Someone Replied!!??

I rarely have someone write back to one of my Reader columns so I was grateful when David wrote back to take me to task on my Ford Bell column.

Editor:
     In his 6-22 article, Harry Welty says Bush the Elder’s “greatest
achievement” was “getting America over Vietnam”, by which he must be
referring to the first Gulf War. In 1990, as Kuwait siphoned borderland oil
fields jointly owned with Iraq, Saddam Hussein was told by the U.S.
ambassador that the U.S. had “no opinion on your border disagreement with
Kuwait. The issue is not associated with America”. Then the U.S. proceeded
to drop as many bombs on Iraq as were dropped in WW2 and Vietnam combined, and, so it was said, the “Vietnam Syndrome” was cured. Hallelujah. Our motives (as always) were portrayed as straightforward and pure.
     Now Harry opposes a U.S. withdrawl from Iraq (though 80% of Iraqis
support one) because “we will make the people we meant to save pay for our mistakes”.Sorry, but we never meant to save the Iraqis from anything. Saddam was a close U.S. ally as long as he toed the line. The Bush administration doesn’t even care about saving most Americans, much less the Iraqis. We wrap our wars of empire in humanitarian lies because most Americans, like Harry, have good hearts and wouldn’t support our brutal interventions if they knew the true motives behind them. William blum’s book “Killing Hope” documents
the last 50 years of those interventions, which were far from altruistic.
     Maybe the U.N. and neighboring arab states can stop Iraq’s civil
war,but the Bush administration cannot, even if it wanted to.

              David

First, I appreciate David’s graciousness in saying that I, like most Americans, have a good heart. That’s a very good place to begin my reply and sadly its missing from most dialogue about the Iraq War.

Frankly, I have a hard time disagreeing with David on many of his points. He certainly is correct that our Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, did us no favors in all but giving Saddam Hussein the green light to invade Kuwait. At the time I thought ending the butchery in the Bosnian Wars was of greater importance but, as I’m sure David would be quick to agree, there just wasn’t any oil in Yugoslavia.

I would add that my characterization of the first Bush’s “greatest achievement” was intended, but failed to convey, some irony. If beating back a third rate bully was an achievement for America, big whoop. The only other legacy I can quickly remember from Bush’s presidency was his promise to “read my lips” on tax increases and his subsequent embarrassment when his lips turned out to  have been lying. This legacy has turned Republicans into manic anti-tax legislators who have left the nation with a 10 trillion dollar deficit.

Although in retrospect the first George Bush looks like a genius compared to the son I campaigned against him and voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 after I gave up on Ross Perot. I was even quoted in a front page story in the DNT as supporting Clinton.

Most importantly David gives far too much credence to the polls which tell us that 80% of Iraqis want us to leave. That would be virtually all the Shiite and Sunni population. (The Kurds are grateful to us) The poll numbers are correct but there is an important proviso. Few Iraqies want us to leave so hastily that an all-out war breaks out. Yes, they want us to leave. Yes, they think our invasion has been a disaster. Yes, they shed no tears when an American dies. But No, they do not want a civil war.

If we can leave in six months with some kind of stability then I’ll be happy to have us leave. If we can do it in three months that would be better yet. I just think this is too soon. While I have some sympathy for David’s call to witdraw I have no sympathy for the pliant Republican Congressmen who went along with the war but who are now demanding that Iraqis take over their own defense. That’s a little like setting two pit bulls against each other and then telling the fleas riding on their backs to make it stop. 

Blog Spam

Out of bed at 5AM on a Saturday. I thought I might go swimming but with the scent of hot steaming blueberry buckle in the air I decided otherwise. Today it will be calories not laps.

I checked my website statistics. They are holding their own and it looks like Snowbizz will end the month averaging a thousand hits a day. I have found that the blog is being invaded not only by readers but by spam. Somehow the spammers have figured out how to insert links to their pages by replying to blog posts. I’ll have to go back to my old posts and start marking them as closed for discussion. What a pain!

It will be a beautiful day so Claudia may put me to work. It will be recompense for the buckle. That’s OK. I need to fix my compost box. I’ll have to shovel a ton of black gold out of it first and then shovel it back in when I’m finished. That’ll be fun – kind of like deleting spam only back breaking.

Kelm anecdote

One man who looms large in the story of Don Boyd is Thomas Kelm a cat who always seems to have landed on his feet. The subject of numerous unflattering stories during his days as Gov. Anderson’s Chief of Staff he seems now to be the stuff of legends. Last week in his Budgeteer Column, Ralph Doty slipped in a little anedcote about the fellow. A sample:

“On the day the bill was scheduled for a final vote, Gov. Wendell Anderson let loose his lobbyists, led by his chief of staff, Tom Kelm, a tall, robust man who, to folks less than 6 feet tall, looked like the giant in “Jack and the Beanstalk.” He was skilled at intimidating even the toughest lawmakers.”

We’re not all in this (neighborhood) together

I just read this Wash Post story that was reprinted in the DNT yesterday. Its one more bit of evidence of the division of our nation into rich and poor. Now it seems that middle class suburbs – the kind that baby boomers all remember from their youth – are disappearing. Those of us who are being sheltered by Republicans from the dreaded “death tax” are all moving behind gated barriers to exclusive neighborhoods. Those remaining in the middle class have to decide if and when they can jump accross an ever growing abyss to keep up with the quickly retreating Jones and while leaving the title loan and lotto dependent poor behind.

Minnesota Secretary of State

After I visited my Mother I headed over to the State Capitol to get information from our Secretary of State about elections. Behind the counter were Ben and Jenny who cheerfully gave me helpful information. I snapped a picture of Jenny as she hauled away several recent years of election results which were on their way to clutter up the files of the State Historical Society. Ben snapped a picture of me in front of an American flag.
Jenny's Files

These are good people. You should file for office and then you could meet them too.

Picking up where I left off

Every time I leave Duluth I have to return and resume. Some projects will have another day’s delay as I’m driving to the Twin Cities today and delivering friends to the Airport where they will fly off to Europe. I’d hoped to take my daughter to lunch but she’ll be working. I will visit my Mother to see how she’s doing. That’s always a tough for me because she barely recognizes me but even so she still has a wry sense of humor hidden in the clutter that is her mind. And she likes to sing:Huts it raw sittin on the rittle raw……… I might remind her of some favorites like “You are my sunshine.”

It should be sunny and warm and I’m going clad in shorts. I’ll stop off at the Sectetary of State’s office while I’m down there. Hope they’ll take me seriously even if I’m not wearing a suit.

Master of the Senate

One thing I like about air travel is that it gives me a good excuse to read. Today, on the way home from DC, I got three more chapters of Robert Caro’s Master of the Senate read. I’ve only got through 130 pages but already i can see why it got the Pulitizer just like the first book in Caro’s series.

I’d highly recommend the very short introduction to anyone who doesn’t know what Jim Crow America was all about. The first three chapters are a wonderful history of the United State’s Senate. Its far better than anything I’ve ever read about the Congress to explain how it works in theory and in practice. I may not get a good chance to continue reading it again until I jet off to our family’s California reunion a month from now.

Hard to believe that such a crude man as Lyndon Johnson would be the person who through force of will and ambition would be the principal architect in helping the nation finally live up to its original ideals.

The Hilton

We’ll be leaving shortly. We stayed at the Hilton on Connecticut where I’ve been told John Hinkley tried to take out Ronald Reagan. I must have walked past the spot a dozen times on my way to the subway although I understand its been landscaped since the assassination attempt. History is everywhere here.

I’ve had crab cakes here four times. Someone else told me they are in season. MMMMM! Wonderful, but don’t eat them with any sauces. They have a terrific, subtle, flavor that should be savored as is.

Halfway through our stay our toilet bowl filled up disconcertingly with hot steaming water. The first time I noticed I thought it was nice of the Hilton to have heated seats. Thanks Paris.

 

Smithsonian

Smithsonian

Another day in DC and I had to visit the Smithsonian again. Today I visted the Museum of Native Americans and spent four hours there. It was more a celebration of their lives than their artifacts but it was wonderful history too. Its scope stretched from Point Barrow, Alaska to the Quechua of the Andes and points south.

Before that I made a quick stop at the FEC, the Federal Election Commission. I wanted to find out a little about the election laws. It was in the same building as the Hard Rock Cafe across from the now closed FBI building.

It was also next to Fords Theater where Abe was murdered. Abe’s dream was to be able to do something as magnificient as the founding Fathers. I think he managed to call them and raised them one.

Tonight we were too pooped to go on the evening tour of Washington monuments so we stayed in our room and watched another Washington monument – the movie Thank you for Smoking. It was a memorial to another local institution, K Street. We are so indebted to Tom Delay.

Back to Blogging in DC

Yesterday all my efforts to connect to a wireless network were stymied. I spent the morning trying to find the townhouse where I spent the summer 34 years ago when I interned with Congressman Ancher Nelson.

I got close but since I didn’t have the address I couldn’t be sure exactly where it was. I traveled from the Cannon Office Building past the Library of Congress and headed up Independence. I took a picture of a similar locale. The two gay guys who introduced me to martinis and fresh salted tomatoes are long gone. I wonder if they survived the AIDs epidemic? Its a modest middle class neighborhood now. Near this photograph was a sculptural elephant rather like the Peanuts statues St. Paul has had. This elephant was covered head to toe with political cartoons from Oliphant my favorite cartoonist from the 60’s and 70’s.

I headed back to the House office buildings but stopped at the new Library of Congress annex. Seems to me they had begun excavating it when I was in DC. They had a quiet little shrine inside devoted to our forth President James Madison.

Madison

I walked in the sub basement hallway through all three buildings. In the Longworth building I looked in on the restaurant where I once sat eating a fried clam sandwich next to Congressman Father Drinan who Pope Paul ordered to quit Congress. There’s an Edy’s ice cream shop and I ordered a chocolate shake.

I walked past Oberstar’s office and took a picture. Counting coup.
Oberstar Office

On my way over to Union Station to catch the subway home I walked past a monument to “Mr. Republican” former Senator Robert Taft son of a President. As his bell tower memorial is devoted to his veneration of integrity I wonder what he’d make of his grandson’s scandals in Ohio.

Spent the evening at a party at the Smithsonian where we were blasted out by rock and roll next to the stuffed elephants.

That’s the only kind left in Washington these days.

Woke up – Got out of bed

Lousy night’s sleep. Must be allergic to something in the air. Kept waking me up. At least, thanks to the NPR finder, I can type while listening to Morning Edition.

Its going to be beastly hot and humid today. Claudia will be busy conferencing. I’ll go explore shortly after I turn in my column to the Reader.

I woke up dreaming that I had been elected to Congress and was in the middle of a war between the GOP and Democrats to take control. I was negotiating between the two parties trying to get the winner to agree to set up the House of Representatives that wasn’t a “winner take all, zero sum game” to castrate the other side. Also, I was dickering to make the Congress give up seniority as the key to handing out pork and have it set up an independent agency to rate pork projects based on national need including spending on maintence rather than new building. Finally, I was trying to end No Child Left Behind and the Dept. of Education in exchange for a plan to send federal dollars only to the poorest local school districts in states which permit the greatest financing inequities to exist between rich and poor schools. It was exhilerating. No wonder I woke up.

It’s forecast to be a day with lots of pollution in the air. Breathing alerts are being issued. I can’t wait to inhale some of DC.

DC Diary

After a good night’s sleep I woke up to a new day in DC. Checked my email and my site stats and discovered that folks have indeed found my additions to the Boyd Scandal. I’d just renamed the files and was looking for the hits on the old urls.

I won’t put any additions to the story on the website until I’m back from Washington but I’ve brought my research with me so I’ll keep working on it.

Its obvious that DC is a hopping place these days. Reminds me of David Brinkley’s book about DC in World War II when FDR geared the nation up for war built the Pentagon and the government grew a million fold.  

This city is full of construction both public and private and its livelier than when I was last here a decade or so ago.

WW II Memorial

We walked through the new WWII Memorial. Its very lovely but it will take a while for this to lodge itself in my mental map of the Capitol like the other iconic monuments.

We have a day to explore and no plans. Life is good.

tattle tales vs. whistle blowers

One more story about the shabby way whistle blowers are treated. In this case the fellow who exposed his company for taking 45 tons of goods donated after the destruction of the World Trade Towers is fired after death threats.

Too often we confuse whistle blowers, who are often the only people willing to keep the rest of us honest, with school yard tattle tales.

This shortsighted thinking seems to explain the Supreme Court’s recent descision to weaken the protection of government employees who blow the whistle when government goes bad.

The official source for all the blather of the eccentric Harry Welty – Duluth School Board member, off and on, since 1995. He does his best to live up to Mark Twain's assessment: "First God created the idiot. That was for practice. Then he invented the School Board."