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ScienceDebate.org: Released today: U.S. President Candidates Respond to Science Questions.

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

NOTE: Set aside adequate time to really closely review this link, released today: U.S. Presidential Candidates Answer ScienceDebate 2016 Questions.

ScienceDebate.org has, since before the 2012 Presidential Election, been advocating for candidates for public office to answer specific questions related to Science and public policy.

The above link is a major and long overdue and very positive development, where several of the candidates for U.S. President publicly answer pertinent questions prior to the 2016 election.

A related post about ScienceDebate co-founder Shawn Otto’s new book, “The War on Science”, on the treatment of science in the public policy debate, past and present, is here.

#1163 – Dick Bernard: 9-11-16, and the dark days of 2001-2009

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

Friday, my wife and I and our 87 year old neighbor Don, went to the local theatre to be among the first to see the new movie, Sully, the incredible story of the emergency landing of an airliner in the Hudson River off NYC in January, 2009. “How can you take a 90 second event and turn it into a 90 minute movie?” my friend asked.

Very, very easily. Take in the film. The basic true story is here.


Of course (I’m certain), the movie was timed to be released on the eve of the 15th anniversary of 9-11-01, even though the near-disaster actually happened in January, 2009.

I have feelings about 9-11-01. At the end of this post, I share a few personal links from that period in time. I will always have doubts about certain and substantial parts of the official narrative about what happened that awful day, though that labels me as a “conspiracy theorist” I suppose. So be it.


But what occurs to me this day in 2016 came to mind a few days ago when I found a cardboard envelope in a box, whose contents included this certificate (8 1/2×11 in original size).

Notice the signature on the certificate (Donald Rumsfeld) and the date of the form printed in the lower left corner (July 1, 2001). (Click to enlarge).


The full contents of the envelope can be viewed here: cold-war-cert-packet003

Of course, people like myself had no idea why the article appeared in the newspaper, or how this particular project came to be.

It is obvious from the documents themselves that the free certificate was publicized no later than sometime in 1999; and the certificate itself wasn’t mailed until some time in 2001 to my then mailing address…. The original website about the certificate seems no longer accessible, but there is a wikipedia entry about it.

When I revisited the envelope I remembered a working group of powerful people called the Project for a New American Century (PNAC) formed in the late 1990s.

The group as then constituted no longer officially exists, but had (my opinion) huge influence on America’s disastrous response to 9-11-01 (which continues to this day).

Many members of this select group, including Donald Rumsfeld, and Richard B. Cheney, strategized to establish permanent U.S. dominance in the world, and had very high level positions in the administration of George W. Bush, 2001-2009. PNAC was no benign committee of friends meeting for coffee every Saturday. To cement the notion that to have peace you must be stronger than the enemy…there has to be an enemy. If not a hot war, then a cold war will have to do. Keep things unsettled and people will follow some dominant leader more easily.

Their Cold War ended in December, 1991, as you’ll note, which likely was cause for concern. 9-11-01 became the magic elixir for a permanent war with an enemy….

(I happen to be a long-time member of the American Legion also – the Cuban Missile Crisis and the beginning of the Vietnam era were part of my tour of duty in the Army – and much more recently, the Legion magazine
updated talk about the Cold War, here: America at War001.)

My opinion: there remains a desperate and powerful need by powerful entities to sustain an enemy for the U.S. to fight against and, so goes the story, “win”, to borrow a phrase and “make America great again”. As we learned in the years after 9-11-01, dominance has a huge and unsustainable cost. But the idea still lives on.

The mood of the people of this country is for peace – it is simple common sense – but peacemakers have to do much more than simply demonstrate against war to have it come to pass, in a sustainable fashion.


Yes, 9-11-01 was very impactful for me. Here are three personal reflections: 1) chez-nous-wtc-2001002; 2) here; and 3) here: Post 9-11-01001.

I have never been comfortable with the official explanations about many aspects of 9-11-01 and what came after. It is not enough to be ridiculed into silence. Eight years ago my friend Dr. Michael Andregg spent a year doing what I consider a scholarly piece of work about some troubling aspects he saw with 9-11-01. You can watch it online in Rethinking 9-11 at the website, Ground Zero Minnesota. Dr. Andregg made this film for those who are open to critical thinking about an extremely important issue. I watched it again, online, in the last couple of days. It is about 54 minutes, and very well done. Take a look.

Let’s make 9-11-01 a day for peace, not for endless and never to be won war. Humanity deserves better.

(click to enlarge. Photos: Dick Bernard, late June, 1972)

World Trade Center Towers late June 1972, New York City

World Trade Center Towers late June 1972, New York City

Twin Towers from Statue of Liberty, late June, 1972.  (one tower was newly opened, the other nearly completed)

Twin Towers from Statue of Liberty, late June, 1972. (one tower was newly opened, the other nearly completed)

Here, thanks to a long ago handout at a workshop I took in the early 70s, is a more normal reaction sequence to a crisis. As you’ll note, it is useful to allow 9-11-01 to live on and on and on. It is not healthy.

(click to enlarge)

Handout from a circa 1972 workshop.

Handout from a circa 1972 workshop.

#1157 – Dick Bernard: Two Books Well Worth a Read: Shawn Otto’s “The War on Science”; and Lois Phillips Hudson’s “Unrestorable Habitat”

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

Back in January a mysterious e-mail appeared in my in-box from someone named Cynthia. She had googled the name Lois Phillips Hudson to see if anything would come up, and found me. More on Mrs. Hudson’s book, “Unrestorable Habitat“, “below the fold”…

(click to enlarge photos)

A few months later came an invitation to hear Shawn Lawrence Otto read from his new book, The War On Science.

I know of Shawn’s past work, always first rate, and I bought the book, and it made my summer vacation book list.

I read, and learned a great deal from, both books.

They are, on the one hand, very different; but on the other, very similar. One is by an old lady written when she was my age range. Mrs. Hudson, is a retired college professor, quite obviously grieving the loss of her daughter to illness. She writes about the deep conflict she sees between today’s natural world and technology, compared with her youthful days in the midst of the worst of the Great Depression and World War II which followed.

(The retired college professor died before she finished her book, so one has to speculate on what her ending would be, but that actually contributes to the richness of her passionate expression of feelings on her past and present, and our future.)

The other book is by an author who painstakingly and expertly documents not only the very real “war on science”, but on other areas susceptible to manipulation of public opinion. Shawn Otto expertly reviews the problem, and then devotes much of the meat of the book to ways towards solutions.


I highly recommend “The War on Science” to anyone with even a tiny bit of interest in topics like science, marketing, politics, and the incessant manipulation of personal and public opinion (propaganda) in our own country. Get to know the name “Edward Bernays”…. He enters the story by name at page 257.

You don’t need to be a scientist to understand the book, which is a very interesting history of science and its not always consistent position of esteem in our society (thus “war”); in addition, The War on Science is an equally interesting history of propaganda as it has been used in America especially related to marketing of products and ideas going back as far as WWI.

There is so much interesting and well argued information in the book that I would do a disservice by simply doing a once over in a review.

You need to read the book.

Best to take a look yourself. There are many formal reviews of the book at Amazon.com. One of them is mine.

You will see the book is being very well received.

Personally, I found “The War On Science” to be unusual in a couple of respects:
1. It nicks most everyone, including scientists, who get complacent and think they have found and can sit righteously on their own truth, as they define the term “Truth”. The book is heavily footnoted: 59 pages of sources.
2. Most importantly, fully 87 pages of the book discuss ideas for how individuals and groups in our society can move toward solutions to what seem intractable problems.

The War On Science is an excellent basis for book club discussion, as is Lois Phillips Hudson’s Unrestorable Habitat (following). Give both a serious look.

Unrestorable Habitat001

A few days ago I was at a nearby park, completing “The War on Science“.

This day my phone rang, and on the line was long-time friend Nancy, from Hibbing, calling to comment on Unrestorable Habitat which I had sent her some months earlier and she had set aside and was just getting around to reading.

She had set it aside, but was finding it to be a marvelous book, a strong compliment coming from a retired teacher of English.

Unrestorable Habitat is one elderly woman’s reflections about her life, a certain huge business in her hometown of Redmond WA, some local fish, the loss of ability to imagine, and really, about all of us, everywhere in the so-called “developed world”.

Hudson’s book centers on an issue much on her mind as she grew older: the conflict she saw between salmon and big business in her town with lots of looks back at remembered pieces of richness flowing from her own very real hardships as a farm daughter during the worst of the Great Depression in North Dakota, then in Washington state, and forward into WWII in Washington. (She graduated from Redmond WA high school in 1945.)

Hudson died before she completed her book, but there is far more than sufficient “meat on the bones” to be published exactly as left by her: her opinions about post-9-11-01 contemporary U.S. society.


Some years back, I had blogged several times about aspects of Hudson’s 1962 well known book, “Bones of Plenty“, written about the worst of the Great Depression in rural North Dakota, and that is what Cynthia Anthony found in her random internet search. Cynthia, this mystery lady from New York, had become archivist for Mrs. Hudson’s papers, and asked permission to link my posts, “numbers 490, 495, and 565, which reference Lois Phillips Hudson” to her Lois Phillips Hudson Project, a website dedicated to preserving Ms Hudson’s rich but now basically unknown legacy.

It was Nancy who had earlier called my attention to “Bones of Plenty“; and now I was the one who had called Nancy’s attention to “Unrestorable Habitat“.

(Nancy had Mrs. Hudson as a teacher at North Dakota State University 50 years ago, and had vivid memories of her. She was a great teacher, Nancy said. She mentioned one quote by Hudson – at page 24 – that particularly caught her attention: “As..the mother of two daughters and the daughter of a father who frequently assured me that the brightest woman could never be as bright as your average man….” Unrestorable Habitat is peppered with such reflections.)

Once into Unrestorable Habitat, she found the book very interesting and thought-provoking.

Unrestorable Habitat so caught my attention that I purchased and distributed 100 copies, starting about 100 days ago.

Nancy was one of the recipients.

Here is the letter I enclosed with each book: Unrestorable Habitat


Let me leave it at that. “Unrestorable Habitat” is worth your time, as is “The War On Science“. Each can encourage you to “Do Something”.

The two books complement each other.

I hope you “take the bait”.

August 21, 2016

August 21, 2016

1. Some readers might say, about “The War on Science“, that I don’t know enough about science to learn.
Not at all true. In my own review of the book (it’s probably the 22nd or so, link above) I acknowledge that I had virtually no science education in the tiny schools I attended growing up. My opportunities to know science were basically ad hoc, like watching Sputnik blink in the North Dakota night sky in 1957, or getting the Salk Vaccine not too long before. “The War On Science” is more than just a primer, but written to an audience who knows nothing about science. It is a learning tool in itself.

2. In the solutions section of “The War on Science“, Shawn Otto has a section entitled “Battle Plan 1: Do Something” (p. 371).

In her own way, Mrs. Hudson in Unrestorable Habitat was (I think) trying to begin a conversation: where can or should the new ways fit with the old, and complement, rather than compete with, each other? She wrote at least some of her draft on a laptop in a coffee shop, so what some might perceive as a rant against technology, at least part of her text was simplified because of the very technology she railed against.

There is room for conversation. She was Doing Something.

Earlier today I was at Mass at Basilica of St. Mary, and afterwards noted again the three trash containers downstairs (photo above).

This experiment goes back a couple of years, when my friend Donna and her committee got a small grant to get recyclable containers for use in the coffee area. They were Doing Something.

The experiment has never worked as it was supposed to. If one looks in the bins, there are admixtures of items, despite the verbiage on the containers. One can say it failed.

But I don’t agree. Who knows, among the hundreds of us who visit that area each Sunday, there is someone who gets an idea for use back home, maybe if only in their own home? Great ideas start with experiments that seem to fail. But to start them, someone has to “Do Something”.

#1152 – Dick Bernard: The Newspaper; Government by Twitter

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Those interested in why I very strongly support Hillary Clinton for President can read my post from Sunday here. The post includes several comments pro and con as well.

Personally, I always find the perspectives of Just Above Sunset informative. The latest is here.

(click on all photos to enlarge)

The Packing Crate, June 7, 2015

The Packing Crate, June 7, 2015

Dubuque paper001

Monday evening came one of those far too infrequent “faceoffs” (as Dad would say) with my cousin and her husband from Winnipeg. We had a too-short but animated visit over dinner in Edina, and covered lots of bases, a small part of which touched U.S. politics, which is a natural point of interest (and concern) for Canadians, who share thousands of miles of border with us.

My relatives, who grew up in the border area just north of the Minnesota/North Dakota border, still speak their native French as first language. At the same time, they are equally fluent in English, and have been dual citizens of the U.S. and Canada for years.

The conversation drifted to Ovila, my Dad’s first cousin, and my cousins father, born in the early 1900s.

How did Ovila learn English in the days before television, living on a farm in a section of Manitoba whose first language has always been French?

The answer to this question is complex, but as I recall, the newspaper was a primary vehicle, and as I recall from my own conversation with him years ago, catalogs, a primary source of information about goods for the farm. He self-taught himself English.

Ovila read every word of the newspaper, as did his neighbors. They were very well informed. Made no difference who wrote what, agree or not, it was consumed.

It caused me to think about my German grandparents, whose now-former farm has been my preoccupation for the last two or three years.

Being male, my focus was on Grandpa. Their country mailbox was full of paper: the weekly newspaper from LaMoure; the Jamestown and Fargo papers; the Farm Journal; catalogs; on an on. And they were religiously read. People like my Mom occasionally contributed a piece of poetry; I have articles Grandpa wrote soliciting membership in the fledgling Farmers Union in 1928. And on and on and on.

Last year, while going through the abundant detritus after my Uncle died, we looked through a well constructed coffin like packing crate obviously used to bring possessions to the North Dakota farm from Wisconsin when Grandma and Grandpa moved there in 1905 (see photos above, and following). Among the precious contents (at the time), Grandma’s wedding dress, and assorted ‘stuff’, then to be saved, now of little interest, except in passing.

The Packing Crate revealing its contents, May 24, 2015.

The Packing Crate revealing its contents, May 24, 2015.

In the box were two crumbling Dubuque newspapers, one in English; the other in my grandparents native German. Probably they had been delivered to the Wisconsin farm, and were handy when they were packing stuff for shipment to ‘Dakota. The articles in the English edition covered the waterfront (photo above); I’m sure the same was true for the German edition. What is certain, every page of each of these newspapers had seen many eyes. (Grandma and Grandpa married Feb. 28, 1905; he, his brother and his cousin came west first to build a house and such; Grandma came about six weeks later. The crate likely carried her belongings.)

Fast forward to today, August 3, 2016.

Those old newspapers, with readers whose education seldom was past 8th grade, were astonishing pieces of literature.

Today’s small town newspapers, like the LaMoure Chronicle, carry on the tradition of the past. They are a treasure to be savored.

But now we’re in the “Twitter Generation”: news by headline. I don’t need to define that any further. We can pick our own particular bias, and pretend that it is not only the only perspective that matters, but that it is the only perspective. We know that’s not true, but…. Our collective narrowness, made possible by infinite organs of “communication”, serve us ill. I think we know that, but it is easy to deny this reality.

Today far too many of us choose, freely, to be uninformed, EXCEPT to confirm our own biases. Our Elders had less means to receive and share communications, but in many ways they were much better informed and prepared to participate in a civil society than we are.

We are not at our best, these days: watch the political polemics. Hopefully we’ll survive our collective and intentional ignorance particularly of other points of view.


#1143 – Dick Bernard: WWI, a Dreadful One Hundredth Anniversary, and another Gun Incident Close to Home.

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

POSTNOTE 1 a.m. Friday July 8: When I posted the below less than 12 hours ago, I was hardly aware of the shooting of the African-American citizen in Falcon Heights, a town in which I used to live; at a location I knew well, along a walking route I used to take in the early 1980s.

Eight hours later, I know quite a bit more about the local “tragic incident” in a nearby town, and what is already the spillover effect. If what happened on that street yesterday is not a wake-up call to we Americans, nothing will be. Here’s something else I said in the July 2 blog referred to below: “The notable exception, and it is an important one, is that we in the U.S. are killing ourselves and our fellow citizens with guns at an alarming rate, well over 10,000 U.S. citizens every single year. Here’s one data source that seems credible.”

Get acquainted with the data at the above website, and get to work.


My friend, Jeff, reminds me that today is awful anniversary of the terrible battles of WWI:

Jeff: It seems as if things couldn’t be worse, but pause to consider 100 years ago now, two
ongoing battles, ending in stalemate, with 1,200,000 dead on both sides, and another 1.2 million casualties over the 6-8 months each battle lasted.

Seeing the first use of phosgene gas and armored tanks on the battlefield.

Watch here, about Somme; and here, about Verdun.

Germany plays France today in soccer in the semifinals of the European championship. The Brexiters and others in EU wanting separation always underestimate the value of over 70 years of peace between Germany and France (and England) is an exceptional thing given the history of Europe from about 1400 to 2016.

He and I had a brief exchange, as follows:

Dick: Yes, very good.

I tried to point this out, gently, in the July 2 blog (“There are great problems…but this is a pretty peaceful time, at least as far as war is concerned.”), and a friend basically suggested I was a “rose colored glasses” type. [Data here: War Deaths U.S.002

Jeff: It’s true, actually, actual violent death caused by malicious intent is low worldwide. We just hear more about it. Not that its any less devastating.

The randomness of terrorism, and of course what happened in Falcon Heights* [another killing of an African-American by police] last night make it more frightening.

I don’t think you are a rose colored glasses type.

Optimism is a good thing.

* I lived in Falcon Heights in the early 1980s, only several blocks from yesterdays tragic incident. It is a small community, suburban St. Paul, close by the Minnesota State Fair Grounds.

#1138 – Dick Bernard: “Brexit”. Another first rough draft of history.

Saturday, June 25th, 2016

This morning I sent my friend, Christine, lifelong French citizen, this Just Above Sunset blog in the aftermath of the “Brexit” vote in England. The post is excellent and informative; Christine’s comments come a little later in this post.

To me, the most important data comes near the end of the column:
But consider the UK data:
18-24: 75% Remain
25-49: 56% Remain
50-64: 44% Remain
65+: 39% Remain
The future electorate of the UK wanted to remain in Europe.

My generation, the youngers parents and grandparents said “we don’t”. Such a division doesn’t augur well.

{June 26, 2016 Minneapolis Star Tribune p. A12: Turnout for the vote “was 71.8%, with more than 30 million people voting..Leave won by 52 percent to 48 percent.“)

(click on photo to enlarge)

Hawaii state flag, Big Island of Hawaii, Dec. 27, 2015

Hawaii state flag, Big Island of Hawaii, Dec. 27, 2015

There will be endless analyses of what the Brexit vote really means, on many levels. I really knew little about it until it actually happened.

What astonishes me is that this ballot question was apparently a simple “yes” or “no” and, apparently, only advisory – did the voter want Britain to remain in or get out of the European Union? This required no knowledge by the voter, not even any emotion. Just mark “yes” or “no” or not bother to go to the polls at all to answer the single question “yes” or “no”.

While the results apparently are advisory only, they have huge implications for the UK, for the European Union, for the entire world. And virtually nothing seems to have been thought through, by the majority, nor by the people who demanded the vote.

They just wanted “it”, whatever “it” was. Sound familiar?

Essentially, it was virtually “government by twitter”: an utterly brainless affair. How does any supposedly democratic society survive this passivity?

In my opinion, it doesn’t.

I include the odd flag picture at the beginning because, in so many ways, we are twins of England, from the time of our first settlement. I saw this flag on the island of Hawaii in late December, marking an apparent roadside death of someone. I learned later that it was the state flag of Hawaii, and the use of the Union Jack – the British flag – along with the stripes of the U.S. flag was intentional and most interesting.

Here’s the story of the flag.

In the United States we have just completed the Primary-Caucus system where symbolically winners of the Presidential horse-race have been anointed through a hodgepodge of endorsement systems. We are more and more formalizing the “primary” system, but only for President, as if the President of the United States is the only position which matters, and even less formally than in England, we demand the simplest possible commitment to “vote” for the candidate of our choice.

We know little, and we don’t care. Just make it quick and simple.

The question was made simple in England and now what?

After reading the Just Above Sunset, Christine responded (response shared with her permission):
I find this analysis very interesting although I don’t buy the Christians, Jerusalem and religious links around it.

I fully agree with the comment that “Driving the “Brexit” vote were many of the same impulses that have animated American politics in this turbulent election year: anger at distant elites, anxiety about a perceived loss of national sovereignty and, perhaps most of all, resentment toward migrants and refugees.

“There’s a fundamental issue that all developed economies have to confront, which is that globalization and technological changes have meant millions of people have seen their jobs marginalized and wages decline,” said David Axelrod.

I am not expert enough about Trump and American context but it seems to me similar to what I can hear and read here in France.

I don’t believe France or other European countries, although they have populist political leaders too, would follow the UK. Actually we are all frightened, and this earthquake induces a fast reaction amongst the European leaders to reform and strengthen the European organisation as soon as possible.

The very good effect of all this is that EVERYBODY talks about Europe which was not the case earlier.

Europe, for those who thought that they did not benefit from it, now realize how important it is. Even if there is much to say about it, Europe is a great tool to improve and harmonize little silly things like safety regulations. Traveling, or employing all sorts of people (which brings the subject of immigration….), easy for most specialists like medical doctors whose diplomas are recognized, to work wherever they want, schools accepting equivalencies, but also to drive commercial markets in the world, with America, India, China, Russia…and so much more like no boundaries (again immigration is a topic), same money (UK never wanted to leave the Pound)….”

Reader” what is your opinion? At least share it with yourself!

We need to become very engaged as citizens. We must responsibly control our own fate.

#1136 – Dick Bernard: The Man in the Background: Father’s Day 2016

Sunday, June 19th, 2016

I continue to go through hundreds of photos left as part of the legacy of the North Dakota farm. Recently I was looking at this one:

(click to enlarge)

Memorial Park Grand Rapids ND ca late 1940s early 1950s

Memorial Park Grand Rapids ND ca late 1940s early 1950s

The initial focus was the women in the group photo. I didn’t know any of them, and I’ve sent them to a ND friend lifelong in that area to perhaps identify one or two or more of them.

But my interest turned to the guy in the background, who seems to be holding a stick, doing something.

On initial glance it looks like a stick, maybe a baseball bat. On the other hand, it may well be a croquet mallet for a lawn game popular back then. The stick may look a little fatter than in should because it is a bit blurred. If you click a second time over the man, you can almost see the croquet ball to the right, to his front….

Almost certainly the camera had caught a Sunday outing at the Memorial Park – the folks were all dressed up, as if after Church. Also, almost certainly, the women and men were farmers or engaged in agriculture in some way. Most were likely Moms or Dads, and Sunday was a day of rest.

If I’m right – that it is croquet I’m seeing. Not far away some more men were throwing “horseshoes” – real ones. And off to the left was the baseball diamond, where the town team was playing some out of town bunch, and there were kids, and people fishing, and visiting, and picnics and this and that.

As was (and is) most often the case, the old photos is not labeled as to year or people. It didn’t occur to anybody that somebody, 60 or more years later, would care who or what….

As I say, this was a farm photo, and there were hundreds of them, and I’m still going through them, and they won’t be thrown away.

Most were taken by a couple of versions of old box cameras, thence as time goes on, assorted new fangled cameras replaced them. Everytime we came to visit, Grandpa would gather us on the lawn for the traditional picture before we left for home. This was a Grandma deal as well, and their children followed suit.

The picture exists because somebody felt it important to not only record the moment, but to keep it for posterity.

The picture itself is just another moment in the life of some people out in North Dakota, among many moments in many days in many lives, filled with good times and not-so-good, crops, relationships, tragedies, children, whatever.

As we all know, some days are better than others….

Today at Basilica of St. Mary, Fr. Bauer asked all the men to stand up, and recognized every male there for whatever role they play in others lives. It was a nice touch, typical.

While this is a specific Father’s Day, yet another tradition in our society, all of us, regardless of gender, play a part in making our world a better place.

We are all fathers and mothers.

Have a great day.

The Massacre in Orlando

Monday, June 13th, 2016

POSTNOTE June 18: A letter to the editor which I will submit to the local newspaper next week (I missed this weeks deadline).

“The entire Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” (1791).

All the rest is argument about what those words mean, most recently the U.S. Supreme Court (2008).

For me, the question is very simple: what defines a civil society? What makes us civilized? For example: we have lived for years in a quad home in Woodbury. We share walls with three neighbors. There are 24 such homes (96 units) in our Association, governed by the rules set in Law.

We have been blessed to have good neighbors, and our town is good, too. But as we all know, with over 60,000 residents in a town, there is no assurance that all will be well. Expand that to over 5 million Minnesotans; over 300 million Americans; over 7 billion in our world, and a near absolute individual “right..to keep and bear arms” doesn’t translate to a “civil society” in which we all can live. Orlando is the latest example.

As I write, our own next-door neighbor for many years has her quad up for sale. She has retired, and is moving. We share a wall with her.

Her objective is to sell her home to someone who, we hope, will be a good neighbor. She would want the same, I’m sure, but mostly she wants to find a buyer.

With respect to the current debate, do we want a new neighbor who turns out to be armed and dangerous?

This is essentially what faces every one of us.

Currently, the complex rules relating to weaponry are set by lawmakers constantly threatened by organized political assassination solely for their actions on the gun issue: “Vote correctly or you’re dead.”

“Assassination? Harsh. True.

Orlando, Sandy Hook, all the rest can happen here. None of us are “free” of the threat.

We citizens are the only ones who can help restore sanity in the conversation about the sacred Second Amendment. We cannot allow ourselves to be paralyzed into inaction; to enable the next Orlando, which is a certainty,somewhere within our own borders.

We citizens are the difference.”

POSTNOTE from Jermitt, June 13: Thanks for sharing. The article on Riding Death to the White House was powerful.
One week ago today, I attended the first day of the annual Nobel Peace Prize Forum at the Mall of America in Bloomington MN. It’s theme: Globalizing Compassion…Let us march!” I did a post about that first day last Tuesday, and attended the entirety of the rest of the powerful conference Tuesday and Wednesday. It was inspiring and exhausting, and coupled with a very busy rest of the week, I have not yet completed my thoughts on the recap of that conference.

Then came yesterday morning, waking up to the news about the massacre in Orlando, then headlined as possibly 20 dead; now 50 dead and over 50 wounded, the worst such carnage in American history; as best as can be determined, another one of these “lone wolf” carnages often facilitated by easy and legal access to deadly weapons which, as in Orlando, make wholesale mass murder of innocent people simple.

I yield my space to today’s “Just Above Sunset”, Riding Death to the White House. It is worth the time it will take to read, including the links.

Then, get into action, and stay in action.

“Politics” is every single one of us, and we all can do our bit. We all own a piece of this tragedy.

We can’t pretend it is not our problem to help solve.

Meanwhile, my recap of “Globalizing Compassion” will follow sometime this week.

1905  "Six Shooter" as discovered March, 2015

1905 “Six Shooter” as discovered March, 2015

Thoughts Three Days Later: June 15, 2016, 2 a.m.

Orlando is a tragedy on so many tracks, every one of them demanding our attention.

There is a single common thread that seems most important to me, the one that rises to the top, as we continue to try to make sense of insanity. That single thread is our unwillingness to even attempt to check the ever more dangerous guns that are making our own society less safe. Our society is truly making progress on most of the issues identified in Orlando, such as race and sexual orientation.

We are paralyzed on the gun issue. It is a dangerous paralysis.

1. Including the shooter*, it is now known that 50 people died at the Pulse in Orlando. Over 50 were injured, most severely. This is what a single deranged shooter, a lifelong U.S. citizen, with a combat grade weapon publicly sold in the United States can do. The primary weapon, apparently, was a SigSauer MCX. And we sell this type of horrific weapon to most anyone who walks in off the street?

This leads me to think of the 1905 “six shooter” pictured above. It came west with my grandfather in 1905. I doubt it was ever used, other than to be tried out. It was probably solely a self-defense weapon, as he came west with the basic ingredients for his new farm in North Dakota.

The very day of the massacre, the musical Hamilton, celebrating early politician Alexander Hamilton, got many Tony Awards. Alexander Hamilton was killed in a duel with Aaron Burr in 1804 – a political dust-up. It is noted that Hamilton, probably deliberately, never fired his single shot, in effect, giving up his advantage. Aaron Burr “won”, but what?

Now a single shooter, legally, can buy and use a weapon designed for warfare, with warfare like results. That same individual can, in many places, conceal and carry, or flaunt the weapon in public.

2. Mitigating against this right, the track record for assassins, such as the murderer in Orlando, is not good: they ordinarily end up as dead as their victims, and those who survive do not have a promising future either.

Still, we as a society demand the right to possess and use deadly weapons for all sorts of reasons.

3. The main justification, the Second Amendment, apparently gives little cover who claim unrestricted rights. The “right to bear arms” is not unrestricted and never has been.

But politicians are cowards, with good reason: they have the “gun” of being assassinated (un-elected) pointed constantly at their head by the NRA and its ilk. It is difficult to blame politicians for encouraging a firing squad to do them in.

4. It is quite clear, now, that Orlando and other presumed “terrorist” plots are not an organized deal by ISIL or some other big scary acronym. It is also clear that the now-dead shooter would probably still be alive, along with his victims, had he not possessed the legal “right” to buy lethal weaponry in the state of Florida. Armed with something like Grandpa’s brand new pistol, he could not have pulled off the massacre in Orlando.

5. The solution rests with each of us, as citizens. We cannot be silent. We won’t get shot for standing up for, insisting on, action.

But we have to give politicians, the ones who will have to make the decisions in our democracy, cover for doing the right thing politically. In our system, it is the politicians that are going to have to take the action. It is not enough to blame politicians of any party.

We have the power.

We need to learn how to exercise it responsibly.

* – In Orlando and other places, the killer is as dead as the people he kills. But for some reason, his death isn’t treated the same as the others he killed. I first noticed then in 1999, in the wake of Columbine, when someone put up crosses above Columbine High School, which included crosses to the two teenagers who did that carnage. A day or two later, relatives of one of the slain removed the crosses to the killers….

2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum, Bloomington MN. June 6-8, 2016

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

This years Nobel Peace Prize Forum began yesterday, and continues through tomorrow at the Radisson Blu Hotel at the Mall of America.

I’m attending in person. Yesterday’s program was incredibly powerful, and probably today and tomorrow will be as well.

It is too late to attend yesterdays; and few of you may be in a position to attend today and tomorrow (though you can register at the door, I’m sure), but if you follow through you can likely watch the plenary sessions here, and if past is prelude, film of many of the previous sessions will be archived at the same site.

Yesterdays focus, “Every Minute Matters”, was exploitation of children, ending last night with a very powerful film, “Sold”, about the history of a youthful Nepalese sex worker in India. You could hear a pin drop in the theater.

A card distributed gave weblinks for bringing the film to your local community, here, and to bring the film to your local school, here.

Today’s Forum focus is entitled “Globalizing Compassion“, beginning at 9 a.m.; tonight at 8 p.m. at the Mall of America theater, screening of the film “Antarctica 3D: On the Edge“.

Wednesday, the theme is “Challenging Neutrality“, and the evening film, also at Mall of America, is “The Same Heart” about changing international economics to the betterment of the poor by an extremely small “Robin Hood Tax”. Of course, nothing is easy when you mess with money, but this is a serious initiative, proposed by people of serious mind.

(The venue, the Radisson Blu, is at the south edge of the Mall of America, on Killibrew Drive, a simple and short indoor walk to the Mall. There is on-site parking, the first three hours free.

Peter Barus: A Talk By Amy Goodman

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

NOTE: Peter is a longtime great friend from rural Vermont. He is an occasional and always welcome visitor at this space. On May 22, he had an opportunity to hear journalist Amy Goodman in Troy, New York. His comments follow, with his permission.

(click to enlarge)

Peter Barus, front row, left, Oct 23, 2002, Mastery Conference, Annandale MN.

Peter Barus, front row, left, Oct 23, 2002, Mastery Conference, Annandale MN.

Peter Barus:

Amy Goodman spoke last night at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, NY, a lovely little old converted church. Arriving early, I strolled around the block in this economically by-passed neighborhood of old houses, grand old churches, and grinding poverty. A local church still retains its original Tiffany stained glass windows, and the Troy Music Hall is world-famous for extraordinary acoustics. I found that the Sanctuary for Independent Media is very active in the immediate community. At one end of the block is a little park, with an outdoor stage, built by (and commemorating) local artists, craftspeople and community groups. The back of the stage is a wall of intricate mosaic made by many hands. There was chicken being cooked for the $100 a plate dinner, and while I was standing around, a little car parked, and out stepped Amy, with two or three friends. We all walked around the little park while one of the Sanctuary’s leaders explained the history of this little patch of green in the city. There is a community garden at the other end of the block, and inside the Sanctuary is a 100-watt FM radio station that broadcasts Democracy Now! along with music and community affairs programming.

After supper Amy spoke to a packed house in the high-ceilinged former church. Soon everyone was listening as if sitting across the kitchen table with Amy, as she reported on the 100-city tour she is completing with her book.”Democracy Now!: Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America” by Amy Goodman, David Goodman, and Denis Moynihan. Her speech covered almost the last four decades of peace, justice, civil rights action, from an eye-witness perspective only she can provide. The connections, the people and events, touched my own life at more points than I’d ever realized. Her stories are moving and the raw truth of them is immediate and inspiring. They seem to have a common thread, of ordinary people acting in admirable and selfless ways, without a moment’s hesitation, in the face of systematic oppression, violence and injustice. And it seems that this is how human beings normally act in such circumstances – media depictions to the contrary notwithstanding.

One important message is that the media have almost no connection to direct human experience, and politics is covered in proportion to political ad revenues. Punditry demands no actual knowledge of the facts. This is why, for instance, we rarely hear what Sanders actually says, much less in his own voice. Instead we are treated to speculation about violent “followers”. This major Presidential candidate has been “vanished” from the airwaves. The night the Republicans ended up with a “presumptive nominee”, that individual got coverage of an empty podium at one of his mansions, captioned “to speak soon!” while his rivals’ concession speeches, some Hillary sound bites, and zero mention of Sanders droned on. Sanders was at that time addressing an audience of tens of thousands in Arizona, by far the largest actual news event, and the cameras were pointing at an empty platform.

Amy brought stories of a real and very large movement, the same one we are constantly told ended successfully when Obama was elected, It is the current generation’s Civil Rights movement. Occupy Wall Street is part of that, Black Lives Matter is part of that. The many anti-war demonstrations that go almost totally unreported are part of that. The Sanders campaign is part of that. And the real, and unreported, question today is whether the corporate media will manage to keep enough of us distracted, resigned, apathetic and cynical while the forces of blind capitalism complete the looting, militarization and ultimately the destruction of our only planet.

The corporate media are simply ignoring that ubiquitous and vital public conversation. The stakes seem high. As I listened to Amy speak, it became clear that it’s not about choosing “sides” in some mythical epic struggle between good and evil, war and peace, much less “Republicans” and “Democrats”; it’s about discovering one’s own commitment, and whether it is to mere personal avoidance of pain, or to aliveness and possibility for all people, everywhere. To climbing the mythical Ladder of Success, or being of some actual service in making a workable world while we’re in it together.

Amy Goodman is a walking demand that we struggle with this question, for ourselves. Get with “people like us, and not like us,” she says, and express your own experience honestly, and listen honestly to theirs. Instead of accepting the false dichotomies and slogans and polls, endless polls, that pour out of the media echo chamber, take your part in the conversation that matters.


from Dick:
Great post from Peter. I most resonate with the last paragraph.

Each time I hear the conversation about who has the power I think back to a thirty years ago talk, about 1987, about “Referent Power” – how much we have, and how ineffectively the left uses it. Referent Power? Here. Scroll down a little ways. Developing positive relationships with someone who sees some things differently is crucial to making positive change. Relationships are not easy. They are crucial.