Category Archives: Civil Rights

“Are you happy now?”

“Let me explain how it works to you. I’m the anchor, your’e the guest. I’m the interviewer you are the interviewee.”

“The self described FOX News “anchor” was probably a Miss America contestant. God Bless America. God Bless the First Amendment. But not you bloodthirsty Moslems.

I’ve been chewing over the Juan Williams firing at NPR for a while now. I’ll be the first to say NPR was clumsy. But the defenders of Williams must not have given a lot of thought about the kind of thing he said about people wearing Moslem garb on airplanes. Would a Menonite wearing his black hat and sporting a long beard be telling other passengers that he first and formost associated himself with his religion? How about a Jew with a yarmaluke? What would Juan think about passengers getting nervous with a black man wearing copious amounts of gold jewlery and black shades? Would he be signaling that he identifed with gangstahood over Red Blooded Americanism?

These are all worthy academic questions but Juan was very quick to give Bill O’Reilly a pass on his really crude assertion that the world’s Moslems are out to get America. In a way his reputation as a historian of the US Civil Right movement lends O’Reilly’s program legitimacy. In fact he uses it to defend himself when he begins to explain his qualms about Moslems on a plane:

“You know Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the Civil Rights movement.”

I suspect that Williams removal from NPR has long been considered and that the Moslem garb quote was a last straw. He’s got a two million contract with FOX now so its hard to feel sorry for him or Fox. It now enjoys William’s civil right’s street cred to project their famous “fair and balanced reporting. It reminds me a bit of Sen. Jesse Helms famous black Senate Staffer. I guess we should all be happier now.

Struggling minorities

Today’s Trib story about the District’s attempts to do right by minorities is important. Just before the Trib canned its previous Education Reporter she wrote a story that questioned whether the District’s plans to divert a million “Deseg” dollars away from the magnet schools was a good idea. Some of my crowd thought that it was what got her fired although my sources at the Trib denied that this could be possible.

A story (I didn’t bother linking to) a month ago had Board Member Judy Seliga-Punyko enthusing about the new eight lane pool being added to the soon-to-be East Junior High. She was a swimmer, is a swimming coach and has children who swim. Old LDV’ers sent the story to me commenting how Judy got hers. Ann Wasson is getting a new expanded Congdon Elementary and the new equity producing stadium at the new East High School. Tim Grover got a new Piedmont and a new junior high that will insure that Piedmont children are not bussed to Morgan Park something he has long opposed (although he was a lot less vociferous about opposing the bussing of MP children the same distance East).

That has left Mary Cameron with little to show for the Red Plan’s work except reports that her community and even her family are unhappy with her. She may finally have something to show for her faith in Dr. Dixon.

Bringing minorities in public schools to their academic potential has been fraught with challenges. The story about the Washington DC Schools today echoes Duluth. Mayor Fenty was defeated largely because he refused to reign in the reforms of the hard charging DC School Chancellor Michelle Rhee. The Teacher’s Unions and a great many dead wood administrators (appointed by ans earlier cocaine sniffing Mayor) lost their jobs under Rhee. Half filled schools were closed. Merit pay is being disbursed. Rhee is making a difference and her loss will be, would be (in my humble opinion) tragic.

Duluth’s failure to bring up the test scores of minority students, particularly native and black students, has been a sore point for a long time. Mary has had every right to question whether the magnet schools were worth the million dollars of spending they got. Some of the spending seemed little more than bones for the minority community. The Red Plan’s response is counterintuitive at best. Soon Duluth’s two most segregated inner city schools will be merged without their previous magnetic pull This will concentrate minority students even more.

The test will be whether the new program which emphasizes hiring assistants, eleven of them, to coach minority students in need can do what the magnet schools never accomplished. I can’t fault Mary for being willing to try something new. I also know that these new hires accomplish something that she has lobbied for for twenty years. Most of the eleven new hires belong to minorities themselves and they will provide role models for kids who only have seen white teachers. Doing this before was damn near impossible as the District’s enrollment shrank leaving senior teachers in the way of new hires. Besides, Duluth was a mostly white town not the sort of place an ambitious minority teacher would be eager to set roots down into. All the dislocation of the Red Plan and the canceling of the Deseg program has given Dr. Dixon the resources to reverse this sorry history and reward Board member Cameron.

I have little confidence in the Superintendent or his motives. He once told a community meeting that if a child hadn’t overcome his/her racism by the time they got to high school its too late to change their minds. That’s not a very enlightened attitude. Still, whatever you make of his methods he has given Mary what she has long desired. His slender majority has little reason for complaint.

The undead Online

As I’m off with my family listening to loons who escaped the Gulf Oil Spill I’m reduced to catching up on the Trib strictly on line. Today’s online story had what I presumed was the story of Senator Robert Byrds death. It was not. I learned that the Senator had died elsewhere on the Internet but the Trib’s online paper only had this summation of his life. I presume the paper version actually mentioned his death.

I’ve enjoyed criticizing Byrd’s porkish ways ever since he stuck the FBI fingerprinting lab in West Virginia. I admired him when he opposed George W Bush’s War in Iraq and the insinuation that it was unpatriotic to send soldiers off where they shouldn’t be. Pork got him elected and elected over to Congress and over starting when I was two years old.

Much has been made of his 1920’s membership in the KKK. Shameful yes, but he’s apologized for it many times since. Sad to say but the Klan was a cross between Rotary and a band of vigilantes. It was a sign of distinction that many wore like Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black one of my heroes for his steadfast fight for 1st Amendment rights. It was a political stepping stone.

Two Obits

Two Obits in the DNT today caught my attention.

First Dr. Jane Hodgson

I didn’t know the good Doctor but her appearance in Duluth was contemporaneous with mine and with Roe v Wade. She helped bring the Women’s Health Center to town as the Catholic Church acquired all the medical facilities and hid behind new laws which allowed the church to prevent medical procedures it found theologically objectionable from being performed in them. That meant abortion. It was also a time when extreme pro lifers were assassinating doctors who performed the procedure.

I didn’t know Dr. Hodgson but she was a brave woman.

Second William Styron.

When I was in high school my Father suggested that I read the book “Confessions of Nat Turner.”

If I ever had any qestion about how black Americans could be so successfully subjugated for so long and what exactly that subjugation might look like on the personal level this book spelled it out starkly. It was so good that black Americans were inclined to think it was written by a black man at first. Sadly, many turned their back on it when they discovered the color of the author’s skin.

Elastic Clause on torture

Apparently McCain, Graham and Warner have compromised with the President on his effort to ignore the General Article 3 of the Geneva Convention.

I’m torn between lauding the compromise and disappointment that McCain in particular gave the President too much.

I’ve been having a furious email debate with my old sparring partner Vic on this subject. In the lastest exchange today Vic asked me if I would oppose “judicious” torture of Osama bin Ladin if he was sitting on a nuclear bomb that was about to kill millions of people.

I replied as follows:

“Perhaps the Geneva Convention needs an elastic clause. If so its too bad that the US has given such a bad example of how we would make us of such flexibility.”

The “elastic clause” is the all purpose clause in the US Constitution which Congress has always gone to to get things accomplished which are not specifically approved of or forbidden by the rest of the Constitution.

It says:

To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof. “

The only thing Republicans have

As I was reminded that I couldn’t bring back any bottles of wine or perfume on my trip home from Europe – something – the Europeans have yet to grow alarmed about it ocurred to me that the only thing Republicans have is – fear itself.

They don’t have good fiscal policy.

They don’t have military planning skills.

They are crumby environmentalists.

They have a narrow social policy.

Nope. All they’ve got is terrorism – fear itself.

Even in 2001 a lot more Americans died because of drunk driving than were killed by terrorists and Americans didn’t get their undies in a bunch about that. Its just one of the risks of the freedom some people abuse to drink alcoholic beverages. Anyone suggesting to amend the Bill of Rights to protect us from drunk drivers would be hooted out of office.

Now, except for Republican Senators John McCain and ex JAG lawyer Lindsey Graham, the Republican Congress is trying to deprive funny talking, brown skinned people of their right not to be tortured because all the Republicans have to campaign on is fear itself. Even the Democrats in Congress are hiding behind McCain and Graham for fear of not looking tough on terrorism.

FDR is rolling in his grave.

Stealing the Franchise

In the old days (twenty years ago) Republicans agonized that Democrats brought ineligible voters to the polls. Today they are attempting to shore up their sagging fortunes by denying the vote to voters who are eligible but inclined to vote Democratic.

In Minnesota and other tightly contested states Republicans had an outstanding organization to prevent people in Democratic districts who couldn’t prove their eligibility from voting. They even sent people to Duluth. This can be considered strict enforcement of the rules and is hard to fault.

But now in red state legislatures laws are being passed to prevent people, who coincidentally are more likely to vote Democratic, from voting. Who would this be? The poor. People without driver’s liscences. People who work two jobs and can’t easily register to vote. These laws now join the long standing Republican policy of removing for a lifetime the voting rights of convicted felons. At least this latter law applies equally to wealthy, white, Republican embezzlers as it does to poor, minority, drug dealers.

This is evidence of the Deep South’s takeover of the Republican Party with its ancient and revered practice of denying black citizens the right to vote through poll taxes, voter tests and intimidation.

NOW had a good expose of this last week. No wonder Republicans want to kill PBS.

Looking for allies

It occurred to me this evening that I might find some passionate supporters in the Nation’s Capitol. A Google search located this organization. I sent them the following email. 


I’m a candidate for Congress in Minnesota’s Eighth District. Thirty-five years ago I was a summer intern for one of the Congressmen on the House DC Committee. I’ve been thinking about the injustice of DC’s lack of representation in Congress ever since.

I’m an out of the woodwork candidate for Congress. I was a thirty-five year Republican and I attended Democratic caucuses this year but I’m running as an independent for congress in a three-way contest. In 1992 I did the same thing and won 7% of the vote. I suspect that even if I stopped campaigning now with the low public approval of Congress I’d win 10 or 15% of the vote this election. Since 1992 my stature has risen considerably and I think there is a good chance I could win a plurality in a three way race.

I wrote this page a few days ago then decided today to see if any organizations in DC was out their fighting for representation. That’s how I found your site. Perhaps you would be interested in offering support to a candidate that fervently believes that DC residents should be represented at least in the House of Representatives.

I don’t know how well connected you are in the beltway but Minnesota is a distant and foreign place; easy for the nation’s media to ignore. Perhaps, if you have contacts, you could help remedy that. If you have the ability to direct the nation’s media in anyway to my unorthodox campaign I would appreciate it.

Take a look around the rest of my website. I think you will see that I’m just enough different from the typical candidate for Congress that I might successfully be able to raise the torch for DC representation and give the issue the attention it deserves.

Your friend and ally,

Harry Welty
candidate for Congress
Minnesota’s Eighth District









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.”

Leveling the playing field

I heard it said today on NPR that if the Democrats can’t take Congress back this year they’ll never do it. It’s not too soon to think about what comes after this election for Democrats and I have some suggestions. Republicans have been methodical in taking back the country and Democrats pushed programs notably Civil Rights and the Great Society that were guaranteed to lose them part of their old New Deal coalition. The first cost them southern white voters and the latter cost them votes across the nation from people who thought a welfare society would ruin America.

The steady abandonment of the Democratic Party for the GOP’s smaller government was masked by Watergate which gave the Democrats an artificial boost in popularity but Ronald Reagan’s nostrums and surprisingly successful presidency put the Republicans back on track. It’s evident that it will take a while for Democrats to figure out what their message is. Fortunately for them, George Bush’s retrillionization of the National Debt has badly muddled the Republican message which means that for the moment the public is open to change.

Here’s my first suggestion. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Tom DeLay broke precedent to have Texas reapportioned along Republican friendly lines mid-decade. If the Democrats succeed in taking over legislatures in key states these new legislatures should be encouraged to do the same with Democrats controlling the process. Texas’s reapportionment led to a six seat pick up for Republicans. Democrats might be able to do the same in a number of other states. I’ve heard people speculate that Pennsylvania could be a particularly good target for the Dems. While I was appalled at the DeLay/Texas shenanigans it’s apparent that the parties are in an all-out war. Democrats can not give any quarter on this while they have a chance turn the tables on the GOP. I would prefer that some new non-partisan mechanism for reapportionment be instituted after the next decennial census and that may require a constitutional amendment. If this ploy works, however, don’t expect the Democrats to give it up anytime soon.

My second suggestion involves the issue of voting eligibility. The background: Republicans have been sticklers for the rules on voting. For instance, in the last Presidential election they sent Texas lawyers to places like Duluth to make sure that in highly Democratic precincts only people who could unequivocally prove their eligibility would be allowed to vote. When voters (most of whom were probably qualified to vote even though they didn’t have documentation) were shepherded into the polls by people prepared to vouch for them those lawyers aggressively objected if the eligibility laws weren’t absolutely adhered to. It didn’t change the outcome in Minnesota but it might have in Ohio. Democrats have to insure that these voters will not be turned away. I’d start by pushing state legislatures to give ex-prisoners the right to vote. I’d argue that our society has always believed that law breakers serve their time and that once they are released they should not face continuing punishment. In the United States our voting franchise is a fundamental right. Being denied full citizenship is a continuation of one’s punishment. It deprives ex-cons of their full stake in the nation’s future and perhaps even some of the incentive to redeem themselves.

While we no long make much of a pretense of rehabilitating prisoners we still operate under the idea that jail time allows prisoners to “pay their debt to society.” To further persecute these citizens by prolonging their debt for political advantage after their release is bad faith. Since these millions of voters may look favorably on the political party which demands that their rights be restored we might expect a few marginally red states to switch to blue. My third suggestion involves a gross violation of the voting franchise. Residents of our nation’s capital are denied voting representation in the halls of Congress. Whatever the nation’s founders thought when they designated the swamp along the Potomac as our new capitol, worrying about its voters was purely theoretical. The first settlers were mostly residents of other states who cast their votes elsewhere.

By the time that the native population of the District of Columbia emerged powerful southern Democrats had no interest in giving them any representation in Congress because most were African American. The South denied blacks the vote back home and they had no incentive to do anything differently in the Nation’s Capitol. Times have changed. The only good argument to prevent giving D.C. residents Congressional representation is feeble: that D.C. is not a state. Yet D.C. residents are American citizens and pay taxes. They were born into a nation whose rallying cry was “no taxation without representation.” Their disenfranchisement is unconscionable.

The practical but unsaid argument for denying D.C. residents voting representation in Congress is that they vote for Democrats. Since the southern democrats have become Republicans they’ve clung to their old objections only now it’s because or party politics rather than race. If the Democrats forced a national debate on this issue the Republicans would be hard pressed to deny the legacy of racism that their ”no votes for D.C.” position rests upon. After these or similar measures are taken to level the playing field for Democrats the Dems can figure out just where they want to take the nation. I hope for my sake its somewhere in the center. The Republicans, after all, have abandoned much of this space and a vacuum demands to be filled. Let’s make sure the Republicans don’t repopulate it first after 2006.