Oberstar’s endorsment

Today the 8th Congressional District DFL endorsed Jim Oberstar at their Convention. I had been tempted to distribute a brochure with the lovely picture of Jim hobnobbing with all the Republicans during one of their crudest bids for votes in the last couple years but eventually decided that there was little to be gained by this.

Besides’ since I was spending the last half of the week with my better half in the Twin Cities while she attended her safety convention we extended our stay through Saturday to stay with my brother and his family. Family should always trump politics.

In the morning my Brother took me and my niece for a drive around his neighborhood in the Minnetonka, Wayzata area. When we drove into a particularly secluded and well healed neighborhood I saw the names of all the residents on a little directory of the neighborhood. I’d seen rustic signs like that in cabin country before but never in a really tony neighborhood. One of the names was John Dasburg.

I haven’t followed the NWA news carefully enough to know who’s leading the corporation today as it struggles for survival but I sure recognized that name. How many John Dasburg’s there are in Minnesota I have no idea but it’s probably not many. Certainly it’s not many who live in three, four or five million dollar homes which is what all the homes in this little haven looked to be worth.

So, even though I didn’t go to that DFL convention I still managed to feel a little connection to the Congressman today since he has worked so closely with NWA over the years. A quick check of the Internet demonstrated that Oberstar had received a small contribution from Dasburg on at least one occasion, that being in 1997. I’m sure if I took the time to look I’d find other donations.

Lots of people give Jim contributions. I even saw the President of my old high school Senior class among the contributors in 97 and he was listed as having given even more to Oberstar on this report than Dasburg had. 

When I got home I set to reading all the local newspapers I’d missed while I was away. Tom West of the Budgeteer had some interesting insights to share about the Grams challenge to Oberstar. I rather think West would like to see Grams do well but he was honest in pointing out some of our ex-Senator’s liabilities. I’m willing to bet he doesn’t quite realize how empty a shell Oberstar is. Lucky for Jim it’s going to be a good year for Democrats running for Congress.


The Devil Made Me Do It

USA Today reports that 19% of Americans think that the book and movie “Da Vinchi Code” is the work of the devil. I wonder if they think the “Left  Behind” series is too or whether its the work of God?

When I was in high school it didn’t occur to me than anyone really believed in the devil until the movie “The Exorcist” came out. We were talking about it in our home room when I asked Sue Weber, who sat in front of me, if she believed in the Devil. Oh yes, she did. Heck, Sue wasn’t even a Baptist. She was a Lutheran for crying out loud!

My Mother always told me that she didn’t believe in Hell. She said that if there was such a place it was right here on Earth which is a theory that our newspaper headlines seem to bolster daily. I suppose that fundamentalists would just say that Mom was full of the Devil.

Well if she was she should have gotten over that after I was born.

Old News

I’m writing a book online. Its not the book I had planned to write. Two others were already in the waiting. One was an account of my Mother’s career as an artist. The other was a fictionalized account of my Grandfather’s experiences in the First World War.

This new writing project came out of left field after a column I wrote last November about one of the biggest political scandals to hit Minnesota. It rather mysteriously died with a whimper when, surprise surprise, a couple low level functionaries got all the blame.

I’ve given it the accurate but lack luster name “Old News” as its working title. I hope to come up with something better over the Summer. I’m looking for help in writing it.

Blogging away from home

The worst part of blogging away from home is using the smallish keyboard on our new laptop. My big clumsy fingers punch all the wrong buttons or keys.

When I’m at a hotel and try to log on in the morning before work all the business types doing they’re last minute work before they head off to do battle clogs the wireless connections I’m still getting used to. I’m in the second day of a four-day visit to the Twin Cities and I have a few comments to make. I’ll see how long it takes to upload this now that its 9:30 in the AM.

Million Dollar Man

The Million Dollar Man  Published May 11, 2006  “Last November I had great fun writing about the dirty business which may have helped launch Jim Obertstar’s career as one of Washington DC’s preeminent pork chasers. My column casually mentioned, Don Boyd, a man who was endlessly described by the press during the scandal as the principal suspect behind the embezzlement of a million Federal dollars…”My latest Reader Column.

Will Democratic Demons sabotage Democratic Hopes?

Thomas Lifson editor of “The American Thinker” writes this short piece on the anger of the Democratic Party’s “secularist fundamentalists.”

Over the weekend I met a former State GOP Poobah at my brother’s home. I told her husband that I had changed parties; that I had once been a bad Republican and was now a bad Democrat. Lifson’s article helps explain why I’ll be a bad Democrat.

I’ve always narrowed my eyes and looked with suspicion on usism and fringe politics. (of course that was before moderates and centrists were pushed to the fringe of American politics) Here’s an old column of mine which tries to get that point across: “Limbaugh’s Bastard Child.”

Life vs. Capitol Punishment

As a little kid I concluded that a life sentence was far worse than capitol punishment. What was the point of living, I asked myself, if you were denied the opportunity to live it?

The Federal Government’s expensive but failed bid to execute Zacharias Moussaoui helps demonstrate this point. In the face of rotting (that’s how the judge put it) the rest of his life away in a supermax prison Zacharias now says, I was just kidding. I didn’t realize you would really give me a fair trial. I’d rather not rot for the rest of my life in oblivion. I want a do over.

The pragmatist in me asks why I should spend taxpayer dollars to keep this man alive for the rest of his natural life. His response to the agony of people was two fold. He laughed at it and regretted that he hadn’t be able to help inflict it. The eye for an eye part of my brain thinks death is too good for him.

I get a little satisfaction every couple of years when I hear that Sirhan Sirhan has been turned down yet again for a pardon. Sirhan is the fellow who shot Robert Kennedy dead. He now serves a life sentence where he wakes every day knowing that the four corners of his cell are all he has to look forward to when he wakes on the morrow. Now that’s what I call punishment.

Oh say can Mark Sing?

Last night’s Nightline had a segment asking whether US Congressmen who are trying to pass a law making it illegal to sing the national anthem in any language other than English even know the song. Most muffed the lyrics including Mark Kennedy who is trying to become Minnesota’s next Senator. He put the “dawn’s early light” in the wrong spot. Maybe they should make it a punishable offense not to have it memorized. This is one Republican wedge issue that proves that Mark Kennedy is not fit to serve in the Congress.

Blood on our hands

As America was winding down in Vietman and “peace” activists demanded we withdraw I was very troubled about what would happen to our South Vietnamese allies who remained. I don’t recall any of the peace activists ever expressing remorse for the consequences of our departure so eager were they to “give peace a chance.”

I can say the same thing now about the peace activists who demand our withdrawl from Iraq. Oh yes, as in the case of Vietnam the peace activists were quick to point out how the war had done terrible things to the Iraqies just as the former war did terrible things to the Vietnamese. My recollection is that almost three million Vietmanese died in the war while we were engaged there. I can only conclude that today’s peace activists are so eager to have peace at any price that they have simply written off the Iraqies.

Anyone who thinks that we should abandon Iraq should read this article which is as horrible as the preceeding one about the Congo.

Even before George Bush did a switch and bait on Iraq from finding WMD’s to saving benighted Iraqies from Saddam I would have agreed that saving them was a worthy cause. In fact I was making the same argument before George’s bait and switch. Saddly we started something we were not prepared to deal with Iraq in the way that might have assured the Iraqies peace.

What happens when you buy a cell phone or a play station?

It starts with a ward full of women who have been gang-raped and then shot in the vagina. I am standing in a makeshift ward in the Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, the only hospital that is trying to deal with the bushfire of sexual violence in Eastern Congo. Most have wrapped themselves deep in their blankets so I can only see their eyes, staring blankly at me. Dr Denis Mukwege is speaking. “Around ten percent of the gang-rape victims have had this happen to them,” he says softly, his big hands tucked into his white coat. ‘We are trying to reconstruct their vaginas, their anuses, their intestines. It is a long process.'”

Good Long Day

Late last night I worked on my Reader column. It’ll be a doozee. I sent it in an hour ago after sleeping on the last few edits but I’m not ready to upload it to my website yet. Just be patient.

The Northland Reader is undergoing staff changes. Richard, my trusty old editor is stepping to the side. He’s still working in the wings but a new, possibly temporary, editor sent us an email asking us to turn our columns in almost four days earlier than I used to. Even Richard had been trying to push our deadlines up. I was probably the most laggardly of the columnists.

Fortunately, I have a number of ideas circling my head so if I’m forced to push up the deadline I should be able to manage.

I worked on the column yesterday afternoon after a mile swim. My better half and I both went to the fitness center together. Afterwards we found a new restaurant on Superior St. Its a great place! Va Bene. Its manager rushed over to give us instructions on ordering which you do from the counter. He suggested ordering one course at a time. Its italian themed. I had a lovely soup and panini – pear and proscuitto and goat cheese and finished with a chocolate gelato. I skipped the wine so as not to dry out my vocal chords. The fellow sitting next to me in the Symphony Chorus told me that alcohol and coffee are killers. I abstained from the sauce to give my all to Verdi’s Requiem tonight. “Tuba mirrum spargens sonum.”

Claudia is on the Symphony Board and we were invited to dine at the Kitchi Gammi Club just before the performance. I went in my tux. Claudia said they would expect me to serve. Ha Ha Ha.

I ordered a bison ribeye but thought better of it when our waitress heaped praise on another 20 oz steak that was on special that night. I wasn’t that hungry but when another diner ordered a half portion I regretted that I hadn’t thought to do the same. A couple minutes later the server popped back and explained that the chef could only do this if someone else ordered the other half. I jumped at the chance and said I’ll take it.

When, ten minutes later, the server brought me my dinner and explained that it was my Bison ribeye I was a little flummoxed as were the other’s at the table. When someone commented on this she explained that my half portion of beef would be up shortly. Heck, I only had ten minutes to wolf down the ribeye before rushing off ahead of the others at the table to get to my seat on the risors. I had to start eating while everyone else waited to be served. Then when I was almost done my second meal arrived.

After the Verdi Requiem and lots of emoting and bellowing and an exhausting round of applause from an appreciative Duluth audience we went to Pizza Luce to hear my son’s band Sight like December. One of his bandmates, the violinist, conveyed his best wishes for my singing tonight at the DECC before I had gone on. Afterwards it was my time to reciprocate. They were really groovin and the audience was getting into it. I told him after their set that they sounded great. He told me he knew I was lying but thanked me for the thought. Lousy little cynic!

I’m leaving shortly for my Brother’s house in the Twin Cities (one of the suburbs actually). My niece/god daughter is having her first communion today and I must be there. Its a big event in the Catholic church and all the little girls will look like brides. My niece is determined to wear the dress she wore as the flower girl at my daughter’s wedding almost three years ago. I hope it still fits.

Congressman Oberstar’s 1st serious GOP challenge

Jim Oberstar will get his first Republican heavyweight competition ever. He’s lucky its a bad year for Republicans. Even so, I can’t imagine Jim pulling 60% of the votes this year if he’s outspent.

Its pretty sad that the Duluth News Tribune has to carry this story from an AP wire report. It costs money to report from the scene of one of the biggest political news events the area has experienced in three decades.


Family Gossip

I got a flurry of email yesterday concerning a proposal to set up a center for the history of World War I, named after my Grandfather George Seanor Robb, at his alma mater Park College.

I forwarded the email to eight siblings and cousins for their feedback. It would be an honor. The Center would be associated with America’s only museum devoted exclusively to World War I which is in Kansas City. My Grandfather shipped out to the great war from Kansas City. In fact he had written to a “mormon girl” hoping to meet her at KC on his way to New York. Somehow he missed her in the hustle and bustle of the station. He may have been thinking of proposing to her but that did not happen. When she wrote him later to tell him that a wealthy, older, New Yorker had proposed to her my Grandfather wrote back from the trenches of France and told her that as he could not be certain of returning home she should accept the marriage proposal. Had she waited for my Grandfather I would never have been born.

I know this story because my Mother loved to tell me stories about her family. I guess you could call it gossip but my Mother so loved her family warts and all so that what she told me never seemed like gossip with that word’s spiteful overtone. Even so, not all the stories were flattering. This is the email I sent my second Cousin this morning.


I’d love to see that letter. I’ve wondered about Mina for years. Mom had some stories about her and the family.
I believe her husband, Mr. Burke, was disabled. That may be too euphemistic a way to put it. I think Mom reported that one or both of his legs had been amputated. Mom never met him and I have no idea how long he and Mina were together.
Mina was the oldest and from what I understand the least popular of the Robb kids. She was close to her temperamental Father, Thomas, and regularly tattled on the boys who often got lickings because of her. I think she was supposed to be very bright.
She apparently made it her responsibility to make sure that her sickly ,maiden, sister Susie got an education and a teaching degree which, as we all know, Susie put to formidable use keeping errant, third-grade, Salina boys in line.
Apparently homemaking was not Mina’s cup of tea. On one occasion, perhaps before WW I her little brother, George, helped her clean up her house. Grandfather was disgusted with the state of its house keeping, it being the human equivalent of the stables that Hercules cleaned out in one of his seven labors. He told sister Susie that he “would never take a wife of his” into Mina’s house and I don’t believe that he ever did.
He did visit California once and Aunt Susie evidently warned Mina to clean her house like crazy so as not to appall her little brother. Evidently Mina must have worked feverishly to pass muster because Grandfather never expressed any disapproval of Mina’s California home.
Mom remembered meeting Mina’s daughters at some point. I’ve got their names somewhere in family records and a few years ago I googled them but since I don’t know what their married names are I have no idea where they are now. If I find some clues for you perhaps you could follow up as California is a likely place for their descendents to be hanging out. I’d be fascinated to hear any recollections from Mina’s side of the family story about her ratty little Robb brothers. My guess is that three generations on their Kansas stories have been all but washed away.”

People have always been too obsessed with being remembered for being paragons of virtue. Frankly paragons are boring. I wouldn’t mind meeting one but I wouldn’t hang out with them. I’d prefer a person with a little vinegar in their veins any day of the week.






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."