Press Releases as unfiltered news

I read this in the DNT a week ago. A friend sent me the exact same thing from the Minneapolis Star Trib. Both read like carbon copies of a Duluth School Press release that begs for some serious questioning. None is provided of course.

Here it is with some good questions inserted:

DULUTH (AP) – Two groundbreaking ceremonies will be held by the Duluth school district next week.

One for the new eastern middle school, at the current East High School site, is at 11:15 a.m. Monday. The school will open as the eastern middle school in September 2012.

This summer, an eight-lane pool with locker rooms for both school and community use will be installed. A parking lot and bus loading zone will be added in the fall. Also planned for this summer is the addition of a secure entry leading to administrative offices, a remodeled media center and renovation of six classrooms. Next summer, there will be a major renovation of the rest of the school.

A groundbreaking for the new Piedmont/Lincoln elementary school is at 10 a.m. Tuesday. That project is expected to be complete by September 2011. Classrooms for the new school are designed in clusters and located close to the media center. Classrooms will have new instructional technology and are to be naturally lit and well-ventilated. Spaces for music, art, physical education and special-needs programs are included.

The school district’s June report broke the contracts for building projects into three categories: contracts with companies located in and next to Duluth; contracts with companies in other northern Minnesota communities; and contracts with companies based in the Twin Cities and beyond.

Perhaps those of us who have commented how the regressive property taxes of Duluth are being used to hire out-of-town contractors and prime other region’s economy have persuaded the District to show how much local spending is taking place. If so………

Of the 336 construction contracts awarded by the end of May, 148, or 44 percent, were awarded to companies in and next to Duluth, for about $66.4 million. About 90 percent of all consulting agreements have been awarded to firms in and next to Duluth.

……then how much of the spending for previous projects was given to local vs. outside firms?

And “consulting agreements?” What the heck are those? Construction contracts or architectural services or some other miscellaneous spending like for legal consulting needed to fight the people of Duluth?

For the eastern middle school, 21 percent of work so far has gone to contractors in and next to Duluth. For the Piedmont/Lincoln school, 42.5 percent has gone to companies in and next to Duluth.

42.5 percent! Whoo hooo! How much local spending for all those earlier projects or maybe they really would prefer not to publicize that figure.

A person might lament the passing of newspapers but little death rattles like this almost make one wish some papers would hurry up and die and just get it over with.

The undead Online

As I’m off with my family listening to loons who escaped the Gulf Oil Spill I’m reduced to catching up on the Trib strictly on line. Today’s online story had what I presumed was the story of Senator Robert Byrds death. It was not. I learned that the Senator had died elsewhere on the Internet but the Trib’s online paper only had this summation of his life. I presume the paper version actually mentioned his death.

I’ve enjoyed criticizing Byrd’s porkish ways ever since he stuck the FBI fingerprinting lab in West Virginia. I admired him when he opposed George W Bush’s War in Iraq and the insinuation that it was unpatriotic to send soldiers off where they shouldn’t be. Pork got him elected and elected over to Congress and over starting when I was two years old.

Much has been made of his 1920’s membership in the KKK. Shameful yes, but he’s apologized for it many times since. Sad to say but the Klan was a cross between Rotary and a band of vigilantes. It was a sign of distinction that many wore like Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black one of my heroes for his steadfast fight for 1st Amendment rights. It was a political stepping stone.

three more days for me

As we speed toward the August 10th Primary I keep mental note of good days that tend to advantage me. I count the day I got 10.5% of the vote for DFL endorsement as one. The days that Mike Jaros’ endorsements made the papers as another and today looks good too as even the Tribune which will almost certainly follow the DFL’s endorsement of Reinert admitted that the school district’s administration hasn’t been acting with anything approaching transparency.

For the very first time the Trib Editorial Board acknowledged, however timidly, that the School Administration has been high handed. I told one astonished emailer that everyone has a breaking point and it sure as heck took the Trib a long time to find it and flex their atrophied skepticism muscle.

I had very little hope when I read the Our view headline: “Red Plan shifts can’t come as any surprise.” What I imagined was that they would point out the natural alterations one would expect from such a large project. Thankfully they dwelt on the unwillingness of the District Administration to share information in any sort of a reasonable way with the actual elected officials who give them the authority to proceed. In years past Trib reporters demanded timely information from the District and I don’t mean six months later. When I was on the Board two trib Ed reporters took turns sitting in the Superintendent’s office for 24 hours straight until the Superintendent handed over public docs a few weeks after they got wind of them. Maybe that’s what our minority school board members should do so they don’t have to wait half a year.

The index fingered Chairman told the Board at last night’s meeting that he didn’t want to see all the Administrations Red Plan documents which is par for the majority’s course but irrelevent to the three minority board members who do. Instead Tim Grover is reinforcing the District’s wall of secrecy because ignorance is his preference and the minority must be satisfied to share it with him.

Today also had the third defense of Tm’s fingerer in the letter to editor section. Maybe the Trib is finally taking Red Plan critics to heart.

The same editorial page had a damning critique of the Wheeler Site by Art Johnston, dismissed in the editorial as “seemingly never-ending opposition.”

Its easy to nitpick the editorial. It says that JCI will have to pay for cost overruns which won’t happen because the District keeps adding more goodies to the Red Plan every time they save money and its obvious that the District, not JCI will be stuck with any cost overruns.

Just what is happening is hardly transparent based on the odd information presented in today’s Forth Red Plan item their story about last night’s school board meeting concerning the cost of construction. It begins hopefully with a headline about school taxes declining (due to nothing the District has done) but then proceeds to report the following:

1…Because of a “competitive bid climate” in the construction industry, several projects were bid for lower amounts than estimated. About $25 million in the past three years has been put back into the plan, for additions or needs that have arisen through public input or necessity ” (What input???????? Not the School Boards. What “necessities?” Why weren’t they in the original Red Plan?)

2. The district is $803,000 over budget (they’ve saved $25 million but are $803,00 over budget????????????)

3. The board voted 5-2 to approve a Red Plan amendment that allows the district to move money around for several project changes totaling $11.6 million (Which, as the Editorial acknowledges, the School Board is largely clueless and content in their ignorance about)

So I’ll take today’s Trib as another advance in my election hopes for August 10th because as much as the Trib will root for the all but incumbent Roger Reinert, they are having to give credence to my three-year fight for an honest appraisal of the Red Plan. I have confidence that voters will remember that for the next 50 days.

And don’t forget that Roger was endorsed by Yvonne Prettner Solon whose running mate Mark Dayton contradicted the empty claims both Roger and Yvonne made when they told us that the School Board has the right to levy for building bonds without referendums. Its little things like make my day.

Obama the populist

This post echoes my sentiments about how well Obama is doing by pointing out that on British Petroleum he is more in sync with the public than the Joe Bartons that have accused him of shaking down big business. (Where the hell was Barton and company on the banks?)

As the comment in parentheses suggests Republicans and their pet pundits have largely hopped on the populist bandwagon and accused Obama of shielding the bankers. In my view it is popular but irresponsible not to acknowledge that allowing the damned mega banks to fail would have plunged the world into a Depression not unlike the one we suffered in the 1930’s. Of course, since he didn’t stick it to the banks we’ll never know for sure but I think the state of economic analysis that we’ve attained makes a sufficiently cogent case for Obama’s actions.

By the way I made one comment at the DFL endorsing convention that drew Roger Reinert’s subtle fire. I had said that I much preferred the political parties of my youth that both labored to hold center court to the two parties today that both dote on their extremes. I then added a little too carelessly that I thought Obama had pulled the Democrats back to the center where I preferred them to be.

Roger said that he felt the Democrats had always been a centrist party in the 36 years years he’d been a Democrat.

If I had expounded at length on the issue I would have said that Bill Clinton (who I voted for in 1980 although not in 1984) had brought the Democrats back to the center and that is exactly why he was such a threat to the GOP that when given a half ass excuse (Monica Lewensky) they went ape _ _ _ _ and impeached him.

The Party of Gore, Kerry and now Obama is still firmly in the center of American politics. But Roger is wrong. Thirty six years ago (1974) the Democrats were still under the influence of narrow interest groups that were still on a high from the Age of Aquarius and damned self righteous about it too. If Reagan accomplished nothing else he brought them down from the high.

I’m still confident that Obama will win reelection because the GOP have placed too many land mines in the ground where sensible Republican candidates might want to tread. When they blow up under these poor centrists they have to apologize to Rush Limbaugh for not being sufficiently politically correct. That’s the burden of a dittohead.

Eunuchs on the School Board

Today’s reasonable sounding story in the Trib about changes to the Red Plan costing eleven million dollars, which (as the paper noted) won’t change its overall cost, reminded me once again what eunuchs the current school board is.

The changes themselves aren’t surprising but are indicitive of overly optimistic Red Plan cost projections which haven’t been born out as the Red Plan gets more expensive.

There will likely be no new transportation building. The STC will be sold (to save classroom time by ending bussing to it) and the OLD CAB will not get some fix ups. All of these are sort of routine except for the revelation that the Administration had never run them past the School Board. Nope, the majority of the Board is happy as clams staying out of the conversation between the Administration the Community and the State’s Educatioin Department.

Why, it makes one wonder why we even have a school board. Its just a little excessive democracy.

10.5 % in Roger’s home court

Yesterday was great. The heading above cuts to the chase. That’s my total vote at last night’s caucus. 8 votes out of 75 delegates. As Roger told WDIO he’s been a Democrat for 36 years. He told the delegates last night he’d received their endorsement six previous times. He’s as good as a sitting incumbent and losing the endorsement would have been as good as an admission by this DFL hardcore of that this very nice, inoffensive fellow had been a mistake. There is no way he could have lost the endorsement.

Still, to lose ten percent of the vote under these circumstances to a controversial recent Republican is not a good sign for him. I still know hardly any of the DFL family with their long ties to Roger. That won’t be a factor in the August 10th primary. Roger won’t be able to control who shows up to vote. Independents, Republicans and angry people whose votes were stolen from them will all be able to cast a vote. And I’ve gotten one very important and public ally in Mike Jaros who won 15 straight elections to the legislature long before he handed his office over to Roger. When Roger took over he ignored Mike’s passionate, insistence that the Red Plan should be voted on and his criticism of its use of a regressive tax. DFL insiders might consider this an inconvenient truth but Duluth voters will find it very motivating

I’m an deeply in debt to Mike. Having called me out of the blue he proceeded to lobby for my improbable selection, made some calls to delegates as well as writing letters to all the local print media and buoyed up my morale with a postcard. Continue reading

Elsewhere in the War on terror

I just went to my Netflix account and added Lives of Other’s to the top of my queue. I remember reading a glowing review of the this suspense flick years ago but it took this story about Saddam Hussein’s spy files on NPR to remind me that I had been interested in seeing it. I was listening to the story while reading the email posted just before this.

I couldn’t help but think of the Duluth School System as all of this swirled through my head. In East Germany before it fell 1 in 50 East Germans were being used as spies on their fellow citizens. I doubt that there are any spies in the school system. Teachers are simply waiting for the tyrant to fall and to get sent to Goodness knows what new school and circumstance. Still, they are so tight lipped they might as well be under the thumb of the Stassi.

Now that General Petraeus has been reassigned to Afghanistan Iraq is one step closer to whatever is fated to befall it as an independent nation. As one of the Iraqies interviewed by NPR told the reporter Iraq is a tribal society (like Afghanistan). Another Iraqi in that story who was asked what had happened to his neighborhoods spy after the Fall of Saddam answered by drawing his index finger across his throat.

Insiders view of Afghanistan

Email received this morning from Afghanistan.

McChrystal trusted his luck to a Rolling Stone reporter and his staff let their guard down over a number of weeks.

I am surprised, though, that McC did not insist on resigning but rather allowed the WH to call the shots on his “dismissal.”

In the Rolling Stone article, McC. felt President Obama was “unengaged,” called Holbrooke a wounded animal fearing replacement, noted Eikenberry had “betrayed him,” said NSA Jim Jones should go, and described Marjah, his first campaign in the south, as a bleeding ulcer, according to his aides.

The Rolling Stone article spotlights the lack of confidence among his own troops to prosecute his “show-restraint” strategy and his own difficulties in selling his strategy to them. In other words, the article is damning.

No one is indispensable. Of course, Karzai called for McC’s retention because he was the only principal here who has been unfailingly polite and respectful to K’s face and, more importantly, behind his back. Sadly, Karzai is not a leader cut out of cloth that we recognize. He is a tribal leader that is positioning himself for our departure down the road. The Stone article did no favors for Pres O’s declaration of a July 2011 deadline to begin a troop drawdown by suggesting McC’s team were instead gearing up to ask for still more troops in light of the slow progress against an entrenched insurgency.

In short, this country is run by a complex, inter-locking group of criminal gangs, only some of which are insurgent and none able to take the field as a dominant, legitimate leadership group. In such circumstances, VP Biden’s strategy of keeping our troop footprint smaller should again be given a serious look…but don’t count on that to happen. Too much blood has been spilled to get us here and we will be damned to admit it was a mistake, in my opinion, as in the past.

“donkeys”

As I head to the DFL endorsing convention tonight I may tuck this post card in my pocket for good luck.

On the back Mike Jaros reminds me of one of my favorite President’s the ornery Harry Truman.

He writes:

“Give them donkeys hell and tell them to endorse you!
Mike”

Of course, its always risky to tell donkeys what to do. It’s much better to have a carrot in your pocket. It also works better for burros.

First the good news …

The consumer world is such a cornucopia of cheap goodies that it makes my mind spin. At the most basic level food particularly high fat and high caloric government subsidized food is so cheap that its led to a flood of obesity. It seems to me I heard that about 30% of children are considered overweight, which I take to mean unhealthy. Some years ago the first reports of overweight Chinese children started making the rounds. China was a nation of forced collectivization and starvation when I was young.

Adam Smith’s fabled “invisible hand” is pulling nature out of the Earth at phenomenal rates everywhere as free enterprise helps release human ingenuity which makes use of nature’s bounty. Look at this comparison of what we could buy for a typical month’s income
back
when I was a teenager compared to what a month’s average earnings would buy today.

Now think about obsolescence and replacement and recycling.

When I was a kid far fewer people could afford televisions. My wife and I kept an old black and white motorola for almost twenty years. How long will today’s televisions be kept before something fancier replaces them. High Def is likely to be replaced by 3D or something else pretty soon. Camera’s, flash drives, mice, peripherals are very easy to toss in the trash today. I pay recyclers 9something I wager a lot of people don’t do) to take them off my hands hoping that they don’t simply forward them to third world countries for low paid workers to smelt down.

Every ounce of precious metal we landfill is an ounce we will likely want to dig out of the earth pulling up with it sulfides like those that were burned in Ohio power plants creating acid rain that defoliated much of the Appalachian Mountains through the end of the last century.

We are a prolific nation and we are becoming a prolific world. Even if global warming was not caused by human activity (a proposition I consider highly dubious) we are managing to find other ways to tip the earth towards other generalist species like seagulls, rats, cockroaches, and other human friendly species. Animals that live in confined locations are the ones subject to extinction. Even animals that have thrived over huge swaths of Earth like those in the polar regions are all under threat if that landscape changes radically. That’s not just polar bears but hundreds of species of birds that nest for the temperate months at high latitudes.

These changes are recurrent in Earth’s Geologic experience. Just two million years ago Greenland was largely ice free if I can believe the National Geographic. That’s within the lifetime of nearly modern humans.

Just as “we the people” are responsible for making sure our habitat is not despoiled by reckless deep sea oil drilling we have the responsibility to manage the other disposable resources after we’re finished with them. Its a responsibility we can shirk for the sake of convenience but when we take the easy way we impose some future tax on whichever generation takes it upon itself to clean up our mess.

The price teachers are paying for students fleeing the Red Plan

R E S O L U T I O N

Adoption of the Considerations and Investments for the Fiscal Year 2011 Budget

BE IT RESOLVED, by the School Board of Independent School District No. 709, St. Louis County, State of Minnesota, that the attached considerations and investments for the fiscal year 2011 budget as presented to the School Board, be adopted.

B-10-2-2828 February 23, 2010

FY 2011 Budget Considerations
CONTINUING OPTIONS
February 23, 2010

Eliminate ROTC Program ………………………………………………….. 32,000
Transition to two high schools …………………………… ……………1,300,000
Grant/Nettleton@Nettleton ……………………………………………….255,000
Reduce Non-Certified Staffing Levels ………………………………….1,392,000
Review Residential Programs ………………………………………………200,000
Ensure Habitat Program is cost neutral ………………………………….130,000
Ensure Gifted & Talented Program is cost neutral ……………………….60,000
Increase Revenue from OPEB Levy ……………………………………….351,000
Maximize budget impact of all ARRA Funds ………………………………600,000
Reimbursement from Food Service (Fund 2) …………………………….100,000
Operational Efficiency (Payroll Changes, Etc.) ………………………….. 50,000
Cap Overtime budget ………………………………………………………..30,000
TOTAL…………………………………………………………………….$4,500,000

B-2-10-2728 February 23, 2010

Board discussion took place on the budget considerations as follows: Costs of contracts being negotiated, health care costs, and possible bus pass usage savings, technology costs, Non Certified cuts and who it will affect, where money comes from for Smart Boards, and Elimination of RTOC program background.

M-Wasson, Seliga Punyko, to approve Resolution B-2-10-2728- Adoption of the Considerations and Investments for the Fiscal Year 2011 Budget. Upon a vote taken, the same was approved 5-2 As Follows:

Yea: Cameron, Grover, Kasper, Seliga Punyko, Wasson
Nay: Glass, Johnston

Civilian authority

I haven’t blogged about the War on Terror for a long time. This little MacArthur-like episode is worthy of comment. I could not do it as economically as Andrew Sullivan who says, of General McChrystal’s contempt for his civilian bosses:

Alas, as is also ironically the case, there is no way counter-insurgency can work in the tenth year of occupation, without commitment to another thirty years, instead of eighteen months. And there is no way it can work without a viable and trusted central government. But Obama did not have the intellectual or political guts to walk away, and was trapped by early campaign announcements in favor of the “good war” in Afghanistan. It may well have been the good war in 2002; but that didn’t make it a winnable war in 2009.

This is important. There is a young man from my church on the ground in Afghanistan. He is prayed for regularly.

I have an old high school buddy in the US diplomatic corps. He has been sending me very discouraging news stories about our position in Afghanistan for the past six months. Evidently you can’t beat the crap out of people for years and then depend on them to trust you when you really need their help.

My Grandfather, the war hero, told me when I was twelve never to vote for a Democrat because they always got America into wars. I know he also viewed Republicans as being the fiscally sensible party as well. There isn’t a sink hole under his grave yet but the way he must be spinning its sure to appear any time now.

Kicking up a little dust

A friend who has been scouring the Internet found two recent references to my campaign on the Internet with somewhat different takes on my campaign.

The first reference she sent me was in the political junky’s paradise Minnesota Politics which dismissed my campaign for among other things having a “frequent” candidate. They also quite rightly twitted my “campaign website” which is as untended as a vacant lot and they said was hawking a hysterical sounding book “The Amazing Colossal Red Plan.” All true, although the news headlines about our public schools seem to bear out my hysteria.

This appraisal as I told the person who sent it to me was not surprising as it was written by people with little knowledge of the facts on the ground.

The other site was a much more nuanced analysis by Aaron Brown who has followed my career from a distance up in Hibbing. How could I argue with this sample?:

Welty is an experienced (out of respect, I’ll avoid the Ole Savoir “frequent” label) candidate for state and federal offices, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the guy even though some Duluthians keep calling him a crackpot. I think he’s more of a gadfly, a conscience for that netherworld between Democrat and Republican.

In that regard it’s notable that Welty is running, I believe, for the first time as a member of the Democratic Farmer Labor Party. He started as a fiscally conservative, socially liberal Republican and then gradually through his career became an independent and, now, as he describes a “Lincoln Democrat.”

And who are the Duluthians that are calling me a “crackpot?” Maybe they’re ones who thought making Duluth the only city in the state to allow its school board to impose a half billion school replacement plan without a public vote, on the eve of a national financial panic based on regressive property taxes was a smart thing to do. As they say…….”It takes one to know one.”