"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Background check was needed for "Northstar"

I was sitting in the DeToy's dining room Sunday when I heard the topic broached of that controversial print publication associated with UMM. I heard a man say it's a publication from UMM.
That's a problem. You can't blame the man for making such a judgment. To an extent, "Northstar" is from UMM. I guess it's a student publication. It is not the voice of UMM, however.
The manager of our community newspaper has now been backed into a corner and forced to explain things. This individual has allowed the "Northstar" to be inserted with the Morris Sun Tribune more than once. The column she wrote for Saturday should have been written earlier, after the so-called Halloween issue of Northstar. Surely we knew all we needed to, at that time, about problems associated with the tasteless and most likely libelous "campus" publication.
But no.
Another issue came out and was circulated among the area citizenry. Yes, many people no longer acquire the Morris newspaper. But it's still a presence.
We learn from the newspaper manager - I don't call her "publisher" - that two individuals came forward wanting to make arrangements having the Northstar in with the Morris newspaper. One was Joe Basel.
Joe Basel? Joe Basel? Are you not all familiar with this individual's background? Should there not, in fact, have been a "background check?"
Not so harmless
Basel has run afoul of the law rather seriously because of his political or faux political zeal or whatever you want to call it.
The people we're talking about here are extreme libertarians. But I would suggest it's more of a game to them, maybe just a game to get attention or to keep from being bored. I can't blame people for doing the latter sometimes.
So, do you remember Joe Basel? He and three associates were busted by the FBI before they could do any harm. I wrote a blog post at the time titled "Three Stooges and an alternate." The four men pleaded guilty to entering Federal property under false pretenses. This almost sounds like a pratfall: Basel and Robert Flanagan dressed up like telephone repairmen.
The idea was to penetrate U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu's office to secretly record office staff conversations. This office is inside the Hale Boggs Federal Building in New Orleans. The perpetrators were going to orchestrate a conversation about phone calls, and of course shoot video surreptitiously.
Basel and Flanagan were joined in this scheme by Stan Dai and the well-known James O'Keefe, the latter serving as ringleader. In case your memory needs more prodding, O'Keefe was the fake pimp who with a female accomplice engaged in the same kind of activity to try to take down ACORN.
Senator Landrieu was targeted in an effort to mess with her phones. It's one thing to think about or fantasize sneaking around in a repairman's "costume," but to actually do it? And do it in a mischievous way toward a U.S. Senator?
This is the type of person who was able to approach our Morris Sun Tribune manager and persuade her to go along with something.
Basel, Dai and Flanagan were sentenced in 2010 to two years probation, fined $1500, and required to perform 75 hours of community service. Ringleader O'Keefe was sentenced to three years probation, fined $1500 and required to perform 100 hours of community service.
Busted they were, but they still emerged as darlings for the right wing media. Do we want to become stooges for the right wing media here in West Central Minnesota? Is Basel a student at UMM? I suppose he could be. Was this checked?
"Northstar" is supposed to be a student endeavor. It's supported by student fees - an element that must surely be coming under scrutiny now. Why was this situation allowed to develop?
In a legal thicket?
I'm guessing that the "big boy" lawyers of the U's Twin Cities campus are being enlisted on this matter. Surely there is potential for lawsuits coming out of recent issues of the paper.
I'd like to advise the offended persons to study their options. Since the perpetrators are male and some of the victims, like Sandy Olson-Loy, are female, they might even contact the office of Gloria Allred.
The manager of the Sun Tribune newspaper wrote a column in reaction to the controversy, a column that I felt was glib and patronizing. The manager really only needed to write one paragraph, saying the decision to include Northstar was wrong, we apologize and it won't happen again.
But no, this individual emphasized the responsibility that comes with the First Amendment. Thus she seemed to be trying to portray her business as the beacon of wisdom in this matter. What a lofty virtue: the responsibility we feel with the First Amendment.
This diversion doesn't work, at least not with me. The First Amendment has no place in this discussion. Martin Bashir may be about to lose his daytime show on MSNBC, due to some comments he made that were deemed lacking taste. If he goes off the air, it will not be a violation of his First Amendment rights, any more than if Rush Limbaugh had been fired for the remarks he made about Sandra Fluke.
No one is suggesting that the people behind "Northstar" be prosecuted by the state for what they write or believe. I do not have a First Amendment right to have my own show on MSNBC or Fox.
John Geiger, head of the Northstar, has no inalienable right to hold his post. He has no inalienable right to use his position in any manner he chooses, without being accountable to anyone.
The Sun Tribune manager says "I believe strongly that a community paper should include a wide variety of opinions and viewpoints." Here she's talking to us like we're children.
Does anyone think a small town paper has as one of its prime missions the spreading of political viewpoints? Are we so dependent on the Sun Tribune for this, that we'd have no other options, that we'd be helpless? You've heard of the Internet, haven't you?
So, under this guise of caring about us and wanting to be sure we're properly educated - and with the First Amendment employed - we're expected to consume "Northstar" and its filth.
The Sun Tribune manager says the students of Northstar "failed to consider the additional burden created by having a wider and more diverse audience." So, we're more sophisticated out in the community than the audience at UMM?
"By distributing their newspaper not just to their fellow students but to the larger community of Morris, the Northstar then became accountable to public opinion." So, there's no accountability at the University of Minnesota-Morris?
I have made two trips to campus to try to obtain the current "Northstar" and I haven't found any. How ironic if this thing ends up distributed only in the community and not on campus.
Why is Joe Basel troubling himself with a community as small as ours? I know he has a past background here. But after infiltrating New Orleans, why come back here?
PZ Myers, Morris' world-famous blogger - see "desecrating crucifixes" - has weighed in on Northstar.
If the people at the Sun Tribune newspaper should happen to read my post today, they will probably react by dismissing, laughing at and mocking me, which is how they can be expected to react to any critic of theirs. I have seen this firsthand.
There is a "cock of the walk" mentality that seems to come with getting a position at a newspaper - a "know it all" stance. It's not as bad as it used to be, because of the well-known lumps being taken by newspapers. But I'm sure it's still there. These people can talk like they could run all of the town's major institutions better than the people running them. It's easy when you can distance yourself from the day-to-day messy details.
The Sun Tribune's manager did not write a true "mea culpa" piece. Her piece instead had a ring to it like one of those "I'm sorry to those who were offended" apologies.
"I again apologize for any offense that our readers have suffered," the manager writes, suggesting that maybe not everyone was actually offended.
I assume someone pays to have the Northstar as a part of our community newspaper. How much? What are the $ sources? Right wing interests are known to help fund stuff like this, and then try to conceal their identity. The Sun Tribune for its part is just glad to take the money, I'm sure. I'm sure they need it.
The Sun Tribune stayed stuck at 24 pages even leading into the Parade of Lights week and Black Friday.
The Sun Tribune manager writes that "the staff of the Sun Tribune has no control nor prior knowledge of the content of the (Northstar) publication."
I might write a profanity here but I won't. I'm proud of this blog and my sense of taste. The Sun Tribune staff should have realized with the Halloween issue of Northstar that this was a dangerous publication. To allow it to run again indicates, in my mind, that they were just smelling money. Right wing money.
My deceased friend Glen Helberg always said "Money talks and bulls--t walks." My little saying is: "Money's honey, my dear sonny, and a rich man's joke is always funny."
The newspaper manager writes, "We see (the Northstar) for the first time when it arrives in our paper, much the same as the fliers for Shopko, Target or any other advertiser." Does the "Northstar" look like an "advertisement" to you? Gee, couldn't someone just take a peek at the Northstar at the printing plant, and maybe give a heads-up? Would this be so difficult?
No, the right wing money apparently has a stronger say. (Oh, and where is the Target store located in Morris?)
Chancellor gives statement
Jacqueline Johnson, UMM's chancellor, has unfortunately been drawn into this whole mess. Johnson writes that Northstar "does not reflect the views or perspectives of the University. It's student speech."
It's student speech that could exist online just fine, and then I wouldn't give a rip. Chancellor Johnson talks about the "offensive photos and articles in recent papers." She cites the allegations of racism and fascism - I have a hard time typing this - directed at several UMM faculty and staff members.
Johnson describes such allegations as "without substance." Unfortunately this becomes sort of like the question, "When did you stop beating your wife?" The allegations float out there and force a defensive response.
I wouldn't blame any of these victims for just leaving UMM. UMM is already handicapped, I suspect, trying to attract outstanding people because of our remote location and relative lack of amenities here. Now the profs are under the glare of a silly, impulsive and reactionary paper that slings darts.
One possible solution would be for John Geiger to be visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future in the upcoming holiday. Meanwhile, Joe Basel might be testing his next costume. You can imagine some canned laughter.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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