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#866 – Dick Bernard: The meaning of Mary Burke

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court gave even more political power to Big Wealth. My in-box was full of talk about what this means for the country. Since I’d be described, correctly, as “leaning Left”, you can guess where my chatter comes from. I often rely on Alan at Just Above Sunset to summarize what the Big People (the pundit class) are saying about what National Stuff means. So, if you’re interested, here’s his overnight post on McCutcheon and what people are saying it means.

I prefer to take a different tack on this.

The only way the overwhelming majority of ordinary Americans can be defeated by Big Money is by voting against their own interests in November (which includes not voting at all, or voting for candidates who have not even a tiny chance of winning). There will be an abundance of both behaviors in November, 2014, and lots of inaction between now and November, including endless flailing away in counter-productive ways that will make a negative difference.

So, what about this “Mary Burke”?

She was the first face of the attack from the right I’ve seen this year. She’s only the first.

Early last month, we were treated to a seemingly endless series of political ads during the evening news on the local CBS affiliate, WCCO-TV.

They were short, sinister, and identical attack ads against someone I’d never heard of: Mary Burke.

They were also, likely, false by use of selective “facts”, headlines, etc. They might have been 15-30 seconds at most….

The ads didn’t even mention what office this Mary Burke was running for. Since we border on Wisconsin, just to the east, I figured that she might be running for something over there.

Turned out, she’s apparently a scary (for supporters of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker) presumed candidate for Wisconsin Governor in a few months.

(click to enlarge)

Emily's List newsletter Vol 20 Nr 4 Spring 2014 p 3

Emily’s List newsletter Vol 20 Nr 4 Spring 2014 p 3

The ads, apparently paid for by a front group funded by the Koch Brothers billions, were intended to soften her up to the amorphous masses across the border.

Maybe the the ads will work. But only if the body politic are, in aggregate, damned fools and believe them….

Mary Burke seems a perfectly respectable candidate, successful businesswoman and all. Here’s the comment that followed the above photo: Mary Burke002

Apparently she’s scary to the opposition.

The Burke ad-buy has ended, for now.

Saturday we went to hear a succession of Democratic politicians speak at the annual Humphrey-Mondale dinner in Minneapolis. I wrote about that here.

At the dinner, popular U.S. Senator Al Franken spoke, predicting that he would soon be the subject of the same kind of attack ads, funded by the Koch machine.

Indeed, already it is so.

The same kind of dark, nebulous, identical attacks now greet us on TV at night, in this case tying Franken to President Obama, the IRS and the ACLU…similar to the formula utilized against Burke.

In both, the Team of Big Money paying Big Media is at work.

Will the tactic work?

We, the people, will decide that in a few months.

What is frightening to the Big Money interests is that there truly is no power like the power of the people.

Money, or Media, in and of themselves have no power at all. Neither can vote.

But the rest of the “people” have to figure that out within the next few months that their power doesn’t come from being fragmented, or insisting on purity of their particular essential position. And that Big Money has no interest in the little guys and gals, except its own greater wealth….

Someone said on Saturday night that 400 Americans now control as much wealth as the bottom 50% of Americans (there are over 310,000,000 Americans).

If true, (it seems to be, according to the respected PolitiFact), the rich are slowly destroying themselves, a fact they are blind to.

The rest of still have the right to vote, regardless of the efforts being made to erode that right in some places.


Well informed.

Pass the word.

#863 – Dick Bernard: An unintended re-learning about something I already knew: the Rapid Change in How We Communicate in Contemporary Society

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

POSTNOTE: The “work in progress” referred to below is complete as of April 13, 2014.

During the past few days I have been involved in a “headache” assignment, self-imposed, but still a headache.

For years I’ve had a very large notebook including 145 newsletters from a small, very low budget, but vibrant organization I was part of for over 20 years. The newsletters began in 1980, and ended at the end of 2001. I was editor of near 100 of the mostly 6 to 8 page documents, from 1985 till we decided to close down.

Last week, I spent a lot of hours converting about 1000 pages of content into pdf files at 96 dpi. Briefly, I re-saw over 20 years of a small organization as reflected in every one of its newsletter pages. It was exhausting, but very interesting. These newsletters are now on-line, but quietly, here, planned as an addendum to a future post “in progress”.

My involvement with newsletters goes back to being student editor of my college newspaper in 1960-61, and subsequent amateur newsletters for assorted groups.

Newsletter production by small groups of amateurs is no mystery to me.

What struck me with this batch of newsletters from 1980-2001 was how change in technology affected us. These were newsletters laid out by volunteers. All the printer did was print the copy (we had to use a real human print shop: this was before sophisticated copy machines).

For most of the history, the format was the old traditional “cut and paste” with typewritten text, typed on someones typewriter, perhaps adorned with some rudimentary art and press on lettering for headlines. (P. 5 CN 1-26001.) It wasn’t fancy, and it was time consuming.

In the end, for all of these years, the product was mailed to each members U.S. mailbox. It was read, and often saved. For a long while we had a sufficiently large circulation to send bulk rate, which saved on postage, but slowed receipt of the newsletters – just like today. But money was money then.

We were very limited in what we could do, then. In March 1982 the editor used a photograph, but it takes a close look to make out that what the photograph showed. (p. 52 CN 52-78003)

In May, 1985, came the first newsletter that utilized one of early versions of word processors, probably an early Apple. (p. 154 CN 140-170006)

It wasn’t until the 1990s that things like columns, and borders, and shading and the different sizes of type were first used, and they rapidly expanded.

It wasn’t until Jan-Feb 1999 that an e-mail address appeared in the newsletter.

We tend to forget how recent that now almost obsolete innovation came to the common folks.

In Jan-Feb 2000 a website was referred to for the first time. (p. 828 CN 792-829028.)

Of course, most of our readers did not do e-mail, even at the end, and relied on pieces of paper transmitted by U.S. mail to individual mailboxes.

Oh, what a change. Back then, I venture, none of us could have visualized todays cacophony of communication media. And this was not that long ago.

We’ve all experienced this.

I wonder what’s ahead in the next generation. We always think that things will be even better. There is a downside as well.

Someday, we might consider the good old cut and paste days to be something we wish we had again.`

* – If you wish to see these newsletters, go back to the March 24 post, the “Work in Progress” [now completed as "1000 pages..."]. All those pdf’s are there. The content that goes with them is still in preparation, for later.

POSTNOTE: Our newsletter died at the end of 2001, when we were doing our best work, utilizing better technology. Members were dying and in other ways just leaving. People we had relied on as readers were not computer literate and had no intention of becoming so. In a way, we represented the dilemma of contemporary society. We have not figured out how to bridge between the old and the new, and it is hurting us.

#854 – Dick Bernard: A Project to Document our Nation of Immigrants

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

One week from today, Wednesday, March 12, a fundraiser to celebrate the power of immigrant stories will be held at Target Field, Minneapolis. You are encouraged to attend, and make others aware of this important event as well. All details, including bios of the speakers, are here.

Your RSVP is requested.

Ours is a nation of immigrants: this is such an obvious fact that it often escapes notice. My own American roots are France (via Quebec) and Germany.

I was reminded of the extent of the immigrant population a few months ago. In the summer of 2013, I had reason to access the 1940 census of the tiny town of Sykeston ND, the place from which I graduated from high school in 1958. In that tiny town (pop. 274, in 2010, 117) in 1940, of the 161 adults 16 listed other states as birthplaces, and 11 were born in countries other than the U.S.

As late as 1940, one of six adults in the town were not native, even, to the state of North Dakota. I wrote a bit about this here, including the worksheet from the actual census here: Sykeston ND 1940 CensusRev, see page 3.

Tiny Sykeston was just one town, then.

Every reader could tell their own story: family members, ancestors, neighbors, friends….

We are a nation of immigrants.

Which leads again to Wednesday, March 12, 2014, 6-9 p.m. at Target Field in Minneapolis MN.

On that day, three immigrants to the U.S. will introduce GreenCardVoices.

All projects have their stories, and GreenCardVoices is no different. This new project already has a history.

Some years ago Laura Danielson, chair of the Immigration Department at Fredrikson and Byron, Minneapolis, decided that the stories of immigrants she knew were so interesting that they deserved retelling, and a coffee table book, Green Card Stories, was published in January, 2012.

The book did well, but over the subsequent months, Laura and others engaged with the book and its stories came to a conclusion: print books, however attractive, have their limits, particularly in these days of exploding technological capabilities to share information far beyond one home or one office coffee table, and Green Card Voices was born just a few months ago.

The project is described here, including a video (this is a video project, after all!).

The dream of the project is to video-document first generation immigrants with more than five years in the U.S. from all of the world’s countries (196 in all). These stories can then be shared broadly in various ways. It’s a very ambitious undertaking, but doable with adequate funding support from persons like ourselves.

By happenstance, I was in attendance at one of GreenCardVoices first public presentations at Hosmer Library in south Minneapolis November 2, 2013. Theirs was a fascinating program, and I am certain the program at Target Field next Wednesday will be fascinating as well. (Roy Woodstrom, librarian at Hosmer Library, is a child of an immigrant – his mother is German). The person who invited me to the presentation is a child of Swedish immigrants. And on we go.

Shepherding the project is Dr. Tea Rozman-Clark, native of Slovenia. Her bio is here.

Tea Rozman-Clark, Feb. 25, 2014

Tea Rozman-Clark, Feb. 25, 2014

RSVP for the Target Field event Wednesday, March 12, 2014.

You’re in for a treat.

#848 – Dick Bernard: “Vatigate” on PBS Front Line

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

We just watched a powerful hour and a half about the Catholic Church – my lifelong Church – on PBS’ Frontline.

Do take the time. You can watch Secrets of the Vatican here.

I will comment later.

UPDATE: Sunday, March 2, 2014

A week ago, prior to knowing that this program would play, came an unusual announcement at my Church, Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis. Next Sunday (today), it was announced, was the day of the Annual Catholic Appeal, a long-standing program to raise funds for certain programs, like helping Catholic Schools and the like. Very normal. What was unusual is that the Priest emphasized that this year a specific Foundation had been set up to receive donations so that 100% of the funds would go to the appeal. Trust in the Archdiocese by potential givers is apparently perceived to be low, and they wished to create a firewall of sorts to assure contributors that donations would not be used for other purposes.

Later in the week, the Diocesan paper, The Catholic Spirit, made the same declaration, and today it was repeated again.

How much, if anything, Frontline had to do with this is unknown to me. But it certainly had to have been known as an upcoming event.

We watched the entire Frontline program, and it was indeed compelling.

At the same time, I viewed it from the context of having been an advocate for teachers for an entire career.

Mischief can be made with how data and images are used.

I recall a pretty successful attempt to demonize teacher unions (my own career) by making examples of outrageous teachers who, it was suggested, couldn’t be fired. These few bad examples were made to misrepresent the entire profession, and the union to which they belonged.

In a country with several million public school teachers organized into teacher unions, it is absolutely certain that there will be bad apples somewhere in the batch.

But do they represent the entirety of the profession?

Absolutely not.

And do they at least qualify for due process? Of course.

With this in mind, I watched the kinds of incidents that were the focus of Frontline; what kind of film clips were used, and how often these clips appeared; who spoke and what they said….

Doubtless the program was “fact” based, but was it objective? That is not so sure.

It is possible to cherry pick facts to create a story that is not, in fact, truthful.

And as we who still go to Church know, the Catholic Church, like any institution anywhere, is a complex institution, and it is no more fair to typecast it on the basis of some truly outrageous incidents and people who might in reality be aberrations, rather than representative of the whole.

I have no problem with exposes, but there has to be better context.

The importance of the new Pope to me is that he can, and apparently is, working quietly but publicly to change the tone of leadership ‘at the top’.

This doesn’t mean that his predecessors were evil people.

What it might mean is that things they let fall through the cracks, or may not have felt were important, were crucial oversights, and have created the black-eye that my diocese and the Vatican itself has to deal with.

UPDATE Tuesday March 4, 2014 viewing the film, Philomena:

This afternoon we finally took the time to see the film, Philomena, the extraordinarily powerful film about the efforts of an older woman to find her out-of-wedlock son who had been taken from her at birth at a Convent in Ireland, and was later adopted by Americans.

If you’re one of those who’s been curious about this film, but have not yet seen it, take the time.

Philomena lays out the complexities of humanity, and indeed the dangers of labeling a larger group (say “church” or “nation”) without regarding the individual parts of a whole: the people themselves, at various stages in their own lives.

Life is not simple.

Personally, as I watched, I kept thinking of a statement I had made to a friend a few days ago on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Haiti.

I had been there before the coup, and met several people who were adversely affected, some murdered, or character assassinated or imprisoned for one reason or another, including alleged personal failings.

I remarked, in an e-mail to my friend: “we all have our public, and private, and hidden, lives, I suppose” as simply a general caution, including to myself.

As Philomena and the others portrayed in the film demonstrated powerfully, each of us have our own aspects, unique, and changing over time and circumstance.

Judging becomes risky, but at the same time is unavoidable, and sometimes justified.

See Philomena if you can. You won’t regret it.

#841 – Dick Bernard: Reflecting on “Going for the Gold” in Sochi

Saturday, February 8th, 2014

This will probably be modified later today (it’s 10:30 AM CST). Comments are solicited.
There are three photos, below, which may be of interest.

Last night I watched a portion of the Opening Ceremonies at the Sochi Olympics. It was an impressive spectacle, as usual. I saw the Americans come in, and the Russians, and I particularly noticed the tiny team from Jamaica, minimally funded but there, and assorted team members using assorted means to make their own movie of what they were experiencing…. (I’m too old fashioned to ever get used to the now common practice of using those big notebooks to take pictures – doesn’t look like photography, regardless of how professional the quality can be!)

Anyway, the entire script has been written to please the advertisers and the news media and business and the politicians. Those are the only reasons for the Modern Day Games, in my opinion. The cast for the Big Show are those who will win or lose, bringing home the gold, or (mostly) not. Embellishing or diminishing for a moment in time someones national pride.

I’ve never had so much as a close call to the Olympics themselves.

Back in 1983 I took a job representing teachers on Minnesota’s Iron Range, and early on I heard the story of the teacher-parent of one of the U.S. Hockey Players (remember “Miracle on Ice”, Lake Placid 1980) who had trouble getting personal leave time to watch his (or was it her) son play hockey for the U.S. against, ultimately, the Russians. Rules are Rules, you know. I wasn’t personally involved in the case, but it was still being talked about. I suspect the parents went to the games, with or without “leave”….

The Winter Games.

Then a few years later I used to attend conferences in Colorado Springs, and just down the road, on my walking route, was the famous Broadmoor Hotel, and on the grounds was one of the training facilities, I seem to think it was Figure Skating, but I might be wrong. Just now, I learned that Colorado Springs is where the U.S. Olympic Committee resides (see here).

And I must mention Salt Lake City, 2002. My brother has lived in Salt Lake City for years, and on visits since have seen some of the venues for that games.

The Olympics is a huge economic (business) enterprise.

Perhaps my closest call with the Olympics came when I was cleaning out the house of my reclusive brother-in-law, Mike, in the early 2000s, and found there a little box with about 40 snapshots, all taken in about 1972, about half of them at the Munich Olympic Games. At the time he was a GI in Germany, and went to the games as a spectator.

This was the games of the hostage masscre, perhaps the first games where the word “terror” became a part of the games narrative.

Mike’s photos are just snapshots, and they likely were taken in the early days of the games, before the hostage crisis dominated everything. But they are interesting to look at nonetheless.

(Click to enlarge)

At the Munich Olympics 1972

At the Munich Olympics 1972

Munich Olympics 1972

Munich Olympics 1972

Munich Olympics 1972.  Not sure if the young woman is an athlete or not.

Munich Olympics 1972. Not sure if the young woman is an athlete or not.

I suspect I’ll watch bits and pieces of the Winter Games this year, as each Olympiad. But they are not of compelling interest to me.

Hopefully there will not be any bigger news than what we’ve seen so far.

Congratulations to the Russians and best wishes for a good Games.

POSTNOTE: Shortly after writing this post, I was standing in a post office line and chatting with a lady about my age. Conversation got around to the Olympics, and pretty soon she said, “my kids wanted me to fly to Arizona for a bit to get away from the cold, but I said no, you never know what will happen”, with the obvious overtones that somebody might highjack or blow up the plane.

There was no reason to pursue this discussion: fear is a powerful thing. On the way home I wondered about the incidence of terror related incidents aboard planes. Obviously, there’s 9-11-01 over 12 years ago; and there was an attempted high-jacking in the Ukraine in the last 24 hours. But given the millions upon millions of passengers, and passenger miles, flown in a given year, the terror threat is so minimal as to be non-existent.

Still, tonights news, I’d bet, will emphasize the Ukraine attempted high-jack, and attach it to the Olympics at Sochi. It’s a pretty safe bet….

COMMENTS (note also the “responses” section at the end of this post for possibly other comments):
from John B:
Yes, the hype about the big Olympic “stars” gets over done. The chasm between the amateur and professional sports ( basketball, hockey) competitors and the truly amateurs (track events, biathlon) seems peculiar. Although I have watched Olympic coverage in the past, I have really enjoyed two things, the pageantry of the opening and closing ceremonies, and of course, rooting for the Norwegians and other Nordic athletes . . . . check out the cross country skiing.

from Lydia H: Very interesting, Dick!
I saw a bit of the snowboarding…pretty amazing actually…tho it’s the ice skating that I follow in Winter Olympics. (Don’t watch the big ceremony since it’s just too Vegas!)

#840 – Dick Bernard: Misinformation, The Tyranny of Language: a Suggestion.

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

The February 6, 2013, Minneapolis Tribune carried an interesting column in the Opinion section: “What we can learn from abortion decline”, by William Saletan.

The subhead said that “with the [abortion] rate down 13 percent, both sides are right about some of the factors”, and in the second paragraph: “Pro-lifers are right that the decline is a good thing. And pro-choicers are right that what’s causing the decline – and will keep it going, if we’re smart – is women making these decisions on their own.”

You can read the column, here, on your own.

I was less interested in Saletan’s analysis, than the other set of screaming headlines and assertions on the same day about what a little statement in a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report meant about the Affordable Care Act (ACA, aka “Obamcare”) impact on future jobs.

Succinctly, all of the hype seems to focus on one small section on page 124 of a 175 page report (which you can read in its entirety here), “Effects of the ACA on Demand for Labor”, and which you can see summarized in another way here.

In short form, as I saw the gist of the report, many people who presently stay on their job only because they have health care through the company, may now leave that job early, since they don’t need or want to work full-time, and can get lower cost insurance through the Affordable Care Act. The employment reduction, thus, is largely voluntary.

In addition, and I have not seen this mentioned in the screaming headlines, these voluntary quits will leave job openings for people entering or wanting to return to the workforce – lack of job openings is another huge crying need in this country of ours.

In short, the screaming job-killer headlines and soundbites about Obamacare are essentially false; and as suggested in the “abortion” commentary cited at the front of this post, issue groups of all shapes, sizes and ideologies, data mine for the single phrase that supports their case in a report or even an utterance at a hearing somewhere, and ignore the rest of the information that people won’t take the time to read.

We are a society dominated by “headlines”. And opinion-makers know that. People just plainly and simply don’t read in depth, nor consider opposing points of view.

So we are lied to, daily, by misinformation and disinformation and inaccurate summaries of information.

And this is a dangerous trait for the short and long term health of us as a society.

We can defeat this, but it takes a bit of effort on our part, to not take the bait of the whoever is pitching whatever.

Life – take our own as our own example – is complex, day to day, hour to hour, sometimes minute to minute.

In the last day my future schedule changed dramatically for next week. I’ll be gone two or possibly three days attending to a relative near death and her brother who’s lived with her his entire long life. I knew it was coming sometime. All I didn’t know was when. Life is not frozen in time by a headline or an assertion….

An easy exercise, worth taking, is to assess your own life and some occurrence that – because you’re an ordinary person – didn’t translate into headlines.

For one example: I retired 14 years ago from a good job, at 59 1/2. I could do this. My employment carried a very good retirement plan; I could continue excellent medical and dental insurance; and I could explore other options without a lot of fear of starving to death till Social Security and Medicare kicked in.

It was a benefit to me.

It also held benefits for others: I had 27 years of relevant experience, but I was at burnout stage in my job, and I knew I was no longer as engaged or as efficient as I had been.

When I left, somebody new had an opening for the position, perhaps indirectly, as people transferred and otherwise took the position I had left.

Overall, everyone won when I left, including myself.

I think that’s the essence of that short paragraph in that CBO report….

For your own sake, what are your examples?

It takes work to see “the forest” rather than taking somebodies word about “the trees” that make up that forest.

It takes work, but it’s work worth doing.

#816 – Dick Bernard: A not-at-all-ordinary Christmas Gift.

Monday, December 23rd, 2013

Last Friday my friend Kathy gave me a plain unwrapped CD of Christmas season music: “Home for Christmas” by Susan Boyle. The CD is very good. That was expected.

CD cover, 2013

CD cover, 2013

Susan Boyle is known to me.

One of my first first blogs, mid-April, 2009, was about Susan Boyle’s appearance on the international scene. I saw the remarkable clip from her appearance on Britain’s Got Talent on CBS evening news, and listened to the YouTube clip over and over.

So did tens of millions of others.

The original 7 minute clip, referred to at the blog, is no longer available “copyright claim” it says, but there are numerous other existing clips of the same appearance. Here’s one of them.

At the time, I recall, there was ample skepticism about this remarkable performance by this remarkable lady. This was a “flash in the pan”, perhaps even lip synch. She said she wanted to be like the famed Elaine Page….

She won this semi-final, but ultimately another group won the finals of this round of Britain’s Got talent, and on life went.

A few months later, she did a duet, with Elaine Page, before a live audience.

About the same time, her first CD was released. I still have it.

But as with most everything in our lives, time passes by and Susan was “out of sight, out of mind”.

This years CD caused me to re-visit Susan Boyle – what was she up to in her life?

At the same YouTube, I scrolled through the possibilities and came across an extraordinarily interesting 45 minute TV show, released this year, about Susan Boyle today.

It culminates with her recent appearance in Houston at the first appearance on her first world tour.

I opened it yesterday afternoon, expecting to watch only a few minutes, but it was gripping, and I watched it all. She copes daily with life-long anxiety attacks, related to Asperger’s Syndrome.

You can watch it here.

I highly recommend it.

Susan Boyle is a wonderful example of tenacity and courage.

I wish her well. As we all know, from dealing with our own “disabilities”, whatever they are, you don’t just get over them, and they can be a lifelong issue to deal with.

Apparently, Susan conquered her Everest and even if this is her first and only world tour, she deserved congratulations. She’s an inspiration.

And, thank you, Kathy!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all.

#798 – Dick Bernard: Affordable Care Act. Light Years. Peaking too soon.

Friday, November 8th, 2013

A night or two ago CBS Evening News did what news reports always seem to do: in order to capsulize the latest crisis, they had short interviews with two women in Virginia after Tuesdays election. The unsuccessful candidate for Governor had made Obamacare the prime issue, and while he lost, the margin was less than predicted.

It was a referendum on Obamacare, so went the story.

One of the women hadn’t voted for Obama and didn’t like Obamacare, but had changed her mind when she found out how much she’d benefit by getting into the program. She was a working woman with a small day care business, best I recall.

The other woman was a businesswoman, apparently more prosperous, who was upset that Obamacare would cost her more in premium than the plan she carried.

I’m not sure what the CBS news team was asking me and others to conclude…. For me it made sense: we are an individualistic society, marking wins and losses from our personal perspective.

Yesterday, all the rage was President Obama himself apologizing for something he had said at the time the program was rolled out that was (depending on the report) a lie, dishonest, a mistake only in that the people who had to give up their insurance had substandard policies.)

Of course, then his apology was critiqued. It is all so very American. We lurch from one news report to the next. In perhaps a minute or at the most two we are given the definitive answer to complex problems. And usually we get the news from only the news source that verifies our own bias. I always like the after-report digest of Just Above Sunset, and last nights issue was pretty interesting. You can read Apologies of the Day here.

It is no wonder that we wander around confused about things.

For the enemies of Obamacare, this all seems like a godsend. Not quite so fast….

By accident more than design I spent much of my work career as an organizer of people. Since President Obama has been labeled by the hate words “community organizer”, I feel somewhat in company with him.

I did what he did (and you don’t get over ‘organizing’ – it becomes engrained).

Over many years, often by trial and error, I came to understand certain common sense principles about organizing around an issue.

One of these comes to mind specifically, especially around “Obamacare” (I prefer Obamacares):

1. As I understand the situation, the final deadline for people to enroll under the Affordable Care Act is March 1, 2014. This is about four months in the future. For most of us, that is Light Years away. Adding to this the fact that people tend to procrastinate for all sorts of reasons, the temporary bonanza of the computer botched rollout of the insurance plan will be hard to leverage for political advantage four months from now. (I’ll grant that serious mistakes were made in the testing, etc., of a gigantic new system, but blaming Obama personally, or Sebelius, only goes so far. It was, best I know, a private company that was the subcontractor….)

2. One of the absolute rules of organizing is “don’t peak too soon!” (or “too late”). If you had the perfect organizing plan but you peaked two weeks before the election, you risked losing. You wanted to peak at the last moment before the election, not three days before, or the day after. Of course, there are infinite variables in this business of “peaking”, but the wise strategist tries to factor in these variables. In this case, the “peak” will be in the 2014 election, a year from now. Many, many light years away. And don’t even ask about 2016. And remember Obama won’t be running for reelection then.

3. Of course, the competitive news media needs a “peak” story for their main news program…every day. They, makes no difference ideology, along with their subscribers, are most responsible for this constant frenzy. The constant focus on “ain’t it awful”.

There are many other similar organizing principles that could be identified. The above are enough for now.

But is hard to stay peaked for very long – we all know this from our own personal experience. And remember the “cry wolf” parable. It applies.


#783 – Dick Bernard: Shut Down: A Continuing National Tragedy (and don’t forget the Minnesota Orchestra)

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

This morning, last I heard, one of our five “outlaws” (one of their children is married to one of our children) gets on a plane in Minneapolis, flying to Washington D.C., for a reunion planned a year ago with several friends from the husbands Army days together in Vietnam times. They are from all over the country, and they have done several such trips together. Last year they decided that this year they’d meet in Washington, D.C. for the first time.

They are astute people, so most certainly they and everyone on the trip know what we do: that when they arrive, they won’t be able to tour any of the sites they came to visit. Congress has shut them down. As I pointed out in an earlier post, this reminds me of the famous Joni Mitchell song from 1970, here“>Big Yellow Taxi: “Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone, you [wreck] paradise and put up a parking lot.”

I’ll learn soon enough if/how this reunion trip went, including whether they boarded the plane to nowhere at all….

Meanwhile, the blather will continue unabated about whose fault this shutdown is, etc.

A Republican “Majority Survey” I filled out this morning (more on that at another time), gives a helpful hint about how the marketing of positions takes place. I was asked to rank-order the “most effective vehicle[s]” for Republican messages. I had these choices, and only these choices, in this order: Television Ads, Targeted Mailings, E-mail Messages, Telephone Calls, Newspaper, Radio, Internet Ads…and Other. (I chose “other”, and ranked all the rest equally, as least effective.)

The tragedy at the national level, whether short or long, will continue to unfold.

It seems basically to zero in on about 80 Republican Representatives – about 5% of the U.S. House of Representatives – for whom the Lord’s work seems to be holding the country hostage. Ryan Lizza, in the Sep 26 New Yorker, gives a helpful look at where these folks are from.

Perhaps a similar 5% of the “American people” are cheering on this disaster, for their own reasons. I know some of the people who are probably in this category. They are a bitter, tiny minority.

Meanwhile, back in the Twin Cities, yesterday we were at a rally commemorating the 1st day of the second year of the Lock-Out of the Minnesota Orchestra.

This was less than 24 hours after famed conductor Osmo Vanska had resigned (as he had promised to do) if no settlement was reached by midnight September 30; and, after the Orchestra Management cancelled a long scheduled concert by the Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in New York City next month.

This is very big, and very bad, news in the international music world. Attending and speaking yesterday was the president of the 90,000 member American Federation of Musicians (AFM – their October 1 statement here: MN Orch Board AFM Statement Oct 1, 2013).

You’d think it would be noticed. But across the street from us, perhaps 200 feet away, at WCCO-TV, which bills itself as the most watched station in this market, no attention was paid to this news – at least, we saw not so much as a WCCO camera recording the proceedings. And the local Minneapolis Star Tribune, whose publisher and CEO is on the Orchestral Association Board, while printing a long front page article gave very short shrift to the Union position.

News in our society is managed (see the Republican survey choices above.)

Those of us in the gathering heard the Musicians Union version of what happened at the final negotiations session the previous day. It is highly unlikely that the Union version of the bargaining session will ever see the light of day in the greater community because of who controls the media in this town, and the power people who control the Board of the Minnesota Orchestral Association. (Next on this mornings work, I’ll give my recount of the orchestra situation, and some photos, etc., from yesterdays rally can be found here (scroll down to October 2. This particular post will remain the ‘filing cabinet’ about the Minnesota Orchestra situation.)

While I don’t have any personal investment in my “outlaws” trip to D.C., and they probably don’t have any personal investment in my outrage at the destructive behavior of the Minnesota Orchestral Association management destroying the Orchestra I love and have willingly supported all these years, I see our predicaments as essentially equal.

We ought to be a country that cares about each other.

We’re in a time of power politics now.

We’ll rue the day.

We must become engaged, actively, in solutions for everyone.

from Joni H, Oct 2, 2013 (a Middle School Principal in a major metropolitan area, conveying a note from a teacher):
Thought you’d find this interesting. If anyone wonders how the government shutdown impacts a single classroom… This is what you get [click on link] when you visit (a website that our school uses with it’s 8th grade earth science classes.)

From Flo H, Oct 2, 2013: Think about this. It’s in doubt as to whether we can legally hold the volunteer driven Hike for Hope on the North Country National Scenic Trail (under National Park Service supervision) on Sunday, October 6 but there’s no way that we can actually let the public know, at this late date, that it has to be cancelled. Now, if Congress decides that National Parks will be an exception and grant continuation funding, as some members of Congress are proposing …

It appears that re-opening National Parks is more important to some in Congress than providing resources for 8th-graders earth science curriculum or providing access to healthcare to all. Hope your classes and teachers will fill the empty class time writing to their Representatives, Senators and the President and Letters to the Editor decrying the lunacy of this shut down! Maybe the kids could also suggest a viable compromise. The adults in charge surely can’t figure it out!

From a long retired eighth grade earth science teacher, good luck!

#770 – Dick Bernard: Exorcising “Power”

Wednesday, September 4th, 2013

The word in the subject line, “exorcising”, is not misspelled, and the quotation marks around “Power” are intended.

This morning’s Minneapolis Star Tribune had as it’s primary front page story, “[Minnesota] Orchestra board firm in face of the risks”. The story runs 36 column inches and (as of 9:30 a.m.) if it is in the on-line edition as yet, it is in hiding somewhere within that on-line edition.

It will probably be on-line sometime later today.

In addition to the length and placement of the story, I noted the emphasis. Four lines of the story, one on page one, and the rest on page three, and another column inch or so later in the story, were devoted to the Musicians Union position.

My constituency – we’re called “listeners” or “audience” usually – didn’t seem to merit attention, as has been the case till now.

The three top officials of the Orchestra board met on “Tuesday [Sep 4?] with the Star Tribune editorial board”, the story said. For each of them, the trip to the Star Tribune would be an easy walk from their offices in downtown Minneapolis. One of the Orchestra board’s members is noted on page two of the paper as Publisher and CEO of the Minneapolis Star Tribune Co.

The seeming life or death struggle in downtown Minneapolis at 1111 Nicollet Mall Minneapolis 55403 is a classic example of exercise of brute strength – “Power” in the traditional hierarchical sense.

There is really nothing very complicated about Power. More than 25 years ago I heard a talk which pretty much laid out the potential – and peril – of seemingly invincible “Power”. I wrote about it some time ago, here, Nov. 17, 2011. It is fairly short and speaks for itself.

The tiny minority who exercise “Power”, such as those three Orchestra Board chieftains who went in to meet with the Star Tribune Editorial Board (there’s probably an editorial ahead), know how to leverage their brands of power, such as described in the above referenced blog post.

But my guess is that the architects of the crisis at Orchestra Hall are also terrified about being found out and exposed for what they are, a tiny group who managed to take over and is blaming the victims for their own self-made problem, which is rapidly becoming a looming disaster.

“The people” in this case is probably not the general public, as most folks don’t go to the Orchestra and have only a vague notion of how important that institution is, or how little spade work the Board did to get support from the audience when they were supposedly in crisis.

“The people” are the folks who have been in the audience – the listeners – who in many and diverse ways have power to influence the future of this Orchestra we love.

Playing by the “Power folks” rules won’t solve things. All that is required is a bit of thinking outside of the box.

I know what I’m going to do personally. I’ve stated it publicly.

To everyone else, your call.

from Jim P. Sep 4, 2013:
Just a thought on your meaningful blog title – it’s disastrous when people who grew up outside the walls get in charge inside the walls, especially for those who remain outside.