On being up to my neck in alligators…

…and trying to remember that I came to drain the swamp.

I worked overtime before leaving for China to get all my projects tidied away so that when I got back I could have a running start on my school board campaign. On my return home I walked up to my office, after mowing an overgrown lawn, and found a pristine environment. I would so like to keep it that way but my head keeps finding new tasks which accrete little piles of debris which act like magnets for more debris.

Yesterday I could have worked on that debris but a call from Art Johnston Sunday night made me change my plans. Art had gotten tied up and would be unable to attend a pre-school-year conference of the Minnesota School Board Association he’d signed up for. Our District had paid a couple hundred bucks for him to sign up and he hoped I could make use of it. Its emphasis was to be “equity” and so I had been strongly inclined to go but weeks ago I was afraid my August would be so busy/chaotic I didn’t dare do so. But yesterday was empty on my calendar so I hopped in the car at 6 AM and trusted I could sweet talk myself into being Art when I arrived at 8:30 for registration. (A text to the superintendent requesting a little help even ended up with me getting my own name tag with my own name on it)

I’m very glad I went. A wise and funny speaker, Willow Sweeney, gave my day a boost and got me thinking. It got me thinking about a confession I wanted to write as a belated apology to my son. But I still have to finish editing a 500 word piece the DNT requested I send them regarding my campaign. I still have two more posts on China I’d like to write just to finish my modest report to the blog. And I’m monitoring the printing of my campaign fundraising letter which I will be delivering door to door in coming days. It will be contained in an envelope addressed to my house with a letter from my Chair Mike Jaros and one sample of my “trading cards.” There is no way I’ll get to all 30,000 houses in the District so if you want to make a contribution (and receive a full deck of trading cards) you better go to my campaign website to order before you die of old age.

By the way, I took some of those cards to the MSBA conference thinking they could serve as my new “business card.” I ended up only passing out a few. A half dozen went to African American board members and administrators. Their numbers are soaring over their numbers twenty years ago when I went with Mary Cameron to similar conferences. I’d judge they constituted a magnificent .016% of yesterday’s attendees. That is a ten fold improvement over what was closer to a .0016% twenty years ago. As one black superintendent told me when I gave him my card “people of color” would need to count on people like me (colorless I guess) for support on the equity front because there just weren’t all that many of them in positions of power in good old Minnesota.

By the way, the latest scores for the MCA’s came out (its THE test for the education gap between have and have not students) and Duluth’s numbers were at best mama hu hu. They had been announced earlier in the day and Alanna showed them to me in her conference papers in a very appropriate red ink. Our richest elementary school was heads above our poorest schools. Was that all the result of drawing from a richer population of parents or was it possible that the $300,000 they get each year from the Compensatory Ed money based on our “free and reduced lunch” population gave them an extra hard to justify jolt?

That’s what this election should be all about.

As for my room; I’ve got spending to record in my ledger and a campaign finance report to fill out and letters to stuff once I pick up them up from the print shop and lawnsigns to put together and some meetings to attend and another 8 News Tribs to go through from my vacation and and, and, and…..

That Civil Engineer who gave me grief in Memorial Park on Saturday about spending a million dollars to get rid of the rubber tire mulch asked me show him a bunch of my snow sculpture cards. “How do you find time to do these? He asked incredulously. I explained I had gotten pretty fast and that I did have 30 years to make them. “But what do you do that gives you time to build these?” he persisted. I surrendered and confessed that I married well, and a look of comprehension passed over his face. Not approval mind you. Just comprehension.

Trying to justify myself has always been the grain of sand in my oyster shell. Perhaps three sentences from the campaign literature side of my trading cards help justify my indolence. They explain something no one else in town has noticed about the property taxes we pour into our public schools. It reads:

Twenty years ago, 1997, local taxes were $23 million – $9M for debt service, $14M for classrooms. Today taxes are $31 million – $28.7M for Red Plan debt service, $2.5M for classrooms. That’s $11.5 million less for classrooms despite an $8M property tax increase!

At yesterday’s MSBA conference I only handed out my trading cards to one non minority attendee – Tom Melcher. Tom is the Department of Education’s top finance man. He has gotten to know me and my complaints about Duluth’s Red Plan so well that he said, “Hi Harry,” when I approached him. After his lucid presentation about the legislature’s changes to this year’s state education financing I gave him a card. (Maybe it was the one with Godzilla and Barney) I told Tom I would be getting in touch with him for his thoughts on its revelations. I’m looking for something, anything, to remedy the crimes of stupidity that took so much money away from Duluth’s children. Only $2.5 million from local taxes available for the classroom! That’s shameful and if our modest operational levy isn’t renewed none of our property taxes will go to pay for actual education. It will all have been dedicated to paying for beautiful new buildings. Well, the Beijing’s Olympic’s had very nice buildings too.

Look at them now. Or look at Brazil’s abandoned Olympic venues.

I wonder if their builders just tell everyone to move on?

On Being

I caught the end of a BBC broadcast early this morning which I found engrossing and then tuned into On Being while I ironed wrinkly t-shirts brought back from China – all short sleeved.

It was the second time I heard Margaret Meed’s anthropologist daughter Mary Catherine Bateson being interviewed on “On Being.” Claudia was up early and listened too. Bateson is a practicing Christian unlike her parents who did read the Bible but as Atheists/Agnostics. It was a thought provoking interview even the second time through.

Bateson was raised with her Mother’s ethos of participating in life while at the same time being an observer of what is actually happening during that participation. Back in 2015 when I first heard this interview I concluded that this perfectly described how I went through life. Another way of describing this quality is “mindfulness” or even “living in the moment.” Except that, living in the moment suggests not paying attention to the past or the future and that is not me. I think of the past and the future at all times.

I joked ith Claudia that we were like one of Bateson’s cells (nucleus and cell) originally different creatures which back in the primordial past combined and found our synergy to be a survival tactic for our separate selves. Bateson used this as a metaphor for marriage. She also noted that it was easier for a couple in the past to stay together because they mostly didn’t live beyond 35 years and never had a reason to separate after raising children because that was generally the end of their life expectancy.

Spirit Valley Days not. . .

. . . Spirit Mountain Days. I had two people correct me about that faulty post.

I attended the “family day” part of it late this afternoon and had a blast. That makes today my first official day of pressing the flesh. And most of it was with kids except that I didn’t offer them my hand to shake I offered them one of my trading cards.

Here is a picture I took of them this afternoon mixing them up so I could hand them out randomly at Memorial Park. One of the cards has a snow sculpture that I made 15 years ago at the park for the Spirit Valley Winter carnival. Valley, Valley, Valley! Got to get that right.

I told the kids that they were “snow sculpture trading cards” and the kids were so nice and polite thanking me for giving them the cards. “Did you make this?” was a typical reaction. To their parents I would say, “They are really political literature disguised as trading cards.” The parents seemed amused except for one fellow, a civil engineer, who wondered how I found the time to make them. “I had thirty years to make them” I sputtered. Then he turned around and pointed to the pile of pea rock by the Laura MacArthur playground and asked why the School Board had spent a million dollars to replace perfectly good rubber tire mulch that protected kids from falls with wood chips. I was not prepared to switch gears……not with a civil engineer! Heck, he told me, even California hasn’t said rubber tire playgrounds were unsafe and they think everything is bad. “Democrats!” he said, summing up his disgust.

Rubber tire mulch or not this is going to be a fun campaign. After I got back home a friend brought me some wire stands for my lawnsigns……I’d given all of mine away after the last campaign. Then another friend called to tell me that he/she would be putting an ad in the Duluth Reader sticking up for me next week. And I’ll probably have all that I need to start going door to door by Wednesday or Thursday. Maybe I’ll even find time to do some fundraising.

Anybody want to donate to my campaign for a deck of snow sculpture trading cards?

Third China slideshow

Facebook has become a useful place for me to record things happening in my life. But I still resent opening it up to a lot of folks beyond family. The more people I add, friends from the past and especially Facebook enthusiasts, the more stuff gets sent to my site unsolicited hiding tidbits from my closest family and friends.

A friend offered to set up a separate Facebook Page for my school board campaign in which I would be a coauthor. Ali, my Facebook page manager, was kind enough to endorse me in a letter to the DNT editor today. Thanks Ali. Sadly, it didn’t make it into the DNT’s electronic paper for me to link to it. The page is pretty boring and I had hoped to put my Chinese “scrapbook” videos on it to give it something interesting but haven’t figured out how to do this. Fortunately I have a decade’s worth of experience uploading things like that to my blog. Here’s the third edition of our China journey:

https://www.facebook.com/harry.welty/videos/10154532412191394/

Day’s 5 and 6 began with a flight to the capital of China during the Japanese invasion and World War II. Chongqing was known then as Chunking. It was bombed mercilessly by the Japanese who never had the manpower to overrun it with its armies. It was too far from the coast for them to reach it except by air. It was Japan’s million men under arms in China that America needed to keep there lest they be sent to the Pacific Theater where the American Army and Navy would have to deal with them.

That’s where Vinegar Joe Stilwell comes in and how it was I gave the Barbara Tuchman bio on Joe to our Guide. I still have half the book to finish reading to Claudia. I downloaded it to Kindle. Tuchman did a wonderful job explaining why the Chinese and the British who addicted tens of millions of Chinese to opium, and setting a precedent for the narcos of Latin America, didn’t get on as the war approached.

Chongqing was like the other five metropolises Claudia and I visited. A never ending stream of 30, 40, 50 story tall apartment blocks many of them under the shadow of “the Chinese national bird,” the crane – construction cranes – which are still raising them up at a breakneck speed. These cities had whole ranks of these apartments housing hundreds of thousands of Chinese in clusters of high rises spreading out beyond the horizon.

And what cities! Before we began traveling down the Jailing River into where it forks into the Yangtze Chongqing’s downtown skyscrapers burst into a light show that outclassed Vegas. The five cities we saw up close contained 100 million people between them teaming with formerly rural folks. Beijing is currently do its best to prevent them from settling down roots. Some of Chongqing’s growth was due to the million or more people who had to leave the original banks of the Yangtze when the Three Gorges Damn was built. That reservoir is backed up all the way to Chongqing 380 miles up river from the damn.

Sampans and Ping the duck are no more although you can still find signs of historic China. Men with bamboo polls slung over their shoulders clamored to help our fellow passengers carry their gear into the ship balancing luggage on either end. When I woke early the next morning and stepped out onto our personal 4 by 8 foot deck the first picture I took was rendered gauzy by the moisture which immediately condensed my cell phone’s camera.

Our first stop along the Yangzte at the photogenic Shibaozhai Pagoda had an extra perk – an authentic Chinese fire drill. Normally it would have been a standard safety drill but on this occasion we were being filmed and judged by the government with a simulated fire. Fire boats squirted Yangtze river water our way. We were obliged to line up and leave the ship with our life jackets on. There was a massive reviewing stand with a dozen dignitaries watching the evacuation under a billboard about riverboat safety. Fire engines stood nearby and crowds lined the river bank to watch the hullabaloo. All through the hubbub a woman wearing a “cooley” hat crouched by our dock furiously scrubbing clothing at the river’s edge. Our guide told us she was probably saving electricity by not washing them in a washer. That would have sounded ridiculous except that we had already seen hundreds of electric motorbikes driven without lights on in busy Xi’an at night to save batteries. The Chinese have plenty of appliances. Our guide speculated that 90% of the Chinese had air conditioning.

The heat of the day and a bug requiring Imodium kept Claudia on board while I hiked over to the Temple. To save it as the Yangtze river level rose the Government built a “coffer dam” around its base so we began our climb up many feet below the river level. Going out solo had one benefit. Claudia was not with me to arch her eyebrows as I bargained for the cheap merchandise in a hundred stands that lined the way to the Temple.

The temple seemed to be an oriental version of Wall Drug. Built out in the middle of nowhere to attract travelers and their money. I bought a knock off of a horse sculpture I’d seen in Xi’an and a t-shirt with Barack Obama wearing a Che Guevara cap. I thought it was cool but if I’d seen it at Trump rally I’d have been annoyed.

The following day as we cruised to the dam I learned to play mahjongg. On my way home I read a story in the China Times about the game being designated an official “brain game” like Go or Chess. Maybe so, but the easy version I learned was more like gin rummy.

We spent the rest of the day drifting through the Three Gorges on route to the Three Gorges Dam. We began our descent after dark so close to the walls of the locks that we placed our hands on them as we were lowered at the speed of a second hand on a grandfather clock. We were asleep before the fifth and final lock.

Medical schools are catching up with public schools…

…where pedagogy is concerned.

According to this story on NPR today:

For students starting medical school, the first year can involve a lot of time in a lecture hall. There are hundreds of terms to master and pages upon pages of notes to take.

But when the new class of medical students begins at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine next week, a lot of that learning won’t take place with a professor at a lectern.

VPN in China

Before I left China I learned that a few of my fellow travelers were downloading VPN aps to get around the Great China Firewall. I might have considered it if I’d heard about the workaround before leaving for China but not just a couple days before leaving.

On my flight home I read a story in one of the official Chinese newspapers about Apple agreeing to pull their VPN aps out of the Chinese market. I was of two minds about this. On the one hand I realized that I couldn’t make use of Google because they had refused to comply with restraints on their services. I hated to see Apple pulled as well in its entirety only to be replaced by some neutered Chinese analogue.

Today NPR has a story today about this and its implications.

Making up for Chinese ceansorship

Finding myself denied the chance to send out greetings to Facebook left me with some pent up frustration. As my eight loyal readers know all too well, I hate being shut up.

So, I have put a second video “scrapbook” on Facebook of Days three and four. To my chagrin the video ends with this photograph in which my head is cut off. How very Chinese of Facebook.

Remember this picture when you see the last headless frame in the video.

This trip became more personal for me shortly after we visited the Great Wall. On our way back to Beijing we were taken to the “Ming Tombs.”

The Mings were the last indigenous Han Chinese to rule before the Manchu from north of the Great Wall invaded and reinvented themselves as the Ching Dynasty shortly after the English settlement of North America. Only after I entered the path with columns of paired animals to greet deceased emperors did I realize I was walking where my parents had stepped 35 years before on my Father’s sabbatical tour of the Pacific. If you look on the left column of the quilt my Mother made to remember her travels you will see the standing camels from the Ming Tombs. Claudia and I posed by one of the resting camels just past the standing camels which you can see on Mom’s quilt.

You may also have noticed the picture on the sign showing Mao tse-Tung and three comrades standing by one of the elephants. I took the occasion to pose by an elephant too although in a little more whimsical pose.

Our guide pointed out chips and cracks in the great statues that were inflicted on them during the Cultural Revolution when Mao’s youthful, know-nothing fanatics went about the nation burning and obliterating every object of ancient Chinese cultural veneration just like ISIS and the Taliban have done or like President Trump’s supporters are doing now to the “small D” democratic traditions of America.

The statues had been repaired by the time my parents visited and were there to greet me too. I can almost forgive the Chinese Communists for trying to tamp down the sometimes chaotic Democratic impulse. They are the latest dynasty, albeit an oligarchical one without a living emperor. Their emperor lies under glass an ancestor who’s picture is hung up to loom over Tienanmen Square.

type in “Mao under glass” and you will find a you-tube explanation that, along with all other YouTube offerings, is blocked in China.

In case Tiananmen Square is too remote from rural China Mao also finds himself on all denominations of bank notes.

Testing one, two, three

Back to business. I still have two weeks of Tribs to read and I’ve got to see if my “trading cards” are ready yet. And this morning my nephew paid us a call ending a seven year estrangement between our families. He’s a new Dad and that means new leaves being turned over. I’m delighted.

But like I began – back to business. I read this story in the Minneapolis paper last night and its in the DNT today. This will have implications for Duluth which I can not yet thoroughly discern. Second paragraph:

The new plan would take full effect in the 2018-19 school year. It replaces the ratings and labels given to public schools based on their performance with one that focuses on the lowest-performing 5 percent of Title 1-funded schools. It also would identify high schools with a graduation rate below 67 percent or where any student group — black, Asian, Latino or low-income, for example — falls below a 67 percent graduation rate.

This story screams “EQUITY!”

Good. That’s one of the three legs of my campaign and you can find it on the back of my trading cards. “EQUITY-HONESTY-EXPERIENCE” I better go pick them up if they are ready and begin passing them out at Spirit Mountain Days. Tomorrow though. Its too wet today.

I might even need to spend some time working on my clunky campaign webpage: http://www.weltyforschoolboard.com/

China in the rear view mirror – Post 1

China may block Facebook but Facebook is pretty stingy about letting people easily share the posts they’ve put together. Last night after picking out several dozen of the 500 or so pictures I took with my cell phone I took a dozen from our first two days in China into a short Facebook “slideshow.” It is much quicker than browsing through a dozen photos and if you really want to see one you can pause the video. This is what I posted to Facebook about the first of several slideshows to come:

Sites from Beijing – view from our hotel and bus window, Tianamin Square and Forbidden City and the Dowager Empresses’ Compound. The Dowager is said to have brewed poisoned tea for one of her court rivals. Ever since Chinese have joked that the tea was “mama hoo hoo.” In English that means, so so.

https://www.facebook.com/harry.welty/videos/10154528702981394/

It took me ages to edit and upload what otherwise would have been simple posts had I been doing my work on my computer here in Duluth. I often did it in the middle of the night in the bathroom of our hotel or river ship’s state room. More of my fellow travelers were asleep then giving me more bandwidth and less wait time.

Half way through our trip I discovered one Internet necessity that the Chinese did not block – Wikipedia. That was a godsend and it was explained in a news story I read while abroad that said the authors of Wikipedia were particularly faithful to the notion of journalistic impartiality in their work. I guess even the People’s Republic could live with that although they probably have a small army of checkers who edit critical Wiki posts so that they comport with the Chinese view of the world.

In my video you will see some shots of Chinese that I did not ask permission to take. I hope they can remain as anonymous here as they were to me when I snapped them. I must stress that whatever international disagreements exist between our two nations the Chinese I met were very friendly. As my little tour group went around to various Chinese hot spots we were constantly being asked by more rural visitors to their nation’s iconic destinations to pose with them for pictures they could show to friends back home to prove they had actually seen exotic foreigners. Our guide told us that we are often referred to as “dabizi” (Dah-BEE-zee) meaning “big nose.” That and mama hoo hoo are part of the paltry Chinese lingo I acquired while traveling. The Chinese I met spoke English with a great diversity of competence.

Twixt China and Duluth

I’m not quite through pontificating about China. Heck, I haven’t even posted any pictures but now that I’m back home I have work to do. I’m running again for the School Board among other things.

Behind the Bamboo Internet Curtain I was unable to answer email or see “notifications” of Facebook messages. I looked forward to having this afternoon for that but we slept late at a park and ride motel and then our Toyota’s brakes were gummed up and we had to kill three hours to have the problem fixed before driving home. We didn’t get back till about 4 PM and grandchildren were waiting for us and the treats we might bring them. For my part that included a couple pounds of strange wrapped Chinese candies. I bought them at a Walmart in Shanghai and promptly left the building without seeing the live chickens, frogs, fish and chickens that Walmart sells in their Chinese stores. I didn’t bother to go see them with the rest of our tour but I heard they smelled a little ripe even for being alive.

One of the emails sent to me came from the Duluth Federation of Teachers. It was an invitation to interview with them next week but as I could not open it I had to wait until today to reply. Here’s their invite:


Sent: 27-Jul-2017 21:05:27 +0000
From: “Dzuck, Terry [MN]”
To: AJohnston2@charter.net , HarryWelty@charter.net , VoteKurtKuehn@gmail.com , SallyForSchoolBoard@gmail.com , BogdanaForSchools@gmail.com , GorhamForDuluthSchools@gmail.com , Lofald.Jill@gmail.com , RosieForSchoolBoard@gmail.com , LMartell343@gmail.com
Subject: Duluth Federation of Teachers School Board Candidates Screening

Greetings Duluth School Board candidates. Attached please see a letter inviting you to participate in the Duluth Federation of Teachers Screening event taking place on Tuesday, August 8, 2017.

and here’s my acceptance:

Terry,

I apologize for my tardy reply. I just returned from a trip to the People’s Republic of China last night and they block email. I saw that you had sent it but couldn’t open it.

I look forward to my interview and plan to attend.

Best regards,

Harry Welty

2 minutes of random Shanghai traffic

Shot from the 11th floor of the Westin “Lotus” Hotel.

It’s being uploaded to YouTube. Will explain after our drive to Duluth this afternoon.

Best I can do while on my cell phone waiting to have my tires checked in Inver Grove Hts is share the link:

https://youtu.be/uCz4HW3tNUg

As I explained on Facebook:

“This is not a dramatic picture of the Great Wall or the Terracotta warriors but a mundane 2 minute video taken from our last day in China from the 11th floor of the Westin “Lotus” Hotel. Gov. Christie is defending President Trump on CNN in the background.

American street traffic is much more orderly but Chinese Internet and television traffic is even more orderly. No troubling news….unless it’s about the USA.”

On our first day in China, in Beijing, I found a startling sign in the 5 star Kerry Hotel that I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. I took a picture of what I found in the top drawer of the bedside table. It wasn’t a Gideon’s Bible.

Not a Gideon's Bible

It was a pair of free prophylactics.

Dear Duan

Back in Wuhan, at the end of my Yangzte River journey, I decided to give Barbara Tuchman’s book on Stilwell to our tour guide. He mentioned that previous guests had given him such books over the last decade that he has been leading tours. Some of them like “Wild Swans” are on the government’s version of the Vatican’s “Index list.”

He had told me, when I asked, that he mostly read histories and I was pretty sure Tuchman’s book was even rarer in China than it is in American used book stores.

I found time on our trip to get half way through the book reading out loud to Claudia. At times we we read about Chinese locales while we were actually passing through them. Giving the book before we finished it and departed from Shanghai would be no sacrifice because we had already downloaded it to our kindle account as well. I will buy another hard cover copy in any event. That is the collector in me.

I found myself mentally composing a thank you in the middle of the night to write in the book’s inside front cover. This is essentially what I wrote:

Dear Duan,

When I was 11 in 1962 the author of this book may have played a part in preventing World War III. Her book, Guns of August” had just been read by our President Kennedy when he discovered Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba.

Guns of August was about how the European governments unwittingly stumbled into W W 1. JFK having read it, was determined not to begin a nuclear war with the Soviet union because of miscommunication. Even if it hadn’t inspired Kennedy to save the world it was a great book. It was awarded our nation’s highest literary honor, the Pulitzer Prize, for history. The author would earn a 2nd Pulitzer for this history of General Stilwell.

I wanted to share it with you so you could see that some Americans have always looked on China with some subtlety and a great deal of sympathy. Joe Stilwell was one of them and by the way he was no fan of Chiang Kai-Shek. I don’t think my father was either when I was growing up. He is the person who gave Tuchman’s book to me.

You have been a wonderful, insightful and good humored guide to your land’s people and history. You have given me hope that our two nations can look forward to the future as friends and maybe even allies. Vinegar Joe seemed to anticipate that future as well.

You have my best regards and many thanks.

Harry Welty
AKA: www.lincolndemocrat.com

PS. To my knowledge this history has not been banned by the People’s Republic.

How is a diaper like a politician?

That was the question posed by Ben  tonight at our cruise ship’s hokey talent night program. Ben is painfully earnest and his jokes are made sweet because of his tortured English syntax. It was a good question for me to contemplate as I face reelection for my 4th term on the Duluth school board and think about the ongoing aftermath of our nation’s 2016 election.

I believe I mentioned how much Claudia and I enjoyed the cynical Australian TV series “The Rake” a couple years back. After 2 seasons we had to wait 2 years before seasons 3 and 4 made it to Netflix. Well, a week before China they appeared and we binge watched them. They are a devil-may-care hoot in the Aussie take no bullshit tradition. And last season the Rakes’ writers had the best riff on the Trump phenomenon of anyone on television. We saved the last four episodes to watch on Claudia’s kindle while we were in China and I hope its no spoiler to say Canberra will never be the same.

Joe Stilwell had the same attitude toward politicians eighty years ago as the Rake all the way up to his Commander and Chief. It’s a universal feeling and I got a healthy whiff of it today at the Chinese grade school we visited in Jiangsu a “medium sized” city of five million. (Viking Cruises sponsors it and it pays for poor kids schooling)

After its students gave we tourists a spirited performance, under a ferociously hot sun, we gathered in the 4th grade classroom to ask them questions and have our money belts loosened up with good will.

We asked the shy children to tell us what they wanted to be when they grew up. One boy wanted to be an athlete. The girl who let Claudia listen to her device’s earphone and her American pop music wanted to be a singer. A third boy said something that so surprised our guide that he suppressed a smile and told us he’d translate it after we got back on the bus.

The nine-year-old had explained that he wanted to overthrow the Chinese government.

Trust me. We all wondered the same thing. Would the boy get in trouble? Nope. He just embarrassed his teacher. The youngster also made clear how much China had changed.

Our guide joined us for dinner tonight and we had a frank conversation with him about this. He explained that the boy was parroting what he heard at home from rural people who detest the petty corruption they endure from party hacks. While he didn’t want China to have a government overthrow he viewed the boy’s comment as a sign of healthy skepticism blowing across the land. 

As our cruise director explained – some things need to be changed regularly.

The Internet is leakier than the White House

Traveling down the mid stretch of the Yangtze River has been quiet enough to let my brain fret over China’s middling and meddlesome censorship. I came here hoping to post pretty pictures on Facebook and the blog but my cell phone is no match for the bamboo curtain.

So, I have been reading American/Chinese history and probing the Internet for the past couple days. It’s been fascinating. Vinegar Joe Stilwell just made General a year shy of Pearl Harbor (I am 32% done with Tuchman’s bio of him) and I found this Newsweek story from 20 years ago about Bill Clinton’s opening American tech to the People’s Liberation Army.

http://www.newsweek.com/chinese-military-power-us-might-643022

Chiang Kai-Shek would have killed for US war materiel like Clinton passed out.

I am still inclined towards the promiscuous spreading of information rather than to it’s stingy hoarding. I am a liberal arts kind of guy.

I will get to check out a Chinese school today on this sleepy stretch of our river cruise. Maybe it will give me some useful insights to bring back to the Duluth Schools. I just hope it’s air conditioned.

In the Middle of the middle Kingdom…

…muddling over the Duluth school board campaign sleepless past midnight. Checked my email and found this:

Hey Harry.

In the run-up to the primary, the News Tribune Editorial Board is scheduling candidate interviews of no more than 30 minutes. This email is an invitation to meet with us.

We’re also emailing you today to invite you to write a column of no more than 500 words for publication in August in the News Tribune on the Opinion page.

Please call me at your earliest convenience to schedule an interview with the editorial board. We’ll be scheduling interviews the afternoons of Aug. 1-2, Aug. 14-17, and Aug. 22-24. Please reserve your spot as soon as you can. And please bring along to that interview whatever literature about yourself and your qualifications you are distributing as you campaign.

The deadline for your candidate column — why you’re running for School Board At Large and why voters should vote for you, etc. — is Wednesday, Aug. 9. That gives you a little over two weeks. If you can email it to me at cfrederick@duluthnews.com sooner than that, please do.

We look forward to hearing back from you soon.

Thanks on behalf of the Editorial Board,

Chuck

Chuck Frederick

Editorial Page Editor

Duluth News Tribune 
424 W. First St.
Duluth MN 55802

XXXXXXXXXXX

My reply to Chuck (if pushing send worked):

Chuck,

I look forward to it.  Checking my calendar I see the 1st two dates won’t work. I am in China until Aug 2nd and will be in Colorado for a family reunion from the 15th to 17th. I am hell bent to see the eclipse on the 21st so it will have to be the 23rd or 24th. 

My head is in Tuchman’s book about Vinegar Joe Stilwell so you will have to await my return for your 500 words. 

Real feel today on the Yangtze was 114.

All the best

Harry

PS China won’t let me read the DNT.  I will have some catching up to do when I get back.

Xxxxxxxxxxx

PLEASE NOTE

This email is one of 4 that failed to send from China. Someone got the message to Ken at KBJR. Thank you whoever you were. Could someone alert Chuck Frederick for me too?

If America has any edge over China it’s an open Internet. Pray we keep it. You should see these instant Chinese Cities. They take my breath away.

A little help please?

I just hot a request from KBJR’s news director Kevin Jacobson asking me to appear on an interview with other at-large candidates. China won’t let my email to through.

Would someone reading this give Kevin a call to let him know I will be there? Kevin’s Phone # is: 218.481.6207

Thanks,

Harry

I write this post at 3 AM on the floor in a book club friend’s favorite bathroom in China

The timing is not surprising. I spent a 13 hour day mostly wide awake on a 787 (I think) flying in a great circle route within a couple hundred miles of the North Pole to get to Beijing. I crashed at what would have been about 4 AM back home. Biorhythmic adjustments will take a day or two.

Claudia will sleep off and on till closer to a 6 AM hotel breakfast. In the meantime I am hoping my third visit to the loo won’t deprive her of the sleep she missed on the plane. Gosh darn old man plumbing but hallelujah for Japanese toilets. I recently heard a PBS reporter extolling their virtues. They put French bidets to shame. I will admit to being a tad unnerved at taking the throne and immediately hearing a heater preparing to make some water comfy for ablutions to be performed after mother nature’s call had been answered. And to think I was talking about pit toilets with someone who visited China 15 years ago.

China’s America sized population plus a billion doesn’t all have such luxury but the very long drive past a great many megafrastructures from the airport to the Kerry Hotel did impress on me the great wealth of reborn China. After all the books we’ve waded through about it’s epic grandeur and humiliations I am pleased for the world.

After realizing what a hassle it will be to type out blog posts on my cell phone because of its anti-Google and Facebook Wall the happier I am to live in good old bumptious USA. As I write this Chinese censors are busy removing any mention of Winnie the Pooh on the Internet. Their leader has been compared to him unfavorably. Meanwhile back stateside every late-night talk show host would be risking a firing squad if they found themselves transported here.

We had time for dinner at the hotel and the realization that the massive study of English in China won’t guarantee easy fluency beyond Peking. We couldn’t even remember how to say “thank you” in Mandarin.

I did reach the blog on Baidu (China’s much less fussy Google) after a hotel receptionist fiddled with my cell. Some messages are coming through on email probably because I never got round to using gmail. As for photos to the Internet or Facebook. That is all up in the air. Look for them here if I can work it out.

That’s not a problem for the Chinese, all of whom are looking at their cells every minute of the day. Tough luck Google.

China doesn’t like Google or Facebook

For the first significant vacation of my adulthood I will not be taking a camera, Yashika, Cannon or Pentax with me. I will be relying on Samsung’s cell phone. I am given to understand that China blocks the aforementioned Internet sites in the title. It would be fun to post daily news of my comings and goings but I’m not sure that will be possible. I’ll be counting on Flickr to send photographs back and forth. Claudia is about to download the Tuchman book on Vinegar Joe on our Kindle account so I can keep reading it to her if we have enough stamina left after busy days looking at sites that the People’s Republic is happy for us to see. I presume Customs will not rifle our cell phones to see what we have uploaded to them. I’ll be on my best behavior. No pulling out a cell phone should the Prime Minister walk past us in a restaurant.

I’m not sure how closely I’ll follow the news or exactly what news will be available to me in China. Unlike the American Democracy I doubt if any of it will be fake. I am sure that after a few weeks away I will eagerly look forward to getting authentic American fake news upon my return.

Take care of Duluth while I’m away.

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."