Category Archives: Harry’s Diary

Dreaming in French

For the last couple weeks I’ve been trying to write in French. Its not so hard with cell phone translators to clear up the grammar and vocabulary that is just beyond my reach. I even try to joke in the language. Given a question to answer in french asking what five items were in my refrigerator I wrote that it contained an “ongion,” (onion) some “lait,” (milk) a verre de lait (glass of milk) and “deux chats.” I couldn’t recall any other foodstuffs on the spot. I did however follow up by expressing regret “desole” about the chats. “Deux chats” means two cats.

Its a “tres” (very) modest accomplishment but I’m catching on bit by bit. I used to ask people who were learning English if they dreamt in English yet as I’ve heard that this is the true sign of having mastered a language. I’ve been dreaming about practicing French but not dreaming in French. I’ll take what I can get.

I should have even more time over the summer to intensify my studies. I have found a couple other cell phone apps that put me in touch with people who speak french and would be willing to reciprocate if I help them practice English.

I would not let another filing for Congress slow down my French lessons. Nothing but some disaster will keep me from my appointment with France this September. Filing for office is not the same as campaigning for it. I am not interested in campaigning. I am however against giving President Trump more allies in Congress. I would challenge Pete Stauber over his unqualified support for the closest thing to a wannabe dictator that our nation has ever sent to the Oval Office. Hearing Stauber tout Trumps successes turns my stomach. It only makes it worse that Pete is a good guy.

I was thrilled a few years ago when Pete took the place of a DFL hack on the County Board. Even before that I recall having Pete pull up in a squad car to shoot the breeze with me as I campaigned in the Lakeside neighborhood. That Donald Trump’s elbow rubbing with Pete might get him elected appalls me. Pete deserves me in the ring with him calling him to account for his guilt by association.

But I will likely ignore yesterday’s cutesy video threat about running because I don’t need the distraction even to help save our democracy from the likes of Trump. I only put it together while playing with a new feature that Microsoft sent me.

I also got a second video sent to me which I will share in a moment. Its from a year ago when I tried out for a part in a video meant to entice Hollywood money for a movie screenplay about Duluth’s infamous 1920 lynching. After the shooting was over I got caught up in Duluth School Board politics and almost forgot about it. Then on Friday at the Damiano Center while dishing out potatoes and gravy a fellow server mentioned that she had seen me in the video. Its author/producer, Dale Botten, was an old high school chum. One thing led to another and Dale sent it to me via email. I was not among those whose work ended up on the cutting room floor. I play the character “Mike.”

My acting career will no doubt go the same direction as my old dream of strolling the Longworth Building’s hallways as the Eighth District’s congressman.

That’s OK. I still have more Not Eudora columns to crank out……including one this afternoon.

Stuff I found in the belfry

After forty years attending Glen Avon Presbyterian Church, all the while an agnostic non member, and a quarter century in the choir I was asked last year to serve on a committee – building and grounds. I was delighted to be asked and my recent freedom from the Duluth School Board has even made it possible for me to attend the Tuesday night meetings without any fear that they could conflict with our once a week School Board Business Committee meetings.

Among the long standing projects that I’ve had a personal yen to do something about is the space just below our church’s bell tower. For years it was a crowded space with years of detritus accumulated inside. Recently it has had some water damage from water that has blown in through the louvers that offer partial protection to the tower’s carillon. We have a spring cleaning coming up Saturday that I’ve been helping to organize. To prepare for what will only be a morning of work I’ve been hauling stuff from the room below so that our volunteers can reach the walls and repaint them. Having done that I’ve prepping the walls by scraping off moldy paint turned to dust. Its been grimy work requiring a shower two afternoons in a row. Today I will slap some primer/sealer over the spots where I removed all the old paint.

The most interesting thing I discovered was this plaque honoring the members of the church who answered their nations call to arms for World War 1. I asked my wife to put it on the church’s facebook page as a bit of advertising for the Saturday clean up. It seemed fortuitous that I should discover it on the eve of my fall trip to France which is prompted by a desire to honor my Grandfather’s heroics in that war.

I think some of us will try to find a place to put it up once again.

The other thing I found was also yellowed but it was of a much more recent vintage. It was one of a half dozen News Tribunes that were kept for some purpose, goodness knows what. Now they are just something for the Fire Marshall to frown at. I brought this one home as I had stopped collecting Trib clippings about the Duluth Schools after my fight for a vote on the Red Plan had come to an end.

My own view of this sorry bit of history is that it was yet one more miscarriage of justice that typified the leadership of the Duluth Schools dating back to the panicked hiring of Keith Dixon twelve years ago. This still unfolding disaster has been big part of what has animated Lincolndemocrat since its birth in 2006.

Today a new and greater threat, this time to the nation, animates the blog. Both threats have had the power to wake me from a truncated night’s sleep and thrust me into fretfulness that can only be salved by climbing out of bed and heading to my office to crank out new posts.

Its 4AM now. Maybe I’ll try to catch some more zzzz’s before I spend my Friday at church and at the Damiano Center serving up lunch.

Duty, Honor, Country

Ah that’s better. I’ll give you an update after I get my hour of french practice in.

Before we left for Florida a second cousin of mine notified me that his father, the last remaining nephew of my Grandfather had tucked away three shell casings from the three rounds of rifle shots that were fired at my grandfather’s funeral in 1972. He asked if I wanted them and I told him he should feel free to keep one as a keepsake from his father and that I would likely keep one and give one to another cousin.

There is a tradition I had not known about American military funerals. One shell casing from each of the three rounds fired is given to the family along with the American flag that draped the veteran’s casket. The casings stand for Duty, Honor and Country. The two that I have are for the moment placed upright above my computer in front of my Grandfather’s photograph. I don’t know which is missing, duty, honor or country.

For a year or more I’ve contemplated visiting the battlefields of World War One to honor my Grandfather. I’ve also long contemplated writing a book about him and the America he experienced and fought for. In these perilous American splintering days that book is more important to me than ever but in recent weeks as I’ve read about France, the war George Robb fought in has been nudged aside as I’ve read and studied about our two nation’s long entangled history. Two hundred years ago the French King made our liberation from England possible and paid for it with his life. American’s have felt a debt to France ever since.

In more recent years so called patriots, mostly Republicans, have taken to ridiculing the French. They even abandoned French Fries for “Patriot Fries” much as during World War I Germany’s sauerkraut was renamed “Freedom cabbage.”

I have broken some of my chains this last year. I’m off the Duluth School Board and I’ve given a rest to the notion of writing a book NOW, TODAY. I have instead obligated myself to writing a once every two week column for the Duluth Reader but I’ve pulled back my posts to Lincoln democrat. I’m also reading more than ever although a lot of that is still news related.

Today we worked out an itinerary. Tomorrow we will start booking rooms.

Vive la France (I’m sure my Grandfather said that many times a century ago)

Georges Méliès

A very cool video from Google’s greeting of the day of a Disney-like figure in France, the innovative movie maker, Georges Méliès. I want my grandsons to see this to get a sense of France, as I would like to imagine it, before Claudia and I visit in September. Yesterday we bought our tickets. I have been learning French (and madly practicing it on Duolingo) for the past five months and am on the cusp of being able to speak it with four months to go before lift off.


https://www.google.com/?doodle=32727724&hl=en&gl=us&source=sh/x/do&nord=1

This is also the land of Voltaire, Jules Verne, the sculptor of the Statue of Liberty, the inventor of hot air balloons and Jacques Cousteau who opened the oceans to us.

Duty, Honor, Country sans one

Darn, I’ll need to rotate this…….more later.

null

My photo sharing ap is being very balky. Its late and …

We just ordered our tickets to France. This gentlemen above, tipped on his side was my original reason for going. Now its more than that. That’s too big a subject to tackle in a late night post when I really need to hit the sack. I’m even too tired to study french at the moment. I will be speaking the language when I arrive next September……I may not sound pretty but I will speaking it.

I just discovered that Duolingo has been keeping track of my work. Since my birthday in December I’ve put in 129 hours. Most of these hours were in March and the April just completed. Duolingo says I’ve learned 2910 new words. Now if I could just learn to conjugate them all, spell them, properly àçcëñt them, put them in the right order and use them in a sentence……

Good night.

On my recent posting vacation

My seven loyal readers (one recently excused himself from regular readership as he felt I put altogether too much emphasis on civil rights in Lincolndemocrat) no doubt recall my plan to run a non campaign for the Eighth District Congressional seat this summer and fall online.

I have not changed my mind but over the past week I’ve come to realize how much more committed I am to learning French and studying France’s history than to annoying my political betters. I am also spending three and four hours daily reading the New York Times and listening to National Public Radio (among other sources) to keep abreast with the closest thing to a national emergency since 1968 or 1860.

Superfluous posts are a drain on my time. I really expected Hillary Clinton to win thereby giving me some rest from a preoccupation with current events that goes back to my Weekly Reader in grade school. That has not happened. But I do not consider my limited forays into the diary portion of my blog to be a waste. They serve as a good reference for me when I want to know what was happening in my life vis-a-vis the larger world.

I have tomorrow to write my next post for the Duluth Reader and I’ve not started it yet. I have another post in mind for today on my approach to “vacations.” I’ve had four in recent years in which I intensively studied the lands I was heading to. France has become the most intense of these and, Mon dieu!, far I have a much greater appreciation of its importance to American History than I previously had.

I have been so preoccupied that I can’t be fully trusted to get my normal allotment of duties done. I have yet to paint the bellfry in our church and on Friday I forgot to go to the Damiano Center to help serve lunch. That’s the second time that has happened since I stepped off the school Board. At church my confederates let me know I’ll be getting a good roasting the next time I show up. I deserve it. C’est la vie!

Some filler between snow shoveling

Busy, Busy, Busy. I only made about seven hours last week for my French studies……which are mostly a lot of drill, drill, drill. I have effectively set the basement level for weekly (hebdomadaire in French) practice from now until my departure to France in September.

Duluth got enough snow Saturday and Sunday for someone to beg that I build another sculpture. They were about to move out of town and wanted me to build one more for old time’s sake. I don’t think I quite conveyed the lack of enthusiasm I felt for that prospect. The snow did bring everyone over to our house on Sunday and because today is a snow day in Duluth we have grandkids staying with us. I will take them on a snow shoveling expedition to their house later today. Their parents will need to get back into their house after over nighting in ours.

The distractions have knocked me off course in the writings I plan to begin. But I still managed to look at both NPR and the NY Times this morning. One had a review of the movie “Come Sunday” that Claudia had me see before-hand. Evidently the seminary crowd has been spreading the news. Pertinent to me “the politician” was its story about how one preacher escaped from the iron grip of damnation worship that pervades the evangelical community. Their’s is a “you’ll get yours God.” Considering how many of them voted for Donald Trump I suspect the number of them left behind when the rapture finally descends will astonish everyone.

Oh, and I watched the first two episodes of the new “Lost in Space” while others in our Sunday crew watched Call the Housewives. I can catch that later when my grandsons aren’t around. Good fun.

The other fascinating story in the Times was about a hither-to-unknown member of the Trump Team who has sacrificed his marriage for Donald who once tipped him $200 buck tip for caddying when he was a kid. He’s Trump’s tweet master an altogether new job for a President. I’m guessing he will be the first and the last.

It reminded of a story I read the summer I was a summer intern in Washington DC.. It was about one of Richard Nixon’s unknown helpers who was the last person in Nixon’s administration any official wanted to see. That’s because RMN, famously averse to face-to-face personal conflict, needed someone to go out and fire people Nixon wanted to dump. Nixon did have an “enemies list” but Trump’s is infinitely longer. The wisest thing I heard anyone say this weekend was the ousted ex FBI Director Comey who said Trump should be removed by the voters not the Congress. I’m not sure I agree but I’m not sure I disagree either.

And those teachers in Red State’s that have taken their state’s stingy Republicans to task……Ah, that’s a subject for some later post too because I’ve got more shoveling to do.

I want to (not) run for Congress again

I have always considered myself the most reasonable person. I am far more inclined to begin most arguments by putting the other fellow’s or gal’s shoes and walking around in them till I get blisters. I have a reputation ( at least I suspect I do ) for being an off-the-wall bull-in-a-china-shop. As for being off-the-wall its true that, unlike most people, I’ve gotten into the habit of challenging the adage: “the nail that stands out will be pounded down.” Politically it caused me to become:

1. a Republican (a Nixon opponent) during the wave of college anti-Nixon marches
2. a apostle of moderate Republican values in the most Democratic legislative District in America
3. a staunch critic of the Republican Party from within and then a challenger to the Party in an “independent” race for Congress in 1992
4. a School Board candidate who lost three elections before finally prevailing on a fourth attempt
5. a ENOUGH FOR NOW!!!…..I just paused to fold the laundry and Claudia showed me Trevor Noah’s latest commentary about America’s Ongoing S***storm.

The point of the list above is simple. Against the odds as a grown up I’ve become the little kid who shouted at the Emperor that he has no clothes on during the parade surrounded by the king’s secret police. I once wrote an ending to that story. But dear Readerss, this is not a kingdom. It is, or at least once was, the most formidable democracy on Earth. And yet the gatekeepers of our Democracy kept their mouths shut as the party I once belonged to (with some attitude I might add), allowed themselves to be pushed silently into a corner. Then they put duct tape over their own mouths.

The great irony is that millions of these gatekeepers who once said they were voting for “the lesser of two evils” in the 2016 election are now preparing to reelect a Congress full of the folks that put them in the corner while handing them duct tape. Well, I may run jackass, impossible campaigns but I will not support candidates who champion a minute by minute liar.

I have tried to fit in with Democrats. I agree with them on much of their social agenda. My chief differences with them are nit picky but serious. For instance, the idea that humans don’t have the ability to extract copper and nickle from fresh water rich northern Minnesota without poisoning our great grandchildren bother’s me. It bothers me more that its an issue that may very well elect Pete Stauber to Congress. It wouldn’t be the first time such a debate killed the prospects for Minnesota Democrats. The last time was called the Minnesota Massacre. I was a Republican then and it was the second or third most gratifying political event of my 67 years on Earth.

I like Pete. In any election prior to 2012 I would have gladly cast a vote for him. But recent years and this year especially, have changed America. Pete Stauber is a Trump supporter because the people who will vote in both the primary and the general elections detest Trump’s well intentioned critics…..like Trevor Noah.

Here’s a thumb nail of the plan percolating in my head.

I will not run for Congress for the third time. At least I won’t file for election. The possibility of my winning is exceptionally remote, Doing it would require me to bend over backwards to complete campaign data releases that I would have to fill out myself. I’ve done it before in 2006 and they make filling out taxes look like child’s play. More importantly I have no interest in serving in today’s ineffectual Congress where every day is consumed with raising money for the next election and there is no time to read books and be reflective. This has turned our Congress into one of the most ignorant collections of leaders imaginable.

I will encourage both Democrats and Republicans to write my name in for both the Democratic and Republican primaries and, despite being in France all September, for the November General election.

In the meantime I will cobble a book together explaining how America became a scorpion intent on stinging itself into paralysis. I have thousands of posts already written about that. I simply need to select the best and tidy them up a bit while putting them into some kind of linear order. I will begin offering the as yet unwritten book for sale. Any money raised will be sent to me and I’ll have to declare it for taxes as income. Therefore I will keep some small portion of the proceeds to pay for what the “earnings” cost me in taxes so as not to lose money in the process. Someday I’d like to earn money on book sales but not this year. I’m well enough fixed that any; book royalties would be more for my vanity than for creature comforts.

The rest of the money I will likely donate to some of the better candidates running to remove the taint of Donald Trump from our government even though he cannot be removed from our history any more than we can expunge 300 years of slavery. When the history of Trump is written I hope my descendants read the books to find out what the hell happened and make sure its not repeated.

I don’t plan to post all that much until I’m back from France in six months. I’m still working hard to learn French and read French history. I’ll just stick the occasional post to keep my eight loyal readers from falling asleep. The rest of my time will be devoted to selecting past posts that explain how America trumped itself.

Stay tuned.

Pick Pocket Proof Pants

This post was going to be a reverie on Facebook, Google et al and their scarfing up information about their users. It was appropos to Mr.Zucks appearance before Congress. I am still interested in this but I got caught up in my french studies and have lost the time to elaborate. As to the title.

The gods of the Internet have obviously taken note of my googling French subjects and deduced that I will be traveling abroad. That has become apparent as a result of an unending series of pop ups advertising travel slacks with lots of hard to pick pockets. It is appealing to three persuasive concerns I have 1. practicality, 2. looking good and finally 3. fear – of being robbed.

Fear is such a tiresome trope today. Of everything….. It has been so for ages. Fear of change. Fear of those people who look and talk funny and who are moving in next to you.

I’m with FDR on this one.

Molotov’s Wife

Note: I’m afraid I lied. I have not taken the time to proof read and edit this entry. I studied French instead.

I woke up from a dream in which two of my life’s goals were pitted against each other. Contemplating politics I had moved to southern Minnesota while I was in the process of applying for a job in another southern Minnesota town. Come to think of it that’s not all that different from my life’s beginning in Duluth. The wake up time was 4AM a scant five hours since I went to bed after my brain slowed down from a couple rounds of cellphone French lessons. Five hours is still an hour short of my faltering attempt to stave off Alzheimers’ with six or seven hours of brain cleansing sleep.

And I mean brain cleansing. Not of dreams but of cerebrospinal fluid. According to a very brief synopsis of brain research I read recently the brain, unlike the rest of the body, has no lymph glands coursing through it to remove the detritus of the day for later disposal. What has evolved in our brains is the nightly process of fluid from our spinal system surging through the brain to carry out this function. It does so between in the waves of REM sleep that occur each night. The suggestion is that if you wake up before the full course deep cleaning is finished you are left with dirt in your brains. According to another science article I’ve read this gunk ends up being coated with another ancient gift of our evolution a colesteral-like deposits that shields the brain from the dirt. The problem with this is that our brains fill up with a plaque that crowds out the development possibilities for new neurons. In effect, this prevents our brains from collecting new information and worse removes memories. …. then another recent science story told me that the general consensus that adult brains stop growing new brain cells may turn out not to be ……Stop Harry!

The greatest threat to my full night’s sleep is thinking too much. I try to go to bed keeping my head empty of thought. This is, according to my wife’s understanding, threatened by looking a the blue lights of a cell phone before bed. So, when I study French before collapsing I muck up my melotonin…..STOP IT AGAIN, Harry……..Rememer……Molotov’s wife.

Yes, in the hour of wakefullness after my five hours of sleep, I was juggling a dozen blogable ideas starting with Papa Joe.

Claudia and I went to see the movie, The Death of Stalin on Friday. It was very a funny movie about a mass murderer who drew up lists of people to be murdered every day just before he expired, comically, of a stroke from which his toadies were afraid he might revive. All this, by the way, is true (except for the comic part – the movie was/is comical and not at all interested in letting history muck up the grim reality.

Some sober reviewers have found fault with this but not me. I’ll take my history lessons however I can get them and since the three or four generations following me know diddly squat about Papa Joe I’m happy to have his tyrannical story told in any form that will catch an audience’s attention. Not many years ago I read Montefiore’s marvelous history of Stalin’s Russia larded with information about it released after the fall of the Soviet Union. (Check that. It was eleven years ago)

I recalled that one of the Stalin’s henchmen, Molotov, stayed true to Papa even after his wife was put on one of the lists and terminated. According to the movie, which played fast and loose with facts, Stalin’s top executioner Leverenti Beria, hid her in a jail to present to her husband after Stalin’s death as a way of coaxing him to support Beria’s plan to take Stalin’s place.

I rushed up to blog so fast that I have yet to check that out. One moment. Nope. Not true. That was a half truth for cinematic punch. She was convicted of treason, a capitol offense, but merely sent to the gulags. Beria never pretended to kill her. At least according to Wikipedia which pretty much accords with Montefiore’s book.

There, forty minutes on this [prior to a belated editing four days later] and I’m ready to feed my cats and scan the news before returning to my French lessons.

I had a lot of things jump into my head this morning begging for me to write about them. They include the latest human organ to be discovered. The Dark Web, The Deep State, the Illuminati, The Simpsons, Thomas Jefferson vs. Abe Lincoln, My take on the fantasists who have conjured up a paranoiac “Deep State.” It is part of a deep sepsis infecting the Republican Party courtesy of Rupert Murdoch’s “Fair and Balanced” Fox News. Its too profitable to tell old baby boomers the truth because fake news sells ads. Think of it as the news equivalent of scammers calling old people to sell them insurance they don’t need. Oh yeah, and “Pick Pocket Proof Pants.” I’ve got to blog about that last one. I jotted that down in the dark while in bed but the pen’s ink didn’t flow. I had to rub graphite across the paper to read it. That made the unreadable note a palimpsest. That’s what got me thinking about the Deep shit in the first place.

Now its been 50 minutes. Those cats are hungry. I’ll proof read this later today [or three days later] but you can read it now. I know! I know! Reading my blog entries pre-final edit is kinda like watching me sculpt snow.

It was the best of Times

The beginning of one of the few dozen novels I’ve read begins:

“It was the best of times it was the worst of times.” That’s how I feel now. My blog’s recent quiescence reflects my intense involvement with, reading the news, studying history, learning French, thinking about it all, all the while making sure not to neglect my family. If I was less preoccupied I’d be blogging like mad. I don’t even feel sorry for depriving my eight loyal readers. I’m sure they have enjoyed the vacation. Even when I lie in bed knitting together the many strands of my thinking I don’t feel too badly about my zipped fingers.

The past couple of days I’ve I’ve progressed in my French studies teasing out the elusive eliasons of the spoken language and developing enough vocabulary and grammar to imagine myself muddling along splendidly when I get to France five months from now. I better start making reservations.

Just now I was thinking of Dicken’s first words in A Tale of Two Cities and I came up with a useful corollary.

It was the best of times but don’t forget about the distressed and it was the worst of times but don’t be jealous of those who are doing better.

Putting aside Trump’s empty blue collar rhetoric I loath him because he only cares about himself. Despite his riches he can’t hide his envy of even richer plutocrats. Running for President was just another scheme to get richer which was spoiled by actually getting elected and facing the legal roadblocks to his corruptly getting richer in the swamp he poured more alligators into. Poor baby. He may even end up losing his billionaire status.

I have been accumulating blog material that I may never get around to pontificating about. I’ll just paste in a dozen stories from the New York Times, Guardian and Washington Post from the past few days that beg for our attention:

In 83 Million Eviction Records, a Sweeping and Intimate New Look at Housing in America

Sworn to secrecy, Trump’s history of using nondisclosure agreements

How the Party of Lincoln Became the Party of Racial Backlash

Why I left Fox News

A Riposte to European Superiority

And finally a story about the death of Linda Brown, nine years older than me, whose father helped integrate the Topeka Schools I would soon begin attending a short time later.

Today or tomorrow I mean to write my next “Not Eudora” column. So much to choose from but I’m leaning on talking about the old Western “Magnificent Seven” which I saw with my Grandsons……… It reminded me of this Statler Brother’s Song, lyrics below:

Lyrics here”

Everybody knows when you go to the show
You can’t take the kids along
You’ve gotta read the paper and know the code
Of G, PG and are and X
You gotta know what the movie’s about
Before you even go
Tex Ritter’s gone and Disney’s dead
The screen is filled with sex.

Whatever happened to Randolph Scott
Ridin’ the range alone
Whatever happened to Gene and Tex
And Roy and Rex, the Durango Kid
Whatever happened to Randolph Scott
His horse, plain as can be
Whatever happened to Randolph Scott
Has happened to the best of me.

Everbody’s tryin’ to make a comment
About our doubts and fears
True Grit’s the only movie
I’ve really understood in years
You gotta take your analyst along
To see if it’s fit to see
Whatever happened to Randolph Scott
Has happened to the best of me. Continue reading

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty

Reading the morning news over two plus hours has burdened me on a day I was hoping to shove away some paperwork to more narowly focus on 1. planning a trip to France. 2. start writing a book (an idea I’ve had for about twenty years now) 3. Studying my French. But first, I took a quick break to buy some coffee and breakfast sandwich from McDonalds where I discovered poor Batman’s head had tumbled into the street. After the news I’m now worried about losing mine.

The morning news from NPR, the New York Times and the Duluth Trib put me in mind of the famous quote headlining this post. Its variously attributed to Thomas Jefferson and a famed abolitionist among others. I agree with Wendell Phillips, the Abolutionists, thesis which reads more fully:

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty; power is ever stealing from the many to the few. The manna of popular liberty must be gathered each day or it is rotten. The living sap of today outgrows the dead rind of yesterday. The hand entrusted with power becomes, either from human depravity or esprit de corps, the necessary enemy of the people. Only by continued oversight can the democrat in office be prevented from hardening into a despot; only by unintermitted agitation can a people be sufficiently awake to principle not to let liberty be smothered in material prosperity.”

So, daily objectives 1, 2, and 3 must be placed on hold until I lecture my poor eight loyal readers about those news stories.

I’ll start local:

Poor old Duluth City Councilor Jay Fosle is once again the butt of condemnation for his ham handed reply to a woman who told the council of her miscarriage 30 years ago that she thinks could have been avoided if Duluth required local business to pay their employees during times of illness. Fosle turned a vulnerable disclosure into an inept lecture on personal responsibility. As the only old woman left on a council brimming with colleagues who want to build barricades in the streets of Paris I feel badly for the moderate/conservative position he single-handedly maintains. The question he could have asked was simple in retrospect. Did the speaker really believe it was the responsibility of the store owner who employed her to pay her to stay home for the next 24 weeks of a pregnancy? The answer is pretty obvious – No. Was it fair that she had to work? The answer to that is also – No. Obviously her Doctors at the time who advised against work knew what they were talking about.

I see only one logical solution but its not one that can be implemented locally in isolation. Small business owners should not be put in a position to shut down when confronted with the medical costs of a single employee. The solution is to adopt national health care or what used to be panned as Socialized medicine. Ah, but that would require a national solution which is beyond the reach of local health care advocates.

Once again Councilor Fosle will come under attack by his critics some of whom have not been all that nice as they pursue noble aims. The first salvo came from “Twin Ports Feminist Action Collective.”

This organization attacked me semi-anonymously and never offered a correction or an apology for their dirty work. They weren’t alone. A website ostensibly organized to support western Duluth beat me up too. I recently discovered that one of the Western Duluth Lens’s chief organizers is the fellow who single-handedly convinced our school Administration to fire a black Duluth principal. Good bedfellows on Facebook perhaps?

I remember coming back from Australia about six years ago on a long flight and watching a movie I had skipped in the theaters. It was all about the brash Harvard student, Mark Zukerberg, who created Facebook. Ironically, he fully understands the hurt an unfair attack can cause. In this Guardian story Mark complains that the movie “made up stuff” about him.

Its ironic because what Mark says happened to him has been repeated tens of thousands of times for every one of the hundreds of millions of people who are on Facebook. It made him another mega billionaire and some part of his mega billions has come from the massive spreading of lies his invention has made possible.

Now to those other “eternal vigilance” stories:

From NPR about Lyudmila Savchuck a Russian Journalist who worked undercover to discover how the Russians (financed by a Russian billionaire) trolled Facebook and the Internet to enhance world ignorance.

From the New York Times about Cambridge Analytica hired at the urging of Stephen K. Branson to mine Facebook for data to elect Donald Trump when Ted Cruz fell by the wayside.

The billionaire who financed this plan is an American Robert Mercer.

Upon reading this story I ran to retrieve Jane Mayer’s book Dark Money which I’ve only managed to get half way through and discovered that Mercer only got four brief mentions in the book about the Kochs, DeVos’s and other mega-billionaires trying to reshape America into a version of Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World for Billionaires.

Mercer’s four mentions? Fighting off Government charges that he failed to pay 6 billion dollars of unpaid taxes. His signing on with the Koch Cabal. Spending a million dollars to prevent a mosque from being built in New York City. Turning “primaries” into a sure fire way to defeat any Republican congressman daring to speak moderately or rationally about issues contrary to the red flag wavers of the party and finally spending 2 million for the toy trains in his house.

I wish Mercer would stick to his toy trains. Mercer’s and Putin’s playing with Democracy obligates me to be vigilant when I getting a little tired of it. Which brings up Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World again. There is an interesting review of his work compared to Orwell’s similarly dystopian novel 1984. Huxley once wrote to Orwell and explained that he thought his (Huxley’s) anti-utopia of growing people in test tubes, which stunted the working class foeteses by giving them less oxygen, was more likely to happen than Orwell’s vision of a jackbooted dystopia. He explained; All you need to do is teach people to love their servitude.

There now – just needs a little proof reading and then I return to my top three goals for the day.

This’n that before I hit the sack

I had the house mostly to myself today as Claudia went to St. Paul to lobby our legislature with folks worried about the poor and homeless. It was also the week that Duluthians poured into St. Paul to lobby for Duluth. I got to stay home, read the news, grimace, finish Pardon Mon French – my next Reader column and finish Batman for my grandson. Here’s what will melt tomorrow in my front yard.

I also took a picture of a huge contrail over my house from a jet that circled twice. Wonder what that was all about?

I suggested that Claudia watch Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief” as part of our viewing of French movies to get us in the mood for our trip to France. Then Claudia watched the CNN coverage of voting results in Pennsylvania. The Democrat Lamb (not to the slaughter) running against the Republican Suckthumb something or other. Poor guy was barely mentioned by President Trump, who came to Pennsylvania to huff and puff about how successful his Presidency has been and, oh yes, support Congressional Republicans. No final result yet. Lamb leads by a hair. We won’t know the results until tomorrow’s absentee ballots are counted. I think Lamb will win by a shake of his tail, maybe 350 votes out of over 200,000. Win or lose the Democrats will feel exultant and so will I. (Trump won here by 20% last November)

Time for bed.

Oh, I almost forgot. Tomorrow’s paper will have a story about how the School Board can’t wait to spend 2 million to tear down New Central High. As of my bed time 101 folks on Facebook have heaped abuse on the Board. That’s what I predicted would happen a couple days ago to friends but – last November Duluth elected a board mostly eager to turn the old school to dust. The lone exception? Alanna Oswald.

The story from yesterday on raising class sizes won’t improve voters attitude and neither will future plans to ask for more $ in a referendum.

Mon Grand Fils

I spent the last couple days of the week in a fierce competition with an anonymous opponent on my cell phone trying to put in more hours studying French than him or her. Every day our French language App told us who was in the lead. Anon had beaten me the three previous weeks finishing each day with half an hour more study time than me. No matter how many hours I put each day I was always behind by about an hour. I’m notsure how much time I put in because App keeps track of “points” which I calculate to be roughly 2 points per minute of study.

Before this last week the most time I’d put in was 860 points worth or about 7 hours. That was already double what I’d originally signed up to complete. Last week I racked up 2300 points or about 19 hours of study time. The only way I could win was by staying within a few points of Anon by the end of each day and waiting to blow him (or her) away on Sunday the final point earning day of the week. I stayed up through much of Saturday night to build up a lead Anon hadn’t expected then watched my cell phone all Sunday to make sure he/she didn’t try to blow past me. When I saw that Anon was on the move I resumed playing to keep my hour lead. Needless to say on Sunday it became my excuse to let my visiting grandsons vegetate in front of their cells and laptops too.

Fortunately Anon hadn’t overtaken me near the end of the day so I asked my younger grandson, Jakey, if he’d like to help me build a snow sculpture so that I could get a little outside time myself. We only had about an hour to play so I asked him what we should make. “Batman” was his reply. We packed some of the fresh melting snow on the receding state of Minnesota and built the beginnings of a bas relief. When we knocked off long before a final form was complete he asked me if I would finish it. I told him it depended – on snow, on my mood, on whether I had time after starting this week’s Reader column or after beginning a belated search on travel options to France and Goodness knows what else.

Then there was his older brother who had also been allowed far too much “face time” with his phone. I’d be more concerned except that as a child I spent all together too much time watching television myself – hours and hours of it uninterrupted.

Tan’s in fifth grade now and this is the culmination of a science project he has been working on for a month or more. I was astonished to look at it today.

I’m sure he’d heard about how we older folks were worried about all the cell phone time kids ate up. He decided to do some sociological research and found a test of emotional IQ or the “Emotional Quotient” on the Internet. He hypothesized that people who had to work collectively on an internet game would have more of it than those who did not. He enlisted most of his 50 fellow fifth graders for his study. Half played an interactive game then took the EQ test; the other half took the test before playing. His results suggest a correlation.

I’m 67 and have never really attempted a serious scientific test of any of my many speculations. To say I’m impressed is an understatement.

I’m tempted to offer to pay him for points earned if he follows me into my French language game. He currently hates Spanish but if he can hypothesize surement he can parlez vous.

And Anon has just taken a 250 point lead on me for this week’s French – Mon Dieu!!!!!

A sick feeling

It is only a sense of deep obligation to keep my eight loyal readers focused on our nation’s future that keeps me away from my French lessons. I’ve spent a couple hours looking at a half dozen stories in the New York Times that reinforce my doubts that the Republicans will get a comeuppance in the 2018 mid terms. What could very likely happen might also take place in Duluth’s Eighth Congressional District. An unknown Democrat could be so beat up by other Democrats that a very attractive Republican, Pete Stauber, could defy expectations and cruise to victory in what is barely a blue district these days.

If a Democrat can’t win here Donald Trump may not only avoid impeachment but he might get reelected; the Republicans could retain control of the majority of the states they already control; and add more legal barricades; which will help them survive through the decade of 2020’s and a growing tide of discontented voters.

One of the ironies here is that while the Republican cause is successfully trumpeting a paranoiac vision of a “liberal” Deep State –
the real Deep State stems not from unions, funny colored people and immigrants but from allies of the Republicans. It is the successful and long running coalition of conservative _illionaires, prosperity Gospel GOPers, and Rush Limbaugh immitators who have made the Republican Party more anti-education, dogmatic, zero sum, and venal. Calling on God and American voters to save fetuses was only one of the early calls to cleanse the GOP of the contamination of moderation. Folks like me were deemed worse killers than Mao, Papa Joe and Adolph combined. Gun rights, right-to-work laws and making rural white and blue color workers jealous of the modest improvement in the lives of minorities were part and parcel of the project.

It is ironic that gay rights and a black President were part of this recent history but in many ways getting over these humps have taken a lot of the steam away from Democrats. Throw in a humming economy which may last through the tax cuts and Trump tariffs untill this year’s November elections and Donald Trump could get past his prostitute and Russian problems. If so, he could have another two years of Republican control of Congress and, who knows, a good shot at reelection. (Hence my sick feeling. I began warning about this a year before he was first elected and the cool heads knew he was just a joke.) I know the bad news for President Trump keeps piling up but don’t forget the old adage: “The only bad news is no news.” And with his tweets there is no chance for the latter.

Here are the stories in the NY Times today that have sobered me up:

Right to Work laws have devastated Unions and Democrats.

About that Blue Wave The early proclamations that Texas’s primary this week was great news for Democrats is bull.

Book Review: How Corporations Won Their Civil Rights.

What if Republicans Win the Mid Terms?

And I also found this story fascinating although not terribly surprising. The Jews who dreamed of Utopia. It reminded me of how Jewish intellectuals have been blamed by both right wingers and left wingers for all the world’s problems. I still don’t like Bibi Netanyahu.

Now I’ll return to my cell phone French Lessons on Duolingo.

I’m getting worried about the world and might prefer…

…BEING LOST IN SPACE.

I am a lucky man. That is, I suppose, apropos of nothing but it seems a good way to begin after a short vacation from posting. The news that interests me these days flows like the water over Niagra Falls. I spend a couple hours reading NPR and now the NY Times every morning just to keep up. Its not all Trump but everything I read seems poised to enter his event horizon.

David Brooks who I often agree with but also often looks at Trump with rose tinted glasses does express my sense of things in a piece today suggesting that Italy’s resurgent Berlusconi is what the world has to look forward to today. Its hard for me to shrug this off.

Ironically, one of my hopes lies with Hollywood, the perpetual Pandora’s Box of ideas that makes folks think about taboos from cannibalism to integration. We watched most of the Oscars Sunday night. Usually we only catch the last half hour of it for the big awards, but this year we’ve seen a great many of the movies. Claudia has seen more of them than me because she watched several of them on cross country flights. Hollywood is a great Pied Piper. Yes, there are blockbusters like Birth of a Nation which cemented the South’s Post Civil War view of stupid freed slaves as dim witted and lazy, sex crazed, “coons” over the rest of White America. Yet today its given us the Black Panther which offers up a magnificent comic book myth suggesting what Africa could have been if only it had been hit with a meteor filled with “vibranium.”

BTW – Claudia and I endured the most excruciating viewing of this movie, also on Sunday. We had to sit in the plush recliners immediately below the movie screen. What we saw was a fantastic blur of a movie that glazed over even our grandson’s eyes not to mention ours. Afterward I had to take a twenty minute nap to rest my eyes.

Also on Sunday, we watched two new episodes of the Tick. This is a marvelous potentially family friendly series and we watched it with our grandsons. Then the hero described something as a “cluster fuck.” It was absolutely a perfect description of what was going on but gosh – it wasn’t necessary. How am I supposed to teach my grandsons that some words should be used with great restraint when it rears its ugly head during family television viewing time? AND NOTE: This appears to be the first time that I’ve used that term in my blog. Hell, I’ve used the “N” word a dozen times and I find it even more objectionable.

So, here’s a little good news. I found the trailer below for the new Netflix series “Lost in Space.” If you want a real cluster ef just crash land your space ship with your entire family on a hostile foreign planet. When the first Lost came out in the 1960’s I
was really looking forward to it only to be brutally disappointed with the results. Fortunately, a few years later Star Trek redeemed the Networks.

Well this trailer shows what modern sensibilities and tech can do with such a promising premise. I’ll enjoy watching this with my grandsons just so long as they avoid the gratuitous language.

As Minnesota is pulled down by gravity and sun

My children and my wife make sport over me whenever I began talking about natural phenomena. They all call out “glaciers!” when I get going. That’s because I got overly enthusiastic once when my kids were little explaining how even now, ten thousand years after the mile thick glaciers retreated under the sun the ground in Minnesota continues to recoil upward. Its just like a mattress after a sleeper leaves the bed. Its only a very little annual recoil, but still.

Gravity is having the opposite effect on my snow sculpture outline map of Minnesota. In concert with the sun it is pulling it down and making it squatter. I wouldn’t mind that so much but because I undermined the area under the Olympic rings it began a slow topple towards the hill below it. The picture in the last post from last night was taken after I was satisfied with its appearance. Half an hour later I looked out my front window to check on what seemed a dicey situation and discovered a fist-wide crevice half way up the sculpture where Minnesota was about to break at about Hinckley’s latitude. Instead of joining my wife to pick up our grandsons from school I raced out to prevent a disaster like California’s sliding into the Pacific.

Before I could pause to take the picture above I first shaved off much of the snow in the top front of Minnesota removing it five or six inches deep to take the weight off below. Then I replaced snow under the rings to give the lower sculpture firmer support. Then I punched holes in the back where the rift had opened up and shoved more snow inside so that there would be less of a void along the back of the sculpture.

In the process of doing all this the Sculpture suffered. The sides and circles got dinged and scraping away so much snow from the front exposed the Cat in the Hat. The cat portion was faded pink and an ugly blemish. I decided that the quickest fix was get out more red dye/paint and make the blemish a heart, rather like the one discovered on the proto planet Pluto. (that’s fun to say although it may be a dwarf planet)

That didn’t work out so well. The snow I painted was wet and in short order the valentine became a bleeding mess. One of the editors at the Reader came over to snap a picture and texted me to ask if the bleeding heart had been from a vandal. I sent him the clean picture but it was too late for it to become the front cover of this week’s Reader. Working on the sculpture may also have cost me my column in the Reader. I had thought I could get it done quicker but frittered away the afternoon that I had planned on using to write the “Wayning of America.” I turned it in at 9 PM and in my subject heading I simply typed, “I hope its not too late.”

If it is I’ll just put it in the blog.

This morning I scooped up some snow, put it in a plastic bin and took it to my basement to warm up. I also dug out the offending red blob and tossed it under my spruce tree. I used the melted snow to fill in the crater. I think the chances that Minnesota will last one more day have improved to 50/50. I wasn’t sure it would last overnight but it did with some new narrower crevices still visible this morning. The colder evening temps have stabilized it a little.

I’ve confessed before that I don’t mind the attention that my snow sculptures generate any more than an actor opposes applause. The loss of the Reader front cover has been made up for by Facebook. The preceding post is essentially what I put in Facebook 18 hours ago. Since that time it has gotten over 500 “shares.” I don’t recall getting 10 or 20 for any previous post. Its a felicitous sculpture on a subject dear to the hearts of any Minnesotan – our Olympic representatives. I suspect their success helps make up for the blowout loss the Vikes suffered in the Conference Championship before the Superbowl.

I’m enjoying my moment in the sun too; more so than my sculpture which will soon melt away.

Half read books

I have finished reading two books so far this year but have been unable to upload them to my lifetime reading list for technical reasons I do not yet understand.

They are:

2018
The Last of the Doughboys Richard Rubin

Fierce Patriot (Wm Tecumseh Sherman) Robert L. O’Connell

Finding out how to fix this will require time – time I’m reluctant to spend. I’ve got a bunch of things to accomplish – since my return from Florida. I’ve got to shovel more snow. Begin a snow sculpture. Find out why, now that we have snow, Lowell Elementary is not clamoring to have me come and fulfill my commitment to sculpt them something. Make up the hour and a half of French language self-study that I’ve ignored while on vacation with my grandsons. Write another column for the Reader. And read more books.

I have not neglected the news over the vacation. I managed to find a couple hours each day to keep up with what’s going on in the world. Donald Trump’s election seems to have assured dictators everywhere that the cat’s away thus making it possible for the mice to play. The latest is the President of China who is bulldozing through a law that will allow him to become China’s lifetime leader (AKA Emperor).

I am grateful to have so many well reported stories in the New York Times to read although they have the tendency to make the world sound alarming. At least that grim view is thoughful – I got a small dose of the Republican Party’s news organ Fox News while in Florida. That is such thin gruel that I regard every minute spent watching it as a waste of, or more likely an annihilation of, brain cells.

I am about halfway though a highly regarded history of Western Europe written in the 1960’s called the Age of Revolution by an historian, Eric Hobsbawm

NOTE I just read what is found on that link and the link in it on Hobsbawm himself. Very interesting. Although a communist he is regarded even by conservatives as having been the penultimate synthesizer of the 19th century’s history. He evidently read all the books in his bibliography which no doubt took a significant portion of his life to complete. He still had another 40 plus years of life to look forward to afterwards.

I’ve currently detoured from my Grandfather’s life to find out more about France which I intend to visit this year. That visit became all the more likely because while returning home from Florida we were persuaded to purchase an American Airlines membership including a credit card that will get us to and from Paris for a couple hundred bucks. I searched out a good book on the first half of 19th century France because of David McCullough’s book The Greater Journey about the many Americans who made a pilgrimage to that nation. I haven’t finished that book either.

This line of reading puts me in touch with my Grandfather. Troops like him said: “Lafayette, We are here.” upon reaching French shores. Americans had an almost reverential attitude for France since its King financed the Revolutionary War insuring our victory and his own abdication execution after impoverishing France.

This post was going to continue on with a litany of other books I’ve recently gotten halfway through like Dark Money, Founding Rivals and American Lion. Not finishing them is a sorry reflection on my need to sleep.

I have another book that my reading has prompted me to dig out. Alexis de Tocqueville’s, Democracy in America. This was one of a dozen books Congressman Newt Gingrich sent off to Russia by the bucket full to teach them about Democracy after the fall of the Soviet Union. That was before Newt fell under the spell of America’s wannabe dictator Donald Trump. I won’t hold that against De Tocqueville.

BTW – a month ago I finally memorized all the Presidents of the United States in order and now repeat them in my head at night to help me fall asleep. Just now I repeated them to myself in reverse from 45, Donald Trump, to number 1, George Washington. What a fall from grace.

The downside of a good stereotype

Here’s a quick read from NPR.

We’ve come to Florida’s Atlantic coast with the King of Stereotyping our golfing President. And due, I guess, to the Parkland massacre he’s breaking stereotype and isn’t out on his greens.

2018-02-18_08-50-29

We got our grandsons away from the non-stop Parkland coverage on FOX news to throw breadcrumbs to Great Grandpa’s muscovy ducks. This is supposed to be a vacation

Nolan’s retirement has opened the floodgates

But this and other stories – the latest school massacres, years of Russian political meddling, the latest embarrassment for evangelicals who pronounced that Donald Trump is God’s instrument on Earth – can wait. We are taking our grandsons to Florida north of the massacre.

I’m not taking my computer but there is always the chance I might hazard a post on my cell phone. Or not.

Visitors during the upcoming period of quiescence are encouraged to type interesting topics into lincolndemocrat’s search function in the upper right hand corner to see what turns up. I have put millions of words online to search. As I always tell people. “I have more opinions than you can shake a stick at.”