All posts by harrywelty

and now something useful

Since my appointment as a trustee of the Duluth Public School Board Endowment Fund last fall I’ve been slowly working on a plan to raise a serious endowment for the Duluth Schools. The present endowment is a hair over $450,000 and it has generated enough income to finance a dozen or more modest grants for innovative teaching projects every year for the past decade.

On May 2nd we are having a meeting of people who care about the schools to organize a massive fund raising project.

Over the last week we wrote and will be sending out a fund raising letter to our eighty or so past contributors. it also invites them to join us on May 2nd. That’s a very modest number of people but its all who have contributed to our endowment to date. I want a fund of 20 million dollars which should earn about a million dollars annually. That requires raising 40 times as much money as we currently have.

I’m planning to get at a minimum 40 people signed up to join us May 2nd. Getting them to the meeting will be my challenge. I’ll keep you up to date. In the meantime it will be the subject of my next column in the Reader. I hope I’m up to it.

McCain and Revelations

This is very interesting video interview of John McCain by Tim Russert who challenges the “maverick” Senator on his recent raprochment with Jerry Falwell. (My blog software doesn’t have spellcheck and I don’t know if raprochment has one or two r’s. Rats! Not long ago I spelled prerogative “perogative.” Phooey! I’m only the pronouncer at our local spelling bees in Duluth. I’m not one of the contestants. I’m not that brave.)

As a “McCainiac” in 2000 (I began a website for his Minnesota campaign) its a little distressing to see him pulling his punches on the folks who treated him in such an unchristian fashion. On the other hand, pragmatic politicians always have to prepared for the awkward political necessity of sleeping with surprising bedfellows now and then. I hope for the Senator’s sake that Falwell doesn’t snore.

DECC Decked?

It’s bad luck to predict misfortune because such predictions can become self fulfilling prophecies. That said, its looking grim for the DECC’s hope of receiving state funding this year.

Things looked good after the Governor taunted Duluth into holding a referendum on funding half of a DECC expansion through local sales taxes. When Duluth took up the challenge and passed a referendum there was real optimism for the project. Unfortunately, the state’s putative half of the financing is not in either the Senate or House bonding proposal.

Although the Tribune recently editorialized that the Governor was our best hope for adding the full 30 million to a final bonding bill that seems unlikely to happen. Our Senator, Tom Bakk, has been crowing about a humungous $118 million in miscellaneous bonding for northland projects in the Senate Bonding Bill. This boasting is a subtle warning to Duluth not to tamper with the current Senate proposal by trying to add the DECC.

In answer to the DFL controlled Senate bill the House bill included $3 not $30 million for the project. If our own DFL Senator has no interest in pushing it who can blame the Republicans who control the House for only offering up 10% of the Governor’s proposal?

As someone who wrote a pro-DECC column I find this disappointing but not very surpising. I don’t see anyone with any political muscle who has anything to gain by pushing the DECC this year. On the other hand the Governor’s intervention and the City’s referendum have brought the DECC to the state’s attention. In a sense its like a plane circling the airport waiting for the legislature to give it clearance to land. Ahead of the DECC are the long debated stadiums for the Twins, Vikings and UM Gopher Football team.   

If these other stadiums are finally approved this year it will be hard to deny Duluth in the years to come.

Right versus the Truth

Moments after posting the previous entry I realized the difference between the two. If you were hiding a Jewish family in your attic, during World War II, and you told the Gestapo you weren’t hiding anybody you would be lying and doing right simultaneously. When I was growing up Biblical literalists had a hard time accepting this. To them the world was black and white. They wouldn’t countenance the heretical notion that you could take any liberties with God’s Ten Commandments, not even the one about never bearing false witness.When even more shocking questions were posed under the guise of “situational ethic” the literalists went into a state of apoplexy. It was bad enough to hear people trying to justify a lie but what about putting yourself in the place of a Jewish family hiding in the attic with a crying infant while the Gestapo was searching for Jews downstairs? Being found would mean certain death for everyone and the baby’s cries would definitely alert the Gestapo. The only way to save the family required smothering the baby. What to do? When I was a kid the literalists wouldn’t touch a question like this with a ten foot pole. Better the unexamined life.

So what do Bush loving, Biblical literalists make of this Administration’s “disingenuities?” I’d say that those of them who have stuck with Bush have crossed the treacherous black and white boundary of the Ten Commandments. In doing so they have followed in the footsteps of the pointy-headed thinkers from my youth who debated what that Jewish family should do. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

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.

Mark Twain on doing right

“Always do right. This will gratify most people and astonish the rest.”

I’m sorry to say that I had misremembered the above quote. I thought it began: “Always tell the truth.” Even so, I’d like to think that the “truth” and the “right” are synonyms.

Here’s a page of Twain quotes twelve of which are about the truth. Some of them (the sly and cynical ones) contradict the one above.”

The Captain’s ally and my sour response

I have a friend who regularly sends me stuff that I take strong exception to. He sent me the Captain’s post and then another pro-Bush posting from This was my parting shot in the debate which ensued.

Dead rodent woman adopts the same dismissive tone as the Captain. Yeah, its good to be reminded that Scooter is in trouble for possible perjury and not for releasing state secrets but the issue in the public’s mind all has to do with this Administration’s honesty. Even so, perjury is an act of dishonesty and therefore entirely consonant with the public’s loss of faith.

LBJ, who did more to advance Civil Rights than any other President, also foisted the Tonkin Gulf Resolution on the US to justify his war. Lyndon got it passed in Congress based on a flat out lie. Is that in the same league as all the WMD stuff–.Well, the more we hear of the expert’s skepticism about WMD’s and the Administration’s scramble to silence the skeptics, the more Bush seems to be channeling LBJ. Don’t forget, LBJ had worthy motives too except that they didn’t change as much over the course of his war. Johnson was simply protecting the Free World from the advance of Communism.

At least LBJ, who craved adulation, had the humility not to run for reelection after he lost control of his tar baby. Bush only needs approval from God. Apparently God has told the President that lies told in pursuit of a good cause are no big deal — and lies told to cover up lies told in pursuit of a good cause; and the lies told to cover the lies told to cover the lies–.Oops, sorry. I meant the disingenuities.

Oh, and if the war Bush waged stirs up a generation of angry, unemployed, young Moslem men to spend all their waking hours trying to think of ways to kill Americans where ever they can find them —well, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs.

Obviously the Captain and Dead Rodent woman have views inconsistent with mine. Madly applauding claques hired by theater owners also have different motives from the rest of the audience at mediocre theatricals. George Bush’s Presidency needs a laugh track.

The Captain wasn’t listening to his Commander and Chief

Andrew Sullivan has all the relevant quotes. Among them:

“There’s a lot of leaking in Washington, D.C. It’s a town famous for it. This investigation in finding the truth, it will not only hold someone to account who should not have leaked — and this is a serious charge, by the way. We’re talking about a criminal action, but also hopefully will help set a clear signal we expect other leaks to stop, as well. And so I look forward to finding the truth,” – President George W. Bush, October 7, 2003.


Bush League perogatives – my reply to the Captain

 These Bush supporters are pretty cavalier about what the President can do. Apparently they think he can do anything in the national interest. And what is the national interest? Well, Bush is the only person who gets to make that decision. If disseminating misinformation will help accomplish national security that’s just fine. (Don’t forget how Eisenhower was damaged when he told the nation that we weren’t sending any spy planes over the Soviet Union when the Ruskies trotted out Gary Powers) If revealing a CIA agent’s identity and compromising an important investigation into the nuclear activities of Iran (which is what Valerie Plame seems to have been doing) is what it takes to discredit the husband who is calling the President’s shaky “facts” into question …well that’s just peachy keen. If giving the Veep the right to disseminate secret documents and hand that same authority down to his subordinates….hey, no problem. And if we all discover this new presidentialy approved authority just in time for the subordinate to evade a charge of leaking state secrets…..Big deal! Sure, its convenient but the President gets to call all the shots….kind of like when he gets to tell the Congress what the laws they pass really mean. And if he appoints enough justices to the Supreme Court I’m sure it will agree with him.   

What the Captain says about the newspapers attitude towards tattle tales and whistle blowers may be true enough but we have a president who began designating public material relating to his father’s administration secret long before 9-11. Powerline and company can huff and puff all they want and dismiss the President’s actions as simple presidential prerogatives but they can’t stop the public’s perception that Bush is as disingenuous as he is inarticulate. Some people think disingenuinuity is the kissing cousin of spinning a lie. Others don’t make a distinction between the two. I still do but I’m really not sure which of the two better describes this administration.

Oh, and did you know that John McCain is the father of a black child? Well, he is and that’s what seems to pass for truth in the Bush Leagues where the ends always justify the means.


A friend sends me the “Captains” pooh poohing of the Libby Affair

This is an excerpt of blog entry that fairly yawns with disinterest at Scooter Libby’s shenanigans. You can read the whole entry and the “Yes Sir, Captain Sir” replies of other pro-Bush bloggers at:

Still Crying Over The Lost Fitzmas

The New York Sun reported today that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby has testified that he released information from a National Intelligence Estimate in 2003 to a reporter prior to its publication. Predictably, the media and the blogosphere has overreacted, proving once again that most people do not understand classified materials, unclassified materials, and the process used to classify documents. The Josh Gerstein article is pretty straightforward:

(I’ve deleted the synopsis)

Not too long ago, newspapers made a big deal out of nothing when it came out that Bush had given Cheney the authority to declassify material at his discretion. At the time, they clucked their tongues at the delegation of authority to the VP, claiming that it showed Bush’s disinterest in his responsibilities. Now suddenly everyone is shocked to find out that Bush has the authority to declassify material. In fact, he has the ultimate authority to do so, and he is only responsible to the voters in the execution of these duties. And the estimate on Iraq and WMD involved in this story was released to the press on July 18, 2003, at a White House briefing.

Why did George Bush release the NIE at all? Because Joe Wilson had busied himself by spreading misinformation via leaks to Nick Kristof and Walter Pincus, and then finally under his own by-line at the New York Times twelve days prior to the release of the NIE information. The media had demanded answers to the charges leveled by Wilson and his supporters, and those answers were found in the NIE. The decision to declassify it and publish it came as a result of that demand. Once the decision is made to declassify information, it can be released in any number of ways. This was both leaked and openly presented in the same fortnight.

Beyond the issue of the Libby leak and its tie to George Bush, the hypocrisy of the media is truly astonishing. I just at at a dinner two nights ago where Senator Chris Dodd demanded that Congress pass a federal shield law to protect reporters from revealing sources. Why? So that they can report leaks of exactly this kind. I suppose when they like the leaker, then they call him a whistleblower. When they don’t like the leak, and especially when it turns out not to be all that significant, then apparently the source is a weasel who doesn’t deserve protection.

Bush OK’s leaks of national security info – so what?

The Moderate Voice lists five consequences of Scooter Libby’s fingering President Bush.

  1. This administration does not just have a credibility problem, it has a credibility catastrophe.
  2. Bush is now in the “loop” on these allegations. The stories point out that he didn’t violate any law — but he can’t talk about how leakers hurt the government if he is actively involved himself in leaking when it suits his political purposes.
  3. This underscores again the abysmal failure of one-party government where there is effectively no vigorous Congressional oversight for political reasons. Under one party government Congressional CYLYKW (Cover Your Leader’s You-Know-What) has replaced Congressional oversight.
  4. Expect that if there are more revelations to come out, they will. Under the old modus operendi of journalism, this kind of story would trigger a competition in the media to get more on this angle (the President participated in leaks…so what other ones did he participate in?). The new attention deficit media of the early 21st Century may not pursue it the same way, but it’s unlikely that this will be the last story looking closely at Bush’s role.
  5. If the Democrats gain control of the House in 2006 it’ll be a whole new ball game. It will not necessarily mean impeachment proceedings (which is the threat some GOPers are using to try and rally their base for the mid-term elections). But there will be the threat of real — if even excessive — Congressional oversight coupled with political consequences.

Since Iraq has been such a success why not one more?

Reports from various sources here, here, and here strongly suggest that the Bush Administration is intent on attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities.

“Several experts and former officials interviewed by the Forward pointed to Vice President Dick Cheney as one of the key figures who has concluded that the ongoing diplomatic efforts to bring Iran before the United Nations Security Council and eventually slap the Islamic regime with sanctions will come to naught …” 

Its easy for Dick to push for another war. He’s the fellow with all the great hiding places. 

Did the Founding Fathers lie to Tripoli?

A reader took strenuous issue with my post suggesting that the Founding Fathers did not regard the United States as a “Christian Nation.” Pointing to the many Christian references on our public buildings and tributes to God offered up by our Presidents over the years he challenges this idea as though it were a heresy. His eloquence gives Patrick Henry a run for his money:

“Shall we tear down our public buildings? Shall we melt down the Liberty Bell? Shall we deny our heritage, forsake our history, and profane our honored dead who believed in America’s ideals and followed our founding patriots into the cry “Give me liberty or give me death”, who have delivered to us this nation cemented together in the common belief of the unalienable rights of men granted by the Creator and bought those rights with their blood? I say no. We shall not forget, nor shall we abandon those lofty ideals and that firm reliance on God that has raised us to the wonderful nation that we are.”

This is part of my reply:

“This treaty language written and approved by those very founders is excellent and almost irrefutable evidence that they did not see the United States as a specificially Christian nation. Isn’t that what we would want the people of Iraq to know so that they wouldn’t confuse our intervention with the motivations of the Crusaders?

There is no reason to punish America for reflecting its undeniable Christian heritage by tearing down its public buildings for having God’s name engraved on their walls or smelting the Liberty Bell because it sports a quotation from Leviticus.”

Here were hanged

I got an email yesterday from a student at my old alma mater, Mankato State, which was rechristened Minnesota Univeristy, Mankato. I get such emails once a month or so because someone has stumbled onto my website. Jay stumbled onto my site while researching the now hidden monument to the mass hanging of 36 Sioux Indians in Mankato during the Civil War. It was the greatest mass execution in US History and was quite an attraction for the vengeful and the curious after the “Sioux Uprising.”

The monument, (which looks more like a tombstone) was spashed with red paint representing blood in the early 1970’s at the beginning of the American Indian Movement.

Erected at at time when docile indians were tucked away quietly on their reservations the monument became an embarassment for Mankato in our more enlightened generation. At some point after I left town it was buried by the City of Mankato and has remained hidden like Hitler’s ashes. 

I had written a column called “Here were hanged” a few years ago in response to a letter-to-the-editor complaining that Duluth shouldn’t build a monument to the shameful lynching that took place here in 1921.

The Religious Left

I started a post earlier today about how the Roves, Abramofs, Reeds, DeLays etc. have betrayed the earnest Christians who have followed them into the GOP. It was too a big topic to cover in a bite sized post so I set it aside. 

I am an agnostic but I’ve attended church regularly for nearly a quarter century. I just got back from choir practice.  Socrates, no Christian he, said: “the unexamined life is not worth living.” I agree and attending church has been an important way for me to examine my spiritual life.

It would be a mistake for Democrats to generalize too much about “Christians” simply because they’ve been so ill used by the aformentioned sleaze mongers. Slate has a useful article explaining who the potential allies of the Democrats are on the religious left and how they should be treated. 

Don’t forget what Socrates said.