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“Sex, Religion and Politics”

Saturday, November 18th, 2017

I ask that you read on, and open the links and read them too (none more than two pages, and all written by myself, in 1996, 1998, 2001 and 2005. But before you read the links, read the text below them.

Al Franken, St. Paul MN, April, 1998, by Dick Bernard

Politics 1960 versus 1996 (Dec, 1996, one page): Politics 1960 vs 1996001
Clinton Impeachment (Sep 7, 1998, one page): Clinton Impeachment001
Political Violence (Mar 2001, two pages): Political Violence002
Sex, Religion and Politics (Aug 2005, one page): Sex, Religion, Politics001

The headline of this post, and the last link (above) is a one page addition I made when I finished a 330 page family history of my mother’s family or origin in 2005. It speaks for itself.

We are at an exceedingly dangerous time, politically, in this country. At the end of the dismal election year of 1996, I expressed hope, and saw “silver linings” (link above). Then was pristine compared to today.

On the other hand, in today’s batch of e-mails came a letter published in the Fargo (ND) Forum, from the President of the MN League of Women Voters, which speaks for itself: “This week we learned of so many firsts across this country, firsts that give me hope that we, the people, have a greater understanding of what it means to be an American. A New York cab driver told me a few weeks ago that “this was not the America he immigrated to 30 years ago.”

I wonder what he’d say now about the Liberian immigrant elected mayor of Helena, Mont., defeating the long-term incumbent who opposed refugee resettlement? Or the transgender woman who was elected to the state legislature, defeating the incumbent who pushed a “bathroom bill.”

A Sikh was elected mayor of Hoboken, N.J. The first openly transgender African American woman was elected to the Minneapolis City Council. A Lesbian won the mayor’s seat in Seattle. A woman is the new mayor of Provo, Utah. St. Paul has its first African American mayor. Charlotte, N.C., has its first African American female mayor.

The list goes on and on to include a Vietnamese immigrant woman and two Latina women elected to the Virginia Legislature, gay and transgender school board members, three African Americans being elected mayor of three towns in Georgia. A Sudanese woman elected to an Iowa city council.

And, my personal favorite, a young woman of color defeated the county commissioner who made headlines in January with his comment about the Women’s March when he wondered, “will the women be home in time to make him dinner?”

How many more years will it take before the headlines aren’t about “firsts” and labels? This list seems to indicate that we, the people, are instead choosing leaders who best represent our future and not our present. This is the vision upon which the nonpartisan League of Women Voters was founded 98 years ago. We invite you to join us in our advocacy and voter education work.” Terry Kalil.

My hope, demonstrated by this fine letter, is that, finally, the American people, generally, are getting it: that they are “politics”. Through the people will come the solutions to todays vile political conversations.

And as for Al Franken (photo above): he is my U.S. Senator, and a person for whom I have great respect. In the wake of the recent revelation, he has again demonstrated that he is a class act, in distinct contrast to the two others in the spotlight for the same general problem: Roy Moore and Donald Trump.

I’m pretty sure Mr. Franken has no idea who I am, though I’ve followed him since I first heard him speak in 1998 (I was never a follower of Saturday Night Live.)

In the 2008 campaign, I was something of a camp follower – I went to several events at which he was a speaker. He has always impressed me. I once had the honor of sharing the dais with his wife, Franni, when she was representing him early in his campaign for U.S. Senate. She is a lovely lady with her own story.

Mr. Franken has apologized for the 2006 revelation, and the apology has been accepted. Of course, in other quarters there is something of a mantra: “never apologize”. It is seen as a weakness….

Which of us – any of us – having a spotlight shown on the wart(s) of our past would come out unscathed? Were they shown, whose behavior, Trump, Moore or Franken, would we emulate?

POSTNOTE: I recommend this, posted overnight.

from Madeline: Shame on you Minnesota politicians, Rebecca Otto, Megan Thomas and others calling for Al Franken’s resignation: There is NO moral equivalency between his bad jokes and the behavior of repeat sexual predators like Trump, Weinstein, Moore, Louis C.K. etc. SEE the ADULTS IN THE ROOM: here.

from Bruce: It was a well crafted apology that apologized for the pic but not the kiss. This sort of apology is really a non-apology. He was humiliated by her rebuff of his sexual advances, the kiss, so mean spiritedly he got what amounted to his locker room buddies to humiliate her by taking the pic. That’s classic bullying in my mind. I’d like to know who took the pic, and who is sitting to Tweeden’s left laughing as Al grouped her. They should be called out too. Al should take the high road own up to being a mean spirited bully disguised as a comedian, resign, and demand that Trump/Moore do the same. He’d be doing the country a big favor.

from a Mom and her Daughter: this is just how we are thinking.
That piece “Just Above Sunset” said it all so well.
I didn’t know how to respond to the calls for Franken to resign. I thought — ”well, yes, this was also sexual misconduct. Am I just excusing him because I think he is so good and such a good Senator?”
After reading “Just Above Sunset”, It is more clear to me why I think as I do…………. 1) the seriousness of the crime—Initially he thought it was a joke, but in hindsight, realized it was inappropriate. It is NOT equivalent to a 30 yr old man groping teenagers or a man saying he can grab a woman by the genitals and they let you do it because you are rich and famous. AND 2) he acknowledged what he did was wrong and apologized. He actually apologized several times; a tweet, another tweet and a letter to the woman. I am now no longer thinking I am using 2 different standards (one for OUR candidate and one for THEIR candidate) but looking at the whole picture.
I am appalled at the “religious” people who continue to support Roy Moore. When I heard the Governor of Alabama say she believed the women and she still supports Roy Moore, it was clear confirmation that all they want is a Republican————– It doesn’t matter what kind of a person he is, he is a Republican and that is all they are looking for.

Thanks for sharing your blog.

from Carol: I didn’t vote for Franken the first time around, mostly because of his record of joking about rape. But I think he’s done an admirable job for Minnesota. That said, I think this all goes beyond just him. I don’t like our current habit of voting people into political office who have won their fame by being entertainers, comedians, movie stars. (And it started with Reagan.) What is there about those folk which particularly qualifies them to run the country, or represent the rest of us? We’re just a nation addicted to entertainment. Serving as leader of the free world (well, we USED to be), serving in Congress, etc. is not a joke or a reality show. Franken’s past history came back to bite him. (Unfortunately, Trump seemed to get a pass…)

from Jeff: Carol’s comment is on point. Our supposed advances in technology of late, and many of the companies that are highest value are like Apple, Media companies, gaming, social media companies . And they essentially are all means of entertainment and can increase narcissism and inward social engagement. History and factual analysis is de-emphasized and all that matters is “the moment”. I think this past election may show a return of some civic engagement, maybe outrage has its rewards.

from Sandy: I can think of nothing more important right now than forging ahead with Peace and global integration and not this isolationist “America First” Nationalist agenda of Trump. He is taking our country and the world backwards with everything he is doing and it is so wrong and so awful for the world. Obama spent so much time and energy promoting America as a leader in the world and caring about the environment, peace, cooperation, climate issues in addition so to so many other wonderful things! I miss him so much and cannot believe we have such an idiot running our country and actually such a mentally ill president. I am a mental health professional and Trump is for sure mentally unstable and such a worry for all of the world with his temper and short fuse and impulsive decisions which could lead the world into Nuclear war and maybe the end of mankind! I don’t want to think about that but it is a reality until he is impeached or the Republicans lose control of all three branches of government.

I have to also say that I am very disappointed also in our Democrats in office right now because why aren’t they standing up and doing something stop all this nonsense or at least do as much as they can to make a lot of noise and be as obstructionist as the Republicans were with Obama in office. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a tax bill that is decided by both parties and is actually a good tax plan? You and I and most of us in our financial class will be total losers in this bill (unless you are a multi-millionaire) They will do so much harm to everything we believe in and line the pockets of business and the wealthy on the backs of the middle class and lower class and working people. I hope it doesn’t pass but I am worried that it will because Trump is pushing them to win at all costs! ​

Where are the honest , good, decent politicians? I am disappointed in Franken but at least he had the moral ethics to admit guilt and apologize which is more that Moore and Trump and the rest of the bunch have done. They just deny and lie and lie and lie!

from Mary: Well I started to fellow Senator Franken when he was trying to decide if he should run for the US Senate. He has worked hard for MN and the whole country. He is smart and it appeared always [well] prepared. I am reminded of my guide when I was in Vietnam. I asked him, how do you feel about American tourists coming to your country, when we killed your members of your family, friends, and devastated your country? His gentle answer was. “We always forgive but we never forget” One part of his response allows for compassion, acceptance, and understanding, The other part of his response allows for learning, planning, and prevention of hopefully not repeating the same mistake in the future. I call that wisdom and the ability to increase our humanity. As I reported to the DFL on Friday, Senator Franken did very wrong, but my hope is he still has my support.

from Joyce: Extract from this article: ‘Those cases illustrate the real issue here: the power imbalance that allows some men to take women hostage using sex. Franken, from what we know, was not such a man. When he kissed Tweeden without her consent, during a rehearsal on a U.S.O. tour, she was able to, according to her description, push her assailant away, tell him, “Don’t ever do that to me again,” and walk away—hurt and disgusted, to be sure, but not in fear for her future. She wrote that she didn’t go public at the time because she “didn’t want to cause trouble,” and didn’t feel that she needed protection from Franken. On the way back from the tour, Franken posed for a picture in which he pretended to grope Tweeden’s breasts when she fell asleep on a plane. More than a decade later, when Tweeden decided to go public, he apologized. “The apology, sure, I accept it,” Tweeden said in a press conference. “People make mistakes.” She sounded less magnanimous than annoyed. She explained that she had decided to go public in order to encourage other women to speak up without fear. That matters. Whether Franken resigns does not.’

Tax “Cuts”

Thursday, November 16th, 2017

(click to enlarge)

Bronze Eagle presented to Minnesota Landscape Arboretum by Mary Lou Nelson, October, 2008.

Personal opinion: like an eagle, or any bird, or any human, or animal for that matter, any system needs to be in equilibrium to function well. A bird with only a dominant right wing – or left, for that matter – does not function well. A smart bird with only a head cannot fly…. Why, then, seek to dominate or even eliminate the other, or try to prevail as a dictator? It doesn’t work in nature; why should it be any different in political systems.


Some years ago I “notched” over 50 years of filing tax returns. They are as sure as is April 15 each year. I know the drill.

I suspect that there are some people who like to pay taxes. Actually, I don’t mind paying my taxes either. Taxes go for things like fixing potholes, or someone to answer the phone for a 911 emergency, and on and on and on. Lots and lots of people make their living in jobs paid by taxes. Some of these same folks hate taxes.

Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society.

But that’s about where the civil conversation ends. “Tax Reform” has been the rage for years and years and years, and once again it is the rage, and today in Washington DC, the latest version will probably roll out of the House of Representatives, promising nirvana, tax cuts for everyone, more money in the pocket to spend on lottery tickets, more chickens in the pot, eliminating things some people think are undesirable, or whatever.

Am I a cynic? You betcha.

The President badly needs a “win”. Killing Obamacare didn’t work. “Tax Reform” is a next round. Tax cuts were to be paid for by elimination of Obamacare. That didn’t work…at least initially…now full speed ahead. No one knows the future except…

…the clear winners will be the already very wealthy and the big corporations.

The additional tax bite for the rest of us will come in varying ways, likely not until after the 2018 elections, not even called “taxes”…that’s how the shell game will work: give a little gift early; delay the hit until later, and inflict it in other ways – higher medical premiums if you can afford insurance, etc. Exactly what the hit will be, and where from, or who is hit the hardest, are the real questions.

“Caveat Emptor” – let the buyer beware.

Now is a time to look at legitimate news sources, more than just the one you trust. The truth of the pudding is available. It won’t reliably come from the practiced spin-makers, the advocates who sincerely look you in the eye on television, or craft perfectly drafted op eds. It’s up to each of us.


How much taxes does a person pay? It takes a little work, but everyone can find out for themselves. It likely isn’t what you think.

We’re middle class, living in a small house, driving used cars, long retired.

But every year we’re lucky enough to be in the 25% tax bracket for federal income taxes. A chart I saw once put our income in the 78th percentile among Americans. Two pensions from our work years, two 401k’s, two social securities…. We don’t live “high on the hog”; neither are we poor.

Earlier this year I took a closer look at our 2016 tax return. Remember, I said we make the 25% bracket for federal tax, every year. (I don’t mention state taxes, and we’re a so-called high tax state).

Bottom line: in 2016, compared against out gross income, we paid 11% for Federal and 5% for State taxes, or 16% for the privilege of living in this country. Of course, there are other taxes: gasoline, for things like roads, and on and on.


I don’t know what the legislative sausage will look like once it goes through the meat-grinder this year, starting with the federal, then the state, then the local….

Quite certainly, it won’t be to the advantage of the lower income folks. The real beneficiaries will likely be those who already have far, far more than they need. They have the lobbying power, the money to finance political campaigns.

Every American has a vested interest in what happens in coming weeks and months. Make your voice heard, and get active in the political process.

November 2018 is coming soon.

From Norm:
I appreciated reading your observations regarding taxes.

My father always told my brothers and me that he was just happy to be able financially to pay taxes let alone owe them.

Paying them is not always the most pleasant thing that I have to do be it income or property taxes but I do it and fully expect all others to do the same…which I fully realize is rather Pollyanna on my part given the various loop holes in the tax code for folks and organizations to use to minimize, i.e. in some cases to avoid paying altogether, their tax obligations.

I think that paying taxes is an obligation of all citizens as they all should share in both benefits of living in the US as well as the cost of providing those benefits.

The bothersome aspect of the tax code to me is that it appears to protect and/or favor certain portions of the tax paying universe at the expense of the others….and, of course, it will continue to do that even if and after the GOP tax plan is approved and Trump has his “needed win!”

And, yes, I benefit from some of the “loopholes” as well including the deductions regarding state income and property taxes but…

Folks have to perceive that the tax system is fair and equitable in order for them to generally want to “pay their share” as it were. It is a voluntary system albeit with penalties for those who do not volunteer to pay as it were which can become very dysfunctional if folks begin to think that it does not treat everyone equally and fairly.

A democracy works when its participants all believe that they are all in it together sharing the burdens fairly related to sustaining the system of government.

Trump and the Republicans never seem to understand that…no, make that, they never seem to accept that preferring instead to rely upon the long discredited “trickle down” theory of economics to expand and grow the economy.

Unfortunately, too many folks that get hurt by that theory too often vote Republican.

#1310 – Dick Bernard: The Eagle’s Wings: the first day of the second year.

Wednesday, November 8th, 2017

A year ago, Wednesday, the United States woke to a new President-Elect, Donald J. Trump.

This morning, a year later, the nation awoke to the results of the 2017 elections. While there were relatively few races, what happened yesterday is possibly a messenger of what is to come.

(click to enlarge)

Bronze Eagle presented to Minnesota Landscape Arboretum by Mary Lou Nelson, October, 2008.

It is foolish for someone like me to do an analysis of what the last twelve months mean to the present and future of the United States. Trump won. And he was embraced by the Republican party, which felt he would be useful to achieving their political agenda.

I offer some things to think about:

First, how did YOU vote a year ago, and why? The national results are so large as to be incomprehensible. Some months ago I looked up one rural county with which I am familiar. It is in a “red” state. Here were the returns. The numbers speak for themselves.

3,277 – Eligible Voters
1,481 – Trump
502 – Clinton
109 – Johnson
59 – Other (13 for Stein)
1,126 – Did not cast a vote for President

Where, among those 3,277, were you one year ago?

Certainly, in this single rural county Donald Trump overwhelmingly defeated Hillary Clinton. Was theirs a wise choice? They will find out.

Second, consider the Eagle Sculpture pictured above.

For a lot of years I’ve imagined our political system to be generally analogous to our national bird, the Bald Eagle.

There is a story to the sculpture: it was originally named “The Hunter” by the sculptor; the lady who contributed it to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in 2008, my friend Mary Lou Nelson (dec Jan 2016), called it “the Messenger of Peace”, and that is its message at the Arboretum.

It is a magnificent sculpture. But I am sure there were some discussions within the organization about the name issue…what it was called.

(The Bald Eagle is itself very much a mixed message…Mary Lou reinvented the powerful “hunter” as a “messenger of peace”. I think the sculptor himself struggled a bit with that at the time of dedication. But this eagle was Mary Lou’s, and she could name it as she wished!)

Our political nation is, I maintain, quite analogous to this bird, and perhaps its creator and its benefactor as well.

Like the bird, our nation has a left wing, and a right wing, with a body along for the ride, but whose parts must be a functioning part of a team.

The wings are essential for successful flight. But an eagle whose wings are out of balance in any way cannot survive. For one wing to dominate and control the other is not healthy for the eagle.

Similarly, the head – the brains of the outfit – the seat of power, as it were – cannot survive on its own. It certainly has some influence over the body, so long as there is some semblance of balance within the system.

The crucial part is the body…we, the people.

Of course, there can be endless arguments about this analogy. But like a healthy bird, all the parts must be in reasonable balance. Try flying an airplane with only one wing, or one vastly superior to and independent of the other: it doesn’t work.

Our country is badly out of balance, and has been for too long.

We, the people are the ones who must monitor and adjust and change the way our governance works.

That is what, in my opinion, began to happen on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017.

It’s up to us to make it continue.

PERSONALLY: Tuesday was encouraging to me. Voters seem, at least in this single election “round”, to be moving away from what has been increasing polarization, and domination by what I call the radical right wing. To use the eagle analogy, attempted domination by the tip of the so-called “right wing”.

Evidence, for me, is reasonable conversation among friends with differing points of view, and reasonable action following such conversations.

Vietnam: Comments related to Burns/Novick’s Vietnam War Series on PBS.

Tuesday, October 10th, 2017

During the time of the Burns/Novick Vietnam series I had a number of conversations, and also invited comments. Below are those who were willing to say something about the time that was around the Vietnam era, (1961-75). As you’ll note, even among these ten or so, there is a variety of opinions about, and engagement in, the issue of the Vietnam War. This was also true amongst those who chose not to write any comments. Even today there remain a range of strong opinions, but most have no opinions, and even during the time period most were minimally engaged. (The vast majority of citizens then, and certainly even more so now, were neither actively in the military, nor in the ranks of protestors. War was an abstraction, rather than preoccupation. Not a healthy attitude, in my opinion, neither then, nor now.)

My previous posts on this topic are accessible here. My summary thoughts will be entitled “Morning Report” on Vietnam, and I’ll publish probably on Friday of this week.


from Dan, Sep 13: HI Dick, I too volunteered for the draft. I served from Oct. of ’55 to Jul. of ’57. Basic training at Ft. Chaffee, Arkansas with the 2nd 8 weeks training as an artillery surveyor at Ft. Sill, OK. My Dad died unexpectedly while I was on my way to Chaffee. I started my military career with a 10 day emergency leave. After training at Ft. Sill we received orders to ship out to Korea. I assumed I would be stationed in the “Boonies” with an artillery battery for the duration of my 15 mo. tour. We left the ship at Inchon. Many of us from Ft. Sill were sent to 8th Army HQ in Seoul for duty other than the artillery surveying that we were trained for. I was sent to a sedan company which provided transportation for the 8th Army brass. Lt. Col. and up. My 1st job was driving for the 8th Army Dental Surgeon. A “Bird” Colonel [full Colonel]. I then worked as night dispatcher for our 40 some sedans. I did that until an opening on the staff of the 8th Army Commanding Gen. (4 stars) came up. I applied and got the job. One of 3 drivers on his staff. He was in Japan most of the time so we did a lot of V.I.P. stuff and spent much time at the pool. It was a pretty soft job but also very interesting. Also had a chance to see some of the country and get a feel for what the troops went through during the war. Hostilities ended in ’53 but the country was a mess. Seoul was just beginning to rebuild. They have done an amazing job. Can’t believe what I see today remembering what it was like when I was there. I had my 81st.birthday in June and we are still enjoying life. Summer has returned to the TC. Hope all is well on your end. Take care.

from Flo Sep 24: We watched The Vietnam War, tonight, part 4 of Ken Burns nine-part series on a war that I didn’t like, but really never knew much about. There’s no doubt it was a very turbulent time for the United States, to say nothing of Viet Nam and the countries directly affected by that “conflict”. I graduated from NDSU in 1966, went into Peace Corps in August that year, and came home in October 1968. The Dominican Republic had just ousted their dictator Trujillo with lots of covert US military assistance and anti-American graffiti was everywhere in Santo Domingo. I was in rural areas and was never bothered for my nationality, just loved! It was a great experience, but most of the guys with whom I was serving (we were two women out of a group of 24 in training!) were very much actively avoiding the war by doing alternative service with the Peace Corps. I was glad to have served with them as Peace Corps Volunteers. Most have gone on to serve in ways that continue to build peace here and around the world.

from Anonymous, Sep 19: [Husband] Dan was in the Army from about 58- ?63 and was a paratrooper in the top unit. Kennedy put his unit “on call to go to Cuba” and then the war was settled and Dan didn’t have to go. Being in the First Call Unit meant they had to be flight ready in 5 min. Dan was not the student you were / are. He was quite rebellious.

from Bob Sep 20: I am watching the Vietnam series, though it is depressing to learn how we were sucked into the abyss. Didn’t know you served in the Army, though not in combat. Thanks for your service. I was too young for Korea and too old with too many kids for Vietnam, so just plodded along as a civilian.

I will be interested in your end of series observations/comments.

Dave Sep 22: Good stuff Dick,

I served in Vietnam as a Naval Intelligence Officer. One day I will write about my experience and it will not be pretty for the South Vietnamese. The dismal manner in which our political leaders allowed us to fight the war is well documented. We were told we should not have gone… some of us were spit on. So we shut up. My brother a few years ago asked me why I never spoke about it. I am 75 and ready to write what I “lived and observed.” Not read about or something someone told me.”

from Jeff, Sep 25: The returning soldiers being spit on has been described as an urban legend. I don’t claim to know if it is true or not. I have read some articles suggesting this never ever happened. I would not doubt it if it did happen though, the divisions were so strong.

I think the doubters always seem to say that the phenomenon is always ascribed to someone else experiencing it.

I think the current issue of African American players protesting racism by kneeling during the National Anthem is related to this.

Most of the people who say it is wrong, including Steve Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary on CNN yesterday, who said it was disrespecting our military.

I believe our veterans need to be honored for their service. But I also believe the military worship gets taken too far and its always at its utmost at NFL games. (and always has been)…. This allows Americans to never question why there are troops in over 180 countries around the world. Or why taking a small % of the Defense budget would pay off all our student debt.

To Jeff Sep 25:

Amen to all you say.

The Vietnam era was 1961-75, during which time I was 21 to 35 years old. So, for me, with all the personal complications (death of wife, etc), it is a riveting time in history, so I’m watching every minute of every segment. I’ll do a summary post sometime later, after it is all over. I’ll include your comment there, probably modifying the “urban legend” piece. I have no doubt it (being spit upon) happened. When you have a country with several hundred million people, stupid stuff does happen, and it only takes one!

from Jeff: (As you know)…. I would not disagree it probably happened, but it is one of those things referred to in the 3rd person usually by those who say it did.

Even your poster doesn’t specifically say it happened to him. Which once again means as a vet, his saying “some of us” gives credence to it when in fact, IMHO, if it did happen, it was not often.

Now, there was spitting on police during the protests. Then again a lot of peaceful protesters got more than spit on.

More from Dick Sep 30: in 1970 the population of the U.S. was about 200,000,000. The odds that someone was “spit on” or otherwise mistreated is 100%, but my read is that such mistreatment was very uncommon. Indeed, my two brothers were in the thick of things in the late 60s and early 70s. One of them came home as a burn victim and he was with us for a time at our home in late 1969. It did not occur to me until I was at the Vietnam Memorial the weekend it was dedicated, Nov. 14, 1982, that I had not welcomed either of my brothers home, and I wrote them both letters on my airline flight home. There was no slight intended. I just didn’t….

from Bruce, Sep 29: It’s too much to ask for that Americans learn from their history. One of the truths I’ve learned from Burns doc. is that the big difference between Vietnam war and all the other wars of aggression is the American soldier wasn’t respected for their part in the horror. Burns is trying to rectify that in order for it to be like all the rest of them. Support the troops that fight America’s wars of aggression is explicit.

Response from Dick, Sep 30: I think you have to “walk in the shoes….” I was one of the lucky ones. I went in (without knowing it) at the very beginning, when all we did was to “play war” out in the country: Colorado, eastern Washington, North and South Carolina. We were practicing for the big event. It wasn’t a vacation, but neither did we have to live with the possibility that someone was out to kill us. Not so in Vietnam, or in any war, with any soldier or civilian. Their worry is survival; they experienced it every day. It is up the line that the responsibility lies. It is customary to blame the President (Johnson, Nixon….) but it is deeper than that. Politicians need to get re-elected, and war and division is a good seller, and thus leveraged in any election. This was said often in the series. Want to blame somebody for the killing in Vietnam? Start with every one of us, collectively.

from Jermitt, Sep 29:
I, also have been reflecting on the lessons of that terrible war and wonder what is it that I can do to assure something like is will never happen again. Are we on the verge of another bloody mistake?

from Norm, Oct 2:
My Story
I served as a photo/radar/air intelligence officer in the USAF from 2/1965-11/1968 assigned to the Minot AFB (NoDaK) and Utapao AFB (Thailand) with the Strategic Air Command (SAC) following a 28-week initial training at a joint air force/marine/ navy intelligence training course in Denver. I received my commission as a second lieutenant in the spring of 1963 upon my graduation from UMD and completion of the AFROTC program at that facility along with nine other men, two of whom became pilots and were killed in Viet Nam. I joined the AFROTC program as a freshman and remained in it for four years until I was declared an officer and a gentleman upon the awarding of my commission. I had always been impressed with the idea of being a “citizen soldier” if you will by going on active duty for the four years required of an officer and then returning to civilian life. I had no intentions of making a career out of the USAF as did one of my brothers. I later received an educational deferment to pursue more education before going on active duty in February 1965 in Colorado.

After serving as a photo/radar/air intelligence officer with the B-52’s at Minot AFB for eighteen-months where my team and I evaluated training missions and assisted in the development of target related information, I was sent to Utapao AFB located about ninety-miles south of Bangkok, Thailand on the Gulf of Siam (Thailand). My duties at Utapao were to supervise a team of highly trained photo/radar interpreters who had taken similar training in Denver in the evaluation or “scoring” of the B-52 bombing runs, i.e. BUFFs or Big Ugly Flying Fellows, following their missions over the SEA area theater of operations. BUFFs flew similar missions out of Kadena AFB (Okinawa) and Andersen AFB (Guam), both places of which I spent time at while in SEA.

We had three such teams that worked 12-hour shifts, i.e. days, nights and then off and then repeat. Shifts ran from midnight to midnight. We would usually have one or two or more missions to “score” during each shift after the film had been developed and sent to us from the photo lab. The results of the bombing mission would be scored using visual photography taken from the bomb bays of the BUFFs using the negatives scrolled across a large light table. We would look for the first and last impact of the 108 500 and 750 pounders that were carried internally and externally by the BUFFs, i.e. they showed up as easily identifiable black spots on the negative, and then transferred that information to a special map and determined the relationship of the long train of bomb impacts to the intended target area.

More often than not, the target areas were covered by clouds and we had to evaluate the results of the mission by reviewing 35mm film of the radar scope of the cross-hairs at the time of bomb release. We had a mechanical device where we could “blow-up” the film, i.e. enlarge it, where we could then take a very close look at where the cross-hairs were positioned at bomb release compared to where they were supposed to be. We would then take that information and with the use of a special slide rule with which we could plug in altitude, air speed, and wind, we would then transfer that information to a special map just as noted above when we had regular photos to work with.

Our work required great precision as the results determined by our teams (they were three of them by the time that I left with the rank of captain) with lots of pressure to make sure that the results were correct before being forwarded to the appropriate parties who were anxiously waiting for them.

I was discharged in San Francisco from the USAF as a captain upon my return to the United States just short of having served for four-years due to having less than six-months of retainability.

I am very proud to have been able to serve as a reserve officer in the USAF and also very happy that I had the chance to spend that time as an intelligence officer which was the area to which I had always wanted to be assigned.

I went back into the “real world” following my discharge, got divorced (cannot blame it on the war necessarily as was often the case), got re-married, had a beautiful daughter and found employment in health care in the private sector and later for over 34-years with the state public health department as a regulator before retiring in early 2013.

from Larry, Oct. 2:
Though I think “Vietnam” is an amazing production, I have watched diligently for the pieces left out, especially when I noted Bank of America and David Koch as major sponsors. I will send you separately the MSNBC piece from a few years back when we organized veterans to stand in support of Vietnam Veterans being foreclosed on by Bank of America, and others. We won, and I in fact just saw [a veteran] (the non-foreclosed Vietnam veteran celebrity) at the Line 3 March at the Capitol last Thursday. Am copying [other vets for peace] on this, as they are doing a lot of the organizing of people to pay attention to the film. Also [a newspaper columnist], because he is writing, or has written a column, and has reached out to VFP types, as he often does.

Despite the constant refrain to present a balance, I saw Gulf of Tonkin stated as retaliation for North Vietnamese attacks on American ships. I saw no reference to the immediate questioning, as reported in the Pentagon Papers and elsewhere, of whether that attack ever happened. Even if people want to argue about it or discuss it, as they do, that’s a significant piece of information that should not have been left out.

And then, there’s the piece(s) I had zero expectation of seeing in the film. The concept we affectionately refer to as “war profiteering”; the concept no one really wants to address (except maybe us). I own an amazing book I found reviewed in the Strib business pages some time ago. It is THE PROFITEERS – Bechtel and the Men Who Built the World, by Sally Denton. I had never heard of her. I read it first from the library over a year ago, and then bought it, something I only do these days if it is someone I know, or if the book is so amazing I don’t want to stand in line at the library to read it a second or third time.

I looked up Vietnam in the index and got, among other things, the pages to read about John McCone, a businessperson/founder of Bechtel-McCone. He was a “revolving door” specialist, not unlike Dick Cheney of Halliburton fame. For a while he was Director of the Atomic Energy Commission, and Bechtel has built a majority of the nuclear power plants in the country. Then Kennedy appointed him CIA Director, even though McCone was Republican, because JFK wanted intense nuclear experience and someone willing to deal with the cold war nuclear power threats. Turns out McCone preferred LBS’s [LBJ’s?] more aggressive style over JFK’s questioning and considering pulling everyone out, strategically, right after the 1964 election (this little detail was not reported either in the film). Anyway, after JFK was killed and the war ramped up big time, McCone left in 1965 and Bechtel got enormous (I would guess no-bid) contracts to build much of the infrastructure in wartime Vietnam. And the list goes on.

National Voting Patterns in 2016 Presidential Election

Saturday, October 7th, 2017

Greg forwarded this link from the Oct. 5 New York Times. It is well worth the time to scroll through.


If you opened the link, you are at least interested. A few very brief thoughts.

At this advanced point in my life, I think I know myself pretty well: by nature, I’m an optimist. But these last months have been especially trying.

On the maps, I am a tiny speck of blue, often buried under a sea of (it seems) primarily red. It is easy to feel hopeless. But that attitude is unproductive, and self-defeating if I wish to see and effect positive change.

To begin, all is not as simple as red and blue colored maps.

I think of a deep, deep Red rural U.S. county I know pretty well.

In the 2016 election the vote there was about 25% Blue (Democrat) – that’s only one of four.

The County pretty obviously is deep Red (Republican).

But only about three of five eligible voters in the county actually voted in 2016. That is roughly consistent with the national average. Of course, it’s not knowable how the app. 40% who did not vote would have cast their ballot. Let’s say they’re roughly evenly split between some shade of Blue or some shade of Red. In the 2018 election, if past is prelude, even fewer of these folks will vote for their Congressperson, and other state and national and local officers. The reality is dismal. Most people don’t seem to care.

In this single example, if one Blue had convinced one Red to vote differently, the outcome would be 50-50, not 25-75. Maybe they might even give some thought to the implications of their vote, for themselves, personally.

Minds aren’t changed by being without effort. I think everyone knows this.

Are we up to effecting positive change?

Health Care For Some: Our Contemporary Vietnam

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

We’re in a mad race to another precipice, and once again, “politics”, which is “we, the people”, will be the likely driver.

There is a desperate need to finally kill President Obama’s signature achievement, the Affordable Care Act of 2010. (Sorry: “OBAMACARE”, said with a sneer.) There is no reason, other than repeating a mantra now seven years old, to “repeal obamacare”. The current version apparently will not even be scored by the Congressional Budget Office – it is too rushed. We have to do it NOW.

Long-time Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley probably said it best, very recently: “You know, I could maybe give you ten reasons why this bill shouldn’t be considered,” Grassley told Iowa reporters on a call, according to the Des Moines Register. “But Republicans campaign on this so often that you have a responsibility to carry out what you said in the campaign.” “That’s pretty much as much of a reason as the substance of the bill,” he added. (You can read all of this in a paragraph maybe two-thirds of the way down, here. Read the rest, too.)

This action is much like the latest hurricanes to devastate the Atlantic, only the victims will be in every hamlet in every county in every state and there will be no disaster relief. Many of the victims will be the same people who in large numbers seem to hate “obamacare” because they were told by people with a motive that it, or Obama, was bad.

The beneficiaries of this will be the already filthy rich, who will ultimately get huge tax cuts which they do not need (or in many cases do not even want).


Politics was similar in the disastrous Vietnam War, too. All along, the leaders knew they were in a losing situation in Vietnam, but the eye always had to be on the next election, and to be against the war was made to be politically dangerous, and over 58,000 were sacrificed in a war that in one sense, one time, or another could be called “the French war”, Truman’s war, Eisenhower’s war, Kennedy’s war, Johnson’s war, Nixon’s war (and which, in Vietnam, is called the “American war”).

Vietnam was our war – the people’s war – period.


Last night I watched the 4th segment of Vietnam – 1964-67.

I have often said, including here, that the 1960s were a lost decade to me. Being up on the news and well versed on current events was a luxury for me after I got out of the Army in 1963. (That story is here.)

For certain, this wasn’t intended. I couldn’t have anticipated that my new wife, just 20 years old, would have to resign from her job one month after I got out of the Army in 1963 because she was, it turned out, terminally ill with kidney disease that would kill her two years later, leaving me with a year old son and immense medical debts.

The rest of the 1960s I was most concerned about getting my bearings, personally. There were angels: as Marion and Louis Smart, Amelia “Bitsy” Polman, Sue and Dave Irber and others.

But, personally, I walked, in the shoes of those whose daily struggle was not navigating the insurance market. Survival was my daily work.


“We, the people” need to wise up. WE are the government, and an effective and functioning government is necessary – essential – to the common good. WE must be the ones who act to help those who are least able to help themselves. In this obscenely wealthy nation, no one should have to worry about being fully insured for their health.

Some day, if my kids are lucky, I’ll die with a little bit left over which they can inherit.

They can rest assured, however, that if some of their cohort have greater needs than others, that our little stash of money can easily disappear as we try to help those who cannot help themselves, including their own families.


I remember a conversation on a street corner in Cebu City, Philippines, in the summer of 1994.

I was with a wealthy man whose wife was a school friend of my cousin Julie. We were staying at their house, as fancy as any you would find anywhere in the states.

This particular moment we were standing at that street corner, and diagonally across was a hospital.

I don’t know how the conversation came up, but the man said: “here in the Philippines, if you have the money you can get as good medical care as anywhere in the world”, including going to the U.S. or Japan. “If you can’t, you die.” I remember the almost matter-of-fact tone….

It was about as succinct and accurate description of where we seem to want to head in the United States: if you can’t afford it, it’s your problem.

It is OUR problem, folks.

Five Citizens Reflect on the Vietnam War

Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

Your comments are invited for a follow-up post: dick_bernardATmsnDOTcom. Please include your permission to include in a post.

Following are some thoughts about Vietnam, prior to the beginning of the 17 hour film series on PBS, Sep. 17, 2017 7 and 8:30 p.m. CDT. Here’s the schedule of programs following Sep. 17 (see pages 21 & 25): PBS Vietnam Sep 17001

(click to enlarge all photos)

photo copy of Padre Johnson sketch from 1968, used with permission of the artist.

Re the sketch, above: I’m proud to count the artist as a friend, Padre Johnson. He was a field medic in the Mekong Delta in 1968, among other vocations in life. He sketched the incident, and describes it here: Padre J Viet Combat003.

Padre is one of many Vietnam vets, including conscientious objectors and protestors, I have come to know either in person, or through others. There are many “truths”, and perhaps the best we can do is to acknowledge differences, while working to learn from the past.


from Jim, Sep 10: Fifty years ago my brother was in Vietnam. During the spring and summer of 1967 he saved lives, both American and Vietnamese. He spoke fluent Vietnamese and had tremendous empathy for the people even the so called enemy soldiers. He was soft spoken, kind and generous and very much a hero. He was honored this year in Washington on June 17th. I included a short summary on the Minnesota History Center’s Vietnam Story Wall: here.

As I said in my writing, I grieve for his loss every single day.


from Norm, Sep 10: I am looking forward to watching the series as I am sure are many, many other veterans who served in SEA during that war let alone many others as well.

Burns has always done a great job with his previous efforts and I expect that this one will be done well also.

There was a series (TPT) on the VNW [Vietnam War] several years ago that I thought was very good as it included perspectives, experiences, reflections and remembrances from people fighting on both sides and in between, i.e. the Montagnards, the Bru, the Sioux and the Hmong, the latter working with the CIA in the “secret war” in Laos.

The feelings about the VNW were still kind of raw at that time so I was aware of many folks including several veterans that were not comfortable with the series as it included comments and perspectives from the North Vietnamese and Viet Cong, including general Giap. In addition, it showed some of the destruction caused by the B-52’s when they “went north” over Hanoi and Haiphong in the early 70’s coming from Andersen AFB(Guam), Kadena AFB (Okinawa) and Utapao (Thailand) where I had been stationed with the BUFF’s(Big Ugly Flying F…….s)in the late 60’s.

The B-52’s had been involved in the Arc Light operations for many years bombing sites in that theater before going north and encountering SAM missiles in or near North Viet Nam. The BUFFs took heavy unsustainable losses early in the effort to go North as a result of the SAM [Surface to Air Missile] missile defenses around Hanoi and Haiphong as they would initially come in on predictable routes over those two cities.

Several of the crews became residents of the Hanoi Hilton albeit for relative short times compared to Alvarez (seven years) and McCain (five years) as the truce was signed not long after the bombing of the north began and the prisoner exchange began.

Some of the crews who survived being shot down in their B-52’s were rescued by the Jolly Greens (helicopters) and the crews of medics. Several BUFF crewman did not survive either hits on the aircrafts by the SAMs, the subsequent crash and/or their injuries from received from one or the other or both.

One of the BUFFs from Utapao was hit by a SAM when over the north and limped back to its home base before crashing just outside its perimeter as it made its final approach to the runway.

I am definitely looking forward to watching this important series.

I am sure that Burns will feature the unrest within our country related to the VNW as well which is of less interest to me as that has been so well and so often documented so many times already.

I am primarily interested in learning about what other veterans were doing in that theater at the same time that I was there, it, 1967-68 as well as when my brother was there as a helicopter pilot in the early 70-‘s working with the “little people.”

I really don’t care about the impact of the war on the domestic side of the equation for various personal reasons.


from Larry, Sep 11: My “perspective” on War in Vietnam, with direct link to my story on the “wall”, here. And Aug 31 a radio interview at KFAI.org (here).


from Susan, Sep 11: My husband, Tom Lucas, served four years in Vietnam. He worked in Supply, so wasn’t in the trenches. But he flew in helicopters from time to time and experienced ammunition fire.

Tom loved the children and visited orphanages often. He knew that often children were sent into areas with bombs attached to their bodies. (You probably know all about that.)

I’m sure he knew of other atrocities but never once mentioned any.

In the 37 years we were married he rarely spoke about his time there, and I never once asked him about it. I knew it was too painful for him to discuss it. Once in a great while he would be in contact with someone who also spent time in Nam and did engage in some conversation with that person. But I was not present. Tom had two photo albums he showed.

He left them laying in the living room after their meeting, and he didn’t care if I looked at them. Shortly after our first child was born I received a call from the government asking about Tom’s possible contact with Agent Orange and whether or not our child suffered any disability. Tom was not in the jungles so wasn’t in contact with Agent Orange.

That’s about all I can remember. He did receive a couple of Commendation letters, but right now I cannot recall what they were for. I know you will sum up the whole Viet Nam experience so I’ll let you add the descriptions of that war. Tom died one day short of his 62nd birthday. He planned to retire at 62. He will be gone 9 years the end of October.


Dick Bernard, Sep 12: I am a Vietnam era Army veteran, which means I was in the service after Feb. 28, 1961. Truth be told, at the time I entered the Army, Jan. 11, 1962, I had no idea of the future significance of that time in history. A vivid memory from early in my Infantry days is of a long time Platoon Sergeant hoping to get assignment to Vietnam duty because he’d heard Saigon was good duty.

Draft Card. I must have lost the original.

I had volunteered for the Draft. At that time, we were required to register for the Draft and carry Draft cards. There was no patriotic impulse: it was something I thought I’d have to do anyway, and may as well get it out of the way. I had just graduated from college. I could have qualified for Officer Candidate School, but declined as it would have required me to extend the two year tour. I had no thoughts of conscientious objection, or alternative service. My family history has many military veterans.

My service time began at Ft. Carson, Colorado (Colorado Springs area), mid-January, 1962. My memory is that the night before we boarded a bus from Fargo ND to Ft. Carson, my roommate and I went to a movie down the street, Bridge On the River Kwai.

Ft. Carson, then, was primarily a Basic Training base for the Army. Midway through Basic Training the announcement came that an Infantry Division was being re-activated at Ft. Carson, and after we completed basic training we were virtually all transferred into this new 5th Infantry Division (Mechanized). I ended up in Company C, 1st Battalion, 61st Infantry of the 1st Brigade (if memory serves) of the 5th Infantry (Mechanized). I became Company Clerk. My recollection is that there were perhaps 140 or so of us in the Company, which shared a block with Companies A and B, and a headquarters Company.

Our routine was no different than anyone else preparing for combat.

Some years ago I contributed some pictures to a website which still exists, here.

Ft. Carson CO. Best I recall, Co C was at the NE corner of the 4th full block up. This photo is from the south and dates from 1962 or so. The church we attended (all denominations) was at the very end of the base.

Succinctly, we were, at that time, a peacetime unit being prepared for war. But if there was talk about a coming war in Vietnam, I don’t recall it.

I left the Army at the end of my tour, just before the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963.

Co. C continued, and ended up in Vietnam beginning in 1968. By this time, I was back home, with a “row to hoe” – working to raise an infant. My first wife had died in 1965, and our son was 1 1/2. I saw the war develop on the news, but that was all. I had no connection to protests, for no particular reason other than home duties.

In 1967 and 1970 my two brothers entered the Air Force as officers, and the war became much more personal to me.

About the same time, Company C became heavily engaged in combat in Vietnam, though I didn’t know that till years later.

The war ended in April, 1975, thence out of sight out of mind. In mid-November, 1982, I happened to be in Washington D.C. for meetings, and while waiting for my flight out of Washington National learned that the Vietnam Memorial was being dedicated that very weekend. I went there. It was a very powerful and emotional experience. Vietnam Mem DC 1982001

It was not until last week, when I revisited the unit website, that I learned that my Company C, that small group of about 140 men for whom I had done the Morning Reports for nearly two years had, in four years between 1968 and 1971, lost 37 men in Vietnam; in all the casualties of the Battalion which had earlier shared my block at Ft. Carson totaled 145. War was, indeed, hell. I just happened to get lucky.

May my comrades rest in peace, and may we intensify our efforts for peace.

POSTNOTE: I am always conscious of people who I know are veterans, particularly so at this moment in time – that is a benefit of this 17 hour film by Ken Burns.

Yesterday I was at my barber, a retired guy who works out of his home. I’m a long time customer and we’re good friends. He’s a combat Marine vet from Vietnam – assigned as tunnel rat, at times. His brother, another Marine, was killed at 18 in Vietnam about 1968. His name is on the Wall in Washington, and here on the Minnesota Capitol grounds.

Last Thursday at the preview of the film at the PBS station, my brother, John, was with us. He was an Air Force officer, a navigator on C-141 and other transport planes, for a year or more detailed on flights into Vietnam in the early 1970s, at least once drawing heavy ground fire.

The stories go on and on. I had a chance to say my piece on film at the preview, and I said that while I didn’t think war would ever end, we certainly can do a great deal to keep it to a minimum. There are no “winners” in war, only losers. We all lose.

I stay a committed member of Veterans for Peace. I am also a long-time member of the American Legion. VFP is my personal preference. There is no perfect organization, but such groups are important.

Dick Bernard – A look at immigration, past….

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017

POSTNOTE: Flo offered this comment on Sep 6: “Stand for your principals, but actively seek to understand. And don’t give up.” My position, too, though it’s mighty hard to understand an opposing position when it conflicts with so much of what I understand to be the truth!”.

Dick: In a way, this mornings Just Above Sunset addresses the the quandary: “The Power to Hurt Others”. And Neal Gabler offers an excellent commentary which relates: “The Conversation We Should Be Having”


There is a long list of self-imposed crises for Congress to deal with in Washington this month. The most recent is yesterdays bizarre action about the Dream Act (DACA). Atty General Sessions being designated to publicly announce Donald Trumps decision, rather than the President saying so himself, says a great deal about this President-Who-Loves-Publicity.

You can read a more lengthy summary about the pending demise of DACA, etc here.

The United States is a nation of immigrants. We all are rooted elsewhere. One of my grandfathers (Bernard) was an immigrant; four of my eight great-grandparents (Blondeau, Collette, Busch, Berning) immigrated to the U.S. Four of these five were men; the fifth a young girl.

Then there are the great-great grandparents…. We each have our own stories.

Even Native Americans, if one goes back far enough, immigrated to what is now the U.S. They had a very long head start on the rest of us.

Collectively, we have plenty of low marks in our history, subjugation and virtual annihilation of Native Americans, and Slavery for our early history two primary ones. But generally, as a nation, we have tried to improve over time, to learn from our mistakes. We are better than we were.

What is happening now is backsliding, an outrage.

Where is the welcome mat today? Congress has avoided dealing positively with immigration reform for years. What chance is there that the next few months will be any different? Who knows what is in Trumps mind? It’s up to each of us to make that difference. We each have to be that “member of Congress”, rather than somebody else.


Yesterday’s announcement caused me to dust off a family history I compiled several years ago, including interesting detail about my great-grandmother Clotilde (Blondeau) Collette’s early history in Minnesota, including the citizenship paper for her father, Simon (name recorded there as Blondo – not an uncommon error). (Much of these pages are with deep thanks to cousin John Garney, and friend Jean-Marc Charron.)

(click to enlarge)

Blondeau, misspelled. This was very common in documents, for varied, reasons, including, very often, illiteracy (Simon was illiterate).

There are eleven pages, here: Blondeau 1850s U.S.001.

Succinctly, Blondeaus arrived in the U.S. somewhere in the early 1850s, in the Minnesota Territory no more than a couple of years later. (Minnesota became a state in 1858. Ellis Island opened in 1892.)

In 1868, in St. Anthony (now Minneapolis), Clotilde married another immigrant, Octave Collette. Here is a tintype taken somewhere around the time of their marriage. These are two of my great grandparents

(click to enlarge)

Clotilde Blondeau and Octave Collette at St. Anthony MN ca July 1868


These polarized days, when I hear people talking about issues, they’re talking to/with people who agree with them. Their position, of course, is not only correct, but it is the only position articulated; except that the other side is wrong, without need for rationale.

For 27 years I worked in an arena where arguments, regardless of how petty, started with both sides certain that they were right. Of course, two opposites can’t be correct.

The effort was to find resolution, not winning.

Consider the possibility: when you make a mental note of all the reasons your position is “right”, spend an equal amount of time consider the opposing position.

Attorneys, whose business is “winning” and “losing” are well advised to know the oppositions “side” as well, or even better, than their own.

Stand for your principals, but actively seek to understand. And don’t give up.

Dick Bernard: The Nine Percenters

Saturday, August 26th, 2017

NOTE: A friend had a front row seat for a perfect view of the Eclipse last Monday. I added her comment to my Monday post, here.

Earlier this week came an article: A recent poll finds that 9% of Americans are okay with white supremacist or neo-nazi views.

It was a troubling article – 22 million Americans (9% of adults) is a lot of folks.

I try to keep it in perspective. 9% means 91% are not in this exclusive club…. My townhome association has 96 units and perhaps 150 adult residents. It wouldn’t surprise me to find 13 or 14 of the residents as sympathetic to “white supremacist or neo-nazi views”. My suburb is over 60,000 population. Similarly, 5,000 with those kinds of views, here, would not surprise. I don’t know who they are. They keep to themselves. If some of them want to play war out in some woods, so be it.

Tomorrow is our Woodbury Days Parade and I doubt I’ll see a unit of neo-nazis on the march. I doubt I’ll see a neo-nazi or white supremacist booth on the ground.

I temper my fear of potential ascendancy of these folks by keeping in mind that I rarely if ever see someone who is actively espousing those views, in public, anyway. To be overtly radical fringe is frowned on in our civilized society (the good news). We mostly see it in television clips involving the President of the United States (the bad).


In the aftermath of Charlottesville, there was an advertised “free speech” gathering in Boston. The neo-nazi types gathered inside a rather small gazebo; the counter-protestors, at a distance and peaceful, numbered in the tens of thousands, according to reports, and verified by news helicopter film.

Then there’s the President of the United States, in the Friday news dump yesterday pardoning Joe Arpaio, the modern day Bull Connor of Maricopa County Arizona, who stepped over the llegal line with overly diligent and abusive law enforcement, and was finally retired by the voters, and found guilty in court. On the same day Trump decreed no more of those transgender types in our military, even though our military is far beyond those olden days. (More on each, here.)

Then he wanders off to Camp David, wishing the folks in the path of Hurricane Harvey good luck.

Trump is no surprise, neither are the nine percenters.

A year ago Trump ran on fears and prejudices, and he picks up his cues on public policy pronouncements from them, out on the fringe. The “authentic” Trump is the one at those rallies, such as the recent one in Phoenix. He doesn’t have an authentic bone in his body, I reckon, so he just relays whatever it is that they want to hear. They are his “base”. His authenticity.

I have long thought that Trumps reliable base is about one-fourth of voting Americans, including, of course, those nine percenters…but that leaves three-fourths – the rest of us.

But every day of poisoning the political atmosphere is more and more dangerous to the continuance of a free democratic republic which we so value. Every person who gets turned off by politics contributes to the problem.


Tomorrow in my town is the annual Woodbury Days parade. Normally I’ve been in the cadre of the local DFL (Democrat) legislators, wonderful public servants. Maybe tomorrow I’ll just observe who passes me by, a spectator.

Stay – or become – involved.

Stay tuned.

from Paul: Thanks, Dick, for another thoughtful piece.

I have not been surprised to see the neo-nazis and white-supremacists surface recently. I recall in my late teen years learning about the alt-right of the early 60s, the John Birch Society. Then as a young college student at North Dakota State University (1964-68) George Lincoln Rockwell came to campus to speak. He was the founder of the American Nazi Party. I attended that speech, not to cheer, but to look the devil in the eye. Most in attendance had the same motivation and reaction against his brand of hate. Then in the late 60s and 70s there were the militias and survivalists out in the forests and mountains playing revolution with their guns, planning for either an armed rebellion or an active resistance to the U.S. Government and United Nations World Government that they feared.

I view this latest as another round of these dangerous fanatics that crawled out when Trump and his followers kicked over the rock they typically were hiding under. The resistance to these hate groups is strong and confident. I do not believe the right wing fanatics will win this struggle in the end even if they have a few victories along the way (like the Arpaio pardon, the transgender ban, the immigration restrictions, etc.) Two steps forward for every step backward. At least I still hope for that.

On Losing Hope…Don’t….

Monday, August 14th, 2017

“When the going gets tough, the tough get going”
(Proverb, uncertain origin)

As the awful days of 2017 drag on, I am very tempted to give up. Why bother? There seems little reason to hope for any improvement in our increasingly awful status quo – a fate we freely chose last November. If you watch the news only a little, you know what I mean. Here’s a longer version of the most recent, Charlottesville. Scroll down to the quote from “Daily Stormer”, the modern voice of the Nazis.

from Carol: a two minute film from 1943

The reason for my malaise is our national leadership – our President – and a largely cowardly “win at all costs” far Right government leadership who considers people like me the enemy.

But becoming paralyzed is not good for this country. I march on.


In my now long life, I have always emphasized personal optimism: that however bad things were, there was hope for a better future.

A friend once asked me how I came to this positive philosophy. The answer came to mind quite easily. Very early in my adult life, the short two year marriage of my wife and I ended with her death from kidney disease; and I was left with a 1 1/2 year old son, and truly insurmountable debts, mostly from medical costs.

Barbara was 22. We were in a strange place, surrounded by strangers. I was flat broke.

It was 1965, and survival was the essential; everything else was a luxury.

I didn’t give up, and with lots of help from some relatives and new friends and society in general (North Dakota Public Welfare in particular), things turned around, albeit slowly. I’ll never forget 1963-65.

Later perspective came from a career where my total job was attempting to help solve problems between people, not to make them worse.

It was a difficult job. Sometimes I feel I did okay; sometimes I was not so sure. But I gave a damn, and knew the difference between “win-win” versus “win-lose”. In “win-lose” everybody loses…. We have long been mired in “win-lose” in this country of ours.


So, I seek optimism even in the worst of times.

A few days ago I did a blog about Al Gore’s new film on Climate Change: “Inconvenient Sequel Truth to Power“, and highlighted a long and what I felt was a very positive interview with Vice-President Gore on Fox News a week ago; and then noticed on the jacket of his 2006 “An Inconvenient Truth” the highlighted recommendation, from Roger Friedman of FOXNEWS.com. Fox News? Yes.

Yesterdays Minneapolis Star Tribune had an Opinion written by the newspapers publisher, billionaire businessman and former Minnesota legislator Glen Taylor. You can read it here.

I sent the column to a former work colleague, now in Michigan, who knew Taylor in the 1980s when he was an up and coming business man, and who, herself, successfully used “win-win” in contract negotiations. She read the column and said, “He is so correct in his observations. For one thing, this approach is less likely to produce unintended consequences that can hurt either party. Because the potential solutions are freely discussed, those potential problem areas are more likely to be seen and avoided before they happen.”


“Win-Win” is not part of the current American environment.

But it is not time to quit. Just yesterday I was at a gathering where a current member of the U.S. Congress spoke, and he said that next week, August 21 to be precise, is when Trump has to make a crucial decision on CSR under the Affordable Care Act. “CSR”? More here about CSR and the implications of next week. Several times Cong. Walz said, yesterday, August 21 is very important. Express your opinion to your Congressperson and Senator.

Cong. Tim Walz, MN 1st District, at DFL Senior Caucus Picnic Aug. 13, 2017


Finally, the matter of “news”, generally, and what can one believe these “fake news” days, especially from the President of the United States? There is truth out there, but it takes effort to find it, especially now. I think it is prudent to believe nothing this President says; only what he and his lieutenants do, have done, and will do, and not as reported by him, either.

Facts are complicated. A couple of days ago my long time friend Michael sent an article from a technical publication about the N. Korean ICBMs. The article, here, is difficult, and it is technical, but was reassuring in that it came from someone who I’ve known for years to be not only a PhD, but a straight talker. We all know people like Michael. Value them. Here is how Michael introduces the article: “if moral analysis does not move you, maybe technical aspects can. Ted Postol [and others have] a super essay in today’s Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists about the latest NK missile launches of Hwasong 14, probably not quite ICBM missiles.”

N. Korea is a very dangerous situation, but consider the source for any information you see or hear about it. There are “facts” out there.

Here’s my Korea Peninsula region map, once again.

Personal adaptation of p. 104 of 7th Edition of the National Geographic Atlas of the World

from Fred: An excellent piece, Dick. In challenging times it is tempting to withdraw, hang on and hope for the best. We need to remember that the future is not linear; its unpredictably is about all we can safely predict. Of course, that can mean even more difficult days are in our future. You’ve reminded me that a pragmatic and persistent approach in working for positive change is a most worthwhile option.