Snow in the Mountains

We landed at LAX last night. Today is the annual orgy of self congratulation for the film industry called the Academy Awards. I’ll try to talk Claudia into taking a tour of LA today but that may not be easy. Its actually cold her (if 40 degrees F is cold) and we’ve got a 13 hour flight ahead of us with lots of other tours built into the month that follows.

Our airport hotel looks out on the bricks of another hotel but from an angle we have a view of snow covered mountains. Two feet of snow was dumped on them last night and the snowboarders are going wild.

Our server at breakfast today told us he’s been in LA for fifteen years (to escape the cold of Washington DC!) and he’s never experienced such cold weather has he’s had to endure for the past year and a half.

From the Past

Sent to me by an email friend:

News Tribune

Feb. 23, 1971

* Members of the Duluth School Board were asked yesterday to support legislation to increase the state sales tax from 3 percent to 4 percent. The request came from Duluth Councilman Leo McDonnell, president of the League of Minnesota Municipalities, which is recommending the proposal.

* Duluth city and school officials agreed last night to delay construction of a pedestrian overpass on Central Entrance to serve the new Central High School. They decided more study is needed to determine whether it is the best solution.


While packing I’ve been busy watching:

Wisconsin – Even extremists who hide their intentions to get elected may have a concern that is worthy of consideration.

North Africa and the Middle East – I believe people should be free to make their own mistakes. The freedom itself is not a mistake.

Duluth School District – Dixon is still telling us how great his new buildings are going to be for our children. Meanwhile he’s planning a retreat back to Faribault or some such place. (The Budgeteer must be hiding it on their website or I’d link to his latest)

Christchurch, New Zealand – Crimeny!

I hate the thought of reading any online stuff about Duluth. It would be a terrible way to distract myself from a once in a lifetime vacation. Posts on the Red Plan may be very infrequent. Let us hope so.

I leave you with this song lyric from Australia’s Slim Dusty, a country/outback/ phenomenon from the 1940’s through the 80’s. I read a Scottish woman’s fond reminiscence of singing it in her Classroom as a child in the 1960’s.

G’day G’day

G’day g’day, how ya goin’, what d’ya know, well strike a light
G’day g’day, and how ya go-o-o-in’
Just say g’day g’day g’day and you’ll be right

Isn’t great to be an Aussie
Takin’ a walk along the street
Lookin’ in shops or buyin’ a paper
Stoppin’ and havin’ a yarn with people that you meet

Down at the pub or at a party
Whenever you’re stuck for what to say
If you wanna be dinky-di, why don’t you give it a try
Look ’em right in the eye and say goo’day

G’day g’day, how ya goin’, hat d’ya know, well strike a light
G’day g’day, and how ya go-o-o-in’
Just say g’day g’day g’day and you’ll be right

Now when Italians meet they all go crazy
The blokes all like to hug each other too
The Yanks invented “hi” “and see you later”
While the Pommy will shake your hand and say “how do you do”

Now watch out for a Frenchmen or he’ll kiss you
The Spaniards go for “Olah” and “Olay”
But in the land of the cockatoo, pole cats and the didgeridoo
When you meet an Aussie ten-to-one here’s what he’ll say

G’day g’day, how ya goin’, what d’ya know, well strike a light
G’day g’day, and how ya go-o-o-in’
Just say g’day g’day g’day and you’ll be right

It’s a greeting that you’ll hear across Australia
From Geraldton to Goulburn, Gundagai
It’s as dinkum as the Dingo and the Dahlia
And you spell it with a G, apostrophe, a D-A-Y

Goo’day goo’day, how ya goin’, what d’ya know, well strike a light
G’day g’day, and how ya go-o-o-in’
Just say g’day g’day g’day and you’ll be right

Confusing Ike with Dutch

From the Dish’s “quote for the day.”

“When I heard about Eisenhower’s presidential accomplishments—holding down the national debt, keeping inflation in check, and fighting for balanced budgets—it hit me that we’d clearly gotten their names mixed up at some point. I couldn’t believe we’d been associating terms like ‘visionary,’ ‘principled,’ and ‘bold’ with President Reagan. That wasn’t him at all—that was Ike. We deeply regret misattributing such a distinguished and patriotic legacy to Mr. Reagan. We really screwed up,” – Reince Priebus, new RNC Chair

The Shrinking percentage of Federal taxes compared to GDP

From a number’s man.

“According to the historical tables, federal revenues will only consume 14.4 percent of GDP this year – the lowest percentage since 1950. The postwar average is about 18.5 percent and there were many very prosperous years when revenues were considerably higher. In the late 1990s, they averaged more than 20 percent of GDP, which was a key reason why we ran budget surpluses.”

But then Eisenhower was a Commie

“This is what I mean by my constant insistence on ‘moderation’ in government. Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes that you can do these things. Among them are a few Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or businessman from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid,” –

president Eisenhower, as a counterpoint to FDR.

Borrowed from the Dish. Demonstrating yet again why GOP pundits froth at the mouth whenever Andrew Sullivan pokes holes in their heads to let the air out.

All Shook Up

In September Christchurch, New Zealand was hit by an earthquake as we were beginning to research a trip to Australia and New Zealand. We are scheduled to spend a night in Christchurch in a little over a week.

No one lost their life in September. Christchurch wasn’t so lucky a couple hours ago. The symbol of their good fortune in September was a cathedral. This time its steeple has toppled over.

Forty years ago today

From the DNT’s “bygone” section:

News Tribune, Feb. 19, 1971

Negotiators for Duluth teachers told the School Board last night they are giving top priority this year to reduction of class sizes. Salaries were not discussed at the meeting, the first to discuss 1971-72 contracts.

I wonder if Frank Wanner helped set the priorities?

An Anti-Tea Party?

I’ve heard pundits argue whether the public is going to be sympathetic to Wisconsin’s public employee union protests or unsympathetic. Both sides make plausible arguments. I will only say that my initial reaction was that this was likely to be a new Tea Party of the left which could undo much of what Fox News…..sorry, I mean the Tea Party, did in the 2010 elections.

Added to stories like this one about the Republican Congress the GOP Congress might look like a group photo of 300 Dan Quayles standing in the glare of headlights come 2012.

Upping the ante in the budget faceoff, the Obama administration warned that workers who distribute Social Security benefits might be furloughed if congressional Republicans force cuts in government spending.

Wisconsin, a state that wasn’t in such bad shape…

…until Republican Scott Walker was elected Governor.

I asked Vic to tell me if he knew whether Governor Walker campaigned on a platform of repealing the collective bargaining rights of public employees. The answer seems to be not really or maybe just barely if you could read between the lines. Thanks for the link, Vic.

As I said in the recent post about the Middle East I believe people have a right to chart their own course in elections even stupid courses. It strikes me that in this case, candidate Walker was dishonest and didn’t give his voters the chance to choose the course he’s taking them on. Apparently he was so intent on winning an election he decided not to be honest about his plans. That’s strike one.

Strike two: What Walker is doing is attempting to bring about a fundamental change to the midwest’s political landscape by importing controversial “right to work” legislation from the states in the deep South where it has been largely confined. This is a Roe vs. Wade sort of surprise which is more power grab than anything else. Rahm Emmanuel famously said: “you never want to let a crises go to waste.” I believe the GOP was outraged when President Obama pushed his health care agenda under this theory – except that everyone knew that’s what Obama planned to do. The President didn’t deceive any voters.

Strike Three: Scott Walker is making things in Wisconsin incomporably worse to please the likes of jerks like Grover Norquist. I think these four comments from Wisconsinites disagreeing with Andrew Sullivan make a lot of sense.

By the way. I have a long standing respect for collective bargaining even as I often have little but contempt for the way it is conducted and the way some people (elected officials primarily) cave in to union demands.

BTW My Dad was on the public employee union side of the bargaining table. I was on the side of the elected officials meaning (I think) the side of the voters.

Would Obama seriously curb ruinous entitlements?

That is a million dollar question and I don’t have the answer to it. I have believed it to be true and have believed it was his inclination. I could be wrong and politics may drive him away from such a course if he determines short term political advantage is more important.

I have been pleased that a few brave Republicans began hinting that they would be grown up and negotiate the curbing of entitlements even if it meant putting some new taxes on the table. I was wrong to think that Republicans would dare stand up to the the fools who drive their party. That’s apparent from this letter which begins:

Dear Grover, Can I stick my nose any further up your underpants?

Go Democracy!

This will be my only post on the Middle East before I turn in for the night.

In case my fight for our vote on the Red Plan hasn’t make it plain I believe in the right of people to excercise their right to make choices at the ballot box. I don’t even care if they make poor decisions so long as they make the decision. Sadly many Americans aren’t so keen on democracy for others if it means those others might elect leaders who disagree with the U.S. I especially have in mind the crowd of yes men who cheered for the invasion of Iraq because he was going to bring Democracy to the Middle Eas. Its funny how so many of them are now bemoaning the possibility that a dozen Arab nations might become Democratic and then work against our interests. Yes they might and they have every right to do so.

In my humble opinion President Obama has acted in a very prudent manner and taken the side of democracy. He might as support it because he has very little leverage anyway and by supporting democracy he’s honoring the legacy and ideals of America’s founders.

What ignorance, greed and vanity have wrought

I have it on fairly sound authority that a lot of Duluth teachers are actually rooting for the voters to turn down the proposed vote on an operating levy. If this is true its a sign of a kind of masochism. Although I can’t see a means for the levy to pass it is desperately needed.

When the School Board attempted to pass a higher levy last there were calls from supporters not to punish the students for the School Board’s arrogance. It succeeded in getting the lowest of three levy rates passed – a rate that fell a little short of keeping the District’s budget up at the rate of inflation.

Dr. Dixon will be gone. His enablers on the Board are likely to evaporate with him in the next election. Only innocents will be harmed should a levy fail.

I know, taxpayers and voters have every reason to vote against a levy. I’m personally seething over the stupidity of our School Board. When I heard about our teachers opposing a levy I found myself trembling. In 2001 I was on the Duluth School Board and I desperately wanted a levy to pass. I made quite a scene when one of my fellow Board members refused to vote to give the decision to the voters.

Even when that levy failed or District offered an educational program to the one this School Board is able to offer. Every tea leaf I read suggests a continued downward spiral. Who in this community has any standing to ask voters to reconsider their fury? Not Dr. Dixon. Not the Chamber of Commerce. Not the Duluth Federation of Teachers. Not the School Board. Perhaps not even the Teachers and Parents. Only the children have any claim to our affection. They are the only innocents in the plundering of Duluth. Damn the people who brought this misery on them through ignorance, greed and vanity.

going cold turkey on political commentary

Its been a busy couple of weeks news-wise just as I’ve been preoccupied with packing up for a month long trip to Australia. I’ve had a chance to read it but not blog about it. Early in the week I was hit with five days straight of grandparenting followed by a two day finale taking care of a feverish 13 month old. Most days I was working on reports mandated by state law covering my responsiblity as a conservator for my Mother. Yesterday was mostly devoted to my being the “pronouncer” at the Regional Spelling Bee which ended up being a marathon with a dozen excellent spellers at the end. And today began with my donating a pint of blood followed by going through my taxes followed by serving a meal at the Damiano Center’s Soup Kitchen. Then I had to come home and clean my house after neglecting it for a couple busy weeks so that we could wine and dine some friends while boring them with the itinerary for our month-long trip.

I’m just grateful that when four days of snow caused Snowbama’s head to fall off it didn’t roll into the intersection. That would not have been helpful.

I am trying to convince myself not to post blogs about politics while I am away. I’ll be taking a computer with me across the equator but I’d like to devote all posts to the Antipodes. I’ll try not to read the DNT and any late breaking carping about the latest blow to public education in Duluth may have to await my return. My blood pressure has been trending up and I’d like to bring it back down. A travelogue might offer a nice temporary respite from political aggravation. Ah, but I have seven days to grouse before I leave. I’ll try to make the most of it.

Find out what Grant drinks and send it to my other commanders

My gadfly critic, Vic, thinks Blogger Andrew Sullivan is “tendentious.”

Here’s my reply to an email Vic sent me this morning in which one of Vic’s old law school classmates disses a Sullivan blog post I sent Vic.


I’ve read Sullivan over the same period of time. I’m unimpressed with your classmates analysis. I’ve read much the same from other “conservatives.” What you sent me the other day is one of the reasons I find Sullivan worth reading. He doesn’t join one side of a cheering section and park his brains in the locker room as though all that was at stake was bragging rights for winning a sport’s contest.

The people who read his Daily Dish regularly and find flaws in his logic and evidence get quoted on the Dish and he owns up to his errors. Show me a true “conservative” voice who does the same. Until GOP leaders dissassociate themselves from the Limbaughs, Hannitys and Becks they cannot seriously lead us anywhere as a nation. There are a few new Republicans appearing on the edges who are untainted with the GOP’s partisan dip-shittery. Mitch Daniels, Gov. Christie, the ambassador from China who’s stepping down to make a run at the Presidency. They are the hope for the GOP’s future. FOX pundits are political pornographers and the pols who refuse to disavow them are video sluts.

I do admire some GOP old timers like former Senators Rudman and Simpson. You might find Alan Simpson’s comments today on NPR interesting:

Sure, Sullivan suffers from HIV but I’d paraphrase Lincoln when he commented on U.S. Grant’s alledged alcholism. If it [homosexuality] makes men like Sulivan think, then find out who he has sex with, and send them to the other pundits!”


Here’s what the law school classmate had to say:

On Wed, Feb 16, 2011 at 7:40 AM, Vic wrote:

From one of my law school classmates:

Sullivan is even more confusing for me than Arianna. Back in the 1990s he was basically a sensible person apart from the ‘gay’ situation. Someplace along the way BDS [Bush Derangement Syndrome] became even more serious for him than HIV and his world became more unreal. I can understand being critical of G.W. Bush and some of his policies but Sullivan totally ignored the obvious deficiencies in Obama.


Here’s the post in question in which Sullivan defends his previous castigation of Obama for his lousy budget plan but then defends Obama as our best hope for rationale fiscal discipline.

—– Original Message —–
From: Vic
To: L (the law school classmate)
Sent: Wednesday, February 16, 2011 1:33 AM
Subject: The Defense Of Obama’s Fiscal Cowardice – The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan


JCI could sell them air conditioners

I’m nearly done reading my fifth or sixth book on the lands “Down Under.” This one is a very nice accompaniment to In Tasmania and the two books I’ve just finished reading one on the flora and fauna of New Zealand and the other on the same topic about Australia. Its called Carniverous Nights. Its about a couple arm chair naturalists who got the yen to search for the recently extinct Tasmanian Tiger. There may have been a couple still alive when I was born in the 1950’s. Had the Tasmanian legislature not voted to put a 1 pound bounty on them in 1890 the last known one would not have died in a zoo in 1933.

I just finished reading a chapter on the River Styx a stream where the worlds tallest trees are being logged for paper pulp. The tallest trees no longer exist. One was measured at 470 feet tall which would be higher than the tallest red woods. Other smaller Eucalyptus Regnans exist but they are being mowed down to be replaced by tree farms. I may try to take a side trip to get a look at them when I’m there in a month’s time.

Immediately after finishing the chapter I hurried up to my computer and found this in my favorite blog. Its a three minute promo worth every second. Its about the Amazon. We could have cheaper hamburgers if we’re allowed to chop it down too. No doubt JCI could sell air conditioners to the ranchers.