All posts by harrywelty

Merit Pay Melee

I’ve been waiting for something worthy to blog about for a couple days and I just found it. I didn’t read the news that inspired today’s DNT’s editorial but the editorial tells the story.

As someone who has never been very motivated by money I’ve always been extremely skeptical of the GOP’s insistence that financial incentives are the best way to make our schools better. Its not just that there is a long tradition of teacher collegiality that is threatened by paying teachers for performance. Its also that performance is a very tricky thing to measure making such pay potentially arbitrary. Teachers recognize this and resent being paid differential amounts based on faulty cause and affect associations.

Should an inner city teacher who takes emotionally abandoned kids from a dropout status to D’s be paid more or less than a suburban teacher who raises his students from B’s to A’s? 

The teachers that students remember fondly for years after they’ve graduated are not the ones who followed the Republican prescription of constant testing. Rather they are the teachers who lifted kids minds. Unfortunately, inspiration is a very hard quality to measure. The civil war in Waseca’s schools after merit pay was put in place doesn’t surprise me. Sometimes Republicans sound and act like the pointy haired boss in the cubiclized world of Dilbert.

I don’t oppose the idea of merit pay in principal. One of these days we may be able to implant silicon chips surgically in teacher’s brains. Of course, when that happens we may be able to program them to be so content that they won’t even require pay raises.

I haven’t posted much for the past couple days. I’ve been doing a fair amount of research but very little writing. I’ve spent several hours at the Duluth Public Library, photocopying old news paper stories and have been slogging through Don Boyd’s book. This afternoon I spent several hours with Don photographing a few items and getting a few of my questions asked. This is beginning to make more sense I really need to put some new tidbit into the webpage.

I told Don that I was trying to get my work done during the day on weekdays so as not to ignore my family. My summer and fall plans will test Claudia enough as it is so I don’t want to make her any more miserable than I have to.

I’m trying to be good. Tonight, for instance, we danced at the Duluth Heights community Club. Our rumba and swing are coming along. After two hours we learned a new swing move. Next week at this time we will be tripping the light fantastic in Washington D.C. at the Smithsonian Museum of all places. Claudia has a convention and I’m tagging along. One of the evenings they are having a dance in one of the museums. I’d really like to sing karioke in the dinosaur exhibit but that get me in dutch with Claudia. We were in DC years ago at a karioke bar and I sang a spirited version of “Secret Agent Man.” She said I sang with a Kansas accent!

An inconvenient column

Gore as savior?

Cutting to the chase:

“In his book, “Earth in the Balance,” Gore warned that “sacrifice, struggle and a wrenching transformation of society” would be necessary to save the planet. Even if a “miraculous technology” was able to cut per-capita greenhouse gas emissions in half, he wrote, Washington still would have to raise taxes on gasoline, electricity and heating oil.

No more. In 2006, Gore tells moviegoers that, as dire as the situation may be, the changes needed to avert global warming would not be onerous, except maybe for some greedy corporations.”

Summer Reading

Last summer I read two weighty histories of close to a thousand pages each. The first was about Adolph Hitler’a cronies and the second was about Joseph Stalin. This summer I’ve decided to read one of the Robert Caro books on LBJ which also weighs in at about 1,000 pages. I bought it at the LBJ Ranch not remembering that I already had a copy. I took my extra “Master of the Senate” and traded it with with my buddy Frank for his extra copy of “Misquoting Jesus.”

I’ve chosen to read the Caro book is because I want to read up on the politics leading up to the Boyd Scandal. HHH suffered in the Senate in his first few years there. The other reason is the eye opening I got many years ago when I read the first Caro book about LBJ called “Path to Power.” Caro has made wrting about LBJ his life’s work and he plans to eventually finish a tetrology on the subject. I may peek ahead to read passages about HHH but I will finish the entire book. I read the Introduction several months ago and just reread it again yesterday. Its a magnificent beginning. I’ve finished the first Chapter today about the early history of the U.S. Senate. Its wonderful history. Caro wrote glowingly about a book in my own library “The Great Triumverate” by Peterson. Its about Calhoun, Clay and Webster the great Senators from the first half of the 19th Century leading up to the Civil War.

The first chapter ended with the disappointment of Woodrow Wilson in failing to have the Senate ratify the Versailles Treaty ending World War l. I just read another wonderful history about that period, “Paris 1919,” two years ago.

Some good news in Iraq

This site chronicles dozens of instances of the new cultural freedom to be found in post Saddam Iraq. Cutting to the chase:

“The Post-Saddam Cultural Revival

The fall of the Saddam regime in April 2003 has brought with it unprecedented cultural vitality, despite an environment affected by constant acts of violence and terrorism, often directed against those who want to lead Iraq out of the dark tunnel of the past. Indeed, and ironically, it is partially the chaotic climate associated with weak or absent state institutions that has permitted the unprecedented freedom of cultural and artistic creativity. Although many writers, thinkers, novelists, artists and intellectuals fled or were forced into exile during the Saddam regime, many remained. Now, after years of being kept silent, the varied political, nationalist, and ethnic groups, are able, finally, to express themselves without restrictions or censorship but, regrettably, not entirely without fear.”


Prairie Home Companion

Claudia took the day off so we decided to go to a movie. Its not raining but with a breeze off Lake Superior its darned cool.

It was between two cartoons, Over the Hedges and Cars and Garrison Keillor’s movie. Our Minnesota roots won out. Having been to four of his shows we just had to see how would shoot the film in the Old Fitzgerald Theater. It was very much in the spirit of GK’s radio show and the Robert Altman movies I’ve seen. It got a positive 77% rating on my favorite movie rating website Rotten Tomatos, a tad higher than that of either animated movie.

How badly did HHH want to be President?

As I write this book its been important to put the times in context. Governor Rudy Perpich was a generation past Humphrey and not particularly in awe of him. I’d always assumed the opposite. A lot of people didn’t take Humphrey seriously at the time. His nickname, “the Happy Warrior” is both fond and dismissive. Certainly he didn’t have LBJ’s famous streak of cruelty. But as this article points out HHH would do what he had to hold his place in line for the Presidency:

“Historians later wrote that Johnson told Hubert Humphrey to “crush the rebellion” and get the MFDP off the front pages, or Humphrey could give up on the idea of ever becoming vice-president. Humphrey instructed fellow Minnesotan and future Vice President Walter Mondale to “suppress the MFDP by any means necessary” and this was accomplished through secret meetings, and false statements, and by using information on the MFDP’s strategy gathered from FBI informants.

Johnson, Humphrey, and Mondale finally offered MFDP to seat two at-large delegates to be selected by Johnson (to ensure Humphrey that Hamer would not be selected). MFDP delegates refused the compromise. Humphrey reportedly pleaded with Hamer (whom he reportedly found “distasteful” because she was poor and uneducated) to accept the compromise so he could become vice president and push civil rights.

Mississippian Rev. Ed King, also a delegate, years later told how Hamer expressed no sympathy for Humphrey’s dilemma:

‘Senator Humphrey. I know lots of people in Mississippi who have lost their jobs for trying to register to vote. I had to leave the plantation where I worked in Sunflower County. Now if you lose this job of vice president because you do what is right, because you help the MFDP, everything will be all right. God will take care of you. But if you take it this way, why, you will never be able to do any good for civil rights, for poor people, for peace, or any of those things you talk about.'”

Perhaps, as Fannie Lou Hamer predicted, it was just this kind of pusillanimousness that cost HHH the Presidency. He also stuck with LBJ on Vietnam like glue and lost his race with Nixon in 1968. In the process he lost the loyalty of Minnesota Democrats like Rudy Perpich. Further, his better than decade-long ambition for the presidency may also explain much about the events which I’ll be writing about.

Rudy Perpich Revisited

Yesterday I read a little over a hundred pages of Betty Wilson’s book “Rudy.” It carried him from his birth to his first electoral defeat running for reelection as governor in 1978. I’ve gained a new appreciation for the man. In his last years he did something I highly approved of at the time; he set up the Center for victims of torture. It was an odd thing for a state governor to do.

Rudy was odd and to those who met him one on one charismatic. My first impression of him stuck with me till the day he died. I was at what was then Mankato State College at an anti-Vietnam war rally. I heard John Kerry give his well rehearsed but eloquent protest against the war. I also hear Perpich. I was embarassed for the man and the state of Minnesota. I guess he was famous for his inarticulation. At a big DFL gathering someone told the crowd that the governor was a better dancer than speaker whereupon Rudy began dancing a polka with a startled waitress.

Whatever he lacked in speaking ability he made up for in ideas. He drove people nuts thinking about things to make the state better. Many never came to pass but others did. His quirks and the resurgence of the GOP defeated him in 1978 the year of the “Minnesota Massacre.” Claudia and I were both at the GOP state convention that year and it was thrilling. That was the high watermark for me as a Republican. From then on I fought a reargaurd action to stay in the Party. Apparently that’s how Rudy often was as a Democrat. The odd man out challenging them constantly. I could have liked Rudy Perpich.

One other thing happened in the last month before Perpich was defeated the first time. Its what the triumphant Al Quie said gave him the sense that he was going to win. It was the scandal at the Upper Great Lakes Regional Commission.


Gleeful fifth columnists

On the McLaughlin Report last Friday I was taken aback when Tony Blankly of the Washington Times, who looked very sullen, snapped at Newsweek’s columnist - about the Haditha massacre. He said that Fifth columnists would enjoy this news. Fifth Columnists are traitors who hide in the general public waiting for the chance to sabotage the nation. That was a favorite name to call during the McCarthey Era. Now Rush Limbaugh has called critics of Haditha “gleeful.”

A pastor who’s son-in-law died in Iraq has a beautiful response:


Seven hours of staining my fence

I had to put off researching my Boyd book today because part of my agreement with my wife is to make sure I don’t muck up family life this summer. That’s my part of the bargain. What I get out of it I’ll announce in a couple weeks.

Today was brilliant and sunny and my fence and arbor needed a fresh coat of stain. Seven hours of staining left me feeling very grubby. It was good to swim my mile afterward except that my staining arm just sort of hung limp at my side for 32 laps.

DNT to be owned by Regional Company

The Trib put a lot ink in the paper today about its transfer to the Fargo Forum’s owner Forum Communications. The only thing the new owners indicated that they would lend a hand at would be political endorsements. I wonder what the endorsement history of the Fargo Forum is?

Where is the Minnesota GOP in the race for 2008

I’d heard that Newt Gingrich did well at last week’s Minnesota GOP convention. Apparently there were only 540 delegates who cast votes. His candidacy was promoted by millionaire and failed a2002 Gubenatorial nominee Brian Sullivan and David Strom, President of the Taxpayer’s League of Minnesota.

Their pitch, which was apparently effective, was that this was the way to stop the bad Republicans Rudy Guilianni and John McCain from winning the GOP nomination. That means that the Minnesota GOP is still firmly under the thumb of ultra conservatives.

It also reinforces my impression of David Strom as being Brian Sullivan’s lackey. I think Sullivan was a major investor in creating the Taxpayer’s League to be a Republican mouthpiece.

The Lying Machine

I just caught the last half of a speech NYTime’s reporter David Halberstram gave at the Kennedy Center a few months ago. It was an excellent history about the military men in Vietnam who were not allowed to tell the truth. Halberstram called it the “lying machine” and it came into existance because domestic politics wouldn’t permit the truth to be told. That’s just what I thought when I was twenty year old and it sounds very familiar today.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the speech was his explanation of how the Red Scare got its legs. He said it  began when the unpopular Truman beat Dewey in 1949 because Dewey had run a civilized campaign. After their the long suffering since the blow out of 1932 Republicans were desperate for some red meat. The 1949 fall of China, the Alger Hiss trials and Stalin’s capture of our Atom Bomb technology were the sparks and they served Republicans very well. As a result both political parties had to out hawk each other to avoid getting trounced. That meant calling the various post-colonial revolutions in the third world a paart of a monolithic communist threat.

Maybe I shouldn’t take monolithic Islam quite so seriously. Most people don’t really like cutting off heads even if they really don’t want you to station your soldiers in their country.