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….


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