Category Archives: Harry’s Diary

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.

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.

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


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.


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.


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.

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.

At My Zenith

I pulled in front of the new Zenith Book Store soon to open on my way to have a mocha and some serious conversation at Beaners with Alanna Oswald. (We just learned that the State is not going to strip away $1.5 million in Achievement and Integration revenue as they had once planned to do) As I got out of my car Bob King the Astronomer Supreme and DNT photo journalist shouted to me from across the street, his Cannon dangling from his neck. He was there take a photo of the new bookstore, no doubt for the upcoming Monday Tribune’s business section. I backed my car out of the way so that all the bibliophiles in Duluth would have an unobstructed view of our newest independent bookstore.

Then I had my mocha.

Then Alanna and I wondered if the store was open yet or if we could get a sneak peak. Voila, the door gave way as the new owner Bob Dobrow rushed up to tell us they weren’t opening for a couple days. Still, he let us come in to smell the freshly, sanded, wood floor and the scent of ten thousand new books. It was heavenly. Then I saw the cool mugs on the shelf and told him I’d love to buy one of them. Bob’s son is a potter. The new owners hadn’t entered SKU numbers for them yet so he couldn’t take my credit card and I was out of cash. Alanna came to my rescue with some good old U.S. legal tender. I seem to have become the Zenith’s first customer. I’m not sure if I beat out the Chamber of Commerce’s customary framed first dollar bill.

Alanna took my pic to record this momentous occasion. They looked to have a good selection of my kind of books.

Mankato, another Minnesota town with some history

A few weeks ago an old acquaintance from Mankato, where I graduated from high school in 1969, asked me to write up a post on a popular boutique shop that my Mother set up with a collection of “faculty wives” who called themselves the “Harpies” and who’s store they named “Harpies Bazaar.” Unfortunately, he asked me to post it on Facebook, a notoriously upbeat online space where people get depressed because everyone else’s lives are made to look so good. I linked to a blog post about my Mother’s Alzheimers. Downer.

But then Brad asked me to tell a bit about my foreign exchange student, Bedru Beshir, from Ethiopia. Brad was a class ahead of me and within a year of his 50th year anniversary of his graduation. There had been some curiosity after all these years about what had become of “Beds.” Brad and others from Bedru’s class had located Facebook pages of various Bedru’s currently living in Ethiopia. I had to tell him they were not our Bedru. Other graduates of the class of 68 had already discovered my old Reader Column spelling out Bedru’s likely fate. It was not a happy one for the first black student in memory to have attended Mankato High School. Double Downer.

What caught Brad’s attention to me was a response I had left to a series of Mankato History Facebook posts that had been prompted by the news that the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The garden was in the news for a controversial piece of art depicting the massive scaffold built in Mankato in 1863 to hang 38 Sioux Indians. Downer number three. I wrote about that in the Reader as well.

There were some furious arguments going on in Mankato between descendants of murdered settlers and sympathizers of the Sioux warriors. I waded in to say that not all the hung men were guilty. To another comment pinning the blame on Lincoln and a rebuttal by Lincoln defender who pointed out that Abe had reduced the number to be hung from over 300 to 38 I stuck up for Abe. I pointed out that despite the cries for vengeance during the Civil War when the President needed all the help he could from the North to prosecute the Civil War, his ten-fold reduction of those to be executed was an act of bravery.

To a person who responded to my reply that it was time to forget the hanging and “move on,” I quoted Santayana, “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.” I read almost the same argument for ignoring Duluth’s lynching in a letter-to-the Editor in the Trib shortly after Duluth began paying attention to its infamous 1920 lynching. Mankato, like Duluth, has some infamy in its closet.

One of the people who spoke up for Mankato in the face of this third downer was one of the Saiki’s. She came out with a long Chamber of Commerce like list of wonderful things to have been invented in Mankato that changed the world including the Honeymead Corporation’s use of soybeans which has had a huge impact on our oversea’s trade with Asian nations. One of her Japanese forbears happened to bring those soy beans to Mankato from California.

I wrote back in reply explaining that I had graduated in 1969 with one of her family members. I then mentioned that my Mother had told me about her family’s arrival in Mankato. They had been interned (imprisoned) during the Second World War but their mysterious ability to sex chicks to be rid of the useless roosters-to-be was just what the Nation needed to produce eggs for its soldiers overseas. I told her that that the consequence of this fourth downer gave her family and Mankato every reason to be proud of that all but forgotten bit of local history. And that was not a downer.

In the same way, Duluth’s embracing of its notorious past offers more than a little redemption.

Beau Geste

“Wacky Wednesday” continues. Even though vacation bible school has taken the place of school Claudia and I are still hosting our grandsons on Wednesday night. For the past four months that Claudia has checked the homeless into to the CHUM center on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I gave up my Wednesday Choir practice to pick the boys up from school and get them to bed. Until this summer that meant gluing ourselves to PBS’s Nature program to watch cameras being inserted into fake animals for closeups, hummingbirds in slow-mo and crocs attacking wildebeests. Last night I was curious to see if the first movie to capture my imagination might entertain them – 1939’s black and white Beau Geste. That movie made Gary Cooper my role model for years to follow. It was an adulation which was only heightened a few years later when I saw the only movie I ever watched with my movie-phobic Grandfather.

Both movies were made in the magical year 1939 but, would the boys, aged 7 and 10, turn up their nose to Geste after Pixar classics too numerous to mention? Not at all. Good story telling wins out every time and Geste had them, like it had me, from the first look at the grim specters lining Fort Zinderneuf’s crenelations.

Even 30 minutes of frustration trying to remember my Amazon Prime password and trying to push the right buttons on the blasted remote followed by the boys pushing each other’s buttons and being sent to their rooms until they apologized didn’t dampen the movie. When they complied with their grumpy Papaw’s demand I gratefully reciprocated with my own apology. Then I told them that the movie would show them brothers who were loyal to each other. (I have to take advantage of every opportunity to give a sermon.)

Beau Geste lasted one hour and 52 minutes and was near its end when Claudia got home a little after 8. She put on her bath robe and joined us to watch as the movie finally answered its lingering mysteries and as the three brothers became one. Sorry, that’s a spoiler.

As Digby Geste sounded his trumpet for the last time Claudia gasped, “that’s the Music Man! You saw that movie with us.” We surely did and they liked that 1962 classic too with a much older Robert Preston playing Professor Harold Hill.

Claudia suggested suggested that I read to them from my Calvin and Hobbs collection because their summer bedtime gave them an extra hour. I also read C and H to their Mother and Uncle Robb with gusto when they were the same age. The boys were enchanted too although the Tan Man wrinkled his eyes and asked how a six year old Calvin could have such an adult vocabulary. I told him that Calvin was P-R-E-C-O-C-I-U-S just like he and his brother were, and besides, if he was going to get picky why didn’t he object to Calvin’s having a talking tiger.

Finding good Karma

My neighbor’s sweet little Karma, aged 11 and mostly deaf, escaped the fence for the first time last night and was last seen crossing 21st Avenue East, by my home. If by chance you have spotted Karma note the sign posted on the street lights at my corner and earn a better life to come.

A month’s worth of blog material in a week…

…and I’m using my free time to garden?

This has happened a number of times since I got reelected to the School Board. Sometimes I drown my readers in verbiage. Sometimes I do a lot of cogitating and only half-heartedly attempt to keep up. I figure I have a whole summer before me that no one in their right mind will want to read about the Duluth Schools. (Then again I’m probably not in my right mind!) I will find time to do some catching up between picnics and barbecues. And then, Whoo-boy! Wait till school starts again after Labor Day. That’ll keep my fingers busy.

LeBeau has seen better days

This is LeBeau. Claudia and I acquired him at the Biltmore Mansion gift shop ages ago. He has had an active life in our garden ever since. He took an active part in one wedding although he would be even more embarassed by those photos being the grouch that he is.

Sadly, our winters have taken a toll on him. This is how he looked the other day as we began our spring gardening.


At least I got a good night’s sleep after seven hours of yardwork, planting and weeding. Poor old LeBeau is living his last nightmare.

Eye Roll Emoji

This was too good to pass up even though I have three previous posts sitting here with no text or explanation. I am very busy at my keyboard at the moment but don’t have time to work on them….yet.

But, I just got some texts about the School District and after reading them I asked if there was such a thing as an eye roll emoji.

It turns out there is.

It should save me a lot of time in the future.

“I’m good.”

Romance was thick in the Welty household yesterday. I had to call Alanna and Art and let them know that I would miss the 709 Teacher’s and staff retirement party. This was because it was the third wedding anniversary of our daughter. I found myself unexpectedly taking care of our grandsons.

The same night we got a call from our son’s significant other. She told us that the two of them were engaged. After Claudia handed the phone to me I told my soon-to-be daughter-in-law that my cheeks were cramping up because of smiling.

Our future DIL was worried about letting us know before she posted the happy news on Facebook lest we find out second hand. Our son, you see, is the master of nonchalance. When his intended asked if she should call his Mother and tell her his response was “Why would you do that?”

After hearing the news and our our son’s studied indifference Claudia texted him with the question: “Do you have anything to tell us?”

His reply: “I’m cool.”

We’ve raised another Calvin Coolidge.

I’m not surprised. In 2017 his old classmate, Annie Harala, told me her second grader’s recollection of a story that our family dusts off regularly. Coincidentally, I saw Annie and Robb’s old second grade teacher, Mrs. Lemon, at the grocery story the other day and mentioned the incident to her. Mrs. Lemon brought a bucket of lamb eyeballs to class for the children to dissect. Robb took one look at the contents and passed out. As Annie remembered it, all the kids raised their hand to tell Mrs. Lemon that Robb was on out cold on the floor.

“Oh I was trying to remember which student that was,” Mrs. Lemon replied.

I suspect that when Robb woke up, he acted as though he had intended to pass out. He is a cat person and cats are always cool.

2,590 May readers to disappoint

As of ten seconds ago 2,590 people have visited my blog so far in May. Its not as impressive a number as it my seem.

I check my blog’s stats daily and they have changed glacially over the last ten years since Lincolndemocrat’s birth. But they have changed. In all of my first full year of blogging (2007) I had 9,937 “unique visitors.” So far in the first half of 2017 I’ve had 19,794 such visitors. At year’s end I should have a four fold increase in unique visitors over my first year.

But that statistic is very misleading. Most of my “visitors” just take a quick 30 second peek in to look before flitting off to more interesting websites. My hard core readers (all of them anonymous to me) are the ones who read for an hour-long stretch or more. For years those readers have numbered 100 each month. So far in May there have been 110 hour-plus readers. I call them my “eight loyal readers.”

100 hour-plus readers, multiplied by the last 48 months would represent 4,800 “unique visitors” over 4 years. But it stands to reason many of these folk only visited once and a smaller percentage, maybe 30%, come back semi-regularly. Still, that would be 1,600 return visitors.

The point I want to make is this: I have a lot of people looking over my shoulders. In ten years I’ve heard the occasional whisper that my blog is not fair but I’ve only had a very few public attacks on the contents of my blog. When I took the School District and the Goliath Johnson Controls to court the lawyers printed out a hundred pages of my blog to submit to the court to demonstrate my unworthiness. I presume the deep pocketed legal firms defending the half billion building plan set three or four newbie attorneys to pour through my commentary for anything that would discredit me. The court wasn’t impressed so Johnston Controls’ PR man handed the printouts to a local “liberal” Rush Limbaugh who took a couple passages out of hundreds to his readers that I once said I didn’t use the “B word” and that I had the audacity to mention that our judge was an elected official.

A more serious complaint was about an unnamed friend who told me that one Red Plan school board supporter said such foolish things that they ought to be “bricked” (have some sense knocked into their head). It was suggested that this was a threat. I think I heeded that criticism and withdrew the quote but I’ve been unable to locate the offending post. It’s one of the few instances in which I made a serious change to a post.

In the last year I can’t count the number of times someone has told me either, “that’s not bloggable,” or “Don’t blog that.” Every so often someone will request that I remove something that could be traced back to them or told me that they will simply have to stop being forthcoming with me. That includes Claudia Welty, my wife. She told me years ago that I was not to blog about her and as my “eight loyal readers” can attest -I keep mentioning her.

This is a long prologue for a tiny tidbit. Despite two warnings yesterday not to blog about the teachers negotiation I’m going to mention it here. After many old posts complaining about my ill treatment three years ago during contract negotiations I sat through the first meeting of this year’s negotiations. No blood was spilled.

I had informed the Board by email that I was inviting myself to attend. No objections were sent back to me. Once there an administrator told that if I said so much as a single word at the meeting the teachers would all walk out instantly. I considered this hyperbole to drive home home the sensitivity of the meeting. Nevertheless, I abided by the injunction and said nothing although I did take copious notes. (Not good notes, just copious notes) Six hours later one of our administrators told me that the teacher negotiators told him to pass on to me that they didn’t want to see any mention of the negotiations in my blog.

Well, I’ve just mentioned it. Big deal! It was a public meeting.

I’ll risk thinner ice. After watching our top three administrators negotiate, including the Superintendent, I told them I was very satisfied with the process I’d witnessed. (read into that what you’d like) I added that unlike my previous experience, of being frozen out, this experience had put to rest the paranoia which accompanies being denied access. Let me add that I was elected to be a part of this critical process and that I have no desire to betray any confidentiality while the talks continue. I’ll also add that it is critical that the school board be represented at the negotiations and that state statute makes the Board responsible for them.

This is all very shocking, I know.

The elephant in the DFL screening room

I had a jolly good time at the screening committee. I knew several of the screeners some of whom may have been surprised to see me turn up. It was that way at my first DFL Precinct caucus which I think was 2006.

At that first caucus I joined about 30 folks in a classroom at Woodland Middle School. Eyebrows were raised there as well as DFLers know their Republicans. It was odd but comforting as well as for the first time in twenty years I actually voted in a majority on a great many issues which had become verboten for Republicans. I attended about four election cycles of DFL caucuses and the 2008 caucus was probably the highlight of my political life with its huge Barack Obama turnout. It was a heady experience being in a majority at the following District convention when Obama won handily.

Readers of my Blog know that while I rant and rave about Republicans I have fond recollections of the party of my youth. I liked Ike, a fellow Kansan. I loved National Parks so, of course, I liked Teddy, and agnostic old Abe is my all time hero. Long after Lincoln Dinners were abandoned by Dixie-saturated Republicans I was charmed to hear a DFL gathering speak of Abraham with something approaching reverence.

But it was Harry Welty, not Abraham Lincoln, who crashed the screening committee. I joked with the folks I knew and with the people I didn’t. I blamed the Republicans for electing Donald Trump. I told them I would be honored to be an endorsed Democrat on the Duluth School Board even while adding I still didn’t think endorsements for non-partisan races was necessarily the best idea.

I told the screeners that I wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea but that I didn’t believe in conducting myself by (and here I licked my finger and stuck it up in the air) testing the wind. I told those new to me that I hid nothing and that everything I stood for I had put into this blog.

I also was asked to explain my ambiguous sounding answer to Question #12: Will you abide by the endorsement of the convention and cease your campaign if someone else is endorsed?

My answer: “I will follow the honorable example of DFL Governors Rolvaag, Perpich and Dayton.”

The explanation I gave to the screener was this: All three of these DFL Governors ran for the state’s highest office without the endorsement of the DFL state convention.

Of course, none of these candidates had ever been affiliated with the Republican Party. Elephants are no more useful to the DFL than they are to Ringling Brother’s, Barnum and Bailey Circus these days.

Of course, Ronald Reagan didn’t mind adding lots of jackasses to the GOP when he was President and they proved pretty useful: From Wikipedia: Continue reading

Preview or excuse not to blog……you decide

Saturday’s past, So much to blog about including:

My Saturday pitch to a DFL screening committee, friendly firing line, Party politics, three governor’s example, Being corrected, choosing a top priority, Dark Money, Trumbo, SNL, Dark Money again……….a big DNT article on Absenteeism which I have yet to read, my priority, $ or Equity or both? And, oh yes, the 25th Amendment and the imminent speech to the Saudis by President Trump, his reset, First lady uncovered hair, Islam hates us, Transactions guns to kill Shiites, Iran Nuclear Deal, Do what I do not what I say.

but I have to leave for church in five minutes and its being Sunday I will spend it with family trying not to think of …ah President Trump is being introduced by the Saudis so he can begin to speak………gotta go. Choir calls.

“No news” for me isn’t “good news” although I was hoping it would be

I’ve reading the news since waking this Saturday while also listening to NPR’s Saturday new program. Before the November election I had anticipated being able to ratchet back my fifty year old preoccupation with the news so as to spend more time researching and writing some books. But something happened on the way to the Library’s Foyer. Donald Trump!

I was worried all last year that his infantile demagoguery would get the best of America’s voters since our political system is so broken. And yet, I kept putting my faith in the prognosticators who had little doubt that Hillary Clinton would win. With my fingers crossed that she might put an end to a thirty-year RINO purging juggernaut I hoped that I could tune out the news in 2017. No such luck. Now it occupies even more of my attention especially with my new subscription to the New York Times – the best source on Donald Trump’s history imaginable. I’m even staying up past my bedtime to watch Late night television hosts skewer the Trumpsters although this doesn’t guarantee me a full night’s sleep.

And so, its been three hours of news on what should have been a sleepy Saturday morning. In two-and-a-half hours I will be interviewed by a DFL screening committee to see if I can muster their recommendation that I be considered endorsement as a DFL School Board candidate at the June 3rd convention. The first question on their 14 item questionnaire is: “why are you seeking the DFL endorsement?” My answer: “I wish to serve my fourth term on the Duluth School Board as a Democrat.”

My eight loyal readers can guess that there is a very long post hiding behind that short reply but newbies to this blog aren’t going to get it here. Its buried in posts in categories like “Republican Dogma,” “My GOP Defection,” “Lincoln,” “God’s Own Party,”
Crime and Punishment,” “Civil Rights” and many others on the list to this post’s right.

The School Board is a non-partisan office and I’ve never been a fan of politicizing it but today it seems useful for me to dive into the blender. I already have plenty of experience with a frog puree.

There are two stories from today’s reading I’d like to recommend. The first is Denfeld Graduate, Judge Mark Munger’s reminiscence about the Duluth Schools written in response to a recommendation that we saddle Denfeld students with a blue collar curriculum.

The second come’s from the NY Times, The Collapse of American Identity, which had this arresting illustration:

I highly recommend reading some of the 1200 replies to this op ed.

Lifehouse CHUMS and their alter egocentrics

I gave up trying to fall back asleep at 3 and padded downstairs to read the third chapter of Dark Money. The first two chapters gave me the background of the 800 pound gorillas of the big money movement to turn us back to the Middle Ages. They covered the Kochs and Richard Mellon Scaife. The third covered both the Olin Foundation and Milwaukee’s Bradley Foundation. This book is reminding me of forty years worth of sporadic reports and tying them into a comprehensible bow. I certainly believed there was something behind Hillary Clinton’s “vast right wing conspiracy” and this book lifts the veil. The “conspiracy” is all perfectly legal or at least legalish and court rulings like Citizens’s United have vastly if I dare use that adverb, enhanced the power of the big spenders.

I dimly recalled a news story about about some rich guy, (it was Richard Mellon Scaife) putting up a sign in his neighborhood announcing the loss of his dog and wife and offering a reward for the dog. But now I know more about this bonvivant. His rich and conservative Grandfather, Andrew Mellon, was the Secretary of the Treasury for all three Republican Presidents of the 1920’s. He also was a prolific tax cheat and his grandson took up his motto, “Give tax breaks to large corporations, so that money can trickle down to the general public, in the form of extra jobs.”

This philosophy makes for an interesting contrast to last night’s fundraiser for Life House which takes care of discarded young people. Scaife and his silky ilk generally decry coddling the weak putting a much higher premium on protecting the assets of America’s aristocrats. The hundred’s of million Scaife donated to “charity” largely went to maintain his and other rich folks wealth not to the needy.

Claudia and I sat down with some of the people she has been working with at the CHUM homeless Center. Spending the last few months checking people in has been eye opening for her. Seeing someone released from a hospital near death’s door looking for a place to sleep on the floor has a way of impressing itself on the imagination. A young couple sitting next to us volunteer at Life House as I did three years ago. We were a jolly crowd. Our speaker Famous Dave of Rib fame gave a rousing talk and I learned he was half Choctaw, a much larger percentage of that tribe’s heritage than my grandson has but enough for me to some kinship with the Rib Master.

I suspect the billionaires club would consider the Rib magnate an exception to their rule. Milwaukee’s Bradley Foundation financed the infamous 1994 book the “Bell Curve” which posited that blacks were intellectually inferior to white folk. Indians probably didn’t fare much better in the analysis.

There is no end to the unpleasantness emanating from Milwaukee. Its not just my old nemesis Johnson Controls, its Governor Tommy Thompson’s call to make poor people work for their welfare while Republicans happily outsourced decent factory jobs overseas. (Bill “Triangulation” Clinton latched onto both of these planks for his Presidency.) Its also the Milwaukee County Executive, Scott Walker, union buster extraordinaire and Koch Brother favorite. Its also a dreamscape for Secretary of Education Besty DeVos’s world of public education vouchers. I wonder where Billionaires fit on the Bell curve?

Famous Dave, who is a generous contributor to the needy, showed us pictures of his vast and messy library. He told us he reads for hours every day and gives his faithful reading credit for the half-billion-a-year enterprise he built off of a $10,000 business loan. That’s quite a contrast with our current President who can barely squeak through a teleprompter but then again, Trump inherited his start in life. I’m afraid Trump gives billionaires a bad name but the Koch’s are stoked. It was reported today that they are following up their $800 million investment in the 2016 election with a $300 million push to pass Trump’s tax decreases on the wealthy and ending the estate tax before Trump’s impeachment after which the GOP might be hard pressed to help the filthy rich.

Whew! National Teacher’s Day

Why do I lead the title of this post “Whew”? Because in a school board member’s blog National Teacher’s Day should not go unremarked on and for this school board member, seeing today’s Google’s animation was just one more of a half dozen things for me to remark upon. Its not quite the straw that will break my back but I feel its weight.

If it was national school board day it would be more like that Woody Allen snippet from his spoof on Tolstoy Love and Death:

As a certified, if not certifiable, school board member I have license to use this clip in remembrance of that other wit, Mark Twain’s, toast to school boards.

BTW – I saw this movie when I was in college and I busted a gut with this gag. Until I just googled it I hadn’t seen it since. It still a good gut buster.

My daughter, a teacher, who was just awarded her Masters degree in education a couple days ago, shared this thoughtful appraisal of the “superteacher” on Facebook.

Word has it that one of the candidates for the school board this fall comes from the ranks of teaching. I hope this teacher doesn’t find themselves falling from a pedestal and into a Woody Allen spoof come January. And today’s Trib was full of stories about the Duluth School Board which hints of an idiot’s convention. I’ll add a couple of anecdotes while I’m at it starting with my apology.

Graduation Ceremony – Harry’s Diary

Claudia and I left early Saturday for the Twin Cities with our grandsons. The occasion was the following day’s graduation ceremony for the United Theological Seminary. Claudia joined our son, Robb, as a master hers being a Master of Arts in Religious Leadership degree. Of course, our son expects to jump further ahead at the end of next year with his Doctorate.

On Saturday, in advance of the ceremony, we took the boys to the Minnesota Zoo and checked out the new traveling Australian exhibition with Wallabies and Emus galore. We wandered the Zoo for six hours before retiring to our hotel and an hour in the pool. The next morning we took the boys to the Science Museum in Minneapolis and took in the Omnimax movie about the desolation of the Southeastern Asian reefs. I couldn’t help but think about the decimation of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. I barely read the press yesterday but did note that once again President Trump has come to the rescue of polluters.

It was lovely in the Twin Cities yesterday and while Claudia practiced her graduation rigmarole with peers I walked over to a local playground with the boys for a little diversion before the ceremony began. I took dozens of grainy cellphone pics and woke up today with an urgent request from my brother in law to share them through Facebook. Its one more chore for me to add to my list of to-dos most of them related to ISD 709. A weekend away from Duluth and they are piling up.

Before I’d left for the Cities I was hit up for budgetary info on the District that I had promised and failed to give someone a couple months ago. This morning I discovered a couple of small wildfires burning in the 709’s backyard. I guess there’s no rest for the wicked. And by the way – I plan to send up a third edition of the I won’t wait for 3 years posts. Then, I’ll have to compose a response to a pretty demanding set of questions sent to me by the Denfeld parent’s group on district wide equity. Sometimes being on the Duluth School Board feels like being an electron in a lightening strike. Maybe Claudia’s study of heaven can help me come to terms with this occasional hellishness.

I’ve also ordered a couple more books to add to my list and one of them strays from my reading on the political era my grandfather George Robb was born into Its called “Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right” It will be a nice follow up to Karl Rove’s book on the first mega-money election for the Presidency in 1896: The Triumph of William McKinley: Why the Election of 1896 Still Matters.

Oh, and a few minutes ago Claudia handed me another book from the mail. Driven Out: The forgotten war against chinese Americans. This is yet another issue that pervaded the America of my Grandfather’s youth. America has long been a land where the Enlightenment’s principles enshrined in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution have wrestled with the messy resistance to the “Melting pot.”

I once played a bit part on Jimmy Kimmel’s show…

…which I only recalled late last night. It was back in 2004. This mention of the occasion in the News Tribune was published two years later. A local radio station asked me to show up at Mr. Birkedahl’s residence to offer commentary for Jimmy Kimmel’s late night show which got one of the local television stations to show up and live video the event so that Mr. Birkedahl could be interviewed. Jimmy didn’t seem to be very impressed.

Back then I’d never seen Kimmel’s show but knew it had the reputation of being a bawdy frat show: