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#1056 – Dick Bernard: A 2015 Demonstration for Black Lives Matter at the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul; and a flashback to Peace Island in 2008

Sunday, August 30th, 2015

NOTE: I include my own followup comments after Judy’s comment at the end of this post.

Had I not had a schedule conflict on Saturday, August 29, I would have wandered over to the Minnesota State Fair to see the Black Lives Matter demonstration at the Fair.

As it was, all my information came from the local TV news, and this mornings newspaper. From a news standpoint, it was apparently a pretty boring (as in lack of mayhem and blood) event. While it had the most prominent placement on the Minneapolis Star Tribune front page, the sub-headline said “Police made no arrests during mostly peaceful Black Lives Matter rally”. Those who wanted “action”, on all sides, were probably disappointed.

Peaceful things don’t have much to offer a “news” cycle; there is one shot at a headline.

Actually, the Demo caused me to think back to another St. Paul event on Sep 2-4, 2008. It was an event called the Peace Island Conference, and I was one of the organizers. Three or so miles away from our venue was the 2008 Republican National Convention, which lives in history for the John McCain/Sarah Palin Presidential Ticket.

My personal favorite photos are these, taken mostly by myself on Sep 1-4, 2008, at assorted peaceful gatherings at varying venues in St. Paul.

(click to enlarge)

A peace kid and a gunboat at the Mississippi River, St. Paul, September 4, 2008

A peace kid and a gunboat at the Mississippi River, St. Paul, September 4, 2008

Closer view of the gunboat on the Mississippi Sep. 4, 2008

Closer view of the gunboat on the Mississippi Sep. 4, 2008

Police waiting to repel the assault of protestors, Sep 1, 2008

Police waiting to repel the assault of protestors, Sep 1, 2008

Those who were there in 2008 will remember all of these.

The assorted police forces from all over (it seemed) were mobilized to prepare for war against a rabble of crazed peaceniks who would certainly descend on St. Paul to disrupt the Republican National Convention in downtown. Bizarre weapons, like the gunboat on the Mississippi, appeared to protect citizens from the rabble. Police dressed like transformer characters were an ominous presence everywhere. The media focus was on occasional incidents.

I was in the rabble demonstrating on Sep 1. Doubtless there were people wanting to be arrested, and vandals, but they were few and far between. The vast majority of us were just demonstrating for peace, that’s all.

Down the street about three miles, the next day, we convened Peace Island: a “Solutions Driven Conference”. There were several hundred registered for the event; 23 speakers with impressive credentials from all over.

From a nutrition point of view, there was a lot of nutritive value at the many sessions at Peace Island. From a news viewpoint: apparently no value at all.

Peace Island Conference, September 3, 2008

Peace Island Conference, September 3, 2008

In a hard American news sense, Peace Island conference was boring. To my recollection, Peace Island did not attract a single reporter nor a single news story, much less something on page one. It was, in that sense, an utter failure.

Much better had there been a violent call to revolution of some kind.

But, still, Peace Island was a huge success of its own.

Saturday, August 29, at the State Fair Grounds seems to have been a somewhat boring event from a news standpoint. “…no arrests….”.

Cool heads prevailed all around.

The Black Lives Matter group certainly got the attention they were hoping to get, but neither side threw a punch to make “news”.

That is very good.

I’ve often wondered if Peace Island accomplished anything.

I do think it lives on, in a positive sense, a message to present and future activists.

Black Lives Matter is in itself a movement to keep in the public eye a necessary conversation.

I don’t know any of the youthful movements leaders, but I congratulate them for their efforts.

Celebrating Peace at Peace Island Sep. 4, 2008

Celebrating Peace at Peace Island Sep. 4, 2008

Larry Long (center) and Tao Rodriguez-Seeger (left)perform at Peace Island Sep 4, 2015

Larry Long (center) and Tao Rodriguez-Seeger (left)perform at Peace Island Sep 4, 2015

Sign beside a St. Paul Street, late August, 2008

Sign beside a St. Paul Street, late August, 2008

Comment from Judy, Minneapolis, Aug. 31:
Yes, it was peaceful, but huge numbers of racist comments on their facebook page. our church has been studying racism this summer with two interim pastors while our pastor was on sabbatical in south Africa studying racism. This fall we are reading Between the World and me and a couple of years ago we read the Grace of Silence by Michele Norris. Our church sits at the corner of 4 south Minneapolis neighborhoods.

Black Lives Matter (BLM) has come out with their platform in the last week or so and we copied it for people for an adult forum yesterday. We are thinking about putting up a banner and had a couple of pastors come and talk about their experience in doing so. We are, of course, dealing with the conflict of All lives matter versus black lives matter….I finally got it this summer partially based on these statistics:

“A black person is killed extra-judicially every 28 hrs, and Black men between ages 19 and 25 are the group most at risk to be gunned down by police. Based on data from the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, young Blacks are 4.5 times more likely to be killed by police than any other age or racial group.

African-Americans have comprised 26 percent of police shootings though we only makeup 13 percent of the U.S. population, based on data spanning from 1999 to 2011.

Shootings fell to 35 per year in the 2000s though the risk is still higher for Black Americans than it is for whites, Latinos and Asians. My people are killed at 2.8 times the rate of white non-Latinos and 4.3 times the rate of Asians.” Source of preceding paragraphs here.


1. End broken-windows policing

Broken windows policing refers to the theory that if you don’t go after minor crimes (i.e. broken windows), then it sends the community a message that they can get away with more serious crimes. Campaign Zero says this form of policing disproportionately affects minorities.

2. Community oversight

Campaign Zero suggests establishing a civilian-run commission that can make recommendations for discipline following a civilian complaint of police misconduct. They say this is better than relying on fellow officers to punish their own colleague.

3. Limit use of force

Campaign Zero wants officers only to be allowed to use deadly force when there is an imminent threat to the officer’s life or the life of another person. Currently, officers can use deadly force when they perceive a deadly threat. The group also calls for stricter standards for reporting the use of deadly force.

4. Independently investigate and prosecute

To avoid conflicts of interest, Campaign Zero calls for state governments to establish independent prosecutors who will investigate instances of police violence and killings. The group also wants to reduce the standard of proof for federal civil rights investigations of police officers.

5. Community representation

The campaign calls for police departments to be more representative of the communities they police by having proportional amounts of women and people of color on staff.

6. Body cameras & filming the police

Campaign Zero wants all police officers to be equipped with body cameras and for police to be banned from taking recording devices from civilians without their consent.

7. Training

Campaign Zero suggests that police officers be required to undergo training four times a year on a variety of issues including racial bias or prejudice, community interaction, crisis intervention, and de-escalation of situations.

8. End for-profit policing

Campaign Zero recommends police departments do away with quotas for tickets and arrests as well as limit fines and fees for low-income people and have stricter standards for civil forfeiture (seizing of civilian property).

9. Demilitarization

Campaign Zero suggests ending the federal government’s 1033 program that provides military weapons to local police departments. The group also says there should be greater restrictions on police departments attempting to purchase and use military grade equipment.

10. Fair police contracts

Campaign Zero believes police union contracts have given police unions too much influence and give officers too much protection in the instances of misconduct. Campaign Zero wants to eliminate barriers put in place by the union contracts and make officers’disciplinary history accessible to the public. In addition, they suggest that officers’ shouldn’t be paid if they are being investigated for seriously injuring or killing a civilian.

On their website, the group also offers policy agendas for how to implement their reforms on the local, state, and federal level. The group also published a fact sheet detailing where each presidential candidate stands on these proposals.

Information above taken from here.

POSTNOTE from Dick Bernard: Black Lives Matter and the Minnesota State Fair, like the Peace activities at the 2008 Peace Island and Republican National Convention, both in St. Paul, are extremely complex “organisms”, involving reason, emotion, many, many individual “actors”, and on and on. When I observed what appeared to have happened at the Black Lives Matter demo at the State Fair, I basically was reflecting on the relationship between the State (Those who direct the Police) and the People (the demonstrators).

In 2008, it appeared, all of Minnesota was in “lock down”, and I was among the demonstrators affected. In every way the message was, “behave, or you’re in deep trouble”; that everyone was a potential danger. It was an over the top totally paranoid response to people who wanted to demonstrate. The tone of what happened between People and State at the Minnesota State Fair area on Saturday seemed very different. Sure, there were examples on both sides, but the tone was very different.

Back on August 22, a week before the State Fair demonstration, there was a burst of conversation on one of the lists to which I subscribe. One member was irritated by what he saw as the disruption of the Fair by the demonstrators. His statement was a fair one, but I responded as follows: “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and on this one I’ll disagree with you.

My career was as a teacher union representative (Education Minnesota), and when we were asserting our rights to bargain and such, it was necessary to get people’s attention, and we sometimes did it in ways that got elements in the community irritated. But it was necessary to get people’s attention, first. Then the conversation, or argument, or whatever, could begin.
Some years before that career, in the mid-60s, I remember driving in southern Minnesota during the time the National Farmers Organization was asserting its rights to organize, putting up blockades once in awhile to hopefully assert themselves. It seems to me that the issue, then, for them was milk supply and demand. Of course, farmers are independent cusses, and there were some problems. But I have a vivid memory of at least one intersection where several farmers in a truck were making sure it was inconvenient for their fellow farmers to get by.

Further back still (I found just recently), my North Dakota farmer grandfather (Ferd W. Busch) was a founder and apparent organizer for a local chapter of the newly formed ND Farmers Union. In 1928 he wrote a letter to the editor of the local paper: Busch FW Farmers Union001. The non-partisan league was history by then (he’d been part of that, too), and Farmers Union, now Cenex, I believe, was a new and more durable rendition.

Scratch organizing is never easy, and oftentimes those who do the organizing are not well versed in all the niceties and make mistakes. Maybe what will happen at the State Fair will materialize, maybe not, it certainly will get people talking. As it has got us talking, here!”

Coming as I do from a long history of labor union work, organizing is never perfect. Stuff happens, or doesn’t happen. It is always the dramatic (bad) stuff that always gets the publicity in the media. The boring (good) stuff happens, but only over the long term.

What I will be looking for is the long term stamina and negotiating savvy of the Black Lives Matter leadership. Too many groups succeed and then fail because of lack of follow through. The event is the only result. This was the unfortunate after effect at Peace Island, A Solutions Driven Conference. It was a great conference, and people went home….

Perhaps, a final note: Another reader, Ray, called to suggest a book that I think I might actually order. It is Trance formation of America by Cathy O’Brien and Mark Phillips. If nothing else, read some of the reviews.

#1032 – Dick Bernard: Catching a Moment in Time. Saturday, March 18, 1905

Friday, May 29th, 2015
Visiting the graves of Ferd and Rosa Busch, and three of their children, Verena, Edithe and Vincent, Berlin ND St. John's Cemetery, May 24, 2015

Visiting the graves of Ferd and Rosa Busch, and three of their children, Verena, Edithe and Vincent, Berlin ND St. John’s Cemetery, May 24, 2015

Seventeen of us gathered at the old Ferd and Rosa Busch farm in Henrietta Township on May 24. It was the end of an era: for 110 years the farmstead has been owned, and for the vast majority of that time occupied, by Ferd and Rosa’s family. Now the old place is up for sale, and at some early point new occupants will take over the newly re-surveyed 10 acre farmstead, 10 miles northwest of LaMoure, 5 miles northeast from Berlin, about the same southwest from Grand Rapids ND.

Saturday a few of us were doing the last run through of the artifacts now stored in the metal machine shed.

One item remaining was the formidable wooden packing crate which brought the Busch possessions from southwest Wisconsin via Dubuque in March of 1905. For years the crate resided quietly in the attic in the old house; thence in Vincent’s bedroom in the new. It had been opened previously, but not examined in detail.

This day, we took out everything, including Grandma’s wedding dress, in near perfect condition after 110 years.

But there was something else I noticed in a box within the crate. There were a couple of old newspapers, used for packing back then. I took them out: one of them was a pretty well crumpled newspaper in German from November of 1904; the second was the Dubuque Morning Telegraph for Saturday, March 18, 1905. Grandma and Grandpa married on February 28, 1905, and I knew they hadn’t left immediately for North Dakota. I can now deduce from the newspaper date that they probably left for the prairie shortly after March 18.

That was only the first piece of “news” from that paper….

(click to enlarge)

Dubuque Morning  Telegraph, page one, Saturday, March 18, 1905

Dubuque Morning Telegraph, page one, Saturday, March 18, 1905

There were four pages from the newspaper, pages 1, 2, 7 & 8.

The main headline on p. 1 immediately caught my attention: “GENERAL KUROPATKIN IS DISMISSED IN DISGRACE”, followed by the sub-headlines so common in papers of that day: “Gen. Linevitch in Suspreme [sic] Command” “…withdrawing what is left of the great Army of 250,000, men hemmed in on all sides, confronts him.” “Czar shows no signs of yielding” “Preparation for carrying on the war on a greater scale are made by Russians-Oyama in Mukden”.

The front page news in Dubuque was about a war being waged between Russia and Japan in the far eastern reaches of Siberia.

Places like Harbin and Vladivostok were mentioned. Dispatches were included from London and Berlin sources. You could see the same kinds of headlines in today’s newspapers….

In this issue, the Russians were – the Czar was – being defeated.

This defeat was a harbinger of the Czars becoming a thing of the past; Communists were a part of the future. The German-Russians, Lawrence Welk’s kin, probably didn’t know it yet in 1905, but they were all being squeezed out of Russia to new homes, a great many of them migrating to North and South Dakota.

The other stories on the front page had a deja vu aspect to them. A law passed in Delaware to “Abolish Pillory” “inhuman” punishment; in Peoria IL an oil “pipe line across certain highways” hit a snag (“Strikes Snag in Illinois” read the headline); there was a “scheme” by powerful interests “to grab Niagara” Falls, threatening the tourist attraction with extinction.

It was announced by Secretary Taft of the Theodore Roosevelt administration that the U.S. “will retain the Philippine Islands” for perhaps at least a generation. And a fascinating headline prominent at the top of page one said “Castro is preparing to send an Army of 30,000 to take New Orleans to demand Indemnity.” This was not Fidel Castro, rather the then President of Venezuela.

There were no pictures on this front page: it was all news. Other headlines at the bottom of the page: “Sold Wife for $10” (the deal was legal, and okay with the wife, apparently); “Missouri legislature Passes Law Against Bookmaking”. A Baltimore Whiskey maker won a trademark lawsuit against a clever impostor in Brooklyn who had borrowed part of its name.

And so it was, on and on, in Dubuque, Iowa, and the world right after Grandma and Grandpa Busch were married, February 28, 1905.

It was like opening a time capsule….

Some of those at the small reunion at the Busch farm on May 24.  From left Pinkney's, Dick Bernard, Bill Jewett, Carter Hedeen.

Some of those at the small reunion at the Busch farm on May 24. From left Pinkney’s, Dick Bernard, Bill Jewett, Carter Hedeen.

#1028 – Dick Bernard: A special experience: Ken Burns and Don Shelby

Sunday, May 17th, 2015

POSTNOTE May 30 10:42 am.: Just now I am listening to Jay Ungar’s Ashokan Farewell, made famous in Ken Burns Civil War. Give it a listen.

I was working on a project at home, yesterday, when an e-mail came in from our friend Catherine. I saw it at 12:30. “I have two tickets to see Ken Burns at 4 today at the History Center. Would you and Cathy like them?”

This was a no-brainer, albeit with almost no notice. Cathy was out of town; and I’d heard part of the freeway was closed for maintenance, and when I finally got the printed ticket via e-mail it was 3 p.m. and the program started at 4.

I arrived at the Minnesota History Center in plenty of time for the program. Unfortunately I forgot my camera. By 4, the auditorium was packed. I was lucky and got a seat in the third row.

Then commenced a riveting 1 1/2 hour conversation between film-maker Ken Burns and former well known Twin Cities TV Anchor and reporter Don Shelby. The conversation would make for a fascinating TV program on its own…I hope it was filmed for just that purpose.

The program was hosted by TPT, Twin Cities Channel Two and the Minnesota History Center.

The program began with an eight or so minute video recapping Ken Burns 40 years in the business of film documentaries, all for public broadcasting. I tried to write the titles down. My list is 23 productions though I likely missed some (you can find the list here). I’m a fan of Burns, but I can’t say I’ve seen all of the programs. My list includes the Civil War, Baseball, Jazz, The War, Dust Bowl, Prohibition and the Roosevelts – those are the ones I remember for sure.

I pieced together Burns biography from his own comments. He was born about 1953; when he was two his mother, Lyla, fell ill with cancer and died with the disease 50 years ago, in 1965. He was 12 when she died.

He had ancestors who were American slaveholders, and another who was a Tory in the American Revolution.

He went to tiny Hampshire college in MA beginning 1971 – apparently beginning just a year or so after the college was founded, and followed his muse of film and history with the outstanding results we’ve seen for many years. He lives in New Hampshire, and has many projects in the works.

He has informed opinions about America and Americans, flowing from many years of reconstructing our history, largely from the perspective of ordinary people living at the time. In America, race is “the burning heart of the story”, he said. It is a disabling part of our national DNA; to move on takes a great deal of acknowledgment and effort.

While Burns suggests we Americans are addicted to money, guns and certainty, he thought there was still hope. “Bill O’Reilly [Fox News] and Rachel Maddow [MSNBC] genuinely love Abraham Lincoln”. There are things we can and must find common ground on to survive.

He sees Americans as restless and hard-working, demanding individual and collective freedom.

He apparently has some disagreements with my favorite quote: Santayana’s “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” “Cuckoo”, he suggested. I’ll give the quote another think, from his point of view. Maybe we’ll reach some agreement, maybe not. That’s the purpose of conversation.

He knows Americans well, a Studs Terkel (“Working”) knowledge of how we are rooted, our strengths, our very deep weaknesses. Our “exceptionalism” has dimmed as we have collectively “gone to sleep”, I heard him say. What the founders words in the Constitution about the “pursuit of happiness” basically meant, he felt, was their belief in the value of lifelong learning.

He gave considerable time and emphasis to his work on the “Central Park Five”, the five black youth who were tried, convicted and sentenced to long terms for a 1969 rape they never committed. (It was a program I haven’t seen.) The rush to judgement was shameful. Even after being exonerated, he would hear people assert “they must have done something”, a refusal to acknowledge a hideous mistake. As previously mentioned, “race is the burning heart of the story”, and we will always have lots of work to do.

(My favorite “visual”, as presented orally by Ken, was this: his little daughter was terrified of the family vacuum cleaner. When it was on she ran and hid. No amount of reassurance would change her mind.

One day, for some reason known only to her, the vacuum cleaner was turned on, and his daughter went to the door of the room in which was running, and after a moment of hesitation ran in and sat on the vacuum cleaner.

She had decided to deal with her own fear in her own way.

In their house, use of the phrase “sitting on the vacuum cleaner” has a particularly powerful meaning; we need to confront our fears….)

I’ve been slow about renewing my TPT membership.

The check will be in the mail tomorrow.

Thanks, Catherine.

POSTNOTE: Jim Pagliarini, President of TPT, began the program by asking us how many of us remembered when television meant three commercial channels and a public station. It seems like 100 years ago, but many of us do remember. Then, he said, came the era of a dozen cable channels, to today’s hundreds of options, and a rapidly changing future….

Survival for entities like Public Television means adapting to changing circumstances, staying ahead of the curve, finding different ways of delivering a media product. We’re long past four channels on the TV, but even the TV is becoming passe.

But like the media itself, we need to relearn how to communicate with others.

My opinion: our very survival as a country and a planet is at stake. Individualism is a curse we cannot afford. We are a part of, not apart from, a much greater whole.

This mornings paper addressed this very issue in the business section. You can read it here.

#1012 – Dick Bernard: Wikipedia

Monday, April 6th, 2015

Last nights 60 Minutes had a fascinating profile of Wikipedia, the ever-more respected (ever-less maligned) people’s encyclopedia.

You may be able to watch the segment here, though it seems like CBS has constructed hoops now, which one now needs to jump through to watch their programs on-line…. At any rate, it is worth the hoop jumping to watch this segment. Right or wrong, once you’ve made 60 Minutes, you’ve made the big time!

Wikipedia has always been free, and apparently intends to remain that way. Hoorah! But it does ask for contributions, and when it does, toss a few bucks in the kettle. It’s a service that deserves to continue to thrive. (Here’s wikipedia’s wiki entry about itself. I notice it doesn’t even mention the 60 Minutes appearance last night.)

Just out of curiosity, I put the word “Wikipedia” in my e-mail archive search file. It told me it came up with 670 matches, the earliest one from February 9, 2005. (There may have been others, but back in the old days, permanent records tended to die prematurely, from things like viruses.)

For this blogsite of mine, which originated in March, 2009, 159 matches come up. So I lean on Wikipedia a lot, and it has been and remains a valuable resource.

Here’s the first use of Wikipedia in my e-mail, 10 years ago, Feb 5, 2005 (ancient history!): P&J Feb 9, 2005001. Note the yellow hi-lite. Back then Wikipedia was just becoming recognized as a force to be reckoned with, but there was considerable game-playing with the citizen edit feature, thus I urged caution. Danny Schechter, media person and media watchdog, who’s referenced there, recently died. You’ll note his wikipedia entry is updated. We met him and saw the film referenced in the post. A very interesting and enlightening evening.

I am more and more confident in what wikipedia has to say on most anything. Having over 100,000 editors on staff worldwide is very, very helpful. “BS detectors” are built in to get rid of obvious public relations moves for or against someone or something. Vigilance is still prudent, and I really try to be careful to send along credible information, from any source. This is never easy, in this headline, soundbite driven society.

Back in those earlier days I found myself referring back to my 1977 Encyclopedia Britannica to at least attempt to verify information pre-dating 1977. This was before the advent of word search, and while the Britannica still occupies space on my bookshelf, it hasn’t been referred to in quite some time.

And as Wikipedia found Gary Wills said, in the 60 Minutes segment last night, Wikipedia is as accurate, if not more so, than any other traditional encyclopedic source.

We citizens are absolutely barraged by information (which is often mis-information, or hopelessly biased and one sided information) so that it is very difficult to be even somewhat informed.

At least, Wikipedia gives us a running start on some semblance of the truth…if we take time to use it.

#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.)

(click to enlarge)

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.