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.

Bookin it 1

I took two books with me to San Antone. The first was Pox Americana by Elizabeth A Fenn. Its a very interesting investigation of a smallpox epidemic that circulated all over North America during the Revolutionary War. I skipped over some of the middle chapters. They were a little too thorough in describing the various routes by which different groups of infected soldiers took the disease to uninfected regions. Consequently, I won’t add the book to my list of completely read books. I did finish most of the later chapters however.

I was particularly interested in the ebb and flow of the plains Indian tribes and the impact Smallpox had on them. I was also interested to learn about the brutality of the Russian fur traders. The native Americans along the coast suffered tremendously from the pox.

I also began Misquoting Jesus by Bart Ehrman on the flight back. The first two chapters were well written. I had recently read a fairly dismissive critique of Ehrman.  The critique found little fault with the first four chapters of his book but battered him on the rest of the book. I’ll reserve my judgement.

Who’s eating crow now?

Fair.org

The latest Reader reprints Fair.org’s reprise of many of 2003’s premature reports of success in Iraq. Such as: Fred Barnes’s confident assurance: “The war was the hard part. The hard part was putting together a coalition, getting 300,000 troops over there and all their equipment and winning. And it gets easier. I mean, setting up a democracy is hard, but it is not as hard as winning a war.” 

Although a cautious skeptic of the war (or at least Bush’s motive’s for it) I once wrote that it looked like Bush had “pulled a rabbit out of Iraq.”

Do you think folks like Bill O’Reilly eat crow?

 

Meltdown

I wrote one last blog entry covering my last day in Texas. Its stuck in a word document in my laptop and there it will stay. I figured out how to meet if not master the technological requirements of blogging on the road but it was still a hassle. I’ll get better.

My better half, an energy company exec. has been telling me for years that nuclear energy makes sense. The articles I’ve read on the subject have inclined me to this point of view for some years. The fear of plutonium poisoning lasting for millions of years has prevented the nuclear industry in the US from building any new plants since Three Mile Island. Maybe the melting of Greenland will change our rigid opposition. Here’s one of the founders of Greenpeace who’s seen the light.

Remembering the Alamo

Pinch me. I have to remember that we took this trip as a vacation. Usually my better half lets me tag along when she travels for work. This time our schedule, when its not being delayed by aircraft maintenence problems, is our own.

Making a couple more stops after the Ranch to sample and purchase Texas wine we finally made our way back to San Antone by a little before eight. It had been a long day, although a rewarding one. We ordered a room service dinner which we downed with some Texas cabernet.

We slept in late then walked over to the River Center next door for a Starbucks and muffin. From there we walked a block away to the Alamo. We got into the courtyard as a guide gave a good little talk on the subject. Notwithstanding my comment from a couple days ago I’d say it was an event very much worth remembering. I’d just amend that by saying it ought to be remembered well.

After a little walk round we headed to the the block long stretch of La Villita that has art and craft shops. We picked up another pair of pottery mugs from one shop (we’re slowly replacing a bunch of miscellaneous old mugs two by two on our travels) and a fun little teapot which we are shipping home. (Several bottles of wine we’re carring back on the plane will be more than enough to lug)

We we’re content to sit on our balcony overlooking the Riverwalk with its busy little tourist boats for lunch. We took in the sounds of distant traffic while we supped on sandwhich’s accompanied by a nice Becker Vineyard Claret.

A pan piper playing the theme from the Good the Bad and the Ugly wafted up to us. It was from the South American musical troupe that was playing a block away in the River Center.

When we had our vente coffees at the same place this morning a tall white egret swooped over by our table while I fumbled fruitlessly to take its picture. As I commented to Claudia from our balcony this afternoon, San Antonio has one of the loveliest downtowns I’ve ever visited in a major American City.

 

Ladybird II

We pulled into the LBJ Ranch joint National Park/State Park Visitor’s Center with five minutes to spare for the tour. The area was suffering from an infestation of caterpillars which dangled in the hundreds from the live oaks overhead.

We stopped at the reconstructed home that LBJ was born in. It was rebuilt by Johnson after his retirement from the Presidency. It was furnished with fancier furnisings than the more modest stuff the Johnson’s owned at the time of LBJ’s birth in 1907. Johnson probably wanted to commemorate both the poverty of his own Lincolnesque “log cabin” beginnings as well as the well-to-do life that his parents achieved. 

We stopped at his family grave. His was the tallest stone in the plot but it was modest by the standards found in almost any big cemetary in the US. The 300 year-old live oaks inside the stone fence surrounding the cemetary made it a lovely setting.

At the Ranch the  bus stopped so that we could wave to Ladybird who happened to be sitting on her porch with a friend in a rocking chair. We waved and she waved back. When she was younger (Ladybird is 93) she would often board busses to say howdy to the tourists.

I was reluctant to take a picture but in the last instant decided that she wouldn’t mind. It’s not the most flattering. I caught her just as she was nibbling at an envelope in her hand.

Our guide ended the tour by playing the soapy Peter Paul and Mary rendition of Dylan’s Blowin in the Wind. Johnson never got to send me to Vietnam. Apparently he used to weep over the casualty lists. Damn him.

We drove past the drive-by showroom he built for his old cars, a couple lincoln continentals a hunting car with a bar and a sky blue german vehicle with the prow. We heard a recording of some advisor telling about his visit to the Ranch and being driven around the Ranch in the car by LBJ. As Johnson drove towards a pond on the ranch he began yelling that the brakes had failed.

The visitor tried jumping out as the car splashed into the water. Johnson roared with laughter and accused his guest of being too eager to abandon the President in his moment of crises.

Ladybird

Woke up at 6AM. Left at 8 and got to the Ladybird wildflower center in Austin shortly after it opened. We spent a couple hours looking at the natural landscape and trying to commit wild flower names to memory.

Ladybird took on the role of highway beautifier while she was the first lady. She tried to get rid of highway billboards and the wildflower center is one of her pet projects. 

Five years of drought have made the bluebonnets and other wild flowers much less numerous but where they were well watered in the more formal plots in the center they were colorful.

We bought some gifts for friends and some fun garden stuff including our own garden armadillo to join Lebeau in our patio garden. We also bought a\ “Texas traveling music” CD’s which we intend to listen to while traveling through the Hill Country today. This one is a Willie Nelson CD dedicated to the wildflower center singing Tejas classics like the Yellow Rose of Texas.

Stops for wine tasting lay ahead. Texas Hills was the first winery after which we stopped at Johnson City to visit the Lyndon Johnson boyhood home.

I bought the third Caro book Master of the Senate at the visitor center and one of the Park Service Rangers told me about meeting the author a few years ago when he was doing research. Caro had broken his arm body surfing and the Ranger had heard this somehow. He had told Caro not to do any more surfing until he’d finished his tetrology on Johnson. 

We slipped past the Ranch so I could make a stop at the Becker vineyard for a quick tasting before slipping back to the LBJ Ranch for the last bus tour of the day.

Mariachi Music Makes the world go round

Walked a small portion of the river walk. Its beautiful. Ate at Casa del Rio. I think. (It was last night) Wonderful meal and cheaper than Taco Johns except for the Margaritas and Sangria. Made up the difference by paying to have a wonderful mariachi band give us two serenades. Even the braying grackles shut up for this performance.

Failing Schools

The Strib had a story today about the likelihood that more Minnesota Schools would be singled out as schools of failure thanks to No Child Left Behind.  This Bush brainchild was based on the corruption riddled reforms he instituted in Texas. Its punishments were so draconian that schools all across Texas cheated to make their scores look better.

Several Republican controlled legislatures balked at NCLB and have ignored it. New rules from the Federal government now threaten to designate hundredsof Minnesota schools as failures. I know Minnesota’s Republic legislators will welcome this development. 

Preparations prior to departure

This is a post I attempted to send yesterday as it the next. When the battery died on the flight to texas so did the post.I’ve emailed principals, trustees, school board members and PTA leaders. Now while I’m in San Antonio I’ll wait for replies and hopefully some reservation requests. One principal emailed back promising to make substitute teachers available for any of his teachers who want to attend. Cool.

I gave Michele Wallerstein, our President, an option to suggest changes but got nervous and sent my column in to the editor/publisher before she replied. Being a diplomat she changed my dyspeptic references to “greedy” legislators covering their “fiscal mismanagement.” It did her no good as I had already sent it in. I told her our legislators were all Democrats and unlikely to take offense since they’d just blame Republics who controlled 2/3rds of the state government.

Algebra

The Trib has a story about the small number of Minnesota junior high students taking Algebra 1 and 2. Seems to be that too many elementary teachers are more focused on language arts than math. Understanding this and reacting accordingly makes a lot more sense than rampaging around pointing fingers.

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."