International Relations

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World War I, and War, generally.

Monday, November 13th, 2017

Saturday, Nov. 11, turned out to be a very significant day for me.

The intention was to be at the Veterans for Peace Bell Ringing at the Minnesota History Center (MHS), and that was accomplished. The same day, the 99th anniversary of the end of WWI, at the same place, was the final day of the excellent “WWI America” exhibit. Later that afternoon, the outstanding film The World Is My Country, about Garry Davis, a WWII bomber pilot who gave up his U.S> citizenship, disgusted by war.

Those who lead wars always portray them as necessary and thus good (our “side”) versus evil (theirs). It is politically useful to have an enemy. War is not nearly as simple as that. It is the young who go to die “for our country”; and who are proclaimed “heroes” when they do…. In this modern age, it has been the innocents who are slaughtered.

The entrance to the WWI exhibit at MHS said it pretty well:

(click any photo to enlarge)

The bare basics of WWI are simple: 1914-18, the good guys won, the bad guys lost. The truth is not nearly so simple. Part of another side of WWI came from my friend, Michael, who sent a long article from the Guardian newspaper expanding on the story of WWI. It is not politically correct from those who have written the official narrative of WWI, but it is very interesting. You can read the long article here.

In the hall outside the WWI Exhibit, Vets for Peace remembered Nov. 11 as Armistice Day; elsewhere in the building was a lecture about aspects of the War. In England, the day is now called Remembrance Day.

The local Vets for Peace especially recognizes the Kellogg-Briand Pact, signed 1928, which was supposed to end war permanently. The Vets for Peace podium had this explanation of Kellogg-Briand:

In “The World Is My Country”, Garry Davis went to war on a B-27 as part of the U.S. Army Air force after Pearl Harbor. In the end, his conscience couldn’t square killing innocent German people from a U.S. bomber over Germany to avenge the loss of his own brother, killed aboard a U.S. Destroyer in the European theater in 1943. At 26, he gave up his U.S. citizenship, and became a stateless citizen of the world.

Davis’ story is riveting and keeps everyones attention, and especially well suited for young people of today. The film is not yet fully released, but watch for it when it is.

Back at the Vets for Peace, at 11 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month, Bellringers rang their bells 11 times to commemorate the end of a terrible war in 1918. This is a long tradition of the local Vets for Peace. I have been to many such remembrances since 2002.

Back in the nearby WWI exhibit down the hall were three displays which particularly spoke to me: the first of the Treaty of Versailles, which helped lead to WWII; and the second which needs no explanation, coming as it did before woman gained the right to vote in the United States.

At the time of the Treaty of Versailles

Both my mother and grandmother contracted the influenza but survived. The hired man on the farm went to war and died.

The most powerful songs I know, about WWI, and the folly of war are “Waltzing Matilda”, and Green Fields of France. Give a listen.

Today, November 11, 2017, Armistice Day (aka Veterans Day)

Saturday, November 11th, 2017

Today, at 11 a.m., on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, Armistice was declared at Compeigne France ending the deadly World War I. In 1928 came the Kellogg-Briand Pact, signed by France, Germany and the United States, to hopefully renounce War. In 1939 the even deadlier https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_War_II began when Nazi Germany invaded Poland. In 1945, WWII ended and the United Nations was born. There has not been a pandemic war for the past 72 years.

Perhaps there is hope for humanity, though wars, its seem, will always be curses on our lives.

Today is the final day of the World War I exhibit at the Minnesota History Museum in St. Paul, and at 10:30 a.m. will be a ceremony conducted by the Veterans for Peace Ch 27 which culminates, at 11 a.m., with ringing the bells of peace. Details here.

At 4 p.m. today, at the St. Anthony Main theatre in Minneapolis, the story of Garry Davis will be told in the film “The World Is My Country”. Garry Davis was a WWII bomber pilot who took ending war seriously. Details below. More about the film here.

(click to enlarge. pdf version is here: World is my Country – 2002)

Our Country Is The World

Sunday, November 5th, 2017

Saturday, Jay Shahidi, President of the Minnesota chapter of the United Nations Association, commented on an aspect of the state of our world. I paraphrase what I heard Jay say: ‘about 20 years passed between the end of World War I and the beginning of World War II. It has been over 70 years, and there has been no World War III. I think a functioning United Nations is an important reason for this’.

There have been wars since WWII, of course, but nothing on the scale of the two World Wars. By the UN’s very existence, imperfect as it is, I’d join Jay’s contention that the UN has been a very positive mediating force for a better world.

At the same meeting, Prof. Joe Underhill of Augsburg University gave an excellent talk, “Connecting the local and global Minnesota’role with the SDG’s” on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Take some time to review these goals, and follow up on any that seem interesting to you.

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Joe Underhill, at UNA MN annual meeting Nov. 4, 2017

Prof. Underhill, who has strong professional credentials, including as professor, and long term involvement with the Nobel Peace Prize Youth Forum at Augsburg, laid out the basics for local grassroots involvement to make a real difference in our now global society.

Indeed, the very existence of the Sustainable Development Goals has its roots in grassroots lobbying for them at the time the earlier Millennium Development Goals came to an end in 2015. I learned this at another talk last year. The original MDG’s were developed by the UN, resulting in significant accomplishments; the new SDG’s evolved from a ground up process.

There exists a strong substructure of citizen led NGOs which have the capacity and the interest in making a big difference on local, national and Global Issues. While there will always be tensions between those in the traditional power structure (nations, leaders of nations); in the global era, citizens can and do and must have a direct impact.

In my opinion, there are two main impediments to citizen generated progress towards a better world. The first is a tendency of individuals to doubt their power to make a positive difference. The second, and greater, dilemma, is developing the ability to work together, melding people of different points of view.

At the conclusion of Saturday’s meeting I was able to announce a film, showing in Minneapolis on Saturday, November 11. The announcement is below, as well as a pdf for distribution to others: World is My Country002.

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The film is complete, but not yet fully released. This is a film great for inspiration and for discussion. If you’re in the area of Minneapolis, I hope you can attend.

Vietnam, 17 hours, 30 years, and the road ahead.

Friday, September 29th, 2017

Earlier posts on the Vietnam series: Sep 9, Sep 13, Sep 19 , Sep 21

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I watched every hour of the now complete and powerful Ken Burns/Lynn Novick retrospective on the War in Vietnam, 1945-75.

Today begins reflection after a powerful two weeks. What does this all mean to me? To us? How can I personally translate Vietnam into personal action to help us grow, to learn, from this tragedy.

Likely, midweek next week I’ll share my thoughts, such as they will be; and I encourage you to share yours as well, including at this blog space. If you wish your own blog space, just let me know. dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom. All I ask is respectful opinion, and willingness to share your name and your own personal role 1961-75. There is no judgement. We did as we did, then. Vietnam is an indelible part of our national history. We need to own and learn, from the experience.

To begin, among a flood of memories the series brought to the surface for me, below are two: meeting Daniel Ellsberg Feb. 23, 2008; and a totally unexpected visit to the newly dedicated Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC, Nov. 14, 1982.

(click to enlarge)

Then, remembering a powerful afternoon with Daniel Ellsberg and other anti-Vietnam war activists, Feb. 23, 2008: Daniel Ellsberg 2008001 Daniel was here in connection with a powerful program conceived by peace activist Frank Kroncke about the Minnesota 8, of which Mr. Kroncke was part.

Daniel Ellsberg (at right) being recognized for his contribution to peace Feb. 23, 2008, Minneapolis MN.

Here are shared some reflections received in the last days from friends. Doubtless there are thousands of such reflections, and they are just beginning. Thomas Bass, America’s amnesia; Jon Pilger. I have not picked these to pass along; they were forwarded by friends. There is room for lots of points of view in the conversations that are already being generated by this powerful series.

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At a time like this, I feel very, very, very small…what can I do?

It is not a matter of moving on; rather feeling very, very, very small.

There is a great plenty which can be done, one small act at a time.

Just being attentive to the plight of the people of Puerto Rico, a country 4% the size of Minnesota, with 60% of Minnesota’s population, devastated by hurricane. One is tempted to say that we should pay more attention to them, because they are all American citizens. But how about the residents of tiny Barbuda, essentially completely destroyed in an earlier hurricane. How do they fit into my world view? Humans, anywhere, are our brothers and sisters. The globe has no borders.

We don’t need to live within a single event. There are endless opportunities to get constructively involved.

Tuesday, October 3, I plan to join what promises to be a very interesting 4-session course on women who have won the Nobel Peace Prize. Here are details. Course leader, Maureen Reed, MD, has sterling credentials to lead this course. Among other experiences, she served as Executive Director of the Nobel Peace Prize Forum, through which she worked with both the Nobel Institute and its laureates. Consider enrolling, investing, in this class.

My friend, Donna, makes another suggestion: “I wanted to tell you about a group Rich and I have joined called the Interfaith Coalition on Immigration (ICOM). People from many faiths are doing some actions in regards to DACA and immigration. One action is to hold a vigil from 8-9 AM on the 2nd Tuesday of each month at the Whipple Federal Building [at Ft. Snelling – near the airport]. It is there that the immigrant deportation court is housed. Last vigil we had 85 people attend, including both concerned citizens and religious. Our goal is to grow this group so if you know of anyone interested please pass the word. After last vigil some attendees attended a court hearing on someone in deportation. We have done this as well and it truly feels so evil. Many of these deportations tear stable families apart. Anyway I hope you can join us sometime and spread the word. The next vigil is scheduled for October 10, National Immigration Day.”

And on, and on, and on.

Be “on the court” for solutions.

POSTNOTE:
Take time to read this: Don’t Bother. It is long and it is depressing, but it cries out for activism. We live in this country.

Five Citizens Reflect on the Vietnam War

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Your comments are invited for a follow-up post: dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom. Please include your permission to include in a post.

Following are some thoughts about Vietnam, prior to the beginning of the 17 hour film series on PBS, Sep. 17, 2017 7 and 8:30 p.m. CDT. Here’s the schedule of programs following Sep. 17 (see pages 21 & 25): PBS Vietnam Sep 17001

(click to enlarge all photos)

photo copy of Padre Johnson sketch from 1968, used with permission of the artist.

Re the sketch, above: I’m proud to count the artist as a friend, Padre Johnson. He was a field medic in the Mekong Delta in 1968, among other vocations in life. He sketched the incident, and describes it here: Padre J Viet Combat003.

Padre is one of many Vietnam vets, including conscientious objectors and protestors, I have come to know either in person, or through others. There are many “truths”, and perhaps the best we can do is to acknowledge differences, while working to learn from the past.

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from Jim, Sep 10: Fifty years ago my brother was in Vietnam. During the spring and summer of 1967 he saved lives, both American and Vietnamese. He spoke fluent Vietnamese and had tremendous empathy for the people even the so called enemy soldiers. He was soft spoken, kind and generous and very much a hero. He was honored this year in Washington on June 17th. I included a short summary on the Minnesota History Center’s Vietnam Story Wall: here.

As I said in my writing, I grieve for his loss every single day.

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from Norm, Sep 10: I am looking forward to watching the series as I am sure are many, many other veterans who served in SEA during that war let alone many others as well.

Burns has always done a great job with his previous efforts and I expect that this one will be done well also.

There was a series (TPT) on the VNW [Vietnam War] several years ago that I thought was very good as it included perspectives, experiences, reflections and remembrances from people fighting on both sides and in between, i.e. the Montagnards, the Bru, the Sioux and the Hmong, the latter working with the CIA in the “secret war” in Laos.

The feelings about the VNW were still kind of raw at that time so I was aware of many folks including several veterans that were not comfortable with the series as it included comments and perspectives from the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, including general Giap. In addition, it showed some of the destruction caused by the B-52’s when they “went north” over Hanoi and Haiphong in the early 70’s coming from Andersen AFB(Guam), Kadena AFB (Okinawa) and Utapao (Thailand) where I had been stationed with the BUFF’s(Big Ugly Flying F…….s)in the late 60’s.

The B-52’s had been involved in the Arc Light operations for many years bombing sites in that theater before going north and encountering SAM missiles in or near North Viet Nam. The BUFFs took heavy unsustainable losses early in the effort to go North as a result of the SAM [Surface to Air Missile] missile defenses around Hanoi and Haiphong as they would initially come in on predictable routes over those two cities.

Several of the crews became residents of the Hanoi Hilton albeit for relative short times compared to Alvarez (seven years) and McCain (five years) as the truce was signed not long after the bombing of the north began and the prisoner exchange began.

Some of the crews who survived being shot down in their B-52’s were rescued by the Jolly Greens (helicopters) and the crews of medics. Several BUFF crewman did not survive either hits on the aircrafts by the SAMs, the subsequent crash and/or their injuries from received from one or the other or both.

One of the BUFFs from Utapao was hit by a SAM when over the north and limped back to its home base before crashing just outside its perimeter as it made its final approach to the runway.

I am definitely looking forward to watching this important series.

I am sure that Burns will feature the unrest within our country related to the VNW as well which is of less interest to me as that has been so well and so often documented so many times already.

I am primarily interested in learning about what other veterans were doing in that theater at the same time that I was there, it, 1967-68 as well as when my brother was there as a helicopter pilot in the early 70-‘s working with the “little people.”

I really don’t care about the impact of the war on the domestic side of the equation for various personal reasons.

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from Larry, Sep 11: My “perspective” on War in Vietnam, with direct link to my story on the “wall”, here. And Aug 31 a radio interview at KFAI.org (here).

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from Susan, Sep 11: My husband, Tom Lucas, served four years in Vietnam. He worked in Supply, so wasn’t in the trenches. But he flew in helicopters from time to time and experienced ammunition fire.

Tom loved the children and visited orphanages often. He knew that often children were sent into areas with bombs attached to their bodies. (You probably know all about that.)

I’m sure he knew of other atrocities but never once mentioned any.

In the 37 years we were married he rarely spoke about his time there, and I never once asked him about it. I knew it was too painful for him to discuss it. Once in a great while he would be in contact with someone who also spent time in Nam and did engage in some conversation with that person. But I was not present. Tom had two photo albums he showed.

He left them laying in the living room after their meeting, and he didn’t care if I looked at them. Shortly after our first child was born I received a call from the government asking about Tom’s possible contact with Agent Orange and whether or not our child suffered any disability. Tom was not in the jungles so wasn’t in contact with Agent Orange.

That’s about all I can remember. He did receive a couple of Commendation letters, but right now I cannot recall what they were for. I know you will sum up the whole Viet Nam experience so I’ll let you add the descriptions of that war. Tom died one day short of his 62nd birthday. He planned to retire at 62. He will be gone 9 years the end of October.

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Dick Bernard, Sep 12: I am a Vietnam era Army veteran, which means I was in the service after Feb. 28, 1961. Truth be told, at the time I entered the Army, Jan. 11, 1962, I had no idea of the future significance of that time in history. A vivid memory from early in my Infantry days is of a long time Platoon Sergeant hoping to get assignment to Vietnam duty because he’d heard Saigon was good duty.

Draft Card. I must have lost the original.

I had volunteered for the Draft. At that time, we were required to register for the Draft and carry Draft cards. There was no patriotic impulse: it was something I thought I’d have to do anyway, and may as well get it out of the way. I had just graduated from college. I could have qualified for Officer Candidate School, but declined as it would have required me to extend the two year tour. I had no thoughts of conscientious objection, or alternative service. My family history has many military veterans.

My service time began at Ft. Carson, Colorado (Colorado Springs area), mid-January, 1962. My memory is that the night before we boarded a bus from Fargo ND to Ft. Carson, my roommate and I went to a movie down the street, Bridge On the River Kwai.

Ft. Carson, then, was primarily a Basic Training base for the Army. Midway through Basic Training the announcement came that an Infantry Division was being re-activated at Ft. Carson, and after we completed basic training we were virtually all transferred into this new 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized). I ended up in Company C, 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry of the 1st Brigade (if memory serves) of the 5th Infantry (Mechanized). I became Company Clerk. My recollection is that there were perhaps 140 or so of us in the Company, which shared a block with Companies A and B, and a headquarters Company.

Our routine was no different than anyone else preparing for combat.

Some years ago I contributed some pictures to a website which still exists, here.

Ft. Carson CO. Best I recall, Co C was at the NE corner of the 4th full block up. This photo is from the south and dates from 1962 or so. The church we attended (all denominations) was at the very end of the base.

Succinctly, we were, at that time, a peacetime unit being prepared for war. But if there was talk about a coming war in Vietnam, I don’t recall it.

I left the Army at the end of my tour, just before the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963.

Co. C continued, and ended up in Vietnam beginning in 1968. By this time, I was back home, with a “row to hoe” – working to raise an infant. My first wife had died in 1965, and our son was 1 1/2. I saw the war develop on the news, but that was all. I had no connection to protests, for no particular reason other than home duties.

In 1967 and 1970 my two brothers entered the Air Force as officers, and the war became much more personal to me.

About the same time, Company C became heavily engaged in combat in Vietnam, though I didn’t know that till years later.

The war ended in April, 1975, thence out of sight out of mind. In mid-November, 1982, I happened to be in Washington D.C. for meetings, and while waiting for my flight out of Washington National learned that the Vietnam Memorial was being dedicated that very weekend. I went there. It was a very powerful and emotional experience. Vietnam Mem DC 1982001

It was not until last week, when I revisited the unit website, that I learned that my Company C, that small group of about 140 men for whom I had done the Morning Reports for nearly two years had, in four years between 1968 and 1971, lost 37 men in Vietnam; in all the casualties of the Battalion which had earlier shared my block at Ft. Carson totaled 145. War was, indeed, hell. I just happened to get lucky.

May my comrades rest in peace, and may we intensify our efforts for peace.

POSTNOTE: I am always conscious of people who I know are veterans, particularly so at this moment in time – that is a benefit of this 17 hour film by Ken Burns.

Yesterday I was at my barber, a retired guy who works out of his home. I’m a long time customer and we’re good friends. He’s a combat Marine vet from Vietnam – assigned as tunnel rat, at times. His brother, another Marine, was killed at 18 in Vietnam about 1968. His name is on the Wall in Washington, and here on the Minnesota Capitol grounds.

Last Thursday at the preview of the film at the PBS station, my brother, John, was with us. He was an Air Force officer, a navigator on C-141 and other transport planes, for a year or more detailed on flights into Vietnam in the early 1970s, at least once drawing heavy ground fire.

The stories go on and on. I had a chance to say my piece on film at the preview, and I said that while I didn’t think war would ever end, we certainly can do a great deal to keep it to a minimum. There are no “winners” in war, only losers. We all lose.

I stay a committed member of Veterans for Peace. I am also a long-time member of the American Legion. VFP is my personal preference. There is no perfect organization, but such groups are important.

The Nobel Peace Prize Forum

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

PRE-NOTE: Yesterdays post now includes details about Ken Burns 17-hour, 10 day film about The Vietnam War. You can check the schedule and get other information here.

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The 2017 Nobel Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg University, Minneapolis, convenes this Friday and Saturday, September 15 and 16. All details are here.

The Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg began in 1989 and has a long history of excellence; it is the only international adjunct of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, which has administered and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize since its beginning in 1904.

The other Nobel Prizes are awarded in Sweden. It has never been clear why Alfred Nobel, whose fortune funded the prizes, reserved the Peace Prize for award by Norway.

John Rash wrote an interesting commentary about this years Peace Prize Forum in Sunday’s Minneapolis Star-Tribune. You can read it here.

I have been actively engaged with the Nobel Peace Prize Forum for quite a number of years. I have never been disappointed. There is a great deal to be learned, both from the sessions themselves, and the other participants. Check it out.

POSTNOTE: For those with an interest, Dr. Maureen Reed, for several years Executive Director of the Peace Prize Forum at Augsburg, will be teaching a four session series, “Of Courage and Controversy: Women and the Nobel Peace Prize“, at the University of Minnesota Oct 3 – Dec 5, 2017. All details, including enrollment information, are accessible here.

On Losing Hope…Don’t….

Monday, August 14th, 2017

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going”
(Proverb, uncertain origin)

As the awful days of 2017 drag on, I am very tempted to give up. Why bother? There seems little reason to hope for any improvement in our increasingly awful status quo – a fate we freely chose last November. If you watch the news only a little, you know what I mean. Here’s a longer version of the most recent, Charlottesville. Scroll down to the quote from “Daily Stormer”, the modern voice of the Nazis.

from Carol: a two minute film from 1943

The reason for my malaise is our national leadership – our President – and a largely cowardly “win at all costs” far Right government leadership who considers people like me the enemy.

But becoming paralyzed is not good for this country. I march on.

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In my now long life, I have always emphasized personal optimism: that however bad things were, there was hope for a better future.

A friend once asked me how I came to this positive philosophy. The answer came to mind quite easily. Very early in my adult life, the short two year marriage of my wife and I ended with her death from kidney disease; and I was left with a 1 1/2 year old son, and truly insurmountable debts, mostly from medical costs.

Barbara was 22. We were in a strange place, surrounded by strangers. I was flat broke.

It was 1965, and survival was the essential; everything else was a luxury.

I didn’t give up, and with lots of help from some relatives and new friends and society in general (North Dakota Public Welfare in particular), things turned around, albeit slowly. I’ll never forget 1963-65.

Later perspective came from a career where my total job was attempting to help solve problems between people, not to make them worse.

It was a difficult job. Sometimes I feel I did okay; sometimes I was not so sure. But I gave a damn, and knew the difference between “win-win” versus “win-lose”. In “win-lose” everybody loses…. We have long been mired in “win-lose” in this country of ours.

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So, I seek optimism even in the worst of times.

A few days ago I did a blog about Al Gore’s new film on Climate Change: “Inconvenient Sequel Truth to Power“, and highlighted a long and what I felt was a very positive interview with Vice-President Gore on Fox News a week ago; and then noticed on the jacket of his 2006 “An Inconvenient Truth” the highlighted recommendation, from Roger Friedman of FOXNEWS.com. Fox News? Yes.

Yesterdays Minneapolis Star Tribune had an Opinion written by the newspapers publisher, billionaire businessman and former Minnesota legislator Glen Taylor. You can read it here.

I sent the column to a former work colleague, now in Michigan, who knew Taylor in the 1980s when he was an up and coming business man, and who, herself, successfully used “win-win” in contract negotiations. She read the column and said, “He is so correct in his observations. For one thing, this approach is less likely to produce unintended consequences that can hurt either party. Because the potential solutions are freely discussed, those potential problem areas are more likely to be seen and avoided before they happen.”

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“Win-Win” is not part of the current American environment.

But it is not time to quit. Just yesterday I was at a gathering where a current member of the U.S. Congress spoke, and he said that next week, August 21 to be precise, is when Trump has to make a crucial decision on CSR under the Affordable Care Act. “CSR”? More here about CSR and the implications of next week. Several times Cong. Walz said, yesterday, August 21 is very important. Express your opinion to your Congressperson and Senator.

Cong. Tim Walz, MN 1st District, at DFL Senior Caucus Picnic Aug. 13, 2017

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Finally, the matter of “news”, generally, and what can one believe these “fake news” days, especially from the President of the United States? There is truth out there, but it takes effort to find it, especially now. I think it is prudent to believe nothing this President says; only what he and his lieutenants do, have done, and will do, and not as reported by him, either.

Facts are complicated. A couple of days ago my long time friend Michael sent an article from a technical publication about the N. Korean ICBMs. The article, here, is difficult, and it is technical, but was reassuring in that it came from someone who I’ve known for years to be not only a PhD, but a straight talker. We all know people like Michael. Value them. Here is how Michael introduces the article: “if moral analysis does not move you, maybe technical aspects can. Ted Postol [and others have] a super essay in today’s Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists about the latest NK missile launches of Hwasong 14, probably not quite ICBM missiles.”

N. Korea is a very dangerous situation, but consider the source for any information you see or hear about it. There are “facts” out there.

Here’s my Korea Peninsula region map, once again.

Personal adaptation of p. 104 of 7th Edition of the National Geographic Atlas of the World

COMMENTS
from Fred: An excellent piece, Dick. In challenging times it is tempting to withdraw, hang on and hope for the best. We need to remember that the future is not linear; its unpredictably is about all we can safely predict. Of course, that can mean even more difficult days are in our future. You’ve reminded me that a pragmatic and persistent approach in working for positive change is a most worthwhile option.

#1275 – Dick Bernard: Upcoming “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

Mean weather coming through. Woodbury MN, about 9 a.m. June 11, 2017

Two weeks from today, July 28, is the opening, in selected cities nationwide, of An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, the followup to the 2006 film by Al Gore, An Inconvenient Truth.

The general opening nationwide is August 3, 2017.

Whenever the Twin Cities is one of those places that plays “An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power”, we’ll be in the audience.

Details on show times and places will be available here.

Of course, I have not seen the 2017 film – it is not yet released. Someone who has both seen the new film, and heard Al Gore talk about it, is this person, Hani Nam, from Los Angeles, May 2017.

My wife and I saw Al Gore speak about the issue of climate change in person in 2005 – a dozen years ago! – then saw the film, “An Inconvenient Truth”, at the time of its release one year later, in June, 2006. Here is what I wrote then: Inconvenient Truth 2005, 2006001.

June 16, 2011, five years after the release of An Inconvenient Truth, I attended a talk by a respected local authority on Climate Change, Prof. John Abraham. In the q&a session following the talk, I asked the Professor for his perceptions of the accuracy of the film. You can read his answer at the post I did then, here. Prof. Abrahams comments speak for themselves.

Dec. 14, 2015, I applauded the COP agreements on Climate Change in Paris, here.

It is hardly a secret where we are at this moment in history…indeed, the preview clip of An Inconvenient Sequel hi-lites the problem going forward.

When an “Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power” plays in your area, make a point to not only attend, but to get active.

The solution – the Power – is in every single one of us.

PERSONAL POSTNOTE:

As a society, we seem to have become addicted to denial of reality, because we can to a certain extent deny reality. Most of us have the money to turn up the air conditioning, or turn up the heat, or in other ways to avoid the natural realities of bad weather, as I was able to avoid the bad weather coming through on June 11 (the photo which leads this post). I was in my car, and could turn around when it appeared it was foolish to continue into the rapidly approaching storm. I am also aware, however, that my personal environment, in a heavily populated city, is always potentially at risk. Cynically, best the tree fall on somebody elses house, or someone else lose power for an entire day (as happened about 24 hours ago in other suburbs of my metropolitan area.)

But everyone of us, everywhere, is in the same kettle, it is called earth. We have the same home….

There is one simple distinction which we all need to learn, and that is the distinction between WEATHER and CLIMATE, here provided by the National Weather Service: “Weather – The state of the atmosphere with respect to wind, temperature, cloudiness, moisture, pressure, etc. Weather refers to these conditions at a given point in time (e.g., today’s high temperature), whereas Climate refers to the “average” weather conditions for an area over a long period of time (e.g., the average high temperature for today’s date).”

Weather is that nasty cloud which leads this post. Climate is the much broader and longer term patterns of weather which do not respect human borders, and are the focus of the science of climate change.

In my opinion, an unfortunate semantic mistake was made early on when the conversation focused on the term “global warming”, true in a climate sense, but easily ridiculed by reference to oddities of daily weather. Ridicule does not change reality…it does make conversation and resolution more difficult.

Humans with adequate financial resources can basically and temporarily deny the impacts of climate change. For everyone else, including plants and animals, who live within the reality of heat, cold, wet, dry, the potential for surviving change is less certain.

We advanced humans are effectively cooking our childrens future, and that of other living things as well.

One of the best presentations I personally witnessed was this eight minute presentation by a climate scientist to children at the Nobel Peace Prize Festival at Augsburg College in 2009. Prof Alley and his colleague scientists were co winners of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

Here are two websites: IPCC and NOAA

Dick Bernard: The Korean Peninsula and Poland, very briefly…

Friday, July 7th, 2017

Book recommendation from Marie: A book you might be reading is: Age of Anger A History of the Present by Pankaj Mishra.

*

Hubris always ends badly*.

This date the great meeting with Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump occurs in Hamburg. The only U.S. representative with Trump will be Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State. Yesterday, Trump gave a major speech to an invited audience in Poland. In the same time period North Korea successfully launched an ICBM which signalled its capacity of delivering a nuclear warhead as far as Alaska.

I’m an old geography major, old enough to have had my college degree a year before I was sitting in an Army barracks in Oct 22, 1962, watching President Kennedy tell we Americans about the Cuban Missile Crisis where Russia was said to be delivering ICBMs whose range was as far as Cheyenne Mountain, below which I was sitting near Colorado Springs Colorado.

It seems a good time for a tiny briefing about Poland and Korea….

KOREA.

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Personal adaptation of p. 104 of 7th Edition of the National Geographic Atlas of the World

Note especially the red rectangle at center in the map. That rectangle is about 125 miles wide, giving an idea of the scale of the map. Note Seoul, and Pyongyang, and Tokyo and Hiroshima, all hi-lited in yellow, as well as the 38th parallel, the demarcation between the two countries** since the end of what has come to be known as the Korean War (though it was never a declared war).

The Korean peninsula is not a place for a “loose cannon” on any side…. Note the CIA Fact Book about both North Korea and South Korea. For comparison, Minnesota has a population of about 5 1/2 million; N. Korea about 25 million, S. Korea about 51 million. In land area, N. Korea is slightly larger than the state of Virginia; slightly smaller than the state of Mississippi; S. Korea is a bit smaller than Pennsylvania, a bit larger than Indiana.

Google Maps notes that you can’t get from Seoul to Pyonyang by road. Still the map is interesting. And a guided missile is a very short trip away from both in the area of the 38th parallel. Tokyo and the rest of Japan are not that far away, either. Here’s the Japan briefing book from the CIA.

POLAND.

If there was ever a place for a white nationalist to give a speech, it would be Poland. Here’s the CIA Factbook on Poland. Poland has not been treated kindly by history: Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin….

I have been to Auschwitz, Krakow, Czestochowa and Gdansk (2000 and 2003).

My grandmother was in 8th grade in about 1896 when she learned the geography of Europe. Here is the map from her textbook which shows Europe as it existed then. Most interesting to me is that this map, from a standard text for American Catholic Schools at the time, does not even name Warsaw, already a major city**.

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As we learned when we visited Auschwitz in 2000, Auschwitz (Oswiecim in Polish times) was basically a prison camp for 140-150,000 Poles, about half of whom died; adjoining Birkenau was the extermination camp for the Jews. Nearby was a third forced labor camp, Monowitz, part of the I. G. Farben Buna factory (from the book “Auschwitz, Voices from the Ground” purchased at Auschwitz, May, 2000).

Pope John Paul II, the “Polish Pope”, born in 1920, grew up in nearby Wadowice, Poland, and thus felt the full impact of both Nazi Germany and Stalinist Soviet Union. His world view was likely shaped by his experiences.

I remember, from the time of our visit, that perhaps 10% of Poles fell as victims of WWII; as well as virtually all of the Polish Jews. (Note here.) Of all countries, Poland was among the most devastated by WWII.

On the other hand, our dear friend, Annelee, who grew up in Hitler Germany, lost her Dad to the war. He was a conscript who refused to become a Nazi, though he would have benefited from such a move. They are not sure where or when he died, though it was likely in Russia. They lived in terror of being taken over by the Russians after the war (they weren’t).

* “Hubris”? Some time back I was giving a ride to my friend, Joe, a retired distinguished international emeritus professor at the University of Minnesota. The car conversation got around to Napoleon and Hitler’s misguided attempts to control all of Europe and Asia, attempts which failed. “Hubris” is how my friend defined their actions. In a different sort of way, yet very similar, Donald Trump is trying to translate a slogan into action: “Make America Great Again”, but I think the world leaders are a bit wiser now. This won’t stop the macho coffee conversations about “kicking ____’s ass” (fill in the blank with whomever or whatever the target of choice might be.

There has never been a good time for hubris. Most certainly not now, when we are a global society, with the capacity to destroy ourselves.

It is time for cooler heads everywhere to prevail, one person, one conversation at a time.

Back to you.

Comments welcome to Dick_BernardATmsnDOTcom.

Another map from the same 1896 text. Click to enlarge. Note that Moscow is not even mentioned.

** – Note comment from anonymous below.

COMMENTS
from Jeff: Old maps are interesting. My German grandparents on my mothers maternal side emigrated from Pomerania, which was then part of Germany, is now part of Poland. I think it was originally East Prussia , which eventually became Germany under Bismarck. A majority of the people in Pomerania were German , some had Polish surnames but were Germans. The maps of Asia are more interesting… Iraq doesn’t exist as it was part of both the Ottoman empire and Persia. Syria didn’t exist, and look where the Ottoman empire extended around Arabia encompassing Israel, Palestine, Jordan the Gulf emirates, parts of Saudi Arabia. Vietnam was a colony of France, India, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore a part of the British Empire…..

Response from Dick: Indeed. Most of us have only the thinnest veneer of knowledge about the world as it was or is, even our own country. It makes for problems…and opportunities for people who benefit from simplistic notions of superiority or such. One of my vivid memories from the trip to Poland was at the Krakow Cathedral in early May, which I think was Constitution Day or such in Poland. There was a Mass there, and after Mass, one of the people we met was an ancient man (WWII vintage) wearing very, very proudly his Polish Army uniform. I should dig out the slide. It was just an old Army uniform, festooned with whatever decorations he had received ‘back in the day’.

“Tribes” are useful, and sometimes important, but more often than not dangerous. A friend gave me a CD by a superb Irish Tenor, including assorted songs, mostly of lament. One which sticks especially is “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”, about an Aussie who encounters the Turks (the Ottomans) at Sulva Bay in Gallipoli is WWI. Listen to it here.

A year or so ago we went to the Russia Museum in Minneapolis to see the exhibit on WWI from the Russian perspective. One caption I remember quite vividly. Apparently, the Kaiser and the Czar were first cousins, the German and the Russian rulers. And apparently WWI really started with some argument over something or other. This was before the assassination….

from Jeff: Actually the Kaiser, the Czar, and the King of England were all cousins… It wasn’t that long ago either.

from Fred: Very well put. Excellent idea to use a little geography and cartography to assist the uninitiated.

from Terrance: I have been amazed over the past 25 years since the fall of the Soviet Union how little we learned from the Catholic textbooks about how many people from various little nations, religions and ethnic backgrounds were forced into the USSR. If they weren’t Catholic, they were dismissed in our Geography classes as irrelevant.

** from Anonymous: I read your blog about Poland and Korea and agree with you that we Americans need to be better informed about both. But may I offer a few critical comments?

You stated that “the 38th parallel, [was]the demarcation between the two countries since the end of what has come to be known as the Korean War.” That is not correct. The 38th parallel was the the boundary from the end of WWII until the start of the Korean War. The de facto boundary since that war has been the cease-fire line at the time of the truce which ending the fighting (in 1953). That line was to the north of the 38th parallel in its eastern sector and to the south in the western sector. (In 1980 I crossed it to visit a national park in what passed from North to South Korea in 1953.

The blog was interesting.

from Norm: Great observations and commentary, Dick.

I am not an old geography major albeit old I am. On the other hand, I am and have always been a geography buff going way back to my early introduction to them in National Geographic. I have always loved maps of areas ranging from those of a township to a state to the nation and to the world, whatever their purpose but mainly that show geographical features and political boundaries although the latter change frequently in boundaries, name and existence.

I served nearly four years as a USAF photo radar intelligence officer which was later categorized by the folks in the public sector when describing my work history as that of a cartographer which it essentially was in many cases.

I have always been intrigued as well by how natural geographic features such as rivers, mountains, large lakes and so on can affect the politics of things. For example, the folks on the leeward side of the mountain range having different political views and customs let alone cultures than those on the windward side of the range or on the other side of the river or large lake or whatever.

That is just very interesting to me, Dick.

Global Solutions Minnesota: “Russia: The New Cold War” with Todd Lefko

Sunday, June 4th, 2017

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PDF format of the above poster is here: Russia Todd Lefto001

Mr. Lefto comes highly recommended as a knowledgeable resource on Russia, and an engaging speaker. Global Solutions MN President, Gail Hughes, said on May 7, “I attended a community ed Great Decisions talk by Todd last week. He drew a big crowd, and was engaging and knowledgeable.

Todd is a popular speaker and businessman with a background in international trade, specializing in Russia, where he’s lived and visits regularly.”

A longer bio of Todd Lefto from some years ago can be found here. (Andy Driscoll was a well respected twin cities journalist who died in 2014.)

PLEASE NOTE: The talk is a week from this Thursday (June 15). Reservations are requested no later than Monday for planning purposes. Later reservations will be accepted, but please respect the need for planning by reserving in a timely manner.