Posts Tagged ‘Culture’

Got Talent? Leave. SD Prefers Mediocrity.

Posted: Monday, November 15, 2010 at 6:50 am
By: Cory Allen Heidelberger
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One of our state legislators has said something stupid. No, I’m not referring to compliments paid to Russell Olson upon his selection as Senate Majority Leader. I’m referring to the following quote reported by Bob Mercer:

A member of our Legislature took issue with a recent writeup on this blog regarding why election losers leave public service and sometimes leave South Dakota altogether. Regarding Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, the fellow told me, “She’s got too much talent to stay here” [Bob Mercer, "She's Got Too Much Talent...," Pure Pierre Politics, 2010.11.13].

Too much talent… The statement itself makes no sense. There is no such thing as too much talent. No rational person ever says, “Gee, I wish I or my kids or my employees or my elected officials had less talent.”

The unnamed legislator’s comment could have come straight from “Harrison Bergeron.” Does this unnamed legislator somehow believe that South Dakota doesn’t deserve to have talented people in office? If so, I’d love to know who got this legislator’s vote for party leadership this weekend. Would South Dakotans really choose less talented leaders over more talented leaders and accept years of drifting caretaker government and half-hearted initiatives that fall apart?

This legislator is perpetuating the South Dakota inferiority complex, that weird mix of perverse humility and anti-intellectualism that tells smart kids they are somehow un-South Dakotan. This legislator reminds me of Russell Olson, who has occasionally pointed out while campaigning here in District 8 that he didn’t get the best grades in school. Generally, rational candidates say things they believe will make themselves look like better candidates. Granting that Olson is rational, I conclude that Olson thinks that emphasizing a lack of academic talent makes him look better among South Dakota voters. We’re no good, so no one else should strive to be, because that would only make us feel more ashamed of ourselves.

What, then, do legislators with this anti-talent mindset really think about programs like Dakota Roots, the Sanford Homestake Lab, the Opportunity Scholarship, or education funding in general? These programs and others all seek to maintain and expand South Dakota’s talent pool. If a legislator believes that individuals like Stephanie Herseth Sandlin have “too much talent” for South Dakota, then why would a legislator want to spend any tax dollars to recruit more talented workers or to encourage smart kids to go to college in state? Perhaps the Opportunity Scholarship needs a new ACT threshold: instead of a minimum score of 24 to qualify, we need a maximum score of 30: do better than that, and you’re clearly too talented to go to SDSU. (By the way, Stephanie, what was your ACT score? And Kristi, how about you?)

There are other even less flattering ways to read this unnamed legislator’s comment. Maybe this legislator thinks that a state full of mediocre thinkers and workers is easier to control and pay minimum wage. Maybe this legislator is a bitter Democrat (or one of the disaffected Republicans that my own unnamed sources say have no love for Kristi Noem) calling 48% of the electorate stupid. Maybe this legislator is just rationalizing our narrow rejection of Herseth Sandlin at the polls into a conscience-soothing compliment—”Nothing personal: we threw you out because you’re so darned good! Now please go away, sweetie, and stop reminding us how dumb we are.”

Whatever the beliefs motivating it, no good comes from this legislator’s statement that Herseth Sandlin has “too much talent” for South Dakota. It says to our Fargens, our Buhls, our Venhuizens, and our Webers, “You don’t belong here. Get out.

I do not believe South Dakota is a land of mediocrity. But legislators like the one talking to Bob mercer will make us one.

The Right is Right. The Left is Wrong.

Posted: Thursday, June 3, 2010 at 11:38 pm
By: Ken Blanchard
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criminal-lawOne of the most sacred opinions among American liberals is that crime is largely the result of social injustice.  People are poor because they don’t have any money.  People commit crimes because they are poor.  Give people money, and both poverty and crime will diminish and disappear.

It’s an attractive view because it tells you what to do about crime.  Unfortunately, it’s wrong.  Richard Cohen, a liberal in good standing, but also a genuinely independent thinker, had the courage to point this out.

The good news is that crime is again down across the nation — in big cities, small cities, flourishing cities and cities that are not for the timid. Surprisingly, this has happened in the teeth of the Great Recession, meaning that those disposed to attribute criminality to poverty — my view at one time — have some strenuous rethinking to do. It could be, as conservatives have insisted all along, that crime is committed by criminals. For liberals, this is bad news indeed.

Ideas have to mean something to be ideas, and if the liberal idea means anything it is that increased poverty and crime should be correlated, and prosperity and decreases in crime likewise.  As Cohen shows, they aren’t.  As the American economy went south in 2008, crime went south with it.

It now seems fairly clear that something akin to culture and not economics is the root cause of crime. By and large everyday people do not go into a life of crime because they have been laid off or their home is worth less than their mortgage. They do something else, but whatever it is, it does not generally entail packing heat. Once this becomes an accepted truth, criminals will lose what status they still retain as victims.

In fact, this has been clear for many decades.  The American economy enjoyed phenomenal growth between the end of the Second World War and the 1980’s.  During that same time we suffered an explosive growth of violent crime.  But Cohen, at least, is finally seeing the writing on the wall.

[Liberal social policy] made victims of criminals and criminals of victims (all wealth comes from theft, etc.) — and in so doing, insulted the law-abiding poor who somehow lacked the wit to appreciate their historic plight. This ideology was mocked by Stephen Sondheim in his lyrics for the “West Side Story” song “Gee, Officer Krupke”:

“Dear kindly Sergeant Krupke, you gotta understand,
it’s just our bringin’ up-ke that gets us out of hand.
Our mothers all are junkies, our fathers all are drunks.
Golly Moses, natcherly we’re punks!”

In other words, all the gang members were the unavoidable products of their environment.

Common sense tells you that the environment has to play a role and the truly desperate will sometimes break the law — like Victor Hugo’s impoverished Jean Valjean, who stole bread for his sister’s children. But the latest crime statistics strongly suggest that bad times do not necessarily make bad people. Bad character does.

As conservatives has insisted all along, it isn’t society that is responsible for crime, it’s criminals.

The lesson learned here isn’t restricted to crime.  Barack Obama ran on a promise that he would restore America’s image in the world by being less arrogant and belligerent than his predecessor.  He would reach out to the problem children of the new world order, Iran, North Korea, Syria, the Palestinians, etc., and really listen to their concerns.  They in turn would realize that we don’t really want to hurt them, and real progress would be made on all fronts.

How’s that workin’ out?  Can one point to progress on any front of American foreign policy?  In these pages I have praised Obama for putting his cards on the table.  Now we can test whether a kinder, gentler foreign policy will melt the hearts of hardhearted dictators.  Well, we tested.  It turns out that the root cause of international criminality isn’t American arrogance and belligerence.  It’s international criminals.

The difference between the left and the right in America isn’t that there are better people on the one side than the other.  There are honest, thoughtful, and decent people on both sides, and both sides have their share of scoundrels.  The difference is that, on the important questions, the right is right and the left is wrong.

Scoring the seven deadly sins county by county

Posted: Thursday, June 3, 2010 at 7:24 am
By: Tim Gebhart
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Although religion seems to permeate life in America, it isn’t often someone tries to quantify how good or bad we may be. County Sin Rankings takes a somewhat waggish approach to doing so.

It relates seven factors to the seven deadly sins to come up with a score. Here’s the sins and correlative factor:

  • Pride – High school dropout rate
  • Greed – Income equality
  • Envy – Unemployment rate
  • Wrath – Violent crime rate (for some reason, no data was available or listed for South Dakota)
  • Lust – Chlamydia rate
  • Gluttony – Adult obesity
  • Sloth – Poor or fair health

The rankings compare only counties within a state, not counties in different states. While it’s easy to debate specific correlations between the factors and the sins, it’s still kind of fun to see how some of our areas rate.

Minnehaha County comes off fairly well, falling on the “good” side of the scale in all but pride. With a one percent difference, Lincoln County slides into the “good” side of the scale in the pride category, making it good across the board. Hughes County‘s worst scores are for pride and gluttony, although even those are in the mid-range. I will leave it to the political experts to debate whether there is any significance to that. Pennington County, meanwhile, falls into the mid-range for pride and greed but is generally “good” otherwise. Lawrence County, our gambling mecca, scores worst in greed, although it still manages to stay in the mid-range.

The role economics plays in the calculation and how there isn’t necessarily a correlation between these factors and the sins is seen in some of the counties that don’t fare all that well. Buffalo, Shannon and Todd counties commonly are are at or near the the top of the list of the poorest counties in the country. (So is Ziebach but data is not available for it on the site.) None falls on the “good” side of the scale in any category.

Buffalo County rates “bad” greed, envy, gluttony and sloth. It’s best ranking is in lust, where it is about mid-range. Shannon County rates “bad” in lust and gluttony and comes near that ranking in sloth and envy. It’s best ranking is in greed, but even that is on the bad end of mid-range. Finally, Todd County is truly bad only in pride. It is mid-range in envy and lust, sliding toward bad in the other categories.

By sin and available data, here’s the “goodest” and “baddest” counties:

Pride

Good: Dewey, Douglas, Hanson, McCook, Potter, Roberts

Bad: Todd

Greed

Good: Bon Homme, Custer

Bad: Buffalo, Sanborn

Envy

Good: Beadle, Brookings, Brown, Hughes, Jerauld, Lincoln

Bad: Buffalo

Lust

Good: Turner

Bad: Shannon

Gluttony

Good: Lawrence

Bad: Shannon

Sloth

Good: Brookings, Clay, Hamlin, Hanson

Bad: Corson

Doin’ the old Jihad: dancing with the infidels

Posted: Friday, May 14, 2010 at 10:54 am
By: David Newquist
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You’d have to have your head pretty far up your theological lower colon not to acknowledge that Islam confronts America with a refutation of our fundamental principles.  Many of the conflicts center on the First Amendment:  the prohibition against the state-endorsed establishment of a religion or interference with the exercise thereof; abridgment of free speech and the free press, the right to peaceably assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances (a process known more familiarly in South Dakota as whining).    More basic conflicts deal with liberty, equality, and equal justice.  The Islamic status accorded women is counter to the principles of equality as they have developed in our country and much of the free world.

Islam rejects the fundamental principles on which America was formed and has developed.  The fundamentalist sects conceive that rejection as an obligation to declare holy war on America.  Faisal Shahzad, the would-be Times Square bomber, illustrates the dilemma.  He became a U.S. citizen last year.  The obvious question he raises is, if you don’t like America and what it stands for, why are you here?

The answer, apparently, is he liked the opportunities America afforded him, but he does not like the freedom and opportunities it affords people who do not subscribe to his beliefs and values.  He has that attitude in common with many in America’s right wing. The radical Islamists believe that it is the obligation of women to submit to dominance, to obey the rules set for them by men, and to suppress any individual aspirations and thoughts they might have.  The penalties for not submitting are severe, including death.  The videos of old, Muslim men beating burka-clad women with canes for some infraction of their rules come to mind.  Countries seem to be subject to the same rules that are applied to women:  if they don’t obey personal and sectarian commands to conform to Islamic dictates, punish them, behead them, or rain mass destruction down on them.  The basic issue in our confrontations with militant Islam is the total lack of respect for life, unless it is lived under complete subjection to whatever rules some imam is espousing at the time.

When puritan minister Roger Williams was banished from his Massachusetts pulpit to go live among the Indians in what became Rhode Island, he set the principles on which our First Amendment and the concept of separation of church and state was formed.  He stated:

First, that the blood of so many hundred thousand souls of Protestants and Papists, spilt in the wars of present and former ages, for their respective consciences, is not required nor accepted by Jesus Christ the Prince of Peace.

And:

Sixthly, it is the will and command of God that (since the coming of his Son the Lord Jesus) a permission of the most paganish, Jewish, Turkish, or antichristian consciences and worships, be granted to all men in all nations and countries; and they are only to be fought against with that sword which is only (in soul matters) able to conquer, to wit, the sword of God’s Spirit, the Word of God.

Militant Islam obviously disdains that notion which came to define our concept of religious freedom.  Our application of those concepts has created a dilemma.  The plots to attack America with acts of violence which kill indiscriminately and with a hateful viciousness have often been hatched and developed in mosques, and advocated by Muslim clerics. When some political group, such as some communist or fascist organization, comes to America to declare war or engage in sedition, we are unequivocal about treating them as enemies who must be dealt with according to our laws.  When Muslim groups practice war and sedition against us, we get terribly equivocal because the First Amendment asserts the freedom to practice religion.  And we are loathe to restrict people who peaceably assemble to worship, even if such worship includes a liturgy of violent sedition and the evangelizing of terrorists. We apply what might be described as theological correctness.

We Americans are for the most part so culturally removed from the mindset possessed by Islamic terrorists that we cannot comprehend their motives.  We find it hard to conceive of the thoroughness of operant conditioning in the Muslim system which overrules any critical thinking and provides mindless violence as the way to avenge personal frustrations and prejudices.  The behavioral pattern is evident in the actions of Faisal Shahzad and Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter.  They were radicalized.  We have come to understand the “radicalization” of people under Marxist systems, as portrayed by Manchurian candidates, but we have little understanding of how this same kind of operant conditioning has such an effect on Islamics.

My own experience with Muslim students has puzzled me.  In the past Northern State had many students from Middle Eastern countries.  It was a destination for Saudi Arabian students who generally came to Northern to finish degrees that they started at a community college in Minnesota.  They were competent but undistinguished students who clearly relished American freedoms and culture, and had a particular attraction to the sexuality of American women.

An experience with a Pakistani pre-medical student, however, was the most puzzling.  It was at the time that Iran’s Ayotollah Khomeini had issued a death warrant on author Salmon Rushdie for his novel Satanic Verses which portrayed gross hypocrisies within the Muslim religious establishment.  The young man felt compelled to stop after class to inform me why Rushdie deserved such a death sentence because he had profaned the Muslim religion, and no rights took precedence over the divine right to seek vengeance over an insult to the Muslim faith.   A number of students had lingered after class to hear what the young man said, and later even came to my office to discuss the matter.  I solicited information on the matter from those who knew and understood the Muslim faith more than I.

The professor who had the office next to mine at the time was from Pakistan, educated in Canadian universities, and was a professor of English literature, so he well knew the principles that operated in our system and our culture.  He seemed to practice a more liberal version of the Muslim religion, if he practiced at all.  I was puzzled by his response, which was that someone who brought ridicule on the Muslim religion deserved a death sentence for such a heinous act.

The idea that religious sensibility holds precedent over the very laws which enable the practice of religions is incomprehensible to Americans.  We conclude that when people take the Oath of Allegiance to become U.S. citizens  some of them must lie outright when they affirm that they accept the terms of the Oath as the condition of their citizenship:

I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.[1]

Those Islamics who are American citizens and turn to random violence in the name of jihad are troubling in the degree of their betrayal and treason.  But we forget that our most successful terrorist bombers were not Muslim  The most successful, Timothy McVeigh, seemed to have no faith other than a deep hatred of the American government, the one thing he shared with Islamic terrorists.  The same seems to be true with the Unabomber.

And then we have shooters like the Columbine boys, the Virginia Tech shooter, and the one at Northern Illinois University.  The trait they all shared was a sense of being demeaned and alienated from the society around them and a rage that meant lashing out against it with a vicious violence, knowing and planning that the acts they committed would end their lives, too.  Some were under treatment for mental illness, and some should have been, according to reports on them.

Another  aspect of violence in American life that receives mostly tabloid-like coverage in the press is that conducted by skinhead gangs, street gangs, and motorcycle gangs. And the constant shootings and killings of young people in Chicago are reminders of something that is deeply wrong.  A significant portion of America is living out the society of The Lord of the Flies with an energy that shapes the life of the community.  The problem is met with platitudes about holding criminals, not society, responsible for their acts, and so we have a prison system filled with two million who are getting advanced degrees in violence and criminality.

The denial of problems in America is a symptom of a deteriorating society.  As suggested by the 47 million people who do not have health  care access, there are millions of people for whom the American dream is a living nightmare.  They are excluded not just from the advantages of American life but from any regard as humans of equal status and worth.  The conclusion has been  reached that our schools, which show a a need for improvement, can be improved only by the expeditious firing of teachers.  No one wants to look seriously at the social formations of student bodies, which are the salient feature of school life that defines it for students.   For many students, school is an oppressive, destructive experience on which parents and teachers exert little influence.  Adolescents and young adults are a market particularly vulnerable to ploys that tamper with their sense of identity.  Young people tend to define their sense of worth by those over whom they can exercise a pose of distinctive superiority.  The rules  of the dog pack and pecking order, what sociologists call social stratification,  prevail.  Adolescent society left to its own devices is viciously cruel and destructive.  Nothing raises the reactionary hackles more effectively than to suggest that adolescent society is a reflection of the general society.

Self-criticism is regarded as Marxist, unpatriotic, America-hating — a subversive activity of the liberals.  Denial has become a political platform.  It is important for a segment of Americans to deny that their political agenda is driven by racial attitudes.  When Arizona passed the law requiring police officers to ask for the citizenship papers of anyone stopped for an infraction of law, minority people interpreted this as a form of racial profiling.  The state legislature hastily modified the law in an attempt to mitigate the appearance of racial motives, and the problem of Arizona being an entry point for illegals had credence.  But when the legislature passed a law banning ethnic studies in the state’s schools, it codified accusations in the legal code that are patently false.  The law:
.

Prohibits a school district or charter school from including in its program of instruction any courses or classes that:
•Promote the overthrow of the United States government.
•Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
•Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
•Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals.

I have taught ethnic literature as part of study programs, and I have never come across an instance where any teacher promoted the overthrow of U.S. government,  promoted racial resentments,  where the classes were not designed to impart impart information about one culture to members of another culture, or where ethnic solidarity was an educational objective.  It is true that in covering our past and practices in our present that students are confronted with some tough facts about how racism operates in our past and present society.  But the reason for ethnic studies is to acknowledge and understand the contributions of the many ethnic elements in our culture, not to foment racial hostilities.  Ironically, Arizona State University has maintained one of the most admired ethnic studies programs in the nation.  The characterization of ethnic studies in the state law is a falsehood with defamatory purpose.

With laws  on the books which prohibit the exploration and study of various ethnic cultures, many Americans rightfully see an official decree of alienation.

We look at the conditioning process involved in radical Islam and can point to those factors which bring violence to America.  However, it is Marxist,  ungodly, unpatriotic, and America-hating to examine why we are successful in creating so much terror, violence, and anguish right here at home.

America’s strength has been in being able to face up to its own transgressions against humanity and to take steps to rectify them.  But now there is a political force that wants to take us backward where conciliation of differences is neither practiced nor desired.  Bob Schieffer of CBS’ Face the Nation recently commented that for the first time in his memory, the staff  of a politician who was appearing asked if the politician could be given a separate waiting room so that he or she did not have to be in the same room as members of the opposite party.  On a local level, I have seen this attitude in people who have stopped  going to church, dropped out of civic activities, and have eschewed cultural and social events because of the political tensions that are palpable in these situations.

But it is unpatriotic and an expression of America-hatred to bring it up.  And so, let alienation and hatred ring.  It’s patriotic.

Tempest in a Teabag: from B.O. to the Shores of Lake Herman

Posted: Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 8:10 pm
By: RadioActive Chief
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NOTE: Graphic content follows.

President Obama: GOP Opposition to Stimulus ‘Helped to Create the Tea-Baggers’

Three days after he decried the lack of civility in American politics, President Obama is quoted in a new book about his presidency referring to the Tea Party movement using a derogatory term with sexual connotations.

In Jonathan Alter’s “The Promise: President Obama, Year One,” President Obama is quoted in an November 30, 2009, interview saying that the unanimous vote of House Republicans vote against the stimulus bills “set the tenor for the whole year … That helped to create the tea-baggers and empowered that whole wing of the Republican Party to where it now controls the agenda for the Republicans.”

Tea Party activists loathe the term “tea baggers,” which has emerged in liberal media outlets and elsewhere as a method of mocking the activists and their concerns.

On Saturday, the president delivered a commencement address at the University of Michigan where he said one way “to keep our democracy healthy is to maintain a basic level of civility in our public debate … But we can’t expect to solve our problems if all we do is tear each other down.”

So much for any pretense of consistency…but what’s the backstory on this? Read on:

“President ‘Tea Bagger’ Owes Grandma an Apology

Just so we understand the ground rules here: 1) calling a Progressive Democrat a Socialist is bad; 2) Calling “Tea Party” protesters “Tea Baggers” is A-OKAY.

We seem to remember when the Left went apoplectic over imaginary suggestions that they were unpatriotic for being “against the war” during the Bush administration. We seem to recall President Obama very recently complaining about being called a Socialist (why do Democrats find Socialist to be such a dirty word? What is it about being a Socialist that they should universally shrink away from the title?).

You couldn’t ask for a more textbook definition of hypocrisy.

It is perversely amusing, though, watching Media Matters defend President “Tea-Bagger” for referring to average Americans, whose only crime is to reject Socialism, with a sexually offensive slur.

For a reminder, here are some shots of some U.S. citizens, who, in the Media Matters universe, should be referred to by the President of the United States as people who take testicles into their mouths.

So, how does this get to Lake Herman? Oh yes…via our own C.A.H. who has apparently figured that if it’s good enough for B.O. it’s good enough for him:

Teabaggers Rejoice: No Bailout for Flooded SD Homes

I won’t even address the content of this snarky and illogical post itself…that’s another whole discussion.

The descriptive terminology of the header strives for and achieves a new low, even from Madville.

Hey, Cory, do you have any daughters? Or a grandmother? Would you like them to be referred to by elected officials, or allegedly serious bloggers, as people who put testicles into their mouths? Do you really think it’s appropriate for ANY elected official or anyone who pretends to be a serious commentator on events to refer to anyone that way?

Maybe so. Too bad.

Lessons Unlearned?

Posted: Sunday, March 28, 2010 at 11:30 pm
By: RadioActive Chief
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Those who fail to learn the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. - Santayana

Kansas-Nebraska Act 1854, Redux

We are now beginning to enter the Kansas-Nebraska Act stage of the socialist crisis of the Republic.

To get the significance of this, some history is in order:

At our constitutional founding, the evil of slavery had been crudely evaded. In 1820, the Missouri Compromise was enacted that prohibited the abomination north of 36/30 degrees latitude [southern boundary of Missouri, except for it's SE "boot-heel"].

But with the western push of the frontier, a new compromise was needed. So the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 decreed that the “popular sovereignty” of each territory should decide whether they would be slave or free states. But then, adherents of both the abomination and freedom migrated to Kansas to struggle — with their bodily presence — for their respective causes. First there was politics. Then the political rhetoric turned violent. Then real violence ensued. Kansas became known as Bleeding Kansas. John Brown, most famously, applied unjustified, murderous violence for his righteous cause of ending slavery and was hanged, but the Civil War ensued…

NOT a pretty scene!

Now we enter our History’s second stage in the struggle against the abomination of socialism. Just as slavery had been contained in the South, so entitlement socialism has, until this week, been more or less contained in service to only the poor and the elderly — and even in those programs (for the elderly) on the principle of beneficiaries paying monthly premiums for the benefits they will later get (Medicare/ Social Security). Only the poor under Medicaid received benefit without premium payment.

But now, just as the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 broke through the slave state limitation to the South, the Democratic Party’s 2010 health care law has broken socialism’s boundary of being so limited. Now, the chains of socialism are to be clamped on to the able-bodied middle class — not merely the already presumed helpless poor and old who have paid their insurance premiums.

An exaggeration you say? Not so fast, according to that (understatement alert!) not exactly right wing New York Times.

Even the New York Times — after the vote — admits what the bigger goal has been all along. In Wednesday’s edition (“In Health Care Bill, Obama Attacks Wealth Inequality” by David Leonhardt), they point out: ” Beyond the health reform’s effect on the medical system, it is the centerpiece of his deliberate effort to end what historians have called the age of Reagan. … Speaking to an ebullient audience of Democratic legislators and White House aides at the bill-signing ceremony on Tuesday, Mr. Obama claimed that health reform would ‘mark a new season in America.’…. Above all, the central question that both the Reagan and Obama administrations have tried to answer — what is the proper balance between the market and the government? — remains unresolved. But the bill signed on Tuesday certainly shifts our place on that spectrum.”

I thank The New York Times for that honest statement of historic fact.

After citing some of the obnoxious aspects of what Congress and B.O. hath wrought, the piece goes on:
And just as the free states could not tolerate the spread of slavery into their midst, so, too, free middle-class America — if it still has its historic character — will not tolerate the yoke of socialism put upon our necks.

First, the unambiguous will of the majority has been defied by the vote of Congress last Sunday. Come November, we shall see whether the system can still turn the popular will into the constitutionally permissible legislative will of the majority. If it can, all will be well and the crisis will end. Rallying the vote between now and November is roughly equivalent to the early stage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act period — people started migrating to Kansas to support their convictions.

But come November, if the majority still opposes the socializing of health care delivery and the other central government intrusions, and yet the corrupt bargains and constitutional distortions of Washington deny that will its just expression — then, for the second time in our history, we enter that dangerous period where the House resolves its temporary division. Let us devoutly pray –and commit to ourselves — that this time freedom shall be reacquired … peaceably.

…and then there’s THIS one to go along with the above:

Will America break up?
Abortion threatens to split the nation like slavery

President Obama is splintering America. The passage of Obamacare was a historic victory for liberal governance. Yet, its true cost may be that it triggers the eventual breakup of the country.

Mr. Obama has achieved what his liberal predecessor…could only dream of: nationalized health care. Obamacare signifies the government take-over of one-sixth of the U.S. economy. It has dealt a mortal blow to traditional America. We are now a European-style socialist welfare state. The inevitable permanent tax hikes, massive public bureaucracy and liberal ruling elites will stifle competition and initiative.

Republicans vow to repeal Obamacare. Their past record, however, leaves many conservatives rightly skeptical….The Republican Party has been unable to roll back the tide of statism. In fact, under Richard Nixon and both George Bushes, Great Society Republicans have been complicit in erecting a nanny state.

Socialism is the road to economic ruin and fiscal bankruptcy. It subverts democracy, threatening the very future of our constitutional republic. Socialist states degenerate into some form of autocracy or technocratic neo-feudalism, whereby the productive class is taxed and exploited to sustain a growing dependent class. Factions are pitted against each other; groups vie for handouts at the expense of their fellow citizens. The bonds of economic union and national solidarity slowly dissolve.

“The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not,” warned Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson was right: Redistributionist welfare policies are undermining our democracy. The resentments in America are growing. Tea Partiers believe that their government no longer represents their interests or values. The heartland is becoming dangerously alienated from the political class, whom it feels has betrayed them.

Obamacare may be the last straw. It strips away fundamental economic liberties, empowering the federal government to de facto nationalize everyone’s body by controlling our health. Americans are compelled – upon pain of penalty and eventual imprisonment – to purchase insurance.

Moreover, the law codifies the federal funding of abortion. Taxpayer dollars will be used to subsidize the murder of innocent life. Hence, Mr. Obama has violated the social compact: He has abrogated the conscience of pro-lifers, making them tacitly complicit in the slaughter of the unborn. Obamacare is a radical assault upon fundamental religious freedoms.

The Obama revolution threatens to tear America apart. This has happened before. Slavery eventually triggered the Civil War between the industrial North and the agrarian South. Abortion is the slavery of our time – the denying of basic human rights to an entire category of people.

You may well not like this. I don’t get a warm fuzzy from it myself…but I’m not at all sure it isn’t happening anyway.

…we are going the way our Founding Fathers warned us against: increasing balkanization and sectionalism. A constitutional republic – unlike an empire – is only as strong as its national cohesion. It is based not on imperial coercion but civic consent. Mr. Obama is recklessly pulling at the strings of unity, further polarizing us.

In confronting Obamacare, state sovereignty, states’ rights and state nullification of federal laws are being asserted. This is what happened in the 1830s and 1840s. They are the signs of growing political anarchy and social frustration – people can only be pushed so far. Mr. Obama’s drive for a socialist super-state threatens America’s very existence. As Jefferson warned about slavery, it is time we start ringing the “fire bell in the night.”

“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold,” wrote William Butler Yeats. “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”

Conservatives will not be passive in this onslaught on all our core values. Mr. Obama’s true legacy may be that he divides us deeper than ever before – unless he abandons his revolutionary project.

Once again, that most usable Warren Zevon lyric: “It ain’t that pretty at all!”

Suffering from pothole perspective

Posted: Monday, March 1, 2010 at 12:02 pm
By: Tim Gebhart
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Local news items and letters to the editor over the last few weeks crystallized something for me. Too many of my fellow Sioux Falls residents suffer from pothole perspective. And it’s pernicious.

Every year the prospect of spring is associated with potholes, problems that are perennial and inevitable. Yet while our potholes get patched every year, some say potholes show our tax dollars are misspent and we need to forget about “unnecessary” items. That perspective spends too much time staring at the ground and worrying about the inexorable effect of nature. If people took their eyes off the ground and thought about holes that are preventable, it would greatly enrich the city and its residents.

For example, a significant portion of voters saw an indoor swimming pool as “unnecessary.” As one of the leading opponents recently said, swimming outdoors makes far more sense that swimming in an air-conditioned heated pool in the summer. That’s a pothole perspective. Lifting our eyes off the ground we’d see the indisputable fact that at least half of the year it makes no sense to swim outdoors. Perhaps that might suggest that providing a lifetime recreational opportunity to our residents without the necessity of joining a private gym or going to a motel for a night or weekend might be of benefit. Yes there is an initial outlay but, at the same time, there will be user fees, rental fees and the additional sales tax and other income generated by hosting local, state or regional swim meets.

While weather may be problematic for outdoor pools, the pothole perspective says that when you can’t use the outdoor pools at least there’s plenty of ice for skating or hockey. If anyone wants more indoor ice, it must be private groups who would benefit because the “public” has all the sheets of ice it needs. Seems, though, that the ice rink in the Expo Building on the fairgrounds closed for the season last week for repairs. That means hockey practices must be moved — to Iowa. That means the girl’s state varsity hockey tournament must be moved — to Sioux Center, Iowa. Yes, it would cost local government money to help build and maintain an ice facility. At the same time, even if all you worry about is economics, there are again user fees, rental fees and the like. Not only is that money going to Iowa, the sales tax and revenue from various tournaments is heading to that state also, along with Rapid City, Huron or Brookings. Does the state’s largest city really want to provide less recreational opportunity to their residents than those other communities?

Yet naysayers aren’t the only ones affected by a pothole perspective. Mainline pothole visionaries say there’s no need for an events center because we’ve already got the Arena. Borderline pothole visionaries say the lack of an events center is a cultural and economic pothole and the way to fix it is to allow cities to levy an additional sales tax. Yet when the several-ton truck known as the Legislature says the city can’t have its preferred patching material, there’s no Plan B. Now while opponents are complaining about real and imaginary potholes, supporters stare at the events center pothole and complain. Meanwhile, the cultural and economic potholes get deeper and wider and the city is outclassed by other cities in the region and state.

This pothole fixation keeps far too many from seeing the growing gaps and fissures in our culture and recreation and our revenue sources. I’m not saying local government is solely responsible to fix those gaps or to fully fund these and other facilities in Sioux Falls. There needs to be public-private partnerships and private investment to get such facilities built and help make them as self-sustaining as possible. But simply staring at a pothole doesn’t fix it.

Thinking the inescapable pothole plague is more important than our future quality of life truly is staring at the ground. Anyone who tries to move forward while fixated on the ground takes great risk. Unfortunately, a pothole perspective that seems almost endemic is bringing Sioux Falls far too close to falling off a cliff.

Sign posts on the journey to dysfunction

Posted: Thursday, December 31, 2009 at 4:56 pm
By: David Newquist
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The attempted bombing of the Detroit-bound airliner has produced a classic epidemic of Monday-morning-quarterbacking.  And we hasten to point out that the term “Monday Morning Quarterback” is not exactly a compliment.  It designates those people whose only sense of consequence is to sit by while other people engage in all the work and action and then bicker and criticize, even though these kibbitzers have never had what it takes to play the game in which they pose as experts.  Monday Morning Quarterbacking is a harmless pretense, unless it is mistaken for informed intelligence.  When it is taken seriously, it becomes dangerous.  It has become dangerous.

Current polls show that few Americans have any confidence in Congress.   Many informed observers have written about the escalating dysfunction of Congress and its inability to do much more than bicker, obstruct, and resolve itself into resentful factions.  The real significance is that Congress is a direct reflection of the American people.  The country that fought World War II, moved forward with civil rights, and produced ideas and products that made it the world leader no longer exists.  The resentment, petulance, and petty malice demonstrated in Congress shows a deterioration of intellectual discernment,  The irrelevant and often foolish quibbling of the Monday Morning Quarterbacks are being taken seriously, probably because members of Congress are so slavishly devoted to garnering votes, no matter what level of inanity.

Discussions of national security are immersed in the muck of that petty  egotism which deludes people into thinking that inane bickering is intelligent discussion.  A survey of of the media and the blogosphere reveals how mired the nation, and therefore Congress, is in the sloughs of contention.  The Dutch government, for example, is planning to subject all airline passengers going through its terminals to full-body scans.  Many commenters decry that this technology has not been put in place sooner.  They forget that when full-body scanners were developed and demonstrated, there was an outcry about their invasion of privacy because the images of the full body included rather detailed scans of the genitalia.  A blocking device could be put in place over the crotch, but savvy would-be bombers would fasten their explosives in the crotch area somewhere.  This is exactly what the Nigerian Christmas bomber did.    The TSA delayed implementation of full-body scans because there was so much opposition to imaging the public’s pudenda.

Then there is much criticism and accusation about the fact that the Nigerian’s father informed the Dept. of State that his son was being radicalized by Islamic terror groups but he was not put on a list that  would have prevented him from boarding a U.S.-bound flight.  While the critics think he should have made the A-list of potential terrorists, they conveniently ignore the ruckus raised about just what criteria must be applied to curtail people’s rights.  Newt Gingrich, on the other hand, has said that we need to practice outright discrimination in order to  prevent Islamic terrorists from entering the country or engaging in activities within it.  Some people have been wrongfully placed on lists and some have been subjected to humiliating searches and interrogations.  These instances show actions taken against people on the basis of false accusations.  With the aborted airliner bombing and the shootings at Fort Hood, we are told that the security measures following 9/11 are not working as well as they should be.  We even have some valid analysis as to why they have not worked.  But the questions of abandoning our fundamental principles of freedom, equality, and equal protection of the law loom over all information and discussions of deterrring terrorisim.

Predominantly, we have the  Monday Morning Quarterbacks sending up their sound and fury. Cogent and valid analysis gets intermixed and lost in the raging babble.  Instead of rolling up their sleeves and asking just what caused the malfunctions of the security system and what is the best way to correct it, the people in charge are busy looking over their shoulders to hear what the pundits will say, how the polls will respond, what the bloggers say, and what kind of political spin missiles they will have to deflect.  Responsible government is confused with responsive government.  And it is dysfunctional.

The loudest voice in all this is those who could care less about what happens to the people of the country as long as they can find some pretext in terror attacks for accusing the Obama administration of dire things which they hope will lead to its defeat.  Former Vice President Dick Cheney is the  loudest cheerleader for failure.   His latest sally can be easily demonstrated to be an outright lie, but truthfulness and accurate representations are not part of his party’s operating standards.  That fact accounts for why government will not in the current intellectual climate be able to formulate a competent and effective means for dealing with terrorists.  A nation possessed by an unstable mentality lacks the capability of dealing with other unstable mentalities.  The insane asylum is being run by the insane.

Dealing with the pathologies in the human personality is the toughest of jobs.  It would much simpler to, as New Gingrich suggests, give in to an open policy of discriminating against anyone against whom we have suspicions.  We would become like Nazi Germany, the Stalinist Soviet Union, and contemporary Iran, China, and North Korea.  We would simply kill or incarcerate those we suspect or dislike.  And, of course, we would lose America in the corrosive mists of our reptilian past.  Those mists are present in the petty and often stunningly stupid discussion about how to deal with terrorism.  They are our biggest national threat.

The difficulties of making sound and justifiable decisions about people who pose possible threats is covered in two Washington Post articles of intensive reporting on the Nigerian bomber and on the Fort Hood shooter.  In both cases, the clues about the directions that these men took are ambiguous and not definitive.  They follow a pattern of men who live in isolated devotion to their religion.  If they were Christian, they would be termed monkish.  The recriminations about missing the clues they presented are demonstrations of how much easier it is to be stupid than intelligent.  People have a right to their opinions, but we have a dire need for cogent criticism of the presumptuous opinions of those who choose to be dummies.

America has gone about the business of defining itself since colonial times.  It wrote itself in lofty and inspirational words and went about the business of growing into those words.  During the last half of the twentieth century, America flourished.  But in the 21st century, the language that dominates American consciousness has changed.  It is the language of bickering, quibbling, carping, and denial.  If one gauges America’s destiny by the quality of its language and the reach of  the words that define its sense of purpose, we clearly live in an age of intellectual decline.  When people become dysfunctional, their language expresses it.

As an old man, I have seen much failure.  I have seen corporations descend into failure.  (I worked for one of the  nation’s most spectacular failures, International Harvester Company.)   I have seen colleges and universities lose their way when the small mindedness of the educational bureaucracy stifled the intellects of its scholars.   I am watching such a case now.  I have seen communities wither away and die when the petty resentment  and bigotry of the carpers in the town cafes characterized the town culture.  And we have entire states, such as California and New York, demonstrating the processes of dysfunction and failure.

There was a time when Americans for the most part could recognize when a job had to be done, such as in confronting Islamic terrorists.  They realized that something had to be done and there were multiple ways of accomplishing any such task.  They also realized that there are a number of ways of accomplishing a task, but that the real goal is to accomplish the task and not get diverted by bickering over just how to go about the task.  America, as in World War II, put aside petty preferences, rolled up its sleeves, and concentrated on accomplishing the task to be done.

As we have seen in the last Congressional session, that kind of cooperation and focus on end results is not possible.  Instead, we are immersed in the language of dysfunction and personal insult and abuse.  This state of affairs is exactly what terrorists hope to accomplish.

The better angels of human nature are being vanquished by its most insidious demons.

The  language what swirls around us foreshadows an age of darkness, a return to those dark ages that the Age of Enlightenment dispelled.  Our country is being rendered incapable of cogent resolve and competent action.  The terrorists are winning because they know how to manipulate the strings of the dummies.

The map to America’s future has been drawn in words and images.  How many will follow it?
[A state employee in Colorado is facing disciplinary action for
circulating this picture  from her office computer.]

Pastor Steve Hickey Is Just Alright With Me

Posted: Wednesday, December 9, 2009 at 11:17 pm
By: Todd Epp
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Pastor Steve Hickey is just alright with me, to paraphrase the Doobie Brothers.

Pastor Steve and I have had our battles over abortion and homosexuality.  He’s not in favor of either and is very vocal in his beliefs.  And I like to get under his skin and needle him from time to time over them.

To some of my colleagues on the Left, he is an object of scorn and ridicule because of his views.

But yesterday, when I had written here that I was having one of the worst birthdays in my life and had a terrible, terrible day, he left the following comment:

Todd I pray before I go to bed and reading this made me think It’d encourage you to listen in to my next prayer

Woodcut for

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Heavenly Father I pray for Todd Epp and thank you for his 51 years and who you’ve made him to be. He is a gift to many people and your plans for him are good and specific. I pray he’d find encouragement in you and the people who love him. I declare this next year will be a breakthrough year in his search for what is true and that he’d learn even in this suffering that pain is not wasted in your economy. Show him how much you delight in him. In Jesus’ name. Amen

I cannot tell you how touched I was by his concern and his prayer.  I felt a burden lifted off of me after reading it.

He rolls as a Christian.  I roll as a secular Buddhist with tinges of Mennonitism and Methodistism sprinkled in.

As I have been on my own spiritual path with Buddhism and the strength and comfort it gives me, I have also come to better appreciate religions and spiritual viewpoints that others believe (or in the case of my agnostic and atheist friends, don’t believe).

Faith and belief (or non-belief) are intensely personal matters.  And frankly, when you look at most religions and wisdom traditions, they all look kind of silly if they aren’t yours.

Main image of Śākyamuni Buddha within the Maha...

Image via Wikipedia

That Pastor Steve would pray for me after some of the heated exchanges we’ve had means a lot to me.  And it also makes another point.  Our American culture is diverse.  We’re not always going to agree with each other on difficult issues like abortion and LGBT rights.

But our opponents are not our enemies.  They are our fellow country men and women who come at things differently but just as sincerely as we do.

Like a family that bickers, we can still love one another, or at least like one another, or at the very least, act civilly toward each other.

And Pastor Steve did that last night.  And who am I to turn away help, whether it’s my cup of spiritual tea or not.  Life and spirituality are both great unknowns.  While I think I’m right, Pastor Steve might also be right.

Pastor Steve, thank you very, very much.  We may never agree on some pretty big issues, but you’re more than alright in my book.

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From Lewinsky’s Lips To Tiger’s Driver, The MSM And Scandal Mongers Are Now One And The Same

Posted: Saturday, December 5, 2009 at 12:14 am
By: Todd Epp
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What Monica Lewinsky‘s lips started in 1995 Tiger Woods‘ driver completed in 2009.tiger woods

We are now unable to distinguish the “real” news media–the MSM–from the scandal sheets and gossip mills in print and on TV.*

The MSM and the “celebrity” news purveyors have effectively become one in the same in their news coverage of personal scandals.

The scandal hustlers actually broke the Woods wandering wood story using MSM-like investigative tactics–and lots of cash.

Initial MSM reports about the Tiger crash were “just the facts, ma’m.”  Tiger was in an accident. Tiger was hurt. Tiger was taken to the hospital.

But not long after the Escalade hit the tree, the proverbial you know what hit the fan in the MSM about Tiger’s busy driver, thanks in large part to “reporting” prompted and performed by the gossipteers.clinton

Even my long standing favorite MSM news source, National Public Radio–perhaps as stodgy, snooty, elitist, comprehensive, and high standard of news organization there is in America–has Tiger Fever.

Typically, NPR only covers “serious” topics like the economy, the Supreme Court, or countries you’ve never heard of.  But even NPR can’t get enough of Tiger.

So if even the gold standard of American journalism jumps the shark into National Enquirer and Midnight and Star and TMZ territory, there is no longer effectively a difference. Maybe only in degree but not in kind.

Scandal sells. Maybe NPR should have its local public radio affiliates do “friend raising” around the next celebrity sex scandal that breaks.

In fact, at a personal level, I’ve taken tangible action on this point. I’ve set up Feedly as my new RSS feeder. Rather than putting “News” and “Celebrity” feeds in separate categories, I now have them in the same category of “News.”

Why bother parsing the difference. It’s now all the samenprlogo_138x46 b.s.

In our brave new world of Lewinsky’s loose lips and Tiger’s deviating driver and “news” coverage thereof, the distinction between news and gossip has been lost. Worse, the distinction between news organizations and scandal whores has been lost.

And we can blame the MSM all we want for this dumbing down.  But it is really us who are at fault. We watch, we read, we tune in.  We share the details with our co-workers.  The MSM now gives us what we used to secretly glance at in the grocery store checkout lane and snickered at.  Only now we consider it news.

It is now only a matter of time before we hearmonica NPR’s Renee Montagne tell us that aliens who impregnated Dr. Phil and Angelina Jolie while on a no exercise weight loss plan will visit us before the world ends in 2012.

*One could argue the date goes back even farther, thanks again to President Clinton, to 1992 and Bill’s various “bimbo eruptions” that were similarly covered.  I’ll let future historians sort that one out.

Photo of Tiger Woods used under the following permission: http://www.flickr.com/photos/keithallison/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo of Pres. Clinton by Timothy K. Hamilton used under the following permission: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bestrated1/ / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Photo of Monica Lewinsky graffiti used under the following permission: http://www.flickr.com/photos/zabowski/ / CC BY-ND 2.0