An inconvenient fate

Vic again. Once a great skeptic about whether human activity has boosted global warming Vic seems to have slowly tipped over to accept that’s its true. He’s still a skeptic though.

This morning he sent me this column by Newseek’s, prescient, economic reporter Robert Samuelson. Samuelson predicts that humans being humans they will keep polluting the enviornment and only good engineering can save us. He implies that we might find the engineering solution. If we don’t find it we better cancel Federal flood insurance for everyone living within a hundred miles of the present coast.

 

 

Fireworks

Tomorrow I will begin asking for people to sign my petition so that my name can be placed in nomination. I’ll probably go to Duluth’s lakewalk and invite the local media to drop by and interview me there. Its close to the several of the television stations and tomorrow may be a slow news day. If they come I’ll get coverage across a third of the Congressional District.

I’ve got my paypal account up but at the moment its not set up to take credit cards. I think I know how to resolve this but its 12:30 now and I ought to try to get a good nights rest.

Lincoln’s law partner Herndon said of Abe his mind was a little machine constantly working on his next political move. I’m much the same. Tonight I came home from a gorgeous display of fireworks over the harbor and a stiring performance of the DSSO (our symphony). Because Claudia is on the DSSO Board we sat in the VIP section. I had thought about taking my new bookmarks to pass out but ruled that out. I’m spending so much time already on the campaign that I need to shield my family from it to the best of my ability. Letting the campaign horn in on our family time would be unfair.

As it is I put my first 5 hours this morning on it. I set it aside and Claudia and I went to Finke’s Strawberry patch to pick two gallons of beautiful berries. We drove back by way of Jay Cooke Park then froze our bounty saving enough for a shortcake for dinner.

After a glass of wine on our return from the concert I spent some time doing to Grams what I did to Oberstar a few days ago. I think I’ve organized a simple and compelling argument to keep him out of Congress. That’s good timing because I’ll be passing out my bookmarks for the first time tomorrow and I want people to see both of the front runners for what they are. And drat! One of the folks I’ve been trying to entice to help me pointed out that I’ve got an “Its” when I should have an “It’s” in the bookmark. I emailed back that I hoped that there weren’t too many English majors in the District because I had just printed up 40,000 of the wrong pronoun.

 

A drug debate

Vic and another reader took issue with my reply to Vic: The other correspondent suggested that I look to Alaska as an example of a state where, apparently, lots of people smoke grass and nobody does anything about it. My first thought was flippant”- “What! A good Republican state that doesn’t care if its citizens smoke pot!!!” Vic’s riposte to me explains why this could be:

“I suggest that our streets (and homes and persons) are not safe, and that they would be safer without our idiotic drug laws, because then there wouldn’t be black-market prices for drugs, there wouldn’t be robberies and burglaries (and worse) for drugs, and there wouldn’t be gang-banging for the purpose of maintaining drug territories. Booze, too, is troublesome for our society, but I suggest that because of the repeal of prohibition, booze is less troublesome than it was during prohibition, and it is less troublesome than the drugs that are the subject of our idiotic drug laws. Vic”

I mostly agree with Vic. As a child of the “me generation” I went for a couple years getting stoned nearly every weekend. For a short period it was closer to four or five nights a week. I even experimented with amphetamines for a few months. I’m aware of the lure of mind-altering drugs. Today I’ve become a poor-man’s wine snob.

I’ve never tried heroin, cocaine or meth-amphetamines. I can imagine a time when a potent enough strain of marijuana, which is already much more potent than the stuff I smoked thirty years ago, could become a menace through hybridization. I would be happy to let doctors prescribe marijuana’s THC to give sick people an appetite. I know from personal experience that it works. I’d be happy to let doctors prescribe heroin to people suffering great pain. But the three other drugs I mentioned are far greater threats to people and society. I’ve come to buy the conservative argument about gateway drugs. If we were going to legalize marijuana I’d want it regulated as strictly if not more so than liquor.

It’s often argued that motorcycle riders should have the freedom to choose to ride without helmets. It’s also argued that it’s not fair for society to cover the medical expenses of injured riders who have lifelong brain injuries because of their choice to be free. I agree with both positions. This is just one more example of why the middle ground appeals to me. People are often wrong only when they insist that the people who disagree with them are wrong.

A word of warning for the Grassroots Party – marijuana legalization is not my top priority. If I’m elected to Congress I’d probably be content to speak candidly about marijuana law reform and leave it at that.

As for our prison populations. . . As a former school board member I was always unhappy that we were willing to pay the much more exorbitant expenses of 24-hour-a-day jailing than for a good 8-hour-a-day education. The little Republican under my new Democratic skin is appalled at this.

Vic’s Challenge

My email buddy Vic who has sent me interesting items for years recently read my gushing praise for the “This I believe” segment sticking up for the middle.

“And where is “the middle” for would-be Representative Harry Welty regarding our drug laws? The idiocy of prohibition revisited, which is what we have; or decriminalization and treatment? ‘the greatest freedom’, with everyone being prohibited from toking, and with almost half of our prison populations existing because of those idiotic drug laws?”
Vic

One advantage I have over Grams and Oberstar is that as someone not dependent on a political party I can be candid without fear of outraging the party I depend on. So here goes, Vic. You’re right. We’ve put millions of Americans in jail over the last decade for drug crimes and made our streets momentarily safe. We did not try to rehabilitate these folks. Some states, like California, skimped so much on their vast, chaotic prison systems that they are out of control; little more than gang-breeding programs. And last week there was the terrible shoot-out by prison guards of FBI agents who were about to arrest them for the business-like way the guards solicited sex from female inmates. A guard killed an agent.

Now this prison population is poised to flood back into the streets as their sentences reach their conclusion. Our get-tough drug policies have only created bitter graduates who will wreak havoc on the streets.

I’m not eager to make America a Netherlands-like land of pot heads but our punitive drug laws are and have been stupid for years. Now we are facing another terrible drug, methamphetamine. Maybe, since it is ravaging a rural white populataion instead of black inner city neighborhoods our leaders will be motivated to rethink our drug laws. I know if I’m elected I will be prepared to change them from the ground up.

As a proponent of the middle I think it’s fitting to ease up on the most draconian laws but I’m also willing to put hurdles in the way of free and unimpeded drug recreation.

Gerald Heaney Retires

Gerald Heaney was interviewed by MPR’s Stephanie Hemphill for Voices of Minnesota. Heaney has an laudatory past but he’s also a key figure in the story I’m writing about the destruction of Don Boyd.

When I first moved to Duluth 33 years ago Republicans in particulary spoke of him in hushed tones. He was their nemesis and they regarded him as the power behind the area’s political scene. Its not surprising that he figures into the Boyd scandal when his old friend Senator Hubert Humphrey was in a position to be badly embarrassed.

Another sign that the Duluth School District is on the right path

I recently heard a story which confirmed a long held belief. People who are being watched are more likely to behave. This has also been confirmed by video cameras placed in cars and directed at drivers. People behind the wheel correct their careless behavior rather than let it be captured on camera.

Of course, doing what is right because it is right rather than doing right because you’ll stay out of trouble is not particularly honorable but just tell that to the person whose gotten hit by a wreckless driver or mugged, raped and cheated because no one was watching.

When I was on the Duluth School Board one of the more troubling incidents involved a rape in a Denfeld High stairwell. The Board talked about getting cameras but was stymied due to their prohibitive expense. Apparently this roadblock has been lifted. Way to go Duluth Schools!

Can’t sleep so I’ll work on the campaign

I got to bed at about eleven but tossed and turned for a couple hours. Rather than continue I got up and put some finishing touches on the Oberstar page of my campaign website. Anyone questioning how I can claim to be a Democrat while running as an Independent will have to ask themselves how Oberstar can claim to be a Democrat.

I’m going to try and get some shuteye now because I’ve got a busy day tomorrow. At 7:45 I’m putting in my first shift as a news reader at the Lighthouse for the the blind. Two of us will be reading the daily news from local papers for two hours over a radio for blind listeners.

At noon I’m having lunch with a potential campaign manager and then I have to figure out why I couldn’t finish installing the paypal donation system today.

Next I have to pick up my campaign bookmarks and then I need to make copies of my first fund raising letter.

Finally, after that, I’ll have to prepare my news release and plot my travels to get signatures on my nominating petition.

Such a busy fellow. I wonder what I could do in Congress?

Tentative organizing

In every campaign I’ve been a candidate (there are 11 of these) and in a dozen more in which I was the principal cheerleader I’ve also been the campaign manager. I do the job well but its very tough to be both manager and candidate.

Until a couple days ago I was thinking in terms of challenging Jim Oberstar as a last hurrah. I saw lots of possiblitites for the right candidate to pull off a win but I just didn’t imagine that I would be that candidate. Now, I think I could be.

I asked one person to me by treasurer two weeks ago and have not heard back. That should be taken as a “no” but if I could put more of a campaign organization together that could change to a yes. Even if it doesn’t the Paypal account I’m planning to set up this afternoon should allow me to keep close enough track of donor information to make being the temporary treasurer managable for me for a month or two.

I fired off three email requests for help yesterday and two bore immediate fruit. I’m meeting with a potential campaign manager tomorrow and after that meeting I’ll check in with my other positive reply. Suddenly I’m not so all alone.

 

Blog Metamorphosis

As of today loyal readers, whoever you are, this blog has undergone a change from caterpillar to butterfly or, depending on your point-of-view, vice versa. For the past four months I’ve posted things that interested me but which were heavily drawn from other sources. I will not give up on this entirely but as the last week has demonstrated getting wrapped up a consuming project really distracts a blogger from scanning the internet for newsy items, insightful opinion and my favorite – hoots. I’ve started a mad four-month dash to the November election and I won’t have time to vacuum the news. I’ll still be blogging but lincolndemocrat will turn into more of a campaign diary than a political blog.

As long ago as 1976 when I was a 26-year-old kid running for the state legislature I imagined myself writing a regular column about what I saw daily as a legislator. Although I kept running for office I didn’t finally get elected to anything until 1995 almost twenty years later. By then I realized that no newspaper would print one elected official’s daily observations. But then a wonderful invention became available – the World Wide Web with a whole assortment of new communication tools. Long before blogs people began experimenting with public diaries. When I finally got a dial-up connection and discovered this I was halfway through my school board experience. I realized immediately how I could make that ambition from my youth possible and I began my “school board diary.” I was a faithful diarist for a year but, for a variety of reasons, I quit. Short lived political diaries of one sort or another succeeded the first but they too winked out.

Apparently, I’ve been drifting slowly to a new ambition to replace politics – writing. I’m still drawn to politics but more so as a writer than a practitioner. I want people to have the chance to see the political world from the inside. I’ve gotten 200 pages into Caro’s fabulous 1,000-page book about LBJ’s Senate years. What I wouldn’t give to write something like that. Well, its too late for that. Caro has already devoted thirty years to the LBJ story and he still has one book left to go. Anything I do will be much more modest – like my school board diary.

An elected bodies are more mysterious to people than what happens to their children during junior high. That’s because everyone has been in junior high and can imagine what their children are experiencing. Elected bodies, which seem to pull decisions out of thin air after a series of posturing speech”…well that really is mysterious. Fortunately or unfortunately the speeches are usually so anesthetizing that people stop watching and rely on the next day’s headlines to sort out what happened.

Well, this is just a long-winded way of saying that I’m going to devote the lion’s share of this blog to my Congressional campaign. I’ve been planning to run since before I wrote a snarky column about Jim Oberstar last November. To my surprise that column led me to Don Boyd and Don Boyd led me to a historical research project that I can’t really do justice to as a candidate for public office. In fact, because the project seems to involve the fellow I’m trying to unseat my motives must be questioned. But I can’t help myself. I think I’ve stumbled onto a story about how Minnesota’s politics of the late 1960’s and 1970’s was riddled with corrupt practices. This is history which should be investigated by a writer who is not contaminated with political ambition. For the next few weeks the story has to be put on hold. I have ten days to get 1,000 signatures on a petition to put me on the ballot. I also need to start alerting voters to a very interesting 3-way race for Congress. I intend to win if it is at all possible.

As time permits I will continue writing more about Don Boyd’s ruination at the hands of a political machine whose brightest leaders aspired to great nobility. In Watergate’s dark aftermath this machine successfully covered their own misbehavior when threatened with exposure. They did this by sacrificing an innocent scapegoat to federal prison. This at least is what I am beginning to believe took place. Its a story that should be told by someone else but for now I’m the only story teller that Don Boyd has.

Thirty years ago he was smeared so badly that no one, not his friends and probably not even his family, could imagine that he was completely innocent. It is hard to believe but that is what I’m coming to believe. If this is true then I’m deeply offended by this miscarriage of justice. In an odd way this story is a terrible distraction from my Congressional campaign but at the same time its given me a tremendous motivation. Nothing animates me so as a hunt for the truth.

Harry’s been strangely silent

And there is a good reason. Harry has been madly getting things ready to file for Congress. As if you hadn’t figured that out from all the not so subtle clues I’ve been dropping.

I’ve got my webpage up. I haven’t formally announced yet but I will soon. I still have to choose from the fundraising software available but I’ll probably use a PayPal account.

There’s been a lot in the news I would have commented on had I not been so busy but that’s life.

Oh, the new website is (typos and all): www.welty4congress.org

Storming Washington

I’ve been very busy; too busy to post yesterday. I’ve been puttering around with a campaign website which I’ll soon be uploading. I’ve just ordered the domain name. There aren’t too many candidates named Welty, thank goodness. I just ordered a taxpayer identification number for my committee of one and yesterday put in a rush order for campaign literature. I’ve been sending a flurry of emails back and forth over its layout. Today I need to open a campaign banking account. Filing for office begins the day after July 4th. I will need to get a thousand signatures on a petition of nomination. I did it all by myself in four day in 1992. Once I start campaigning I’ll use this blog as my campaign diary.

We left Washington last week just as heavy rainstorms broke out. They flooded the national archives and many other Federal buildings as well as knocking down a 100 year old Elm on the front lawn of the White House. I probably snapped a picture of it when I was there although like everything else on the grounds it was behind bars.

Our friends emailed us about the weather we escaped. I didn’t realize just how serious it was. Amtrak had to be closed down so they couldn’t commute into the Capital. Now if I could just figure out how to storm DC like that.

A modest rebuke to the enemies of the Death Tax

Warren Buffett said this of his massive contribution to the Gates Foundation.

“Neither [late wife] Susie nor I ever thought we should pass huge amounts of money along to our children,” said Warren Buffett, who said he plans to give away his remaining stock holdings after his death but that he has “quite a bit of cash” he still plans to leave to those close to him. “Our children are great,” he told Fortune. “But I would argue that when your kids have all the advantages anyway, in terms of how they grow up and the opportunities they have for education, including what they learn at home – I would say it’s neither right nor rational to be flooding them with money.”

Buffett Gates Free Trade – to help the world’s poor

This post and the resulting discussion are interesting. They are prompted by the remarkable Warren Buffett gift of most of his vast fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. My first two reactions on hearing this were 1. How amazing that Warren doesn’t set up his own foundation to keep his name for posterity. 2. What a testament to the BMG foundation since Buffet is famous for scoping out enterprises which really work.

Since then I’ve heard other comments which minimize the significance of the contribution by comparing the Buffett fortune with all the annual giving in the US or with the amount of money the Federal Government spends and now with this post Free trade has been thrown in for comparison.

 

A dialogue

Jason wrote back in defense of Ford Bell to say:

“Except it’s not a ‘cold heart’ (as you imply that Bell has) for calling for a Vietnam-style hasty retreat“ it’s cold reality. The civil war there is going to get only worse, our very presence there is making it worse, and even the most grateful Iraqis will inevitably grow weary of us.

You ask if it’s just American soldiers’ lives Bell wants to save. I’d reckon not, but those are the lives we CAN save.”

If, as you believe, the war will get worse the longer we stay then you are right that we should leave.

If, as I believe, our short-term presence might help prevent (and that’s the best I can hope for) a civil war then we should stay.

Perhaps it was unfair of me to say that Ford Bell has a cold heart. However, to suggest that the only lives that we can save at this point are American lives is. I hope you are wrong.

Rinos

After fundamentalists took over the Republican Party they began redefining old Republicans out of it by derisively calling them Rino’s: “Republicans in name only.” In other words, what had once been perfectly respectable Republicanism was treated as heretical including such time tested libertarian ideals as keeping the government out of its citizen’s personal lives and shunning deficit spending and a reluctance to go to war where we had no business being.

As a past Rino I take heart in seeing other Republicans turn their backs, on the party or better yet, turn their horns toward the party.

Someone Replied!!??

I rarely have someone write back to one of my Reader columns so I was grateful when David wrote back to take me to task on my Ford Bell column.

Editor:
     In his 6-22 article, Harry Welty says Bush the Elder’s “greatest
achievement” was “getting America over Vietnam”, by which he must be
referring to the first Gulf War. In 1990, as Kuwait siphoned borderland oil
fields jointly owned with Iraq, Saddam Hussein was told by the U.S.
ambassador that the U.S. had “no opinion on your border disagreement with
Kuwait. The issue is not associated with America”. Then the U.S. proceeded
to drop as many bombs on Iraq as were dropped in WW2 and Vietnam combined, and, so it was said, the “Vietnam Syndrome” was cured. Hallelujah. Our motives (as always) were portrayed as straightforward and pure.
     Now Harry opposes a U.S. withdrawl from Iraq (though 80% of Iraqis
support one) because “we will make the people we meant to save pay for our mistakes”.Sorry, but we never meant to save the Iraqis from anything. Saddam was a close U.S. ally as long as he toed the line. The Bush administration doesn’t even care about saving most Americans, much less the Iraqis. We wrap our wars of empire in humanitarian lies because most Americans, like Harry, have good hearts and wouldn’t support our brutal interventions if they knew the true motives behind them. William blum’s book “Killing Hope” documents
the last 50 years of those interventions, which were far from altruistic.
     Maybe the U.N. and neighboring arab states can stop Iraq’s civil
war,but the Bush administration cannot, even if it wanted to.

              David

First, I appreciate David’s graciousness in saying that I, like most Americans, have a good heart. That’s a very good place to begin my reply and sadly its missing from most dialogue about the Iraq War.

Frankly, I have a hard time disagreeing with David on many of his points. He certainly is correct that our Ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, did us no favors in all but giving Saddam Hussein the green light to invade Kuwait. At the time I thought ending the butchery in the Bosnian Wars was of greater importance but, as I’m sure David would be quick to agree, there just wasn’t any oil in Yugoslavia.

I would add that my characterization of the first Bush’s “greatest achievement” was intended, but failed to convey, some irony. If beating back a third rate bully was an achievement for America, big whoop. The only other legacy I can quickly remember from Bush’s presidency was his promise to “read my lips” on tax increases and his subsequent embarrassment when his lips turned out to  have been lying. This legacy has turned Republicans into manic anti-tax legislators who have left the nation with a 10 trillion dollar deficit.

Although in retrospect the first George Bush looks like a genius compared to the son I campaigned against him and voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 after I gave up on Ross Perot. I was even quoted in a front page story in the DNT as supporting Clinton.

Most importantly David gives far too much credence to the polls which tell us that 80% of Iraqis want us to leave. That would be virtually all the Shiite and Sunni population. (The Kurds are grateful to us) The poll numbers are correct but there is an important proviso. Few Iraqies want us to leave so hastily that an all-out war breaks out. Yes, they want us to leave. Yes, they think our invasion has been a disaster. Yes, they shed no tears when an American dies. But No, they do not want a civil war.

If we can leave in six months with some kind of stability then I’ll be happy to have us leave. If we can do it in three months that would be better yet. I just think this is too soon. While I have some sympathy for David’s call to witdraw I have no sympathy for the pliant Republican Congressmen who went along with the war but who are now demanding that Iraqis take over their own defense. That’s a little like setting two pit bulls against each other and then telling the fleas riding on their backs to make it stop. 

Blog Spam

Out of bed at 5AM on a Saturday. I thought I might go swimming but with the scent of hot steaming blueberry buckle in the air I decided otherwise. Today it will be calories not laps.

I checked my website statistics. They are holding their own and it looks like Snowbizz will end the month averaging a thousand hits a day. I have found that the blog is being invaded not only by readers but by spam. Somehow the spammers have figured out how to insert links to their pages by replying to blog posts. I’ll have to go back to my old posts and start marking them as closed for discussion. What a pain!

It will be a beautiful day so Claudia may put me to work. It will be recompense for the buckle. That’s OK. I need to fix my compost box. I’ll have to shovel a ton of black gold out of it first and then shovel it back in when I’m finished. That’ll be fun – kind of like deleting spam only back breaking.

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."