Category Archives: moderation

I just can’t help myself

This was intended as a “confidential” email but I am quite content to let the general public see it:

To me from Chuck Frederick, Editorial Page Editor of the Duluth News Tribune:

Hey Harry. I was told you posted on your blog that you were against political parties endorsing in nonpartisan races like those for School Board. Yet you were begrudgingly planning to seek the DFL endorsement this Saturday. First, why do you feel that parties should stay out of nonpartisan races? And if you feel they should why are you pursuing the party nod this Saturday? I’d appreciate your comments. Please feel free to reply. I’d appreciate it. And don’t worry, not planning on being critical of you in an editorial if we choose to do one.


And my reply:

To: Chuck Frederick
Subject: RE: party endorsement comment

Hi Chuck,

At the DFL screening I told them I wasn’t a fan of partisan endorsements for a non-partisan race. That’s true enough.

But I can’t deny the practical side. This is a traditional tool of Democrats to recruit candidates who can then have a jumping off pad for higher office. The Republicans who sniff at this in Duluth can be sure that Republicans do the same thing in Republican areas. Look at the damned races for judges.

I said I begrudgingly did something but that was at our special school board meeting. That was about spending money on fixing up Rockridge or spending general fund money on bonds. About the DFL I am being pragmatic.

I have a couple overlapping motives. The first I tell you in confidence. I don’t want a couple of my DFL board adversaries to get the 60 percent votes for endorsement that will assure them tons of Party help in the late fall. 2nd, I would like an easy election for a change. I have never had any good endorsements other than the Trib’s in 1999 and 2013.

Finally, I have had it up to here with no nothings. I have never reviled democrats. I like the idea of wrapping a perfectly respectable party around myself at this time of foolish, ignorant, hyper-partisanship. I detest Trump and blame the GOP for his destructive success. I want the Democrats to bring the blue collar voters back for a healthier nation.

And there is something else I would rather do this summer than knock on doors. I want to begin writing a book about my Grandfather. He was a rock-ribbed, Kansas Republican who wasn’t paranoid about Democrats. An easy campaign will give me freedom to pursue this.


For the record I don’t think publishing this before Saturday will make it any easier for me to win the nomination but I don’t care. If I have to campaign like hell I’ll do it. We have some extremely myopic school board members and we need some fresh blood. I don’t think mine is past the sell by date.

Speck # 6 The League of Democratic Women Voters

This is a report from a reliable source who attended the pre election meeting of Duluth’s League of Women Voters:

At one point a member got up and harangued the audience telling them that they had to go out and register voters to prevent a win by Donald Trump. Whether the candidate’s name was actually mentioned or not that was the obvious message. Not everyone was happy to have it put so bluntly.

The good old LWV ain’t what it was when I moved to Duluth in 1974. Back then it was a bipartisan group composed pretty equally of Democrats and Republicans. That began to change that year with Roe v. Wade. Two years earlier I went to a Minnesota State Republican convention that approved a “pro choice” plank in its platform. That soon changed as Republicans began to see a huge Catholic block that opposed abortion and as the party’s operatives began encouraging protestant preachers to oppose abortion. At first the protestants, soon to become the Moral Majority, opposed abortion because it made promiscuity consequence free. Saving “babies” was more of a Catholic thing initially. I’ve always thought that for southern Christians, still smarting from having northern Christians chide them for their racism, defending unborn babies gave them back some moral ground.

Over the next decade, as once solid Republican League members fell out of favor with the new pro-life Republican Party and all but disappeared taking their pro-choice views with them, the League became a mostly Democratic bastion in practice if not in principle. Its one more casualty of a divided nation. That doesn’t exactly excuse its local members playing partisan politics. BTW – They especially like to dabble in our local school board.

Speck # 4 Roy Cohn’s Revenge

In no way do I mean to praise Donald Trump. His campaign was as sleazy as it gets. Hillary’s insider string pulling in the Democratic machinery is part and parcel of every campaign. Its both understandable and unavoidable. However, Barack Obama proved that it was not invincible in 2008. Bernie Sander’s loss is hardly surprising. He was severely handicapped by announcing that he was a Democrat just before seeking that party’s nomination. The same was true for Donald Trump. Had Trump run as an Independent I suspect he would have done little better than Bernie would have as an Independent. They would likely have gotten Ross Perot-like numbers – close but no cigar.

All the Trumpian pundits who are saying the mainstream media was mean to Trump are full of _ _it. They shined a light on him but he was a nuclear explosion. Media flash lights meant little compared to the candidate’s sizzle. There is a whole lot in his closet for historians to ponder but most of his voters have been too blinded to notice. I’ll only mention one of them here – Trump’s muse, Roy Cohn.

Cohn is a vestige of my youth’s realities when police vice squads raided gay bars and rounded gays up with one aim – to publicize their depravity in newspapers and soil their reputations forever. There is a scene in the marvelous old movie “Advise and Consent” of the gay 602 bar that would have been repellent to audiences of that era. You can catch a brief glimpse of it in this trailer as the attractive JFK-like Senator walks in desperately seeking out an old lover who is blackmailing him about their old affair. When the blackmailer refuses to back off there is only one solution for the Senator. He has to commit suicide to hide his depravity. Modern audiences may find this preposterous but it would have made sense to people in 1960.

Roy Cohn worked in this atmosphere as the right hand of Senator Joseph McCarthy and helped him ferret out information on Commies in the Government at the height of the Red Scare. They destroyed many people at a time of national hysteria. McCarthy was finally upended when he went after the US Military unsuccessfully when it drafted Roy Cohn’s lover. Shortly afterwards the anti-communist crusade quieted to a dull roar sufficient only to mire us in Vietnam but no longer a threat to our Democracy.

Cohn’s homosexualy was common knowledge after this and he became a bitter man. He vehemently denied he was “queer” and became infamous for his take no prisoners legal maneuvering. The New York legal establishment tried for years to disbar him. A year ago Claudia and I watched the old HBO series Angels in America. Its about the Aids crisis that took out tens of thousands of gay lives in he 1980’s. Al Pacino gives an extraordinary performance as Roy Cohn. This scene tell you everything you need to know about what Donald Trump learned under Cohn’s tutelage and why he conducted a scorched Earth campaign for President.

One of the most hopeful things about America today is that under President Obama we have largely swept the homophobic past away so that we will never again create a Roy Cohn. One of the great ironies about Donald Trump’s election is that the homophobia that created Roy Cohn fifty years ago gave Cohn’s acolyte Donald Trump the strategy that elected him President of the United States. How ironic that Trump asked the pro-family, 2016, GOP convention for their help in stamping out homophobia and got applause it. Roy Cohn hated queers!

Speck # 3 a rumor of a threat against Trump

By now all of Duluth has heard of racist grafitti on our high school walls. Today a rumor got to me that the Ordean East Trophy case had a vague threat against Donald Trump placed on or in it. The rumor says it was there for a full day and that a parent took a picture of it and furthermore that the Duluth police and even the Secret Service came by to inspect it.

The log (or beam) Jesus talks about will tempt many partisans to only see the crimes of “the others” not those of their allies when people overreact to the consequences of this election.

A million dollars worth of damage attended the Anti Trump marches in Oregon. I found Black comedian Dave Chapelle’s comment about this noteworthy – “Amateurs.” If it was my storefront I’d be furious but it was pretty small potatoes however ugly. Four years after the post King assassination riots I took a bus through Baltimore and gawked at blocks worth of blackened storefronts behind metal bars. I know that every crowd attracts troublemakers and that all too often they are not anticipated before the crowd arranges itself. The crowd is both an attraction and a good hiding place for mayhem driven far more by mendacity than fury.

So the issue to consider in the case of the rumor, should it prove to be true will our District Administration be even handed in dealing with it……if it has or will raise its ugly head?

I suppose I could make calls to confirm this but to me the more important point is that we should not take sides. In fact, a threat to the president of the United States is a bigger deal than a racial epitaph.

Remember Johanna’s post-it notes.

Speck #2 Kids

What’s the matter with kids today? That was the question asked in the 50’s musical Bye Bye Birdie. After watching my generation’s reaction to the recent election I’d have to answer – Not much.

Before I left the School Board in 2004 Mary Cameron was clamoring for us to bring back student reps to Board meetings. I must tell you I didn’t discourage Mary but I thought the idea sort of silly. They couldn’t vote. They’d be board stiff. It looked like frosting.

After three years back on the Board I no longer have that opinion. Sure, They can’t vote. Yep, I imagine they are often board. But no. They are not frosting.

I talked briefly to Spencer Frederickson from East high and I was buttering him up by telling him how bright I’d found his predecessors. He said of them that Paul Manning was very political and Jude Goosens very articulate. I added that I saw in Spencer a person with a deep well of caring….or something to that effect. I wasn’t really buttering him up it was the truth.

This conversation took place after our student representative from Denfeld, my seatmate Johanna Unden, was lauded by the Superintendent for the video she shot and posted to Facebook in reaction to the hateful messages scrawled on the walls at Denfeld. The reaction? To have hundreds of students place post-it-notes all over Denfeld’s walls with positive messages written on them. This is how to fight the gremlins escaping from Pandora’s box and much better than pronouncements of “no tolerance” for hate.

Time and time again I’ve seen our students rise to all sorts of occasions. East Robotics students helping Denfeld’s lagging Robotic’s program. Students advocating for more counselors to help depressed kids organizing to make sure minorities were not left out. Working to make new Freshmen student feel welcome in strange new schools. They put the adults on the school board to shame by comparison.

I told Spencer how I remember the old days when Central students shouted unfriendly taunts at East “cake eaters” at Hockey games and how the East students responded with a cheer telling Central kids that their parents worked for the East kid’s parents.

Sorry for the false labeling of this post. There is no speck here. You will find them in the next few posts.

Seeing the Speck in their eyes

Confirmation bias has become a subject of great interest lately especially as it relates to the US Presidential election.

As a cerebral sort myself I want to roll my eyes when someone repeats as gospel something they prefer to believe rather than pick it apart to see if it really adds up. My Buddy would call this being “tribal.”

Jesus is quoted in the Bible on this point with a brilliant observation about people: Mathew 7:5

America won’t heal as long as people with a log in their eyes are only able to see the specks in the eyes of those they disagree with. My Dad, an anti papist if there ever was one, told me that the one thing he particularly admired about Catholicism was the act of confession. That’s not a very popular thing in Today’s America of self absorption. We prefer the ancient Egyptian’s approach to self criticsm. We write “books of the dead” to tell the gods how wonderful we have been so that the gods will let us into Heaven. The Egyptians thought they could sweet talk their gods into ignoring their less than noble qualities.

I’m not sure I’m much different. Like most Americans I can clearly see the specks in a lot of other people’s eyes. To help get the recent election results out of my system I need to write about a few of those specks.

I’m not a fan of spoilers but it will hard for me not to vote Libertarian this year

Hillary Clinton needs my vote. I’m not sure she will get it after the Libertarians added William Weld to their ticket as a VP candidate to go along with New Mexico’s Gary Johnson. Donald Trump is the only thing holding me back at the moment. I’m thinking through a letter (only to be published here) to be sent to her metaphorically that explains what she needs to do to win my vote.

I have a lot of other posts in mind as well but its a beautiful Memorial day. I woke up late after two hours of sleeplessness which I put to rest by reading several chapters of First Kings. Boy! Israel wasn’t a great place after David’s reign. Sounds more like Sodom and Gomorrah. God wasn’t happy.

When I woke up I put up our Stars and Stripes. Now I have to mow the lawn. Then I have all day to think about whether I want to run for the legislature this summer. Will I have the time, energy and motivation? I do have some eves and windows to paint. On the other hand, being in a minority on the school board for the last two years of my school board term holds scant allure………especially with helpful critics like Bruce who have logs in their eyes about small potatoes like huge class sizes.

Unto the fifth generation – Not!

My children are as allergic to today’s GOP as though it was a toxic substance. If it had not become the party of God and the vulgarian, double talker, Donald Trump, they might have become fifth generation Republicans.

Using the best examples from my family’s history I’d like to talk about the preceding four generations.

The Grand Old Party began its life a few years before my Great Grandfather entered New York harbor from Ireland in 1860 one month after Lincoln’s election and two months before his inauguration. “What’s the news?” called a passenger on his ship as they passed an outward bound vessel. “South Carolina has seceded from the Union,” was the reply. Thomas Robb was twelve years old. It would be four years of war plus seven years of Reconstruction before he could cast his first vote as a naturalized citizen.

Thomas was the son of a protestant land manager who had threats made against his life by Irish Nationalists. The men who left that threat attached to a prize bull they killed were largely Catholics in Ireland and Democrats in America. It’s not surprising then that Thomas would vote Republican.

If he had any doubts about his party’s virtues one incident sealed his thinking. Continue reading

Rank Vote

I don’t have a category for just “politics” or “elections” so I’ve lumped this post about Ranked Choice Voting under “hope” and “moderation.”

My Buddy has become a fan of Karl Schuettler’s blog “A Patient Cycle” and he sent me this link to Karl’s very sensible appraisal of the debate over ranked choice balloting. This is Karl’s last paragraph but the whole post is well worth a read for those still pondering the question.

From :

The shrill tenor of the debate and dismissal of critics as simpletons or bigots is especially ironic, given the claim that RCV is supposed to reduce negativity in campaigns. Somehow, RCV has become part of a religious cause; one that is incapable of self-reflection and above any criticism, and considers the cause more important than the deliberative democratic process it needs to go through to become reality. If only it were actually a cause worth fighting for.

Purple civility

My recent posts here and here on how bifurcated America has become because of our red and blue politics is, no doubt, a passing phase. We old farts will all die and our children will slap the dust off their dungarees and adopt equally foolish political agendas. I have lived through the bifurcation being a stubborn “liberal” Republican who was pushed to the sidelines and who chose to spend the last twenty years twitting the purges. My first precinct caucus was 1970. In 1992 I ran as an Independent candidate for Congress against both the Democrat Jim Oberstar and the Republican Phil Herwig. The Republicans good naturedly let me back into their caucuses after that and I subsequently ran as a Republican in two legislative campaigns in 2000 and 2002.

In 2004 (or so) I attended my first Democratic precinct caucus. I felt very out of place despite the fact that on issue after issue I agreed with the resolutions being offered up from the folks I was caucusing with.

This change is just what my generation called for back in our youth when we (not me) said of the two parties that they were so similar they were like Alice in Wonderland’s twins Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee.

My argument for keeping the two parties the way they were, is the very same one that Mitt’s Dad, George Romney, outlined to Barry “Extremism in the Defense of Liberty is no vice” Goldwater. He pointed to the often dysfunctional politics of the European democracies where Communists and extreme rightist parties fought for control. Romney lost that argument and today the European’s parties are more like America’s old Democrats and Republicans and our parties have taken to extreme rhetoric.

I have had one gadfly critic from the beginning of the blog in 2006, My Buddy. The emails have grown heated between us but they have not stopped except for a few months when I quit replying to his emails because of my irritation. We still come out swinging when we think the other has said something bone headed. Here’s a recent sample of our quibbles as our November 4th election draws near:

I liked McGovern, and I voted for McGovern, but the video clip at

is an example of why my internet home page; and why I visit web pages other than that of The Lincoln Democrat; and why I am disinclined to vote for Obama. If his behavior regarding what recently happened in Benghazi; and if the lame stream media’s coverage of it doesn’t suck; please tell me why.
Your Buddy


The NY Times had a hurricane to cover. Big Surprise no Benghazi coverage.

I suppose you’ve forgotten the democrat’s complaints that the Lame Street Media didn’t cover the bull on WMD’s and other crap justifying Bush’s Iraq invasion. Media blindfolds can work both ways.

The outrage was amped up in the Fox segment. The Judge sounds a lot like the retard bashing Coulter and so did the interviewer. [I confused the male blowhard with the Judge who was the female interviewer] Listen to the interview again. Sounded like a bunch of cackling hysterics. Who can blame them? Looks like Benghazi is going to get the same pass the WMD’s did.

As for the lame street media, I get most of my stuff from the tax payer’s dollars at NPR. This is what they had to say about Benghazi today: But it’s probably not true. It comes from all those bitter enders at the CIA.

I’d like to hear Coulter and crew piss and moan about this while we dig out from the GOP’s global warming and beach front flooding debacles. Obviously, God wants Obama to win. That’s what I’d expect the Pat Robertson’s of the GOP to say.

At least my father-in-law who watches FOX all the time is hard of hearing and isn’t [always] very clear about what is being communicated. He has the good sense to be oblivious of and to


Continue reading

George to Mitt – Don’t do it

George Romney wasn’t writing to his son. He was writing to Barry Goldwater objecting to what would become the South’s take over of the Republican Party.

First, as to your remarks in Jamaica concerning the possible realignment of the Republican and Democratic parties into “conservative” and “liberal” parties. Whatever the circumstances of the statement, you have indicated that you believe that might be “a happy thing.” I disagree.

We need only look at the experience of some ideologically oriented parties in Europe to realize that chaos can result. Dogmatic ideological parties tend to splinter the political and social fabric of a nation, lead to governmental crises and deadlock, and stymie the compromises so often necessary to preserve freedom and achieve progress. A broad based two party structure produces a degree of political stability and viability not otherwise attainable.

Here’s the whole letter. I recommend it to Mitt.
Continue reading

Only the hyperbolic need apply…

…for the Republican Presidential nomination. One man’s theory:

Huntsman’s problem, aside from serving as the administration’s ambassador to China, is that he doesn’t seem to hate Democrats in general and Barack Obama in particular. His rhetoric is of someone who disagrees with the president, but doesn’t doubt his commitment to improving the country. Unfortunately for Huntsman, this runs counter to nearly every bit of conservative rhetoric over the last three years. If the current GOP were a party which didn’t reward personal animus toward the president, then Huntsman would probably be in a much better position.

BTW – This post is personal with me. My Buddy (and I should probably put quotation marks around that) recently sent me another stinging critique which prompted me to break my three-month moratorium on replying to his email.

We had a testy exchange and he said this of me which I’m sure partisans of Dr. Keith Dixon would concur with:

…if you say that Obama can walk on water, and that none of the Republican candidates can walk on water; and even if your hyperbole and bullshit are of lesser magnitude; you might get critical reaction from me. Maybe I should be indifferent about that, too; but maybe I have expected better of you.

In his first post he quoted my litany of criticisms about the political positions of the GOP field and suggested my description of them was “hyperbolic”

My Buddy sent me this as an example of my hyperbole:

…your hyperbole descends to bullshit. How many Republicans want no taxes, and no limit on Defense Spending, and no foreign policy other than the opposite of whatever Barrack Obama is doing?

Hey, I was clearly exaggerating but not by much if you’ve been watching the GOP Presidential candidates. They are all frozen into place by Grover Norquist’s pledges never to raise taxes. Except for Ron Paul they all seem loathe to consider cuts to our bloated Defense Budget. And as one “for instance” they’ve either beaten Obama up on Libya for being too reluctant to intervene or for having intervened too much.

Huntsman is a very engaging and smart presidential contender but his chief liability was having worked for Obama and his second is, as the commentator suggests, refusing to sound hyperbolic like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck or most of the Tea Party. I jumped the GOP ship six years ago when it was merely self righteous and closed minded. I know that’s a bit of hyperbole but I use it as a goad just like I do on Duluth’s Red Plan defenders.

I should point out that my Buddy concludes by saying he expects more from me. That is pretty flattering really so I can never fully discount his criticism. Still, I don’t plan to change my commentary much in the future. I’m more likely to ease up on my posts to dig into the damn book I keep mentioning. I got about six pages of it written last night. Only 300 more to go.

Hank Jr’s Adolph

There have been a dozen and more dictators in my adult life that merited comparrison with Adolph Hitler. Most were pale shadows no matter how many of their own people they killed. Still, I couldn’t fault anyone for invoking Hitler’s name when castigating them. Such a case is Hank Williams Jr. who said Obama is the new Hitler just as lots of peaceniks said the same of George W. Bush.

Most people who get compared with the leader of the Third Reich are suffering from some other person’s gross overreach and historical ignorance. (BTW I’ve felt free in 26 posts to mention Hitler myself. I’m too busy to read them all again to see just how I made use of the tyrant and I might even have compared some of his actions to those of the Duluth School Board. Hopefully I did so with a little more subtley than Hank Williams did.) Hank Jr. sits justifiably in his father’s shadow and never more so than when he compared our current President as Adolph’s successor. He apologized half heartedly by saying his passions got the better of him. No more pigskin for Jr.

Maybe Hank Jr. would be better off to return to the orator’s old standby for the personification of evil pre-World War II. The Pharaoh was also great music material for classic American gospel music and Hank could tap into that.

The Walker Experiment vs. Democracy

Of all the news in the Trib today I think this was the most important to educators. (Once again, its not on the DNT’s website. Maybe they are charged to put AP stories in their own site)

What’s happening in Wisconsin is a grand experiment in control of public sector unions. The law which the 19th century leaning Republicans passed is a “Right to Work” lobbyist’s dream and a pretty wet one at that. In one fell swoop Republicans have eviscerated public employee union’s political power.

Before the law passed, WEAC had about 98,000 members and was one of the most powerful unions in the state, contributing millions to Democratic causes. Lobbying reports show the union spent $2.5 million lobbying lawmakers in 2009 and 2010, more money than any other group.

This summer, the union reported spending $500,000 in support of Democratic candidates in recall elections, and in August announced 42 workers had been laid off as a result of the law. Earlier this month, unions representing about 50,000 public workers opted not to go through with recertification, citing the fees and the lack of bargaining power beyond wages even if the elections succeeded.

My gut instinct tells me that this is overreach Continue reading