Yesterday in threadbare detail

Yesterday I finished a couple more chapters in my 1920 book, did my Sing thing and then attended the Clayton Jackson McGhie Dinner at Greysolon Plaza.

I learned in the book that women had the right to vote in four Eastern States until 1807, which I couldn’t recall having heard before. It was part of the background in the 1920 book which had a marvelous twenty-page chapter describing how the Woman’s voting amendment passed a couple months before the November Presidential Election.

At the Sing thing I saw a recently retired school board member. We both did a superlative job of avoiding eye contact with one another.

At CJM I sat next to a current Board member who proceeded to chat me up for the first time in three years of our serving together.

I also exchanged a big hug with my old now school board ally, Mary Cameron. We were once thick as thieves until our differences over the Red Plan clouded our former alliance. We’ve gotten over that and I couldn’t be happier about it.

School Maintenance – another gift of the Red Plan

Today’s DNT readers learned that we are negotiating to get an acceptable offer to sell Nettleton School.

Selling our empty schools was always part of the poorly executed Red Plan financing and we were led to believe they would be much more remunerative than they have proven to be. In fact, all of them have been white elephants except for the Woodland property that now has the extensive Blue Stone development sitting atop the land. Meanwhile the empty buildings impose annual maintenance and heating costs on our strained District finances.

Although I have been censured by our Board previously by blogging about prospective buyers let me add this to the story. Another larger offer was made on Nettleton which we are not pursuing even though we have no current agreement with the buyers mentioned in today’s story. Unlike the buyer mentioned by the Trib the second more generous offer that we are not considering would not involve razing Nettleton. I’m in the minority on this deal.

Loren Martell’s lengthy column in this week’s Reader digs deeply into a subject that I haven’t touched for years – How the District will pay for the long term maintenance of all the new buildings that were built in one massive eruption of construction:

The larger point is: while we spend so much money on Old Central over the next ten years, much of the maintenance in our new or like-new buildings, already deferred five years, is also going to be deferred further down the road. (Some of the earliest “like-new” Red Plan buildings, such as Stowe Elementary, are already nearly ten years old.) During this February’s Business Committee meeting, our school board, ever desperate for funds in the wake of the failed Red Plan, advocated deferring even more maintenance.

We just blew half a billion on a problem blamed on poor maintenance and maintenance is again being shoved onto the back burner.
The repairs and renovations of Old Central ($17,899,595) are scheduled to consume 71% of the money district 709 intends to spend for facilities maintenance in its current ten-year plan. All the other facilities combined are only scheduled for $7,364,508 of repair and maintenance. Subtracting $850,000 just for the new roof on Lakewood Elementary leaves about $6.5 million (or $650,000 a year) to maintain all the other buildings, every one not really made “like-new.”

Obviously the district is already stretched thin to properly maintain and protect the obscenely expensive investment we just made in our school buildings.

I’ve frequently mentioned the other financial shortcomings brought about by the Red Plan. 1. Spending down the Reserve. 2. negotiating higher teacher salaries to avoid labor conflicts during construction. 3. Funneling millions each year from the General Fund’s classroom money to pay for the Red Plan costs that kept ballooning. 4. Laying off teachers to pay for the Red Plan. 5. An exodus of students making use of Open Enrollment. To this list we must add 6. the failure to set aside the cost of ongoing upkeep for our shiny new schools. It was typical of the previous Board to add things like glorious swimming pools to the Red Plan during the orgasm of construction. That’s why they decided not to spend the $18 million set aside for the semi-decrepit, National Historical landmark – Old Central. That would be a problem for future schools boards to deal with. Just add that cost to the Red Plan.

Its ironic that the Red Plan was pushed down our throats with the accusation that our buildings had not been maintained making it necessary to build all new schools to keep up with 21st century needs. Now at the start of the new century we are once again behind the eight ball of inadequate maintenance for these new buildings.

Here’s a historical footnote from my first couple years on the school board 1996-97. Supt. Mark Myles pissed off teacher’sunion President Frank Wanner by plowing money into long term maintenance instead of teacher contracts. Myles compounded this by promising to spend voter approved levies for building up a reserve fund and after he’d accomplished that for new programming but not increases in existing teacher’s salaries. It can be argued that Myles wasn’t very diplomatic but he had the best interest of needy kids very much in mind. you can get a glimpse of his priorities in as his recent letter to the Trib.

Ideas when they are like mosquitoes

I’ve been spilling my thoughts out the past couple days with the same sort of orderliness one slaps oneself while standing in a swarm of mosquitoes. Reading four non-fiction books in short order has only added to the swarm of ideas that I’ve been swatting at. The 1920 Book has taken me through the GOP’s Chicago convention and dropped me off in San Francisco about to follow the Democrat’s quagmire. The book on China today left me with a rebuttal of sorts to my recent suggestion that a China that can’t take a joke (or criticism) can’t hope to surpass America. In fact, the last chapter described a millennial who has been dissing Chinese culture and politics for eight years and has a huge following on the Internet. Of course, the Chinese Communists are now insisting on choosing Hong Kong’s new leader twenty years after Britain handed its old colony back to the Mainland. (Claudia reminded me that we were in England with our kids when that took place.)

Today, I hope to get two things done. I’d like to read some more about 1920 America. In much the same way that visiting Israel last year put a match under my toes to finally read the Old Testament I’m getting more serious about reading good historical books about every decade from my Grandfather’s birth in 1887 until my youth when he advised me never to vote for a Democrat.

To that end I have a number of books I’d like to dig into. Next I may read the rest of Mr. Speaker. I only got through the first 79 pages of the 378 page tome five or six years ago…wait…Ah my search engine found it….three years ago. Thomas B. Reed brought order to chaos during the Gilded Age taking an unruly House of Representatives, not unlike today’s, and putting it to good use before its members spit him out like a prune pit. This was a time when America had relatively weak Presidents and the Robber Barons were in charge. Reed has always interested me since Junior High when I read John Kennedy’s spare history Profiles in Courage and saw Reed awarded one of JFK’s nominations for greatness.

The other thing I’d like to do is find the bass parts for tomorrow’s sing-a-long at St. Scholastica. They are on the Internet and I’d like to get in a little practice. I have the sheet music but I learn better by ear.

I also have to add one more post about another difficulty the old Red Plan school board has placed on the current board’s shoulders. That’s next.

Dish washing brings second thoughts on the funny thing

There is one other possibility regarding Trump’s ultimatum to House Republicans that I ruled out a little too quickly. I thought that the Tea Partier’s testosterone wouldn’t let the ersatz Republican President, Donald Trump, steam roll them. As I washed dishes some suds cleared from my head. The tea partiers may cave. Thumbing their nose at Trump may do them more damage than going along with him…..with their voters.

Of course, crippling health care would distress a lot of voters and drive them to the Democrats in 2018. I just hope Ruth Bader Ginsburg can hang in there until 2020.

The funniest damned thing I’ve heard in a long time

Just a quick post before I head down and wash dishes.

I was driving home from Denfeld and the “speech concert” ten minutes ago when I heard that Donald Trump issued an ultimatum to Republicans. Either they pass the health care plan that he was sure he had gotten the Freedom Caucus to go along with or he was done messing with health care and would let Obamacare live on.

I guffawed for thirty seconds. It was so brilliant that if any President who spoke out of one side of his/her mouth had said it I probably wouldn’t have been surprised. For eight years the Republicans made this their number one cause and then proceeded to sit on their skanky thumbs rather than come up with an alternative.

Coming up with an alternative was never in the program and not possible. One faction never progressed beyond the 1960’s distaste for “socialized medicine” and would have been happy to board a time machine heading back in time. Another faction simply wanted to strip poor people of health care that cost rich taxpayers too much money. The third faction was the cowering moderates who have given up challenging the new Republican orthodoxies lest they be primaried out of their seats for being RINO’s. The first two groups were essentially living in a magical world. Donald Trump was the fourth faction. Fox News had convinced his voters that Obamacare was making their lives miserable and they elected Trump to make it better. The last couple of months have convinced his voters that the Republicans were only going to make life worse for them. Donald Trump’s big “nevermind” only serves to assure his voters that he’s not going to let the Republicans screw them over.

What Trump has done is point an accusing finger at Congressional Republicans for being dunces. Democrats can breath a sigh of relief and turn to the other reprehensible plans that Trump has pushed like his wall, immigration and Putin-gate.

Trump is the winner on this but so is Obama and so is the Democratic Party – unless the GOP gets its act together and hammers out a sensible alternative. I’d place my bets against that. I don’t think the crazies in the GOP from the Koch Brothers to the Tea Partiers can find common ground. I have to give Presidential Donald Trump a big thumb’s up for this. Don’t worry. The memory of this is sure to fade pretty quickly.

Keeping one’s perspective while confronting local and national crisis

Tonight I plan to attend a fun event at Denfeld, its annual Speech “Concert.” This will be easier for me because Claudia will be home late tonight after returning from her Seminary classes in the Twin Cities. I figure this will help remind me that I have some responsibilities here in Duluth and can’t spend all my time dismayed by National events. Likewise on Saturday I plan to attend the second annual Bringthesing event up at St. Scholastica. I had a great time singing there last year.

Its not as though I can escape, or want to escape, my concerns as a school board member. Yesterday I had two long conversations regarding the District’s future, upcoming elections, and the issue I raised at the end of the last school Board meeting – how we might face the possibility of searching out new leadership should that be our lot. Its just that I feel at times like a soldier in a trench with an oncoming tank to the front and an airplane strafing the trench coming from the side. Somehow I have to prepare for both simultaneously.

(please excuse this pause – my hungry yellow cat Moloch just jumped on my desk to let me know he’s hungry. I’ll have to give him false hope that I will feed him by rushing downstairs and then shutting the door on him when he follows me out. Otherwise he’ll bop my hand for the next hour until I’m ready to oblige him)

Sorry Moloch.

I’d like to pontificate about this NY Times column by Nicholas Kristoff: “There is a Smell of Treason in the Air”

In one of my conversations an old timer said the times we are living in are just like the 1960’s. Well, my truncated Paranoia series had that idea in mind and raised that thought but compared today’s headlines with the 1920’s. Or maybe we are revising the 1940’s movie Casablanca . Remember when Rick (Humphrey Bogart) said: “…I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.”? Well, my hill of beans is the Duluth Schools and it does count.

BTW I found the quote in this site devoted to the best lines of dialogue in the movie. This is one of Hollywood’s greatest movies. I recently read that during the Movie’s flashback scene of the Germans marching into Paris one of the cast members, who was there when it really happened, burst out in uncontrollable sobs at the memory during the shoot. Also, evil Major Strasser in the movie was Conrad Veidt who in real life had escaped Nazi Germany before taking on the role. There were many other refugees from Europe on the set as actors and extras adding gravitas to the movie’s completion.

As for the nefarious treason that columnist Kristof writes about; he take his readers back to 1968 when friends of the Nixon campaign lobbied to delay a peace settlement in Vietnam. Kristof notes that it has been confirmed in the last month that Richard Nixon ordered the attempt. There have been no smoking guns until now. I agree that this was far more heinous than the Watergate Break-in that cost Nixon the Presidency. I feel obligated to pursue the Trump/Putin inquiries with a vengeance and thank God for Trump’s “loser” Senator John McCain for arguing that Congress isn’t fit/suited to conduct such an inquiry. To paraphrase Heraclitus, “the only thing that doesn’t change is change.”

Oh my head is full….ouch, ouch, ouch.

Time for me to go back to 1920 where a crowded field of Republican Presidential candidates (Just as in 2016) is about to give way to a second rater, albeit a “kind” man – Warren G. Harding.

Oh, and there’s this from the Trib today on Denfeld High School. Its an initiative I support but without the additional financing that I want the school to have. I’m still working on that.

And I just remembered one more item that has me thinking. Its one more bit of evidence that helps explain the Trump vote. Its about the reversal of the long time trend toward longer lives. White people seem to be dying of despair. They aren’t dying in socialized Europe. Maybe we can thank the Republican nanny state fighters.

Why I haven’t succumbed to paranoia – a last thought

Its because of Seth Meyers, Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee, Colbert etc.

For the time being late night television and many other sources give me confidence that we will weather the Trump administration as it continues to distinguish itself by bullying the Public Broadcasting System and Meals on Wheels. Comedy in China can’t be directed at the Communist Party but it can be directed at President Trump. Until Chinese citizens can do the same America will still have a leg up no matter the balance of trade.

Which reminds me of Egyptian exile Bassem Yousef. He was a funny man in another dictatorship.

Check out his interview on Samantha Bee.

Paranoia Pt 4 China’s turn….Aw to heck with this topic.

In Chinese the character for “Crisis” is the combination of the symbols for danger & opportunity. I once asked a friend to draw the character for me for use in my old Website.

While Claudia cooked me lunch I continued reading from the Book Age of Ambition. Its chapter 9 echoed the threatened paranoia of Post World War One America.

Ah, but I have twenty minutes to get to tonight’s school board meeting. I’ll continue this later. We had a calm meeting. I’ll let Loren comment on it in a week or two if he wishes. Chair Kirby was very pleased it only took three hours. I was glad to get home in time two watch most of “The Americans.” Its a Cold War tale on Russian spies in Reagan America in its fourth season. Its hard to believe that looking back it was more reassuring to have Brezhnev in charge of Russia then than Putin in charge today. Of course the Ruskie’s themselves are now looking back to the murderous Stalin with nostalgia. I can almost forgive some addled Americans for cheering on Trump today – almost! Now back to the China of today.

China today is surging ahead in fast forward while the US seems to be circling some drain like the Romans on the cusp of the Gothic invasions.

Aw crud. Yesterday I woke up in a lather to write about Paranoia from several perspectives. Now, 24 hours later, I don’t so much have writer’s block as I do thick fingers that lost hold of a thread. [My Buddy] replied to the second Paranoia post with one word, “Oy.” I don’t blame him. So I am crawling out of this tangle of tangents that have lost their urgency. I gladly leave them to my eight loyal readers as proof of my limitations. Just understand that I believe ignorance and paranoia go hand in hand and I’ve been reading about several histories which have reinforced that conclusion for me.

If you want to see what I just typed as my thought process lost its steam you are welcome to waste your time reading them. Continue reading

Paranoia Pt 3 Sacco and Vanzetti

Last night I read something new about an old legal case that had liberals undies in a bunch back in my college days. Sacco and Vanzetti were two anarchists who were found guilty of murder and executed in 1927. Their convictions raised hackles then and on until today with many advocates saying one of them at least was almost certainly innocent. A similar advocacy for with wife of Julius Rosenberg continued until recent years.

Chapter 9 of 1920 was all about the excesses of the nation’s police in deporting dangerous foreigners from America during our enthusiasm for making the world safe for democracy. While I was looking up news stories for my grandfather from the years he enlisted to fight in World War I kept smiling at a series of stories about the patriotism of the Swedish community of Lindsborg near my Grandfather’s home in Kansas. It was painfully obvious that the Kansas Swedes were taking great pains to prove they weren’t disloyal Germans. It was doubly ironic to me because my Grandfather’s German-American mother had said she didn’t wan’t her sons to marry any dirty Swedish girls from Lindsborg. Obviously it was my Grandfather’s lineage that should have come under closer scrutiny when he volunteered. His soon to be Sister-in-law had to give up teaching German in deference to America’s surge toward nationalism.

It would be impossible for me not to think of today’s America while reading about my Grandfather’s America. And yet…

The “new information” about Sacco and Vanzetti in David Pietrusza’s 2007 book was from a book written by Paul Avrich published in 1991. In a nod to another historian Pietrusza said of Avrich that he was the “foremost expert” on the case. He then said that Avrich had determined who placed the humongous bomb on Wall Street that killed thirty people including banking magnate J.P. Morgan’s secretary. The last I’d heard that identity was still unknown after a hundred years.

In fact, the entire chapter was eye opening when it came to the ruthlessness of our government’s rooting out suspect people and detailing the extent of anarchist’s (that Era’s terrorists) bomb throwing extravagance. As is the case today, it made American’s paranoid in an all too familiar way.

I’m now persuaded to believe that Sacco and Vanzetti were bad guys. I am heartened that even then, 97 years ago, such luminaries as eventual Supreme Court Justice, Felix Frankfurter, argued that the government’s heavy-handedness was wrong. The days of Trump will be limited too. Yes, their will be Breitbarts calling out the dogs of war and yes, there will be bad guys who aren’t caught. This is history come to life, or at least to reincarnation.

Paranoia Pt 2 (The Deep shit state)

What is prompting this thread is the book I opened again in the middle of last night when I couldn’t sleep “1920, The year of…”

I read a passage that presumed to explain a long standing mystery…..What were Sacco and Vanzetti guilty of if anything. I’ll get to that in later posts. But it reminded me of a series of email I exchanged with my Buddy yesterday on the subject of Obama’s alledged wire tapping and JFK’s assassination:

Here are a couple of them:

Harry:

From http://www.dailyinterlake.com:
Unfortunately, the labyrinthine world of the covert intelligence agencies is too complex to be analyzed in one brief newspaper column, but suffice it to say that Kennedy was leery of the CIA from day one of his administration, and by the time of the Bay of Pigs, he had come to the conclusion that he could not trust the agency. Thus, his famous proclamation that he would “splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces,” as reported by the New York Times in 1966, three years after Kennedy’s assassination.

What is fascinating to anyone concerned about the power of what is now being called the “Deep State” is that there are CIA fingerprints all over the Kennedy assassination as well as Watergate. Allen Dulles, the CIA director fired by President Kennedy, was appointed by President Johnson to serve on the Warren Commission that investigated the murder of JFK. Yet neither Dulles nor his successor John McCone revealed to the Warren Commission that the CIA had engaged in assassination attempts against Castro, despite the immediate relevance of this information to the investigation. Remember that Lee Harvey Oswald, the president’s accused assassin, had public ties to Castro and Cuba. Since it was known that Castro was aware of the CIA plot against him, it gave him a motive to kill Kennedy in revenge. Moreover, both the CIA and the FBI covered up their own involvement with Oswald, a former defector to the Soviet Union.

What would Professor Fetzer say about this?

[Your Buddy]

To which I responded:

What does [My Buddy] have to say about it?

To which my Buddy at first replied:

Nothing. I seem to be inclined towards agnosticism.

[Your Buddy]

Then my Buddy contacted Duluth’s conspiracy champion, James Fetzer, for his take on the “Deep State” stuff that has recently captivated Breitbartarians all over the Internet. This is Professor Fetzer’s zesty reply which my Buddy shared with me:

Good stuff here: Obama was spying not only on Trump but major players on the international scene and many reporters right here in the USA. Check out:
http://theduran.com/12-victims-of-obamas-spying-plus-wikileaks-revelations-that-obama-also-spied-on-their-journalists/ Why would anyone think that he (Obama) would not be spying on Trump? He was spying on EVERYONE!

We are told that it is ridiculous that Obama would wiretap Trump, and that the intelligence agencies would admit it publicly if it had happened. But as President Trump reminded everyone Friday, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden, Obama ordered the wiretapping of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone in 2010. The German government entered into an extensive investigation of these allegations but, according to the Guardian newspaper, finally gave up because they could not penetrate the secrecy of the spy agencies. As reported by The Guardian, “The federal prosecutor’s office received virtually no cooperation in its investigation from either the NSA or Germany’s equivalent, the BND.”

Yet we expect the National Security Agency or the CIA or the FBI to gladly cooperate with congressional investigators, or even more absurdly the media, and admit to carrying out a political vendetta against Trump? That is what is truly ridiculous.

Trump, like Kennedy, is intent on effecting change across a wide swath of the government. The entrenched bureaucrats known as the “Deep State” resented both Kennedy and Trump. Kennedy fought back hard against the CIA and against J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. Whether that cost him his life, we may never know, but history does teach us that conspiracies exist. Unfortunately, anyone who blindly accepts the word of either the mainstream media or their “sources” (bosses?) in the intelligence community simply doesn’t understand history.

I’ve followed my old neighbor Fetzer ever since I offered him a book to help him in a “debate” to defend Darwin from Creationists. Here’s what I wrote about Fetzer 14 years ago. I followed it up the next week with this addendum.

Paranoia Pt 1

……………………………Pages………Hits………Bandwidth

ph Philippines ph…… 13,847.. 14,925…. 296.13 MB

us United States us… 6,761…. 12,671….. 436.29 MB

cn China cn…………….. 2,858….. 2,872….. 13.08 MB

Looking at my blog stats this morning put this frosting on the cake of my thoughts about paranoia. a subject occasionally touched in this blog. Its been sort of a lifelong nuisance nipping at my heels. My son is inclined to think there was a conspiracy behind JFK’s assassination. I think the only conspiracy was the rush to hide the intelligence services ineptitude in hiding their role in keeping track of assassin Oswald. But that’s OK. He gave up on social sciences long ago so he’s welcome to whatever theories about politics he wants.

So, about these stats.

These are the top locations that viewers of my blog are hailing from. They don’t necessarily represent human eyes. For instance I can think of no good reason many people in the Philippines would visit my blog other than by accident. Most of the numbers “pages” and “hits” represent Internet robots searching for whatever they have been programmed to take note of. Perhaps the Philippines has lots of servers for clients all over the world. I think the stats from the US represent a much closer tie to my actual readers most of whom presumably come from Duluth. As for China…….

Well, I haven’t forgotten recent posts about the books I’ve been reading about China. They have emphasized what I’ve heard in the news. China does a very thorough job of scrubbing things out of the Internet that they don’t want chinese citizens to read and chief among these would be any mention of the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident. Well, if the Chinese paranoia police are anything like the Trumpista’s hope to be, able to spot any anti-americanism on Muslim’s Internet connections they may have already noted my visa application to visit China and paired it to my blog. I doubt that they have……..yet……..but who knows.

If I was a Syrian wishing to get a green card to the US I’d be out of luck. As a tourist wishing to spend some of my Greenbacks sailing down the Yangtze, well maybe the Chinese would let me in.

I’ve got a meeting in half an hour to deal with paranoia in Duluth……lets see if I can get a start on paranoia #2 before I have to leave.

House Hunting

The Trib reports that the Duluth City Council wants to address the issue of homelessness. I found these two paragraphs pertinent:

“According to the Maxfield study which was done in April of 2014, at that time it was determined that we needed approximately 2,482 units of rental housing for people who earn 50 to 80 percent of median income. Of those 2,482 units, we’ve only actually successfully created 336,” he said.

“We’ve just barely touched the need for that particular group, and that contrasts with the need for full-market-rate apartments,” Anderson said. “It was determined that we needed 1,092 of those units. Well, guess what? We’ve overdone it there. We’ve created 1,318 units.”

Perhaps tonight when I attend the Mayor’s State of the City Address at Lincoln Middle School at 5:30 she will address the issue of homelessness in Duluth. I wish her well. I think other Mayor’s and City Councils have done the same in the past.

At the moment the Duluth Schools have some empty buildings that a few developers have looked at for “market rate” housing. That’s for people in the market who can pay full freight. However, as someone who serves lunch once a month at the Damiano Center and whose wife comes home with stories from the CHUM Shelter and who regularly hears about students in our schools who have no home I’m well aware that the growing economy is still leaving folks behind who can’t afford market rate housing. It will be so much better when the Ryan Plan goes into affect replacing Obamacare so that those without insurance can return to scavenging health care in our emergency rooms.
or as Scrooge said “If they would rather die,” said Scrooge, “they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.”

And while they are doing it they can live on the streets. God forbid America’s 2,043 billionaires would have to pony up more taxes to even things out. At least President Trump’s taxes can go down now that he’s dropped a billion dollars in the ranking.

Rolling seven

Sunday the DNT had a story with the pros of a Seventh Hour Day and the many caveats and fears being thrown out to slow down instituting it next September.

Emotionally I side with Alanna Oswald. I am angry with myself for fretting along with foot dragging former Chair Harala about rushing to fully institute it. That’s why last month I offered up a motion to grease the wheels by giving the two western middle schools “more resources” meaning money for next year to demonstrate that our School Board is no longer inclined toward benign neglect.

I’ll share this email to the Board from Tom Tusken’s evaluation of the Trib’s seventh period day story:

Dear School Board and District Administration:

I feel compelled to write based on my unresolved feelings generated by the article in today’s Duluth News Tribune, “Seventh period: the answer?” While I was able to contribute to the article, I was unsatisfied by what I read as a whole.

Do we have an itemized list of costs associated with adding a seven period day? Why will it cost $2.6 million? Numbers get shared with no supporting documentation. I apologize if I missed the details at a recent school board meeting.

Seven periods may not be the best practice, but if it is not, where is the urgency of the school district to research and implement something different right now? Continue reading

Julius H. Barnes

Last night when I woke up in the middle of the night I picked up the book 1920 – The Year of the Six Presidents. Its an engaging book and so far most of the chapters have been excellent summaries of these past and yet-to-be Presidents. A long look at the bibliography and chapter notes assured me that the author had been thorough and I trust his judgments.

There was a one sentence in the seventh chapter about Julius H. Barnes having been President Herbert Hoover’s “Colonel House.” That’s all it said and I did not find Mr. Barnes name in the Book’s index. He is, however, amply referred to in a number of online links.

Julius was a famous Duluthian and his name graced the old Barnes-Ames Building that housed several of our School District’s miscellaneous educational programs. The building sits just below Old Central across from second street and I went there many times to volunteer teach at the ESL (English as a Second Language) classes. It also housed our Alternative Learning program. When I was volunteering a group of scientists were using its old empty swimming pool to study neutrino’s or something like that. It may once have been the old YMCA which was a recipient of Barnes’s largess.

Among other vapors of his life in Duluth is the Lark O’ the Lake Restaurant on Superior Street with wonderful sandwiches and malts. The Lark was an early water landing aircraft that Barnes commissioned.

As for the Colonel House reference, I found that doubly interesting. House was the right-hand man for Woodrow Wilson up to and through World War I after which Wilson’s towering ego and paranoia shunted House off to the sidelines much to the detriment of Wilson’s legacy.

Barnes was one of Herbert Hoover’s young aides during Hoover’s good works in Europe through the “Great War” and later became the Nation’s President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce which I suspect is the reason he made it to this Time Magazine cover from May of 1930 while Hoover’s legacy was itself about to go kaput.

Barnes survived the Depression and returned to Duluth where he fell on hard times in his later years and died “penniless” in 1959. I’ll bet my Grandfather George Robb could have given me a good history of Julius. Its because my Grandfather would become an active Republican in the Jazz Age that I’m eager to read this particular history. He was still recovering from his war wounds and catching the notice of Kansas’s Republican establishment in 1920. Later Barnes’s old boss would reappoint George Robb postmaster of Salina, Kansas.

BTW – Here’s how this old certificate begins:

“Know ye, That, reposing special trust and confidence in the intelligence, diligence and discretion of -George S. Robb -; I have nominated and, by and with, the advice and consent of the Senate, do appoint him Postmaster at – Salina , in the County of – Saline -, State of Kansas……”

When 87% of Duluth’s 9th graders had the reading skills to function as adults

I can’t find DNT’s “Bygones” section in today’s online paper but it reported that on this day 20 years ago:

“About 81% of Duluth ninth-graders have the math skills they’ll need to function as adults and 87% have the necessary reading skills, according to test results released yesterday. More than 90,000 student state-wide took the Minnesota Basic Standards Test in January.”

I had been on the Board for a little over a year on that date and this was a test that has likely changed several times since then so that it is hard to make a comparison with today’s testing results. Still, those sound like pretty good results for kids with just three more years of high school to finish. I’m not sure we could match those results today. If I’m right that’s a sad commentary on our progress.

I will have several other local news related posts to make later this morning. (I’m catching up from a weekend with family and reading history.) This is meant to whet your appetite so come on back when I’ve posted them.

Awash in Books

Thirty years ago I read that an early Chinese leader ordered the destruction of as many ancient Chinese history texts as he could lay his hands on. God praise the Internet but I just discovered that the Emperor was no less than Qin Shi Huang the Emperor who first unified China and is probably best known today for having interred the vast terracotta army with his own burial. He also reportedly buried alive 400 scholars who had hidden the proscribed histories from the book burners.

Today China may be poised to overtake Trump’s No Nothing America to become the Earth’s preeminent nation has done something similar. It has done its level best to scrub the Internet of unpalatable evaluations and especially the memory of the Tiananmen Square Massacre of 1989. By mentioning this I suspect Lincolndemocrat will be scrubbed from Chinese servers. That probably won’t stop me from passing out my lincolndemocrat.com business cards when I get to China this summer. (In my view China can never hope to overtake America until it gives its historians free rein.)

I mention this because the scrubbing of Tiananmen Square from History is mentioned in a second book on China that I began reading to Claudia today. Age of Ambition won a National Book Award and picks up about where Peter Hessler’s Country Driving left off ten years ago.

I happily added the Hessler book and the Book about Bleeding Kansas to my reading list which I began back in 1979 and later uploaded to my old website.

I’ve added to the list every year although the three years I fought hardest to get a vote on the Red plan my additions to the list were threadbare. What I’ve wanted to do for a long time is write a book myself and there are several topics I wish to pursue as my long suffering loyal eight readers know. I also resumed reading another history book this morning. Its 1920, The Year of the Six Presidents. This book will give me some insights on my Grandfather Robb’s early Republican years. This was the year that his biggest mistake left the Oval Office. 1920 is also the year of Duluth’s infamous lynching, another subject I’ve wanted to write about.

Until the second paragraph I swear its been a week since I mentioned President Trump’s name in the blog. He’s proving to be as hypnotic as Duluth’s Red Plan manic School Board. He’s been styling himself as Andrew Jackson reborn. On that point, I enjoyed watching author, Jon Meacham, taking Trump apart on CNN last night because Meach wrote a Pulitzer winning history of Jackson. I got half way through it just before traveling to Israel last year and am still meaning to finish it so that I can add it to my reading list. (I don’t add partially completed books to the list!)

Other than this darned blog I’m not sure when I’ll finally finish my first history. I just printed out most of the posts I wrote reviewing our school board attorney, Kevin Rupp. He might be a good chapter. But before I do that I’ll have to clean up some embarassingly awful passages like this godawful paragraph I discovered with Rupp’s name in it.

What I don’t know is whether, as an old Board member well acquainted with a villainous act on the part of Art’s accuser, I can safely tell a current school board member or even a Superintendent such confidential information. My retirement gurus, mentioned in the first half of this post, might be in a panic even now. Maybe I’ll get sued and my wife’s earnings will be wiped off the map. They would lose a nice account. Wouldn’t that be charming. Claudia would probably leave my bed all together not just for a couple hours early one morning. On the other hand maybe she could launch in the ministry with an even deeper conviction in her new found penury.

I’ll rewrite it Someday. Fortunately, most of what I’ve been rereading is pretty clear. And to cut myself some slack let me point out that this was stuffed in a 1300 word post that was cranked out over a long night I spent cranking four companion posts of similar size. That’s a lot of editing.

As I move closer to filing for the school board in June the history I may be concentrating on could be a lot more local. Explaining how we got our jam packed school classrooms may be the only way that the Duluth Public can be persuaded to pony up more money to fix the problem. I just have to hope that the authorities don’t square my Tiananmen first.

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."