Memphis et al

The headline of today’s Minneapolis Star Tribune was hardly a surprise.  Here it is, as found at our door this morning.

I don’t find much point in commenting directly about the latest tragedies.  There is an abundance of news.  Tyre and the others are not the first and unfortunately not the last.  I’ve commented on many of these situations before.  May 29, 2020, was the first of 39 blogs in the past 3 years that at minimum mentioned George Floyd; before that,  July 9, 2016, was the first of four posts with mentions of Philando Castile’s death.  And so on.


What I prefer to do is to share a small amount of personal perspective, along with a recommendation for personal reflection.

First, the recommendation.  Recently, Sonya recommended a 1964 book by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Strength to Love, which I mentioned a week or two ago: see MLKs birthday.

I’ve had the book for years, and decided to re-read it, one chapter a day, each chapter about eight pages or so.  Today was Chapter 12 – I have 5 to go,  It is an enriching collection of food for thought; for personal centering in these confusing times.  Whatever your ‘brand’ of belief, or your bias, it will give you something to think about –  your relationship to today and to the future.

The book is an expansion of sermons given by MLK early in his career in Montgomery, Alabama,  (1954-60) essentially around the period after the Bus Boycott of 1956.

What is most remarkable to me is that King, born January, 1929, would have been in his 20s and early 30s when he preached these sermons.

You can read his thoughts for yourself.


In each reflection, my opinion, MLK acknowledges that we are all individuals in this world of often conflicting beliefs and ideas.

The search for our own ideal is never to be found – there is no pot of gold at the end of our rainbows – but we can contribute to a better world, one deed at a time, wherever we are, whatever our circumstances.

Some, like MLK, seem to make a bigger difference than others, but even King’s perceived success was built by legions of individual acts of courage by the people who participated.


I think back to my own imperfect days as an advocate for public school teachers, which began over 50 years ago.

By circumstance more than design, I happened to become a teacher representative coincident with the negotiation of the first collectively bargained contract under a new Minnesota bargaining law which took effect in 1972.

None of us, management or labor, were very conversant with the new rules of engagement.  Management didn’t know how to collaborate with labor; labor didn’t know how to exercise its new power.  There was an abundance of mistakes made by all parties, on both sides, including within labor and the community at large.

One of the early observations I made, as a novice, was that our side, represented by our bargaining team, was always frustrated at the end of negotiations.  We never, ever, reached our goals, which we always thought were reasonable.  The teachers we represented probably agreed with our assessment.  Always we found ourselves compromising on some never-give-up item or other.

Each time, two years later, back to the table we went, same process, same results.

One year, maybe five or six years into my career, I took a bit of time to try to quantify whether or not we had accomplished anything at all on one crucial issue about which we couldn’t even legally bargain, but which was a constant frustration to our members.

Long story short, I was astonished at how much progress we had actually made in those years, but hadn’t recognized,  because each time we were looking at what we hadn’t achieved, rather than valuing what we (labor and management) had, together.

I’ve never forgotten that.

Looking to the present, the years MLK became enrolled in the movement, the status quo was indeed dismal for his constituency.

By no means has the promised land been reached in 2023, but the foundation and the lay of the land is much different now than it was…if one takes the time to reflect back on the fact that a great deal of positive has been accomplished, while continuing the great deal of work remaining towards building a better future for us all.

Keep on, keeping on.  As the saying goes, “be the change you wish to see”.

POSTNOTES: Joyce Vance, The Importance of Video 

Last night we watched the latest remake of “All Quiet on the Western Front”, the classic about the end of WWII.  It is not a ‘feel good’ movie, that is for sure; but like Memphis and all the rest the movie provides a huge amount of food for reflection.

I felt similarly after viewing the latest SciFi hit, “Avatar, the Way of Water”, last week.

COMMENTS (more at end of post):

from Joyce:

Our Librarian Was Forced to Remove a Quote by a Holocaust Survivor Elie Wiesel.”


50 years

Monday is the 50th anniversary of the decision in Roe v Wade.

Letters from an American gives a good brief discussion of the history, here.

I note that I have written something including references to abortion 38 times since 2009 at this blog site.  That’s about three times a year.  I have not changed my position, now in place for over 58 years.  Respect life, but respect women’s human rights, and reality too.  By no means does everyone believe the same when it comes to ‘life’….

This morning at Mass the Pastors sermon was on the topic.  This was not surprising, his was carefully worded, the institutional – Roman Catholic – position.  I would have expected nothing else.

Codifying and even enforcing belief used to work better than it does now.  The Catholic Church, and any denomination for that matter, knows it’s an ever more lonely place to be when declaring some belief as absolute.  There will always be the cadre of supporters, but it takes much more than believers and laws to force belief.

50 years is two generations in human time.  That is a long time.  Moving from a moral imperative to a legal high ground, then controlling legislation and the courts which interpret the law, is a bridge much too far in a diverse society as ours is, in my opinion.  The above noted “Letter from an American” notes: “about 62% of Americans support the guidelines laid down in Roe v. Wade, about the same percentage that supported it fifty years ago, when it became law.”  One could guess that the same general percentage goes way, way back….

There is a tendency to divide us into good people and bad people.  It is not nearly so simple as that.  I’m not a ‘babykiller’ (an epithet that no doubt is still spewed by some).  Neither are all purist pro-lifers possessed of a consistent absolute ethic of life towards all who are born, wherever and whatever their circumstances, whether accidents, unwanted, immigrant or whatever.


Postnote Jan 23: I published the above in early afternoon yesterday.  Later in the afternoon, we went to the latest Avatar, ‘The Way of Water,  and it wasn’t till last night that I learned of the latest massacre, this time in Monterey Park CA; and this morning about other major incidents.

My position on the epidemic of dangerous and essentially unregulated firearms has been conveyed many times.

For this morning, I yield to Joyce Vance (who grew up in Monterey Park) and Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American.

Regarding Avatar, The Way of Water:  It is a very long film – about three hours.  I saw the original Avatar.  I liked and recommend both.  There is plenty of Star Wars sort of violence, but I think its essential message especially to younger audiences is very positive.  The ‘bad folks’ don’t fare well, and the role models portrayed are the kind of people you’d like to know, and the sea creatures are phenoms!  I’d like to see comments from others who have seen the film, or heard from others.

Just received re Supreme Court: Status Kuo, the Kavanaugh Cover-Up.  Pertinent for today.

COMMENTS:  More at end of post.

from Fred: Excellent piece on a terribly difficult subject. Thanks!

from Jeff: Firstly, the leak investigation at SCOTUS didn’t even include the justices (irony abounds when the arbiters of ultimate justice are essentially above the law) when the most obvious leak was via Alito’s chummy dinners with big donors to conservative causes.

2nd, re Kavanaugh, yes sunlight is an antiseptic, but we also have not heard a good explanation of how his big debts miraculously disappeared during that period as well.
Kuo and others make a good point, the SCOTUS  is truly non transparent, it needs huge reforms to its practices and independent review of its ethics.     Adding 4 or 6 new justices won’t happen in our lifetime.  It is the right idea though.
in the end I see the Senate as the source of much of America’s problems. it is the most undemocratic legislative body in the developed world that has actual power.  (A similar body , the Lords in England, was demoted in any actual power making many years ago.)

responding to Jeff, your last para especially: our Founders were geniuses, and lucky, but unfortunately didn’t have vision over 200 years out.  Their model, good and bad, was England.  They tried to build what they thought was a perfect union.  In a democracy, the crew in power is not going to voluntarily give it up – look at the obsolete veto power held by five countries in the United Nations.  It made sense, perhaps, in the wake of WWII, but no longer.  Same is true with the dis-proportionate power to the small population ‘red’ states.  It almost takes a life-ending catastrophe to bring serious changes.

MLK, redux

Sonya’s book

My brief post on Monday (here) brought eight comments, all well worth revisiting.

Among them was a note from Sonya: “I have been reading Strength To Love, a book of Martin Luther King’s sermons published in May 1964. Its pages are now dog-eared and full of underlined sections that I thought especially profound. I would love to have heard him speak in person.”

I replied to her comment at the blog, and sent a photo of my photo-copied volume from the April 1968 edition.  (See my note at end of this post, below the photo.)

The photos lead and end this post.   (You will notice that Sonya’s book cost 50 cents and the one I copied, 75 cents.)   I think the book is out of print, but you can still get used copies.  Thanks to Sonya, I am rereading the book, one chapter a day (17 chapters, 175 pages).  Each chapter is filled with food for thought, wherever you are on your personal journey, regardless of your personal religious beliefs.  The book was published when MLK was in his mid 30s….


I began this adventure of blogging more than 21 years ago, late September, 2001.  It started in late Sep 2001 as “P&J” (Peace and Justice), dealing with Sep 11 2001; thence became “Venturing” for a short while; thence “Outside the Walls”, thence the present “Thoughts Towards a Better World”.    It has been a personal opportunity to clarify my own understanding of issues, and to learn from others.  Some readers have been with me for the long haul.  We’ve covered lots of ground.


J. Drake Hamilton of Fresh Energy gave a very interesting talk on Zoom last night, Jan 19.  You can watch it here.  “Climate Loss and Damage at COP 27“.  The talk is 30 minutes, with an additional hour discussion of audience questions.  I predict you will be glad you watched it, and share it.  I am a long-time active member of the sponsoring organization, Citizens for Global Solutions MN, and an active supporter of Fresh Energy and its work.

Ukraine: A couple of days ago, Fred sent along a link to a very informative commentary on the historical background of Ukraine/Russia: “A truly masterful analysis on the war in Ukraine. This is from [Fiona] Hill’s talk in ceremonies marking the BBC’s centenary. An aside: The role and influence of the BBC in Europe, 1922 to 1970s, particularly, is vastly underestimated. Hill is a highly regarded British-American foreign affairs expert, with special interest in Russia.

Native Americans: Back on Jan. 1, 2023, Brian commented on the New Year’s post on some work he’s done with native Americans and their Credit Unions. (Brian works out of NYC.  He and I met on a study trip to Haiti in 2006).  I think his comment fits here, and it is shared with his permission I have added some links: Oh, and the Dakotas/Montana and Native Americans.  I have good news.  After 5 years and several trips out to Lame Deer with my working with them, the Native Americans (Northern Cheyenne and Crow) now have a credit union of their own–it was just chartered.   And the Lakota credit union, which I worked with 10 years ago on the Pine Ridge Reservation, really helped out, too.   And they just expanded their service to eastern SD, to the  Rosebud Reservation–I had to get involved with that, the regulators were such asses. 

Cuba:  The Golden Rule Boat made a trip to Cuba in early January, and Thursday came their observations, along with this ‘clip’: “Without U.S. hostility to an independent, socialist Cuba, we would not have come so close to nuclear war in 1962. There are a lot of lessons to learn from the Cuban Missile Crisis. But have they been learned?“.

Population, climate etc:  Occasionally side conversations start out of some post here, and recently Chuck and Claude entered into a good-natured back-and-forth about the future.  Along with their exchange of opinions, came a couple of videos by persons I would categorize as ‘futurists’ (which is a compliment) – attempting to predict the future.  If you wish, here are the videos, worth your time.  From one of the corresponding duo: “Here’s a [30 minute] video of optimism if you dare watch it.”  From the other: “I’m going to ask you to watch the first 44 minutes of this presentation of Dr. Rees to the Canadian Association for the Club of Rome.”  

If they wish, I may do a “Chuck and Claude” post sometime later….  Constructive discussion is always good.


There is more, of course, for another day.  We tend to be dominated by the headlines of the day on whatever our choice of media might be.  In the end analysis, there is lots of action happening with lots of people on lots of issues.  Keep on, keeping on….


POSTNOTE:  Everything has its own story.  Sometime in the late 1980s I had occasion to visit an African-American couple in Albany GA.  I saw the “Strength to Love” paperback and asked if could borrow it, and back home I copied it.  The book appears to be out of print, but still available used.  I’m very happy I had it, and that Sonya reminded me of it.


Today is the 37th Martin Luther King Day. MLK 1/15/29- 4/4/68

On Saturday, my friend Joyce sent along a message about the Jan. 14, 2023, New York Times, a column by Jamelle Bouie.  I’d recommend that you read this column, here: NYT Jamelle Bouie Jan 2023.  

Bouie focuses on a sermon given by MLK at Ebenezer Baptist Church on Christmas Eve, 1967.  It speaks for itself.  (There are several sources for the entire sermon on the internet.  Simply search the specific topic.)


I repeat  another recommendation this day.

Take the time to tune in on J. Drake Hamilton’s talk via Zoom on Thursday of this week at 7 p.m. CST.  All details are here.  There is a very simple reservation process.


If we are to survive as a community of people, however local or global that might be, it will be up to all of us, working individually and together.

I’ve always liked the quote attributed to Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world: indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

COMMENTS (more at end of post):

from Jeff: Happy MLK day monseigneur! this is a good post for today as well, especially the ending admonishing us that heroes are all around us….

from Heather Cox Richardson, Letters from an American, especially pertinent for today.  Here.

from Jay Kuo, The Status Quo, on Martin Luther King and Thich Nhat Hanh, here.

from Molly:

I highly recommend this thought-provoking 16-minute reflection by a local ( & also national, & international) peacemaker, Ray McGovern.  (see 4th para for link)

He’s a  former career Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer who later turned into a political activist. He has quite an interesting biography in Wikipedia .

If you’ve been active in some of the ongoing peace work/events done in the Twin Cities over the last 20 years or so, you may have encountered him.
It seems an appropriate piece for Martin Luther King Day–because Ray McGovern is such an articulate, knowledgeable, and creative person.  The last quarter of the film talks about Dr. King.

I found myself going back to re-hear various clips as it went along, so give yourself some time to check it out.  Be aware, this is not an upper.

from Chuck: Here’s the best 3 min video that I believe gets at the root problem of EVERY earthly issue we are concerned about.

Today, on Martin Luther King Day, this is his “War is Obsolete” speech.

Compliments of a close friend with media promotion and editing talents.

“Everything is connected, everything is interdependent, so everything is vulnerable…. And that’s why this has to be a more than whole of government, a more than whole of nation [effort]. It really has to be a global effort….” Jen Easterly. Cyber and Infrastructure Security Agency’s director in a speech Oct. 29, 2021. [CISA is our nation’s newest federal agency established by the Trump Administration in 2018]

Hopefully, Ms. Easterly understands that our environment is our most vital infrastructure! And human security everywhere is inherently and irreversibly connected to it as well as every aspect of our health.

from Claude:  Yes, that’s certainly a great speech. It’s a shame it hasn’t gotten more traction to actually get people and countries to think more ecumenically to work together to avoid a course of action that has brought us to the point of ever warming global temperatures. I’m sure you’re right that not being willing to work together is the root of every problem we face.

As a life-long world federalist I must admit the Citizens for Global Solutions has failed to bring about a system at the international level that would save us.
As a half-century UNA member I can certainly see that the UNA has failed to increase the UN’s effectiveness to solve our problems through it’s efforts.
One of the co-authors of the landmark book “The Limits to Growth,” which came out with lots of attention fifty years ago, recently took part in a retrospective of the book’s legacy. Jorgen Randers freely admits that he and the others who wrote and promoted the book (from MIT research and published by the Club of Rome, by the way) failed to make their message palatable to government, industry and people at large, that endless growth will end in disaster. But interestingly he said he doesn’t think the failure is because the message wasn’t understood but rather that hearers didn’t like the message


The primary purpose of this post is the following paragraph.  I know J. and her work well.  The talk on Zoom next week is very much worth your time.

Upcoming: One week from today, Thursday, January 19, 7 p.m. CST.  J. Drake Hamilton of Fresh Energy will be guest speaker via Zoom for Citizens for Global Solutions MN Third Thursday.  All details are here.  Free, available everywhere.  Pre-registration required.

J. is an exceptional presenter, highly experienced and respected.  You will be happy you spent the time.

Related, and pertinent is this, sent to me on Jan 4 by Claude. The 19 page monograph by Dr. William E. Rees,  is already published online but it will be part of the 2023 Vienna Yearbook of Demographics.

I must say that the impending Climate Emergency makes a lot of other issues look like rearranging the deck furniture of the Titanic.


While you’re at the Global Solutions website, consider watching the recorded November, 2022, Third Thursday, featuring Natalie Etten, Ukrainian native, about Ukraine.

Also, Sunday’s post on the House of Representatives will be, and has been, updated with additional information, as you wish, about issues of the week just passed.  I will likely continue to augment for some time – something of a ‘filing cabinet’ on the issues arising.

There are pieces about the uprising in Brazil, the Biden papers, etc.  Lots to learn about.

Monday is Martin Luther King Day, and February is Black History month.   Devote some of your time in positive engagement where you are.


“A Privileged Moment” was the title of  Janice Andersen’s column in the Jan. 8 newsletter of my church, the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis.  The column is well worth your time regardless of personal beliefs: Janice Andersen Jan 8 2023.  In paragraph two, Janice refers to a Jan. 1 message from Pope Francis.  You can read his relatively brief message here.

An unexpected companion came early this week in the belated Christmas letter from my long-time friend, Fr. Vince from another midwest state.  He and I met years ago at St. Matthew’s Cathedral in Washington DC, where he commented to the congregation he was from Minnesota, and I happened to be at Mass.   (At the time, I was at meetings at the National Education Association just down the street.)  Vince and I have stayed connected over the many miles over the years.

Here is a part of his Christmas letter which I think fits the spirit of this post, this season and this time in history: Fr. Vince letter Jan. 2023.

House Rules

Postnote January 11 & 12, 2023:  What rages on, beginning yesterday, are the papers found in Biden’s office which were immediately reported and produced to the National Archives.  There is much more to this story, and more to be told.

Personally, I support the established legal process of the Department of Justice.   One of the admittedly aggravating strengths of our justice system, generally, is that it is a slow and deliberative process of establishing fact, etc.  Such a process takes time, which is irritating to the ‘hang ’em high’ crowd and their cheerleaders.  It is easy to jump to conclusions.  In due time we will have more facts to go on.  And newspeople are not the ones who establish the facts or argue the cases….

Today’s mail brought the latest Letter from an American for Jan 10. on the Biden and Brazilian situations.  Civil Discourse by Joyce Vance was issued Jan. 11 also.  Letters from an American Jan. 11; Letters from an American Jan. 12

Postnote January 10:  for the time being, likely through January,  I’ll use the space to include items of interest relating to the 2023 U.S. Congress, and pending issues related to the ex-president.  Check back 0n occasion.

Letters from an American, Jan. 8; The Weekly Sift Jan. 9;  Verdict Justia Jan 9; Weekly Sift Jan 9 (new); The Status Kuo Jan. 10

So far, my choice for worst new committee, sponsored by Jim Jordan, is to include the words “Weaponization of the Federal Government” in its title.  Of course, no one knows what this will mean – the committee has not yet met – but the guess is that the intent is to tar and feather any individual or agency within the government that dares to challenge anything Mr. Jordan’s ‘side’ does.  This would include the Department of Justice and the Internal Revenue Service among others.  Bullies like to take on disabled or weaker adversaries.


Postnote January 9: Joyce Vance sent a good explanation of what’s ahead, beginning tomorrow, with procedures in the U.S. House of Representatives.  You can read it here.  It is worth your time.

Another from Joyce Vance.  I note an invitation to subscribe to this free service.  This is also true with Heather Cox Richardson, I’m going to subscribe to these, as I do to NYT and WaPo and StarTribune, in recognition of invaluable service.  I’d recommend the same to you, your choice of information, of course.  We need credible sources.


Sunday, January 8, 2023: I am about as expert on the Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives as anyone, which means I know next to nothing about them – a lack of knowledge I share with virtually 100% of us.  They have been established by tradition and in other ways over our entire national history.  Each Congress starts over – every Congressperson is ‘new’ every two years.  One of the tasks tomorrow is to establish the rules….

We are all familiar with rules, petty to profound.  if you have a partner in any sense of that word, there are rules of engagement.

So it goes with society, any society, anywhere.  Some folks would like no rules whatsoever.  But anarchy doesn’t work very well.  ‘FREEdumb’ isn’t very free. shall I say.

Some folks would like to make the rules which everyone else must follow.  Dictators or aspirants are always lurking, but never last.

Most of us live in the in between zone.  We have to live with spouses, with teenagers, with annoying neighbors, on and on and on.

Last week I was in a post office line, a bit longer than usual.  In front of me was a woman who feared ‘dead air’ and was in a one-way conversation with another lady whose lot it had been to be polite, which was perceived as an opening to the person I’m describing.

The polite lady escaped when she had her opportunity to take care of her business, which left me, behind, as the next target for the loquacious person.  I didn’t take the bait – you can do this without being rude.  She tried….

We run into these kinds of dissonances frequently, and we learn to adapt.

I think rules of engagement are essential for any civil society.  There is a need for order.

What will happen in the U.S. House remains to be seen.  Each and every one of us has one member of that Congress.  I think the current ratio is about one Representative for every 700,000 or so citizens.

Best we can do, I think, is learn what we can about the House Rules, and keep close tabs on, and communicate with, our own Congressperson, whether or not of our party.

It is an easy task to identify this person, and easy to communicate to the person provided you live in his or her district (that’s a common rule, which makes sense in this day of mass communications of petitions etc.)

My Congressperson is Betty McCollum.  Who is yours?

Speaker of the House

Last night the Speaker for the 118th Congress was elected 216-212: two years after January 6, 2021; two months after Nov. 8, 2022; three days after January 3, 2023; 15 ballots after….

My post, is here.  I have read all of the comments, from 1o individuals.  I welcome more, which I will add here.

The comment I found most interesting is attributed to Thomas Jefferson, 10 August 1824, sent by Lois.  Jefferson was then 81 years old, and died less than two years later.  This was apparently his “letter to the editor” of a new newspaper.

I have two personal comments, from personal history.  Everyone will view this history and its implications differently, as well as how to approach it, individually.  The few words following are two direct experiences that impact on my view of this latest development.  Personally, I have always identified myself as moderate, pragmatic Democrat (pragmatic for me meaning practical – we all see things differently as I learned every day in my career.).  Again, personally, I probably most identify with the progressive Republican view of things generally.  I see no contradiction.  Progressive Republicans have basically been rendered irrelevant in contemporary Republicanism.

The first is Halloween night, Oct 31, 2000.  My wife and I were in Washington D.C. and got tickets from our Congressman admitting us to the Gallery of the House, which was having an unusual evening session.

There were a few of us watching the proceeding, which was strange enough to cause a member of Congress, from Illinois, to come up to apologize to us (none of whom, I gathered, were his constituents) for what we were witnessing below.  Somebody was speaking, apparently to a camera.  There was not any semblance of unity or attention down there.  There was a gaggle of legislators on one side; on the other, another gaggle.   This was 22 years ago….

The second was ten years earlier, in 1990.

I was a full-time teacher union field representative, and had just been transferred to work in a large metropolitan school district with well over 1,000 teachers.

Since 1972, our state had collective bargaining, and part of the law required selection of an exclusive representative.  There were two competing unions.

The District to which I was transferred had not long before had a bargaining election in which the other side from mine had won representation rights by a single vote.

I don’t know why I was transferred to work there; what I do know, by that point in my career I had no enthusiasm for aggressive competition to “win” in another election.

Fast forward: the teachers, apparently, were also sick of it.

Three years later, in 1993, the locals merged, the first such merger in Minnesota, celebrated by state and national affiliates.  This was not an individual accomplishment, nor an organization win.  This was a truly collective venture, one conversation at a time.

Five years after that, in 1998, the state unions merged.  This year is the 25th anniversary of that merger.  Most present day union members were not employed when that happened – it is ancient history.

What does this mean for the future of our republic?  Obviously, I don’t know.  But it is possible to work together.  And I refer back to that Thomas Jefferson letter sent by Lois.

Rather than lament whatever, each one of us has a role starting today.  I urge you to play your part!


from SAK: I am worried at the extent the “conservatives” in the US & the UK are pandering to their extreme factions (e.g. Freedom Caucus in the US & Reform UK). The conservatives in Germany didn’t mind naming Hitler chancellor being confident they could control him! This pandering has been & will be detrimental to the country at large – exhibit A: Brexit in the UK which has divided the country & devastated its economy. Exhibit B: the House of Representatives’ election fiasco: McCarthy & his humiliating concessions in his bid to become speaker of the house as well as the more general mess that is the Republican party.

from the Atlantic:  

“Republicans don’t have a Trump problem. They have a voter problem.”

“Because I think that was what was so shocking to me, was the ease with which one in America can slide into that kind of radicalism.”

“And they sit. They watch hours of Fox News a day, and [they say,] “Our biggest problem is all of these pedophiles [sic] running through our streets or these antifa gang members marauding through our streets—like, that’s, like, our biggest problem. And if we don’t stop this, you know, caravan over the border”—I mean, you know, sort of pick your menace of the week, right?”

ACLED: Growing far right violence in the US.

I second your view: the Jefferson letter is great, reminds me of JFK’s remark honouring Nobel Prize winners of the western hemisphere:

“I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent, of human knowledge, that has ever been gathered together at the White House, with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”

Is it me or don’t they make ’em like they used to!?

from Dick, responding to the last sentence, and to Jim, below:

I just saw Jim’s comment (below the fold), and I have only a couple of minutes before we leave for late Christmas gathering, but I do want to take a stab at this, briefly, then the two of you, or others, can respond.

Humanity is a sum of many inherited parts, and there probably are plenty Jefferson like folks who have come along since he was  among us.

The difference is called the ‘playing field’: in his day, there were only a few Americans, and only a few of the few had any opportunity beyond the plow.

Nowadays, a tweet passes for intellectual rigor, as we noted with a former President with mega-million followers, everyone talking in headlines (which is all tweets are).  Today’s Jefferson’s are basically drowned in background noise.  Back to the two of you.

PS: I was thinking, after clicking send on this post, the difference between the people in the MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA, and the people sitting in similar situations in the House of Representatives this week.  A good orchestra makes wonderful music by working together.  They are all unique individuals, with unique specialties, but along with skill, teamwork is absolutely essential.  Rivalry and tribalism are the go-to words in American governance, and probably always have been.  Getting to the top of the heap, however small the heap has to be to be on top of….




Jan 5, 2022 8:45 p.m. – See postnote before Comments section.

Jan 5 10 a.m. CST – There are comments coming in, but no time to add a few of them.  See the end of post for others.  They’re worth reading.  Check back later this afternoon.


We’re in the third day of paralysis in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul area.  Not that it’s too bad, compared to the recent catastrophe in Buffalo NY area, for instance.  But even in relatively nice winter weather, no wind, near 32 degrees, a foot of snow is a foot of snow – pretty to look at, but for most of us, old-timers in particular, paralysis.  (Our neighbor across the street opened her window for a brief lament yesterday; her mother had a stroke about the time the snow began; her dad was home alone (and doing okay); but she and family couldn’t get to the hospital to see their Mom.  I’n certain there are many similar stories.)

This was the kind of day it was.  We’re due to go to the Orchestra later this morning, if the long driveway is open…stay tuned on that.  Snow removal is one of those businesses where it’s ‘feast or famine’.  We’re not the only driveway in this town of over 3 million….

The paper guy did make it, this morning:

Jan 5, 2022

Two headlines ‘above the fold’ in today’s paper: the first one is easily read.  The second “Rebellion in GOP paralyzes House“.

It happens that the days of the big snow coincided with the still unfinished process to select a Speaker of the House of Representatives, the third most powerful government official in the United States of America.  The last to ascend to President from Speaker of the House was Gerald R. Ford, then speaker, who became vice-president after Spiro Agnew resigned, then president after Richard Nixon resigned in 1974….


I suppose my interest in watching two days of a political gang fight makes me a political junkie.  So be it.  We, the people, elected all 434 of the combatants, and we, the people, will be stuck with the results of what we’re witnessing in Washington D.C.

For those who didn’t watch, or don’t know the rules, the House elects its own Speaker, who is always (but doesn’t have to be) a member of the House.

There are two main political parties in our country; the majority party ordinarily selects someone of its own to lead.  The Speaker has an immense amount of procedural power.  The founders built a three-legged stool at the beginning of the U.S.: President, House of Representatives, Senate, moderated by a Supreme Court.

Generally, the process has mostly worked reasonably well.  It has always been subject to manipulation; in these fevered days, it can seem out of sight.

In the first six ballots Tuesday and Wednesday, the largest vote getter was the Democrat Hakeem Jeffries of New York; but the winner needs to get one more than half of the total House membership of 434 – 218 votes, spoken in person by each Representative.  This makes for a long time period.

Each time Jeffries received 212 votes.  On the last vote before adjournment yesterday, challenger Kevin McCarthy had 201 votes; someone I’d never heard of, had 20 votes, and one person voted “present”.   For all intents and purposes, there was no change, up or down.

So, when they do the 7th vote today, from ground zero again, the last vote was 212-201-20-1.  I have bold-faced the 20 on purpose.  That’s about 5%.  They most certainly won’t vote for Jeffries, but apparently they don’t trust McCarthy….

I will spare you any prediction.  Your guess is as good as mine.  If you want the 20 to win, I suggest being very careful about what you pray for….

If all of this is not too confusing, enter the fact that the House of Representatives does not officially exist at this moment.  The temporary chair is a clerk, along with other clerks attempting to keep order among a group of prima donnas.

My understanding, the new Congress will not exist until the members are sworn in, which will not happen until a leader has been selected with at least 218 of the members agreeing on who that leader will be.


The goings on remind me of a somewhat civilized Jan 6, 2021.  All that is missing is the riot.

On each ballot, the candidates have to be nominated, and towards the end yesterday the nominating ‘speeches’ were clearly oriented to getting a 10 second sound bite on someone’s evening “news”.

I have my favorite ‘cheap shot’ against the Democrats from a Republican who was nominating one of her own, but I’ll spare you what she said.  No question some news media reported it as news somewhere last night.  It represented what U.S. politics has devolved to, and probably the spectacle I’m watching is a fitting end, at least for the time being.

USA Today seems to be keeping track of this food fight in suits fairly well.  Here is its reporting.

This is your United States, and mine.  Pay close attention.

MINNESOTA ORCHESTRA:  POSTNOTE 8:45 p.m. Jan. 5: I watched little of today’s business in the House of Representatives.  We had tickets to the morning concert of the Minnesota Orchestra, and it was a magnificent performance of pieces by Samuel Coleridge Taylor, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Maurice Ravel.  This concert will be broadcast live at 8 p.m. Friday on Minnesota Public Radio 99.5; on Twin Cities PBS (TPT-2) and available for streaming at and on the orchestra’s social media channels.  View the program notes here pages 20-25.

COMMENTS (more at end of post):

from Lois: Found this, from Thomas Jefferson to Henry Lee, 10 August 1824, interesting after reading about the House Speaker voting. Here is another view on political parties.

from Chuck:  Wish we had more concerned citizens.

Here’s my spin on listening to the first day of the new Congress.

On Jan 3, 2023, the first day of the new 118th Congress, the needed quorumof the House of Representatives started the day with a prayer and the pledge of alliance.


The intent of Pledge they all made“Liberty and Justice for all”.

What they did next:  Debated who should be elected Speaker of the House.  A vote that has only needed one round of voting for the last 100 years.  Then spend ____ days using precious time, taking ____roll call votes with no focus on any of the urgent issues facing God’s earthly creations.

If these elected officials could abide by the prayer they all heard and keep their pledge of allegiance to our nation that each made, our democratic republic would finally be on the right track.  But the first task of the new congress was to elect a new Speaker of the House.  There can only be one.  But it could be anyone.  Not even an elected member from either party.  But the republican majority is divided. The MAGAs vs the old school John McCain Republicans.  And in their inner party debate to elect Kevin McCarthy into that position was started with a truthful statement a leading republican who is opposed to McCarthy becoming chair.  He said that congress has been the last to know the truth – that our government is broken.


But their first task of the new congress was to elect a new Speaker of the House.  There can only be one.  But it could be anyone.  Not even an elected member from either party.  But the republican majority is divided. The MAGAs vs the old school John McCain Republicans.  And in their inner party debate to elect Kevin McCarthy to that position was started with a truthful statement a leading republican who is opposed to McCarthy becoming chair.  He said that congress has been the last to know the truth – that our government is broken.

But the first task of the new congress was to elect a new Speaker of the House.  There can only be one.  But it could be anyone.  Not even an elected member from either party.  But the republican majority is divided. The MAGAs vs the old school John McCain Republicans.  And in their inner party debate to elect Kevin McCarthy to that position was started with a truthful statement a leading republican who is opposed to McCarthy becoming chair.  He said that congress has been the last to know the truth – that our government is broken.

“Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule–and both commonly succeed, and are right.”  H.L. Mencken

from Kathy: I am watching most all the f it too. Nancy seems relaxed and totally engaged. The 20 or so Republicans interested in obstructing.

from Len: You are a patient man.  Dems will lose again as none of the 20 will support the Democrat candidate and no matter-McCarthy or Scalise, it is bad for the Dems.

So, what can we plan on? Play the loyal opposition, plan for the election of 2024, and hope voters wake up. Recruit, educate, and organize.
Not any more a dismal outlook than 2022. In fact, it is optimistic- we get another chance.

from Candace: I highly recommend this.

from Fred: Good Blog! I’ve been watching the H of R carnival on and off but was thinking about a MN Orchestra break tonight after checking out the lineup. I can have classical music when I’m editing and doing online research but not writing. I’m partial to my fellow Scandinavian, Grieg, even though he is Norwegian. We visited his home outside Bergen during one of our trips to that region. His piano stands ready.

Revisiting History

POSTNOTE; 8:30 P.M. Jan. 3:  A very powerful video from Ukraine President Zelenskyy to his people at New Year 2023.  17 minutes.  Subtitled.  Here.  Great thanks to Molly.


Today is when the U.S. Congress is sworn in – a biennial ritual for, I suppose, most of the 235 or so years there has been a United States of America.  Every Congressional seat (434) is up for election every two years.  No one has been elected as Speaker after three ballots. I have no idea when this process will conclude, but neither does anyone else. POSTNOTE 4:35 p.m. Jan. 3:  Congress adjourned with no speaker elected.  Will reconvene tomorrow at noon.  New members have not yet been sworn in..  I will do a new post about governance, generally, in the near future.  Stay tuned.  I’ll title it “Government”.


I choose, today, to invite some thinking about some present day, and past, international history.

On my end of year post, Dec. 31, I referred to a saying my Dad affixed to his portable typewriter, which was on his paper placemat in the dining room at Our Lady of the Snows where he lived the last 10 years of his life.  Below is a photo of the typewriter in my garage.

All three lines of Dad’s ‘credo’ make sense.  This post is about the third: “Learn from Yesterday”.  I wonder how attentive to history we are; what we learn.

Below are two timeouts, about Ukraine and about Cuba and finally a postscript about Pele, the king of Soccer, who died recently.

UKRAINE: The brutal invasion of Ukraine by Russia started 11 months ago, and I’ve written several times about the topic.  Just put “Ukraine” in the search box (the magnifying glass in upper right corner gets you access.)  Much to my surprise, Ukraine is mentioned in 56 posts, the first in Feb. 2014. The current posts begin in March, 2022.  I don’t have to fill in the blanks about the theories and biases and predictions…you’ve heard and thought about them yourself.

A good general account of the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, a precursor of the present, can be accessed here.

Most recently, in November, I heard a young woman, Natalie Etten, give an excellent talk on her country of Ukraine, and what most drew me in was her reference to Crimea – once part of Ukraine – which had very significant family history for her.  I wish I could refer you to the on-line talk, but it’s apparently not available.

All history is written (or ignored) by someone, and these days it is hard to believe much of anything said by anyone.

On our bookshelf is my 1977 edition of Encyclopedia Britannica – once a prime ‘go to’ source of credible information on most anything.  Used to be, I think, that the massive Britannica was an authoritative source of general information.  (It’s now on-line, but for now I choose to rely on the 1977 volumes.)

Yesterday I decided to look up “Crimea” in my edition, and in the very scant references picked up some history that helped give me significant context on the entirety of Asian ancient history.  Here is the single page: crimea britannica.  I think a reflective reading of those few references might help give context to that awful conflict.

I thought a lot about analogies to our own United States history…there are many similarities and there are differences.  (Kiev predates Moscow…Ukraine is ancient too.  Russia’s history is autocracy, etc.)

CUBA: Somewhat similarly, the sailboat, the Golden Rule, is spending a few days in Cuba, a country which has been on the U.S. bad list since the revolution of 1959, 63 years ago.

A few days ago, Dec. 22, I devoted much of a post entitled “Ukraine and more”  to Cuba, and the Golden Rule.  (The Cuba space contains a link, which includes a full chapter of a 1963 college Latin American history textbook on Cuba history which you’ll find included in the 2016 post here.).  The chapter is worth reading.  Take a look, at your leisure.

As noted, it is 63 years since 1959.  Cuba remains a quandary for the U.S.  Today, some see Ukraine as a quandary too.  They are both tragedies, examples of the imperfect reality of human, national and international relationships.

Personally, we have to actively support Ukraine; and the continuing animus towards Cuba makes absolutely no sense.

Have we learned anything from yesterday?

We – all of us – are the Congress we complain about….

POSTNOTE: Soccer star, Pele, died Dec 29 in Brazil.  He was my age.

My walk every day, including today, is around an indoor soccer field.  That is as close to soccer as I have ever come, but one time, in the summer of 1976, I had the opportunity to see Pele play soccer at the old Met Stadium in Bloomington MN.  For anyone with an interest, here is that game as televised.

Back then, soccer was just getting a foothold.  In Minnesota, the stadium was packed.  But my recollection is that it became more an occasion for raucous tailgate parties than the sport itself.  Soccer didn’t last long in its first run.  It has come back.

I’m not and never have been a tailgate party type.  I went to see Pele, and that was all.  He was a great athlete and apparently an all-around star.

COMMENT: At end of post.