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#1032 – Dick Bernard: Catching a Moment in Time. Saturday, March 18, 1905

Friday, May 29th, 2015
Visiting the graves of Ferd and Rosa Busch, and three of their children, Verena, Edithe and Vincent, Berlin ND St. John's Cemetery, May 24, 2015

Visiting the graves of Ferd and Rosa Busch, and three of their children, Verena, Edithe and Vincent, Berlin ND St. John’s Cemetery, May 24, 2015

Seventeen of us gathered at the old Ferd and Rosa Busch farm in Henrietta Township on May 24. It was the end of an era: for 110 years the farmstead has been owned, and for the vast majority of that time occupied, by Ferd and Rosa’s family. Now the old place is up for sale, and at some early point new occupants will take over the newly re-surveyed 10 acre farmstead, 10 miles northwest of LaMoure, 5 miles northeast from Berlin, about the same southwest from Grand Rapids ND.

Saturday a few of us were doing the last run through of the artifacts now stored in the metal machine shed.

One item remaining was the formidable wooden packing crate which brought the Busch possessions from southwest Wisconsin via Dubuque in March of 1905. For years the crate resided quietly in the attic in the old house; thence in Vincent’s bedroom in the new. It had been opened previously, but not examined in detail.

This day, we took out everything, including Grandma’s wedding dress, in near perfect condition after 110 years.

But there was something else I noticed in a box within the crate. There were a couple of old newspapers, used for packing back then. I took them out: one of them was a pretty well crumpled newspaper in German from November of 1904; the second was the Dubuque Morning Telegraph for Saturday, March 18, 1905. Grandma and Grandpa married on February 28, 1905, and I knew they hadn’t left immediately for North Dakota. I can now deduce from the newspaper date that they probably left for the prairie shortly after March 18.

That was only the first piece of “news” from that paper….

(click to enlarge)

Dubuque Morning  Telegraph, page one, Saturday, March 18, 1905

Dubuque Morning Telegraph, page one, Saturday, March 18, 1905

There were four pages from the newspaper, pages 1, 2, 7 & 8.

The main headline on p. 1 immediately caught my attention: “GENERAL KUROPATKIN IS DISMISSED IN DISGRACE”, followed by the sub-headlines so common in papers of that day: “Gen. Linevitch in Suspreme [sic] Command” “…withdrawing what is left of the great Army of 250,000, men hemmed in on all sides, confronts him.” “Czar shows no signs of yielding” “Preparation for carrying on the war on a greater scale are made by Russians-Oyama in Mukden”.

The front page news in Dubuque was about a war being waged between Russia and Japan in the far eastern reaches of Siberia.

Places like Harbin and Vladivostok were mentioned. Dispatches were included from London and Berlin sources. You could see the same kinds of headlines in today’s newspapers….

In this issue, the Russians were – the Czar was – being defeated.

This defeat was a harbinger of the Czars becoming a thing of the past; Communists were a part of the future. The German-Russians, Lawrence Welk’s kin, probably didn’t know it yet in 1905, but they were all being squeezed out of Russia to new homes, a great many of them migrating to North and South Dakota.

The other stories on the front page had a deja vu aspect to them. A law passed in Delaware to “Abolish Pillory” “inhuman” punishment; in Peoria IL an oil “pipe line across certain highways” hit a snag (“Strikes Snag in Illinois” read the headline); there was a “scheme” by powerful interests “to grab Niagara” Falls, threatening the tourist attraction with extinction.

It was announced by Secretary Taft of the Theodore Roosevelt administration that the U.S. “will retain the Philippine Islands” for perhaps at least a generation. And a fascinating headline prominent at the top of page one said “Castro is preparing to send an Army of 30,000 to take New Orleans to demand Indemnity.” This was not Fidel Castro, rather the then President of Venezuela.

There were no pictures on this front page: it was all news. Other headlines at the bottom of the page: “Sold Wife for $10″ (the deal was legal, and okay with the wife, apparently); “Missouri legislature Passes Law Against Bookmaking”. A Baltimore Whiskey maker won a trademark lawsuit against a clever impostor in Brooklyn who had borrowed part of its name.

And so it was, on and on, in Dubuque, Iowa, and the world right after Grandma and Grandpa Busch were married, February 28, 1905.

It was like opening a time capsule….

Some of those at the small reunion at the Busch farm on May 24.  From left Pinkney's, Dick Bernard, Bill Jewett, Carter Hedeen.

Some of those at the small reunion at the Busch farm on May 24. From left Pinkney’s, Dick Bernard, Bill Jewett, Carter Hedeen.

#1031 – Dick Bernard: Taps. A Memorial Day to Remember in LaMoure

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

POSTNOTE, May 29, from Kathy G: A one-minute ad without a single word, for Memorial Day. “This is a one-minute commercial. Not a word spoken and none is needed. Food City is a Southern grocery store chain with headquarters in Bristol, Tennessee.”

May 25, 2015, American Legion, LaMoure ND

May 25, 2015, American Legion, LaMoure ND

Reunion over, and about to leave LaMoure ND, we and my brother John decided to attend the annual Memorial Day observance at the LaMoure American Legion post. It is always moving and inspiring – an honor to attend, as is the usual observance by the Veterans for Peace in St. Paul MN which I had to miss this year.

I had been to several observances with my Uncle and Aunt in LaMoure over the years, so I knew what to expect, but brother John, long retired from a 20-year career as an Air Force officer, and long-time Californian, was deeply impressed with the local observance, as was my wife, Cathy. Neither had been there before.

Monday was an iffy day, weather-wise, but the place was packed as usual, with music provided by local high-schoolers, with the reading of names of departed veterans, and a couple of very good speeches. (I can’t name names: my program departed the car enroute home during a windy and rainy stop to change drivers at Fergus Falls.)

At the end of the formal presentation indoors, we adjourned to the vacant lot beside the Legion where crosses were planted, poppies affixed, an honor guard with flags and rifles for the traditional salute, and then taps, expertly played by a young woman, probably high school age.

We had a mix of near sunshine, and light rain, almost perfect.

It was all deeply moving.

(click to enlarge all photos)

May 25, 2015, LaMoure ND

May 25, 2015, LaMoure ND

Inside, the narrator had earlier read the names of all local military veterans who have died.

Even in this small community, it was a very long list of names, particularly for World War II, and World War I as well. As I remember: departed veterans were named from the Civil War, and the “Indian War” during the same time period; the Spanish-American; Korean, Vietnam, Gulf, Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

This observance emphasized the physically dead. Back home in the evening I noticed that the national observance on the Capitol mall now recognizes also those veterans permanently physically disabled by war. The Vets for Peace recognizes all of these, but also those mortally wounded psychologically: PTSD, mental illness, drugs and alcohol, homeless….

Saturday, I’d seen the reader of names at the fish dinner at the same Legion, and he said that every year somebody mentions somebody not named who should have been on the list.

Little did I know that I’d be writing him my own letter today. He read the names of my uncles, Shipfitter Frank Bernard (USS Arizona), and Lt. George W. Busch (USS Woodworth); but not those of Uncle Arthur Busch (U.S. Army 1945-46), nor Art and George’s cousin next farm over, Capt. August Berning, Marine in the Pacific Theatre WWII, both deceased.

So next year, the narrators list will be even longer, thanks to me, and to others who also add names, and, of course, more veterans who have died in the days to come.

*

The recitation of names by War caused me to think about categories of Wars in which the U.S. been engaged, and how people have engaged in those wars. (In a previous post I included an American Legion summary of these wars: America at War001)

Of course, the early wars, including the Revolutionary, came as our country grew to today’s boundaries of the lower 48 states. Wars brought us into being, over 150 years ago, against England, etc.

But by far our most deadly war was our own Civil War: the same war which birthed the very concept of Memorial Day. We were at War against ourselves, then. It is not an abstraction to think that perhaps the current “war” between Sunni and Shiite centered in Iraq and Syria might not be such a novel occurrence. There are far more similarities than differences to our own Civil War. In our own country, the Civil War was brother-against-brother; slavery or not was the main issue; plenty of Old Testament scriptural basis supported slavery.

Then there were the Teddy Roosevelt adventures: Spanish-American War, Cuba, the Philippines, etc. That was my Grandpa Bernard’s War: North Dakota’s were among the first volunteers to go to the Philippines in 1898, and Grandpa was on the boat with the others.

The deadliest wars so far, WWI and WWII, the U.S. entered long after they began, reluctantly. There was debate whether we should have entered earlier, or not at all. Wars are complicated things, after all. In WWI my Grandpa Busch’s hired man, whose name I do not know, was killed. Grandpa wanted to volunteer, but there was the matter of his being ethnic German, which complicated things a whole lot for Germans in this country.

Then there were the anti-Communist Wars, like Korea and Vietnam, and the near miss with Cuba and Russian Missiles in 1962 (I was in the Army, then). It’s been years since the Soviet Union became Russia and other countries, but the “Communist” card is still played by some, perhaps yearning for the good old days of the Cold War. Wars have an unfortunate way of living on, far past their reason.

And there have been wars just for the hell of it (it seems to me): Grenada comes to mind. Remember the Grenada War?

*

Through Korea, Wars were very personal things: if you were at war, you were at war against someone who could shoot you dead. The days of massive standing Armies and compulsory draft are long past, the times when (as in my own family) we three boys all served; or four of my five uncles (the fifth was needed on the farm). The notion of a citizen Army (males of a certain age) ended with the end of the Draft in 1975 and (in my opinion) will never be successfully marshaled again, even in times of major crisis.

Memorial Day remembers old wars….

Now war has become a video game, threatening every single one of us, if we can’t figure out how to deal with each other, including the top guys who have led and will lead people into these ever deadlier things called war.

“Evil” will never end (not always restricted just to the “bad guys”). Yes, we can be the bad guys, and have been.

And, there is much to be said for “duty, honor, country”.

But the reality of evil, and those honorable concepts can be and are misused by all “sides”, including our own.

There are lots of alternatives to war, and while peace can be very messy in itself, it far exceeds the never-ending problems with attempting to win the peace by war. That has never, and will never, work.

Thanks, LaMoure American Legion, for a most respectful and sombre Memorial Day 2015.

I will not forget.

LaMoure ND May 25, 2015

LaMoure ND May 25, 2015

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The Reader of the Names

The Reader of the Names

The Student Speaker

The Student Speaker

The main speaker

The main speaker

The traditional Salute

The traditional Salute

#1030 – Dick Bernard: Memorial Day 2015 Thoughts about the War About War

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

We’re out of state on Memorial Day so this year, for the first time in many years, I won’t be at the annual Vets for Peace gathering on the Minnesota State Capitol Grounds. Of course, the event doesn’t need me to go on. Here’s the info about Monday in St. Paul. This is always a meaningful event, of, by and for veterans.

Memorial Day with the Veterans for Peace
Vietnam Veterans Memorial (Minnesota State Capitol grounds)
Monday, 9:30 AM
Music, poetry, speeches,
solemn ringing of bells,
and the reading of the names
of the Minnesota casualties
of Iraq and Afghanistan Wars

(click to enlarge photo)

Entasham (at left) interviewing Native American author and Vietnam War vet Jim Northrup at the MN Vietnam Memorial Vets for Peace event, Memorial Day, 2014.  Cameraman fellow Pakistani, Suhail.  See Postnote

Entasham (at left) interviewing Native American author and Vietnam War vet Jim Northrup at the MN Vietnam Memorial Vets for Peace event, Memorial Day, 2014. Cameraman fellow Pakistani, Suhail. See Postnote

There are many thoughts this Memorial Day, particularly when politicians are attempting to justify war and blame someone else for it.

I’m going to propose taking some time to watch and read the items which follow. They will take some of your time, but you might find them both interesting and instructive.

Personally, I am a military veteran, from a family of veterans. I’m a long time member of the American Legion and Veterans for Peace. I have a grandson who’s in Air Force ROTC in high school, and I consider it a positive experience for him in many ways. This does not make me, or him, pro-war. It is helping him grow up. And he, too, is proud of his service.

My focus this weekend will be on a person I never met, the brother of my good friend, Jim, who died this year from the lingering and severe effects of exposure to Agent Orange during Vietnam. His suffering is over. Our national confusion continues.

All this makes me a complicated individual when it comes to a conversation about this annual Memorial Day which is interpreted in so many ways (the Legion post in the town we’re visiting this weekend will be having a fish fry on Saturday night). Not all is somber on this day remembering death (though many victims of war are very much alive, though suffering PTSD or other long-term effects of war).

Here’s my recommendations:
1. March 20 I and many others listened to seven persons tell seven stories of the Vietnam War from their perspective. The film is excellent and runs for about 90 minutes. You can watch it here. I was there. It is a somber and thought-provoking presentation.

2. In recent months, out at the family farm in North Dakota, I have come across some very interesting and historical documents about World War II BEFORE Pearl Harbor. The American Legion has helpfully provided its summary history of American Wars. You can read these in the first section “POSTNOTE” here.

3. This year is the 70th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. On June 1 will be what appears to be a very interesting webcast of talks by many experts which at minimum I’d like you to be aware of. You can access the information here. Another perspective, by my friend and UN expert Dr. Joe Schwartzberg can be read at the end of this post from Jan. 1, 2015.

My friend, Lynn Elling, is fond of the mantra that we are in “an open moment in history” to change course.

I agree with his assessment, but even more so.

We will, collectively, decide on global progress towards peace; or continuing on a death-spiral for our entire planet through war, lack of attention to crises like man-induced climate change, etc.

We cannot pretend that the past is present; that simple belief about this or that suffices; or that there is a rosy future without deep and painful changes in our behaviors.

The mantra of the energy industry, for instance, pronounced over and over on TV ads, that we are energy independent and will be (it is suggested) okay for the next 100 years is very dangerous.

My grandparents were married 110 years ago, long ago, but a blip in human history. Who will be around 110 years from today who will remember us fondly?

It is long past time to wake up.

POSTNOTE: A year ago, this time of year, it was my privilege to meet Ehtasham Anwar, a Pakistani civil official in one of Pakistan’s largest city – as big as the Twin Cities. Ehtasham was completing a year as a Humphrey/Fulbright Fellow at the Human Rights Center of the University of Minnesota Law School.

We talked about many things in the month we worked together on his year-end project, on the issue of peace. And one memory is vivid in my mind, since he mentioned it to me more than once.

Paraphrasing what I remember, he said this: “Throughout this year in Minnesota I have been so impressed with how friendly and peace-loving American people are. Why is it that American foreign policy towards others in other parts of the world is so negative and dominating?”

Difficult question.

I gave him my answer, what I thought was our national problem. Hint: it is every one of us, our disinterest and lack of engagement in the greater questions of who we are with the rest of the world, even with our fellow Americans. We are individualists. Too many of us have had it far too well, for far too long. We feel we are entitled to what some call our “exceptionalism”.

What is yours?, I ask you.

Ironically, overnight came a personal commentary remembered from a fifteen years ago conversation in Paris by my favorite blogger, Just Above Sunset. You can read it here. Remember, this is from near 15 YEARS ago. While at this blog space, the previous several posts have summarized the last couple of weeks of posturing by presumptive U.S. presidential candidates for 2016 on the issue of war. The other columns are very well worth your time.

#1028 – Dick Bernard: A special experience: Ken Burns and Don Shelby

Sunday, May 17th, 2015

POSTNOTE May 30 10:42 am.: Just now I am listening to Jay Ungar’s Ashokan Farewell, made famous in Ken Burns Civil War. Give it a listen.

I was working on a project at home, yesterday, when an e-mail came in from our friend Catherine. I saw it at 12:30. “I have two tickets to see Ken Burns at 4 today at the History Center. Would you and Cathy like them?”

This was a no-brainer, albeit with almost no notice. Cathy was out of town; and I’d heard part of the freeway was closed for maintenance, and when I finally got the printed ticket via e-mail it was 3 p.m. and the program started at 4.

I arrived at the Minnesota History Center in plenty of time for the program. Unfortunately I forgot my camera. By 4, the auditorium was packed. I was lucky and got a seat in the third row.

Then commenced a riveting 1 1/2 hour conversation between film-maker Ken Burns and former well known Twin Cities TV Anchor and reporter Don Shelby. The conversation would make for a fascinating TV program on its own…I hope it was filmed for just that purpose.

The program was hosted by TPT, Twin Cities Channel Two and the Minnesota History Center.

The program began with an eight or so minute video recapping Ken Burns 40 years in the business of film documentaries, all for public broadcasting. I tried to write the titles down. My list is 23 productions though I likely missed some (you can find the list here). I’m a fan of Burns, but I can’t say I’ve seen all of the programs. My list includes the Civil War, Baseball, Jazz, The War, Dust Bowl, Prohibition and the Roosevelts – those are the ones I remember for sure.

I pieced together Burns biography from his own comments. He was born about 1953; when he was two his mother, Lyla, fell ill with cancer and died with the disease 50 years ago, in 1965. He was 12 when she died.

He had ancestors who were American slaveholders, and another who was a Tory in the American Revolution.

He went to tiny Hampshire college in MA beginning 1971 – apparently beginning just a year or so after the college was founded, and followed his muse of film and history with the outstanding results we’ve seen for many years. He lives in New Hampshire, and has many projects in the works.

He has informed opinions about America and Americans, flowing from many years of reconstructing our history, largely from the perspective of ordinary people living at the time. In America, race is “the burning heart of the story”, he said. It is a disabling part of our national DNA; to move on takes a great deal of acknowledgment and effort.

While Burns suggests we Americans are addicted to money, guns and certainty, he thought there was still hope. “Bill O’Reilly [Fox News] and Rachel Maddow [MSNBC] genuinely love Abraham Lincoln”. There are things we can and must find common ground on to survive.

He sees Americans as restless and hard-working, demanding individual and collective freedom.

He apparently has some disagreements with my favorite quote: Santayana’s “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” “Cuckoo”, he suggested. I’ll give the quote another think, from his point of view. Maybe we’ll reach some agreement, maybe not. That’s the purpose of conversation.

He knows Americans well, a Studs Terkel (“Working”) knowledge of how we are rooted, our strengths, our very deep weaknesses. Our “exceptionalism” has dimmed as we have collectively “gone to sleep”, I heard him say. What the founders words in the Constitution about the “pursuit of happiness” basically meant, he felt, was their belief in the value of lifelong learning.

He gave considerable time and emphasis to his work on the “Central Park Five”, the five black youth who were tried, convicted and sentenced to long terms for a 1969 rape they never committed. (It was a program I haven’t seen.) The rush to judgement was shameful. Even after being exonerated, he would hear people assert “they must have done something”, a refusal to acknowledge a hideous mistake. As previously mentioned, “race is the burning heart of the story”, and we will always have lots of work to do.

(My favorite “visual”, as presented orally by Ken, was this: his little daughter was terrified of the family vacuum cleaner. When it was on she ran and hid. No amount of reassurance would change her mind.

One day, for some reason known only to her, the vacuum cleaner was turned on, and his daughter went to the door of the room in which was running, and after a moment of hesitation ran in and sat on the vacuum cleaner.

She had decided to deal with her own fear in her own way.

In their house, use of the phrase “sitting on the vacuum cleaner” has a particularly powerful meaning; we need to confront our fears….)

I’ve been slow about renewing my TPT membership.

The check will be in the mail tomorrow.

Thanks, Catherine.

POSTNOTE: Jim Pagliarini, President of TPT, began the program by asking us how many of us remembered when television meant three commercial channels and a public station. It seems like 100 years ago, but many of us do remember. Then, he said, came the era of a dozen cable channels, to today’s hundreds of options, and a rapidly changing future….

Survival for entities like Public Television means adapting to changing circumstances, staying ahead of the curve, finding different ways of delivering a media product. We’re long past four channels on the TV, but even the TV is becoming passe.

But like the media itself, we need to relearn how to communicate with others.

My opinion: our very survival as a country and a planet is at stake. Individualism is a curse we cannot afford. We are a part of, not apart from, a much greater whole.

This mornings paper addressed this very issue in the business section. You can read it here.

#1027 – Dick Bernard: Remembering 50 years; a Teacher Union Gathering.

Thursday, May 14th, 2015

Today was the annual Recognition Dinner of Anoka-Hennepin Education Minnesota, and as I’ve done since the first one, in 2001, I always attend. And when I get home, I’m always glad I made the trip to the north suburbs of Minneapolis, to some venue in the Anoka-Hennepin School District.

It was a rainy late afternoon, early evening, this year, and a rush hour drive, but as always the general theme of food, fun, family prevailed, the family being 85 or so present and past leaders of the now over 2700 member teacher union.

This year I was especially glad to be there, though externally I probably looked and sounded a bit withdrawn.

It was an evening of reminiscence…a time of thinking back.

It was 50 years ago this coming summer, July 21, 1965, when I came to Anoka for the first time, and signed a contract to teach in the brand new Roosevelt Junior High School in the neighboring town of Blaine. I signed the contract in Superintendent Erling Johnson’s office in the old Anoka Senior High School, the school from which Garrison Keillor had graduated a few years earlier, in 1960.

I didn’t know it then, but three days later my critically ill wife, Barbara, would die at the University of Minnesota Hospital, leaving me in a strange city, a new arrival, with a year and a half son. Survival depended on community, in the broadest definition….

(click to enlarge all photos)

Dick and Tom Bernard about Halloween 1965 at Minnehaha Park, Minneapolis MN

Dick and Tom Bernard about Halloween 1965 at Minnehaha Park, Minneapolis MN

The early weeks remain a blur, and the first year was especially difficult, but somehow or other unplanned things tend to work out, and in this case they did.

Another unplanned event got me involved in the teacher’s union beginning towards the end of the 1960s.

I was teaching at Roosevelt, and a teacher colleague, Ron Swanson, became President of what was then called AHEA, the Anoka-Hennepin Education Association. Anoka-Hennepin was already a large district, and while there was not yet collective bargaining, representing about 1000 teachers was very hard work.

Ron was a local boy, and I was an outsider, but one day I remember Ron walking by with a large box of Association files, heading to a meeting, and complaining of a bad headache.

It was then and there that I decided that I needed to get involved and do something, though I had no idea what teachers unions did. That singular decision led to a 27 year career representing public school teachers – something I’d never even considered doing. So is how life goes.

AHEA Executive Board Meeting in October 1971

AHEA Executive Board Meeting in October 1971

You learn quickly, of course, when you jump in, and others who are active see that you have an interest.

For me, it began with becoming part of a Public Relations Committee which founded something we decided to call “Coins for the Community”. Tonight, at the dinner, it was mentioned that Coins for Community remains as a project of the Association 45 years later!

Old AHEA Newsletters I have reveal the origin and first results of “Coins for Community”: AHEA Coins for Community001. I can still see in minds eye the small committee meeting in an Anoka-Hennepin classroom deciding on the project. A teacher at Sorteberg Elementary School asked her son to design the Coins logo which was used for years.

Then came a year of editing the Teacher Association newsletter, thence dabbling in negotiations, thence diving into the totally uncharted waters of Executive Director of the local Union beginning in March, 1972.

American Education Week 1970.  These youngsters would now be in their late 50s!

American Education Week 1970. These youngsters would now be in their late 50s!

"Revolution" in the Fall of 1970

“Revolution” in the Fall of 1970

Growing Pains January 1971, at what was soon to become Anoka Senior High School

Growing Pains January 1971, at what was soon to become Anoka Senior High School

There were increasing numbers of we teachers who became active back then and, truth be told, we all basically slogged along, putting one foot in front of the other, learning as we went along. So did management adapt and adjust. They had no concept of sharing power with employees – it just was something that had never been done.

We all learned, making abundant mistakes in the process.

What heartened me tonight is that this Association survived and thrived long after we departed from the scene.

Sitting in that room tonight, among a number of we “old-timers” were a large crop of present day active members of the Association, the people who make any organization work: in a real sense, a family of people who work together towards a common cause, not always agreeing on what or how to do this or that, but nonetheless getting the job done…and being respected by the other side.

Sometime in the next months there will be a 50-year anniversary of the opening of Roosevelt Junior High School. When it happens, I’ll be there with the rest of us, all well on in years, now, but nonetheless all people who contributed in our own ways to the future.

Thanks AHEM Local 7007. It was great to be there.

LeMoyne Corgard, President of AHEM, presides over the recognition of teacher leaders May 14, 2015

LeMoyne Corgard, President of AHEM, presides over the recognition of teacher leaders May 14, 2015

#1026 – Dick Bernard: The Minnesota Orchestra goes to Cuba, and some related observations from the early 1960s

Tuesday, May 12th, 2015

UPDATE May 14, 2015: from the Minnesota Orchestra on landing in Cuba.
Save Our Symphony has an excellent ongoing compilation of news from/about the Orchestra in Cuba.

Monday’s Minneapolis Star Tribune had as its lead story the Minnesota Orchestra’s pending visit to Cuba.

Wherever you are, you can listen to the live performances in Cuba this Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm on Minnesota Public Radio 99.5 FM or on-line.

Henri Verbrugghen, conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony  Orchestra at the time of their last visits to Cuba in 1929 and 1930.  From a Symphony Ball poster ca late 1980s, courtesy of Alan Stone.

Henri Verbrugghen, conductor of the Minneapolis Symphony Orchestra at the time of their last visits to Cuba in 1929 and 1930. From a Symphony Ball poster ca late 1980s, courtesy of Alan Stone.

We’re regulars at the Orchestra and I’ve posted frequently on Orchestra topics, particularly during the long and very painful lockout 2012-14. The Orchestra is amazing; and the mutual intention to recover from the disastrous lockout seems amazing, for both sides.

But today seems a good time for some brief comments about another relationship, Cuba-U.S., as remembered by one who’s never been there.

As a geography major in college, I certainly knew the essentials of Cuba. The first evidence that Cuba reached out into North Dakota comes from a release which was in the July 5, 1961 Viking News (click to enlarge):

Viking News, Valley City ND State Teachers College, July 5, 1961 page one

I am quite certain I went to this performance, since such events were few and far between in the town and on campus. One quickly notices that the “Afro-Cuban Review” apparently is missing the Cuban element. This is likely due to the fact that on January 1, 1959, the Cuban system of government changed, and for 56 years, now, the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba has been, officially, non-existent (with a lot of “winks and nods”, especially by business interests: where people exist, there also is a market….)

Back to early 1960s: a year or so later, out of college and in the Army, I witnessed the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962, as an Army infantryman, mobilized for possible action. We were a long ways from Cuba, but nonetheless in the bullseye of the Russian missiles, and it was a scary time.

In October, 1962, we soldiers watched President Kennedy address the nation on a tiny television screen in our barracks near Colorado Springs.

Very soon, life went on. American and Russian leaders saw the implications of escalation; there was no war. But Castro’s Communist Cuba became and remained a ripe political opportunity in the U.S.; one might say, a North Korea near our shores. Fear is a useful emotion to manipulate and use….

Of course, if you happen to be the resident of the weaker enemy state, as Cubans are, you are unlikely to attempt to overthrow your government; while the stronger enemy, the U.S., in effect punishes you for the supposed sins of the leader, Castro.

Some years ago, likely at my Uncle’s farm in North Dakota, I came across a well-used college text: History of Latin America from the Beginning to the Present by Hubert Herring. This “Second Edition Revised”, 1963, includes a 21-page chapter on Cuba which drew my interest, particularly the Cuban history from 1895-1963. In this chapter on Cuba, Theodore Roosevelt was not even mentioned; nor was the then-more recent nuclear brinksmanship of the Cuban Missile Crisis era.

At the end of the chapter, the author states: “Reflecting on the sorry state of Cuba in 1960, the onlooker could say that two things are reasonably clear: Cuba was indeed overdue for a revolution, and revolutions are never mild and gentlemanly.” (p. 422)*

Thankfully, the walls constructed so well over 50 years ago between Cuba and the United States are now, finally, breaking down.

I will listen with great interest to the Minnesota Orchestra in Cuba this weekend.

A previous post with reports by two visitors to more recent Cuba can be read here.

* POSTNOTE: Here’s the entire Cuba chapter, made easy by pdf, hopefully so ancient and unavailable as to not get me in trouble with the author or publisher from over 50 years ago: Cuba to 1963001

#1024 – Dick Bernard: “A Boy Named Sue”, a song for Mother’s Day?

Friday, May 8th, 2015

Today we did what has come to be an annual trip, possibly four miles to the Ramsey County Correctional Facility (RCCF) to purchase Mother’s Day Flowers. (More here.)

The seasonal business is staffed by inmates at this place once called the Workhouse; 25% of the proceeds count as a donation. It is a pleasant task, buying flowers at a jail while helping some folks recover from the mistake(s) that got them confined there.

(click to enlarge)
RCCF Flowers001.

I’ve written about this program before. Every inmate there has a mother, and father, and ancestors…and some problem that got them time….

This year I was reminded of a session on “heritage” that I conducted on Monday evening, coincidentally my 75th birthday, in Minneapolis.

Heritage, I said on Monday, is everything about us, brought to us from our past. In Old French the word heritage essentially means “inheritance” from our ancestors.

We usually think of our ancestry, as people we know: our Mom, our Dad, maybe our Grandparents, but we are a sum of thousands of predecessors, parents, uncles and aunts, siblings, on and on and on. Each brings to us something empowering or disabling. Much is DNA; or observed and learned behaviors, and on and on.

Our “inheritance” is far more than money – or lack of same….

Thinking about how to approach Mondays topic, I decided to frame heritage as our collective “baggage” and “balloons”.

If we’re lucky, and determined, the balloons we’ve inherited have greater lift than the weight of the baggage. We can rise above much; sometimes like these inmates who were helping us today, we’re dragged down, but we can recover.

I kept thinking of Johnny Cash’s old tune, “A Boy Named Sue”, and found an unexpurgated and particularly entertaining version on YouTube. (Yes, this version has the cuss words, little kids doing fake violence and the like, but c’mon, every now and then you’ve thunk the same ’bout your own situation and who bears the blame for your state of being at some particular time!).

Somewhere out there on the internet, I’m sure, there’s analysis about what drew Johnny Cash to sing the verses of that song, and made that song so popular. Here’s one. We identify with imperfection, because we’re imperfect. Doubtless in the video that accompanies the song, those little kids who were the “actors” had fun with the rubber knife and the play gun.

I guess it’s part of the life we all experience from time to time, our private face..

But for all of us it started with a Mom and a Dad, and for them, the same, and back all through human history.

Happy Mother’s Day!

And if you’re in the area, and haven’t got your flowers as yet, try the RCCF sale this weekend, or through May 24.

A related post here.

And an interesting commentary, “Teach Your Children Well“.

#1022 – Kathleen Valdez: A Surprise Find from a DNA Analysis.

Sunday, May 3rd, 2015

PRE-NOTE FROM DICK: For some time I’ve been thinking of having an ancestry DNA analysis done.

A short while ago, the inclination racheted up quite a bit with this e-mail from an out-of-the-blue e-mail from Kathy (Corey) Valdez, an Oregonian whose Mom Ellie Lemire Corey was (she thought) from primarily French-Canadian roots from Quebec to Minnesota to North Dakota.

Here’s Kathy’s e-mail, with followup comment, all from Kathy, passed along with her permission:

March 24, 2015: “In going through mom’s letters, I felt I needed to tell you about the DNA discovery I’ve made and how it’s all come about through the Spirit. You know, the Spanish have a word that is much richer in meaning for our word- coincidence. The word is diosidencia – google it!

In my DNA (autosomal – half from mom and half from dad), I found among the English, Irish and Western European that I was 19% Iberian Peninsula. I first thought, “I don’t have Spanish blood- I’m all French on Mom’s side with some Native American mixed in.”

About 3 weeks ago, I came across a French-Canadian Project for Aunism…Spanish Jews who fled to France as a result of being targeted in the Spanish Inquisition. Yep, that be me! [NOTE from editor: here is a general link to the topic.]

I cross-referenced the 50 or so names of those on the list of Sephardic Jews who fled to France and then 400 years later to settle New France and I found 18 surnames on my Lemire/Parent family tree!

My great uncle Arthur Parent (Mom’s uncle on her mom’s side) passed on to his descendants that they had Jewish blood in their ancestry but I dismissed it because the ‘reporter’ (uncle’s daughter) was way off on some of her other information. She also liked to sensationalize information.

Well, my DNA test showed she was right!”

I asked Kathy for more info, and got her permission to pass on her information:

March 27, 2015: “I first had my test done through Family Tree dna because they test Y and Mitochondria chromosomes as well as the more general testing for autosomal. You are able to find your closest matches in the database and contact these matches, hoping they have some sort of family tree to see where you connect.

Ancestrydna did my second test and it’s more ‘user friendly’ to the public and only tests autosomal. Autosomal is the test for ‘ancestral place’. It goes back 4-5 gen. and matches you with other people who have been tested so you can contact each other.

So both test autosomal and give matches for you to contact but only Family Tree dna finds your Y dna (males) back to the beginning of humankind. Both men and women have the mitro. (X) and everyone has autosomal (half from your mom and half from you father).

Autosomal: It’s a toss up as to which genes you inherit (crap shoot:) Your sibs inherit different combos unless you’re identical twins. I just attended a LDS Conference in Forest Grove last Sat. and a woman from Ancestry was keynote – excellent! She said that AncestryDNA altho has only been around 3 yrs. is growing faster than Family Tree and for all intent and purposes the autosomal is the only test you need….unless you want to find your deep, deep roots!

Ancestry DNA usually has specials from time to time – I think before Mother’s/Father’s Day..$79

The Ancestry.com woman said you’d have to test no less than 5 sibs to get a clear picture of your parent’s dna. Except for Tim, my sibs are reluctant so I guess I need to pay for their tests :) If both parents are alive, that’s all you need to test (not yourself as it’s all there :) Test your oldest relatives.

If you’re a member of Ancestry (AARP membership- I just joined last month because of this) has 10% off membership so I pay $209 annually now as opposed to $299 when you subscribe annually)….on Ancestry they have tutorials about dna that they archive. If you want, I can notify you when specials are happening:)”

COMMENTS:
from Jeanne: There will be a DNA round table at Minneapolis Central Library: Genealogy Research: DNA Testing Discussion Minneapolis Central Library • N-402 • Share Tuesday, June 9, 7–8 p.m.

from Christine: These Jews were called the Maroons in Spain and in France later. This is a well known migration of population in Europe. They have become Catholic and gradually lost their Jewish practice.

This search of your DNA and origins is very enriching.

from Marshall: It is funny you mention DNA. We have been curious for a while on our own DNA, and Carole and Karen (twins) sent in swabs for “zygosity” testing, meaning the absence or presence of twinship. To my surprise, they are certified identical. Their DNA markers were expressed as numeric, and some were 7 or 8 digits long. Being identical twins, their markers were identical with no deviations. Case closed.

My own DNA testing was through Ancestry.com. Here are my results (for me only).

Great Britain 54%
Iberian Peninsula 18%
Europe West 15%
Ireland 5%
Europe East 3%
Scandinavia 2%
Italy/Greece 2%
Finland/Northwest Russia 1%

From what I know about my family, I expected a higher percent for Europe West (the French influence). The Iberian Peninsula includes western France, the Basque area, Portugal, and Spain.

#1017 – Dick Bernard: Reminiscing Along North Dakota’s I-94

Sunday, April 19th, 2015

For a few hours last Friday I reacquainted with about 130 miles of North Dakota’s I-94, between Mandan and Valley City ND. Thanks for the unexpected trip, and the opportunity to reminisce, go to my Uncle Vince.

Vincent, who died on February 2, was a long-time member of the Catholic Fraternal organization, the Knights of Columbus, as was his Dad, my Grandpa. Grandpa joined about 1921, and Vincent in 1947.

As part of the annual North Dakota Knights of Columbus gathering, this year in Mandan ND on April 17, about 150 KCs who’d died in the past year were recognized by a reading of their names and procession of candles, one dedicated to each departed Knight.

I was invited as a member of Vincent’s family, and attending was the least I could do.

It was a very impressive event (portion of program here: KCs Mandan 4-17-15001. Listed (p. 4) and somewhere among the candles (below) was Vincent Busch. A retired and prominent Catholic Cardinal, Theodore McCarrick (p. 5), was celebrant.

Knowing Vincent as I do, he’d probably be embarrassed and said, “what did I ever do to deserve this?”

Well, of course, he deserved the recognition, and the others as well.

We all deserve to be remembered.

(click to enlarge all photos)

At Christ the King Church, Mandan, ND, April 17, 2015

At Christ the King Church, Mandan, ND, April 17, 2015

To get to and from Mandan I drove a portion of I-94 I have rarely driven in the past 50 years.

I-94 Bis-Vc001

Thursday, I started from LaMoure, where I’d had a very busy couple of days. Though only 60 miles to “Jimtown” (Jamestown, in Grandpa’s rendering), I arrived pretty well exhausted and “motelled” there. I wanted a beard trim, and learned from the clerk that the J.C. Penney store across from the motel had a walk-in Beauty Salon. Sure enough. A pleasant lady trimmed my beard.

“How much?”

“No charge”.

It was one of those unexpected kindnesses that you relish when they occur, and you don’t forget. It becomes an invitation to pay it forward, to someone else….

Next morning, enroute west, I stopped in at nearby Eldridge, my home from 1943-45. Elridge is a main-line railroad town on what used to be called the NP (Northern Pacific) Railroad. I photo’ed the first place we lived there (upper floor, north side); and the school in which my Dad was Principal, both still full of memories. I visited both with Dad back in the 1990s. Then, the school was occupied by a lady and her daughter. Today the place is empty, like most of those tiny town schools, mostly brick, which have managed to survive, though empty.

Eldridge ND April 17, 2015

Eldridge ND April 17, 2015

The Eldridge School April 17, 2015

The Eldridge School April 17, 2015

Enroute again, the map reacquainted me with places from my past, especially college days at Valley City State Teachers College. Many classmates I knew, then, were from places like Tappen, Napoleon, Streeter…. I graduated from high school in 1958 at Sykeston; another place we lived in 1942-43 was Pingree. These towns were tiny, but mostly much larger than they are now.

In Bismarck, of course, I visited the State Capitol. The “Prairie Skyscraper”, built to replace the old capitol which burned down Dec. 28, 1930, was always a place of pride for we NoDaks.

This was a bustling place this day: the state legislature was in session. I was there about lunch time, and Senators and Representatives were among those catching lunch. A group, DigitalHorizonsOnline, was testing our knowledge on North Dakota Trivia. Do visit their site.

On the Capitol Grounds is an immensively impressive and newly enlarged State History Museum and Interpretative Center. I highly recommend it. It matches any such facility I’ve seen anywhere.

ND State Capitol, April 17, 2015.  Foreground, the old ND State Library.

ND State Capitol, April 17, 2015. Foreground, the old ND State Library.

Of course, no trip to the Capitol is complete without a trip to the top, to take a picture (below). On the ground level are about 43 winners of the North Dakota Roughrider Award. There are perhaps 43 portraits now, among them my early childhood friend from Sykeston, Larry Woiwode, who is directly across from the portrait of the old Roughrider himself, President Teddy Roosevelt.

Missouri River from the State Capitol, Bismarck, April 17, 2015

Missouri River from the State Capitol, Bismarck, April 17, 2015

Larry Woiwode

Larry Woiwode

Enroute to the Mass I took a side trip over to the Ft. Abraham Lincoln a few miles south of Mandan. This is the place from which Gen. George Armstrong Custer took his ill-fated trip to the Little Big Horn in 1876. Of course, this is April, and nothing was open, but I could drive around, and walk to see the Slant Village and the Custer home. Earlier, a lady at the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department pointed out that this year is the 50th anniversary of the Parks Department, and each State Park will have their day. Fort Abraham Lincoln’s Day is Memorial Day, May 25, 2015.

George Armstrong Custer house at Fort Abraham Lincoln April 17, 2015

George Armstrong Custer house at Fort Abraham Lincoln April 17, 2015

Historic Slant Village at Ft. Abraham Lincoln State Park April 17, 2015

Historic Slant Village at Ft. Abraham Lincoln State Park April 17, 2015

Visit over in late afternoon, back on I-94 East, this time to Fargo.

Dominating the trip back was thinking about May, 1965, when my wife, Barbara, was released from Bismarck’s St. Alexius Hospital, and we began the long trip by car to Minneapolis where she was to be admitted for a kidney transplant at the University of Minnesota Hospital. It was her only remaining option to live beyond 22.

Near hidden facade of old St. Alexius Hospital, Bismarck ND April 17, 2015

Near hidden facade of old St. Alexius Hospital, Bismarck ND April 17, 2015

Back then, late May, 1965, someplace along 94, east of Bismarck, the radiator hose chose to burst. Luckily, we were close to one of the very few exits with a gas station. At Valley City, she and her mother and brother and our year old son Tom took the train the rest of the way to Minneapolis. I continued on by car. Barbara was admitted to the hospital, and died there July 24, 1965. 50 years ago, now. A major marker on my life path. We all have such….

I drove on, finding a motel in Moorhead MN about 9:30 pm.

In the morning, at the house breakfast, I saw a number of people wearing bright t-shirts, “Team Fred” on on one side; “Muscle Walk 2015″ on the other. I asked a family of four, “what’s this about?” “A walk for ALS” the Dad said. Fred, I surmised, was someone they knew who has ALS, but I don’t know that.

I went out to the car, remembering the earlier kindness in Jamestown, the free beard trim, took out my checkbook, wrote out a check for $50 to Muscle Walk 2015, went back into the restaurant and left the check with the family: “have a great day”.

Probably the gift surprised them.

Pay it forward, thanks in part to the kind beauty salon person in Jamestown.

It was a great day….

POSTNOTE: Sunday evening came one of those calls from an Unknown Caller. It was Jim F, from Carrington ND. Turned out he was the “Fred” from Team Fred, and he was calling to thank me for the donation Saturday morning. It was a most pleasant surprise; we knew people in common, it turned out.

#1016 – Dick Bernard: Hillary announces….

Wednesday, April 15th, 2015

If you need to know what the blog headline is about, you’re probably not much interested in politics…. The longer headline: “Hillary Clinton announces her candidacy for Presidency of the United States beginning 2017.”

This is a long post, mostly my personal political history – “me ‘n Hillary” – from early 2008. If you’re not into history, my current comments begin and end this post…. What is bold-faced from the 2008 comments, in the middle of this post, are those which seem most pertinent, then and now.

Humor me, and read on, just this once, whether or not “politics” interests you.

Please try…. Politics is what makes or breaks this democracy of ours. We Americans are very sloppy about how we go about deciding who should represent us, and we are even more careless about how our government works at all levels. It is a surprise our system works at all, and that’s a shame.

*

Sunday, April 12, 2015, Hillary Clinton announced that she’s a candidate for President. I see that as good news, though as of right now I haven’t read much about it. There’s plenty of time, and there will be, doubtless, daily polls about what the public thinks – the polls slanted, of course, in the direction the pollster wishes. A great deal of “heat”, hardly any “light”.

One thing is certain, in my opinion: Hillary Clinton is savvy, and she’ll run a very solid campaign.

I’ve long been impressed with Hillary. Most of the words which follow come from two posts I wrote at the time of the Minnesota Precinct Caucuses Feb 5, 2008.

Those who stop by this blog from time to time know that I like to add photos to posts. There are none of her included here for a simple reason: I’ve never actually seen Hillary Clinton in person, anywhere. A few days before I wrote the below comments in 2008, Feb. 2, I saw Barack Obama in person in Minneapolis. He was very impressive. He is ever more impressive; we’re fortunate to have him as chief executive of this immense country.

(click to enlarge)

Feb. 2, 2008, Target Center Minneapolis,

Feb. 2, 2008, Target Center Minneapolis,

At the end of this post, I’ll summarize what I see, at this moment. Whether you like or detest politics, the results determine what we are as a country, and you’re a participant, whether you think you’re a participant or not. (Not voting, or voting for “Mickey Mouse” or a candidate who has no chance whatever, is voting. And everyone has only a single vote, one time, in each election.)

Get involved. Your own future is determined by who will be elected for all offices in each election.

Now, a look back.

*

P&J#1566 “Super Tuesday” posted February 6, 2008:

“I’m guessing I’ve heard from everyone who has an interest in responding to last night, so here ’tis. Thanks. [Lots of people responded about their experience at their own 2008 caucus. These are not included here.]

*****

Yes, I “gotta get a life”…I got curious, yesterday, about the age U.S. Presidents were when they assumed the presidency.

My time to run is definitely past: Here they are since 1901: Teddy Roosevelt, 42; Taft, 51; Wilson, 56; Harding, 55; Coolidge, 50; Hoover,
54; FDR, 50; Truman, 60; Eisenhower, 62; JFK, 43; LBJ, 54; Nixon, 55; Ford, 61; Carter, 52; Reagan, 69 (THERE’S HOPE – not much); GHWB, 64; Bill
Clinton, 46; the Decider [George W Bush], 54. (At the end of this P&J, I list the rest of the bunch….)

Funny how they seemed so old back when I knew ’em as a kid.

If elected, McCain, 71, would be the oldest President ever elected, older even than the Gipper [Ronald Reagan]. You can bet that this point will be whispered.

*****

CAUCUSING:

I’ve attended precinct caucuses for years. Our particular caucus location for the last several years has been a junior high school a 15 minute drive from me, just off I-94.

That’s 15 minutes on a normal day.

Tonight it took almost an hour to drive to the location, most of that time spent in the last half mile jammed bumper to bumper on the freeway and the exit ramp, and then another 15 minutes to walk to the school from my car which I had to park on the shoulder of the road.

The time spent had everything to do with the precinct caucus attendance, which was HUGE.

My caucus location was teeming with young people. The young guy who serves me coffee most mornings at my local Caribou was there, volunteering for Al Franken. It is nice to make occasional unexpected connections like these.

I cast my ballot – for Hillary Clinton; registered to become a delegate to the next level – an important step, as the next level is where the state delegates are selected. We left early as Cathy needed to get home for some phone calls. It was a long chilly walk back to the car, then home.

Why my vote for Hillary? More on that in a later post.

(The presidential vote in Minnesota last night is simply a straw poll of those who actually registered at the caucus. It reflects who showed up. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to see the results.)

I got a sense, last night, that people in my area are wanting their country back. This was a school full of serious looking people. I’ll hope their commitment sustains itself, and in fact grows.

For myself, I’ll be proud to support whoever ends up as the nominees.

More on my impressions at the end of this post.

… [numerous comments from other members of my list, not included here]

Some final thoughts from Dick: a friend stopped by at coffee shop this morning, and said that 2100 were at our caucus location, compared with 700 two years ago. Vote was probably 2-1 for Obama at our location, even heavier in his affluent part of town. Chatting nearby were an older guy and a younger woman, both of whom I know a little, both apparently actively Republican. They were deeply involved in fearing the evils of socialized medicine and Hillary Clinton. So goes the debate.

As candidates so well know, there are two ‘peaks’ to attain: first, the nomination of their party; second, the election by the people, hopefully somewhat fairly through the process of ballots. For eons, organizers have come to know a basic truth about campaigns: don’t peak too soon! If your campaign reaches its high point six months out, you’ll lose as certainly as if it peaks six months after the election. The careful strategists are well aware of this dilemma. The Obama campaign is well aware of this dilemma as well. Super Tuesday (a media creation more than a substantive national primary) makes necessary aggressive and expensive campaigning by all the candidates. But it is just a media creation. Now comes the hard part: keeping people interested, engaged and committed.

This continued engagement can be a real problem. A lot of people showed up last night solely to vote for Clinton or Obama, and immediately left. A heap of us will gather (in my case) March 8, for a long, long, often very boring day at our Senate District Convention where the hard process of selecting delegates to the state convention begins. In turn, the state convention will select the national delegates, and on the process goes. We will work really hard on March 8, and listen to lots of people, and try to make some kind of reasoned and reasonable decisions. The people who came, voted and left, will have no appreciation of this part of the process.

Hang in there.

Here’s the rest of the Presidents, with their age at time of election.

George Washington, 56; John Adams, 61; Thomas Jefferson, 57; James Madison, 57; James Monroe, 58; John Quincy Adams, 57; Andrew Jackson, 51; Martin Van Buren, 54; William Henry Harrison, 67 (MY AGE, but he lived only 31 days in office – bad omen. Keep my day job); John Tyler, 50: James Knox Polk, 49; Zachary Taylor, 64; Millard Fillmore, 50; Franklin Pierce, 48; James Buchanan, 65; Abe Lincoln, 51; Andrew Johnson, 57; U.S. Grant, 46; Rutherford B. Hayes, 54; James Garfield, 49; Chester A. Arthur, 52; Grover Cleveland, 47; Benjamin Harrison, 55; William McKinley, 53.

P&J #1568 Why I Voted for Hillary, February 8, 2008.
This is one of mine I hope you’ll take a moment to read.

Pro or Con responses will go into a future mailbag. (There will be a ‘mailbag’ following this one, then I may give you a break for the weekend!)

Why did I vote for Hillary, and Why am I inclined to support her?

There are no simple answers to those questions, whether answered by me, or anyone else. It is a complex matter. But I can provide some clues, with some data I find significant:

1. No less an authority than archconservative William (Bill) Bennett pronounced on CNN yesterday afternoon (Feb 7), that while he had serious reservations about John McCain as the Republican nominee, he would back him because McCain had an American Conservative Union rating of 82, while Hillary Clinton had a rating of 9. (If those numbers are incorrect, it’s Bill Bennett or American Conservative Union who’s lying, not me! www.acuratings.org is where you can check [Such old weblinks are likely no longer current or in existence]. On this list, which ranks lawmakers performance through 2006, MN Senator Mark Dayton had a ranking of 11, and Norm Coleman a rating of 75. Obama’s ranking is 8. Most conservative: DeMint (SC) 98; most awfully liberal, Ted Kennedy of MA, 2).

2. The same afternoon of Feb 7, a letter came from a good friend, a Catholic Priest friend who’s now in El Paso TX saying he’s now “on board w/the Obama campaign. Clinton has never repented for her support of the [Iraq] war….” He was talking, I suppose, about the October, 2002, resolution on which she voted ‘aye'; and on which my own Senator, Paul Wellstone, wavered until almost the last second before voting ‘nay’ (I know the circumstances on the latter, since I was on the way to banner at Wellstone’s office that fateful October afternoon and on arrival there found nobody bannering. I learned after I got home that he had declared he would vote against the resolution. At the time, I was very new to the Peace movement, and nobody was keeping me in the loop about what was happening (they still don’t, too often!). Of course, that vote was strategized by the administration and Republican leadership to take place in very close proximity to the 2002 mid-term elections. It’s easy research to find out what happened that Nov.)

Clinton was in her second year in the U.S. Senate when that vote occurred, and representing her state of New York. Her vote apparently didn’t hurt her standing with her home state folks – her constituents…she was easily reelected in 2006.

If folks take time to recall, Bush’s approval ratings were still stratospheric then, and they were stratospheric because of his WAR rhetoric and planning, and the politically massaged aftermath of 9-11. It’s useful to think back to those times. Hillary Clinton’s constituency was and is in New York City and State, where the worst of 9-11 happened, and it’s hard to imagine any other vote from her at that time, however ill advised one might think it was in hindsight. I wouldn’t expect her to ‘repent’, either. (When I became a peacenik, October 2001 and the bombing of Afghanistan, 94% of Americans approved of the bombing. Talk about being in the minority.)

3. I have mentioned more than once that in my own assessment of the candidates stated positions, Kucinich clearly was most in synch with my own personal views (40), while Edwards, Clinton and Obama were quite positive and a virtual tie (29, 28, 28), with Huckabee and McCain almost tied far down the list (12, 11), and Romney almost a no-show (4). (In my listing, Mike Gravel came in at 29 also. Thompson, Hunter, Guiliani and Tancredo were at the end, with 3,2,2 and 1 respectively. www.myelectionchoices.com [also, likely defunct as a website now]

This assessment had lots of issues, and lots of position statements from all the candidates, not labeled by candidates, so I don’t know in which areas I was most in synch with Clinton or any candidate, but it was useful for me in trying to figure out the general positions of the potential candidates for the most complex and difficult job in the world.

**

Debate rages on this network and others about Clinton, and mostly it has been pretty negative towards her. It was an act almost like ‘coming out’ to mention that I was going to vote for Hillary on Tuesday! “What will they say?” I suspect I was/am not at all alone in the big camp of folks who think Hillary is okay, and her own person, too.

I haven’t and won’t rate Hillary based on her years as first lady; nor did I rate her based on Bill, though I admit to being puzzled why even Bill has been made out to be such a liability. Best as I recall, he was very popular with the American people even after the impeachment, and through the end of his term, and most people would take the ‘Bill days’ of the 90s in a minute over what we’ve endured in the last 7 years [2001-2008].

Clinton ended his term, as I recall, with still very high approval ratings. He still is popular here, and around the world.

But the notion has been planted (and accepted) that, somehow, that this is a bad couple, in almost any way someone wants to define ‘bad’, and this includes many assessments from the Left. So be it. Could the description be a ‘spun’ one? Are we witnessing how the Politics of Division and Character Assassination works, directly and/or subtlely? From BOTH poles of the ideological spectrum?

Hillary Clinton seems to have both the stamina and the backbone to endure the brutality of the campaign trail. This is some important evidence to me that she has what it takes to be chief executive of the United States, by far the most complex job on earth (if one takes time to be engaged in the complexity – Bush didn’t. “The Decider” decided and in the process we have become a country governed by a ruler not a President.) Even as first lady, Hillary was molded by and initiated into the vicious crucible of Washington politics with the Health Care reform dilemma early in Bill’s first term. She’s criticized for not achieving the goal; I rarely hear she (and Bill) complimented for trying….

Add to the complexity of governing a monstrosity like our democracy is, the almost certain extraordinarily difficult situations and circumstances that we are entering after this disastrous eight years, and I puzzle as to why Hillary or anyone for that matter would want to be President. FDR may prove to have had a cakewalk in comparison.

That Hillary Clinton is a woman has never caused me to wonder about her ability to lead. My career representing teachers (still basically a female profession), long ago rid me of the business of sex role stereotyping, if indeed, that ever was a serious issue for me.

As I prepare to click ‘send’ on this, I have one last thought, from overnight. Hillary (and the others) are cursed by the ‘Liberal’ label as if it is the mark of Satan himself. This has been one of the most successful anti-marketing campaigns in our history. I commented on ‘liberal’ at a disenchanted conservative’s dinner table a while back thusly: “I’m definitely a Liberal, but if you truly want Conservative government, where people carefully handle your money, and are Compassionate in the process, you’ll elect Liberal every time. We’re careful with our fellow citizens money.” Liberals in my experience are, by and large, careful with the dollar (sometimes ‘cheap’) because they’ve had to be; and they tend to be, I think, more truly compassionate and understanding of other points of view. There could be worse qualities. The best ‘Compassionate Conservatives’ are, really, Liberals. (I know plenty of truly Compassionate Conservative Republicans...these folks are, by their own admission, out of power even in their own party, and trying to figure out how to regain some of the deserved stature and respect they had in the past.

We’ll see what happens these next months. Keep talking.

SOME VERY BRIEF SUMMARY THOUGHTS ON APRIL 15, 2015:

1. The anti-Hillary “attack dogs” have already been let loose onto the internet, especially. So it will be. The attack dogs are not only on the Right of the Political Spectrum. The far Left types don’t think Clinton, or Obama, deserve support because they’re too conservative,”war mongers”, etc. So be it.

2. By the time of the election in 2016, Hillary will be 69, younger than John McCain had he been elected President in 2008; about the same age as Ronald Reagan at his election in 1980.

3. If nominated by the Democrats a year and a half from now, she will be the first woman to actually run for President of the United States (our country is an anomaly in this regard. There are and have been many women chief executives in other countries. We are way behind.)

4. Perhaps there has been a President who came to office with as much relevant experience for the job as Hillary Clinton already has (U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, to name just two positions she’s successfully held.)

COMMENTS
from Corky:
Hi Dick.
Watching the MONEY MACHINES in action concerning the 2016 presidential election.
$2.5 Billion for Hillary camp..

$100,000,000 largest individual contributor for GOP candidate..

TV personality contributed $1,000,000 to Obama campaign and will give $1,000,000 to Elizabeth Warren if she runs.
Warren said she is NOT running for President.

from Fred: Read your “historical” comments and enjoyed the look-back. You have an advantage as a veteran blogger of being able to see what you actually were thinking on past topics. The rest of us can make us of selective memory—I never would, of course—and discover we were right about everything.

Your characterization of “compassionate conservatives” (don’t hear that phrase in GOP circles anymore) as closet liberals was spot on. Hey, that’s why you don’t hear that phrase anymore.

from Bruce: The Sunset guy [here] seems to boil it down to neoliberalism v republican vision and has decided the choice is clear. The neoliberal policies that led to the financial breakdown & the recession is better than that republican vision.

We solve our problems through violence. Using military force is accepted by both parties, accept when the other party’s president is in office. It’s a cynical choice that we’ve been given.

It’s sad, but the status quo may be the best we can hope for. I’ll vote for Hillary with eyes wide open.

from David: You and I choose to differ here. I supported Ralph Nader and Winona LaDuke then Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala. In 2008 I struck a deal with a Montana progressive citizen to exchange our votes for the green party, but as you may recall the various Just-Us departments didn’t like citizens taking charge of their own destinies.

Dr. Stein is likely running again. Who else in 2012 chose to be arrested twice—once for a sit-in at a bank protesting mortgage foreclosures and next trying to enter the presidential debate being held in Texas?

Residing in the camp of the lesser of the two evils, Obama/Romney and Clinton/To be determined, is like having to use stink bait in my opinion. I choose not to have to hold my nose when I go fishing.

I am 98.5 percent sure that Mrs. Clinton will mouth all the good slogans, just like Mr. Obama has, and then continue to build next generation nuclear bombs, propose ever larger Pentagon budgets, and keep the drones searching for targets.