Category Archives: justice

Raising my flag to America’s judiciary

There were two clarifying interviews on NPR this morning which I thought were helpful in making sense of the Federal Court’s decision which President Trump called “disgraceful.”

In the first Jonah Goldberg commented that he thought it was unfair of the court’s to pay too much attention to Trump’s campaign rhetoric about barring Muslims from America because the President’s hasty executive order did not go as far as his rhetoric. I think that’s a fair critique but I wonder if his Supreme Court nominees would agree. After-all, most of them will be fans of “originalism” which exalts our Founder’s 18th century notions of Constitutional interpretation which, among other things, treated black slaves as 3/4ths of a human being. Wasn’t banning Muslims Trump’s original intention? If so, shouldn’t that be how the court views his executive order?

Also Goldberg commented sensibly that it could be troubling if every time any law is passed or enforced in such a way as to disadvantage a single state that the disadvantaged state could have veto power over a nationally administered law.

Then another guest made another sensible comment in an NPR interview. The second person noted that the courts had not overruled the executive order meaning that it could yet be determined to be legal. What the Appellate Court had done was simply set in motion a means for the courts to analyze whether the rushed Presidential order had overreached.

I wouldn’t have expected such views to be aired on most television news programs which is why I stopped treating television news as particularly helpful about 40 years ago. Of course, the Republicans are always threatening to stop public finance of NPR and PBS. I guess that makes Big Bird a commie although in the new Trump world being an ex KGB agent is no big deal. However, Mitch McConnell has deemed quoting Coretta Scott King on the floor of the US Senate a national disaster.

Here are some more of today’s NPR stories I found heartening and a good reason for me to raise Old Glory over the backs of Jabba the Hutt and Princess Leia:

Appellate Court doesn’t revoke the lower court order to stay Trump’s executive order to deny entry into the US by travelers from seven predominantly Islamic nations.

Trump lies about being invited to appear on John Oliver’s show.

Trump lies about Gorsuch saying the nominee for the Supreme Court never said that Trump’s anti court rhetoric was disheartening to the third branch of Government.

Utah Republican Congressman Chaffetz is booed back home in conformist Utah when he says Trump is exempt from self dealing as President.

If Donald Trump is ever to become a rational President he will have to be treated as ferociously by his critics as Trump treated them when he campaigned for the Presidency.

Robert Rowe Gilruth – Duluth Central Grad 1931

Kevin Costner plays a “composite” of the technicians in charge of America’s Space Race in his portrayal of the mythical “Al Harrison” in the Movie Hidden Figures. The principal he was playing was Duluth’s Robert Gilruth who led the American Space Race the same way that Robert Openheimer supervised the design and building of the Atom Bomb. Gilruth’s work was aided by a great many women just like the British women mathematicians, who broke Nazi Germany’s Enigma Codes during World War II. Gilruth’s “computers” were black women who like Britain’s Bletchley Circle women (in one of the best PBS Mystery series) who got John Glen into orbit and brought him back without burning up on reentry.

From the Duluth News Tribune:

First flight to the moon started here
Duluth News Tribune (MN) – July 19, 2008
Author/Byline: Chuck Frederick Duluth News Tribune

While taking in the spectacle of the Blue Angels and the high-flying thrills and roars of this weekend’s airshow, a group dedicated to preserving and celebrating Duluth’s aviation history wants you to remember a name: Robert Gilruth.

Why Robert Gilruth? Because the 1931 Duluth Central graduate ” the “father of human spaceflight” and the “godfather to the astronauts,” as he came to be known ” led our nation’s race to the moon. And because this weekend marks the 39th anniversary of the first lunar landing under his leadership.

Let me put that another way: The man responsible for Neil Armstrong’s “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” on July 20, 1969, grew up in Duluth.

In a frame and stucco corner house in Chester Park, to be precise.

“He made a tremendous contribution to our nation, and it’s amazing to think that we here in Duluth nurtured that young man,” said Sandra Ettestad, president of the nonprofit Duluth Aviation Institute. “He changed the world’s vision of the Earth and the possibilities of mankind. [He] achieved his youthful dreams.”

Meaning any of us can, right?

Duluth’s nurturing of Gilruth started in 1923 when he was 9 years old and his family moved here from Hancock, Mich. They had moved there from Nashwauk. His father was a superintendent of schools in both cities. In Duluth, his father landed a job teaching chemistry, physics and math at Morgan Park High School, where he later was principal. His mother taught math and home economics.

Gilruth, the second of two children, grew up at 701 N. 20th Ave. E. surrounded by family. His grandfather, a mining captain, grandmother, aunt and uncle lived two blocks away. He spent boyhood days playing with crystal-set radios and building intricate model airplanes. He and his father were very close.

“I started building model airplanes before the age of balsa wood and piano wire,” he recalled in a 1986 interview with NASA. “When the American Boy magazine came out with those things, that was a revolution, but I learned about that technology from the Duluth News Tribune. [The newspaper] had imported a man from Chicago who was a model airplane builder [and] champion. [He taught] a class of Duluth boys who might want to attend. This is how I got sort of a giant step into that business.”

Gilruth breezed through Duluth’s East Junior High School and Central High School. He earned straight As in aeronautics, chemistry and math at Duluth Junior College, which was on the top floor of Denfeld High School. He graduated in 1933. Three years after that, he added a masters degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Minnesota to his rapidly growing resume.

While at the university, he married Jean Barnhill, a fellow aeronautical engineering student and a pilot who flew cross-country races, who was a friend to Amelia Earhart and who founded a women’s pilots association.

Before he even finished graduate school, Gilruth was recruited to work for the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, or NACA, the predecessor of NASA. The job took him to Langley Air Force Base in Virginia where he and his wife had a daughter, Barbara. He was a flying quality expert at Langley and in 1945 was placed in charge of developing a guided-missile research station. In 1952, he was named assistant base director.

But he was dreaming bigger. “There are a lot of things you can do with men up in orbit,” he recalled thinking to himself in the interview with NASA.

On Aug. 1, 1958, Gilruth pitched to Congress the idea of creating a manned space program. The politicians were impressed, and Gilruth was pegged to lead the Space Task Group. In short order, NASA was formed and Project Mercury, the nation’s first human spaceflight program, was created. Gilruth handpicked the first astronauts and hired the nation’s brightest engineers. Capsules were designed and rockets tested.

But not quite fast enough. On April 12, 1961, the Soviets beat the U.S. into space. President John F. Kennedy took it as a challenge.

“This nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth,” the president announced. “In a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon ” it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.”

Gilruth was chosen to lead the human spaceflight program, known as the Apollo Program. Its goal was landing a man on the moon. And Gilruth promised just that in the fall of 1962 when he returned to Duluth and was welcomed back as a hero. Mayor George D. Johnson proclaimed it Bob Gilruth Day, and the auditorium at Central High School filled to the rafters with Duluthians eager to hear him speak. A giant banner hung from the balcony, declaring Gilruth the “pride of Central.”

Moved by his hometown’s tribute and welcome, Gilruth paused for a long moment. Then, in a soft voice brimming with emotion, he urged young Duluthians to prepare so they, too, could help their nation as it moved into the space age.

“I have received many honors, but I have never felt quite as humble as I do at this moment,” he said. “I feel quite confident that we will make manned landings on the moon within this decade. In fact, I am not only confident of this, I firmly believe we’ll be on the moon in less than 10 years.”

Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon less than seven years later. In Houston, Gilruth cheered with a nation.

“He was not an easy boy to get to know,” the News Tribune wrote of Gilruth, days before his triumphant return in October 1962. (He died Aug. 17, 2000, at age 87.) “He was neither a hellion nor an introvert. He was neither average nor did he display to those of his own age signs of unusual brilliance. … He was a boy of hobbies and strong purpose, yet beset by deep self doubts.”

In other words, he was a typical Duluth kid. Who achieved greatness. Meaning any of us can, right? Chuck Frederick is the News Tribune’s deputy editorial page editor. He can be reached at 723-5316 or cfrederick@duluth

My Better Angel’s spiel in today’s DNT

“Spiel” is a pretty self deprecatory way to describe a column I put a lot of effort into writing. Getting it pitch perfect took up much of last Thursday morning.

I sent it to the Trib’s Editorial Page Editor Chuck Frederick the same time I posted it to the blog. Chuck sent me a quick reply noting that the Trib wouldn’t (as per usual) take a cast off written for another source but that I could write another piece just for them. When I got his reply I called him back with a quick offer. I would take it off my blog and only republish it after the Trib ran it. Chuck was amused but kindly agreed. I’m grateful to him.

When he sent me back the Trib’s tinkering, which among other things removed the name of the author I was replying too, I wrote back that I saw no material differences that bothered me. The Trib gets regular grief for messing with other people’s prose but I’ve never deeply resented the changes they have made to my submissions…….although I have gone toe to toe with Chuck over some changes he’s made. Think of it as me imitating Donald Trump trying to get the best deal I could.

An old friend of mine who I thought had sort of written me off, because of my School Board cantankerousness, sent me a thank you email noting that forcing hate into dark corners only makes it grow. That was the point of the headline the Trib put on my op ed piece. “Don’t force hatred underground, expose it for everyone to see” I thought it captured my sentiments perfectly. I usually send in my own proposed heading because I’m rarely satisfied with how the Trib is inclined to title my pieces lest their headings prejudice readers into reading my offerings in a more skeptical light.

This is the Trib’s version:

I appreciated that the writer of the Nov. 20 letter, “Irresponsible to equate hate speech with free speech,” said he read my blog and that he chose to take part in an important public conversation.

His letter opened with, “I had to read to the end of the well-reported Nov. 15 article, ‘District responds to hate speech in Duluth high schools,’ to find School Board Member Harry Welty’s recommendation against ‘having a dire punishment for kids abusing their free-speech rights.’ In disbelief, I turned to Welty’s blog.”

When the News Tribune’s education reporter, Jana Hollingsworth, called me for the article, I kept her on the phone for 40 minutes as I expanded on my thoughts on this sensitive subject. Due to the newspaper’s understandable limitations of time, newsprint and ink, only two sentences of mine were included in the article to explain my still-evolving thinking on this episode.

In the meantime, I must insist on an uncomfortable truth: In the United States, free speech does include hate speech, however much we may be appalled by it. Fortunately, it does not include shouting “fire” in a dark theater, threats or anything to incite a riot.

My job as a member of the School Board is to think my way through what has been happening over the past year and how to deal with its consequences over the next four and, possibly, God forbid, eight years. Making martyrs of Duluth students for parroting the hateful things they hear on the Internet — and, no doubt, in their homes and on the nightly news — is not the best or most thoughtful response. That would be fighting fire with grease, which only would make the conflagration more intense.

Duluth has undergone two recent changes that exacerbated the negativity of the 2016 election. It divided its school district into rich-and-poor and black-and-white schools at the same time as its African-American community began to expand significantly, leading to a white flight from our schools of perhaps 15 percent of the student population.

There has been one heartening development over these recent years: Our children have assumed a generous and open attitude toward their superficial differences. The reactions of students in both East High and Denfeld have been remarkable rebukes to the politics that seem to have generated the hate speech. I take great comfort in that.

These generous reactions must be supported by the School Board, not undermined by meting out dire punishments prompted by shock at the outcome of the recent election. We need to follow our better angels.

That’s what Martin Luther King Jr. did. His legacy, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, has continued for 50 years to keep a watchful eye out for the vestiges of hate and racism that King gave his life to make part of our nation’s past. I do not believe King would have encouraged us to force it underground, but would have advised us to keep it in full view where it could be exposed for what it is: a grievous assault on the spirit of justice and equality upon which our nation was founded.

Harry Welty is an At Large member of the Duluth School Board.

This is what I initially posted:

Fear and silencing in 2016?

The initial reactions of many in the wake of Donald Trump’s election have been fearful, ugly, gloating and generally panicky. There is an abundance if not an excess of caution. There has been local Radio talk-show indignation and Facebook hand-wringing over an evidently Anti-Trump message slipped into a school trophy case. It seems proof that political animosity works both ways. The tremors across northern Minnesota Schools yesterday from a vague threat is likely one more manifestation of this sorry situation.

I’m afraid that one more consequence of this election result is a powerful urge to cover our eyes and ears. At Tuesday’s school board meeting Supt. Gronseth expressed unhappiness with the student at Denfeld who took a picture of racist grafitti and posted it to Facebook to show how things were at the school. I’ll bet the police who have just charged a jumpy policeman in the Twin Cities with manslaughter may feel much the same way about Internet Videos. Silence is Golden.

I disagree. Communication is golden.

Yesterday a speech by an African-American historian was given at East High but then canceled for Denfeld when it was deemed inappropriate and perhaps an incitement to bad behavior. That’s a shame because the Denfeld students showed remarkable maturity and creativity in the face of the racist grafitti found on a bathroom wall. They countered it with a student led campaign to retake the school’s walls with positive and uplifting post-it note messages. According to one source this is what they missed when Dr. El-Kati was silenced:

“According to 3 equity minded individuals who all saw El-Kati’s talk yesterday at East, they are in complete and utter shock that Denfeld did not get to hear the awesome messages that El-Kati delivered. His main theme was moral character, and also touched on many topics and historical figures such as Thomas Jefferson, John Lewis, Frederick Douglas, Quakers, MLK, war, Minnesota tops in education, Duluth is wonderful, power and privilege, among others.

“They said Denfeld kids needed that talk more than East kids.”

I was unaware of the speech which the District had contracted until the Superintendent offered this post script to his email to School Board members about the “non specific threat.” This is all I know of why Dr. El-Kati’s Denfeld appearance was canceled:

Oh– and Dr El-Kati’s visit did not go as well as hoped. He did not deliver the planned message. He did not meet the terms of the contract. After things did not go well at East, it was decided that the Denfeld presentation would be canceled.

Judging by the superlative response of the Denfeld students to racist grafitti I have every confidence that they could have handled whatever Dr. El-Kati had to say. I wish my confidence in our students was more widely shared.

Pick your abomination

I mentioned in my speech to the VFW on Veterans Day that I had just stopped briefly at the Brown V Board of Education National Historic Site. While I was there I took this picture of the actual black doll that sociologist Clark Kerr used so persuasively to demonstrate that “separate but equal” was a sham even in the Topeka schools which made a better go at it than in so many southern states. This was a novel non jurisprudence type argument. It was sociological and therefore controversial in many legal circles.

What Kerr had done was show black kids being offered two dolls to play with one a black doll and another an identical white doll. Invariably the black students chose the white doll because of years of messaging that blacks were ugly and unappealing.

Today, no one faults Brown v Board for its novel legal defense.

Donald Trump who once mused that he would have liked his mistress to abort her fetus on the Howard Stern show gave a vigorous if unconvincing argument that partial birth abortions justified making all abortions illegal. Now that he is past his seed sowing days he will appoint justices guaranteed to overturn Roe v Wade which has also been and continues to be lambasted as a misapplication of the letter of Constitutional law.

In the old days almost every lawyer agreed that nominees for Supreme Court positions should refrain from telling anyone how they would vote on issues coming before the court including Roe v Wade. And yet where abortion is concerned that doesn’t fly with a lot of “Conservative” justices. One of the most likely choices for Trump has said that Roe v Wade is an abomination. This could mean that abortion is an abomination or that the ruling was an abomination from the standpoint of jurisprudence.

I’m guessing this likely new member of the Supreme Court meant both of these possibilities.

If he does not consider Roe v Wade “settled law” perhaps he could take the same view where Brown v Board of Education is concerned.


As I indicated in my email to my Buddy the election last week has opened Pandora’s box with lots of noisome, nasty, dance on your grave results. Here’s the Trib story on the graffiti making its way into our schools and online.

I talked with Jana Hollingsworth about my views on this for thirty or forty minutes so there could be little doubt about what I was thinking. Naturally, the spare quotes from me leave out thirty or forty minutes of exposition. Jana quotes me quite accurately as saying:

“I don’t think throwing grease on the fire is going to help,” he said. “Having a dire punishment for kids abusing their free speech rights isn’t the solution.”

Let me be the first to say (as I mention every so often) I’m no Christian. However, Christian charity, so trampleded on over the past year, strikes me as the best antidote……that as well as absolutely open eyed disapproval of the post election vomitorium.

I told Jana that our district ought to employ “restorative justice” to deal with those taunting others. I think the students posting hurtful words should face the students the words are directed at.

When I ran for the School board successfully for the first time former Central student Mary Cameron and I became good friends. I would have stepped aside and let her campaign in the third District rather than run myself had she decided not to run city-wide.

Not long afterward a neighbor told me how, as a student, Mary had gotten into fights, hard fisticuffs-type fights with other girls. He had no use for Mary. I, however, squared that with the picture Mary kept in her office of the day Martin Luther King was assassinated. It was taken on the Central campus by a Duluth News Tribune photographer – a beautiful young black woman with a thousand yard stare.

Kids are hurting. Even the hurtful words by some students are evidence of some form of suffering of the taunters. I want to help in the healing process. I even told Jana that in the case of one young person who put his name on the Internet abuse he hurled she showed considerable bravery. I can respect him for this but not the anonymous bomb throwers and Internet trolls.

I’ll remember the current wickedness every time someone fan of President Donald Trump overlooks the sorry means by which Trump got out his vote. He’s our President. He’s my President although I detest the thought of it. Now all Trump has figure out is how not to become the most infamously rotten President in American History. I’m betting his ego would like to avoid this so I’ll give him a chance to rise to the level of say, a Richard Nixon. Maybe he’ll even do better than that. I wouldn’t put it past him but I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime I have to catch his goblins and stuff them back in the box.

Relishing my post-election ease

Not only do I have a weeks worth of chores from my recent trip but I face days of work printing out a thousand pages of documents I photographed from my Topeka, research. I’m also recovering from the trip’s three tech glitches. My car misbehaved twice costing me nine precious hours. First its timing chain went caput. Next I blew a tire on the Interstate north of KC at night and discovered the lug nuts were on so tight my tire iron broke in half while I tried to unbolt them. Then my computer up and died. At the moment I’m in the process of putting a new one together with all the ingredients lost with the old. Thank goodness I backed up the old computer two days before I left.

Now that I’m back I have new controversies to face like a school system that fails black kids and an election result that has emboldened poltergiests to gloat and threaten…..mostly anonymously.

Ah, but I have learned from Jana Hollingsworth that one of our high school kids has put his/her hate all over the Internet under his/her own name. I’ll be expected to do something about that. But Harry “its ‘hate speech'” Jana reminded me when I said we needed to remember it was only a kid and that vengeful punishment would only reinforce his or her unAmerican attitudes. Inconveniently, our Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees free speech despicable or otherwise. I’ll have to decide if a Facebook entry is like crying “fire!” in a darkened theater.

And of course my Buddy weighed in with a helpful observation in an email:


In response to the anonymous racist graffiti scrawled in our school bathrooms Annie had this to say:

….“We want to be clear that intolerance and hatred is absolutely not accepted in our schools,’’ Harala said, urging parents and the entire community to encourage respectful behavior at home so that flows into the schools….

“is”, instead of “are”, from the chairperson of the Duluth School Board?

Further, to say that “hatred is absolutely not accepted in our schools”, reminds me of the observation that as long as there are math tests in our schools, there will be praying in our schools. As you say, “making threats that are largely empty because of the furtive nature of the offense.”

[Your Buddy]

To which I replied:


I have some grievances against Annie. She censured me and allowed herself to be used as the excuse by others to have a vengeful, costly, prolonged and ultimately futile battle to undo the election of Art Johnston. BTW – I put my money where my mouth was and gave Art $20,000 to pay his lawyers.

That said, I’m not interested in nit picking grammar with a young woman who is still in shock over the election results. After all we elected a pussy grabbing demagogue. Whether Trump behaves that way once sworn in will be the test of his administration. I don’t expect pussy grabbing but I think it will be hard for him not to demagogue when he’s under fire. Its already worked so well for him and if I’ve learned anything about Trump its that he’s quick to resort to winning formulas. He learned the efficacy of a good offense from his mentor, Joe McCarthy’s sleazy minion, Roy Cohn.

The candidate who’s demagogic tactics you parsed like a Clinton has unleashed a lot of pent up nastiness I’ll have to deal with on the school board while you sit back in the comfort of your ********* retreat and send me emails finding fault with my every criticism of the man. I’ve already spent half an hour today explaining to the Trib’s education reporter why I have reservations about relying on “hate speech” as a justification for punishing kids in our schools. I thought that after this election was over I might be able to take it easy. Guess not. But that’s why I earn the big bucks as a school board member.


The latest on the Timberjay

A friend from Northern Minnesota sent me a link to the Timberjay Newspaper’s story about the court decision likely to be handed down on the lawsuit brought against it by its competitors and minority owners. The plaintiff’s lawyers sounds inept.

That reminded me that I’ve been waiting to link to the Zenith City New’s account of the suit that does justice to the primary issues in a pretty short space. I recommend it.

Hidden motivations behind some of my posts

I don’t get that many email comments about my blog posts so I do value my Buddy’s retorts even though he frequently beats me up.

I was taken to task over my comments relating to police relations with the black community in “Driving While Black.”

In addition to the crapweasel comments impugning 99% of all politicians he sent me a couple on the distressing execution of a Chicago teenager. This one came today as a simple link to the New York Times editorial on the subject. The events put Chicago’s “men in blue” in a very bad light which is a little surprising when it comes to my buddy. I sort of think he wanted me to see how President Obama’s old Chief of Staff, now Mayor Rahm Emanuel, has so shamefully conducted himself in this matter. If so, then the Men in Blue are only collateral damage. Its just one more way my Buddy can remind me that Democrats are not necessarily all angels.

My Buddy sent me this response to my Crapweasle post:

Of what relevance was the source “conservative”or “liberal” from which Michelle Malkin’s comment was pulled? Isn’t a (more or less) valid observation, a more or less valid observation? Further, are there more “conservative”pundits than “liberal”pundits, which justified your reference to the genesis of her comment as having been from a “legion”of “conservative”pundits?
You didn’t know that numerous Democrats apparently voted “to turn their backs on the Syrians during the Christmas Season? See

As for lawyer jokes, what do lawyers use for birth control? Their personalities.

[your Buddy]

My eight loyal readers who may often wonder what motivates me might find my reply to my Buddy informative. This is it:

Great joke.

As for the political orientation of Malkin it was not critical to her argument but it was a convenient data point for me to mention for my political ends. I suspect that I am distrusted, in particular, by local DFL activists. I enjoy confounding them with potshots directed against folks in the other party they consider villainous. I like the thought that they end up agreeing with me no matter how grudgingly. It’s even worth all the potshots I get from you about my not being even handed.

I am keen to telegraph my constant irritation with the GOP to this crowd because they pay a lot of attention to the public schools. They had a huge turnout in this last election and they are ardently anti- Art Johnston especially in my back yard.

Ironically, I don’t think my GOP bashing hurts me with Republicans because I don’t think they tend to read my blog but they give me some credit for being a skeptic about spending and taxation.

My suspicions may be way off and I don’t conduct polling to know the effect of my blog on readers. I write a little intuitively.

I don’t think I have ever put that motivation into words before but it has been a long standing goal of mine to keep the XXX XXXXXX crowd at bay. XX has a passel of pals that detest me and they always put up my foe’s lawnsigns. There is a line in the New Testament about showing kindness to your enemies to drive them nuts and set their hair on fire. I like that.


Note: My paraphrase of Romans 12:20 is a little off. Hair isn’t mentioned.

Fafinski Mark & Johnson

I couldn’t help but notice the law firm that would be representing UMD’s former women’s athletic coaches in their pending Title 9 lawsuit.

Some of my readers may recognize the name from a previous blog entry. The Board’s hired gun who “investigated” Art Johnston was one of Fafinski’s legal partners, Mary Rice. Only in the case of Art, Ms. Rice was busy manufacturing and embellishing excuses for his unconstitutional removal.

I’m not all that surprised that this firm is well aware of the means by which large institutions, like UMD, can mistreat people. It’s just ironic that having helped hog tie Art Johnston for the offense, Fafinski can just as easily switch over to defense.

As they say, Justice is blind. So is the law.

Commands from Olympus

Chair Seliga-Punyko sends her greetings:


It has come to my attention that you have been publicly sharing private confidential data on your blog that was discussed in the 3/24/15 closed session. Releasing confidential questions and information about consequences is a violation of state law with regards to private data. As a representative of the public, having inappropriate information and language or violating laws about private data is unacceptable.

This was previously addressed through censure and needs to be removed from your blog immediately.


Confidentiality Notice: This E-mail message, including any attachments, is for the sole use of the intended recipient(s) and may contain confidential and privileged information. Any unauthorized review, use, disclosure or distribution is prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient, please contact the sender by reply E-mail and destroy all copies of the original message.

I salute back:

Chair Seliga-Punyko,

You have been misinformed about my post of March 25th. The extent of my reporting on the closed meeting was to refer to a question asked by a member of the School Board. As you recall when we embarked on our investigation of Art Johnston we determined that School Board members were not subject to the same data privacy rules as our district’s employees and students.

This is the extent of my reporting on that closed hearing:

“Young Annie Harala asked one question of District officials at our closed meeting yesterday. Were the students subject to expulsion remorseful for their actions? I’ll only say that the response was what the person putting such a question might hope for.”

Excepting the question and the questioner everything else contained in these three sentences had already been aired publicly in Duluth’s newspaper of record, to wit: We held a closed meeting. We passed a resolution of expulsion directed at two students. All of this was public knowledge. Furthermore our resolution was public data. Only the identities and actions of the subjects of our resolution were covered by Minnesota’s data privacy law. These I did not reveal.

Yours cordially,

Thoughts on the RICO law

Georgia just found a dozen Georgia teachers guilty of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Their crime? – cheating on student tests to make the Atlanta School District look like it was doing a better job educating their children than was in fact true. Here are the details from a CNN Facebook “alert” that a friend emailed me this morning.

All but one of 12 defendants charged with racketeering and other crimes in the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal have been convicted.

A total of 35 educators, administrators and testing coordinators were indicted in 2013 on charges of racketeering and corruption following a 2009 investigation that revealed systemwide cheating in more than half the district’s elementary and middle schools on the state Criterion-Referenced Competency Test.

Twenty-one of those indicted took plea bargains. Two of the defendants, including former schools Superintendent Beverly Hall, died while under indictment.

I think I have a problem with this result. The RICO law was first dreamed up to fight organized crime and the Narcos who were using banks to launder their drug money. Murder, Mayhem, Drugs and outlawry were its targets. Its hard for me to envision a bunch of teachers in RICO’s gun-sights. Sure they were cheating kids of decent educations but their reward was a little gratitude by the Superintendent who wanted to look good. They were also likely motivated by the punitive actions of legislators who like to take funding away from failing schools which then will in all likelihood fail even more. In some perverse way it could be argued that these teachers, some of whom face twenty year jail sentences, were trying to protect their children from law makers.

Ah, but when a prosecutor wants to win a conviction the more dire the law that can be thrown at a miscreant the more successful will the prosecutor be. Like the RFRA law this was originally a bipartisan piece of legislation. How interesting to learn that it now includes teachers under its growing umbrella.

Thoughts on the RFRA law

I don’t always know why my Buddy sends me links to stories but this link to a Jonah Goldberg column could have been prompted by my crack about Indiana being to skittish about so many grooms placed on wedding cakes.

But we live in an age where non-compliance with the left’s agenda must be cast as bigotry. Everyone is free to celebrate as instructed. This is what liberals think liberty means today.

Ignore Goldberg’s jab at the left (above) and read the column. Its thoughtful and I agree with it. That doesn’t mean that I’m not enjoying the spectacle of a Rightest schmoozing Governor getting baked in the glare of righteous indignation over Indiana’s law protecting conservative florists from having to supply flowers at gay weddings.

I’ve evolved myself over the years and am reasonably patient with folks who haven’t evolved as fast as me. Here are glimpses of my evolution first outlined in a column thirteen years ago that I wrote for the Duluth Reader titled “Selected Scenes from my Queer Life.”

Let me point out two of the incidents this story outlines:

1971, Age 20 – I become a summer intern for our local Congressman. I move into a seedy townhouse a short walk from the Nation’s Capitol. I borrow a cake pan from neighbors. When I return the pan I am invited over for dinner and a cocktail. I discover that fresh tomatoes with a little salt are really tasty and drink my first martini. My neighbors are the first wave of new residents who are gentrifying the neighborhood. I suspect that they are gay. I am invited back and find myself among five urbane men in their thirties. One is an internationally famous premier danseur, a male ballet dancer. He regales us with stories about how as a young man all the ballerinas tried to bed him for good luck. The men find this story of heterosexual promiscuity very funny. I excuse myself from the gathering after one of the hosts, who had been petting a kitten, begins petting my thigh.

Before I return to school the neighbors ask me if I would like to house-sit for them next summer while they are abroad. I think they have surmised that I’m not gay. I tell them I’d like to. When I mention this to my Dad he strongly discourages me because the homeowners are gay. I drop the idea.

1982, Age 31 – Duluth overwhelmingly defeats a “civil rights” ordinance which would require landlords to rent to gays. I tell my Dad that I’m inclined to oppose the ordinance. I feel bad that conservative Christian property owners could be forced to rent to open homosexuals. My Dad asks me why gays should be denied access to housing. I am ashamed.

That latter incident in 1982 is the one that falls in line with the furor in Indiana. Note first that my Dad and I seemingly changed political positions between 1971 and 1982. In 1982 I was trying to fit in, however uncomfortably, with the Republican Party that had not yet begun purging RINO’s. President Reagan kept talking up the Party’s “big tent.” Here my Father was sticking up for gays. In effect he let me know that my tolerance for refusing to rent to gays wasn’t any different from practices that let white folks deny housing to black Americans.

One of the fellows working on my attic was listening to conservative talk radio yesterday and one of the bloviators was going on about Native American’s using peyote in their religious ceremonies. That’s what gave birth to RFRA the Federal law analogous to Indiana’s law. The Supreme Court ruled that Indian religious practices, involving hallucinogens, were not protected under the law. Liberals of that Era jumped to the defense of Native America and RFRA was born. The bloviator used that history to defend Governor Pence and today’s Conservatives. Bloviators aren’t always wrong.

MAJ 1 – Restoration

I can’t say much more about our closed meeting yesterday than the Duluth News Tribune reported.

The School Board expelled two students as the story says. It follows on the heals of a troubling incident that made the front page of the Trib several days running. Draw any connection you wish. I will say that the school board asked almost every question that I think the public is asking. By virtue of being Board members we had our questions answered. We were concerned with justice. For my part I mentioned that in the early days of plane hijacking people in airports who joked about hijacking a plane were carted off.

We were concerned that there be some redemption possible. Our school leaders assured us that restorative justice would be employed. That’s something I’ve been enthusiastic about for a number of years although I’m not convinced we are as well practiced in it in ISD 709 as we should be.

The School Board unanimously agreed with the Administration’s response and went in to vote on our public resolution to accept the expulsions described. The Denfeld band was setting up to give us a little Music in the Schools concert so we shooed them out for five minutes to keep them uncontaminated from the unpleasantness.

Whatever our failings that may have helped lead up to tonight I think we acquitted ourselves well this night.

A sermon on bullying

This takes 63 minutes to watch in full. This is why all 50 states will likely soon accept gay marriage. Its the argument that evangelicals will succumb to and that will roll on through all other “conservative” Christian churches.

The attitude under girding this sermon could be applied to some of the Duluth School District’s dysfunction.

More on who this gentleman is here.

Mum’s the word

November 3, 2014

School Board Members
215 North First Avenue East
Duluth, MN 55802

Dear School Board Members:

Enclosed for your review please find a copy of Mary Rice’s investigation report. The exhibits to the report are available for your review in my office. Please contact Melinda Thibault if you want to arrange a time to review the exhibits.

The enclosed report is unredacted and should not be discussed or disclosed, in whole or in part, with anyone. The report contains private personnel data on District employees and private educational data. This information must be redacted before the report may be made available to anyone other than the Board members.

Please be advised that it is a misdemeanor for anyone to willfully violate the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act (“MGDP A”) by intentionally disclosing private personnel or educational data. Minn. Stat. § 13.09(a). Moreover, the MGDPA allows any person who has suffered damages as a result of a violation of the MGDP A to bring a lawsuit against a government entity for “any damages sustained, plus costs and reasonable attorney’s fees.” Minn. Stat. 13.08, subd. l. In the case of a willful violation, the government entity also could be liable for exemplary damages ranging from $1,000 to $15,000. Id.


Bill Hanson
CRO/Executive Director of Business Services


cc: Kevin Rupp

Piano Quintet in A major, B.155 (Op. 81)(once listed as 77)

It took me quite a while to type up that title. The last notes of the piece are fading away as I type this. Now Pandora is on to Chopin. I tried to copy the title and paste it in. That would have been simple but good old Word Press wouldn’t accept it. I thought it might be because I copied it from a link and perhaps there was something about a link that didn’t translate into text. The search for an alternate non link text led me to a webpage that showed the date of of Antonin Dvorak’s composition. It was 1887 the year my Grandfather Robb, that I go on so much about, was born.

Its quiet at 4:43 this Sunday morning. I got a good four hours sleep. Maybe that’s enough if I get a couple naps in after or before Sunday’s worship service. Claudia needs to go there because she is sitting in to watch the kid’s sunday school. She’ll be taking notes for one of her religion classes.

I wasn’t dreaming about the School Board when I woke. It had been a dream about my having brought living dinosaurs back to life. Continue reading

Crazy Numbers, Priorities, the Silent Treatment

It was 6:21am when I began opening up this blog to begin this post. It will be a simple post but I want to impress upon my readers just how long a simple post can take to write. I can work for hours on particularly long ones especially when I embed links to other stories and webpages within the post. I’ll report the time at the point I upload or “publish” it.


I have a head for numbers. That is not to say I have an easy time with math especially accounting to the penny. I was always very undependable back forty years ago trying to balance a check book. But I have never had any trouble with forests of numbers. If I have roughly ten grand in the bank I can go for a year rounding off numbers of deposits and withdrawals and keep a good approximation of the balance in my head, usually withing ten or twenty percent. I have always avoided credit like the plague. Its the hemophilia of bookkeeping. Its a slow leak of money that over time will dry a bank account to the bone.

So, I’ve added a couple new statistics to my thinking. The first is not terribly different than the one that has been in my head for years. It probably came from and NPR story so I have little doubt about its general accuracy. It is this: Roughly 1 in 3 “black” kids will spend time in jail. For Latino kids its 1 in 6. For whites its 1 in 17. I could and no doubt will, and probably already have, written about this in this blog. After worrying about the question of human potential among the various collections of humans artificially divided into a anti-scientific myth called “race,” I’m severely annoyed that something as benign as melanin should be the determining factor in assigning people to costly, damaging and degrading atrocities like prison. It tests my faith in apple pie, motherhood, the statute of liberty, the constitution and the stars and stripes. Not nearly “nuff said,” but I’m in a hurry.

The next number is one I heard today on another NPR story I half listened to about, I’m not sure, Daycare I guess. I was only half listening. It is this. The average daycare providers in the US earn $22,000 a year (a pittance). The requirements for providing daycare are roughly equal to the qualifications demanded of prison guards. Prison Guards in the US earn an average of $72,000 a year. I could pontificate about this at length and as noted in the previous paragraph probably already have or will at some point in the future. Again, not nearly “nuff said.” If the juxtaposition of these two figures doesn’t set your mind into the spin mode what the Hell are you reading my blog for anyway?


I’ve posted about this often in the last year. For me right now its Family first, Saving the Duluth Schools second, Getting a writing career started, or something like that……It will probably change the next time I write about it.

As this construction season has bled away from me I find myself with one putzy project left I paid someone else to do the last time it was attended to – painting the woodwork on my brick house. It needs to be scraped, spot primed, and painted. I don’t have enough time to do it now. I started but I’ll end up finishing up the little I started and then resume the majority of the work next spring. I may do that grudgingly or hire someone to finish it because next spring I hope to attend to two other non family tasks. 1st Electing a sensible new school board in November of 2015 and fixing up my attic into a place where I can commence my writing career with all the documents I’ve collected over forty years and the couple thousand books I’ve put together to make sense of the world. I’d hoped to do that this year but first I sacrificed a 40th year anniversary river cruise through Europe and then the building project itself when we were hit with a huge tax as we altered our retirement financing.

Life……its so two steps forward, one step back.

Meanwhile I’m still attending to the first priority. I had the grandkids over last night as per Wednesday’s usual and I got myself signed up to be a chaperon for half a day on a field trip with the little dickens who crawled into bed with me at 3am this morning to steal my heat. Last weekend we took both of them to Iowa for a family reunion with Claudia’s farming relatives. The boys got to drive a tractor twice as big as anything I ever saw in a farm field when I was little and roll around in several tons of corn. When they got back home their mother dislodged a corn kernel from the old boys hair at bath time. I facebooked the pictures but I won’t be putting them here because of my priorities. It will take too much time to do it with all the other things I’d like to blog about whenever I find the time to get to them.


This, of course, refers to the last post. My buddy sent me this nudge yesterday:

On Wed, Sep 17, 2014 at 2:06 PM, [Harry’s Buddy] wrote:

From (Sometimes when I go silent…)
I have the most to say.

Oh, come on, Harry. Jump in. The water is deep.

[Your Buddy]

To which I replied:

It sure is. Oh my roof’s got a hole in it but I might drown…..


Some of these entries are little literary tricks meant to keep people looking. But it is true I’ve got a lot of distractions. I don’t want to metamorepose badly too often or readers will get the idea I’m trying to miseducate their children. Besides, you always beat me up when I get sloppy.


This started out as a post to let me mention a couple stray statistics before they evaporated from my head. Its now 7:06am. 45 minutes. Sheesh!

Gotta go make breakfast for the grandkids and see if there is any useful news in the Tribune which may be waiting me on my front porch.

PS. I haven’t proof read this post but I did decide to add that I added a colon (:) after PRIORITIES. That and this addendum added another five minutes to the posting.

Promises, Promises

I’ve promised readers that I would explain my theory that one tool used in the courts is to impoverish court adversaries. This relates to my dubious expectation that the District pay for Art Johnston’s court costs if he is exonerated. I’ve promised myself to explain my conviction that young black Tim was pulled over for being black by the Duluth police. That’s because my old buddy and email sparring party accused me of making assumptions that young black Tim was telling the truth without giving the Duluth police a similar assumption. I think that is an important assumption to defend. But I will first devote myself to Loren Martell in several successive posts which are timely.