A Year of War

PRENOTE: As we all know, there is a whole lot going on in more than one arena in the present day world.  Two columns caught my interest in Wednesday’s mail about the 2020 Georgia Presidential  election situation.  Joyce Vance and Jay Kuo.

We are still under a weather emergency.  It has been an interesting couple of days.  My ‘report’ here.

POSTNOTE Feb. 24: Heather Cox Richardson on the United Nations and Ukraine.


The Russian invasion of Ukraine began a year ago today, 8 timezones east of here (Feb. 23).  All the rest is editorial.

Here is a political map of Ukraine, compliments of the Nations Online Project.   (It is about 300 miles from Kyvv to Odessa).  In my opinion, Putin, probably forever, has in mind restoration of the empire of the Soviet Union;  his pretext revenge against the west.  One of the earliest pieces I read about him (note “Early Life section) noted that he, a son of the city once known as St. Petersburg, lost relatives in the Nazi’s siege of Leningrad which began in 1941, and in WWII as well.  Seeking to settle scores is nothing new; the danger lies in whose hands revenge takes root.

Here’s the cast of countries historically affected/involved: clockwise from 12:00 the countries which border Ukraine are Belarus, Russia, Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland.  (Those bold-faced were part of the USSR, which collapsed ca 1990.)  The old Communist bloc countries included Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary who shared border with Ukraine.  There were other countries in the Soviet Union, and the Communist bloc, which are not included in the above lists.  Current NATO members, and history, are described here.

The entire story is very complicated.  But an entire population, over 40,000,000, is held hostage.   I don’t pretend to have a clue about how this will all end.  I am in solidarity with the people of Ukraine, and with the countries where democracy, however, imperfect, is allowed to exist.

I have written a lot about my personal opinions About this conflict in this blog.  In the search box, if interested, enter the word “Ukraine”.  Pay attention, as if you were living there, or had people there.

COMMENTS (other comments may be at end of post):

from Dick: 9-11-01 got me involved in this blogging business.  There were very few in my category then: I was among the 6% of Americans who didn’t support the bombing of Afghanistan in October, 2001.  I couldn’t see anything good coming out of that strategy, but, like now, I shared other opinions as well in those intense times.

So, here’s Ukraine over 20 years later….

Those who know me in person, who have opinions, might correctly label me a “peacenik”…or a “warmonger”. That word “pragmatic” which appears at upper right, includes as a definition   “practical”, which is the one that describes me.  There are times for differences of opinion, and situations can be very different.  I’m also a believer in the reality that evil does exist, and it is not solely “them” that have such actors in their midst.  It is “us” as well.  And I believe in negotiations, from an entire career of hanging around that process.  I also know that to negotiate there have to be willing parties, willing to reach imperfect agreement.  There is no negotiations when one side or the other says ‘nuts to you’.  (This dynamic is deadly to polarized political conversations as well.)

I support Ukraine in its struggle for survival, and I compliment President Biden for his role in managing what is an incredibly difficult task.  There are also other opinions.  Have at it, but be willing to listen, too.

from Barry:  Attached are a couple of photos from the anti war rally in DC on Feb 19th, 2023 featuring our own Chapter 27 Vice President Josh Farris carrying the VFP flag front and center behind the stage. Josh worked very hard to get folks out for this rally even though it included a very diverse crowd who don’t necessarily agree with us on all our views but were all committed to ending insanity of the U.S. proxy war in Ukraine. Attached are a couple of links showing speakers at the rally.

Words from Josh ” I got to stand near where MLK gave his I had a dream speech behind the podium holding the VFP flag next to the American Flag flying in the wind as Ron Paul, Tulsi Gabbard, Jill Stein, Dennis Kucinich, Chris Hedges, Anne Wright, and many other fantastic people called for Peace and sanity. It was a damn good experience in a list of good experiences that only an authentic radical humanist can hope for. It’s a damn good thing that chapter 27 joined the coalition”.

from Deb: Really a sad ordeal with Ukraine, totally inhumane.

from Joyce: As you probably realize, I strongly support our aiding Ukraine; this is totally different from the wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq, which I opposed. A Ukrainian woman suggested donated to Ukraine at this site; I earmarked my donation for medical care, but there are other options as well: Here.

from Dan: Russia’s “attack” on the Ukraine is a far bigger story.

This is nothing more than a proxy/fake war.

Ukraine, and its many bio-labs run by the US was warned many times by Russia to stop.

After NOT heeding the warnings, the attacks began to take these labs “off-line”.  This was the impact of this “war”.

The Ukraine is compromised, and Joe Biden/Hunter Biden have been involved for years.   Including the Uranium One scandal. -à money laundering

Putin and Russia are doing the right thing, but the MSM keeps pushing Putin/Russia = BAD, is very similar to the last six years when they all pushed Trump-Orange man = BAD.

See the connection?

from Terry: There is NO justification for Putin’s illegal invasion and the slaughter of tens of thousands of Ukrainians and Russians, for the Russian targeting of civilian neighborhoods and power and water infrastructure.

There is NO excuse for Putin’s murdering tens of thousands of people and causing epic suffering for millions of Ukrainians.
There is a tremendous amount of pro-Putin disinformation online.  Timothy Snyder, a scholar on authoritarianism, has written six books on Ukraine and has also written many articles on this very real war where Putin is trying to reclaim territory he claims is Russian.  It is an imperialist war.  https://snyder.substack.com/     https://claysbeach.blogspot.com/2022/03/vlad-on-vlad-how-putins-views-on-lenin.htm
MAP organized this forum on Ukraine and Syria. https://antidotezine.com/2022/08/12/ukraine-and-syria-war-and-resistance/  As our moderator said, If you’re going to take one thing away from this conversation we have tonight, I hope you remember the people on the ground who are living and resisting every single day, whatever forces are trying to shut them down.  
I stand with Ukrainians.

from Fred: Very interesting suppositions in the first link (following). See Bill’s description. The Al Jazeera interview with a Russian analyst balances the first, a bit.

If you haven’t heard of Catherine the Great’s Volga Germans, check it on Wiki. The lesson to anyone thinking about becoming a Russian immigrants is to stay home.
It reminds me of some MN Iron Range Finns who worked in mines there, and decided to move to Russia in the 1920s, the wonderland of the worker, communism, freedom and equality.

Fred’s friend,  Bill:  Thought I’d pass on these two somewhat different takes on the state of the war in Ukraine.  Here’s one from Strategy Page that more or less follows our Gen. Milley’s line in his Brussels talk: It’s over and Russia lost.  FWIW, it’s the most relentlessly negative depiction of Russian chances I’ve seen lately.

Then here’s an Al Jazeera interview, datelined Moscow, with a Russian identified as an “independent military analyst.”  He’s much less certain how things will turn out, but expects an answer this year.  For a backgrounder from within Russia, it is one of the most intelligent and realistic summaries of the situation that I’ve seen.  His surname makes me wonder if he’s a survivor of Catherine the Great’s Volga Germans.  You may be interested in some of the other articles linked from this piece.

from Buddy: As I read and hear mass media accounts, I find myself substituting “Iraq” for Ukraine and wondering at the comparison.  The human suffering, the atrocities, the pointless destruction, the long-term spread of toxins, the use of depleted uranium…..When the US was the illegal invader, the Ukrainian resistance would have been called insurgents.  War is immoral. War is murder.  We should do nothing to promote further death and destruction — and planetary omnicide.

War is barbaric whoever perpetrates it.  We need an international security order that is not seen as being run by the big bully who breaks all the rules.
I stand with people’s right to defend themselves but not with insisting that they kill until they themselves are killed, leaving the land and climate poisoned.   There really is a better way.
This is the 21st Century.  We’re 21 now.   Time is up on mass killing as “statecraft.”   How long can we avoid the use of nukes— even being urged by a retired US general on Fox last Sunday?  Ceasefire and negotiate.

response from Dick: earlier in this post (the first comment) I said I could probably be identified as “peacenik” and as “war monger” never guessing that Buddy would demonstrate the issue.

I became a peacenik when we bombed Afghanistan in 2001.  In April 2002 a column of mine was published in the Minneapolis paper in which I articulated my position.  I have noted often, since, that the word “Iraq” was not even mentioned in the column, which I add here: Afghanistan column 4:2002.

In Iraq, the United States was the aggressor.  In Ukraine, it is Russia that is the aggressor.  That, to me at least, is the distinction. between the two conflicts.  I have not changed my philosophy.

Snow Days

in progress

5:30 a.m. Feb 23: I was up at my usual time, about 5 a.m., when I heard a quiet ‘clump’ at the front door.  It was the sound of the newspaper being delivered, which meant the paper had been delivered.  I walked down, turned on the outside light, and sure enough, there it was, and evidence that the car had driven up our driveway, in fluffy pretty deep snow.

It was completely calm and not terribly cold.  The temperature is 16, prediction of precipitation is 90%, through this morning.  The wind, which I felt was non-existent, is measured as 14 mph somewhere.

Thus goes the great blizzard of 2023, as predicted for Wednesday night till Friday.  I’ll keep you posted.  The paper just delivered headlines: “Hunkered down for storm” “Resident urged to ride out 2nd wave at home” “Travelers hope to dodge the weather.”

(Yesterday 10 o’clock was time it was supposed to start snowing.  It began at 3 p.m.)  Many planned accordingly.  A friend wrote a brief e-mail about 6 p.m.  Our area weather-god  “Paul Douglas got into a yelling match…he was being  called on the weather…some canceled plans today and blamed Paul Douglas. WCCO radio.

So goes the drama of life.  I don’t scoff at predictions, which I think are usually pretty accurate.  We’re still a very long way from the initial prediction of over 20″, and the less temptation or need to get out the better.

5:56 a.m. our driveway is being plowed.  Maybe my usual trip for coffee?

8:45 a.m. walked to the mailbox and decided against leaving.  Noted the hat on the grill on our deck and took the photo below.  It’s evidence of snow, obviously, and also lack of wind – at least here

Feb. 23, 2023 8:45 a.m.


Wednesday’s St. Paul paper listed the 24 worst snowfalls in this area.  I had witnessed 5 of them, the worst the 1991 Halloween blizzard, 28.4″,  At the time I lived in Hibbing, and my recollection we got 36″.  #5 was Dec  10-11, 2010 – the blizzard that collapsed the Metrodome.  #14 was last month, January 2-5, 2023, dubbed “The Big Mess”.  (It was.)

Having lived in this area my entire life, I could go on and on, without embellishment, about storms.  We all have the stories.  This one, so far, has been very odd, at least here, as witnessed by the ‘hat’ on the grill.  Friday it will be history, and the march to Spring continues (as I’ve pointed out earlier, I start Spring on Feb. 1)

Have a great weekend.

ND Blizzard, Lamoure Co, ca 1916. Rosa Busch her four oldest children, all girls.  Below, same day same place.  Top of the hill from left, my Mom, Esther, then about 7; Lucina, about 9.  In front, Grandma Rosa, Mary, about 2, Verena about 4.

The temptation is to contribute personal stories: “Blizzards I have known”.  If we’ve lived here, we all have them.  One that has always intrigued me is a recollection of an 1860 blizzard in what was later to be the state of North Dakota, remembered by the near-victim, French Priest, Fr. Joseph Goiffon, here, page range 471-77  (link to the stories follows end of 3rd para).

A bonus “forward” received this week from a friend.  In pdf format:   Inspiration from a friend  Excellent point to ponder.


from Deb: We definitely didn’t get the blizzard but lots of people didn’t get plowed out. It was safer to stay home and off the roads these last 2 days. Hope you stayed safe as well.

from Rich: You are spot on about North Dakota blizzards! I, too, was disappointed in the recent storm. Photographs of snow banks reaching the roofs of buildings, and the legacy of guide ropes from the house to the barn are part of my family story. To be fair, there wasn’t much to interrupt the prevailing winds.

from Norm: I was stationed at the Minot AFB for nearly two-years before heading over to SEA (Thailand) in late 1967.

As such, I was able to enjoy two NoDak winters with lots of blowing snow including at least one blizzard/storm that actually shut-down most of the state for nearly a week and, of course, that infamous black ice which I had not encountered when growing up in northern Minnesota.
I don’t remember ever seeing such large snow drifts around the but lots of blowing snow as the wind was always blowing year around.

Response from Dick: ND snow, at least during winter blizzard time, was fairly dry and when blown around by the always-North Dakota wind it compacted into igloo quality, almost cement-like, consistency.   This definitely made it fun for kids – snow forts, snow caves (not always safe), etc.  Usually the snow we get here in the twin cities basically is more moist, from the gulf area, somewhat warmer.  Of course, over the years anyone who’s lived in this part of the U.S. has seen all sorts of variations of  ‘normal’!

from Leo: Dick, you had the pictures of the snow in ’16 …somewhere I have pictures of my Grandfathers farm in about 36 and they had a short tunnel to drive through from the House to the barn and there is a car underneath in the picture….

The fifth of Feb of ’47 there was a three day storm and the drift east of the house next to the trees was high enough to reach the power lines….dad said if I crossed the line in the snow that he made I Would get a licking….great sledding….
Funny just this year a lady in the Buffalo NY area died in her car during a snow storm.
We used to stay home when the radio said storm….now the idiots expect to be able to drive any time they want….we also had a survival kit with blankets etc in the trunk.
When I used to “jingle out to Fingal to dances “ any girl riding with me had to carry snow boots and slacks and a scarf….otherwise stay home…we usually had overshoes in the trunk and chains and shovel….plus dry sand….well enough….Leo
More thoughts from Leo, 2-26:

After that 47 blizzard we went to School behind a team of horses.  Had a grain tank that fit on a four runner sleigh that we still had back then.  Mom said the Main Street in Fingal looked like it did when she was a child.  Dad covered the team with blankets and was in town about four hours and then got us from school so we did not go in the dark…plus he had milking and chores…we were both late to school and left early….some kids did not go to school for two weeks.  Roads were blocked a long time plus drifting relocked some that were plowed.  It was a memorable experience….I heard that about 10 people died in that blizzard.  Dad had a twine b between the house and the barn…mom put kerosene lamps in the windows…..
FYI we did not get electricity until 51 when we moved to a different farm….TO THIS DAY I do not take
conveniences like running water and electricity for granted….it is wonderful….lest we forget….

Presidents Day

This was not an ordinary President’s Day.  President Jimmy Carter, a hero of mine, 98, went to home hospice to be with family.

About the same time, President Joe Biden visited with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev.

For all of us, there is a time to die.  Sunset seems to be near for President Jimmy Carter, at the end of a life well lived.

I have always had immense respect for President Carter, the peanut farmer from Plains, extraordinarily talented and qualified to be President.

In his ill-fated year of 1980, I was an activist for his reelection, up to and including attending a briefing in the Cabinet room of the White House (he wasn’t there).  The photo at the end of the post is from that afternoon at the White House.

In the summer of 1977, enroute to Florida, son Tom and I stopped in Plains (pop. about 700), saw the Peanut Warehouse, and Billy Carters Gas Station.  Here’s a photo from that trip.  No I didn’t stop to say hi to Billy, or get gas, or buy any Billy Beer later!  The Carter home was not accessible, of course.  But I was glad we took the side trip off of I-75.

Plains GA June, 1977 photo Dick Bernard

Downtown Plains from “The Search for Jimmy Carter” by Tom Collins Word Inc 1976.   The aerial view helps me pinpoint exactly where I was when I took the photo at top.

I can recall seeing him only one time in person, that on March 6, 2015 at the Augsburg Nobel Peace Prize Forum in Minneapolis.  He had been to the Forum one previous time.  He was the sound of elder wisdom.

Jimmy Carter March 6, 2015 Minneapolis photo Dick Bernard

He was 90 when I saw him.  He gave an excellent speech, on the topic of human rights.  He walked the talk.  Augsburg, host for the forum, has this in its archive about the 2015 appearance.

I’m proud to have been a contributing member since 1994 to the Carter Center, which continues to do amazing work around the world.  The last solicitation letter, dated early February, didn’t suggest the recent news of his illness: Carter Center Letter Feb 2023.  The Carter Center will continue to thrive when he’s gone.

There is a great deal more I could say, but no need.  I have over a dozen of his books, including the courageous and controversial one “Palestine Peace Not Apartheid” from 2006.  I have some audio tapes from his Sunday school classes at Plains, and I’ve followed his career since he first ran for national office beginning in 1975.  He and Rosalynn made their mark, and made it most positively.

Tomorrow I’ll take time to listen to his audiotapes from his book “The Virtues of Aging”  (1998).  Thankfully, I still have a cassette player that works.

And who can forget Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter and Habitat for Humanity.

There will be reams of content about President Carter, and I have no qualification to add to the written record except to say that he was an exceptional man in the most positive sense of the word, and the U.S. is fortunate to have had him in our service.

Thank you, Jimmy Carter.

Dick Bernard, January, 1980 White House, Washington DC

This morning, back home after coffee, I learned that President Biden had been in Kyvv, Ukraine in a show of solidarity with the people of Ukraine.  The news is full of details everyone will know.   The White House informed the Kremlin of President Biden’s surprise visit in advance of the trip, I understand.

It is mindful of other events.  In 1962, I was in the Army at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.  We soldiers and we citizens knew little about the crisis.  In my memory, there was communication between Kruschev and Kennedy which we didn’t know about till later.  Even in war, or threat of war, there are attempts to keep communication lines open.

Carter had to contend with his own international crisis: the Iranian hostages; the spike in gasoline prices – none within his control.

The United States is part of the world, not a nation set apart.  We cannot pretend that what happens somewhere does not affect us here.  It is a difficult transition for the America first and only folks, but it is a reality and has been for a long time.

I’m glad President Biden went to Ukraine; I’m glad there was communication with the adversary.  Every such action is part of “negotiation”, slow and tortuous, but essential.

Jimmy Carter, Joe Biden and Volodymyr Zelensky are all human beings like us all.  Like them, each of us has the capacity to make a difference in our world.

COMMENTS (more below):

from Fred: Nice job, Dick. I’m am and always will be an admirer of, very possibly, the most authentic and gracious human being ever to serve as president.

from David: Very good article on Jimmy Carter. A man who is everything that so many of our “leaders” aren’t and never will be: “Jimmy Carter’s Presidency Was Not What You Think” Kai Bird NYT Feb 20, 2023: Jimmy Carter by Kai Bird NYT Feb 20 2023

from Florence: Thanks for sharing! [friend] Hanna E’s destination on her bike ride to the east coast, now several years ago, was rewarded with a visit to Jimmy Carter’s home and him signing a poster for her.

from Mary: Love the Carter stories……I have visited Plains a few times [early 1980s, after the presidency] and it is reminiscent of some towns in Dakota..  Inspired by Jimmy Carters mom I thought of her often as I went through the process of signing up for the Peace Corps at age 70.  Plains survives because of the Carter legacy…….things may change in the future.  Unlike you I ate peanuts and drank Billy beer. Actually thought it was quite awful.

Response from Dick: Florence and Mary are my sisters.  Re: the Billy Beer comment, I was in Plains in June, 1977, and Billy Beer did not come on the market till July of 1977…makes no difference, I’m not a drinker anyway.  I do remember that Billy Beer cans were the rage for beer can collectors for awhile.

Feb. 27 from Molly: Here is an excellent article that talks about how little-recognized Carter’s work in foreign policy truly was–prescient, actually, in many cases…sigh

Feb. 27 from Dick:  The Minneapolis Sunday Tribune on Feb. 26 carried a long editorial about President Carter’s impact.  Here is the article: Jimmy Carter Mpls Star 2 26 23
Mar. 20 from Dick: Peter Baker column in March 18, New York Times: Carter Iran Peter Baker


PRENOTE: There are several comments to the Valentine’s Day post.  Check them out here.


Thursday evening an organization in which I’m active, Citizens for Citizens for Global Solutions MN, presented a very informative Zoom-cast on the assassination of a human rights advocate in a country you’ve probably never heard of, Eswatini, (formerly Swaziland).

Before the talk, I watched a one hour recommended film, “The Unthinkable”, and I participated in the very informative talk and discussion with human rights attorney HADAR HARRIS,  speaking about Swaziland and the recent assassination of the human rights attorney THULANI MASEKO.  The Unthinkable film is accessible here.  Both Film and talk are very much worth your time, and thought provoking.  About two hours in all.


Political killing (violence) of all sorts is not unusual.

Killing someone’s reputation (character assassination) is as deadly as physically killing someone.  As I listened and watched I thought about two other situations I found analogous, from personal experience.

First, in December, 2003, I spent a very powerful week in Port-au-Prince,  Haiti, less than three months before the Feb. 2004 coup deposing Pres. Jean-Bertrand Aristide.  Ours was a study trip organized by those who supported Aristide and his attempts to bring democracy to that impoverished country in the wake of the Duvaliers.

Six of us saw and learned a great deal.  Ours was a peaceful and very full trip but, simply recounting from my memory, here are some happenings  before, during and after that trip.

Not long before we arrived in Haiti, a representative of a growing Microfinance organization, which we visited, a man whose name was Amos, had been kidnapped, held for ransom and killed.  It seemed a ‘message’ was being sent to the organization, which survived and is today well known and effective.

We met a literacy leader at a successful school, who was assassinated a couple of days after we met him (we probably heard the gunfire that killed him while driving near the national palace).  At the time of the coup, a charismatic Catholic Priest we met was arrested and thrown in prison, and then exiled to Florida – basically, it appeared, to get him out of the country, since he was free in Florida where I met him again two years later.  It seemed he was seen as being more dangerous just being alive in Haiti.

Another cleric, Episcopal, I met there, was allegedly killed by poison a year later.  An Aristide government official we had met with had to flee the country, and of course the Aristide’s were removed, unceremoniously, dropped off in central Africa, out of sight, out of mind….

I was back  to Haiti, this time with the same Microfinance group, in 2006.  This time the trip was into the interior.  Again, a peaceful journey.

Of course, it is impossible to connect dots officially in these kinds of situations.  But we still traveled safely that year. I wrote about both visits and my reflections are accessible here.

What has troubled me ever since 2003, is that U.S. hands, and Canadian and French, were all over the destruction of the Aristide effort at democracy.  It seemed that “power to the people” was dangerous to our capitalism.

Cleansing Haiti of democracy doesn’t seem to have worked very well for Haiti in recent years.  Haiti is not a destination  due to safety concerns.  It is a do-not-travel-to country.  This is in marked contrast to the Haiti I visited in 2003 and 2006.

Second, my final thoughts on Thursday were about ourselves, what is happening in present day United States of America.

For our entire history, our country has been blessed by, and struggled with,  the Rule of Law.  Law itself is, of course, imperfect, and it is slow if one believes in due process, innocence until proven guilty, evidence, etc.  But imperfect is much better than the alternative – lies, snap judgement, etc.

Political character assassination is the preferred killing instrument here, now, though weaponry (guns) is certainly always on the table.  Every one of us has a seat in the theatre every day; we are all participants whether we think we are or not.


At the very end of the Zoomcast I raised a comment about us for the speaker, articulating my concerns, which she found to be relevant, and she responded.  You’ll have to tune in for it.  I hope you do.


Sunday night watch the first episode of the Rudy Giuliani Story on MSNBC “When Truth Isn’t Truth“.

On State of the Union day Feb 7 I decided to focus on public education policy given the Governor of Florida’s heavy-handedness.  It is becoming even worse.  I can’t make Florida’s policy, nor even our state or local school district.  Neither can anyone else…as individuals…nonetheless we have a lot of power if we choose to exercise it.  About all I could/can do is what I did, which is here, simply a narrative of where I come from and why.  I have distributed this broadly, beyond the addressees, including here.  I encourage you to do something similar in your own words at your own place. Public Education0001 is the letter. I urge you to not sit on the sidelines on this, or any issue.

COMMENTS (more at end of post):

from long-time friend: If that notion that you commented about, shown below is troubling to you, then consider the fact that we are supportive of Israel’s attempts to exterminate the Gaza Palestinians via starvation, and our support of the British in overthrowing the Iranian Democracy that was set up after their revolution against the British that ended in 1949, and the Iran Contra where we encouraged Iraq to attack Iran, then provided arms to both sides that enhance the killings, and our unnecessary invasion of Iraq in 2003, resulting in an estimated 64,000 deaths during the night of “Shock and Awe”, mostly civilians, and most of which were women and children again.  That war and its aftereffects took the lives of around a half million by some estimates, and again, mostly women and children.  Unfortunately, we are not a country of good people.


“What has troubled me ever since 2003, is that U.S. hands, and Canadian and French, were all over the destruction of the Aristide effort at democracy.  It seemed that “power to the people” was dangerous to our capitalism.”


Valentine’s Day

POSTNOTE Feb 23: Ukraine at One Year, here.


There are several comments to the last post, from Claude, Rich, Jeff and myself about weapons of war.  You might want to take a look.

Today is Valentine’s Day.  Judging from the stash of old postcards from the farm, Valentine’s Day was significant, even against Christmas and Easter.  Below is one from the early 1900s.  Since I’ve focused on MLK’s Strength to Love this month, here’s his commentary on the word “love” from page 44: MLK Love.  Have a great day.

Postnote from Molly Feb. 15: Love Quotes 2023

Two items today:

Ukraine.  One year ago, Friday, Feb. 18, was my big surgery adventure – colon cancer.  So far so good.  The one year checkup was a couple of weeks ago.

Last year, the Russian invasion of Ukraine began on Feb. 24, 2022, about the day that I was discharged from the hospital.  I doubt anyone knew what would happen on and after February 14, 2022, though the storm clouds were abundant.  I doubt anyone knows exactly what will transpire in the days ahead, but keep the Ukrainians in your thoughts ongoing.

A major international security conference begins in Munich, hi-liting the increasingly intense clash between democracy and authoritarianism.  Heather Cox Richardson’s commentary on this is here, well worth your time.

Last summer I was honored to be able to visit with some Ukrainian students who were gifted by someone with a one month break from the war.  Recently one of them sent several photos from that day, including this one:

August 23, 2022, Minneapolis MN

What are Ukrainian young people like?  Like young people anywhere and everywhere.  Humanity’s future.

A bit of context: Ukraine is roughly the size of Texas (233  vs 269 thousand square miles, with greater population (41 million vs 30 million).  Minnesota: 87 thousand sq miles, 5.7 million people.). Ukraine’s geographic location is more or less like North Dakota and Minnesota.  (Kyiv and Winnipeg are almost exactly the same latitude). Ukraine as an area has a much longer history than the U.S., and a long and complicated relationship with Russia, and most recently has been independent since the Soviet Union broke up in about 1990.  The USSR at time of breakup was about the size of the North American continent.  Russia today has about half the U.S. population in about twice as much land area.  In most recent history, Ukraine had been independent for over 30 years; Russia had been nibbling away at it since about 2014, and a year ago Putin decided to pull out all stops.  The objective: to restore the old empire.

How are we, as related to Ukraine, today?  I’d compare our planet with about 195 nations to ourselves as human beings.

If one part of ourself is afflicted by something unexpected – let’s say a serious cut on an arm – our body responds to the crisis, and in most cases deals with it, diverting resources as needed to do battle against infections.  We’ve all been there, often.  The body has many mechanisms to heal itself.

Sometimes our body can’t deal with the crisis – my colon cancer last year is an example.  Or the replacement of my aortic valve in 2018 another.  An outside intervention was crucial in both cases.  Without such interventions, I likely would not be around to write this post.

So it is, I maintain, with Ukraine and all of us occupying planet earth.  Ukraine needs and deserves outside help; if Ukraine falls, it is damaging to us and the rest of the body of which it is a part, including the invaders.

There is a temptation to say “it’s their problem”; or to make  suggestion, as, Ukraine should just negotiate with the enemy sworn to destroy their territorial integrity.

I think we need to continue to be engaged with and for them.  I think Gandhi would agree.  Nonviolence has its place, but it doesn’t always work.  We can’t pretend evil away….

Continue to stay informed and engaged.  There have been numerous posts referring to  Ukraine.  Simply enter “Ukraine” in the search box (the magnifying glass symbol).

Separate topic: Social Security etc.

Jeff posed a question to a couple of us recently.  He ok’ed sharing with this list in case anyone might be interested in adding an opinion.  I’ve expressed my own, which are also shared, below.  As I’ve said often in assorted ways, we’re a democracy and in one way or another we choose our fate by whom we select to represent us….  Let your representatives know where you stand on this, and why.

Jeff:  Can Democrats consider some plans to address the shortcomings of Medicare and Social Security (SS) going forward?  Regardless what is said, the numbers don’t lie, and declining population growth and immigration bans don’t help shore up the 20-62 age group that essentially pays for the benefits of seniors ….and of course the general feeling is that I paid for it, it’s mine, which is a fundamental flaw in the history of the programs….should have been considered a social welfare benefit…not an earned benefit…but I suspect that ship left port a long time ago…

ideas being raised?
aa) raise the income level on payroll tax to at least 150,000 (or 175,000?)  something to catch more revenue that SS and medicare can pull from
bb) limit the SS benefits to people with high income or assets, emphasize it is primarily a guarantee to keep lower and middle class seniors without private wealth from poverty, I think the highest level now is about 42,000 per year and really that is well above the poverty level….
cc) raise the age at which SS withdrawals become mandatory
dd) means test Medicare: although frankly this is already being done and because of the sale of my company and the 5 year payout I am feeling this quite significantly ….my Part B premium increased by 125% this year. (a good problem to have I suppose, but I still bitch about it quietly because being self employed for 15 years I paid for high deductible insurance thru the nose and a couple years of lower cost premiums was nirvana)
ee) I don’t agree with raising the age to take SS, but I think there should be some carrots and sticks applied to allow for people who have physically or mentally demanding jobs, especially with low or lower middle incomes, to retire at 62 or 63, but at the same time make better incentives for the well heeled to wait even until 73 or 75?

Jeff added, later: I also agree, no switching to a privatized system….and don’t let the neocons/neoliberals suggest it as an option……you can see what is happening to Medicare…….. Medicare Advantage actually is not really Medicare, it is essentially a PPO/HMO program which they sell cheap because they get $860 in cash immediately for every enrollee before it costs them a dime…by running the algorithms, and setting the pay ups by enrollees and restricting the universal access of Medicare … it is growing rapidly and I fear it also will cause dangerous problems for actual Medicare if it continues.    Journalists are starting to show its shortcomings, but the selling of $0 premium plans with  2 free dental visits and a health club membership is a good deal for many people, until they get sick and have to go in hospital for 7 days or need specialists … then the bills come in.

Dick responding off the cuff:

My grandpa turned 65 in 1937, which happened to be almost exactly when SS was enacted into law.  His livelihood and his savings had disappeared when his employer, and their bank, went under in 1927 (I don’t think the two happenings were related), so I’d guess my grandma’s family was their early social security – the relatives were farmers nearby.  Of course, he’d not contributed to Social Security fund at all.
I have a couple of theories about today.
1) The money men want the schmoes to give their income to their broker, bypassing the govt.  Of course, this is the ultimate high risk for everybody – remember the roaring 20’s, and what followed?
2) The additional funds can and should be raised from those of means.  Biden et al seem to think this is $400,000 and above.  My wife and I are nowhere near 400K, but we both have social security, and pensions, and 401-k, and with required minimum distributions we can’t get ourselves below six figures annual income…which bothers my wife!  We’ve never paid more than about 15% federal tax, and we surely aren’t cheats.  We aren’t rich, but we sure as hell aren’t poor either.  Of course, the rich, (whatever number) that turns out to be, will rage: “us paying more ain’t fair.  We earned it.  We deserve it.”  It’s just another defect of our spoiled rotten richest country on earth.
So help me God!
(I have been poor a couple of times in my life and it is no picnic. Even so, speaking from the present much better circumstances, it is frighteningly easy to fall into the trap of blaming the poor for their own condition.  It is easy to become self-righteous.)

An interesting commentary on this came in Monday’s mail in the Weekly Sift, here.

Jeff added a supplement to above on Feb. 19: First, Heather Cox Richardson’s Letter from and American for Feb. 18, here.

Americans do support SS and Medicare……but the things done since the 1980s in the name of “privatisation” which combined

with tax cuts led to wider income divides (the rich did get richer, the rest can eat cake) but also decreased the ability for the middle classes and poor to utilize healthcare especially.  (figures this past 2 weeks on intl healthcare and health stats show the USA has been slipping in many areas compared to our OECD peers–this is  not a surprise, it is related mainly to the high cost of healthcare here <highest among our peers>)
Medicare: I keep making this point, but the GOP already created a Trojan Horse to destroy the program.  Medicare Advantage is NOT Medicare. It is a private health insurance PPO or HMO plan made and adminstered by big healthcare and pharma corporations.  It grows in subscribers as $0 premiums combined with free workout club memberships and 2 dental visits per year are a good hook.  Behind that are restrictions on health care systems, within states, and restrictions on specialist providers, there are also copays and maximum payments.   None of that
exists in actual Medicare A+B, but sadly we are now getting to the situation where only higher income or very low income people(medicaid) are actually on true Medicare as the cost of supplement part C has been going up….because of the increase in numbers in Medicare Advantage.
The corporations are playing the long game, they are aware this damages traditioinal Medicare which they have never liked….in the short term some subscribers win if they are healthy and choose Advantage plans….and of course the corporations  and corporate execs hauling in fat bonus checks.   In the long term we could lose traditional Medicare if it is starved of subscribers except for the upper and lower extremes.  And then we will be stuck with everyone on a PPO/HMO plan which will essentially be like the ones most people hated when they were working stiffs and were decided upon by their company execs and HR depts to save costs and increase profits.

Response to Jeff’s latest from Dick: There is absolutely nothing for nothing.  “Free” isn’t free – somehow or other it gets paid for.  I watch the Medicare Advantage ads on TV like everyone else does, and they are doing the hard sell, and they will get customers who, if they are very lucky, won’t get bit in the end (and, of course, if they do get bit, someone will pay, probably all of us in one way or another).
Caveat emptor.

POSTNOTE 9 a.m. Feb. 14:  Valentine’s started normally.  Out and about 6 a.m.; walk at 7:30; now home and whatever transpires (being retired means flexible schedule….)

Friend Robert stopped by Caribou and the conversation got around to what I would call ‘NORMAL’ – how life is.

Most of us have a routine.  For me, it’s easy to track me.  Normal is defined for me by who comes and goes at the coffee shop and at the health center, and the other usuals in my daily life.  Almost never DRAMA.  Just people going about their lives.

There is another life, of course, when you turn on the TV, or read the paper, or wherever your news comes from.

My growing up years were in the 1940s, and almost every piece of information was personal and very local, within the small town.

Nowadays we know almost everything, instantly, as interpreted by somebody else: Ukraine, Turkey, Syria, Congress – you name it.  Yesterday came a full page from the Wall Street Journal weekend edition Feb 4-5. 2023, sent to me by my sister.  It begins on the front page, and is about a Minnesota Somali family whose son went bad.  The paper helpfully and likely accurately notes that “Some 170,000 people in the U.S. have Somali ancestry.  The largest share lives in Minnesota.”

It is, of course, not unusual for a regular family to have such a crisis in America, but the skeptic in me wonders why this single Somali family gets a full page of ink in one of this country’s premier newspapers.  We’re around Somalis all the time; they happen to simply be people like all the rest.

I could go on at great length about similar examples, including what I’ll see in the media today.
Was it better to be kept in the dark in the 1940s, than to get sensational and too much news today?  Personally, I think it is important that we get the bad news today, and learn how to filter out the abundant crap.

We live in a very complex world and we are inextricably connected.  What happens there, has direct implications for us, more so than ever.  Thanks for NORMAL.

If you’ve read this far, HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY.

COMMENTS (others at end of post):

from Peter: On Ukraine, I do have close friends who are very heavily impacted. But I think it is an error to focus on the “Democracy vs. Authoritarianism” frame.

There is an enormous amount of context that is entirely missing, obscured by that narrative. Without that context, we are led to believe that it’s necessary to risk global annihilation rather than support negotiations.

Washington has quashed negotiations over and over again. The latest I heard was Blinken on NPR yesterday, asserting that any settlement must be “enduring”, and “lasting.” You no doubt remember one Condi Rice making that same argument against doing anything to stop the Israeli military from shooting thousands of Palestinians like fish in a barrel. That is morally bankrupt, besides being just plain wrong.

The policies this narrative supposedly justifies are the same completely bankrupt policies we have seen fail time and again, from Vietnam to the present, being implemented by the same people that failed the last time around.

One Ohio class submarine carries enough warheads in just one of its multiple missiles to end life, period.

Ok. One other rant for you on this Valentine’s Day, on Social Security, Etc.:

“Regardless what is said, the numbers don’t lie, and declining population growth and immigration bans don’t help shore up the 20-62 age group that essentially pays for the benefits of seniors”

This is the standard mythology that politicians all agree on, almost without exception. However, truthful numbers are routinely cited that are irrelevant. Stephanie Kelton (once the financial advisor to the Democrats) sent the following:

“Robert Eisner…was onto this charade. He was frustrated by the policy debates, which he saw as entirely misguided.
Eisner’s main message was that the obsession with Social Security’s Trust Funds (OASI and DI) is a distraction. To borrow a phrase from Gertrude Stein, “There is no there there.” The trust funds exist merely as accounting entities. We don’t need them to carry a positive balance—or any balance whatsoever—in order to preserve Social Security for future generations.
“Here’s Eisner:
“‘Expenditures alleged to be related to trust funds are often less than their income— witness the highway and airport funds as well [as] Social Security. There is no particular reason they cannot be more. The accountants can just as well declare the bottom line of the funds’ accounts negative as positive—and the Treasury can go on making whatever outlays are prescribed by law. The Treasury can pay out all that Social Security provides while the accountants declare the funds more and more in the red.'”
Kelton ends that post with this:
“the federal government always has the _financial ability to pay_ benefits—-to health care providers, future retirees, dependents, and the disabled. Sustaining these programs can never be about financial _affordability_. Any impediment that was written into the authorizing legislation—e.g. trust fund balances—can always be resolved by modifying the legislative text. It is always a policy choice.”

response to Peter and Bill Habedank (Below) from. Dick:  I always prefer negotiation of differences.  It was my work life, almost entirely.  It is sometimes neither possible nor wise, unfortunately.  Negotiations between parties presumes a willingness to negotiate and reach agreement.  And there is evil in our world, everywhere, and there will always be so.  MLK in Strength to Love acknowledged the same, as well as Gandhi.  Their positions, and others of similar philosophy, always had to be aspirational – a goal – as opposed to absolute truth.

The really big dilemma in democracies like ours is that ultimately the people decide who it is who will represent not only their aspirations but their biases.  The perfect candidate for any side, will probably not prevail in an election in which the electorate have differences of opinion about how to approach a problem.  Negotiations gets passed up the line.  At some point, “the buck stops”.  We hope the decision maker will be more congruent with our views than against.  We all know this to be true.

We have another example of this just today – the latest mass shooting at Michigan State U.  “We, the people” writ large refuse to acknowledge the deadliness of weapons of mass destruction under the guise of freedom.  So our dreams continue to be aspirational, but recognize the practical problem confronted by politicians in our jurisdictions, and each election help the best alternative to win.  (if one candidate is 60% on your ‘side’, and the other only 50%, the 60% is the best – but you have to vote for him or her and acknowledge the difficulties he/she faces.  After all, the “Washington” we love to despise, is actually all of us everywhere.  In our divided country this results in divided country – sometimes one philosophy, sometimes another.  Just my opinion.

from Barry:  

Note from Dick: the below article included many links, which I chose to remove.  Like all opinions offered, I am willing to pass along.  I have great respect for Barry, who passed this along.


Above photo: Gas leak detected by GHGSat satellite. GHGSat/ESA.

Seymour Hersh, considered one of the United States’ most accomplished investigative journalists, has just published a story giving forensic details about how the U.S. government blew up the Nordstream 1 and 2 pipelines. It is an indictment of the Biden administration at the highest level and confirms growing suspicions that the tens of billions of dollars our government has been sending to prolong the conflict in Ukraine has been about bolstering the American fracked gas industry all along. The American public must condemn this act of terrorism that caused a ”reckless release” of methane and other greenhouse gases and “amounts to an environmental crime.” We must stop our government from prolonging this unnecessary war and demand accountability from a government that seems to be the planet’s greatest obstacle to meaningful action on climate change.

Whereas before February 2022 Europe had earned a reputation as a world leader in conversion to renewable energy, starting that month this trend was reversed once the flow of cheap gas from Russia became less certain. As Michael Davies-Venn reported in May of 2022, “despite EU and U.S. claims of working with “diverse sources across the globe” to replace Russian gas supply to Europe, the reality is that the U.S. seems to have simply replaced Russia.”

In the first few months following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, just three U.S. liquid natural gas (LNG) exporters—Cheniere, Freeport, and Sempra—saw up to eight-fold increases in their sales to Europe, for a cumulative total of US$6.9 billion. The industry was part of the secretive US-EU Energy Taskforce that met all of the fracked gas industry’s demands within weeks of the invasion, which were to:

  • Resume fossil fuel leasing on US federal lands, and pave the way for more fossil gas pipelines
  • Expedite six specific US LNG export licenses
  • Get regulators to authorize new US fossil gas infrastructure
  • Approve $300 million in public funding to build infrastructure in Europe, including LNG import terminals and fossil gas pipelines.

The crisis in Ukraine has been used as an excuse to rollback other progress in the transition to a clean energy future. Germany, Austria, France, and the Netherlands all moved to reopen coal-fired power plants, while the United Kingdom postponed the decommissioning of some of these plants. Meanwhile Colombia, Australia, and South Africa have stepped up coal production to satisfy new demand emanating from interrupted access to Russian fuels. By May of 2022, European countries had even begun to turn to nuclear facilities, with all the environmental problems that would entail.

In my state of Maryland we banned fracking in 2017 because it harms human health, contaminates drinking water, and releases methane into the air, which has 80 times more global warming potential than carbon. For these same reasons, local activists around the country have been fighting pipelines that carry dangerous fracked gas through our communities, defacing the environment. And for years, environmentalists in my state fought Dominion Energy over its LNG export facility at Cove Point because of its environmental and climate costs, a fight we ultimately lost. We knew that the drive to export LNG came about because our country’s fracking bonanza had produced a surplus of gas and the fossil fuel industry needed to find new markets for it around the globe. We also knew that fracked gas infrastructure would soon be useless assets were our society to transition to clean renewables, as needed to keep our planet from succumbing to irreversible climate disaster. And we realized that the fossil fuel industry has undue influence on these decisions.

But that our government would commit an act of war and climate terrorism by blowing up the Nordstream pipelines goes beyond the pale. We cannot let them get away with it. Aside from the irresponsible escalation of tensions with another nuclear power, the environmental impacts of such actions are tremendous. These do not stay within national boundaries; they affect everyone living on our shared planet. We must demand accountability from our elected officials, and give them no respite until we get it. We must use this moment to not only demand an end to yet another war fought for the fossil fuel industry, we must come to our senses and realize that the biggest obstacle to environmental justice and a future for our planet is the unbridled, short-sighted greed of the dirty industry that has a stranglehold on our democracy. It is time to put people and planet over profit, while we still have a planet to save.

from Jim: about Ukrainian refugees. Our family has been supporting refugees financially for several months. We contribute to International Institute, Ukrainian Association and Alight  formerly the American Refugee Committee. These groups have been around for several decades and have a lot of useful experience.

Dick, final thought on this thread – at least from me Feb 17:  Last week I had occasion to ask a person I know about Ukraine.  The person is a native of one of the seven countries that border Ukraine.  The response was a reasonable one: “we don’t comment on politics”.  Before I left there was a small addition, to the effect: “well, you know about Europe”.

Of course, it’s hard not to know about the basics of history of Europe.  To start, I’m European descent, and European countries were very aggressive colonizers, and not humanitarians and the U.S. pitched right in as we expanded after the original 13 colonies formed the U.S.

The sins of our predecessors cannot be ignored.  Basically, we attribute the origin of those sins to the old days before 1900.

Ground zero for words like genocide are first applied after 1900, but they certainly existed in practice before 1900.  In our case Native Americans were victims.  One needs to be careful about finding fault with the latest pretender to Empire: Vladimir Putin.  But he’s treading dangerous ground, not only for Ukraine, but for his own country and the rest of us.

The EU has reformed from the fractionated old days.  There are still European countries, but basically they cooperate closely, and no one is running around rebuilding their empires.  The U.S. and others have thus far successfully kept their involvement within the borders of Ukraine, and hopefully that will continue.

And one has to be ignorant of history to justify Putin’s dream of a new USSR (which really didn’t exist until 1922, and by 1991 had ceased to exist).

Where this will all end is unknown to everybody.  I’m on Ukraine’s side – everyone has a lot to lose, if Russia wins….

A Week

I did a post at the time of the State of the Union, which you can read here.  My focus there is Public Education more than the speech itself (which I watched in its entirety).  [At February 11 (below) Joyce Vance comments on the Weaponization Committee of the House of Representatives.]

There seems to be a ‘tsunami’ of ‘breaking news’ every day.  In those ‘good old days’ we old-timers like to remember, we were insulated from incessant information/misinformation – the outside world was not instantly accessible.  But it was real then, too….

The Earthquake in Turkey/Syria: the death toll is now in the tens of thousands.  [see also Richardson, below, para beginning February 11].

I’ve had reason to remember another earthquake, Jan. 12, 2010, Haiti, where over 200,000 perished.  I kept the newspaper tear sheets then.  Here was the first report on January 13, 2010:

Minneapolis Star Tribune, page one, Jan 13, 2010

There were daily reports through Feb. 4, 2010 – about three weeks.  The official death toll was over 200,000 – some estimate many more than that.  Public memory is short.  On to the next crisis.

Again, there are endless emergency appeals.  My personal belief is that the United Nations system is ultimately the most effective  and efficient director of relief efforts.  Whatever the case, It is at least good that we are made aware of these catastrophes and that communities come together at these times of crisis.

(I was literally about to relegate the Haiti news clips to recycle.  That was yesterday.  They will be kept.)

The Chinese Balloon.  I got to thinking back to the blinking eye in the night sky I witnessed from a farm yard in the fall of 1957.  It was Sputnik, and we watched it wink as it moved, as I recall, from southeast to northwest.  It sure made a difference in policy decisions after it appeared.

The other more relevant memory is of the famous North Dakota Pyramid I saw a few years ago, a relic of the gardens of missiles planted in North Dakota and Montana to protect us from nuclear attack in the 1960s.  Then, it was the USSR.

The Nekoma ND Pyramid July 2009.

Atlas Obscura tells more of the story of the Pyramid.  Succinctly, the Pyramid was never operational.  Cooler heads prevailed: what if a missile we launched ended up devastating someplace in Canada or even Alaska?  Dumb idea.  Project scrubbed.

As for the Chinese Balloon, anyone who has any illusions about intrusions, just count the number of times, your next day out, that you are ‘photographed’, in the post office, grocery store, etc.  The safe presumption is that there are no secrets for anyone.

The least well kept secret is that every country spies on everybody else, constantly, in diverse ways.  It’s called national security.  The first spy I remember personally is Francis Gary Powers of U-2 fame in 1960.  Spying has no borders.

Yesterday, Congressional leaders were given a private briefing on the Balloon.   Here’s what Sen. Mitt Romney apparently had to say afterwards: “Leaving today’s classified briefing on the Chinese spy balloon, Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT) told CNN’s Manu Raju that he thinks the U.S. “made the right decision to wait and shoot down the suspected spy balloon.” “I believe that the administration, the president, our military and intelligence agencies, acted skillfully and with care. At the same time, their capabilities are extraordinarily impressive,” Romney said.

Interesting comments and photos from Claude and Rich, below.

Ukraine: We are coming up on the one year anniversary of the Russian invasion of the Ukraine.  I was in the hospital at the time.  Here’s what I wrote Feb. 16, 2022.  Personally, I didn’t think the invasion would happen, but it did, and here we are.  I will likely write more later, about the time of the ignominious anniversary itself.  More in a week or two about this.

Public Education: In the State of the Union blog I comment on personal history in public education.  Because of my history, I think always in terms of “public”, which to me is everyone.  What troubles me deeply about the situation in Florida, repeated in other places at other times, and replicated now, is the pretty transparent attempt by one ideology to stamp out or permanently disable even discussing any other ideology keeping kidsfrom being exposed to other ideas through misuse of Law and Government at all levels.  I’ve seen attempts at this over the years. It is dishonest and it is unfair to say the very least.  Society over the centuries has set norms for society at large.  When the issue becomes who can dominate by making the law and then interprets it, there’s cause for great concern.  This doesn’t even require a deep analysis.  The intention is very, very obvious – muzzle opinions that are not consistent with a particular point of view.

Age:  Of course, everybody is breathless about how old Joe Biden is, and certainly – it I claimed – he’s not up to being President again.  Pardon me for being amused.  I was 2 1/2 when Joe Biden was born, so sort of know how this age thing works…and doesn’t.  I’ll leave it at that.

Have a good weekend.  Stay well informed and engaged.

February 11: Relevant Commentaries overnight: Heather Cox Richardson on the Turkey/Syria Earthquake and autocracy in action; and Joyce Vance on the “Weaponization Committee” of the U.S. House of Representatives


from Claude: Let me offer what might be a correction from what I remember of the Nekoma pyramid from a Star Tribune article many years after.

It WAS operational for about two weeks but then the US and USSR signed an agreement to not use whatever technology this was for. I believe it used long-wavelength radio signals to communicate with nuclear subs worldwide. The whole project became a microcosm of how the cold war was disrupting economies of both countries. There was a lot of infrastructure built into the town which was to have a permanent military base on the outskirts. Then after two weeks of being operational a lot of government entities including the town were stuck with a lot of debt.
I drove by and took pictures many years ago just to see it.
Part of the reason I paid so much attention to this is I finished both my degree at the U of MN and a Heavy Equipment Operators course in Homestead, FL in 1974. Before I drove back home I managed to secure a three hour interview with Morrison Knutson at the site of the Space Shuttle landing strip which they were building at Cape Kennedy which was the name at the time. During that interview the guy told me about how he helped build this pyramid in Nekoma, ND that was designed to withstand a direct atomic blast. It’s most steal although technically it’s steel-reinforced concrete. What a waste. I didn’t get the job either at Cape Kennedy or later when I checked out another project of theirs, an early ethanol plant west of the metro about two hours as I recall. Just as well. A job with a company like that means constant transfers.

from Rich: True “NoDaks” understand what is public knowledge. As “Cold War” kids, living our youth well before highly sophisticated spy satellites, we realized this aspect of the “nuclear deterrent” was really quite public, yet protected and secured. For these reasons I find the advice of the military presented to the President perfectly acceptable.

from Jeff: I did business with farmers up in that panhandle area of Nebraska….there is a large area that I drove thru with underground bunkers and storage facilities for

weapons….I dont know if that was actual missile pads, I was told it was more ammo facilities…it is still there, decommissioned but I suspect still govt owned
with fencing around it…goes for miles.  Just west of US 385 between Sidney and Gurley NE…..

response from Dick:  I was a North Dakota teenager and college student during most of the Air Base and Missile development so it was not an abstract thing to me, but mostly viewed from a young persons perspective, defending us from them.  Seasoning of many years changes perspectives of course.
At coffee this morning two friends recommended rewatching the movie Dr. Strangelove (which I’ve not seen); and I’m reminded of what I recall as a rather bizarre visit to the International Peace Garden (ND and Manitoba) in 2009, which I wrote about at the time.  You can read it here.  I had visited the Peace Garden earlier the same day I saw the Pyramid pictured above….


State of the Union

POSTNOTE Wed Feb. 8: I watched the State of the Union.   Here’s Joyce Vance’s take on it. And Heather Cox Richardson’s take.  And Jay Kuo in Status Quo.  I’ve seen Biden in person several times over the years, and his is always an excellent and authentic speech.  I’m a couple of years older than he is.  We’re fortunate to have him at the helm.


Tonight is the State of the Union.  I expect to watch it.

This day I want to concentrate on public education policy as I remember it, and how we’re seeing it play out, particularly in Florida at this moment, with doubtless other attempts made to replicate it elsewhere.

There are about 50 million students in American public schools (the U.S. population is about 330 million), all of them children with two parents, all of them in the daily charge of millions of school staff from office personnel and bus drivers to Superintendents.  Most of us have been in school for most of our first 18 years.  Each of us has had his/her own experiences, and our own judgements.  “School” is where young people mature in their own unique ways, preparing to live independently.

In our polarized time, when one ‘side’ decides to take control of which ideas and values a child can be exposed to, there is bound to be there is trouble.

How does one attack such an elephant when you’re one individual?

What I decided to do, was to write a letter to all of the elected people, from my local legislators to the President of the United States, who manage public education as my representative.

It ended up three pages, and it was imperfect, but at the very least I wanted to be on the court.  PDF of the letter I sent: Public Education.  Each letter included a personalized note to the individual to whom it was sent.  

I invite you to at least glance at the letter.

Public Education  and all related issues are in our – yours and mine – court.


As always, there are numerous topics.  Joyce sent along links to two posts today.  First, the Weekly Sift blog, has a discussion of National Debt.  A second, from the Status Kuo blog. is about the Chinese Balloon.  Both blogs are worth receiving on a periodic basis.  They are always excellen.  Two other sources have become staples for me: Heather Cox Richardson’s Letters from an American; and Joyce Vance’s Civil Discourse.  Heather’s begins to deal with the deadly earthquake in Turkey/Syria; read also the following day writing.

Sunday night we watched a powerful new documentary, American Pain, about the opioid crisis.  At this time, it seems to be available only on Spectrum TV accessible with Roku.

O course, Guns.  Policing.  On and on….

Stay engaged.


Laurie Hertzel, columnist for Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote this very interesting column about sanitizing books (changing words, etc in already published works): Hertzel Star Trib 2 26 23.  Thanks to Kathy for calling attention to this.  Also via Kathy: Rich Lowry Don’t Rewrite Books

from Marion Brady 2-25-23, long-time friend in Florida, and part of this list wrote the following column for the Orlando Sentinel.  He mentions that this was published hours after he submitted it to the paper.  Marion is the ‘real deal’ with a very long history of advocacy for sanity in public education.  His website is here.

to Orlando Sentinel 2-25-23

Education Policy Needs an Overhaul to Effect Real Change

Orlando Sentinel, 2/25/23

By Marion Brady

The headline of the Orlando Sentinel’s February 19th 2023, “Opinion,” page reads, “Only you can save public education in Florida.

Believe the headline. Call or write legislators expressing opposition to vouchers, assaults on intellectual freedom, teacher autonomy, diversity, equity, funding, and much else aligned with authoritarian thinking.

I applaud the Sentinel, but assume lawmakers will do the usual—nothing, or the wrong thing.

Education policies now in place are examples of “wrong things”—policies approved and enthusiastically promoted by leaders of both major political parties. Competition, it’s assumed, creates the necessary pressures on learners and schools to win “the race to the top,” so we have voucher-enabled school choice, high stakes standardized testing, letter grades for rating schools, rewards and penalties for teachers and schools based on performance, public money handed over to private schools and charter chains, “standards and accountability,” the Common Core State Standards and so on, all enabling and enhancing competition.

And academic performance stays flat. Healthy social institutions continuously improve as each generation “stands on the shoulders” of the previous generation, discarding its failures and building on its successes, but that hasn’t happened in education. The assumption that competition improves academic performance isn’t just wrong, it’s destructive. The deeper, more powerful and proper motivator of good schooling is the human need to know, to expand understanding, to make good sense, to find meaning, to discover how things work, to satisfy curiosity, to do better the things that need doing, and core-based schooling isn’t providing it.

If those who shoved professional educators aside a quarter-century or so ago had read what professional educators were writing or listened to what they were saying, they’d have known the underlying problem wasn’t “the soft bigotry of low expectations,” incompetent teachers, lazy kids or the institution’s lack of “rigor.” The major problem was and is the misnamed “core” curriculum adopted by America’s high schools in 1894 that continues to organize most of the school day.

The Association of American Colleges and The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching say the core has failed. I have dozens of quotes from nationally and internationally known experts saying the core has failed. Classroom discipline problems, school dropout rates, a nationwide electorate with incompatible views about what’s true, right and important, testify to the core’s failure.

G. Wells was dead right when he wrote that civilization is a race between education and catastrophe. To save our skins, we need to do more than protest. We need to give the legislature a jolt and open doors to change.

The jolt: Civil disobedience. Opt out of standardized testing. It wastes time, taxes and talent by perpetuating the nonsense that recalling secondhand textbook text and teacher talk prepares the young for the future they’re inheriting.

What makes humanness possible is our ability to think—to hypothesize, infer, generalize, predict, imagine, synthesize, intuit, value and so on through dozens more thought processes not being taught. They’re not being taught because they’re not being tested. They’re not being tested because their merit depends on their quality in specific contexts, and machine-scored tests can’t measure quality.

The change: More than a half- century ago I left the Florida State University faculty and came to central Florida at the invitation of two school superintendents. They had read a journal article I had written outlining an alternative to the core curriculum based on systems thinking.

I wanted one of the districts to choose, quietly, its worst-performing middle school and let me work with its staff. At the end of the year, an unannounced several-day exam would be given to that school and the middle school administrators considered the district’s best. The test would evaluate each class’s collective ability to think creatively and productively about a local, real-world problem.

I was confident test results would trigger actions that would eventually make central Florida the epicenter of national curricular reform.

Didn’t happen. Never underestimate bureaucratic rigidity and timidity.


POSTNOTE, Sunday Feb 5: Last night we watched the new documentary, The Rebellious Life of Mrs. Rosa Parks.  It is extraordinary.  Take the time.

PRENOTE: Thursday night was way below zero.  But good news is coming next week, I hear.  Feb. 1 I did a post entitled The First Day Of Spring.  Take a look.


Thursday, I finished MLK’s Strength to Love, reading one chapter a day for 17 days.  A previous post refers to the book, here.  If you have even the tiniest inclination towards peace and justice issues,  King’s book is powerful and pertinent and still available 58 years after it was first published.  Check here for one source.

By habit, I don’t hi-lite.  But I did put an “X” in the margin of noteworthy statements I saw.  I counted my X’s in Strength to Love: there are 170 of them.  This is a book of writings by a preacher composed between his mid-20s and mid-30s, at the beginning of his career.

At about the same time,  MLK wrote a companion volume, which I have also had for years: “Why We Can’t Wait”, which includes the letter from the Birmingham Jail.  Your call.  You won’t regret taking the time to read and reflect on both volumes.


In our society – perhaps it is a more general human trait – we tend to look for heroes: those who stand out; can give a good speech; write a good book; do a good deed that goes VIRAL!; take the big risks…successfully.  Of course, if the hero is very good, the end is not always good.  Dr.King was not yet 40 when he was assassinated in 1968.  Thus, not many aspire to be noteworthy “heroes”.

King, as a young man, obviously knew humanity as it was: imperfect.  He was an idealist and a realist.  He was early thrust into a leadership role, and he took it on.  It fell to him to be the avatar, a later Gandhi.  But the heroes of the Civil Rights movement were not only King, but the people around him; indeed, everyone who participated, anywhere.

The heroes we know personally don’t think of themselves as heroes.  But they are, nonetheless.

I could go on at great length about most any part of the book, but will spare you that.  But, at pp 143-44, I came across a hero in King’s eyes, in Montgomery AL during the bus boycott which began in 1955.  He devotes the better part of a page in the book to a hero of his, Mother Pollard, about whom I shard two of King’s sentences, below:

(I entered Mother Pollard’s name in my search engine, and there is a brief wiki article about her if you wish.)

Mother Pollard represents to me the legions of unsung heroes who make this country, indeed any country or community, work, day after day, in matters small and large.

Mostly heroes don’t know that they are heroes, and they are mostly unsung.

We all have a heroes role to play.  What is yours?

The cover of Sonya’s book

COMMENTS (more at end of post)

from Christine: That’s a powerful book from an inspired man who stays in our minds. I don’t know if our children and grand children etc. will still refer to him during their own lives….

response from Dick: I most noted that Dr. King was between 25 and 32 years old when he wrote the contents of this book.  All of us who can read it now have been 25 to 32 during their lives, and most of those younger than 32 will have experienced those years.  Certainly there are others in these cohorts who will inspire as Dr. King did.

from Fred: Dr. King’s speech in front of the Lincoln Memorial is one of greatest American orations ever.It should be placed in its historical place and time, with a brief introduction and replayed for present-day audiences every MLK day. I’m certain the book you are recommending is outstanding.

The First Day of Spring

For many years – I don’t remember the first – I’ve declared February 1 to be the first day of Spring.

This morning, here, it was near zero, 3 degrees at 8:45.  That isn’t Spring weather.  On the other hand, it was a bright, sunshiny morning, and it was calm, and the roads were dry.  There’s no slush at 3 degrees!

I’ve lived in this climate my entire life, so I’m as expert as anyone about life between 45 and 49 degrees N. latitude.

I’ve observed over those years that, while December has the shortest day, Dec. 21, January is usually the most dismal, even if one throws in the usual January thaw; even if there’s a blizzard on Feb. 1.

The odds are, at least, that the cold and stormy spells will be shorter and less awful…but I’ve seen bad snow storms as late as late April; and those who like to put plants in the ground are well-advised to wait until later May when there is less prospect for frost.

Those who survived up here had to have a certain amount of what we call “common sense”.  Mostly it worked.

Anyway, life is good, this day.

Happy Spring.

Tomorrow is Ground Hog Day, and it brings to mind a story my Dad liked to tell about a Groundhog Day in Grafton ND when he was about 4 or 5 (which would have been about 1912).

Here’s his story, to cap off today: Bernard Henry Ground Hog Day ca 1912.

The annual survival rituals after a blizzard.  Top: a postcard celebrating victory over an early Feb. ND blizzard in early 1907 (this would have been a railroad plow to open the rails); above, survivors of another blizzard at the Busch farm about 1916.  Grandma Busch is at right, the oldest four kids (Lucina, Esther, Verena and Mary) on top of the snowbank outside the house.


from Molly:  Here in MN, heading for a high of +10 today, -17 tonight with a windchill in the obscene range (-37 or so).  Hope you are well & warm, & possibly covered with fur,  Groundhog