Sabo to Retire

I just heard an announcement on Minnesota Public Radio that said Martin Sabo, St. Paul’s Congressman is going to retire. Sabo has been in Congress for 28 years now. That’s a heckuva long time.

But Jim Oberstar has Sabo beat by four years. He’s been in Congress for 32 years and shows no sign of slowing down. Jim particularly likes distributing photos of himself sitting on a bicycle.

You can find the photo on one of Congressman Oberstar’s websites. I was asked to remove it by one of his staff members who pointed out that I had not asked permission to use it. This staffer helped a guest of mine a couple years ago from the Congo who was having difficulty with his papers to enter the U.S. I removed it for this staffer’s sake although I rather suspect that because the photo was for the Congressman, it was in the public domain.

 

Snow at the Trib

I was out of town yesterday visiting family in the Twin Cities. They had nine fresh of snow on the ground. My niece, Lydia, helped me find a leprechan in her yard. It was St. Paddy’s day. Upon my return I found a call from the Trib’s reporter Scott Thistle. I’d missed his call but as soon as I picked up the Trib I knew what he wanted. It contained Scott’s story about a fellow who had built what he hoped was the tallest snow sculpture in Duluth’s history. Even though Scott no longer needed my background info I called to explain my not returning his call.

Scott said he’d heard that I was mad at the Trib. I just laughed and told him I was over it. I also told him that you only get mad at the people you really love. Scott said he’d heard that before but he sounded skeptical.

Where did all the people go

The results of the mid-decade census shows that St. Louis County continues to lose population.  This link will probably only be available at the Defunct News Tribune’s website for one week. Knight Ridder hides all its copywrited stories after seven days. After that time inquiring minds have to pay to have old stories dredged up from the company’s computer archives (unless you are lucky enough to find the same story in some other website’s cache)

The Trib had another interesting story about population growth in counties across the nation. It had a black and white county map which was very hard to read. The color map of counties at the Census Bureau is much easier to follow. In fact the US Census site has a plethora of fascinating information. Its well worth a visit.

I recently read one prolifer’s letter-to-the-editor complain that because of Minnesota’s abortions the state is likely to lose a Congressman in the next census. The writer said we are projected to fall 2,500 people short of the 8 Congressman we were entitled to in 2000. Horrors! That probably means that some dag nabbed red state will probably get our congressman. That ought to please the letter writer.

Dubai Debacle

Robert Samuelson is one of my favorite economic analysts. I agree with him that the port deal with Dubai was badly handled. Why?

“The idea of letting an Arab-owned company, Dubai Ports World, run container terminals at five U.S. ports struck many Americans as an absurdity. Why not just turn control directly over to Al Qaeda? In late February, a CBS News poll found that 70 percent of respondents were against the deal and only 21 percent in favor. The company’s withdrawal last week can be seen as a triumph of public opinion.”  Read it all 

Democrats had a easy cheap shot to fling at the President. I almost don’t blame them for doing it. The Republicans though. What a bunch of wimps.

Borrow and Spend

George Bush’s fusion of “conservative” and “liberal” borrow-and-spend principles is leading the US to a 9 trillion dollar debt. He has pursued spending on entitlements that would have gladdened the hearts of Democrats had only they not been so complicated. (My take on the complexity is that it is intended to prevent the truly needy who vote Democratic from sharing in the entitlement) But he has also championed the foolish idea that a growing economy can pay for these benefits without any need to tax for the entitlements today.

This policy suits today’s faith based Republican Party very well with its simple minded, scriptural, admonision: “No new taxes!” This infantile faith has taken hold in all 50 states.

In Minnesota it forced Republican Tim Pawlenty to pledge that he would not raise any taxes in order to win the Party’s gubenatorial endorsement. When Pawlenty finally had to govern without “taxes” he raised “fees” astronomically in order to finance the state. 

On the national level Bush is imitating LBJ’s ruinous policy of “guns and butter” (financing Vietnam and the war-on-poverty simultaneously) which subsequently knocked the US economy into a ten-year cycle of “stagflation. “

Here’s Andrew Sullivan’s critique of Bush

Chastising Lincoln

While Senator Feingold is introducing a resolution to censure the President and irate Democrats are hell bent to impeach the bugger rumor has it that another little drama took place at one of our recent caucuses in Duluth.

Craig Grau told me that he’d heard that a young historian had introduced a resolution critisizing Abe Lincoln for not knowing the Constitution. It was one of the whereas’s in his resolution.

The resolution explained that the South had every right to secede and that Lincoln should have blessed their departure. Another whereas said that Lincoln would have been better off inviting Canada to join the US and the be-it-resolved asked that we start negotiating with Canada now to have them join us. Whether Canada would be permitted to succeed or not, with Lincoln’s precedent-setting war standing in the way, I have no idea. 

According to Craig the resolution passed on a vote of something like 21 to 1. Being a Democrat is going to be very entertaining.

The Duluth News Tribune – on the dinner plate

I felt bad about sniping that the Trib had swallowed up the Budgeteer in my last column when I heard that the Trib itself had just been swallowed up the McClatchy Company (owners of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune). And then I felt bad all over again when the McClatchy folks said that they were going to sell it off too.

Media empires are no respectors of local tradition. Although they have an interest in it from a commercial point of view (as long as maintaining it will keep their properties profitible). John Myers, the President of the DNT’s Newspaper Guild, said something about the DNT earning a 20% profit on MPR’s story about the sale. I have my doubts about that figure. It sounds more like the earnings figures thrown around by a union as it heads into salary negotiations. Most businesses are lucky to make a 3 percent profit. I doubt that Knight Ridder would have wanted to sell off anything that made that kind of money.

Now the Trib has suffered the same fate as several local radio stations which were swallowed up by the infamous Clear Channel and KDLH television. I can’t help but wonder if and when Bob Boone will sell his Reader Weekly to some humongous tabloid conglomerate. I know he’s carped about them before.

If he did my column could be replaced by some generic nationally syndicated column. If that happened I’m sure the Duluth NewsTribune would get a good laugh out of my embarassment. My only hope is to keep working for coupons.

Graphics

I spent yesterday morning figuring out how to put a picture of Abe on my website. Its the fourth day I’ve struggled with what sounded like a simple task.  It turned out I had to get to know my control panel on my website’s ISP. Having the text surrounded by repeating Lincolns wasn’t my intention but I was so glad to see something, anything, that I won’t complain. Word Press requires a pretty steep learning curve for an old guy like me. My brain was so sore that I skipped yesterday’s political punditry. I know, I know. You’re probably thanking God for small favors.

The Reader sent me an email informing me that I have to get my column in by tonight. That’ll give you something to look forward to.

Rules mtg at AFSCME

I signed myself up at the precinct caucus to sit on 7th Senate District DFL Rules Committee for their – our – Convention. For those of you not from Minnesota DFL stands for Democratic Farmer Labor. It’s the same thing as the Democratic party (or the Democrat Party as the Republicans like to call it). The Farmer Labor half came from a potent third party which excercised real power in the state from the 1920’s until Hubert Humphrey and others organized a merger with the Democrats. Today the state is roughly 50/50 DFL and Republican but even though the GOP has a slight electoral edge I’d still give the state to the DFL on sentimental grounds. I didn’t think Bush would beat Kerry here last year and he didn’t.

Holding the door for me as I rushed in from the rain was Marsh Stenerson. Marsh and I have tangled a little in the past. As a new Democrat I will excercise some restraint in criticising my new allies publicly but if my website’s Search Page is still working anyone could find evidence of it. Marsh smiled and told me he was waiting especially to greet me at the door. I’m sure he was genuinely delighted to have me aboard.

Bill Cortez, a teacher at East High, organized us our committee. Craig Grau, a poly sci prof at UMD and a shrewd commentator on state politics was also at our meeting. I asked him if his son was still a big fan of Rush Limbaugh. Greg wasn’t sure. I’m not.

AFSCME was going to close its office early so we all agreed to meet again this Tuesday. That would give us a chance to read the rules. The only thing that is radically different from our Republican rules is the sub caucus system which was set up to insure that various minorities would be represented at Democratic conventions. These were instituted just before or after George McGovern got the Democratic presidential nomination. I’m not sure whether they’ve played a big part in recent conventions but I think they’ve been divisive at times. I’ll be eager to see them in action. The Convention is six weeks off on April 19th. I can’t wait.

Well, at least someone noticed

When a “small time politician” defects from one party to another he/she is likely to want people to notice. I know I’m looking forward to some attention. So, it was with great pleasure that I welcomed a neighbor weilding a note pad while I was working on my latest snow sculpture – “Farewell to the GOP.”

She gave me a nice write up in the UMD Statesman although she did not mention or get the significance of my sculpture’s title. Hey, college kids barely know the mayors of their college towns let alone the local has-been politicians.

After the drubbing I just gave the city paper it may be a while before they deign to give me any attention again. Oh well, I should give the Trib credit for their letter-to-the-editor section. They have always taken great delight in publishing stinging criticism of their paper’s coverage and editorial opinion. Too bad we don’t have a President with skin that thick. But then our President and his party regard critics as unpatriotic. I wonder how he’s feeling about about his Republican Congress today?

Death, Sacrifice, Shahada

Bush was elected as a result of, and on the heels of, a Christian resurgence that began several decades earlier. His undoing could be the result of a similiar religious revival in the world of Islam which I doubt he ever gave any thought to.

The idea of dying for a noble cause is ancient. Its best remembered in secular terms by our famous patriot, Patrick Henry, who proclaimed, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

I have no idea if Henry, a product of the religiously skeptical Age of Enlightment, even believed in an afterlife but he certainly argued that death was a worthwhile price to pay for liberty. American soldiers hang their helmets on such sentiments. Now imagine the pleasure that the ultimate sacrifice would bring if you were allowed more virgins in the afterlife than you are allowed wives in this one.

If you want to really appreciate the tarbaby that George Bush got us into check out this jaw dropping video.

George Bush’s Political Capitol

George Bush gave reporters a confident lecture on the “political capitol” he had earned by being reelected. I cringed at his misunderstanding.  Actually, he’d used up most of his political capitol to get reelected. The capitol he spent had accrued to him because the public bought into the idea that he could keep them safe in these uncertain times. Before the attack on the World Trade Towers his capitol was very low.That tragedy gave him a huge jolt of capitol. His success or failure at prosecuting the war against terrorists would determine whether the capitol would increase or get spent down. As Bush stood in the crater of the Twin Towers with fire fighters and rescue workers and projected a real aura of authority the capitol swelled. He had something like a 90 percent approval rating. He used that capitol to make a strategic gamble which will be debated for years by historians (and which will take longer than ever to judge because of his administration’s penchant for putting public documents under lock and key).Bush decided to bypass Afghanistan and only half heartedly attempted to catch or kill Osama bin Ladin, the architect of the New York attack. He put most of his eggs in the Iraq basket and successfully, if erroneously, convinced most Americans that the attackers had sallied forth at Saddam Hussein’s order. Bush also harped on what turned out to be nonexistent weapons of mass destruction. Now in the face of a an Iraqi civil war Americans have caught on to this legacy of disingenuousness, if not outright duplicity, and Bush’s capitol has withered to historic lows. Even his Republican Congress is abandoning him. Yesterday a key committee voted 62 to 2 against the Administration’s plan to allow a UAE firm to manage American ports. Bush’s three million vote margin of victory was threadbare. Up to his reelection the happy face Bush put on his war kept a bare majority of the voting population with him. Knowing this the Republican Party went to extraordinary lengths to prevent African Americans, ex cons, big city residents and others not likely to vote for Bush from casting a vote unless they could easily prove their right to vote.Even in Duluth, Republicans aggressively discouraged homeless citizens from voting because Minnesota was one of the states ripe for Republican picking. After his reelection Bush’s misunderstanding of his diminished capitol sent him off on a Quixote-like mission to “reform” social security. It didn’t wash. He had been reelected by the voters minds to fix Iraq and keep us safe. They didn’t trust him with much else. And then Hurricane Katrina blindsided him and exposed a grevious lack of preparedness and competence.Although Democrats were disconsolate after Bush beat John Kerry their depression was premature as I wrote in a column suggesting that things would soon look up. In fact, a Kerry victory would probably have damaged Democrats as they took on Bush’s Iraqi tarbaby. That won’t happen now. As Colin Powel warned George Bush. If you break it you will own it. 

 

Minnesota Precinct Caucuses or Harry crosses thru the Looking Glass

Last night, like Alice through the Looking Glass, I found myself in a strange new world. For 35 years I’ve attended Republican caucuses – until last night. Our city councilor Greg Gilbert turned around half way through the caucus and asked me, “Harry, aren’t you a Republican?” ”Not tonight,” I told him.There were others who were surprised to see me at a Democratic caucus. One was a former School Board member with whom I’ve tangled. Another was a fellow who stopped by my house a couple days ago to thank me for taking on the Reverend Young. As was the case in my former GOP caucus there was little need to debate because there was such unanimity of opinion, albeit in the opposite direction. For the Republicans, the debate is moot anyway because the Party has virtually encased its platform in stone so that it varies little from year to year. When the all but extinct liberal Republicans attempted to do a similar thing back in 1972 the conservatives squashed the proposal like a bug.The DFL platform probably changes greatly every election year, depending on which hot buttons are, well, hot. Where Republicans obsess about pro-life issues, pro heterosexuality, pro-gun stuff, and reducing taxes it’s just the opposite in the DFL caucus. While Republicans obsess about the unborn the DFL introduced a pie-in-the-sky resolution to rescue all Minnesota children from poverty. The resolution was vague, noble and probably prohibitively expensive. Nonetheless it passed unanimously.

Many of the resolutions were true to the big spending habits of Democrats. I voted for most of them thinking that the spirit of generosity they embodied was noble even if they would likely foment a taxpayer’s revolt if successfully implemented. The challenge for Democrats is to knit the social safety net together while restraining their liberality with some fiscal discipline. It’s not an easy balancing act. Of course, on the Federal level the Republican Party has completely abandoned fiscal discipline so the Dems can hardly be faulted. At least none of the Democrats financial wish list is aimed at an increasingly unpopular and mismanaged war.

I had been forewarned about the special hot button for the evening’s caucus a few hours earlier at the fitness center while I was suiting up to swim my mile. An old liberal was at his locker and I asked him if he was planning to caucus. “Oh yes,” he said, he told me that he was all set to introduce a resolution to impeach Bush. That gave me a couple hours to frame my objections to the resolution which would inevitably turn up in my DFL caucus too.When it did I was the only person to speak against it. I argued that the resolution, while no doubt satisfying, was a potential distraction for the Party. Political pundits all across the nation, I argued, were waiting to see how the Democrats could snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in this upcoming election. I added that while there were several possible legitimate counts for impeachment that the nation had no stomach for a Bush impeachment any more than it had for the Clinton fiasco. I concluded by saying that the best things for Democrats to do was focus on the on traditional Democratic values like taking care of those in need and where they wanted to take the nation.Only one enthusiast took a strong exception to my objection saying that if the resolution didn’t pass he was in the wrong party’s caucus. A couple others echoed some of my fears but the desire for payback was not to be denied, at least not at the precinct level. In a voice vote I was the only one to vote against the resolution. It was rather humorous really. I’ve been the lone vote on so many resolutions in Republican Party caucuses over the years that I’ve lost count of them. Frankly, as I told the caucuses I’m kind of looking forward to hearing more Bush bashing as the conventions proceed up the chain of command. The rage behind the impeachment resolution will be needed to fuel Democrats through the general election. Like their impulse to spend it will have to be restrained eventually in order for them to succeed.All of us were eligible to become delegates at the next level of conventions and I signed myself up to sit on the Rules Committee. I figure that this is the key committee for me to understand the organization of the DFL. We will meet at the AFSCME offices on Saturday. That could be interesting. I’ve taken special delight in beating up AFSCME’s local leadership over the years. Here’s one example.

I’m not too worried about it. I saw that Amy Klobuchar who won the DFL straw ballot for the US Senate Seat hands down has been bad mouthed mercilessly by her AFSCME local in an attempt to embarrass her as she campaigns for the Democratic nomination.

My Declaration of Lincoln-Democratic Independence

I’ve been a Republican for 35 years. I stayed faithful despite moving to one of the most aggressively Democratic regions in the nation. I stayed faithful through the Watergate fiasco and even ran as a Republican candidate in its aftermath. I remained faithful as the Reagan revolution marginalized my kind of Republican, the socially libertarian. I remained a Republican (although I found myself voting for more independent and Democratic candidates) as Pat Robertson sent his stealth delegates into party caucuses and the “Moral Majority” took control.In recent years I’ve ruefully stayed a Republican because there was no practical, independent party alternative.  I kept my temper by writing pointed criticism of Republican foibles and much worse in columns in a local tabloid.This year I turned double nickels. I’m 55 years old. For years friends have urged me to become a Democrat. Sometime in the last month or two it finally dawned on me that my points-of-view, even ones most Democrats would disagree with, would be far more generously received in the Democratic Party. I’d like to think, that being the majority of American citizens, we moderates still have some relevance. If the Republicans won’t have us, Nay, if they actively try to discourage and remove us from their ranks…well, there is only one serious alternative for us other than going off to sulk in a corner.  That alternative is the Democratic Party!  It has a rich tradition, wonderful heroes, and for those of us who do not regard the word “liberal” as an imprecation, an important legacy to build America’s future on.

Today I am a Democrat. I can not erase the last thirty-five years of my life so I bequeath my memories, fond and otherwise, to the Republican Party. Perhaps the GOP can find some use for them. I will not be going into the Democratic Party alone, however. I’m taking Abraham Lincoln with me. I am a Lincoln-Democrat.

 

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."