On 2nd Thought – Only Prettner Solon is Embarassed

Plato described the metaphor of the cave with a campfire casting people’s shadows on it. He said that people watching the shadows from the other side of the fire couldn’t really be sure what the people casting the shadows were doing. So it is with politics. That’s why I wrote my own on-line political diary a few years ago; to move people past the fire and shadows closer to the behind-the-scenes action on the Duluth School Board.

Today’s story in the DNT suggests to me that the DECC’s omission from the Senate bonding bill has Tom Bakk’s fingerprints all over it. Bakk tells us that the 11 percent of bonding that the Senate plan directs to the Arrowhead is such a big deal that losing the DECC expansion isn’t all that important. Duluth’s most important proposal on its bonding wish list, is not that big of a deal! The proposal which has our voter’s seal of approval! Whoa!

Where is Bakk coming from? Well, getting the DECC in the bonding bill could squeeze out funding for other projects on Bakk’s wish list. The last two reaportionments both used Duluth precincts to pad northeastern Minnesota’s legislative districts with their shrinking populations. The vast majority of Bakk’s Senate District 6 lies north of Duluth. He’s in an awkward position to push for the DECC if he doesn’t want to lose these other projects.

It’s also entirely possible that the ambitious Bakk has other objectives which the DECC interferes with. I’m sure he’s paying close attention to the troubles of his caucus leader, Senator Dean Johnson. The Republicans have beaten Johnson up for “sanding over the truth.” (see previous entries) The Republican’s ethic’s investigation could weaken Johnson enough so that the DFL Caucus might consider replacing him. That someone could be Tom Bakk. If so, Bakk doesn’t dare get too greedy in the bonding bill. By doing so he would antagonize his potential supporters. If Duluth’s losing the DECC helped Bakk move into the majority leader’s office, well, it would be a small sacrifice – for Bakk.

This at least is what the shadows on the cave wall suggest to me. But like Plato warned. I could be completely wrong.

Senate DFL stiffs Duluth – Embarasses Bakk and Prettner-Solon

Word came yesterday that the Senate DFL left the expansion of the DECC off its bonding bill. There are two competing theories to explain this decision. Senator Keith Langseth, the Chairman of Capital Investment Committee, has suggested the first: that sports complexes just don’t deserve bonding. A second theory is that DFL Senators are angry that Republican Governor Pawlenty didn’t include enough projects for other DFL districts.

If the first theory is true then Duluth’s citizen lobbyists will need to persuade legislators during Duluth Days that the Arena complex is much more than a “sports complex.” They must stress that the Arena is such a vital economic engine that local voters overwhelmingly voted to pay for half of it.

If this proposal dies because of DFL opposition it will impose a terrible humiliation on Duluth’s two Senators Tom Bakk and Yvonne Prettner Solon. It would mean that the DFL caucus is treating Duluth the same way that Democrats are often accused of treating African Americans – as guaranteed votes for which no real effort need be expended to keep their votes.

Senator Langseth may be hoping to leverage the DECC expansion so as to add more projects for other parts of the state. If he fails he could simply doom the DECC. Governor Pawlenty has already gotten credit for putting the project in his bonding bill. If it is not funded Duluth voters will mostly remember that it was the DFL that killed their economic hopes not the Governor.

My Gift of Prophecy (it was originally misspelled “profecy”)

When I was on the Duluth School Board 3 years ago I started saying “Allah” rather than “God” during the Pledge of Allegience. Then I wrote about it in the Reader. Either no one read my column or nobody who did read it cared enough to comment. That surprised me because even then Republicans were hysterical that California’s “liberal” 9th District Court might overturn the mandatory reciting of the Pledge in schools.

Despite my eagerness to defend all religions I take a dim view of religious fanaticism. The news that newly liberated Afghanistan is about to execute a Christian for his conversion from Islam troubles me.

Even while George Bush has switched his rational for the Iraq war to saving Iraqis from religious fanatics he has managed to keep his own religious fanatics happy.

I’ve always been sympathetic to to one of Bush’s earlier war rationales – that of rescuing the Iraqis from Saddam. Nonetheless I’ve always been skeptical of Bush’s ability to win this gamble. This is how I put it three years ago as our troops were days away from invading Iraq: “Of course, if we get stuck in a terrorist’s playground for a decade and become desperate, paranoid and vengeful like the Israelis it will be a fiasco. It will be especially bad if every terrorist we kill is replaced by two more (which is what happened in Ancient Greece whenever some hero chopped off one of the heads of the terrible Hydra).”

Sadly, Iraqi’s have almost as much to fear from our Peace movement as our inept President. The former is demanding the return of US troops which will guarantee a civil war vastly more bloody than the current terrors.

Like it or not we are in a war between western values of tolerence and Islam’s medieval ethos. We should honor Middle easterners who have the courage to stand up for the values of tolerance and inquiry which we in the West prize. Here’s one such hero.  

The shame is that there are many Republicans, Kevin Phillips estimates they comprise about 50% of the Party, who are as radical as the medieval Islamic mullahs who pine for Heaven’s 72 virgins. The heaven that our Republicans pine for, however, will only come with the Rapture when the rest of us are condemned to an eternity in Hell. I pointed this out too.

When “Pension Reform” means making pensioners more vulnerable

Its not only workers who have to worry about having their jobs outsourced. Retirees pensions are under a similar threat as their former employers have to compete with overseas companies that don’t have such costs to weigh them down. Although Bush attempted to shore up pension programs Tom Delay’s Republican lobbyists from the “K Street project” have successfully made pensions more vulnerable than ever. Threatened American pensioners are better for a go-go economy.

Is Bush a real theocrat?

NPR’s Morning Edition had a telling clip of Bush answering questions at the City Club of Cleveland yesterday. An audience member asked the President if, as charged by Kevin Phillips in his book “American Theocracy,” he invaded Iraq to please “prophetic Christians” who hope that the Iraq war will bring about the Apocalypse. Bush paused, laughed in his nervous/aw shucks way, and said to his laughing audience that he hadn’t thought of his invasion that way.

Whether prophetic Christians would appreciate having their theology provoke so much laughter is anyone’s guess. That they support the President at least in part for this reason is undeniable. I suspect that part of the President’s hemming and hawing was a stalling tactic while he caluclated whether it was politically safe to speak dismissively of his “born again” constituency’s theology. In the end he decided it was more important to win over the larger majority of non apocalyptic Americans whose support for Iraq has been eroding. As he told his questioner, he thought of himself as a “practical fella.”

Yes indeed, President Bush has been so practical that he never challenged the born again’s theology because currying their favor guaranteed their votes. Until, that is, the war in Iraq started going sour.

Endowing Duluth

I’ve just come back from our finance committee meeting of the Duluth Public Schools Endowment Board. We’ve got big plans. We hope to build our $450,000 endowment up to a million dollars by the end of this year. To that end we’ve scheduled a meeting on the morning of May 2nd for people who love the Duluth Public Schools. Send me an email if you’d like an invitation. harrywelty@charter.net  (put the word “endowment” in the subject heading)

Smartest Guys in the Room

As I headed back from my early, morning, dental check-up I bumped my car’s radio control panel and found myself listening to the Jerry Springer Show on “Air America.” Jerry was talking about Iraq and the dialogue was the complete opposite of what I could have expected to hear from Rush Limbaugh. Iraq veterans were calling in to bad-mouth President Bush.

The avalanche is about to roll over this Administration and the reelection obsessed GOP Congress. It will be much worse for them than even I thought after Bush squeaked past Kerry and the Democrats were in mourning.

As I listened to the outrageous Springer say things I couldn’t help but agree with I thought about another darling of the early Bush Administration; the Enron gang. A recent movie: The smartest guys in the room, could just as well be a metaphor for the Bush Administration. 

Everyone thought the Bushies were geniuses when in reality they were only swaggering, high stakes, Texas gamblers. They saw an opportunity and took it. They lied (or bluffed if you want to euphemize it) to protect their hand. When their lies were detected they tried to discredit the truth tellers. Thousands lost everything as a result of their lies but they made out like bandits (they all but controlled our three branches of government.) Called on the carpet when things began spinning out of control they blamed others for their mistakes. Now they are being ridden out of town on a rail. The rail for Republicans is November 2006.

Today Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is telling America that abandoning Iraq would be like letting the Nazi’s take back Germany after WWII. Although it is undoubtedly true that life in a Civil War would make life worse for Iraqi’s this is a lousy historical analogy.

Here’s another analogy that is no worse and also involves Nazi’s. What we were told about Iraq was like the Nazi’s “big lie.” It was so big, in fact, that it was too big to believe anyone could lie about it with a straight face. But since the lie was told with a straight face too many of us believed it.

Ah, but that’s what gamblers do all the time. They do it with a poker face.

Scientology Hoot

Tom Cruise and the Church of Scientology intimidated the Comedy Channel out of airing the Southpark episode exposing the ridiculousness of Scientology. No problem. You can watch it here on the Internet sans commercials. Added bonus, its not nearly as crude as a lot of Southpark episodes.

More on Demographics – Liberals to disappear

There was an interesting story on National Public Radio today on the world’s population trends. A demographer pointed out that the highest birthrates tend to be in nations with the most conservative (read: family oriented) nations. The elevated birth rate is encouraged by the “be fruitful and multiply” ethos of fundementalist Jews, Christians and Muslims. For instance, Utah; a state of, for, and by, the single-mindedly, family-oriented Mormans; has the highest birth rate in the nation.

What will happen to all the family oriented people when the world can no longer sustain itself was not addressed. The fear of being swamped with mass procreating aliens “yearning to breath free” is not new. The US was swept with fears about the “Yellow Peril” late in the 1800’s which led to the “Chinese Exclusion Act.” The fear of being overrun by Eastern European immigrants helped lead to the Eugenics movement of the early 1900’s. It also explains much of the fear about border crossings at the Mexican/American border today. (Ironic Note: it is conservatives not liberals who seem to be the most excercised by illegel immigrants)

The upshot of the NPR story was this: Liberals have small families and thus face a diminishing role in the politics of the future. Lest conservatives get too cocky they should read what Jared Diamond says in his latest book Collapse – How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. I just have one disc left to listen to in the book’s audio version. I read and loved his previous best seller Guns, Germs and Steel. Diamond’s new book is a descendent of the much panned sixty’s oracle: The Population Bomb. That book’s predictions of a starving future were postponed by the phenomenal success of Minnesota’s Nobel Laureate, Norman Borlaug, and his “Green Revolution” which showed how we could harvest vastly more food per acre than with older agricultural techniques.

A cynic could scold the apostles of the Green Revolution by pointing out that when no more food can be wrung from the Earth it will just mean that there will be more people to die of starvation. Its hard for the pragmatist in me to deny the truth that lays behind the cynic’s scolding. Diamond argues convincingly that the recent genocide in Rwanda was much more the result of people fighting for enough land to feed themselves than it was a war between Hutu’s and Tutsi’s.

I wonder if there are any liberals left in Rwanda?

Dean Dean Dean and we don’t mean Howard

The Minnesota GOP has a new Dean to bean. Its Dean Johnson the ex-Republican now Majority leader of the Senate DFL caucus. Senator Johnson claimed to have gotten assurances from judges on how they were likely to rule. He did not realize that he was being recorded and is now rightly apologizing profusely. As a Democrat he is now free to apologize for his mistakes unlike, say, President Bush who still hasn’t been able to admit to any mistakes. Senator Johnson should have realized that as a state legislator he had no right to speak for the State Supreme Court. If he had been a private religious leader like, say, James Dobson, he could have waved around the thank yous sent him by Supreme Court appointees and made all sorts of claims about how his friends on the Supreme Court would rule.

This is the email Minn GOP sent me. No one has alerted them yet about my party switch. Oh, and check out the GOP’s new website on DOMA. (The Defense of Marriage Act)

(by the by, I’m a little embarassed by this post. It is so blatently partisan. Its just the sort of piffle I’d expect the State DFL chair to spout. Still, its not bad for piffle is it? I’ll try to put a “piffle disclaimer” on similar posts in the future. For me piffle is like the “gotcha” smart alecky ripostes which have little substance but are fun nonetheless. An example would be FDR’s teasing Republicans about about his scottish terrier Fala.)

Sabo to Retire

I just heard an announcement on Minnesota Public Radio that said Martin Sabo, St. Paul’s Congressman is going to retire. Sabo has been in Congress for 28 years now. That’s a heckuva long time.

But Jim Oberstar has Sabo beat by four years. He’s been in Congress for 32 years and shows no sign of slowing down. Jim particularly likes distributing photos of himself sitting on a bicycle.

You can find the photo on one of Congressman Oberstar’s websites. I was asked to remove it by one of his staff members who pointed out that I had not asked permission to use it. This staffer helped a guest of mine a couple years ago from the Congo who was having difficulty with his papers to enter the U.S. I removed it for this staffer’s sake although I rather suspect that because the photo was for the Congressman, it was in the public domain.


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."