I just put that title up there to pique your interest. I’ve read a couple good books onÂ Israel andÂ PalestineÂ including Tom Friedman’s from Beirut to Jerusalem. This modest little postÂ showed me a little slice of life from Israel that I found very interesting and hopeful.
I spent the day finding phone numbers, getting referrals, and making calls. I only added half a dozen people to my list of attendeesÂ for our Tuesday morning organizational meeting to raise a worthy endowment for the Duluth Schools but they were quality people. I’m getting excited. We’re going to make this happen.
I was a little put off to see thatÂ Newsweek’s columnist Jonathon Alter was able to use their space to promote his new book about FDR but the two pages were a good read. Alter’sÂ book maintains what I was told back in highschool forty years ago: that Roosevelt saved both democracy and capitalism.
The article compares how the flexible Roosevelt confronted his crisis and the inflexible Bush confronted his. IÂ appreciated Alter’sÂ insights on how Bush’s kicking alcohol and FDR’s recoveringÂ from polio made them very different men.
I’ll have to put his book on the growing list of Presidential bio’s circling my runway.
John Ashcroft’s buddy, defeated US Senator Rod Gram, announced yesterday that he’s been thinking about running against Congressman Jim Oberstar for a couple months. DFL pundit, Wy Spano, dismisses Gram’s chances. Spano says the DFL history and the bad political year Republicans are having both doom Grams. Wy is half wrong. While this is a terrible year to be running as a Republican the 8th District ain’t what it used to be. I had no idea that Grams even lived in the District. He didn’t when he ran for Congress 15 years ago. He was badly stung by his defeat to millionaire Mark Dayton. Compounding that injury, the state GOP (directed in large part by Dick Cheney and the national Republicans) killed his attempt to resurrect his Senate career in favor of the new Republican darling, St. Paul Mayor Norm Coleman. (The old Mayor that is, Norm, who is now a Republican not the new St. Paul Mayor, Chris Coleman, who is a DFLer) My guess is that after that embarrassment Rod immediately focused his thwarted ambition on the Eighth District. Had the Bush Administration not tanked over the last year Grams would be in an excellent position to dump Oberstar.
Here’s why. Oberstar is a leaden politician. He’s only faced two tough elections and they were thirty years ago. He’s chicken. He will be prone to panic and that makes for losing campaigns. When I ran against him as an independent candidate in 1992 he agreed to debate me and the Republican nominee at WDIO TV but later claimed he’d never agreed to do it. Of course, it could be argued that he was simply refusing to give his challengers any press attention and that is partly true. But it’s my intuition after watching him closely for three decades that his strength is as a backroom player. He gives plenty of canned speeches before small friendly audiences but he’s never expected to say much and doesn’t. I believe that the prospect of a face-to-face debate will unnerve him. The old 8th District that Spano remembers was dominated by the Iron Range with Duluth a poor second. In fact, Oberstar’s initial election was partly a rebellion against the Range by Duluth DFLers who supported Oberstar in preference to the Iron Range’s dominant political family the Perpich’s.
Duluth is the center of the new 8th District as it was to old 8th District but its population has shrunk. The Iron Range’s population has declined even more steeply. In the past three apportionments, the swing counties of Cass and Crow Wing have been added to the Eighth. To the South exurban counties which are marginally Republican have been growing in population. That’s where Gram’s lives. Oberstar is a familiar but remote name. His greatest glory is the Northwest Air base but that happened a long time ago and with the closing of the Airbus maintenance facilities in Duluth nothing to crow about. Grams on the other hand has the luster of having been a Senator, something which Oberstar once aspired to but was denied by the DFL. Grams will be able to use this resume to raise more money than Oberstar ever had to raise. Now that the GOP is desperate to retain control of Congress they will throw more money to Grams than this Congressional District has ever seen. Democrats will match that spending. In the end the only thing that will save the colorless Oberstar is the desire of Americans to take Bush’s lapdog Republican Congress away from him. By the way, Grams made lots of friends from the Iron Range all the way up to Canada while he was Senator. Some Iron Rangers would probably even be glad to teach Oberstar a lesson for besting the Perpich’s all those years ago. It’s called Iron Range Alzheimer’s. That’s what happens when you forget everything but your grudges.
I’ve been out of the GOP loop for so long I had no idea this was possible. Dammit. Dammit. Dammit.
A Wall Street Journalist says that under George Bush tax policies taxpayers making over $200,000 have seen their taxes rise from 41% to 47 percent……That caught my attention. I presume he’s not talking about the tax rate on the 2hundredthousandaires but their slice of the taxÂ pie that goes toward the federal budget. Is this really a laffer? I linked first before reading the commentary which I only listened to with half an ear. I’ve got to read this carefully, think aboutÂ it and makeÂ some pronouncement……Â but right now I’m grilling shishkebobs.
I gave it a 5 but I was in a good mood at the time.
My primary concern for the past two weeks has been the Duluth Public Schools Endowment. Six days from today there will be an organizational meeting to start fundraising to accumulate an endowment fund worthy of Duluth. Today I’ll start calling friends, retired teachers, PTA members, community leaders, and parents of school kids to get them to attend. I have seen little response to my column encouraging people to attend. This demonstrates an iron law of volunteerism. To get people involved you have to ask them. (The same iron law goes for getting contributions as well)
To make this succeed I’ll have to overcome my “Minnesota Nice” instincts which is partly a reluctance to intrude on others and partly a reluctance to have them tell you “no.” I need a minimum of 40 people. We’re half way there. We’ll find them.
There is a small division of opinion on the Endowment Fund Board about whether the best way to raise money is through a few big donors or through many small ones. I’m pushing for both.
Certainly there are people who could write large checks and for whom public education would be a worthy recipient even and above the taxes they already pay toward that end. On the other hand, I suggested in my Reader column a couple weeks ago that it might be possible to talk a thousand parents into making annual ten dollar contributions to the endowment. A thousand times ten is ten thousand dollars. One fat cat could do that with a single check. But I like the idea of giving everyone a chance to do a little something above and beyond the call of taxation for our schools. Besides, any contribution will help cement the relationship between our schools and the contributors. What’s more, today’s small contributor may be tomorrow’s bigger contributor.
Howie Hanson’s e’blog yesterday carried Duluth Marshall’s announcement of having successfully raised $4.7 million dollars in the past couple years. Sure, Marshall has no choice but to raise money and has a fairly well-to-do donor base. Still, Marshall’s families are a fraction of those in the Duluth Public Schools. This ought to provide some incentive for partisans of the Duluth Schools. If Marshall can do it so can we.
Wish us luck, or better yet send me an email telling me you are going to come. Oh, I forgot. I’ve got to call you first. What’s your number again?
The top story in the DNT’s local section showed that 93 percent of Duluth’s tenth graders can write passably. On a scale from 1 to 6, 3 being passing, all but seven percent pass muster.
This is not to suggest that writing at level 3 is anything special. You wouldn’t want to read a blog written at level 3 but a person can survive in our literate world at this rate.
The NCLB law is not the first effortÂ aimed at pushingÂ low functioning kidsÂ to higherÂ levels.Â Its only innovation is beingÂ the first nationalized effort to do so. As a teacher a couple decades ago it began to dawn on me that I had lots of barely literate kids in my social studies classes. Rather than do all my testing with multiple choice tests I began testing my kids with essays. Its one thing to ask kids whatÂ caused the civil war in an essay than to offer them the alternatives of A.slavery, B.sectional economic differences, B.Kansas Nebraska Act, D.the banana boycott;Â to see if kids have learned their history. Many couldn’t and many wouldn’t write anything. Blank answers weren’t necessarily eividence of ignorance of the subject. It was just as likely an indication of their unwillingness to demonstrate their poor writing skills. How far would a kid go to hide such a failing?
Today’s Dear Abby has a letter from a young woman whose 33 year-old boyfriend refuses to do anything about his illiteracy.Â It raises the age old question of how a child can spend ten or twelve years in schoolÂ without learningÂ how to do the single most requiement of an education.
Whatever else its flaws NCLB testing is one way to keep a school district focused on student progress so that they don’t fall between the cracks.
It didn’t take passing NCLB to get this done. Fifteen years ago Minnesota adopted a process called “outcome based education” or OBE for short. The idea was simple. Schools would pay more attention to the outcome of a child’s schooling i.e. getting them educated than it would keeping trakc of their seat time (time spent in class). Ironically it was killed by Republicans and their allies for doing exactly what the NCLB is nnow attempting to do – make sure no child falls too far behind his classmates. But the outrage that killed OBE had more to do with the fear that schools would spend all their resources on the worst students by shafting gifted and ambitious kids. This complaint lives on with the Republican inspired NLCB.
OBE wasÂ followed byÂ Minnesota’s even more ambitious “ProfilesÂ of Learning.”Â Â It had too many cooks, hundreds and thousands of designers made it so complicated that it wasÂ almost beyond the public’s comprehension. Again state Republicans led the charge to killÂ another ed reform.Â Now Republicans are beginning to rebel anainst President Bush’s NCLB.
Why is it that 7 out of ten Duluth tenth graders can’t write? Some may be newly enrolled foreign students still learning English. Others may be special education students with limited intellectual abilities. Some may have gotten their education in other school districts so that Duluth shouldn’t have to be tagged with their failure. Whatever the reason it should remain a reason and not an excuse. An excuse is one step away from a justification.
State Senator Satveer Chaudhary pictured in an ad by the Republic Party with a photoshoped thumb on the nose (see earlier entry) got one back from an anonymous critic. It had a bullet hole drawn inÂ his head.
Let’s have a round of applause for the continuedÂ elevation of our political discourse.
My Reader column for this week begins:
“In 1990 I was ecstatic when the popular Republican, State Auditor, Arne Carlson replaced the opportunistic, “pro-life,” political hack who had defeated him in the gubernatorial primary with the help of naive religious conservatives. When John Grunseth was outed for having chased his daughter’s friend around the family pool in a drunken attempt to rip off her bikini top he became instant poison. The pro-life Republicans had no face-saving choice other than to relinquish their death grip on the nomination in favor of Carlson. It would not be the last time that a false friend of religious conservatives would betray them. . .”
Reading the Story of El Salvador’s draconian pro-life idealÂ spurred me to get this off my chest.
a small sample”
“Today, Article 1 of El Salvador’s constitution declares that the prime directive of government is to protect life from the “very moment of conception.” The penal code detailing the Crimes Against the Life of Human Beings in the First Stages of Development provides stiff penalties: the abortion provider, whether a medical doctor or a back-alley practitioner, faces 6 to 12 years in prison. The woman herself can get 2 to 8 years. Anyone who helps her can get 2 to 5 years. Additionally, judges have ruled that if the fetus was viable, a charge of aggravated homicide can be brought, and the penalty for the woman can be 30 to 50 years in prison.”
In an earlier post I complained about the Left Behind policies of the Bush Administration and how Duluth Schools could be listed as failing their students starting next year.
Better read it quick. The Trib only keeps stuff on their site for seven days unless it ends up being cached somewhere.
Its nice to have some friends out there who keep finding interesting things for me to link to. In this case its a site that keeps track of the most popularly read items in the blogosphere. I think the air up there is a little too thin for me to breath.
I’ve just started two posts on topics so big it would take a day to edit my thoughts into coherence. I’ve saved but not published them in case I decide to attemptÂ the editing.
I need something bite sized to start blogging this week so I’ll just list today’s preoccupations. At noon I’m gathering with some like minded folks to figure out how to organize next Tuesday’s meeting which is intended to kick-off an effort to raise millions of non tax dollars for the Duluth Schools.
Sometime between now and tomorrow night (when I go to a begining ballroom dance class w/o my dance partner) I have to writeÂ my column for the Reader.
Tonight I’m spending three hours rehearsing for my choral part in the upcomming Verdi Requiem with the Duluth Symphony.
I will probably have to skip my church’s men’s group dicussion of Deitrich Bonhoffer at noon tomorrow in order to getÂ my Reader columnÂ written. Meanwhile I’d really like to finish the Erdman book “Misquoting Jesus.”
All the while in the back of my mind I’m trying to figure out how to tell my wife that I want toÂ spend the summer doingÂ an incredibly hair brained thing. I’m just tooÂ chicken to do it right now. Maybe one of my readers will broach the subject to her.
Like the Republicans the Democrats that met at Woodland Junior High managed to put the platform on the backburner. In the case of the Republicans the platform is kept like the Ark of the Covenant and trotted out for modest amendments during convention years.
There were a hundred or so resolutions handed out toÂ the delegatesÂ to vote on but not debated.Â When the convention neared its end they were collected. There was a line for us to indicate whether we wanted to debate them but we never got any debate. A 50% vote would be required to be passed on. I have no idea what passed.
I told Craig Grau that the convention seemed to confirm Will Roger’s comments from the thirties.Â It was not exactlyÂ disorderly but it was only loosely stage managed. The sub caucus system was the most mystical part.
About 20 of the 172 delegates lined up to announce the category of their sub caucuses. Some were for one candidate, some for a couple candidates, some were for issues some for candidates and issues. To elect a delegate to the next level of convention each subcaucus to gather 8 participants.
I jumped from one to another mostly interested in finding other centrists. The biggestÂ group of the eventual six or so was led by AFSCME. The whole processÂ was like a party mixer.
I was content to watch and didn’t try to get elected to the next level so this is the end of the convention system for me this year. Maybe I’ll get farther in 2008.
I’m off in ten minutes to the DFL District Convention. I’ve got an early meeting of the Rules Committee to attend.
Listening to Weekend Edition on NPR was a treat. A very interesting commentary by Joe Klein on how consultants have ruined politics…Amen. He made an surprising comment about Dubya. I think I agree….its too damn late though.
And a bio of the composer of “Brother can you spare a dime”
And an interesting tidbit on the iconic 60’s lefty and victim of the HUAC, Lillian Hellman, who did her best to keep Martin Luther King and later the NAACP from being given the bequest from Dorothy Parker’s will. Today’s leftists ought to look to her example for a little taste of humility before getting too puffed up about the self righteousness about religious conservatives.
The Sedaris reading was great fun. Its the first reading I’ve been to since college when I heard Dick Gregory. Guess I’m just not the literary type.
He began with an animal story he’d just written about a mother crow and a mother lamb. Well writtenÂ and with enough of an “ick” factor to make it memorable. He got a rise out of the largely urban audience when his crow asked the sheep mother whether she had eaten the placenta. Then the crow made the contemporary scornful comment about straying vegetarians who dismiss their straying. After that reading he mentioned that a young woman who was the daughter of a hippy had told him at a recent book signing that her father had cooked and eaten her placenta.
I couldn’t help but remember my Mother telling me about the Doctor in War torn Europe bringing a surprisingly regular supply of meat home for the families dinner. He was an obstetrician and it kept his family alive.
I’m going to hear a reading by David Sedaris at the DECC tonight. Never heard of him? He’s a hoot. Sometimes an x-rated hoot.
This one isn’t x-rated and its a Christmas classic. Santaland DiariesÂ was recorded on This American Life in 1996 at the beginning of his story telling career. Be patient. It starts after a four minute introduction. Its worth the wait.
Save the Duluth News TribuneÂ I don’t know what good this will do but it sure is a good cause (notwithstanding my occassional pot shots at the Trib).
Forbes Magazine has correctly used the world “dross” to describe mostÂ political blogs. Nonetheless, they have suggested five that they think have merit. As I really don’t read a lot of blogs I wasn’t familiar with their selections. This piece came from their pick “The Decembrist.”
The Decembrist says there’s no turning back on global competition and suggests that a college degree will no longer guarantee economic prosperity. He recommends five possible remedies to alleviate this situation for Americans left out of the NAFTA race. The last of is universial health care. I concur: