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#1248 – Dick Bernard: A bit of nostalgia; and “fake news”

Saturday, April 1st, 2017

This afternoon was picture perfect in my town. It was too nice to stay indoors, so I decided to take a short trip down the old Military Road, ending up at Old Cottage Grove, in front of the Boondocks bar (which, from appearances, seemed to be closed….)

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Old Cottage Grove MN April 1, 2017

It wasn’t a long trip – 8 miles – but going there is very much off the beaten path for most of us in this bustling suburb of over 60,000 in which we live.

Down the street from the Boondocks is the John Furber Farm</a> (7310 Lamar in Cottage Grove) and back a couple of miles is the old Cedarhurst Mansion (6940 Keats Ave) which was a very fancy country house back in the day. Both the Furber barn and Cedarhurst house are now used for fancy weddings and parties. People pay for nostalgia. (The places can be seen here.)

Cottage Grove goes way back (for this area). The sign a few blocks from the Furber barn gives the thumbnail history:

Old Cottage Grove sign, corner of 70th and Lamar.

I got to thinking about these places long ago. Cottage Grove, the sign said, was founded in 1843, the town platted in 1871. St. Paul began its life as a distinct place in 1841 – it just celebrated its 175th. In those days, communication was serious business. There was no such thing as express mail, or computers, or tweets. The telegraph didn’t exist until 1861. Literacy spotty, and bare basics.

It cause me to think back to a week ago, watching the segment on “Fake News” on CBS’ 60 Minutes. It was an excellent segment, perhaps still available, though the basics are very simple. Anyone who believes anything that comes from anywhere is taking a leap of faith, including the claims of how many people actually passed something along. We’re in the age where, ironically, we are probably much less likely to get the straight story, than were the folks who lived on the Furber Farm and at Cedarhurst way over 100 years ago.

A little earlier I had checked the stats page for this blog on my home computer, and found something curious. Someone had linked to some very ordinary photo I’d included in a post two years ago. Of course, I can’t answer the “why” question. I’ve heard (tell me I’m wrong) that every photo also has its own signature, and if pirated can be misused, perhaps as a fictitious tweet? Whatever the case, the old phrase, “caveat emptor”, comes to mind. “Let the buyer beware.” There is a great plenty of “fools gold” out there masquerading as the real deal.

Back home, I checked the phone and there was one message from a friend whose career has been as a voyageur, though he was gifted enough with the horn to be part of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

He had an offer I couldn’t refuse.

We chatted a bit. He doesn’t do e-mail, but his daughter keeps up a website for his publications. It is here. I gave him my e-mail address to pass along to his daughter, and told him I’d send her a note at the website. Went there right away, but there is no “contact us” tab. Perhaps he doesn’t know that…or maybe it is his rejection of the modern technology. You can write him a letter, it appears, with a real stamp!

We joshed a bit, back and forth. In the Voyageur days, back in the 1600s, we wouldn’t be chatting by telephone! Even Luddites have their limits.

I can vouch, he does very good work. Very interesting.

And I think I can trust his scholarship much more than the next tweet or forward that I receive over the ‘net.

Have a great day.

Dick Bernard: The 15th day after inauguration.

Friday, February 3rd, 2017

Related Posts accessible here.

Sunday till Thursday, the end of January, the beginning of February, 2017, we were visiting a friend who has lived for over 50 years in a northern Minnesota town of under 2,000. We have been there before – we are friends for many years. It is always a pleasant visit.

Of course, we’re in the beginning of different political times, and this was a few days to notice things. For starters, I noticed a small photo of our friends “Gentleman Soldier” (below) who she had met in the aftermath of WWII in Germany, and later married, and lived and raised their family in rural America, for over 50 years, till he died in 1998.

I asked to borrow the 2×2 1/2″ photo, and scanned it. It is below (click to enlarge).

“Gentleman Soldier”, rural Germany, 1945.

It got me to thinking about those authoritarian days our friend and all Germans became accustomed to the 1930s, the days which ultimately left their country in ruins, and themselves, starving.

Back in the beginning, in the 1920s and 1930s, communication was primitive compared to today, not much difference between Germany and the U.S. There were newspapers, of course, and other printed material; there were telephones, but seldom used, and telegraph was more likely and reliable for emergency use. Radio was in its infancy (the first American radio news broadcast was about 1920).

Today, of course, all is different. Makes hardly any difference where you live, you have hundreds of choices of media.

We watched cable and regular news on the channels she preferred. We read the newspaper and the magazines she received, etc. It was just like at home. We could watch the beginning of the new administration in Washington just like anybody else. The new President couldn’t contain himself, with yet another reference to “fake” news (it seems to mean, that which does not flatter him).

Our friends rural community is like (apparently) most during this election time: basically conservative Republican. In the just completed election, the now-President won about 60% of her counties vote.

These would probably include the old guy (maybe my age or younger) who was railing away at the town bowling alley which doubles as the morning coffee hangout. He was raging against those present day immigrants and refugees taking free stuff that belonged to him. His friend didn’t seem to agree with him, but wasn’t about to argue.

The rural town dates back into the late 1800s, and was virtually 100% settled by immigrants from Norway and Sweden but, I guess, he thinks those immigrants were somehow different than today. My guess is the anti-immigrant guy comes from that immigrant stock.

Our friend shared last Sunday’s church bulletin from her church in town. She said the pastor was a veteran, two tours in Iraq, one in Afghanistan. His words are well worth the time to read in their entirety: Pastors message Ja 29 17001 I wonder how the flock received his words. And how many other pastors are pondering how to approach the business of politics in this new American environment.

Our friend also shared what was obviously a hand-made Christmas card with a beautiful piece of art painted on a piece of cloth. It was from a friend with whom she had shared a deeply personal tragedy many years before.

Light in Darkness

Her friends Christmas letter was profound, in part saying:

“My birthday on November 8th began with chilled champagne and the expectation of emotional celebration It ended with the appalling realization that life as we know it will never be the same – in the worst ways. With each new nomination and each middle-of-the-night tweet, the darkness has become more real and more frightening.

The Gospel of John contains no stable scene – no manger, angels, shepherds. No Christmas pageant script. It’ short and to the point: in the beginning was the Word…the light shines in the darkness…the Word became flesh….

In the midst of our discouragement we also sense the fires within to be torchbearers. We will surround ourselves with people we respect who will inspire us and light the way for us to think and act outside our comfort zone. We will donate more time and money to the organizations that support the values we hold dear. We will treat the environment with care. We will contact our legislators. We will be advocates for the people who will undoubtedly suffer discrimination, fear, and injustice under this administration. We will do what we can to welcome the stranger and feed the hungry. We will be the intentional in showing kindness and compassion.

We will do our best to be reflections of the Light. The Light that shines in the darkness.

Let your light so shine.”

POSTNOTE: In the last 30 miles to our friends town last Sunday, I got to thinking: there were, after all, almost 66,000,000 of us who voted for the candidate who won the election, but lost the electoral vote. What if, what if, every one of us committed, each week, in the next year, to do a single action aiming to positive change in direction of our country?

That would come out to nearly three and one half billion (3,500,000,000) actions.

How about it?

And I must also share this commentary from page 47 of the January 30, 2017 Time magazine: Time Jan 30 2017001. It speaks for itself.

#1195 – Dick Bernard: Hacking my Facebook, and the Tweet Dilemma, and a special guest.

Thursday, December 15th, 2016

A few days ago I got several e-mails reporting that my Facebook account had been hacked. There is something humiliating about such a violation of boundaries, but it happens. I changed my password (a story in itself), but decided not to close down and start over. I know, now, how to shut it down if need be.

We live in a world with plenty of evil actors, and not all of them are dictators in countries which we find hard finding on a map. They live among us, in our own towns, and in this increase to the wild west, they can be shameless, indeed become folk heroes to some. In a sense, we’re experiencing a pandemic disease, crossing borders with impunity, silent, invisible, until they elect to expose themselves.

Disease pandemics kill people; technology pandemics perhaps ultimately will be even more destructive in our thoroughly wired society. Most communications right now is on those little iPhone or similar screens. We are a computer driven society. If the network went down, we as a collective society wouldn’t have a clue what to do. Losing the technology grid would be as bad or worse than losing the electrical grid, where whole states go black.

I’m not telling state secrets: nefarious types probably have the technological ability to shut us all down, and we will be clueless as to how to get back on-line.

Learn how to handwrite again, and prepare for a day when even the postal service is disabled and we’re back to communicating as we did 100 years or more ago. Real envelopes, pencils and paper, real stamps, dealing with communication as if the recipient won’t see what you wrote for a couple of weeks, if ever.

Then there’s Twitter.

We both have the (I guess) antique “flip phones” which we thought were high-tech when we got them.

Nowadays I get occasional tweets – they come in with a distinctive “ring” – and I’ve figured out how to read them, but if they direct me to a link, I can’t go there; nor can I reply.

For me, at least, they’re simply a useless annoyance. Maybe a better tweet than “today is Dick’s birthday” might be “call your mother!”

The even more crucial issue is privacy. There is none. Get over it. It’s every bit as public as these few words on a public screen. A good friend of mine, 90, was incredulous that her young professional relative in another country, had a complimentary message for his ladyfriend, who sent a half-naked Facebook post. She couldn’t believe it.

Well, here we are.

COMMENT:
From Bruce: My facebook account has been hacked many times. I also see that many of my friends are hacked several times, too. The first time I saw a fake friend request “friendship”, I accommodated. Now that I’m familiar with it I just let it be. I guess being active is an inoculation against that sort of hacking.

POSTNOTES:
1. Comedy Centrals Trevor Noah did a long interview with President Obama on December 12. Here’s the link. You’ll have to watch a few commercials and its in three segments, but it is inspiring if you respect the President.

2. If you need recharging of inspiration, check out Paul Rogat Loeb’s books. They can inspire you. Here’s how to access.

3. Note to Minnesota readers re Monday Dec. 19, from Madeline: “Considering the extreme cold Sunday, I’m planning to attend this one on Monday–be warmer inside at this one too:

“Join us as we support Representative John Lesch at 11 am on Monday, December 19, in State Office Building Room 181 for a press conference announcing a National Popular Vote bill for Minnesota. This is right next to Leif Erikson park, and directly across the street from the Minnesota Senate Building where the 12 noon Electoral College vote will take place.”

Many thanks if you think you can join us!

#1160 – Peter Barus on politics; plus, an opportunity to view the entire 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum.

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

NOTE from Dick Bernard: Peter commented after last weeks post on Swiftboating Hillary Clinton. His always perceptive remarks are below. He writes from Vermont. His previous posts can be found here.

In addition, recently I received the link to all of the plenary session talks at the outstanding 2016 Nobel Peace Prize Forum in Minneapolis. The Forum was outstanding, and I was privileged to attend it. At minimum take a look. The Forum was especially great this year.

PETER BARUS:
In the political discourse effectiveness is measured against what we’re after in the first place. Are we seeking to support a candidate by defending their “narrative” (meaning, the carefully focus-grouped, workshopped and spin-doctored story saturating the corporate media channels)? That’s defending the story, not the candidate. Are we seeking to hold a candidate’s actions and words up to the light of proven fact? Usually we test for consistency of word and deed, and leave fact out of it. Are we hoping for some break in the timeworn, corrupt and entrenched “system” that might finally, for once in all of history, provide for an actual election that is actually free and fair? And results in the elevation of an incorruptible and honest leader? Well, we do almost universally profess to be in favor of exactly that.

The candidates know this terrain very, very well. Bernie Sanders (my Senator) knew from the start that he would fail to be nominated, much less elected: he knows how things are done in America. But it was a kind of reverse-Reagan action: he hoped to shift the center to make an election include values and voices that are always marginalized. Clinton is of course a master of the Way of Washington, and has achieved real and incontestable stature the old fashioned way: she is more “pragmatic” (ruthless and cunning) than all the other aspirants to the Oval Office dare to be. Saving only the Republican Nominee. As for that celebrated personality, his expertise is in fighting by his own rules: on his turf, with him as referee.

In a fight, the first thing is to choose the ground. The Republican did this years ago, and has owned it completely. We may think it is a stupid choice, an insane choice, an immoral choice; but it is the ground on which the candidate stands and hurls his challenges. And it is going to be very tricky for the Democrat to fight him on some other battlefield than the one where he is already fighting. Consider that to hold a debate, the venue will have to be TV, and that’s the ground the Republican has staked out. Clinton’s ground, of international relationships, deep personal understandings with and of world leaders in their political contexts, the management of continual wars around the globe, and the staunch backing of Wall Street – all that is already on TV, and out of her hands. Her ground is part of his ground. Welcome to my world. Said the spider to the fly.

The second thing in a fight is never box a boxer, or wrestle a wrestler. Somebody is going to have to fight a Reality TV host. On Reality TV. That’s two fundamental principles of warfare that he has, and she doesn’t, going in.

The real assets in this campaign are not the money, or the power-brokers, or the smoke-filled rooms. Not the people you insult, or those abandoned by the American Dream, or disparaged for loving Jesus, or too proud to take a government handout. No Minorities or Special Interests matter here. Nor the battle-scars of the top diplomatic office in the United States Government. And most certainly not your “gender”: Lucretia Borgia? Imelda Marcos? Maggie Thatcher for heaven’s sake? What’s sex got to do with it?

No, none of that. What really matters now is attention. Human attention, focused not on the candidate, but on that candidate’s pointing finger, moment by moment. What do they point at? Is it the moon? A reflection? Which candidate will garner the highest ratings while giving us the finger? We will hear all about the type of fake nails on hers, and the exceptional length and girth of his.

There is this funny thing about the human brain. What it perceives it also acts from. This happens before the intellect is engaged. All the intellect can do, after attention has been seized, is rationalize the accompanying behaviors. And there are two basic reactions to the Reality TV candidate’s performances: apathy or outrage. And both of these human responses stoke the fires of his campaign. Outrage for or against, it doesn’t matter at all, the campaign balloons. See, it’s not a “for or against” switch: it’s an On/Off switch. And the light goes on either way while we’re frantically fighting over who gets to flip the switch.

Meanwhile, one candidate trumpets ever more crazy bigotry and xenophobia, and outright lies about economics and his penis; and the other candidate, already trapped in the same discursive space with the opponent’s genital dimensions, sounds like a teacher from a junior high school civics class, going hoarse trying to yell above the noise of excited teenagers as the bell goes off. “DO. YOUR. HOMEWORK! THERE. WILL. BE. A. TEST!”

Whichever candidate’s chosen ground becomes the scene of the big showdown, the real issues will not get any airtime. Instead, one candidate will throw any reasonable discussion into chaos, and the other will flounder helplessly grasping at straws to regain some fraction of public attention. That fraction will hear defensiveness and righteous disdain. And that triumphant, derisive laughter. And the pundits will analyze each nuance of foreign policy, the cost of a wall on the Mexican border, and and whether Clinton killed Bin Laden to silence him about their relationship. But most of the viewers will have passed out by then, after the cathartic relief of seeing the Strict Father put the Nurturant Parent in her place.

Never mind that the former Secretary of State has conducted war after war in precisely that way, sowing chaos. With the Air Force, the Marines, the Army, the Navy, the FBI, the NSA, and the CIA, and organizations that fund aspiring dictators, like the International Republican Institute, and the National Democratic Institute. Pragmatic, utilitarian (non-partisan) tools of State. And her opponent has no experience whatsoever with actual invasions, airstrikes or drone-killings; he just uses metaphorical weapons, like the Big Lie, the verbal sucker-punch, the innuendo, the question-as-fact, the straw-man, the begged question, the categorical denial, the stonewall. And of course, mockery and derision. Tools of Reality TV.

It’s happening on TV. The President is elected on TV. We’re in the domain of attention, remember. In this campaign, a shooting war might get attention, except what’s new about a war? War is just background white-noise now, to most Americans. If it comes up at all it will be to blame the former Secretary for losing it. Whereas a good one-line chant like “lock ‘er up!” will cut to the bone.

But. There is hope. We are not just stimulus-response machines. Your attention please: it is your attention. You can direct it elsewhere. Your attention is yours alone to give. Don’t let them snatch it away. Make them work for it, at least. Take ownership of your attention. Talk with people who are like you, and not like you, face to face. Ask questions, and listen to the answers. We could, theoretically at least, elect a President in an election, and not Reality TV.

Then when those politicians point at something, you can tell whether that’s the moon they’re pointing at, or just the reflection in a mud-puddle.

COMMENTS:
from SAK, in England: Thanks Mr Bernard,
Mr Barus’ comments about choosing the ground for a fight brought to mind part of the reason the UK voted to leave the European Union. The nationalist far right politician Nigel Farage chose the ground to fight on, the same ground Mr Trump has chosen: immigration. The EU means free movement of EU citizens among the member states – it does not mean borders open to all & sundry as the poster Mr Farage hung on his bus seems to imply [hordes of apparent non-natives coming into somewhere]. Furthermore the UK is nowhere near “Breaking Point” as far as welcoming European citizens who wish to live and work there. It seems truth is the first casualty not only of war but of political campaigns as well.

POSTNOTE: Pertinent and timely: Today’s Just Above Sunset, “Under the Volcano

SECOND POSTNOTE, a column in today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune, the headline says it all: Threats replace political dialogue at State Fair. The exact same example the writer uses in her article was used by some guy I had never seen before out in small town North Dakota in March, 2014, commenting on Hillary Clinton outside a building. At that time, 2 1/2 years ago, Hillary Clinton had not been a politician since being appointed Secretary of State in 2009, and when she was a politician, she was simply one of 535 members of the United States Congress. Hatred without benefit of fact is still easily transmitted. The guy who accosted the woman in the op ed would have been a good candidate for the ruffians who enabled the Third Reich in the early days.

#1158 – The “Swift-boating” of Hillary Clinton: the e-mails and Clinton Global Initiative and whatever else is next….

Friday, August 26th, 2016

An 1879 Essay about Running for President by Mark Twain: here

Many days when I walk I wear a perfectly good old t-shirt that goes back to the summer of 2004.

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It was the year John Kerry (now U.S. Secretary of State) ran for President against George W. Bush. And it was the same year that the purveyors of politics of personal destruction unleashed the Swiftboat ads, turning one of Kerry’s chief strengths (Vietnam war hero, also Vietnam war protestor) into a weakness.

The sliming of a very decent man worked….

Karl Rove was the innovator of this strategy. While Swiftboat was probably not Rove’s personal doing, at least not so far as we knew, or directly, it was basically direct application of that innovative smear, put into play by others, and funded by big money which paid for the advertising.

Swiftboating worked then, and it is in play now, big time: take Hillary Clinton’s major strengths, such as political and diplomatic experience, and her demonstrated competence, and the Clinton Foundation that does a great deal of good, and turn them into negatives by cherry picking fragmentary “facts”, or even making facts up, then churning, and churning and churning.

1. The Clinton Global Initiative “scandal” is one of those breathless non-events. Check it out before being critical. (I notice, in searching for the link, that the Trump campaign has probably purchased first billing in the search engine to try to “trump” Clinton Global Initiative….)

So it goes. You can find Trumps link on your own, if you wish.

(While you’re looking, check into another great former Presidents initiative: the Carter Center.

Clinton and Carter were Presidents who chose to do good not only in office, but after they left office.)

2. The e-mail non-scandals (that’s what they are) will fade into the background, doubtless morphing into new sensational charges about other things…this has been the modus operandi against the Clintons for the entire time they’ve been in elected office, from Arkansas forward. There has been relentless smearing of them for years, all the while, the Clintons remain among our most admired people.

(The e-mail thing is something I relate to, since I do many e-mails. Personally, I have 32,528 “sent” messages saved on my computer. These go back to October 9, 2010, nearly 6 years ago, when I bought this computer; and there are many other archived messages which go back much longer.)

It seems insane to keep these old e-mails, but occasionally they come in handy, most recently at this blogspace, recalling Feb. 2008, Hillary Clinton 2008001, when I first wrote about why I was supporting Hillary Clinton for President (my personal endorsement continues.)

I muse about what would happen to me if some enemy felt a need to grab my e-mails, mine them for whatever data could be found, and then use bits and pieces of the e-mails to indict me for some sinister or unseemly deed. Would it be easy to find material within those 32,528? I’d think so. All you need to do is find a sentence, somewhere in there, a subject line even, and then milk the daylights out of it.

Could I defend myself? First, would I even remember whatever the e-mail was about? Hardly.

But, that’s how this dirty game is played.

The only antidote is to refuse to be sucked into this conversation. The Clinton folks know how to deal with this. I have a great deal of confidence in them.

Years ago when an organization I was part of was forced into a corner by attack after attack by the opposition, we finally figured out that there was not a thing we could do: a response to one attack was answered by another attack about something else.

Our troubles ended when we went on the offensive.

The times and circumstances were different than now, but not much.

I have confidence.

Back to 2004 John Kerry did alright after losing his run for President. George W. Bush got his second term from 2005-2009, and life went on.

After Hillary Clinton‘s honorable stint as Secretary of State, John Kerry was appointed, and he’s doing a great job, best I can tell.

The Republicans have been brutal in their attacks on their former Senate colleague, and I think the main reason is that she is extraordinarily competent and well prepared for the most demanding office in the world.

They know she is, but they cannot admit it.

And all of us are stuck with Donald Trump, whose campaign is so untruthful it’s not safe to believe anything that he says….

It’s not long to the 2016 election. Vote and vote very well informed.

POSTNOTE: REMEMBERING A CAMPAIGN OPPORTUNITY WITH THE KERRY CAMPAIGN.

August 25 and 26, 2004, I had a once in a lifetime opportunity to actually participate in ‘boots on the ground’ in the John Kerry campaign.

A small album can be viewed here: Kerry Mpls 8-25-2004001

Along with John Fitzsimons, a teacher in Anoka-Hennepin School District, I was assigned to a truck whose role was to carry press gear to the downtown Hilton Hotel when Mr. Kerry came to town for a campaign stop. It wasn’t flashy duty, and there was a lot of hurry up and far more waiting, but it really did give a unique view into the reality of campaigning for President.

My recollection is that we showed up for duty early in the day at the Executive Airport section of the Twin Cities airport. You don’t just show up for this kind of duty. Security is a concern.

We had earlier volunteered as part of Veterans for Kerry and were thoroughly vetted.

The photos show the nature of our duty: in the afternoon we loaded up the Press equipment that had come in with candidate Kerry, and joined the motorcade to downtown Minneapolis.

The next day we reversed the drill, and at the airport in the afternoon all of us had a chance to “press the flesh” with Mr. Kerry before he re-planed and left for his next stop.

Our task was very mundane, but as I think back on it, it was one of many unseen essential duties.

Apparently I wasn’t fired.

October 26, 2004, I was back on duty, driving some press people in the motorcade of John Edwards, vice-presidential candidate, to a morning event at the University of Minnesota.

The drill was the same as before.

Here, we drivers had an opportunity for a group photo, and I indulged myself in a “selfie” at some point in the morning.

Both candidates were most gracious.

Essentially three full days of work for myself and the others; and the candidates got a few column inches in the press, and a few seconds on the TV news.

Drivers for Edwards motorcade Oct. 26, 2004.  Dick Bernard 2nd from right

Drivers for Edwards motorcade Oct. 26, 2004. Dick Bernard 2nd from right

Dick Bernard selfie, October 26, 2004

Dick Bernard selfie, October 26, 2004

#1157 – Dick Bernard: Two Books Well Worth a Read: Shawn Otto’s “The War on Science”; and Lois Phillips Hudson’s “Unrestorable Habitat”

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

Back in January a mysterious e-mail appeared in my in-box from someone named Cynthia. She had googled the name Lois Phillips Hudson to see if anything would come up, and found me. More on Mrs. Hudson’s book, “Unrestorable Habitat“, “below the fold”…

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A few months later came an invitation to hear Shawn Lawrence Otto read from his new book, The War On Science.

I know of Shawn’s past work, always first rate, and I bought the book, and it made my summer vacation book list.

I read, and learned a great deal from, both books.

They are, on the one hand, very different; but on the other, very similar. One is by an old lady written when she was my age range. Mrs. Hudson, is a retired college professor, quite obviously grieving the loss of her daughter to illness. She writes about the deep conflict she sees between today’s natural world and technology, compared with her youthful days in the midst of the worst of the Great Depression and World War II which followed.

(The retired college professor died before she finished her book, so one has to speculate on what her ending would be, but that actually contributes to the richness of her passionate expression of feelings on her past and present, and our future.)

The other book is by an author who painstakingly and expertly documents not only the very real “war on science”, but on other areas susceptible to manipulation of public opinion. Shawn Otto expertly reviews the problem, and then devotes much of the meat of the book to ways towards solutions.

SHAWN OTTO’S “THE WAR ON SCIENCE”

I highly recommend “The War on Science” to anyone with even a tiny bit of interest in topics like science, marketing, politics, and the incessant manipulation of personal and public opinion (propaganda) in our own country. Get to know the name “Edward Bernays”…. He enters the story by name at page 257.

You don’t need to be a scientist to understand the book, which is a very interesting history of science and its not always consistent position of esteem in our society (thus “war”); in addition, The War on Science is an equally interesting history of propaganda as it has been used in America especially related to marketing of products and ideas going back as far as WWI.

There is so much interesting and well argued information in the book that I would do a disservice by simply doing a once over in a review.

You need to read the book.

Best to take a look yourself. There are many formal reviews of the book at Amazon.com. One of them is mine.

You will see the book is being very well received.

Personally, I found “The War On Science” to be unusual in a couple of respects:
1. It nicks most everyone, including scientists, who get complacent and think they have found and can sit righteously on their own truth, as they define the term “Truth”. The book is heavily footnoted: 59 pages of sources.
2. Most importantly, fully 87 pages of the book discuss ideas for how individuals and groups in our society can move toward solutions to what seem intractable problems.

The War On Science is an excellent basis for book club discussion, as is Lois Phillips Hudson’s Unrestorable Habitat (following). Give both a serious look.

Unrestorable Habitat001

LOIS PHILLIPS HUDSON AND UNRESTORABLE HABITAT (continued)
A few days ago I was at a nearby park, completing “The War on Science“.

This day my phone rang, and on the line was long-time friend Nancy, from Hibbing, calling to comment on Unrestorable Habitat which I had sent her some months earlier and she had set aside and was just getting around to reading.

She had set it aside, but was finding it to be a marvelous book, a strong compliment coming from a retired teacher of English.

Unrestorable Habitat is one elderly woman’s reflections about her life, a certain huge business in her hometown of Redmond WA, some local fish, the loss of ability to imagine, and really, about all of us, everywhere in the so-called “developed world”.

Hudson’s book centers on an issue much on her mind as she grew older: the conflict she saw between salmon and big business in her town with lots of looks back at remembered pieces of richness flowing from her own very real hardships as a farm daughter during the worst of the Great Depression in North Dakota, then in Washington state, and forward into WWII in Washington. (She graduated from Redmond WA high school in 1945.)

Hudson died before she completed her book, but there is far more than sufficient “meat on the bones” to be published exactly as left by her: her opinions about post-9-11-01 contemporary U.S. society.

*

Some years back, I had blogged several times about aspects of Hudson’s 1962 well known book, “Bones of Plenty“, written about the worst of the Great Depression in rural North Dakota, and that is what Cynthia Anthony found in her random internet search. Cynthia, this mystery lady from New York, had become archivist for Mrs. Hudson’s papers, and asked permission to link my posts, “numbers 490, 495, and 565, which reference Lois Phillips Hudson” to her Lois Phillips Hudson Project, a website dedicated to preserving Ms Hudson’s rich but now basically unknown legacy.

It was Nancy who had earlier called my attention to “Bones of Plenty“; and now I was the one who had called Nancy’s attention to “Unrestorable Habitat“.

(Nancy had Mrs. Hudson as a teacher at North Dakota State University 50 years ago, and had vivid memories of her. She was a great teacher, Nancy said. She mentioned one quote by Hudson – at page 24 – that particularly caught her attention: “As..the mother of two daughters and the daughter of a father who frequently assured me that the brightest woman could never be as bright as your average man….” Unrestorable Habitat is peppered with such reflections.)

Once into Unrestorable Habitat, she found the book very interesting and thought-provoking.

Unrestorable Habitat so caught my attention that I purchased and distributed 100 copies, starting about 100 days ago.

Nancy was one of the recipients.

Here is the letter I enclosed with each book: Unrestorable Habitat

*

Let me leave it at that. “Unrestorable Habitat” is worth your time, as is “The War On Science“. Each can encourage you to “Do Something”.

The two books complement each other.

I hope you “take the bait”.

August 21, 2016

August 21, 2016

POSTNOTE:
1. Some readers might say, about “The War on Science“, that I don’t know enough about science to learn.
Not at all true. In my own review of the book (it’s probably the 22nd or so, link above) I acknowledge that I had virtually no science education in the tiny schools I attended growing up. My opportunities to know science were basically ad hoc, like watching Sputnik blink in the North Dakota night sky in 1957, or getting the Salk Vaccine not too long before. “The War On Science” is more than just a primer, but written to an audience who knows nothing about science. It is a learning tool in itself.

2. In the solutions section of “The War on Science“, Shawn Otto has a section entitled “Battle Plan 1: Do Something” (p. 371).

In her own way, Mrs. Hudson in Unrestorable Habitat was (I think) trying to begin a conversation: where can or should the new ways fit with the old, and complement, rather than compete with, each other? She wrote at least some of her draft on a laptop in a coffee shop, so what some might perceive as a rant against technology, at least part of her text was simplified because of the very technology she railed against.

There is room for conversation. She was Doing Something.

Earlier today I was at Mass at Basilica of St. Mary, and afterwards noted again the three trash containers downstairs (photo above).

This experiment goes back a couple of years, when my friend Donna and her committee got a small grant to get recyclable containers for use in the coffee area. They were Doing Something.

The experiment has never worked as it was supposed to. If one looks in the bins, there are admixtures of items, despite the verbiage on the containers. One can say it failed.

But I don’t agree. Who knows, among the hundreds of us who visit that area each Sunday, there is someone who gets an idea for use back home, maybe if only in their own home? Great ideas start with experiments that seem to fail. But to start them, someone has to “Do Something”.

#1152 – Dick Bernard: The Newspaper; Government by Twitter

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016

Those interested in why I very strongly support Hillary Clinton for President can read my post from Sunday here. The post includes several comments pro and con as well.

Personally, I always find the perspectives of Just Above Sunset informative. The latest is here.

(click on all photos to enlarge)

The Packing Crate, June 7, 2015

The Packing Crate, June 7, 2015

Dubuque paper001

Monday evening came one of those far too infrequent “faceoffs” (as Dad would say) with my cousin and her husband from Winnipeg. We had a too-short but animated visit over dinner in Edina, and covered lots of bases, a small part of which touched U.S. politics, which is a natural point of interest (and concern) for Canadians, who share thousands of miles of border with us.

My relatives, who grew up in the border area just north of the Minnesota/North Dakota border, still speak their native French as first language. At the same time, they are equally fluent in English, and have been dual citizens of the U.S. and Canada for years.

The conversation drifted to Ovila, my Dad’s first cousin, and my cousins father, born in the early 1900s.

How did Ovila learn English in the days before television, living on a farm in a section of Manitoba whose first language has always been French?

The answer to this question is complex, but as I recall, the newspaper was a primary vehicle, and as I recall from my own conversation with him years ago, catalogs, a primary source of information about goods for the farm. He self-taught himself English.

Ovila read every word of the newspaper, as did his neighbors. They were very well informed. Made no difference who wrote what, agree or not, it was consumed.

It caused me to think about my German grandparents, whose now-former farm has been my preoccupation for the last two or three years.

Being male, my focus was on Grandpa. Their country mailbox was full of paper: the weekly newspaper from LaMoure; the Jamestown and Fargo papers; the Farm Journal; catalogs; on an on. And they were religiously read. People like my Mom occasionally contributed a piece of poetry; I have articles Grandpa wrote soliciting membership in the fledgling Farmers Union in 1928. And on and on and on.

Last year, while going through the abundant detritus after my Uncle died, we looked through a well constructed coffin like packing crate obviously used to bring possessions to the North Dakota farm from Wisconsin when Grandma and Grandpa moved there in 1905 (see photos above, and following). Among the precious contents (at the time), Grandma’s wedding dress, and assorted ‘stuff’, then to be saved, now of little interest, except in passing.

The Packing Crate revealing its contents, May 24, 2015.

The Packing Crate revealing its contents, May 24, 2015.

In the box were two crumbling Dubuque newspapers, one in English; the other in my grandparents native German. Probably they had been delivered to the Wisconsin farm, and were handy when they were packing stuff for shipment to ‘Dakota. The articles in the English edition covered the waterfront (photo above); I’m sure the same was true for the German edition. What is certain, every page of each of these newspapers had seen many eyes. (Grandma and Grandpa married Feb. 28, 1905; he, his brother and his cousin came west first to build a house and such; Grandma came about six weeks later. The crate likely carried her belongings.)

Fast forward to today, August 3, 2016.

Those old newspapers, with readers whose education seldom was past 8th grade, were astonishing pieces of literature.

Today’s small town newspapers, like the LaMoure Chronicle, carry on the tradition of the past. They are a treasure to be savored.

But now we’re in the “Twitter Generation”: news by headline. I don’t need to define that any further. We can pick our own particular bias, and pretend that it is not only the only perspective that matters, but that it is the only perspective. We know that’s not true, but…. Our collective narrowness, made possible by infinite organs of “communication”, serve us ill. I think we know that, but it is easy to deny this reality.

Today far too many of us choose, freely, to be uninformed, EXCEPT to confirm our own biases. Our Elders had less means to receive and share communications, but in many ways they were much better informed and prepared to participate in a civil society than we are.

We are not at our best, these days: watch the political polemics. Hopefully we’ll survive our collective and intentional ignorance particularly of other points of view.

.

#1142 – Dick Bernard: The State Department E-mails, and a Personal Reflection Back

Wednesday, July 6th, 2016

I write after FBI Director Comey has made his report on the Hillary Clinton e-mails a few hours ago. The assorted “spheres” will make of the report as they will, over, and over, and over, and over….

Permit me a moment to share a bit of historical perspective.

It happens that in the last few weeks I was tasked with writing an introduction to a near-1000 page publication entitled Chez Nous, whose contents will be 155 actual newsletters published by volunteers in a small organization in which I was long active, which existed between 1980 and 2002.

I had been volunteer editor of two thirds of these newsletters, and beginning about seven years ago I decided to make them potentially useful by creating an index of their contents. This required me to read every newsletter once again.

A few months ago a decision was made to publish the newsletters as part of the legitimate historical record of a time past, and here we are.

And so, an introduction (which quotes a few e-mails, by the way), was in order.

(For the curious, you can see and read everything here (click on the tab “library”, then on “Chez Nous”, then on the link to the newsletters.)

There are two sentences in the introduction to those newsletters which I wish to emphasize, and they are on page VI, as follows: “It wasn’t until Jan-Feb 1999 that an e-mail address appeared in the newsletter (p. 760)…We tend to forget how recently e-mail came to us common folks.”

It was 2009 when Hillary Clinton came to head the massive U.S. State Department with tens of thousands of employees world-wide. Some of these persons were originators of these now famous “e-mail chains” in which a few apparently “secrets” were referenced or revealed. Most, in a technology sense, were “common folks”, trying to figure out how to use this new way of communicating. My bet is that we can all tell our stories.

Of course, we commentators – all of us – will not know what these “secrets” were…they were, after all, secrets.

There is no need to invest more words. If you’ve read this far, you probably have already come to some conclusion about guilt or innocence of Secretary Clinton, or even if this whole business amounts to nothing at all.

It is part of history.

Six lines down from the statement I quote above, I say this: “Ten years in technology today is like 100 or more years in the older days. It can get confusing”.

Reflect on your own past with this technology thing, and remind others to do the same.

COMMENTS:
from Norm (himself a longtime and excellent volunteer newsletter editor):
Gees, Dick, and to keep things consistent with the predictable reactions to the FBI report on Hillary’s use of emails, are you sure that there wasn’t some sort of cover-up or whitewash in all of those emails that you have decided to index and categorize? Isn’t there a severe risk that upon reading and reviewing your compilations that someone will come forward with the claim that your purposely omitted some of them or “lost” some of them or put them into the wrong category?

I mean isn’t there a significant risk, Dick, that someone might claim…or perhaps a group could complain…that your indexing and compiling “clearly shows an obvious” North Dakota bias or something like that?

Gees, Dick, one or more of those disgruntled non-North Dakotans might even insist on a public investigation of your work to determine if such a bias exists as they, of course, are absolutely sure that it exists.

I mean, goodness, a feeling could develop or being suggested that there is always something with Bernard’s always good work that reflects that doggone North Dakota bias?

There isn’t a little Kenny Starr among those potential critics is there who would want to take such an investigation to the end no matter how much the cost, is there?

Just in an all out effort to trump your work, as it were?

Response to Norm: Egads! I’ll have to delete that blog before it causes me problems!

One of my worries, with the newsletter “book”, is inadvertently misstating a page number in the index, or missing a cross reference I should have caught. It does happen, of course, And finding it after it’s printed is too late.

I did the initial indexing, and some years later essentially re-indexed to fill in the blanks missed the first time (there were many such blanks). Even now, when I’m pretty sure I’ve caught most of them, I’m sure I’ll still find mistakes. But those 155 newsletters are more thoroughly indexed that, I bet, you’ll find anywhere!

As you know, as a newsletter editor yourself, mostly you’re so starved for news, that you take almost whatever comes in, fact-checking be damned. If you read my piece, when I was doing that newsletter for an ethnic group (French-Canadian) I gave priority to whatever came into my mailbox (and that was the U.S. mail, by the way), and, of course, like you, because I was editing something, I was always on the lookout for items which might be of interest to the readership.

One of my many “weaknesses”, I suppose, in these ideological purity days, is that I like to hear and share opposing points of view…so long as the writer identifies him or her self. This factors out those ridiculous “forward” that are anonymous and passed from e-box to e-box forever…and there will be a lot of those I can bet.

Thanks for the comment: I’ll add to the post.

Peter Barus: A Talk By Amy Goodman

Sunday, May 29th, 2016

NOTE: Peter is a longtime great friend from rural Vermont. He is an occasional and always welcome visitor at this space. On May 22, he had an opportunity to hear journalist Amy Goodman in Troy, New York. His comments follow, with his permission.

(click to enlarge)

Peter Barus, front row, left, Oct 23, 2002, Mastery Conference, Annandale MN.

Peter Barus, front row, left, Oct 23, 2002, Mastery Conference, Annandale MN.

Peter Barus:
May/22/2016

Amy Goodman spoke last night at the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, NY, a lovely little old converted church. Arriving early, I strolled around the block in this economically by-passed neighborhood of old houses, grand old churches, and grinding poverty. A local church still retains its original Tiffany stained glass windows, and the Troy Music Hall is world-famous for extraordinary acoustics. I found that the Sanctuary for Independent Media is very active in the immediate community. At one end of the block is a little park, with an outdoor stage, built by (and commemorating) local artists, craftspeople and community groups. The back of the stage is a wall of intricate mosaic made by many hands. There was chicken being cooked for the $100 a plate dinner, and while I was standing around, a little car parked, and out stepped Amy, with two or three friends. We all walked around the little park while one of the Sanctuary’s leaders explained the history of this little patch of green in the city. There is a community garden at the other end of the block, and inside the Sanctuary is a 100-watt FM radio station that broadcasts Democracy Now! along with music and community affairs programming.

After supper Amy spoke to a packed house in the high-ceilinged former church. Soon everyone was listening as if sitting across the kitchen table with Amy, as she reported on the 100-city tour she is completing with her book.”Democracy Now!: Twenty Years Covering the Movements Changing America” by Amy Goodman, David Goodman, and Denis Moynihan. Her speech covered almost the last four decades of peace, justice, civil rights action, from an eye-witness perspective only she can provide. The connections, the people and events, touched my own life at more points than I’d ever realized. Her stories are moving and the raw truth of them is immediate and inspiring. They seem to have a common thread, of ordinary people acting in admirable and selfless ways, without a moment’s hesitation, in the face of systematic oppression, violence and injustice. And it seems that this is how human beings normally act in such circumstances – media depictions to the contrary notwithstanding.

One important message is that the media have almost no connection to direct human experience, and politics is covered in proportion to political ad revenues. Punditry demands no actual knowledge of the facts. This is why, for instance, we rarely hear what Sanders actually says, much less in his own voice. Instead we are treated to speculation about violent “followers”. This major Presidential candidate has been “vanished” from the airwaves. The night the Republicans ended up with a “presumptive nominee”, that individual got coverage of an empty podium at one of his mansions, captioned “to speak soon!” while his rivals’ concession speeches, some Hillary sound bites, and zero mention of Sanders droned on. Sanders was at that time addressing an audience of tens of thousands in Arizona, by far the largest actual news event, and the cameras were pointing at an empty platform.

Amy brought stories of a real and very large movement, the same one we are constantly told ended successfully when Obama was elected, It is the current generation’s Civil Rights movement. Occupy Wall Street is part of that, Black Lives Matter is part of that. The many anti-war demonstrations that go almost totally unreported are part of that. The Sanders campaign is part of that. And the real, and unreported, question today is whether the corporate media will manage to keep enough of us distracted, resigned, apathetic and cynical while the forces of blind capitalism complete the looting, militarization and ultimately the destruction of our only planet.

The corporate media are simply ignoring that ubiquitous and vital public conversation. The stakes seem high. As I listened to Amy speak, it became clear that it’s not about choosing “sides” in some mythical epic struggle between good and evil, war and peace, much less “Republicans” and “Democrats”; it’s about discovering one’s own commitment, and whether it is to mere personal avoidance of pain, or to aliveness and possibility for all people, everywhere. To climbing the mythical Ladder of Success, or being of some actual service in making a workable world while we’re in it together.

Amy Goodman is a walking demand that we struggle with this question, for ourselves. Get with “people like us, and not like us,” she says, and express your own experience honestly, and listen honestly to theirs. Instead of accepting the false dichotomies and slogans and polls, endless polls, that pour out of the media echo chamber, take your part in the conversation that matters.

Peter

COMMENT:
from Dick:
Great post from Peter. I most resonate with the last paragraph.

Each time I hear the conversation about who has the power I think back to a thirty years ago talk, about 1987, about “Referent Power” – how much we have, and how ineffectively the left uses it. Referent Power? Here. Scroll down a little ways. Developing positive relationships with someone who sees some things differently is crucial to making positive change. Relationships are not easy. They are crucial.

#1132- Dick Bernard: The Spymasters, and related.

Sunday, May 22nd, 2016

Last night we watched what I’d consider a must-watch two hour special on CBS’ 48 Hours: “The Spymasters: CIA in the Crosshairs“. If you missed it, I think you can watch it on-line here. Ordinarily these are shown free for a very limited amount of time.

Succinctly, we live in a complicated world. The constant effort, on all sides, is to try to reduce everything to the simplest of terms. If you watch this program reflectively, rather than strictly judgmentally, it will cause you to think.

Towards the end of the program we were reminded that in the 15 years since 9-11-01 there have been 45 deaths due to terrorism in the United States (an average of three per year in our population of over 300,000,000); on the other hand, radical Islamic terrorism and its dangers have spread dramatically. We see this, of course, mostly in TV images of ISIS these days. But even here, there are only a limited number of merchants of terror.

Fear of Terror is exploitable, as we see most everyday in our political conversation. It is used to keep people psychologically on edge, by so doing keeping them more susceptible to manipulation.

Back in the winter of 2016, I set about trying to define a bit how the face of war has changed. It exists in this single page graphic: War Deaths U.S.002.

Here is the same data pictorially (click to enlarge).

Human Cost of War001

We are in a time of change, and in my opinion it is change for the better, though we will never rid the planet of evil. And the nature of news – we see it every single day – is to focus on the tragedies, the evil, the polarization of one person, one group, against another.

But a shift is happening.

By no means is it obvious, but it is happening. People of good will, which is the vast majority of us, simply have to take the bait and be, as Gandhi said so clearly, “the change we wish to see in the world”. But to do this we need to change our own behaviors, so easily leveraged by those who seek to elevate war above peace for their own reasons.

For one instance, yesterdays e-mail brought a rather remarkable commentary from a long-time peace activist in Israel, Uri Avnery. Avnery is a 92-year Israeli Jew with credentials. His comments are, I feel, pretty remarkable. You can read that here.

I thought the e-mail fascinating, and sent it to our near 90-year old friend, who grew up in a largely Catholic town in Nazi Germany and still has many relatives and contacts in her home country.

Her response: “The email on Uri Avery’s Observations gives insights to what is going on in Israel.

I believe it was Bastian, my German relative, who sometime ago remarked about the great number of Jews from Israel that come to Germany, want to live there, and seek German citizenship. Bastian stated also that these new immigrants could not live any longer with what was going on in Israel.

I was doubtful, I thought they may have been drawn by the free education and the lack of inflation that is taking place in Israel.

I went on the internet tonight and checked Jews moving back to Germany and I got quite a choice. To me surprising and interesting.

My niece Manuela … is most outspoken and angry about the fact that Germany is still paying Israel 3 billion a year for the Holocaust. She says, “My generation wasn’t even born when that took place. The young Jews that come here like us, so let it rest. There are enough monuments here — we will never forget.”

Israel should think about what it is doing to the Palestinians. As long as they take the land and freedom from the Palestinians there will never be peace.”