A fire, a fire sale and 91st bday party

Sometime while I was mid-flight to Florida to attend my father-in-laws 91st birthday celebration Superior’s Husky oil refinery went kaboom. We checked updates during the day concerned for those we left behind. It cut some workdays short in our family but nothing worse for now.

Last night a friend sent me the DNT’s story about the school district’s fire sale price set for Duluth Central.

All is not sunny in Florida either. The Palm Beach Post reported today that huge swaths of the everglades mangroves (up to 90 percent) have been killed by hurricane Irma.

One more reason why my loyal readers will remain reduced to 7

Yes, I lost a reader due to too much emphasis on the state of black America. My departed reader assured me that I had obviously been subjected to too much propaganda. Well, true to form the first of the New York Times pieces I will link to is about America’s new holocaust museum in Alabama. Duluth will be sending a delegation to this memorial as our infamous lynching is part of its story. If its mention of the treatment of an angry young wife who railed at her husband’s murderers is propaganda……well, I will continue to subject my readers to it.

The other article was a review of the book written by a reporter who covered Hillary Clinton for ten years right up to her defeat at the hands of Donald Trump.

And this same author separately explains the advice she was given before writing a book. It was: read lots of books. Since I keep putting off authoring my own book/books I found the advice sensible.

And last night I sent in my next column to the Duluth Reader’s Submissions email. The column will be titled: Swallowing Ham’s Sandwich. I can’t link to it yet but it begins:

The story of Noah’s Ark begins in chapter six of Genesis. My grandsons would tell me that Chapter six was afraid of Chapter 7 for good reason. Why? Because 7-8-9.

France

This is my bookcase of French related books that I’m working on. I posted a similar picture of the books on China last year. It was one of a number of posts to my “China” category. I have begun a similar category on France which this post is now a part of.

My (now) seven loyal readers will recall that it was my Grandfather’s exploits in France that was the primary driver for this trip. I have in fact polished off a couple books on that subject in the past seven or eight months. But that reading has led to a more intense interest in the nation which gave us our liberty and for which we have twice returned the favor.

I just finished reading Ina Caro’s book “The Road from the Past” to Claudia. (NOTE the preceding link is to a very unflattering WaPo review of the book which was, the book that is, just what I hoped it would be). Shortly afterward we decided to watch the movie Julie and Julia which was a charming little movie about a writer who set out to and succeeded in cooking all 524 recipies in Julia’s Childs first book on French Cooking in one year’s time.

I’ll be posting more about France as I go along. I’ve already made some discoveries I hadn’t expected. For instance I have always thought of English as a Germanic language. But Britain and France’s long entanglement left about one third of our vocabulary coming from the frogs. I must admit that has made it much easier for me to pick up their lingo as I chip away at it every day.

I’m currently on a 54 days in a row tear studying it. I started five months ago and have about four more months to go by which time I hope too have added a few brain cells upstairs. In fact, I think I’ll add a few more right now. Maybe I’ll edit this later or peut être pas.

On my recent posting vacation

My seven loyal readers (one recently excused himself from regular readership as he felt I put altogether too much emphasis on civil rights in Lincolndemocrat) no doubt recall my plan to run a non campaign for the Eighth District Congressional seat this summer and fall online.

I have not changed my mind but over the past week I’ve come to realize how much more committed I am to learning French and studying France’s history than to annoying my political betters. I am also spending three and four hours daily reading the New York Times and listening to National Public Radio (among other sources) to keep abreast with the closest thing to a national emergency since 1968 or 1860.

Superfluous posts are a drain on my time. I really expected Hillary Clinton to win thereby giving me some rest from a preoccupation with current events that goes back to my Weekly Reader in grade school. That has not happened. But I do not consider my limited forays into the diary portion of my blog to be a waste. They serve as a good reference for me when I want to know what was happening in my life vis-a-vis the larger world.

I have tomorrow to write my next post for the Duluth Reader and I’ve not started it yet. I have another post in mind for today on my approach to “vacations.” I’ve had four in recent years in which I intensively studied the lands I was heading to. France has become the most intense of these and, Mon dieu!, far I have a much greater appreciation of its importance to American History than I previously had.

I have been so preoccupied that I can’t be fully trusted to get my normal allotment of duties done. I have yet to paint the bellfry in our church and on Friday I forgot to go to the Damiano Center to help serve lunch. That’s the second time that has happened since I stepped off the school Board. At church my confederates let me know I’ll be getting a good roasting the next time I show up. I deserve it. C’est la vie!

The return of the bad old days?

I have not quite scrupulously avoided mention of the Duluth School District since the public retired me from the Duluth School Board. (a retirement I have been enjoying with gusto I will add) I have largely trusted to Loren Martell to keep the public apprised of its actions. But a couple of recent tidbits relating to the secretiveness of the top administrator and his most sympathetic board members have prompted some reminiscences.

Before I was elected to the School Board its members, some of its members, had a chummy relationship with its superintendents. The one I have in mind is Elliot Moeser. His Era saw the failure of an epic $50 million dollar referendum to replace or fix up our schools. This was almost thirty years ago and that price tag was eclipses six times over by the building plan of one of his successors Keith Dixon now commonly referred to as the Red Plan – a plan not put up for a community vote.

The subsequent years that I ran for the school board I heard that during the planning for this first stab at a facility fix up the board members routinely met with the Superintendent privately at one of their homes. I thought of this recently while driving by and noticing that it was up for sale. I believe that this process of holding private meetings is about to begin again. Its not the sort of process that encourages public confidence as no one is present to document the actions of board members.

And in addition to this a long planned get together for Board members to have a face to face discussion of the their deepest thoughts has been moved from the Administrative Office to a much smaller room in the Duluth Aquarium which will hold at most about twenty people on April 26th. I do not know if members of the public planning to watch the give and take will have to pay to enter the Aquarium. They would not be if the meeting was being held in Old Central and their would be much more room. We had such a meeting one Saturday in the regular Board room of Old Central. The doors were not locked to the public.

I had lobbied fruitlessly for such a get together during my recent years on the Board but was rebuffed by a board leadership that I gathered had no interest in such a meeting with me or Art Johnston who also requested such a gathering. Now that I’m gone I no longer stand in the way……..although the tiny room in the Aquarium does not suggest any particular openness. I’d suggest any members of the public planning to attend brown bag it.

Some filler between snow shoveling

Busy, Busy, Busy. I only made about seven hours last week for my French studies……which are mostly a lot of drill, drill, drill. I have effectively set the basement level for weekly (hebdomadaire in French) practice from now until my departure to France in September.

Duluth got enough snow Saturday and Sunday for someone to beg that I build another sculpture. They were about to move out of town and wanted me to build one more for old time’s sake. I don’t think I quite conveyed the lack of enthusiasm I felt for that prospect. The snow did bring everyone over to our house on Sunday and because today is a snow day in Duluth we have grandkids staying with us. I will take them on a snow shoveling expedition to their house later today. Their parents will need to get back into their house after over nighting in ours.

The distractions have knocked me off course in the writings I plan to begin. But I still managed to look at both NPR and the NY Times this morning. One had a review of the movie “Come Sunday” that Claudia had me see before-hand. Evidently the seminary crowd has been spreading the news. Pertinent to me “the politician” was its story about how one preacher escaped from the iron grip of damnation worship that pervades the evangelical community. Their’s is a “you’ll get yours God.” Considering how many of them voted for Donald Trump I suspect the number of them left behind when the rapture finally descends will astonish everyone.

Oh, and I watched the first two episodes of the new “Lost in Space” while others in our Sunday crew watched Call the Housewives. I can catch that later when my grandsons aren’t around. Good fun.

The other fascinating story in the Times was about a hither-to-unknown member of the Trump Team who has sacrificed his marriage for Donald who once tipped him $200 buck tip for caddying when he was a kid. He’s Trump’s tweet master an altogether new job for a President. I’m guessing he will be the first and the last.

It reminded of a story I read the summer I was a summer intern in Washington DC.. It was about one of Richard Nixon’s unknown helpers who was the last person in Nixon’s administration any official wanted to see. That’s because RMN, famously averse to face-to-face personal conflict, needed someone to go out and fire people Nixon wanted to dump. Nixon did have an “enemies list” but Trump’s is infinitely longer. The wisest thing I heard anyone say this weekend was the ousted ex FBI Director Comey who said Trump should be removed by the voters not the Congress. I’m not sure I agree but I’m not sure I disagree either.

And those teachers in Red State’s that have taken their state’s stingy Republicans to task……Ah, that’s a subject for some later post too because I’ve got more shoveling to do.

WriteinHarryWelty forCongress.com

Don’t bother looking for it. I’m busy with snow church family french lessons. I haven’t set any place up to campaign for yet other than my blog. Yesterday’s Duluth Trib gave me second thoughts. Today pushing snow around I had second thoughts about yesterday’s second thoughts.

I may have to figure out a new way to set up such a webpage to collect money. My old software for Snowbizz.com seems to have broken down. But I don’t really need money anyway. Getting elected is a terrible, horrible thought. The only thing worse than that is watching the terrible, horrible politics of the last twenty years getting worse and worse. Hell. There has never been a time for less fighting among Americans than today. And yet….

When I get around to blogging later I have several stories in mind. They involve My Grandmother (on my father’s side) my Grandfather (on my Mother’s side) And Barry Goldwater. It will be a test to see if any of current wannabe Congressman in Minnesota’s Eighth District can tell such stories about themselves. Oh and if I set up a campaign webpage I will post my cell phone background picture. This is it:

I want to (not) run for Congress again

I have always considered myself the most reasonable person. I am far more inclined to begin most arguments by putting the other fellow’s or gal’s shoes and walking around in them till I get blisters. I have a reputation ( at least I suspect I do ) for being an off-the-wall bull-in-a-china-shop. As for being off-the-wall its true that, unlike most people, I’ve gotten into the habit of challenging the adage: “the nail that stands out will be pounded down.” Politically it caused me to become:

1. a Republican (a Nixon opponent) during the wave of college anti-Nixon marches
2. a apostle of moderate Republican values in the most Democratic legislative District in America
3. a staunch critic of the Republican Party from within and then a challenger to the Party in an “independent” race for Congress in 1992
4. a School Board candidate who lost three elections before finally prevailing on a fourth attempt
5. a ENOUGH FOR NOW!!!…..I just paused to fold the laundry and Claudia showed me Trevor Noah’s latest commentary about America’s Ongoing S***storm.

The point of the list above is simple. Against the odds as a grown up I’ve become the little kid who shouted at the Emperor that he has no clothes on during the parade surrounded by the king’s secret police. I once wrote an ending to that story. But dear Readerss, this is not a kingdom. It is, or at least once was, the most formidable democracy on Earth. And yet the gatekeepers of our Democracy kept their mouths shut as the party I once belonged to (with some attitude I might add), allowed themselves to be pushed silently into a corner. Then they put duct tape over their own mouths.

The great irony is that millions of these gatekeepers who once said they were voting for “the lesser of two evils” in the 2016 election are now preparing to reelect a Congress full of the folks that put them in the corner while handing them duct tape. Well, I may run jackass, impossible campaigns but I will not support candidates who champion a minute by minute liar.

I have tried to fit in with Democrats. I agree with them on much of their social agenda. My chief differences with them are nit picky but serious. For instance, the idea that humans don’t have the ability to extract copper and nickle from fresh water rich northern Minnesota without poisoning our great grandchildren bother’s me. It bothers me more that its an issue that may very well elect Pete Stauber to Congress. It wouldn’t be the first time such a debate killed the prospects for Minnesota Democrats. The last time was called the Minnesota Massacre. I was a Republican then and it was the second or third most gratifying political event of my 67 years on Earth.

I like Pete. In any election prior to 2012 I would have gladly cast a vote for him. But recent years and this year especially, have changed America. Pete Stauber is a Trump supporter because the people who will vote in both the primary and the general elections detest Trump’s well intentioned critics…..like Trevor Noah.

Here’s a thumb nail of the plan percolating in my head.

I will not run for Congress for the third time. At least I won’t file for election. The possibility of my winning is exceptionally remote, Doing it would require me to bend over backwards to complete campaign data releases that I would have to fill out myself. I’ve done it before in 2006 and they make filling out taxes look like child’s play. More importantly I have no interest in serving in today’s ineffectual Congress where every day is consumed with raising money for the next election and there is no time to read books and be reflective. This has turned our Congress into one of the most ignorant collections of leaders imaginable.

I will encourage both Democrats and Republicans to write my name in for both the Democratic and Republican primaries and, despite being in France all September, for the November General election.

In the meantime I will cobble a book together explaining how America became a scorpion intent on stinging itself into paralysis. I have thousands of posts already written about that. I simply need to select the best and tidy them up a bit while putting them into some kind of linear order. I will begin offering the as yet unwritten book for sale. Any money raised will be sent to me and I’ll have to declare it for taxes as income. Therefore I will keep some small portion of the proceeds to pay for what the “earnings” cost me in taxes so as not to lose money in the process. Someday I’d like to earn money on book sales but not this year. I’m well enough fixed that any; book royalties would be more for my vanity than for creature comforts.

The rest of the money I will likely donate to some of the better candidates running to remove the taint of Donald Trump from our government even though he cannot be removed from our history any more than we can expunge 300 years of slavery. When the history of Trump is written I hope my descendants read the books to find out what the hell happened and make sure its not repeated.

I don’t plan to post all that much until I’m back from France in six months. I’m still working hard to learn French and read French history. I’ll just stick the occasional post to keep my eight loyal readers from falling asleep. The rest of my time will be devoted to selecting past posts that explain how America trumped itself.

Stay tuned.

Whatever happened…..My latest Not Eudora Column

Whatever Happened to the Magnificent Seven

Thanks to the Reader for the nice graphic.

It begins:

In 1966, at age 16, I discovered pop music which was then a witch’s brew of pop, country, and rock about to go their separate ways. One of my early favorites was a song by the Statler Brothers “Flowers on the Wall.” It was about a guy who was dumped by his girlfriend. In the lyrics the fellow claims not to mind “playing solitaire alone with a deck of 51.” Seven years later, after the horrors of 1968 and Vietnam, the Statlers – now confirmed red necks – sang a new song that pined for the days of rugged cowboy heroes. I couldn’t stand it. The lyrics and chorus began:

You can read it all here.

The “wrong side” is winning

Despite the impossibly compelling news items today about our unraveling Presidency I have only one item to mention in the blog today.

It comes from the NPR interview with the author of the soon to be released novel “Varina.” It is about the wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

In real life Varina Davis left the South and took up life in New York City for the years following the war. I can’t vouch for the book but the author mentioned an anecdote that accords with other accounts I’ve heard about the leaders of the Civil War who were more interested in plow shares than swords in its aftermath. These included such luminaries as Robert E. Lee.

Here’s the sentance about Varina’s post war view of slavery that caught my attention:

“She, in later age, said very clearly: The right side won the war. “

Civil Rights in my lifetime came close to nailing the corpse of racism in a transylvanian coffin. Republicans, beginning in the era of George Wallace, did their best to use racism-lite to win over white southern voters with soft core appeals to their racist heritage until eventually they swamped the Party of Lincoln with the descendants of recalcitrant confederate loving, black vote suppressing, chip-on-the-shoulder types. I lived through a lot of this with Nixon, Reagan and most recently Donald Trump. There hasn’t been much room for Lincoln lovers like me in the Party since its ugly transformation. Lincoln lovers are tolerated if we shut up and sit outside the party’s windows on the ledge while the party defers to Rush Limbaugh and his ilk to prevent us from climbing back in. Our only choices are self defenestration or groveling debasement. Most have chosen the later. What’s their rationale? The think it would be terrible to lose control of America by arguing with Donald Trump’s cheerleaders. They are channeling Bashir – Gas my enemies – el Assad.

Me. Think of me as Wylie Coyote standing just beyond the ledge in mid air prior to a great fall. I’ve been levitating for the past 25 years.

Pick Pocket Proof Pants

This post was going to be a reverie on Facebook, Google et al and their scarfing up information about their users. It was appropos to Mr.Zucks appearance before Congress. I am still interested in this but I got caught up in my french studies and have lost the time to elaborate. As to the title.

The gods of the Internet have obviously taken note of my googling French subjects and deduced that I will be traveling abroad. That has become apparent as a result of an unending series of pop ups advertising travel slacks with lots of hard to pick pockets. It is appealing to three persuasive concerns I have 1. practicality, 2. looking good and finally 3. fear – of being robbed.

Fear is such a tiresome trope today. Of everything….. It has been so for ages. Fear of change. Fear of those people who look and talk funny and who are moving in next to you.

I’m with FDR on this one.

Molotov’s Wife

Note: I’m afraid I lied. I have not taken the time to proof read and edit this entry. I studied French instead.

I woke up from a dream in which two of my life’s goals were pitted against each other. Contemplating politics I had moved to southern Minnesota while I was in the process of applying for a job in another southern Minnesota town. Come to think of it that’s not all that different from my life’s beginning in Duluth. The wake up time was 4AM a scant five hours since I went to bed after my brain slowed down from a couple rounds of cellphone French lessons. Five hours is still an hour short of my faltering attempt to stave off Alzheimers’ with six or seven hours of brain cleansing sleep.

And I mean brain cleansing. Not of dreams but of cerebrospinal fluid. According to a very brief synopsis of brain research I read recently the brain, unlike the rest of the body, has no lymph glands coursing through it to remove the detritus of the day for later disposal. What has evolved in our brains is the nightly process of fluid from our spinal system surging through the brain to carry out this function. It does so between in the waves of REM sleep that occur each night. The suggestion is that if you wake up before the full course deep cleaning is finished you are left with dirt in your brains. According to another science article I’ve read this gunk ends up being coated with another ancient gift of our evolution a colesteral-like deposits that shields the brain from the dirt. The problem with this is that our brains fill up with a plaque that crowds out the development possibilities for new neurons. In effect, this prevents our brains from collecting new information and worse removes memories. …. then another recent science story told me that the general consensus that adult brains stop growing new brain cells may turn out not to be ……Stop Harry!

The greatest threat to my full night’s sleep is thinking too much. I try to go to bed keeping my head empty of thought. This is, according to my wife’s understanding, threatened by looking a the blue lights of a cell phone before bed. So, when I study French before collapsing I muck up my melotonin…..STOP IT AGAIN, Harry……..Rememer……Molotov’s wife.

Yes, in the hour of wakefullness after my five hours of sleep, I was juggling a dozen blogable ideas starting with Papa Joe.

Claudia and I went to see the movie, The Death of Stalin on Friday. It was very a funny movie about a mass murderer who drew up lists of people to be murdered every day just before he expired, comically, of a stroke from which his toadies were afraid he might revive. All this, by the way, is true (except for the comic part – the movie was/is comical and not at all interested in letting history muck up the grim reality.

Some sober reviewers have found fault with this but not me. I’ll take my history lessons however I can get them and since the three or four generations following me know diddly squat about Papa Joe I’m happy to have his tyrannical story told in any form that will catch an audience’s attention. Not many years ago I read Montefiore’s marvelous history of Stalin’s Russia larded with information about it released after the fall of the Soviet Union. (Check that. It was eleven years ago)

I recalled that one of the Stalin’s henchmen, Molotov, stayed true to Papa even after his wife was put on one of the lists and terminated. According to the movie, which played fast and loose with facts, Stalin’s top executioner Leverenti Beria, hid her in a jail to present to her husband after Stalin’s death as a way of coaxing him to support Beria’s plan to take Stalin’s place.

I rushed up to blog so fast that I have yet to check that out. One moment. Nope. Not true. That was a half truth for cinematic punch. She was convicted of treason, a capitol offense, but merely sent to the gulags. Beria never pretended to kill her. At least according to Wikipedia which pretty much accords with Montefiore’s book.

There, forty minutes on this [prior to a belated editing four days later] and I’m ready to feed my cats and scan the news before returning to my French lessons.

I had a lot of things jump into my head this morning begging for me to write about them. They include the latest human organ to be discovered. The Dark Web, The Deep State, the Illuminati, The Simpsons, Thomas Jefferson vs. Abe Lincoln, My take on the fantasists who have conjured up a paranoiac “Deep State.” It is part of a deep sepsis infecting the Republican Party courtesy of Rupert Murdoch’s “Fair and Balanced” Fox News. Its too profitable to tell old baby boomers the truth because fake news sells ads. Think of it as the news equivalent of scammers calling old people to sell them insurance they don’t need. Oh yeah, and “Pick Pocket Proof Pants.” I’ve got to blog about that last one. I jotted that down in the dark while in bed but the pen’s ink didn’t flow. I had to rub graphite across the paper to read it. That made the unreadable note a palimpsest. That’s what got me thinking about the Deep shit in the first place.

Now its been 50 minutes. Those cats are hungry. I’ll proof read this later today [or three days later] but you can read it now. I know! I know! Reading my blog entries pre-final edit is kinda like watching me sculpt snow.

It was the best of Times

The beginning of one of the few dozen novels I’ve read begins:

“It was the best of times it was the worst of times.” That’s how I feel now. My blog’s recent quiescence reflects my intense involvement with, reading the news, studying history, learning French, thinking about it all, all the while making sure not to neglect my family. If I was less preoccupied I’d be blogging like mad. I don’t even feel sorry for depriving my eight loyal readers. I’m sure they have enjoyed the vacation. Even when I lie in bed knitting together the many strands of my thinking I don’t feel too badly about my zipped fingers.

The past couple of days I’ve I’ve progressed in my French studies teasing out the elusive eliasons of the spoken language and developing enough vocabulary and grammar to imagine myself muddling along splendidly when I get to France five months from now. I better start making reservations.

Just now I was thinking of Dicken’s first words in A Tale of Two Cities and I came up with a useful corollary.

It was the best of times but don’t forget about the distressed and it was the worst of times but don’t be jealous of those who are doing better.

Putting aside Trump’s empty blue collar rhetoric I loath him because he only cares about himself. Despite his riches he can’t hide his envy of even richer plutocrats. Running for President was just another scheme to get richer which was spoiled by actually getting elected and facing the legal roadblocks to his corruptly getting richer in the swamp he poured more alligators into. Poor baby. He may even end up losing his billionaire status.

I have been accumulating blog material that I may never get around to pontificating about. I’ll just paste in a dozen stories from the New York Times, Guardian and Washington Post from the past few days that beg for our attention:

In 83 Million Eviction Records, a Sweeping and Intimate New Look at Housing in America

Sworn to secrecy, Trump’s history of using nondisclosure agreements

How the Party of Lincoln Became the Party of Racial Backlash

Why I left Fox News

A Riposte to European Superiority

And finally a story about the death of Linda Brown, nine years older than me, whose father helped integrate the Topeka Schools I would soon begin attending a short time later.

Today or tomorrow I mean to write my next “Not Eudora” column. So much to choose from but I’m leaning on talking about the old Western “Magnificent Seven” which I saw with my Grandsons……… It reminded me of this Statler Brother’s Song, lyrics below:

Lyrics here”

Everybody knows when you go to the show
You can’t take the kids along
You’ve gotta read the paper and know the code
Of G, PG and are and X
You gotta know what the movie’s about
Before you even go
Tex Ritter’s gone and Disney’s dead
The screen is filled with sex.

Whatever happened to Randolph Scott
Ridin’ the range alone
Whatever happened to Gene and Tex
And Roy and Rex, the Durango Kid
Whatever happened to Randolph Scott
His horse, plain as can be
Whatever happened to Randolph Scott
Has happened to the best of me.

Everbody’s tryin’ to make a comment
About our doubts and fears
True Grit’s the only movie
I’ve really understood in years
You gotta take your analyst along
To see if it’s fit to see
Whatever happened to Randolph Scott
Has happened to the best of me. Continue reading