Winter busywork

The absence of blog posts doesn’t mean I don’t have a lot to pontificate about……But perhaps silence really is golden.

In that case here are a couple pictures. They may be worth a thousand words. Or maybe they’re not.

First, above. One of our two cats in the midst of our Dickens’ Village.

And below, a picture of our winter kissed St. Scholastica on the day after a foot of new snow:

I have a new column to write for the Reader with a deadline pushed ahead two days.

I’m also piling up snow for a new sculpture. It is forecast to be 30 degrees tomorrow and Sunday which will give me pleasant working conditions. I’ll just have to cook some snow.

And I’m trying to be a decent host to our holiday guests. Its good busywork.

Starry Starry Night

We just spent a couple hours watching the latest movie about the Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh. I can’t recommend it exactly. It was slow, painterly, anguished. It depicts the famous painter’s last year or so. Years ago I saw the Kirk Douglas treatment Lust for Life but I skipped the movie Vincent and Theo about the painter and his brother Theo which never quite made it to the top of my must-watch list despite generous reviews.

The painting above was one of my Mother’s favorite paintings. She put a magazine reproduction of it on our walls.

A few years ago I read that a recent Van Gogh biography theorized that instead of dying by suicide Van Gogh was shot by a couple of stupid kids. That is how the makers of this movie kill him off.

But that’s sort of besides the point. This movie attempts to portray the greatly underappreciated Van Gogh, the real Van Gogh, whose paintings would a hundred years on sell for millions. I think Willem DeFoe’s portrayal in At Eternity’s Gate is believable and unsentimental. The famous ear episode was probably spot on.

On the other hand, Vincent the man comes across as a bit of a naif and I am not certain that was accurate. I read a snippet of a letter he wrote extolling his joy at sampling the wares at a brothel. The impression that this carnal anecdote offers runs counter to one of my favorite songs, Starry Starry Night by Don McLean. Like Van Gogh’s paintings the real story, no matter what it was, does not diminish my appreciation of McLean’s song.

But art is subjective.

When I was visiting my Mother during her dementia and singing to her I once sang the whole of McLean’s song to her because it was about one of her favorite artists. Afterwards, I asked her if she liked the song. She didn’t.

President Tinker Toy

Pull out of Syria against the advice of the military claiming we beat ISIS.

Border wall or Government shut down. Yes, No, Yes, No……stay tuned..

Federal Reserve turning a deaf ear to pleas for easy money.

SNL had it nailed in its parody of “Its a Wonderful Life.” I happened to watch the movie the night before the SNL Cold Opening.

Trump’s reaction? The Government should censor comics making fun of him.

Thank you Ben Franklin

I was surprised in Bruges, France this September when just past the city’s great cathedral I found a philatelie shop. That’s philately in English and its stamp collecting. I had no idea if stamps were still being collected let alone in France. My collection began with my Dad’s Uncle Ben. When I was in grade school his wife Aunt Mary passed her deceased husband’s collection on to me. My Dad threw himself into helping me expand his Uncle’s collection. We began buying stamps on approval which meant they were sent to me for me to pick through and return those I was not interested in. Those I bought were put on hinges and into my new Regent Stamp Albums. Continue reading

Untitled

Since my last post I turned 68 and had a half dozen items I felt ought to be posted. But I didn’t write or post. Sometimes its best to let ideas steep. Another item that has been steeping for the past two weeks is the Not Eudrora column I have to write today if it is to make this week’s Reader.

I’ve posted this only to assure my eight loyal readers that I have not dropped dead. Not yet. Neither am I showing any signs of dropping dead. I even got an assurance from a doctor’s visit that one troublesome bump was just that. A bump.

And I got word that my son is coming home for the Holiday’s. That was unexpected good news. My Christmas is going swimmingly. My grandsons and I even captured a wily tree which has not been mounted after the appropriate Christmas taxidermy.

Damn. I forgot I had a meeting two minutes ago. Gotta go.

I’m back. Looks like I’m going to have some fun in February. (This is last year’s webpage – it needs updating)

Oh and here’s the tree we nabbed:

Teaching, Writing, Publishing, Campaign preparation

When you are unwilling to forget anything but were denied a photographic memory there is only one alternative – never throwing anything away. This, by the way, was the subject of this odd recent Not Eudora Column.

While moving, sorting, categorizing and refiling stuff I noticed this old newspaper ( above ) that I kept from my college days. Its pinned on a cork board under the Prayer of St. Francis. How’s that for an appropriate contrast. It has a certain resonance today, 44 years later.

When my office was fixed up five years ago, in time for me to use it for my School Board work, I had so much stuff I only crudely organized it. Its been sorted in bits and pieces since but not to my satisfaction. As all of it is intended for reference for the half dozen books I repeatedly threaten to write I desperately need to be able to find things without wasting time scrounging through it all. Like the Saturday Night Massacre headline things go missing.

I crammed myself in the corner of my “storage closet” to take a picture that would give my eight loyal readers a sense of where I work. I couldn’t capture the other side of this space but it too is crammed with files: Here’s the photo: Continue reading

Not withstanding the news I wish you a Merry Christmas Season

And I’m feeling pretty cheerful at the prospect of a new Democratic House of Representatives. The Republican legislators in a couple of states which elected Democrat Governors are busy being sore losers and lame duckishly crippling the incoming governors with some Christmas restrictions. Ah, but in few decades these shenanigans will all have been forgotten. Who today can still remember Watergate?

So, I posted the following three pictures to Facebook today with this explanatory text:

“The only Christmas decorating left at our house is the tree. That may be delayed 2 weeks till our grandsons have a weekend free to help us chop down a tree. In the meantime, I noticed our quails hiding in the goblets my parents gave us as a wedding gift 43 years ago. I thought it was a fetching pose. Then I noticed the reflection of the nativity scene that forced them into hiding. Then I decided to take a picture of the whole dining room with a winter sun flooding in.

Merry Christmas everyone.”

100 pints of blood

Just in case anyone reading my previous post skipped over the link to my latest column in the Duluth Reader I’m providing another chance to read it here.

I am always annoyed to discover that my proof reading missed something and, especially with something gone to print. In the case of this column I am missing an article……a darned “a.” That was after about seven rereadings sessions to edit it. Pshaw!!

I have church to go to. I’ll edit this later re: George Bush and other stuff

This Harry’s Diary post didn’t start out with a title drawing attention to my dawdling over posts. But its a good reminder to my eight loyal readers that I don’t always consider my posts finished even at first posting……and here’s a pic of the cookies we decorated for shut ins at Glen Avon Presbyterian last night.

I watched the funeral for President George H W Bush this afternoon. Last night I watched, for the first time, the two-hour American Experience program about George Bush. It is at least ten years old. I learned some new things most of which softened me up toward the man I wouldn’t vote for in 1992.

Although I voted for George and Ron in 1984 George lost my support initially when he joined the Reagan campaign as the VP candidate. In 1980 I couldn’t bring myself to vote for a Democrat so I voted for Independent candidate John Anderson.

My principle grievance is simple. As Reagan’s successors turned their back on Reagan’s “big tent,” George Bush could only succeed by being complicit in the new GOP regime’s marginalization of moderates like me and like George Bush had once been. Where has the party of Lincoln gone?

I was reminded of this during my ongoing process of reorganizing my office files today. In a folder labeled “Crazy Republicans” was this newspaper clipping: Reuter’s story. 30 percent of Republicans considered Obama a worse threat than Russia. Holy S’moley!!!!!!!

It has been reported that the Clintons and Trump did not shake hands when Donald made his sulky appearance at George Bush’s funeral. I don’t blame them. He led cheers of “Lock her up.” at his rallies. That’s close to the equivalent of saying “F*** America” considering that over half of the votes went for Hilary Clinton in 2016. Think of that – Trump’s “Republicans” wanted to jail the American that half of America voted for for President. Is it any wonder that Hillary’s supporters are licking their lips at the prospect that the President who led that cheer might himself face a life behind bars? Would Pence pardon him? I wonder. It cost Jerry Ford the Presidency in 1976.

Although winnowing my voluminous files has been my primary activity for the past few weeks I managed to crank out a new column for tomorrow’s Reader. Its called 100 pints of blood. I also applied to renew my substitute teaching license. Returning to the classroom, even as a sub, has intrigued me for the past twenty years. I chatted with 709’s Human Resource Director for a summary of how to go about doing it. It turned out to be pretty simple.

Among the items I reorganized yesterday were the documents from my legal challenge to the District in 2009 “Welty et al” vs. the Duluth School District and Johnson Controls. I rediscovered one of our attorney’s discoveries which greatly amused me.

The current School Board’s attorney, Kevin Rupp, had a hand in that case defending the Board against me and four other plaintiffs. In the Trib he claimed that a school district could not be sued for violating its own policies. Here’s what the plaintiffs attorney, Craig Hunter, discovered:

This only amplifies my frustration at not having been successful in severing our School board’s ties with Rupp’s firm when I served on the School Board. NOTE: Readers of this blog will find ample examples of my jaundiced view of Mr. Rupp’s legacy in this blog.

And while our lawsuit fell apart for reasons pinned to Mr. Hunter he had the District scared witless while single-handedly fighting off dozens of attorneys for three top legal firms. I found Craig a sensible and honorable man. I’d hire him in a flash if I needed legal help again.

41 RIP

I have never shaken the hand of a President of the United States. I did shake the hand of one Vice President. But the less said about that the better. I have, however, shaken the hand of one man who later became President – George Herbert Walker Bush.

Today the late President will get his due in stories all across the world. One reporter who covered him described him as a very nice man. Before he ran for the Presidency, in a bid that pitted him against the more telegenic Ronald Reagan, he had been described as the the best prepared person ever to run for President. Among them were his appointment to head the Republican National Committee during the Nixon Administration and ambassador to China. The latter position was during Nixon’s Trump-like struggle, to achieve something spectacular to help him escape a crisis enveloping his presidency.

George Bush got an early start on a political career by being THE youngest combat pilot of World War II. It actually began even earlier than that. His father, Prescott Bush, was a US Senator representing Connecticut. As such he was part of an all but extinct founding branch of the Republican Party – Northeasterners. In their heyday they championed Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Nelson Rockefeller and a socially liberal point of view.

I trace the current crumbling of the GOP to George Bush and others who rather than stick up for their ideals put tape on their mouths as Ronald Reagan invited white southern politicians in to the Party of Lincoln after the Democratic Party’s championing of Civil Rights made them feel unwelcome in that party.

The evolution of the Party in my lifetime has led to the release of a new toxicity represented by the email I received which I put in my previous post with its casual use of the most forbidden word of my childhood, the “N” word.

George Bush was not temperamentally part of that transformation other than his deplorable Willie Horton ad. In fact, by temperament Bush was almost the antithesis of an egotistical politician. His mother taught him not to talk about himself. Christopher Buckley, the son of the conservative icon William Buckley, a speechwriter for Bush and clever novelist tells the charming story of being invited to Bush’s home while the President’s mother was present. When her son began telling some very interesting stories of his many remarkable experiences the mother interrupted him to scold that he was talking too much about himself.

Considering the occupant of today’s White House that anecdote, all by itself, suffices to show how far today’s America has driven off the rails.

But in 1980 I wanted a champion for common sense and moderate Republican values. At first I was a big supporter of George HW Bush. My first visit to the Kitchi Gammi Club was to meet with a group of Bush supporters for his Presidential campaign. That gathering place more than anything demonstrates just how out of touch my kind of Republicans of that era were.

When Reagan blew past Bush I set my sights on the Independent candidacy of the Illinois Republican Congressman John Anderson. But before Bush signed on to be Ronald Reagan’s Vice President and I wrote him off I drove to Minneapolis to get a look at Bush up close. I am no longer sure where I saw him but I think it was the U of M’s Northrup Hall. Claudia and I went over and I shook his hand.

I’ll give Jim the last word.

It’s the least I can do with him hanging on to my tail:

“As the old timers used to say in my day “Son, when you have a tiger (Harry Welty) by the tail, don’t let go.  Harry refuses to expose his heroes and soul mates race-baiters Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson Jr. & III, former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin of the federal racketeering charges against them.  Harry is probably too young in age and/or mind to remember that Martin Luther King fought for EQUALITY, not black supremacy.  He preached that he looked forward to the day that our children will be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.  Which made sense to me then and it still does today.  Stacy Abrams (Aunt Jemima) lacks character, a strong moral compass and refuses to accept defeat by playing the race card that suits Harry just fine and has been labeled a “gadfly” for his immoral character.  There is a big difference between upstanding, respectable African-Americans and rabble-rousing race baiting niggers.  Harry prefers the latter, I prefer the foregoing.”

Honest Abe vs Dishonest Don

A couple times a year I notice that two cartoons on the Trib’s comics page share a similar theme. Today was such a day. From Non Sequitur:

And from Pearls before Swine:

I don’t enjoy being the optimist preoccupied with the empty half of the glass or (in this case) with the forty percent empty. The 40% is made up of Americans who still think Donald Trump is doing a good job while shrugging off his hourly lies and treating them as some sort of veiled truth. Yes, the 60% full side is the recently elected Democratic House of Representatives, but I also remember that all it took to elect Hitler in 1933 was just short of 40%. That feeble percentage is the kind of number that keeps deep-state Republicans in control after all their messing about with election laws and gerrymandering.

Its often asked what Trump supporters would have done had Obama done the sort of things Trump does daily. Unlike Trump Obama told only one truly epic lie when he insisted that Americans could keep their doctors if the Affordable Health Care Act was enacted. It was worse than just a white lie, but compared to Trump, its notable, even laudable in its singularity.

Abraham Lincoln famously asked Americans to remember their “better angles.” Trump only encourages our better demons.

My old ally turned critic sent me a couple more emails with no text but simply links to commentaries suggesting that black americans were attempting to make white Trump supporters paranoid by making our elections fraudulent. Then he sent me this Wikipedia entry on “Aunt Jemima” to school me on what he thought of Stacey Abrams who is at the forefront of calling out Republican electioneering scams.

I replied to Jim:

I guess you were being ironic calling Abrams a name that suggested she was obsequious when you seem to resent her for being just the opposite of obsequious.

If anything she has the stones you had when you rallied for Bob Short. You’re giving her short shrift….no pun intended.

4 AM

I have been trying mightily to get six or more hours of sleep a night. Blast it all, sometimes I wake and can’t turn off my mind. 3 AM this morning was such a time.

I came upstairs to my empire of documents – my attic office – determined to organize some clutter when I was momentarily diverted by a row of history books. They were on a shelf I haven’t looked at for a couple years. My eyes landed on a book by Alfred Steinberg that got some press back when I was in college. From the inside cover I could see he had written 20 other histories. The one I opened is “The Bosses.” It’s about six corrupt, big city bosses of the 1930’s when Federal Government largesse gave them infinitely more power than they had formerly wielded.

I read the Introduction to get a taste. It struck me as being very timely. I originally bought the book twenty years ago or so because one of the six bosses it covers was my Dad’s old foil Tom Pendergast who ran Kansas City, Kansas. I even found a book mark in that section from a much earlier peek. I hadn’t gotten far. It was only about four pages into Pendergast’s 59 page section.

My Dad lived in Independence, Missouri, right next to Kansas City’s Pendergast machine. He was so appalled by its’ corruption – as a junior high school kid! – that he made up lists of reform minded candidates which he gave to his parents at election time. Coincidentally, Pendergast got his boy into the White House. That was Harry Truman who lived just a few blocks away from my Dad’s family and whose daughter, Margaret, attended my Dad’s school. Dad vaguely remembered an attempted kidnapping of the then Senator’s daughter that took place when he was in school.

I was almost chilled at the end of the Introduction by its last two paragraphs. They seemed almost prophetic. Mr. Steinberg wrote:

“The significance of the bosses of the twenties and thirties was that they collectively made the profession of democratic government and civil rights a hollow phrase in their time.

The broader meaning to future generations is that under given circumstances, such as disillusionment with national policies, the efficacy and justice of government, and the importance of the individual vote, local citizens may again by default abdicate their rights and responsibilities to the bosses with more permanent results next time.”

That’s what has been worrying me for the last three years and the principle motivation for writing a book about my Grandfather and what a real (honorable) American looks like.

Now I’m going to attend to a little of that organization I came up to my office to start. After the sun rises we will join our daughter’s family to decorate the church for Christmas and then use the tickets my son-in-law bought to attend the movie Wreck it Ralph II. That will take the edge of this moment of grim seriousness.

A meditation on Thanksgiving Company

Grandma Claudia screamed as our our older Grandson sliced up onions for our Thanksgiving repast. Fortunately our Tan Man did not cut a finger off. His grandmother had bee surprised by a buck bedded down about six feet from our kitchen window. The stag stayed put for the next three hours. He and his mate, which we only discovered an hour later, stayed put as three carloads of Thanksgiving company spilled out into our backyard bearing more dishes for our meal. It was the most interesting holiday animal intrusion since election night 2016 when Claudia snapped a picture of a black bear lumbering up our back steps out of our patio. Considering the occasion that “guest” might have been Russian.

This is the day we celebrate the first day of Thanks celebrated by our Pilgrim forefathers with their suspect new neighbors the Indians of today’s Massachusetts. Over succeeding centuries the original inhabitants of America would shrink from sight in a sort of human displacement. Many of the Pilgrims successors now the view the North American continent somewhat possessively and many are so worried that the First American’s largest pool of Indian-ness, the largely indigenous poor of Central America, are going to re-inject Indians into a white population that is just shy of becoming a 49 percent plurality.

Something similar has happened to a lot of the original wildlife the Europeans first encountered. Eastern Cougars are close to extinct as are buffalo. The deer did somewhat better and enjoyed harvesting the vast new farmlands that the Europeans let loose on the land and when threatened with growing urban zones they began to take advantage of urban gardens as well. In Duluth they, like Canada Geese, have taken over huge swaths of land untroubled by the dogs which once roamed freely.

Cities were not always friendly to wild animal populations even though farm animals were once common urban sights. One wild animal had to be reintroduced into the urban environment and was brought back into the Cities the era of great urban parks. Today Squirrels now own the arboreal spaces. Duluth’s deer are following the rodent’s lead.

As to the displacement of one population with another the squirrel offers an interesting example. Unlike humans who all belong to the same species since the Neanderthals and Denisovans melted into the larger gene pool, squirrels come in several different flavors. The same Eastern Gray Squirrels that populate Duluth have also taken over England as a highly successful invasive species. I heard about it first on Public Radio a number of years ago. Its not that our larger Gray Squirrels have better weapons. They seem instead to simply be more territorial, like Trump Republicans. The more timid native Red Squirrels will simply avoid the territory colonized by the more aggressive Grays. As a result the Red Squirrels are, like their Red Human brethren in North America, becoming fewer and farther between.

Which reminds me of a favorite children’s hymn lyric I haven’t heard since Republican politics swept America. “Red and Yellow Black and White. They are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” Notwithstanding the “self evident” truths of the Declaration of Independence’s second paragraph, Jesus must draw a line at miscegenation.

The Pilgrim’s first guests didn’t know what was about to hit them.

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."