Then and Now: how our economy changed

The wealthiest member of the first Roman triumvirate, Gen. Marcus Licinius Crassus, was so rich that his enemies made a show of pouring molten gold down his throat. Today, you could fill a Roman legion with Americans who are richer than Crassus. Killing them with gold would be a logistical nightmare that only they could… Read More →

Talking Gus Hall at FinnFest

I’ll be leaning harder than ever on my 1/4 quotient of Finnish blood as I prepare to speak Sept. 21 at FinnFest in Minneapolis. Here’s how this sort of thing happens. You might recall that early last month I presented a talk about Gus Hall, the noted American communist leader who was born and raised… Read More →

Cheers to Craigville, where everybody knew your name

This photograph was taken by Russell Lee for the U.S. Farm Security Administration. If it looks familiar it’s because it’s the picture they show on the opening sequence of “Cheers” as John Ratzenberger’s name appears on the screen. Ratzenberger played the annoying but lovable mailman Cliff Clavin. But what I didn’t know is that Lee… Read More →

Summer’s labor lost

This was the summer that never happened. Oh, sure, the sun warmed our backs. The days stretched long. We ate a watermelon and dipped our toes in the lake. The summer “happened”; we just weren’t *relaxed* for more than a few hours of it. It was like waiting for a repairman to arrive at any… Read More →

Iron Range ore to play big role in #Harvey recovery

By now we are familiar with the widespread devastation of Hurricane Harvey and the following tropical storm and torrential rain. It’s the single biggest rain event in the history of the contiguous United States. We may yet only guess at the totality of the storm’s terrible effect on the people of Houston, their property, and… Read More →

Good girl, Daisy

People blame many problems on the internet. Email scams. A lack of civility in political discourse. Naughty naked people and bad medical advice. But for me the biggest way the internet affected my life is the fact that my wife Christina can view dogs available for adoption anywhere in the country, all day long. She… Read More →

Talking class division on ‘Dig Deep’

When I was 24 and attending grad school, I watched every episode of Donald Trump’s first season of “The Apprentice.” The show was on during one of the few nights of the week that my wife and I could watch TV together. We watched every episode in real time, pre-DVR. The act wore thin in… Read More →

Unwanted fish ready for the ‘gauntlet’

ANNOUNCER: … in other news, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced its plan to block the advance of invasive Asian carp through the locks and dams of American rivers to the Great Lakes. The plan combines new lock engineering, complex noise, water jets, and electric barriers to turn back the carp. The scheme also… Read More →

WWII anti-fascist film holds up disturbingly well

Like most folks, I’ve spent some time thinking about the flare up of white nationalist violence last weekend in the United States. For me, this is a disturbing continuation of trends we’ve seen in all corners of this country. Division, threats and death. What do I think? Why recreate what was so well articulated 74… Read More →

Fear itself: a backyard tragedy

During a storm last winter, a pine bough fell on the chain link fence in our backyard. The tree mangled the fence, but failed to knock it down. Bending it back together as best we could we figured we’d get to fixing the fence sometime next summer. Summer came, but the fence remained broken. Projects… Read More →