mainly interested in brain and communication research to find ways to control humans and human behavior. Political operatives have found the reptilian hot buttons and are particularly interested in finding ways to elicit responses. Much political advertising and communications is directed at those hot buttons. It is a given that many people are aware when someone is trying to condition them into a predetermined response or an uncontrolled reaction on the reptilian level, and they take offense at the attempts to control them. But many people are vulnerable. When they are asked why they voted the way they have, they come up with a message that was aimed right at their reptilian cortex, and they responded instinctively.
John Thune's campaign against Tom Daschle was aimed at the R complex. When people were presented with pictures of Tom Daschle with Saddam Hussein and Osam bin Laden, with the contention that his house in D.C. was a badge of abandoning his own, with the message that he abandoned a wife and family for a beauty queen, people did not question the veracity of those messages. They reacted with a mindless rage, like animals being threatened. They did not ask if the messages were true or accurate; they simply reacted to the hatred the messages inspired in them. Big Brother was jerking them around.
One of the most prominent theorists of the reptilian cortex is Clotaire Rapaille
, who has been featured on PBS' Frontline. He sums up the success of the reptilian approach:
I don't care what you're going to tell me intellectually. I don't care. Give me the reptilian. Why? Because the reptilian always wins.
No one disputes that the reptilian wins. Communicators and students of rhetoric have been fully aware of why for years. George Orwell's 1984
is a depiction of behaviorism and reptilian programs at work in conjunction with communications technology to produce humans that are easily controlled by the state.
Rapaille makes the point that "It's absolutely crucial for anybody in communication -- and that could be journalists, TV, media, all of it, or marketing people -- if you want to appeal to people, it's absolutely crucial to understand what I call the reptilian hot button. If you don't have a reptilian hot button, then you have to deal with the cortex; you have to work on price issues and stuff like that. "
The issue is not whether the reptilian works. The issue is whether striking for the reptilian or conditioning humans like Pavlovian dogs is morally defensible. It is the antithesis of the human philosophy that has produced democracy.
When political operatives, such as the author of South Dakota War College, give advice on what works, they are usually shaping messages for the reptilian. Some weeks ago I stated that the political practices advocated on the War College blog were the politics of the reptilian cortex. They pursue a particular theory based upon the idea that most humans are too busy to employ their neocortex in interpreting the messages directed at them, so that political messages must be reduced to the slogan or the postcard or the 15-second sound bite if they are to be apprehended by today's human. In practice, that means they are reduced to something that will hit at the reptilian-level reactions of the audience.
I took issue with some quotations of mine that were simply false. They were false because they did not follow the basic rules of paraphrase and they were misquotations, although misquotation that definitely sent the herd of regressive dinosaurs out there into a rage. They raged at the term "politics of the reptilian cortex." They assumed they were being called names, but I was using a term that is well known in the fields of communication and rhetoric, a term that refers to a particular philosophy of communication and its practice.
That is another tactic that is used by the reptilian advocates. They excise and contort sentences down to reptilian missives that generally have nothing to do with what was originally stated. Then they rage and accuse and call names, and say, "See this unthinking rage I am in? Well, that nasty person over there did this to me. He is a bad person." They hope that careless readers will suspend Brains Two and Three and let Brain One substitute their rage for what was actually said or done. This is the put-all-your-asps-in-one-basket theory of political propaganda.
Communications aimed at the reptilian cortex is so reductive that it is inherently dishonest. It is dishonest because it misrepresents other people. Often the distortion and misrepresentation comes about because mentalities dominated by the reptilian cannot apprehend complex messages and must reduce them to something they can rage about.
The antidote to repilitan messaging is education. People who recognize tactics that try to excite the primitive nervous system into taking over the centers of knowledge and rationality resent the attempts at mind control. Furthermore, they tend to recognize the fallacies inherent in such messaging. To them, the purpose of the mindful life is to surmount the vestiges of our evolutionary past and maintain discourse that is honest, accurate, and respectful of language, if not other people. Political blogs tend to disqualify themselves from that kind of discourse because their main reason for being is to insult, abuse, malign, and cast scurrility upon their opposition.
When bloggers nearly always accompany their posts with comments meant to be destructive and belittling of personality, they show that they are more interested in destroying character than in building purposeful discourse. And, in those who value language and the processes of informed debate, they inspire revulsion. That is why I was and remain so revolted by the campaign of John Thune, the Swift Boaters, and those who lie, even if they don't know any better.
The field of rhetoric had to confront some new fronts with Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Scholars saw rhetoric being used to control, damage, and destroy people. One of the leaders in studying rhetoric was Chaim Perelman. He was also a leader in the resistance movement in Belgium. He contended that set forms of rhetoric established in the classical world led the mind in channels that sometimes ignored the realities and circumstances in which people actually lived. He called for argumentation that establishes the structure of reality--recognizing, in essence, rhetoric that incorporates the highest regions of perception and rationality into the premises it advances.
Most American politics is of the reptilian sort. That is because most political discourse is conducted by media ads that do not serve the higher reaches of the human brain. Rather they pander to the reptilian.
If democracy is to survive and expand, we have to transcend the reptilian. And that is why I not only spend little time paying attention to political blogs; I make exceptional effort to avoid some.
The reptilian is more dangerous to America than Islamic militancy or Marxist subversion. We prefer to expend our efforts on more hopeful aspects of the human mind.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
How low can we sink?
You begin with some irrefutable facts that make South Dakota a very bad place to live for those who revere freedom, equality, and justice:
- The state has the lowest average wage in the nation.
- The state has the poorest counties in the nation.
- The state has the most closed and repressive government in the nation.
- The state is among the lowest in its support of public education.
- The state is the lowest in the support of research, scientific and scholarly.
- The state has some of the most discriminatory and repressive labor laws in the nation.
- The state ranks at the top for the support and accommodation of sweat shop business schemes that exploit taxpayers and workers.
The list of where the state ranks at the bottom of social, cultural, and the more uplifting enterprises goes on and on.
So, how is a state allowed to remain such an unattractive place for many people? The fact is that many people in South Dakota have deep roots here, find aspects of life here to their liking and advantage, and they want to make things better. They are the first to admit that they aren't very successful.
Why? The answer is South Dakota politics. South Dakota politics is what I call the town cafe variety.
One of my favorite assignments in critical analysis was for students to profile their hometowns with objective data illustrated by their personal observations. I admit that I liked the exercise because it was a way to learn about places when you did not have the opportunity to actually go visit them. I have read thousands of such papers. And one thing emerged in the papers about the small towns that seemed to be a constant: their town cafes.
While some students were amusedly tolerant of the town cafes, I cannot think of an example where students found much positive about them. In fact, most students deplored them and thought the town would be better off without them.
What they deplored was the fact that people, mostly seniors, gathered in them over coffee at various times of the day and generated malicious gossip about everything and everybody. My colleagues in social psychology explain the causes of this activity, but I will not go into a detailed explanation. It is a matter of resentment of others, a need to exercise some kind of power over other people, and a need to feel that "we" are better than "them." High school students seemed to be a special victims of the maligning and the defamations .
As I read what are allegedly political blogs in South Dakota I find the malicious gossip from town cafes being promoted as political commentary. Perhaps the latest example concerned governot candidate Jack Billion. Dr. Billion is against the South Dakota abortion ban because he thinks it intrudes government into decisions that should be left to individuals in consultation with their physicians and their spiritual counselors. His brother, also a physician, is for the ban. He is among those who believe that life in the womb needs the same protections as a fully formed and functioning human. So, there is a disagreement in a family.
Jack Billion's opponents trotted out the malign forces from the town cafes to start the gossip mills grinding away. The result was one of those nasty, debased series of exchanges that makes one ashamed to be part of the human race. They could not wait to intrude into family affairs and apply their malign conjectures and maledictions to the Billion family.
This is what politics has become. It is the rule in South Dakota. Bloggers think defamation is smart politics. Yes. It wins elections. But it destroys the reasons people want to live in America. Or South Dakota. Or anywhere. There is no democracy when malignant power rules.
Like our ancestors who came to America to get away from the malicious and tyrannical discriminations and denials that ruled Old Word culture, we keep looking for places where America might start anew. We work for candidates who represent progress and decency. But we are realistic. These are the politics that have kept South Dakota so low in measures of freedom, equality, opportunity, and justice.
It pays to have options.
Requiem for patriotism
Spec. Joe Darby had nothing to do with the prisoners at Abu Ghraib, but he provided support services and materials for soldiers who did attend to the prisoners. One day, a fellow soldier gave him a CD of pictures that he said Joe ought to see. Spec. Darby saved the CD on his computer and gave the original back to the soldier. Some days later, he called them up.
Spec. Darby started asking hypothetical questions of his fellow soldiers. He asked what they would do if they came into possession of photographs that showed U.S. soldiers committing acts that were against military law. He consulted with a senior NCO he respected. Finally, he took the pictures to the Army's Criminal Investigation Division.
The pictures were the ones of U.S. military personnel abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib that made the headlines throughout the U.S.
Joe Darby had to be protected from his fellow soldiers. He was called a traitor by people in his hometown. In the minds of many Americans, Joe Darby did something wrong.
What he did wrong was adhere to the enlisted personnel's oath that every soldier makes when entering the service. He abided by the rules in the Universal Code of Military Justice. More fundamentally, he saw fellow soldiers committing violence and degradation on other people, and he provided evidence to the military authorities.
Joe Darby received some commendations from high commanders. But he was vilified and reviled by some fellow soldiers and Americans here at home.
It's just a reminder that the sense of integrity and decency that once characterized America is significantly diminished in some quarters.
And ultimately, this is what our elections are about. Will the forces of deceit, degradation, and violence upon other people win again?
Thursday, August 03, 2006
South Dakota Politics implicated in death of southern belle
By Roland Walter
I started to write an in-your-face snarky post entitled Shorter Ken Blanchard. Then my opening line was going to be: “Mel Gibson is a bigot but I still like some of his movies and Roland Walter is full of crap because Chad Shulte did lie.” That was Ken’s basic response to my previous post on this site, but just to be clear, I am not quoting him directly. I included the quotation marks to indicate I was writing kind of a mocking parody of what he really said—that being the snarky part. And so you know, I’m offering all these explanations of my true intent in case Ken reads this, as I wouldn’t want to be accused of deliberately misquoting him (lying) as happened when Chad employed what was likely a similar rhetorical technique.
Anyway, I had started this post when I got a message from my gracious host on this site, David Newquist, saying he had just received a message in the comments section. It was from a Blanche Dubois, Baton Rouge, La., and formerly of New Orleans. She was in her nineties, lived in a nursing home, loved to read blogs and had been displaced by last summer’s flooding. She wrote as follows:
My dearest Dr. Blanchard,
I do so enjoy reading your wonderful prose at South Dakota Politics. You and Jon Schaff always calling each other professor—you’re so courteous and your employer must be so proud to be associated with all the things you have to say. Oh yes, and it’s so nice the way you have so many friends that write with you and you all stick up for each other. I myself have to depend on the kindness of strangers.
Anyway, I read the piece you wrote about that handsome Mel Gibson being a bigot or something. Then I read that part where you said you still think that sweet boy Chad Shulte lies even though somebody named Roland Walter thinks he doesn’t and I just had to write to you. But then I couldn’t find anywhere on your blog to leave a message (you really should get that fixed) so I ended up at this Beacon place because of a link in your story. I do so hope you get to read this.
It’s so wonderful that you took time to respond to the silly ramblings of that Roland person. Roland sounds like a French name doesn’t it? I wonder if he’s handsome; I bet he is.
Oh, but I do digress. I’m writing because I was trying to understand why you left out the part where Roland tried to explain why poor Chad might not have been lying, you know, how putting the word shorter
in the title was supposed to explain how his next words weren’t a real quote. I mean you being a professor and all, I thought you would want to explain all the details so we would all know the truth about what that dear boy meant or if you weren’t really sure, you would just give him the benefit of the doubt.”
“Wait a minute! Oh my! Oh my, oh my, oh my! I just had this horrible thought that you might have done that on purpose. Maybe you attacked poor Chad about lying to discredit him so people won’t pay attention to what he really says. Maybe you left out part of what Roland said so you could say he was wrong even if maybe he wasn’t. I think maybe you tried to play us all for fools. Oh please, please say it isn’t so! I’m so upset; my heart is racing. It’s all just so awf…
And that was the end of her message (ellipsis mine) except for a random bunch of letters and then hhhhhhhhhh for about twenty lines. I became concerned and started making calls to Baton Rouge nursing homes. My worst fears were soon confirmed. I found the home where she had lived. Poor Blanche had been typing merrily at a computer in a commons area. Suddenly those around her noticed she was becoming quite agitated and then she fell face first into her keyboard, which, of course, would explain the random letters and h’s. She was dead, cut down in the prime of life after truly understanding the forms of argument so often employed at SDP.
So be warned, reading the posts at SDP can be hazardous to your health. Worse yet, it could kill you.Disclaimer: Dave received no such comment. Blanche Dubois existed only as a fictional character and thus could not have said the things attributed to her. While certain things she was quoted as saying may be true, reading SDP has never killed anyone—at least to my knowledge. However, I have personally experienced eyestrain and indigestion while reading certain posts. And a note from Newquist: The NVB has had a long-held policy not to engage in exchanges with other blogs. However, its gate-keeper is an old editor and professor who has toiled far into too many nights over dull, clumsy prose that some poor soul obviously thought was brilliant. Then on those dank and dreary nights, some genuine wit and talent would flash across the verbal firmament. Those writers always got published or received A's out of totally selfish reasons. They rescued one who toiled in the dreariness from despair. And so, I post this effort from Walt.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
NSU alumnus really gets pissed
[Editors note: We do not normally respond to the exercises in intellectual dereliction and scurrility from Sibby and South Dakota Politics. But when someone sends us an item on the utter dereliction of fact, reason, and integrity, we will post it. Walt nails this situation exactly as the academic profession has regarded it for the last 80 years or so.]
Schaff and Blanchard up to necks in denial
In need of lifeboat while Gibson tosses them anchor.
By Roland Walter
I wonder what South Dakota Politics bloggers Jon Schaff and Ken Blanchard think happened when Mel Gibson delivered his Friday-morning drunken slurs and threats against Jews, female deputies and others? It seems to me any reasonable person would conclude that Gibson outed himself as an unhinged, self-righteous, anti-Semitic bigot, hate-monger, bully, and sexist. But it appears Jon thinks otherwise and Ken gets a bit overwrought when someone questions that position.
With that in mind, lets retrace a few things Jon has said about Mel lately as well as some criticism Ken has leveled against Chad Shulte over at the Clean Cut Kid blog site. In a post entitled “Shorter Jon Schaff,” Chad summarized an earlier post by Jon to say: "A drunk Mel Gibson can make all the racial slurs he wants because he made a great movie about Christ." Ken then complained in a subsequent SDP post saying no such quote appeared anywhere in Jon’s post, pretty much called Chad a liar, and also said, “Professor Schaff clearly states that Gibson's career ought to suffer, and hopes that Gibson will be punished in court, exactly the opposite of what Chad implies in his post.”
Indeed he did and had Jon’s comments stopped there, they would simply have been a penetrating glimpse into the obvious and Chad’s post would have been unwarranted. But no, Jon had more to say such as: “There is a temptation to dump on Gibson because of the rather public piety of 'The Passion of the Christ,' ” and “I suppose some annoyed by Gibson's public profession of faith will revel in his fall.”
That leads me to ask, who “dumped” on Gibson for the “public piety of The Passion of the Christ” and who is “annoyed by his public profession of faith”? Maybe someone somewhere did and is, but in general, I suspect Jon is defending him against straw man attacks conjured up by Gibson apologists. I might even conclude he’s trying to detract from the real criticism of Gibson and his movie, which has overwhelmingly been concern about anti-Semitism. And considering his Friday-morning remarks about Jews, is there any real question about the validity of that concern?
I think not and it logically follows then that the movie was not so much a retelling of Christ’s selfless suffering to atone for the sins of man as it was a denunciation of Jew’s for their role in his execution. Moreover, there is little doubt the extreme violence depicted was meant to further malign Jews as unsympathetic sadists. In other words, this movie was premeditated Jew bashing on a grand scale. The only thing I can begin to “revel” in is that the events of Friday morning have worked to discredit the zealous Jew-hater who directed and co-wrote it. And even that is tempered by the fact that, thanks to a lot of well-intentioned moviegoers, Gibson made a few hundred million dollars which he can still use to spread additional vitriol against any person or group he dislikes.
Jon went on to say, “Among Mel Gibson's many sins is the sin of hypocrisy. It is a bad sin, but I know a worse one. To avoid the error of hypocrisy one must believe in nothing. That Gibson is a hypocrite is axiomatic: we are all hypocrites in that we all fail to live up to our own standards. Gibson's sins no more discredit his religious convictions than, say, the likelihood that Martin Luther King was unfaithful to his wife destroys his moral authority (not to compare Mel Gibson to MLK).”
Excuse me, but these comments have no basis in reality. Exactly which of his own “standards” did Gibson fail to live up to? His “religious convictions” have nothing to do with Christian values of compassion and forgiveness. They instead have to do with the hate and self-righteousness embodied in bigotry, which are standards he did live up to. So his sin is not the hypocrisy of failing to live up to his personal standards; it is the hypocrisy of professing Christian ideals and hiding behind them while promoting bigotry. So from where did he ever or should he now derive any “moral authority”? Furthermore, wouldn’t we all be better off if Gibson believed in nothing rather than the antisocial, anti-Semitic and, yes, anti-Christian things he does?
It is nice that Jon tried to refrain from comparing Mel Gibson to MLK—well, kind of, sort of tried. In fact, he does compare their actions so I also must ask, what the hell does Martin Luther King’s alleged or actual infidelity have to do with Gibson’s Jew bashing? But for the efforts of those who sought to discredit him, any affair MLK may have had could affect only those directly involved. He didn’t, after all, publicly promote promiscuity.
Gibson, on the other hand, has purposely and publicly promoted anti-Semitism. To any extent he was successful in driving a wedge between Christian and Jew, Gibson’s hate mongering has hurt millions. So any comparison of his actions to those of MLK, a man who sought to reconcile differences between races, are totally bogus and to even mention his name in conjunction with Gibson is preposterous and defamatory in the extreme.
As for Ken, what did he think “shorter” referred to in Chad’s first post, a change in Jon’s physical stature? Chad didn’t lie, he simply interpreted Jon’s post and summarized it in one simple line. To my mind, he pretty much got it right. Ken may, of course, disagree and he has every right to offer a rebuttal. But going off on a rant about lies, well, not so much.
Continued exchanges between CCK and SDP have sometimes devolved into something akin to a urine-soaked free-for-all. For now, this site remains high and dry and I hope it remains so. But I can’t resist one final note that very well may change that situation.
I’ve noticed Ken and Jon get a bit annoyed when Chad or others question why their employer, Northern State University, lets them express the opinions they do while keeping them on staff. With that, I direct the next few lines directly to the two of them. Yes, you have the right to blog on your own time and to express your own opinions. Yes, you include occasional disclaimers to note your opinions are not endorsed by NSU. But here’s at least one problem. You constantly refer to each other as Professor Schaff and Professor Blanchard, but not all such posts include disclaimers.
The title of professor is reserved for active faculty of an institution of higher learning—in this case NSU. Otherwise, you would simply be Jon and Ken or Dr. S and Dr. B. or whatever. By using the title professor, you knowingly or inadvertently (and since your educated men it certainly should be knowingly) add the weight of your positions at NSU to your comments. That means anything you write under that title should be subjected to the rigors of academic discourse, you know, things like drawing conclusions from well documented fact rather than opinion and being motivated by a desire to find truth rather than promoting political agendas. Few if any of your blog posts do meet or could reasonably be expected to meet these high standards and so long as you refrain from using the professor title, they don’t have to. So as you blog, I simply ask that you at the very least quit calling each other professor. In fact, as an NSU graduate who profoundly disagrees with nearly every political opinion (pronouncement) you post, I take sincere offense and most adamantly insist that you do.
A statement on withdrawal
I withdrew as a District 3 candidate for the South Dakota House last week.
As is usual with political announcements in South Dakota, the Ministry of Truth has taken over the announcements concerning the District 3 slate and applied its malicious creativity. It never misses a chance to malign and slander. It's too bad the party sponsoring the Ministry of Truth is not as successful at building the state as it is tearing down personalities.
When petititions were due in April, I made clear that I had some family circumstances that took priority and might intrude on my ability to give a campaign the time and energy it needed. I have been out-of-state attending to family illnesses about half the time during the 2006. I have a contract to do some work as a member of the editorial board for the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature, and that work got seriously behind schedule.
Later this spring, other members in my family developed health issues related to aging. As I am retired and have a flexible work schedule, I am the one depended on to attend to family matters for those who have jobs that require their presence. The deadlines for my editorial obligations, which have been extended for me, coincide with the November election. In order to meet those obligations, I simply would not have the opportunity to conduct the kind of campaign that needs to be waged in District 3. I will have to be working at the editorial research and writing full-time for the rest of the year.
The article in the Aberdeen American News does not accurately portray the circumstances behind the shift of the Democratic ballot in District 3. However, in South Dakota politics, facts do not much matter. I will not be more specific about the matters besetting my family because it does not deserve or need to be exposed to the malignancy that possesses South Dakota politics.
My first-priority issue as a candidate was open government. South Dakota ranks absolute last in the U.S. in open government and access by its citizens because of its inadequate and repressive laws and the consequent government-by-subterfuge. I regret that I may miss an opportunity to try to introduce appropriate legislation to open up government commensurate with the standards in other states. A state government that operates by private treaties and secret plans cannot represent the people. It represents the interests only of an inside clique. I have no delusions that any legislation that would implement democracy by the people for the people will ever make it out of committee as long as Republicans are the majority party. Still, it would put the facts of repressive and devious government on the table.
There are other ways to approach the problems of South Dakota government, and as opportunity permits, I hope to pursue those approaches. But I will always put service to my family above politics.