Links browsing by category


Republicans on Fire

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

You might wish to read this summary of the freshly minted “Tax Reform” bill.

My summary:
1) The rich get much, much richer, permanently, by Law. Most especially, the great populist, Donald Trump and his family, make out like bandits.
2) The rest of us seem to get a little richer in 2018, but that is temporary, by Law.
3) About the time my kids begin to reach retirement age, they’ll learn the truth of what is now being done to their future.
Any young person (below retirement age) had best pay a great deal of attention to what was just signed into federal law.
Who makes the rules makes a great deal of difference.

Picture an eagle flying with only a single wing, or with simply a head…. photo by Dick Bernard, October, 2008, at dedication of gift by Mary Lou Nelson at Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

December 21, 2017: And “After the Victory”, here.

from Fred: I agree with your summary of the GOP tax legislation but, unless your offspring will be retiring within a year two, I fear they will encounter some its side affects soon.

from Carol: Premiums for the most popular health insurance on the individual market exchanges are estimated to rise 34 percent on average next year, according to the consulting firm Avalere Health, because of previous sabotage done by the Trump administration. Premiums in Iowa would be up 69 percent, Wyoming 65 percent and Utah 64 percent.

Employer-based health insurance costs are forecast to rise in 2018 by the most since 2011, at 4.3 percent, according to the human resources consulting firm Mercer, and overall medical costs will be up 6.5 percent, the first increase in the rate in three years, according to the consulting firm PwC. Assuming those increases are passed along to workers, they would eat up half of the $910 tax cut received next year by households with income between $55,000 and $93,000 and all of the tax cut received by households earning $27,000 to $54,000.

“we would hire more people if we saw growing demand for our products and services. We would raise salaries if that is what it took to hire and retain great people. But if we had a tax cut that led to higher profits absent those factors, we would ‘pocket it’ for our investors” (source)

Tax “Reform”; Robert Mueller

Monday, December 18th, 2017

Today is one week to Christmas Day. Who wants (or has time) to be bothered with taxes and criminal investigations?

Read “Gifting America” if you wish. I recommend your taking the time. Then decide what you are going to do…and when…or if….

It’s “Christmas future” we’ll all be facing, possibly about to be snuck in the back door.

Picture an eagle flying with only a single wing, or with simply a head…. photo by Dick Bernard, October, 2008, at dedication of gift by Mary Lou Nelson at Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

The Reformation at 500 Years

Tuesday, October 31st, 2017

500 years ago today, Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church door at his home church in Germany. It basically was the beginning of the end of the First Reich (which most know as “the Holy Roman Empire).

Saturday night we were privileged to be among over 1,000 people at Basilica of St. Mary for truly unique event. My “thank you” to Basilica of St. Mary and St. Olaf College: “The program Saturday night was magnificent, I would say, perfect in every way.” Saturday evening seemed to be more than just another program….

Basilica of St. Mary was filled for the concert featuring the famed St. Olaf Choir, and our similarly outstanding Basilica of St. Mary Choir. Here is the entire 1 1/2 hour program: My Soul Cries Out001

The program was free (with donations freely accepted mid-concert!); doors opened at 7:30 for the 8:00 performance. This gave time for a couple of snapshots:

(click to enlarge all photos, double click for more.)

Waiting for the doors to open Oct. 28, 2017

Waiting patiently.

Should anyone wonder: yes, we were orderly, and friendly, and patient, and the doors opened almost precisely on time at 7:30, and we walked in orderly fashion to our seats. Maybe I could ask you to pick out the Catholics and the Lutherans from amongst the group, but I am sure that there were far more than just those.


For myself, a lifelong Catholic whose growing up was in the not-so-good old days of the 1940s and 50s, and participating in the pews of my home church, the evening was an emotional event.

In my recollection, the splendid St. Olaf choir processed down the center aisle to the sanctuary area, and the Basilica choir began the concert in the choir loft high above the church. I’m not sure how the entrance was stage-managed, but I couldn’t help but muse that the entrance wasn’t one of triumph, or conquest, or capitulation. It was, rather, a profound showing of respect for everyone, by everyone.

Photos for a snapshot guy like me were all but impossible. Here is one where, if you look carefully, you can see some St. Olaf choristers in their purple robes, and some Basilica choir members in their off-white. Just click a second time.

October 28, 2017, Basilica of St. Mary.

Most of us in the church were at least generally aware of the hundreds of years of history which preceded this signal event, one of many in this 500th year of reflection on Protest-ant, and the 50th year after official dialogue began between Catholics and Lutherans.

Here’s a Lutheran explanation of the last 50 years.

Here’s a commentary by Dr. Johan van Parys in the Basilica magazine: van Parys spring 2017002

Here is a good reference point for the Lund Sweden reflections referenced in the program.


Of course, the Popes of the Catholic Church have not always been “saintly” in any sense of that term. Pope Leo X was Pontiff 1513-21. Luther had his own failings. We are all human beings, after all.


The concert got to thinking back to my own history as a Catholic, growing up in tiny rural towns in North Dakota. Pope Pius XII died in Oct. 1958 when I was a freshman in college; and Pope John XXIII (Saint John XXIII) was his successor and enabled the opening of the windows of the Catholic Church, ecumenism and renewing relationships with other denominations.

I grew up in the old days of separation and division, and entered college not knowing that I was entering a new era.

Back at home, Sunday, I decided to take a look at my old college annuals, and there in the 1961 annual was this page, including a surprising face: Interreligious Coun 1961001.

I remember five of those in the photo from 1960 or 1961. Our most important act, which had to be facilitated by elders of all denominations at the time, was the very fact that we met at all, and that we were recognized as a group.

Inter-Religious Council Valley City State Teachers College 1960-61


It would seem to me, as an individual, that the best we can expect in our pluralistic country, is that we respect each others beliefs, whatever those beliefs happen to be. We’ve come a long ways. We have a long ways to go.

What Luther did back in 1517 needed doing.

The debate will always continue, but perhaps we are making a serious effort to change.

POSTNOTE: 3:45 p.m. Oct 31.
The spiritual dimension of life has always been important to me, much more so than the orthodox definitions of particular beliefs (which vary greatly, as we all know.)

What intrigues me is the interrelationship between temporal power, and the will of the people.

People perceived to be in power are the ones who make the rules; who enable, or disable initiatives for change.

When I rediscovered on Sunday the committee I had been part of in college, it was something of a revelation to me. I had forgotten any involvement in such an “inter-religious” venture, which would not have happened two years earlier.

In this particular instance, Pope John XXIII was effectively the moving party, encouraging taking a new look at ancient practices, including relations between different Christian denominations. This in turn enabled others at other levels to begin informal dialogues, and not just Catholic. In my small example, some committee at the college had to authorize the organization and the faculty member advisor, and the local ministers also needed to be at least somewhat interested in the dialogue. Absent such leadership, we certainly wouldn’t have been memorialized by a page in the college yearbook!

Of course, direct action by the people themselves is also a possibility, but as we all know who functions as leader, at even local levels, makes a lot of difference.

People have a lot of power, and must exercise it in their selection of leaders.

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


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.

* * * * *

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.

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.

The International Criminal Court

Saturday, September 23rd, 2017

Wednesday was the International Day of Peace, set by the United Nations as a permanent day to highlight the cause of peace in our world.

Thursday evening I was privileged to be able to hear about the International Criminal Court (ICC) from two representatives from the Twin Cities NGO, World Without Genocide. Your time will be well spent at their website. It was a very powerful evening.

(click to enlarge)

Sarah L. S. Erickson, J.D., Benjamin Ferencz Fellow in Human Rights and Law; and Dr. Ellen J. Kennedy, Executive Director of World Without Genocide, September 21, 2017

Below are links provided by World Without Genocide which give much information about the ICC. One of the major problems in coming to understand this court is that the United States is one of countries who have not joined.

Slide at presentation Sep. 21, 2017

These days it is easy for me to drift into “hopeless” mode…and I am not one inclined to pessimism.

In the discussion period I asked the presenters a question, based on my own career experience in negotiations. In essence: at the start, presumably there is a zero point where there was no sense that there would ever be such a thing as an International Criminal Court. There is also a point where there may be seen, however dimly, a point where the ideal of justice through a world of law prevails.

I asked, along that continuum, where are we at this moment in history?

Neither would present a number (such as “20”….) but Dr. Kennedy observed that there has definitely been significant progress, and suggested positive momentum as well. The very existence of an International Criminal Court with 124 subscribing member countries (among about 193 members of the UN) is strong evidence. One of her main points was her suggestion that there are, today, a great number of activists for human rights everywhere in the world. There are several thousand NGOs with consultative status at the United Nations, most whose focus in some way is on some aspect of human rights. There is, in essence, a strong and public infrastructure in visible support of justice and peace.

By consciously inserting historical perspective, by no means is all hopeless.

Take some time to look at the resources below, and get involved. Join the mailing list of World Without Genocide, or some other organization.

For those with an interest, there is abundant information available about ICC. Among the sources, as provided by World Without Genocide:

American NGO Coalition for the ICC
International Criminal Court- Cour Penale Internationale
Ben Ferencz’s website
International NGO Coalition for the ICC
Print and electronic resources – University of Chicago

Ben Ferencz, now 97 years of age, is a particularly significant figure. By circumstance, his very first case as a young lawyer was to successfully try and convict 22 SS (Einsatzgruppen) perpetrators who were responsible for killing over 1,000,000 people in WWII. That is why I hi-lite his website, above. His book, PlanetHood, with Ken Keyes, Jr., remains one of the standards for persons with a passion for peace, and easily available through his website.

A gift, April, 2003. The book is still easily available, only with a different cover.

And upcoming in less than a month, at the same Third Thursday, will be a presentation by another such group, the Advocates for Human Rights on Thu Oct 19, 2017 at Plymouth Congregational Church, Minneapolis, sponsored by Citizens for Global Solutions MN.

My question on Thursday evening, referred to above, stimulated further thought, and today (Sep 25) Dr. Ellen Kennedy sent a supplement today, as follows:

“A few more points of optimism:

-The UN has an office on genocide prevention.

-The US State Dept. has – who knows what, as of today, but something akin to that.

-There are BA, MA, and PhD degrees in human rights and in holocaust and genocide education throughout the US.

-Similarly, there are now BA, MA, and PhD degrees in social entrepreneurship, the academic discipline where civil society is studied and promoted.

-The Association of Holocaust Organizations has a membership of more than 900 organizations worldwide, most of which sponsor programs, outreach, and opportunities for broad civic education and engagement.

-There is significant production of scholarship, memoirs, films, exhibits, etc. in the field of genocide history.

-There are memorials to most of the genocides of the 20th century in key locations around the world.

-Universal jurisdiction has been used to prosecute some of the world’s worst perpetrators.

-Laws have changed to make sexual violence a crime against humanity and rape a crime of genocide.

-Most law schools have courses in human rights and humanitarian law.

and more.”

Health Care For Some: Our Contemporary Vietnam

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

We’re in a mad race to another precipice, and once again, “politics”, which is “we, the people”, will be the likely driver.

There is a desperate need to finally kill President Obama’s signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act of 2010. (Sorry: “OBAMACARE”, said with a sneer.) There is no reason, other than repeating a mantra now seven years old, to “repeal obamacare”. The current version apparently will not even be scored by the Congressional Budget Office – it is too rushed. We have to do it NOW.

Long-time Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley probably said it best, very recently: “You know, I could maybe give you ten reasons why this bill shouldn’t be considered,” Grassley told Iowa reporters on a call, according to the Des Moines Register. “But Republicans campaign on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign.” “That’s pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill,” he added. (You can read all of this in a paragraph maybe two-thirds of the way down, here. Read the rest, too.)

This action is much like the latest hurricanes to devastate the Atlantic, only the victims will be in every hamlet in every county in every state and there will be no disaster relief. Many of the victims will be the same people who in large numbers seem to hate “obamacare” because they were told by people with a motive that it, or Obama, was bad.

The beneficiaries of this will be the already filthy rich, who will ultimately get huge tax cuts which they do not need (or in many cases do not even want).


Politics was similar in the disastrous Vietnam War, too. All along, the leaders knew they were in a losing situation in Vietnam, but the eye always had to be on the next election, and to be against the war was made to be politically dangerous, and over 58,000 were sacrificed in a war that in one sense, one time, or another could be called “the French war”, Truman’s war, Eisenhower’s war, Kennedy’s war, Johnson’s war, Nixon’s war (and which, in Vietnam, is called the “American war”).

Vietnam was our war – the people’s war – period.


Last night I watched the 4th segment of Vietnam – 1964-67.

I have often said, including here, that the 1960s were a lost decade to me. Being up on the news and well versed on current events was a luxury for me after I got out of the Army in 1963. (That story is here.)

For certain, this wasn’t intended. I couldn’t have anticipated that my new wife, just 20 years old, would have to resign from her job one month after I got out of the Army in 1963 because she was, it turned out, terminally ill with kidney disease that would kill her two years later, leaving me with a year old son and immense medical debts.

The rest of the 1960s I was most concerned about getting my bearings, personally. There were angels: as Marion and Louis Smart, Amelia “Bitsy” Polman, Sue and Dave Irber and others.

But, personally, I walked, in the shoes of those whose daily struggle was not navigating the insurance market. Survival was my daily work.


“We, the people” need to wise up. WE are the government, and an effective and functioning government is necessary – essential – to the common good. WE must be the ones who act to help those who are least able to help themselves. In this obscenely wealthy nation, no one should have to worry about being fully insured for their health.

Some day, if my kids are lucky, I’ll die with a little bit left over which they can inherit.

They can rest assured, however, that if some of their cohort have greater needs than others, that our little stash of money can easily disappear as we try to help those who cannot help themselves, including their own families.


I remember a conversation on a street corner in Cebu City, Philippines, in the summer of 1994.

I was with a wealthy man whose wife was a school friend of my cousin Julie. We were staying at their house, as fancy as any you would find anywhere in the states.

This particular moment we were standing at that street corner, and diagonally across was a hospital.

I don’t know how the conversation came up, but the man said: “here in the Philippines, if you have the money you can get as good medical care as anywhere in the world”, including going to the U.S. or Japan. “If you can’t, you die.” I remember the almost matter-of-fact tone….

It was about as succinct and accurate description of where we seem to want to head in the United States: if you can’t afford it, it’s your problem.

It is OUR problem, folks.

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.