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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.


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.


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 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.”


“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


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

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.

Dick Bernard: Killing Obama; Committing Suicide

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017

POSTNOTE Monday June 26: Saturday morning I first saw the three word message on the public blackboard at my coffee place. Six hours later was an added message, also shown below. This morning someone else had written a few words in defense of taxes. Overnight came Just Above Sunset about the disastrous consequences of getting rid of Obamacare. Get involved. Speak out.

(click to enlarge)

Public messages at coffee, June 24, 2017


PRENOTE to readers: I found an additional photo of Whitestone Hill which I have inserted in the May 31 post (here); Also, there have been a couple of contrasting and passionate opinions expressed on Castile-Yanez, which you can read here. Additional comments are solicited.

POSTNOTE June 23: If you have time this weekend, read this column.
If you do Facebook, see Barack Obama’s Official Facebook page for his position on the issue.


Today’s newspaper had a bland headline about the Senate Republicans summary Health Care proposal. This is the secret document that hardly anyone, including Republican Senators, have even seen; for which there have been no hearings, which will be called up for a vote with possibly no debate at all, before the July 4 recess.

It is being rushed through, my opinion, mostly to make a “win” for somebody (the Republican “base”, Trump…); but more important to open the door for huge tax cuts for the very rich. The biggest victims will likely be what might be called Trump’s core constituency, people who won’t be able to bob and weave within the new system, whatever it turns out to be.

There is an easy comparison:

In 2009 and 2010, after over 40 public hearings and endless opportunities for open debate everywhere, the Affordable Care Act (quickly and derisively dubbed “Obamacare”) was enacted. Immediately there were endless repetitions in the House of Representatives to “repeal Obamacare”.

The Affordable Care Act was never perfect. Anything negotiated has problems. (Anything NOT negotiated is far, far worse.)

Consider a system which is, they say, one-sixth of the total American economy…you “don’t turn” such a system “on a dime” – a whim.

In addition, however, to the theater of ritual repeal in the Congress, every means available was and has continued to be used to assure failure of the Affordable Care Act at federal and state level.

Obamacare just refused to die, and we, the people, actually found that it was working well, which has simply intensified the process to kill it and replace it with something much worse, with the savings to go towards tax cuts for the already excessively wealthy.


The contrast in process in 2009-10 and today could not be more stark. Even the most cursory review of the available literature about the long terms goals of “repeal and replace” with something new are frightening. But few seem to care. We will learn who the beneficiaries are.

There is an interesting thread of brief comments at the end of this post. Note what “A” and “B” have to say. They are people just like you and me.


The victims of this and other political games will be today’s young people. And that’s where the “committing suicide” comes in.

Theoretically, the U.S. is a participatory democracy with free and fair elections, open to all, plenty of debate beforehand.

The ascendance of greed as a primary virtue, and the accompanying lack of interest in being well informed or even participate politically, are ultimately our ruin, unless we step in, as individuals, in all the ways we can. “There is no free lunch”, my elders used to say. Too many of us have become adept at gaming the very system on which we ultimately depend.

An example of the quandary: A couple of days ago a friend sent a column by David Leonhardt in the June 20 New York Times.

My friends intro to the column was three words: “If liberals voted.”

Leonhardts first paragraph, in part, said this: “…an extremely short political quiz: What percentage of American citizens between the ages of 18-24 voted in the last Congressional midterm elections in 2014?”

I followed the rules and guessed 40%. Make your own guess before checking the answer.

You have to read the first few paragraphs of the most interesting (and depressing) column for the answer to Leonhardt’s question, with more information as well.


The Republicans ultra right wing is close to fulfilling their fondest dream, “killing” Obama (and all he represents, including liberals like myself).

The traditional way we tend to deal with bad news is to blame someone else for it, and to shift responsibility from ourselves to someone – anyone – else. I can hear the litany already…but the ball is in each and every one of our own “courts”. We are the solution, or we are the problem.

In a dictatorship we might have more of an argument for avoiding being in action. But we’re still in a basically free society…which without our action, is killing itself. The most vulnerable among us, including those who are too young to vote, will in the long run be the first to pay the price.

The wealthy will pay too – it will just take a little longer.

As for the rich, how many yachts do they need? And what good will their tax cut do for them, or for anyone else?

Everybody has a part to play.

Play it.


More on the same general issue, here. I always recommend this long and six days a week resource on national politics. The price is right: it’s free, delivered after midnight.


Here is a conversation starter: some comments from routine e-mail traffic between two friends, yesterday and today (I am neither A nor B):

A. “It’s been (and continues to be pretty) very difficult to be [part of] a health insurance carrier that’s chosen to stay in the exchanges. It’s risky and lots of strategic discussions, contingencies, and last minute changes have made for frustration and long hours.”

B. “Wish everyone would realize that insurance is for the unexpected, get coverage for that possibility, and be covered if/when it happens. We [all of us] are so tuned to having something for little or nothing that we forget that someone will pay when we don’t. Sorry it hits your industry so hard. Personally, I’m glad I’ve reached the “golden years” and only have to stay as healthy as I can, happy when I don’t have to use the insurance that you and yours now subsidize. Thank you!”

A. “Very wise words! People do not get it. The corollary is that if you think that everyone doesn’t deserve and therefore won’t have health insurance, think again. We all pay for one another’s health care costs whether we have insurance or not. From my perspective, why not do it right. Not sure that we know what right is yet but pretty sure we’re not heading that way.”

B. “Every day I’m grateful that we were able to help [our son] stay ensured, even when he was between jobs, as a young man. When his disease process became critical, at age 35, it was love and good fortune that he was married and insured under [his wife’s] family plan. Still, if he had lived, they would have faced a life-time limit on medical care and drug costs. Single payer health care for all is the only way I see out of this terrible dilemma of escalating health care costs.

The ACA was only workable if everyone had to pay in and even that didn’t work. Health care costs are exorbitant here in the US, likely because we demand luxury treatment for everything, but don’t expect to pay for it. Helping people to stay healthy and understand there are choices to be made in anticipation of end of life should be givens in health care.”

A. “The ACA was only workable if everyone had to pay in and even that didn’t work.

Partly it didn’t work because it wasn’t really enforced and the consequences of paying were low. Our chief Actuary, who is not an ACA proponent said that if you want people to buy a plan, price the penalty at the same rate as the cheapest ACA compliant plan in the market. It’s a good idea.

There were (are) loopholes that you could drive a truck through and people used them. They’d also do things like buy a cheaper bronze plan, have a child and switch to the richest plan when the child was born (allowed under the ACA) and have the birth paid as if they’d been paying premium for the more expensive plan all year. People would not buy plans then get sick and find a way to get a special enrollment period that allowed them to buy a plan to cover their often pricey treatment. I could go on about the reasons that it didn’t work well but I think that there were absolutely ways to tweak and improve.

The gamesmanship was unbelievable.”

#1260 – Dick Bernard: A Perspective on Refugees.

Saturday, May 20th, 2017

Entire Brochure can be viewed here: ARC – Doing the Doable001

Thursday evening Daniel Wordsworth of the American Refugee Committee (ARC) gave his perspectives on the “Global Refugee Crisis”. It was a powerful evening for the 50 of us in attendance.

(click to enlarge)

Daniel Wordsworth, American Refugee Committee, May 18, 2017

There are tens of thousands of “NGOs” (non-governmental organizations) like ARC. Indeed on a recent podcast I participated in, a lady from South Africa suggested there were 1,000,000* or more NGO’sworld-wide. And I think that seemingly wild estimate is even plausible in this planet of over 7 billion people. ARC, like many NGOs, functionally act as partners for governmental entities, including the United Nations. They work together.

In the end, all that matters are often small – and unsung – groups of folks who care to do good for their fellow inhabitants of this planet we share.

Sometimes the task seems impossible, but then I looked at the people in that room on Thursday night, some of whom I know from their “day jobs” as volunteers in retirement. And whatever discouragement I feel day-to-day is replaced with a renewed sense of optimism – maybe there is good happening.

Indeed, I saw it in the enthusiastic participation of my colleague Mark Petty, whose actions I shared recently. Mark and I are on a Board celebrating French heritage. But I learned of his activism with Advocates for Human Rights when he said he wouldn’t be able to be at our regular meeting – he’d be in Switzerland.

A little earlier, Donna Krisch, who was at the Thursday session, witnessed about her volunteer time with refugees from Central America at a shelter in Texas. Several of her colleague activists from Basilica of St. Mary attended Mr. Wordsworths session with her.

The stories go on and on and on.

Daniel Wordsworth had the requisite power point on Thursday, but his presentation was minimalist, and thus far more powerful (to me) than hundreds of pages of data.

I took no notes on Thursday. I was listening, hard, for well over an hour.

For example, the essential message about refugees, anywhere, any time: they are human beings. They deserve to be treated as such.

In our country, we are endlessly bombarded with stereotype messages inculcating fear of the other. Really, though, they are simply human beings, seeking to survive under sometime terrible conditions.

Mr. Wordsworth shared stories of absolutely heroic efforts by people within the camps (ARC tends to be most active in Africa and the Middle East).

At some point a few years ago, a staff person at ARC made a suggestion at a meeting: let’s ask people on the ground in these camps for ideas. In my recollection, the first reaction was that wouldn’t work – after all, on the ground is constant crisis management.

But the idea to seek ideas persisted, and the first year was very successful, and in each succeeding year has been more and more successful.

One particular slide will stick with me, probably permanently. It was of a man, carrying his young son “piggy back”, looking back at the boy. They were walking away from the photographer.

We were asked to pay attention to this photograph. As I recall, they were at the very end of a 54 day flight from somewhere in the Middle East. The destination, a refugee camp, was in sight. The young boy had just asked his Dad, for perhaps the thousandth time, “are we almost there?” (Parents know that drill!)

The next day, at the destination, tear gas was used. What a welcome.

I got to thinking about our 90-year old friend, Annelee Woodstrom, who is just completing her third book, “And So It Was“, relating to her growing up in Nazi Germany. Her last task has been to choose a cover for the book. The design she chose (which I haven’t seen) apparently shows a girl appearing to walk away in a woods. Annelee said the scene reminded her of near the end of WWII, when she, starving, walked over 90 miles home, sleeping in ditches or wherever, eating whatever could be scavenged. It was an experience that she will never forget.

And she did get home, but then the home in which she had grown up was taken and used for other refugees who were themselves left with nothing.

Human beings are just that, human beings. We must do what we can, small and large, every day,

Thanks ARC and Daniel Wordsworth and everyone who does anything, anytime, for the betterment of our world.

May 18, 2017,

* Even in today’s world of very big numbers, 1,000,000 seems immense. It translates, if taken literally, into a single NGO representing about 7,000 people, and NGOs are rarely only a single person, but small or large groups of persons of similar minds.

For years, I’ve been aware of the line in Bob McCurdy’s “Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream” about “a million copies made”. The line from the 1949 song talks about a million paper copies, of course. When I wanted to give tribute to a couple of persons I thought had gone far beyond the basics, I developed a website which I names It still exists. Take a look. A million copies is still difficult, but certainly doable.

Dick Bernard: The Women’s March, en avant!*

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

In my post on inauguration day Jan. 20, I said we planned to go to the Women’s March in St. Paul last Saturday. I’m getting over a cold, and the day was drizzly, and common sense prevailed: we took one of my daughters and two granddaughters to a movie, Moana, whose heroes (heroines? sheroes?) are a little girl and her grandmother. The kids suggested it. It was a great use of time. Put it on your list of films to see.

You need to be a hermit in a remote cave somewhere to not know what happened on Saturday, not only in Washington. The Women’s March link (above) makes suggestions for keeping Saturday alive past this week.

A number of people in my own network noted that they or someone they knew were at marches in places like Billings, Portland, Madison and on and on. Young women were especially well represented. We were sitting at a church gathering on Sunday and a retired woman we know said that my blogpost on Friday inspired her to go to the march in St. Paul.

A coffee friend, a male, noted the immense size of the St. Paul march in which he was a participant. There were so many marchers that it literally came to a standstill.

The event was worldwide.

Campaigns come and go. Like diets, successful campaigns take lots of determination and effort and stamina.

I hope Saturdays marches endure and, indeed, intensify. Again, the ideas are here. There are other activist suggestions, more broad based. You can access them here.

This single person, me, wonders where I fit into this conversation, ongoing.

Actually, another event yesterday helped bring some clarity. Some men in an oval office set about to slay the abortion dragon in a signing at the White House.

It caused me to think back to a years ago personal experience in 1965. You can read it here. They should put themselves in Barbara and my shoes, as we lived it at the time.

The White House edict will probably increase abortions rather than reduce them worldwide. So goes the ‘right to life’.

It is easy to pontificate about big issues, pretending that personal realities can be ignored through edicts issued by church and state. It is one thing to suggest ideals; another thing entirely to require them, under penalty of law.

There is need for a dialogue, not command.

I wonder what will happen. I plan to stay engaged, even if I couldn’t be at that march on Saturday.

* En Avant. Forward. Among other uses, the motto of the City of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Related post Jan. 25, here.

Dick Bernard: After the Shock: Moving Forward After November 8, 2016

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

POSTNOTE Nov. 11, 2016: Comments at the end of this post. In addition, I highly recommend “Broken Glass“, posted overnight, with lots of reflective long term thinking. We are in the first days at the fork in our national road – which fork do we choose? Each of us bear part of the burden.
* * * * *
I have added comments from several individuals and some additional data to yesterdays post. I will continue to add if/as others are received.

The last most recent e-mails:
1. from friends of many years: “My word! [we] are shocked. I like what Time magazine said heading one of their articles before the election: “This election is about what a woman can do and what a man can get away with”.” From another: “I’ve been in tears most of the day.”
2. Just Above Sunset, very long, but very worth reading in its entirety, “Waking up to Trump”. #

This is the most recent data on the election (and its context):
Donald Trump, 59,611,678 votes (279 electoral, 270 required for election)
Hillary Clinton, 59,814,018 votes (228 electoral)
In our country of 325,000,000 people there were 216,000,000 potential voters on Tuesday.
Roughly 100,000,000 people didn’t vote….
More data, including links, at yesterdays post.

In a very real sense, we are at the shock stage – two days after our electoral 9-11-01.

I doubt that the results Tuesday were expected by anyone, including those who won.


9-11-01 brought us years of war and near financial bankruptcy because of our societies choice of which fork in the road to take 15 years ago. We were quite okay with war, then. Afghanistan Oct 7 2001001

Now, 11-8-16 presents its same fork in the road, but now it is among ourselves, in our own families and towns.

Everyone has to decide, which fork to take. There is no “on the other hand” in the coming days….

Here’s an old graphic from some workshop about 1972 that I always find useful for reflection at a time like this.
(click to enlarge)

Handout from a circa 1972 workshop.

Handout from a circa 1972 workshop.

* * * * *
# Just Above Sunset is a six-days per week digest on the national/international scene, free, is worth your subscription. Its compiler is a retired guy in Los Angeles. (his bio is at the blog). It just quietly comes to your mailbox, easy to access, or delete.)

Today, note the next nine people you see (you are the tenth).
Three of them voted for Donald Trump
Three of them voted for Hillary Clinton
Four of them did not vote at all.

In January 2016 the Republican Party controls the Presidency, the House of Representatives and the United States Senate. Who will they, and their supporters, blame?

From Audrey: Thank you Dick.

from Bob: My thoughts are simply this — “never discount the combination of anger and ignorance.”

from Bernie Sanders via Steve: NOTE: in my space, I tend to not insert comments from prominent people, like Bernie. At the same time, he was the messenger for a large number of progressives in the year preceding Hillary Clintons nomination.
Bernie Sanders: “Donald Trump tapped into the anger of a declining middle class that is sick and tired of establishment economics, establishment politics and the establishment media. People are tired of working longer hours for lower wages, of seeing decent paying jobs go to China and other low-wage countries, of billionaires not paying any federal income taxes and of not being able to afford a college education for their kids – all while the very rich become much richer.

To the degree that Mr. Trump is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families in this country, I and other progressives are prepared to work with him. To the degree that he pursues racist, sexist, xenophobic and anti-environment politics, we will vigorously oppose him.”

Dick, responding to Bernie’s comment via Steve: Personally, I’ve never had much confidence in always angry people, generally….

I am often motivated by anger, but I try to channel it into (I hope) constructive action. Too often I see people stuck in just being angry, but never doing anything constructive with it. There were plenty of these in Bernie’s camp. Of course, there’s also the poster child for destructive anger: the prisons are full of these, who take out their anger on someone else, with a gun, or whatever!

from Don: Thanks, Dick, for the excellent link to the “Sunset” article.

The wisdom and experience of people like you will guide us through the next few years, but it’s going to be tough.

You have my total support. We are, in fact, united together.

from Frank: Today I’m starting to feel a bit like our Native brothers must surely feel. We have a government that is supposed to be for the people, but functions for the bottom line of companies, and makes power something to be bought and sold. (Think oil pipe line) Common Good???? No such thing. We want the government out of our lives, and yet demand more aid for the military, the farmers, and every southern state that has a disaster.

We have socialism in a hundred ways, and yet the 3.2 beer joint philosophers don’t want to hear the term. They admire the bully, the Putin-type, that in their mind dictates the way, and takes no shit from anyone. They feel we can go back to an island mentality, and we don’t need the rest of the world. (Check anything with a plug-in to see this as fallacy) They will hate those with darker skins or a different heritage, and plot to destroy them on their way to their faux-Christian churches. They will talk about being pro-life and want the death penalty, and a halt to welfare. If you stand in the way of what they want, you will be destroyed. Ask any Native American.

This could be a very scary time in our history, but, am I currently disillusioned? Yup.

from Annelee, who grew up in Nazi Germany and was 7 years old when Hitler came to power in 1933. The other comment comes from a 19-year old who voted for the first time on Nov. 8.

Dick, here is a refreshing outlook of a young man I call my friend —I think he is nineteen, the first time he could vote.

I wish those protesters would go home. Hillary earned my respect with her concession speech. If her supporters would only listen to what she said. Or don’t they hear?

from her young friend, Jerry: Wow.. what a crazy election! I cannot believe the outcome of last night. I am neither sad or happy, but shocked. I am sort of excited to see what new changes will come when Mr. Trump gets into office. Who knows, maybe he will be the best president the United States has ever had. I am not a supporter of him, but I cannot dislike him right away, because he has done nothing to damage the country as of now. Maybe he will bring lots of good to the United States much like Hitler did in his early reign.

I cannot believe you have lived during the time of two very powerful leaders, Hitler and Trump, it is crazy to think that you have experienced both of them! You have seen a lot of powerful things in life, and have survived some of the hardest times, another reason why I look up to you with great respect. I may not agree with Mr. Trump on all issues, but I will never hate him. I learned from your books that it is not okay to hate anything or anyone, people may not agree or like the actions or beliefs of someone, but you said to never hate.

Hopefully the next 4 years will bring lots of good to America!

#1155 – Governor Wendell R. Anderson

Monday, August 15th, 2016

This afternoon, Monday Aug. 15, at 2 p.m., is the Memorial Service for “Wendy” Anderson at Mt. Olivet Lutheran Church, 5025 Knox Ave S. (50th and Knox) in south Minneapolis. His obituary can be read here.

Honor Guard at Mt. Olivet prior to the Memorial Service for Wendell Anderson.

Honor Guard at Mt. Olivet prior to the Memorial Service for Wendell Anderson.

I only met Gov. Anderson twice, both in 2008-09, the second at the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize Festival at Augsburg College (below).

(click to enlarge photos)

Governor Wendell Anderson, 2nd from right, and Lynn Elling, center, at Nobel Peace Prize Festival Augsburg College, March 5, 2009.  Photo by Melvin Giles

Governor Wendell Anderson, 2nd from right, and Lynn Elling, center, at Nobel Peace Prize Festival Augsburg College, March 5, 2009. Photo by Melvin Giles

Among all of his accomplishments, I consider the greatest to have been not only declaring the State of Minnesota to be a World Citizenship state in 1971, signed by a who’s who of Minnesota civic and political leaders, but to put the simple resolution into action, including a movie featuring singer John Denver and featuring many of those same leaders in 1972.

(There is not a word in the obituary about this accomplishment. It is as if it has been officially disappeared from the collective consciousness.)

You can view the Minnesota Declaration of World Citizenship below, and the 30 minute movie, Man’s Next Giant Leap (which includes Wendy Anderson, here.

Minnesota Declaration of World Citizenship March, 1971.   photo courtesy of Bonnie Fournier, Smooch Project

Minnesota Declaration of World Citizenship March, 1971. photo courtesy of Bonnie Fournier, Smooch Project

Coincidentally, later this week is an event. Diplomacy Begins Here, which directly relates to the Governor’s actions in the early 1970s. You can read about it here.

One can only wonder what might have happened had the 1971 Minnesota (and 1968 Minneapolis and Hennepin County) initiative for World Citizenship been kept alive, rather than relegated to the dust bin of Minnesota history….

March 5, 2009, Wendell Anderson, Lynn and Donna Ellingat the Nobel Peace Prize Festival at Augsburg Collete.

March 5, 2009, Wendell Anderson, Lynn and Donna Ellingat the Nobel Peace Prize Festival at Augsburg Collete.

Prof Richard Alley (see next para) and Ron Lattin, at right, visit with Gov. Anderson and Lynn Elling Mar 5, 2009

Prof Richard Alley (see next para) and Ron Lattin, at right, visit with Gov. Anderson and Lynn Elling Mar 5, 2009

Richard Alley(see above photo), of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, one of the co-recipients of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore, speaks to students at the Peace Prize Festival here.

Cover of Program for Memorial Service, August 15, 2016

Cover of Program for Memorial Service, August 15, 2016

Here is another Minnesota Governor, Elmer L. Andersen, speaking about the raising of the United Nations flag as a companion to Minnesota and U.S. flags at to-be Hennepin County Plaza on May 1, 1968. Elmer Andersen I Trust..001 Gov. Andersen considered this to be one of the most important speeches he ever delivered.

Directly related, here: The UN Flag, 1968-2012, at Hennepin County Govt Center Plaza. This also links to another extensive post at March 27, 2013.

#1154 – Dick Bernard: The Danger of Dog Whistle Politics.

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

Yesterday, Donald Trump made a statement about the Second Amendment and Hillary Clinton. Just Above Sunset summarizes reporting on the event here.

This morning my friend, Joyce, sent the link to a New York Times column by Thomas Friedman remembering the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin Nov. 4, 1995, and drawing parallels to the Trump comment. You can read that column here. Her note was succinct: “I had forgotten about the role Netanyahu played in the Rabin assassination” by a right-wing Israeli, Yigal Amir.

Here is my response to Joyce:
I have two memories.

Nov. 4, 1995, – it was a Saturday afternoon – I was heading to Mass at St. Peter Claver in St. Paul, and heard on Minnesota Public Radio that Rabin had just been assassinated (there is an eight hour time difference between St. Paul and Jerusalem). When I got to Church I went to the front and told the Pastor the news right before Mass began. He was shocked, of course, and made the announcement to those in the Church, none of whom had heard the same news. They, too, were shocked. It was unbelievable.

Two months later, I was with a group on a trip to Israel – a trip planned long before Nov. 4. When we got to Jerusalem, one of our first stops was at the still fresh grave of Rabin. I will never forget that visit.


I was thinking in the car this morning about the awful reality of statements like Trump made yesterday, however flip they seem to be or however they are spun, later.

We seem to yawn at them. They matter, a lot.

It doesn’t take a genius to know that there are people who will answer any dog whistle. Let’s say, there’s just one nutcase in a million who takes on his or her mission to rid the world of the evildoer*. In the United States, that would be 325 people (among our 325,000,000) who might be tempted to answer the call, and sacrifice themselves to take out Hillary Clinton.

About 6 of these are in Minnesota….

(The ratio would hold the same for ISIS call for their own idiot fringe to sacrifice themselves taking out infidels….)

This is not an abstract thing.


Of course, the Republican power structure, which has aided and abetted Trump’s behavior, and this year chose willingly to ride the wild horse which is the Trump base, are now running like rats jumping off a sinking ship. But even now they cannot shed their main basic anti-Clinton talking points about how Hillary is a “liar” and “corrupt”, while offering no proof whatsoever of any charge.

Of course, no proof for charges such as “liar” or “corrupt” are ever required. The charge alone is a great plenty.

The devil-dance now being witnessed would be humorous, were it not so tragic. Donald J. Trump and his followers was a deliberate creation…those who paved his path just thought they could control the end game, and they can’t.

(Unfortunately, even some of my left-wing friends fall for the same, on their own issues. I see their e-mails too. Their arguments are simply on different issues.)

Yesterday it was the Second Amendment enforcers; today and tomorrow it will be something else.

Caveat emptor, voters. Buyer beware.

* – Of course, my ratio is just a guesstimate. But I’m guessing I’m not far off. Whatever the more accurate number, as we know so very well, there are crazy people out and about who are obsessed about this or that. Give them an excuse, and access to a weapon and the target, and there is almost 100% assurance of trouble.

from Joe, August 10: Excellent essay. Thanks.

from Louise: Thanks, Dick. That is a powerful column by Thomas Friedman.

from Flo: Can I plagiarize your outsidethewalls? Just kidding, but it’s so tempting to get a letter like yours in our local paper!

from Jeff August 11: Lest we forget 5000 copies of this were passed out in Dallas in November 1963 in the days before JFK’s assassination:
The Warren report concluded Oswald had planned the assassination and there was no involvement from
The John Birchers responsible for the flyers. Still. Dangerous waters. Or as someone I was listening to on radio said, you have talking like this, emotional responses and the next thing you know you get “Pinochet”.

from SAK:Thanks for #1154 – I happen to have been thinking along the same lines. The problem of incitement is amplified by the internet & social media I suppose. Assassinations can change the course of history – usually for the worse – President Lincoln, President Kennedy, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Prime Minister Rabin . . .

You might be interested in this BBC programme on the US’ fourteenth amendment?

For what it’s worth, not much, I think Donald Trump is finished but I am not even sure the race will be solely between the 2 obvious candidates.

Dick August 11: This mornings Just Above Sunset continues yesterdays story here. I included my own comment at the end of the post, as follows: The Trump movement is and has always been dangerous. The only thing I muse about, however, is exactly how such a ‘revolution’ would look if it actually began? Who’d be the ‘General’? What I think would happen is, really, already happening: occasional unhinged psychopaths out and about to take down as many people as they can, in some obscure place: a bar in Orlando, a boulevard in Nice, Roseburg…. Trump has taken it to a new level with the implication that someone should take out the President, if it happens to be other than Trump. It is a scary time. Ironically, the world is basically safer at this moment than it has been in a very long time; while all of us feel terrorized, since we think we could be in the target for the next random act of terror. Yes, the Republicans did bring all of this upon themselves, and thus on all of us.

#1153 – Dick Bernard: The Minnesota Primary Election

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016

Today is Minnesota’s Primary election.

If Minnesota is your home state, and you’re an eligible voter, take the time to vote, and vote well informed, and pass the word.

The information you need is easily accessible: here.

Most places you’ll see that this is a “boring election”. There are few races.

But boring elections are the places where mischief can be made. Since few people vote, they are exploitable by stealth candidates.

There is a single statewide race in Minnesota, and that is for a Supreme Court Justice, one incumbent, two challengers. Supreme Court Justice, Natalie Hudson is incumbent.

More important info on the Supreme Court Race here: (from MinnPost).

(The more or less general rule I follow is that there is an incumbent, and that incumbent has escaped justifiable public criticism, as is usually the case for judges, the incumbent is probably the best choice, as he/she has been vetted for the position by peers in the legal profession, and his/her performance is closely watched. The judiciary should be as independent of partisan meddling as it is possible to be.)

Be wary of voting for someone you know nothing about. Ask somebody you trust for information. At least assess what they stand for.

See you at the polls.

Likely there will be no line!

Take the time today to make a list of every government official who is elected to represent you.

This is far longer than simply President of the United States.

And these Senators and Congressperson, and State Legislators and Constitutional officers and Mayors and Council persons and County Commissioners and Sheriffs and on and on and on are very important offices.

Make sure you know who they are, and how you can contact them. These days, all of them likely have an easily accessible internet presence, not to mention address and phone number….

We, the people ARE the government that we get, and thus deserve.

The next election is Tuesday, November 8. Get on the Court!

#1135 – Dick Bernard: A Christian, A Moslem and A Jew

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

This morning I was in line at my daily coffee place in Woodbury, Caribou at City Center.

The lady two persons ahead of me, in Hijab, was chuckling. “I’m cheating”, she said. She apparently had seen something in the pastry case…. (For the unaware, Muslims are about midway in the month of Ramadan).

Her gentle admission reminded me of an e-mail exchange yesterday.

My friend, Joyce, from Jewish roots in New York, had sent the e-mail, subject line: “Bacon & God’s Wrath” with a link to the New Yorker. Joyce’s message was brief: “Absolutely delightful; watch the video. I love this woman, especially when she talks about using “the google.” “

I didn’t connect with the video, initially. This is about 8 minutes, and it is as advertised, “delightful”.

The e-mail led to my response, as a lifelong still practicing Roman Catholic:

“So…payback…As you know, I’m Catholic.

Back in 1965 the rules for Catholics were no meat on Friday, and I was an observant Catholic.

My wife had died two months earlier, and I was broke, and on three consecutive Fridays, inadvertently, I’d eaten meat (Ex: I was invited to someones house and they had hot dish…what was I to do?)

So, being a good Catholic and feeling guilty I decided I had to go to confession, and did so in the church in [a nearby town] on the way to my second job.

I confessed, and the Priest “threw the book” at me – a larger than normal penance, in the Catholic way.

It was so out of the norm that I left the confessional and walked out the door and haven’t been to confession since….

There was another rule: when you went to Communion, it was believed that we were receiving the body and blood of Christ. So you had to Fast from midnight on, till after Communion in the morning. When you received Communion wafer, there was none of this chewing and swallowing. It was supposed to melt in your mouth, pretty literally. Eight or more hours is a long fast for a little kid, and my sister, Flo, quite often fainted. But the rules were the rules.

And so it went.

They still try the “no meat on Friday” during Lent some places, but nobody seems to care; and Confessional booths are used as broom closets and coat racks for the ushers and where the candles are kept. And there are no rules about fasting before Communion.

Still, I suppose, some purists complain about this.

I’m still a very active Catholic, but it has nothing to do with doctrine. I just like going to Mass….

Here’s to Bacon!”

Back to Caribou…my new Muslim acquaintance tarried a moment, and I shared a bit of my story. She said she was going to an all day workshop, and she excused herself from the fast. It was strictly common sense.

I know it’s Ramadan now, and I asked her when Ramadan concludes: This year, it is July 5.

Do watch the video. Have a great day “wherever you are at on your faith journey” (the every Sunday mantra at Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis – my Church).

#1119 – Dick Bernard: The Armenian Genocide, 1915-23

Sunday, April 3rd, 2016

(click to enlarge photos. This post includes two parts, with information from Lou Ann Matossian and Peter Balakian Updated May 9, 2016_

Illustration of Armenian Churches prior to the Armenian Genocide of 1915

Illustration of Armenian Churches prior to the Armenian Genocide of 1915

Whitestone Hill ND July, 2005

Whitestone Hill ND July, 2005

The internet brought an announcement of “A presentation and discussion led by Lou Ann Matossian on “Armenian Genocide Education and the Community.” I went to the presentation at the University of Minnesota last Wednesday evening, and learned a great deal about the delayed but active Minnesota response to the horrible Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Ottoman Turks during a year beginning in Spring 1915.

Here are some maps relating to the Armenian Genocide from the Genocide Museum in Armenia.

(click to enlarge)

Armenia, as represented in a 1912 public school geography text found at a North Dakota farm in 2015.

Armenia, as represented in a 1912 public school geography text found at a North Dakota farm in 2015.

Ms Matossian’s talk emphasized the relationship of the Armenians to Minnesota and the Congregational Church in particular. You can read, here, the results of extensive research she did of Minnesota newspaper coverage of the Genocide in 1915.

I didn’t know, till Ms Matossian’s talk, of the historical Christian and Minnesota connection with Armenia.

I’ve long been aware of the genocide, but it is like numerous issues: I didn’t give it close attention…Wednesday it came to life.

When I left the gathering, I found myself thinking not only about the Armenian Genocide but other atrocities, including America’s own shameful record with people we in the olden days generically termed as “Indians”: a successful genocide at least from the standpoint of we beneficiaries, the descendants of the ancestors who got the land and won all the rights and privileges, guilt free.

Back home after the session I took out a 1912 public school geography textbook I had found on my ancestral farm in south central North Dakota. Was there anything about Armenia?

You can see parts of two maps from that book, above and below, which say a great deal. No question that there was a place called Armenia, more a question about its status, then, as a distinct state.

The wikipedia entry about Armenia gave further help. From the article: “Armenia became the first state in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion. In between the late 3rd century to early years of the 4th century, the state became the first Christian nation. The official date of state adoption of Christianity is 301 AD”.

A good general reference about the Armenian Genocide may be this one

The website of the St. Sahag Armenian Ch. in St. Paul gives some basics of the genocide.


April 14, 2016, I attended a second most enlightening talk about the Armenian genocide, by Prof. Peter Balakian of Colgate University. (Subsequent to the session, I learned that Balakian won a 2016 Pulitzer Prize.)

The photo which leads this post, of Armenian Churches existing, later destroyed, at the time of the genocide is from Balakian’s presentation.

Some comments which supplement Dr. Matossian’s:

Polish Jewish lawyer Raphael Lemkin in Totally Unofficial defined the word genocide based on what happened in Christian Armenia, then part of the Ottoman Empire.

Hitler used societies tendency to historical amnesia about the Armenian genocide to at least partially justify what he felt was the political low risk of eliminating the Jews: “after all, who today remembers the extermination of the Armenians.”

Balakian divided genocide into two general categories: “Barbarism” is the killing of people; “Vandalism” is the destruction of an entire culture, things like differing religious beliefs, churches, art and the like.

He further differentiated between destruction of cultures in the times of territorial expansion, more or less before 1900, and what he called the “modern modality”. I could see his point; however, indiscriminate destruction of some “other” is destruction nonetheless, regardless of rationale.

I found myself thinking about the possibility that the internet in particular has created a new, equally evil, post-modern modality. In this modern day, we don’t kill people physically, we assassinate them, particularly leaders at times of elections, such as the period we are now in. This is an enhanced form of “cyber-bullying”. “Truth” in this post-modern modality is completely irrelevant. The target lives, physically, but is nonetheless the motive is to destroy the target.

I had come into Prof. Balakian’s session early, and even preceding me, in the back row, were seated two women who very much fit the appearance of Muslims. They sat there quietly. The room filled, and I heard one man, in some apparent official capacity, come past me right before the event started and say: “I think I see trouble in the back row”. (It is hardly a risk to infer that he was referring to the women I reference.)

When I left, the two women were still there. There had been no incidents of any kind. But I did notice.

There exists, I think, a great opportunity for dialogue. I wish those two women, and that man, and others, could come together, just to talk.


Wherever there are people, there are opportunities for genocide in the hands of evil. Rwanda and Darfur are but two examples in recent history. But we need look no further than some of the present political rhetoric of U.S. Presidential politics where deliberate ginning up of hatred for others who are somehow different is effective. We have to be constantly vigilant and outspoken within our own circles in American society. The spectre of evil is always there.

The essential conversation continues: for more about Armenian Genocide, see April 14th program announcement here, the website of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies.


How bad was the Armenian Genocide?

I always try to put events in some sort of context, to try to better understand what led to/results from such events.

Of course, a post like this hardly is a pin-prick on a piece of paper about our awful history as supposedly civilized people.

“Our”, here, largely means those descended from European colonizers.

See this data set about the bitter fruits of people against people, generally, in the last 150 years.

The 150 years between 1860 and 2010 seem to be the deadliest era in human caused death and destruction from war. The Armenian genocide comes at about mid-point in this deadly era. It is one of many tragedies.

In the case of Armenia and the Ottoman Turks, the ancient and deadly Christian Crusades to control the Holy Land may well serve as a prelude – I’ve heard it argued that the Crusades essentially “birthed” the Ottoman Turks*.

The arbitrary carving up of the Middle East as spoils to the European victors in WWI is a postlude, which very significantly contributes to the chaos in the Middle East up to the present day (ISIS and the now global “war on terror”).

Scroll down in the above referenced data set to the “1.5” in the left hand column. You’ll find reference to the estimated 1.5 million Armenian deaths between 1915 and 1923, the “First Genocide of the 20th Century committed by the Ottoman Government on Armenian Civilians.” Scroll down a bit further, to .75 (750,000) Greek deaths in the same time period for the same reason, and .275 (275,000) Assyrian deaths in Mesopotamia (now the general area of Iraq and Syria – places like Mosul, now ISIS territory.)

And there is more perspective in the chart: scroll up to the second entry in Genocides, and there is the estimate of 55 million deaths of native people in the Americas due to conquest and colonization between 1492 and 1691. As is noted there, there are wildly disparate estimates of the actual death toll then, 8.4 to 138 million, the actual number “which might actually never be determined”.

This genocide came at the hands of my people, white Europeans, in all the assorted ways we have heard from one time to another, the history slanted towards the winners, of course.


About 35 miles from that south central ND farm in which I found the old geography book with the maps shown here, is the Whitestone Hill Battlefield at which a large number of peaceful Indians on their annual buffalo hunt were massacred by American military in 1863. Twenty soldiers died; it is impossible to find a definitive number from among the several thousand Indians who were there*. The official story is vague.

I have visited that site often (two photos above and below), and today, as always since the early 1900s, the visible monument there is to the soldiers who died, with scarce evidence of a much later, very simple unadorned stone monument to the Indians who were on their annual buffalo hunt, killed in the deadly skirmish.

I mention this fact as Ms Matossian noted that today there are no apparent monuments in Turkey to the victims of the Armenian Genocide.

Minnesota Gov. Alexander Ramsey, in 1862 officially called for either moving out or exterminating the Sioux Indians from Minnesota – a statement repudiated by Ramsey’s successor, Gov. Mark Dayton, in 2013. It is common to dehumanize the adversary. In such situations, this scenario is common.

One of my first Minnesota relatives, Samuel Collette, was part of Henry Hastings Sibley’s Minnesota unit in the 1863 war, reaching what was to become Bismarck ND in August 1863, “mission accomplished”. Their unit wasn’t at Whitestone Hill but that was only an accident of history. Nebraska and Iowa were at Whitestone.


If I am correct, that 1860-2010 was a particularly gruesome “round” of people destroying other people; can I hope that the next 150 years, from 2010-2160, can be, truly, a time of awakening that we are all family, together, on an ever more fragile earth.

We all need each other.

Portion of N. Africa and Middle East region, 1912 Geography Textbook

Portion of N. Africa and Middle East region, 1912 Geography Textbook

Whitestone ND Monument July 2005

Whitestone ND Monument July 2005

* – The “elephant in the room” in much of global history is the unholy alliance of organized religion and temporal power. There is plenty of blame to go around. A winner in one round becomes the loser in another, and on we go.

** – A well researched article about the battle from the North Dakota Historical Society is “The Battle of Whitestone Hill“, by Clair Jacobson, North Dakota History Journal of the Northern Plains, Vol 44, No. 3 Summer, 1977.

from Larry:
Thanks, Dick – excellent, informative article. I particularly saved this line: The “elephant in the room” in much of global history is the unholy alliance of organized religion and temporal power. That is SO true!

from David: Nice piece. There are so many important events in history that we have, at best, a dim memory of hearing about them.

from Flo: I remember praying rosaries for the starving Armenians, and being reminded of their plight when we fussed over the food served us at home [1950s]. I don’t remember any conversations about just who the Armenians were or why they needed our prayers. Do you?

from Bill: Great article, Dick. There was a secretary at 3M that was the daughter of a survivor of the Armenian genocide. The world has never been able to get the Turks to acknowledge their role in this genocide.The USA has stopped doing so since we depend on our military bases in Turkey. I did read once that the Turks hated the Armenians for siding with Russia when Russia was attacking Turkey some years before World War I.

I enjoy international topics, and often write my own impressions on international happenings.
Jan. 1, 2015, I posted a blog about the 70th anniversary of the United Nations here.. Much to my surprise, by the end of 2015 I had posted 55 commentaries about international issues. They are all linked at the post.

International related posts at this space since Jan. 1, 2016:
1. Jan. 22, 2016: Global Climate Issue
2. Feb. 14, 2016: Lynn Elling, Warrior for Peace
3. Feb. 29, 2016: The 3rd (12th) anniversary of the Haiti coup, Feb. 29, 2004.
4. Mar. 4, 2016: Green Card Voices
5. Mar. 6, 2016: Welcoming Refugees
6. Mar. 12, 2016: Canada PM Justin Trudeau visits the White House
7. Mar. 20, 2016. The 13th anniversary of the Iraq War.
8. Mar. 22, 2016 The Two Wolves…President Obama Visits Cuba
9. Mar. 23, 2016 The Two Wolves, Deux. Brussels