The Decembrist

Forbes Magazine has correctly used the world “dross” to describe most 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:

Is a college education going to help you make it in the dog eat dog world of global competition?

What’s the murder with kids these days?

The foiled plot to exceed the carnage Columbine put writer Walter Kirn in a reflective frame of mind. He’s been filling in for Andrew Sulivan for the past couple weeks. His post put what a lot of us have been thinking quite well:

“There’s something about the world these days that brings out the worst in the lonely and the obscure and feeds their grudges until they grow enormous. And I don’t think it’s violent video games and movies. I don’t think it’s access to firearms. I think it’s the simple message that you’re not anyone until you’ve done something worthy of media coverage, whatever that thing may be. The star-system has become a kind of moral code with only one commandment: Thou Shalt Not Go Unnoticed. When the concept of fame broke free from its old grounding in the concept of public virtue — when it was supplanted by the lesser idea of Warhol-ish celebrity — the lid was off the jar.

Luckily (I think), the Web has come along, where anyone can make his presence felt — or have the illusion of making his presence felt — without having to perpetrate a sensational crime. The Kansas kids were eager to do both, of course, and they foiled themselves. Perhaps the Web’s promise of liberating people from anonymity will aggravate their mania, but here’s hoping it will bleed it off some.”

Nyah Nyah Nyah

The State DFL is hopping mad that the conservative Minnesota Citizens in Defense of Marriage has doctored the photographs of several DFL legislators in ads. This is what the marriage defenders did to Senator Satveer Chaudhary.

I have mixed feelings about this. It is disrepectful but I have seen George Bush compared to a chimpanzee on so many websites that its hard for me to get too worked up about it. I suspect most voters would realize that this is a photoshop product especially since several legislators are shown in the same mocking pose. On the other hand one shouldn’t really dismiss the naievte of some people. Some Internet users may really think that President Bush is more simian than Sampson. I know I do.

Literature and Western Man

As I was putting away the book Pox Americana I took a peek at another book I failed to finish ten years ago, “Literature and Western Man.” I probably bought it at our Library’s annual book sale. For the heck of it I decided to google search its author JB Priestly.

He fought in WW1, got an education at Cambridge and turned to literary criticism. He was also a socialist who got elected to Parliament.

Ten years ago we took the kids on a two week B&B tour of England. In London we went to a play called “An Inspector Calls” a murder mystery. I was impressed because the stage was set up for a real downpour in the opening scene. It was an entertaining play but it had a moralizing, socialist bent. The murderer turned out to be a rich industialist. Dirty capitalist pig!

The play was written by Priestly!

Decidedly decisive

“I’m the decider, and I decide what’s best. And what’s best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense.”

George Bush on his Secretary of State

And I used to tell my children, “life’s not fair,” because I was the decider.

Pre nup

An hour ago I was sitting in the sauna at the fitness center after my mile swim. A couple of guys were complaining about their girlfriends/mothers-of-their-children. The girlfriends had let themselves go. One was still wearing maternity cloths two months after giving birth. The other had been told that if only she lost weight her fare to Hawaii would be paid for. (Overweight people just look out of place on Waikiki) She didn’t manage to qualify for the trip.

After listening for a while I commented that something should have been written into the pre nup.

Will Duluth have failing schools courtesy of NCLB?

As I was leaving town for Texas I caught a story in the Strib. It was in the DTrib too. It suggested that because Minnesota allows schools not to count the test scores of lower performing special education students when they number fewer than 40 to a school the NCLB cops would come in and clean house. As a result Minnesota (and possibly Duluth) will likely see a lot more of its schools labeled as “underperformers.”

NCLB (No Child Left Behind) is the Bush brainchild based on his Texas education reforms. The NCLB has irritated his Republican base which has balked at having the Federal Government to override state standards. Utah is among the more resistant.

On the plus side NCLB pushes states to pay attention to the academic progress of their poor children. On the minus side there is nothing in NCLB which requires states to equalize funding for impoverished school districts. Rather, it pushes state’s to implement cheap mind deadening “drill and kill” rote memorization and expensive mass testing.

Bush’s Texas miracle has led a lot of desperate school districts in that state to cheat. That’s not very encouraging.

US Senate Races

Here’s a site that handicaps the Senate Races in the 06 elections.

And here’s some of what it says about the Virginia Race:

Suddenly, this one has turned interesting. It is not so much that Republican Senator George Allen is not still favored for reelection. Rather, he has two ardent, energetic Democratic foes who will face off against each other in a June 13 Democratic primary: wealth business man Harris Miller and former Reagan Navy Secretary Jim Webb. Miller seems to be the choice of a good portion of the Democratic Party establishment, while Webb is viewed as a high-risk/high-reward opponent for Allen. It is far from clear which one will actually win the nomination.

What is clear is that Allen is continuing to campaign across the country for the presidency in 2008, and to run simultaneously for reelection in Virginia. This is beginning to attract substantial criticism. . .

Scots-Irish vote?

Popular Republican Senator George Allen commands a 20 percent lead in the Virginia polls right now. His likely Democratic challenger is the prolific author and former Secretary of the Navy, Jim Webb. I checked out Webb’s website and found an article which I was particularly interested in because my Mother always called herself “Scotch-Irish” which makes me at least partially Scotch Irish too.

Martin Marty the Lutheran historian once described Catholics as America’s Jews (in terms of the discrimination they faced) and no peoples were more Catholic than the Irish. (BTW In two weeks I’ll be attending my niece and God daughter’s first commissioningwhich will make her eligible to participate in the Catholic communion) Irish riots were quite common throughout US history and included the huge draft riots in New York City during the Civil War.

The protestant Scots who were settled in Ireland by the British to fight the Catholic Irish moved en mass to America a little before the Catholic Irish and settled throughout the Applachians. Like my Scotch Irish forbears they were quick to distinguish themselves from the late arriving Irish Catholics.

Webb wrote a book about the Scots Irish which I recall paging through at Barnes and Nobles a year or two ago. He summarizes Scot-Irish history here in a brief analysis on how the Democrats could win them back from the Republicans. Webb may be a little too red blooded for some Democrats but if they want to take the Senate back they’ll have to root for him.

Salva me!

I carry lots of quarters in my car to avoid parking tickets but last night I got stung at UMD. I drove over to practice the Verdi Requiem with the Symphony Chorus. I usually drive in from the College street side and park at a meter but a hurried dinner at Bulldog’s Pizza (best burgers in town) put me on the opposite side of the campus. Construction prevented me from driving across it and when I saw another chorus member hop out of her car in the nearly empty lot by one of the residence halls I figured she knew what she was doing. Maybe she had a sticker but I got the shock. $31.00! It will be a long time before I get another one of those.

The chorus still has two weeks to practice before the performance. I’m listening to a digitized 1957 mono recording of the Requiem now. Its a grand piece that one might expect to be written for a Napoleon or some Emperor with the sobriquet “Great.” Verdi, however, wrote it as a memorial for a friend who was a fellow composer. Because the friend is relatively obscure today the requiem stands as a testament to depth of feeling anyone might experience at such a  loss.

That’s enough music criticism for me. I can’t afford the tickets.

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."