Washington here I am

Just got into my hotel. Checked the blog stats and they are holding steady. So far no one has looked at the latest entry to my Don Boyd story. SoK plenty of time for that.

We’ll be joined in the next ten minutes by some old friends from Duluth who will show us the town. They both are or have been federal employees so they’ll have the inside scoop on everything.

Its hot and humid. Hope I don’t melt.

Washington Here I come

Don’t worry Jim. I’m only coming as a visitor. My wife has a conference and I’m tagging along. I’ll see the sights for four days then return home on Wednesday.

As I said before I’ve been pretty busy organizing the material on the Boyd scandal and haven’t blogged as much as I’d like to. Besides that, I have a column to turn in to the Reader in the next couple days. Fortunately, I can now do that and blog with our new laptop away from home.

Its 10:30 and our flight is scheduled to leave at 6AM so I need some shuteye. Its been a long day. I got up at 3:30 AM to begin writing. At 8:30 I went over to the Damiano Center (soup kitchen) and spent two ours helping to prepare the afternoon meal. I’m tall the tables are low and my back is sore.

At noon I met with an accountant from Eikill and Schilling who did some of the accounting work for Don Boyd. I’m looking for verification of the results of the auditing that Don Boyd told me he had done after he got out of prison. The list of people I need to call to check out one thing or another is growing.

Tattoos

My acquaintance, Vic sends me odd bits of things in his email and today I got this piece about tattoos from the Opinion Journal. Apparently one-in-three young people have them now. For some odd reason I felt compelled to send a comment back to the Journal for their consideration to wit:

“As a 55 year old man I have no intention of getting a tattoo but both my children sport them. My daughter has a little one on her scalp which reportedly means “hair” in Chinese. Once her hair grew back it became invisible. My son has them all over his torso.I’m actually a little comforted to read that so many people have them now because I don’t wish either of my children, or my tattooed son-in-law, to be penalized for their body art. Still, I’m not a fan.

The symbols and artwork chosen by young people to reflect their personalities may not be very accurate representations of their core being in the distant future. It would be a shame if in twenty years the tattoos became as outdated as the names of long lost sweethearts which were often affixed to the biceps of drunken sailors.”

Hooray, 1000 pageviews

Yesterday I broke 1,000 pageviews. That’s particularly satisfying because I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t been putting much content on the blog. I hope today to be able to put together a convincing explanation about how unjust Don Boyd’s prosecution and incarceration was. He’s told me several times that the IRS agent who investigated him admitted that he wasn’t guilty of anything. I’m inclined to agree. His boss, however, who was found guilty on the same count was later found innocent on a technicality. Justice indeed!

I spent a large share of yesterday organizing and filing Don’s voluminous records so that I can more easily access them as I continue writing the book. It’s occurred to me that to do this justice it may not be practical to count on finishing it by November.

I had lunch with the Publisher of the Reader Weekly yesterday. I warned Bob that I may take on a new project in a few weeks that might conflict pose a conflict of interest. He asked me to postpone my decision for a couple of weeks while he considers whether to let me continue my column, Not Eudora anyway. I’ve written it for four years and while its been a pleasure I might be better off concentrating on the book writing that I’ve flirted with for the last few years. If I quit that could be the end of the column for good but I’ve roughed out one more for next week.

278 stories on the Boyd Scandal

To give a sense for the intense interest in the Upper Great Lakes Regional Commission scandal a quarter century ago I’ve scanned in the Duluth Public Library’s catalogue of news stories about it.

The scandal broke half way through 1978 and was wrapped up early in 1981. My count of the news stories in both the Duluth Tribune and Herald is 278. They were mirrored by similar articles across the state of Minnesota. After all this effort the Feds only managed to convict one man for mail fraud in what they claimed was an attempt to steal a piddling $60,000. Of this amount about $20,000 was proven in court and to the IRS’s satisfaction to have been taken by Don Boyd’s boss but only after Boyd got out of prison for attempting its theft. His boss got off on this charge on a technicality. No one has ever accounted for the missing million dollars alleged to have been embezzled.

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.

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."