Category Archives: Boondoggles

Into the rain

I was surprised to find I had 19648 steps on the pedometer today. I got a late start but kept working until dark and rain descended. I came home wet. I passed out a lot of flyers today filling in missing gaps in the region between Kenwood and Duluth Heights. I only have about five days of flyers left but I’ve ordered more which should be available by Monday.

On one of the roads I found a stand of beautiful blue flowers with an aspen backdrop. I have no idea who planted them but I deemed them worthy of a picture.

I don’t seek out conversations but every day I meet more people who have their own little slice of the public school pie to share with me. I’m on the right track. So is Loren Martell. A sample:

The narrative the DFL is selling–the great fallacy of this campaign–is that the conversation should have nothing to do with the past, that what happened over the past decade is irrelevant. In fact, in the DFL’s narrative, any glance in the rear view mirror should expose only one villainous group–the powerless Board minority members, like Art Johnston and Harry Welty, who were speaking the truth.

Blaming the people who had no power in the room is like blaming creditors who bring up the bills for a bankruptcy.
As the dominant, majority voice, it was the DFL-endorsed who rubberstamped Keith Dixon’s spending spree. It was the DFL that blew a thirty million dollar reserve fund, jacked the tax levy by $19 million, concocted a debt payment plan that robs more than $3 million annually out of classrooms to pay for swimming pools, and left the district so broke it had to raid its already pathetically under-funded maintenance fund.

3000 Red Plans

The red plan has been a major focus of this blog for 6 years. The election this year has been a major focus through the summer and fall. But there are so many other things on my mind. For instance, yesterday I heard a remarkable story on NPR that is almost as remarkable for its not being that remarkable. It was the story about the Defense Department’s latest fighter plane, the F-35. Its years behind schedule for completion. It is supposed to replace the fighter planes of all the service branches Army, Navy, Marines. And it cannot be killed because parts of it were designed to be built in every congressional district in America to guarantee that no Congressman will ever vote to put the taxpayers out of their misery. So far it has cost of one and a half trillion dollars. That’s trillion with it T.

I’ve rounded up the costs of Duluth’s Red Plan, which is slowly killing our schools, at half a billion dollars. This Defense Department airplane has cost the equivalent of 3000 red plans and is nowhere near completion. It’s so easy to become a cynic when you hear a story like this.

Herding School Board Cats

Readers of recent posts did not know it at first but I was keeping up with the School Board race from Iowa. The Trib had several stories for me to comment on. Fortunately I had time to respond before the primary election for those who can’t help but hang on my every word.

I also was challenged on my recollection of Board member Ann Wasson’s tenure. I’d posted that she had been on the Board for only 8 years. That challenge prompted me to spend a couple hours trying to resurect all the school board members since I was first seated in January of 1995. There were a lot of them although fewer in recent years because in 2004 the Board adopted member Mary Glasses pet idea to reduce our board down from nine to seven members. I think Mary thought this would save taxpayers money by subtracting two $5,400 salaries of Board members from the payroll.

I knew that this was negligible savings but I figured a new superintendent would find it easier to heard seven instead of nine cats so I went along with the proposal which required the legislature to OK our downsized Board in law.

I think history has proven my insight about cat herding to be more reliable than Mary’s solution for extravagant spending.

When Dr. Dixon took over he had only two long-term Board members to deal with Mary Cameron and Tim Grover. No one else had much more than four years service. Ann Wasson had only one year under her belt. She was elected to fill a two year seat during the transition to seven seats and got elected twice after that to four-year terms. She’s retiring with ten years under her belt.

One of the miracles for Dr. Dixon was an attentive and naive school board which took his direction as though hypnotized. In short order they authorized over $400 million of spending on new school facilities on their own authority rather than go to the public for a vote.

If I could go back in time to restore that $10,800 for two extra school board members to the school budget and skip payments on what is now close to $500 million in Red Plan spending I would do it in a heartbeat. How ironic that our School Board proved to be penny wise but pound foolish.

A little well deserved Schadenfreude

Tammy Duckworth turns the knife very artfully. (To my overseas readers – Duckworth is a double amputee veteran of our recent wars who was elected to Congress in a middle finger salute to the nation’s self-righteous neo-cons.)

Robert Bateman says of this…

Tammy Duckworth, who lost both legs and had her arm sewn back on, mostly, lays it down. A businessman is called out. It seems his company got something like $500 million in contracts from the government, primarily because his company was a “small business, disabled veteran owned.” His disability? When he was in prep-school, he twisted his ankle playing football. The prep school was the one at Monmouth, which is the feeder for West Point, but if you come in from civilian life, it has no military obligation at all. …

My life as an anvil salesman – Pt 3

Its often said: “Whatcha don’t know can’t hurt you.” That is pretty obvious bullshit.

Like the kid in the car at the intersection next to his buddy’s car about to play “chicken” and race out in front of your car on the highway. It could be life saving to know about that kid trying to out wait his buddy before tearing out in front of your car lest he end up becoming the chicken.. Dammit. Knowing that could have saved the life of my Dad’s student. I still remember how angry my Dad was that his student didn’t make it back to college because he’d ran into the kid who evidently wasn’t the chicken on Highway 169.

Finding out that your fellow boring old white guy politicians call you an “asshole” is not life threatening. Its only disconcerting. It may be the price you pay for selling anvils.

I’m not sure that there is any profit for me facing a possible eighth campaign for the school board… Eight, Can that be true? Let’s see. three unsuccessful runs. Two successful runs followed by filing and then recommending that my challenger be elected and then a 2006 race to stop the Red Plan…Yup. This would be eight. Let me start that sentence again without the exercise in counting.

I’m not sure that there is any profit for me facing a possible eighth campaign for the school board in explaining the circumstances for my getting that shot of penicillin back at Mankato State’s student health center. Candor is just another anvil. But knowing there are stupid kids at the intersection might slow you down. That’s what I was thinking at the beginning of the HIV outbreak in the early 80’s when I was substitute teaching and got paranoid about how little our kids knew about its lethality. I was quite gratified ten years later to learn that one of my improvised lessons on the subject had made an impression on at least one student.

I was at my daughter’s school organizing the Chester Park Carnival as usual. Someone had corralled a bunch of UMD women basketball players to help out and one of them told me she remembered my substituting in her class as Washington Junior High. I was surprised and asked how she could possibly remember my one off appearance and she told me it was because of my illustration about STDs. I introduced it by explaining that HIV was a death sentence which was true back then. Then I drew to figures, an x and an o maybe, on the chalk board and explained that if a boy and a girl had sex and both were virgins they could not share an STD. I then put one more x or o on the board and explained that if that new figure had an std and had sex with either of the other two figures before they had met then all three could get the STD. By the time I was over I had twenty or thirty figures up on the black board I had assigned random numbers of sex partners that each of the figures had had usually one or two at most. Then I put another figure up and said that this one had had 100 partners which got a huge laugh out of the class. That one was a prostitute I explained and I added that her 100 partners had had a thousand partners between them.

The point I was making was the simple one that when you have sex with one person you are having sex, or at least joining the pool, of everyone that they had sex with. Have sex with the wrong persons who had only been with one person it could mean being connected to a hundred or a thousand or more people. I said that in the day and age of death dealing pustule causing HIV that was a big gamble. Apparently it had been a reasonably effective lecture with one student in the class……at least in terms of making a point.

This, of course, is a digression. I probably hauled it out to cloak what I am about to disclose with aura of its being honest and necessary reporting. It probably isn’t. It’s probably just another anvil.

The woman who had put me in contact with her rather extensive chain of sex partners infected with venereal disease was one of my Mother’s best friends. I’d like to write more but its 4:12 Eastern Standard and I should try to catch some ZZZZ’s before daylight. I may save the rest for a memoir. I probably will. If there is anything surprising about the anvil I’ve just tossed out I’d suggest it is this: Things are only unsurprising when you are unprepared for them. Just as you were unprepared for my confession Duluth was unprepared for its Music Man Keith Dixon. I’m just an asshole for being honest about it. Its just tooo bad I couldn’t have given that HIV lecture to Duluth before Johnson Controls got together with Keith. We’ve had to learn the hard way how much pretty buildings and tarted up prostitutes have in common.

My life as an anvil salesman – Pt 2

I’ve always liked the politicians I call boring old white guys when I thought they were sensible and honest politicians. They didn’t have to be anvil salesmen just decent. Jerry Ford, Dwight Eisenhower even Herbert Hoover the man who was so unlucky as to get elected in 1928, and even Barack Obama (who’s half white).

I think FDR was one of the most important presidents but I’ve always found his mercurial properties a bit off putting. Lyndon Johnson was just important but for crying out loud he was one hell of an SOB. Even Teddy Roosevelt was too flamboyant for my taste.

Lincoln, of course, is my all time favorite president but his times prevented him from being merely a boring old white guy. He wanted to be sensible, tried desperately to be sensible but as Bobby Dylan said, The times was a changing and he never got the chance to be boring and sensible. All he got was sensible and his sensible was one hell of a big anvil – tear the country apart to keep it together and end slavery – if need be.

Ah but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’ve liked the same sort of politicians on the local level – boring old white guys. I tried very hard to be one. But there is one thing that grates on me about too many boring old white guys. They have a terrible penchant for needing to fit in. What bother’s me about this is that fitting in often requires turning one’s back on the truth or if not turning one’s back to it ignoring it. I can’t do that easily.

Given the chance to avoid an argument I’ll not slap people with the opinions I have that I know will offend them. About half of the American public is a little bent out of shape over the subject of abortion for instance. Anyone who has read my blog knows this. Anyone who read my old Reader columns knows this. All one has to do is go to the right hand column of this blog and click the abortion link and every post of mine on the subject will present themselves. Still, if I suspect someone is opposed to all abortions I have no desire to tell them I think they are wrong. Its only when they make their opinions public that I’m likely to disagree with them.

When the Red Plan first emerged, even before it had a color I was suspicious about it but I had stepped off the School Board a few years earlier and felt no compulsion to stick my nose into the planning. The most I’d done was to call my old friend Tim Grover, who was back on the Board, when I read the remarkable claim that the District was thinking about implementing a major construction program without putting it up for a vote. He told me that the District thought the law would permit them to do this. I was unconvinced that this could be true but that’s all I did about the question for the next three or four months.

By this time I had also retired from my four year stint as a columnist for the Reader Weekly but my old publisher gave me a call one day and asked me to write about this school building plan. I tried to demure but he laid a guilt trip on me. Harry, he told me, you served on the School Board. You have some knowledge about this important subject. You have no right to keep your thoughts private. You owe it to the public to let them know what you think.

I haven’t put this in quotes because I don’t know the exact words of our conversation but this essentially how it transpired that I wrote my first opinion piece on the Red Plan. One thing led to another and I was eventually one of the leading voices demanding a vote on the plan. That meant three years of fight and, once the fight was lost. three years of interminable “I told you so” from me mostly in the blog but also with a few letters to the editor.

I know that I’m unpopular with a lot of people in Duluth. That’s not very helpful for someone with political ambitions. Until the Red Plan folks might distrust me because I was a Republican because in the old days a lot of liberals tended to think Republicans were what they’ve become today – self righteous, paranoid, fiscal bomb throwers. That wasn’t true. Sure the George Wallace types had migrated into the Party but it was still the party of Eisenhower, Jerry Ford and even a pretty moderate Ronald Reagan who had signed pro abortion legislation, raised taxes and mostly played the skeptic where liberal pronouncements were concerned.

While I was fighting the Red Plan most of my detractors didn’t get in my face but I did get a few glimpses of what I stirred up by fighting both the Chamber of Commerce and Big Labor. Big Deal was one of best portholes to the musk oxen I was challenging. He had been in the legislature (I’d helped him put up lawnsigns) He’d helped me in return in some of my legislative races. He is a member of my church. He was a fiscal (or so I thought) conservative. He once started an anti tax organization in Duluth. He’d been a heavyweight in the Chamber of Commerce.

We have always gotten along well. During the Red Plan Fight, however, I caught two unplanned glimpses of what I faced in the larger community from Big D.

On the first occasion I happened to be following D down to our church’s basement after the service. D didn’t know I was behind him and began speaking rather vociferously about how folks didn’t realize how important the Red Plan was because they were in a delusional sticker shock about its cost, one he obviously thought was merited. He’d never told me this to my face and I held back so that he would not realize I’d over heard him saying that my anti-Red Plan point of view was stupid.

Disagreeing with me was one thing. Holding me in contempt was quite another and I found out just how far down I’d sunk in his opinion the following year with the Red Plan still a hot topic in town. I had to call D up for some reason, church, politics, I can’t recall at the moment although its quite likely I was looking for donations to a fund some anti-Red Plan activity.

He was on the phone with someone else when he picked up my call and told me he had to put me on hold to continue his previous conversation. Remember call waiting? I’m glad its a thing of the past. Almost immediately he was back on the phone to me and explained that he’d just gotten a call from some “asshole” he had to deal with. When I began speaking he suddenly realized his other party had hung up and hurriedly attempted to explain away his comment. I played along as though I had no idea he was referring to me. Anvils and assholes. As Meredith Wilson knew they had a lot in common.

$3.9 million more won’t cost the Duluth Schools a cent?

No it will only cost the taxpayers.

An early email from a friend reading the article I remarked on in the last post sent me the following email. Magical math?

Maybe its early or I am too old school with money but this just doesn’t make sense. Or if it does work, I want to use the same bankers as the district. When I take out a loan and ask for more, my financial institution raises the payment.

“The addition of the $3.9 million in the plan up for approval ‘is not increasing the scope or price of the (actual) project,’ Superintendent Bill Gronseth said.”

Dixon used to say he would sleep better at night if Central were sold.
Seems like his insomnia was for nothing. Bill Hanson and Gronseth have no worries about the lack of property sales coming in.

Roger’s Viking Stadium

I’m not the only one who rolled their eyes when I saw our Senator Reinert pitch a Vikings Stadium in Duluth. I guess like Dr. Dixon Roger likes to dream big. My eyes weren’t the only ones rolling. I got the following email about Roger’s repitch today in the Trib:

On Fri, Feb 17, 2012 at 5:31 AM, ********** wrote:

“C’mon, man! My sides are aching, you have to knock it off, you are killing me! Best one I have heard in a long, long time.”

“So, instead of having 5,000 people in the state that have to drive 2 1/2 hours to the game, we have 62,000 people that have to drive 2 1/2 hours to the game….OK.”

There were some positive comments but even most of those ended with a “won’t happen but its fun to dream.” Best comment was from someone who asked what would they do with the stadium when not used for the few home football games?

Ever notice how Roger drops his service in the Reserve every chance he gets?

To which I replied:

I saw the graphical illustration of how the Arena would look out at Morgan Park in the DNT and it showed a train station with tracks leading to it. That’s when I realized your 62,000 Minneapolitans were supposed to head on up to Duluth on the Northstar. That’d be one hell of a long train.

Harry

“Its Distressing”

Its no wonder that the retiring Tim Grover would say this about his spending half the School District’s $14.5 million financial reserve in a single year. Tim was instrumental in putting the 10 percent reserve into place fifteen years ago. That was shortly after Tim’s initial election to straighten out a badly mangled School District. He chose to retire this year after mangling the District once again.

Its hard to know where to begin with this tragic story.

I’ve been kind to our new Superintendent I.V. Foster. He’s absolutely innocent for the creation of the mess he inherited. The criminally guilty Keith Dixon skeddadled before this headline hit the news stands because he was running out of room to lie his way out of meetings with the DNT’s editorial Board. But I’m sorry. Foster’s had a year to figure out what the District’s situation is and he oversaw the spending of half of the District’s cushion in a single year. Here’s Foster’s take:

The fund has dropped below levels required by a School Board policy. The policy says it shouldn’t fall below 10 percent of unrestricted expenditures. There are no sanctions for failing to meet the target, Superintendent I.V. Foster said. It does mean the board needs to be notified and steps need to be taken to fix the problem, he said. Foster was pleased with the audit results because “there were no negative findings,” he said.

“That’s unusual for a district this size,” he said. “It reinforces the fact that we’ve been prudent.”

The fact that the fund is half of the size it was in 2010 isn’t yet cause for panic, Foster said.

“For as much as our fund balance has dropped below expected levels, it really is an imposed financial safeguard,” he said. “A lot of school districts don’t have (a similar policy). They don’t maintain those funds. We’re a lot better off than many.”

A. Foster is pleased, as he should be, that the auditors found no fraud or theft. Big Deal.
B. Foster speaks about the District’s prudence but it was a prudence that ended with Dixon so there is little point bragging about it now.
C. He also points out how “unusual” it was for the District to have such a reserve and then seems to dismiss it by saying it was an “imposed financial safeguard.” Well I’m sorry IV. You’ve spent half of it away. That gives you one more year of cushion after which you will evidently have to start cutting 7 million a year from the threadbare educational program you currently offer.

If IV is planning on leaving at the end of his second year I agree he has no reason to panic. If he sells Central for 7 million this year that will give him one more year to postpone a great calamity. Good luck with that sale. One letter-to-the-editor today suggested we build a water park on the property. Six Flags over Duluth anyone? (The funny thing is that I could see that working. Sorry Edgewater)

Superintendents don’t tend to be financial experts. They need good finance officers to keep them on top of things. But Dixon’s hand-me-down, Bill Hanson, is now Foster’s financial muse. Bill’s contribution to the story was to say all we had to do was sell our unused schools. In other words Hanson has nothing to offer Foster or the District to avert financial catastrophe after the sale of Central.

No wonder Tim Grover chose not to run for reelection.

“I can’t begin to express my disappointment”

From today’s DNT letter to the editor‘s section:

“I can’t begin to express my disappointment with the lack of parking at Duluth East High School. Due to shortsightedness and a general lack of planning on the part of the Duluth School Board and Duluth City Council, my daughter and many other transplanted students (who already were disappointed at the closing of Duluth Central), will now get to walk almost a mile to and from East High School in the bitter cold and dark this winter.”

One of many reasons Why Dixon left when he did.

Now they’re worried about “policy”?

I’ve been ruminating on the editors of the Trib grousing about the naming of our new schools. I rolled my eyes when I read this line:

“The creation of such a committee actually is dictated by school district policy, but it’s a policy that apparently was forgotten when the School Board chose a name for Duluth East High School, which was opened this year at what had been Ordean Junior High School, and when it decided the new western middle school, which is scheduled to open in the fall, would be called Lincoln Park Middle School”

Big blankety blank deal. As the bard wrote: “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose – By any other name would smell as sweet;” Same with skunks.

I can’t tell you how many District policies the Dixon coven broke to spend $315 million on rejiggering Duluth’s schools. The Trib editors never once complained about this in their editorials. But when the Board farts around with names and committees to rename the fancy new schools the editors get all hyper. Great sense of priorities that.

I have a theory to explain this editorial. I think that having spent six years rooting for the Red Plan and downplaying its negatives the Trib has finally recognized that the negatives simply must be addressed. First, of course, they had to insure that Red Plan supporters remained in control of the School Board in this Fall’s elections (God forbid the juggernaut be stopped before full implementation) but for their own credibility the Trib’s editors have to begin taking the side of the majority of Duluth that thinks the Duluth School Board is populated with twits. The Trib’s twits.

[BIGOT ALERT] The GOP way of keeping Government small…

…by hiring contractors rather than government employees costs twice as much by this estimate.

POGO’s study analyzed the total compensation paid to federal and private sector employees, and annual billing rates for contractor employees across 35 occupational classifications covering over 550 service activities. Our findings were shocking—POGO estimates the government pays billions more annually in taxpayer dollars to hire contractors than it would to hire federal employees to perform comparable services. Specifically, POGO’s study shows that the federal government approves service contract billing rates “deemed fair and reasonable” that pay contractors 1.83 times more than the government pays federal employees in total compensation, and more than 2 times the total compensation paid in the private sector for comparable services.

It was long argued that Duluth’s Red Plan should have been supervised by a temporary School District Architect. He/She wouldn’t have been paid $30 million.

Secrecy

Someone else who has been paying attention dismisses Sen. Bakk’s explanation of preserving Excelsior’s privacy regarding its spending of $40 million.

Bakk’s surreptitious maneuver in 2008 to make financial information on IRRRB borrowers unavailable to the public is not justified by his stated concern that transparency might cause some companies not to seek financial assistance from the IRRRB. Companies that cannot withstand public scrutiny should not receive public money. The IRRRB claims it should protect the privacy of borrowers as a bank would. Although a private, for-profit, investment institution may need to do this, it is not appropriate for a government agency responsible for spending millions of public dollars for the public good. The IRRRB’s defense that loans are approved at a public meeting is laughable, given that the borrower’s financial information is kept confidential even at that point and that prior to this year these meetings were typically used to rubber-stamp decisions already made in closed committee meetings.

And we should let the rich…

…(who can hire lobbyists to get tax dodges written into law) make unlimited secret donations to legislators to keep America productive:

“Why are left-wing activist groups so keen on registering the poor to vote? Because they know the poor can be counted on to vote themselves more benefits by electing redistributionist politicians. Welfare recipients are particularly open to demagoguery and bribery. Registering them to vote is like handing out burglary tools to criminals. It is profoundly antisocial and un-American to empower the nonproductive segments of the population to destroy the country — which is precisely why Barack Obama zealously supports registering welfare recipients to vote.” – Matthew Vadum, American Thinker.

Excelsior squirts back

This is my interpretation of Excelsior’s pushback in Today’s Trib:

The Trib did a lousy job describing why $40 million has been spent on our company with little to show for it.

Excelsior has given all its spending info to its funding sources – the government, but not the public. Translation. Tom Bakk knows how we spent our money. You don’t need to know. (left unsaid: Thank goodness someone – not Tom Bakk – made sure we get to keep our secrets by law)

The IRRRB loaned us $9.5 million. That stopped 4 years ago so no more good money from them after bad.

Starting a new energy company is hard work. We’ve been given the permits to move our energy just not the right to move it on other people’s wires or any demand for our energy.

Our coal will be cleaned up. (left unsaid: whether it will ever be a truly clean source of energy or not we’re not saying – never mind all those alarmist environmentalists)

We’re entrepreneurs (left unsaid – using taxes to fund our work but not private capital except for our little drop in the bucket)

Everyone is having a tough time in this recession (left unsaid – our project is so ill conceived it would have had just as much trouble in good times)

Other alternative energy sources might not work out (left unsaid – even though they are moving along a lot faster than our project)

We’d like to thank the elected officials who gambled on us (left usaid: and voted to give us lots of money when owners of private capital were too skeptical to offer there money)

When same old, same old, becomes “an unprecedented partnership”

I think the photo of the three men with their grim demeanors is the best indicator of how innovative the District’s latest PR band-aid is.

I’d post it but the Trib would ask that I remove their copyrighted picture. Dr. Dixon will probably get all his Red Plan but I don’t think he’s having much fun any more now that he is a pariah in so much of Duluth. What better than to pose with the reasonably popular Mayor and the innocent new President of the local community college to announce “an unprecedented partnership.” Calling potato soup vichyssoise only hides its primary ingredient.

My daughter took PSEO (Post secondary education) classes at Lake Superior State in 1998 twelve years ago. In fact, two decades ago the college was administrated by the School District. When its relationship was severed the District’s Vocational Ed program got the soon to be abandoned Secondary Technical Center. That was a seven million expense that was doing a very good job but abandoned when a more ambitious building plan caught people’s attention and now it has been eviscerated in the name of brick and mortar.

Funding this with the City’s job training money…..Some may remember former Representative Dale Swapinsky who was paid by these city funds as a “dropout recovery” specialist for the District with the job training funds. Too bad the city has more homeless kids than ever with fewer programs to keep them in schools. Fortunately the District is able to hide this fact probably because even more children have fled to other schools.

The funniest thing I’ve read about this trail blazing proposal is the idea of having students take “online classes” while at Old Central. Online education is intended to free students from school. They can be students wherever they have a computer, in their homes, at the library. Why should they go to school. This falls under the general title of distance learning. So the Schools will put kids on busses and take them to school no doubt frittering money away to have district employees monitor the kids while they are online.

Dr. Dixon has been described as an educational visionary when in fact he’s simply a very successful smooth operator. This well timed publicity strikes me as just the latest “good news” spin to give the Trib cover for endorsing Roger Reinert. But then again maybe I’m just flirting with my old nemesis cynicism.

I note the Trib’s timid editorial informing us that this could be a good idea. Yet again the Trib’s editorial board has good reason for timidity. A couple of the editorial’s sentences do get it about right:

The details are sketchy, a lot of what’s being talked about isn’t really new and the whole thing is at a vague visioning stage

Maybe I have Asperberger’s too

Who was the first person to realize our banks had invested America’s future in fiscal insanity?

Check out this NPR story.

Then Burry began to realize that the futures of several companies he was investing in turn on a weird lending market, the subprime mortgage bond market. So he started reading the prospectuses of subprime mortgage bond offerings. In the structure of the loans, Burry could see the future disaster. So he figured out how to use this knowledge to his advantage, and he became the first investor off Wall Street to make the big bet against them.

You have this body of facts out there in the financial world, and the vast majority of the people in that world are organizing the facts into one kind of picture — and it’s a pretty picture. And a handful of other people take the exact same facts, but they organize it into a different picture.
– Michael Lewis
Burry went in so early that his investors thought he was crazy.

“He ends up feeling more cynical about Wall Street than anybody I’ve ever met because of his dealings with the Wall Street firms,” Lewis says.

Because he didn’t have much connection with people, everything Burry did was via e-mail. So Lewis says, in researching his book, he got to benefit from a perfect, real-time record of what was going on in these markets.

“The one guy that I could trust in the middle of this crisis was this fellow with Asperger’s and a glass eye,” he says “He became the moral center of this market for me because he was the most honest character.”

This reminds me of another fellow who wasn’t autistic when he told the SEC that wall street Lion Bernie Madoff was a Ponzi schemer. The SEC shrugged off the allegation for six years. Maybe David Ross should be appointed to the Commission. He’d fit right in.

Garland Roofing

An outfit that has a reputation for unethical business practices got a no bid roof contract on the Red Plan a year ago. A ruckus ensued which didn’t derail that job for Garland but which might have pushed JCI and the District to be a tad more careful on roofing contracts at least.

I was just contacted by a 30+ year school board member who has sought help from the State Attorney General to do something about a no bid contract Garland got at his school district. Somehow he heard about me through the grapevine.

He’ll send me a bit of background information which, for me, might give more insight about how JCI does business even though it has nothing to do with the roofing contract in this other district. I was given a whole DVD on Garland’s dubious practices a year ago but didn’t have time to look through it.

Birds of a feather.

The tale of the Vasa

The Vasa

A pipe line company investigating a mile and a half wide strip of the Baltic Sea’s floor located 12 old ships including one that goes back to the middle ages. The Baltic has thousands such ships one of which was the Great ship the Vasa which was uncovered in 1960 and is now in housed in one of Scandinavia’s most popular tourist attractions.

The news story I read about this mentioned the Vasa and I wanted to get a look at it having read about it. I found this website which had a number of pictures and this sardonic comment

since the person making the design changes which lead to insufficient ballast was the King no one was eventually convicted

Dr. Dixon isn’t a king and that may be the reason he is rumored to be looking for work elsewhere, long before the expiration of his contract. It remains to be seen if the District will stay upright after the Red Plan is launched. The Vasa only lasted one mile before it capsized. No one in Sweden had the temerity to tell the King his ship wouldn’t float.