Shadows of Doubt and History

trump putin

 Harry Truman, who made one of the most difficult decisions to use a nuclear bomb in an attempt to end World War II after having replaced a four-term president and re-elected to office.

Dwight Eisenhower, who led our military forces in Europe during World War II, built the interstate highway system, and warned us of the military-industrial complex and served two terms as president.

John Kennedy, who stood toe to toe with Russia over missiles in Cuba and was assassinated in office.

Lyndon Johnson, who spent years as a elected member of the Federal government and brought about civil rights laws, re-elected and chose not to run again.

Richard Nixon, another man who served as vice president and held other elected positions and opened China. Elected twice and resigned his office.

Gerald Ford, who served his country as an elected person for many years in congress and tried to help the country heal after a difficult situation.

Jimmy Carter, who graduated from West Point and helped design nuclear submarines and held elected offices at the state and national level.

Ronald Reagan, who rose from sports announcer to state governor to the presidency, who is known for this statement, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”

George H. W. Bush, who served as ambassador and vice president before his presidency.

Bill Clinton, a Rhodes Scholar, who rose through the ranks of state offices to be elected twice as president.

George W. Bush, state governor, professional sports franchise owner and two term president.

Barack Obama, rising through state and national levels of politics to lead our country.

Look at all these men. Add to this list the huge numbers of men and women who have been studious and committed to policy and decision making in our country for the government as members of elected posts or served the FBI, the CIA, and the military. They have all contributed to a history of our country and helped establish responsible, decent government, complete with successes and failures. Nonetheless, our country has stood and has been revered for that history.

We are told now by President Donald Trump that all their work, all their advice, all the history they have with foreign policy, is just so much bunk. We are told beyond a shadow of doubt that their work is null and void as far as any investigation they’ve done. Beyond a SHADOW OF DOUBT.

We need to claim the legacy of our history. We need to honor the work of all these people, and of all our citizens, who have acted with good hearts towards such history.

I have run out of shadows. Enough.

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President Trump; A Question about the Benefit of Words

turmp in montana

Last night in Montana, President Trump was holding a rally to support the candidacy of Matt Rosendale for senator from that state.
In his remarks, President Trump offered the following:
. . . that he was the first president to win the state of Wisconsin since 1952.
. . . that he understood what “Make America Great Again” meant, but didn’t understand what “1000 points of light” was.
. . . referred to Senator Elizabeth Warren as “Pocahontas”.

To expand:
. . . WINNING WISCONSIN. President Trump has touted this point many times, especially in the last handful of rallies.
Thought: The double trouble is this: Reagan won Wisconsin in 1984, when he won 49 of 50 states, and Nixon won Wisconsin in 1972 against George McGovern. Historical numbers, easy to check, easy to double check. Why does President Trump continue to use these numbers? How does he benefit by quoting incorrect information? How?

. . . “1000 POINTS OF LIGHT” is an allusion to President George Bush’s campaign back in 1988. In that phrase, George Bush was praising the sense of duty and volunteerism that the citizens of the United States were renowned for. President Trump said he didn’t know what that meant, and that he understood what “Make America Great Again” meant.

Thought: What are the benefits to the senatorial campaign of Montana of 2018 to bring up a catch phrase of 30 years ago? Not only that, what is the benefit to run down the efforts of a past president of the same political party?

. . . “POCAHONTAS” is a nickname given to Senator Elizabeth Warren during the debates of the last presidential campaign. Last night, President Trump brought up the nickname again while talking about running for president in 2020, supposedly against Elizabeth Warren.

Thought: Again, what does Elizabeth Warren have to do with the Montana senatorial campaign? How does that benefit the people of Montana to hear about that?

All three points find me asking the same question: Where are the benefits? How is it constructive? Our president does this time and time again: last night was just another instance in which the questions “Where are the benefits?” can apply to one of his speeches.

Someone please, answer that question for me. What are the benefits of such speeches? The president, time and time again, insults people, mocks them, uses numbers based on little information – the list of such things started well before the election. I prefer to keep these blog entries short, so I won’t give further examples right now.

Someone please, answer. What are the benefits of such words?

Is it Time to Become a Militant Moderate?

bell curve

Oxymoronic phrase, I know. They say a good headline gets attention: that’s why I chose it.

Being a moderate has risen (or fallen, depending on your view) to being a sign of weakness, of spinelessness, of complacency. With the recognition that this is just my opinion, I say NO to that. Here are two reasons why. (at least two …there are probably more, but for the sake of brevity, let’s move on.)

First, in the linear spectrum of political thought, the Moderates keep the extremes separated. Can you imagine there were no Moderates in the middle, if the extremes were all that existed? They would be right up against each other, giving rise to that ever-popular phrase of the Cold War Era … MUTUAL DESTRUCTION. Moderates shield the two extremes from each other. That may sound like I think Moderates are passive, like a sheet of insulation, but again, I say NO.

Consider your standard statistical bell curve. There are more in the middle than on either side of the curve. Much more. That’s quite a chunk of insulation between the extremes. Moderates, beware – this is where you’re going to get scolded later.

Secondly, the Moderates keep the two extremes from spinning off even further in their direction. With the mindset of the Moderates, the two extremes are forced to temper themselves, therefore keeping them within a semblance of control. If either of the two extremes were to ignore the Moderates, then I suspect the extreme faction paying attention to the Moderates would be the victor. The moderates do not like being ignored. Again, it sounds rather passive on the part of the Moderates, doesn’t it? I’ll say it again. NO.

Perhaps this is why Moderates are indeed NOT passive. Moderates serve as referees between the extremes on that political spectrum. In a decent athletic event, referees should hardly be noticed, but yet they blow the whistle at the appropriate times. They make sure the game is played “by the book”, whatever that book may be. They start the game. They stop play. They call time out. They get the game to resume. They are also accepted in their role as the rules enforcer by the teams on the field. Referees see to it that the event is fairly engaged, all the way to the last moment. The refs even declare the winner. In such an affair, the outcome is known, both sides acquiesce, and the referees aren’t even remembered.

But when a brawl breaks out, the referees are the ones who sort things out and make sure the offending parties are sent to the penalty box, kicked out of the game, banned for life, whatever. Do you want to the be referee in a battle between two boxers? When there’s a clinch, the ref is right in the middle, physically getting in between the combatants to quell the clinch . . .and maybe even sending one or both to a neutral corner. Do you think that’s at all passive? Do you want that job? This is at least part of the role of the Moderates in the political world – referee. (The other parts? That’s another blog in itself.)

Am I saying that presently the two extremes are brawling, out of control, not playing by the rules? You bet I do. The name calling, the insults – its all there. Sometimes it even becomes nothing more than a shouting match, where both are yelling and none are listening. There is little benefit to such engagement, and its time you understand that.

But here’s my other assertion. Too many Moderates sit on their whistles and let the battles go unchecked. And yes, I often include myself in this failing. I call upon the Moderates to get up on the issues, to get involved, to blow your whistles when needed. Moderacy should not equal complacency. Remember that bell curve from earlier? Moderates outnumber the extremes, and therefore should be making a larger difference. You know what? You’re not doing your job. Be an ACTIVE moderate. Do your job as the referee. Moderate the debate. Engage in discussion. If not, expect the nonsense we’re experiencing now to continue endlessly, maybe to that conclusion of Mutual Destruction.

I personally can’t have that. How about you?

On a Presidential Quote . . .

On a Presidential Quote . . .

Speaking this morning with Fox & Friends, his own version of North Korean television, Trump explained why he would like to bring Kim Jong-un to the White House: “He’s the head of the country, and I mean he’s the strong head. He speaks and his people sit up in attention. I want my people to do the same.”

This morning, I watched a clip of Donald Trump in an interview on Fox News utter the words you see above.

My response: Mr. President, we are not to be referred to as “my people”. Ever. Not in the United States of America.

Back when Donald Trump was inaugurated, many out there in Internetland said, “He’s not my president.” I responded that yes, he is. I felt that history would always record the presidency of Donald Trump, no matter how the citizens of the United States of America feel about that. Yet, I understood how a person can feel that way, and how “He’s not my president” is a figurative comment.

But now, here we have our president claiming that we are HIS people. No one is anyone’s person. No one. Not me, not you. Even in the military, our soldiers take an oath to defend the constitution – they do not swear allegiance to any president.

Do you think he meant this figuratively? Literally? Was it one of his comments that means little, and we attribute it to his tendency to shoot from the hip with such comments?

A Trump supporter said that the president was referring to his executive staff when he said, “My people”. That’s all he meant, no more. (Personal note: I am tired of hearing people saying, “What he meant was …”)

Let’s look at that angle of it. Maybe he indeed meant his executive staff when he said, “my people.” Maybe he means that his staff should stand without reservation every time he walks into a room. That kind of thing exists in the way a private salutes a senior officer in the military, or how we call our bosses MR So and So or MS. So and So in the business world, or the way we use labels like SIR and MA’AM in common society. Or MOM or DAD in family circles. It seems to me that those acts rise out of protocols or social convention, not the existence of a particular person occupying that office or position.

Donald J. Trump may be our president, but no one — not even his staff – – – are HIS people.

What Betty Strand Pavlowich has in common with the Central Lakes Community College (Brainerd, Minnesota) Concert Band

aunty betty

Sometimes the world seems a whole lot smaller than we think.

This spring, I spent my Monday nights rehearsing with the band mentioned in the title (its too long to type often). I play trumpet for the group, led by Steve Anderson, who has done the job for 26 years now, retiring at the end of this school year. I have played in the band over the years, having played trumpet, baritone, percussion, and clarinet.

A good twenty ago, a guy named Don Forte played trombone in the band. As he and I talked back then, we realized we were from the same area – he was from Eveleth, I was from Mt. Iron …the difference is he is 30 years older than me. There were several conversations that year, little of which I recall right now. This year, after having taken care of his wife for many years, Don was able to rejoin the band, so we continued our conversations. He is now 95 years old.

The night of the concert last week, he and I got to talking again … and he, after all those years, remembered that my dad was a railroad worker for DM&IR, as well as a few other things we had talked about back in those original years. His memory was flawless – he brought up many of the details of those conversations two decades ago.

Then we talked about him and what he had done. He had served in the navy during WWII, having graduated from Eveleth in 1941 – well, knowing my family history, I just had to ask … “Did you know any of the Strand kids?”

“Oh yeah – there was a Betty Strand in my class.”

I told him that Betty was by Great Aunt – and how neat it was to have a common connection. Oh how I had taken a picture with him to post here.

If you ever think the world can’t get any smaller …

Brainerd School Referendum: something to consider regarding crowding.

FORD                                                   SCHOOL
A few years ago, I got into a discussion with a lady who insisted we could keep our old schools maintained and fine for today’s kids. Her reason? She owned and restored an old car …for our purposes, lets call it a 1961 Ford Galaxy. She said it was in fine order, clean, and running fine because she kept it up. Therefore, we should be able to do the same things with our schools. Unfortunately, I was not glib enough with an answer. Until now.
Okay, Mrs. Galaxy. Consider this. In your car, you have room for six riders … five passengers and a driver. You get to pick who rides. You get to pick to drives. You get to pick the rules – no smoking, no food, etc etc. You get to pick the destination and where the car is used and stored. I’m glad the car is in tip top shape. That’s a big accomplishment.
But now, Mrs. Galaxy, let me tell you this. Our schools are designed for a certain amount of kids…. Lets say two classes of each elementary grade – lets make that Kindergarten through fifth grade … with 24 in each room, that’s 288. And you don’t get to pick who those kids are. Now let’s say more people move into town, and that 288 kids becomes 325… and then 350 … and more. You STILL don’t get to pick who comes and goes. Imagine putting seven in your car, all the time … or maybe even 8 …. And you don’t get to pick who those people are. Will your car still hold up?
AND, you need to adapt the building for handicapped, whether there are handicapped kids assigned to you or not. DO you want to add a wheelchair access to your car? Remember, you don’t have a choice. You might get a kid who needs that. Has that Galaxy been designed with such a thing in mind?
So when you consider your vote in the Brainerd referendum, remember what the district is telling you. There are 300 more students than there are room for right now, with another 200 above and beyond that in the next few years.
You can find more information at blueprint181.org for more information.

BOOK REVIEW: WEST OF PENANCE

Book Review: West of Penance
By Thomas D. Clagett
278 pages, plus an epilog and comments from the author
Published by FIVE STAR, a part of GALE CENGAGE Learning
ISBN 13: 9781432831417

west of penance cover

WEST OF PENANCE by Thomas Clagett

Behold the cliched western novel – a gunfighter or two, a saloon singer, a haunted gold mine and a tribe of hostile Apaches. Not here – not here at all in Thomas Clagett’s WEST OF PENANCE. Through some fine historical research and hard work, here is a superb story spun out of a famous French Legion Battle, a Catholic clergyman and a land grab plot in the wild west days of New Mexico. Though the setting may be the American Wild West, Clagett weaves a tale that extinguishes all of those “Western Novel” clichés, delivering an interesting and exciting story as the reader follows Clement Grantaire from his humble military beginnings (on and off the battlefield), his growth as a spiritual leader, and his attempt to make good on a promise to a man he owes so much. This is a swell combination of a historical novel and the western themes of the Great American Frontier.

We first meet Grantaire in a poker game in Paris, France. No sign of a western tale here. On then to a flight from the law and into the secret life of the French Foreign Legion – still no cactus or horse in sight. Jump a few years, and the reader finds Clagett’s main character, having experienced a change of morality, serving the poor in the arid west of the territories of the new American frontier. Now, we get a savory taste of a western. Clagett weaves more of his tale, and sure as the sun sets beyond the hills, here’s our western, complete in its setting and its characters.

It is the late nineteenth century at the New Mexico/Texas area. Towns are growing as the settlers are arriving to farm, to be merchants, to create a new state. However, rich men hungry for more and more land, use every legal angle and corruption to gain acreage, strong-arming many in search of wealth. It is in this world that we find Clement Grantaire and a majority of his tale. Will he get help from the Sheriff? Who can he trust? Turns out, some are more trustworthy than others, and some are so corrupt that they can’t help but get in Grantaire’s way.

The worst of this bunch were those who chose to steal as much land as they could – be it through intimidation or even raw torture. The names and personalities are for the reader to discover – and those scalawags are as nasty as the rattlesnakes in the rocks.

Clement Grantaire’s allies a few, but effective. Some of the henchmen of the land grants bosses have a change of heart, for example, but it the strongly able lady rancher Rachel Scott who provides the encouragement Grantaire needs.

Thomas Clagett gives us deep characters, both the good and the evil. He gives us realistic scenes as the characters interact. He gives us colorful descriptions, concise dialogue, and solid emotions as we learn to love and detest each character and situation.

Thomas Clagett is a well-trained writer who has also done work in the film and television. WEST OF PENANCE is his second novel. Let’s hope Mr. Clagett continues to blend his practice of historical research with the world of the western genre.

PS … Since I posted this, I learned that Mr. Clagett is releasing a new book in April 2018.  Entitled LINE OF GLORY, it is a tale based on the last hours of the Alamo.  I am looking forward to it!