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Stay in place – Day 1

This is not our first day of partial voluntary confinement. Sunday my wife reluctantly went to our church service as one of the indispensable bell ringers in the bell choir. Even so our church was only one of three Duluth Churches holding services that Sunday. On Monday we went out to buy some groceries. Tuesday there was a church meeting and Claudia participated by phone. She’s staying home now while I’ll run errands and wash my hands with lye when I come home. Well, soap. No need to overreact.

I’ve got a couple French citizens I’ve been pen pals with on my cell phone. All are in government imposed confinement. Police are at the intersections giving transients 130 euro fines. One has relatives that are physicians who are overwhelmed with sick people and beginning to withhold intubation for those who are too far gone – an effective death sentence. I asked if the sick are being sent to hospitals elsewhere that still have free beds. Apparently that is happening… long as remote hospitals still have beds available. My new friends are in a state of controlled shock.

Another has a nine-year-old niece who has a bad case of it. And its no longer just an overseas problem. Claudia’s nephew has been hospitalized in Bismarck, North Dakota, with a severe case that is not the flu. He should know by later today if he has corona virus. His wife came back ill from a Rhode Island sporting event with 24 young women two weeks ago. All the kids went to school the next day. That was two weeks ago and points to one of the fearsome aspects of Corona virus. It has up to a 14-day incubation period unlike our typical flues which incubate for two or three days. That’s fourteen days of walking around passing on the virus compared to 2 or 3. Here is a short story explaining the facts.

and a chart:

Today I decided to lend a hand keeping my grandson’s education from withering away. I sent them two challenges to answer questions from Sherlock Homes. One required translating a couple hundred word message in french. As they discover the answers more challenges will be sent to them via an envelope in their porch. My older grandson just called and told them that contrary to the message it was his dog that was not the best not his grandpere. He earned fifty cents. His younger brother is about to look for a translator as well. I’ve got to come up with a new challenge but I have one in mind.

I’m still working on French. I’m puttering with the books I’ve been threatening to write. I’m also thinking about how I might challenge Pete Stauber in a campaign where neither of us can gather together with crowds for fear of spreading the pandemic. I’ll have more time. No more snow sculptures for a while.

I’ll be donating blood tomorrow. I got a call from Memorial Blood bank. They are still up and running and cleaning off surfaces like mad. Folks in our church are sending messages back and fourth about how they can help. I suggested that those of us who might get a thousand dollar check we don’t need from the government make sure it gets into the hands of those who need it.

I went to the unofficial opening of the Trump HQ in Duluth…

It was very reassuring. It spurred me to attempt to finish a challenging snow sculpture in the four days I have before I head out of town. And it gave shape and substance to the column I mentioned earlier that has already been changed two times. You will have to wait to see what I think about Bloomberg now until my column is written and published in the Duluth Reader Thursday. If Iowa scared the bejesus out of you, then good for Iowa.

My wife winced today when I told her about IOWA’s new acronym. Its: Iowa Owes the World and Apology. I love Iowa. I go there for my wife’s family reunions all the time. But IOWA’s Dems gave the whole state a black eye. Fortunately with our current President he will give us reason to take our eyes off Iowa yesterday…..and he has. He now targeting the Hmong and Lao refugees in Minnesota from the Vietnam War who were foolish enough not to take US Citizenship. Goody Goody. More dark skinned people to cull from the Trump Nation. Who gives a damn if their family members died helping us in Vietnam. They shoulda claimed bone spurs.

I hope someone takes a movie of Tim O’Brien at the next Bloomberg Office opening he goes to. He spoke to thirty of us. We hung on his every word and had lots of questions for him afterward. Google his name along with Trump books or New York Times. The 800 words I always aim for in my columns will barely give you enough to savor everything he talked to us about.

It’s taken me two nights to sculpt clay models for my next sculpture/sculptures for my lawn. If it/they comes/comes out as I plan I’ll regret seeing the sun take it away.

Let’s see what I write first. Then I’ll give it a title

I’ve just washed the dishes a little after late night news began. I rarely watch it anymore. I used the time to digest a little more of the two hour PBS Frontline presentation of how we went from Obama to Trump. Claudia turned to it but faded after the first hour of watching the dark angles of the Trumplican Party slowly attempt to strangle the life out of the Obama Years. It was well done. I knew it all by heart but it was a typically excellent PBS presentation and brought to mind eight years of political torture. I managed to keep many of those indecencies at bay fighting the Red Plan in Duluth. I even toyed with the Tea Party when it seemed a slightly more honorable attempt at fighting off government overreach rather than the beginning the the commingling of so much that’s wrong with America.

For the past few weeks I’ve gotten into a routine of going to bed with French to beat sleep into my head. Tonight I’m going to do some more digesting. Tomorrow, I am setting the day aside to finish my column for the Thursday Reader. It’s in a rough draft. The day afterwards I should finish the last act of my School Board campaign and reimburse the three people who took up my offer to reimburse them since I’ve decided to write a different sort of book than the one my campaign promised. 70 of the buyers have apparently decided to accept whatever book I give them. God, I hope I start writing it. Potential content is bursting out of my ears every day.

I’d like to cover the premise of my First God Created Idiots Book. That is driven by the belief that I was a sample of the road America didn’t take when it turned its back on Brown v Board of Education. A white kid without any chips on my shoulder. A hell of a lot of chips have fallen since we took that other path and that’s what the Frontline production was all about.

And the better angels ignored not only recently but ever since Abraham Lincoln introduced them as President are another part of that story. I’d like to tell it from the standpoint of my parents and grandparents and even a great grandfather who sailed into New York the Day Fort Sumpter was fired on. Three of these previous posts mention this episode.

I know what I would have titled this post which I going to bring to a mercifully quick end. Something about Better Angles…….but I just used that Title. I thought of one particular angel during Frontline’s dreary litany of hate-filled sorrows which befell the Obama Years propelled by the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, Rupert Murdoch, Britebart and Donald Trump.

This is my most heartfelt snow sculpture of all time:

The previous post title wasn’t even an idle threat

I can’t let down my eight loyal readers and I’ll still need this space to stay sane so I have no plans to stop blogging.

Just after a very long day piling up up the snow for my elephants I noticed I was feeling woozey. I ignored the feeling for a couple days and then had myself checked out. My guess is that I’ve knocked some calcium deposits off my inner ear and they’ve been swimming around giving me a sense of vertigo. For the past couple weeks I’ve been putting on a skin patch behind me ears with some ingredient to keep me stave off motion sickness. I took the last one off last night and guess what? I’m a tad nauseous at the moment. If it continues it will be a little signal for me to take it easy. It will be a signal I will be strongly tempted to ignore.

I’ve had many things to blog about over the past week. Perhaps the most amazing thing was receiving an email out of the blue from the nephew of the foreign exchange student my family lot track of a few years after he stayed with us back in 1968. He found one of my commentaries on Bedru and introduced himself to me. We emailed back and fourth but he has not responded to my last email which is a little disconcerting. He confirmed my family’s suspicion that the Ethiopian government had silenced him. His nephew said he’d been “martyred.”

I am still hung up waiting for a fire to light under my feet to begin writing a book…….not a blog post. But my fingers are feeling stingy. I even missed writing a new column for the Reader this week. To my surprise they reprised the previous week’s column and republished it but with a different picture of my elephants. I’ve started writing a new column yesterday that I’m keen to finish but in the last couple of hours I’ve cooled off. Maybe its the vertigo talking.

I have been practice my French like crazy today. Its been just over two years and I have so much more to learn. I intend to put in a third year and Claudia was kind enough to sign us up for a 45 day stay in Provence for an adult language program next fall. My sweetie gave up on it after a week of experimenting. She really was looking forward to a simultaneous camp of french cooking. That, however was filled up. We are both hoping that someone else will back out between now and fall so she can do what suits her interests. That will put me out of the country when we elect our president. So, if I’m running for Congress I’ll have to do it by correspondence.

In the meantime I’ve got a couple other things to attend to. I still haven’t finished up my substitute teaching training. Tomorrow I have to introduce a speaker to our church men’s group and then serve breakfast at the CHUM center for the homeless. I got an email from the city sort of inviting me to help them teach folks how to snow sculpt at Canal Park early in February. (sigh) I’ve also got some winter travel plans to Florida and to Arizona. For a guy who never works I sure keep busy.

Sorry, I feel too blah to proof read this.

“Make Trump” and a visual spoiler alert

As is usually the case when I hold back my blog posts the process works rather like a fast car on a heavily traveled interstate breaking to a sudden stop. Dozens of other cars pile into its rear end. And so, my preoccupation with building one more snow sculpture has left a cascade of posts crash into my backside.

I did stop long enough to write a piece for the Reader My Reverie from a week ago. But even as I wrote it the snow storm removed other distractions. No Duluth Tribs showed up on my front door due to the unshoveled snow. On Sunday I got a huge passel of four which I have yet to look at. At some point a story was written in the Trib about a fellow wanting Duluthians to come to Leif Erickson Park to build snow sculptures. I only found out about the story at church yesterday when a fellow congregant mentioned that my name showed up in it. Apparently the organizer was hoping I’d show up and build something. News to me.

I probably spent twenty hours after the 8th snowiest blizzard moving snow from my backyard to my front yard. The first day of doing this I ended the day feeling light headed and dizzy whenever I bent my head. I found myself stumbling. Having just stopped at accute care a few days earlier for what turned out to be not much I was hesitant to do anything about this. The condition persisted for a week although when I went out to continue my sculpting it went away as though banished by my preoccupation.

A little fellow in a school bus yelled out a window as he passed for me to “Make Trump.” I called back that I had already made him a couple years earlier. In fact, I’ve made Trump twice and a third sculpture, my Grinch, was a barely veiled reference to him. Only Bill Clinton has commanded two sculptures of mine. The first made the national news. The second was barely noticed and when I put a cardboard cheese head on him in honor of the Packers winning the Superbowl no one knew who he was. I don’t like spending hours crafting sculptures of just anyone. But Trump is a man who doesn’t not care if making America Great again means undermining the moral underpinnings the founders breathed into it. I’ve made an exception to him.

But not this year. I imagined a sculpture more about the political party, mine to be exact, that brought Donald Trump’s Presidency into being. I piled up the snow with one sculpture in mind and then changed my mind. I wanted something more like my Grinch that kids would get a kick out of and not reek so much of the politics that are roiling and perhaps imperiling America.

So, after changing my plans I had to figure out how to move snow again with the temperatures dropped too low for sticky snow. Fortunately, I’ve had thirty years to perfect my snow “cooking.” As the cold crept in a couple days ago I poured massive amounts of water on it to sit for the night and diffuse throughout to make it uniform sticky. This also required covering it with fresh unwatered snow to insulate it so it wouldn’t freeze. This process took the better part of Saturday afternoon. Early Sunday I dashed out before church to check to see if I’d managed it and found I had. One of my choir mates saw me on the way to church and rolled down his window to give me grief. He didn’t want to be left alone in the bass section. I still not think he believes my protestations that I was only out doing snow reconnaissance.

So, here is the visual spoiler. I took an evening to build a clay model while watching two episodes of the lastest season of the Crown. Its the best so far by the way. I’ll show you half of the sculpture for now if you don’t mind the spoiler. I’m only doing it because it appears I’ll be able to manage it after today’s addition of even more snow and some looming arctic temps. I may not hurry to complete it: Don’t look if you want to be surprised but I don’t mind showing it because two little girls walked up and guessed what the principals in my sculpture would be: Continue reading

“Jew Coup” and its antidote

I’ve just come back from a Thanksgiving Open House at the restored Gloria Dei Church which burned nearly to the ground not long ago. Our Choir was one of about eight to sing and Temple Israel’s Rabbi was one of the religious leaders who led us in reverential thoughts between anthems. Coincidentally, one of two active Duluth Jewish synagogues also burned to the ground last spring. Impermanence is on my mind. Even the impermanence of the United States.

The state of America is constantly on my mind as it was Sunday when our sermon sprung from Jeremiah 23:1-6. God was unhappy with someone:

23 “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the Lord. 2 Therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says to the shepherds who tend my people: “Because you have scattered my flock and driven them away and have not bestowed care on them, I will bestow punishment on you for the evil you have done,” declares the Lord. 3 “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them and will bring them back to their pasture, where they will be fruitful and increase in number. 4 I will place shepherds over them who will tend them, and they will no longer be afraid or terrified, nor will any be missing,” declares the Lord.

Lincoln famously said he didn’t know which side of the Civil War God was on even as both sides claimed to have God’s favor. I feel the same way. Either God is on the side of Rick Wiles, the Trump-worshiping pastor in this video or me a happy agnostic who has found almost every action by Donald Trump to be repellent. I could not worship any God that would put her trust in the Donald Trump I’ve watched slack jawed for the past thirty years.

Here’s the video. It will be followed by something I read in a 1947 Reader’s Digest that took the poison out of my head from watching this video:

If I have anything to say about it Donald Trump will not be reelected but I’m not sure I will have any say other than the single vote Republicans will be unable to take from me because, I’m not poor, or easily fooled or without transportation to get to the polls. So Continue reading

And I’ve caught it three times

Oh, I’ll get around to the Title in a moment but first. In the last couple days of modest posting the ideas for posts in my head have been piling up like cars on a freeway when a heavy fog obscures the view. Some of those thoughts were pent up during the last weeks of my campaign which ended one week ago as voters headed out to the polls to determine the make up of the new school board.

I campaigned hard enough and long enough not to blame myself for my defeat. If I was more politic (inoffensive) which a lot of people confuse with being diplomatic I might not have lost. But I can’t help myself. This blog is where I let almost everything hang out. I do keep my swearing to myself. It has been particularly aggravated of late by my French practice. When I make a mistake the umpteenth time on a complicated sentence in my Duolingo app I find it hard not to cuss out a lot of typewriter symbols #$&%#@(^^$##$!!!!! In earlier days that mostly erupted when I had to do some tedious handiwork around the house that I’d put off for ages.

Otherwise I’m pretty happy, relieved almost, about not having to fix the Duluth Schools from the twits at the News Tribune who couldn’t conceive that the best minds of Johnson Controls and the Duluth Schools Business office and a charming sociopathetic (type in “lies and Dixon” in the blog’s search engine) Superintendent wouldn’t anticipate that their demographic projections, tax plans and financing wouldn’t go as planned.

So, a young me who hoped for a congressional career has managed to accumulate a spotty record of getting elected to a small city’s school board. As I sat down last night for our last weekly rehearsal for the next DSSO Symphony concert my seatmate looked over to me and said he hadn’t realized I was one of the candidates for the school board. I joshed that I was like that dog that caught the car he was chasing and didn’t know what to do with it. Then I added that I had caught the car three times and never managed to figure out what to do with it.

So there’s your punchline. And here’s one…

…for the Tribune. Their editorial today. After endorsing David Kirby over me because of my excessive transparency (I told Duluth we’d been offered ten million for Central High School…..shame on me) Now they feel betrayed. Why? Because David has just threw cold water on the idea that keeping the rest of his school board colleagues in the dark was a big deal. And this, after the Trib’s editors made it clear that transparency was a “good” thing. Of course, as they note, they already knew David wasn’t all that perturbed about how perturbed some of his colleagues were with little things like not being told they had just approved the hiring of someone who was lucky not to have run over school kids while drunk on three occasions. Had I known about that in a closed meeting and blogged about it I suppose the Trib would have called me a goat for being too transparent.

I like David. And I don’t disagree with him that for the most part an honest fellow like he is won’t sneak around keeping his colleagues in the dark. David treated me very well after he replaced a bunch of wonderful former School District insiders who became super secretive jerks after they took over the School Board. Hey. Rudy Guilani used to be “America’s Mayor.” Sometimes there will be a Donald Trump in the mix. During such times no one will be able to trust anyone. But, the Trib got what the Trib wanted which, it turns out, is not what the Trib wanted.

And I’ve got another destination, whether I make it there or not. Another 31 years to age 100. I hope to remain lucid enough to add more pages to this blog or my writing “corpus.” I even have my eight loyal readers although not having the campaign to write about will put a dent in my blog readership. Although yesterday I got 6000 hits thanks to my putting the remembrance of Dick Gastler in the blog. And I got it from the Trib. You see. The Trib is important to our community and I can’t conceive of not subscribing to it.

I just congratulated David Kirby

We had a cordial conversation. He had been busy cleaning up from 25 young ladies from the East Swim team and I got to give him the news of his victory. It was a solid not quite two to one victory. I wished him well and told him he’d always treated me fairly on the Board.

I left a message of condolence with Loren Martell. I really do feel justice slipped by Duluth but I also have to say that the victor in the 3rd District race is a good guy.

I checked in with Alanna Oswald to congratulate her as well. It was a short congratulation because the education reporter from the Duluth News Tribune called and that took priority.

The voting percentages have pretty well set the seal on my permanent retirement. Even Pete Stauber can breath easier. My head has been working overtime on what I would do as a returned school board member but at that was for naught. I knew, however, that win lose or draw I would be content and that is how I feel now. In fact the lopsided nature of my loss really pulls the final curtain on future campaigns. I won’t promise not to dabble in the future but at the moment campaign number 17 feels like the end of a long run.

The writer in me is pleased. Not the blogger but the writer who wants to put some books together. The School Board would have been a powerful deterrent to that long desire of mine. I say not the blogger because the blog and short form writing has also been a distraction. But I think I will find time to return to writing every other week in the Reader. In fact, I woke up this morning with an idea I sketched out for a column this week. As of the end of the election reporting I am no longer a candidate so the Reader will probably let me back on the payroll. (That’s a joke BTW) I sent them a column late this afternoon for their Thursday edition. It would be a shame to have wasted all my ads in the Reader for the past couple months telling folks how much they missed my contributions. So, That’s how I feel as of the ten o’clock news.

Thanks to all those who helped me out and voted for me. Book orders will be fulfilled sooner now that I have so much more free time to look forward to.

God’s peace and thank you Kentucky and Virginia. You brightened my evening.

Holloweeny stuff

Between watching my grandson and being an usher at the Depot where my grandson is s pitratical treasure hunter in the Production of Treasure Island and doing other holloweeny things I’ve had a hard time finding time to put up more lawnsigns. Above is a spider that is dangling above my front door. Its there waiting for me every morning I go to pick up my Tribune. Its dark and next week we are switching over to daylight savings time. It will be a little less scary to pick up my trib. Its almost as scary as opening it up to see what’s inside. Today it was a mixed bag. The reinterated their school board endorsements which were two for three for the folks I support. Alanna Oswald got their endorsement and so did Loren Martel. I missed out but I’m so used to getting elected without their endorsement and without any from labor unions or the DFL that I can shrug it off. I’m such a known quantity with voters that I’ll be elected or not based on their opinions not the opinions voters check out of me from the Trib. All in all I’m pleased with their school board endorsements.

Friday night I volunteered to hand out goodies at Lowell Elementary. I headed there straight from putting up lawnsigns. The view above taken by a parent of me with the Crytal Farms cheese sticks it was my lot to pass out is suitable fuzzy which obscures the innocent kids that took my treat. Crystal Farms volunteered 400 or more of the string cheese and most kids were happy to take it. I loved showing the dorothy’s my Cell phone cover of a Halloween a few years back. I told the little girls everything was perfect about their costume except the absence of the beard.

And that left me with today’s sort of laid back trunk or treat at our church. I’d made a scarecrow with my grandson a month ago to keep him off tech (a cell phone) and we stuck it up as a cornfield. Claudia is the crow who would pluck me clean of corn kernels and I was an ear or corn. I told every adult that walked by that my wife always picked out my cloths.

Don’t worry…let me do that for you

Its a sunny if cold afternoon so I am about to head up and put up some more lawnsigns. At this point I suspect most voters have made up their mind but I don’t want to risk losing by ten votes because I was too tired or infirm or whatever to waste the donations that have been sent to my campaign. That would be unfair to my supporters.

I’ve been working overtime locally and globally meaning both Duluth School Board and tyrant eradication work. Its exhausting reading the news these days. That’s probably Trump’s biggest worry. Even his supporters have got to be fatigued. But on the other hand I keep being sent unwanted cheap shots at me for being an anti-trumper by one of his most ardent supporters. I should but can’t resist responding. Its actually a constant useful reminder of how Fox Television has polluted America.

I plan to post the string of emails from my frenemie if I have time later.

STUFF to tell you before I put up lawnsigns

Yesterday I took a half hour phone call from a Facebook techie advising me how to get the most out of Facebook. I teased him about Mark Zuckerberg listening in. He gave me some good advice and motivated me to put up more ads in the waning days of the campaign.

Not long ago a fan of mine who always asks me about whether Donald Trump will ever be curbed told me their son is a guard at Camp David. I asked if he’s been guarding the Taliban.

Two nights ago when I woke up at 2 in the morning I had some mental clarification going on in my head about what my mission was in the upcoming last third of my life. I must say it was invigorating at a time when the campaign stuff had started to discourage me.

And I’d recommend this piece today by an old favorite of mine, Andrew Sullivan. Its longish and deals with three items. The first is about Boris Johnson, British politics and Brexit. It made good sense to me but if its not your bag skip the beginning. The last part is a pretty dead-on analysis of the Democrats running against Trump. It was discouraging even though I suspect a majority of the nation’s electoral votes will get past Republican attempts to block non Republican voters and Mark Zuckerberg’s refusal to correct lying politicians and their campaigns on Facebook.

looking back, looking forward

The gentleman who said I was not the answer on a Facebook posting replied to my question. He simply said we needed people who looked ahead not those to looked backward. I simply replied “Fair enough” and added that I thought he was wrong about his analysis of me.

I am a historian. I do look back. When I was on the School Board before the turn of the millennium I made myself a business card which quoted the philosopher Santayana’s aphorism, “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it.”

A previous school board made a huge mistake that will cost us 100 desperately needed classroom teachers every year until the Red Plan is paid off. I don’t want new residents to blame me for this when I forecast this result of the plan ahead of the cuts. I do know that there is no finding the money to replace them until the end of the Red Plan. So in looking forward I am looking for ways to soften the blow. There are a number of ways to do this but being forgetful is not helpful nor is wishing the problem would just go away.

In fact, I sense in my critic’s frustration with me a guilty conscience. No one likes to be reminded that they pushed for something that had unfortunate after effects. I think a lot of the people who were unhappy that I opposed the Red Plan do not like me acting the part of the historian that won’t let them forget their mistake. They no longer want to look back at it.

But as I said to my critic who was willing to give me an answer. “Fair enough”

Politics without a fulcrum

Here’s a video of American politics at its current best.

levers are engineering at their most elementary and all school children of my generation experienced the significance of a lever’s fulcrum when they played on teeter totters. Without equal weights on the ends a teeter will not totter. One side will sink below the other elevating the lighter side. By sliding from an end to the center, where the fulcrum is, a heavier weight can lift its side. I loved being in the middle of a teeter totter when kids were hanging all over them so that I could sway one way or the other and determine which end would rise or fall. This was also my politics. I didn’t like the radicals or reactionaries on the end of politics (Teddy Roosevelt’s “lunatic fringe”) to have too much influence.

Today the Republican party has used the courts, laws, some lucky elections and Fox News’s to imbalance America toward what they hope will be decades of a “conservative” agenda that will confound the coming liberal majority. In other words they want to eviscerate democratic principals to stay in power.

Here are three news stories that remind me of how a minority can enforce its will and how pragmatic politics can be torn asunder.

First here’s a story from the Duluth Schools. The Red Plan that I opposed looted classrooms of teachers and resources for pretty new buildings. It did this by denying a vote to the public rather like the Republicans making it hard for likely democrats to vote. The result, a decade after the Red Plan’s completion, is a frantic search for classroom funds. This story explains how three school board members (who were playing Republicans) voted to turn their back on $700,000 annually for Duluth’s public school classrooms (7 teachers worth) to show off their fiscal conservatism. They didn’t want to raise taxes by a half million over the next fifteen years to put $700,000 a year into the classrooms.

When I fought the Red Plan I warned that this kind its financing would drain the classrooms but that fight was lost long ago. Now our children need more teachers and this half million is paltry compared to the seven teachers we could annually add to our teaching roster. That’s me the pragmatist talking:

In 2016 a lot of Americans came up with a simpleminded excuse to let a demagogue become President. They claimed, and still believe, that both candidates were equally bad. I disagreed with them then and still disagree with them. The pragmatist in me fears that four years of seeing how awful Donald Trump is will not result in his defeat. I know that his critics have a hard time imagining him winning but this eye opening article in Politico is a warning. Defeating Donald Trump could prove as difficult as trying to kill Rasputin.

And one of the key issues that will determine whether Trump can be defeated is one that may very well keep Trump’s voters in his pocket. Immigration. David Frum has written a thoughtful piece in the Atlantic and this NPR story today is a much shorter summation. I fear that there are no longer enough pragmatists sitting on the fulcrum to ground Donald Trump.

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.

John Ramos on Duluth School District opacity

John Ramos gave me a mention in his latest Duluth Reader column. This complaint of mine seems not to have changed much.

BTW – I like how John handles the one quibble given him by a reader at the end of the column (in the online version). He answers without defensiveness and in the process makes one point of disputation a little clearer for anyone reading his response.

From his column:

Johnston data request

I previously reported on the Duluth school district’s failure to comply with former School Board Member Art Johnston’s subject data request. A subject data request is a request for information about oneself. On March 2, 2018, Johnston submitted a subject data request to the school district, asking for district emails that mentioned him. By law, school districts and other governmental entities must fulfill subject data requests within 10 days. When I wrote my first article about it about Johnston’s request, on June 28, 116 days had elapsed. Continue reading

I do not envy Congressman Nolan

This news story surprised me today. Annie Harala who is stepping down from the School Board; it has been rumored for health considerations; has been appointed as Congressman Rick Nolan’s campaign manager.

How being the campaign manager for the most imperiled Democrat in Congress, through what will be one of the most tumultuous campaigns in Northeastern Minnesota history will be an improvement over being on the Duluth School Board, I have no clue. Certainly my question will not be welcome by Annie but it is certain that it will be one of the mildest worries Annie will have to deal with.

My default attitude toward Annie was set at: “she’s the classmate of my son, what’s not to like?” One of the first things Annie told me when she began running for the school board four years ago was how my son, Robb, reacted when his teacher brought in a science lesson for the second graders to study. It was a bucket of lamb eyeballs from a family member’s farm. “[teacher], Robb’s on the floor.” That’s what the students told the teacher. One look at the bucket and my son was out like a light. Its one of the reasons I was skeptical when Robb suggested he might like to become a doctor in his early college years.

Other less enthusiastic comments about Annie’s four years serving with me can also be found on the blog. She was never able to rise very far above faction on the School Board but that is exactly what she will have to navigate as Rick Nolan’s campaign manager. Environmentalists vs. unions. Gun rights militants vs. gun control militants. Rural Trumpeteers vs. Urban look-down-their-nosers. And then there will be the money issue. Nolan is extremely reticent about becoming one of the Congressional money grubbers but he’s facing the most charming and alluring Republican candidate in the Eighth Congressional District who will have access to millions of Kochain money. All this while Nolan’s party is choked with dissension. Annie failed to win me over and I’m a cupcake. She’ll need to up her game.

Meanwhile, one of the DFL’s many factions, women still recoiling from Hillary Clinton’s loss in 2016, has waded into the local non-partisan City Council and School Board races. For the thinnest of reasons they are pushing three candidates one of whom is Annie’s close ally Rosie Loeffler-Kemp. But then again they aren’t endorsing anyone. (you could have fooled me) The Feminist Action recently published questionnaires they had given local candidates and I was one of four school board candidates who was listed as “Did not respond.” Its true. I didn’t. None of the feminists ever sent me or the other three school board candidates their questionnaire. I pointed this out and was sent one after-the-fact and filled it out with virtually no disagreement from the many positions they wanted their candidates to take. But, it was too late. I had already been blackballed when I tried to join their sorority.

I hope Annie can give Representative Nolan an admission pass to the group. He’ll need it because many of the people his shaky campaign needs seem hellbent on dividing up DFL votes to elect the Republican Stauber.


The justification from Editor, Chuck Frederick, for not accepting my reply:

Thank you for your submission. I’m sorry to inform you, however, that we have decided not to publish it at this time. Your Candidate’s View column was just published on Aug. 19, and, as you know we require at least 30 days between published submissions (with exceptions for syndicated and regular columnists, of course). We do consider exceptions to that rule to address particularly egregious or erroneous published submissions that demand immediate response. That doesn’t seem to apply here; your response doesn’t really specify or attempt to clarify or correct anything within Mr. Miernicki’s letter published today.

Despite your suggestion otherwise, we work very hard to publish elections letters by the Friday or Saturday prior to a vote rather than the Monday or Tuesday. That very intentionally allows time for necessary responses or corrections.

Please note that candidates will be offered another opportunity prior to the general election to submit a commentary for publication. Whether that’s this submission or something else will be left up to you.

I recognize that this isn’t the response you were hoping for. I do appreciate your respect for our decision, however. It was reached by our entire editorial board after a thoughtful exchange of viewpoints this morning.

With respect for your service to our community,

My shorter reply:

I follow your reasoning Chuck. But your logic doesn’t consider the outsized credibility of a former colleague of mine who speaks with the authority of a past chairmanship. His was hardly a run of the mill opinion.

I will look forward to my next chance to share my views in the paper should I survive the primary. It will not be this one.

Thank you, and all the best to you.


NOTE: I made my point. Its not my paper. I believe in being personable more than I believe in being civil with that words frosty connotation. Besides, I like Chuck and this was a professional not a personal decision. And he was only one of six or seven votes on the Editorial Board.

Three days before the election!

Like I said in an earlier post. The Trib’s new motto could be “fair and balanced.”

Reader’s View: School Board election about moving forward together
By Mike Miernicki, Duluth on Sep 7, 2017 at 5:05 p.m.

The News Tribune’s brilliant political cartoonist Steve Lindstrom once published a cartoon about Duluth voters in the far future still being haunted by ghosts of the Red Plan. The message was prophetic. Duluth voters are faced with a choice to either move forward or continue the ugly battles of the past.

I commend the News Tribune’s Sept. 1 “Our View” editorial, “Voters can reject ugly battles of the past.” The endorsement illustrated how Duluth voters this fall have a choice between those School Board candidates who want to move forward (Josh Gorham, Bogdana Krivogorsky, and Sally Trnka) and those who seem to want to continue their tired battle against the Red Plan (Loren Martell and incumbents Harry Welty and Art Johnston).

The Red Plan is over a decade old. Superintendents Keith Dixon and I.V. Foster are gone. Superintendent Bill Gronseth had little to do with the passing of the Red Plan. None of the current School Board members were involved in passing the Red Plan. It is time to move on.

The editorial wisely stated that, “Voters can resist succumbing, once again, to the tired negativity, all the ugliness, and the mire of battles fought — and settled — long ago.” Let us move forward together.

Mike Miernicki


The writer is a former chairman of the Duluth School Board.

I’ve sent in a reply, of course.

If the Trib doesn’t publish my retort by Monday there will be little doubt that the new motto, borrowed from Roger Ailes, will apply equally to the Tribune as well.

By the way, in that earlier post I commented that the Trib not only refused to endorse someone other than a demagogue for President but failed to defend the attempt to overturn Art Johnston’s election. However, I completely forgot to mention how the Trib failed to stick up for the right of Duluth voters to play a part in making the ruinous Red Plan decision. How Putinesque of them!

Three strikes?

I’m number two

I’ve been determined for a couple days to be the first to file for the Duluth School Board this year and today was the first day of filing. When I got to the Business Office at about six after 8AM I asked Jackie Dolentz if I was first and she told me I wasn’t. Art Johnston had beat me to the punch. He was already gone and it took me ten minutes to fill out all the paperwork so Art was most efficient.

When Jackie told me I was “number two” I caviled at that description. I explained how I’d just seen a trailer for the “Emoji Movie” while watching “Despicable Me III” with my fellow roof climbers (See previous post). One of the sad (yes there is some justification for that word) punch lines from Emojiville comes from Daddy poop emoji after he and his son exit a toilet stall. “We’re Number Two,” they chorus.

It was unnecessary to explain that imagery to Jackie who seemed to get my drift, quickly correcting herself, “You were second.” I thanked her for her delicacy then left Old Central putting way too much thought into what poop leaving a bathroom stall on foot indicated. Had they just flushed their creator down the drain?”

I also made our vacation number two. I made Claudia delay our trip to China until the searing month’s of July and August just so I could file for the School Board. No question about my priorities.

Correction for the preceding post

I indicated that Jill Lofald was recruited by Annie Harala to run for the School Board. What I now know is that other members of the community actively encouraged Jill to run and it was Jill’s sense that as a newcomer to politics she would be best served by running in a smaller district seat rather than at-large. I’m sure the Superintendent is delighted she will be a candidate but to my knowledge he played no part in her recruitment.