All posts by harrywelty

Making up for Chinese ceansorship

Finding myself denied the chance to send out greetings to Facebook left me with some pent up frustration. As my eight loyal readers know all too well, I hate being shut up.

So, I have put a second video “scrapbook” on Facebook of Days three and four. To my chagrin the video ends with this photograph in which my head is cut off. How very Chinese of Facebook.

Remember this picture when you see the last headless frame in the video.

This trip became more personal for me shortly after we visited the Great Wall. On our way back to Beijing we were taken to the “Ming Tombs.”

The Mings were the last indigenous Han Chinese to rule before the Manchu from north of the Great Wall invaded and reinvented themselves as the Ching Dynasty shortly after the English settlement of North America. Only after I entered the path with columns of paired animals to greet deceased emperors did I realize I was walking where my parents had stepped 35 years before on my Father’s sabbatical tour of the Pacific. If you look on the left column of the quilt my Mother made to remember her travels you will see the standing camels from the Ming Tombs. Claudia and I posed by one of the resting camels just past the standing camels which you can see on Mom’s quilt.

You may also have noticed the picture on the sign showing Mao tse-Tung and three comrades standing by one of the elephants. I took the occasion to pose by an elephant too although in a little more whimsical pose.

Our guide pointed out chips and cracks in the great statues that were inflicted on them during the Cultural Revolution when Mao’s youthful, know-nothing fanatics went about the nation burning and obliterating every object of ancient Chinese cultural veneration just like ISIS and the Taliban have done or like President Trump’s supporters are doing now to the “small D” democratic traditions of America.

The statues had been repaired by the time my parents visited and were there to greet me too. I can almost forgive the Chinese Communists for trying to tamp down the sometimes chaotic Democratic impulse. They are the latest dynasty, albeit an oligarchical one without a living emperor. Their emperor lies under glass an ancestor who’s picture is hung up to loom over Tiananmen Square.

type in “Mao under glass” and you will find a youtube explanation that, along with all other youtube offerings, is blocked in China.

In case Tiananmen Square is too remote from rural China Mao also finds himself on all denominations of bank notes.

Testing one, two, three

Back to business. I still have two weeks of Tribs to read and I’ve got to see if my “trading cards” are ready yet. And this morning my nephew paid us a call ending a seven year estrangement between our families. He’s a new Dad and that means new leaves being turned over. I’m delighted.

But like I began – back to business. I read this story in the Minneapolis paper last night and its in the DNT today. This will have implications for Duluth which I can not yet thoroughly discern. Second paragraph:

The new plan would take full effect in the 2018-19 school year. It replaces the ratings and labels given to public schools based on their performance with one that focuses on the lowest-performing 5 percent of Title 1-funded schools. It also would identify high schools with a graduation rate below 67 percent or where any student group — black, Asian, Latino or low-income, for example — falls below a 67 percent graduation rate.

This story screams “EQUITY!”

Good. That’s one of the three legs of my campaign and you can find it on the back of my trading cards. “EQUITY-HONESTY-EXPERIENCE” I better go pick them up if they are ready and begin passing them out at Spirit Mountain Days. Tomorrow though. Its too wet today.

I might even need to spend some time working on my clunky campaign webpage:

China in the rear view mirror – Post 1

China may block Facebook but Facebook is pretty stingy about letting people easily share the posts they’ve put together. Last night after picking out several dozen of the 500 or so pictures I took with my cell phone I took a dozen from our first two days in China into a short Facebook “slideshow.” It is much quicker than browsing through a dozen photos and if you really want to see one you can pause the video. This is what I posted to Facebook about the first of several slideshows to come:

Sites from Beijing – view from our hotel and bus window, Tianamin Square and Forbidden City and the Dowager Empresses’ Compound. The Dowager is said to have brewed poisoned tea for one of her court rivals. Ever since Chinese have joked that the tea was “mama hoo hoo.” In English that means, so so.

It took me ages to edit and upload what otherwise would have been simple posts had I been doing my work on my computer here in Duluth. I often did it in the middle of the night in the bathroom of our hotel or river ship’s state room. More of my fellow travelers were asleep then giving me more bandwidth and less wait time.

Half way through our trip I discovered one Internet necessity that the Chinese did not block – Wikipedia. That was a godsend and it was explained in a news story I read while abroad that said the authors of Wikipedia were particularly faithful to the notion of journalistic impartiality in their work. I guess even the People’s Republic could live with that although they probably have a small army of checkers who edit critical Wiki posts so that they comport with the Chinese view of the world.

In my video you will see some shots of Chinese that I did not ask permission to take. I hope they can remain as anonymous here as they were to me when I snapped them. I must stress that whatever international disagreements exist between our two nations the Chinese I met were very friendly. As my little tour group went around to various Chinese hot spots we were constantly being asked by more rural visitors to their nation’s iconic destinations to pose with them for pictures they could show to friends back home to prove they had actually seen exotic foreigners. Our guide told us that we are often referred to as “dabizi” (Dah-BEE-zee) meaning “big nose.” That and mama hoo hoo are part of the paltry Chinese lingo I acquired while traveling. The Chinese I met spoke English with a great diversity of competence.

Twixt China and Duluth

I’m not quite through pontificating about China. Heck, I haven’t even posted any pictures but now that I’m back home I have work to do. I’m running again for the School Board among other things.

Behind the Bamboo Internet Curtain I was unable to answer email or see “notifications” of Facebook messages. I looked forward to having this afternoon for that but we slept late at a park and ride motel and then our Toyota’s brakes were gummed up and we had to kill three hours to have the problem fixed before driving home. We didn’t get back till about 4 PM and grandchildren were waiting for us and the treats we might bring them. For my part that included a couple pounds of strange wrapped Chinese candies. I bought them at a Walmart in Shanghai and promptly left the building without seeing the live chickens, frogs, fish and chickens that Walmart sells in their Chinese stores. I didn’t bother to go see them with the rest of our tour but I heard they smelled a little ripe even for being alive.

One of the emails sent to me came from the Duluth Federation of Teachers. It was an invitation to interview with them next week but as I could not open it I had to wait until today to reply. Here’s their invite:

Sent: 27-Jul-2017 21:05:27 +0000
From: “Dzuck, Terry [MN]”
To: , , , , , , , ,
Subject: Duluth Federation of Teachers School Board Candidates Screening

Greetings Duluth School Board candidates. Attached please see a letter inviting you to participate in the Duluth Federation of Teachers Screening event taking place on Tuesday, August 8, 2017.

and here’s my acceptance:


I apologize for my tardy reply. I just returned from a trip to the People’s Republic of China last night and they block email. I saw that you had sent it but couldn’t open it.

I look forward to my interview and plan to attend.

Best regards,

Harry Welty

2 minutes of random Shanghai traffic

Shot from the 11th floor of the Westin “Lotus” Hotel.

It’s being uploaded to YouTube. Will explain after our drive to Duluth this afternoon.

Best I can do while on my cell phone waiting to have my tires checked in Inver Grove Hts is share the link:

As I explained on Facebook:

“This is not a dramatic picture of the Great Wall or the Terracotta warriors but a mundane 2 minute video taken from our last day in China from the 11th floor of the Westin “Lotus” Hotel. Gov. Christie is defending President Trump on CNN in the background.

American street traffic is much more orderly but Chinese Internet and television traffic is even more orderly. No troubling news….unless it’s about the USA.”

On our first day in China, in Beijing, I found a startling sign in the 5 star Kerry Hotel that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. I took a picture of what I found in the top drawer of the bedside table. It wasn’t a Gideon’s Bible.

Not a Gideon's Bible

It was a pair of free prophylactics.

Dear Duan

Back in Wuhan, at the end of my Yangzte River journey, I decided to give Barbara Tuchman’s book on Stilwell to our tour guide. He mentioned that previous guests had given him such books over the last decade that he has been leading tours. Some of them like “Wild Swans” are on the government’s version of the Vatican’s “Index list.”

He had told me, when I asked, that he mostly read histories and I was pretty sure Tuchman’s book was even rarer in China than it is in American used book stores.

I found time on our trip to get half way through the book reading out loud to Claudia. At times we we read about Chinese locales while we were actually passing through them. Giving the book before we finished it and departed from Shanghai would be no sacrifice because we had already downloaded it to our kindle account as well. I will buy another hard cover copy in any event. That is the collector in me.

I found myself mentally composing a thank you in the middle of the night to write in the book’s inside front cover. This is essentially what I wrote:

Dear Duan,

When I was 11 in 1962 the author of this book may have played a part in preventing World War III. Her book, Guns of August” had just been read by our President Kennedy when he discovered Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba.

Guns of August was about how the European governments unwittingly stumbled into W W 1. JFK having read it, was determined not to begin a nuclear war with the Soviet union because of miscommunication. Even if it hadn’t inspired Kennedy to save the world it was a great book. It was awarded our nation’s highest literary honor, the Pulitzer Prize, for history. The author would earn a 2nd Pulitzer for this history of General Stilwell.

I wanted to share it with you so you could see that some Americans have always looked on China with some subtlety and a great deal of sympathy. Joe Stilwell was one of them and by the way he was no fan of Chiang Kai-Shek. I don’t think my father was either when I was growing up. He is the person who gave Tuchman’s book to me.

You have been a wonderful, insightful and good humored guide to your land’s people and history. You have given me hope that our two nations can look forward to the future as friends and maybe even allies. Vinegar Joe seemed to anticipate that future as well.

You have my best regards and many thanks.

Harry Welty

PS. To my knowledge this history has not been banned by the People’s Republic.

How is a diaper like a politician?

That was the question posed by Ben  tonight at our cruise ship’s hokey talent night program. Ben is painfully earnest and his jokes are made sweet because of his tortured English syntax. It was a good question for me to contemplate as I face reelection for my 4th term on the Duluth school board and think about the ongoing aftermath of our nation’s 2016 election.

I believe I mentioned how much Claudia and I enjoyed the cynical Australian TV series “The Rake” a couple years back. After 2 seasons we had to wait 2 years before seasons 3 and 4 made it to Netflix. Well, a week before China they appeared and we binge watched them. They are a devil-may-care hoot in the Ausie take no bullshit tradition. And ladt season the Rakes’ writers had the best riff on the Trump phenomenon of anyone on television. We saved the last four episodes to watch on Claudia’s kindle while we were in China and I hope its no spoiler to say Canberra will never be the same.

Joe Stilwell had the same attitude toward politicians eighty years ago as the Rake all the way up to his Commander and Chief. It’s a universal feeling and I got a healthy whiff of it today at the Chinese grade school we visited in Jiangsu a “medium sized” city of five million. (Viking Cruises sponsors it and it pays for poor kids schooling)

After its students gave we tourists a spirited performance, under a ferociously hot sun, we gathered in the 4th grade classroom to ask them questions and have our money belts loosened up with good will.

We asked the shy children to tell us what they wanted to be when they grew up. One boy wanted to be an athlete. The girl who let Claudia listen to her device’s earphone and her American pop music wanted to be a singer. A third boy said something that so surprised our guide that he suppressed a smile and told us he’d translate it after we got back on the bus.

The nine-year-old had explained that he wanted to overthrow the Chinese government.

Trust me. We all wondered the same thing. Would the boy get in trouble? Nope. He just embarrassed his teacher. The youngster also made clear how much China had changed.

Our guide joined us for dinner tonight and we had a frank conversation with him about this. He explained that the boy was parroting what he heard at home from rural people who detest the petty corruption they endure from party hacks. While he didn’t want China to have a government overthrow he viewed the boy’s comment as a sign of healthy skepticism blowing accross the land. 

As our cruise director explained – some things need to be changed regularly.

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.

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 sooner than that, please do.

We look forward to hearing back from you soon.

Thanks on behalf of the Editorial Board,


Chuck Frederick

Editorial Page Editor

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


My reply to Chuck (if pushing send worked):


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


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



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



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:


My Reply to 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:


I explain:

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