Burning my house down

Some kids have been talking about burning my house down. So says Robin Washington of the DNT. He got a call from someone in the know who said a lot of children on the school buses are angered by my snow sculpture. Unlike the Republican who jumped to the conclusion, quite rightly, that my pachyderm was meant to twit the right these kids see the old confederate flag and think I’m cheering on the Dixiecrats who still can’t get over the Civil War.

Robin and I had a long cordial talk. He thought that there were a lot of folks in Duluth who wouldn’t get my point, a point which he surmised right away. Well, I did make a snow sculpture four years ago of Obama’s campaign logo. I made a snow sculpture of Obama himself pondering a globe. I’ve spent six years writing spiteful posts about the Grand Old Party. Heck the year this blog started I made a snow sculpture of Old Abe as he sits under the shelter of the Lincoln Memorial. Continue reading

About our local teacher pension fund

Kudos to the DNT’s Jana Hollingsworth. After one of my posts about pension funds and my experience with the DFTRA I got the impression that she thought it was time she did a little research. Her story in today’s DNT did a very good job explaining how stupidly the pension fund for our Duluth public school teachers has been run at a time when conservative prudence was called for.

Its hard for me to be very sympathetic to the man in charge of the fund. He once wrote a letter to the editor saying it was high time I left the school board because I swore during a Board meeting. (It was because I wanted a levy referendum for more classroom spending placed on the ballot when one prominent Board member was bad mouthing it)

All the time I was busy fighting to have the Red Plan placed on the ballot for fear it would decimate our schools Mr. Stoffel oversaw increased pension outlays to growing numbers of retirees. Now he wants the taxpayers to offset his pension funds losses which can’t be made up because the Red Plan has thinned out ISD 709’s teachers who are DFTRA’s contributors. He’ll be lobbying to have the taxpayers make up for his tardy actions to shore up the fund. Perhaps the state should go into the business of insuring all pension funds both public and private. I’m sure a lot of private pension fund managers would love that kind of insurance.

The poor working teachers in Duluth with 40 kids in their classrooms are carrying a heavy burden and one of their rewards will be a much reduced pension.

“Shortcut to Danger”

From the Timberjay re: one more JCI’s mistep:

FIELD TOWNSHIP – Township residents, alarmed by several accidents involving young drivers on Alango Road, question the St. Louis County School District’s decision to have school buses take the road as a shortcut to the North Woods School.

“We were told there would be no bus traffic on the road,” said Jim Eisner. “But the district is using it big time with at least four buses on that road twice every day.”

District officials say they received assurances from St. Louis County that the road had been upgraded. In addition, the district’s Transportation Director Ed Dorman determined the road was safe.

But officials acknowledge part of their motivation for using the route is to save money. Dorman told school board member Nancy Wall Glowaski that he is under pressure to keep transportation expenses in line, and Superintendent Teresa Knife Chief said using the route for four buses saves the district $12,222 a year.

Safety concerns Continue reading

My Favorite Movie Pt 3 – ctd. (another unedited late night mental ramble)

Its eleven PM the night after I began the above named post. I’ve watched two more great hours of the British series The Hour. This season is every bit as engrossing as the first season. But now on to ramble and postpone sleep for another hour despite the likelihood that my grandsons will wake me early tomorrow.

I suggested that my sculpture and not movies would launch this late night ramble. Yeah, and I found more unexpected back up on the Daily Dish which I will link to before I go to bed.

I mentioned that my sculpture led to a single pro and con email. I’ve posted the pro in full. I won’t do the same with the con. I opened it the moment it came in my in box and just skimmed it. It was full of outrage which was over the top. The lead sentence gives a fair hint at its author’s appoplexy:

“Can you imagine a Duluth where a DFL mule was displayed sporting the Stars and Bars?  The city would be in an uproar. But slandering a symbol of conservatism is a cause to celebrate?  Perhaps a more appropriate sculpture would be one of the DNC Donkey sporting a swastika.”

I was delighted Continue reading

Confession is good for the soul

After my Buddy set me to questioning the police he sent me this questioning doctors.

I suspect that what drew my buddy’s attention to this is the fact that its the story of a Doctor being injured by other doctors. I also took note that the story suggested that new procedures being demanded by Obamacare might reduce some of the tens of thousands of medical mistakes that happen every year in our hospitals.

This post and the one on police preceeding it and the many posts about the mistakes of the Duluth School Board and the Duluth News Tribune to honestly admit Red Plan errors all remind me of something my Dad strongly believed. It happened to be about the efficacy of a Catholic Church practice. This is ironic because despite having two children-in-laws that were Catholic my Dad was no fan of the Roman Catholic Church. Nonetheless he thought that confession was one of the most salutory things that Catholics practiced.

I long ago concluded that one of the worst things about life is the unwillingness to admit mistakes. The police, doctors, teachers, journalists, clergy are all among the worst offenders. I think it helps explain why children are very reluctant to raise their hands to answer a question. The stigma they feel for being wrong even over a trivial question is such that no one is willing to admit ignorance or mistake.

And yet learning can not take place without risking mistakes. Trial and Error have led to much human cultural evolution. Suppressing this in school is not healthy. To my Father the Catholic confession was good for the soul by freeing it to honestly face unpleasant truths. Someday humankind may live in a world less troubled by human frailty. If that happens it will be a much stronger world.

Speedy justice is less expensive justice

My Church’s men’s group had the St. Louis County Sheriff Ross Litman drop by and talk to us last week. He spent a fair amount of time talking about the housing of prisoners at the jails and for good reason. The Trib reports that St. Louis County spent one and a half million extra last year paying for prisoner’s upkeep when the courts should have been finished with them. I presume that waste is sprinkled throughout the state in all 87 counties.

The Courts, which have been underfunded by the legislature simply don’t have the manpower. I should know. I had a civil procedure drag out for a couple years due to under staffing despite having some of the best paid and most competent lawyers bird dogging the case.

And this doesn’t even count prisoners who were incarcerated because of police dishonesty.

Could your local police force be as corrupt as this?

Courtesy of the New York Times by way of my Buddy:

“The fact that our legal system has become so tolerant of police lying indicates how corrupted our criminal justice system has become by declarations of war, “get tough” mantras, and a seemingly insatiable appetite for locking up and locking out the poorest and darkest among us.”

This echos the disturbing testimony of NY cop Adrian Schoolcraft who seems allergic to lies. I heard this on This American Life a couple year’s back. Listen to the podcast here its Act 2.

This helps explain the reasons why our prisons are bloated and bankrupting us while condemning many to the dustbin of life.

My favorite movie – Pt 2 (another unedited late night mental ramble)

Author Harold Holzter makes a strong case for the Cooper’s Union speech being the event that made him President. You could read Doris Kearn’s Goodwin’s book and not come to that conclusion. You would be right to say that had it not been for the Lincoln Douglass Debates, Cooper’s Union would not have happened. You could go back further and say that had Lincoln not seen the slave markets of New Orleans on his one visit to the City in his youth he would never have become President either. But he did become President and he had to grapple with ideas that were foreign to all but a very few Americans and reshape America’s beliefs in the process. What was at the core of this change is what makes me love Groundhog’s Day. Not reinvention, for America was not reinvented by the Civil War. It was redemption. Thomas Jefferson felicitous claim for human rights was hoisted upon Abe Lincoln’s shoulders and given new life. And that is what Harold Holtzer’s book begins to explain. It is a story in part of Abraham Lincoln the historian. Continue reading

My favorite movie – Pt 1 (another late night unedited mental ramble)

I’ve been watching and rewatching some marvelous British Television series lately. Tonight I watched two more hours of “The Hour” on Amazon’s live stream for $1.99 an episode. Its a steal. Last week I finished watching the first season of “Island at War” almost as good. Last night I rewatched the sixth episode of “Call the Midwife” with my daughter who is seeing it for the first time. Like all the other episodes, both first and second time, I teared up. I also got the first season of a good American series finished the other day at about two episodes a night. Its Netflix’s American take on the British political thriller “House of Cards.” The American version stars Kevin Spacey who I saw as an extra in the Disney movie “Iron Will.”

(Will is a so-so movie but it was filmed in Duluth and Two Harbors and it will be at the Zinema some Saturday soon.)

This little post, is an introduction of sorts to a few more to follow. Continue reading

Mel likes it

Most of the people who have looked at my current snow sculpture don’t know what to make of it. I have, however, gotten two emails regarding it – one pro and one con.

Here’s the pro:

Hi, Harry,

Thanks for your marvelous snow sculpture mocking the current Republican Party. You did a great snow job on the party that is all snow job:) I posted my comments about your sculpture at ” G.O.P. – The revenge of the Confederacy” at

You might be interested also in my blog entry ” Elephants sue GOP” at

I hope the weather stays below freezing for a long, long time so that your sculpture lasts a long, long time.

– Mel

A President’s Day Salute

To say Dina Martina is an acquired taste is a little like saying horseradish is an acquired taste. I first tasted horseradish in Shrimp dip in grade school. I loved it without realizing just what it was that gave the sauce its kick. I acquired my enjoyment of Dina just as quickly. So maybe its not all that acquired.

The CEO’s blinders

A friend emailed me a link to this bit of back patting from David Ross of Duluth’s Chamber of Commerce. Mr. Ross is in a defensive crouch because he has not condemned a tax increase from Governor Dayton and some of his members are not happy about this. Ross points to his opposition to a great many local tax increase proposals. My friend notes that despite all this swaggering the Chamber’s CEO doesn’t make a peep about the biggest local tax increase of them all – the nearly 12% tax increase by the Duluth School Board. She wonders why Mr. Ross is so silent about this.

Maybe its because commenting on it might remind people how shamelessly and vigorously he supported the Red Plan that has had such disastrous consequences for our local public schools.

In late 2012, Mayor Ness and his leadership team announced they planned to raise Duluth’s property taxes by 2.9 percent in 2013. The Chamber was the one organization that publicly opposed the tax increase. We publicly challenged the Mayor to reduce the tax increase. Many of our members appreciated the Chamber’s advocacy.

The Chamber was applauded.

Similarly, one month ago, the City of Duluth announced it intended to raise the City’s Comfort Systems rate for natural gas by 5 percent. Again, the Chamber was the one organization that publicly opposed the rate increase. We publicly challenged the Duluth Public Utilities Commission to delay any rate increase until more citizen feedback could be provided. Many of our members appreciated the Chamber’s advocacy.

The Chamber was congratulated.

Likewise, a few weeks ago, the Duluth City Council was poised to pass into law the City’s new and more restrictive sign ordinance. Once more, the Chamber was the one organization that publicly challenged the City to delay implementing the ordinance until more business community input could be provided. The City agreed to delay implementing the ordinance. Many of our members appreciated the Chamber’s advocacy. The Chamber was affirmed.

The pernicious effects of the GOP getting all Dixiecrat on the nation.

After inviting Southern Whites into the Party leading them to take it over and kick out distastful Republicans its worth pondering the results. The last post pointed out the new more war like GOP. This one is about one of the worst domestic mistakes the inflicted on the nation.

I used to call myself a Rockefeller Republican. Certainly in 1964 when he fell to Barry Goldwater I supported the New Yorker. Then 1968 happened and Tricky Dick Nixon ran a campaign to peel southern voters away from George Wallace. He did it by promoting “law and order.” To notherners it was a message to keep the drug addled college kids from rioting in the streets and to Southerners it meant keeping blacks out of sight. Rocky, who never gave up his wish to be President, became a hardliner in 1973 as this NPR story today relates.

It was a good liberal who took us from a nation of 300,000 convicts to a nation with 2 million largely non threatening druggies in costly prisons. He did it because that’s what Nixon and Reagan’s new southern strategy called for. Million of blacks have been put in prison and no longer can vote. It costs us a ton to keep them there. Its more expensive than putting them through public school but it keeps millions of blacks a few steps behind the rest of us law abiding white folks.

How Ironic that Rocky would have left the nation this inheritance. Experts saw its uselessness early on. Political operatives (especially GOP operatives) saw its political usefulness early on too. Guess which set of folks prevailed?

To honor my Grandfather can I even remain a Republican?

As i’ve repeated ad nauseum my Grandfather set me straight when I was in Junior High. He only voted for one Democrat and it was the worse decision of his life. He voted for Woodrow Wilson because he pledged to keep America out of War. By the time I was in junior High the damned Democrats had gotten America into four wars. WW1, WW2, Korea and Vietnam.

My Grandfather was a Kansas Republican and I heard his warning echoed in 1976 when Kansan and VP candidate Bob Dole debated Democrat VP Candidate Fritz Mondale. He inadvertently outraged veterans across America by saying Democrats started wars.

Since that time Republicans in office have started no less than three wars. Iraq One and Two and Afghanistan. They have out Woodrow Wilsoned the Democrats that my Grandfather warned me about. So should I honor my Grandfather by supporting Republians because of Grandfather’s experience with Democrats during his lifetime or support Democrats today because of my experience with Republican wars over the course of the last twenty years?

What if the “Pursuit of Pleasure” was in the Bill of Rights?

This is another irreverent thought I had during snow sculpting.

The Second Amendment’s defense has been financed by gun manufacturers for decades now much as the fight against nationalized health was financed by Doctors. The latter is no longer the case. Doctors have come to their senses and realize some sort of socialized medicine makes sense. Not so the National Rifle Association.

When I was a kid the NRA (gun manufacturers) warned that we needed our guns to thwart the Red Menace (Commies). Somehow all the gun owners would unite like the militias of old. When that argument paled it was the protection of the home from the much feared criminal class. We would need guns to protect our castles.

Now we need guns on our hips to protect us from predators in our midst. The NRA which has managed to sell as many guns as there are Citizens of the US wants us all armed in case a random shooter starts banging away. Boy would I love to be in a dark theater with a hundred well armed conceal and carriers when a lone gunman starts shooting up the place. Geez when a dozen police start shooting at a bad guy there’s no telling how many innocent citizens will get shot up in friendly fire.

Ah but we have a Second Amendment to make it impossible to rationally pull back from the arms race the NRA has helped foster. So what, I wondered, would the Tobacco Lobby have managed if the pursuit of happiness was a right. Tobacco makes people happy. The Pursuit Amendment would guarantee smoking rights and snoose rights. Efforts to curtail tobacco products would be dead in the water. Poor Big Tobacco. The needed an amendment.