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#923 – Dick Bernard: Policing. Alternative ways of keeping the peace.

Friday, August 15th, 2014

My too-frequent trips out to North Dakota, with a side trip last Thursday and Friday to Bemidji, yield numerous ideas for blog posts, all kept on a list of possibilities for sometime.

Today, the first post after my return, current events in Ferguson MO interfere.

One week ago at this space I wrote about the outpouring of emotion about a policeman killed while making a routine traffic stop in a neighboring community. You can read it here.

This week the news has been dominated by a deadly incident in St. Louis suburb Ferguson MO, where a policeman shot and killed an unarmed teenager. There have been other recent incidents involving excessive violence by police. A long and excellent summary is here.

In last weeks post, at the end, I included a May 27, 2014, proposal by my friend, Grace Kelly, about recognizing positive policing policies. It seems a good time to remind readers of that proposal, and invite you to read and share the proposal, and help towards positive results in your community.

Best I recall, Ms Kelly’s sensitivity to gross over-policing dates back to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul in early September, 2008, when the police appeared armed and very dangerous to quell protests. Who can forget the gunboats in the Mississippi River at St. Paul, supposedly there to protect against river assaults by protestors? This was a very bad time in our town.

This and following from Greg and Sue Skog, at time of Peace Island Event described below Sep 2008.

This and following from Greg and Sue Skog, at time of Peace Island Event described below Sep 2008.

There was a single garish reminder of that time in the funeral procession of hundreds of police vehicles last week: One of those monster anti-something vehicles came up the street along with the normal police cars.

It did not fit.

It stood out. Very negatively.

Grace was a leader in the successful campaign to replace the then-Ramsey County Sheriff with a much more positive Sheriff, Matt Bostrom, in 2010. We see the difference every time there is an incident here. Tone is extremely important.

Like last weeks overwhelmingly positive tribute to police, this weeks overwhelmingly negative indictment of police overreach in Ferguson MO is a time to reflect, and Grace Kelly provides the opportunity to those who will look at her proposal. Please do.

Every single one of us can make a positive difference, where we live.

Comment
from Greg H, Aug 15:

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

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

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

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

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

Early Sep 2008, Mississippi River, St Paul MN photo by Greg and Sue Skog

Early Sep 2008, Mississippi River, St Paul MN photo by Greg and Sue Skog

POSTSCRIPT:

Here are my memories, written September 8, 2008, in the aftermath of the heavily militarized security at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul MN. Personally, I walked in the major protest march (peacefully), but most of my time was in a major Peace Island Conference a group of us had organized which ran for the two days of the Convention, about three miles from the Republican Convention site. Our conference was so peaceful that even activist media didn’t cover us – the drama was down the street at the Xcel Center where the Republicans were meeting.

A GREAT END TO A LESS THAN STELLAR WEEK IN THE TWIN CITIES

This past Thursday, Sep 4, shortly after noon, I decided to deliver a large box of unused “Vote in Honor of a Veteran” buttons back to the Minnesota Secretary of State’s office, which is near the State Capitol Building (Watch for a future post on those buttons). When I arrived there, the youth protest gathering was commencing at the Capitol steps, and there were plenty of assorted kinds of police in evidence. But all was quiet.

I parked in front of the State Office Building, put on the warning flashers, got the large box out of the back seat, and began to walk up the front steps. A Minnesota State Trooper came out from behind a pillar, with his soft drink in hand, and I said I was going to the Secretary of State’s office. “Got a bomb in there?”, he said in an off-handed almost joking manner, and didn’t even venture a look inside the box (I guess I didn’t look like a terrorist), I went in, dropped off the box, and left. (Somebody could probably cite him for dereliction of duty, but for me he was the good face of the police this past week.) I decided not to stay for the demo, since I wanted to get over to the Peace Island Picnic, and legal places to park was an issue where I was, and it would have been a long walk to and from.

Driving my route to get to Harriet Island, I went down Chestnut Street, below the Xcel Center, and there were swarms of police preparing for the afternoon duty (today’s paper says there were apparently 3700 police in all, marshalled for the Republicans party in the twin cities – obscene overkill in my opinion.) Shepard Road was open, more police, and Jackson Street, and Kellogg to the Wabasha Bridge, and when I got to Harriet (now and forever more Peace) Island at 1 p.m. there was a great plenty of quality parking. There were few people in evidence, plenty of room to park, and a huge plenty of hotdogs, pork, cake, and on and on and on. It looked like it would be heaven for someone looking for a free meal (and it was). There was a box for contributions towards the event cost, and I hope they did well on collecting. (Coleen Rowley’s acknowledgements to all those who contributed their talent to Peace Island Picnic follow this text.)

Down on the river bank at Peace Island it was a chilly afternoon, overcast, breezy, maybe in the 60s. But it was about perfect for a gathering in many ways.

The Rowley’s were there, and, initially, perhaps 100 of us strolling around, and then the music gig began, first with Larry Long, no stranger to folks in these parts, joined by Pete Seeger’s grandson, Tao Rodriguez-Seeger, for a medley of songs beginning with Down by the Riverside, then This Land is Your Land, then Lonesome Valley, and on. The two musicians by themselves were phenomenal, the power for the speakers and instruments was solar (and stellar), and even in the overcast worked impeccably all afternoon.

The afternoon was off to a great start. In my initial planning for participation in the Picnic, I was going to stop by for awhile, go home, and come back later in the afternoon to help be part of the giant peace sign. But it was such a mellow place, this Peace Island, that I decided to stay the day.

I went back to the car to get my outdoor canvas chair, and settled in by the flagpole to the 9-11 victims, just to the musicians left, and with a clear view of the river. I was ready to settle in for one of the most relaxed afternoons I’ve ever had.

There could not have been a more peaceful place than Peace Island this day. The crowd grew, but slowly.

Tuesday’s Robot, a really good local group, followed Larry and Tao, and they were to be followed by a continuous succession of musicians all afternoon; there was some great jam session music going on as the afternoon progressed. I counted up to 15 musicians together at one point in the afternoon.

There were some bizarre twists, to be sure.

Patrolling the river just beyond the musicians was a gun boat – I kid you not – a Coast Guard vessel with mounted machine guns fore and aft. It appeared to be protecting the tour boat Johnathan Padelford as it carried passengers, probably delegates to the RNC, up and down the Mighty Mississippi. It was so bizarre as to be funny. (It’s in the slide show I previously sent.) I guess you never know what “tear-wrists” are going to be gunnin’ up or down the river to take out whomever…maybe that’s why George and Dick didn’t show in the twin cities.

At one early point, four SUVs ominously drove down a sidewalk in our area, all full of police, one with the back door open, as if they were preparing to raid our small assemblage, but they just slowly moved on.

To our west, a bunch of the police gathered, apparently for their souvenir photo, with, it seemed, the downtown St. Paul Skyline probably behind them. The gunboat arrived, apparently to be part of this photo op of “what I did on my vacation”.

Around 6 or so we all assembled into a giant peace sign. I’ve seen the photograph of all of us in this peace sign, and I’m sure that in a short time it will be published on Huffington Post or maybe even here on P&J. It was a very clear shot. I could even make out myself, on the back portion of the circle, a few folks to the right of the upright portion of the peace sign.

Together, Peace Island Conference and Peace Island Picnic turned out to be phenomenal and totally peaceful events. Together, they merited only the tiniest bit of news coverage – Peace Island Conference with 350 registrants none at all; Peace Island Picnic with about 1000 meriting only a few dismissive and inaccurate comments in the Pioneer Press On-line edition, bad enough so that a correction was apparently printed this morning in the print edition of the paper.

The message is “if it bleeds, it leads”. The anarchists, hated as they are by so-called ‘civil society’, were essential to the police state mentality that became St. Paul and Minneapolis this past week. Those anarchists should get thank you notes from the Republican Party, and the powers-that-be in our town. Without them, there wouldn’t have been any news. And while they’re writing thank you notes, maybe the likely abundant agents provacateurs should be on the thank you list as well. One of the persons on the march who was doing lots of photography, was quite certain she saw one person who had been egging on the Iraq Vets Against the War during the Labor Day protest march, breaking a window later in the downtown area – if so, he was probably arrested, and quietly released….

For us, the mantra for each of us has to become “I am the Media”. It is of absolutely no value to kvetch about what they aren’t doing. We have to become, as Gandhi said, ‘the change we wish to see in the world’. There is no alternative.

Let Peace Island become a continuing part of our conversation for sanity in our country and world.

From Coleen Rowley, Sep 6, 2008:

Wow!! Really good, Mr. Bernard! I’d like to forward the photos to my list too. I’m going to copy Mr. McGovern, Ann Wright, Tao, Larry Long, Sara Thomsen and Emma’s Revolution also as they figure in a few of your pictures.

If only there’d been a little more sunlight for the picnic. I think the cold weather was perhaps as much of a deterrent as the RNC bridge closings/traffic problems and the police intimidation.

With just a couple of “no-shows”, most of the info about musicians on our website turned out correct. Neither Clyde Bellecourt nor Dorene Gray made it for the opening water ceremony. And Mitch Walking Elk didn’t make it either. But I think everyone else listed did. The solar panel trailer was from Minnesota Renewables. David Boyce is the contact and as a power source, it worked absolutely great. The sound system was run by Doug Lohman of the Armadillo Sound Co. and it also got big compliments. (David Rovics had sung at the “March on the RNC” which didn’t have a good sound system and he said Doug’s was top notch. Doug used to do the sound for years at St. Joans.) The great grilled pork was made by Brian Huseby and his brother on their unbelievably large but portable grill. They grilled about 275 pounds of pork roast and 1200 hotdogs and almost all was eaten. (We did have a lot of buns left tho’.) We got free barbeque sauce from the Ken Davis company; donated French bread from New French Bakery; baked vegetarian beans at cost from Java Live in Faribault and also donated fruit from Co-op Warehouse and coffee from Equal Exchange.

We just had a great committee who did this all—not a lot of meetings—I think the grand total was only six—but we divvied up tasks well according to each person’s unique expertise.

Guess what? Tao already committed to coming back if, God forbid, St. Paul should ever host another RNC and we need to try and return to good neighborliness and sanity. Coleen R.

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

Thursday, July 24th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#914 – Dick Bernard: Political Shorthand.

Monday, July 21st, 2014

It’s near 100 days to the 2014 United States Election (by my count, the actual 100th day is next Sunday. Election is November 4, 2014.)

What will you do, each day, to participate actively in your responsibility as a citizen. It is an important question, each individual needs to answer for him or herself. We get what we deserve….

I’m fairly involved in politics. It is interesting (and often, frustrating). A few examples from the last few days.

Saturday I elected to go to the town hall for my local legislator. It was a nice summer day, and only about a half dozen of us were in attendance. All in the room were men, except the legislator, a woman; depending on one’s point of view, half in the room were “good guys”, half not.

Though I don’t go to all such gatherings, they are always interesting, even though they are predictable. As usual at this one, in attendance was the young guy filming everything. He calls himself a “tracker” for a special interest group that is much more for getting rid of taxes and regulation on business than on its stated goal, “jobs”. The hope, I gather, is to find some ‘sound bites’ for his advocacy group to use against the legislator in later campaign ads.

One well-groomed and dressed young guy, who looked to be college age or not far beyond, complained about “massive tax increases” and companies moving out of the state, and asked that the Minnesota version of the Affordable Care Act be “scrapped” – pretty standard talking points of the right, never supported by any data. What does “massive” mean? I don’t know. Likely he doesn’t either. It is a good, scary word, that’s all.

Even with only six people in the room, there’s no time to waste on debate of a single misleading word, so we moved on.

It was caught on video, of course.

I had to leave after 45 minutes due to another commitment. All was very civil. The legislator, now well experienced in such meetings, handled things very well.

But it was an example of what I would call “Political Shorthand” – saying nothing while suggesting everything: “companies are leaving our state….”)

And I’m speaking about the audience, not the legislator.

The first lesson a lawmaker learns is that we’re a diverse society. Some try to ignore that, at all of our peril.

Media, of course, is a crucial part of American politics.

The previous evening, sitting in my favorite chair, I watched the CBS evening news cover twin tragedies: the disastrous shooting down of a Malaysian Airliner over the Ukraine; and the even worse disaster between somebody and somebody else – let’s say “Israel” and “Hamas”, whoever they are, in terms of making stupid decisions anyway.

It struck me at how casual and comfortable I was, watching news about terrible tragedies taking place a long ways away.

We Americans view war as an abstract sport, though we are very active participants.

CBS was trying, I suppose, to be “fair and balanced”. They chose to focus on one Israeli casualty from the Hamas missiles; and four Palestinian young people killed on a Gaza beach by Israeli fire from a boat. It seemed a rather false equivalence: at the time hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza had already died in the latest round of war; hundreds of Hamas rockets had managed to kill one Israeli.

In the Ukraine, the issue was who was to blame for the near 300 deaths in the airliner in a contested part of the former Soviet Union.

As for Israel/Palestine, there have been, in this single conflict, far more Palestine deaths than the casualty list from the plane. In many ways, Israel is an informal 51st State of the U.S. What is our complicity in the tragedy. And, how do we define the word “our”?

Important.

After the legislators session, I went to my barber, a very good long-time friend, and he was certain about who was to blame for both. We had a good conversation.

Listen for the political and media “shorthand”. It is constant, apparent,

Dad, forever the teacher, would say “two wrongs don’t make a right”, and he’d be correct. But he was talking to kids when he gave that admonition. What about nations dissing each other, and wholesale killing?

It’s near 100 days till the election of 2014. Get on the court, actively, every day, wherever you happen to be.

POSTNOTE: My favorite blogger has a long overnite commentary about the Israel-Palestine situation. Here it is, if you’ve interested.

#913 – Dick Bernard: Politics, Money and Media

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

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

Dollars002

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ain’t nothing fancy, that’s for sure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, July 5th, 2014

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

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

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

(click to enlarge)

Garrison Keillor July 4, 2014

Garrison Keillor July 4, 2014

Keillor fans July 4, 2014

Keillor fans July 4, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for the memories.

#908 – Dick Bernard: Anniversaries of Two Wars…and the beat goes on.

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2014

UPDATE to Fortnight for Freedom: several comments are included at the end of the post.

The last few days have marked two significant anniversaries.

June 28 marked the 100th anniversary of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand which led, a month later, to the awful World War I.

Today, July 2, is the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

WWI – “the war to end all wars” – was the first of the truly deadly world wars. A letter in Tuesdays Minneapolis Star-Tribune noted that 568 Hennepin County (Minneapolis and environs) residents were killed in WWI, their deaths remembered by Victory Memorial Drive in Victory Memorial Park along the northwest boundary area of Minneapolis.

WWI begat WWII, and after WWII came Korea, then Vietnam, then Iraq…. War doesn’t stop war; it only aggravates problems that erupt in new and different ways.

The evening of June 21-22, 1964, marked a beginning of the heavy lifting of the Civil Rights Movement. Three young people, James Earl Chaney, Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman, were gunned down in Mississippi – deemed by the KKK t be trouble makers out to register people to vote.

By no means was theirs the first deadly incident in the Civil Rights movement, nor the last, but it was a wake-up call moment, impossible to ignore. It was a watershed moment.

(click to enlarge)
Risking Everything001

The wars continue: The invisible al-Bagdadi, holed up somewhere, seeks a Caliphate in Syria and Iraq area. Odds are, his life span is not long, and his dream will fail.

At home here in the U.S.of A at Independence Day, it’s no secret at all that efforts are being made to roll back hard-won Civil Rights, voting, immigration, etc.

It seems so hopeless. But is it?

Back in March I decided to drop in on a session at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum conducted by Professor Mary Elizabeth King, a veteran of the Civil Rights heavy lifting years.

The room was full of students that day, nonetheless I wondered about the state of student activism today, so after the session I wrote Dr. King a letter.

On May 13, I received a personal communication from Dr. King, much of which I reprint here, with her permission. Hers is a very interesting and hopeful analysis, coming from the trenches of the Summer of 2014 (and 1964), so to speak.

Dr. King:

“The amount of student activism today is far greater than in the heyday of SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee], which some historians are now calling the most significant group to emerge in the USA after World War II. Young people are vastly more engaged. The success of the Dreamers (the movement of young Latinos that dramatically succeeded in their quest for an end to children born in the USA of “illegal” parents being forcibly detained), is a model for good planning and strategizing that beats anything that went on in the civil rights movement. This year, you will see an astonishing degree of mobilization around the 50th anniversary of the Mississippi Freedom Summer (in which I worked). In FL, NC, MS, OH, and TX hundreds of organizers will be working on voter registration, expanding education, pushing against the privatization of prisons and working to curtail the school-to-prison pipeline, and more work against deportations. I’ve just been with 45 of these key organizers in Geogia, and in depth and breadth they are in some ways more advanced than we were in their ability to plan and strategize. I, therefore, feel optimistic.

Dr. King continued at some length:

Isolated groups around the world now have some access to transnational electronic activism. Even if they are weak in their ability to reform their governments, they can cause what social scientists call a “boomerang” pattern, bringing about pressure from networks across the world (most recently visible as Nigheria’s Goodluck Jonathan did nothing about 276 abducted girls until storms of electronic protestation around the world exerted pressure on him, sufficient to get the UK, France, and USA to send personnel). This could not have happened 20 years ago.

More than 400 degree programs, centers, or institutes in the USA are dedicated to the building of peace. Peace and conflict studies is the fastest growing field of all the social sciences worldwide; in my experience it is driven by the young.”

On Martin Luther King, Dr. King recommends a new book: “In an Inescapable Network of Mutuality,” ed. Lewis V. Baldwin (Cascade Books, 2013).

Her letter also included the postcard about Risking Everything (see above photograph). She suggested “that you spread word of this remarkable book of carefully selected documents from the 1964 Freedom Summer. Every library should have it.” (At this writing, the website listed on the card is down for maintenance. Try it later.)

Back in the 60s, Dr. King concludes, “We had almost no books, other than Gandhi’s autobiography and King’s Stride toward Freedom. Today a wealth is available and much of it downloadable.”

Mistakes will be made, as witnessed by Tahrir Square mistakes, and the Occupy movement, both of which had promising starts.

But activism is alive and well.

Thank you, Dr. King. I’m glad I asked the question.

UPDATE, July 3: Overnight came Just Above Sunset with an analysis commentary about 1964 and 2014.

It is impossible, of course, to see how the long term will play out on the matters of voting or immigration or most anything else, but personally I see the climate now as very different from 1964. The Rights advocates in 1964 were starting from 100 years of inaction following the Emancipation Proclamation and it was a hard slow dangerous slog in the south. Armies of demonstrators made it possible for Lyndon Johnson to take the courageous steps necessary to get the act passed, though he well knew the consequences for the Democrats “for the next generation”.

Rolling back the clock to the good old days will be, in my opinion, a suicidal mission for the angry people who give face to the anger in places like Murieta CA.

A photo clip last night showed the California protestors brandishing American flags almost like weapons against the bus. It brought back flashback moments for me to early October, 2001, when I went to my first anti-war demonstration at the State Capitol, and across the street were flag-brandishing very angry people protesting the protestors.

It will be interesting to see the crowd at the 4th of July Parade tomorrow…the one we always attend. It is the crowd I always watch, more than the parade. The folks along the street are America….

#907 – Dick Bernard: The Tool Shed

Monday, June 30th, 2014

My friend, Bruce, and I were in one of our occasional jousting modes earlier today. I had sent along a post including a commentary by a self-described member of the .01%ers – the super wealthy. Basically, Mr. Hanauer, reminded his fellow super-wealthy folks that starving the middle class was not productive for the wealthy. The middle class was, after all, the market for the goods that drive prosperity.

There were a couple of parries and thrusts back and forth (see end of this post for the entire thread) and in his last comment Bruce said this about our future when we run out of the resources we have squandered: “I think community will be more important than it is today. Neighborhood resources will be important to sustain lifestyle.”

It happened that just 20 minutes before the above comment I had received an e-mail with the following subject line, and brief contents: “Project Update #6: Aurora/St. Anthony Peace Garden Shed + Tool Lending Library by Garden Volunteer, Kristine Miller. Project Update #6: We Made It!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank you beautiful people!!!! More information soon! With love from your friends at the Aurora/St. Anthony Peace Garden”.

Kristine, who I had met just days ago, and community activist Melvin Giles, who I’ve known for years, and others, unnamed, had pulled off a major accomplishment, raising some funds for a simple tool shed in their neighborhood. The story is in a less than three minute video accompanying the final report of the fundraising success.

(Melvin is the “star” of the video. Listen for his “strawberry” story.) This isn’t a million dollar deal, but for the folks around 855 Aurora Avenue (just a block or two south of University Avenue, and a few blocks west of the Minnesota State Capitol) it surely is the very essence of “community” as described by Bruce. It is, also, a “kickstart” to encourage folks to make small and large differences in their circles.

The video shows the shed being replaced; I was privileged to see the new shed, still under construction, a few weeks ago. The photo is below. The shed was built as a project by students from the University of Minnesota School of Landscape Architecture.

(click to enlarge)

The still-under-construction tool shed at 855 Aurora Avenue St. Paul.  June 11, 2014

The still-under-construction tool shed at 855 Aurora Avenue St. Paul. June 11, 2014

Ehtasham Anwar interviews Melvin Giles in the garden June 11, 2014.  Filmed by Suhail Ahmed.  Ehtasham and Suhail, both from Pakistan, were at the end of their year in the U.S. as Humphrey/Fulbright Fellows at the Human Rights Center of the University of Minnesota Law School.  Interviewing Melvin was part of Ehtasham's year-end archival project about peace-making in the Twin Cities.

Ehtasham Anwar interviews Melvin Giles in the garden June 11, 2014. Filmed by Suhail Ahmed. Ehtasham and Suhail, both from Pakistan, were at the end of their year in the U.S. as Humphrey/Fulbright Fellows at the Human Rights Center of the University of Minnesota Law School. Interviewing Melvin was part of Ehtasham’s year-end archival project about peace-making in the Twin Cities.

It is the small stories such as this one which will save our planet.

As Margaret Mead so notably said many years ago: Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.

FOR ANYONE INTERESTED, here’s Bruce and my on-line conversation “thread” which helped lead to this post. I think such ad hoc discussions (arguments) on-line can be useful to both parties, if they begin and end with respect, as I think Bruce and I have for each other, over a number of years now.

Dick, June 30, 5:29 a.m. to my usual list: If nothing else, read up on Nick Hanauer, at about the middle, about the Middle Class: [link here]

Here’s a brief bio about Hanauer.

In the end analysis, its people like ourselves, not the politicians, who’ll have to change the direction. The nature of politics is to read the wind of public opinion and get and stay elected. It’s a nasty reality in our electoral system. You are useless if you can’t stay elected, and being a representative requires you to follow more than lead.

Nobody, especially idealists, likes to hear that.

So…what do you plan to do about it, these remaining few months before the 2014 election? It’s about four months away.

Bruce, 9:27 a.m.: “…thriving middle class is the source of American prosperity, not a consequence of it.”

What has American prosperity done to the environment? That question looms large in the presents of human influenced climate change & global warming. Our economy is predicated on infinite expansion, while our planets resources are finite. Because of dwindling quality of natural resources( the high quality stuff that built the middle class is gone), the economic expansion that the rebuilding of the middle class depends on becomes far more expensive than what it took to create the golden years of the middle class from 1946 to 1980. And, the degradation to the environment becomes more severe.

I think this model that the Sunset guy [the blog referred to above] is trying to get back to is a broken romantic dream like the return to the Garden of Eden.

Dick, 9:38 a.m.: So, I challenge you, what is the alternative…a viable solution in our country, when even folks on welfare decline to accept certain kinds of used furniture because they’re not good enough….

I’m a bit more sensitive than usual about this as I’m beginning the process of closing out the history of a 110 year farm, as my 89 year Uncle, the last survivor, never married, is in the nursing home in the nearby town.

In some of the old farm photos, recently, I found two iconic images of the good old days (before prosperity). One is of a two bottom, four horse, cultivator, tended by the hired man, who probably slept in a grain bin during his summers there. The other is “Edithe’s favorite milk cow” (my aunt Edithe died in February). This from the day when she and Grandma, basically, milked the cows by hand, and had a hand run cream separator.

This was the “pitchfork” era, as you know. We’re heading back to it [“pitchforks”, literally] quickly, but the solution is not to go the utopian route. Its a bit like being addicted to something: initially, the cure is worse than the disease, and most people can’t take the transition (poverty) between wealth and reason….

Bruce, 11:31 a.m.: I’m not sure what alternatives we have. But, what I am sure of is that we aren’t given the truth of what the consumerism & materialism has done to our home. The high quality natural resources that were taken out of the earth to build the society was used to manufacture, buy, and sell things for profit. These precious natural resources that are real wealth are expressed in the stuff called junk thrown in landfills & dissolved into the atmosphere, land, and water.

The articles like the Sunset guy wrote perpetuates the destructive dream of a new middle class where labor is equal to capital so that the ever expanding economy can march timelessly on into the sunset. It can’t.

The next twenty years will be different from the past twenty years. Cheap oil is gone & the alternative fossil fuels are very expensive and don’t provide the net energy gain that the quality stuff did. The alternatives to fossil fuels will not support or sustain the consumer life style that built the middle class as we remember it. We will have to drastically change life style and the ultra-rich are the ones who will suffer the most relatively to what they are accustomed to. That is why some like Hanauer advocate for higher taxes on the rich, better wages for labor, and stronger safety net for the needy. It’s to grow the middle class. They are liberal market place capitalists that want to generally perpetuate the status quo.

The solution is to understand what the consumerism of the middle class did to the planet. Then we can move forward with solutions. People hate change, but they get use to it and it becomes normal. But, time is dwindling.

Dick, 1:04 p.m.: The Sunset Guy just reflects on stuff, as you know. [ED. NOTE: In my opinion Just Above Sunset is a very useful (and free) daily musing on matters national and international]

What would happen if we were forced into the horse and milk cow stage again? My relatives knew that era. I witnessed it in action when I was young.

The grandkids generation (mine are from about 8-27 years of age) are going to be the first generation to fully bear the brunt of our wastrel ways.
It is complicated, beyond that.

Bruce, 3:55 p.m., June 30, 2014:
I think community will be more important than it is today. Neighborhood resources will be important to sustain lifestyle.

What is a better indication of a vibrant middle class: a high quality education system, transport system and health care system or individual material wealth? Values will change.

The rich of the 50s through 70s thought that the planet’s natural resources were infinite and understood the way to wealth & perpetual growth was to grow the middle class affluence so they could consume material goods, which would keep the economy expanding making the wealthy wealthier. They for the most part thought like Hanauer. But today the wealthy understand the finite nature of the high quality natural resources of years gone by. Their answer to grow there wealth is to hoard and strangle the middle class because there isn’t enough to go around. Their answer is short sighted. The middle class is shrinking & will not return to the position it once maintained. But, the wealth of the wealthy will collapse too, because their money depends on the health of the primary natural resources( the planet) and the resources that manufacture & create things. From what I’ve read, the Thomas Pikkety book, CAPITAL IN THE 21st CENTURY gets at this point. The wealthy would rather invest in the investment markets than grow the economy. The potential to make higher rate of return is better. That is a big disconnect.

Politically, this argument is being made by fringe parties & candidates for office. I don’t see any one running for office of any kind from the two major parties making this argument. Jean Massey’s IRV [Instant Runoff Voting] voting system is the best way to effect the political changes we need. It will allow the marginal candidate with the best ideas a good chance to be elected.

Dick, to everyone who’s read this far: So, what is your opinion?

#906 – Dick Bernard: A “Fortnight for Freedom”. The Tyranny of Belief?

Saturday, June 28th, 2014

A few hours after publishing this post, I went on my daily walk, and found this in chalk along the curb. It had been placed there since yesterday (I always walk the same route)*.
UPDATE on the photo, June 29: I went by the spot about noon, and no evidence of the chalked saying – it rained overnight. So the photo is the only reminder that it was ever there. One of the truths of accomplishing big things is the adage: “if you can believe it, you can achieve it”. This applies to many things in many ways.

(click to enlarge)

June 28, 2014

June 28, 2014

At the exact same time as the disastrous sectarian (religious) war in Syria and Iraq, another religious inspired event, an essentially covert religious “war” of its own, is being marketed in the United States. It began on June 21, Summer Solstice, and runs through July 4: a fortnight involving an annual natural phenomena, a national holiday and a religious initiative. It is quite a marketing package.

Today is the half-way point of the official observance; but it will continue long past July 4th, rest assured.

It is called “Fortnight for Freedom” and its marketing focus is on an alleged heavy-handed federal government coming down on poor beleaguered Christians who are, it is suggested, forced to compromise certain religious beliefs to obey laws with which they disagree, such as parts of the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare).

Just one example: being required as a company or employee to dispense birth control to others who desire that particular service when ones believes birth control is a sin. It is, indeed, a clash: a demand of freedom for one; with no apparent attention about freedom for the other whose views might differ.

The initiative seems to make so much sense, if you go no further than the surface rationale. As you think more deeply about the implications, though, it is really a tangled web of deception. “Freedom” apparently only applies to those who can then restrict certain others freedoms. Thus Fortnight for Freedom isn’t about freedom at all, it is about domination and control, imposition of beliefs, only without the bombs and bullets. It is about marketing an idea, a belief, as superior to other contrary beliefs.

Here is a description of Fortnight for Freedom. “Fortnight for Freedom” and its companions have come at me from a number of different directions in the last week or so.

Last Friday, the local Catholic Archdiocese newspaper, the Catholic Spirit, had a photo of four earnest looking Bishops on page 11, all intently looking at an iPad above a headline “Bishops focus on religious liberty….” I am Catholic. I get this paper. I know their story….

Catholic Spirit June 19, 2014 p. 11

Catholic Spirit June 19, 2014 p. 11

Here is the article that accompanies the above photo: Bishops focus….002

Technology and Media and Words are wonderful…and awful. The words “Fortnight for Freedom” are not even mentioned in the accompanying article; but the timing of the article is no coincidence.

The Bishops of my Church (I am an active Catholic), have far more than enough “freedom”; there is no need for them to demand even more freedom to take away freedom from others who have differing beliefs than they do, including great numbers who consider themselves, as I do, “active Catholic”.

But this is not just a Catholic hierarchical notion. Last Sunday, a good friend gave me a letter “Standing Together for Religious Freedom, An Open Letter to All Americans“, issued by a Southern Baptist entity, whose first signatory is a Catholic Bishop. The few other signers are, it appears, almost all Catholic or Evangelical Christian leaders of one denomination or another.

This is a top down deal between very odd bedfellows; not a bottom up groundswell. When I was growing up, we Catholics avoided Evangelicals. It was probably also true, vice versa: Catholics were Papists, not Christians.

I see no signers of the Open Letter from mainstream Christian denominations, Jews and Moslems, nor the great numbers of people who do not happen to share a particular belief system. They appear to be only Catholic and Evangelical “leaders”.

There is a bottom line for me in this:

There is a certain amount of “freedom” and “liberty” available. Think of a very large soup kettle full of liberty and freedom.

The Founding Fathers of the U.S. had the right idea about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” but even for them, then, the concept was essentially reserved to white men with property (including slaves).

At the same time, our founders purposefully and deliberated separated Church and State, an inconvenient truth for some who now actively attempt to rewrite our national history to fit their version of the facts.

We’re now at 238 years of the experiment called American Democracy. It took nearly 200 of those years, some of them very hard years, to come to some fairly reasonable equilibrium about what freedom and liberty meant in practice: ending slavery; securing the right to vote for women (1920) and others (universal suffrage); more universal rights like the Voting Rights Act, Womens Rights, (1960s) etc.

In each of these cases, and others, there was a need to equalize “power”; to share in the wealth of that container of life, liberty and happiness. Each person has a right to that freedom and liberty.

Notions like Fortnight for Freedom want to turn these around; to redefine or to establish new definitions of what “freedom” and “liberty” mean.

Their intent, under the guise of seeking freedom, is to take it away from some as a benefit to others.

To go backwards, not forwards.

Be vigilant.

What do you think?

POSTNOTE:
After I completed the above, I was scrolling through unread e-mails from earlier in the week. This particular one, passed along by Joyce, is particularly telling about the relationship between todays Piety and Power.

As I was writing the above, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Massachusetts law requiring a 35 foot “buffer zone” for protests at abortion clinics violated free speech. It was noted that this same Supreme Court has a much larger “buffer zone” at it own Court in our Nations Capitol, and doesn’t get the contradiction between its own behavior and its own ruling. Here’s a good commentary on that issue.

COMMENTS
from Carol A:
Really liked your post, Dick. For a long time, I’ve thought our country has lost its way on the issue of freedom. Freedom without responsibility and respect for others freedom is merely freedom only for a few. Freedom is like individualism in this country. Both need to be balanced and if there is anything we lack, it is balance. We see that in the Tea Party who refuses to address any issue where they might need to compromise. They’re dead set on destroying Obama in whatever way they can. My way or the highway.

I think the issue needs to be discussed and be out in the open. It’s not whose freedom is most important, but how do we balance it with respect for other people’s freedoms.

from Norm N: A link from Time. “Doctors urge more hospitals to perform abortions”.

Response from Dick: Per both Carol and Norm’s comments, I think the weak link in the advocates arguments (i.e. to end abortion, etc) is that it completely dismisses any other point of view, and pretends that a simple solution, perhaps legislatively or by court decision, can be crafted and controlled by advocates for a particular point of view. We are a pluralistic society, and more so than ever, “the other” can never again be driven into silence. Difficult issues require compromise, and compromise requires people to dialogue, truly, with people who have different points of view.

from Peter B: It would be useful if we could be clear about the issue of insurance covering women’s health care: the institutions are not “required as a company or employee to dispense birth control…” Only qualified medical professionals and pharmacists do that.

If I were taking this on, I would focus on the muddying of the waters that is the usual strategy for those who wish to raise these tempests where there is no real Constitutional issue. Whenever they get us to argue the pros and cons of their supposed grievance, they have already won the argument, because they have established in the discourse that there is an issue there. It is bogus.

There’s no “there” there, but as we see, these tactics of confusion and mendacity work all too often. It is a lot trickier to try to argue that a company is infringed upon because its insurance package covers things they don’t like covered (as, I read somewhere, the Hobby Lobby company has provided its own employees for years). People smart enough to make that case face an uphill climb if they want to rouse up people stupid enough to buy it.

I have a good friend who is now in trouble for not paying taxes, forty percent or more of which support the bloody wars of aggression and conquest now conducted in our names, and for private profit. If there is a bright line between the obligation to pay taxes and our religious objections to mass murder, there must be a bright line between paying for health care coverage without discrimination, and our personal religious objections to family planning, etc.

It’s all about what is done in your name, with your money, and the real question is, what’s yours? What constitutes an act for which you are accountable? And to Whom? The definition is completely arbitrary and made up out of whole cloth. It is an impossible question that we had hoped to resolve by just putting it off limits in the Constitution. But language doesn’t hold still. Even the meaning of a comma after “well regulated militia,” has changed.

Now, the Supreme Court has ruled that establishing a perimeter around abortion clinics where people are not allowed to scream in the face of a girl walking toward the building is inhibiting the screamers’ free speech rights, which trumps the girl’s right to walk unmolested down any street in America. (How do they even know whether she is trying to deal with private issues that are hers and hers alone to live with, or just looking for a clean bathroom?) It is (or was) actually only the government that is accountable for any infringement of free speech in the Constitution. It’s a “Congress shall make no law” thing, if I am not mistaken. And what about all those restrictions on protest in D.C.?

We need to work farther upstream than the political conflict itself: literacy and critical thinking skills are the worst casualty of the Education Wars. Democracy cannot stand against ignorance, and you can’t win a shouting match.

from Bruce F: You are correct, Dick, Hobby Lobby’s idea of freedom is based on power & domination. Their entire business model is based on that precept, especially their relations with their employees. The answer for their employees is to unionize. A very difficult proposition for them, but if they were unionized, this law suit regarding the ACA wouldn’t be, along with a whole host of other assaults on labor. Hobby Lobby, like many business, are taking advantage of and thriving in the week economy & labor market to exploited there employees, and it’s in the name of freedom.

I fear a 5-4 decision in favor of the plaintiff.

from John B: Organized religion is a part of the establishment. Most religions espouse the delayed gratification in an after life paradise IF the believers obey the teachings, and we know what that means.

I want to believe there is a higher order to life, maybe even a GODHEAD, but beware of conflating mainstream American religion with freedom. Most religions are dying in a slow and painful manner. Some of them, like certain ones originating in the eastern Mediterranean region are promote despicable social practices. These are the opposite of freedom. As examples, consider the breakdown in negotiations between the Jews and Palestinians or the wars between the Sunnis and the Shias.

I long for a day when a LOUD voice from the sky says: “You guys don’t get it. It was love each other, not loot each other, pray for each other, not prey on each other, share with one another not steal from one another.”

The number one freedom valued in America is the freedom to make money. It is the highest value.

from Jeff P:Well, if this is a major event, its odd I hadn’t heard of it till you
mentioned in this post, but then , as you know , I am a godless apostate.
I think the public at this point, from Ireland to the USA to Germany to
Mexico and most Catholic countries finds the words of bishops particularly
meaningless given the record of the self same clergy in policing itself.

Otherwise , I defer to the Founding Fathers :

History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people
maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of
ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always
avail themselves for their own purposes.
-Thomas Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt, Dec. 6, 1813.

Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of
the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting
“Jesus Christ,” so that it would read “A departure from the plan of Jesus
Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by the
great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of
its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the
Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.
-Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for
Religious Freedom

“What influence, in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on society?
In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the
ruins of the civil authority; on many instances they have been seen
upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been
the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wish to subvert the
public liberty may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries.
A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate it, needs them not.”
[Pres. James Madison, A Memorial and Remonstrance, addressed to the General
Assembly of the Commonwealth of Virginia, 1785]

Can a free government possibly exist with the Roman Catholic religion?
— John Adams, letter to Thomas Jefferson, May 19, 1821

.”…the path of true piety is so plain as to require but little political
direction.” [George Washington, 1789, responding to clergy complaints that
the Constitution lacked mention of Jesus Christ)

from Andrea G: An excellent read. I couldn’t have stated the issue better. As I scrolled through the letter and the signatures, I wondered how much progress would be made regarding ‘traditional’ social justice issues (poverty, housing, education) if those entities collectively focused on such issues.

from Ray B: When politicians take our tax money and use it in a way that supercedes our basic right to religious freedom must concern us all. Notice and genuine concern through a process starting with the people to stop this downward spiral of our systematic loss of political and religious freedoms must take place. Our well thought out constitution saw the need for democratic freedom and the separation of church and government and must not be tampered with in the un democratic way of this time in our history by those in power and ignore these rights in the name of protectionism with no restraints, all in the name of “the country’s best interests”. Concern for our own people should not be ignored by wars, playing big brother to the world at own demise and financial near insolvency. Our people’s basic rights and the right to jobs, food, safe haven are in our best interest”

from Flo H, Jun 30: I’d never heard of Fortnight for Freedom, but certainly experience the effects of the movement in my community and church. What happened to the belief that, “Your freedom ends where my freedom begins.“? [Ed. Note: Flo didn’t suggest any link, but I’ve added a bunch of links about the phrase.]

from Greg H, Jul 1: I share your sentiments. The conservative tide, at least in the courts, is strong. We will just have to ride it out; I don’t see any alternative.

Curious as I am, I Googled Hobby Lobby to learn if they have any Minnesota stores.

Would you believe their only Minnesota store now is in Woodbury [55125]? Another will open in Maplewood at some point. You may wish to click on this link to view their home page.

response from Dick: We happen to live in Woodbury, about 7 miles from the store. I am not a shopper, so had never heard of this store; my wife is a shopper, but has never mentioned this place. Such is how shopping is. I won’t waste gas or time to even go see the place.

At the home page for Hobby Lobby there is a momentarily appearing ad with two quotations attributed to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson (they are portions of the first and third quotations which can be read here). They aren’t up very long. They are probably like all such quotations: a bit like distilling the Bible into one verse without context….

Here is the wikipedia entry about Hobby Lobby.

I know lots of people who believe lots of things. In our free society, the danger is when someone with a particular belief embarks on a course to impose that belief on everyone else through Law. The only remedy I see, personally, is staying active politically. For someone with the interest, and time, here is a long post that discusses the implications of Hobby Lobby.

* – The sign was very tastefully done, and I have no objections to such an expression at all. When I was taking the photo at the beginning of this post, I noticed a lady in a black car stopped near the corner. Possibly it was because I was standing in the middle of the road! But when she turned the corner, she rolled down her window and said – as if friend to friend – words to the effect “really true”.

She drove on, and I left. It is a safe speculation that she had something to do with the neatly done graffiti.

At home I read Jeff’s comment, below: “…if this is a major event, its odd I hadn’t heard of it till you mentioned in this post….” In my opinion, movements – makes no different the issue or ideology – often take root quietly and unnoticed, until something happens. The lady likely knew about this sign, as did her church, whichever that happened to be, and she was glad somebody (me) was looking at it. And I thought it important to pass the word about it. (The Bible quote is from Mark 9:23, so says the chalk. I have four Bibles here, three Catholic and one the “red-line Bible”, and in each of the four the quotation is worded a little differently. Below are the respective quotations I have. With the Bible, in particular, it depends both on the translation, and the context that is given to certain phrases or passages….)
1. The post on the curb: Everything is possible for one who believes. Mark 9:23. Possible origin of this translation, check here.
2. Grandma’s 1906 Douay-Reims: Verse 22: “And Jesus saith to him: If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.
3. My 1961 St. Joseph Catholic Edition: also Verse 22: “But Jesus said to him, “If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him who believes.
4. Dad’s 1978 Good News Bible: Verse 23: “Yes” said Jesus, “if you yourself can! Everything is possible for the person who has faith.”
5. From 1989 Revised Standard Version: Verse 23: “Jesus said to him, “if you are able! All can be done for the one who believes.

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

Saturday, June 21st, 2014

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

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

(click to enlarge)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr. Parekh, June 19, 2014

Dr. Parekh, June 19, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

At the Peace Celebration June 20:

Neighborhood musicians June 20, 2014

Neighborhood musicians June 20, 2014

Peace Pole

Peace Pole

among the tables, some items for home gardens.

among the tables, some items for home gardens.

Peace Bell maker and artist at Veterans for Peace table

Peace Bell maker and artist at Veterans for Peace table

Message from Dwight Eisenhower on Peace

Message from Dwight Eisenhower on Peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#897 – Dick Bernard: Voting and Polls…Virginia’s 7th Cong District Primary and a vote at a Peacemakers meeting

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

Some quick comments. I generalize the data in below paragraphs, but I don’t think I’m far off.

Last night part of my daily news watching time was interrupted by reporting on the Cantor-Brat Primary in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, a place far away from where I live.

There was endless breathless chatter about this last night, and today. What does this all mean? My favorite distiller of national political news, Just Above Sunset, has this overnight post. Here and here is some information about the aforesaid election and congressional district.

For me the basic relevant data was the voter turnout. That is always the important baseline in American election: Who showed up at the polls?
In general (not attempting to be precise, though I don’t think I’m not too far off):
757,917 is the 2010 population of the 7th District.
Over 60% of these, it would appear, would be of voting age.
That would be, perhaps, about 450,000 potential voters.
Of these, most would appear to be Republican leaning, perhaps 250,000.
Yesterday, 65,000 voted (heavy turnout for the Primary); 29,000 of those for Cantor.

There can be endless arguments about what yesterdays vote in suburban Richmond VA means.

For me, the essential fact is (as it always is), who showed up at the polls to actually vote. Cantor got, perhaps, 12% of those who would probably be inclined to agree with him. Maybe 13% voted for Brat. 75% of Cantor’s natural “base” didn’t bother to vote at all.

Voting matters. Well informed voting matters even more.

Yesterday, I was at a meeting in which I participated in another interesting vote.

It was the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers (MAP), a group in which I have long been active (Their website is down at the moment, so I can’t provide a working link). I’d guess we people in MAP would self-describe as peace and justice activists. Others might call us “leftists”….

We’ve been around since 1995.

There were about 25 of us at this summer meeting, and at the end, someone suggested complimenting President Obama on the courage to do the prisoner swap with Afghanistan. More on that in a moment.

Back home, last night, on the CBS evening news, the latest poll was reported that a majority of Americans “disapprove” of the Prisoner swap. It was a typical piece of reporting – no idea of what the exact questions were, etc. But probably accurate data, as it stands, involving, perhaps, a sample of 500-1000 people across the United States.

Back at the MAP meeting, the suggestion morphed into a motion that our organization should write the letter of compliment. In fact, I was the one who made the motion.

After a short but very active flurry of debate, a recorded vote was taken: 14 in favor, 7 against, 4 abstaining.

I cannot comment on why people voted as they did, except that it is a safe bet that those objecting were not birds-of-a-feather with those who are wanting a continuation of Guantanamo and a continued U.S. dominance through military in the south Asia region. The “no” voters in my particular circle likely didn’t think that the Presidents action went far enough. But, of course, I don’t know that.

In this small group, which includes, now, about 75 organizations, only about a third of the delegates were in attendance (here, that is called “summer vacation”).

But, like the vote in Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, the decisions are made by the people who show up and vote. Those who stayed home have no say.

If you want the right to complain, you have to show up….

The political parties know this, through endless examples like Cantor’s defeat in his home district.

Best we learn that same lesson.

POSTNOTE: Also at yesterdays MAP meeting, a filmmaker discussed her major project, “9 Pieces of Peace” Nine Pieces of Peace001, described as “A universal story of courage and compassion as a Vietnam veteran, a peace advocate, and a community struggle to find common ground.” More about the upcoming release here.