My brain is so tired. I spent nine hours with Don Boyd today going through his files. I was inspired enough, despite my exhaustion, to put a nifty new entry into the Old News site: Endorsement. I even included two bits of evidence which are very arresting. Too bad the wrong people seem to have been arrested.

I took some photos until my camera’s battery went dead. This note from the FBI was harsh.

When a Mule Foals (an ancient Roman saying)

This story caught my attention recently. It is about a hunter sweating out genetic tests on the bear he’d killed. Had he killed a grizzly he’d have been in trouble. He was happy to hear that he’d shot a half grizzly – half polar bear mix.

Evolution has had a billion years for such instances to occur and apparently we humans did a little mixing ourselves with Chimpanzees for a million or so years after we began diverging from them genetically. That’s what the analysis of our species DNA suggests

The first time I can remember hearing about this was in grade school when my family visited a zoo with ligers in it. Ligers are half lions half tigers. Mules too are well known hybrids of horses and donkeys. I read an article a few years ago about the world of animal husbandry being rocked by the discovery of a mule that was fertile. Apparently one common casualty of different species successfully interbreeding is their offspring’s fertility. Just a minute let me do a google followup on that story …….Oh here, very interesting.

I read an interesting book ten years ago Wonderful Life by Stephen Gould. It was all about the “explosion” of life in the precambrian era when animals seem to have gotten past our 800 million-year long, single cell, stage of life. Gould said scientists theorized that during this time there was in effect a massive experimentation as different types of critters had the ability to mix with each other leading to all sorts of odd beasts. Natural selection helped sculpt the best fit and began the familiar branches of the tree of life.

According to an old theory we all have bits of another lifeform in our cells called mitochondria. These are called the power plants of cells. It has been suggested that they a separate animal hundreds of millions of years ago that somehow got caught up in a symbiotic relationship (think lichens) with another one celled animal becoming an energy source for such things as locomotion. Today they are part of most animal cells and not a separate animal at all.

So, are we a monkey’s uncle? Of course not. Chimpanzee’s aren’t monkeys!

The Cache

I’m heading off with Don Boyd to see his hidden cache of information on the scandal I’m writing about. Don tells me that what he’d really like to do is pay for an audit of the material which was used to send him to jail. He thinks such an audit would fully vindicate him.

It occurs to me that it ought to be donated to the Minnesota History Museum. Someday a history student working on a Masters Degree or a PHD could wade through it and do this story justice. I only intend to scratch the surface.

An army on the way to disaster

says a veteran military reporter to one of Defense Secretary Rumsfeld’s underlings:

“…this is not an army on the way up but one on the way to a disaster… so far it is the willingness of these young men and women to serve, and to deploy multiple times, and to work grueling and dangerous 18 hour days 7 days a week that is the glue holding things together.

all the cheap fixes have been used; all the one-time-only gains so beloved of legislators trying to balance a budget and get out of town.”

A Superintendent for 14 years!

 In 1978 I ran for the state legislature for a second time. I decided to go about it differently as knocking on doors seemed mindless and hadn’t gotten me elected two years before. I made appointments with about 80 leading citizens thinking that somehow these meetings would generate good vibes. If they did they made no difference in the outcome of the election. 

One of the people I met with was Richard Pearson Duluth’s Superintendent of Schools. I met him in his office at Old Central High School. Since then I’ve met with three other superintendent’s in that office.  Richard Pearson died last Friday. The Trib had a nice story about his career in Duluth. 

I didn’t really get to know Dick until years later when I served on the School Board. Our times in office were quite different. He became Superintendent during the “Minnesota Miracle” when the state pioneered the practice of equalizing educational spending between rich and poor school districts. He witnessed the first and only teacher’s strike when the teacher’s unions were flexing their muscles. He served for fourteen years! Before I was finally elected on my fourth attempt for the School Board the District averaged one Superintendent per year. During my time on the Board we had a three-year and a seven-year Superintendency. Fourteen years! 

Dick’s family and mine both belonged to Glen Avon Presbyterian so we saw each other there. I went over to his house once to ask about school finances and he commisserated with me a couple times over the fiscal difficulties I faced. He was a practical man and this served him well during his leadership of the District. I’ll miss him.

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?”

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."