The GOP’s 80 billion, oops – 2 trillion, oops – 6 trillion war

Back in 2002 Newsweek’s economist Robert Samuelson shrugged at the estimated $80 billion cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I’ve never forgotten that poor prediction which helped assure me we could handle Iraq. He was very wrong and he admitted this in 2007 in a column I’ve only now just discovered.

But even his 2007 mea culpa was off by 100 or 200%.

Where are the Duluth News Tribune Editors?

They are at a public shaming of Duluth school board members.

I’m far and away the City of Duluth’s top shamer of the Duluth School Board and have been for seven years. As the top shamer I’m not very impressed with the Tribune editors day-late, dollar-short shaming today. Its almost as though finding a little fault with the current crop of Board members is the editors attempt to rejoin the community of Red Plan grumps. In so doing they are not unlike some cowardly kids in the circle around a playground fight telling the combatants to beat the crud out of the other kid. Its a safe thing to do.

The problem is that the crime the Trib called out was pretty minor. School Board members not showing up at a particular school’s public meeting.

There were two such crimes listed. First non attendance at a Rockridge School meeting where one City Councilor took umbrage at their absence..

Well here’s the exculpatory reply to the complaint. The building is no longer a school. Sure its school property and the School Board will have the ultimate say on its disposal but keep this in mind. The City has covered for the school district time and time again where the Red Plan is concerned. For once it makes sense that the City take the lead on a school district property. The city will have to deal with the zoning issues that are no longer a concern to the District other than to grease its ability to get rid of yet one more unwanted piece of property.

The City Councilor who made the complaint was not on the City Council when the Red Plan got under way so she could perhaps be forgiven for being irked at the School Board’s unanimous absence from the meeting. But then again, past City Councilors let previous School Board’s off for far more serious zoning and construction issues. The School Board has simply learned to ignore the City Council because of the Council’s insistence on the separation of turf.

Secondly the Editors complained that only three School Board members were present at the Congdon School meeting. To start with one of my email buddies noted with some sarcasm that it seemed the Trib has given a lot more attention to the loss of a hockey rink at Congdon than it did the impact of the Red Plan on many other schools. But that’s not really the point. The point is that three Board members did attend, almost half the Board. That ain’t nothing. They were almost all representatives of the Eastern portion of the City. That makes sense. I see no reason why all seven board members should be expected to attend every locally held school meeting.

Its as though the Editors are belatedly jumping on the bandwagon to bad mouth an unpopular Public Body. I sure won’t blame the Trib when it has good reason to gripe about this school board. I just want the complaint, when it comes, to be about something truly egregious and not just some piffle like this.

North Dakota’s blankety blank Republicans

North Dakota’s GOP has taken the lead on fighting abortion having made it illegal from six weeks after conception.

That’s one part of their recent legislative action.

The law that really cranked my chain was the one the forbade the abortion of any fetus because of a disability. Its supposed to be a high minded Godly law, proof that the GOP cares about children. Tosh. The GOP doesn’t give a shit about children or their parents. The story I was sent about the state of Minnesota doing its best not to fund special education proves my point.

North Dakota Women carrying disabled babies must now give birth to them but can expect no help from taxpayers to help them raise or educate their disabled children. That’s the GOP today. Its a party of no-nothings, hypocrites and assholes. They’ll spend tax money like Indiana to give well-heeled parents a way to avoid public schools that are stuck teaching the disabled children that Republicans are unwilling to levy taxes to educate. Or like in Nebraska they will refuse to fund neo-natal care if there is the smallest chance some wet back from Mexico might have her fetus examined at public expense.

Don’t worry I haven’t offended by Buddy. He told me he stopped reading my blog because I was so unfair to Republicans.

If I do go to the next GOP precinct caucuses I’ll have a couple questions.

BTW. If I do run for the School Board I hope someone throws my line about no-nothings, hypocrites and assholes at me. Its just the kind of thing I would expect from an asshole.

Oh, and how can I resist mentioning the efforts of the GOP to protect children from their Gay parents. The GOP may no longer want to be tagged with that public stand but there is little doubt the protesters against gay marriage out in front of the Supreme Court today are all Republicans, Senator Portman be damned.

Indiana School Vouchers

I don’t know if this USA Today story on voucher payments in Indiana has all the details in the story I first read but one thing about it makes me cringe. It plays into the hands of the worst elements of the Republican Party which took over Indiana in a landslide two years ago. Every blue or purple state where they got such a Tea Party landslide has been using that muscle to enforce all the GOP Dogmas in the book.

I’ve had a lot to say about vouchers on Lincoln Democrat over the years. I’m for them when public schools are cesspools. I’m not interested in them when a state has allowed its funding mechanism to shortchange poor neighborhoods. Sadly my search function no longer seems to go back far enough to find any of my old posts on the subject.

The Dixiecrat GOP has brought among its many perverted legacies like voter suppression, and allowing the poor to be strip mined by usurious pay day loans. Now its added to this the abandonment of public schools with lots of poor and black students.

While it is as yet unclear to me whether this will happen in Indiana I suspect it will happen. In Minnesota it would be like giving money to the many well to do folks who send their children to Breck, Blake or Marshall School.

Its intended as one more nail in the coffin of unions, in this case teacher’s unions. My posts have been none too charitible where the Duluth teacher’s Union leadership is concerned. In my case its not a zero sum game of union destruction. Its contempt for the union leaders acting in concert with previous administrations to stifle dissent.

The evidence shows that ISD 709 has been wounded by special education…

…notwithstanding my pooh poohing the idea in the last post.

A reader sent me a well reported story from Minnesota Public Radio about the state’s dealings with Special Education since about 2004 when I left the Duluth School Board. As I said, things were always bad. They’ve gotten much worse.

This does not in anyway excuse the spending decisions of the Duluth School District to hush up teachers for its squandering of operational funds to pay for Red Plan Bonds. What it means is that the District was put behind yet one more eight ball. Put another way it means that having crawled out to the end of a flimsy branch another hefty problem joined them on the branch taking them to the Earth.

Here’s the story on “cross subsidies.” Its long but, if you care about public education in Minnesota, you need to read it to make sense of the subject.

I had just read about Indiana (Next post) before getting the story and it had already resoured me on the Republican Party. I’ve had several more episodes of GOP souring since.

The litany grows longer

The Trib has run a series of stories on the costs of special education for the Duluth School District. This is an old story. The Federal Government mandates full funding of special education before I was on the Board and then reneged on promises to provide close to full federal funding for the mandates. Minnesota School Boards were complaining about this loudly a decade ago.

I just did a quick check on this subject and found this old post which mentions the following story about a time when it looked like the Federal Government might step up to the plate:

“One of the most intriguing things I heard before I departed the School Board was at a meeting Senator Paul Wellstone called us too [sic] in the Board Room. I asked him about Special Ed money and he told us he was sure it would be fully funded in the comming [sic] year because of some assurances he seemed to have gotten from the new President George W Bush. Well, whatever Wellstone knew it all went down in flames when he was killed in the crash of a small plane as he campaigned for reelection and in in 9-11 when the Bush Administration focused on terrorism rather than education after leaving the nation its NCLB legacy. (all whips and no carrots)”

Yesterday’s Special Ed Story went where I’m sure the current Administration wanted it to go blaming others for its own self inflicted financial wounds.

The fact is that ten years ago this was also in the news. The Feds made our district pay for the lion’s share of special ed costs. They did channel money into special ed at the expense of other classes. Despite this we still had one of the best student/teacher ratios in the State because we had made that a priority for better than a decade.

As my wife said upon reading the story its just the latest excuse for our District’s crowded classrooms. First it was the failure to sell old school buildings, then it was the failure of the referendums, then it was the state’s borrowing of Education money, and now its special education mandates. Never have our problems stemmed from the Red Plan’s guarantee to banks to use general fund levies to back its bonds or excessively generous teacher contracts to keep teachers quiet.

On the subject of our teacher’s union leaders, who kept mum on all the Red Plan projects, I sense the heavy hand of self interest. They also had a large say in the management and decisions of the DFTRA, the teacher’s pension, which kept boosting pension benefits even as their assets withered. The Pension payments are based on the final five earning years. The more teachers are paid at the end of their career the more they are guaranteed in pension payments. As the contract boosted the final salaries of these older teachers their pension benefits rose. They would get higher pensions and leave the younger teachers with 40 kids to a class. Now that’s what I call fraternity!

Add the devastating student out-migration caused by the Red Plan and you are left with a shrinking rump of younger teachers who must dig deeper into their pockets to pay for the boosted benefits of retirees.

Where’s Walker on Kestrel?

Wisconsin’s Governor Scott Walker wasn’t mentioned in this story yesterday on the failure of Wisconsin to make good on its financial pledges to the fledgling Kestral Aviation of Superior. Maybe Klapmeier is afraid the Governor will punish his company if he blames the Governor personally rather than the state for reneging on his word.

Congdon Hockey vs. Education

That seems to pretty much be the issue at one of the last two Red Plan schools. A few days ago in a story I didn’t comment on or post a link to a Congdon Mother expressed wonder that the School District would consider abandoning an elevator which would take disabled children to the gym while pouring money into hockey rinks. I thought she made a good point.

The latest from the DNT.

Bronze Star

I just remembered one more thing about that fellow in the nursing home with my Mother. He won a Bronze Star.

I gathered that like many Vietnam Vetrans he got very little support from the VA for his disabilities.

That guy in my Mom’s care facility

For the past year there has been a harmless old guy with a yen to dance with the ladies at my Mother’s care facility. At the few occasions I’ve been with my Mother at a musical preformance he always seeks out a couple women to dance with some of whom rebuff his advances. He always has a gentle not quite vacant smile spread from ear to ear.

I’ve also gotten to know a woman whose children were in my Morgan Park Geography classes back in 1986. It was only last week that I put the two of them together as they stood in the hallway near my Mother’s room. The woman gently discouraged him from pursing one of his occasional dance partners a lady who appears to be my age and suffering from early onset Alzheimers.

The wife told me she blamed Vietnam for his state. He’d been in the 101st Airborne during the Tet Offensive when I was a Junior in high school. She blamed PSTD for his condition and Agent Orange which was slathered on US soldiers and Vietnamese alike. Today’s Vietnamese blame its lingering effects for high rates of infant birth defects.

We talked about the Veteran’s Administration which she felt gave her husband short shrift and when I mentioned that today’s Iraq and Afghanistan vets might face similar indifference in the future (as the war is forgotten and we come to resent its ongoing costs) she pointed out that at least today’s veterans have been welcomed home as heroes. That’s true, I guess, but somehow I still find it small comfort.

Semper Fi

This post was prompted by the event last week at my Mother’s care facility. That will be the brief subject of the succeeding post with was prompted by this posts preceding post. One of the challenges of a blog is putting information in an order which make sense as a reader goes backward in time reading older posts.

In 1968 I was on the Mankato High School Swim team. I’d started swimming with the team the last couple of weeks of the previous year at the behest of my friend Steve Skelly.

I got to be a fair swimmer that year and one of the reasons why was that a girl was given permission to swim with our boy’s team. This was before Title Nine required schools to offer girl sports and Jan C. was not satisfied to swim with the YMCA girls team in town. I didn’t give my coach the credit he deserved at the time for his forward thinking although I’m sure it raised plenty of eyebrows at the time. Having Jan in the pool swimming laps with us boys made me determined not to let her lap me. I’m sure she had a similar affect on the other guys.

One of the other people in the pool was Randy a kid from California whose family had some Minnesota connection which allowed him to stay for his senior year in Mankato. Like Jan and me he was new to the team. He was also a year older than me and we got to know each other well enough so that when he asked Jan to go to some dance, maybe the Spring Prom, we joined forces and drove together.

He graduated that Spring and would be heading back to California but before he did he invited me to go up to a lake in Northern Minnesota with his family when they came to pick him up. We went to a Green Lake although just which one it was I have no idea as there must be dozens of them. Randy’s was a family with boys and I got along with them all pretty well. The following year after I graduated from High School my Dad took us on one of a half dozen cross country camping trips of my youth through the west coast and a few miles from Randy’s home. I prevailed on my Dad to let me call Randy and lucked into dropping by his family’s home for a short visit. I can’t recall whether Randy was present or not and if I just met briefly with his younger brothers. I have only one indelible recollection from that visit. On the wall of the living room was a large Marine Corps emblem. It might have included at screaming eagle bearing Semper Fi or USMC in a banner clutched in its talons. Randy’s Dad was a marine and probably a WW II warrior. I think I got the impression that Randy felt he owed it to his Dad to follow in his footsteps.

A year or two later Randy was a newly minted marine and came for one last visit to Mankato. Like most college campuses Mankato had a strong whif of anti-Vietnam War attitude about it. There were already a few Veterans at the school and many of them were unsympathetic to the war. I too was anti-war but I kept my attitude about the war separate from the soldiers sent to fight it. As I recall Randy was in uniform when I invited him up to lunch in the Student Union. I know he felt conspicuous in a college setting although no one said or did anything to make Randy feel unwelcome. I was curious to know what he thought of being a marine. He didn’t seem to think of the experience as highly as his Dad had. Randy joked about being called repeatedly by his Drill Instructors whatever it was they were yelling at recruits in that Era’s bootcamps. Puke’s maybe or worse.

We may have exchanged a Christmas card after that visit but my association with Randy pretty much ended there. We were headed into different paths of life. I have the feeling he escaped Vietnam just as I escaped being drafted but I can’t be sure.


Death in the modern world

I spent a long time looking at this graph. Its seems to suggest that war has become a less likely cause of death in today’s world. If so it might be the result of the world’s citizens getting more education or becoming more invested in a middle class way of life.

I found it on Sully.

I’d like to think so. I finished reading The Book Thief a week ago when I first started this post. Its a thoughtful and engrossing muse by Death on the state of humanity as he saw in Germany during World War II.

At the same time a story appeared in the news of bodies being found in a Syrian Drainage Canal dumped their by their murderers but exposed as the canal ran dry. Death’s work is not yet finished.

He was also busy in the early years of the settlement of the English settlement of the North American colonies according to the history in The Barbarous Years.

I’m sure that death will never get a break. Perhaps after war finally crawls back behind the ploughshare Death will start picking up our spirits following the outbreak of a some pandemic spawned by the stockyards of the world which seem to be engineering killer bacteria that are immune to our dwindling supply of new antibiotics.

Tenth anniversary of tragic stupidity

I let the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq go unremarked upon. Finally a brutal photograph has nudged me out of my silence.

It was either a war to protect us from nonexistent weapons of mass destruction or a war to let neocons like Vice President Cheney overcome their feelings of impotence at having failed to remove Saddam Hussein in a previous war.

Iraq cost us something like a trillion dollars. It led to the actual death of over a hundred thousand Iraqis or the speculative death of over half a million of them. The neocons vociferously decry the larger estimate.

I’ll confess that in its early stages I was sympathetic to the call to arms and what persuaded me was the high flying notion that we could save the Iraquis from their own small potatoes Joseph Stalinesque dictator. I did disapprove of the Republicans who intimidated war skeptics in the Democratic party with allegations of being appeasers or unpatriotic or indifferent to the pain of the persecuted in Iraq but otherwise I thought our intervention was an acceptable risk. We were all assured that was going to be easy peasy.

I should have paid more attention to Senator Wellstone who unfortunately died and could no longer raise his voice and doubts against the war.

I should have thought of the million Vietnamese who are said to have died after the dim witted US intervention of South Vietnam.

I should thought of my non-interventionist Grandfather George Robb who told me the worst mistake he ever made was to vote for Woodrow Wilson because he promised to keep America out of war.

Americans were largely too preoccupied with their own busy lives to pay much attention to the travails of the Iraqi’s were were rescuing.

A very few images of the horror of that war managed to sneak into the US for the few who were paying attention to gawk at. WARNING this photo is one of them and it should make you cringe especially if your family has small children. It was taken by a photographer who paid for his intrepidity by getting killed in another war this time in Libya.

I only recommend it be viewed by unapologetic neocons.

Local Control

Every third person in Mississippi is obese. Drinking super-sized sodas with 51 sugar cubes worth of sweetness in them is one reason why. But the GOP controlled legislature wants to protect their diabetes prone voters from having any local community deny them the right to chug those sodas down like the “nanny state” Mayor of New York attempted to do.

A Judge recently overturned New York’s right to impose its anti super size rule because it unfairly imposes the limit on only some soda vendors. Even so the Mayor and the city council were exercising another notion that has been popular with Republicans – “local control.” I had to agree with the Mississippi City Councilor who resents the state legislature clipping his municipality’s wings.

Local control has been a big deal in discussions of Education. Nationally Republicans moaned about how Federal Education rules kept tying the hands of local school boards. GOP Governor Tim Pawlenty used “local control” as his ultimate justificatioin for letting the Duluth School District push through its Red Plan without a routine referendum. I always thought that that was a shoddy excuse for letting the community decide the fate of the Red Plan. The School Board of 2006 that gave us the Red Plan never campaigned to institute the near half billion dollar monstrosity whose costs have continued to creep up over the last six years.

I don’t demand pure consistency from politicians. I’m not always consistent myself. Times change and flexibility has its virtues. Still, when its just an empty slogan its not much to hang one’s hat on.

What’s another half million for the Red Plan?

In addition to spending another $250,000 to $350,000 for a third hockey rink, oops “retaining wall,” at Congdon Elementary the Duluth School District is taking almost a quarter million dollar loss on two houses it originally bought for the Congdon plans:

“also approved the sale of two properties behind Congdon Park Elementary, both of which no longer are needed for the project because of changed plans. The board unanimously approved offers for 3132 and 3144 Greysolon Place.

The district purchased 3132 Greysolon for $337,500 in 2011, and the district had it on the market most recently for $175,000.

The district purchased 3144 Greysolon for $213,000 in 2008, and the house was listed for $159,900.

Sale prices aren’t disclosed until closing. One district-owned house on that block remains on the market.”

If the District chose to hire teachers with this money instead of bolstering the hockey program it could return at least half of this money to its operating budget.

More teachers, Duluth eastern hockey. More teachers, Duluth eastern hockey. Tough decision that one.