Category Archives: Books

Kindred Spirits

After delivering Grandsons to school I spent much of the morning with my head in the New York Times and the DNT. Additionally, a Facebook post on the Choctaw Indians got me into some online research. One of my grandsons has a smidgen of Choctaw and Chickasaw in his lineage. In fact, his name is from an Indian forbear four generations back. So I found a more thorough article on how and why the Choctaw Indians, still in shock from having been sent on the Trail of Tears march to Oklahoma, managed to raise today’s equivalent of about $7,000 and sent it to the starving people of Ireland during the potato famine. Here’s the full story.

Which led me on a search for the recent news that the Cherokee Indians have just appointed their representative to Congress guaranteed by a treaty with the United States. According to the story the Choctaw also have the option of appointing a representative to Congress but have not acted on this part of their treaty.

My Grandfather’s family left Ireland half a generation after the famine. Earlier this year I began reading a book about it to better understand what my Great Great Grandparents had witnessed. Sadly, I set it aside because other things caught my attention. I do plan to get back to the book. Its called The Graves are Walking.

Sadly we live in a nation that is stripping children from their unwelcome families and locking them away. The Irish remember the gift of their surprising donors and fellow forlorn benefactors. Today they honor the memory with a sculpture called “Kindred Spirits.”

Books for kids


Photo taken by the Trib’s Steve Kuchera.

The Second District seat I’m running for again has both rich and poor elementary school populations. Grant School, combined with Nettleton by the Red Plan, has a poverty rate of 85%. It has had some unique movers and shakers over my years on the School Board. Nettleton was once our Science magnet school and Grant was a foreign language magnet. Grant once had hundreds of adult mentors who worked with kids for a year at at time. As I recall, Men as Peacemakers, was one of the prime sponsors of the program and I participated for a year or two. The school has been rechristened as Myers-Wilkins Elementary.

Today, Principal Amy Warden is attempting to buy new books for her children. She’d like to provide them each with a book a month to take home. The Trib has a story on it here.

And this is how you can contribute to the cause:

To donate, people can drop off cash, checks or money orders, or mail a check or money order to Myers-Wilkins Elementary, 1027 N. Eighth Ave. E., Duluth, MN 55805, Attn: Books for Kids.

What Harry’s reading 8-20-2019

Both stories/opinion pieces are from the New York Times:

I vividly recall the Tea Party demanding that America pay its debts at the beginning of the 2008 housing collapse and Barack Obama instead pouring money into the economy to keep it from grinding to a halt. Nobel Economist Paul Krugman notes that hypocritical Republicans recognized the danger and went along with Obama which gave us Obama’s long economic growth which Donald Trump takes credit for (even though his short term policies are about to derail it) Krugman takes Germany to task for doing just the opposite of Obama and putting the breaks on economic growth:

The World Has a Germany Problem https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/19/opinion/trump-germany-europe.html

This was fascinating. Amazon is letting all sorts of rascals sell classic books that they have butchered because they are no longer protected under copyright laws. We’re getting books as Cliff notes with all the hideous translations we see when second-rate Urdu speakers mangle the English language. No thank you Jeff Bezos. Unlike your Washington Post this is a great disservice to the truth.

It’s Almost Orwellian: What Happens to Orwell Books on Amazon https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/19/technology/amazon-orwell-1984.html

Harry’s Diary 8-20-2019

Greenland is sliding into the sea, the economy is poised to tank next year or the year after Donald Trump’s reelection should that occur, Brazil’s forests are under assault as one of the new Internet Era’s collection of pseudo-fascist, plutocrat-hugging, mini-Trumps is setting armies of murderers out to kill the locals in order to burn down the Amazon for more methane spreading cattle ranches for Big Macs and yet I’m feeling pretty happy this rainy morning.

Claudia just baked our old favorite blueberry buckle, in our new stove, in our new almost finished kitchen and I used our spiffy new microwave to reheat my coffee. The old fridge is out of our dining room! I saw another compelling episode of Mindhunter (season two) last night and it involved Charles Manson who I was recently reading about. My campaign fundraising letter is about to be sent out to at least 2,000 of my 12,000 potential constituents. I’ve thought of a cool way to speed up an initial burst of lawnsigns by the end of the week. I got back to my book writing yesterday after a week of putting up new church storm windows. The writing went very well – although – its becoming obvious my early hope of having a book ready for shipment a month before the election was and is wildly optimistic.

Sometimes in face of even dire threats to your grandchildren’s future you have to be positive. In fact, I hope my Grandsons can help me preserve the Duluth Schools and reelect me to the Board after my glorious two-year hiatus from the sometimes wretched politics of the School District. What else can I say? I’m an optimist despite all evidence to the contrary.

Its almost 10 AM and I’m eager to begin writing again. This post is to assure my regulars that I’m still focused on the Duluth School District and also to assure them that I remain busy with life as well as the great issues of the day. I have never accused myself of being myopic!

After I race through today’s French studies I will post a couple of stories from the New York Times that caught my attention. One is about Germany’s role in the world economy and the other is about Jeff Bezos’s shoddy treatment of words……Not the Washington Post (thank heavens) but the unfolding booksales his company built its foundation on. So, Vive la France! Vive la litterature! Vive l’economie du la monde! Vive l’idiot! (That’s a reference to my book on Public Education. I’m hoping its sales will finance my school board campaign)

A fifteen dollar donation will get you one of these babies. Order here:





Our Better Angels need some Clorox

2 AM. I blame the three brownies I ate during the last night’s Democratic Presidential debate for waking me up at this hour. I blame Donald Trump for not letting me get back to sleep. So, a post with many days rumination is in the making starting with these two books I’ve nibbled at this year.

Since returning from France last year I’ve pretty much given up reading history books. Too much history is being made at the moment and I’ve been preparing for my school board race and just maybe aim at restoring something Lincolnesque to the cesspool that has become the Grand Old Party. One of the candidates said it best last night when asked what she would do if elected President. “Clorox the Oval Office,” she said. Brevity may or may not be the soul of wit but I haven’t thought of a better four words. I do, however, have a pretty good post brewing with seven words: “Donald Trump is White America’s Al Sharpton”. Of course Trump is much more than Sharpton. He’s Sharpton with a reputed billion dollars, the Oval Office and millions of twitter heads. And he’s so good for modern Israel. “Jews will not replace us!” He can’t even find fault with his supporters who march like Nazis through Nuremberg bearing torches while defaming the religion of Ivanka and Jared.

Trump has stolen a page from George Wallace, Strom Thurmond, Lester “Axe handle” Maddox and Theodore G. “America’s most notorious merchant of hatred” Bilbo and done his best to release the toxic worst of America. He’s had a lot of help from Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and the generation of amoral political hacks who called old fart Republicans like me RINO’s and primaried us out of the Party in thirty year purge. Its not just the Presidency that could use a good dose of clorox. Evangelical Christianity could use a good swabbing too.

After I crank out my book on education I plan to turn to what happened in the GOP. The two books above are part of my continuing education. The book above Freedom’s Detective caught my eye in a bookstore. It covers the years after the Civil War and a dashing spy who got a first hand view of how the Ku Klux Klan terrorized the South. I’m not far into it but I got a new appreciation for the Red spread across America’s rural areas. Like rural areas of many modernizing nations the rural areas lag behind and look inward with a chip on the shoulder about urban elites. “Liberalism” an idealistic term suggesting tolerance toward others was treated as a commie conspiracy. Black Americans never ventured far into this vast rural terrain north of the Mason-Dixon line after the Civil War. There were exceptions up north. I once read about a black musician who moved into Windom, Minnesota. He became a beloved and exotic band director. Had he come up with others the community might have grown suspicious. One was enough. When my wife’s family was selling their house in Des Moines, Iowa, in the early sixties the neighborhood panicked when a black realtor showed up.

In the South there was nowhere safe to be black. It was even worse in rural areas where they outnumbered whites. Lynchings could go unnoticed there by all except church goers whose members stopped showing up. Reading about the spy who was working to protect freedman as white supporters were murdered reminded me of how the Serbs in Kosovo purged their Muslim neighbors of the last 400 years. War is a ground game. You may control the skies but if you can’t control events on the ground you’ve lost. Today’s Republicans control the countryside and rural electoral votes. The Civil War’s sepsis has spread over the farmlands of the North in a Red Republican wave. Thank you Moscow Mitch.

The other book is about the year 1919. That was the year after my Grandfather returned from France a shot up hero. Its about the wave of white riots throughout the nation where murdering blacks was rampant. Duluth’s lynching the following year was an after shock. Back then the Republican Party had a conscience about the mayhem. Lincoln was dead but not forgotten as he is today to the Grand Old Party.

I’m sitting between fury and puckishness an hour after I began this post. I don’t feel like editing it yet but I will share the link to my campaign Facebook Page I assembled from pictures I’ve gathered together this year. I hope they are each worth a thousand words because at the moment I just want to go back to bed.

Harry Welty Hawks his Book

This is a late night experiment in salesmanship. The video begins with me taping my cell phone to my desk aimed at me in selfie video mode. Its not easy to hear me as I begin:

Yesterday I had over 20,000 pageviews. My actual readership was still a modest sub 800 readers so they were reading something on my blog.

I promise you if you keep coming back to my blog (Ahem, Eight loyal readers) You will enjoy my book. I guess technically your “purchase” is really a donation to the Welty Campaign which will send donors of $15 or more one of my books. Next week I will be all by myself and will bend myself to meet my deadline of Sept 29 to send it to the printers.

Here is the donation button my video mentions:





Thank you M’am

A couple days ago I volunteered to read to my grandsons before bed. Its something I did all the time a couple years ago but since they both began reading copiously I’ve fallen out of the habit. I miss it. I love to read to kids. Here’s one of my favorite books. For more push the “up” button. I’ve read a lot of books to Claudia too including all seven of the Harry Potter books – twice, except for number seven. I’ve only read The Deathly Hallows one once.

For this reading I pulled out a wonderful story from the time I led Great Books classes for my daughter back when she was in fifth grade. The story I chose to read was Thank You M’am by Langston Hughes of Harlem. It was written in 1931 a few steps from where my Grandfather earned his Masters Degree at Columbia University. Columbia and the Harlem Renaissance were next door neighbors. I thought I’d share it with you.

I want to write my own damned book

Having told my whole town about how I was witness to a fizzled out train I’m just popping to speak my mind about a whole lotta stuff. Claudia just ordered a book for us to read and I am a little PO’ed that it covers a lot of what aggravates me – My last 50 years watching the Republican Party pulling train on America. Look it up in the “urban dictionary.” I want to write that book.

The book is called “Fault lines” and I just took a couple of pictures of it but can’t manage to transfer them to the blog on my cell phone. I will attend to this post too, just like the previous one, later on. Probably before I go to bed tonight.

I am going to get my daily French practice in first. OK done. Here’s the book on my lap.

I did read the first seventeen pages to Claudia. It starts just days before our wedding as Jerry Ford was settling in as our new President. Its a good recap even for someone like me who was glued to the television through much of the tumult. It was almost fifty years ago.

Here’s one of the pictures of Jerry Ford who I very much liked and appreciated for pardoning Nixon.

The picture below it shows how he caught a lot of blowback from kids who wanted to see Nixon in prison.

Impeachments in our nation’s history have not been pretty. That’s a small part of why I would prefer to avoid one over Trump. It would only serve to make him a martyr and that is one pedestal I wish to deprive our Sleazebag-in-Chief from clambering up onto.

When I started this post yesterday I had a few other things to say but 24 hours can distract a fellow. For instance today I was sent Bill Maher’s thoughts about how Robert Meuller let America down by not calling for Trump’s impeachment. Here was my reply to that:

I understand but I don’t agree.

Trump is a symptom of 40 years of Republican mismanagement of America, the world and the Earth. If this was 1974 we could do what Bill Maher wants but its 2018.

Mueller, by being back-breakingly fair, has convinced a majority of Republicans, Democrats and Independents that his report was fair. That is a major accomplishment and something to build upon if we are going to knit the nation back together.

Using Mueller’s work to impeach Trump will deprive America of what we desperately need. To defeat Trump in a fair election.

To do otherwise will likely postpone any healing for a generation.

We all, Republicans, Democrats and Independents have a lot of work ahead of us for the Nation, the world and the Earth. Leaving the air poisoned with payback is a lousy way to start in on this work.

Henry Louis Gates

My eyes are too big for my stomach for history books!

These are my library’s selection of books about African-American history and part of my collection related to the Civil War which arguably is pretty much the same history.

I haven’t read them all. I describe the books I buy but don’t read immediately as being like planes circling an airport waiting for clearance to land. Another plane is close to being added to those circling my bibliographic airport. Its The Stony Road by Henry Louis Gates known to the PBS viewers for his series on family history.

I didn’t know he was about to launch a book let alone on Reconstruction. A week ago, however, I bumped into an old NY Times story about Gates in which an interviewer asked him for the books he had been most moved by. He mentions three or four including one that was sitting behind my computer Reconstruction by Columbia University historian Eric Foner.

All my life I’ve tried to find the Cliff Notes version of everything so that I would have time to become knowledgeable about all things. It has not really worked. There’s just too many books. But I did buy Foner’s book thirty years ago only to discover that he had an abridged book by the same author. I once wrote to Foner asking him (stupidly I admit) what I would find in the full version vs. his Cliffs Notes version. He was kindly un-sarcastic in his reply to me.

So I was surprised to see that Gates has written his own history of Reconstruction taking it through Jim Crow. I am strongly inclined to read it which means buying it too.

BTW – Gates is the fellow that another cranky white lady called the police on when she saw him entering his home in Boston. He was arrested by a white cop and that led to the first proof for Murdoch oriented white nationalists that Barack Obama was a raging black monster when he said the cop over reacted. That led to the obviously raging Obama to hold a beer summit between Professor Gates and the policeman in the Rose Garden. Heavens!!!

Thank God we have the sensible Murdoch-approved Donald Trump presiding over America today.

Going to bed with Peppa

Last night for the second time I risked my cell phone’s melatonin messing blue light to watch little snatches of the cartoon Peppa the Pig in French. Between the cartoon’s pictures, its elementary vocabulary and my fifteen months of study it almost seems like I could understand the language if I could only squint my brain enough.

A year ago I wrote a column about my intent to learn a second language in the Reader in a column titled “Pardon Mon French.” That was after three months of studying. Now I’ve got a year and three months under my belt…..except for the month of September last year. That’s when I was actually traveling through France and didn’t have time to keep practicing if I wanted to see the countryside. I had nine months of French practice under my belt and I was hopeless.

To my surprise I resumed my study within days of returning and have added another six months of study. I don’t have any expectation of spending a lot of time with French speaking people but that could change if I actually begin to find myself understanding and speaking it. The US State Department lists French as one of the three easiest languages to learn. The State Department says it takes about 480 hours to become conversant.I presume their preferred teaching methods are a lot more intensive than my home study without other speakers to guide me personally. I am probably beyond that level of time spent but comprehension still eludes me. I take heart in the experience of a polyglot who gave a TED talk type presentation before other polyglots. Polyglot = multi-lingual.

This young lady spoke about six languages. Her presentation followed a year of visiting other polyglots and asking them about their method of learning. She found, as I would have expected, that no two multi-lingual speakers study in exactly the same way. I found their stories very hopeful. All were in their twenties when they began throwing themselves into languages. The speaker had a very useful motivational quote. “The best time to learn a language” she explained “is when you are young.” She added, “The second best time is now.”

This speaker claimed to have spent roughly an hour a day learning new languages. She explained that polyglots generally had a little corner with all their teaching/learning tools, books dictionaries, etc that they cuddled up with. Here’s mine: Continue reading

Into my mental Expanse

Up and out of bed for four hours. Until a few moments ago when I took a ten minute break to clear my mind I was busy nonstop with mental activity skimming the News Tribune, the NY Times and other news filters on my cellphone. Twenty of those past minutes were used solving some Time’s puzzlers and fifteen minutes were on my French practice. I still have another half an hour of French practice today to do in order to keep to a half year streak of putting about an hour in daily. Will I ever get to use French if I become fumblingly conversant. Maybe. So am I learning it for vanity, practicality or just to keep my brain cells from slipping into dementia? Don’t know. Probably all three.

That’s what I pondered in my nap while trying to keep my mind clear. That and the dozens of things I’d like to write about now. But I have a Reader column to turn in today and like last week when I missed the deadline I have some rough draft work ready to operate on. But I’m operating at the moment in the “meantime” with some time to kill and ideas to spill. As I fritter away precious minutes I’m listening to the Birmingham Symphony’s recording of the Mendelssohn that I will be singing in two weeks at the DECC with the Symphony Chorus. At last week’s practice a native of Texas from the French bayous caught me working on French. My mind froze up and I got no French out but I was hoping I’d see him again last night but he wasn’t sitting behind me to give my French a spin.

But I’ve learned a couple things about the composer. He taught Queen Victoria piano lessons. That’s added to my enjoyment of the current PBS series on young Queen Victoria. I also learned that he was a polyglot speaking a half dozen languages. He was easily conversant in English which makes his assures that his English lyrics …..“All that has life and Breath”……its playing now…Heavenly…. are not at all stilted.

So with Mendelssohn playing in the background let me mention one of the dozen items I’ve watched with Claudia over the past few weeks. Not Brooklyn 99 which tickles my funny bone and which is proof that racism in the US doesn’t stand a chance in the long run. Instead I’ll mention The Expanse three seasons of which we’ve live-streamed over the past couple weeks. I read a note about its being saved after by two seasons by none other than Mr. Bezos of Amazon fame. He put a good word in for them when it was about to be canceled.

Its about a future Earth at a time when Earthlings are divided into three groups. Those living on Earth. A militarized Mars and everyone else called “Belters.” They have colonized the Asteroid belt and all the other moons beyond Earth of the Solar system. In the first three seasons war is about to break out between all three subdivisions of the Solar System bound Earthlings. The Mormons have commissioned a massive Space ship to be sent to other suns and that project is being constructed in space by the belters. Bezos reportedly fell in love with the series because it works hard to show how the real life environment of space would have to be negotiated by humans. (No bathrooms have shown up yet. Probably just as well. What a distraction they would be)

There was one things that caught my attention. While there are vague hints that the Earth of a few hundred years from now is radically different one Martian warrior who finds herself at the United Nations in New York wants only to see the Earth’s ocean which is so foreign to her having grown up on desiccated Mars. When she escapes her confines and is directed to what is clearly New York’s battery overlooking the Statute of Liberty I had a quick reaction. I’ve been there and in a couple hundred years barring some industrial miracle that little bit of beach will be covered by 20 or more feet of water. I suspect the makers of The Expanse knew this but chose not to ignore this far more likely future. The idea that we will be zipping around the solar system mining its asteroids and moons in a mere two hundred years seems pretty fanciful to me. Will it happen? Oh I fully expect this but I think it would take a lot more time than this although like with Startrek I’m not entirely clear on the dates projected by The Expanse. And I haven’t even mentioned the “proto molecule.”

They had one thing right. The spaceship slated to be flown (is that what you would call it) by the Mormons is expected to take many generations to reach a habitable star beyond the sun. Alpha Centuri is the closest at 4.3 light years. NASA is contemplating sending out a space kite powered by lasers shot at it from Earth which might be able to reach one fifth the speed of light. That would make for a 30 year journey. What it would take to power a spacecraft with a 1,000 people on it at that speed is not yet within the grasp our our engineering. And Alpha Centuri may be the wrong place to send humans let alone a whole colony of them surviving the loneliness of space for generations. In a million years? Sure some new generation of hybridized bionically and computationally augmented humans will quite likely make the journey. At a fifth the speed of light their successors might make it to the far edge of the Milky Way in half a million years – a period of time 50 times as far away in the future as agriculture’s beginnings were in the past.

So for me and the immediate generations following me the question will be whether Earth and Mars or simply China Russia and the USA can avoid turning the Earth into another Venus before this endless future Era of exploration begins. To that end I’ll mention my pleasure at seeing a letter-to-the-editor in the Reader mentioning my last column about plastics. I don’t get a lot of feedback. The letter suggested a book for me about plastic waste. I won’t read it. I haven’t read the Sixth Extinction yet and that just about sums up what Donald Trump inspired politics all but guarantees will come to pass.

I give. Time for French.
I’ll save any proof reading of this for later. Maybe

More books one purchased one read and another reviewed

I had Claudia order this book five or six months ago. As she’s been stuck at home recuperating from her heart surgery she suggested I read it to her. Its quite slim. By Zora Neale Hurston, Barracoon, was completed in about 1931 but only recently published. A Barracoon was a place where African prisoners were held before being put aboard the ships of Scottish and Yankee slave traders. Hurston learned of the last living slave from the last shipment of slaves to the United States (the ship “Cudjo” was transported on ran a Civil War blockade) and went to interview him about his life.

The book faithfully records his simple dialect for the sake of authenticity. It reminded me of something I have been thinking about recently. Black Americans sound different today than they did when I was a kid fifty years ago. Although a few blacks have sounded “white” since the days of house slaves; the vast majority, deprived of educations and sequestered in slave quarters, developed a distinctive patois. In the 1960’s Julian Bond was an exception with his then distinctive Middle American voice. (Here he is in 1982 making some sound observations about Socialism that would echo in the face of today’s Republican hysteria on the same subject.) Today the acting world is re pleat with black actors whose voices betray only the slightest hint of growing up in an inner city or south.

Here’s Cudjo talking about the Barracoon: Continue reading

Bonhoeffer vs Hitler and and the attack on my nemesis

For the last two months I’ve been avoiding the last great organization of my house – the higgledy-pigaledy files I’ve successfully brought together up in my three year-old-office. Two months ago I was about to attack them when I let myself be distracted by, of all things, stamp collecting. I left roughly one third of my office floor with stacks of yet to be filed stuff.

I’ve been waiting for something to kick me into gear again. I cranked up the heat an hour ago, and its pouring out furiously with the zero temps outside the roof above. But I got distracted again. This time it was by the gift my daughter got me for Christmas. I’d let everyone know I wanted a copy of the book below on the right. Its called “The Faithful Spy.”

Next to it is a book I randomly found as a remainder. Its chock full of historical cartoons of Adolph Hitler’s rise and fall. Recent events call this man to my mind. I’ve been nibbling at it for a couple months.

I parked myself and began reading the book about the attempted assassin who Hitler would later execute for trying to topple him from power. I haven’t read a book since I finished one on Napoleon right after getting back from my trip to France in October. I think I need to read a good book on a sobering subject to light a fire under myself. After that and after the office clean up I’ll have run out of good excuses not to start writing my own book.

4 AM

I have been trying mightily to get six or more hours of sleep a night. Blast it all, sometimes I wake and can’t turn off my mind. 3 AM this morning was such a time.

I came upstairs to my empire of documents – my attic office – determined to organize some clutter when I was momentarily diverted by a row of history books. They were on a shelf I haven’t looked at for a couple years. My eyes landed on a book by Alfred Steinberg that got some press back when I was in college. From the inside cover I could see he had written 20 other histories. The one I opened is “The Bosses.” It’s about six corrupt, big city bosses of the 1930’s when Federal Government largesse gave them infinitely more power than they had formerly wielded.

I read the Introduction to get a taste. It struck me as being very timely. I originally bought the book twenty years ago or so because one of the six bosses it covers was my Dad’s old foil Tom Pendergast who ran Kansas City, Kansas. I even found a book mark in that section from a much earlier peek. I hadn’t gotten far. It was only about four pages into Pendergast’s 59 page section.

My Dad lived in Independence, Missouri, right next to Kansas City’s Pendergast machine. He was so appalled by its’ corruption – as a junior high school kid! – that he made up lists of reform minded candidates which he gave to his parents at election time. Coincidentally, Pendergast got his boy into the White House. That was Harry Truman who lived just a few blocks away from my Dad’s family and whose daughter, Margaret, attended my Dad’s school. Dad vaguely remembered an attempted kidnapping of the then Senator’s daughter that took place when he was in school.

I was almost chilled at the end of the Introduction by its last two paragraphs. They seemed almost prophetic. Mr. Steinberg wrote:

“The significance of the bosses of the twenties and thirties was that they collectively made the profession of democratic government and civil rights a hollow phrase in their time.

The broader meaning to future generations is that under given circumstances, such as disillusionment with national policies, the efficacy and justice of government, and the importance of the individual vote, local citizens may again by default abdicate their rights and responsibilities to the bosses with more permanent results next time.”

That’s what has been worrying me for the last three years and the principle motivation for writing a book about my Grandfather and what a real (honorable) American looks like.

Now I’m going to attend to a little of that organization I came up to my office to start. After the sun rises we will join our daughter’s family to decorate the church for Christmas and then use the tickets my son-in-law bought to attend the movie Wreck it Ralph II. That will take the edge of this moment of grim seriousness.

No Irish need apply

Now that my three years of watching Donald Trump swallow the Republican Party whole has finally given way to a ray of hope in a Democratic controlled House of Representatives I can’t promise to blog with the enthusiasm I have shown up to know. If I am true to myself I will direct my fingers to typing up one of the dozens of books my decade old blog has regularly threatened that I will churn out.

Today for the third or fourth time in the last few years I’ve begun a history of my Grandfather George Robb (No stranger to this blog.) This attempt’s tentative title is How to be an American.

While looking for confirmation of some general historical facts I ran across this History Channel article about Irish Catholics in the United States. Reading it I couldn’t help but wince at the naked opportunistic, nativism of our jackass President. Every slander he slung at the pathetic people stumbling along a thousand miles south of our border was once thrown at Irish Catholics escaping Ireland in 1847 for America in some 5,000 “coffin ships.”

20,000 Irish Catholics died on their month-long voyage that year. Although of greater magnitude that’s not unlike the thousands of Mexican and Central Americans who have died crossing our desert border in recent years to enrich our economy if, however, illegally.

I did take some solace in looking at the election returns. The word was that the Iron Range was going to go for Pete Stauber big time. It didn’t happen. Democrat Radinovich got almost 20,000 more votes from St.Louis County than Pete Stauber. Leading up the election I couldn’t help but reflect on the disdain that the Trumpians of an earlier era directed at the Serbian and Croation miners who made the Iron Range hum and Minnesota prosperous. The thought that their grandchildren would hand Trump another vote in Congress turned my stomach.

All the Catholic Republicans ought to read this passage below from that article before they reaffirm their support for Donald Trump in 2020. There was good reason why the Kennedy Klan were Democrats.

A flotilla of 5,000 boats transported the pitiable castaways from the wasteland. Most of the refugees boarded minimally converted cargo ships—some had been used in the past to transport slaves from Africa—and the hungry, sick passengers, many of whom spent their last pennies for transit, were treated little better than freight on a 3,000-mile journey that lasted at least four weeks.

Herded like livestock in dark, cramped quarters, the Irish passengers lacked sufficient food and clean water. They choked on fetid air. They were showered by excrement and vomit. Each adult was apportioned just 18 inches of bed space—children half that. Disease and death clung to the rancid vessels like barnacles, and nearly a quarter of the 85,000 passengers who sailed to North America aboard the aptly nicknamed “coffin ships” in 1847 never reached their destinations. Their bodies were wrapped in cloths, weighed down with stones and tossed overboard to sleep forever on the bed of the ocean floor.

Napoleon – lessons to learn

I bought this book for three reasons and paid full price at the Musee de l’armee in Paris where Napoleon is buried in a magnificent gaudy display. I would highly recommend anyone wanting to learn about the emperor to buy it for this price plus three bucks shipping. Its an excellent short but comprehensive and intelligent summary. That is one of the reasons I bought it. I’ve read three massive books on Hitler and Stalin and I wanted something quick to read about the man who helped inform their ambitions before I dove into my own book writing which I hope to begin shortly.

The other reasons were these. 2. The reviews on the cover were sterling. 3. I like buying books at the very place where the subject I’m interested in is located. Napoleon’s tomb was as close as I could get.

Bear in mind that my pilgrimage to France on the hundreth anniversary of the action that led to my Grandfather’s being awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor did not prevent me from seeing that war as my historian Grandfather did – as a monumentally stupid and colossal waste of life. And that is this eminent biographer and historian’s take on Napoleon. He was a smart but shallow, murderous, self centered authoritarian. So were Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.

What made Napoleon different was not ambition but the success of the propaganda empire he fostered and which later Napoleons advanced. Think Donald Trump. Napoleon saw opportunities and seized them. So did the other four dictators I listed. Circumstance was good for them as they were for Napoleon. Author Johnson makes the cost of Napoleon’s actions clear. The deaths in a proto industrial age of four or five millions of people. His concluding paragraph struck me hard as a devotee of Abe Lincoln. Johnson reminded me that true greatness comes with a sense of humility.

Trump’s vile life shows no sign of that quality. His admirers are blind to this. I can not forgive the Republican Party for so debasing itself on planks they only used as political weapons but had only slender belief in to disgust American voters into electing Trump. Thank you Senator McConnell.

I’ll proof read this later.

A. Ham

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My family posed under the marquee but they weren’t wearing 3D shades so I cropped them out for this post.

Hamilton the musical was worth every penny of this weekend extravagance. The history it is based on, authored by Ron Chernow, has been on my bookshelf waiting for me for about ten years. After I return from France I may tackle it.

My breath is taken away by the audacity of Lin-Manuel Miranda to have envisioned this as a subject for the musical stage.

Tomorrow’s video

My Dad, Daniel Marsh Welty, died shortly after we moved to our snow sculptor’s palace thirty-one years ago. He never got a chance to see it although I shot a VHS tape of it to show him where we had moved to. His Vietnam was the “Good War” and for years afterwards he read the memoirs and histories written by men who had fought in it. I kept a bunch of his paperbacks after his death and today I’ve got them arranged in a modest glass case with other mementos of his life. As you can see they include a sketch that my Mother made of him when he was in his late twenties. In life he never looked that fierce.

I plucked one of the books from the shelf a couple days ago to begin reading to Claudia in anticipation of our September trip to France and more specifically to the hallowed coast of Normandy. Its Cornelius Ryan’s “The Longest Day.” After beginning its chapter ten in the first section I had to put the book down and shoot a 6 minute video of me reading and commenting on a passage that talked about the modesty of my fellow Kansan, Dwight David Eisenhower. The depths that we have sunk to politically with the Trump Presidency led me to shoot another video to share my thoughts with my blog’s treasured but minuscule audience. I’ll upload it tomorrow.

A little of my Dad’s influence bookwise

My Dad, Daniel Marsh Welty, died shortly after we moved to our snow sculptor’s palace thirty-one years ago. He never got a chance to see it although I shot a VHS tape of it to show him where we had moved to. His Vietnam was the Good War and for years after he read the memoirs and histories written by men who had fought in it. I kept a bunch of the paperbacks after his death and today I’ve got them arranged in a modest glass case with other mementos of his life which as you can see includes a sketch my Mother made of him when he was in his late twenties. In life he never looked that fierce.

I plucked one of the books from the shelf a couple days ago to begin reading to Claudia in anticipation of our trip to France and more specifically to the hallowed coast of Normandy. Its Cornelius Ryan’s “The Longest Day.” After beginning its chapter ten in the first section I had to put the book down and shoot a 6 minute video of me reading and commenting on a passage that talked about the modesty of my fellow Kansan Dwight David Eisenhower. The depths that we have sunk to politically with the Trump Presidency led me to shoot another video to share my thoughts with my blogs treasured but tiny audience. I’ll upload it tomorrow.