August, 2012

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#614 – Dick Bernard: The Summer of 1920

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Several photos are at the end of this post. Click on any to enlarge them.

Entrance to Veterans Memorial Park August 16, 2012

A conversation, a letter, and a visit to three ladies this summer brought to the surface some long ago memories, worth sharing.

Best I know, 1920 in North Dakota was a pretty ordinary year for farmers on the prairie. The horrid World War I had ended two years earlier; the Roaring Twenties were set to begin. It was, in relative terms, probably fairly good times on the prairie.

August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was enacted. It was the Women’s Suffrage amendment. Finally, women had earned the right to vote!

But the summer of 1920 was a bit more dramatic for three farm families, as I had an opportunity to revisit this summer with three surviving first cousins, Marion Placke, Ruby Fitzgerald and Edith Busch.

My grandparents Busch had farmed between Berlin and Grand Rapids ND since 1905; their sister and brother, August Berning and his wife Christine, came in1906 and lived the next farm over, a short mile walk across the pasture (if the bull was nowhere to be seen). Grandma and August’s oldest sister, Kate Placke, lived in the home country, at the base of Sinsinawa Mound, in rural Wisconsin, a few miles from Dubuque Iowa.

Farm families were large then.

By 1920, Kate had been married 25 years and had a dozen children. Grandma Rosa by then had six of her nine children; and Christina nine of her thirteen.

That summer, Rosa and Christina were both pregnant. Christina was carrying twins, and the pregnancy may have been difficult. Rosa had Edith on July 20.

Harvest was looming and while we normally hear stories about the men “trashing” (as Grandma wrote “threshing”), harvest time was where the women’s work was truly never done.

Of course, everyone’s harvest came about the same time, and it was not a good time to share labor between farms.

What to do?

Likely through letter, but possibly telephone as well, It was decided that Kate would come west to help her sisters. Kate probably brought with her the three youngest kids, Lucina, 10, Florence, 7 and Marion, 4. Another sister, Lena Parker, also lived nearby and probably helped as well.

At some point, Christina Berning came home to her parents home, the Wilhelm Busch farm in rural Cuba City, and gave birth to twin daughters on September 25, 1920. Ruby lived, Ruth died in infancy.

Sometime that summer, probably after the harvest, and before Kate Placke and family and the Bernings left for Wisconsin the families gathered at the new Veterans Memorial Park in Grand Rapids.

Grandpa Busch most likely brought out the old ANSCO box camera, which had accompanied them to the prairies 15 years earlier, and took the below group picture. (The camera was last used about 1963 – we know because it had an unused roll of film with an expiration date of 1964 when we opened the box a few weeks ago.)

Life went on.

The Bernings resettled in Dubuque IA, living there till 1933 when the Depression caused them to return to the ND farm during the awful Depression years. The Dubuque plant in which August made radio cabinets closed, and the reasoning was that at the farm they at least could eat. Even that became questionable during the dry years. Uncle Vincent remembers 1934 as the worst of them all.

Busch’s and Berning’s survived the Depression, but barely. The Wisconsin kin seemed to fare quite a bit better.

Seven years after 1920 Verena Busch, then 15, died as a result of a ruptured appendix, the only one of the Busch’s children to not survive childhood; Ruth was the second Berning child to die in infancy; the Placke’s had seen one child die at age three.

Today, there remain only three of the children alive in 1920: Marion, 96; Edith, 90; and Ruby, soon to be 90.

They’ve all lived good long lives.

Thanks for the memories.

Group photo at Grand Rapids Veterans Memorial Park in 1920. Standing at center were the park caretakers, Art and Lena Parker. Lena was the sister of Kate, Rosa and August.

The Busch's Ansco camera, probably brought with them from Wisconsin in 1905

The "innards" of the camera, all wood.

Verena Busch gravestone at St. John's Cemetery Berlin ND

#613 – Dick Bernard: Election 2012 #39. A Parade: why I walked with JoAnn Ward in Woodbury Days on Sunday.

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Sunday I walked in the Woodbury Days Parade with/for JoAnn Ward, local (District 53A) candidate for Minnesota State Legislature.

We were unit 48 of (I understand) over 120 units in this very long parade in the middle of a pretty sultry day.

Speaking for myself, I’d rather be many places other than on display in the middle of a city street, more or less on exhibit.

So, why walk?

(click on photos to enlarge them)

Waiting for the start. I'm the gray-beard behind the JoAnn Ward sign. JoAnn is attending to one of her grandkids.

JoAnn and a spectator getting acquainted

Being caught on local TV - Channel 18?

The parade route as seen by a parade walker

JoAnn Ward chats with husband Joe during a moment when we stopped on the route.

I was delighted when I learned some months ago that JoAnn Ward had agreed to run for the new District 53A legislative seat.

While I’ve lived in Woodbury since 2000, I had met and worked with JoAnn the previous year on a national pilot project called Community Conversations About Public Schools (CCAPS) whose participants included the United Teachers of South Washington County.

The National Education Association was initiator/funder.

I was the staff liaison from Education Minnesota at the time.

Someway or other, JoAnn learned of the project, and became involved as a citizen volunteer, along with other community members, and school district personnel.

Back then, I had one grandchild, age 13, in Littleton Co. Today there are nine, two of them returning to South Washington County schools next week; six others in school in South St. Paul and Rosemount-Apple Valley.

Back in 1999, the Woodbury area community members – all of them, including JoAnn – stood out as really caring about public education in Woodbury and the other towns of ISD #833.

Our purpose, then, was very simple: to help communities practice a process of civil conversation about public education. The project also took place in a number of other school districts around the United States.

I thought of this 1999 event recently when Woodbury resident Kelly DeBrine publicized a community conversation on Taxes in Woodbury.

I attended that meeting as well.

In 1999, CCAPS was a success.

I retired shortly after the last conversation, so I had no opportunity to follow up.

But the CCAPS file is one of the files I kept as I ended my career.

The citizens of South Washington County (Woodbury et al), including JoAnn Ward, were integral to the success of the process (which even then was not simple to initiate for all the kinds of reasons Ms DeBrine and her group doubtless experienced recently.)

Civil conversation – call it whatever one wants – is not an easy process in these politically polarized days where politics have become warfare, played by rules of war.

Even then, in 1999, there was suspicion: what do THEY want?

In reality, I’d been involved in the general initiatives leading to CCAPS for five years by then.

We thought school districts would be healthier if citizens could just talk with each other, rather than work always at dominance and control.

The key unstated word in our project was “we”.

There are never permanent winners in any war; only temporary residents on the top of whatever the hill a combatant wants to reign over.

Back then, now thirteen years ago, JoAnn Ward appeared, volunteered, and quietly worked to make a difference in her long-time town of Woodbury, and the South Washington County School District.

When JoAnn Ward is elected November 6, I can reasonably expect that she will continue to be as she was in 1999, and has shown herself to be since I re-met her this year: a person committed to finding collaborative solutions – “we” – rather than aggravating problems; working for common ground, rather than winning battles against an enemy.

That’s why I support JoAnn Ward.

#612 – Dick Bernard: Election 2012 #38. Joe Biden, Pat Kessler and Niall Ferguson

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Today, I decided to attend the Vice President Joe Biden event at the Depot in Minneapolis.

I’ve attended these kinds of events before, so I knew exactly what to expect. It took an hour out of yesterday to pick up the ticket, then four hours today to drive over, stand in line, stand inside waiting for the Vice Presidents half hour speech, then drive home afterwards. I was there for the entire event.

It was a good day. I’m tired.

(click on photos to enlarge them)

V. P. Joe Biden, August 21, 2012, The Depot, Minneapolis MN

There was nothing unexpected in the vice-president’s remarks. I heard Pat Kessler of WCCO-TV report live back to the Noon News on ‘CCO that Biden was in the Cities to “fire up the troops”, or words to that effect.

Of course, motivating supporters is a totally appropriate use of time for a candidate. Kessler, who is my favorite local TV reporter on political matters, was stating the obvious.

(Like all the camera people and reporters, Kessler was “penned in” the press area, certainly not roaming the crowd. I watched Pat as he did his work, writing his notes, walking around in the ‘pen’, contemplating his thoughts.)

Pat Kessler reporting at noon, August 21.

I wondered how much time Kessler’s piece would get on the WCCO-TV evening news. Back home I watched, and he got about three minutes, only perhaps a minute of which was about the event in which I had invested five hours of my time. This is not a criticism. He was doing his job. And he does it well. He always seems fair, and cares about getting his information right, and conveying it in as objective manner as possible.

But if TV news is where people get a lot of their political news, they certainly get no depth of coverage at all. Maybe 20 minutes of that half hour news program is advertising; the rest divided into the traditional “news, weather, sports” with perhaps some special features thrown in (the State Fair is coming up and ‘CCO will do the news from there….)

Back home, I picked up the mail which included, this day, Newsweek’s August 27 edition, with President Obama on the cover, and the cover article, “Hit the road, Barack. Why We Need a new President” by Niall Ferguson.

I’d gotten a preview of this article the previous day through two commentaries challenging Ferguson’s methodology and his interpretation of facts. You can read them here and here. UPDATE Aug 22: Another one, from Business Insider, came today and is here. And another, here.

Because Ferguson is a writer of some prominence, and because Newsweek remains a magazine of some credibility, Ferguson’s printed words get credibility that apparently they don’t deserve. Likely very few of the Newsweek readers get the benefit of a critique of Ferguson’s objectivity. The choice is to accept his opinion or not.

Back to the Depot and V.P. Biden, I think most of us felt it was time well spent. But it was tiring.

Well before the invocation opening the gathering, I struck up a conversation with a lady who was sitting on the floor near the media platform.

She was surprised that there were no chairs (it is the usual for these kinds of events).

At the same time, so far as I know she stayed till the end, and she was a supporter. It was just too tiring.

I ran into one fellow I knew and we had a good conversation about things political; and it is always interesting to just people watch at events like this. I become aware of how diverse the scrum is that goes by the name “Democrat” at such gatherings. (And you also notice people who are quite obviously not Democrat, but they are at such meetings for reasons of their own.)

In the long line before entering the old Depot, I got to thinking about the time in 1960-61 when I first came to Minneapolis, via the Soo Line, for a student union conference at the UofM Farm Campus in St. Paul. I was a college senior at the time, and I’d never been on a jaunt like this before. The bustle of the twin cities was new to me.

Where Joe Biden was speaking was where I and my fellow students had debarked from the train from Valley City ND over 50 years ago, sometime during the transition period from President Eisenhower to President Kennedy. A memory from that era is here: Politics 1960 vs 1996001

Things have really changed….

The line into the refurbished Milwaukee Road Depot August 21, 2012

There’s about two months till the election.

Get engaged.

Message t-shirt seen at the Joe Biden event

Portion of Milwaukee Road Route Map 1954, seen at the Hotel which now occupies the former Depot.

The old smokestacks from the days that the Depot welcomed coal-burning steam engines.

#611 – Dick Bernard: A couple of Union Reunions

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Friday evening, enroute home from a trip to my home state of North Dakota, I stopped at a freeway restaurant for a cup of coffee with a retired teacher friend from Anoka-Hennepin Education Association days.

Kathy gave me the below photo, and asked if I would scan it for her. It wasn’t labeled (a usual malady for photos – hint!) but we basically came to consensus that it was probably taken at the 1989 NEA Convention (New Orleans) in an expression of solidarity for the students who had occupied Tienanmen Square in Beijing in 1989.

(click on photos to enlarge)

AHEA Delegates to NEA Convention, probably 1989 in New Orleans

It was common for these kinds of actions at union gatherings. Most of we union members and staff had a keen and sincere sense of justice. Indeed, that is why I became active as a union leader in the late 1960s, then staff member of the Minnesota teachers union (MEA/Education Minnesota) for the rest of my career.

Sunday night came another event: a retirement celebration for Lee J., a union staff colleague for many years, who said he’d been in the profession either as teacher or staff for 40 years.

It was a great celebration, with a great number of family, current and retired colleagues and friends.

Lee likely went home pleased and proud last night.

I’ve never been much of a ‘dress for success’ kind of guy, but last night I decided I needed to choose an accessory for my evening ‘ensemble’. It is below:

I don’t recall where I got the button, but occasionally it adorns me like a piece of jewelry. It is something to be proud of. (People who know me would chuckle at the ‘thug’* part. No matter. I care about Unions.)

There were the usual memories last night, spoken and unspoken. We were regaled with the never-ending “grapefruit tree” grievance which, at one point, snared me for a time though I was nowhere near the teachers district.

After the event, I recalled to Lee the time, I’m guessing it was 1984 or 1985, when he was still a teacher and local leader, that he and his family borrowed my meager apartment in Hibbing for free accommodations for a summer vacation. My place was nothing fancy, that’s for sure, but for Lee and Becky and their two young kids it worked just fine.

Today is not the best of times for Unions generally, public employee unions in particular.

It seems that working for economic and social justice is viewed as a threat.

Newt Gingrich’s infamous 100 words from 1996 includes among the 64 repulsive words, “Taxes” and “Unionized”.

(Actually, Newt’s list emphasizes 64 “optimistic and positive governing words”, and 64 “contrasting words”. He didn’t invent the language, but to this day if one looks carefully at this list of words, one can identify the theme of most every campaign for or against…. These days, these words are called ‘dog whistle’ words – you are either supposed to have reverence for, or be repulsed by certain words. Much like a Pavlov’s dog reaction. It is not healthy for us as a society.)

Those who buy the nonsense of Newt’s words, especially from within the dwindling middle class, will rue the day they chose to buy the propaganda that certain words represented good, and others, evil.

It’s been 40 years since I started my union staff career, and a dozen since that career ended with my own retirement.

To Kathy and Lee and to all who have toiled in the often thankless task of seeking justice for working people, thank you.

And to the younger folks who need to take on the duties going forward, be mindful of the fact that what you now take for granted came at great cost in time and energy by people just like yourselves, too busy, but committed to justice.

What was gained, can be lost.

* – I can’t say that I know a true “union thug”. Doubtless they exist somewhere, but they’re rare. Closest call I had was once talking to a management representative who negotiated with Jimmy Hoffa of the Teamsters on occasion. He said Hoffa was a really decent guy, but he knew what he needed for his members, and that was that.

Le Vent du Nord, September 29, 2012, Minneapolis MN

Friday, August 17th, 2012

UPDATE Sep 12, 2012: Here’s an interesting hour segment of the radio program Bonjour Minnesota for Sep 11, 2012, including several Le Vent du Nord numbers.

Date/Time: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, September 29, 2012
Venue: DeLaSalle High School, Nicollet Island, 1 DeLaSalle Drive, Minneapolis MN 55401
Parking: see Franco-Fete site (below).
Cost: $25 per person as part of Franco-Fete Minneapolis or separately through Brown Paper Tickets
Preliminary evening events (all included in ticket price):
5:30 p.m. – Lecture/Demonstration on Quebec music and culture by Le Vent du Nord
6:15 p.m. – St. Boniface Francophone Choir of Minneapolis
6:45 p.m. – Music and Stories hosted by Dan Chouinard and Guests
7:30 p.m. – Le Vent du Nord

About the band, from their website: Since its inception in August 2002, Le Vent du Nord have been enjoying rocketing success. They have received several prestigious awards, including a Juno. The band is now one of the most-loved Quebec folk outfits throughout the world. The group’s current line-up consists of singers / multi-instrumentalists Nicolas Boulerice, Simon Beaudry, Olivier Demers, and Réjean Brunet. Some of their songs come from traditional folk repertoire, while others are original compositions. On stage, these four friends achieve peaks of happiness they eagerly share with any and all audiences. Le Vent du Nord know how to deliver music that will move any crowd – to their feet and in their hearts! This is undoubtedly music of the here and now.

October 10, 2011, a group of us had a feast of an evening, listening to this band from Quebec, Le Vent du Nord.

Two in the audience that evening had this to say about this marvelous group: (I was there, I concur. It was a toe-tapping, playing spoons on the knee, kind of evening, par excellence!)

Ayant éprouvé la magie de ce groupe l’année dernière à Fargo, il y a certains mots qui me viennent à l’esprit tout de suite pour les décrire : excellent, génial… tiguidou ! L’occasion de pouvoir les voir icitte aux Villes Jumelles ne devrait pas être manquée.
Jon Tremblay
St. Paul MN

(Translation: Having experienced the magic of this group last year in Fargo, there are certain words that come to mind immediately to describe them: excellent, awesome… awesome ! The opportunity to be able to see them here in the Twin Cities should not be missed.)

[Le Vent du Nord] is one of my favorite bands from Quebec! This concert was so much fun it’s hard to put into words. Whether dancing with them on stage, or tapping feet in the audience we were all filled with joy; these French-Canadians can party. Music so good I can’t believe it’s legal!
Jane Peck
Dance Revels
Minneapolis MN

Le Vent du Nord is a specific stand-alone option for attendees at the Franco-Fete conference September 28-30, though the organizers of Franco-Fete would certainly invite your attendance at the remaining programs as well. All details about the entire conference can be found here (Registration/Payment form for the concert and other events Sep 28-30 will be found near the top of the page. Scroll a bit further down to the entry for Saturday evening, Le Vent du Nord et al for information about specific time, etc.)

(click on photos to enlarge)

Le Vent du Nord October 10, 2011

Audience joined the band October 10, 2011

Enjoying Le Vent du Nord October 10, 2011

See you at Franco-Fete, Minneapolis MN, September 28-30, 2012!
On se voit à Franco-Fête en Septembre les 28-30, 2012

#610 – Dick Bernard: The Dakota Conflict (the so-called Indian War, or Sioux Outbreak, of 1862-63)

Monday, August 13th, 2012

UPDATE August 18, 2012: Here is a note about this ten-part series in today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune:LEARN MORE: This series “In the Footsteps of Little Crow,” can be downloaded in a 10-chapter e-book for Apple, Kindle and Nook e-readers startribune.com/ebooks. Miss an installment? Find the entire series, plus photo galleries and video, at startribune.com/dakota. Coming Sunday [August 19]: Minnesotans family stories from 1862.”

I would venture that most students learn history as I did: from a book, with one side winning, the other losing. And the winning side was the one supported by the author of the book, and the authorities who authorized the book to be used, and taught, in a certain way. That’s how history has always been – a story – and if the teacher dared to teach some alternate view, even if more accurate in hindsight, that teacher would probably not have a job next year.

That’s why I find the 150 year retrospective about the Dakota Conflict refreshing. This week is an opportunity to revisit that time in our history.

Sunday, the Minneapolis Star Tribune began a six part series on that they now call the U.S.-Dakota War of 1862-63. The series is entitled “In the Footsteps of Little Crow” and can be followed on-line.

I have a particular interest in this War, since one of my ancestral family was involved in it as a soldier; and a direct outcome was the final treaty that led to the family homestead land in northeast North Dakota. I wrote a bit about this two years ago, here. His enlistment document on 6 October 1862 is here: Samuel Collette Oct 62001. Note the scratch outs on the form. He was born in Canada, not the U.S,; his term of enlistment was for a year, rather than three months.

Introducing the series in the Star Tribune is this commentary by editor Nancy Barnes, and an editorial “Dakota War Story can aid the healing”.

There is an ongoing exhibit on the War at the Minnesota History Museum in St. Paul. I posted briefly about this exhibit at this space on July 1. It is a powerful exhibit, well worth seeing. It causes reflection. It makes the simple much more complicated.

Star Tribune editor Nancy Barnes, in her column (previously noted), includes this most pertinent quote from a 1924 history book authored by historian Solon J. Buck: “In the history of the nation the Sioux Outbreak is only an incident, while the Civil War is a major event. In the history of Minnesota, however, the relative importance of the two is reversed.”

Samuel Collett, Great-Grandpa’s half-brother, arrived in St. Paul from Quebec in about 1857, just before statehood, and ultimately settled in Centerville. He is almost certainly the reason the rest of the family followed to old St. Anthony in the mid-1860s.

Samuel enlisted in the Army at age 22 on 6 October 1862 and was discharged 28 November 1863, serving in Co. G, First Regiment of the Minnesota Mounted Rangers. I’ve seen no pictures of Samuel – they were apparently all destroyed in a house fire some years ago – but the Narrative of the First Regiment of Mounted Rangers to which he was assigned is recorded in Minnesota in the Civil and Indian Wars 1861-65 pp 519-524, published in 1891 by the Pioneer Press Co*.

The narrative, written in January 1890 by Captain Eugene M. Wilson, is, of course, solely from the point of view of one person on one side of the conflict. It’s first long paragraph sets the stage, and is my small contribution to this conversation:

This regiment was recruited in the fall of 1862, on account of the urgent necessity of having cavalry for the purposes of the Indian War then being prosecuted in Minnesota against the Sioux Indians. In the month of August previous this merciless and savage foe had perpetrated a massacre all along the frontier that, for extent of mortality and horrible details, was without a parallel in American history. The Sioux were naturally a fierce and warlike race, as their name “Cut Throat” implies. They undoubtedly were suffering some injustice from the neglect of the general Government, which was then bending its every energy to the suppression of the great Rebellion, and was excusable for failure to carry out treaty obligations with the Indian tribes with the promptitude that had characterized its actions in times of peace. But this formed no adequate excuse for an outbreak of war, and not the slightest apology for the fiendish outrages that spared neither infancy, age nor sex, and that followed even death with mutilations so diabolical and obscene that common decency forbids their publication….”

This is, of course, ‘war talk’, about an enemy. At the time the book was written, it was likely the only accepted point of view, unburdened by another ‘side’ to the story.

Nonetheless, it was into this attitude that people like Private Samuel Collette volunteered to serve.

I plan to read the story this week. I hope you do, as well.

* This book is part of the Minnesota Historical Society Library collection. The chapter, and additional writings about the soldier and campaign, are found in the family history, “The First 400 Years: Remembering Four of the Families of Henry Louis Bernard”, compiled by Dick Bernard, 2010, also in the collection of the MN Historical Society, pp 23-26 and Appendix 1. The story of the Old Crossing Treaty is found on page 269 of this same book.

Other relevant articles in the family history book: pp 245-268.

#609 – Dick Bernard: French HORNswoggled

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

This is about a wonderful French Horn concert I attended on August 6 in St. Paul.

(click on photos to enlarge)

Bob Olsen and conductor Derik Rehurek share some thoughts before the program began

To my knowledge, “hornswoggle” (syn: bamboozled, etc) has absolutely nothing to do with French horns , but I just couldn’t get the word out of my mind as I remembered a delightful evening. I’ve heard the French Horn can be a beast to play, and it has its share of jokes. Here are some.

Maybe one has to have a sense of humor to survive playing the French Horn. At one point in a piece last Monday, I watched cousin Mary Kay, an avid French Horn player, strain to get enough wind to tootle the phrase. She looked almost in pain. Later she told me (if I recall correctly) that the lower register can be a bear if you don’t have a lot of wind.

There were 17 horn-sters at the Horns of Summer concert at the Dove Hill house (next door to the James J. Hill mansion on Summit Avenue, St. Paul). Perhaps there were about as many of us in the audience.

This was a free private concert specifically for people who love to play French horn. MC Bob Olsen, one of the hornsters himself, said there were something over 90 French Horn players on his e-mail list. They play for assorted community orchestras, and occasionally have an opportunity, like this particular evening, to do a program of exclusively French horn Music, as much for their own enjoyment as anything.

They played with gusto!

They tootled away, these hornsters, often playing pretty powerfully in a space specifically designed for concerts and such when Louis and Maud Hill expanded their mansion about 1912. The current owners call their home Dove Hill. Theirs is an elegant space.

Here is the program for the evening: Horns of Summer 2012001

Not sure what French Horns sound like? YouTube has lots of examples.

Tootling away. Cousin Mary is second from right in back row.

Between pieces, the players swapped chairs, and it was sometimes a bit difficult to hear the conductor introduce the next piece. It was not a distraction, however. This was what I would call joyful noise. These were friends, banded together by their love of music and the French Horn, and they only saw each other on occasion. No time to miss an opportunity to catch up!

Short program over, we departed.

I noted two paintings on the wall which were, it turned out, murals about the settlement of this area. The photos are at the end.

Back on Summit, heading to my car and home, for some reason, there was a bit of extra spring in my step!

Many thanks to the Nicholsons for hosting the evening.

Mural, mural on the wall...

#608 – Dick Bernard: Election 2012 #37. The Minnesota Primary Election, and Romney’s VP Choice.

Saturday, August 11th, 2012

We woke this morning to the announcement that Mitt Romney has picked Paul Ryan as his VP-designate. More on that at the end of this post.

The more important and immediate issue is the Minnesota Primary Election which is Tuesday, August 14 – that’s three days from now. All of the information is accessible here.

It is easy to overlook the Primary Election.

It is a dangerous – and exploitable – oversight.

In 2008, the last Presidential year, there was a Primary election, and about 10% of the eligible voters went to the polls. Three months later, nearly 80% of the eligible voters cast ballots.

The Primary elections determine who will be on the general election ballot. It is important to know who is running for all of the offices. This will vary by where you live. There are some dangerous (in my opinion) choices out there, just hoping that sufficient people will vote them onto the ballot by sloppy voting, or not voting at all.

My general rule: if one of the established parties has endorsed one of the candidates, at least you know that person has passed a pretty rigorous test within the party, the person deserves support.

In the case of Judges, which are non-partisan, be very cautious before voting against an incumbent. We want an impartial judiciary, and in recent years the judiciary has been made a playground for people who do not have the interests of everyone at heart.

Minnesotans have three days to learn.

Look and Learn. Again, here’s the portal.

Regarding Romney and Ryan:

The selection is not all that much of a surprise. Romney is playing to the Tea Party fringe of his party – the fringe that is in control of what passes for the contemporary Republican Party.

Ryan is one of the Ayn Rand’ians, at least in core philosophy.

I would submit that even those who revere Ayn Rand would rue the day that her policies rule this country. Once they walk with rose-colored glasses into Ayn Rand’s world as reality, they will change their tune, but it will be too late….

April 18, 2011, I went to the first movie of the Ayn Rand Chronicles, Atlas Shrugged. I wrote about it here. It was a dismal, depressing film.

I predicted, then, that Part III would come out just in time for the 2012 elections.

I was wrong. But Part II is scheduled for release in October of this year, just in time for the 2012 elections.

One of Romney’s rumored alternate choices was former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. He’d hardly be an improvement on Ryan. This morning’s Minneapolis Star Tribune had a major op ed piece on Pawlenty’s ‘accomplishments’ as Governor for eight years. I lived in this state for all of those eight years, and the column catches those years perfectly. We will suffer long from what was left behind.

Perhaps readers will fill me in on the other also-rans in Romney’s stable of possibilities.

Be wary, be very wary.

Directly related: here

#607 – Dick Bernard: Election 2012 #36. Personal Responsibility

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

Thank you for stopping by.

Evidence is that an important Election is coming soon. The first lawn signs are sprouting along our streets. Important parts of local parades are political units supporting candidates. Etc.

July 11, 2012 Ramsey County Fair parade

The Minnesota Primary Election is next Tuesday, August 14. (Is there one in your town? Here’s where to start.)

Three months from now, Wednesday, November 7, 2012, we’ll wake up to the results of the 2012 election. We’ll learn our collective decision, as we do every two years. We’ll vote, informed or not, or we won’t vote at all, which is its own form of voting. (The word “decision” is not a passive one. Decide, suicide, homicide…there is a sense of finality with a decision.)

Political conversation is very difficult in our society. August 4, at a 50th wedding anniversary luncheon, I heard the following snip of conversation: “he won’t talk about politics or religion, but he’ll talk about anything else….”

I didn’t know them, or “he”, but I would completely disagree.

We live, at our peril, largely isolated from other points of view, even from next door neighbors. In many ways we’re involved in a deadly Civil War where for one to win, another must lose…and we’re all in the same country. We all lose.

Civil conversation and a sense of mutual responsibility and cooperation is essential for our society to thrive.

In the end, we’re individually accountable for the results whether we voted, informed or not, or didn’t vote at all Nov. 6. There is no “they” to blame. “They” is each and every one of us.

It is important work to really understand the candidates and the issues on which you’ll vote November 6.

Every individual needs to know the offices, the candidates and their positions on the issues; what they’ve ‘pledged’ to whomever; where their beliefs might get in the way of representing all of us…. This will take effort. Candidates cannot have personal conversations with everyone. Even in a single legislative district there are over 20,000 potential homes to visit. It cannot be done. But each of us have ways of reaching them…and noting if they respond, and how.

There are Forums; there are position papers. If the candidates are already in office, there are records.

We’re a very diverse society. No candidate can or should be expected to subscribe to each of our own views on everything. It is impossible. But we can discover if they are essentially owned by a particular constituency or bias. This does not work.

In my opinion, political advertising, ubiquitous and often obnoxious, is of zero value as far as “informing” is concerned. This will be especially bad the next three months. It is legal and it will not go away this fall. Mostly it will be targeted against, which isn’t productive. It is possible that as much as 2 1/2 billion dollars will be spent on election advertising this year alone. And that’s only for President of the United States. UPDATE Aug. 10: here’s a longer discussion of this issue of dishonesty in politics.

Each of us has within his or her power the ability to manage the impact of big and essentially anonymous money, much of it from hugely wealthy donors: refuse to fall for the lies.

As for the two constitutional amendments on the ballot in November: get to know what they mean, really. At minimum, think of the long-term implications of them for you and your family. Once passed, they’ll be almost impossible to reverse, which is a main reason for their being proposed.

Consider that both were passed with all votes from members of one party, and no affirmative votes from members of the other party in the state legislature. They by-passed the Governor. These are not innocuous “common sense” proposals. They have a very dark side, including for those who think they’d favor them.

Three months is not a long time.

You and I are the chief shareholders of this place called the United States of America, and we are the ones who will decide its direction three months from now.

Part of the Parade Community, Cottage Grove, June, 2012

NOTE TO READERS: I write frequently about political issues. Simply stop back once in awhile, and type Election 2012 in the search box, enter, and the list will come up, most recent first.

Directly related: here

Betty McCollum unit, New Brighton Stockyards Day Parade August 9 2012

#606 – Dick Bernard: Election 2012 #35. Speaking as a Liberal

Monday, August 6th, 2012

In yesterday’s post about Hubert Humphrey, with a quotation from President Kennedy, I defined the word “liberal” from a liberals point of view.

I’m liberal, probably always have been, but as I said to the same friend who gave me the Kennedy quote yesterday, liberals, including myself, in many ways are the most conservative people I know. If you wanted a carefully run government, you’d not go wrong, on average, with a liberal in charge of things. We’re prudent and careful and caring.

Of course, there’s another long-time and carefully cultivated view of “liberals”.

For many years, there has been a concerted campaign to demonize the very word, ‘liberal’. It even predates Newt Gingrich’s famous 100 words which made their appearance in 1996 and have been flogged by the right wing ever since. “Liberal” joins other evil words like “unionized” and “taxes” and many other hate words on Gingrich’s list.

It is interesting to note that “conservative” does not appear on Gingrich’s good list. An oversight, perhaps?

The campaign has worked, but there are downsides to simply winning. There are costs.

A month or two ago a good friend gave me a copy of Rush Limbaugh’s magazine, in which Limbaugh (or whoever writes his stuff) took a shot at demonizing “liberals”.

I don’t have a problem sharing Limbaugh’s work, “Nailing the Left”. You can find it here: Limbaugh June 2012 Libs001

Of course, being Limbaugh, this piece of work lacks even the tiniest sense of objectivity (it is not, shall we say, “fair and balanced”.)

But it helps explain how some otherwise fine folks I know go almost hysterical when considering even the possibility that “liberals” might possibly become a governing majority.

Of course, I’ve read Limbaugh’s rant, but I read it a tiny bit differently than he intended.

Doubtless in each of the examples he uses, one can find abuse – an awful example used to exemplify the lot. I’ve seen this tactic over and over.

But on balance, each and every one of those items, and many others which Limbaugh doesn’t even mention, are good policies which have made this nation a much better place.

I don’t see in that list, for instance, Social Security. Likely a pretty fair share of Limbaugh’s loyal base, and subscribers to his newsletter, are on Social Security, and hardly would consider it a ‘liberal’ program, though it would not exist were it not for liberals. Of course, there’s a move to dismantle Social Security, but only for the next generation….

But why bother arguing? There’s no need for consistency in making arguments to people who have already made up their mind.

To paraphrase Fox News: “I report, you decide.”

I’m liberal, and proud of it.

Related, here.

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