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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.

Dick Bernard – An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

Friday, August 11th, 2017

Minneapolis-St. Paul area: Here are the film showtimes for Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power.


We went to see Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power on Wednesday afternoon. Climate change is a topic that has long been of concern to me, and I have written about it before, here, and followed it quite actively since we saw Al Gore in person in St. Paul in 2005, and then saw the original An Inconvenient Truth: A Global Warning in 2006.

What a difference ten years make; what a difference ten years has made….

First, the bad news: Out of the gate, the film as measured by box office, as Fox News proclaimed, “bombs at the box office”.

But there are other opinions “headlined” on the internet search I did on Thursday: here, and here. And if you take the time to view the Fox News piece above, it is a ten minute segment featuring Al Gore on Fox News just days ago.

What difference does ten years make? While acknowledging his own dark times, Mr. Gore points out the huge successes, not the least of which is the COP21 in Paris, where 193 nations signed on.

“Don’t judge the book by its cover”.

Wednesday, there was only a single theater in the Twin Cities showing the film – the Uptown at 28th and Hennepin. It is an “inconvenient” place to see a movie. We were going to see the film Sunday, but streets were blocked by the annual Uptown Art Fair which basically surrounds the theater. Even in the middle of a rainy day, parking was an issue. I was actually surprised that there were perhaps 50 of us in the Theater for the 2 p.m. show.

On the other hand…Inconvenient Sequel is a film of substance. If you care at all about the future in environmental terms, the film is much more than worth the time. See it in person if you can. My high spots: the story of Discovr (not misspelled); and crucial parts of the ‘back story’ about the Climate triumph at COP21 in Paris in 2015. Mr. Trump may feel he’s dissing President Obama when he refused to sign for the U.S. as the pact continues. Rather, I think, he is dissing us all, including American business.

While there is a long, long, long ways to go, the movement to build awareness of the climate change issue is very much alive and well, and change is possible.

Inconvenient Sequel, more than anything, gives a sense of empowerment to “we, the people”, going forward. The future rests with us.

Take the time to see the film, and spread the word.


In 2006, I purchased ten copies of the DVD, An Inconvenient Truth. I still retain one. As I have related before, we saw Mr. Gore in person in St. Paul a year before the film came out, and we were in the front row of a packed Woodbury theatre a year later to see the first run, and my wife almost yelled, “that’s me!” when she saw herself on the big screen, going up to shake Al Gore’s hand. It’s still there, less than five minutes into the film.

(click to enlarge)

As I was scanning the cover jacket above, I noticed for the first time the quote at the bottom of the illustration, by Roger Friedman, FOXNEWS.com. In the above segment with Chris Wallace on Fox News a few days ago, Wallace says that it is the first time in 17 years that he’s interviewed Gore. He says in the recent interview, let’s not wait 17 years for the next visit….

There is possibility out there. Go for it!

Semper Fi*

Wednesday, August 9th, 2017

Emblem of United States Marines

(click to enlarge any photos or illustrations)

Monday morning, 8:53 a.m., an odd e-mail from my daughter: “I have very few details and am “on call” today. Spencer is at his MEPS appointment this morning and will, at some point (likely Lester afternoon), swear in. I’ll do my best to keep you posted, but for sure this isn’t a “must attend” if you follow. Keep your phones close and if it works, great…if not, mark your calendars for July 9 which is his ship date!”

July 9 was last month. “MEPS”? “Lester”? We’ve all done rushed e-mails! (More later in this post).

I went on to my morning meeting where six of us were to discuss a film-in-progress about dialogue on how to help promote world peace and justice through suggesting positive changes in the United Nations.

Six people suggesting reforms to a 72 year old institution representing over 190 nations? The idea sounds preposterous, but I’ve been around long enough, and close enough, to know that bottom up ideas can and do make a difference. You just need to be patient, and never expect your name in “lights”. We are a global society, and if there is ever to be peace, it has to begin with all of us in each of our own small and larger ways. Indeed, world society is making positive progress.

Most of our Monday morning group had been at a small dinner the previous evening (below). Joseph Schwartzberg joined us on Saturday; Deb Metke couldn’t.

from left, David Lionel, Ron Glossop, Gail Hughes, Deb Metke, Nancy Dunlavy. Dick Bernard took the photo, and thus is the empty chair.

I stuck around till about 12:30 Monday afternoon, then excused myself.

There was a phone message from my daughter: “Spencer will be sworn in at 2 p.m. at Ft. Snelling. Come if you can.” “Sworn in”? “To what?” He’s just becoming a senior in high school. Once again, what was MEPS?… I called Cathy. “This is all I know. Do you want to come along?” “Sure.”

We were there in time. Seven others had come, on short notice, to be there for Spencer. Spencer was there to be sworn in as a Marine, with a report date of July 9, 2018. Three other young people were sworn in at the same time. MEPS turned out to be the Military Entrance Processing Station. As the blanks were filled in, it wasn’t a great surprise. Spencer, a great kid, has long had an interest in the possibility of military. This was his next step.

I was visibly emotional as he was sworn in. For me the emotion was simply recognizing another passage point for another of my grandkids, growing up. That he was enlisting in the military wasn’t a point of issue for me (a “peacenik”). The person swearing in he and three others, a 22 year veteran, a first class representative of the military, said only one percent of the U.S. population is in the uniformed services. I’d like for there to be no need for these folks. There is.

I’m a veteran myself, from a family full of military veterans, and while I see no good ever coming out of any war, and the young are always those sent off to fight, and die, there is sometimes a need. One can only hope that the current chain of command acts responsibly for Spencer and all of us. (In the entry to MEPS was pictured the Chain of Command as of August 7, 2017.)

August 7, 2017, MEPS, Ft. Snelling MN

Today I’ll be sending Spencer a copy of the orders to report for Army duty that I received back on January 10, 1962. Back then, they bused us to Ft. Carson Colorado. There were 18 of us. We didn’t know, then, that we were going into the Army at the early stages of what came to be known as the Vietnam era. Ten months later was the Cuban Missile Crisis, which I learned about through President Kennedy’s address to the nation on a small television in an Army barracks a few miles from Cheyenne Mountain, a possible ICBM target.

(I looked at the map of military posts in the United States in the reception room, and apparently Ft. Carson is no longer a full-fledged base.)

One can hope that the service will never have to “bulk up” again.

It’s our responsibility to do our part to end war.

Meanwhile, Congratulations, Spencer! And I’d encourage readers to become interested in and possibly involved in my organization, Citizens for Global Solutions MN, whose founders in 1947 were persons who had been deeply affected by WWII, and thought there was a better way than war and killing to solve problems. Some of us were among the ones meeting Monday morning (above).

Spencer, August 7, 2017

POSTNOTE: As Spencer begins his year preparing for active duty, here’s a graphic I gave him within the last couple of years:

(click to enlarge)

And as he signed his enlistment papers, the most difficult current hot spot is the Korean Peninsula, where difficult decisions will hopefully be made very, very carefully. In our democracy, we are the ones who select these decision makers….

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

These are the kinds of things a grandfather thinks about, when his grandson is about to be a member of America’s military.

Congratulations, and all good wishes, Spence.

* – Semper Fidelis

#1280 – Dick Bernard: “Age of Anger, A History of the Present”

Sunday, August 6th, 2017

Some weeks ago a long-time friend told me about the book, “Age of Anger…”, which I briefly introduced in this post on July 21st.

The book was my vacation project this past week. I found it to be highly informative, and highly recommend it for book club discussion, or simply for individual reflection on the nature of human beings, ourselves, our systems, nations…. Marie, the friend who had recommended the book to me, said the book was being passed around among her siblings in various parts of the country.

There are many reviews of the book. Here are some.

The book has a very large “cast of characters”. After reading, I took an informal “census” in the index, and found about 380 characters in all, most of them actors with influence roughly within the 200 years between 1700 and 1900 [See Postnote 3]. Many have immediately recognizable names. Most, like the Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio who leads the book, are more obscure, but nonetheless very influential, influencing later tyrants. Most of the key characters are men. The frame seems the philosophical differences between Francois-Marie Aroust (nom de plume Voltaire, 1649-1722) and Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778).

Of the characters, only about 20 are women.

Tim McVeigh is in the spotlight in more recent history. ISIS makes the cut.

Before he is executed for his crime, McVeigh ends up as next door neighbor in a Colorado super-max prison to Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the architect of the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. After McVeigh’s execution, Yousef says “I have never [known] anyone in my life who has so similar a personality to my own as [McVeigh].” (p. 288) In 2001, Yousef’s uncle “completed what [Yousef] had started: the twin towers’ destruction. [That Uncle, Khalid Sheikh] Mohammed, is now known as the chief architect of the 9/11 attacks….” (p. 285)

The cast of Age of Anger seems to center on characters who came to be of influence in 1700s France, then England, then the U.S., with many other important players, mostly leaders in places like Russia, Germany, India, Turkey. As we know, “countries” are basically personified by larger than life individuals who for good or ill are installed and enabled by their subjects. Our own country, today, is an example.

Reading Age of Anger helped me to fill in blanks in my own knowledge of historical events. “Ressentement” (resentment) is an important and oft repeated word, as is Individualism.

My opinion, typically – perhaps a human trait – we blame somebody, say Hitler, for the resulting disaster that befalls us. But it always comes back down to all of us who, in various ways, enable and indeed encourage the leader behavior which ultimately does us in. This is especially true in societies like our own, where we freely choose our own leaders, by our action (or inaction – non-involvement).

As I read, I kept looking for my favorite commentator on human insanity: George Orwell in his classic, 1984. Near the end of the book came a quote about the “Proles” (ordinary people) on page 325 (see postnote). The Proles of all ages, ourselves, in my thinking, have always been the enablers, the kindling wood and the cannon fodder for the assorted pretenders to greatness, the folks like Napoleon, Hitler and all their similar ilk. We meet the enemy; and it is ourselves.

The end result always, for even the most charismatic ideologues, regardless of ideology, seems constant and universal: defeat, often disaster. It is often the angry, dispossessed and impressionable young who are enlisted to do the dirty work in wars or whatever – look at the composition of our military, of gangs….

The Age of Anger is very well worth your time.

For me, I find myself thinking about how the book challenges me to do what I can to change for the better the tiny portion of the world in which I live. Our America – my America – seems to have had an exceptionally good and exceptionally long run. But the storm clouds, literal and figurative, are gathering.

Where do we fit in all of this.

POSTNOTE: p. 325 of Age of Anger: “So long as they [the Proles] continued to work and breed, their other activities were without importance. Left to themselves, like cattle turned loose upon the plains of Argentina, they had reverted to a style of life that appeared to be natural to them, a sort of ancestral pattern… Heavy physical work, the care of home and children, petty quarrels with neighbours, films, football, beer and above all, gambling filled up the horizon of their minds. To keep them in control was not difficult.”

In my recollection, Orwell leaves to our imagination the end of his story (published in 1949), which is set in England, but pretty clearly modelled on a totalitarian society.

Then, while technology was improving, no one could really imagine the presence days means of communication and thought and action control of ourselves, unless we take command of our own lives.

Absent our own actions, as individuals, our world will not end well.

Where do you fit in as the solution to our problems?

POSTNOTE 2: After publishing this post I read the Opinion section of today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune. This commentary by firefighter Peter Leschak seems pertinent to the conversation.

POSTNOTE 3: As I read, my own ancestry (French, English, Irish, German) came unexpectedly into more focus. My French-Canadian ancestors, all of them, arrived in what is now Quebec between 1618 and 1757, mostly missing the continental impact of the Enlightenment in France and England. As to the German ancestry, I knew for a long time of the German revulsion towards France, largely due to Napoleons adventure. My great-grandfathers brother, Herman Heinrich Busch, born 1852 in Westphalia, migrated to the U.S. in early 1870s, wrote back to the old country Feb. 14, 1924, about remembrances of his grandmother of Napoleon’s occupation of what is now Germany. He said, in part: “France’s history has always been full of war and revolution for the last three hundred years and Germany was always the oppressed, if they will ever become peaceful.” (p. 279 of Pioneers, The Busch and Berning Families of LaMoure County ND.). I knew Great-Grandfather Busch, first to come across, had migrated to the United States about 1870, the story was, for health reasons and to escape war. He was about 22, and his handwriting and text was extraordinarily fine and literate, though he was a farm kid. Age of Anger identifies 1870 as the formation of the Second Reich by Kaiser Wilhelm II (The First Reich is commonly considered the time of the Holy Roman Empire 800-1806). Part of the early Second Reich involved Germany’s temporary subjugation of France…. One chapter of history ends, and another begins.

Dick Bernard: The I-35W Bridge Collapse, Minneapolis MN, August 1, 2007

Saturday, July 29th, 2017

We head to “the lake” today for our annual week at Breezy Point north of Brainerd MN. We have the same week each year. My computer takes a vacation, too. Likely, tonight, the local Elvis impersonator (he’s very good) will do his gig by the dock, and we’ll have an enjoyable time.

Ten years ago, August 1, we were at the same resort, watching the news, and up came an announcement of the I-35W Bridge collapse in Minneapolis. We first had to figure out what bridge it was – it’s not a normal route. In my computer photo file – the index says “Apple iPhone 6:38:13 pm” – someone, apparently at the Guthrie theater not far away, had taken a photo of whatever was happening just down the street, later sending it to me. I have a guess. See text below. In due time, the scope of the tragedy became known: 13 dead, 145 injured. The bridge took years to rebuild; there were lawsuits and financial settlements, and talk about our crumbling national infrastructure.

Thursday of this week I crossed the replacement bridge twice, to and from a 5 p.m. meeting at St. Anthony Main. The significance of ten years ago at this very spot didn’t even cross my mind. Life goes on, memories are short. So long as we avoid the personal potholes of life, we can, in our affluent society, largely ignore our responsibility for the greater reality around us. My opinion: our neglect of our infrastructure (which in my definition includes our inability to even work out differences of opinion amongst ourselves) is our slow-moving and continuing 9-11-01 – a disaster in progress.

(click to enlarge)

Photo of I-35E Bridge Collapse August 1, 2007 via iPhone, quite likely from the Guthrie Theater.

Back on August 1, 2007, I had an e-mail list – no blog – and there were a flurry of comments, from which I reprint two, below. A month later, when the area was reopened for people like myself who wanted to see the scene, I went down and took a few photos, three of which follow.

Here’s from Jody, August 1, 2007, 11:57 p.m.: Tonight, I took my kids to Minneapolis to see the musical 1776 at the new Guthrie Theater. I called it an early birthday present to myself, and their gift to me was to go happily from start to finish.

I decided not to take I-35W. It seemed, I don’t know, like the wrong road to take, though it would be my normal way into town. We took an alternate route and got off the highway at about 6:08. There had not been too much traffic and we were very early for the show. The road we were on, Chicago Avenue, went right downtown and suddenly, as best as I can describe — it was chaos. The fire truck that came by first just about pushed the SUV out of his way to get by. Emergency vehicles were coming at us from three directions. I hardly knew where to be — on the right, off the road, stopped — it was just bedlam. I finally got into the parking ramp where it felt safe. My adrenaline was rushing; it was pretty clear something was wrong. Some emergency vehicles had boats.

The Guthrie overlooks the Mississippi River. We joined an ever-growing crowd at the window. The theater has a long beautiful seating area, comfortable chairs, great view — and there we could see the bridge in the river. We could see the smoke from the burning tractor trailer. Emergency vehicles. People. And there was shock. Horror. Cell phones not working. Huge number of bystanders crowded the banks of the river from all angles to watch.

7:30 show time. The seats were not filled. We waited. The show started late which isn’t typical, I hear. We had front row seats, but the mood was subdued. We made an effort to become involved with the production, which was truly wonderful. Part of me felt guilty that I was sitting there. Why hadn’t we gone down to help — although I’m sure our help wasn’t what they needed.

I am only home twenty minutes and trying to catch up with what happened from the television vantage point.

We talked on the way home about the fact that while if I had taken 35W, we would have gotten off the exit before the bridge — but the family joke is that when I have both kids in the car I get to talking and miss my exit (one famous trip to the airport turned into a long trip).

We’ve had calls and emails from friends all over the place, so I thought I’d write. And now eat some ice cream.

I-35 Bridge scene Sep 2, 2007

(click to enlarge this photo, and you will see a black building closeby to downtown Minneapolis. That is the Guthrie Theater, and the vantage point from there would be very similar to the photo you see at the beginning of the post.)

from Mary, Aug. 2, 2007, 4:34 p.m.: My cousin Lois __ survived the 35 bridge crash. She is my mom’s sister’s oldest girl and we attended her [family] reunion together on July 22nd.

After work, most routes were congested and she tried 35 going north and found it stop and go, She was not able to get off because drivers would not yield to her signal. Fortunately, She had driven (inched) to nearly the north side and her maroon older sedan dropped 60 feet with the failing bridge, landed hovering on the frontage road. She walked out of the scene with a truck driver to the Lutheran Center and was taken to U hospital and treated for spine injury. She chose to go home and is recuperating in Arden Hills.

She is grateful she did not drop into the water and she notes her car has had national press coverage. I saw it in the NYTimes slide series. Sadly, her perception was that the car next to her did not make it. She welcomes prayers during this tragic time.

I drove to work under the bridge for 3 years choosing slow life. Last week I walked to my work at Ted Mann Hall a few blocks from there. To avoid the pollution of slow moving freeways, I use alternative routes often.

I welcome the wake-up call to invest in our infrastructure, protect our people and reevaluate transportation-work viability.

(The photo below is of the north side of the bridge, roughly where Lois would have been. The photo above shows a road going under the collapsed bridge which would have been Mary’s usual route.)

Collapsed I-35W Bridge, Minneapolis, Sep 2, 2007

Looking at the destroyed bridge, Sep. 2, 1007, from the parallel bridge just downstream.

POSTSCRIPT. There is a continuing tsunami of national news swirling around the current administration and Congress. A good summary of the last few days is here. I agree with the George Will “snip” which is included in this summary: “Trump is something the nation did not know it needed: a feeble president whose manner can cure the nation’s excessive fixation with the presidency.” Every one of us has shirked our duties for far too long, expecting – and blaming – the President, whoever that might happen to be, for every thing, real or imagined. Ideologically I’m not a George Will type, though his opinion is well worth a read.

Donald Trump at Six Months: “An Eye for an Eye”

Friday, July 21st, 2017

I follow politics pretty carefully.

Not everyone likes “politics”…if that includes you, be forewarned: this is about politics.


There are political images which stick with me, among which are these two:
First, the below sign I saw in Rochester MN, “down the block” from Mayo Clinic, a few days before Nov. 8, 2016. The sign speaks for itself. I’ve used it before in this space.

About the same time, CBS news had one of those visuals – an interview outside a long-closed steel mill in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. The subject: a guy in Trump get-up – t-shirt and hat – declaring that Trump would get he and others jobs back in the long closed mill in the background.

This guy was a true believer in Trump as savior.

(click to enlarge)

Sign in Rochester MN Nov. 3, 2016


I am a “Democrat”, a little more active than most, I would say. I know what the word “Democrat” means as it plays out in debates among political friends. We are an inclusive bunch who bring meaning to Paul Wellstone’s oft-repeated mantra: “we all do better, when we all do better”. I don’t apologize for being a “liberal”, or “Democrat”. Because we are people, we bring meaning to the famous Will Rogers quote: “I’m not a member of any organized political party…I’m a Democrat. We have differences of opinion on lots of things. Such differences can be a liability for us; but its better than living in a regimented dictatorship.


There is not much to add after Trumps first six months in office as President of the United States.

His statements on Tuesday, after the latest failure to repeal “Obamacare” in the U.S. Senate, reminded me of something I heard over a year ago, during the early campaign time. You can read it here: Trumps comment about his favorite Bible verse: “An eye for an eye”.

Trump will do anything to win; and he despises losers.

But as President of the United States, he is in way over his head and has not a clue how a reasonable political system works, to benefit and protect everyone. Whether his incompetence is a blessing or a curse depends on point of view. “The Swamp” is ever darker and more murky in his first months. He needs to be called on abuse of power.


Reprehensible as it is, I can almost understand Trumps attempts to destroy people like myself – people called “liberals”, “Democrats”, “the opposition”. It is how Trump does business. This man seems to have no moral boundaries other than the exercise of raw power to win by any means necessary. Wednesday he publicly and pretty clearly threatened the Republican Senator Dean Heller of Nevada about playing ball with his regime’s agenda to kill Obamacare or else.

Heller has been reading the political tea leaves in his own state about general support for what is derisively called “Obamacare”, which the Republicans through various and sundry means have been trying to kill since its enactment in 2010. Heller was seated perfectly for an on-camera real-time tongue lashing by Trump, like would happen on “The Apprentice”, I suppose.

Publicly Heller laughed off Trumps public demand; privately, he and everyone else knows how political death – that of he and others – is achieved in this media and big money obsessed time in our history.

Trumps sole objective is winning, for himself alone. Period. This has been publicly known long before he descended the escalator at Trump Tower to announce his candidacy in March 2016.

Trump is not alone. The Republican far right wing, which controls the Republican party, and thus effectively controls the country at this point in time, has the same general objective as Trump. They quite certainly despise Trump, but are terrified of him. And he has been useful to their own agenda to control policy. But six months in – one eighth of his first term – their own chickens are coming home to roost. Still, long term damage is being done and it will impact us all unless we, as individuals, get more active.

The fearful and angry base – about one in four Americans – which elected Trump Nov. 8, 2016 based on his own endlessly repeated false promises to them, will find out soon enough that he did not give a damn about them. Repealing “Obamacare” and other similar initiatives from the current Republican leadership, national and state, “evangelical Christian” or otherwise, has nothing to do with anything other than raw exercise of power.

“Caveat Emptor” – “let the buyer beware”.


There is much more to say. I’ll close with just a couple of recent comments from other sources that speak to me a bit on this 21st day of July, 2017:

My friend Bob, a few years senior to me, had this letter printed not long ago in the Columbus (OH) Dispatch. I share this with Bob’s permission. His letter basically reflects my views, though as we all know, respectful differences of opinions make for a viable society, or family, or church, or most anything….

Bob is an old hand at managing very large and very complex political (people) systems. He preceded this letter with this comment to me: “Here’s a letter the editor I had printed a couple of weeks ago – I softened its contents in order to improve the chances of it being printed.” That’s a word to the wise about how to have impact.

Bob’s letter:

“Keep the faith; U.S. will recover.

Thanks to The Dispatch, along with many other media outlets, for giving us the real news about our fake president.

I hold out much hope that eventually the majority will wake up and take appropriate action to return our great nation into the hands of those who still believe in the common good.

Right now the Democrats are in disarray and have lost their direction, while the Republicans are a general disgrace. We must gather the true and honest traditional conservatives and the open and realistic progressives to make our country great again and recover it from the hands of those in control.

As I reflect upon our nation’s history during this week of our Fourth of July remembrances, I hold out great fear and great hope. We will either slip further under our present fake leadership or get real and recover.

Thanks again to The Dispatch for pushing us toward the “get real and recover” option.”

My response to Bob: I don’t see the Democrats – my party – “in disarray” based on my own personal experience within the party. “Democrats” are truly a coat with many colors. We all have our opinions. I have, also, often said that my political hero – really mentor – was progressive Republican Minnesota Governor Elmer L. Andersen. He and others like him were a credit to political society…and they have been banished from today’s Republican power structure.

What is your opinion? You have a lot to lose by being silent with your own constituency (we all have a constituency) at this crucial juncture in our American history.


AGE OF ANGER, A HISTORY OF THE PRESENT: Some weeks ago my friend, Marie, mentioned a book being passed around in her circles. I ordered the book, “Age of Anger, A History of the Present” by Pankaj Mishra (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2017). I picked it up at the book store a couple of days ago, and it will be my primary vacation read the first week of August. Here’s the Preface, and the Quotation which leads the first Chapter – gives you an idea of what’s to be covered. It sounds like an interesting read.

Pankaj Mishra: “I started thinking about this book in 2014 after Indian voters, including my own friends and relatives, elected Hindu supremacists to power, and Islamic State became a magnet for young men and women in Western democracies. I finished writing it during the week in 2016 in which Britain voted to leave the European Union It went to the printers in the week that Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. Each of these earthquakes revealed fault lines that I felt had been barely noticed over the years, running through inner lives as well as nations, communities and families. The pages that follow try to make sense of bewildering, and often painful, experiences by re-examining a divided modern world, this time from the perspective of those who came late to it, and felt, as many people do now, left, or pushed, behind.”

and the quotation leading the Prologue in the same book:

“Everywhere, people are awaiting a messiah, and the air is laden with the promises of large and small prophets…we all share the same fate: we carry within us more love, and above all more longing than today’s society is able to satisfy. We have all ripened for something, and there is no one to harvest the fruit…” Karl Mannheim (1922)

As I say, this is my vacation read. Stay tuned.


Get engaged. It is the only thing you can, and you must, do.

POSTSCRIPT: More about the issue, overnight: Just Above Sunset “Ten Times Harder”

Note comment from Dave at the end of the blog itself (below the other comments).

from Anonymous: The Peter Principle is a concept in management theory formulated by Laurence J. Peter. It states that the selection of a candidate for a position is based on the candidate’s performance in their current role, rather than on abilities relevant to the intended role. Thus, employees only stop being promoted once they can no longer perform effectively, and “managers rise to the level of their incompetence.”

The Peter Principle is a special case of a ubiquitous observation: Anything that works will be used in progressively more challenging applications until it fails. This is the “generalized Peter Principle”. Peter noted that there is a strong temptation for people to use what has worked before, even when this might not be appropriate for the current situation. Wikipedia

from Sandy: I totally agree with everyone you wrote about Trump and your other friends too! It is just sickening what he is doing and has done. It is incredible to me that the poor people that voted for him are so clueless and uneducated that they actually believe that he will “make America Great agiain” It is painful to watch everyday and what has been going on and frankly no one in Washington seems to be doing a good job. It is a total mess for sure! Thanks for you highlights and insights!

from Norm: Right on, Dick!

Trump is clearly in over his head albeit with the sole purpose of winning through the power of his office and particularly to undue as much of what President Obama set in play as he can. His main mission in life at the moment appears to be to eliminate any and all legislative and executive office references to Obama.

It is not unusual for a new president of a different party to come in and change some of the things put into play by his or her predecessor, of course. On the other hand, they generally have ideological or other reasons for doing that. Just wanting to eliminate it because Obama put it into play is rather odd to say the least and consistent with your description of the tower man who is streaking slowly towards puberty as everything being all about him.

I wonder how many mirrors he now has in the White House and all of his other residences to look at himself every time he wants to do so? I wonder if some of them even have an message that plays when he steps in front of them that tells him how great he is?

Of course, his promise of bringing back all of the well paying jobs in the extraction industries that existed in the 60′ and 70’s or so was pure B.S…and he knew it…as did many of his avid supporters…”but at least he will try” I heard from many of those folks.

I ran into a fellow a few months ago while waiting for an appointment who was wearing a Viet Nam Veteran cap. Being a veteran myself of the VNW era, I asked him where and when he had served. He told me and then he quickly and rather enthusiastically made it clear that he was a Trump supporter and that he wanted him to bring things back to the 60’s when he apparently was doing better than he apparently was when I talked to him.

That was the first time that I had actually had someone tell me that he hoped Trump would bring things back to the way that they were in the 60’s, i.e. the “good old days” as I am sure that the thought that he remembered them to be.

To be fair, he said that he had worked in heavy construction for most of his post military service life and his body had eventually broken down requiring lots of medical care…and he felt kind of left out of things…just the kind of folks that Trump appealed to in his campaign.

I am afraid that the avid Trump supporter that I talked to that day last March is going to be disappointed with what the tower man delivers to him including the possible losing of his coverage for medical care.

Nice job, Dick.

from Bob: I think this piece sums up what we’re dealing with:

NYT – Declaration of Disruption – Peter Wehner – JULY 4, 2017
ONE of the essential, if often unstated, job requirements of an American president is to provide stability, order and predictability in a world that tends toward chaos, disarray and entropy. When our political leaders ignore this — and certainly when they delight in disruption — the consequences can be severe. Stability is easy to take for granted, but impossible to live without.

Projecting clear convictions is important for preventing adversaries from misreading America’s intentions and will. Our allies also depend on our predictability and reassuring steadiness. Their actions in trade and economics, in alliances with other nations and in the military sphere are often influenced by how much they believe they can rely on American support.

Order and stability in the executive branch are also linked to the health of our system of government. Chaos in the West Wing can be crippling, as White House aides — in a constant state of uncertainty, distrustful of colleagues, fearful that they might be excoriated or fired — find it nearly impossible to do their jobs. This emanates throughout the entire federal government. Devoid of steadfast leadership, executive agencies easily become dysfunctional themselves.

Worse yet, if key pillars of our system, like our intelligence and law enforcement agencies, are denigrated by the president, they can be destabilized, and Americans’ trust in them can be undermined. Without a reliable chief executive, Congress, an inherently unruly institution, will also find it difficult to do its job, since our constitutional system relies on its various branches to constantly engage with one another in governing.

But that’s hardly the whole of it. Particularly in this social media era, a president who thrives on disruption and chaos is impossible to escape. Every shocking statement and act is given intense coverage. As a result, the president is omnipresent, the subject of endless coast-to-coast conversations among family and friends, never far from our thoughts. As Andrew Sullivan has observed, “A free society means being free of those who rule over you — to do the things you care about, your passions, your pastimes, your loves — to exult in that blessed space where politics doesn’t intervene.”

A presidency characterized by pandemonium invades and infects that space, leaving people unsettled and on edge. And this, in turn, leads to greater polarization, to feelings of alienation and anger, to unrest and even to violence.

A spirit of instability in government will cause Americans to lose confidence in our public institutions. When citizens lose that basic faith in their government, it leads to corrosive cynicism and the acceptance of conspiracy theories.

Movements and individuals once considered fringe become mainstream, while previously responsible figures decamp to the fever swamps. One result is that the informal and unwritten rules of political and human interaction, which are at the core of civilization, are undone. There is such a thing as democratic etiquette; when it is lost, the common assumptions that allow for compromise and progress erode.

In short, chaotic leadership can inflict real trauma on political and civic culture.

All of which brings us to Donald Trump, arguably the most disruptive and transgressive president in American history. He thrives on creating turbulence in every conceivable sphere. The blast radius of his tumultuous acts and chaotic temperament is vast.

Mr. Trump acts as if order is easy to achieve and needs to be overturned while disruption and disorder are what we need. But the opposite is true. “Rage and frenzy will pull down more in half an hour,” Edmund Burke wrote, “than prudence, deliberation and foresight can build up in a hundred years.”

Mr. Trump and his supporters don’t seem to agree, or don’t seem to care. And here’s the truly worrisome thing: The disruption is only going to increase, both because he’s facing criticism that seems to trigger him psychologically and because his theory of management involves the cultivation of chaos. He has shown throughout his life a defiant refusal to be disciplined. His disordered personality thrives on mayhem and upheaval, on vicious personal attacks and ceaseless conflict. As we’re seeing, his malignant character is emboldening some, while it’s causing others — the Republican leadership comes to mind — to briefly speak out (at best) before returning to silence and acquiescence. The effect on the rest of us? We cannot help losing our capacity to be shocked and alarmed.

We have as president the closest thing to a nihilist in our history — a man who believes in little or nothing, who has the impulse to burn down rather than to build up. When the president eventually faces a genuine crisis, his ignorance and inflammatory instincts will make everything worse.

Republican voters and politicians rallied around Mr. Trump in 2016, believing he was anti-establishment when in fact he was anti-order. He turns out to be an institutional arsonist. It is an irony of American history that the Republican Party, which has historically valued order and institutions, has become the conduit of chaos.