"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Martha Williams obituary, 1924-2018

Martha Williams, age 93, of Morris, passed away early on the morning of Tuesday, April 24, at her home in Morris. She had been under hospice care for a little over a year. Knute Nelson Hospice did the very capable work. What cheery faces!
We appreciate the Barrett Care Center for getting her back on her feet after a bad health spell about a year ago.
Mom's soul is now in heaven where she joins precious family members. Martha was born on June 8, 1924, in Brainerd MN to Andrew and Hilda Ohlson. Social Security was enacted at the end of Andrew's life and he passed on when his first check was en route to him. Hilda lived long enough to make Morris her home with the whole Williams family. Ralph, Martha, Hilda and Brian moved into their house on Northridge Drive. The family enjoyed three dogs through the years: Misty, Heidi and Sandy.
Click on the link below to view a photo album on her life:
Click on this link to view an album devoted to both Martha and Ralph:
Martha grew up in Brainerd, a company town then with the railroad, and graduated from high school there in 1942. She attended all her class reunions. She performed musically in ceremonies for the Brainerd National Guard unit which tragically got captured by the Empire of Japan in the Philippines.
Martha had a lifelong passion for music with her husband Ralph. Ralph was the founder of UMM music. Martha played violin in the UMM orchestra under Ralph's direction. She stayed home for the UMM men's chorus trip to the Seattle World's Fair in 1962, but went along with son Brian for the men's chorus trip to the New York World's Fair in 1964. What exciting times.
Martha attended Hamline University, St. Paul, and then came home during her second year to help the family after her father's death. At Hamline she became friends with future movie actress Coleen Gray. Martha worked in the office of the Hickerson Garment Factory, Brainerd, and gave piano lessons at Geisler Music Studio. She became married to Ralph in 1949. They lived in St. Paul where Ralph taught at the University of Minnesota, and also at their lake home in Nisswa MN. In 1960 they came to Morris where Ralph helped launch the fledgling U of M-Morris.
Martha worked for 26 years at UMM in the bookstore and the post office. She was known for having a rapid gait across the campus.
Ralph and Martha had their lives enriched by their close friendship with next-door neighbors Les and Virginia Lindor. They were active in the UMM Retirees Association, Sons of Norway Lodge  and Heart to Heart. They traveled with the Good Sam RV Club. Son Brian sent Mom on many exciting motor coach tours after she retired. Martha and Ralph were very devoted to First Lutheran Church in Morris. Martha and Brian enjoyed attending the Wednesday night "burgers, beverages and blessings" at the Met Lounge side room (where we always ordered swiss burgers). A member of that little group referred to the event as "burgers and belches."
Martha was primarily devoted to her church and to the University. The Brainerd lakes area remained a part of her. May her memory be blessed.
Addendum: Mom's last 48 hours or so were difficult, but prior to that she was always able to enjoy life albeit with challenges due to age and various health issues. Like Dad, we greatly appreciated the blessing of medical science! She had a pacemaker from Centracare for the last several years of her life. Brian will find it hard now attending church alone, at least for a while. I think Mom would want me to stay associated. Her spiritual life was a high priority for her. She grew up in a Swedish Covenent Church. Her siblings Mildred and Edwin preceded her in death. We were so hoping Mom would reach age 94! We all must follow God's design in our lives.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, April 20, 2018

How futile to contemplate H.S. spring sports

Is it time to re-think how we offer spring sports for high school kids? We always expect to see "PPD" (for postponed) next to a few early-season games. It's a given that the weather will be an impediment. College teams deal with this by going south, a trip not only useful for getting some guaranteed games, but fun also.
Meanwhile back in Minnesota, we're past the climactic March Madness season of sports, and into the season of "snirt" for weather. As the snow recedes, it takes on the black color of dirt. And sports? The baseball and softball teams initially condition indoors. Then they tentatively approach the game schedule with knowledge it may be unpleasant and even impractical. "Impractical" describes the hand we're dealt for 2018.
Never have we seen such an example of how spring sports can simply be no-go.
I even heard a story once about how those southern college trips don't solve everything. The story was about U of M-Duluth baseball. After the usual southern U.S. swing, the team got back and found that the weather here was still so stubborn, they had to start getting in shape all over again.
Teams in the Twin Cities scramble to get games arranged in those few indoor places that can accommodate. Track and field has a better situation, as many of their early-season meets are arranged for fieldhouses to begin with.
I have always sensed a letdown with early-season baseball and softball even if the weather cooperates. We reach such a climax of enthusiasm as the winter season reaches its end. We have that "March Madness" name for it. People are really "into it" and seem to have their lives taken over for a time. I have felt that myself as a media person. Basketball and wrestling crown their champions amidst a sort of mania. Gymnasiums get filled. Once the dust settles we have the spring games that attract ragtag small turnouts of fans by comparison.
Adding to this anticlimax is weather that can be cold and uncomfortable. You know how the vicious springtime winds can be. Why do we arrange for such a thrilling, climactic air for the closing stages of winter, and then yawn as we try to roll out the spring season? This year the games have been wiped out by the weather. Can we really view the weather of '18 as an aberration? Or should we expect such a state of affairs?
Minnesota in early and mid-April is certainly no slam dunk for allowing outdoor sports, or for even taking a pleasant walk outside. This year we have just had a more extreme example. So how do we assess this situation where we cannot really fix the disrupted spring schedule? Special allowances are being made to squeeze in games. I suppose the new pitch count rule in baseball will protect pitchers. However, pitching staffs will be strained and some will be rocked because of lacking good enough depth.
How can we approach this problem in a pro-active way? This is not the first time I have written about this. So I'll repeat: might we consider a short season of gymnasium-based sports for early in spring? I think boys would have a blast playing volleyball. I have suggested before that maybe this could be done in a more informal, intramural type of way. Maybe it's time we take some of the serious edge off sports anyway. And let's not even get into whether football with its dangers should continue to be offered.
Maybe baseball should be a May through August proposition with one continuous program in effect, perhaps shared by the high schools and the American Legion. Softball could be arranged likewise. No longer would we see a row of "PPDs" next to games on a schedule. No longer would those ragtag early-season fans have to feel discomfort in the bleachers.
It's wishful thinking to try to schedule all those outdoor events. Maybe the downer of the 2018 spring will force some serious thinking on the matter. I'll repeat another nugget I've offered before, that track and field should be the only spring sport. Track and field could vie in those spacious fieldhouses for as much as half the season, escaping the weather. There is something for everyone in track and field. Everyone gets to compete. It's not like there's just nine players on the field as in baseball and softball. If track and field numbers are high, just arrange more "heats" for the runners. The kids can just line up for the field events.
No matter what your physique or physical size/attributes are, you can find a suitable event in track and field. Another argument for this is that we'd really know who the best athletes are. At present we can assume that many premier athletes are in baseball and softball.
But the High School League, I suspect, isn't likely to consider this idea. Money could be saved by condensing spring sports - no more situations with buses headed in all directions after school. The sports world has bigger issues on its plate like the storm of concern over football and whether our boys should keep playing it. It's an odd debate from the standpoint of listening to football's apologists and their illogic. So sad how football is so imbued in our culture. Many people are alarmed for no good reason at suggestions to rein in football. The science has become so clear.
But my God, retreating from football? Is it possible? Often these things take time, like stomping out smoking indoors. It made total sense years before the rules actually came into being. Football is following in those footsteps.
I wonder if our whole conception of high school sports will eventually change. I wonder if the serious edge of this competition, the "varsity" model, will give way to a more relaxed approach at some point. These kids are not gaining any lifelong skills. Oh, maybe in golf they might. But shall we weigh the intramural model more? Cut out all that transportation. Should we promote sheer fun more? Should we slap up some of those high school sports parents who get disproportionately excited? Should we simply "cool it?"
Are high school sports an outdated model for trying to keep high school kids involved or distracted, away from mischief? Kids are no longer so much at risk for getting bored. Kids should not go out for sports, especially football, because of peer pressure. The watchers of football are anticipating the inevitable: a district attorney somewhere in the U.S. who will charge the parents of a boy who gets seriously hurt in football. That could be a turning point.
Right now we have the pathetic issue of how to salvage high school spring sports in the 2018 spring. Remember, all these programs take money to support. And at present, no amount of adjusting is going to allow spring teams to have the normal enriching experience. Let's look at it from the standpoint of cost: that always works.
Addendum: Del Sarlette once suggested we have a "snirt festival" in Morris complete with a "snirt queen."
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Dinesh D'Souza coming to UMM? Really?

Dinesh D'Souza
I suppose we have been through worse times. As bizarre as the Trump presidency has been - I'm tempted to put "presidency" in quotes - let's compare to LBJ. The distraction of Trump's obnoxiousness seems small potatoes next to LBJ's prosecution of the Vietnam war, n'est-ce pas? We aren't literally risking the lives of so many young men today. We aren't really on new ground with a disturbing presidency.
But there does appear to be something ominous out there. It's like the signs of impending eruption of a volcano like Mount St. Helen's. Everything seems calm for a long time, then, boom!
There is a movement out there that likes to call itself conservatism. It is highly reactionary and emotional. The new media give a platform that empowers it greatly. People of a more sensible stripe are put on the defensive. A perfect example of the strident, reactionary element is Dinesh D'Souza. And now our University of Minnesota-Morris is allowing him to come here and speak.
My idea of a reasonable conservative is Jeff Flake or Joe Scarborough. I might include Mitt Romney but he capitulates too easily to the dark elements. Romney might have been a Ronald Reagan type of president had he been elected. Today's self-identifying conservatives, i.e. the Fox News or Breitbart crowd, might shove aside Reagan. Maybe in favor of Pat Robertson or Pat Buchanan. They'd probably get on the "he's senile" bandwagon like Bill O'Reilly eventually did, drawing the ire of George Will who I'd put in the same category as Flake and Scarborough.
Today's "conservatives" seem like a racket where its adherents compete to try to get attention by saying outrageous things. Look at Laura Ingraham. First Ace Hardware says it's ceasing advertising on the show, then it gets cold feet and backs off. I will personally try to avoid doing business at Ace Hardware in Morris and instead will try to support Eul's. I went to high school with Mike Eul who was a loyal Catholic Democrat! I mean that as a serious compliment. I enjoyed seeing Mike at the "Chase" band reunion concert in St. Paul in 2007. It was the night when the bridge fell into the river. My party had to call home to assure family we were OK, that we hadn't fallen into the drink.
I don't even want to report the date when Dinesh D'Souza will speak at UMM. The appearance is sponsored by College Republicans? I'm quite sure these people would talk up Donald Trump. But why? Trump is assuredly not a fiscal conservative because he signed that big spending bill. So if it's not fiscal, on what grounds might Trump be deemed conservative? Maybe he sets an example on a moral level? With his background of screwing women all over the place and having his lawyer arrange to have the women paid for their silence? What about his choice of language as he insults and degrades so many people in his "tweets?" Comey is a "slime ball."
Based on the empirical exhibit, Trump himself would seem to fit the definition of "slime ball." Or do we have no scruples remaining in our society of today? Is it just a matter of white people recoiling at the changes we have been subjected to in our society and economy? The tribulation caused by globalization and automation! So we just lash out in desperation? We elect a would-be despot? Is this Germany in the year 1930? Fine, then let's recognize what's happening and leave the term "conservatism" out of it.
We see "Eddie Munster" (a.k.a. Paul Ryan) act like a deficit hawk for years, when it was easy to blame Democrats for high spending, but then turn tail and run when his own party gets total power and spends money like it has a printing press.
Republicans are oh so pathetic as they try to justify the spending bill on the simple basis that "we get more military spending." So let's be like Germany of the mid-20th Century and flex our muscles with military might. Of course Germany ended up in rubble. Why the need to build up the military so much? Are we really close to a major conventional war, a "Saving Private Ryan" type of war? A war with the standard bombs, grenades and machine guns? Do you really understand what kind of a hell that type of war is? We handle conflicts today with special ops and economic sanctions. Real war is an absolute last resort. It wasn't even necessary for us to invade Iraq.
We seem to want to show "we can still do it" like we did in World War II. "We've still got it." Never mind that the veterans themselves would say that war is virtual hell and something to be avoided at all costs.
Dinesh D'Souza has become a right wing troll, coming at us with offensive Twitter-based commentary. He recently responded to a photo of Florida school-shooting survivors who were crying after Florida's legislators voted down an assault weapons ban. D'Souza regurgitated the following: "Worst news since their parents told them to get summer jobs." He described the Charlottesville thing as a "staged event" meant to make the political right look bad. I could list more such exhibits of objectionable statements by this wacko.
Our UMM puts up with his appearance because it's scared of D'Souza's constituency, the type of people who have put out "NorthStar" on the UMM campus. This has nothing to do with real conservatism or libertarianism. It's about college kids going through a phase where they easily develop emotions on political matters.
UMM is scared because it might be targeted by the extreme folks as "liberal" and all that garbage, if they were to be skeptical of D'Souza. So UMM announces the upcoming lecture on its own web pages. Trying to resist D'Souza's crowd might get you "exposed" on a Fox News show, thereby having hell to pay, whether you have done anything bad or not. A Fox News "ambush interviewer" once literally chased the Syracuse University president through campus. We saw that scene on Bill O'Reilly who later got forced off the air because it was disclosed he paid $32 million to a woman to avoid a sexual harassment lawsuit. What a crowd those people are.
Enjoy your upcoming lecture night, "College Republicans" - enjoy your night of ideological masturbation.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, April 13, 2018

Remembering when Cyrus MN had some clout

Mad Magazine once advised us to keep in mind something about Midwesterners: They are descendants of the "people who headed west and didn't make it." Truth be told, the Midwest pioneers were a hardy lot who faced and overcame many challenges. But time has not been kind to the many humble prairie outposts.
Morris started out as a tent town. The railroad really planted the seeds. Tom Brokaw talks a lot about the fading nature of the many small communities in what he calls "the Great Plains states." "We see towns 20 miles apart, each with its own courthouse and auditor, (an arrangement that) may have made sense in the horse and buggy days."
So we have small towns that sadly seem vestigial, a faint echo of their former selves in many cases. I remember going to Cyrus for varsity - yes, varsity - high school sports events and graduations. A new arrival in Morris today would have a hard time envisioning Cyrus like that. Cyrus couldn't even retain its little cafe. The history of the Cyrus school would be worthy of a museum exhibit. The "Panthers," remember?
The town wasn't big enough to have a football team. I'd suggest that was a blessing for generations of boys who were not tempted to play the dangerous sport of football. Eventually Cyrus was forced into spasms of realization of how high school was no longer sustainable there. It is too bad that could not happen in a manner more free of emotions. Emotions did indeed spill forth.
Maybe a museum could also give some attention to the Cyrus Task Force. I remember that drawn-out drama very well. The late Ron Lindquist, once a media fixture in both Morris and Starbuck, told me the Cyrus Task Force ended up with more power than what the Cyrus board intended. I smirk. It was my Morris Sun Tribune newspaper that was probably responsible, in large part, for the notoriety of the Cyrus Task Force. The Task Force would determine where the Cyrus kids would head once the high school was no more. Hancock or Morris? I don't smirk about that question.
The decline of a small town hurts. At least it hurts at the time the town is making adjustments. Today nobody cares. In the short term, the emotions guaranteed that sound judgment was not likely to be made.
The Sun Tribune newspaper in its prime days of being twice a week and about three times more substantive than today, ran article after article ad nauseum on the Cyrus Task Force doings. Such an august and important body. But really it was advisory, almost a token gesture by the board to suggest broad-based community involvement. My position at the paper put me in position to know about all the minutiae of discussions. I had a co-worker whose family was quite invested in Cyrus. Cyrus and Hancock were together in sports for a time, but they kept the "Owls" nickname of Hancock.
One day I saw some paraphernalia in my co-worker's office for making signs or T-shirts or whatever: "Cyrus-Hancock Hawkeyes." Does have a ring to it. Certainly that was "evidence" for what that family favored: an ongoing Cyrus-Hancock partnership. I heard the proposal floated by some advocates in that crowd for a new school to be built out in the middle of Starbuck, Cyrus and Hancock. That would bond the three towns. That would be cute. But not very practical or sustainable. It catered to the emotions of people who fervently liked the small school model.
Emotions were not going to decide these issues. The State of Minnesota struggled for a time with this matter. The state stepped aside to allow the Lac qui Parle (Valley) and Minnewaska schools to be built in the wide-open spaces. The small town emotions, which seem strong but never last, overcame good sense and intimidated the state, but after that, the state said "no more" (CW has it).
I personally wish I never had such close proximity to the churning emotions of what was happening with Cyrus. I recently reminisced with a friend and noted how our newspaper ran a front page article "every time someone farted" on the Cyrus Task Force. My point was valid in a way that exaggeration can be valid. I recalled how, the more empowerment and importance the task force felt, the less likely it would recommend sending kids to Morris. Morris was the big, bad "big school" with the kind of image and culture that the Mayberry-like folks would feel apprehensive about.
I was so right. When finally the Cyrus Task Force made its decision, the Sun-Tribune writer began her article like this: "It's Hancock."
Yawn. I knew it would happen. But then, almost immediately, there were spasms of emotion springing from Hancock. My God the people were angry. Poor Russ Larson sat there as superintendent and tried calming the waters. Russ, who I found to be a very likeable guy, said the new albeit controversial pairing "would work if the people wanted it to work." Guess we can't argue with that.
But a large faction of Hancock-ites were hardly inclined to see it work. There was a public meeting where the rebels didn't even want to hear any explanations or rationale from the other side. They had slammed the door with their attitude and said - direct quote - "just tell us what we can do to stop it."
As I recall, they were highly concerned about elementary children being bused daily on that winding, rather substandard highway between Hancock and Cyrus (which I took a million times in the Sun Tribune van). I passed by the "Landwehr Ranch" on Long Lake. Good ol' Mr. Landwehr, the old Spanish teacher at Morris High School.
I heard that elementary parents of Hancock would have to make long-distance calls to Cyrus on school matters. Hoo boy. So that ol' Space Shuttle never got off the launching pad. It exploded. All those front page articles in our paper were rendered pointless in retrospect. All those emotions fueling the discussions, emotions focused on small school life, could not carry weight.
The Morris school in those days did have, shall we say, issues. It had self-inflicted wounds. The administration here should have been more assertive instead of shrugging shoulders about certain things. There was definitely a difference between the school culture in Morris and of the nearby small towns. I saw this vividly as I made my rounds for the Morris paper. I was drawn in to the issues through my relationship with many small town-oriented people.
The co-worker whom I mention, and her family, was a factor that I probably could have lived without. "Cyrus-Hancock Hawkeyes." Without a doubt it's catchy. Those Hancock people probably didn't want to sacrifice their "Owls" nickname just for the sake of absorbing Cyrus. And keep in mind that for a school to change nickname/mascot is more than superficial, it's an involved and expensive process.
Cyrus didn't have the traction or the numbers to be assigned a lot of political clout, IMHO. Pass through Cyrus today and try to imagine when it had political clout. It's a wonderful, safe and quiet little town for commuters and retirees. Congratulations, Cyrus. The task force is lodged away in historical archives, or should be.
Tom Brokaw would understand what it's all about: the late spasms of a small town in the "Great Plains" seeking to assert its relevance. Today Hancock continues quite autonomous. Russ Larson had a daughter who played under coach Dennis Courneya in Hancock. There's another chapter of Stevens County history that should never be put aside.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Monday, April 9, 2018

Big Brother can come at you from dentist

The dental profession assuredly will tell us there are reasons for prices that seem awfully high. I don't know how families keep up. Why can't Medicare get more involved in helping people with dental expenses? "This is America and you have to pull your own weight." That's what Republicans say, never mind that it's chest-thumping by people who feel they show a certain kind of bravado saying it. Those same people are happy to avail themselves of government programs.
I just don't know how families keep up with it all.
A recent radio discussion brought to light a scary dimension: the specter of intrusion of human services (or child protective services) if you don't follow a diligent dental care protocol.
We all believe in good dental care. It's the obvious civilized approach to take. I'm confounded by the cost having spiraled into orbit. The radio guys chewed over a report from out East that a dental practice was communicating with its customers in a way that can be deemed threatening. It's threatening in a Big Brother sort of way.
Empowered by government "mandatory reporting" laws, dental offices appear to be casting the cloud of "child abuse" charges if families don't follow the recommended protocol of dental care. A Pennsylvania dental practice sent a letter to a family saying that if it didn't get regular professional cleanings for their child, well, there would be hell to pay. The parents could be charged with "dental neglect" based on Pennsylvania Act 31 on child abuse recognition. The parents faced the specter of being reported to state authorities.
One observer wondered "is this fake?" The writer of a commentary piece speculated that this letter is the start of a wave of intimidation toward parents, the vast majority of whom I'm sure are exemplary. If the government (with entitlements) isn't going to step in more and assist with medical/dental needs, adults as well as kids, what is to become of our society? Will people stop having kids?
I hand it to people who have the standard family that includes approximately three kids, even in the face of foreboding financial challenges. I am told "there is a lot of poverty" in the Lac qui Parle school district which is all too close to us here in Morris, so how will the economic winds blow here?
People may still have kids but can they be expected to raise them showing pretty much their own judgment? Republicans are great for saying we're a free nation lifted by the sheer credo of freedom. It doesn't work so well anymore. A great many people put off going to the dentist, avoiding the dental office for long stretches of time for financial reasons. This is not appropriate for a civilized nation. All those freedom-talkers need to realize they are just irritating windbags and start to accept reality. We need some European-style socialism in America. It may come but only after a catastrophic economic collapse that forces a change in thinking.
The Pennsylvania dental office that I'm reporting about explains, in the face of criticism, that physicians and dentists are "mandated reporters" who are "required to report suspected cases of abuse and neglect to social service or law enforcement agencies in order to prevent such tragedy." Abuse and neglect! What if you're struggling to support a family of four, in Lac qui Parle or anywhere else, and you're suddenly recommended to get orthodontic service for one or more of your kids. The cost of that is like for the Space Shuttle or so it seems.
I remember when my dad took me to good ol' Dr. Albani in Benson when I was junior high age. I'm quite certain the price of braces and all dental services was substantially less.
Dental prices have skyrocketed. I was flabbergasted the last time I left the dentist office, after something other than a routine cleaning, at the cost I was quoted. I paid it of course but haven't been back since, except for my elderly mother because certainly I have to follow all recommendations for her (as a vulnerable adult). Me? The state of my health isn't important. I'm not vulnerable. I'm expendable.
A spokesman for that Pennsylvania dental office says their intimidating letter to parents "(jars them) to realize that with a child comes responsibility." Such chutzpah. The guys in the radio discussion noted that it's tough enough getting dragged into the web of child protective services even if you're a good parent. A mother in Ontario, Canada, wanted a second opinion on getting fillings for her daughter and decided to change providers. The rejected dentist called child protective services to report "possible oral neglect." The case was dismissed. But protective services kept the mother's name in their files. How outrageously intrusive.
I can relate to these parents' anxiety because I care for a vulnerable adult, 93 years old. We have had a police officer come to the house. That officer who BTW was quite friendly, noticed absolutely nothing wrong and departed, but I was informed later that she communicated with human services. Why? There was no follow-up from human services because the personnel there are well familiar with my family and consider me to be a capable caregiver.
A media commentator observed "the issue here is how easy it is to drag a family into an abuse investigation, and how hard it is for the family, like an impacted molar, to get itself extracted." The partnership between medical providers and government child welfare services has threatened innocent families. I feel in league with those families. "Nanny monitors" are everywhere, in classrooms and cafeterias and medical offices.
Parents need some praise and empathy for taking on a pretty substantial responsibility of parenthood, especially in circumstances that can described as "poverty" like in the Lac qui Parle school district. The cost of medical care gets a lot of discussion in the public sphere these days. Surprisingly, we don't hear as much about dental care.
Dental insurance? Ha!
Upon researching a little, I discovered something I have suspected for a long time: "dental insurance" isn't what it's cracked up to be. I have wondered: if dental insurance is such a blessing, a panacea as it were, what would happen if everyone has it? Would dentists make substantially less money? No, the dentists will get their money. Insurance appears to do little beyond routine checkups and cleanings.
I have been informed that if you have insurance, you are required to see your dentist every six months. Requirements, requirements. You're dealing with 50 percent co-pays for complicated and expensive procedures. Most dental plans limit coverage to just $1500 a year. That can be small change when you look at the cost of many procedures.
So your kid needs braces? Better go gown to the basement and print more money. Or, beg your senators and representatives to get more involved with (benevolent) government resources and help. Like in Denmark. Hail Denmark!
Even people with dental insurance are likely to put off dental visits, a shame when you consider that oral health is closely connected to overall health. But this is America, right? And we pay our own bills in America, right? We can imagine John Wayne saying this. But John Wayne is dead.
Dentists on average are now making more money than many physicians. Meanwhile one in four non-elderly Americans has untreated tooth decay. Dental pricing lacks transparency.
But let's remember the real issue here, I say sarcastically: the "fake news" Washington Post! We are a nation of lemmings.
Addendum: I had Dr. Jorgenson when we first came to Morris. Very nice and capable. Getting a simple filling was probably a nominal expense. He eventually turned his practice over to someone who I felt was rather unstable mentally and emotionally, subject to anger control challenges. We had to leave that individual. I am glad he no longer lives in Morris.
Addendum No. 2: What about parents that allow their sons to play football?
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota -bwilly73@yahoo.com

Friday, April 6, 2018

Area-wide schools & the transportation burden

Many of our small rural communities have been able to keep an elementary school, after having relinquished their high school. Which prompts me to ask: why the difference? Even if the numbers appear depleted, why can't we, in this age of electronic media connectivity, accommodate the high school kids even in areas sparsely populated?
Remember the days when we saw the creation of the Lac qui Parle Valley high school? There was pain and controversy as we saw those wheels turn in an atmosphere of small town parochial interests. Wasn't a legislator's car vandalized at a meeting re. this? Wasn't the "Valley" tacked on to the school name for reasons of political sensitivity? Wasn't that petty and stupid? Reminder: "Valley" was added to make clear, lest there be a tiny bit of doubt, that the new school would be a completely new entity. "Lac qui Parle" had been the name of the area's combined wrestling program - why does wrestling always foment strong emotions? - and that program was based in Madison. There was a fear that people might think Madison was in a preferred position for the new school. So we got "Valley" even though there's no discernible valley.
"Valley" gives a sentimental ring like it's a sentimental movie in a rural setting (like "Spencer's Mountain").
Why am I broaching the subject today? We need to again weigh the pros and cons with these big area-wide schools, once thought so progressive. You were regressive if you pined to see the small rural schools nestled into pastoral communities, a la Norman Rockwell. Today I'd push a whole new factor to weigh: the sheer danger in having our kids spend so much time in transit to and from school.
In the first place, all that travel represents dead, wasted time. Secondly, buses are a prime place for kids to be bullied. Kids engage in bullying behavior partly because they are bored. I was a target myself, such as with the finger-flick of the ear, painful. If you complained to the driver you'd be a "snitch." Worse things could come.
But the third factor I'll cite here is fresh and highly relevant. It is based on the horrific recent accident involving the Hancock school van. The incident is an example of the sheer risk embedded in motorized transportation. Other horrific accidents have happened over the past few months in this general area, accidents that took lives, accidents with details that are so unpleasant, I don't wish to review them here.
I would argue that our dependence on motorized transportation is too great.
Transporting kids over a lengthy distance to and from school is a tedious and unnecessary task for which there is always risk of disaster. Those poor kids. I have checked on those two girls periodically on the Caring Bridge site. So unspeakably sad. We can hope for a miracle. I'd say "pray" but that word gets overused so much, and I personally doubt that prayer does anything except calm the feelings of the person doing the praying. I count on medical science.
I am disappointed there has not been more media follow-up since the initial reports of the accident. We'd like to learn more about whether there is an explanation at all for the van driver's lapse. We can immediately wonder if it was distracted driving. In the absence of a true media report, I simply must ask around. What I have heard is that the semi was mostly white colored which in winter, I suppose could be an issue? But it does not seem a sufficient explanation of course.
The accident happened in Swift County at County Roads 20 and 63 near Benson. I have read that the kids were open-enrolled to Hancock. I'm curious why they were open-enrolled. Were they traveling a longer distance under this arrangement than they would have otherwise? Jeremy Beyer is the poor semi driver who had the right of way - poor because this faultless individual got dragged into the whole thing. I'm sure the company that employs him grilled him to make sure the facts clearing him were clearly on paper. The stakes are great re. insurance payments.
Based on what we've read, shall we assume that the Hancock school's liability policy is in play? The cost would have to be huge.
We must pause and wonder, all of us, if we should continue relying on motorized transportation so much. Police officers will pull you over for no seat belt and lecture you on the dangers of a collision even at a speed of 30 MPH. If driving is so inherently dangerous, let's maybe back off from it some. Let's allow high school-age kids to attend school close to home, even in places like Appleton. The Internet reduces our dependence on the bricks and mortar education model.
Isn't it true that Dawson-Boyd came close to joining that expansive LQPV effort - yes, "Valley" - then backed out and today is very thankful they did so. So we are still blessed by having a school in our area with the "Blackjacks" nickname!
The rhetoric back then was so strong for suggesting that bigness was necessary, as if it was forward-looking as apposed to the Norman Rockwell-esque attitude. Sometimes the conventional wisdom is simply wrong.
I have read that the young generation of today has become somewhat averse to using auto transportation at all. The reason: it seems too dangerous. It should be obvious to all of us now. Tech has enabled us to get all the entertainment and fulfillment we need right at home. Endless TV channels and the Internet via a simple laptop. Things like banking can be done without going to a bricks and mortar place. These shifts in society can begin slowly, drifting iceberg-like, so we may not realize it's even happening.
Boredom was once a threat for all of us - today it's "data overload" which means our brains are overloaded. It's a nice new world albeit with some shortcomings. We must re-think our prevailing education model. Whether we're in a "valley" or not!
Addendum: "Spencer's Mountain" had perhaps the saddest movie scene of all time, where the tree falls on the old man, remember? 
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

This whole Trump thing could become disaster

We are supposed to be alarmed that Russia "meddled in our democracy." The assumption is that we're all supposed to be shocked. Is "democracy" not a pillar of the whole U.S. ethos and system? So why, then, are Republicans like Devin Nunes so obstructionist when it comes to getting at the problem of Russian "interference?"
Doesn't it seem obvious to you? Why don't people speak more often of this? The Russian interference had the effect of enhancing Republican power. I won't say that it enhanced Republican ideals. That's because the true Republican philosophy, represented by people like Jeff Flake, is gentler than what the extreme types project. I have written before that this whole episode may turn out badly. So many reflect on Watergate and Nixon as if there's a presumption that the bad stuff will be wiped out. We remember Nixon flashing those victory signs (in irony) as he boarded the helicopter.
We as a nation allowed Nixon to depart with some air of civility. This is not what our current president wanted for James Comey - upon firing Comey, the president felt (as stated later) that the government should not have even helped him get back from the West Coast. Shockingly, the president apparently felt Comey should get back on his own dime.
President Ford talked about "our long national nightmare." The nightmare ended and in time, certainly with some fits and starts, normalcy drifted back, albeit with those WIN buttons ("whip inflation now"). We could all put ideology aside and assume that Gerald Ford was a fundamentally good person. We can make no such assumption about Donald Trump. Trump ought to have appointed a mainstream jurist to the Supreme Court. Instead he gravitates to the far right at all times.
Again I would suggest that the reason for this is obvious. He knows that the very committed right-wingers will "have his back" as the clouds form from the Mueller investigation. You scratch my back, I scratch yours. The far right has gained traction just from the sheer intensity of their commitment - their ideology. (But wait, what about tariffs?)
I am waiting and praying for this to end. We at least need a calm, decent and intelligent person as president. Mike Pence? There's a cloud over him in the sense that he likely "knows too much" or has heard too much during the shenanigans that led to the Mueller probe.
A good vice president would step into the role as president, as Ford did, as a steadying force who would just guide the rudder of state in a non-disruptive way. Merrick Garland would have been a fine Supreme Court justice. Regarding the "Russian meddling in our democracy," why should Republicans like Nunes care as long as the Russians have had the effect of lifting America's reactionary or far right forces?
The Republican Party has been in the unusual position of grabbing all components of government: the House, Senate and presidency. They pounded the table when campaigning about how they'd repeal Obamacare and replace it with "something better for all Americans." How hard are they now working on that?
I have stated that our current crisis may not have a happy ending. Put analysis with Watergate aside. My late father always said "analogies are dangerous." Our president might yet use his undeniable power to fire/pardon people and push the Russia investigation aside. There will be a tempest or uproar, naturally, but what if there's no real remedy? Ideally we should count on the Republicans to ensure that our basic American system or ideals survive. But look at Devin Nunes and others. Think of the power projected by Fox News and even Alex Jones. Nothing like that existed in Watergate times, at least nothing with that kind of power from the reactionary right.
Today the far right doesn't give an inch. The NRA pours money into Republican coffers. Those people don't flinch at all even when kids are murdered. We have this major hope for a "blue wave" in the mid-terms. But there is no guarantee that will happen. The Republicans seem to have a very effective game plan for shooting down progressives. They have very effective rhetoric, rhetoric that has become knee-jerk. I sit by as a spectator and am dumbfounded.
Why does our president refuse to come down hard on Putin or his regime? We hear little about what the likely reason is. We have already considered the help given by the Russians to the American right wing. Beyond that we should look at the fact Putin is white and he leads a white race of people. Trump is demonstrably racist going back to his background with his father. Trump is an obvious racist. He sows wild oats with his sexual behavior.
I have argued before that his sexual misadventures are the equivalent of prostitution. It's at a level that law enforcement doesn't deal with - law enforcement deals with street-level prostitution. The women with whom Trump has had dalliances get paid richly. They are paid for their "silence" but they are really being paid for sex. Would these women wish to have sex with Trump if he were not so well endowed financially, and such a schemer as to be sure these women get paid handsomely? It's concierge prostitution. The cops would load those women into the paddy wagon if this were street-level stuff.
Trump has been married multiple times. Compare his image relative to women, to that of Barack Obama, a truly classy person in his personal/family life. How low would Trump have to sink before the so-called "evangelicals" finally start expressing some skepticism? It is starting to look bad for the whole Christian faith. We need some strident voices rising up just to defend Christianity, here and now on the heels of Easter. (I celebrated Easter in my standard way by watching my "Life of Brian" DVD. "Always look on the bright side of life.")
I have tried to avoid calling the Republican Party the devil in America. I am inching closer to crossing that line. The president has the power of the military behind him. He's the commander in chief. There is immense potential for harm coming from this. If Trump gets like-minded generals around him, what might happen? Trump talks about sending troops to the Mexican border. Soldiers are not law enforcement professionals. As Tom Clancy once said on Larry King, "soldiers don't arrest people, soldiers kill people."
We have a judicial system that is supposed to keep everyone in line. The prevailing wisdom is "we have a government of laws and not of men." But what about this huge dangerous personality cult around Trump? "Make America great again."
What if the military gets carried away and there are not checks/balances? This is actually how coups happen. Coups work because no one can stand up to the military. The Confederate army in the U.S. Civil War invaded Pennsylvania in the Gettysburg campaign and simply took what they needed. It was called "requisitioning." Could the very foundation of the U.S. be wiped out? Could the U.S. erode and come apart in an atmosphere of crisis and conflict, with widespread death as a consequence?
World history has precedent for this. We assume we're more civilized now. But we have chosen to elect Donald Trump.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com