The Internet is leakier than the White House

Traveling down the mid stretch of the Yangtze River has been quiet enough to let my brain fret over China’s middling and meddlesome censorship. I came here hoping to post pretty pictures on Facebook and the blog but my cell phone is no match for the bamboo curtain.

So, I have been reading American/Chinese history and probing the Internet for the past couple days. It’s been fascinating. Vinegar Joe Stilwell just made General a year shy of Pearl Harbor (I am 32% done with Tuchman’s bio of him) and I found this Newsweek story from 20 years ago about Bill Clinton’s opening American tech to the People’s Liberation Army.

http://www.newsweek.com/chinese-military-power-us-might-643022

Chiang Kai-Shek would have killed for US war materiel like Clinton passed out.

I am still inclined towards the promiscuous spreading of information rather than to it’s stingy hoarding. I am a liberal arts kind of guy.

I will get to check out a Chinese school today on this sleepy stretch of our river cruise. Maybe it will give me some useful insights to bring back to the Duluth Schools. I just hope it’s air conditioned.

In the Middle of the middle Kingdom…

…muddling over the Duluth school board campaign sleepless past midnight. Checked my email and found this:

Hey Harry.

In the run-up to the primary, the News Tribune Editorial Board is scheduling candidate interviews of no more than 30 minutes. This email is an invitation to meet with us.

We’re also emailing you today to invite you to write a column of no more than 500 words for publication in August in the News Tribune on the Opinion page.

Please call me at your earliest convenience to schedule an interview with the editorial board. We’ll be scheduling interviews the afternoons of Aug. 1-2, Aug. 14-17, and Aug. 22-24. Please reserve your spot as soon as you can. And please bring along to that interview whatever literature about yourself and your qualifications you are distributing as you campaign.

The deadline for your candidate column — why you’re running for School Board At Large and why voters should vote for you, etc. — is Wednesday, Aug. 9. That gives you a little over two weeks. If you can email it to me at cfrederick@duluthnews.com sooner than that, please do.

We look forward to hearing back from you soon.

Thanks on behalf of the Editorial Board,

Chuck

Chuck Frederick

Editorial Page Editor

Duluth News Tribune 
424 W. First St.
Duluth MN 55802

XXXXXXXXXXX

My reply to Chuck (if pushing send worked):

Chuck,

I look forward to it.  Checking my calendar I see the 1st two dates won’t work. I am in China until Aug 2nd and will be in Colorado for a family reunion from the 15th to 17th. I am hell bent to see the eclipse on the 21st so it will have to be the 23rd or 24th. 

My head is in Tuchman’s book about Vinegar Joe Stilwell so you will have to await my return for your 500 words. 

Real feel today on the Yangtze was 114.

All the best

Harry

PS China won’t let me read the DNT.  I will have some catching up to do when I get back.

Xxxxxxxxxxx

PLEASE NOTE

This email is one of 4 that failed to send from China. Someone got the message to Ken at KBJR. Thank you whoever you were. Could someone alert Chuck Frederick for me too?

If America has any edge over China it’s an open Internet. Pray we keep it. You should see these instant Chinese Cities. They take my breath away.

A little help please?

I just hot a request from KBJR’s news director Kevin Jacobson asking me to appear on an interview with other at-large candidates. China won’t let my email to through.

Would someone reading this give Kevin a call to let him know I will be there? Kevin’s Phone # is: 218.481.6207

Thanks,

Harry

I write this post at 3 AM on the floor in a book club friend’s favorite bathroom in China

The timing is not surprising. I spent a 13 hour day mostly wide awake on a 787 (I think) flying in a great circle route within a couple hundred miles of the North Pole to get to Beijing. I crashed at what would have been about 4AM back home. Biorythmic adjustments will take a day or two.

Claudia will sleep off and on till closer to a 6AM hotel breakfast. In the meantime I am hoping my third visit to the loo won’t deprive her of the sleep she missed on the plane. Gosh darn old man plumbing but hallelujah for Japanese toilets. I recently heard a PBS reporter extolling their virtues. They put French bidets to shame. I will admit to being a tad unnerved at taking the throne and immediately hearing a heater preparing to make some water comfey for ablutions to be performed after mother nature’s call had been answered. And to think I was talking about pit toilets with someone who visited China 15 years ago.

China’s America sized population plus a billion doesn’t all have such luxury but the very long drive past a great many megafrastructures from the airport to the Kerry Hotel did impress on me the great wealth of reborn China. After all the books we’ve waded through about it’s epic grandeur and humiliations I am pleased for the world.

After realizing what a hassle it will be to type out blog posts on my cell phone because of its anti-Google and Facebook Wall the happier I am to live in good old bumptious USA. As I write this Chinese censors are busy removing any mention of Winnie the Pooh on the Internet. Their leader has been compared to him unfavorably. Meanwhile back stateside every late-night talk show host would be risking a firing squad if they found themselves transported here.

We had time for dinner at the hotel and the realization that the massive study of English in China won’t guarantee easy fluency beyond Peking. We couldn’t even remember how to say “thank you” in Mandarin.

I did reach the blog on Baidu (China’s much less fussy Google) after a hotel receptionist fiddled with my cell. Some messages are coming through on email probably because I never got round to using gmail. As for photos to the Internet or Facebook. That is all up in the air. Look for them here if I can work it out.

That’s not a problem for the Chinese, all of whom are looking at their cells every minute of the day. Tough luck Google.

China doesn’t like Google or Facebook

For the first significant vacation of my adulthood I will not be taking a camera, Yashika, Cannon or Pentax with me. I will be relying on Samsung’s cell phone. I am given to understand that China blocks the aforementioned Internet sites in the title. It would be fun to post daily news of my comings and goings but I’m not sure that will be possible. I’ll be counting on Flickr to send photographs back and forth. Claudia is about to download the Tuchman book on Vinegar Joe on our Kindle account so I can keep reading it to her if we have enough stamina left after busy days looking at sites that the People’s Republic is happy for us to see. I presume Customs will not rifle our cell phones to see what we have uploaded to them. I’ll be on my best behavior. No pulling out a cell phone should the Prime Minister walk past us in a restaurant.

I’m not sure how closely I’ll follow the news or exactly what news will be available to me in China. Unlike the American Democracy I doubt if any of it will be fake. I am sure that after a few weeks away I will eagerly look forward to getting authentic American fake news upon my return.

Take care of Duluth while I’m away.

A note on my next three weeks

I had hoped not to be too busy this year with my reelection campaign. Losing the DFL nomination so decisively put that wish to bed. Now I’ll have to go door to door.

The past week I’ve been busy both preparing for China and the campaign I will be out of town for the next three weeks. I hope to have the campaign ready to pick up again in early August upon my return. My campaign “trading cards” are about ready for production and I finally recorded the speech I gave to the DFL but which their sound system prevented most delegates from hearing before my crushing 34 -200 some vote defeat.

I hope to have time to do something with that new Facebook Page a friend set up for me and I have a new cell phone so I might be able to post some pictures from China on it if I can get the hang of it.

I’ve got a campaign meeting in a few minutes and hopefully I’ll be able to spend the weekend preparing for my departure on Tuesday. I’ll be over the Pacific when the School Board meets. It will be a quiet meeting. I attended all three board meetings this week and they were mercifully brief and uncontroversial.

Check out my campaign webpage.

Pickle relish and ketchup on my Deep State, Please?

Mother nature woke me at 4AM. The “Deep State” prevented me from going back into a deep sleep. Before I launch into my thoughts about national paranoia I’ll start with local paranoia.

I often mentioned the slogan I jokingly suggest should be our school board’s operating principle: “Just because you’re paranoid DOESN’T mean that someone isn’t out to get you!”

Just this morning I sent out an email containing this sentiment:

“The only antidote I know for this paranoia is sunshine. Put things out in the open where you can see them and you can shrug them off. If you can’t see them they become like that poisonous creature hiding in a tree stump in the Star trek movie about the castoffs marooned on a dying plant. They had to put their hands in the stump and risk a painful death.”

The “Deep State” strikes me as an invention of the real “Deep State.” The so called Deep State is not the bureaucrats and press foisting socialized medicine on a hardy, uncorrupted people. It’s the folks who don’t want to pay for socialized medicine or other civic obligations like pollution control.

The chief obstacle to getting this accomplished is our Constitution which guarantees a free press the much hated irritant of the power hungry except when they themselves use it. In Russia or China the author of “Dark Money”, Jane Mayer, would have been shot or disappeared by now. In America her biggest worry would be disinterest not death.

Before the School Board campaign and researching China got in the way I managed to get about half way through the book. It details the remnants of the John Birch Society which have rekindled into a much more potent semi-secret cabal led by the deep pockets of two of the Koch brothers. Their tentacles are everywhere – Congress, the Federal Courts, all state legislatures through ALEC, reapportionment, voter suppression, freedom to work laws, campaign finance, undermining of Federal regulation, the Trump Administration, the Tea Party and Fox News. You can’t fault Charles Koch for not putting his money where his heart is – corporate supremacy through regulatory inaction. You might argue that most of the billions he’s spent on this re engineering the American polity came from putting the public at risk by skimping on public spiritedness.

My take on the Republicans hysterics about a liberal Deep State is to think of it as Fake mongering. It has all the resonance of the grade school taunt: “I know you are but what am I?”

Maybe the real problem is overpopulation and its unruly offspring disappointed expectations of the young but the Free Press is under assault all over the world – Russia, Turkey, China, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia and now the United States. Our all-too-real President lies daily about “Fake News” until its obvious truth emerges. Then his lackey’s call it a “nothing burger.”

I’ll take my nothing burger with plenty of ketchup and pickle relish, thank you.

The “Schmeercase Affair”

This was a test to see if I could post a cell phone recording to you-tube. Yup! My intention has been to record the speech I gave, but which the sound system prevented me from broadcasting, to the DFL endorsing convention. This is my reading of a brief anecdote about General Joseph Stillwell in Barbara Tuchman’s Pulitzer Prize winning biography about “Vinegar Joe.”

As you will see my cell phone stopped recording after its memory was overloaded but at a convenient point in the anecdote.

In order to upload it I had to free up some space and I did so by removing all my picture files which had already been uploaded to my Flickr account and which are in the Cloud. I am about to upgrade my cell phone which is a Samsung 5 while 8 is the current Samsung favorite. I have a reduced priced upgrade available and I want it to have a better cell phone camera for my trip to China. I plan on taking the Stillwell book with me and hope the Chinese don’t confiscate it when we arrive. I haven’t found it on the list of books they won’t let in. We have a couple of those banned books on our shelves.

American Conservativism – From innovators to imitators to idiots.

I highly recommend a thoughtful NYT column about the Republican Party’s devolution from William F. Buckley, a man I worked very hard to understand fifty years ago when he was a conservative Sisyfus climbing America’s liberal mountain, to the “idiot” Sean Hannity. Buckley’s vocabulary was intentionally intimidating. For example, I still remember looking up the meaning of the word “avuncular” from one of his columns. That was back when I kept a pocket sized notepad chock full of fifty-cent words that were new to me.

Looking back on Buckley its hard not to appreciate a man who wrote this appraisal of our current President almost twenty years ago – the text taken from the NYT column:

“In March 2000, he trained his sights on ‘the narcissist’ and ‘demagogue’ Donald Trump. ‘When he looks at a glass, he is mesmerized By its reflection,’ he wrote in a prophetic short essay in Cigar Aficionado. ‘The resistance to corrupting demagogy’ he warned, ‘should take first priority’ for Americans.”

Loren lays it on a little thick. Thanks!

Loren Martell’s account of the June School Board meeting has finally made it to the Duluth Reader. Loren dwells on many speakers at the outset who argued that the western schools should have been allowed to keep their existing principals as the eastern schools were. Then he tacks to Art Johnston who was unhappy about a range of equity issues including the principals. Equity should be the main issue in this School Board campaign.

Loren, heaped far more praise on me than I deserved for voting against the teacher’s contract I helped negotiate. I’m grateful for Loren’s exposition which explains how I could help to negotiate it but then turnaround and vote against it at our Board meeting. It was purely a symbolic vote and much of my justification was simply a restatement of the negotiating teacher’s own platform. Here’s Loren’s full account of my statement intelligently cut down to size:

The bravest person in the boardroom this evening, by a long shot, was Harry Welty. Particularly considering the fact that he is facing reelection, board member Welty was a tower of courage. The DFL/Labor dynasty that dominates Duluth will have a target on Mr. Welty’s back for the stand he took this evening.

“It’s important to make a couple of points that we, as a community, need to understand.” Continue reading

A brief recent email conversation about equity in the Duluth Schools

Sent to all School Board members:

WHY DOES THE EASTERN END OF TOWN GET ALMOST [all the] MONEY TO HELP EDUCATE THEIR LOW INCOME AS THE WEST END OF TOWN WE ALL KNOW WHERE THE LOW INCOME LIVE.. USE THE MONEY AS IT WAS INTENDED. I WOULD APPRECIATE A ANSWER W B

My Reply to W:

W,
The reasons are as simple as they are pathetic.

1. Precedent – because we are abiding by the letter of the law (now but not always) and use half of the funds to lower class size across the whole district and to fund our Curriculum Dept. (For which other funds should be made available.)

2. Political deference to Eastern voters if not outright fear of their reaction if we pulled half a million dollars out of their schools to send it to the schools with a higher free and reduced student population.

W pushes back:

LETTER OF THE LAW ?? MY UNDERSTANDING THE FUNDS ARE FOR LOW INCOME STUDENTS NOT MANY OUT EAST … SECOND POINT I AGREE

I explain:

Current Minn law requires only 50% of the $ to follow students.

Stuff on my busy mind, written early in the day, so that I can stop thinking about it all

News

Comment: While our President snorts about Fake News this ISIS opponent shows how honest and brave journalism is critical to the health of the world.

Trump

I haven’t bashed him for a few weeks and have come to depend upon the New York Times to expose his dark side. Its a full time job for a reader like me at a time in my life when I’d hoped not to feel compelled to read the news so closely.

Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska

Comment: As I keep postponing a start on the book about my Kansas Grandfather I keep seeing more stories about its Koch fueled current politics. One book title of recent vintage asked “Whatever happened to Kansas?” The same could be asked about the home of the Okies.

Oklahoma is the home of the owners of the Hobby Lobby who won a split Supreme Court decision not to cover abortion costs in their medical plans. Being good Christians they have sent some of their millions to America’s dread enemy. Although they are propping up ISIS by buying ancient artifacts looted by the terrorists its for a good cause. They need the artifacts for a Museum on the Bible.

And Nebraska, home of Oz’s Frank L. Baum? Well its also home to a bigger billionaire than the Kochs, Warren Buffett. While the Kansas Koch heads are busy trying to take us back to the days before the Trust Buster, Teddy Roosevelt, put restraints on big business, Buffet keeps undermining the Koch agenda. I’m not sure if this is the story about Buffett that caught my attention recently but in almost every story I read about him he does his best to pan mindless greed.

My Campaign for School Board

Comment: I got an early start compared to every other time I’ve worked on a school board election. There are only about two SB campaigns I didn’t have some interest in since 1989. That early start has been helpful and there are some good candidates who have surfaced. Still, I have been preoccupied with other incidental things like family so that the campaign has been a bit of a low grade fever for the past couple months. Now I’ve woken up to my long planned trip to China for which I have ten days to prepare. The election and my school board work continue but I will be crossing the Pacific during the July 18th School Board meeting.

My friend Ali offered to run a Facebook Page for my campaign and set one up. As it will be out of my control I’m a bit nervous about it although I did tell her that when the campaign is over I’d like to have the power to pull the plug on it. I’ve resisted Facebook political campaigns in the past but I know other candidates make use of them. I have a Facebook Page too. I got it in 2006 for a prospective race for Congress but ignored it for six years until my daughter started posting pictures of my Grandsons. I only have about 25 “friends” because some folks post a zillion items daily which clutter my mind and make it really difficult to find the important family posts I do want to read.

China

Comment: The ten days left to us before our departure doesn’t give us nearly enough time to read all the books we’ve bought about China. I finished the second Chapter of Tuchman’s book about Stilwell and that second chapter had as good an explanation about the western influence on China in the last couple centuries as I’ve read. It reminded me of a well regarded movie from 1966 and so I had Claudia watch Sand Pebbles last night.

Its a long movie at 182 minutes and the end is drawn out but it earned an Oscar for Steve McQueen. Its early scenes of the Yangtze River would be hard to pull off today with such verisimilitude. The Movie of a 1926 China kept showing Chang Kai-Shek’s Kuomintang Army menacing an American patrol boat as it attempted to rescue American missionaries in the city of Changsha. In 1926 Mao Tse-Tung had commandeered a Communist Army and turned it into a bandit army in and around Changsha, Mao’s old stomping grounds. Mao was to all intents and purposes a bandit for the Russian Communists and the Nationalists were as hellbent on attacking his bandits as they might have been on confronting “foreign devils.”

The book was published in 1962 before American’s were paying much attention to Vietnam but a review of the movie suggested it was intended to be a veiled critique of America’s involvement of the Vietnam War which was destined to spin out of America’s control not long after the movie’s 1966 debut.

I’m number two

I’ve been determined for a couple days to be the first to file for the Duluth School Board this year and today was the first day of filing. When I got to the Business Office at about six after 8AM I asked Jackie Dolentz if I was first and she told me I wasn’t. Art Johnston had beat me to the punch. He was already gone and it took me ten minutes to fill out all the paperwork so Art was most efficient.

When Jackie told me I was “number two” I caviled at that description. I explained how I’d just seen a trailer for the “Emoji Movie” while watching “Despicable Me III” with my fellow roof climbers (See previous post). One of the sad (yes there is some justification for that word) punch lines from Emojiville comes from Daddy poop emoji after he and his son exit a toilet stall. “We’re Number Two,” they chorus.

It was unnecessary to explain that imagery to Jackie who seemed to get my drift, quickly correcting herself, “You were second.” I thanked her for her delicacy then left Old Central putting way too much thought into what poop leaving a bathroom stall on foot indicated. Had they just flushed their creator down the drain?”

I also made our vacation number two. I made Claudia delay our trip to China until the searing month’s of July and August just so I could file for the School Board. No question about my priorities.

Happy # 241 America

As we shopped Mt. Royal for ears of corn and kebabs I saw a jackfruit. It was the only one in the store and the only one I’ve ever seen in Minnesota although I can’t be sure if I’ve seen them in big warm weather cities with significant populations of SE Asians. I bought it.

Years ago my Filipino friends told me how heavenly jackfruit was and I’m a sucker for trying exotic fruits. The one I bought may not have been fully ripe and it was tiny for a jackfruit at 15.8 pounds. Fortunately the Internet has helpful jackfruit preparation videos so I learned how to slice it open and get the fruit out. It was a lot like melon but a little sweeter but the fruit has been described as having the texture of calamari. You have to wrest each one out of a thicket of fruit fibers that are said to cook up like a vegetarian pulled pork. We won’t be trying that but Claudia looked up a recipe for jackfruit preserves so we may give that a go. My daughter wants to cook the big chestnut sized seeds in the fruit into a hummus.

This was a little less orthodox than the game of croquet I set up but memorable in its own way. So too was the Duluth fireworks display. We deemed our grandsons old enough to crawl up on our daughter’s and son-in-law’s roof to watch them. I can be dimly made out at the crest of the roof just above the boys.

We could see the Superior Fireworks going off at the same time making it look a little like the Battle of Fort McHenry. Oh, say we could see.

Phil isn’t all that interested in money after all and preparing for China

I have a much better idea than I outlined in the previous post. I’ll use the money I raise with trading cards (after covering my modest campaign expenses) for the Duluth Public Schools Endowment Fund for which I once acted as a trustee.

I came to that conclusion later in the day after writing the previous post. It didn’t take me long to remember that President Trump has been the exemplar of using public office for self enrichment. Its been pretty unappetizing.

I have been playing with suitable snow sculpture images and contemplating how to apply them to my reelection campaign. If I can find time between now and my departure for China on July 18th I may even have them in hand for distribution.

And this comes with a confession regarding my moaning about not writing the book to sew America back together again. Its not just school board related stuff that is keeping me from undertaking it. Its books on China. I just finished reading one book to Claudia that I’ve added to my online reading list for 2017. Its a peculiar little book called Mao Tse-Tung and I were Beggars by Siao-Yu. It was published in 1959 when it was still possible to imagine that Mao was a benevolent figure.

Yu and Tse-Tung were students together and Mao invited himself to join Siao-Yu for a month of begging across the countryside in an eccentric experiment by two prosperous college graduates. They set out in 1917 the year my Grandfather was enlisting to fight in France and six years after the Chinese Revolution that ended 2000 years of Dynastic rule.

The book was pokey enough that to keep myself awake I alternated it with the blockbuster expose of Mao’s biography by Jung Chang. After receiving wide acclaim the book has been faulted for blaming everything gone wrong on Mao. Be that as it may it was jarring going back and forth reading about Mao traipsing around the countryside in his youth as a beggar followed by stories of the brutality he inflicted on so many in his years as a Communist revolutionary/Bandit leader.

A week ago I told my brother I was looking forward to visiting a country that worked – a poor attempt at a joke. Its working a little too well. This 3 minute video from the New York Times gave me pause. The Chinese are light years ahead of America and the world in making the Internet a useful tool while keeping track every detail about the personal lives of their 700 million Internet users.

We want to get to know this nation with its justified chip on the shoulder over 150 years of harsh treatment at the hands of the Occident. To that end we purchased a couple new books. I began reading the Introduction to Driven Out by Jean Pfaelzer about the KKK like treatment of Chinese in the Pacific States in the Era of the Chinese Exclusion Act. It was far more harrowing than I realized. I also remembered having started Barbara Tuchman’s Pulitzer winner, Stillwell and the American Experience in China. We ordered a new copy and began reading the first chapter on Kindle. Its a helluva good read. So, it looks like I’ll have two new books on Chinese to alternate between.

While we’ve been at it we’ve been watching Chinese films. I still don’t know quite what to make of “The Mermaid” a comedy and some have been gritty enough that I was surprised the government allowed them to be made. I guess as long as the Communist Party itself is not criticized anything is fair game. Last night I recalled another book from the past “The Soong Dynasty.” Three sisters of the Soong family each married some of the most important men in Twentieth Century China, Sun Yat-Sen, Chiang Kai-Shek and its richest citizen H.H Kung. We started watching a twenty year old melodrama on them last night.

Some experts are predicting that this century will the the “Chinese Century.” Having lived in the best half of the “American Century” I owe it to myself to follow the transition.