It takes one to see through the fakes

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.”

Photo Op

From today’s DNT:

U.S. Senate candidate Amy Klobuchar is scheduled to visit the Duluth area Thursday.

Klobuchar is planning to listen to area residents’ concerns about gas prices at the Holiday Gas Station at 9314 W. Skyline Parkway at 2:30 p.m.

More Money for the Board?

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 functioning smoothly under the new Dixon Administration. I say go for it. I’ve got no problem with the School Board’s taking a pay raise.

Minnesota trending GOP despite Bush’s Meltdown?

The “Captain” exults at the recent Strib poll which shows the GOP hanging tough in 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%”

Cigar Trouble

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 down 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 working 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 young 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, now a lobbyist, 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 Whitney the Republican candidate for Governor in 1982 who challenged Rudy Perpich.

It’s funny but I just discovered that Rudy was eager 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 Oberstar in 1974 in defeating the DFL nominee for Congress, Tony Perpich, the Governor’s brother?

Energy Independence – when the wind dies down



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 engineer also says that wind energy could be increased ten fold 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 engineer also suggests 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. It would take up less ground space and because friction with the ground slows down the wind it would be able to take advantage of faster wind speeds. This is his diagram for a single guy wire with six wind turbines.
 wind generation blimps

Energy Independence Rumpelstilskin

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.

Americans- Yea or Nay on NSA phone monitoring?

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.  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.”  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.  So what gives?”

Gotch yer number?

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.

Inman agreed that 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.

Small World

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. 

I used to get a kick  out of watching Mary’s kids 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 called Harpies Bazaar along with a dozen other women. My Mother 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, she currently overseas the City of Duluth’s Human Rights Commission.

A former City Councilor chimes in

I just got a call from a former city councilor. The Councilor too enjoyed the column. The Councilor also told me that that the UGLRC scandal helped convince 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 the UGLRC stew who had witnessed how hard Duluth Democrats worked to get Oberstar the DFL nomination. That friend had also told the Councilor 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 this 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 I returned to the manuscript and found it a little quicker read. Thank goodness. Before setting it aside 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 have visited the Old News site. I’ll have to upload some more info soon to keep them coming back.

And if they didn’t like what they heard when they were tapping you?

Matt Yglesias has 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 just remember how his Secretary of Housing boasted at 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 to machete down is TMI. That’s an acronym 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 was 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 I heard from other sources that Grunseth had been 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.

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."