All posts by harrywelty

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.  (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.


Snow at the Trib

I was out of town yesterday visiting family in the Twin Cities. They had nine fresh of snow on the ground. My niece, Lydia, helped me find a leprechan in her yard. It was St. Paddy’s day. Upon my return I found a call from the Trib’s reporter Scott Thistle. I’d missed his call but as soon as I picked up the Trib I knew what he wanted. It contained Scott’s story about a fellow who had built what he hoped was the tallest snow sculpture in Duluth’s history. Even though Scott no longer needed my background info I called to explain my not returning his call.

Scott said he’d heard that I was mad at the Trib. I just laughed and told him I was over it. I also told him that you only get mad at the people you really love. Scott said he’d heard that before but he sounded skeptical.

Where did all the people go

The results of the mid-decade census shows that St. Louis County continues to lose population.  This link will probably only be available at the Defunct News Tribune’s website for one week. Knight Ridder hides all its copywrited stories after seven days. After that time inquiring minds have to pay to have old stories dredged up from the company’s computer archives (unless you are lucky enough to find the same story in some other website’s cache)

The Trib had another interesting story about population growth in counties across the nation. It had a black and white county map which was very hard to read. The color map of counties at the Census Bureau is much easier to follow. In fact the US Census site has a plethora of fascinating information. Its well worth a visit.

I recently read one prolifer’s letter-to-the-editor complain that because of Minnesota’s abortions the state is likely to lose a Congressman in the next census. The writer said we are projected to fall 2,500 people short of the 8 Congressman we were entitled to in 2000. Horrors! That probably means that some dag nabbed red state will probably get our congressman. That ought to please the letter writer.

Dubai Debacle

Robert Samuelson is one of my favorite economic analysts. I agree with him that the port deal with Dubai was badly handled. Why?

“The idea of letting an Arab-owned company, Dubai Ports World, run container terminals at five U.S. ports struck many Americans as an absurdity. Why not just turn control directly over to Al Qaeda? In late February, a CBS News poll found that 70 percent of respondents were against the deal and only 21 percent in favor. The company’s withdrawal last week can be seen as a triumph of public opinion.”  Read it all 

Democrats had a easy cheap shot to fling at the President. I almost don’t blame them for doing it. The Republicans though. What a bunch of wimps.

Borrow and Spend

George Bush’s fusion of “conservative” and “liberal” borrow-and-spend principles is leading the US to a 9 trillion dollar debt. He has pursued spending on entitlements that would have gladdened the hearts of Democrats had only they not been so complicated. (My take on the complexity is that it is intended to prevent the truly needy who vote Democratic from sharing in the entitlement) But he has also championed the foolish idea that a growing economy can pay for these benefits without any need to tax for the entitlements today.

This policy suits today’s faith based Republican Party very well with its simple minded, scriptural, admonision: “No new taxes!” This infantile faith has taken hold in all 50 states.

In Minnesota it forced Republican Tim Pawlenty to pledge that he would not raise any taxes in order to win the Party’s gubenatorial endorsement. When Pawlenty finally had to govern without “taxes” he raised “fees” astronomically in order to finance the state. 

On the national level Bush is imitating LBJ’s ruinous policy of “guns and butter” (financing Vietnam and the war-on-poverty simultaneously) which subsequently knocked the US economy into a ten-year cycle of “stagflation. “

Here’s Andrew Sullivan’s critique of Bush

Chastising Lincoln

While Senator Feingold is introducing a resolution to censure the President and irate Democrats are hell bent to impeach the bugger rumor has it that another little drama took place at one of our recent caucuses in Duluth.

Craig Grau told me that he’d heard that a young historian had introduced a resolution critisizing Abe Lincoln for not knowing the Constitution. It was one of the whereas’s in his resolution.

The resolution explained that the South had every right to secede and that Lincoln should have blessed their departure. Another whereas said that Lincoln would have been better off inviting Canada to join the US and the be-it-resolved asked that we start negotiating with Canada now to have them join us. Whether Canada would be permitted to succeed or not, with Lincoln’s precedent-setting war standing in the way, I have no idea. 

According to Craig the resolution passed on a vote of something like 21 to 1. Being a Democrat is going to be very entertaining.

The Duluth News Tribune – on the dinner plate

I felt bad about sniping that the Trib had swallowed up the Budgeteer in my last column when I heard that the Trib itself had just been swallowed up the McClatchy Company (owners of the Minneapolis Star and Tribune). And then I felt bad all over again when the McClatchy folks said that they were going to sell it off too.

Media empires are no respectors of local tradition. Although they have an interest in it from a commercial point of view (as long as maintaining it will keep their properties profitible). John Myers, the President of the DNT’s Newspaper Guild, said something about the DNT earning a 20% profit on MPR’s story about the sale. I have my doubts about that figure. It sounds more like the earnings figures thrown around by a union as it heads into salary negotiations. Most businesses are lucky to make a 3 percent profit. I doubt that Knight Ridder would have wanted to sell off anything that made that kind of money.

Now the Trib has suffered the same fate as several local radio stations which were swallowed up by the infamous Clear Channel and KDLH television. I can’t help but wonder if and when Bob Boone will sell his Reader Weekly to some humongous tabloid conglomerate. I know he’s carped about them before.

If he did my column could be replaced by some generic nationally syndicated column. If that happened I’m sure the Duluth NewsTribune would get a good laugh out of my embarassment. My only hope is to keep working for coupons.


I spent yesterday morning figuring out how to put a picture of Abe on my website. Its the fourth day I’ve struggled with what sounded like a simple task.  It turned out I had to get to know my control panel on my website’s ISP. Having the text surrounded by repeating Lincolns wasn’t my intention but I was so glad to see something, anything, that I won’t complain. Word Press requires a pretty steep learning curve for an old guy like me. My brain was so sore that I skipped yesterday’s political punditry. I know, I know. You’re probably thanking God for small favors.

The Reader sent me an email informing me that I have to get my column in by tonight. That’ll give you something to look forward to.

Rules mtg at AFSCME

I signed myself up at the precinct caucus to sit on 7th Senate District DFL Rules Committee for their – our – Convention. For those of you not from Minnesota DFL stands for Democratic Farmer Labor. It’s the same thing as the Democratic party (or the Democrat Party as the Republicans like to call it). The Farmer Labor half came from a potent third party which excercised real power in the state from the 1920’s until Hubert Humphrey and others organized a merger with the Democrats. Today the state is roughly 50/50 DFL and Republican but even though the GOP has a slight electoral edge I’d still give the state to the DFL on sentimental grounds. I didn’t think Bush would beat Kerry here last year and he didn’t.

Holding the door for me as I rushed in from the rain was Marsh Stenerson. Marsh and I have tangled a little in the past. As a new Democrat I will excercise some restraint in criticising my new allies publicly but if my website’s Search Page is still working anyone could find evidence of it. Marsh smiled and told me he was waiting especially to greet me at the door. I’m sure he was genuinely delighted to have me aboard.

Bill Cortez, a teacher at East High, organized us our committee. Craig Grau, a poly sci prof at UMD and a shrewd commentator on state politics was also at our meeting. I asked him if his son was still a big fan of Rush Limbaugh. Greg wasn’t sure. I’m not.

AFSCME was going to close its office early so we all agreed to meet again this Tuesday. That would give us a chance to read the rules. The only thing that is radically different from our Republican rules is the sub caucus system which was set up to insure that various minorities would be represented at Democratic conventions. These were instituted just before or after George McGovern got the Democratic presidential nomination. I’m not sure whether they’ve played a big part in recent conventions but I think they’ve been divisive at times. I’ll be eager to see them in action. The Convention is six weeks off on April 19th. I can’t wait.

Well, at least someone noticed

When a “small time politician” defects from one party to another he/she is likely to want people to notice. I know I’m looking forward to some attention. So, it was with great pleasure that I welcomed a neighbor weilding a note pad while I was working on my latest snow sculpture – “Farewell to the GOP.”

She gave me a nice write up in the UMD Statesman although she did not mention or get the significance of my sculpture’s title. Hey, college kids barely know the mayors of their college towns let alone the local has-been politicians.

After the drubbing I just gave the city paper it may be a while before they deign to give me any attention again. Oh well, I should give the Trib credit for their letter-to-the-editor section. They have always taken great delight in publishing stinging criticism of their paper’s coverage and editorial opinion. Too bad we don’t have a President with skin that thick. But then our President and his party regard critics as unpatriotic. I wonder how he’s feeling about about his Republican Congress today?

Death, Sacrifice, Shahada

Bush was elected as a result of, and on the heels of, a Christian resurgence that began several decades earlier. His undoing could be the result of a similiar religious revival in the world of Islam which I doubt he ever gave any thought to.

The idea of dying for a noble cause is ancient. Its best remembered in secular terms by our famous patriot, Patrick Henry, who proclaimed, “Give me liberty or give me death.”

I have no idea if Henry, a product of the religiously skeptical Age of Enlightment, even believed in an afterlife but he certainly argued that death was a worthwhile price to pay for liberty. American soldiers hang their helmets on such sentiments. Now imagine the pleasure that the ultimate sacrifice would bring if you were allowed more virgins in the afterlife than you are allowed wives in this one.

If you want to really appreciate the tarbaby that George Bush got us into check out this jaw dropping video.