Saturday, May 28, 2011


I was getting to the opinion page of the New York Times (still for free). At the masthead was a changing colorful banner advertisement for a "Wealth Management" firm. I have recently noticed this buzzword phrase, wealth management, directed at retired geezers, who presumably have a lot more than their social security and medicare to help them through their declining years.

What's in a name like Wealth Management? What do wealth managers do? It's what bean counters, investment counselors, and CPAs used to do, when I was in school and at work.

I even minored, a half century ago, in Business Administration and Economics, as a supplement to my engineering degrees. And I once audited a course in Business Law to learn the language of corporate bosses.

In recent years the communications subject of "framing" has come into usage in the political world. It was featured in a best seller written by UC-Berkeley Professor George Lakoff. His descriptive book was titled "Don't Think of an Elephant." But of course, we who read it can't forget that title. Lakoff writes that the words we choose to describe our message already have conditioned the recipient to think about the topic, as we would have them think.

Gun Control or Firearms Safety? Global Warming or Climate Change? Tax and Spend or Share the Sacrifice? Can you tell when you are being "framed?" I was just looking for an op-ed page.

As a senior in high school we had a very useful social science segment on Propaganda, and I still recall our teacher John Mather telling us about the Big Lie and other devices used by those who would control our minds.

So who will I go to for help in "managing" what money I have left, after a life of work, climbing and descending corporate ladders?

Public television has its corporate sponsors with pictures of whales to move us to "Pacific Life." NPR broadcasts with the help of a very peaceful "PAX Mutual Fund."

Let me simply recall a time-honored warning, Buyer Beware!

Monday, May 9, 2011


Watching a little television on a Sunday night in May I was assaulted by the commercial advertising my son-in-law sells. A previous show on PBS from Great Britain had entertained us, uninterrupted, with a drama titled "South Riding" It was a masterpiece.

Then, wanting to watch Horatio Caine's final episode of the season on "CSI: Miami," we sat through more than a dozen loud commercial pitches for our attention, before a wounded Lieutenant Caine was left on the ground to endure the long summer break.

Circuses and Bread. TV, professional sports all the time, and pizza everywhere. The American Empire declines, while we watch passively.

Around my house I have books, magazines, newspapers, several musical instruments, and a collection of LP records, cassettes, and CDs. Shutting off the television provides time to read, enjoy music, think, talk, write letters, essays, and poems.

This past week has marked a milestone in American history. Our terrorist enemy number one, Bin Laden, has been killed by a commando team after a ten-year hunt. President Obama has just reported why and how it was done.

I am taken back over my lifetime of listening to Presidents. Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, and George W. Bush. From the White House our Presidents have spoken to us about war, sacrifice, and the defeat of America's enemies. But a couple are still out there, in Cuba and Korea.

It was during the Korean War that I first put on a military uniform, and it was during the energy crisis of Jimmy Carter that I took it off. I went to GTMO with the Navy four times, before it became an off-shore prison where United States civil and military regulations were adjusted.

What have we learned about war, peace, and freedom in seventy five years?
Do the religions of our forebears instruct us?
What are we teaching our children today?
Perhaps it is "Do not kill, steal, or bear false witness."

This week, as we reflect on what just happened in Pakistan, it can be a time to ask where should America be headed in this world. Who is our neighbor? And how can we be of service?

Sunday, May 1, 2011


For a couple weeks I have been complaining about the foolish or hateful distractions by extemists in the Republican Party. Distractions in the U.S. Congress, and in the Minnesota legislature. These are distractions over "Issues" that do no public good (in my opinion), but potentially can do great harm - to the poor, the elderly, and to many ordinary folk.

At the national level - with the painful, endless Great Recession going on for the unemployed and the underclass - conservative representatives and senators bloviate endlessly about deficits. They ignore how they put us into deficit by voting for the Bush tax cuts. They threaten to shut down the government - unless all of their Non-defense spending cuts are passed. These "Deficit Hawks" are distracting all of us, framing the national debate into a fight about "smaller government." Meanwhile, the people's business of immigration reform, environmental decay, and a bloated pentagon, goes unattended.

In the Capitol at St. Paul, Minnesota - we are given a proposed Constitutional Amendment for the people to vote on - about what they think marriage means. In this state of proven election integrity, there is a serious attempt to require voters to present a picture ID card before they can cast a ballot. Minnesota is only one of dozens of states where the national GOP is pushing this measure. The thinking is that this can reduce the number of votes by the poor and the elderly, who often have no drivers license. These are voters who often support Democratic Party candidates.

These two major distractions are sucking the oxygen from the State Capitol, where there is a financial crisis. To keep our state government running, we must provide additional revenue to undo the lingering deficit from former Governor Tim Pawlenty's eight years of "NO NEW TAXES!" This pledge of his was the only way he could capture the Republican nomination for Governor in 2002. And now he thinks he can ride a "smaller government" record to the White House in 2012.

The month of April has been filled with conflict and toxicity from these angry debates about nothing constructive. But then something else happened.

Wild fires in Texas. Tornadoes in Alabama. An awareness that Japan's recent catastrophe has lessons for Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and California.

Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and nuclear plant radioactivity are threatening the entire Pacific Rim. We are not prepared.

Ait traffic controllers, time and time again, fell asleep at their control centers in the middle of the night - unsupervised. OMG!

For more than a week the news media told us about an upcoming Royal Wedding and the same-day space shuttle launch of Representative Gabriel Gifford's commanding husband.

Too much! said the pundits, of the Kate and William event. What a distraction.

But very early on Friday morning, in a rented hotel room, I heard the NPR Morning Edition host describe a wedding ring ceremony from London's Westminster Abby, so I switched on the TV.

What happened next was a distraction. I was a young Navy Ensign on his way to Pensacola, Florida, to learn to fly. Next to me was the most beautiful girl I have ever known. I put a brilliant cut diamond ring on her finger. We pledged our lives to each other, and there was stirring church music. Then it was Kate and Will again in London, instead of Jean and Gordon in St. Paul.

It was time to go to work at the Minnesota Waters Conference in St. Cloud. It had been a distraction and a reminder, that there is work for us to do, ALL of us.

We are bigger and better than our current elected legislators.