Friday, December 17, 2010


In this holiday season, as Christians all over the world remember the advent and the birth of their Messiah, it is appropriate to look at these words of Jesus the Christ. In the Gospel of Matthew, from the Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the peace-makers: for they shall be called the children of God."

In one of the many tributes to diplomat Richard Holbrooke, who recently died on the job, a news writer commented that he was deserving of the Nobel Peace Prize for his part in bringing the conflict in Bosnia and Kosovo to an end. Holbrooke was mightily engaged in another "near-impossible" task this year as the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. His last words before his final 20-hour surgery - to his Pakistani surgeon - were about ending the war over there.

Yesterday the President reported to the nation on the state of the Afghanistan War effort. And yesterday 135 protesters, organized by Veterans For Peace, were arrested in front of the White House for "disobeying lawful orders" at the gates.

The history of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York and our Nation's response to that attack, directed from Afghanistan, is now nine years old. The embattled history of this primitive country, termed "The Graveyard of Empires" with British, Soviet, and American occupiers, goes back more than a century. Unravelling the adventurers, the conquerors, and the retaliators is not simple. But today the simple question has become "Is the current Afghan Conflict now a vital interest for America - for which we must sacrifice thousands of additional lives and hundreds of billions in treasure, years into the future?"

As a veteran of 17 years of naval service, I have concluded that it is not, not any longer. This is instead a time for diplomats of Richard Holbrooke's caliber. It is a time for Peace-makers. Whether or not the Afghans can govern themselves, we can defend our national interests adequately without occupying Afghanistan beyond 2011. This will be ten years after our retaliation against al Qaida and the Taliban who gave them shelter.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Houses and Communities, "Eighteen in Webster Groves"


In Aaron Brown’s blog, MinnesotaBrown, and his weekend Hibbing Tribune column, he writes about homes that have a sense of permanence and about unremarkable houses hastily constructed. He comments that “the great peoples of the earth build for the future, not for the moment.” My Norwegian grandfather called in carpenters to his farm in West Central Minnesota one hundred years ago to build a sturdy farm house. My mother was seven at the time and remembered the construction. The house has been well maintained over the years and is there today, one mile east of Donnelly.

Back in the 1970s when our growing family relocated from the copper mines of Arizona to coal company headquarters in St. Louis, we settled in an established community on old Route 66, where downtown workers had lived and commuted by rail since the 1904 World’s Fair. In the corporate world of St. Louis I shifted between several companies and decided not to leave the area for another mining camp. Finally, when retirement became an option in the Spring of 1995, I wrote the following letter to our neighbors for the local Webster-Kirkwood Times:

"We sold our house the other day, and the 'SOLD' sign was attached two days later. Much thought and planning went into the decision to sell and move from this comfortable old city. We had arrived eighteen years ago with a new job, children, and pets. We settled into West Cedar Avenue where the neighbors knew each other. Now the job has ended with retirement. The children have all grown up, married, and relocated at a distance. The pets have died and been replaced with Beagle and Kitty.

The eighteen years have been full and fruitful for a Mom and a Dad, their kids, their activities, the house and garden. As we move about this tall three-story building to prepare for our departure, all manner of memories come to life and play across the yard, sound the piano, and fill the elegant dining room. Cartons are filled, furniture is sold off, and last minute building inspector violations (handrails never installed, etc.) get fixed. A living home is being prepared for the next family with kids. It is Grandma and Grandpa who are moving out and selling to the next Mom and Dad with children to fill the five bedrooms.

We are leaving this neighborhood of friends for a lakeside home near far-off Brainerd, Minnesota, a state we left exactly thirty years ago and now rejoin. Born in the Northland to Scandinavian parents, we head up river like salmon towards a smaller city on the same Mississippi River. Yes, it gets cold there, but we’ve enjoyed all the seasons before and are ready to enjoy them some more.

Before we actually close the deal and load the moving van, a few thoughts are in order about this special place where “Eighteen” is not so very long a time at all. It has been a fine place to raise children and get acquainted with a lot of their friends’ parents, as well as all sorts of other neighbors. Whether the subject is shrubs and flowers, running and cycling, Black History and city charters, solid waste and crows, or art galleries and sidewalk dining, this place is never lacking for people to stretch your imagination and share your conversation.

In relocating about six hundred miles to the North, a part of us will remain where the dogwood blooms so beautifully out by the front sidewalk. And we will take the memories of our many friends with us to remember alongside the sparkling waters where the Loon calls.

Eighteen in Webster Groves - a very good part of our lives.

Gordon Prickett
formerly on West Cedar Avenue"

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Election Day 2010: Big Turnout

It is being called "A Wave" that swept across the nation. The complexion of Minnesota's legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives changed from majority Democratic Party to majority Republican. My DFL Congressman in the Eighth District Jim Oberstar lost his seat after 36 years in Congress to an airline pilot who has never run for elective office.

"It's the Economy, Stupid," was heard from the Clinton Presidential campaign back in 1992. Most pundits today agree it is the "Economy" again this Fall that has submerged more than 60 Democratic seats in the House of Representatives. With official unemployment stuck around ten percent and actual unemployment more like 15 to 20 percent, for voters it didn't feel like the Great Recession was over. Millions have been tossed out of their homes or are now facing foreclosure.

Banks and investment houses committed fraud and trickery in the housing market by offering mortgages and securities that were indeed "too good to be true" to careless buyers who snapped them up. Now the buyers stand accused of poor judgement, while the perpetrators have walked away with obscene riches. When the resulting housing bubble burst the overheated economy collapsed. Its rescue has been difficult and expensive. So, blame the victims and blame the political party in power for the downturn.

Enter the Big Money from the businesses that have profited by the government's stalemate. Oil, Health Insurance, Finance, and Pharmaceuticals. With the First Amendment right of "free speech" given them by a 5-to-4 Supreme Court, these corporate, moneyed interests have mounted a no-holds-barred effort to poison the name of "government". Using this anonymous money, newly-organized "Tea Party" demonstrations have been conducted in courthouse squares across the land (Aitkin, MN, included). "Take back our government!" the demonstrators cry.

This Navy veteran helped to defend our citizens for over 17 years, and believe me, as an election judge for the past 12 years, nobody has snatched away our freely-elected government in this neck of the woods!

But an issue which does concern me is "war." We have been fighting two wars, for nine years in Afghanistan, and seven years in Iraq. The mid-term election campaigns were silent on this issue. The prolonged sacrifice of "other people's sons and daughters" by our leaders, who fought both wars with borrowed money, needed to be examined and debated.

After all this time, what are our objectives in the Middle East? Did we continue to fight to control Iraq's oil fields after deposing of its ruler? The attack on the Twin Towers came from al Qaida in Afghanistan, which is currently headquartered in Pakistan, our "ally."

Spending on two wars, and on the increase in armaments and personnel for the past decade, has driven us deep into debt. Cutting taxes for the very rich has deepened the hole we are in. Republican cries for smaller government, lower taxes, and balanced budgets make no sense in our present predicament as we bind up our veterans' wounds and pay off these risky overseas adventures.

I look for the Democratic President and the Democratic Senate to keep on changing these war policies and getting at the real causes of our financial failures and our fiscal irresponsibility. Plus we have the urgent unfinished government business of Immigration Reform, Global Warming, and Alternate Energy Development.

So let the American democratic republic continue to "respond to the people."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Can the Decades Improve Us?

I reach the three quarters of a century mark in just a month. It's the end of a decade already in this Twenty First Century. I'm searching for any signs of improvement over the previous decades. It is very hard not to conclude that "Things are getting worse." Counting on the fingers of one hand - War - Second War - Recession - Debt - Government Paralysis.

On a recent PBS Newshour program a couple people being interviewed weren't sure whether they would vote or not. They didn't see how it could affect their own hard times. And for the first time ever in these sorts of election stories, I sympathized with them.

My preferred candidates didn't survive either the political party convention or the primary election, so as a life-long political activist I have suffered an enthusiasm gap this Fall. In fact, when the politician on the podium proclaims that "America's best years lie ahead!" I silently argue. What major national problem have we addressed lately, with anything like a workable solution?

Unemployment? Housing Foreclosures? Immigration Reform? Energy Fuels and Global Climate? U.S. Warfare Empire? Pipeline and Bridge Decay? Underfunded Schools and Police? Overcrowded Courts with few Public Defenders? The list goes on...

So the question returns. Can the Decades Improve Us? Have we got a chance to arrest this slide? I certainly hope so.

I will vote on November 2nd. And I will be an Election Judge.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

He's Not Going to Leap Tall Buildings Any Time Soon

When we elected President Obama there were many reactions across America. From elation to fear - few were in the middle. In fact, where has the "Middle" gone in this Country?

Poverty statistics just released, report that in the U.S. poverty now defines one out of every seven of us. The "Middle Class" is fought over by politicians hoping for their middle class votes on November 2nd. Reporters announce that ordinary citizens are falling out of this Middle Class. Unemployed, under-employed, underwater in their home mortgages, in foreclosure, insecure in their current jobs, uncovered for health care, maxed-out on their credit cards, ad infinitum...

If you have been listening, you also know about the top one or two percent on the other end of the economic spectrum. These Bandits - who gave us the Wall Street Collapse of 2008 - are making out like never before. My realtor friend Bob tells me "Cash is King. For 25 to 40 cents on the dollar you can buy up the best lakeshore homes that are in forced sales today."

Why hasn't our President fixed all this? Just look what Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt did in 1933-34: CCC Camps, Workers Progress Administration (WPA), National Recovery Act, Social Security (although that didn't happen until 1935).

So the pundits agree. Obama will lose the Congress in this mid-term election, at least the House of Representatives, because "the American People are mad as hell, and aren't going to take this high unemployment, overspending, and weak economic recovery anymore!"

And all the Spending! Our National Debt is out of control. Wars are still going on in Iraq and Afghanistan. He wants to raise my taxes! (at least he won't restore the 2001 temporary tax cuts) And he's giving us government-run Obamacare!

So let's TEA Party and start over, American People!

I am amazed at what I am hearing from the usual commentators from every source.
That the Republicans will win this mid-term election because the Democrats have failed to please. The inconvenient truth in Washington is this: Noone we elect will be "faster than a speeding bullet." If you want a Superman, buy a vintage comic book.

But do reflect on where we are in the Fall of 2010, and where we were in Fall 2008.
And then go on and vote... early and once.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Dan Schorr and the News

This Saturday will have a hole in NPR's Weekend Edition a little after 8 a.m., in my time zone. For a long time I have arranged to be by a radio when Scott Simon would bring Dan Schorr to us for a review of what was the important news in the week just passed. With insight and clarity formed from his years of digging into the mistakes committed by the highest in the land, Dan Schorr would lay out the essential facts, the motives behind them, and the likely consequences of current events.

He was a superior news analyst in this age when "info-tainment" and youthful looks are offered up by commercial broadcasting, and when news magazines and newspapers are cutting out so much content that one can hardly locate or recognize serious news or thoughtful commentary.

Dan Schorr never feared to report a story on the air or in print, and he inspires those of us who listened and learned from him to keep asking questions. Get the answers and tell the story. Thank you, Dan Schorr.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Our Changing Media

On Saturday, June 5th, the KAXE-Grand Rapids Annual Meeting was held. Many changes were announced. Whether the medium is newspapers, news magazines, radio, TV, social networks, blogs, I-pods, or I-phone browsers, we are in a blizzard of change.

So when resolutions for our Northern Community Radio meeting were requested, I thought "Let's initiate some changes of our own here!"

In the interest of governance and accountability - let's try to make a difference. New public money is coming in. How will we spend it? Here's a start -


At the KAXE Annual Meeting Saturday, June 5th, the membership voted to approve this resolution -

resolved "That a 'Polka Caucus' be created for three months in 2010 from July 1 - September 30, Also known as the 'European Roots Music of the (Iron) Range.'

For three months this body will develop and suggest programming for a monthly
'Polka Time Event' - on the air - under the tent - and featuring accordians and fiddles. Respectfully submitted, Gord Prickett"


In my opinion, the musical offerings on FM 91.7 lack diversity.

With new state legacy tax money currently available to enhance the cultural and historic aspects of our radio broadcasts, possibly the means for doing this already exist within the KAXE membership.

For example, beyond the frequently-heard blues and hard rock in the current mix of KAXE programming, there exists a legacy of the Eastern European, Scandinavian, Celtic immigrant musicians who arrived here a century ago with the timber and mining development of Northeastern Minnesota.

If you would like to be a member of this Polka Caucus, just email to learn more.

Friday, April 30, 2010

The New Normal

In recent weeks news stories and interviews have come out with speculation about what will follow after the Great Recession that began about 2007. Economists are pretty sure that gross products have risen in the last few quarters, so technically, there is no more recession. But home foreclosures are still at record numbers, as seen in every newspaper. Many workers without jobs remain jobless for a year and longer. Businesses struggle to find customers and hang onto employees.

In these tough times I get more than a little upset when pundits and politicians profess to know everything that should have been done differently, and now have the answers to all of our problems. Just read their columns, watch their shows, vote their way, and all will get better. Right!

Enter the phrase "The New Normal." This expression describes how some of these forecasters expect things will turn out - when we are recovered from this economic collapse. Many people, the idea goes, are going to scale back on their expectations of living large. Spending of discretionary money will slow down. Folks will remember about saving for a rainy day, instead of relying on credit to supply whatever they want when they want it. They will do their diligence before making large purchases and investments.

Interest in healthier lifestyles and preventive medicine will grow, as the consequences of harmful habits and lost healthcare coverage begin to sink in. Maybe this is a lot of wishful thinking, but why not indulge in it for just a while longer?


I was asked to give a luncheon talk about the "Waters of Aitkin County" not long ago, and it occurred to me how much can change when a harmful species invades a region. No, I wasn’t thinking about Eurasian Water Milfoil or Zebra Mussels, or even Curley Leaf Pondweed. It was the European Settlement from the early 1800s to the present time. Homo Sapiens from the "Old Countries."

Native Americans had lived light on the land around here for ages. And our waters were pristine. Without chainsaws and bulldozers, the shorelands were natural and the lakes were healthy. So I read the audience a short list of "Best Shoreline Practices" and suggested that this list could help us towards a "New Normal" in which we will all live better.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Time for a Change

Two years ago this Blog started with an angry title "Deregulate This!" It was a time of great anxiety and collapse. With war, recession, deficits, and despair. This week, after long months of turbulence and disagreement in the halls of government, we have an answer to one of the most urgent national issues of the last six decades. Namely, "What about the lack of access and the inequities of healthcare in America?" Congress has just passed, and the President today has signed, the Health Care Reform Act of 2010.

Other vital issues are still on the table. Financial Reform, Immigration, Unemployment, Energy and Climate. But we can hear again the voices from the 2008 Presidential Campaign. "Yes, we can!"

Action finally has been taken. We have remembered how to solve difficult problems. And so I have decided to change the name of this Blog to "Reregulate This!" Smart governmental regulations, fairly applied, can begin again to restore some faith in our future.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

BEST PRACTICES: Ask for 'em!

In this age of anger, citizens and consumers are demanding answers to their urgent questions. Japanese automobiles are lurching out of control and getting recalled. Somebody tells you that a proposed new Medicare “Death Panel” could put you or Grandpa away if you get very sick - and are too old. Makes your blood boil!

What’s going on here is a reaction to our prolonged deep recession, with two endless wars, and widespread uncertainty about the future. Money is tight. Storefronts have emptied, and every week foreclosure notices fill the newspapers where want ads used to be. The question for our times, I submit, is this "the best you can do?" In a number of industries, leading professional and executive bodies have developed the concept of “Best Management Practices” to insure that standards are high and are maintained, in order to insure excellent outcomes. Such examples can be found in manufacturing, mining, and forestry.


In Aitkin County we adopted Alternative Shoreland Standards into our Shoreland Management Ordinance back in the Fall of 2008. We selected those options from the North Central Lakes Project that included five partnering counties, that contain 21% of Minnesota’s lakes. Another product from this recent project was a set of ten shoreland Best Management Practices (BMPs) to address the cumulative effects on our lakes of population growth, population density and land use change.

Here are the Top Ten BMPs, to inspire us, as we contemplate “Ice Out” in just a few more weeks:

1. Preserve or create a natural shoreline.
2. Relax. Reduce your lawn. Keep your trees.
3. Learn what you can and cannot do, on or to the lake and lakeshore.
4. Minimize rooftops and driveways.
5. Maintain your septic system.
6. Keep native aquatic plants.
7. Manage your pet and livestock waste.
8. Be considerate of other lake users.
9. Encourage and support land conservation.
10. Show up. Speak up. Serve or write a check to support local efforts.

For more information about how to follow through with these BMPs, you can talk to your lake association leaders, if you are a lakeshore dweller, or else call the Aitkin County Water Planning Task Force at 218-927-6565.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Cut State Government: Shrink the Legislature!

Watching Governor Pawlenty speak about "state" taxes this week, while cashing his paycheck and receiving Cadillac health coverage, set me to searching for some obvious and symbolic cost reductions. There was a rapid stirring among our 201 legislators to this State of the State speech, with sound bites galore.

Wait a minute. Why does Minnesota have so many legislative districts? For State Representatives there are 134. Two each in every one of 67 State Senate Districts.
The latest U.S. Census population estimate for the Gopher State is 5.22 million persons. Looking at our neighboring states to the East, Wisconsin holds 5.63 million persons, and Michigan, 10.0 million.

But their bicameral legislatures are smaller than Minnesota's! In Wisconsin's upper body there are just 33 Senators. In the lower Assembly, 99 State Representatives.

You guessed it. Michigan also has fewer legislators. In the State Senate, 38 Senators, and in the House are 110 Representatives.

Here is what I recommend. We need a Constitutional Amendment to redistrict Minnesota according to our 2010 Census, providing just 102 House Districts, down from 134.

And only 51 Senate Districts, no longer 67.

The money saved will be significant, when there will be one fourth fewer public servants to house and support in the Capitol, and across the state.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Are We Lost Yet?

With Monday morning's New York Times came an Op-Ed piece by Princeton Economics Professor Paul Krugman, a regular columnist. His view of the capacity of the American Government to manage our nation was dire. He writes,

"We've always known that America's reign as the world's greatest nation would eventually end. But most of us imagined that our downfall, when it came, would be something grand and tragic."

"What we're getting instead is less a tragedy than a deadly farce. Instead of fraying under the strain of imperial overstretch, we're paralyzed by procedure. Instead of reenacting the decline and fall of Rome, we're re-enacting the dissolution of 18th century Poland."

After recounting the "disappearance" of all Polish territory by 1795, Krugman accuses the U.S. Senate of a determination to make that failed Polish legislature look good by comparison to the current U.S. Congress.

As one who had high hopes for the two Democratic-led branches of our newly-elected
government, I have to agree today that America is nearly lost, and that our government is largely dysfunctional in this winter of severe discontent.

In 2009 we saw the dragged-out delay until June in seating Senator Franken, who provided the 60th vote to end continual GOP filibustering. Then incredibly, the long overdue healthcare reform was blocked for the entire year. In stalled senate committees, and with industry-scripted campaigns of distortion and lying, a "movement emerged" to capture media attention and interrupt serious law making.

Now in 2010 we have one senator after another holding up presidential appointments to federal positions, and action on practically anything, because the warped Senate customs permit it, and because narrow-gauge politicians hold Senate performance hostage for their petty and partisan gain.

Wall Street had been rescued from collapse by two administrations, only to continue now with its unregulated instruments of deception and its culture of obscene bonus payouts with other people's money. Congressional action? Not with the current paralysis.

In a world threatened by changing climate, terrorized by desperate fighters who violently are resisting age-old conquest and domination, the United States cannot even write sensible laws about its immigrants, its schools, or modern air and rail travel.

With permanent job losses and housing foreclosures killing the dreams of generations,
one would hope that we could come together to address our many economic and fiscal problems. Yet we are collectively afraid to redesign and levy fair taxes for public purposes! At any level of government.

Yes, I must admit that America's best days have already occurred - some decades in the past. Rather than hope now for a rebirth of patriotism, I can only pray for divine intervention.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Supremes Speak of "Speech"

News was made this third week in January: Fragile Haiti Beyond Recovery,
Massachusetts Replaces a Senator Kennedy, Obama Completes First Year, and
Corporations Given Voices by U.S. Supreme Judges.

Let's look at the last story. By a slim margin, 5 to 4, the Supreme Court overturned decades of regulations and precedents for the country's election campaigns. Basically, five conservative justices removed restrictions on corporations that prevent them from directly funding elections.

That's right, AT&T or EXXON-Mobil can reward their friends in Congress for passing the current telecommunications law and for the lack of any climate change legislation in the last decade, directly from their general treasury.

The reasoning of the Majority who decided the about-face goes like this:
Corporations, like individual citizens, have First Amendment rights to free speech. Those parts of campaign finance laws that limit corporate contributions are violations of the right to corporate "free speech."

A personal note: I have been well treated over decades by a number of U.S. corporations. A college scholarship, a graduate fellowship, a number of good technology jobs with increasing responsibility and benefits, and a retirement pension that includes a qualifying prescription drug plan.

As an "exempt" (from overtime) management employee, I contributed to the Company's Political Action Committee (PAC) and attended the political meetings with friendly elected Representatives and Senators, along with ranking Company officials.

However, the corporations I worked for, existed to provide services and products for our customers. We provided good jobs for company employees, and our profits returned dividends and stock value to the shareholders. We also provided contributions to the communities in which we operated. Our purpose was never to use revenue from customers to pay for the political campaigns of our friends.

What about corporate "Speech"? I have searched for the source of a quote I heard years ago and still enjoy repeating. In the 1700s Edward Thurlow in England is reported to have argued that "the company was only a juristic figment of the imagination, lacking both a body to be kicked and a soul to be damned."

To sum up this week in Washington D. C., Damn those Five Judges!