3rd thought on tomorrow’s debate

This picture almost makes me forget how glad I was to have Barack Obama take George W. Bush’s place. Compared to today’s Republican nominee Bush was a saint. This remarkably able, and wholesome First Lady married another good guy who has been the subject of eight years of scurilous, vindictive, demogogic excoriation that will seem almost as incomprehensible to historians of the future as this year’s Republican nominee.

This picture is also a wonderful salve at a time of “Birther” leavened racial hurt.

2nd thought on tomorrow’s debate

For those of you who use the phrase “X may be a son-of-a-bitch but he’s our son-of-a-bitch.” Think twice before you put Donald Trump’s name in it.

If you’re a blue collar worker who lost your job to the developing world remember that before he was against trade pacts Donald Trump made use of them to set up shop everywhere else besides the United States.

If you’re a small business person remember his long record of declaring bankruptcy leaving small business on the hook for his failed investments.

If you’re ambitious and struggling remember how he made a spectator sport of mocking losers with his television mantra “you’re fired.” And don’t forget how he took his true believers who enrolled in this sham Trump University to the cleaners.

If you believe in Christian charity remember how he has used his charitable donations to pay off debts and buy political favors.

And if, like me, you value Presidential honesty remember that compared to Hillary’s failure to be candid about whether she ever failed to treat a classified email as a state secret you have in just the last week from Donald Trump a wealth of bullshit and lies that will continue for the next four years should he be elected President of the United States.

We need to think carefully about just whose son-of-a-bitch Donald Trump really is. He’s David Duke’s son-of-a-bitch. He’s Vladimir Putin’s son-of-a-bitch. Is this who American needs to be their son-of-a-bitch?

Not my tribe

My Buddy regularly hurls the word “tribal” at me as though I am guilty of being like everybody else – loyal to the people like me. I’ve given this lot a of thought. First I’ll be evasive. Yes, I’m tribal and my tribe is humanity and humanity as it exists today before we tamper with it too much. Will we become genetically engineered in the coming eons? Will we become bionically and computationally augmented? Will we become both and or something more amazing as we spread ourselves through the Milky Way. When, in a billion years, our galaxy crashes into Andromodea will our descendents, as remote from us as we are from the single celled thingies that began our journey a billion years ago be at peace among themselves or will we have a cosmic Star War going on? Will there be life on Andromeda with its own civilizations to contend with the Milky Way?

Well we on the Milky Way have a billion years to prepare for that if we don’t tear each other apart before the collision. Maybe our descendents will be some sort of cyborg that would be imposbile for primitive old me to find very agreeable.

And speaking of Earthly cyborgs this summer I have been in conflict with a nest of hornets which settled behind the eves of my house. I tried to poison them six or seven weeks ago by pumping an insecticide in the single hole they use to enter and exit. They soldiered on and multiplied but I didn’t give them much thought again until a couple weeks ago when Alanna Oswald and her daughter visited. Alanna’s daughter got stung and I decided something needed to be done.

A few days ago I bought another can of insecticide and shot it in the entrance several times over several days. It didn’t put a dent in the hornets although they refused to alight near their tunnel until the area around the hole was dry. I swear there must have been fifty hornets buzzing near by waiting for the air to clear so that they could carry bits of dead bugs to the nest. I couldn’t help but wonder how much biomass hundreds and possibly thousands of hornets were hauling into my house under the eves every day. Yesterday I fashioned a nine foot spear from with a marshmallow skewer tip. I rolled up a paper towel over the skewer and drenched it with insecticide and jammed the poisoned towel into the entrance. I kept squirting insecticide for two days on the hornets who tried to get back in. I’ll wait to remove the towel and caulk the hole for a couple weeks until I’m sure the remnants inside have canibalized each other into extinction.

This could almost be a set piece for Independence Day except that in this case I have superior weapons to the cyborgs. I am not sympathetic to hornets. I watched a Nova or a National Geographic program a decade ago about Hawaii which showed how invasive hornets are eating their way through Hawaii’s native insect population. I hope that’s not the fate of the Milky Way. Call me tribal.

ISAIAH AND THE ETHICAL PROPHETS

I slogged through the first six chapters of my first Prophet, Isaiah, last night. It was mostly words passing by my eyes. I’ve got a lot of prophets to read through to finish the Old Testament and if they are like the first and the longest it will be very tough.

Ah but Claudia is in her third year of studies at United Theological Seminary. I told her about it and she recommended I read the book she is currently immersed in called prophetically “The Prophets.”

Its a 600 page book so if I wade into it it will only be to nibble at its edges. Apparently its a one of its kind classic from the 1960’s written by a Jewish scholar, Abraham J. Herschel. Heck that’s longer than all the prophets together but with larger print.

Herschel calls these prophets “ethical” because they weren’t like today’s pundits…..schilling for their paymaster. As a result lots of them were persecuted for telling it like it is and asking their Kings to act in Godly ways. I guess their writing may be examples of someone other than the winners writing history.

Good. I was afraid I might be the only loser writing it.

Is Chair Harala correct that the School Board reaffirmed its policy of not selling old schools to other schools?

Not exactly.

That would have required the Board to reconsider the aforementioned policy and vote for it. That’s not the question we voted on.

What we did was vote on a proposal brought to the Board by Art Johnston, Alanna Oswald and me which would have in effect allowed us to examine an offer that could have raised $14.2 million for a property that has been costing us $176,000 each of the last five years to maintain. (although Central’s vacancy has been a boon to the Minnesota Ballet which I talked the Administration into opening up so that they could clean and repair storm damaged costumes.)

This is what our rejected motion said:

WHEREAS, Pursuant to District Policy 3195 –Disposal of School District Property, All property sold shall contain a deed restriction prohibiting the property’s future use as a school or other E-12 educational facility.

WHEREAS, Pursuant to District Policy 8120 –Disposal of School Board Properties, Property shall not be released without knowledge of its proposed utilization, and no property is to be released for the purpose or subsequent purpose of usage as a school other than ISD 709. By contract, such violation shall result in the property reverting back to ISD 709.

WHEREAS, In order to consider offers to purchase School District property for the utilization as a E-12 educational facility, the School Board must suspend District Policies 3195 and 8120.

WHEREAS, The School Board of ISD 709 has received a proposal for $14.2 million from Tischer Creek Duluth Building Co., a nonprofit entity affiliated with North Star and Raleigh Charter Schools, for the Central High School site.

WHEREAS, Incomplete information or misinformation was cited as reasons for voting in a certain way in the March 31 meeting.

WHEREAS, New information has surfaced that could potentially change reasons to vote a certain way including, but not limited to: Assessed values, realtor opinions and public opinions.

WHEREAS, the fact that the land value of the Central High School site was assessed at only $8 million in the 2006 evaluation by Ramsland and Vigen, Inc. This is the most recent property assessment, and was conducted during a peak in property values in Duluth.

WHEREAS, The School Board of ISD 709 has adopted a civility resolution where we will show your evidence and share your reasoning.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT In order to fully investigate the offer, the School Board directs the Administration and School Board to initiate negotiations with Tisher Creek Duluth Building Co. to devise for the School Board’s consideration the most favorable mutual conditions for said sale including, but not limited to: provisions for enrollment caps, possible withholding of some parcels of the whole property from inclusion, potential joint usage of existing buildings, and an acceptable price for the purchase.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT the School Board of Independent School District 709, St. Louis County, Minnesota shall suspend District Policies 3195 and 8120 in order to consider negotiating the current offer from Tischer Creek Duluth Building Co. for the Central High School site.

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED THAT the School Board of Independent School District 709, St. Louis County, Minnesota shall have an agenda item on a special board meeting to be held preferably by May 9th but no later than the May 17th regular school board meeting on whether to sell the Central High School site to Tischer Creek Duluth Building Co.

As Alanna has explained, suspending school board policies is a pretty routine event. The only justification for keeping additional offers from reaching the ears of the School Board was to keep them secret. It had nothing to do with the Board’s “reaffirming” Policy 3195 not to sell to other schools. It seems the secrecy was intended to make sure that the Board wouldn’t be made to look foolish a second time by once again voting not to take money for one of our many white elephants.

42 kids in a Denfeld Freshman English class is a small price to pay for our Red Plan indebtedness.

PSEO correction – setting me straight

I’m more of a eagle’s view of the forest than an ant’s view of the weeds fellow. I see us taking $3.4 million of our local tax levy which should be going to the classroom and watch helplessly as our District transfers it annually to pay off Red Plan debts that balooned out of control. I do a quick mental calculation – $3.4 million divided by 1 average teacher’s pay and benefits of $90,000 – and conclude that this results in 37.7 teachers we can’t hire to bring down Freshman English class sizes of 42 students at Denfeld.

In my recent post about the woes of Denfeld High School I concluded with the satement that PSEO (Post Seconday Education Option) classes suck money out of the Duluth Schools. Well, that is a gross oversimplification. Yeah, the kids who lost out on advanced classes we didn’t make available for them are too late to sign up for college classes but when they take those classes at UMD or Lake Superior State the financial transaction isn’t quite “suck[ing] revenues from our budget.”

Here’s part of a sympathetic email sent to me today with a far more refined explanation:

You (I hope inadvertently) forward the perception that it is the districts that “pay” for students attending PSEO. Districts do not pay tuition, they simply are not paid by the state as they did not educate the child. The state “pays” the college, not the district. The money, and actually not all of it , follows the student (even if a student is 100% PSEO, districts get a sizable hold-back). Like with open enrollment, the argument has long been crafted with the language that the districts “pay”, when in fact the money follows the student to the educational institution that actually provides the education.

I think another way to look at PSEO would be, “…they have another option available to them — college classes through PSEO, which sucks expenses from our budget and allows us to keep some state revenue even though we have no expenses to educate the student.”

Theoretically, if each and every junior and senior were to choose PSEO, the district would have no expenses to educate those students, but would still get about $800 per student they did not educate…. although I would not advocate for such, that might be an interesting and successful business model!

Anyway, the language used is perpetuated from a perspective of historic monopoly and control, where students and families were not allowed choices, and the state revenue was seen as the right and property of the monopoly system. In this perspective, when a student chooses an alternative it is only viewed as lost revenue, rather than both lost revenue AND lost expenses….like something has been “taken”

So, not to be an overly nit-picky editor…. but this sort of language is (a) not accurate, and (b) reinforces myths espoused by those opposed to choice.

Anyway, thanks for your ongoing diligence in all these issues!

And I appreciate being set straight.

1 more email on: OUR “CURRENT STATE OF AFFAIRS”

Our constituents continue a new round of venting over our refusal to sell schools to “competitors:”

It seems almost moronic what your decisions have become lately. This time Montessori has offered to buy one of the 3 remaining closed schools. It was rejected by the ONE board member that even knew about the offer. Ms. Harala didn’t even think the board should be informed! She states, again, that you can’t sell to “competition”. Who the H do you think will buy these 4 buildings, a car manufacturer?????? Many Rivers is not even close to a public school and only has 115 students, more than half of them “toddlers”. We have 4 closed schools, good offers on all and you hide behind your “competition” theory. One of the reasons you gave when you sold us taxpayers the $315 million Red Plan was that you will sell the old schools and reduce the debt. Well, DO IT!!! Mr Johnston is looking like a genius right now. C.S.

I wrote back telling C.S. that I agreed.

Our “current state of affairs”

In the light of this recent offer to take empty buildings off our hands the Central sale has been reanimateded – zombie like. A new round of email is filling our email boxes. Here’s another one:

By delaying the sale of Central for the purpose of eliminating competition, you are not serving your electorate. We, the taxpayers, paid for that building (as well as others) and your responsibility is to sell it for any reasonable offer.

Eliminating competition breeds complacency. If you were to put as much effort into enhancing the educational experience of the kids as you have eliminating competition, you would drastically curb the exodus of students to area schools. Our family is one that open enrolled into another district. On my daughter’s high school hockey team (Proctor/Hermantown Mirage) there were eight families originally from Duluth- 40% of the team! That’s alarming. When including brothers and sisters, you’ve got 15 kids that left 709 for your “competition”. Don’t think it’s just for sports either- it was more about your current state of affairs. When you spend millions of dollars (without a referendum) to close the schools, then sit on this vacated prime property while the structure rots, you have lost site of your purpose. You have no legitimate excuse- stop the foolishness.

Bait and Switch at Denfeld

Don’t get me wrong. That last post which conludes with a litany of challenges facing Denfeld is only meant in extreme sympathy. I know we have a School Board that currently operates under the delusion that if we just keep out troubles out of the public eye everyone will be much happier. I don’t buy that. Silence is not golden. It permits inaction.

There is one more awful irony at Denfeld. Because of its smaller population its most academically ambitious students face a special hurdle signing up for the more rigorous CITS and AP classes that many universities and entities awarding scholarships want to see on their transcripts. Yet when 45 or 50 students sign up in Spring for an advanced class than can only take 35 or 40 students a handful of kids will miss out if we only offer a single class. “Singleton” classes are common at Denfeld. Multiply this by a half dozen or more advanced classes and the Denfeld high achievers are out of luck.

They have another option available to them – college classes through PSEO programs which require ISD 709 to pay college tuition which sucks revenues from our budget. But by the time Fall arrives and we close off CTIS and AP classes to these students it is too late to sign up for college coursework.

So one of the things we encourage disappointed students to sign up for is to act as tutors for their fellow high schools students. This is a worthy and noble thing for these students to do. And yet it sticks in my craw to know we are asking them to do the work of teachers we were too stingy or impoverished to hire in the first place.

That’s a bait and switch scheme worthy of Donald Trump.

Many Rivers, Little Info, Self fulfilling prophecies

I asked our School Board Chair if we could set up a coffee date after Tuesday’s school board meeting but was told she was going to be off on a belated Honeymoon for the next ten days. I wished her well and told her it sounded like fun. Before she left Duluth, however, she did have time to comment on the once secret offers by Many Rivers Montessori to buy one of our empty buildings, first on her husband’s news program at KBJR:

and then on WDIO’s News:

Chair Harala explained that the Board reaffirmed the no sale to competitors policy last Spring. That’s debateable. A 4 – 3 majority upheld the policy with regard to one buyer last spring. This came after a furor (among minority members) about not being told of the offers over two years. While it is true that the minority did not raise the possibility of changing the policy in the face of a likely 4 – 3 vote against change there is now talk of a change in light of a second attempt to hide new offers from the full Board. Ignorance is not bliss.

In the recent News Tribune story Chair Harala explained that she was the sole board member to know of the offers which went back to April of this year, six months ago. Frankly that is hard to credit unless the Superintendent told her privately rather in the company of Board Clerk Rosie Loeffler-Kemp in one of our controversially closed agenda setting sessions. No matter who was informed this is little comfort to Board members who previously made clear that they were unhappy to be kept out of the loop.

In any event to say that the School Board “reaffirmed” the policy not to sell District Schools to competitors under any circumstances is simply inaccurate. Many Rivers Montessori’s argument that they barely compete with ISD 709 makes a great deal of sense to me. One million for a costly school sounds pretty good to me. That makes it an offer very much worth considering. Our students could use that money.

How?

Recently Denfeld High School asked for more staffing because they began the year with about 1000 students. Most other Schools in the District were apparently given extra teachers (FTE) at the beginning of the year. Denfeld’s overstressed teachers currently deal with a much poorer student population more high needs special education students and classrooms in the 40’s. It was suggested to Denfeld that since they were expected to lose a hundred students in the first month anyway they would not get the additional FTE’s to keep class sizes down. The loss of students would make the current FTE’s fit the eventual need. The prediction of student losses sounds like a self fulfilling prophecy to me.

Fox’s Dan Hanger share’s his thoughts on a no sale on Facebook.

Two emails to the School Board

The news of additional offers by other school entities to buy our white elephant closed schools is ripping a scab off yet again. This is part of an email to which I responded “I agree:”

The purpose of my letter today is to once again express my support for sale of old Duluth school buildings to buyers in ANY industry, including , and especially, other educational entities.I have been continually disappointed by ‘board policy’ to deny these sales, and feel heartily that doing so is fiscally irresponsible. As Board Members, you are good-faith stewards of the District’s financials; how can you in good faith walk away from a sale of a depreciating, unused asset which you have been – for several years now – trying to sell? Your policy on this issue is akin to cutting off your nose to spite your face.

In another email about overcrowded class sizes linked to an erudite column on the limitations of large classes I answered thusly:

Thank you for sharing this. At present there is no easy solution to this because more teachers mean more revenue and our tap is shut off. We can shift a little from one set of employees to another but the bond payments for the recent Red Plan steals millions of dollars out of our budget every year. I am extremely upset about this.

Of course selling a few old buildings might allow us to hire more teachers…….but for the Board majority that is out of the question.

Many Rivers, Little info

Yesterday’s School Board meeting will be up on Youtube in a few days. It was nearly three and a half hours long. My seatmate, Dr. David Kirby, who I suspect was appalled at how long the meetings were lasting early when he joined the Board this year told me he had recently spoken with an Osseo, Minnesota Board member who told him that their meetings dragged on so long that it took them two days to work through their agendas. Talk about perspective.

Although Loren Martell told me his days of chronicling the meetings on the Reader were over he gamely sat through all three hours last night. I have modest hopes that he might yet set pen to paper. As for me right now, I only have the spunk to address one of a half dozen major issues we covered – the three recent offers for school buildings that the Board was not told about. That is the only subject covered by the DNT which is par for their course.

Chair Harala took the blame for this in today’s news story. We had a spirited discussion about it. The three of us on the Board who supported taking 14 million from the DPSA charter for Central were not pleased to have been kept out of the loop. Annie said she was the only board member who knew about the offers although I find it very hard to believe that the Clerk of the Board, Rosie Loeffler-Kemp, didn’t also know. At present they are the only board members permitted to take part in agenda setting sessions. Chair Harala defended the secrecy on our policy which currently forbids ISD 709 from selling our empty schools to another school system. Taken to an extreme this rationalle would have freed the Administration from even telling the Chair about the offers.

But ignorance in this case was not all that blissful. Many Rivers took the same route that the Edison schools took last spring to get around the embargo on infomation. They sent all the Board members a letter about their offers thus embarassing Chair Harala. Such a response by Many Rivers was almost inevitible. Besides that, being kept out of loop drives suspicion and paranoia.

I suggested a simple solution. Alter our policy preventing a sale of old buildings to one in which we maintain the policy but require that sales offers are made known to the Board……that way, if we got a mafia offer – one too good to refuse – we could simply suspend policy.

I have to admit Many Rivers made a powerful argument that they were barely in competition for our students while they offered top dollar for some old schools that continue to hang around our necks. A couple of those offers are really tempting. I’m glad I learned of the offers no matter what the board majority eventually decides to do with them.

Homage to Andrew Sullivan

My Buddy sent me a link to a commentary by my all time favorite blogger, Andrew Sullivan, in which he takes oodles and oodles of verbiage to explain among other things how blogging and the Internet became addictive and nearly killed him. I only got through the beginning of it.

I was addicted to Sullivan’s blog almost as severely as he was addicted to publishing it and updating it every half hour for days, and then years on end. It was a brilliant filter of everything that was happening but impossible for any person to sustain and keep their sanity. My favorite thing about it was Sullivan’s willingness, in between bouts of acerbic take downs, to fess up when he was off or even flat out wrong. I try to do that althought on a more modest basis here in Lincolndemocrat.

Unlike Sullivan I never got to the point where I stopped reading books although my guess is even when he gave up reading he still managed to read a lot more books than me. I’m overjoyed if I get ten books (serious books) read in a year. I also take holidays from posting blogs but if they go on too long I do start getting the yips. But breaks are good. My two-month long hiatus around the time of my trip to Jerusalem gave me more time to reflect.

Well, my blog just kicked me off and cost me a couple of paragraphs. I’ve lost the thread. I wrote something about how I do my writing, editing and updating online so that my readers can see blog posts long before they are finished or presentable. I do the same thing when I make snowsculptures in my front yard. Over the course of a couple days they will go from an amorphous white lump to something at least marginally recognizable to passerby.

BTW Sullivan’s commentary was interspersed with famous paintings like the one above tinkered with to place cell phones in them. Yup, life is a constant barrage of mind numbing data. Ah for the good old days with just three networks with television news. We may even, in some measure, have been better informed back then with less data. At least Republicans and Democrats could still intermarry.

Gotta go. My cell phone just made a noise.

homage to the Philippines

For the past couple months the Philippines, or probably servers in the Philippines have been sending out robots to investigate my blogsite. Their “hits” have eclipsed hits from the United States in my blog stats. Other contries have taken the lead before and they have usually been Eastern bloc nations. I don’t think that many real humans from these nations are looking at Lincolndemocrat but I don’t know for sure. It usually is not noticible in the actual count of “Visitors” to the blog which for this month averages 241 a day. In months with especially high school board commentary it can average a hundred more than that.

Here are the US and Ph statistics for this month so far.

Stats…………………pages…..links…..Bandwidth

ph….Philippines…..15,322…16,582….152.18 MB
us….United States…5,882….10,354….337.24 MB

If there are visitors from the Philippines who visit the blog its not because I often write about their fair land. My search engine only counts four such occassions. I also recently mentioned the new Philippine President Duterte who has a ninty percent popularity rate after inaugurating a vigilante mentality in his country that has led to the murders of 2000 people extrajudicially by people who targeted them for being drug peddlers. So much for the rule of law.

One of those previous posts mentions my father’s good friend, Narcisso (Norgic) Tenorio who as a student in an American college found an encyclopedia with a picture of what it said was the typical Philippino wearing a loincloth and holding a spear. Norgic was an attorney and, sans spear, he ripped the page out in a rage.

The Tenorios once invited a number of young Phillipino nursing students to our home and they preformed some native dances for us with bamboo poles snapping together while they jumped between them jump rope style. They also placed plates on their heads and rolled on the floor without the plates falling off.

In my college years I was assigned to write about the government of another nation and chose the Philippines. It had a federal system modeled on the United States government from which the Philippines won independence after World War II. By the time I was in high school a dicator, Ferdinand Marcos, and his shoe infatuated wife, Imelda, had taken over as dictators. Any of a number of other nations might have been their model but not the United States.

During those years tens of thousands of Philippina nursing students, like those who paid a call on our home, emigrated to the United States. In 1966 Richard Speck murdered eight of them one evening in Chicago. That year one of my new favorite music groups, Simon and Garfunkel, recorded Silent Night over the background of the evening news which included a brief description of Speck’s murder. He was only sent to prison because all the Philippinas looked the same to him so that when one of them hid he didn’t notice her missing when he raped and murdered the other eight. His defense attorneys did everything they could to discredit her testimony because they said it was as hard for her to identify the American white man as it was for Speck to identify the Philippina nurses as individuals. A few years later in another southeast Asian nation our soldiers would come to call the natives “gooks” in large part because they all looked the same to the Americans.

My parents would often read to each other much as I read to Claudia. I recall stopping and listening to one of the books being read once which was written by an American GI who fought in the Philippines in World War II. It was one more brutal theaters of war and is probably best remembered for the treatment of American and Philippine soldiers during the Bataan Death March.

The book was set some time after this when Army Rangers or some other special forces snuck into the rural areas of the Philippines to organize a resistance to the Japanese. This organization was much easier because of the brutality of the Japanese Army towards Philippinos. In the passage my mother read the GI was describing how the Philippine insurgents gathered a number of forest deer together outside a Japanese compound they were preparing to attack. The Philippino troops poured gasoline on the stag’s testicles aimed them at the Japanese and set the deer on fire. |

That kinda reminds me of the Trump campaign.

Segue from Mr. Robot to Megamind with some religion and poly sci. mixed in

I just read a synopsis of Song of Solomon in a fat Bible Commentary to better understand what I had just read. The commentary told me it is the 21st book of the standard Old Testament used by Hebrews and most Potestants. Catholics and others have additional books labled as apocrypha and the pseudepigrapha which they also include in their Bibles. I don’t plan to read these anytime soon as part of my goal of getting the Bible read from cover to cover.

One of the challenges given to good little Sunday School students of the past was that of memorizing the books of the Bible in order. I had no more interest, as a ten-year old, of doing that than I did of slaughtering, dressing and cooking a cow. But let’s see how well I can do with the 21 OT books I’ve read so far:

Genesis
Exodus
Leviticus
Numbers
Deuteronomy
Joshua
Judges
Ruth
1st Samuel
2nd Samuel
1st Kings
2nd Kings
1st Chronicles
2nd Chronicles
Ezra
Nehemiah
Esther
Job
Psalms
Ecclesiastes
Song of Solomon

Whew I did it. A few minutes ago I forgot Psalms. Remembering their sequence (which is a tad artificial) isn’t really my goal. I just want to look at every tree in the wood lot. I can’t recall what the Book Esther is about off hand and I have 17 more books to read just to get through the Old Testament. They are mostly books of the prophets starting with Isaiah. I’m not sure I’ll be done with my cover to cover reading by the end of January 2017 which was my goal when I began this journey last January after returning from Israel and Palestine. I’ll be close.

This is just one of the goals I’ve set for myself to complete. I’ve long wanted a fairly intimite knowledge of US History from beginning to end. The two books by Chris DeRose are helping with that task. When a morning meeting I’d set up with a local “gender fluid” politician fell through I read Chapter 7 of DeRose Book, Founding Rivals.

It fit in nicely with the universe of subjects I’ve been concentrating on this year. I often grouse about how the Republican Party has styled itself the Party of God in recent decades. My Grandfather was about as rock ribbed a Republican as anyone could ever have been. Born years before the Pledge of Allegience was written by a Presybeterian minister George Robb was 66 before the United State’s Congress added the words “under God” to it. I’ll be sixty-six before the year is out and its entirely likely that folks calling themselves evangelicals will get their wish and elect a true 666 to the Presidency. The original 666 (referred to in Revelations as a code to prevent anyone from getting crucified by the Romans) was the Emperor Nero. I can’t think of a better exemplar of the first 666 than our man from Trumpville.

BTW – the word “evangalize” means to convert folks especially to Christianity. It seems that a majority of the folks in the US today who identify as evangelicals don’t bother with church even as they cling to “God’s Own Party.” That’s more than a little ironic.

The chapter I just read in Rivals was about Mr. Madison’s triumph as a member of the Virginia State Legislature. He managed to kill a proposal to make the Episcopal Church the official Church of Virginia but then topped it off by succeeding where Thomas Jefferson had failed two years earlier. He got the Statute of Religious Freedom passed that would protect the religious liberties of all Virginians from Atheist to Jew.

Incidentally, this statute was one of the most successful arguments in favor of the American Revolution. From Founding Rivals: “The Statute of Religious Freedom was celebrated throughout Europe, hailed and envied as a tremendous achievement in the story of mankind. Jefferson later noted that only this act stood to counter arguments in Europe that America was backward and divided.”

How fortunate that the non-church attending “evangelicals” and Donald Trump want to put a religious test back into practice in the United States. A few disordered middle eastern kids with pocket knives and pressure cookers might help them overturn two centuries of the best thing our Nation ever accomplished.

I haven’t finished the previous post about Mr. Robot yet. I yeilded to temptation last night after returning home from my daughter’s house and a satisfying Viking win over the Pack and opted for a good night’s sleep over finishing a blog post. I’ll get to it. But first I’m going to attack the heaps of paper strewn about my office. I want to vacumum the floor and give myself the illusion of being organized. I might even wait to finish it until after my scheduled meeting with one of our principals this afternoon.

Until then let me share the picture taken yesterday after church by my six year old grandson with an ap he put on his mother’s cell phone.

It makes me look like that cartoon super hero “Megamind.” If you’ve got grandkids you probably know who I mean. I should add that not only was he really, really smart he was a villian. Appropos, methinks!

Mr. Robot and the paranoia that knows even a Lincoln fails the sainthood test

I have to go to church. I’ll finish and proof read this later……probably not till tonight after we watch another episode of Mr. Robot with our daughter and son in law. My hero Lincoln will be making an appearance in a less than saintly light…….doesn’t change my mind about him in the slightest, if you are worried for me.

As I begin this I’m listening to NPR and one of their surprising little stories. It’s about country music singer Dwight Yoakum and his new album “Swimming Pools Movie Stars”. Anyone of my vintage will recognize those lyrics of the Beverly Hillbillies instantly.

The surprise came when he was asked why Prince’s Purple Rain is on it. He explained that while he was recording with his band Prince died and the Minneapolis singer’s signature song was playing along with the news. The band was bummed and went back to their studio and figured out how to play the song in a private evening’s tribute not meant for anything other than a night’s reflection. Later when the producers of the album they’d been working on noticed a tape labeled “Purple Rain” they urged him to put it on the album which was otherwise composed of his “back catalogue”of “older releases.” Yokum decided it would be a fingerprint of the times the album was being put together.
It was a revelation to hear Prince’s masterpiece as country western.

My children are of the Occupy Wall street Era even if they didn’t camp out and protest the system. Therefore it’s a bit of a role reversal that my wife and I found and recommended the latest binge-worthy Television offering to them – Mr. Robot – and not the other way around. It tells a story that fits in with the Bernie Sanders movement with its paranoia about corporate overreach. The hero is both brilliant, modest, schizophrenic and a world explodingly good computer hacker. We watched another episode last night, number three from season 2.

Just before we watched it Claudia called me down as she was cooking our latest Blue Apron meal because she thought I would like the latest “History Detectives” on PBS that had just begun. I surely did. It focused on an event from the Civil War’s aftermat the sinking of the Riverboat Sultana that cost the lives of 2000 unfortunate Federal troops being taken home after their release from the infamous Andersonville Prison.
For the last century and a half there has been a great interest in the mystery of its sinking. You can find it here.

The show made a convincing case that President Lincoln shared much of the blame for this terrible accident even though it took place over a week after his assassination. They made a good case and he bore a lot more responsibility for it than Hillary Clinton did over Benghazi.
The chaos of difficult political times covers a lot of ground and the President had no way of knowing how his actions would permit a political underling to put so many innocent lives at risk.

As is so often the case the twenty-four hours between starting and finishing a post (this one) has washed out much of what I was eager to blather on about so I’ll just cut to the chase.

Lincoln made many of his decision based on political exegincies (nescessities) based on his conviction that he and not George McClellan should remain President to continue the war to preserve the Union. Every war time president has faced similar choices.

The abandonment of true journalism

Donald Trump is, among other things, a fellow who has profited mightily by the faltering of twentieth century journalism. In its place is a dizzying array of Internet data dumps available for inspection by the curious and curated by interested persons from the honest to the nefarious. Somewhere in between are all the organizations which have a special interest in winning the public to their side. For the unwary and for people without the luxury of time to deeply investigate this inexhaustible library of data its far easier to let their tribal pals spoon feed them formulas.

My buddy is always telling me I’m being tribal when I bad mouth the Republican Party. I’m not sure what tribe this makes me a part of. I did attend Democratic precinct caucuses for about eight years never really becoming part of their machinery. For ten years before that I played gadfly in an increasingly purge happy Republican Party. Prior to that I quietly voted for Democrats when unappetizing Republican candidates won the primaries or GOP nominations. If I have a tribe to a large extent it could be called the tribe of the “Man without a Country.”

Here’s Wikipedia’s summary of this famous short story’s plot:

The protagonist is a young United States Army lieutenant, Philip Nolan, who develops a friendship with the visiting Aaron Burr. When Burr is tried for treason (historically this occurred in 1807), Nolan is tried as an accomplice. During his testimony, he bitterly renounces his nation, angrily shouting, “I wish I may never hear of the United States again!” The judge is completely shocked at this announcement, and on convicting him, icily grants him his wish: he is to spend the rest of his life aboard United States Navy warships, in exile, with no right ever again to set foot on U.S. soil, and with explicit orders that no one shall ever mention his country to him again.

I was haunted by the story which I read in an English class. That was the hope of the author Edward Everett Hale. Until perusing Wikipedia just now I had no idea who the author was or the circumstances for his the writing of the book. It was composed in the middle of the Civil War, a ripe time for an American to agonize about national identity. Lincolndemocrat takes particular note of the author’s being the nephew of Edward Everett, the orator and statesman, famous for the long forgotten speech that preceded Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and being the “grand-nephew of Nathan Hale (1755-1776), the Revolutionary War hero executed by the British for espionage.”

If I have a tribe its probably confined to my office. I will admit that it is a bit more capacious than the ship’s stateroom to which the story’s protagonist is confined for the rest of his life. Like the protagonist I have bits and pieces of evidence of my nation tacked to my walls. BTW – here’s the story long out of copyright. I didn’t reread it in full but just cut to the end to compare it to my memory of it.

About that end. I was probably 15 when I read the book and far less knowledgeable about the American history that had taken place prior to the story’s conclusion. That it was written during the Civil War and contemplation about what the union meant may not have registered with me quite as it does now.

My Buddy is no doubt right when he tells me the US will soldier on if Donald Trump is elected President. I suppose we would have survived if Huey Long had been elected or Joseph McCarthy but what a shame it would have been. The Presidents they would have supplanted were superior individuals. Its true that neither of these men were Adolph Hitlers but neither was Hitler early in his career. The great irony of Germany and the Reich was that a nation of such cultivated and sophisticated people could descend to the gas chamber, the charnel house and ruin. We seem to have past the time for a nuclear holocaust but our technology certainly leaves room for an even worse case scenario than that which transpired at the end of World War II. I can’t help but see seeds of destruction in today’s political tribal culture and campaign rhetoric and, frankly, its probably too late to stop Greenland’s icecap from melting.

I am troubled that the notion of American exceptionalism is often waved about by folks who mistake it for America’s wealth and power and not for the intangibles locked into our Bill of Rights. One of those intangibles is the right of a free press. Donald Trump can’t wait to get elected President so that he can change the libel laws like he plans to change the Generals and sue every newspaper that looks at him cross-eyed. Then he can enjoy the sort of freedom his good buddy Vladimir Putin enjoys behind the Kremlin’s walls. Donald Trump is just an eight hundred pound Albertson.

Yeah, compared to electing Trump, elevating Hillary Clinton to the Presidency would be a disaster. Remember Benghazi – or at least what the pretend newsman Roger Ailes wanted you to think happened there. That way you will be anesthetized to the coming of a White House with five letters tackily emblazoned on it in Gold leaf.

The official source for all the blather of the eccentric Harry Welty – Duluth School Board member, off and on, since 1995. He does his best to live up to Mark Twain's assessment: "First God created the idiot. That was for practice. Then he invented the School Board."