Â In 1978 I ran for the state legislature for a second time. I decided to go about it differently as knocking on doors seemed mindless and hadn’t gotten me elected two years before. I made appointments with about 80 leading citizens thinking that somehow these meetings would generate good vibes. If they didÂ they made no difference in the outcome of the election.Â
One of the people I met with was Richard Pearson Duluth’s Superintendent of Schools. I met him in his office at Old Central High School. Since then I’ve met with three otherÂ superintendent’s in that office.Â Â Richard Pearson died last Friday. The Trib had a nice story about his career in Duluth.Â
I didn’t really get to know Dick until years later when I served on the School Board. Our times in office were quite different. He became Superintendent during the “Minnesota Miracle” when the state pioneered the practice of equalizing educational spending between rich and poor school districts. He witnessed the first and only teacher’s strikeÂ when the teacher’s unions were flexing their muscles. He served for fourteen years! Before I was finally elected on my fourth attempt for the School Board the District averaged one Superintendent per year. During my time on the Board we had a three-year and a seven-year Superintendency. Fourteen years!Â
Dick’s family and mine both belonged to Glen Avon Presbyterian so we saw each other there. I went over to his house once to ask about school finances and he commisserated with me a couple times over the fiscal difficulties I faced.Â He was a practical man andÂ this served him well during his leadership of the District. I’ll miss him.
Boys will be Boys
(I deleted this accidentally. Its too good a hoot to be misplaced.)
I just read the best indictment of right wing punditry. Not coincidentally it was written by a conservative. He doesn’t even give the blogosphere’s myopic, pro-Bush supporters credit for being “conservatives.” It was a genuine pleasure to read.
Here’s one sample with an inspired observation about the value of the blogosphere:
“The combination here of rage and fear is potent and toxic. One of the principal benefits of the blogosphere — with its daily posting and unedited expressions of thought — is that it reveals one’s genuine underlying views in a much more honest and unadorned fashion than other venues of expression. For that reason, the true sentiments of bloggers often stand revealed for all to see.”
The last time the School Board raised its pay was the year before I was sworn in. Evidently the Board is considering whether to bump the pay up by about 11 percent.
Laura Condon, who has served for 9 years says she’s opposed to this since the District is having hard fiscal times. So what else is new? If the Board had been taking cost of living adjustments for the last 12 years the pay would be considerably higher than the proposed increase.
This seems like a good time to bump up the pay. Bob Mars, a man of means with a sense of noblese oblige would disagree. He never accepted his pay. He felt that being on the School Board was a responsibility that should be given freely. This is a rather utopian idea. I never voted for a pay raise for myself because, like Bob, I didn’t need it and it would have been politically awkward. However, I’d hate to see the Board become the preserve of the well-to-do. The pay did help a couple of our Board members of more modest means. Certainly being on the Board is a great responsibility.
Things are going pretty well for the District right now and the Board seems to be functioningÂ smoothlyÂ under the new Dixon Administration. I say go for it. I’ve got no problem with the School Board’s taking a pay raise.
The “Captain” exults at the recent Strib pollÂ which shows the GOP hanging tough inÂ Minnesota:
“In a surprising result from the Star-Tribune’s Minnesota Poll, the GOP has surpassed the Democrats in party affiliation by standing firm while voters abandon the DFL. The Minnesota Poll shows that 29% of all Minnesota adults self-identify as Republicans, while the Democrats lost six points since last year, dropping to 25%”
My latest addition to Old News:
“Don requested that the FBI allow him to look through his records. He was permitted into the evidence room for one hour! The files were no longer chronologically organized. They were scattered aboutÂ hither and yon.”
Why one group of independent minded people won’t become a third party anytime soon.
My investigations of the Upper Great Lakes scandal has taken me on some unexpected turns as well as a trip down memory lane.
I ran for the legislature in 1976 when I was just a pup. The Republicans paid little attention to me because I was running on the DFL side of the city. An ambitious young man, Thomas Berkelman, approached the Republicans and asked for their endorsement for Duluth’s marginally Republican district. They turned him downÂ because they had already pinned their hopes to a local television commentator so Berkelman got the DFL endorsement instead.
It turns out that one of the Upper Great Lakes Commission’s secretaries spent close to two full months workingÂ on Tom’s campaign out of the UGRLC office. Paid help was something the GOP couldn’t have offered Tom and he was elected to the House of Representatives. While there he met a youngÂ Republican legislator, Kathleen Blatz, and married her. She was subsequently appointed Chief Justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court by Republican, Governor Arne Carlson.
In 1971 Berkelman,Â now aÂ lobbyist,Â was arrested outside a tobaconnist shop and found with cigars that he hadn’t paid for on his person. A video camera showed him pocketing the cigars. After an embarassing trial (he was the husband of the State’s Chief Justice) Berkelman was aquitted.
The Chief Justice, who recently retired, has since remarried Wheelock WhitneyÂ the Republican candidate for Governor in 1982 who challenged Rudy Perpich.
It’s funny but I just discovered that Rudy was eagerÂ to kill the Upper Great Lakes Commission in 1977. I wonder if it had any thing to do with all the help that the UGRLC gave Jim OberstarÂ in 1974 in defeating the DFL nominee for Congress, Tony Perpich, the Governor’s brother?
Last weekend when I was visiting my brother I was introduced to his neighbor. The neighbor, was an engineer who spent last winter trying to come up with a useful way to produce energy from wind.
My wife, who works with an Energy Company that is investing in wind energy always points out that the chief obstacle to wind generated energy is that people need energy even when the wind stops. Imagine having your work stop because your plant has to end production because of the wind dying down. This is exactly what happened to ships in the day of wind power. Out in the middle of the ocean a ship would sit in the water until the wind picked up again.
My new engineering colleague has a solution. Instead of turning wind power into electrical energy he wants to use the energy immediately to produce hydrogen from water. Hydrogen is nearly limitless. Two thirds of the molocules in the ocean are hydrogen – H2O.
The chief difficulty with this plan is that for the moment no one is making Hydrogen powered engines. Changing the entire manufacture of car engines overnight is prohibitively expensive.
Still, this plan would turn energy from wind into stored energy just like water stored behind a damn.
This engineerÂ also says that wind energy could be increased ten foldÂ using another Canadian innovation. Instead of wind mills he would use blimps shaped like corkscrews. He’s not the first to discover this firm. Looking for it on the Internet I found it written up by the arch liberal blogsite the Daily Kos.
My engineerÂ also suggestsÂ stringing up the floating wind turbines on a wire like a string of hydrogen baloons six to a wire. There are two big advantages of such a formation.Â It wouldÂ take up less ground space and because friction with the ground slows down the windÂ it would be able to take advantage of faster wind speeds. This is his diagram for a single guy wire with six wind turbines.
We subsidized the growing of corn to produce ethanol. What if we just used grass to make it. It turns out that the much more complicated fibers of grass evolved over the eons to resists digestion from microbes. During WWII, however, a kind of mold was discovered that turned military gear made from tough fibers into mush almost overnight. Now a Canadian firm is using the enzymes from that mold to turn straw into gold or at least into ethanol.
Polls have varied widely on whether Americans approve of the NSA’s phone monitoring. Mystery Pollster explains:
“Well, another day, another — very different — set of poll results on the NSA phone records surveillance issue.Â On a new survey out today from Newsweek (story, results) 53% of Americans said the “program goes too far in invading people’s privacy” while 41% agreed with the alternative statement, “it is a necessary tool to combat terrorism.”Â A similar question on the ABC/Washington Post released yesterday showed 63% endorsing the NSA program as “an acceptable way to fight terrorism,” 35% found it unacceptable.Â So what gives?”
I heard an interesting and partly reassuring conversation on NPR this afternoon. The USA Today reporter who had broken the NSA phone record story as well as retired Admiral Bobby Ray Inman. Inman was once the Director of the National Security Agency. My recollection is that he was working hard on developing the NSA’s computers.
InmanÂ agreed thatÂ it was troubling that the Bush Administration seemed to be so unwilling to seek Congress’s help in crafting some sensible restrictions on the NSA’s intelligence gathering of phone calls. On the other hand, he said the ability of the NSA to keep track of conversations was all but nonexistant.
Speaking of the Bye family. . . its such a small world. My next door neighbor in Mankato, Minnesota, Mary Lofy was a friend of Don Bye’s wife, former City Councilor, Meg Bye.Â
I used to get a kickÂ out of watchingÂ Mary’s kidsÂ play in their backyard down below my bedroom window. They kept a big mellow St. Bernard in their yard who lumbered around after the kids. Mary and my Mother were both partners in a small botique shop calledÂ Harpies Bazaar along with a dozen other women. My MotherÂ did the store’s ads.
Mary and Meg were both active DFLers, City Councilors and ex nuns. I recently heard Mary’s son Bill on NPR talking about the book he had just authored on Paul Wellstone. I sent Mary an email commenting on her son’s eloquence and telling her that I was going to buy the book. As for Meg, sheÂ currently overseas the City of Duluth’s Human Rights Commission.
Don Bye was elected the 8th Congressional District DFL Chairman again over the weekend. The News Tribune’s story says he was the chair for 29 years running until recently. I’ll bet Don has a few good stories.
I just got a call from a former city councilor.Â The CouncilorÂ too enjoyed the column.Â TheÂ Councilor also told me that that the UGLRC scandal helped convinceÂ them to switch to the Republican Party. Since then the Councilor has switched to being an Independent.
The Councilor had a friend on the periphery of theÂ UGLRC stew who had witnessed how hard Duluth Democrats worked to get Oberstar theÂ DFL nomination. That friend had also toldÂ the CouncilorÂ who the next Mayor of Duluth would be (thirty years ago that is). The friend had been handed an envelope with $5,000.00 in it to give to thisÂ mayoral candidate’s campaign. The friend refused to be a bag person so someone else had to pass the money on. I think I’d like to talk to the friend. I have a feeling that there are lots of interesting stories out there.
After my last post IÂ returned to the manuscript and found it a little quicker read. Thank goodness.Â Before setting it asideÂ to get in a my first mile swim in eight days I got a call from Duluth’s former Mayor, Ben Boo. Ben was calling to tell me that he’d enjoyed my column about the Million Dollar Man.
Ben helped put the Upper Great Lakes Commission to bed after the scandals. Most of the commissions were axed by Ronald Reagan. Appointed by Republican Governor Quie Boo told me the place had been a rat’s nest. Those are my words not his but that’s what he meant. My column was a trip down memory lane, so to speak.
Its nice to know someone is reading my columns. So far only 36 people haveÂ visited the Old News site. I’ll have to upload some more info soon to keep them coming back.
Matt Yglesias hasÂ a few comments on the NSA’s phone tapping everything and everybody a la Big Brother. If you think the Bush Administration wouldn’t misuse such information justÂ remember how his Secretary of Housing boasted atÂ a conference that he’d withdrawn the government contract from a contractor critical of the President.
“Last month, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson told a minority business group in Texas that he had retracted a HUD contract after learning it had been awarded to a qualified vendor who happened to be critical of the Bush administration.”
Reading the Boyd manuscripts is going to be a challenge. Its death by a thousand details. I know that in the end a simple and straight forward story about one guy getting screwed has to emerge but finding it is going to be like cutting a path in the rain forest with a machete. I’m going to get big fat calluses on my poor old brain.
Only the vegitation I’m having toÂ machete down is TMI. That’sÂ an acronymÂ kids on the Internet use meaing too much information.
If I get around to interviewing other people who were involved I can expect a lot resistance, not so much because of the financial implications but because of the Peyton Place kinds of things that happened. Today these folks are all grandmas and grandpas. None of them will be eager to have somebody digging around in the sexual dalliances of their past? And yet these relationships help explain why people looked the other way or didn’t look the other way for the financial misdeeds that took place.
I wrote a column for the Reader a couple weeks ago which touched on the freewheeling sexual attitudes of the seventies when the Upper Great Lakes crimes took place. I began that column by talking about John Grunseth’s exposure for child molestation.
I had run across Grunseth in 1972 when I worked for the State Republican Party. He wasÂ a Party fieldman for one of the Congressional Districts. He was older and I barely recall him at all. I do recall the anything goes seventies however like when I attended the state convention that year along with my new College Republican buddies. People today would barely recognize the party then. Before religiously conservative folk innundated the party all the politicians hospitality suites had free flowing booze. One of the CR’s I was mingling with was given the key to a hotel room by a pretty young women at one of those hospitality suites. It was a like that moment in the movie Happy Days when one of the boys is trying to hook up with a “divorcee.”
In later years IÂ heard from other sources that GrunsethÂ had beenÂ a swinger but that was a far cry from the married father of teenaged daughters chasing his daugher’s friends around the pool. That’s the sort of thing that almost makes one welcome the influx of morally rectitudinous people into the party. Its so ironic that it was amoral folks like Grunseth, Ralph Reed, and Jack Abramoff that brought them into the party.
Don Boyd keeps telling me about the optimistic boy who sifted through piles of horse manure sure that he was about to find a pony. If I have to stop reading his manuscript every couple of pages to wax philosophic like this it will take me a heck of a long time before I find my own horse.