Category Archives: Media

Can Duluth voters take an endorsement seriously from editors who did not notice that Donald Trump was an ignorant demagogue,…

…a liar and a seven-year-old sexoholic?

Well maybe, but I’m still profoundly disappointed in their at-large school board endorsements. They only grudgingly endorsed me four years ago and they have badly confused my principled fight to protect Art Johnston as something ugly when in fact, the only thing ugly about it was the Tribune’s siding with the School Board members who pushed lies to remove Art. As I wrote a couple year”s ago:

Art and I did have a chance to voice our displeasure with the attorney for the District Kevin Rupp. The allegation I leveled against Rupp for pushing the Board to throw Racism on the barn wall last June to see if it would stick comes from an unimpeachable source. I would be amazed if any Board member denied it. This was only the most disagreeable reason I cited for replacing Rupp.

It was chair Mike Miernicki who was sickened by our attorney Kevin Rupp’s recommendation to charge Art Johnston with saying racist things. But Miernicki took the vile advice and it was the Duluth News Tribune who trumpeted the baseless allegation over and over for a year. The Presidential candidate that the editors did not oppose calls this Fake News. Now he wants to undermine the First Amendment. Good work Editors!

In fact, for ten years the editorial board has played the prostitute to school administrations of dubious character. They jumped on board with Keith Dixon, who I’ve always suspected was a charming sociopath. When Gary Glass correctly pointed out that Johnston Controls would earn $30 million from the Red Plan the newspaper quickly countered Glass with Dixon’s lie that the program managers would only earn $4.5 million. After that their columnist at the Budgeteer used this gross misinformation to write a column calling Gary Glass the liar.

Time and again the Trib backed the wrong end of the horse. The Red Plan would not segregate Duluth. The Red Plan would only cost half of its real cost. The new buildings would save a great deal of energy. The old buildings were far too large for Duluth’s needs. The old buildings would be sold and help retire the bonding debt. Interest payments were not part of the cost of the Red Plan. Now the editor’s mantra is “Don’t cry over spilled milk.” The real crime of the incumbent, Harry Welty, is that he is one of the few people who spoke up as the disaster unfolded. That merits the Trib’s dismissal: “Voters can thank Welty for his service — and then jump at the chance for the change that’s needed to finally solve those problems…” The problems the Trib’s editors were to blind to anticipate and too vain to acknowledge

One of the candidates the Trib heartily endorsed showed up for only the second school board meeting tonight since she announced her candidacy five months ago.
I’ve never seen a candidate campaign so little in all the years I’ve been watching the school board. I guess the Trib finds her ignorance as blissful as their own.

Meanwhile the hardest working new candidate Dana Krivogorsky got the Trib’s try-again-at-the-next-election schtick. Alanna Oswald offered a far more cogent testimonial. I wonder if the editors can relate to anyone who understands our schools and takes the time to study them. Krivogorsky’s only crime is guilt by association – with me.

And there may be another reason the Trib acts as it does. Thin skin. I have twitted the Trib time and time again on the blog in posts like this one where I engaged the Editor. And there was the time the editor accused me of defaming the Trib which resulted in this post on his “big boy pants.”

I’ve been to 10,000 doors all across Duluth this summer. I am not sure who the editors think their audience is but I doubt that they understand them very well. The Trib is in an echo chamber populated with poobahs who don’t want to be reminded how wrong they were about the Red Plan.
Now the Trib’s editors are promoting the Superintendent’s “dream team” so we will never have to worry about him jumping ship again.

I write this not in anger but with resignation. The last “fresh face” the Trib endorsed over me in 2007 prevented Duluth from reevaluating the Red Plan before Duluth took the plunge. Had the Trib endorsed me instead of helping elect a pretty young pet of Dr. Dixon’s our schools would not have been ripped asunder. There are solutions to our problems, painful solutions, but I’ll guarantee the fresh faces the Trib is endorsing this election are no improvement on the Fresh Face who cemented the Red Plan into place with the Trib’s help.

A tale of two reporters

Today’s Trib story about the School Board candidates speaking at the Chamber of Commerce Forum was covered by two reporters. Normally Jana Hollingsworth covers all the Educational news but this election has posed a problem for the Tribune. Jana’s Aunt, Jill Lofald, is a candidate and the Trib and Jana insist that this creates a conflict of interest so that Jana has written nothing about that race. For today’s story on the candidates for the 1st and 4th District candidates reporter Tom Olson took over.

All school board candidates were asked about seven questions and given one minute to answer each. Its tempting to take up all the time although I challenged myself and generally cut my answers even shorter than that. On one of the questions asked me I did nudge up to the sixty second mark and concluded by saying we board members talked for endless hours on the subject and I was pleased to have been given a minute at the forum to address it. That got a little laugh from the audience. The endless hours of talking by Board members would have been true of most issues.

Tom Olson’s story mentions Rosie Loeffler-Kemp’s absence. She missed the previous day’s big poverty themed question period too. Some of us suspect she has gotten nervous about public appearances but Mr. Olson reported that she had family business to attend to. She has managed to substitute nicely with a great many testimonial letters-to-the-editor from her supporters.

Olson captured the essence of the campaign in western Duluth – equity and the future of Denfeld. The differences between Jill Lofald and Art Johnston could be boiled down to a single issue. Is selling Central High School to Edison (which may no longer be possible) a threat to Denfeld? Jill says yes and asked the audience if it would make sense for a barber to sell part of his shop to a rival barber. Art is of the mind that we needed the money and that Denfeld’s biggest threat is too little resources.

If Edison no longer intends to build a high school that issue is moot. But when it was on the table I never saw a threat of closing Denfeld. The threat is and continues to be that the last ten years have been tough on Denfeld with school busses from Wrenshall and Proctor cruising through Duluth to poach western Duluth students. As long as Denfeld continues to be perceived as a lesser high school that will continue as well as the steady drift of western students to eastern schools.

Jana Hollingsworth did cover the At-Large candidate discussion and emphasized the discussion of school boundaries. Jana summed up each of the four at large candidates thoughts. Of mine she reported:

“The last thing we want to do is put a gun to a parent’s head,” he [Welty] said, and force them to change schools. At a previous forum, however, he suggested making one of the high schools for freshmen and sophomores and one for juniors and seniors.

My short term suggestion is to make the Western schools more desirable by pumping more into them especially the compensatory ed money which Duluth skews east. That is easier said than done. As I told the audience, previous school boards traded teachers for new schools.

Word is that if teacher Lofald is elected Jana Hollingsworth will be taken off the public school beat by her editors. I understand that no Tribune reporters are eager to replace Jana. I wonder why?

MY FORTY YEARS OF DNT REPORTERS AND EDITORS

PLEASE UNDERSTAND THAT I WOKE UP IN THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGHT TO WRITE A FUND RAISING LETTER AND IT BECAME THIS EXTENDED STREAM-OF-THOUGHT PIECE ON MY EXPERIENCES WITH THE DULUTH NEWS TRIBUNE. PLEASE ALSO UNDERSTAND THAT I HAVE NO DESIRE TO TIDY ITS 1903 WORDS UP WITH A COUPLE PROOF READINGS. IT IS AND WILL REMAIN IN ROUGH DRAFT CONDITION PROBABLY FOR AS LONG AS THIS BLOG CAN BE FOUND ON THE WEB. BTW – I RECOMMEND SKIPPING IT AND CUTTING TO THE LAST PARAGRAPH.

I have had a long relationship with the News Tribune which began when I first ran against Mike Jaros as a 25-year-old in 1976. Continue reading

The DNT tosses my column in the circular file

The Trib won’t run my column after all. According to Editor Chuck Frederick it was too much like this post from a couple days ago.

I changed it significantly but I acknowledge that the bones are still the same: Chuck wrote me with the bad news:

Hello, Board Member Welty. I see you’ve posted on your blog most, if not all, of the commentary you had sent to us for publication as your “Candidate’s View” column in the run-up to the Nov. 7 election. As you ,now, we request, always, that local content published on the News Tribune Opinion page be original and unpublished. Your submission no longer is. Please consider writing an original submission of no more than 500 words, and then we would ask that you please refrain from posting it or publishing it elsewhere (including on your blog) until it has been published by the News Tribune. Your deadline would be Oct. 20.

Thanks,
Chuck Frederick
Editorial Page Editor

I wrote back to Chuck:

Chuck,

I will see what I can do.

Harry

These are the 352 words I first sent the Trib:

Duluth’s local property taxes spent in the classroom have dived from $14 million annually twenty years ago to $2.5 million this year. That’s shocking. But the editors of the News Tribune only harp about an “ugly” past that started when discredited school board members invented phony accusations to crucify Art Johnston, whose only crime was asking tough questions.

I’ll confess that I’ve been tempted to stop defending Art Johnston because the Trib has convinced many of my eastern neighbors that Art is not only “A” problem but “THE” problem! How cheap of me. My lawnsigns proclaim that “Honesty is the best policy.” Denying Art is like Peter denying Jesus.

If the Trib wanted to report the truly “ugly” they would explain how our School District redistributes state funds for poor children to our eastern schools.

My campaign lit says: “No one has worked harder than Art Johnston to point out the exodus of Denfeld students and the growing achievement gap. We need more than cheerleaders. We need Board members with a keen financial sense who understand that a divided Duluth is a threat to the whole city.”

I know Art can be forceful. People who make a difference often are. He once made me so mad when he first ran for the school board I told him I wanted him to win because it would be the worst experience of his life. I was right. His public data requests were ignored. The Board accused him of assault, racism, conflict of interest and Rosie Loeffler-Kemp told KBJR he was “dangerous.” Art had to defend the voters who elected him by spending $75,000 to remain on the Board. When his “colleagues” utterly failed they censured him.

Milquetoasts let the Jews get carted off to concentrations camps. Art is not a milquetoast. He is a man of honor and integrity. It’s been tough being his defender but I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror if I didn’t stick up for him.

That’s not a problem for the editors of the Duluth News Tribune. I wonder if they see anything when they look into theirs?

Harry Welty

I knew that the Trib was ridiculously sensitive about publishing opinion pieces that had previously seen the light of day before although they regularly post other newspaper’s editorials. Eleven years ago I wrote a column for the lowly Duluth Reader urging voters pass a referendum financing the expansion of the DECC. Supporters at the Chamber of Commerce loved it and wanted to have it republished in the Trib. The Trib flatly refused because it had appeared in the lowly Duluth Reader. Maybe there is a reason that the Reader’s special issue runs now exceed all but the Trib’s Sunday Circulation.

I would have had to make one change in my column anyway. Rosie Loeffler-Kemp didn’t tell KBJR television that Art was “dangerous.” She told them:

“The investigation was brought forward because of Art Johnston’s violent abusive and harassing and threatening behaviors.”

I will look forward to using the full 500 words the Trib will allow me rather than the 352 words I just submitted. I will put the extra 148 words to good use.

How are Donald Trump and the News Tribune Editors similar?

In the first case: the US has suffered at least four straight climate crises, the fires out west and Hurricanes pounding Huston, Florida and Puerto Rico. Meanwhile, President Trump’s EPA shill says its not the right time to talk about climate change while all Trump wants to talk about is the NFL firing the “SOB’s” who protest the mistreatment of other Americans.

In the second case: Duluth’s local property taxes spent in the classroom has dived from $14 million annually twenty years ago to $2.5 million this year but all the Trib wants is to harp on is the “ugly” past they trumped up when five discredited school board members ginned up a phony case against a colleague who simply asked the tough questions they AND THE TRIBUNE didn’t want answered.

And here’s a confession on my part.

I started this campaign thinking I should stop defending Art Johnston so loudly since the Trib has managed to convince a lot of my neighbors in eastern Duluth that Art is not only a problem but THE PROBLEM! How cheap of me. I claim on my lawnsigns that “Honesty is the best policy.” Denying Art is a little like Peter denying Jesus.

I began to rectify that in one of the campaign pieces I am handing out now. If the Trib was doing its work all Duluth should know by now that our School District actively redistributes state funds given to us for our poorer children and spends it in our eastern schools where poverty not such a problem. So, on my literature I wrote: “No one has worked harder than Art Johnston to point out the exodus of Denfeld students and the growing achievement gap. We need more than cheerleaders. We need Board members with a keen financial sense who understand that a divided Duluth is a threat to the whole city.”

I know Art can be forceful. People who make a difference often are. He once made me so mad that when he first ran for the school board I told him that I hoped he would win because I knew it would be the worst experience of his life. Can I call em? His public data requests have been denied. Judy Seliga-Punyko called the police to arrest him, then he was accused of assault, racism, conflict of interest and Rosie Loeffler-Kemp told KBJR he was dangerous. Then Art was forced to defend the election he won by spending $75,000 on lawyers to remain on the School Board. When his “colleagues” failed utterly at that they censured him and for good measure they censured me. Now the Trib calls us “ugly.”

Milquetoasts let the Jews get carted off to concentrations camps. Art is not a milquetoast. He is a man of honor and integrity. Its been tough being his defender but I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror if I didn’t stick up for him.

That’s not a problem for the editors of the Duluth News Tribune. I wonder if they see anything when they look into theirs?

Duluth News Trib steals a page from the Duluth Reader and declares that…

… East High School is the best school in the area!

Except that the Reader’s ten-plus years of running a people’s choice awards issue didn’t have a category for best high school – thank goodness.

But the Trib does and its “Best of the Best” insert boasts that 59,404 votes determined the results. Now that’s not to mean that twice as many people voted for this popularity contest than will vote in the November 7th school board election. Hardly. They had about 185 categories so that any one person could have cast that many votes. If every voter in the survey had cast votes on all 185 categories each could have been decided by a mere 321 votes.

Of course, not everyone was very likely to cast a vote for the “Best chiropractor.” Who knows how many voted in that category at all.

Its incredibly obvious that the voting can be manipulated far more easily than Putin managed. Stuffed ballots would have been easy to pull off. Any Pizza place could have organized its fans and friends to do just that for the minutes of free publicity it would give them

As for East High “winning” – think about it. For the past twenty-five years East has been the biggest of three Duluth High Schools and currently has sixty percent more students than Denfeld. Furthermore, far more of them are likely to have parents who can afford to subscribe to the Trib. Winning for them was as easy to manage as my Dad’s intervention in the Washburn College May Day Queen vote. He was in Washburn’s Law school whose older students couldn’t have cared less about the undergraduate’s May Day festivities…except that his little sister, my Aunt Mary, was a contestant for her sorority. Someone had taken a picture of her in a fetching bathing suit and put it on a four by eight plywood board. My Dad simply had someone install it on the wall of the lawschool and all the lawyers-to-be fell over themselves to vote for the first time in Washburn’s May Day history.

But now its official. East High is the best high school in Duluth. Thanks Duluth News Tribune for frivolously and thoughtlessly interjecting more divisiveness in the Duluth Schools.

At least the Reader’s Best of the Northland Issue is a funky and tongue-in-cheek affair with off beat quotes from the people supporting their fiends or dissing their enemies. The Trib’s piece looks like slick, mindless, nonsense guaranteed only to get them more advertising dollars from the “winners.”

Ruckus on the Editorial Board (My theory)

If I was a good journalist I’d call a couple people rather than read between the lines. But I’m a school board member so I’ll pass on that knowing that, in the case of the Trib and the Red Plan, I’m in good company.

I did not object to losing the Trib’s endorsement. I’ve been elected without it and I understand they are thin skinned about my accusation they dropped the investigative ball on the Red Plan……covering their arse’s is now “moving on.”

But their placing an attack on my by my aggrieve old friend Mike Miernicki three days before the primary and denying me a chance to rebut him was simply unfair.

I sent them a hot reply to Mike which they refused to run on the grounds that their coverage of the primary was over.

Shortly after I posted my nixed retort in my blog I got a cc’d copy of an email that had been sent to what looked like all the members of the Editorial Board. I thought a blog reading citizen had agreed with my thinking and sent her support of me to them as a rebuke. She wrote “VERY WELL DONE. You’re “the MAN”!

I don’t always keep track of names very well and I couldn’t recall the names of all the seven or so folks who interviewed me at the Trib’s offices. One of their names came up in today’s announcement of the replaycement of one of their “citizen” board members: “… the term of citizen representative Nancy Lanthier Carroll comes to a close.”

It was Nancy Carroll who sent her blistering comment to her fellow Editorial Board members and me. I don’t think it was her disagreement with them that led to her abrupt departure. It was sharing it with me and embarrassing the other Editors. That’s the same way the Duluth School District is inclined to treat the airing dirty laundry. You end up on the Human Resources Agenda as a “resignation” or “termination.”

That’s one more reason for re electing me. I’ll tell you more than the Trib will. In fact, you’ll learn more about our schools from me while I’m on the School board by about a factor of 10 over what you will learn from the Trib. Ink, newsprint and reporter’s health insurance cost too much for complete coverage.

Mischievousness in the pursuit of Sanity, Justice, Competence and other Miscellaneous virtues . . .

. . . And why it would be a damned shame if I am not reelected to the Duluth School Board this year.

Here’s a visual metaphor to explain my reasoning taken from a mural I painted in our church’s children’s rooms twenty years ago:

This is a picture of a small boy sneaking his head under the Red Tent. Twenty years ago the novel The Red Tent was so popular that church women across America began decorating Sunday School Rooms to look like the Red Tent. Because of my snow sculpting people in Glen Avon assumed that I could paint too. Well, I could use an over head projector. I could paint within lines – coloring book fashion. And I can improvise. When asked to paint a scene of a desert on the wall of a room painted red like the book’s tent in the Era of Jacob, who wrestled with the Angel, I gave it my best. (You can see the full mural and others on this page of my old website Snowbizz.com.)

Not having read the book there is, to my knowledge, no child peeking into the tent but I thought putting one on the wall doing just this, seemed appropriate for a Sunday School classroom. I borrowed a Sunday School student wearing a shepherd’s costume from our Christmas pageant.

As for the metaphor – that could me me peaking into the sacred precincts of our Schools or Government or the News Business just like I do when I pick up a history book. And I read lots of them. But unlike that little kid looking into the Red Tent I’m 66 years old and I have taught myself to write and report and look at big mysteries critically for most of my adult life. Few people in Duluth have the breadth of knowledge and experience I have when it comes to the Duluth Schools. Furthermore, I don’t keep it all to myself. To many people’s chagrin I share much of it with the public. As this election season goes on I will be sharing more.

But I’m an acquired taste. Not everyone likes my peeking into the tent or under rugs especially the folks who have swept disagreeable things under the rug to keep them out of sight. But peeking under the rug is called “transparency” and everyone says (officially) that its all the rage except for our President who calls it “fake news.”

I have been pretty subdued in the blog this summer. I’ve had other things to do – organize a school board campaign, visit China, garden, walk door-to-door. But the actual General Election is seven weeks away and my readership has doubled recently. Its time for all the blogging I’ve postponed to kick into a higher gear. There is so much to share.

I truly believe my being on the school board is absolutely vital to moving our schools into the future that the Red Planners promised Duluth. But the Trib, in looking for some magic solution, once again endorsed neophytes (newbies). I must say that the neophyte they endorsed over me as a “fresh face” in 2007 helped make the School Board distrusted while remaining completely ignorant of our downward spiraling finances for her entire eight years on the Board. Likewise, they endorsed a young thing, elected with me in 2013, who’s lone witnessing of an alleged assault (even the so called victim denied it) plunged the School Board into two years of farce. And now, once again, the Trib is trusting neophytes in the hope that their ignorance will give us bliss.

Mine isn’t a blanket condemnation. While looking for their editorial endorsements I stumbled into their videos of the school board candidates in the first few minutes of the Trib interview. I recommend looking at them. I was pleased with mine.

As for me sneaking under the tent, Well, my tent sneaking evidently caused a ruckus at the Trib leading to the replacement of one of the Editorial Board members. I’ll explain my theory in the next post as I ramp up my coverage of the School Board and campaign to rescue the District from a status quo of “Ask no questions.”

Snow sculpture Trading card 48 of 50

Three people have told me that pictures have failed to appear in my recent posts. I was afraid that would continue but judging by Ms. Congeniality up above I have figured out a fix. I make some points with snow but I’ve mostly relied on word pictures to make my points over the last 40 years. I believe my word pictures are the reason I will likely defeat most of the Duluth News Trib’s endorsees for the at large school board position…….that and the fact that yesterday on a gorgeous day I spent five hours passing out literature door to door.

I’m bad news…..which means I’ve helped sell a lot of the Trib’s papers over the years. But the bad news for the Trib is that I report what the Trib is unwilling to investigate because it could offend advertisers and big shots. I think that helps explain my snubbing.

Their main stated reason for denying me an endorsement was that I couldn’t stop harping about the consequences of the Red Plan which this entire town has to deal with – lost millions for the classroom, lost teachers, and lost students. As ever the Trib’s leadership, now tied to the conservative Forum Communications group, prefers blinders and hates reminders. Reminders that they rooted for the Red Plan and joined the angry chorus of Red’s fans who brooked no dissent from citizens like Art Johnston, Gary Glass and me.

I could rest my case with a single editorial that is emblematic of their, finger-in-the-air-to-test-the-wind editorializing – their deplorable failure to point out that one of last year’s presidential candidates was a demagogue and a threat to our Democracy. The Trib was too chickenshit to choose an alternative to the Donald Trump. But that wasn’t their first offense against democracy. I saw their indifference to the attempt by my former school board to subvert the 2013 election of Art Johnston with petty, overblown accusations of racism (false), conflict of interest (false), violence and assault (false) that cost the taxpayers $200,000 and the good name of the Duluth School Board. The Trib was so consumed by a desire for payback against Art, who shows them little respect, that they were willing to abandon an election to curry favor with the pro-Red Plan mafia who hate being reminded that they screwed up our schools.

I, on the other hand, spent all last year warning that a demagogue was running for President because I’ve read enough history to know what could happen. You have only to look down this blog’s list of subject categories on the right to find “Trump.” This shrewd, billionaire, ignoramus even earned a place in my trading card deck of snow sculptures. Its by far the most disgusting pile of snow I’ve ever put in my yard. Jabba the Hutt pales in comparison.

Today I will passing my cards out to the folks at Bay Front Park celebrating Labor Day. Today only one in ten Duluth families have union members. That’s a sad decline from the 1970’s when over 30 percent of Duluth families had union members. I remember this well because back then I was forlornly running for the legislature as a Republican (albeit a liberal Republican). I managed to make at least one friend, however, Mike Jaros, my campaign chairman. He was the Democrat I tried to knock off twice in 1976 and 1978.

I’m big at predictions and good at them. And I have a startling prediction to make now, not about the Schools but about the next Presidential campaign. If Robert Mueller can’t get the goods on Trump for an impeachment I think Trump’s got a good chance of being reelected. That is how much disarray I see in the Democratic Party.

And among Trump’s voters will the 70 percent of Duluth families who were in union households forty years ago.

I’ll be passing out my cards to the remnant of the old union movement today and I fully expect most of them to take their voting cues from the Red Plan problems that have been heaped on their children and grand children rather than the endorsements that their union leadership is handing down to them.

When I read the Trib’s editorial page I often I see the flattery of imitation. Their slogan (at least where our schools are concerned) could be: “fair and balanced.”

How’s that for a word picture?

PS. I’m a journalist at heart. I was tempted to start a boycott of the Trib during the early stages of the Red Plan but never did. The Press, however plagued with humans it may be, is central to democracy. Every great newspaper had their fallible and myopic leadership – New York’s Horace Greely, Chicago’s Colonel McCormick come to mind. And who can forget Citizen Cane?

I’ve subscribed to the Trib for 43 years and I hope to die thirty years from now with a Trib in my hands. I’m rooting for the paper. We need it even if their endorsements can sometimes disappoint. And I can’t help but like all those folks who snubbed me. They have given me a great motivation to campaign door-to-door from now until November. Like everybody else in this town – The Trib needs me on our school board – words, warts and all.

Oh, and here’s my inspiration:

You can order all 50 cards for a donation here: http://www.weltyforschoolboard.com/

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.

A little “flight” reading “Minnesota Rag”

On the Flight back I finished up William Allen White’s book and then began the book “Minnesota Rag” by Fred Friendly

I bought the book two years ago at the suggestion of one of Art Johnston’s attorneys. It too is short and fascinating. I was especially drawn to Friendly’s comments on “defamation” which I have occasionally been accused of being guilty of myself. And by the way, accusations of defamation are themselves defamatory. Counting this post the word has shown up nine times to date in the blog.

Chapter 9 outlines the arguments made to the U.S. Supreme Court by the attorney for the “Minnesota Rag” (the Saturday Press). Quoting Blackstone the attorney argued that “Every person does have a constitutional right to publish malicious, scandalous and defamatory matter, though untrue and with bad motives and for unjustifiable ends.” There can be, however, a penalty for such “free” speech – a libel suit.

I found another sentence even more arresting: “…every legitimate newspaper in the country regularly and customarily publishes defamation, as it has a right to in criticizing government agencies.”

Defaming someone doesn’t necessarily mean lying about them. I hadn’t thought of this before but it makes perfect sense. People who do infamous things would be defamed if their actions were described in news stories. And if a newspaper simply repeated an accusation of infamous behavior this too would be defamation whether true or not. The News Tribune repeatedly reported that poor old Art Johnston was accused of making racist statements and had conflicts of interest. The accusations had no merit but reporting the accusations over and over was perfectly legitimate.

Although they were not sued for libel most of Art’s accusers paid a price for Art’s defamation – by retiring from the Duluth School Board.

Why I haven’t succumbed to paranoia – a last thought

Its because of Seth Meyers, Jon Stewart, Samantha Bee, Colbert etc.

For the time being late night television and many other sources give me confidence that we will weather the Trump administration as it continues to distinguish itself by bullying the Public Broadcasting System and Meals on Wheels. Comedy in China can’t be directed at the Communist Party but it can be directed at President Trump. Until Chinese citizens can do the same America will still have a leg up no matter the balance of trade.

Which reminds me of Egyptian exile Bassem Yousef. He was a funny man in another dictatorship.

Check out his interview on Samantha Bee.

Fake “Real News”

The Trumpians sent me an email with a link to this website promising non fake news:

The email said the Trumpians would unleash “unfettered capitalism.” Yipee! I can’t wait for the next Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire.

Just what I need. Another FOX News with its “Fair and Balanced” reporting. “Fair” as in the condition of a book or a collector’s coin = Excellent, Good or Fair and balanced in the sense of journalists trumpeting “conservative Republican” values balanced against journalists attempting to show some objectivity.

The latest on the Timberjay

A friend from Northern Minnesota sent me a link to the Timberjay Newspaper’s story about the court decision likely to be handed down on the lawsuit brought against it by its competitors and minority owners. The plaintiff’s lawyers sounds inept.

That reminded me that I’ve been waiting to link to the Zenith City New’s account of the suit that does justice to the primary issues in a pretty short space. I recommend it.

More Fox balance

My Brother looks at Fox News just to monitor how unbalanced it is. He tells me it is overloaded with anti-Hillary news while anti-Trump news is often missing. I don’t watch it to know if this is true.

A couple days ago a Chinese American professional we depend upon railed about this video that lampooned Fox News’s treatment of Chinese residents of a “Chinatown.” He was so offended he sent it to dozens of his clients and I asked him to send it to me. WARNING. It contains some rude expletives of derision aimed at Fox’s racism.

A couple posts ago I embedded links to two stories about black cops that I recently heard on NPR. Republicans in Congress often target NPR to deny it federal funding. They prefer Fox News. Its pure private sector you know.

The abandonment of true journalism

Donald Trump is, among other things, a fellow who has profited mightily by the faltering of twentieth century journalism. In its place is a dizzying array of Internet data dumps available for inspection by the curious and curated by interested persons from the honest to the nefarious. Somewhere in between are all the organizations which have a special interest in winning the public to their side. For the unwary and for people without the luxury of time to deeply investigate this inexhaustible library of data its far easier to let their tribal pals spoon feed them formulas.

My buddy is always telling me I’m being tribal when I bad mouth the Republican Party. I’m not sure what tribe this makes me a part of. I did attend Democratic precinct caucuses for about eight years never really becoming part of their machinery. For ten years before that I played gadfly in an increasingly purge happy Republican Party. Prior to that I quietly voted for Democrats when unappetizing Republican candidates won the primaries or GOP nominations. If I have a tribe to a large extent it could be called the tribe of the “Man without a Country.”

Here’s Wikipedia’s summary of this famous short story’s plot:

The protagonist is a young United States Army lieutenant, Philip Nolan, who develops a friendship with the visiting Aaron Burr. When Burr is tried for treason (historically this occurred in 1807), Nolan is tried as an accomplice. During his testimony, he bitterly renounces his nation, angrily shouting, “I wish I may never hear of the United States again!” The judge is completely shocked at this announcement, and on convicting him, icily grants him his wish: he is to spend the rest of his life aboard United States Navy warships, in exile, with no right ever again to set foot on U.S. soil, and with explicit orders that no one shall ever mention his country to him again.

I was haunted by the story which I read in an English class. That was the hope of the author Edward Everett Hale. Until perusing Wikipedia just now I had no idea who the author was or the circumstances for his the writing of the book. It was composed in the middle of the Civil War, a ripe time for an American to agonize about national identity. Lincolndemocrat takes particular note of the author’s being the nephew of Edward Everett, the orator and statesman, famous for the long forgotten speech that preceded Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and being the “grand-nephew of Nathan Hale (1755-1776), the Revolutionary War hero executed by the British for espionage.”

If I have a tribe its probably confined to my office. I will admit that it is a bit more capacious than the ship’s stateroom to which the story’s protagonist is confined for the rest of his life. Like the protagonist I have bits and pieces of evidence of my nation tacked to my walls. BTW – here’s the story long out of copyright. I didn’t reread it in full but just cut to the end to compare it to my memory of it.

About that end. I was probably 15 when I read the book and far less knowledgeable about the American history that had taken place prior to the story’s conclusion. That it was written during the Civil War and contemplation about what the union meant may not have registered with me quite as it does now.

My Buddy is no doubt right when he tells me the US will soldier on if Donald Trump is elected President. I suppose we would have survived if Huey Long had been elected or Joseph McCarthy but what a shame it would have been. The Presidents they would have supplanted were superior individuals. Its true that neither of these men were Adolph Hitlers but neither was Hitler early in his career. The great irony of Germany and the Reich was that a nation of such cultivated and sophisticated people could descend to the gas chamber, the charnel house and ruin. We seem to have past the time for a nuclear holocaust but our technology certainly leaves room for an even worse case scenario than that which transpired at the end of World War II. I can’t help but see seeds of destruction in today’s political tribal culture and campaign rhetoric and, frankly, its probably too late to stop Greenland’s icecap from melting.

I am troubled that the notion of American exceptionalism is often waved about by folks who mistake it for America’s wealth and power and not for the intangibles locked into our Bill of Rights. One of those intangibles is the right of a free press. Donald Trump can’t wait to get elected President so that he can change the libel laws like he plans to change the Generals and sue every newspaper that looks at him cross-eyed. Then he can enjoy the sort of freedom his good buddy Vladimir Putin enjoys behind the Kremlin’s walls. Donald Trump is just an eight hundred pound Albertson.

Yeah, compared to electing Trump, elevating Hillary Clinton to the Presidency would be a disaster. Remember Benghazi – or at least what the pretend newsman Roger Ailes wanted you to think happened there. That way you will be anesthetized to the coming of a White House with five letters tackily emblazoned on it in Gold leaf.

The value of true journalism

This story chronicles the lastest chapter in the saga of the Timberjay newspaper which incurred the wrath of its minority share holders by out-reporting them about the cozy relations between Johnson Controls and the sprawling rural St. Louis County School District on the dubious sales pitch for and constuction of a smaller version of Duluth’s Red Plan. The minority owners of the Timberjay, the Albertsons, “invested” twenty grand in their competitors a couple decades ago, foolishly it seems. Their minority interest gave them no say in the business practices of their rival and put their “investment” at the mercy of the Timberjay’s owners until such time as those owners died and/or cashed out their own investments.

When this young century’s biggest local news story emerged the Albertsons and the Timberjay took different paths towards profitibility. The Timberjay chose to play the part of journalists and investigated the story winning accolades in the process. The Albertson’s chose to rely on the School District to advertise in their paper and uncritically published the School District’s story full of holes and deceptions. Not surprisingly industry won out over sloth. Subscribers abandoned the Albertson’s paper. Galled by their fozen twenty thousand dollar asset they ginned up a legal case to get back at the Timberjay. If they succeed they will kill off the only real newspaper in rural Northern St. Louis County. Their attorney, Mr. Colisimo, is also the attorney who represented the School District and did his best to supress the release of damaging information related to the disastrous school building plan which has riven the County’s northern schools.

The Timberjay’s defense fund, that I blogged about a few weeks ago, has raised over two-thirds of its $15,000 goal thus demonstrating that there are still people who value true journalism.
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The school board’s HL Mencken is retiring

Loren Martell just called. He is abandoning his coverage of the Duluth School Board.

Loren was frustrated that his column this week only made it to the Reader’s Online version. I too was surprised that it wasn’t in today’s paper copy. The Reader’s publisher Bob Boone, to whom I am grateful for his having published over 100 of my columns, gave Loren the impression that he thought Loren’s writing was a bit snarky. I’d be more inclined to describe his prose as aceberic like Mark Twain’s or HL Mencken’s. Okay, Okay. So the two words are not all that different.

Here’s a little dose of Mencken:

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American public.

Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.

Also attributed to Mencken No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. but this, alas, can not be verified.

Oh and today I was reading American Rose about the ecdysiast Gypsy Rose Lee to Claudia. HL Mencken coined the term. He must have been a good biology student. He coined it for the incomporable strip teaser Gypsy. Claudia was so overcome that she had to leave immediately afterwords and travel to her Seminary in New Brighton and cleanse her soul.

My contribution to good journalism

I have often mentioned the Timberjay. That’s the tough little newspaper that fought JCI and the marginally competent School Administration of the St. Louis County Schools all the way to the State Supreme Court and won. Well, the owners of a rival rural paper that defended a School Building project, not unlike our Red Plan, have taken the Timberjay to court because they no longer can survive on the School District Advertising which kept them afloat through the controversy.

The rival paper’s owners purchased a minority share of the Timberjay years ago and should expect something for their investment but it seems that pique is as much a part of the suit as their investment. They want the Timberjay dismantled and sold off. In any event locals have come to the Timberjay’s aid and made donations to cover their paper’s legal expenses from the attack. I just made a small donation to the defense fund as well. A serious newspaper is a precious thing and I’d encourage my readers to join me. Here’s the link to the defense fund.

And here’s the link to the Jay where you can review their coverage of the conflict.