My Book list for 2012

I just finished my last cover to cover book for the year the one on Thaddeus Stevens. That prompted me to fumble around with my old website www.snowbizz.com. I stopped updating it regularly when I started this blog in 2006. That was also the year I set up a Facebook Page. Both of them were intended to give my second fleeting campaign for Congress some Internet legs. The Blog took. Facebook faded, however, I may reconstitute it as a close family and friends site since my daughter posts a steady stream of photos of my grandsons on her Facebook Page. Geez, I hate being forced to shed my comfortable old fuddy duddy.

Long ago I tried to recall all the books I’d read (other than the many children and young adult books I read to my own kids) over the course of my life. It wasn’t so hard to do this because I began compiling a reading list when I was 29. Other than two years of my Red Plan fight I kept reading a steady stream of mostly nonfiction works. My snowbizz reading list page is here and this is the list of the 2012 additions:

Walter Mondale, The Good Fight…………………Walter Mondale
Hubert Humphrey a Biography……………………Carl Solberg
Lyndon Johnson The Passage of Power…………….Robert Caro
The Political Career of Floyd B. Olson………….George H. Mayer
Lincoln, Team of Rivals……………………….Doris Kearns Goodwin
The Devil in the White City……………………Erik Larson
Thaddeus Stevens 19th Century Egalitarian……….Hans L. Trefousse

I think its complete but I also thought it was complete last night but then this morning I remembered the Robert Caro book so I had to go back and add it to the page.

The first two books were read for background on the book I’ve been laboring and stalling over for the past six years. It helped derail my 2006 campaign for Congress. This year my travails over some lousy contractors derailed my research on the scandal. Oh yeah, it also was a good excuse to drop my threatened third run for Congress. That threat helped boost my loyal readers in January and February from 8 to a dozen but the readership steadily dropped after that. It’s funny, but it looks like December’s readers will top all other months this year. I may end up with 13 for the month! That’s probably bad luck. Some of them, like my Buddy, have to hold their noses when they peer into Lincoln Democrat.

I’ve basically been retired since I was about 35. You’d think I’d have plenty of time to write my own books but since I turned a real retirement age I’ve sort of gone into super-retirement and been busier than ever. Finding time to research and write a book just keeps getting harder. Even now I feel a little guilty because the two cutest grandson’s in the world are down in the basement mesmerized by television.

Ah, but this post was supposed to be about the update of my reading list. A post about this year’s progress (or lack of it) on my my own writing project will have to wait until I get a little more grandson time.

A chat about opinion page and other boozey things

When my wife and I went up to the Mt. Royal Bottle Shop to pick up four bottles of wine for the Duluth-Superior Symphony fundraiser next week I saw Mike Miernicki manning the till. I used to substitute teach for Mike and now he’s on the School Board. He recommended some wine and I reminded him that I wanted to have a cup of coffee with him sometime.

He told me that the young fellow who was working with was a Marshall School Graduate and told me he was a bright kid as he explained how to ring up the case discount I got for adding another eight bottles for my own consumption. I told the youngster that I knew Mike had a soft heart when it came to bright students. I also added that unlike other teachers Mike knew how to use a cash register. Then I joked that Mike might not like today’s Duluth News Trib opinion page. He said he hadn’t read it yet and I mentioned the letter to the editor which I told him I could have written. Mike (Mern to his friends) asked what it said and I told him it said that the members of the Board who weren’t Art Johnston should……. Mike finished my sentence – resign. Yup, I admitted.

Here’s a sample:

When you allow a for-profit corporation to sell a plan with inaccurate, misleading and sophist arguments, and you refuse to examine the alternatives or listen to an opposing view because that view is branded as dissension instead of a responsible and reasonable alternative, when the effort is more about vilifying the opposition than dialoguing with them, then we get what we got. The taxpayers in the district were blindfolded to the details of the process. What did these buildings get us that we didn’t have? Nothing!

Mike won’t be quitting and he shouldn’t. (I hope the ones the letter writer should have singled out will face the voters next fall) He’ll have to deal with the near impossible task of ironing out a lot of public distrust. I don’t think the newly announced good will community meetings that are to be scheduled in January will help much.

I also told him I really appreciated the new Steve Lindstrom cartoon today even though I was sure Mike wouldn’t find it helpful. He asked what it was about. I told him he’d have to check his own paper. I can’t show it either. I wish the Trib put them on routinely.

Procedure will kill a comprise on the Fiscal cliff…

…at least initially:

I think Mark Tomasky is absolultey right about this:

“Never have the priorities for survival and success of a major party’s Washington politicians been so utterly at odds with the priorities required for the country’s survival and success.”

Tomasky also says:

The only thing the Republicans are ready to play, as usual, is roulette, with the cocked gun against the country’s temple, unfortunately, and not their own. It’s worth taking a moment in this context to consider: Never have the priorities for survival and success of a major party’s Washington politicians been so utterly at odds with the priorities required for the country’s survival and success. These Washington Republicans represent the one-third of the country that hates government, despises Obama, and considers obstruction victory.

The rational two-thirds wants compromise, good-faith bargaining, higher taxes on the wealthy, a reasonably strong safety net, and lower defense spending. But the obstructionist one-third wants the opposite. McConnell and Boehner aren’t ideologically committed to that one-third in the way that Jim DeMint and Paul Ryan are, but so far, they have never once stood up to it for the country’s sake. We’ll find out this weekend who they really are.

My Buddy regularly accuses me of having a “hard on” about the GOP. Continue reading

Letter to Mark Lanthier

Mark Lanthier, Duluth, Minnesota
What a hypocrite he is the one who did not want the children of Duluth to have safe schools. It is in the same yard that had sign that said no to safe school. Shame on you Harry!

Dear Mark,

I read your comments regarding my not caring about the safety of Duluth’s Children on a webpage with a picture of my recent snow sculpture. Your comment was bitter and unfair. What happened at Sandy Hook was a punch to my gut – all of our guts. Back when I served on the school board I visited dozens of kindergarten classes and brought my favorite books to read and a pair of gorilla slippers. I love little kids and I take my own kindergarten grandson to school every Wednesday. His picture would fit in perfectly with the twenty photos that the Duluth News Tribune recently put on its front page.

Your beef with me is over the Red Plan and my continuing complaint that Duluth didn’t get to vote on it and my well publicized suspicion that the Red Planners were repeatedly dishonest.

One of the many claims of the supporters of the Red Plan was that our schools were unsafe. To remedy this they intended to make it easier to monitor visitors. This was a worthy goal. However, it did not take 259 million dollars to install new doors and cameras to accomplish this.

One of the many requests of Red Plan critics was to scale back the plan and Dr. Dixon convinced the editors at the Duluth News Tribune that he had worked hard to make the critics happy. Not hardly. After feigning compromise the cost of Dixon’s Red Plan grew by an additional $56 million to 315 million.

Do you truly believe that our Red Plan schools are safer today than the old schools were ten years ago now that high school class sizes routinely hit 40 students? (It was a rare class that had 34 kids in it when I was on the School Board) How has the overcrowding affected safety?

I have a friend to teaches at one of our high schools and she is fearful and discouraged. With a much worse teacher to student ratio this is understandable. The loss of teachers is one legacy of the Red Plan although it was unintended. This should not have come as a surprise. Our District told the State we would finance the Red Plan in part by taking five million out of classroom spending to pay for the debt on the Red Plan. We told the state we could do this because the plan would save us money by, among other things, saving a million in energy spending each year (reduced square footage to heat and cool and clean) and two million in annual staff savings. They gambled and they lost. They have to pay off the bonds so teachers were cut to make the payments leaving us with 40 kids to a classroom. That has proven to be a safety concern.

This year we’ve had numerous stories in the Duluth News Tribune about hostilities between our two new high schools. They have also reported that Denfeld has witnessed a number of fights. The year before they often reported that there were fights at Woodland Middle School where the District moved kids in a willy nilly rush to accommodate a speeded up construction schedule.

Fathers and Mothers and children crave stability. The problems associated with the Red Plan have made families desperate to abandon the District. Student test results, to the extent that they mean anything, have gotten worse. Ah, but the schools are newer and shinier.

My top motivation was not fighting the Red Plan. It was fighting for our right to vote on it. I might have voted for it myself given the chance even though it was by far the biggest public school construction plan in the history of the State of Minnesota. My second motive was to insure that our taxes went first to people not bricks and mortar. As for safety, another high priority, that could have been accomplished at a fraction of the cost of the Red Plan.

I may not be through with the Duluth Schools, Mark, so I’d like you to take what I’ve written to heart before you repeat the accusation that I don’t care about our children’s safety.

Sincerely,

Harry Welty, snow sculptor, teacher, grandfather

Best reading of the day

I thought it would be interesting to see what gun rights folks thought about LaPierre’s press conference today.

Googled gun rights blogs and found this “top 25”

The fourth one down the list “View from the Porch” had comments from readers. A lot of them panned LaPierre.

A couple of examples:

*I would be shocked — SHOCKED! — if Wayne ever figured out the difference between “pro-gun” and “republican.”

*”Do we think there would have been a message that wouldn’t have been ridiculed and ripped apart?”

Dude, this isn’t Democratic Underground. These are a bunch of wookie-suited Libertarians and conservative gun nuts.

If WE can see the flaws in this argument and the stumbling, halting, awkward way it was presented, what do you think it looks like to the OTHER side?

Standin’ by your man ain’t doin’ him no favors when what he needs is a rehab clinic.

*So… two questions

1) What’s your favorite non-NRA gun rights lobbying organization I can go become a member of?

2) What can we do to let NRA leadership publicly know that that response was a bunch idiotic bullshit we don’t agree with?

*TheSev said…
Great freedom organization ya got there Wayne.

The answer is more big Gov’t programs to solve a problem easily taken care of by the citizens.

Obviously Wayne has allies who embarassed by him and that gives me hope that he’ll be overruled and some sensible laws might be considered. BTW Wayne evidently claimed that there were 20,000 laws in the US to restrict gun use. I have no idea how many there are but one commentator laughed that off as an asinine exaggeration. I guess Wayne is a gun right’s hysteric.

The NRA needs more armed guards at their press conferences

I’m listening to the beginning of Wayne LaPierre’s press conference. It started with his hinting that we need as many armed guards at elementary schools as the President gets and even big public sporting events.

He wants the kind of national data base on the mentally ill that his organization has fought against accumulating on gun ownership.

Its video games that have caused all our problems. Unlike target practice with AR-15’s these unacceptable forms of recreation.

Its the media’s fault…….not the gun manufacturers. Who can protect us from mothers who buy six powerful guns from getting herself shot by her son and using her guns on children. The NRA’s push to arm teachers. That’s the solution.

A second heckler…….too bad the armed guards can’t protect Wayne. You’d think his press conference was another vulnerable kindergarten class.

Wayne is agonizing about the demonization of guns…….Remember “Guns don’t kill people. people kill people.”

Wayne’s solution sounds like its leaning toward that little Georgia city that passed an ordinance to require all its residents to own a gun.

Grover Norquist would crap in his pants if we raised the taxes to hire a hundred thousand more armed guards for the nations schools. Maybe not. Apparently he said Congressman Boener’s Plan B would be OK after all. Oh, except Norquist has got the Republican congressman paranoid that his Tea Party pals would bump them off in a primary that they wouldn’t support Boener.

Wayne wants “Blanket safety.” Let’s put a gun under the blanket of every child so that they can kill every monster that comes out of their closet to get them in the middle of the night.

So the NRA went off line to make sure it didn’t say anything stupid in the immediate aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy. Nice of him to wait a week before he said anythings stupid.

His hint at the beginning is just how he finished. More armed guards.

Re: the previous post.

I am flattered that the Duluth News Tribune has featured my snow sculpture for two days in a row. Below you will find the photo someone submitted for today’s paper. I’m always concerned about being uncharitable to those who would probably rather not have me keep biting their hand. I like, and have always liked, the folks at the Trib, even those, who began highlighting my quirkier qualities to my political detriment. I’ve got a very thick skin and I do have a sharp bite for unfair or poorly thought out criticism.

I don’t expect any mea culpa’s from anybody where the Red Plan is concerned although I think there are a lot of them that ought to be handed out. That helps explain why I writing my Red Plan posts a little like professional wrestlers employ submission holds.

I’ll keep baring my fangs when I feel sufficiently provoked but the Trib’s willingness to bury the hatchet somewhere other than my head is gratefully appreciated.

Ignorance is bliss

Dr. Dixon; whom the DNT’s editors believed a few years ago when he told them that the School Board would soon have 32 million in Red Plan savings to spend; also said that school board member Gary Glass’s suggestion was not possible for the school district. Gary’s suggestion was to do what any homeowner might do to cut monthly payments by extending a home loan’s payback period. Dixon’s face saving claim has now, in his absence, become gospel.

We will evidently never find out if Gary’s three-year-old suggestion has merit because Dixon’s leftover bureaucrat doesn’t want to find out if we could save money to reduce the District’s horrendous class sizes.

This is from the DNT’s story yesterday about about the just approved 12% tax hike for the schools (over and above all the other Red Plan tax hikes)

“Member Art Johnston said Red Plan consulting firm and manager Johnson Controls should have to answer for its claim that the plan would remain ‘tax neutral.’ He said he’d rather extend payment on the 20-year bonds to 30 years than raise taxes. District business services director Bill Hanson said the district has researched that, and it wouldn’t be cost-effective.”

Hanson, the man who stood behind all of Dixon’s bloated and broken financial promises [Remember how proud Dixon was to have compromised with Red Plan critics who wanted a smaller plan but then boosted Red Plan’s cost by fifty million?] asserts without bothering to investigate that extending loans won’t cut current expenses. The man is a genius. He would have done Bernie Madoff proud.

Anybody on the School Board who puts faith in this lack of initiative should have their head examined.

The first beneficiaries of the Second Amendment…

…owned muskets and guns that had to be reloaded after a single shot and had to make their own bullets.

“I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors,” – Thomas Jefferson

Sandy Hook on my mind

Tonight two women knocked on our front door and asked whether I would mind if they placed 26 red roses below the snow sculpture I finished working on tonight. I choked up a bit and told them I would be happy for them too do so but to watch their footing on the slippery loose snow I had carved off of my original pile of snow.

Nick Cooper from Townsquare Media stopped by and took a few pictures of me chiseling away then explained my work for the readers of several local radio stations he does work for.

Perfect Duluth Day also snapped a picture of it when I was at my five-year-old grandson’s kindergarten class yesterday helping make gingerbread houses.

Compare and contrast newspaper vigilance – Nay

Published December 18, 2012, 12:00 AM
Our view: Let’s work with district this time
The tax increase promises to be a big one.

(I love the last sentence: “In other words, more of us can do what too few of us did when the Red Plan was being written.”)

The tax increase promises to be a big one.”

Double digits. Nearly 12 percent. And on the heels of an expensive, long-range, building-improvement program that already taxed Duluth school district taxpayers. Continue reading

My Buddy thinks I was unfair to the NRA

He doesn’t drop a kindergartner off at school every Wednesday morning.

From a story on the rampage:

The tiny victims were riddled by as many as 11 bullets.

Lanza forced his way inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School and opened fire with a .223-caliber Bushmaster rifle, an assault weapon that can fire up to six bullets per second. The victims were shot “all over,” said Connecticut state Medical Examiner H. Wayne Carter II. “All over . . . this is probably the worst I’ve ever seen.”