Sunday began with Church. We picked up S. at his group home and drove him to Glen Avon Prez. He is in his eighties He’s tiny, autistic, barely communicative and his head juts out ninety degrees forwards from his shoulders. When we first began attending Glen Avon S. drove his mother to church. Today, at least in the temperate months, he still drives a bicycle around town. Until recently he traveled all over town. Claudia and I are part of a group of four families that alternate taking him to church on different Sunday’s of the month.

During our service I raised my hand to have my Aunt Mary, My Dad’s little sister, remembered for prayers. I was told a few days ago that she had been placed in hospice with only days remaining.

Aunt Mary was my Dad’s little sister. She was about 14 when my parent’s married but she always loomed large in my memory. When I went to the basement of my grandmother’s home I would always see the life-sized poster of her that was created when she ran for “May Queen” at my Dad’s college. By the time she was a Queen candidate my Dad was in Washburn’s law school on the GI Bill. He did his best to help his little sister win the competition by placing the poster in the Law School Building and coaxing his fellow future attorneys to vote in an election these older students rarely bothered with. My Aunt won.

When I came along Mary called me “Treensie.” This was long before I grew to six-foot-two. Once I was married Aunt Mary began calling me every December to wish me “Happy Birthday.” “Is this Treensie,” she would ask and I always replied in the deepest basso profundo voice I could muster, “This is Treensie.”

I got her last such call a few weeks. She was uncharacteristically late. She was calling from the hospital and wanted to make amends for her tardiness. It was a brief conversation. She was about to have a huge tumor removed and mostly wanted to keep the tradition of the phone call alive. A short time later I learned of the operation and called her back only to discover that she couldn’t handle a long call. Other family members let me know of her deteriorating condition. So on Sunday I, an unrepentant agnostic, asked my fellow church members to keep my Aunt Mary’s family in their prayers just as I had done the previous December when my Uncle Frank, the middle child, was in the same situation.

After church we had lunch and we brought our grandchildren back to our house. They would stay overnight because they had the next day, MLK Jr. Day, off of school. Their Mother would teach. A little later that afternoon Claudia and I picked up S. again for a second special worship service. It was at the Peace Church and was for handicapped folks like S. These services are put by CHUM (Central Hillside United Ministry) the consortium of 40 Duluth area churches that also sustains the homeless shelter.

Claudia and I had been asked to offer up our theatrical talents to portray Simeon and Anna who met the baby Jesus at the Temple in Jerusalem to welcome him to the Jewish world. Glen Avon was responsible for the service while a French River church cooked the dinner that followed.

The Vikings playoff game began while we were at Peace Church and was two thirds over by the time we arrived home. On our trip home the game changed from a comfortable lead for the Vikes to the beginning of a Saint’s turnaround. We got home in time to watch the remarkable twists and heart thumping turns until the final ten second miracle. Like the rest of Minnesota our screams pierced the night.

I checked my phone shortly afterward and discovered a family member had made a couple of calls to me while I had my phone muted during the Church service. The payers for my Aunt Mary’s family would be needed more than ever. She died shortly before the Vikings had taken the field.

No way to make America Great Again

An old ally stopped communicating with me because I keep trashing Donald Trump. I don’t plan to stop any time soon. I’d not heard from this party since I suggested that they ignore my blog rather than send me emails calling Barack Obamma a “nigger.”

In the last few days I’ve gotten a flurry of emails touting the resurgence of America under Donald Trump and they include my old buddy’s toned down imprecations against our 45th President. Now Obama is “the kinky haired race baiter.” I guess that’s an improvement even though his replacement is doing his best to make 1600 Pensylvania a “s***hole” and a refuge for the alt-right.

It probably annoys my old pal that 49% of Americans give Obama the credit for recent upticks in our economy while only 40% give the credit to Trump. I’m with the former group although I’d say that a lot of the improvement is beyond any President’s control.

For my part I’m distressed that the abandonment of “All men are created equal” by Trump’s supporters has become so apparent. That’s no way to Make America Great Again.

I missed the award ceremony

Not being a school board member any longer I was not scheduled to attend this month’s annual Minnesota School Board Association Conference. I was there in spirit. Thank you Alanna Oswald for sending me the programe highlighting my “President’s Award.” It took twelve years of service to get 300 plus hours of training/lobbying/planning. I think the certificate will be sent to me in the mail.

All the new Board members showed up and only one of the seven was tied up an unable to attend.

Sad news for ISD 709

One of the things I have always complimented Supt. Gronseth for is hiring some very talented administrators. One of my favorites is poised to leave, Dr. Mike Cary, our District’s Curriculum Director. He has applied for the superintendency at Cloquet and he would be a smart agreeable, leader for that District.

I’ve noted in recent months that our finances in Duluth are getting desperate and that the Curriculum Department which Keith Dixon sacrificed in the wake of the Red Plan’s Red Ink virtually wiped it out. Dr. Cary is about to preside over another evisceration of the Department and I can’t blame him for heading somewhere that he doesn’t have to watch his staff evaporate.

This tidbit was in today’s Trib but I can’t find it on the online version.

Columbia Height’s school board compares poorly compared to Duluth’s

An reporter acquaintance of mine from the Twin Cities commended me for my recent column in the Reader. Later he told me of the obstacles the Columbia Heights School District placed in his way to cover their meetings. We’ve been communicating since the early days of the Red Plan. He thought the tidbit about the Tribune ending its regular coverage of the Duluth School District was funny. I presume as in funny odd.

He has dug into his pocket to the tune of $200.00 to ask for an opinion to slap the District’s hands. He explained:

On at least two previous occasions, the time they would unlock the doors for free entrance to the building was at 5:30. This was a little painful because a school board meeting might start at 5:30, although they usually start at 6:00. I was able to get into those 5:30 meetings, but the doors would not unlock until precisely 5:30 – and then you had no time to get there a few minutes early to sit down in the meeting room. If the school board chair was running late and they didn’t start precisely at 5:30, then the extra time was yours. I never missed anything because of this 5:30 unlocking time but it’s inconvenient in a way, to be rushing in. (If I ever had to video tape the meeting at 5:30, I would never have had the time needed to set up equipment before showtime – I would need a minimum of 30 min. to do that)

But on this last Tues night, they told me the unlocking of the doors was now at 6:00 pm. I said how the hell are you going to do that when the meeting starts at 5:30 and the public needs to get in?

Furthermore, the reporter was told he had to surrender his driver’s licence to the District if he wanted to enter the building before 6PM. In addition they do not show their meetings live and hold the right to edit community comments out of the video when it plays afterward.

Who’s Whoville?

This cartoon by Mike McKee of the Atlanta Constitution was in today’s DNT. It should not have surprised me that the Grinch has been used repeatedly for political cartoons which I discovered when typing “Cagle Cartoons” (where McKee’s work can be found) along with “Whoville” and Googling it.

McKee draws a Grinch-like Donkey disgustedly holding a newspaper with the headline “GOP Passes Tax Reform.” The cartoon has a bit of pseudo-Seussian doggerel:

The Dems hated tax cuts!
The whole tax cut reason!
Now please don’t ask why.
It bordered on treason!

I looked at some of McKee’s other work and a cursory view showed no preponderance of anti Democratic hits but I must say I disliked the word “treason” as McKee applied to the GOP tax law. The word might just as easily be used against the GOP and the billionaires who deny the nation sufficient financial support.

I much prefer the anti-Trump tone of my snow sculpture’s message. I also think it is far more in keeping with Dr. Seuss’s view of the world.

PS. I’m unlikely to do much blogging today. A snow-day has left me with grandchildren to entertain and Grandma Claudia decreed that tech had to end at 9:00. I’m five minutes over that. Yesterday I spent hours learning French and skipped blogging all together. I’m still evaluating how and where to spend my writing energy for the rest of this year. The Reader, a book, the blog…..I just have to work harder on returning to a more normal sleep pattern as too little sleep will defeat the purpose of writing to stave off dementia. Last night I was awake in bed for 4 and a half hours. I’ve got to keep the world’s troubles out of my head at night unless they are in my dreams.

Here’s some of my own verse:

Way down in Atlanda
The toon man McKee
Scrawled at backstab at Dems
and the Land of the Free

Make the Grinch Green Again

I did go swimming as I planned but haven’t started proof reading the last post. I spent the afternoon practicing French. And I decided the Grinch needed a fresh coat of color before the snow hits tomorrow or Thursday.

I used the bottles of what was likely food coloring but they faded pretty quickly so I did what I did on the Yellow Submarine. I mixed my acrylic paints into water and Voila, you can now seek Max the dog against a green and red backdrop of Grinchiness.

Passersby seemed pleased. My midnight visitors made the right choice…..even if it wasn’t mine.

Dear Readers,I have to remind myself I’m running a marathon…

… not a sprint.

Last night, I watched the pilot of a series that has gotten some good press – The Marveleous Mrs. Maisel. (When I mention watching something my loyal readers, all eight of them, should presume I watched something with my better half) Maisel won a Golden Globe the other night. It was pleasant enough but I’ll have to watch at least one more to see whether I can spare the time to watch any more than this.

The heroine who is contemplating a career in stand up comedy asks Lenny Bruce, famed for his coarse candor (He had a routine about peeing in the sink) if he loved being a comedian. Maisel had just bailed the Bruce in this series out of jail. This Bruce went on to describe how horrible the comedian’s life was in grim detail. But do you like being a comedian Maisel wanted to know. The answer some of it mimed seemed to be that the audience reaction was more than worth it. Of course Bruce famously died of a heroin overdose so I wasn’t convinced. Maisel apparently was…..for the sake of the screen writers who came up with the rest of the first year’s episodes following the pilot.

I too would like an audience. I’ve spent the better part of my adulthood A. Making sure I knew everything despite the impossibility of this task and B. Teaching myself how to write so that it reflects what I’m thinking C. In hopes that something inside my head will lead other people as the best writers and thinkers have led me.

I check my stats (daily readership) with considerable regularity. I test my audience. For one thing I post posts before I’ve proof read them. Readers who come across them after my initial posting will likely see lots of mistakes. Those who find it a few hours after my initial post will likely find far fewer of them. As I told a recent critic I write the way I snow sculpt on my front yard. I let viewers/readers see the process of putting something together. I do have some qualms about critics printing out unfinished posts and beating me up about them but that hasn’t stopped me from continuing this practice.

This morning I have about a dozen things I’ve gleaned from the news that I want to bundle together to write about. Its already 10AM and I’ve decided to swim laps for the first time in a month. Claudia suggested that because she’s meeting with her book club. I also have other things to do like continue the sifting through years of accumulated papers to make room for the new clutter I intend to create writing some books. And writing some books is also about an audience. So was my return to the Duluth Reader. It has a potential of close to 20,000 eyes substantially more than the 250 I get on my slowest days. Of course the web puts me in contact or potential contact with billions of eyes. But, of course, that’s purely theoretical.

So far my most visited intellectual achievements have been viewed by millions of people a handful of times. Those are the occasional snow sculptures that catch the public’s mood. Ah, but I’d like a few of my words to reach that kind of audience.

I’ll mention two of the myriad of things that caught my attention today. The first of these was a story from the Washington Examiner about how great things are going with our New President. It was sent to me without comment by a former fan turned off by the insults I hurl back at Donald Trump. I suspected that the Examiner was one of the new breed of far right newspapers and did some checking on it. I already knew the Washington Times was (It’s owned by the Moonies)

Indeed the “Examiner” is owned by an arch conservative and one of my fellow Kansans, Philip Anschutz Unlike me Anschutz is a billionaire. He, like his fellow Kansas Billionaire Charles Koch, contributed a billion dollars to conservative Republican politicians in recent years. However, the Wikipedia article just linked to suggests to me that he is mostly an old style conservative worried about the future of America. With a billion dollars of mad money he certainly has influence beyond my loyal eight readers.

I too am worried about the world and its heating up and overpopulation. This story about bats dropping dead out of Australian skies is representative of many I’ve read even though it pales compared to stories about the bleaching of corals, the deoxygenation of the Oceans the 3,700 drownings believed to have occurred in the Mediterranean last year from fleeing refugees. Perhaps that’s because I remember the flying foxes of Sydney Australia’s Botanic Gardens from my visit. (I took some pictures of them but just realized I have no quick way to find what I did with them – including a month’s worth of travel – one more thing for me to organize)

But before I let another five or six paragraphs creep into this post I’ll force a conclusion. I figure I have twenty years of senicence in me. If I don’t work on the marathon but just work for those nightly laughs like Lenny I’ll squander my influence. If the best of my posts are any indication I have some worthwhile books in me. They take a lot longer to unfurl than quick postings on the Internet. So does learning a new language. I’ve been working on French for three weeks now. I’d like to speak serviceable French before the year is out to some Parisian waiters where I intend to do a little mangeing. There’s more but I’m going swimming first. Then it will be language training, then organizing…….I’m sure there will be a post or two in coming days. They might even be worth reading.

I’ll proof read this a little later. By the way……I figured out that toodle-loo comes from a french term for goodbye – “A tout a l’heure” Gotta keep working on keeping my brain plastic – especially if I expect to keep writing into my nineties. This is a marathon.

Not Eudora Redux

I’ve been talking to Bob Boone off and on since after I took a photograph of a dead Palestinian …… Wait a minute. This would make a pretty good column. Sorry. You will have to wait to see if the Reader will print if first. If not. I’ll publish it here.

Flying Blind (with the brakes fixed) Read the previous couple of posts to get the inside joke

My Reader Column Published January 4, 2018

Word has it that the Duluth News Tribune will no longer have an education reporter starting this January. Jana Hollingsworth is to be retired because her aunt, Jill Lofald, is about to be seated on the School Board. The conflict of interest supposedly justifies the stepped-back coverage but I think it’s more a matter of economy. I remember the 20-page News section from 43 years ago densely packed as though white space was a crime. The Trib in the days of Watergate was where locals got their news. Today an entire Trib from sections A to D rarely exceeds 15 of their much smaller pages.
It was still that way when I was elected in 1995. The News Tribune had three education reporters and their editors gave them lots of scope to poke sticks at our board and superintendent. During Julio Almanza’s time at the helm, two of them sat in the superintendent’s office glowering for an hour until he grudgingly handed over a proposal to close five elementary schools.

For the past four years Jana has had to shoulder that responsibility alone. If a big story does pop up, someone is sure to attend a few meetings. I suspect that big story will be the district falling into bankruptcy or Statutory Operating Debt. I offered my condolences to the newly elected board members at my final meeting and suggested that they begin researching that law. It’s happened before.

I ran for the school board in 1989, 1991 and 1993, losing each time. During this period the district fell into SOD, which may help explain my winning in a fourth attempt. I came on board during Superintendent Mark Myles’ era when he was forced to make a great many unpopular budget cuts. That alone did not get us out of the frying pan.

In 1993 Minnesota passed a law to avoid being taken to court by poor school districts desperate for funding. The poor districts were angry that the Legislature was backing away from 1971’s “Minnesota Miracle.” I was in college when that school funding law was passed and wrote a paper on it for my State and Local Government class. It was passed by a long-extinct bipartisan legislature and poured state money into property-poor school districts. The miracle did not last.

Freed from raising local taxes, school boards were quick to raise their spending. Two fiercely competitive teachers’ unions, the AFT and the NEA, competed to see which of them could bring about the most local teachers’ strikes in a bid to gain new locals. I witnessed this in the mid ‘70s as a teacher in the Proctor Schools.

And the fiscal brakes had come off school boards. In the old days, local school boards were mostly composed of tax-averse businessmen and farmers. Once the state could be counted on to finance 70 percent of public education, school boards lost the appetite to fight off strikes. They knew that state taxpayers would pay the lion’s share of their costs.

There were other reasons for farmers and businessmen to avoid local office. Board member Dr. George Balach’s dental practice was boycotted (unofficially) by angry teachers and took a huge hit emotionally and financially. Who needs that?
Although I lost the 1993 election, I pulled off one success. I talked candidate Bob Mars into supporting an “excess levy.” The legislature had sweetened the pot and was willing to give Duluth $3 for every $1 Duluth voters approved. It was an easy sell, especially when Bob got all the other candidates to promise to spend all the new state dollars on building a reserve equal to 10 percent of our annual operating costs. It took about three years to go from a deficit to a $10 million reserve.

Anyone looking for a similar easy fix in 2018 will be disappointed. The state no longer matches our increased local taxes. Where did all those reserves go?
Starting in 2006, new Superintendent Keith Dixon charmed the pants off flinty, tight-fisted, Chamber of Commerce types to build schools we could be proud of. His astonishingly inexperienced school board caught the spirit of those heady days before the 2008 housing crash. Even as that crisis unfolded, Dixon’s school board increased the cost of the building plan by 25 percent against the loud protests of my organization, Let Duluth Vote.

The district was like a small child whose mouth was too big for its stomach. It spent down $30 million of reserves. It laid off teachers in the hundreds. It eliminated its vital Curriculum Department. It ended its generous busing. This would not have been necessary if the board had honestly raised the taxes to pay for the Red Plan’s full costs. However, in the face of criticism the board, perhaps cluelessly, chose instead to cannibalize its operating budget. Today only $2.5 million of the local levy goes into the classroom while $28.5 million pays for the Red Plan.

When the editors of the News Tribune interviewed me for a possible endorsement, I honestly acknowledged that I played a part in the resulting disaster. I’m not sure I made it clear to the editors that my only role was in frightening the school board away from raising taxes. Of course, the editors have never acknowledged that they failed to grasp, let alone report, the looming deficits. As we head, once again, into Statutory Operating Debt the reporterless News Tribune will be flying blind. It won’t be the first time.
By the way. My successors on the school board chose a new set of captains at tonight’s organizational meeting. Sadly, their most education savvy colleague, Alanna Oswald, was frozen out despite a lot of talk a lot about economizing.

Harry Welty is a local eccentric who also pontificates at


Damn again.

Thinking back on the last correction the word homophone popped into my head. It turns out that when I said homonym I probably meant homophone.

From some Internet Dictionary I found these two definitions:

Homophonesnoun: Each of two or more words having the same pronunciation but different meanings, origins, or spelling, e.g., new and knew. (or in my case breaks and brakes)

Homonyms; plural noun: Each of two or more words having the same spelling but different meanings and origins, e.g. pole and pole.

Damned homonyms

I got a text asking me what “fiscal breaks” meant. It was published in my Reader Column.

I replied that it was spending restraint.

You mean “like “brakes?” he replied.

I replied, “Damned homonyms.”

Trump 2016 – Get used to it

Readers who look closely will see that the previous post is categorized as “Trump 2016” which seems wrong because, after New Years, we now find ourselves in 2018. That is simply a function of my setting up a Trump Account in the annus horibilous when he first interjected his bile seriously into American politics. I will no doubt keep the category as is for the foreseeable future.

As someone who is rightly proud of the best of our nation’s history I raced through all the stages of grief with Donald Trump’s election well before he was elected. I voted absentee and was in Topeka, Kansas, when the results came in. You can see I began the post election period with a little high mindedness about the process of presidential selection in a speech I gave to a VFW Post, however, in that case I mostly lauded our selection of then President Barack Obama.

For the past two years I’ve barely held back my contempt for Trump. I’ve come up with several creative dismissals of his decency. I’m waiting to write that he speaks out of both sides of his gastrointestinal tract……ooh, guess I just used that one. Every time I bad mouth our new POTUS I second guess myself with regard to how his fans might take my dyspepsia. They are quite right to point out that he is the President notwithstanding the wishful “He’s not my President” bravado of his wounded critics. But, are they right when they insist he be given some deference? Trump’s supporters tend to maintain that Barack Obama was treated with respect. I don’t buy that.

FOX News and Rush Limbaugh quickly portrayed Obama as the most “ultra liberal” President of all time, despite Obama’s falling a couple places back from that distinction. Truman integrated the Armed Forces causing the Dixiecrat revolt and even Richard Nixon placated liberals with a raft of programs like the EPA. Obama merely gave America a half-ass version of “Socialized Medicine” that the AMA and Republicans had fought off forty years before. And I will never forgive that twit Congressman who yelled “You lie” at the President during his State of the Union Message.

When I ridicule our President should his fans take that as my rebuke of them as well? Maybe. Think of it as the collateral damage anyone attempting to speak honestly faces. “Dad, you embarrass me.”………………..Yeah, this President embarrasses me and I really can’t be blamed for his election. I did what I could to stop it. If you voted for him I think the responsibility lies with you. If you were or are a low information voter or if you came to the conclusion that Hillary Clinton was just as bad as Trump those are your crosses to bear. If you won’t bear them because you are still Trump’s fan you have to get over my contempt for your hero. If you can’t do that, I feel no more guilt than Dietrich Bonhoeffer felt for trying to rid Germany of Adolph Hitler. (Although I’ll be the first to admit that Trump is no Hitler…….he is falling waaay short in his attempt to take over the world. Hell, getting elected President wrecked Trump’s attempt to take over FOX News. What an Incompetent! Now as our President the sorry SOB is too busy playing golf to make Presidential appointments. He’s too busy tweeting about what a putz the North Korean strong man is. Sorry, it takes one to know one.

As I wrote in the last post one possible silver lining might be that the US will grow up enough as the next three years grind mercilessly to an end to realize it can’t be the parent of the whole world. If that’s the most I can hope for I’ll take it. In the meantime, if you think I’m being mean to your (and my) jackass President – get used to it. Time will tell whether you are willing to admit to your grandchildren that you voted for the Dildo-in-Chief.

In ten years I’ve never used the word “dildo” in my blog…

…I will today and on an imminently worthy object of scorn.

But first I’d like to hint at a silver lining. That hope was helped along by two things. First a PBS program about the Hubble telescope perhaps the single greatest scientific instrument ever created. It started out that way then quickly became one of the biggest jokes in NASA history. Until it was given the equivalent of corrective lenses and got the chance to live up to its hype. I think “Fake News” is on the cusp of inflicting onof the single greatest paybacks in the history of revenge by exposing Donald Trump to many of his most ardent supporters for what he is – a dildo.

Before I began this post I checked to see if I’d ever used the word dildo in a post. It would have if I’d told the following story. It turns out I haven’t so here goes. Its not much of a story.

A year or so after I moved to our home on 21st Avenue I looked out the back window and saw a trio of boys laughing as they passed around a long pink object. If I had any doubts about what it was they were answered the next day when I found a fat, pink, rubber penis in my backyard. I guess the boys had no idea what to do with it other than leave in my yard for my grade schoolers to bring to my attention while asking what the hell it was.

Sorry. That’s the story. It ended when I threw it in our waste disposal bin moments later.

And that’s a preview of this posts conclusion. I think like the three teenagers who took a brief interest in the sex toy they found but who ultimately dropped it in my yard Donald Trump’s supporters will leave him in the dust. America will be stuck with him for three more years unless grounds for impeachment arise but frankly; there is no Constitutional provision for removing a dildo from the Oval Office. You need read no further but help yourself: Continue reading

Visibility … and oh yeah, Happy New Year

The countdown to the end of my term of office is in progress. In the meantime I’ve enjoyed being with family and holidaying, so much so that no critical posts occurred to me. However, I’m hardly out of the blogging business. Instead I’ll take a crack at augmenting my pontification by offering up a column for the Duluth Reader. They get more eyes than my blog and I’m all about eyes…….not the “ayes” of my school board voting days but eyes nonetheless. No previews until the Reader comes out on Thursday. I’ve got till 6:30 PM to write it and forward it to the publisher.

And I’m trying to get myself organized for some book writing too. It should be a great year. No SOD for me and Donald Trump and the Republicans have ensured that I’ll be enjoying a big tax break at the expense of “of the people, by the people and for the people.” Or as the our new resident of the Whoville White House, which he calls a “dump,” might say: “E Pluribus ef U.”

FAKE NEWS ALERT. Fake President says the Dump story was fake news.

A final board dust up

Annie Harala did jump on me at the last and final School Board meeting together. Loren Martell describes the action in his Reader column.

I’m at the water-rolling-off-the duck’s-back stage of my public life and took no particular offense although some seemed intended. After the meeting Annie’s husband, at perhaps his first school board meeting, wished me well and I told him he might very well find himself at the next swearing in of Congressman Richard Nolan. Annie is Nolan’s newly appointed campaign manager. It seemed a good way to leave the Board room …… along with my second name tag, which I seem to have mislaid.

Oh no. I found it…….in the bag that my going away gift (that I’m using as a candy dish) was in.

Yellow Eyes

When I peeked out of my window this morning to check on the Grinch I saw that he had turned a shade of familiar green. It was not of my doing.

I had thought about giving the old coot some color early on but was so satisfied with his looks I decided he could keep the bleeched look. Someone else thought otherwise. Fortunately, they did a fine job of coloring Grinchy poo and Max’s scarf. I don’t encourage others to improve my work at night but I can find little aesthetic fault in this nocturnal change. However, it was not fully sufficient.

When I’d contemplated doing the same myself before abandoning the idea I knew that the Grinch’s yellow eyes would need attention. Well, when I found the frozen spray bottles of coloring agent I knew that since I couldn’t beat or undo the technicolor I would have to join in. Now the old Christmas thief has suitably sinister eyes – fit for the Oval Office if you ask me.

Joyeux Noël

This Christmas Season has had a subtext of World Wars about it for Claudia and me. I just finished reading the fabulous “Last Hope Island” out loud to Claudia and am half way through “Last of the Doughboys.”

We have both been working on French lessons on the app Duolingo . Given six or seven months of serious study perhaps we will be able to navigate through the two war’s French battlefields as something other than clueless “ugly Americans.” On Friday we watched two recent movies on the subject which had been getting good reviews. First, at Zinema, we watched “Darkest Hour” about the month of transition between the Chamberlain Prime ministership and Winston Churchill’s elevation. Its been dinged for historical inaccuracy but it was a pretty gripping film for me. I made a point of looking up the criticisms so as to winnow out some of the unhelpful theatricality. Watching it meant that I was more determined than ever to see Dunkirk and we watched it through live streaming. I’m sorry to say I found the latter movie quiet and disappointing. It was filmed with thousands when nearly half a million were involved and it delivered no sense of scale that honored its importance.

I’ll say this about Churchill and it relates to my earlier post on Character. Churchill was an outcast in his political party. Hell, he kept switching back and forth between political parties which made him suspect everywhere. To say that quality appeals to me is an understatement. Loyalty to party over principal holds no appeal to me. I’m drawn to folks like Winston and Abraham who also threaded his way to a new political landscape by blending political loyalty to a cause greater than party.

What Churchill stood for in his Conservative party that had been determined to stay out of war was the recognition that Hitler was such a great threat to Britain and the World that all the talk of peace was by far a greater danger. Dunkirk, however disappointing the recent movie, gave his early leadership a much needed boost and, perhaps saved us all from a grim authoritarian future.

(I feel much the same way about Donald Trump who has made ignorance rather than Arianism his chief goal with global environmental collapse one of his many likely future achievements)

Claudia and I added one more war movie to our watched list on Christmas Eve. It was the 2006 movie, Joyeux Noël, about the 1914 outbreak of Christmas in the trenches of the four-month old World War 1. (When my grandsons are older I’d like them to watch it.0 Its based on real events and the conclusion is damning. The very same sorts of folks who today are reaching back to a past they felt they could control had to deal severely with the men who accidentally allowed the Christmas spirit to overtake them in the trenches. In the true spirit of “let no good deed go unpunished” the soldiers who crossed no man’s land for a moment of ill considered humanity were sent off to become sausage on the Eastern Front, and Verdun in order to wipe the memory of human decency from the battlefront. That kind of contamination just couldn’t be tolerated. All over the world today there seems to be a rebirth of a similar intolerance today. You have no farther to look than at our own White House.

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."