Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty

Reading the morning news over two plus hours has burdened me on a day I was hoping to shove away some paperwork to more narowly focus on 1. planning a trip to France. 2. start writing a book (an idea I’ve had for about twenty years now) 3. Studying my French. But first, I took a quick break to buy some coffee and breakfast sandwich from McDonalds where I discovered poor Batman’s head had tumbled into the street. After the news I’m now worried about losing mine.

The morning news from NPR, the New York Times and the Duluth Trib put me in mind of the famous quote headlining this post. Its variously attributed to Thomas Jefferson and a famed abolitionist among others. I agree with Wendell Phillips, the Abolutionists, thesis which reads more fully:

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few. The manna of popular liberty must be gathered each day or it is rotten. The living sap of today outgrows the dead rind of yesterday. The hand entrusted with power becomes, either from human depravity or esprit de corps, the necessary enemy of the people. Only by continued oversight can the democrat in office be prevented from hardening into a despot; only by unintermitted agitation can a people be sufficiently awake to principle not to let liberty be smothered in material prosperity.”

So, daily objectives 1, 2, and 3 must be placed on hold until I lecture my poor eight loyal readers about those news stories.

I’ll start local:

Poor old Duluth City Councilor Jay Fosle is once again the butt of condemnation for his ham handed reply to a woman who told the council of her miscarriage 30 years ago that she thinks could have been avoided if Duluth required local business to pay their employees during times of illness. Fosle turned a vulnerable disclosure into an inept lecture on personal responsibility. As the only old woman left on a council brimming with colleagues who want to build barricades in the streets of Paris I feel badly for the moderate/conservative position he single-handedly maintains. The question he could have asked was simple in retrospect. Did the speaker really believe it was the responsibility of the store owner who employed her to pay her to stay home for the next 24 weeks of a pregnancy? The answer is pretty obvious – No. Was it fair that she had to work? The answer to that is also – No. Obviously her Doctors at the time who advised against work knew what they were talking about.

I see only one logical solution but its not one that can be implemented locally in isolation. Small business owners should not be put in a position to shut down when confronted with the medical costs of a single employee. The solution is to adopt national health care or what used to be panned as Socialized medicine. Ah, but that would require a national solution which is beyond the reach of local health care advocates.

Once again Councilor Fosle will come under attack by his critics some of whom have not been all that nice as they pursue noble aims. The first salvo came from “Twin Ports Feminist Action Collective.”

This organization attacked me semi-anonymously and never offered a correction or an apology for their dirty work. They weren’t alone. A website ostensibly organized to support western Duluth beat me up too. I recently discovered that one of the Western Duluth Lens’s chief organizers is the fellow who single-handedly convinced our school Administration to fire a black Duluth principal. Good bedfellows on Facebook perhaps?

I remember coming back from Australia about six years ago on a long flight and watching a movie I had skipped in the theaters. It was all about the brash Harvard student, Mark Zukerberg, who created Facebook. Ironically, he fully understands the hurt an unfair attack can cause. In this Guardian story Mark complains that the movie “made up stuff” about him.

Its ironic because what Mark says happened to him has been repeated tens of thousands of times for every one of the hundreds of millions of people who are on Facebook. It made him another mega billionaire and some part of his mega billions has come from the massive spreading of lies his invention has made possible.

Now to those other “eternal vigilance” stories:

From NPR about Lyudmila Savchuck a Russian Journalist who worked undercover to discover how the Russians (financed by a Russian billionaire) trolled Facebook and the Internet to enhance world ignorance.

From the New York Times about Cambridge Analytica hired at the urging of Stephen K. Branson to mine Facebook for data to elect Donald Trump when Ted Cruz fell by the wayside.

The billionaire who financed this plan is an American Robert Mercer.

Upon reading this story I ran to retrieve Jane Mayer’s book Dark Money which I’ve only managed to get half way through and discovered that Mercer only got four brief mentions in the book about the Kochs, DeVos’s and other mega-billionaires trying to reshape America into a version of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World for Billionaires.

Mercer’s four mentions? Fighting off Government charges that he failed to pay 6 billion dollars of unpaid taxes. His signing on with the Koch Cabal. Spending a million dollars to prevent a mosque from being built in New York City. Turning “primaries” into a sure fire way to defeat any Republican congressman daring to speak moderately or rationally about issues contrary to the red flag wavers of the party and finally spending 2 million for the toy trains in his house.

I wish Mercer would stick to his toy trains. Mercer’s and Putin’s playing with Democracy obligates me to be vigilant when I getting a little tired of it. Which brings up Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World again. There is an interesting review of his work compared to Orwell’s similarly dystopian novel 1984. Huxley once wrote to Orwell and explained that he thought his (Huxley’s) anti-utopia of growing people in test tubes, which stunted the working class foeteses by giving them less oxygen, was more likely to happen than Orwell’s vision of a jackbooted dystopia. He explained; All you need to do is teach people to love their servitude.

There now – just needs a little proof reading and then I return to my top three goals for the day.

Pardon Mon French – latest Not Eudora

I just got my computer out of the Geek Squad’s hands. It had been acting up. Just in time to link it to my latest Not Eudora Column in the Reader – Pardon Mon French which begins:

I am attempting to learn to speak my first foreign language three years short of my “three score and ten.” Why I am, is not as interesting to me as the how. French wouldn’t even have been my first pick. That would have been Spanish. As a kid I knew that more nations close to the U.S. spoke Spanish than any other language after the era of colonization. It also had a reputation of being an easier language to learn.

I spelled “Boche” wrong. I discovered that last night in the subtitles of the 1937 film The Grand Illusion.

As in Casablanca it had a stirring scene of the French singing the Marseilles to Germans who had power over them but it was an anti-war film not one pushing anyone to join a war. It was a sad cry from the French to avoid a war that would break out just two years later.

This’n that before I hit the sack

I had the house mostly to myself today as Claudia went to St. Paul to lobby our legislature with folks worried about the poor and homeless. It was also the week that Duluthians poured into St. Paul to lobby for Duluth. I got to stay home, read the news, grimace, finish Pardon Mon French – my next Reader column and finish Batman for my grandson. Here’s what will melt tomorrow in my front yard.

I also took a picture of a huge contrail over my house from a jet that circled twice. Wonder what that was all about?

I suggested that Claudia watch Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief” as part of our viewing of French movies to get us in the mood for our trip to France. Then Claudia watched the CNN coverage of voting results in Pennsylvania. The Democrat Lamb (not to the slaughter) running against the Republican Suckthumb something or other. Poor guy was barely mentioned by President Trump, who came to Pennsylvania to huff and puff about how successful his Presidency has been and, oh yes, support Congressional Republicans. No final result yet. Lamb leads by a hair. We won’t know the results until tomorrow’s absentee ballots are counted. I think Lamb will win by a shake of his tail, maybe 350 votes out of over 200,000. Win or lose the Democrats will feel exultant and so will I. (Trump won here by 20% last November)

Time for bed.

Oh, I almost forgot. Tomorrow’s paper will have a story about how the School Board can’t wait to spend 2 million to tear down New Central High. As of my bed time 101 folks on Facebook have heaped abuse on the Board. That’s what I predicted would happen a couple days ago to friends but – last November Duluth elected a board mostly eager to turn the old school to dust. The lone exception? Alanna Oswald.

The story from yesterday on raising class sizes won’t improve voters attitude and neither will future plans to ask for more $ in a referendum.

Bread and Circuses

A lot is on my mind again. When I don’t post stuff it builds up like bran in a constipated elephant. This and the also empty post that precedes it both represent much that I want to write about. It almost goes without saying that it will be just like everything else that I’ve already written about and/or will ever write about and, in fact, everything that every other writer writes about.

But first, I should put the beginnings of a column together for my every other week contribution to the Duluth Reader. That too will be more of the same. Maybe I’ll write about my attempt to learn French in nine months or about my memorizing the order of service of our 45 Presidents or some of the interesting history books piling up on my shelves unread….. Gotta make a decision soon.

Rome’s “Bread and Circuses” were meant to keep its citizens from rioting much as the faltering Soviet Union’s drowning citizens in cheap vodka was used to keep them compliant. Keeping me from rioting is greatly aided by pointing me to a computer to pound out another column or post. That’s one way of keeping me out of gun shops for a quick non-solution.

Mon Grand Fils

I spent the last couple days of the week in a fierce competition with an anonymous opponent on my cell phone trying to put in more hours studying French than him or her. Every day our French language App told us who was in the lead. Anon had beaten me the three previous weeks finishing each day with half an hour more study time than me. No matter how many hours I put each day I was always behind by about an hour. I’m notsure how much time I put in because App keeps track of “points” which I calculate to be roughly 2 points per minute of study.

Before this last week the most time I’d put in was 860 points worth or about 7 hours. That was already double what I’d originally signed up to complete. Last week I racked up 2300 points or about 19 hours of study time. The only way I could win was by staying within a few points of Anon by the end of each day and waiting to blow him (or her) away on Sunday the final point earning day of the week. I stayed up through much of Saturday night to build up a lead Anon hadn’t expected then watched my cell phone all Sunday to make sure he/she didn’t try to blow past me. When I saw that Anon was on the move I resumed playing to keep my hour lead. Needless to say on Sunday it became my excuse to let my visiting grandsons vegetate in front of their cells and laptops too.

Fortunately Anon hadn’t overtaken me near the end of the day so I asked my younger grandson, Jakey, if he’d like to help me build a snow sculpture so that I could get a little outside time myself. We only had about an hour to play so I asked him what we should make. “Batman” was his reply. We packed some of the fresh melting snow on the receding state of Minnesota and built the beginnings of a bas relief. When we knocked off long before a final form was complete he asked me if I would finish it. I told him it depended – on snow, on my mood, on whether I had time after starting this week’s Reader column or after beginning a belated search on travel options to France and Goodness knows what else.

Then there was his older brother who had also been allowed far too much “face time” with his phone. I’d be more concerned except that as a child I spent all together too much time watching television myself – hours and hours of it uninterrupted.

Tan’s in fifth grade now and this is the culmination of a science project he has been working on for a month or more. I was astonished to look at it today.

I’m sure he’d heard about how we older folks were worried about all the cell phone time kids ate up. He decided to do some sociological research and found a test of emotional IQ or the “Emotional Quotient” on the Internet. He hypothesized that people who had to work collectively on an internet game would have more of it than those who did not. He enlisted most of his 50 fellow fifth graders for his study. Half played an interactive game then took the EQ test; the other half took the test before playing. His results suggest a correlation.

I’m 67 and have never really attempted a serious scientific test of any of my many speculations. To say I’m impressed is an understatement.

I’m tempted to offer to pay him for points earned if he follows me into my French language game. He currently hates Spanish but if he can hypothesize surement he can parlez vous.

And Anon has just taken a 250 point lead on me for this week’s French – Mon Dieu!!!!!

A sick feeling

It is only a sense of deep obligation to keep my eight loyal readers focused on our nation’s future that keeps me away from my French lessons. I’ve spent a couple hours looking at a half dozen stories in the New York Times that reinforce my doubts that the Republicans will get a comeuppance in the 2018 mid terms. What could very likely happen might also take place in Duluth’s Eighth Congressional District. An unknown Democrat could be so beat up by other Democrats that a very attractive Republican, Pete Stauber, could defy expectations and cruise to victory in what is barely a blue district these days.

If a Democrat can’t win here Donald Trump may not only avoid impeachment but he might get reelected; the Republicans could retain control of the majority of the states they already control; and add more legal barricades; which will help them survive through the decade of 2020’s and a growing tide of discontented voters.

One of the ironies here is that while the Republican cause is successfully trumpeting a paranoiac vision of a “liberal” Deep State –
the real Deep State stems not from unions, funny colored people and immigrants but from allies of the Republicans. It is the successful and long running coalition of conservative _illionaires, prosperity Gospel GOPers, and Rush Limbaugh immitators who have made the Republican Party more anti-education, dogmatic, zero sum, and venal. Calling on God and American voters to save fetuses was only one of the early calls to cleanse the GOP of the contamination of moderation. Folks like me were deemed worse killers than Mao, Papa Joe and Adolph combined. Gun rights, right-to-work laws and making rural white and blue color workers jealous of the modest improvement in the lives of minorities were part and parcel of the project.

It is ironic that gay rights and a black President were part of this recent history but in many ways getting over these humps have taken a lot of the steam away from Democrats. Throw in a humming economy which may last through the tax cuts and Trump tariffs untill this year’s November elections and Donald Trump could get past his prostitute and Russian problems. If so, he could have another two years of Republican control of Congress and, who knows, a good shot at reelection. (Hence my sick feeling. I began warning about this a year before he was first elected and the cool heads knew he was just a joke.) I know the bad news for President Trump keeps piling up but don’t forget the old adage: “The only bad news is no news.” And with his tweets there is no chance for the latter.

Here are the stories in the NY Times today that have sobered me up:

Right to Work laws have devastated Unions and Democrats.

About that Blue Wave The early proclamations that Texas’s primary this week was great news for Democrats is bull.

Book Review: How Corporations Won Their Civil Rights.

What if Republicans Win the Mid Terms?

And I also found this story fascinating although not terribly surprising. The Jews who dreamed of Utopia. It reminded me of how Jewish intellectuals have been blamed by both right wingers and left wingers for all the world’s problems. I still don’t like Bibi Netanyahu.

Now I’ll return to my cell phone French Lessons on Duolingo.

Trip down Market Street

A couple days before the San Francisco Earthquate the Mile’s brothers put a movie camera on a trolley (infamous for their third rails) and shot a nine minute movie of a leisurely non-stop trip down Market street. Four days later all of the city would be lying in heaps of rubble with 200,000 homeless. You can see the video here and marvel at the orderly chaos of horses, cars, wagons, bicyclists and pedestrians meandering in and out of each other’s ways in the day’s before there were any proscriptions against jay walking.

It reminds me of the short video I took of city traffic from high above the streets of Shanghai last summer.

I’m getting worried about the world and might prefer…


I am a lucky man. That is, I suppose, apropos of nothing but it seems a good way to begin after a short vacation from posting. The news that interests me these days flows like the water over Niagra Falls. I spend a couple hours reading NPR and now the NY Times every morning just to keep up. Its not all Trump but everything I read seems poised to enter his event horizon.

David Brooks who I often agree with but also often looks at Trump with rose tinted glasses does express my sense of things in a piece today suggesting that Italy’s resurgent Berlusconi is what the world has to look forward to today. Its hard for me to shrug this off.

Ironically, one of my hopes lies with Hollywood, the perpetual Pandora’s Box of ideas that makes folks think about taboos from cannibalism to integration. We watched most of the Oscars Sunday night. Usually we only catch the last half hour of it for the big awards, but this year we’ve seen a great many of the movies. Claudia has seen more of them than me because she watched several of them on cross country flights. Hollywood is a great Pied Piper. Yes, there are blockbusters like Birth of a Nation which cemented the South’s Post Civil War view of stupid freed slaves as dim witted and lazy, sex crazed, “coons” over the rest of White America. Yet today its given us the Black Panther which offers up a magnificent comic book myth suggesting what Africa could have been if only it had been hit with a meteor filled with “vibranium.”

BTW – Claudia and I endured the most excruciating viewing of this movie, also on Sunday. We had to sit in the plush recliners immediately below the movie screen. What we saw was a fantastic blur of a movie that glazed over even our grandson’s eyes not to mention ours. Afterward I had to take a twenty minute nap to rest my eyes.

Also on Sunday, we watched two new episodes of the Tick. This is a marvelous potentially family friendly series and we watched it with our grandsons. Then the hero described something as a “cluster fuck.” It was absolutely a perfect description of what was going on but gosh – it wasn’t necessary. How am I supposed to teach my grandsons that some words should be used with great restraint when it rears its ugly head during family television viewing time? AND NOTE: This appears to be the first time that I’ve used that term in my blog. Hell, I’ve used the “N” word a dozen times and I find it even more objectionable.

So, here’s a little good news. I found the trailer below for the new Netflix series “Lost in Space.” If you want a real cluster ef just crash land your space ship with your entire family on a hostile foreign planet. When the first Lost came out in the 1960’s I
was really looking forward to it only to be brutally disappointed with the results. Fortunately, a few years later Star Trek redeemed the Networks.

Well this trailer shows what modern sensibilities and tech can do with such a promising premise. I’ll enjoy watching this with my grandsons just so long as they avoid the gratuitous language.

My latest Not Eudora

…from today’s Duluth Reader The Wayning of America.

It begins:

A recent New York Times story explained how the Arizona Legislature came up with millions to begin teaching what some critics call “dead white man’s history” in the halls of the godless public universities.

…and regarding my previous post – I’ve changed my mind. I won’t add anything else. Hopefully they got my eight loyal readers cogitating without any additional help from me.