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#946 – Dick Bernard: Financing Elections. Transparency vs the Gutless Wonders of Dark Money

Thursday, October 23rd, 2014

Last Fall I volunteered to become Treasurer for my local state legislators re-election campaign. This was a voluntary decision. Rep. JoAnn Ward is a stellar representative, taking her duty to represent all very seriously. I felt helping a little was the least I could do.

But the experience has not been without stumbles. Succinctly, I was to Campaign Treasurer, as a 1920s kid was to learning all the intricacies of the Model A Ford.

Even today I am not a full-service Treasurer. I am too old a dog to learn all of the requisite new tricks required in the technological age!

But by now, I’m fairly comfortable with the process and to a certain degree the technology I’m required to use.

One of the many things I’ve learned is that Minnesota Election Law mandates transparency.

If you donate, you’re known by the name on your contribution. You become an “entity”: your name and address on file within the state reporting system.

There is only a single exception that I know of: donations of $20 and below can be received as “anonymous”, and the Campaign Finance Board computer won’t kick them back. So it was that on Monday I had to enter the contents of several plain envelopes, with no markings, each including cash up to $20. (Such donations are infrequent, I’ve found.) People apparently know the rules. If somebody “anonymously” put a $50 bill in a plain envelope, how could I possibly return it? Nothing like that has happened, and probably won’t.

Similarly, if a contribution is $200 or more, the system demands to know the persons employer or work (“retired”, “homemaker” and such qualify as descriptors). Registered Lobbyists must reveal themselves and there are strict limits on how much lobbying money can be accepted by candidates.

In short, the system is pretty tight, and pretty fair: you enter the process and you are a known person.

So, “the Gutless Wonders of Dark Money”?

This morning the Al Franken campaign (U.S. Senator, Minnesota) sent the latest fund-raising appeal, beginning: “One “dark money” group, Hometown Freedom Action Network, just launched the largest attack against me yet — backed by $331,OOO in online ads.”

U.S. Senate is under Federal Campaign rules, and here comes the “wild west” of “freedom of speech” and playing games with Federal Law.

I looked up the dark money group, and two interesting sites are here and here. Both sites speak for themselves.

Hometown Freedom’s site does have a contact tab, but unless I’m missing something obvious, it is impossible to know anything about the group, who’s in it, where it’s located, etc.

It appears to be Minnesota based, and it is mostly out to take down Sen. Franken through television ads, which will be ubiquitous for the last couple of weeks of the campaign.

Of course, I don’t know the “facts”, because I’m not supposed to know the facts, but from all appearances it would be a tight coalition of likely wealthy Minnesotans who have pooled their resources to finance anti-Franken attack ads.

They don’t want anyone to know who they are.

(The second site,, is helpful in identifying who Hometown Freedom’s money goes to help, or hurt….

At least for this time in history, “dark money” is a major player in Federal elections.

There’s time to continue talking about transparency after this election is over. Till then, if you watch the ads at all, look for the disclaimer which they are all required to carry. Most likely, as with Hometown Freedom, it will say, essentially, nothing.

I’ll give Sen. Franken the last word, again from his solicitation: “The term “dark money” sort of brings to mind the picture of a billionaire, sneering behind a desk in a creepy mansion, wringing his or her hands menacingly while funneling money into anonymous attacks against me…There’s no telling how much these dark money groups can squeeze out of their deep-pocketed backers to attack us with.”

I don’t think he’s far off in his analysis.

#928 – Dick Bernard: Greg H on Ferguson MO

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Parting Thoughts as I leave this topic:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#913 – Dick Bernard: Politics, Money and Media

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Ain’t nothing fancy, that’s for sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 12th, 2014

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

(click to enlarge)

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

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

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

I arrive at both ends, tired.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are endless stories.

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

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

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

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

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

A common sense suggestion: ignore the certain propaganda.

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

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

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

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

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

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Garrison Keillor July 4, 2014

Garrison Keillor July 4, 2014

Keillor fans July 4, 2014

Keillor fans July 4, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for the memories.

#909 – Dick Bernard: Garrison Keillor and Prairie Home Companion at 40.

Thursday, July 3rd, 2014

UPDATE July 5, here.

There are big doings at Macalester College in St. Paul this weekend, celebrating 40 years of Garrison Keillor and Prairie Home Companion (PHC).

The St. Paul Pioneer Press (last Sunday) and Minneapolis Star Tribune (yesterday) had long articles about the anniversary. You can read them here and here.

Thanks to my friends, Laura and Don, I learned about and first attended Prairie Home Companion in the fall of 1977, probably at Macalester, though I’m not positive of that. That program and all others had a standard formula in those early years. Those were the years when you could walk in off the street and find plenty of good enough seating. Nothing fancy, but plenty good enough.

A year or two later our teacher’s association in Anoka-Hennepin School District hired the Powder Milk Biscuit Band, more or less the house band for PHC, to do a dance in Anoka. I wish I had photos.

It was a very fun evening.

In late April, 1979, I had gone to St. John’s University for the then-annual Swayed Pines Festival (ditto, thanks to Laura and Don). By then I knew what Garrison Keillor looked like, and a la Paparazzi, I got a candid photo of this long, lanky, bearded fellow walking quickly across the street.

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Garrison Keillor, late April, 1979, at St. John's University, Collegeville MN, Swayed Pines Festival.

Garrison Keillor, late April, 1979, at St. John’s University, Collegeville MN, Swayed Pines Festival.

There was nothing particularly impressive about this tall drink of water with too short pants. But Garrison Keillor was in the process of making his mark, and I’m proud I could witness some parts of it, going quite frequently to PHC until national exposure made it difficult to impossible to get tickets.

My Keillor file has lot of paper in it, including two wonderful articles he wrote about hockey when he edited the literary magazine at the University of Minnesota in 1965. Some of his books are in my shelves. For me, Garrison Keillor has been an easy guy to like. I’m glad I “met” him through his show.

In April, 1986, I was in the audience when country music legend Chet Atkins was guest at the then dowdy World Theatre. It was a thrilling evening. I saw two or three of the annual Joke shows, and on one memorable occasion the assigned seat was on the stage, behind the performing cast.

Yes, we knew the formula, but every appearance was a surprise. Sometime in 1982-83, I heard that Garrison would be at the University of Minnesota Law School. He had all of us mesmerized with his story about some otherwise mundane event in the lives of the people of Lake Wobegon. The memories go on and on….

I think the events at Macalester this weekend will be awesome and memorable. Hopefully I can witness some of the free ones; PHC itself, always Saturday night, has long been sold out. Listen in on your local National Public Radio station. Wander over yourself, if you happen to be in the area, but take the bus – there are free tickets (see link at beginning of this post.)

I note that I did another column about Garrison in 2011. Here it is.

Here’s my most recent photo of Garrison Keillor.

Garrison Keillor and friends, July 16, 2012, Lake Elmo MN

Garrison Keillor and friends, July 16, 2012, Lake Elmo MN

COMMENTS: (see also response to this post)
from Norm N:
Thanks for the Garrison piece. One of my favorites that I just had to search out and have the words was
his Class Warfare song.

from Mary M: I recently met a lawyer from New Zealand who was a real fan of Garrison Keillor and Prairie Home companion – always impressed with these small world scenarios.

from Laura S: Oh, thank you, Dick! Such fond memories…and I still listen to Garrison’s radio program!

Some photos after three hours at the Macalester Festival, Friday morning/early afternoon at Macalester. These were three of the nine available sessions I could have attended.

(click to enlarge photos)

from left: Fred Newman (sound effects man); Tim Russell. voice impersonator; Sue Scott, and Garrison Keillor did a full hour show featuring characters from Prairie Home Companion.

from left: Fred Newman (sound effects man); Tim Russell. voice impersonator; Sue Scott, and Garrison Keillor did a full hour show featuring characters from Prairie Home Companion.

in background, at right, Dan Chouinard expertly provided the stage music (or whatever the background music for performers is called!)

in background, at right, Dan Chouinard expertly provided the stage music (or whatever the background music for performers is called!)

Young girl was one of many youngsters entranced by Fred Newmans ability to make odd sounds, and make them sound real.

Young girl was one of many youngsters entranced by Fred Newmans ability to make odd sounds, and make them sound real.

Dan Chouinard and Prudence Johnson gave a great program.  Dan was also the background music for Keillor and the Royal Academy of Radio Actors (above).

Dan Chouinard and Prudence Johnson gave a great program. Dan was also the background music for Keillor and the Royal Academy of Radio Actors (above).

Maria Jette and Dan Chouinard, like the others, gave a fabulous program

Maria Jette and Dan Chouinard, like the others, gave a fabulous program

#902 – Dick Bernard: The Summer Solstice, Reflecting on Global War and Peace.

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

“Outtakes” after the photos. Check back in two or three days for additions at that space, and comments.

Today is the Summer Solstice. On June 7, between meetings, I drove over to the Lock and Dam by Minneapolis’ Stone Arch Bridge, and a group of people were rehearsing a dance (see photo). Turned out, they were rehearsing for a free program this evening at the Stone Arch Bridge. Here’s details.

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Rehearsing at Minneapolis Lock and Dam Parking Lot June 7, 2014.

Rehearsing at Minneapolis Lock and Dam Parking Lot June 7, 2014.

During 24 hours time period on June 19 and 20, I had the opportunity to both witness and participate in three activities about matters of Global War and Peace. My role was more than ordinary, standing in for Drs. Joe Schwartzberg and Gail Hughes at the Annual meeting of Citizens for Global Solutions, Minnesota, on June 19; and as one of the three panelists about the current Iraq-Syria crisis on Lydia Howell’s one hour Catalyst program on Minneapolis’ KFAI radio on Friday Morning, June 20.

Then, in the afternoon, I dropped by a Community Peace Celebration in the Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul MN.

The entire radio program is accessible here. It was a stimulating and interesting hour, and the comments of myself, Sarah Martin of Women Against Military Madness, David Logsdon of Veterans for Peace and Lydia Howell speak for themselves. We covered a lot of ground in the one hour available. Of course, each of us left with assorted “soundbites” left unsaid (I’ll add some of these at the end of this post.)

(KFAI, to those not familiar, is a local radio station with a 35 years history which began as a 25-watt neighborhood station in the belfry of the old Walker Methodist Church in South Minneapolis. It is now live-streamed anywhere internet access is available. A look at its programming schedule reveals a most interesting selection not available on most “mainstream” stations. By near-happenstance, I was an on-air guest on KFAI program “Me and the Other” in October, 1982. This program continues as “Bonjour Minnesota” to this day.)

The radio program was about the beating of the war drums, yet again, by certain elements in the United States. As you will gather, if you listen to the conversation, there is difference of opinion about what all of this means. Even peaceniks (I am one, as were all of the others) have differing perspectives.

June 19, at the Citizens for Global Solutions meeting, I had the privilege of introducing colleague, Dr. Bharat Parekh, who took the Millenium Development Goals seriously, and after 9 years of effort is beginning to see significant success in a project to alleviate child malnutrition in, first, the Mumbai (Bombay) portion of his native India.

Dr. Parekh, June 19, 2014

Dr. Parekh, June 19, 2014

A summarized version of Dr. Parekh’s talk will be subject of a later blog at this space.

Succinctly, it takes lots of slogging along to achieve success, even small success, and Dr. Parekh’s determination is beginning to pay off. In my introduction I pointed out two quotations which begin and end the home page of Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world Indeed it is the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead. And, We must be the change we wish to see in the world. Gandhi

Finally, Friday afternoon I dropped by at the beginning of the 18th Annual Community Peace Celebration gathering on the Grounds of Ober Community Center, in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood. I was there early, and could stay only a short time, but already in evidence were the three Fs of a successful gathering: Food, Fun, Family. My friend, Melvin Giles, is one of the unsung community leaders who put on this successful event. This is yet another example of the truth of the Margaret Mead and Gandhi quotes recited above.

The final photos are all from the St. Paul event.

As Melvin always says: “May Peace Prevail on Earth”.

He and legions of others like him will get it done, one step at a time.

At the Peace Celebration June 20:

Neighborhood musicians June 20, 2014

Neighborhood musicians June 20, 2014

Peace Pole

Peace Pole

among the tables, some items for home gardens.

among the tables, some items for home gardens.

Peace Bell maker and artist at Veterans for Peace table

Peace Bell maker and artist at Veterans for Peace table

Message from Dwight Eisenhower on Peace

Message from Dwight Eisenhower on Peace

“OUTTAKES” from the Radio Hour:
Dick: Four of us had perhaps 40 minutes to share our thoughts. Here is one of my own, too complex to share in the brief time allotted. (The other panelists are asked for their opinion too.)

The current Iraq/Syria conflict seems to be a Religious Civil War, in some respects like our own Civil War 1861-65. I don’t recall ever reading that there was outside (i.e. English, et al) intervention on either side in that war. It was an internal matter to the United States of America.

Some statistics largely gleaned from the 2007 World Almanac and Book of Facts, and other sources.
I invite challenge on any of these numbers, as I am quoting from seemingly reasonable sources, but have inadequate context in some cases about what the numbers include, and thus what they mean.

The U.S. Civil War, 1861-65, including statistics for both “sides”:
31.4 Million Population of U.S. in 1860
2.2 Million Troops in the War
215 thousand Deaths in Battle
780 thousand total Casualties

544 thousand Maximum U.S. troops in Vietnam (1969)

Iraq et al 2003-2008
27 Million Population
200 thousand Iraq deaths in war
2.5 million American troops deployed to area conflicts
4.5 thousand American deaths in Iraq War
32.2 thousand American injured in Iraq War

from Jeff P, June 21: The deaths from usa civil war are over 500,000 , still debated by historians… the problem being that wounded or sick soldiers died, from lack of sanitary conditions.

#901 – Dick Bernard: Back to Iraq; the propaganda mill begins to churn…again.

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

Pre-note: three interesting links at the end of this post.
First Comment from Kathy M, June 18: To your point of questioning what our media tells us…You may have heard that the religious leader of Shia Muslims was fomenting violence. This article is considerably nuanced…complexity we Americans tend to overlook.

More comments at end of this post.

It seems time to “re-deploy” a sketch map I made about 2005 of a place then in the news…and now, again: Iraq environs ca 2005001. My college background was geography-centered, and maps like these help me to establish a personal context for places less familiar to me.

Personally, I think President Obama time and time again has exercised generally good judgement in his decision making, given the vast array of pressure points exerted on him from all sides. This will happen with Iraq too. Most every faction on every side will criticize what he does. We are good critics in this country.

Soundbite one: We Americans live in a very complex world, but we are (my opinion) a “sound bite” society. We don’t do complexity well. We seem to decide things based on personally chosen “headlines”.

During significant amount of time together in recent weeks, I had an opportunity, through a number of casual conversation with a Pakistani civil official, another perspectives on America, al Qaeda, Taliban, history, national borders, etc. Of course, a great many significant events have occurred in the last two weeks in his region of the world including terrorist attacks on the Karachi Pakistan airport; announcement of a changing U.S. role in Afghanistan, and, now, ISIS in Iraq and Syria.

Sound bite two: My colleague, nearing the end of his year in the U.S., seems genuinely positively impressed with Americans, generally; but “America”, on the ground in his country and others, is not viewed positively. We are good people, here, he says; but we are justifiably criticized for what is done in our name, there. The U.S. meddles everywhere through our government policies. On the ground, at home; we seem blithely (and dangerously) unaware of what is or has been done. Even our “friends”, as Pakistan is, suffer consequences. At one point he mentioned “55,000 casualties”, though I don’t recall specific context.

Sound bite three, my opinion: We ordinary people trust information from our own “trusted” sources that is not trustworthy, and we do so at our peril. We are a slave of propaganda, intentional or inadvertent. I offer one very recent example:

My long-time mainstream news source is CBS-TV local and national news.

Last Friday night, CBS news anchor Scott Pelley was reporting on the current crisis in Iraq, and among other things brief mention was made of 4486 American deaths in the second Iraq War 2003-2008. There was no context provided. I specifically noticed the number, isolated and specific as it was, and decided to check out the source. The newscast carried no mention of Iraqi casualties, military or civilian, during the same war, or ancillary costs to people “over there”: displacement of citizens, ruined homes and communities, etc.

The casualty number seemed to be an intended, important, stand-alone.

The source of the CBS information appears to be . If you go there (I hope you do) it is not possible to easily find a home page which, in turn, divulges who maintains the site, or vouches for its accuracy. I had to go to Wikipedia to find anything more about the site: it is here. It seems legit.

There are other “body count” sites, of course. One I’ve known about for years, which seems to have rigorous standards, is At that site, the Iraq death toll for the Coalition Military forces 2003-2013 is 4804. This is identical to the iCasualties number.

But there is a dramatic difference between the two sites in a critical respect: IraqBodyCount records 188,000 “violent deaths including combatants” in the Iraq War, of which 124,598 – 138,916 were “documented civilian deaths from violence”.

If you like “hunting” you can also find Iraqi casualties at the iCasualties site: 60,277. There is a caveat with the information: “This is not a complete list, nor can we verify these totals. This is simply a compilation of deaths reported by news agencies. Actual totals for Iraqi deaths are much higher than the numbers recorded on this site.”

It doesn’t take much looking to determine that there is a huge difference between the data CBS wanted to convey to its viewers (4486 Americans dead), and the horrible reality for Iraqi civilians in the Iraq War (up to 188,000 casualties as a result of the Iraq War). The numbers are for the same conflict, same period of time. And this does not consider the immense displacement of human beings (refugees) who fled one place (say Mosul, now) for safer conditions elsewhere; and disruption of society there. Or deaths related to the war in other countries in the region, like Pakistan.

I am reminded of the long-ago and deadly Vietnam War, where on the daily news we were treated to news reports every day that gave variations of this message about the war: “15 American deaths; 1000 Vietcong killed”. By golly, it said right there on the TV, every afternoon, that we were winning the body count (and thus the war). Mostly, I didn’t question these numbers, nor did many. They wouldn’t lie to me, I said to myself. But how real were they? There is a famous court case, Westmoreland vs CBS, back in 1982, which remains controversial to this day about this. You can google it for more than you’d ever want to know, from assorted sides.

The first casualty of war is the Truth, and CBS last Friday night revealed the need for extra caution in taking at face value anything reported on the news.

It takes more to be a good citizen than to simply be a good person in your neighborhood. Become informed and involved.

As for me, the only certainty of war is that it is killing us in many ways more than just physical death of our GIs. We need to recognize that.

Thanks to respected newsletter publisher Jeff Nygaard, here are two recent articles, here and here, from a long established source which has kept tabs on the Middle East since 1971.

Jeff also gave two examples of what he referred to as “Inadvertent Propaganda” at a recent workshop I attended. Here they are, with his permission: Nygaard Propaganda Examp001

UPDATE, June 18: Another example of messaging, from overnight, long but good: here.

from Norm N, June 18:
Mornin’ Dick,
Mention of the truth in your blog, had me thinking about a quatern I’d written for an adult ed poetry workshop I’d recently attended. What little poetry I write is most always humorous, but a class assignment to write a quatern had me do the following.

Reading your blog I think that perhaps, we and every newscast should begin with Sir Walter Scott’s: “I cannot tell what the truth may be; I say the tale as ’twas said to me. A quatern is a four quatrain stanza poem where the 1st line becomes the 2nd line of the second stanza and so on:

I can’t say what the truth may be,
I say the tale as said to me,
That was said by Wally Scott, he
Transcends the poet bourgeoisie.

With honest doubt the creed I see:
I can’t say what the truth may be.
The truth, tis said, will set you free,
Yet I sit here skeptically.

Am I a slave? Eternally,
With everything to disagree:
I can’t say what the truth may be;
All that’s said is chicanery?

And so be open and be free,
Believe not what the eye can see,
Live a life of skepticity.
I can’t say what the truth may be.

June 18 Washington Post on Humanitarian Crisis in Iraq: here

from Dick: From the beginning of this latest crisis I have recalled a comment I heard at a coffee shop in one of the Sun Cities near Phoenix in November, 2003, after the invasion of Iraq, and the U.S. “mission accomplished”.

The proprietor was Iraqi Christian, from Chicago, earlier from Mosul, and was happy that the U.S. had gone in to remove Saddam Hussein because his regime had not dealt kindly with the many Christians in Mosul.

As it has turned out, the Christians in Mosul and elsewhere have not fared any better since 2003, and certainly not today. The adage, “be careful what you pray for” comes to mind.

from Joyce, June 18, “very interesting history” by Juan Cole.

overnight, June 19, 2014, from Just Above Sunset, “Those Who Have Been There”.

#894 – Dick Bernard: Remembering Pete Seeger

Thursday, June 5th, 2014

UPDATE JUNE 8, 2014: Here’s the May 3 “For Pete’s Sake” program.

Today, June 5, and Friday, June 6, a very special event, the radio replay May 3, 2014, concert in tribute to Pete Seeger.

As announced by the show producer, Larry Long, “We are happy to announce that For Pete’s Sake: Celebrating Pete Seeger’s 95th Birthday will be aired in its entirety through Heartland Radio (Minnesota Public Radio/The Current) on June 5th, Thursday, noon – 2 pm Central Time, and June 6, Friday, 7 pm – 9 pm Central Time.

Radio Heartland is a 24-hour folk, roots and Americana music stream over 89.3 The Current ( and on HD radio at KNOW 91.1 FM HD2 in Minneapolis/St. Paul).”

We had a conflict on May 3rd, so we weren’t able to attend the actual concert. A friend, David, who was there, shared the program booklet with me. It can be read here: Pete Seeger w Larry Long001

More about the concert at Larry Long’s website.

In an e-mail to his list subscribers yesterday, Larry Long also said this: “We are presently looking into the possibility of making both the audio and video documentation of For Pete’s Sake: Celebrating Pete Seeger’s 95th Birthday available to the general public through a KICKSTARTER campaign.”

Stay tuned.

Here’s a memory article about Pete shared by another friend, Kathy: Pete Seeger Remembered001