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#928 – Dick Bernard: Greg H on Ferguson MO

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

UPDATE: Overnight, August 22, “Policing the Masses”, some thoughts on the down side of crowd control.

Grace Kelly’s proposal, presented in the August 7 post (written back in May, before Ferguson; it is at the end of the post), is the basis for conversation and action anywhere. If you haven’t read it yet, consider doing so now. It is simply an idea, to be developed in different ways in different places.

Don Thimmesch (undated).  See note at end of post.

Don Thimmesch (undated). See note at end of post.

A good friend of mine, Greg, is an attorney and retired prosecutor in this major metropolitan area. He’s sent three comments during the times of the incident in Ferguson, and I present them below as received. His is a perspective flowing from experience. Below his comments are a couple of my own flowing from the three previous posts on the topic of police and violence, which can be accessed here, here and here.

Greg H, Aug 15, 2014: A year ago or so [ago] I caught the testimony of a local police chief before a Congressional committee. In part, he chronicled the increase in fire power of the weapons issued to his patrol officers, in a small community.

The latest upgrade was to a weapon similar to that used in the Sandy Hook school shootings.

The police chief explained to the Congressional committee members that the reason for his community spending money to equip patrol officers with more lethal weapons was simply to prevent his officers from being out gunned by the bad people.

Just today we learned the suspect in the murder of the local police officer [Mendota Heights MN, August 7 post] during a traffic stop had told a woman friend days earlier that he planned to kill a cop. He also told her he had been smoking meth for several days.

As to Ferguson, I prefer to wait for the facts of the confrontation between Mr. Brown and the officer before reaching any conclusions.

Greg, Aug 18: A letter to the editor published in the August 16th Star Tribune…pointed out that the population of Ferguson is about 67 percent African American, yet four of the six elected city council members and the mayor are Caucasian. I do not mean to imply that electing more African American individuals to city government will solve all problems. However, as we well know elections do have consequences.

Also, whether that police officer did or did not know Mr. Brown was a suspect in a recently-committed robbery, Mr. Brown knew what he had done and of course he did not know whether the police officer was also aware of what he had done.

This does not appear to me to be an easy-to-understand situation. I am still wanting to know more about what happened.

Greg, Aug 20: A Mike Meyers op ed piece was published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune today, introducing us to that city as it was in the 1950s- and 1960s as he grew up there. [Meyers is a former reporter for Minneapolis Star Tribune]. Pretty much confirmed my opinion. Reminds me of Studs Terkel. I do not mean Meyers’ column justifies 2014 life in Ferguson, but it does, I think, help us understand how we got to 2014.

Chris Matthews in his sign off opinion comment on Hardball last night [MSNBC] was to the same point. He suggested the root cause of the problems between the races in Ferguson is more about economic disparity than racism. As is playing out across our country, there just are no longer well-paying jobs for people who have only a high school diploma. Actually that is true also for many people with only a bachelor college degree.

Students from Ferguson attend Normandy High School located in a nearby community. Students come from 24 communities to attend that school, whose enrollment is 98 percent Black. Michael Brown was a member of the Class of 2014. Here is a link to a story from NBC News. Grim picture.

How many graduates are ready to face the challenges of the 21st Century? How many Normandy graduates attend college or any other post secondary education schools? In 2012 the school lost its accreditation. The state has taken over operation of the school. All teachers were required to reapply for their jobs, 40 percent of whom were not hired back.

Indicting, convicting the involved police officer will do nothing to address these root causes.

Parting Thoughts as I leave this topic:

My instincts tend strongly to supporting police. While I’ve never owned a weapon, guns for hunting have been a regular part of my surroundings since I was a little kid.

I am long past the illusion that because I grew up in rural North Dakota, before African-Americans were part of my surroundings, that I am race-neutral. We all grew up with messages…. Native-Americans (“Indians”) seem to have been our race of choice.

As demonstrated by events in recent weeks, guns, especially ever more sophisticated weaponry, and the uncertainties of human behavior are not a good combination; and racial tensions are never far below the surface. Guns are not good mediators, and those who “win” at the point of a gun, are the ultimate losers, almost always. The guy who shot the policeman here a few weeks ago may as well be dead; the policeman who shot the man in Ferguson will never recover either, even if totally vindicated.

I agree with Greg that the entire picture is not yet clear in Ferguson. At the same time, what happened there has rippled out, everywhere, not soon to be forgotten. And proximity to a deadly weapon was not good for the officer, whether he ultimately is exonerated or not.

These issues: weapons, race, and police-community relationships generally, are important topics. Ongoing.

NOTE about photo: Don Thimmesch was the husband of my mothers first cousin, and next-ND-farm-over neighbor, Cecilia Berning. He was one of the first 50 uniformed Iowa State Highway Patrol officers in the mid-1930s.

#927 – Dick Bernard: Guns and Relationships

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

Shortly I leave on yet another trip to the North Dakota farm, continuing the long summer of preparing the place for new occupants. It has been a lot of work, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe this trip, to deal with the last of the scrap metal, and some other miscellany, might take care of at least the physical side of the effort. There remains the emotional: I’ve had far more of an investment in that place than I ever realized, and I knew that farm was important to me, though I never actually lived there. Just occasional visits from childhood on; then a week or so each year helping my Uncle with harvest. It was my hub: the house, the barn, the surrounding fields, the wheat golden when last I left about a week ago, the apple trees (this year very heavy with apples)….

And back home, each box of “junk” from that farm yields some treasure. This Oliver Writer Nr. 3 for instance, one of the first typewriters produced in quantity circa 1902.

(click to enlarge photos)

Oliver Typewriter Model Nr. 3 circa 1902, as it appears August, 2014

Oliver Typewriter Model Nr. 3 circa 1902, as it appears August, 2014

But as I leave this computer screen shortly for the now very familiar trip 310 miles west, my thoughts will be on other things. Past will be prelude: I do not “keep up” with the news on-the-road. What I know now, is what I will know when I resume life back home in a couple of days.

Ferguson MO, and what that all means, will likely be much on my mind. Here’s the last post I received about that terrible situation, 1:43 a.m.

How do I fit in with all that is Ferguson MO right now?

Two weeks ago I stood for near three hours at Somerset School on Dodd Road in nearby Mendota Heights watching hundreds of police cars pass in honor of their fallen comrade, Scott Patrick, who was gunned down by a career criminal, a white guy, who, he said himself, hated cops. That day seems so long ago now.

There are so many thoughts. Here, one guy with a gun, by all appearances an ordinary motorist who’d done something dumb, killed another guy, the policeman, who had no reason to feel he’d have to use his own gun.

The policeman is dead, no worries for him; the killer may have felt some temporary euphoria, but not for long.

What benefit did the gun give the one who used it?

None at all.

Still, we are absolutely awash in weapons in this country. It is our right to be armed and dangerous.

At the farm I’ll visit in a few hours, one of my first acts, when it was clear my uncle wouldn’t be coming back there, was to remove six weapons from the house for safekeeping. These were all routine kinds of hunting weapons, granted, but weapons nonetheless. Attractive targets for thieves.

Nov. 2013, at the farm.  Two other guns, "heritage" types, were elsewhere in the house.  Later I found another gun in the metal shed, and a pistol as well.  All now in safekeeping.

Nov. 2013, at the farm. Two other guns, “heritage” types, were elsewhere in the house. Later I found another gun in the metal shed, and a pistol as well. All now in safekeeping.

Best I can tell, just from the news, guns don’t even benefit those who own and use them for protection, whether “bad” or “good”. The one having the temporary advantage with the gun, isn’t at all advantaged in the longer term.

And then there’s the matter of race in this country of ours. That’s the larger message in Ferguson, just beginning to be discussed, again.

We are, every single one of us, captives of an ancient narrative about race in this country.

At this bucolic farm I’ll visit in a few hours, they once had a favorite horse, a black horse, “Nigger”. This was long before I was born. But long after I was born a favorite Christmas nut was “nigger toes”, brazil nuts.

There was no drama in the use of this term, nigger. But the greater message was the very fact that it was used at all.

And it isn’t about “them”, it’s about every single one of us.

Aunt Edith's flower at the farm, August 10, 2014.  Edith died February 12, 2014, some of her flowers live on.

Aunt Edith’s flower at the farm, August 10, 2014. Edith died February 12, 2014, some of her flowers live on.

#926 – Dick Bernard: The Sea Wing Disaster of July 13, 1890

Monday, August 18th, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 11.37.07 AM

For a number of months, occasional coffee-time conversation with friends David Thofern and Frederick Johnson usually got around to talk about progress on Mr. Johnson’s latest book, “The Sea Wing Disaster. Tragedy on Lake Pepin” (available through Goodhue County Historical Society here with event schedule about the book here). When the book came out, I bought a couple of copies (well worth the cost), and when I learned that the author would be talking about the volume at the Le Duc House in Hastings MN, I put it on the calendar, and last night my spouse and I went for a most fascinating hour presentation.

(click on photos to enlarge; to further enlarge poster beside Johnson, put cursor over the poster and click again.)

Frederick Johnson speaks on the Sea Wing disaster at Le Duc House, Hastings MN, Aug. 17, 2014

Frederick Johnson speaks on the Sea Wing disaster at Le Duc House, Hastings MN, Aug. 17, 2014

Frederick, David, myself, and others of we “regulars” are into bantering, about this and that, and this project was no different.

But the Sea Wing Disaster was no laughing matter. It happened July 13, 1890, in Lake Pepin, the shallow and large wide spot in the Mississippi River below Red Wing MN.

In the early evening of that day, the overloaded small steamer capsized in very strong winds, and 98 of the 215 passengers died. Most were from Red Wing.

It was and remains one of the largest domestic maritime disasters in U.S. History, and one of the very few in which weather was the major causative factor. (Many of the Sea Wing passengers were aboard a barge, lashed to the Sea Wing. All but one of the passengers on the barge survived. The Sea Wing, only 14′ wide and about 100 feet long, was overloaded and no match for the wind induced massive waves. The passengers had hardly a chance.)

The Sea Wing and Barge in tow before the catastrophe...

The Sea Wing and Barge in tow before the catastrophe…

...and after.  Photos courtesy of Goodhue Co. Hist. Soc.

…and after. Photos courtesy of Goodhue Co. Hist. Soc.

In these days of AccuWeather and instantaneous forecasting it is perhaps hard to imagine being surprised by bad weather. People back then, and until very recently, relied on the usual visual signs of bad weather, and they knew what bad weather meant, in general. But this storm was different. Not long before the Sea Wing was struck down, a huge tornado from the same system had hit the Lake Gervais area just north of St. Paul. But this was 1890, and there was no easy way to spread the word about what was lurking not far away. The boat, the captain (who survived) and the passengers had hardly a chance.

Johnson first wrote about the Sea Wing in 1986. At the time he started planning to do an article, but there was so much material that he expanded his work into a book. Fast forward to 2014, and major additions provided by newly discovered material, including from the descendants of the casualties and survivors, gave rise to a much expanded new work. Indeed, even at the August 17 program, members of the audience showed photos of their ancestors who were with that boat the ill-fated day.

In this new edition, Mr. Johnson painstakingly researched both those who died and who survived. Judging from the audience on Sunday night, the new volume will bring forward still more new information retained in family collections for near 125 years.

Take in the presentation if you can (schedule above), and/or buy the book. It is a very interesting look at history.


#919 – Dick Bernard: The Downside of Playing Nasty.

Friday, August 1st, 2014
5th graders rendition of American flag Oct, 2001

5th graders rendition of American flag Oct, 2001

For the first three days of this week I was again away from the “news”. As I suggested in the “hermit” commentary a shortwhile ago, there are benefits to being ignorant about what is going on. But sooner than later, reality slaps one in the face. It is not pleasant.

Late this week, the U.S. House of Representatives, voted to authorize the Speaker to sue President Obama. It didn’t make front page news here; it was at the top of page three, even though it’s the first time in American history that a President has been sued by Congress. The key word: “authorize”.

My prediction: even if filed, the suit will go nowhere. In fact, I don’t believe there is any intention within the lawsuit for other than temporary political theatre. It is one thing to threaten a law suit; another entirely to actually file such a lawsuit; then difficult, time-consuming and expensive to go to court and actually prove a case when there are other than your own “facts” to contend with.

Since President Obama took office in 2009, the Radical Right Wing (which is now the official Republican Party in this country) has sworn to obstruct him at every turn. This posture is very public, easily found anywhere. Check Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rush Limbaugh among others.

The sole Republican objective: to make President Obama fail.

The gambit itself is what has failed, with the lawsuit only the latest move. It won’t be the last. President Obama has accomplished a lot, against incredible odds.

There are “Downsides” for every one of us in the obstruction in Congress, including those who dislike Obama and Democrats.

First, there is little apparent recognition of the fact that President Obama and the Democrats have a constituency – a very large one – citizens like myself.

It may be fun to kick Obama; it is good to keep in mind that he has lots of friends, like me, for instance.

And the silent majority of others who are only looking for a reasonable and responsible attitude towards governing and government in this complex society of ours.

Of course, Obama isn’t running for anything in November; the suit against Obama, and all of the other pieces of theatre, are to be used in local campaigns against Democrats.

So, what if the anti-Obama strategy “works”: the Republicans keep their safe majority in the House of Representatives, and pick up enough seats to take control in the U.S. Senate?

Will it be “game over”?


American politics has always been rough and tumble. I don’t like that, but it is part of the tradition of making decisions on important issues in our increasingly diverse society.

1864 Campaign Poster

1864 Campaign Poster

Until recent years, when de facto leaders of what I would call the Radical Right Wing took control, this public rough and tumble was accompanied by private recognition by all sides that compromise was a crucial component of reaching agreement.

Legislating was bargaining, a recognition of diverse interests.

In recent years one party, the current version of the Republican party, has been taken over by individuals who believe that winning is all that matters; that compromise is unnecessary. Their gameplan can be aptly summarized by an organizing slogan I experienced personally 40 years ago: a competing organizations mantra was “disrupt, confuse, display anger”. It worked for them, for a while….

I would venture that anyone who has ever been in a relationship with another human being soon comes to understand that some variation of bargaining is a constant, if the relationship is to have any chance of success.

Translate this into a society of over 300,000,000 people, and try to feature one party – one constituency – “winning” – and staying in control very long.

For near six years, the leadership of one party, the Republicans, has hooked its program to the failure of the other party.

Can it, if it wins in November, suddenly become the party of inclusion, of compromise?

I doubt it.

There is a choice in November, and all of we American voters will have to decide whose philosophy best represents us all.

Study the issues and the candidates where you live. Vote, and urge others to vote for more positive, traditional, government. There is a choice.

POSTNOTE: After writing the above came this very long summary of yesterday in Washington. It is worth the read, if you don’t do long pieces, read the last few paragraphs.

The essential message to me: we, the people, can make the difference, but we probably won’t, since it is easiest to be disengaged and complain than to do something affirmative, by hard work for an alternative vision.

#918 – Dick Bernard: The Night of the Big Wind, July 28, 1949

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Directly related post from July 25, here.

For some reason lost to history, on July 28, 1949, we Bernards took a midweek 100 mile trip from Sykeston ND to Grandma and Grandpa Busch’s farm near Berlin ND. While there seems no particular reason for the trip, mid-summer would have been a logical time to visit Mom’s parents, and brother Vince and sister Edithe at the farm. Dad was school superintendent in Sykeston, and at the farm, crops were not yet ready to harvest.

We stayed overnight, a fateful decision we all lived to tell about. (Such trips, to my recollection, were never more than one night. One overnight was complicated enough with five little kids.)

(click on all photos to enlarge them)

F. W. Busch farmstead, 1916.

F. W. Busch farmstead, 1916.

Fitting into the Busch’s small prairie house was no small task. By 1949, a two room addition had been added to the west (left) side of the house shown above.

As bedtime came that evening, best I can piece together, the 9 year old, me, slept with Uncle Vince, 24, in his tiny upstairs room; across the wall to the south, the window visible in the picture, was Edith’s room. Mary Ann, 6, and Florence, 5, slept with her.

Grandma and Grandpa were downstairs, and Mom and Dad, with Frank, 3, and John, who had turned 1 May 25, shared the other downstairs bedroom.

No one has ever recalled anything unusual about the day we were there. It was simply a summer visit.

Crops were maturing, but not yet ready for harvest. As usual, the dozen or so cows had been milked, back out to pasture. Horses would have been in the barn.

Sometime about midnight, best can be figured, a horrific wind seemed to come out of the south. My sister, Flo, described what happened next: “Oh, how I remember that storm! The thunder and lightning was impressive – scary! Then the window blew out and we tried to keep it covered with a blanket.”

We were all terrified, and to my knowledge none of the six adults did the common sense things you’re warned to do today, starting with taking everyone down into the cellar. Of course, back then, weather reports were basically what you saw in real time; no sirens or such. Storms were expected to happen now and again. But, as Uncle Vincent just recalled days ago, ordinary storms usually came in late afternoon, and this one came up suddenly, very late at night, and was a ‘hum-dinger’. Even at 9 years old, I recall sheets of water (it seemed) coming under the window and over the windowsill.

Being a strong Catholic family, there were plenty of “Hail Mary’s”.

The storm passed, no injuries, probably not even livestock, and Mary Ann recalls: “I remember going out at first light and seeing the [barn] roof missing.” That barn was less than a football field length from the house. We’d all had a very close call. Sometimes there’s talk that we experienced a tornado, but I don’t think so. It was just a horrific wind, and life changed for everyone, for a time.

I have found four photos taken of the barn shortly after the storm: Each are worth clicking on, to enlarge.

Busch barn 1949003

Busch barn 1949001

Busch Barn Jul 1949002

Busch Barn Jul 1949003

In the first photo, at left, you can see the damage. What appears to be the barn roof, misplaced, is actually a smaller barn-like structure that survived the storm. In the third, Grandpa Busch contemplates the next steps; in the fourth, the photographer, my Dad, is revealed by the unusually long legs in the shadow. (Click twice on this photo and you’ll see two horses who survived the storm.)

All around the area, there was devastation. The LaMoure Chronicle talked a lot more about the storm and the damage just in the LaMoure County vicinity: Berlin storm Jul 28 49001. The F. W. Busch damage is mentioned in the last column.

This being a working farm, with cows to be milked, there wasn’t time to be depressed. But rebuilding was daunting; there was lots of damage, most everywhere, on surrounding farms.

The adults worked like…farmers…and in fairly short order the task was looking manageable.

Busch barn 1949004

Grandpa was 69 when the storm hit; Vince, his son, was 24; my Dad was 41. The age references are important.

Grandpa knew of a farm on Hwy 13 just east of LaMoure whose barn roof design looked replicable. He built a form on the hayloft floor where the three men nailed four 1x4s together to make every new roof beam. Dad stayed at the farm for some time to help out, and Vince always says that without him, they couldn’t have done the project.

The roof beams were raised, and the local Priest, himself an expert carpenter, saw them, and said they wouldn’t last….

Vincent did the backbreaking work of shingling the barn. It must have been terribly hard, even at age 24, and frightening as well, but you do what you gotta do.

Shortly after the project was completed, within a few months, somebody took the below photo of the newly raised barn roof.

Unfortunately, either they or someone else had forgotten to advance the film, so what you see is a double exposure including other visitors to the farm. Both photos seem to be from the same day.

Front and center is Uncle Vince, in about 1949. (He’s also at left in the same picture. Click on this picture a second time for more enlargement.) The others in the photo are his sister Florence, and her husband Bernard Wieland, and their then young son Tom, all from Dazey ND. Tom is sitting on Busch’s then-new 1948 Plymouth.

Ironically, Tom Wieland died recently. Vincent and I went to his funeral in Valley City. Time passes by.

Busch barn 1949005

Last week, I took a photo of some of the roof beams in the still standing barn. Dad, Vince and Grandpa did damned good work back in 1949!


Lord willing, I’ll be back in that barn today, July 28, 2014, on the 65th anniversary of the big windstorm of 1949. There’ll be a bit of nostalgia, no doubt.

The old barn, July 23, 2014

The old barn, July 23, 2014

A firm base for each beam has helped the roof survive 65 years.  Photo July 28, 2014

A firm base for each beam has helped the roof survive 65 years. Photo July 28, 2014

Henry Bernard with his roof beams in the Busch barn, June 1991.  RIP Nov. 7, 1997

Henry Bernard with his roof beams in the Busch barn, June 1991. RIP Nov. 7, 1997

#917 – Dick Bernard: The Hermit as Metaphor for US. With Comments from Wilhelm and George about Israel-Gaza and the Ukraine-Russia situation.

Saturday, July 26th, 2014

My summer has taken on something of a theme: most of my thinking, and a great deal of my time, has related to an old farm 310 miles away. My Aunt Edithe, born there in 1920, died in February; and her brother, my Uncle Vince, is in Nursing Home Care and no longer can even visit the farm on which he lived for over 81 of his 89 years.

It’s fallen to me to deal with the multitude of issues that relate to such a transition. This is not a complaint: it is simply a reality.

On the road there’s no computer for me (a deliberate choice), and usually no TV (too tired), and ordinarily no newspaper either (available, but otherwise preoccupied). So in a small sense I’m like that hermit I came across in the Tarryall section of the Rocky Mountains during Army maneuvers in 1962. He lived in an isolated log cabin, no electricity, no phone, and once a month he walked to the nearest town far off in the distance, to provision up. One of his provisions was the entire previous month issues of the Denver Post. Each day he would read one of the newspapers. So, he was always up to date, just 30 or so days behind.

(click to enlarge photo)

Hermit Shack at Tarryall Rocky Mountains Colorado June 1962.  Dick B in photo.  Visited with the hermit, but didn't have the nerve to ask to take his photo.

Hermit Shack at Tarryall Rocky Mountains Colorado June 1962. Dick B in photo. Visited with the hermit, but didn’t have the nerve to ask to take his photo.

In the hermits mind, perhaps, what happened out there in the world was not his concern. He had his patch, his cabin with door and window, his dog, his goat, and all was okay. Some day he’d die and when he didn’t show up in town, somebody would go out to recover his carcass.

His life was in control. He seemed pretty happy, actually.

Sometimes I think we Americans, in general so privileged and so omnipotent in our own minds, think that we can pretend that what’s happening inside our tiny sphere is all that matters; and if we do care, in any event, we can’t do anything about it anyway, so why bother?

Of course, it matters, and we can impact on it, but once settled in to routine, as the hermit was, we tune out. In the end, it will be our own loss that we didn’t pay attention.

In recent weeks I’ve written here about the Central American immigrant crisis; and the Israel-Gaza catastrophe at the same time as the downing of the Malysian Airliner over the Ukraine.


Even when I’m off-line the material just keeps flowing in to my in-box, and back home I take some time to just scroll through. Sometimes something catches my attendtion.

For instance, yesterdays Just Above Sunsets here goes into a too-little known facet of certain Christians and Israel.

A friend, Wilhelm, who grew up in Germany, made some pertinent comments about how he sees the Israel situation.

“I feel I have to reply to [some] remarks [seen quoted in] “My favorite blogger’s commentary about the Israel-Palestine situation”

According to [the quote] the Germans had the right to defend themselves against the French Resistance or the Russian Partisans even if it was inadvisable or strategically not the right thing to do. Or even the final destruction of the Ghetto in Warsaw after several and seemingly unending up risings. But maybe I have it all wrong here. The difference might be the reason why people are put into a ghetto in the first place. Some reasons might be legitimate, some might not? I really do not know.

But the I read the following: Israeli lawmaker Ayelet Shaked published on Facebook a call for genocide of the Palestinians. It declares that “the entire Palestinian people is the enemy” and justifies its destruction, “including its elderly and its women, its cities and its villages, its property and its infrastructure.”

She quoted Uri Elitzur, who died a few months ago, and was leader of the settler movement and speechwriter and close adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“They are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”

It strikes me that this could have emanated from Berlin at a earlier time just as well .

But if I am right then this is also relevant:

“Nothing is so unworthy of a civilized nation as allowing itself to be “governed” without opposition by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct. It is certain that today every honest German is ashamed of his government. Who among us has any conception of the dimensions of shame that will befall us and our children when one day the veil has fallen from our eyes and the most horrible of crimes – crimes that infinitely outdistance every human measure – reach the light of day?” First Leaflet -The White Rose Society – Munich, 1942

A little later, Wilhelm sent this:

Chris Hedges as usual cuts through the fog of propaganda and handwringing. His article is well worth reading!

Then, last night, George, a retired electrical engineer and native of Hungary, wrote about his experience as a young man in the Hungarian Army, then part of the Warsaw Pact nations.

There is nothing unusual here, especially for anyone who’s been in the U.S. military, but George’s commentary gives an unusual perspective into the relationships between powers, and how people in the military operate:

“Even in the old Warsaw Pact Countries, like Hungary, ROTC University students received training in operating and servicing anti-air defense/attack systems. During summer we did our practical training. As an EE [Electrical Engineering] student I was training to both eventually manage the servicing and train regular enlisted men to operate this kind of equipment at the combined arms battalion level while being assigned as a technical officer to the staff of a combined arms division. If I did my job properly by age 30 I could have been promoted to a Brigadier (1 star) general level and be in charge of the ‘heavy arms artillery regiment’ of the division (ground attack mobile rockets and long range artillery).

The Soviet military and its Warsaw Pact allies after WW2 were gradually reorganized into combined arms divisions (tanks and mechanized infantry) using the old WW2 German Panzer Division as the model!

To save on costly training and extra manpower the country’s civilian and military manpower was completely integrated based on the University trained ROTC graduates. University education was free and was supported by free scholarship to all accepted into a university program. Women were encouraged to go into medical and law professions and did not go to summer training camps. We did have several women in my EE faculty who attended military class-room instruction but not the summer’s practical training camps.

I don’t know what they did instead of learning how to goose-step, learn to live with an always dirty rifle (as per my drill-Sargent), and go on 3AM to 9PM full backpack load walkabouts! — George (ex-staff Sargent of the ex-Hungarian Peoples Republic Army)

PS. The only time Soviet military’s training, tactic and weapons systems were tested was the 1973 war waged by Egypt and Syria against Israel. These armies were trained and equipped by the Soviet Union. Initially they beat the Israeli army and air force. On the Golan, Syria’s Russian Style Army took the Golan Heights and was within ~20 miles from reaching the Mediterranean Sea. Its APC [Armored Personnel Carrier] mounted mobile SAM’s [Surface to Air Missiles] managed to neutralize Israel’s vaunted Air Force and only because the 2nd-wave Iraqi Divisions were halted by the Kurdish army in the mountains of Northern Iraq did Israel survive! They were eventually destroyed by the Israeli army reinforcements from the Egyptian front. The Egyptian Army was also trained and equipped by the Soviet Union. They re-crossed the Suez canal and their light infantry used Soviet wire guided infantry portable missiles to hold back the Israeli tanks while the Egyptian Soviet T55 tanks were also shipped across using Soviet bridging equipment and barges. This deployment was covered by Russian heavy SAMS from fixed positions on the Egyptian side of the Suez Canal and also destroyed most of the Israeli air force! The Israeli army had to withdraw into the Sinai mountains and because of a technical problem of the T55 tanks they managed to halt and eventually destroy the Egyptian Army. The T55’s guns could only be elevated ~15 degrees because they were designed for the flat German and Russian plain. The Israeli tanks looked down on them from the Sinai escarpment and destroyed most of the Egyptian tanks at long distance who could not even defend themselves! Also the heavy duty Russian SAMs were not mobile and could not protect its mobile tank units when outside their range. So now the Israeli air force came back into action and completed the destruction of the Egyptian tanks! An Egyptian general predicted the outcome of this battle but President Nasser, with Soviet advice, overruled him.

After the initial battles both sides were fought out and needed new equipment to continue. President Nixon did not believe the huge losses suffered by Israel and did not want to completely destroy Egypt, a Russian ally! He was worried that the Soviets would directly intervene by sending troops and that the local war could grow into WW3! We sent our U2 spy plane to survey the battle field as did the Russians send their equivalent plane. Both the USA and Russia started resupplying their respective allies and also ‘advised them’ to start peace negotiations! The most complicated position was that of President Nasser’s whose direct order, against those of his general’s led to this disaster! So the Egyptian public was never told about the disaster that was disguised as a great victory! This was also the reason why President Nasser was the only one on the Arab side who accepted the Israeli Peace offer, originally proposed by Secretary of State Kissinger. He even went to Russia to start the negotiations on behalf of President Nixon.

George’s comments remind me of our own longstanding relationship with Israel, an unhealthy co-dependency which enables the current behaviors. History dies hard (but in this business of killing each other with every more sophisticated means must end, otherwise we’ll all be goners.)


Then, there is the radical rabble that is feeling its oats in our own United States. Given their own surface-to-air missile, they’d launch it somewhere on our own ground.

There is an interesting, troubling video about goings on at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, the monument to where President Kennedy was assassinated. You can access it here. Its a ten minute watch, and one can only wonder what goes on in these folks minds….

We are a nation, and a world, of very decent people.

But sitting on the sidelines is an invitation to extremists to take over.

From Wilhelm, Jul 26:
“If I was an Arab leader I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal, we took their land. It is true that God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They see but one thing: we come and we have stolen their country. Why should they accept that?”

That statement—which would certainly outrage the current government of Israel and most of its supporters–was made by David Ben Gurion (1886-1973), revered as the father of the State of Israel.

If that is the case where is the call for justice

No peace possible without justice.

In light of what Ben Gurion admitted it sounds a little timid to ask for divestment or boycott of anything associated with Israeli Settlements. It seems the whole State of Israel is responsible for the policy and should be held responsible. This means any action has/ should include all of Israel or it is but self serving window dressing. Another action that says we are ding something and occupy the moral high ground but we are not doing any harm or damage.

The above quote was taken from the article:

OK. So, What Would You Do About Hamas? By Barry Lando

Just something to consider as one ponders what to do, what to do ….


#915 – Dick Bernard: Some very sad news: Journalist Andy Driscoll takes his final bow.

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

We had just returned from several days out of town and catching on what’s been happening, Cathy noted the death of a friend of mine, Andy Driscoll.

Indeed it was true, and this morning I woke up with a ever-longer Facebook entry with tributes to and about Andy. I looked at the home page of KFAI, the public station on which he has broadcast since 2007, and saw more about him at the KFAI website.

Andy made a big difference, quietly, for many years.

There are many Andy’s in the world: there just aren’t headlines written about them; and they aren’t in the national media. But at home they regularly make an impact on their communities, small and large, in many and diverse ways.

Beginning in mid-2007, Andy produced and broadcast a one hour program each week on KFAI which he called “Truth to Tell”. I haven’t counted, but at minimum it would appear that he had over 250 programs on air. There were probably near 1000 on-air guests in that time.

Quite an accomplishment, especially considering that one hour interview programs don’t just happen. They take great effort.

In the first sentence I call Andy a “friend”.

I use that word with hesitation, but my guess is that Andy would agree that yes, we were good friends, even if we saw each other rarely.

In fact, along with Syl Jones, Marie Braun of WAMM, and Dr. Joe Schwartzberg of Citizens for Global Solutions, I was one of the panelists on his inaugural show on air, July 4, 2007.

(There were a few earlier practice runs in 2007; and the initial experiment began, I recall, in the Fall of 2006, but July 4, 2007, was the official first program. Apparently that first show remains available on archive. At this moment I haven’t tried to access it.)

Ironically, Andy’s last on-air show, as yet not available on-line, was about the future of the Minnesota Orchestra.

He and I shared a passion for the Orchestra as well; in fact, the last time I saw Andy in person was right after the lockout began, October 18, 2012, at the first concert of the locked-out Minnesota Orchestra. He commented at the end of my post about that evening here.

The last comment I have from him was also about the Orchestra situation at September 6, 2013. Scroll down to it here.

There won’t be any flags at half-staff for Andy Driscoll around his city, state and nation. Just people like myself who take a moment to reminisce.

But Andy, and all who labor in their own neighborhoods and communities are the ones who truly make the difference that matters, unsung, and too often unappreciated.

Andy, I note that you and I are the same age.

We’re walking down the same path towards the same destination.

Good traveling with you over these past few years, Andy.

#913 – Dick Bernard: Politics, Money and Media

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

$1 million equals about 20 cents per Minnesota resident (5.4 million population; triple the population in 1905)
$1 billion equals about 3 dollars per United States resident (314 million population)*


Earlier this week I was visiting with my local state Legislator, Rep. JoAnn Ward. Rep. Ward is an outstanding Representative: very intelligent and hard-working. She takes her job seriously. She’s running for her second term, which means she has a record, which means “opportunity” for the “tar and feather” crowd who hate government (even while campaigning to take over that same government they despise.)

The Minnesota Republicans have rolled out their first generic television ad about the Democrats, and it has mostly children and young adults complaining about Democrats wasting the state money building a palace for themselves in St. Paul.

The first target, the first apparently politically exploitable “fact”, is the vote to spend $77 million dollars to build a new office facility for the State Senate. How dare they build a palace for themselves? So goes the argument.

Well, the office space has long been needed. We’ve been a state since 1858, and government and society itself has become more complex, and there are more people who demand more service from their government. Anybody who has been to the State Capitol during the legislative session, particularly to visit a lawmaker, knows that legislators and their staff are packed in like sardines. The State Capitol itself is over 100 years old – opened 1905 – and now undergoing badly needed and extensive renovation, a well over $200,000,000 process which began in 1984. It has the same internal area as it had when it was constructed, and, of course, in 1905, things like computers and such had not yet been invented.

As best as I can gather, adequate facilities for lawmakers at the Capitol have been an issue for as much as 40 years, and under active discussion for 30. But when politics rears its head, and “government” is the issue around which to organize, it takes political courage to remodel an old house to fit current needs….

Rep. Ward and her colleagues don’t even office in the Capitol. Her office and those of the vast majority of State Representatives are in the State Office Building, a non-descript, bustling (and also busting at the seams) facility, one block (and about a quarter mile walk) from the Capitol itself.

Ain’t nothing fancy, that’s for sure.

But as JoAnn and her colleagues know, they will be mercilessly tarred and feathered for doing what needs to be done, allocating funds for an office facility that is not even for them. It is part of the increasingly insane political theatre in this country, fueled by very big money and all the the media big money can buy.

At the beginning of this post I noted two numbers, which I think are crucial to keep in mind as politicians trot out millions or billions in indictments against this or that.

For instance, that Minnesota Senate Office Building project will cost about $15 per Minnesotan, and it is a one-time project, needed, that will far outlive us.

At the national level, a billion dollars is about $3 per American.

Political advertising is just that, advertising. If you believe the ad on its face, you deserve what you get.

Best to exercise your own mind, and get involved in politics, learning who your candidates are, what they really stand for, helping them out in the many ways available to you, without being begged.

We – each and every one of us – ARE politics. Not voting, or simply opting to criticize those in office, is no escape from our own accountability.

Vote, and vote very well informed, at local, state and national levels.

* Of course, someone will say that dollars do add up. Of course, they do.
1 trillion dollars equals about $3,000 per United States resident.

By far the largest component of the United States budget is something called “defense”. Here’s some well researched and reliable data.

It is said, reliably, that the short and long term costs (including disabled veterans) of our 2003 to present War in Iraq and Afghanistan will ultimately reach near 3 TRILLION dollars.

Yes, we do have our priorities, don’t we…?

from State Rep JoAnn Ward (referenced in the post)
: The point of housing the Senators in one building is important. If the public wants the Senators to cooperate, collaborate, and coordinate, then they need to have ready access to each other. We need a modern building to accommodate the current needs of the state government and for the public to access their legislators.

#911 – Dick Bernard: Those “illegal” children: whipping up the hysteria.

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

The below letter of mine, published in the July 9, 2014, Woodbury Bulletin seems to fit todays post about the so-called crisis at the Mexico border. My letter was about war versus peace; the letter to which I refer in my letter was about revulsion towards a certain flag that represented “utopian” ideals. No matter, it all basically is the same story: fear and hate sells easily with predictably negative results.

(click to enlarge)

Letter to Editor, July 9, 2014, Woodbury MN Bulletin

Letter to Editor, July 9, 2014, Woodbury MN Bulletin

The past week I spent most of my time out of sight of the internet and even newspapers and other media. I was 310 miles away in North Dakota: I’ve been to the ancestral farm many times in recent months, many more trips to come. As I’ve come to say, frequently, I can’t make the 310 miles (5 1/2 hours at my pace via freeway) any shorter. It is as it is.

I arrive at both ends, tired.

Enter the latest fear and hate issue: “illegals” pouring across our precious border with Mexico, but they’re not even Mexicans this time.

The recent news narrative, near hysterical in some quarters, has been the seeming flood of children from certain distant Central American countries. Were the scenario not so tragic – four year olds and younger (and older youngsters, too) facing immediate deportation, and apprehension by latter day militia at the border – it would be so absurd as to be amusing: hordes of children racing hundreds of miles across an entire country to the sacred destination of the United States of America.

I believe the real story in this case is hidden behind the reported story. I certainly don’t know the facts; but neither do the hysterical ones.

In my college years I was very much into geography, and out of these came a desire to seek a bit of context.

So in this case, children apparently traveling from places like El Salvador and Honduras to U.S. border states, it seemed useful to do a sketch map, using as base a page from my 1961 Life Pictorial Atlas of the World. (I added the map of Minnesota, simply to get an idea of scale).

Adaptation of an old map to show relative scale of Central America to Minnesota.  1961 maps

Adaptation of an old map to show relative scale of Central America to Minnesota. 1961 maps

Minnesota, north to south, is just over 400 miles, 90 miles further than I travel to North Dakota.

For these poor families coming north through Mexico has to be a daunting trip of its own. I am not prepared to believe any story about how they were convinced to leave and came to take a trip with a certain unhappy ending.

There are elements of this story that literally smell of “false flag” – a situation set up by unknown parties designed to make a problem, then confuse and inflame emotions over immigration reform efforts in the United States. Some in Congress say that $2.7 billion is too pricey to emergency fund the agencies that have to deal with the refugees. Some quick arithmetic reveals that comes out to about $9 per American.

Yet we can spend trillions (three more zeroes than a billion) to war on Iraq and Afghanistan, and not bat an eye.

One will need very hard evidence to convince me that someone with impure motives is neither funding nor encouraging illegal immigration of mostly young people to whip up the fear (hate) in far too many people north of the border in the U.S. just in time for the 2014 elections. Add in President Obama (considered the deporter-in-chief by some) and this reeks of political motivation, in other words. NO, I can’t prove it. But it is as strong a possibility of any other theory advanced by anyone.

Whipping Americans into a frenzy is nothing new, of course. Think of 9-11-2001 for starters.

The poor people who were the cast of characters for John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath” were not met with open arms when they entered California during the Dust Bowl. We banished Native Americans to the left over lands with hardly a tear; starving Irish arrived in the U.S. to less than a warm welcome.

There are endless stories.

Some, like our response to 9-11-01, solved nothing. 9-11’s cost short and long term is measured in the trillions of dollars, and this doesn’t even include loss of Americans and those in other countries which far exceeded the number of casualties during 9-11. After 9-11 we engaged in an endless war with no “win” at the end, except in the minds of certain folks defending their stupid decisions back then.

As I said, a 310 mile drive is no cakewalk, even on a freeway in an air conditioned vehicle.

Believe the narratives about the children from Central America invading the U.S. if you wish.

There is a much larger story behind this tragic migration, I submit.

PS: I predict that this latest issue will magically disappear after the 2014 election, and simply be replaced by some other outrage of choice afterwards; and perhaps be ginned up again in time for 2016.

A common sense suggestion: ignore the certain propaganda.

#910 – Dick Bernard: Prairie Home Companion at 40 – Chapter 2

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

I wrote yesterday about my personal “history” with Prairie Home Companion; then I spent four hours at Macalester, and added a few photos of the event to the post. You can see it all here.

There is a temptation to go back today…and tomorrow as well. But there’ll be plenty of other folks there, and I’ve spread the word about the richness of the day to my small circle, and hopefully there’ll be throngs this afternoon and tomorrow at the event.

The relevant photos from yesterday are in yesterdays post. I did note Garrison’s long-time “trademark” (a little worn, a lady next to me said), and an older couple, obviously fans, who are “copy cats”. The two photos are below, and need no further explanation for those who are fans. (Hats off to Garrison on his shoes, from one who believes “old” and “comfortable” are synonyms.)

(click to enlarge)

Garrison Keillor July 4, 2014

Garrison Keillor July 4, 2014

Keillor fans July 4, 2014

Keillor fans July 4, 2014

I’ll listen to PHC on the radio tonight – first time I’ve done that in a long time.

But I lived the show at Macalester, yesterday. It is odd how things come together: seeing assorted folks I didn’t even know were Keillor fans; seeing others who knew people I did. A little chatting goes a long way, some time.

One lady and I got to the Chapel 45 minutes before Keillor and Company were to perform, both of us intent on front row seats (which we secured). She said they had gone to see PHC at some town along I-94, but she didn’t remember the town. Some hours later I ran into long-time friends from Anoka who’d been at the same place as I, and they said they’d gone out to see Garrison perform at Avon MN (on I-94). Aha, Brenda, if you’re reading. That is the place!

Some guy from Lanesboro asked a question about an almost cancelled outdoor performance there, and Garrison answered immediately. Later, buying the commemorative t-shirt and cap, the guy in the booth said they very nearly had to cancel a recent outdoor event at Ravinia OH for the same reason: threatening weather.

I’ve come to be around Garrison a number of times over the years. He is a contradiction: he is remote, but get him started on a story, and off he goes. They don’t invest a lot of time in formal rehearsals, I gathered. He observed that many of his musicians were really good actors as well, until they had to rehearse their lines, and the spontaneity went down the tube.

Yesterday, I dug out my modest Garrison Keillor file, and today I looked through it. It yielded some interesting morsels, most significant of which is a publication few but Garrison Keillor himself know exist.

Back in the late 1980s I had reason to spend some time in the musty “tombs” of the Walter Library on the main campus of the UofMinnesota. I was researching something very specific that required me to go into old archival boxes in the bowels of that historical library.

By then I was a real fan of Keillor, and I had read that he was, about 1965, the editor of the campus literary magazine, the Ivory Tower.

So, on a side trip, I discovered down there, in another place, two articles, both about Hockey at the UofM, from February 1 and April 5, 1965, issues of Ivory Tower. I photocopied them, and here they are, with acknowledgement: Keillor Ivory Tower 1965001 WARNING: If the words “Hockey”, “Doug Woog”, “John Mariucci”, and “UofM versus University of North Dakota at Grand Forks” ring your chimes, be prepared to read the 14 pages behind the link….

The little file was a brief story of the life of a relationship – Keillor with his show and his town, St. Paul. The June 1987 Minnesota Monthly devoted 124 pages as a Collectors Edition “Farewell to A Prairie Home Companion”. This was only 13 years into the run, but that was Garrison’s mid-life crisis.

The January 2000 Northwest Airlines World Traveler cover story on some air trip I took was “Garrison Keillor, America’s Storyteller”.

In February, 2001, our friend in London sent a long Review, “In search of Wobegon”, in The Sunday Telegraph. The June 28 and August 7, 2005, Minneapolis Star Tribunes had long articles about the upcoming Prairie Home movie directed by Robert Altman.

June 27 and July 4, 1999, the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Minneapolis Star Tribune had long articles on the 25th anniversaries of Prairie Home Companion.

I just re-looked at the articles, and the thought came to mind that I had in that old file folder was something of a history of a relationship that could fit most anyone, not just Garrison Keillor.

Spats, separations, celebrations, misinterpretations, and everything that goes along with couples everywhere.

Even the 40th anniversary is significant. By 40 years, there is some quiet acknowledgement that 50 years is quite a long ways off, and things have a way of happening, so why not find an excuse for a party!?

Garrison acknowledged as much in that rich hour we spent with him yesterday. I can only paraphrase, but in talking about the future he said he wasn’t much looking at ten years ahead. He’d seen politicians who stayed in office long past their time, and it wasn’t pretty….

Garrison, I’m glad to be in your neighborhood.

And Monday, when once again we drive west on I-94, and pass St. Cloud, St. Johns, Freeport, and Avon and all the rest of the places that helped give birth to Lake Wobegon (not to mention Anoka!), I’ll have occasion to smile.

Thanks for the memories.