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July 13, 2016

The Threat in Majority Rule

Filed under: Travel — baseball91 @ 3:02 PM
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In my own tradition. The embarrassment …of the things that you grabbed hold on at a young age…. and desire to still hold. Until becoming aware of the history. You are loyal to the State Department, to a president, a flag, mostly to a political party. Living in Morocco. Defending the King – as “our ally” if not your friend. Without much awareness of this King, in the audience, listening to the former U. S. Ambassador to Morocco – from where his power had come. About the King and his relation to Spain and Franco and the Spanish Civil War. During and after, accented by all the executions, of your enemies. Like kings could do. 

Church. State. The split. In my own tradition if not in my God. Like Sunnis and Shiitites. And Muslims.

Burren 4
After The Split: Shia Islam contrasted with Sunni Islam. The not understood split by outsiders about spiritual power. As the group now known as Sunnis chose Muhammad’s adviser, Abu Bakr, to become the first successor [caliph] to lead the Muslim STATE. The birth right. Passing it on. In contrast to the Hebrew Bible, this inheritance bounced over to the father of Muhammad’s wife. The group now known as Shiites favored Muhammad’s son-in-law / cousin, Ali. Because the adherents of Sunni Islam believe that Muhammad did not appoint a successor, Sunnis consider Abu Bakr (who was appointed Caliph through a consensual Shura) the successor. So the conflict, in Islam, seems over whether the future belongs to the past or to the next generation. In both cases, the inheritance – the authority linked to the power of Muhammad – was going to the in-laws, so outside the family of the Prophet.

So did you note the missing blood in this story, when it comes to Muhammad’s blood?

Story-tellers. Pigeon flying. The aftermath of The Tradition. The Voice, of a trained poet and story-teller addressing issues of Church and State undivided, in the Muslim STATE. Shia Islam contrasted with Sunni Islam. So who is the correct Caliph [successor]? And does Sharia Law constitute a consensus? For the Sunnis, anyway?

Adherents of Shia Islam consider Ali to have been divinely appointed as the successor to Muhammad, and as the first Imam. According to Wikipedia, Shia Islam is based on the Quran. The successors of Ali [as well as Ali himself] are called imams, who not only lead the Shiites but are considered to be descendants of Muhammad, with the blood of a cousin? The second-largest branch of Islam, in 2009 Shia Muslims constituted 10 to 13 percent of the world’s Muslim population.

Chosen People. The split in the tradition. The blood in the story of Chosen People, once removed? The Authority with a concern of purity here, still. The enforcers for Church and State, as police and priests and armies. For the Sport of kings, after the split in Church and State. What was Hemingway’s quote about Communism in the Civil War in Spain –he loved the soldier, the firmness of the belief of the soldier, but hated the priests of communism. Shia scholars link their Authority to the family of the prophets as demonstrated in verse 3:33-34: “Indeed, Allah chose Adam and Noah and the family of Abraham and the family of ‘Imran over the worlds…”

Cain and Abel. Majority rule? Sharia Law. Was it the method of worship centered upon the splitting by Noah of the pigeon? Sunnism and Shiaism are both the end product of several centuries of competition. The majority of the Islam world population – 1.6 billion people – is Sunni. There is, like between Cain and Abel, a battle over if not the narrative of Islam, the proper way to pray. Sunnis believe that the companions of Muhammad were the true believers because the companions were “tasked” with compiling the narration of the Quran. Furthermore, this narration from the perspective of the companions (ahadith) are a second source of knowledge of Sunni Islam.

Behold the split! Cain and Abel. The War over Modernity in world history, since the birth of freedom in the New World. Did you ever follow the history of the Jesuits for 250 years, in many different nations of Europe, as the concept of Nationalism as a religion replaced a universal Christian Faith itself so split more than 500 years ago. The War of the Roses. The Peace of Westphalia. 1648.

Behold the banishment, even in the first years in the 20th Century, in Paris. Of the Jesuits. Again. As the State acquired an ownership in the mostly Catholic Churches.

How did Cain kill the second-born brother? And as the tribes of Abraham grew, a gang mentality to inflict death/war on those nations who did not pray or govern as we govern/pray, grew but not much different than the original difference of opinion that Cain had with the manner Abel prayed.

Sharia is derived hierarchically using one or more guidelines. In early Muslim communities, “jurists” were more concerned with pragmatic issues of Authority and teaching than with legal theory. Two primary sources of Sharia are The Quran and opinions in the Hadiths with life examples of Muhammad). The Sharia concept of crime, judicial process, justice and punishment embodied in Sharia – with Capital punishment – is different from that of secular law in Western nations. The guidelines are Qiyas (analogy derived from the primary sources of The Quran and opinions in the Hadiths); Ijma (the consensus of Muhammad’s companions); Istihsan (ruling that serves the interest of Islam in the discretion of Islamic jurists); and Urf (customs). What does Sharia say about DNA evidence, and Unjust justice, when the wrong life is taken? What does Sharia say about rape and murder, as the world population is transformed in urban life? How does one crime/sin compare to the next in this “judicial” process? Are there “mortal” sins? Are there unforgivable sin? Is there conflict of this one-time tribal perspective to the traditional Western Judeo-Christian perspective?

There is an inherent threat when everyone is to think alike, as much when people do not think at all. In the western world, the threat is seen while watching CNN or reviewing all of this thoughtless social media. In the western world, the threat is seen by those who want to legalize marijuana, by people who do not want to think at all. The threat is now of majority rule – one way of thinking – to an artist who question the status quo. There is the inherent threat of majority rule to minorities, this year in particular with favored candidates for public office in the United States. And was that inherent threat when everyone is to think alike the basis of the conflict of Cain with Abel, over the method to sacrifice?

The old threat of Chosen People, not much different than the threats that kings posed to their subjects in places all over the world in world history, was over Authority. To give someone Authority over me. In the secular world of the West, there is no requirement to give the Creator authority over me, in my life. In the nation where I lived, it is different. Who had Authority? Of Church/State, who should have Spiritual power, like the Prophet? How did you develop a divine Spiritual power on matters of Church and State?

How did such perfect people, the companions of Muhammad, need to change? Was it hard to be married to such perfect people? Were– the true believers – really such perfect people? If the answer is yes, why were there even concepts of crime, with a judicial process? For such perfect people, why are the modern companions of Muhammad unable to convince the every day perfect people to forgive? Where is the justice in their punishments embodied in Sharia – with so little ability to change, over capital offenses?

On matters of full disclosure, I believe in the God of Abraham. One branch called Islam teaches that God is Omnipresent, as well as Merciful; it is the Mercy of God, which merits salvation for a Muslim. And this theology is little different from the theology to which I adhere. According to Wikipedia, Islam teaches Repentance that must not be used to sin any further, which might explain all of these suicide bombs in the news. Is that what comes out of a distorted understanding of the God of Abraham? By adherents who do not seem to have studied at institutions in much of any depth, for this faith that they espouse so loudly.

What is the Spirit in the LAND of ISIS except one of everyday fear? When you have absolute power, what will happen in the Islamic State … to imperfect people? What are the limits to the range of actions available to a ruler? How can a ruler so easily decree or reinterpret law independently and expect the continued support of the community? With The Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice? Would there even be a judicial branch with a separation of powers from the correct Caliph [the successor to Muhammad]? And if you separated a judicial power from the execution of the law, would you ever separate Church and State on matter how frequently your subjects prayed? Or for how long?

To discover the Middle. After all the fly-overs, to find your own middle and come to know the Spirit of a LAND by studying history.

So whether here or in the Middle east, who is and who would determine exactly what is a Muslim? What was in the middle of a Muslim? Would only Sunnis be allowed in the Islamic State? Did Abu Bakr love Muhammad’s son-in-law/cousin, Ali? Did Muhammad love Ali? Did Muhammad love Abu Bakr? What God had Abu Bakr believed in before Muhammad came along? Was there a forced conversion of Abu Bakr? What would be the concept of love in the Islamic State? Would Abraham and all of his sons be welcome, or was the world view more like that of Cain’s on the day that he killed, somehow, Abel? Wikipedia tells me that a Muslim believes no one can gain salvation simply by virtue of their belief or deeds. So why are all these young men fighting …. and sacrificing who they perceive to be the imperfect infidels? When Abraham, according the shared belief went to Mount Moriah to sacrifice his PERFECT son. As all of these Muslim women flee this distorted concept of God by the minority, would they come to learn in refugee camps about The Peace of Westphalia, and listen in horror –like Hagar — to stories like that of Abraham trying to sacrifice her first born son?

So at war’s end – in the case of this War on Terror – in a society now based upon majority rule, as is so often the case, at war’s end in the 20th Century – the remnants of war carried this fear as my neighbors begin to think only one way. Whether Church or State — with all of the secrets connected to the atrocities of war — would the world ever return to the day to work harder on shared belief, with more concern about my own middle, and less concern about the stranger’s? Not with cameras against cameras, in the battle over truth, but with story-tellers, looking deeper about a Spirit in a LAND?

Like pigeon flying, with a trained poet and story-teller, in his own tradition. Working harder on all the living emotions in story-telling, about pigeons once from Syria.


February 1, 2011

Always The Tumult in Egypt

Filed under: Freshly Pressed,Travel,woman — baseball91 @ 6:12 PM
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The Promise Land.

The tumult in Egypt. Always the tumult in Egypt. And elsewhere.

Wanting immunity. After the worst drought in 130 year around Russia and the Black Sea region, damaging winter planting along with the summer harvest, the Canadian drop in wheat productions, and a surprising reductions in harvest totals from parts of the United States, the cost of food was up. The cost of tea would soar in 2011.

Wanting immunity from soaring food costs. In Tunisia. In Jordan. In Egypt. Maybe you were one of the 30,000 Brits vacationing in the warmth of an Egyptian resort this January. And your vacation was over, but it was not exactly a joy ride to the Cairo airport to get home. And even if you got to the airport in Cairo, to find out that most of the workers had left to protest the government of Hosni Murabek, a guy whose name you could never quite remember the pronunciation until singing “Waltzing Matilda.” And the airport brought back images of the Super Dome post Hurricane Katrina.

Wanting to get back home, with some kind of new-found urgency. From the region of the Promise Land. But where you arrived there to the resort with a growing concern over the price of petroleum, the price of food had set these people off. And they believed in some kind of different God that seemed to hate foreigners. Or maybe it was a fear based upon some kind of wealth which made people act so foreign. Maybe not unlike the distrust in China of foreigners. Over history. When leaders have been so cruel to their people. In Tunisia, in the city of Tunis, at least 219 people were killed and 510 injured in ongoing rioting, with one synagogue burned. This week.

Wanting immunity. And getting inoculated… against Yellow Fever. The diphtheria tetanus, or pertussis shots. Seeking anti-dotes for malaria.

The questions what a westerner was doing carrying a gun. Either at the U.S. Embassy or when driving around, when guns were disallowed at airports. In Lahore, Pakistan, many questions have been left unanswered, including exactly whether who would qualify for diplomatic immunity. Whether as a CIA agent, a security contractor, a journalist, or NGO worker. With questions why he had been carrying a gun and if he used it in self-defense.

The old fashioned missionary. Whether religious or economic. Exporting a system of some kind. A system of belief. With a belief in money. And always the tumult, with the lack of clarity which fuels media speculation. About the future.

Just wars. Economic justice in times of war and peace. Or just some measure of freedom with your money. Hedge funds. Betting with hedge funds, and the price of coffee. As more and more people in China and all the world began to drink coffee. And speculators sent their money there to try to profit.

Mass famine…Always the tumult in Egypt. Since the time of Joseph.

Unraveling the tale. Egypt and its tumultuous history. The plagues. Always the plagues in Egypt. And how to avoid death.

Overthrowing the Egyptian monarch in 1952 began in the runup to World War I, with the German Empire of Kaiser Wilhelm contributing to the agitation of numerous anti-British movements (which would be his cousins of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in Buckingham Palace) of secular political ideologies along with various degrees of Islamic movements. Because during World War I, the British declared Egypt their protectorate, shouldering the entire burden of the war as the Ottoman Empire crumpled. By drafting Egyptian men, occupying Egypt with British troops, dissatisfaction with British rule soon spread amongst all classes of the population. In the period between the two world wars, these agitated groups coalesced into the Baath Party, other associated reform groups, as well as the Muslem Brotherhood, along with other revolutionary groups, all coordinated by German intelligence, nurtured by renewed Jihadism with exposure to the 20th century concepts of nationalism and liberalism. Over several weeks of demonstrations and strikes spanning the Muslim and Christian divide by civil servants, merchants, workers, religious leaders, students and peasant became a daily occurrence bringing normal life across Egypt to a halt.

Independence for Egypt granted by the British was at this point provisional; British forces continued to be physically present on Egyptian soil. As to the method how this regime came to power, with the outbreak of World War II, these associated elements –the Baath Party, the Muslem Brotherhood, et al – were supported not only by Axis powers but by the United States and the Soviet Union, countries both opposed to continuing the British Colonial Empire as a corrupt puppet of the British in the way of police, the palace, the political parties. Due to the continuing British occupation of Egypt, many Egyptians including Egyptian King Farouk were disposed towards Germany and Italy during World War II. Egypt remained officially neutral despite the presence of British troops, until the final year of World War II. Contributing substantial political, psychological, ideological and logistical along with moral support, the Soviet Union and the United States backed the Free Officers Movement, formed by a group of reform minded officers who lived in poverty. And it was the Free Officers Movement which led the overthrow of Egyptian King Farouk in 1952.

Then came the pain of men, dealing with women. Over issues of power, outside the home. When every women was the queen in the home. Fathers letting sons deal with mothers, until the age of puberty. In the Middle East. About the time when the Muslim Brotherhood began to shave. Beset with a generation gap, as the oldest and formally organized opposition, The Muslim Brotherhood currently cannot define the role of women in leadership, or concepts of outside power. Outside the home. So the Muslim Brotherhood has over the years failed to attract many new members, with its old ideas. Young men just quit having vocations? It sounded oh so catholic. Maybe because young men were attracted by the beauty of independent women. The Brotherhood has lost in Egypt much credibility in recent years, despite remaining the country’s largest group. A Country of Old Men, after allowing itself to be co-opted by the Mubarak government, in a place where their leader was now 83-years old.

The lack of leaders. In the world that we had known which was slowly dying. At this point in time, beyond the royal military. Asked to lead, in a world that most Egyptians did not understand, other than staving off hunger for another year. In a world where few of us understood where world leaders were leading us. But still we were getting inoculated. And humming “Waltzing Matilda,” wondering how long Hosni Murabek would be at the dance. As the world looked on at the hunger.
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June 24, 2009

A New Asian Contagion?

Unrest. Unease about the economic outlook. There was a lot of restlessness out there. Unrest beyond the stories out of Iran. Unrest in the market. Marketwatch reported that the dollar gained against the Euro but declined against the yen, “in a pattern that has frequently emerged when traders grow nervous about the outlook.”

The World Bank said that the global economy will shrink by 2.9% in 2009, a revised outlook from a previous forecast of a 1.7% contraction. That mean the deflation animal was loose around the world.

Money always seemed to affect the outcome of elections. Japan is now in the throes of its worst post-World War II recession. I think we all were, actually. As fate would have it, the prime minister must call elections by September 2009.

Last week there was a summit of the world’s four largest emerging economies, as leaders from of China, India Russia, and Brazil met in Yekaterinburg, Russia to discuss reforming the global financial system and lessening reliance on the United States. These four countries hold nearly 40 percent of the world’s currency reserves and make up 15 percent of the global economy.

A joint BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) statement issued before the summit expressed a commitment to advance the reform of international financial institutions so as to reflect changes in the world economy. The statement said. “The emerging and developing economies must have a greater voice and representation in international financial institutions,” calling for a greater role for developing nations in global financial institutions and the United Nations.

Leaders discussed investing their reserves in one another’s bonds, swapping reserve currencies and increasing the role of Special Drawing Rights, an international reserve asset. Discussions took place earlier in the day in the Urals city at a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization about the creation of a supranational currency and lessening global reliance on the U.S. dollar. President Dmitry Medvedev was an outspoken a critic of the current world financial system, reserving his most bold comments for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. “There cannot be a successful global currency system if the financial instruments it uses are denominated in only one currency, which is the case today. And that currency is the dollar.”

But the idea of replacing the dollar found little traction with China, which holds $2 trillion in foreign currency reserves and which did not offer any comment in support of the proposal. Back in February 2009 at the Davos, Chinese premier Wen Jiabo, looking at the system of capitalism, lashed out at the ‘blind pursuit of profit’ in some countries in what he called the ‘American financial crisis.’ The view from China was that stocks and bonds were an American system.

In Japan, exports were down 40.9% from May 2008, adding to doubts about the possibility of a quick recovery from the global recession.

In Japan, the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) hopes to topple Japan’s prime minister Taro Aso’s Liberal Democratic Party which has been in power for almost all of the past 50 years, seeing Japan rise to become the world’s number 2 economy, Asia’s largest economy. If he becomes the next finance minister, Masaharu Nakagawa of the Democratic Party of Japan would like to make changes to reshape Japan into a kinder gentler place.

Saying the dollar may no longer reign supreme in the future, Nakagawa envisions “in the course of the region’s forming a single economic zone,” as he told AFP, an Asia united by a single common currency. With possibility the dollar might not function as the key currency any more in the medium term, Nakagawa said, “Now is the time for Japan to say what kind of world it would like to create. Not to adapt itself to the given circumstances as it has,” since the end of World War II. People must take change into account as the world seeks a new order in the post-Cold War era.

Speaking more broadly about his vision for Japan, he said his country had followed the liberalism of the United States in the past, but the time had come for the nation to be “more Asian.”

In an article by Miwa Suzuki, he said the Japanese government could extend lending to the International Monetary Fund on condition that it is in yen, while guaranteeing bonds by Asian countries if they are denominated in the Japanese currency. “Until an Asian common currency emerges,” he said, “the Japanese government should make efforts to have the ‘Asia zone’ use the yen, not the dollar, for trade settlements. It’s time for Japan to launch this plan.”

Money and fate. And relationships. On June 17, 2009, President Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao signed an agreement in which Russia will sell 300 million tons of oil to China over 20 years at $57 per barrel or $100 billion. In order for Russia to deliver that oil, a new pipeline has to be built by Yukos to China which was originally planned at a cost of $4 billion for the mid-2000s, but by March 2008, the price had risen to $29 billion. Given oil prices of at least $80 per barrel, Russia has no plan to recoup this cost at the agreed to price of just $57 per barrel. This is the same Russia that has been using oil as a weapon against it Slavic brethren in Belarus and Ukraine.

Money and fate and relationships. These were the major ingredients in a love story. Any love story. Money and the times always provided the ambiance to the story. In all relationships, actually. Even with the new BRIC nations. Amidst this unrest and unease about the economic outlook.
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June 4, 2009

Global Positioning Systems

The word for the day is TOILETS. I just came home from a visit to the stockbroker. I presented my theory about globalization. Asia was the place where capitalism was booming. If that was the case, I proposed, these were the people who were the target for comforts from the west.

The Chinese never had squat until now. Which might explain the circumstances of waste disposal in China. There was a 30% increase in the amount of money spent on food in the average Chinese household in 8 years. And I always felt, smelt really, a connection between food and plumbing.

I see the day when the Chinese will be dreaming to have a bathroom like I have. I am thinking of starting a Chinese company, manufacturing toilets, getting Chinese input as they contemplate evolving from customs that they know squat about. I see a billion dollar idea, which is a lot like toothpaste and razors. Something they will need every day.

Call it global positioning.

May 28, 2009


The National Association for Business Economics released a report Wednesday that more than 90 percent of economists predict the recession will end this year, although the recovery is likely to be bumpy.

That assessment is in line generally with the Federal Reserve Chairman outlook of Ben Bernanke. About seventy-four percent of the forecasters expect the recession — which started in December 2007— to end in the third quarter. Nineteen percent predict the turning point will come in the final three months of this year. The remaining seven percent believe the recession will end in the first quarter of 2010.

This National Association for Business Economics report followed a report on October 6, 2008 that 31% of economists did not think there was a recession. So 10% of the economists did not see an end to the recessions, with 31% of economists proven to be out of touch with the current world.

Has anyone checked the market in commercial real estate? When there was too much credit in the system, something had to give.

I wrote on October 6, 2008 that there was going to be another at least 25% to 30% correction in the valuations of homes. Real estate prices had fallen 23.3% in Minneapolis-St. Paul in the last 12 months. So there were signs that an honest correction had occurred at least in single family homes.

November 20, 2008

Negative Spirals


They just announced on the news that the minutes of the last Fed meeting were released.  To limit the current financial turmoil, the Fed announced a reduction of interest rates to 1% on October 29, 2008.  Looking ahead, the Federal Open Market Committee said further rate cuts may be necessary.  Lower than 1%.  Minnesotans think this means that they will be giving away money and a lot of us are planning a trip to meet them.  We are optimistic that money will be available to more than just bankers soon.  Where ever their closed-door meeting will be held, I want to be there.  That bailout was just a precursor of things to come in the way of give-aways.  Most of the risks were to the downside, according to their minutes, with some participants concerned about a ‘negative spiral’ in which financial strains lead to weaker spending, which in turn leads to high loan losses and a further deterioration in financial conditions.”  We have a quarterback here who uses negative spirals, and we all know the meaning of those kinds of downturns….Without using the word, even the FOMC is now forecasting a recession.  And they used to make fun of the way Alan Greenspan spoke. 


Minnesota.  Where you never really needed an icebox at this time of year.  It was where about 3 people named Anderson die per day.  And it really is pretty sad.  Especially if you were an Anderson yourself. 


Minnesota.  Where we have a place that calls itself the Original Mattress Factory.  But they never explain in their commercials if they are…. if they make original mattresses, or if this was just the place that was the original factory for mattresses.  And they moved back?  But what is an unoriginal mattress?   And they never explain why you needed to sleep on an original mattress, or if their mattresses are like a cocoon and turn into something else after a while.  And what if you are sleeping when it happens?  And then you need another mattress?


Minnesota.  Where Garrison Keillor pretty much just reports on real life.  You can’t make this stuff up.  It took a long while for Minnesotans to appreciate that Keillor was a comedienne.  People thought he seemed a lot like Eric Severoid who was from around here too.  They laughed at his stories when he first moved to New York.  Keillor.  Not Severoid.  About the time “Fargo” won an Academy Award.  Since I lived in Fargo for 3 years, I never saw the movie as funny.  It seemed like real life to me.  A lot like Sarah Palin.  In Europe, in most places on earth, they do not understand the American obsession with ice cubes, they say. 


Minnesota.  It is a difficult place to live.  Where most of us believed that life imprisonment was a worse sentence than the death penalty.  The death penalty has been outlawed here, by the way. 


Minnesota.  A place where either way, you had to vote for a comedienne for Senate.  They both were for the bailout.  Bailouts used to be what was needed if you got arrested.  A lot of those people running Wall Street should be arrested before it is over. 


Minnesota, where apparently the folks here don’t count here like they used to.  Those damn public schools, because recounts are in the news.  It is not that tough to count right the first time.  I am worried now about being short changed at the gas station.  But no one is asking for a “do over.”  Yet. 


Minnesota.  Where the last indoor college football game was going to be played this Saturday.  When the temperature will be about minus 4 degrees Celsius.  We were building an outdoor ballpark too.  For baseball.  Speaking of ice cubes.  In Minnesota we had thought that global warming would be here by next season.  We were still optimistic despite the economic forecast.  We did not expect that downturn here. 


Minnesota.  Where gas is so cheap, we did not expect the downturn here in prices and people are trying to find containers to keep it in. Tupperware doesn’t hold much, though the Tupperware sales ladies are suggesting it.  


Wow.  In the news.  Another Anderson died.  He was a former speaker of the house.  In Minnesota.  The state house.  It used to be traditional for all the Andersons to vote for another Anderson.  Even in legislative bodies.  You cannot make this stuff up.  And they say the Chinese had only 7 family names.  If you want to make a Minnesota laugh, one of our Andersons, you just say the name of Deng Xiaoping about 5 times.  Real slow.  Like we talk here.  

September 24, 2008

The Needy

Rescue.  In the 19th century there was a town along the rough seas of New England.  There was a crew of volunteers assembled much like towns in the Midwest had volunteer fire departments.  When those nord easterners came in with the wind howling, tearing up watercraft, these brave volunteers went out to sea. 


This week Congress is being asked, “Who are you gonna save?”  Apparently the number of people involved was shocking.  The Democrats were worried that their constituencies would be left out in the cold.  The folks in charge of the rescue seemed for now to be Republicans.  The difference between the present day Washington rescue and that New England rescue was that the volunteers involved put their own lives on the line.  In Washington, Congress was putting someone else’s dollars on the line. 


Here it is only a question of boats.  As September 2008 rolled along, the message seemed to be “You’re gonna need more boats, bigger boats.” 


If you think this is bad, think of the end of the world.  The story on Wall Street these days was all about salvation.  A lot of people talked about being saved, with sermons by preachers sounding something out of science fiction.  Suddenly salvation, rescue in an era of reality shows, was real. 


And hearts are beating faster. 


August 9, 2008

Murder in Beijing



The media was slow to report on exactly who was murdered in Beijing.   Todd Bachman had fame in his own right.  He was CEO of Bachmans, a 121-year-old family business located on 60th and Lyndale in Minneapolis.  This was the largest florist in this part of the country.  Mr. Bachman in April 2008 became the chairman of the board of what I once knew as Florist Mutual based in Edwardsville, Illinois.  Apparently Florist Mutual has changed its name to Hortica Insurance & Employees Benefits.  I never had met the man but i expect he was as classy as the two companies under his charge.     

The father of 3 daughters, he lived in Farmington.  His 6’4” daughter, Wiz, the youngest, had attended UCLA on a volleyball scholarship after rising through her youth in volleyball the way boys in Lakeville are groomed as hockey players.  


With the 300 police reportedly who descended on the scene, it is understandable that the media in China is having a hard time to learn more about the story.


It looks to me like the Farmington Independent seems to have broken the story before the Minneapolis and St. Paul papers.   

Todd’s name appear as one of the board of trustee, the chair of Admissions/Financial Aid, at Wartburg College, a private liberal arts Lutheran college affiliated with the ELCA in Waverly, IA.   


Mark Zeigler is a writer with the UNION-TRIBUNE in San Diego.  On August 14, 2008, he wrote the following from with a dateline of BEIJING.

China scholar sees ‘symbolism’ in killing of foreigner

In a city of 17.4 million people, the ancient Drum Tower, or Gulou, rises majestically from a gray sea of crumbling brick homes and meandering alleys in central Beijing.  Nearly all of the residents of Beijing are Chinese, and Westerners are easy to identify.  One place they are likely to be found is the Drum Tower.

The notion of suicide also carries a different meaning in China than in the West, as an act of protest. The popular annual Dragon Boat festival commemorates the death of Qu Yuan, a poet from 300 B.C. who drowned himself as a final, heroic act of defiance against a repressive government.   

Locals speak of the increasing number of people from the countryside who move to Beijing in search of a better life and, if they don’t find it, quickly become disillusioned. A 2004 report by the Beijing Suicide Research and Prevention Center named suicide as the fifth leading cause of death in China and No. 1 among people between the ages of 15 and 34.

Chinese authorities said Tang was a troubled 47-year-old man from the eastern province of Zhejiang. He reportedly had lost his job at a factory in Hangzhou, had gone through a divorce and was living in a rented room in Beijing. Beijing newspapers and television stations have carried little, if any, mention of the story.

“They are worried you’ll have copycats,” said an official from a Chinese governmental agency, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job. “You have how many people who are destitute and disenfranchised in a city this large? (Publicizing the incident) might empower someone to do it again.

“It happens all the time,” said a European language teacher who has lived in Beijing for a decade and who declined to give his name. “Someone loses everything. They lose their job.  They get divorced.  They kill themselves. It happens so often here that no one notices anymore. “

 “I think it’s a minority but I think it exists,” Brownell said of anti-foreigner sentiment in China. “It’s a product of all the rhetoric of China‘s humiliation at the hands of the West. There is a deep-seated xenophobia that has been an integral part of China for centuries, to close down and shut off to the rest of the world. It’s still there today, to a certain extent.”

The Drum Tower was renamed the Tower of Realizing Shamefulness in 1924, serving as a museum devoted to invasions and occupations by foreign nations. It once served as a watch tower on the northern edge of the city, able to alert residents of unwelcome visitors. It has since been converted to a tourist attraction.


August 8, 2008

The War on Terroir

There was a day when no one ever was allowed to do business in farm towns without the approval of the local banker.  How the world had changed. I worked in a state bordering the one I grew up in, for six years.  I was a big city guy spending a lot of time dealing with farmers.  It was the 1980s.  I dealt with one local banker.  And he wanted to promote the other local businesses.  He liked the idea of supporting the local merchant, local ownership, because if the people in the town did not, who would?  Who cared if prices were cheaper in the big city 140 miles away?  Because no one else was gonna help you. 


His philosophy came out of the same satisfaction that people still had here when the local kid made good.  It was now almost 20 years later and we live in a world when people no longer bowled.  When stock companies owned you, it was all about money.  And saving it. That was what had happened in the world of newspaper.  Business was held hostage each quarter to the shareholders.    


Look at the present day world.  There was growing trouble handling debt.  Individually. Communally. There were growing deficits.  Ford lost $8 billion this past quarter.  GM had lost $15 billion.  AIG announced losses of $5.36 billion this week.  Handling debt.  Stock companies with no local ownership.  The world was different. 


People in Minnesota were different from those in Texas.  We were formed by the winters, the land, the lakes.   We were a lot like wine.  It was in the terroir.   Taste was determined by the amount of sunshine. Geographic origin.   The soil.  Terroir was some mysterious blending of earth, climate and culture.   It was the same mystery, in the same sense, how one person was blended to become a personality.  Only we had all become like McDonald’s friendly arches.  The franchise was now owned by people scattered about, far way.  To them, we were all the same and our city was no different from any other place. 


The newspaper had passed through the hands of 3 owners in this decade. 

And it was this change in the community why no one cared that the newspapers were folding.  It was not just in Minneapolis.  It was the St. Paul Pioneer Press too.  We had all somehow lost a distinct taste.  At least in the view of the owners of these papers. 


I never liked that South Dakota banker.  But he saw clearly how the environment was all about money.  And what he had to do to make sure some of it stayed in South Dakota.  Wanting more of it.  For the local people who banked with him.  I had once been caught up in this world.  And I now was caught up in this one.   

August 1, 2008


Today is the anniversary of a bridge collapse.  Most of the town held its breathe to see who would make it home that Wednesday evening from work. 

The things we take for granted.   Those were the things we tried to say Grace over. 

In the past 12 months, Minnesotans were learning that the bridge story really began with the construction of the bridge.  The study of history was always like this.  Take it from a history major.  An interest in history always started in the present day.  Inquiring minds wanted to know how something came to be.  What were the factors? 

And this story was a lot like the story of creation.  Something in my life drew me back to another day.  Another day when there was no bridge.  When there was no money or engineering to have cars and trucks and bridges.  Or reason.  Before the community decided we needed a bridge and who would all pay for it.  The creation story eventually evolved into one of maintenance.    That bridge was there the day I got my driver’s license.  I took it for granted. 

I never gave thought to who built that bridge or how it was constructed or maintained.  Or the cost.  I never had used it that much.  But I still had crossed it in the course of business travel.  It could have been me in the river.   Like any memorial day, we celebrate those of us alive.  And those of us we miss.  Including those who had come together to create that bridge so that life in the future could be easier.     

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