“Tenterhooks”

October 24th, 2014

You watch, you decide

October 24th, 2014

I’m still working on Jabba and a half a dozen other things. The last two nights my dreams have had nothing, so far as I can remember to do with the Schools. I kinda like that. At the moment I only have a hazy recall of all the things I wanted to write about that last school board meeting. They will surely come back. In the meantime you watch the meeting and see what you think. My observations will be put down eventually. Just let me assure you that nothing in my appearance as a harmonizer at this meeting in anyway should lead to the impression I’m pulling away from Art Johnston. To the contrary, as his persecution grinds on with no word I’m only becoming more sympathetic and irritated. Now its on to Jabba again.

The 10/21/2014 Duluth School Board meeting in all its mercifully short 2 hours and 1 minute’s worth of glory.

Here’s the quick synopsis of the rowsans any mention of the education related agenda – that was reported by the Trib.

Jabba the Hutt

October 23rd, 2014

Like I was saying yesterday I planned to visit Mom and write a post and build a Halloween car costume. Somehow the blog post got lost.

Actually I had two long district related phone calls so that by the time I got to my Mom’s it was almost lunch. She was asleep so I put more hershey’s kisses in her candy dish for visitors (workers) and headed home. It was blog – Jabba, blog – Jabba all the way home. Jabba won. I spent the day building the skull and frame for Jabba the Hutt’s head. It was four feet wide, three feet thick and tall but faceless when I finished.

If you missed that post, which I intend to write tomorrow (remembering the pavement on the road to hell) I’ll blame last winter’s weather. I don’t quite know what possessed me to work on a Jabba the Hutt but I have always felt like I shortchanged my inner artists last winter. All that snow and so little sculpting. Too damn cold. So maybe its my inner creative impulse at work.

If so, its not exactly being gratified. The blog post in question went by the boards today as well. I visited my Mom this morning and sang and also recited the Presidents in order telling her the story of her father doing it when I was a kid. I sang too but the afternoon back home it was all Jabba the Hutt. I wish. I know how to sculpt snow. I don’t know how to put a face on a cardboard egg with burlap, a hot glue gun and Styrofoam.

If you want to bring some youngsters to Glen Avon’s for “Trunk or Treat” to see how badly I muffed it there will be a dozen decorated cars handing out treats next Sunday from 3 to 5PM. Its in the parking lot on Lewis Street just off of Woodland.

I also left two urgent emails and one phone call unresponded to along with that blog post. I only wrote this so that I could get this pathetic excuse for abandoning my blogging duties off my mind for some much needed sleep. Once again I’m bushed.

TTFN

October 22nd, 2014

I’m good for two posts today. This first one is “Harry’s Diary” stuff, more for my mental contextual record keeping than anything else (What was going on when I wrote that nonsense?). The next post will be the one that covers the news and the behind the scenes stuff. That will have to wait for my return from my Mother’s where, as per usual, I will shortly go to sing to her after her breakfast wakes her up a bit.

I’ve particularly enjoyed the bygones in the DNT since August. I moved to Duluth 40 years ago so the bygones is mentioning all the news stories I read about that helped me come to know Duluth and its politics in 1974. One of the first things I did upon moving to Duluth was start up my subscription to the Tribune the “morning” paper. There were two papers back then. The Herald was the evening paper published for all the workers who didn’t have time to digest the news before work.

Yesterday’s Bygones reminded me of one of the things that perturbed my conscience upon moving to Duluth. From the Bygones:

Oct. 21, 1974
St. Louis County Attorney Keith Brownell has notified three Iron Range mining companies they must stop requiring job applicants to affirm on their applications that they are not members of the Communist Party. Brownell said the practice violates the 1974 election law.

I was raised in the shadow of the Communist Witch Hunt’s of the 1950′s and in the heat of protests against the Vietnam War and with a good dose of public spiritedness from my high school Debate days. The first year on the team we argued the fine points of the Miranda ruling which was all about telling arrestees their rights before questioning. I knew damn well that asking folks about their old Commie affiliations was as wrong then it is for today’s employers to ask about a job candidate’s sexual preferences. Still, to get my teaching job in Proctor in 1974 I folded.

When I got the job application up in Proctor I saw with horror that it asked me if I had ever been a member of the Communist Party. I knew that by rights I ought to shove the damn job application up the butts of the people who handed it to me.(What I mean, of course, is I should have politely pointed out that this was an improper question to ask a prospective employee)

Did I do what I should have done………? Silly you for asking. I needed a job. The school year was just starting. I was getting married in a couple weeks. Teaching jobs for social studies teachers were as scarce as hen incisors. I chickened out and told the truth. “NO,” I was not now and never a member of the Communist Party. I was a Republican for heaven’s sake!

The issue of what kinds of questions are fit to be asked will be a big part of my next post. But first I’ll have to go sing. Then I’ll post. Then I’ll build Jabba the Hutt. I’m looking forward more to Jabba than jabbering if you were wondering?

TTFN. (Ta Ta for now).

Chair Miernicki responds concerning…

October 21st, 2014

…a former Board member’s teacher contract analysis:

Hello Harry,
Thank you for the update. I am wondering about Mr. Paulson’s letter. Should I be at the 10/20 meeting? I didn’t know about it.
Also, what does the following statement from Mr. Paulson mean?
“Here are my observations on this contract which I hope you fellows can talk about at the
mtg 10/20 if you think the public& board should know”

Is there something “the public& board” should not know?
Best Wishes As Always,
Mike MIernicki

My reply:

Hi Mike,

I sent the email on to all board members to share former Board member Paulson’s analysis. “You fellows” almost certainly refers to me and perhaps Art Johnston although I didn’t look at the email closely enough to see who else it was sent to.

I asked Mr. Paulson for his observations on the contract as I have yet to read it through myself. He has been waiting for it since it was passed by the Board early in May. I presume he may have gotten the date of tonight’s meeting wrong as I have not met with him and had no plans to meet with Rich on the 20th.

Since Mr. Paulson was probably referring to tonight’s meeting its evident to me that Mr. Paulson was suggesting that he would have no objection to our sharing his concerns at the meeting – with the public. Mr. Paulson and I share the belief that our District and School Board should be as transparent as possible.

See you tonight,

So much to do, so little time to do it

October 21st, 2014

Its a minute shy of noon. I opened my School Board inbox without any enthusiasm to see what is in it. I’ve peeked at it a couple times in recent weeks but I’ve not gone back to read through all the email. You will see that I responded belatedly to one recent corespondent. I may have a couple emails back to me relating to the one I sent my fellow Board members the day before on the teacher’s contract. I’ll check them out before tonight’s meeting but, again, without enthusiasm.

I’m still pursuing my priorities in order. Family first, School district stuff second. Yesterday afternoon I went back to the church (Does that count as family? As an agnostic I’m not even a member although when I was working low to the ground on the Habitat project my pastor saw me and said with delight that she rejoiced to see my on my knees) I had primed some large arched windows on Saturday and needed to cover them with brown paint to match the other windows. I’d spent yesterday morning tucking everything in my patio out of the way next to our sun room.

That may be for naught. I only discovered a month ago that a leak down my sidewalk that I had blamed on all the snow and rain earlier in the year was actually a leak in the plumbing leading up to our house. I’ve been given 14 days by the city to find a contractor to excavate and repair the leak. Unfortunately they are all loaded up with late fall repairs. The first one I called told me they were so busy they stopped taking new jobs two months ago. If its not fixed it will leave the potential for an impressive skating rink at my intersection all winter.

If they do fix it I might have to tear up my flowerbeds, patio and a wooden fence we installed ten years ago. Its a disheartening prospect. As for this afternoon I plan on doing more fun family stuff. Our church will have a “trunk or treat” next Saturday for folks who prefer that to treating down their streets. We decorate our cars and we decided to do the Ghostbuster thing. Claudia will be the Staypuff Marshmellow Man. I’ve got to turn our Traverse into the Ghostbuster vehicle. Then I may have to turn our daughter’s car into Jabba the Hut or the Death Star. They are working on the Starwars theme. Maybe I’ll find some time for school board stuff. I woke up a couple times last night thinking about it but with great difficulty forced myself back to sleep. It makes for a late wake-up getting one’s sleep with wakeful interruptions in the middle of night.

As the previous email/post indicates we’ve got our work cut out for us. I’m not looking for quick, easy solutions and I’m no longer willing to sacrifice family time to rush what hurrying can’t speed up anyway.

Cold Water

October 21st, 2014

An email to the School Board with a hopeful recommendation:

Hello Board members,

I think it is time to look seriously at models for year round school for a couple of reasons:

1. Student achievement – kids who are struggling could repeat a quarter, kids who are advanced would have more options.

2. Building use- it just makes sense to use the buildings year round

3. Sports-my personal opinion is that competitive sports should be eliminated from public school, but since that won’t happen, a kid who is on a team, could take an easier load during the sport season.

Please seriously add year round school to the discussion about boundary changes.

Thank you.

My Cold Water:

********,

Sorry to be a month late responding to your email. Of late I rather hate looking at my inbox and for a long while I had trouble opening it for some glitchy technical reasons. I know that’s not even a poor excuse for this tardy reply.

I don’t know if anyone else responded to your email but here is my reaction. Your suggestion makes total sense and is totally impossible. Even with our nine month school years we have classrooms that are crowded to the max. (Duluth gave up staffing for brand spanking new schools) Without some incredibly brave, creative sacrifices on the part of all involved there is no way to pay for the staff time a full year school would require. I don’t even think that if we could persuade voters to triple the recent bond levy increase we could come close to accomplishing this. That would only add between 42 and 54 teachers. It might be a start but we have a long way to go before our voters would trust us with that kind of money.

Sorry to throw cold water on your excellent idea.

If you would like to reply I recommend sending a direct reply to my personal email: harrywelty@charter.net as I look at that inbox close to daily.

Harry Welty

An email I sent to the School Board and Supt. this morning

October 20th, 2014

Board colleagues and Superintendent,

I have been too preoccupied with the School Board’s quasi-legal investigation of our board colleague Art Johnston to read the teacher’s contract that was recently sent to us after its adoption last May. I did ask past Board member Rich Paulson to read through it for me to get his experienced eyes on the document.

His email to me is as follows:

Hi Guys,

The chair & clerk signed the contract on 4/22/14 but the board ratified on 5/6/14. It seems the contract was a done deal prior to board approval & without any public comments.
Page 51 is a memorandum of understanding-ALC teacher work day/week signed 10/10/13 by Supt. Gronseth & DFT without any negotiations or board approval. These memorandums must all be negotiated because they are part of the contract.
Page 9 sick leave bank b needs to change from 1/2 time to .6 time.
Page 10 jury duty g needs to change from 1/2 time to .6 time.
Page 28 salary schedule & regulations A-3 needs to change from 1/2 time to .6 time & A-4 same change.
I wonder if any impact with change on page 11 earned medical plan changed from Earned Medical Plan to Health Care Savings Plan? Also new language in C about daily rate of pay.
Lastly I wonder how health ins. benefits were handle prior to to ratification 5/6/14 covering term from 7/1/13 relating to 1/2 time vs .6 time?
Here are my observations on this contract which I hope you fellows can talk about at the
mtg 10/20 if you think the public & board should know. Any questions please call me or email me. I find if I speak on any of these items they do not get in paper but board members get printed.
Keep up your good work.
Rich

As I have found it impossible to place items on the agenda that do not accord with the majority’s will and because Mr. Paulson’s analysis arrived too late to do so in any case I plan to raise the issues he asked at the end of the meeting during our time for questions. I did not want to catch our Administration ill prepared to deal with his concerns.

Among the questions Mr. Paulson’s analysis leaves me with are these:

Is it the responsibility of our legal negotiator to review and proofread the contract prior to its consideration by the School Board?

If, as Mr. Paulson says, there are incorrect figures in the document are they made enforceable by the Board’s adoption even if they were mistakes?

Should a Memorandum of Understanding be reviewed and acted upon by the Board or is the Superintendent and/or his subordinate’s extended the authority by the School Board to act on them without Board approval?

I would like some background and guidance from Administration on Mr. Paulson’s question concerning health insurance benefits and the Health Care Savings Plan.

Finally, since our Board Chair and Clerk both signed the contract prior to the Board’s approval of same, I would like to know if that made the Board’s approval unnecessary.

Respectfully,

Harry

Where I go to a very black place

October 19th, 2014

Yesterday’s volunteer work at the Church will end up being two days. We had a small crew scraping and painting the sills of all the windows at ground level but I looked at the arched window facing Lewis street and saw that it was badly checked and flaking so I put up a ladder and tackled it. What I had thought might be a morning’s work kept me until 4pm despite getting cordial help with a second coat of primer from Mark Hennessy. All the white on the window frames will cause wonder when Church commences this morning. It looks like I’ll have a good week of weather ahead to pick a new day to cover it with brown paint like the rest of the windows. While we painted Mark told me about his family and an older brother my age who was killed two weeks after getting to Vietnam. That would have been my senior year in high school. He was born in April of 1950. I was born in December. If I had not enrolled in college I would have had a lottery ticket into the Army myself but by then America had sorted itself out into the college bound war evaders and the blue collar, like it or not, warriors. Maybe that’s why the pre-division military of WW II has always looked on it as “the Good War.” It was everybody’s war rich and poor alike, plus we won it with our Grant-like demand of unconditional surrender.

While I painted I recited the Presidents in order once. I did it before going to sleep two days ago. After committing Lincoln’s immediate predecessors to memory with the DeRose book I did the same to the smaller set of presidents after him up to William McKinley. That was pretty easy because it was a two/three combination. After Rutherford B Hayes, there was a one-two punch, Garfield famous for his assassination if little else and his Veep Chester Arthur a crook who tried to set a good Presidential example. That was followed by a threesome of two presidents. Cleveland, Harrison, Cleveland.

I spent Thursday or Friday afternoon reading about all these presidents in Wikipedia to get the details of their presidencies in brief. I also roamed the Amazon site for book reviews on the bios of these and other politicians of the Era. The Democrat Cleveland was in his first term as President when my Republican Grandfather George Robb was born. That family history helped anchor him in my mind with the four year cadence of Presidential elections. The year Grandfather turned one the Republican Ben Harrison got a term in the Oval Office. This got me to Cleveland again followed by a date I’ve known since high school. 1896 was the year of William Jennings Bryan’s run against McKinley followed by yet another date that has stuck with me since a Constitutional Law class in college. 1897 was the year that the Supreme Court ruled that “Separate but Equal” was constitutional. Fifty-one years later as I was heading to school the Court pretty well killed Plessy vs. Fergusson with the Brown ruling. Plessy had been right up there with Chief Justice Tawny’s Dred Scot and maybe Robert’s gutting of the 1965 Voting Right’s Act. After all we aren’t racist’s anymore. (I’m just saying that to bait my Buddy. Then again maybe I’m not.)

I did update my reading list on my old website by adding the book about Lincoln’s other five presidents. While I was looking at it I noticed that I’d stopped writing thumbnail descriptions of the books about six years ago so I added them in. I also discovered that I read Orwell’s Animal Farm in 2005 the year before I got wrapped up in fighting the Red Plan. I don’t remember rereading it but the timing was fitting.

My Buddy sent me a quick three emails in response to my posting his last email. I haven’t read them yet. Not sure I’ll respond but I may simply put them on the blog without a rebuttal. Least I can do for fairness’ sake.

I did have one debate with myself about my reply. I used the word “conviction” when talking about my sense that there is some DWB going on in Duluth. One of my Buddy’s replies refers to my not knowing the meaning of the word conviction although I’m won’t be sure what his whole comment will be until I open it. We often fence over definitions. The word “tendentious” was one of our first such debates. It occurred to me that the word “suspicion” might have been more appropriate. My Buddy is quite right. I have no evidence to back up my suspicion. I do have a good reason, however, to call it a conviction although it has yet to be proved.

It has been demonstrated that hard, some would call it oppressive, police work can tamp down crime. Rudy Giuliani’s police came out in big numbers and routinely stopped black young men in some tough neighborhoods. Crime there went down noticeably and was linked to the constant police presence. It works. So in Duluth we have some tough higher crime neighborhoods and it makes sense that our police would spend more time there than Lakeview or Piedmont Heights. It also just happens that these tougher neighborhoods have a higher African American population. If more cars are pulled over where more police are and there are more black drivers in those parts of town. Well, you can see where I’m going with this.

We also have a drug problem and those drugs come reliably from bigger city drug networks. Those networks on the ground are run by a larger share of inner city entrepreneurs and predictably those are more likely to be black than they would be if the networks operated out of small rural communities. Our cops know that and being vigilant they would be strongly inclined to stop a car with an out of date licence or a broken turn signal if it had out of state plates or a new unfamiliar face. If that face suggested a likelihood that it might have come from some inner city well….. Again you can see where I’m going with this.

This has been the predicament for blacks in America since they were first brought over as indentured servants just like white Europeans. Only slavery turned out to be a lot easier. Slavery had been tried on Indians but they could escape into the forest and blend in with non slave indians. Blacks could always be seen as foreign to North America and if you found one living with the Indians you could pretty well guess that he had escaped. Think of black skin and African facial features as like being a brand on a cow. Or just think of it as designating a cow no matter who claimed ownership. Although slavery is no longer part of the equation the brand still is evident.

I was going to write an new Octoroon post a while back. The first of them prompted my most recent spat with my Buddy.

Here’s where I was going with it. That word was lifted from New Orleans slave life. Octo in this case refers to 1/8th of a person’s ancestry and this specifically was used for people who were descended from 7 white and 1 African great grandparents. By the time you have mixed in a seven to one genetic blending the African is a pretty minimal 12.5 percent. But in slave society it was enough to consider a person a Negro. Hell, most Europeans and Asians have 2 or 3 percent Neanderthal genes. (Africans who stayed on the continent never got contaminated with them.)

The otherwise all white child who had one octoroon as a grandparent would be down to 1.5 percent African ancestry. And yet in the Antebellum South there was the charming “One drop” rule. If you had a single black slave ancestor you were considered black. By that measure all Europeans are Neanderthals.

This prejudice against African features has not died and it has had a riot of interrelated consequences. Talented African Americans are suspected of being talented because of the white “blood” in their systems. African Americans have for years been shamed into hating their African-ness and impelled to couple with more European looking blacks. Nazi Germany with his junior high school quality Fuehrer decided that the one drop rule made sense when they began hunting down Jews to send to the Concentration camps to purify the German race.

One possible outcome of a black/white mixing is the ability for “passing” into the white community. An only slightly African looking child might move to a new place where without proof he or she could pass as white. For parents who wanted to spare their children the grief they endured finding a white mate made sense. For white parents the reverse was true. Having a child connected with a black mate was unthinkable for most of our history. I asked my Dad once back in my college days if he would mind my marrying a black woman. When he told me he hoped I wouldn’t I asked why. He told me he would grieve for the treatment he expected they would get.

They are still getting that grief. One way its inflicted is called a DWB. “Driving while Black.” That’s why for a hundred years the biggest black owned business in the US was skin bleaching. Maybe it would work in Duluth.

My Buddy’s indicts me

October 18th, 2014

My Buddy writes:

On Sat, Oct 18, 2014 at 9:29 AM, [your Buddy] wrote:

Harry:

From http://lincolndemocrat.com/?p=11931:

If I ever attend to writing such a book it might free me from the compulsion to rise to my Buddy’s every put down when I post something about the crappy experiences of black Americans.

Meaning what? That I deny that black Americans have had and have crappy experiences? You do seem to suffer from a compulsion, which involves indulging in irrationality and bullshit. As I have said to you:
My complaints against you are “puny, blind and foolish”? My complaints against you are limited and precise, such as when you accused Duluth police officers of committing DWB, instead of simply and accurately saying that someone told you that he had repeatedly been the victim of DWB. Your such failure was utterly irresponsible – particularly considering that you are a member of the local school board and that you publish a blog. You fucked up. Have you met with Chief Ramsay? Have you acknowledged that you fucked up? I suspect that your fuckup marred your reputation with Chief Ramsay, and maybe with Mayor Ness and Duluth police officers. If your such fuckup wasn’t attributable to race hustling; to what was it attributable?

[your Buddy]

My Reply:

Perhaps Buddy, it was connected to my conviction that most people act differently when dealing with blacks than they do with whites. If this difference ended up being harmless it would be no big deal. Judging by the plight of such large percentages of blacks three hundred years after they were shanghaied into slavery it has been a big deal. Judging further by the much better situation for the descendants of other once discriminated against light skinned people who came long after blacks this plight is very much skin color related.

If Chief Ramsay can’t take my publicly expressed conviction that black drivers are more likely to be pulled over in Duluth traffic stops than whites and that this is in large part a result of their darker skin color then I’m quite happy for him know that one public official in our town does believe that this is probably true.

I only claim to speak honestly Buddy, not to speak the truth. If I’m proven wrong by the Chief then I’m quite willing to suffer the consequences. You’ve alerted the Chief about my conviction. I’ll be happy to hear from him if he can demonstrate that my conviction is unfounded.

Harry

I also sent my Buddy a PS that was unrelated to this dialogue

Jane the Virgin

October 18th, 2014

I heard a good review of this new television series on PBS and found some subsequent raves on the Internet. So Claudia and I watched the first episode by live streaming it on Hulu. Evidently you can watch it here.

It was charming and Jane is a Virgin just like her Grandma told her to be. She is also pregnant.

I can only hope subsequent episodes are as funny as the first one. If so it will rate up there with Doc Martin and Australia’s original version of the Rake for me. I wouldn’t recommend the latter to just anyone as it is pretty bawdy. Like Doc Martin I’d have no trouble recommending Jane to anyone.

Its inspiration comes from the Latin American Soap Operas called telenovelas. This will be one souped up soap. You can watch the first one online and then catch them on the CW channel on Mondays after that.

Jane won’t get an abortion. Good for her. That would end all the fun.

“I don’t want to go to school with no niggers.”

October 18th, 2014

That was what my new neighbor, little preschool Donna Beth Wylie, told the slightly older, about-to-be-in second grade me back in 1958 when I moved into the Loman Hill Elementary School attendance area in Topeka Kansas. This was four years after the US Supreme Court had ruled that Topeka couldn’t have two separate school systems, one for black children and one for white children.

Every year or two I begin fixating on a book I would like to write. Its more than that phrase “I could write a book” that you are always hearing people say, teachers especially. I heard someone say this while I served lunch at the Soup Kitchen yesterday. In my case I actually have written one book and I’ve got a blog that, in words, equals a small library. I’ve been wanting to write about race relations for a long time. The book I started thinking about writing twenty years ago would have been a novel. It would have had as its central starting point the infamous Duluth lynching that took place just after WW I when a lot of unemployed veterans were being squeezed out of jobs in Duluth’s steel mills by cheap black labor. I wanted to tie the lynching to Topeka, Kansas, where one of the victims had family and was represented by a black lawyer who later took part in the Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education challenge, and my Kansas grandfather who won a WW I Congressional Medal of Honor as an officer in an all black infantry division raised in New York’s Harlem.

Toward that end I began earnestly buying books about black history. I’ve read a number of them but most still await my attention. The idea of that novel has been getting dimmer in recent years but not a book about race. Its such a big subject that most everyone is clueless how deeply racial ideas, mostly inept ones, infect us even its victims.

I remember when Roots the television series helped make ABC a serious television network after the 1976 Olympics. Its depiction of one families history from Africa through the slave trade into the Civil War years was a revelation to black Americans who’d lived the experience. I suspect many black grandparents who despaired of their children understanding their history were grateful to ABC and the series author Alex Haley for putting a face on an largely unwritten past. Haley also co-wrote Malcolm X’s gripping autobiography.

The most common thought in America where race is concerned is probably “I’m not a racist.” Saying it almost proves you are and so I never say it. You can deny it to yourself but not to others depending on how they define the word. Socrates said he could win any argument if he was the one allowed to define the words being debated. Whether you or I am a racist all depends on the definition of the world. I for instance have made a habit in recent weeks of walking up to to black strangers to introduce myself as a School Board member. Something is going on in my head to be doing that. Maybe its racism. One of the people I met that way a few weeks back walked through the Soup Kitchen today and was quite excited to see me.

I thought of a first sentence for a first chapter of a new idea for a book on the subject this morning. I’d base the book on the books I’ve read on the history of race in America and beyond. It would be a rumination about race and my family’s experiences with black Americans through the years. I created a folder for a book in my computer. I thought Donna Beth’s attitude on integration would be a good beginning to a prologue. As for a sentence to begin a first chapter I thought of this:

“If you are deeply invested in the word for word truth of the Bible and believe that the world began roughly 6000 years ago with Adam’s creation you have been raised to be a racist.”

My prologue would elaborate on Donna Beth’s petulant proclamation. My Mother had a great fondness for Donna Beth’s family and in the five years we lived next to the Wylie’s she got to know her Mother Joyce Wylie very well. When we visited them annually for years after leaving Topeka old Walt would always laugh when he saw me and repeat the scurrilous thing his indignant older daughter had overheard me say about him and reported back to him.

“Mr. Wylie spits and swears and he smokes cigars too.”

Walt was a military policeman in Italy after WW II. Joyce told my Mom that his job entailed going into brothels and pulling black American soldiers off of white Italian woman trying to survive the post war.

If I ever attend to writing such a book it might free me from the compulsion to rise to my Buddy’s every put down when I post something about the crappy experiences of black Americans.

It’s Saturday and I would love to go to Duluth’s “Boo at the Zoo” with my grandsons. The older one will be Luke Skywalker and the little one will be Slimer from Ghostbusters. Sadly, I agreed to clean the church this morning so I’ll miss out.

History restored

October 17th, 2014

I headed home after singing to my Mom for a few minutes before rushing off to serve lunch at the Damiano Soup Kitchen. While home I read an email that made my day. A reader of my last post who noted my discouragement at not having saved my old School Board diary found it for me. It was on the Wayback website: It looks like I’ll find all or most of my old diary entries. I’m not sure if this was the first one I ever wrote but its here. I’ll make sure to copy them and save them this time.

Thanks Jason.

By the way, the “Wayback Machine” was Peabody the Dog’s device for time travel. Sherman the Boy was his pet.

Chimps in the news – a little self criticism

October 17th, 2014

Can Harry intimidate people into being nice?

That is the question I’m faced with as I contemplate the Bullying and BFFing post. Intimidation. That’s a bully’s domain and part of my schtick. It has been since I began writing about the School Board back in 1999. Back then I was far more defensive than aggressive. One of the Board members I served with told her allies critical things about me and they passed on her evaluation of me in letters-to-the-editor.

I responded by writing in my old website in a section of it I called “School Board Diary.” That portion of www.snowbizz.com is gone now obliterated by some calamity when I pushed the wrong button. Then I got a four year gig writing in the Reader Weekly, now the Duluth Reader. I continued writing for the Reader off and on for some years afterwards. Elected official are targets for lots of criticism and I’ve got lots of vulnerabilities that make good targets. I failed as a teacher. I was a long time Republican and would like to be again if the Party stops being all Fox newsy. I was pro choice, which today’s Republicans call “pro abortion.” I was and am free with my criticism of the School Board. I often did not vote the way the Teacher’s Union wanted particularly when I supported the Edison School experiment. I was one of Mark Twain’s idiot school board members. As an idiot I let our school buildings fall into disrepair. Later I opposed the Red Plan and thus tried to deprive our students of the schools they deserved.

Perhaps you can divine by the way I phrase these criticisms that I don’t take them all that seriously. I do, however, take criticism seriously. I can more than hold my own in most arguments and the fact that very few people criticize me publicly any more suggests two possibilities. Maybe my old Red Plan adversaries are too embarrassed to criticize me since I was right and they were wrong. Or Maybe, potential critics are afraid I will respond so viciously (which I would justify by calling it honesty) that they would in effect being getting into a peeing contest with a skunk. The latter possibility is the one that prompts this post and that question I asked at its beginning. “Can Harry intimidate people into being nice?”

I think intimidation can work. Perhaps the more important question is whether it should work. The advocates for the Civility Project believe that being civil is the best way to resolve problems and avoid the hideous example of our current Congress. I have often analyzed this contention and done so with considerable skepticism. But perhaps my tough criticism has become its own form of bullying.

The previous post makes an important point. Favoritism can be taken to unhealthy levels that foster resentment. OKaaaay Harry! Point well taken but aren’t you heading way over the top by pointing out those terrible stories about Chimpanzees in the News? Well, gosh, stammer, stammer, uhhh I guess I did it for the same reasons Republicans today are campaigning for Congress on Ebola. Maybe you heard of it. Its a disease which has killed exactly one American on American soil in a year in which thirty thousand Americans will die from the flu.

But really Harry – Rampaging Chimps? That’s not exactly the same as someone getting a parking pass they may not be entitled to. Besides, the folks who got the pass weren’t my biggest concern. Its the BFFing by other administrators that I wanted to shine a light on turning team players into Good ole boys.

I have felt for a long time that there is an unhealthy favoritism riddling the Duluth Schools which I believe is corrosive. I’m just not sure that my corrosive criticism will make things better. I’ll try to stick to simple criticism from now on.

From Bullies to BFFs

October 15th, 2014

Four and a half hours of sleep. For me, these days, not bad. At 4:30AM I decided to walk half mile down hill to McDonalds for coffee and some apple pies.

Keeping your temper is an important part of life. Mine has not been exactly angry during the recent long blog posting binge, just a little loopy from lack of sleep. Even so I’m getting more sleep than Abe Lincoln did as President. The book I’m still 25 pages from finishing described how his union soldier guards cringed outside his door when he did catch moments of shuteye. The President moaned so pitiably in his sleep they were unnerved.

Ah, but during this waking hours Abe was very much in control of his emotions. He had to be. For two and a half years he got almost non stop bad news. As his reelection campaign neared everyone thought he was toast. Gettysburg, Vicksburg and the soldier vote saved his Presidency. I’m looking forward to our Board’s midterm election next year. They went badly for Lincoln. I have to keep reminding myself that the burden on me is only the Duluth school district not the fate of the nation or the lives of a million men at arms.

I’ve been coaching my ally Art Johnston to keep his cool. Its not getting any easier after five month’s under a very dark cloud. I twitted him a bit Monday for a little crotchetyness. We had been discussing bullying and every time its on the agenda its all Art can do not to gnash his teeth.

If and when I make the time to meet the Superintendent – not easy to do with such lovely weather waiting for me outside and good books to finish – I should raise the subject of fairness.

Social scientists are discovering how fundamental the question of fairness is to humans and other animals. The sense of it is particularly strong in primates. Our nearest primate relatives Chimpanzees have made a couple alarming appearances in the news recently when they felt they were being treated unfairly. In one story a man’s testicles were bitten off when he and his wife who could no longer care for their family Chimp took their chimp treats at an animal care facility that took them in when the babies grew up to be unmanageable. The husband and wife would take their adored chimp treats which he would get to eat in front of other discarded chimps. So aroused to anger were the chimps who had been left out that when a caregiver forgot to lock a cage one angry chimp escaped and damn near killed the husband. In a similar experience a woman who was asked by a friend to help her restrain the friend’s unruly chimp got her face ripped off by the angry animal. She has since had a face transplant.

Back when I was fighting the Red Plan a few of my old friends learned the hard way that it was a disability not to be young and gorgeous in the Dixon Era. I’m afraid that legacy of favoritism may still be with us.

One person I got to know recently was hired by the District and shown their new office. When this person returned to occupy it after moving from another state to Duluth they found their office occupied. The new occupant had an influential friend in the Administration that intervened in the office assignment process. In a similar vein I heard that Art Johnston’s most vociferous accuser made sure that another top administrator’s child would be permitted to park at her school though the child was not otherwise entitled to do so. This became general knowledge when the police liaison at the school kept putting parking tickets on the car only to learn that they were all being ignored and forgiven.

Its not a big leap from bullying to Best Friend Forevering.

After I teased Art about Monday’s meeting he sat mute through Tuesday’s Education meeting while, comatose as I was from my Habitat work, I still managed a couple questions. After the meeting Art darkly and a little sarcastically asked me if he had been well enough behaved. I told him that of course he had been. He had been as quiet as a church mouse. Then I told Art that my greatest fear was that he might pop like steam valve under too much pressure. That led to a discussion of his least favorite subject bullying and favoritism.

I asked Art if he’d read George Orwell’s Animal Farm and Art said that he had. I read it for a junior high English class and it made an impression on me. I wrote down the quote and its famous amendment from that book and showed it to Art. I asked him if he remembered it. Art read it over and nodded his assent:

All animals are equal.”

“All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”

Art smiled wryly and headed for the parking lot. The pressure, for the moment, had been turned down a bit.

Spare yourself again

October 14th, 2014

“Spare yourself” is probably the operative phrase while I’m suffering from restless mind syndrome. That’s a syndrome of my own naming if you had any doubt. I recommended that my readers spare themselves rather than reading a very recent post and I should have said the same about the last rant. My Buddy sent me an email with the phrase “incoherent” in his text but I haven’t the energy to read it. I don’t quite have the energy to be any more coherent now just after Ten when my mind is reeling like I remember it doing on the limited occasions back in college where I’d had too much to drink. So once again I advise you to spare yourself from reading any further. Read the rest of this entry »

Remember Harry. You are not the little Dutch boy…

October 13th, 2014

…and your blog is not a Holy Dam. [pun intended]

Blog posts born of an overactive mind are a pain. I got Rosebud started but went farther afield with it than I intended. I was going to upload it as an incomplete Part 1 and then do the Part 2. Then, of course, I had the Octoroon series to finish and a passel of emails between my Buddy and me on civil rights and then there are all those old posts I promised to write like a series on the teacher’s union and the Edison Schools and then, and then, and…

I’ve got a life to live, a school system to save, and while I’m glad my Buddy keeps my wit sharp I have to put things in focus. His last email that I was charged up to rebut got to his only real argument for not yielding to race hustlers – the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. Kapow! Take that Harry. Just now I chortled at the thought of debating that subject ad nauseum. Well Buddy. Your point is this. Never mind that for two hundred years the US refused to treat blacks as equal even after the Civil War. We should start treating them equal now, no special privileges, screw Affirmative Action, insure voter purity by imposing photo identification cards. If poor folks just care enough they can become a success. Nevermind that one in three blacks end up behind bars compared to one in seventeen whites because that’s all the fault of our drug laws. We should go all libertarian and free blacks then we’d have nothing to worry about while saving beaucoup bucks on the cost of imprisoning a greater share of our population than any other country in the world except maybe Pol Pot’s Cambodia.

Yeah Buddy. I know I’m putting words in your mouth but I thought it was pretty funny to Google “race hustler” and find it Read the rest of this entry »

Spare yourself

October 13th, 2014

Spare yourself if you find my Diary stuff tiresome: Read the rest of this entry »

The BWCA, a reminiscence

October 12th, 2014

Here’s the email I’ve been chewing on:

Harry: At least Forum Communications is instilling some common sense to an otherwise ding-dong DNT staff. Nolan not only voted against continuing outboard motor and snowmobile use in my backyard, the BWCA, he vigorously fought against it in 1978. He has voted against the second amendment and gets an “F” from my two unions, the National Rifle Association and the Gun Owners of America. He is not for the little people. I’m not nuts about Mills, but then, why would I vote for someone who doesn’t support our way of life? ***

I got my first taste of politics in Northern Minnesota in the mid to late 70′s when I ran for the legislature against Mike Jaros, my great anti-Red Plan ally of late. As a Republican who visited most of our National Parks as a kid and as a great enthusiast for Teddy Roosevelt who got the parks rolling I was happy with the Wilderness Act that created the BWCA. That doesn’t mean I was not sympathetic to hundreds of residents who got their backyards taken away from them. Read the rest of this entry »

There, I feel so much better.

October 12th, 2014

An apology can purge the soul even when the recipient of it says it wasn’t necessary.