"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)

Monday, April 7, 2014

The irony of a principal getting into trouble

Craig Peterson, MAHS principal
Maybe there's some poetic justice in the principal of the high school getting in such serious trouble.
A big part of the principal's purpose is meting out discipline. When I was a kid, principals were humorless gray-haired older men. If they were middle-aged, they were still humorless. They represented "uncool."
Remember the principal who called "Lightman" into his office in the movie "WarGames?" That was typical. He wore a white dress shirt. Matthew Broderick played the outcast (but genius) "Lightman."
You'd think that movie was too dated to be appealing now. The computer technology would be way too dated. Movies that are fundamentally good with their stories can overcome an obstacle like that.
"WarGames" with Broderick and Ally Sheedy presents such a story: as engaging today as it ever was. That movie is dated in ways that go beyond tech. Another exhibit is its innocence. Lightman is, in effect, a suspected terrorist (with his computer hijinks). Remember those agents with sunglasses surrounding him as he tried to leave the convenience store? He ended up being treated far more humanely than he would today.
The "twin towers" of the World Trade Center were still standing when "WarGames" was made. It's a 1983 movie. We wouldn't even want to see what could happen to "Lightman" today. The twin towers came down in 2001 and our attitudes changed quickly, to where we at least put up with our leaders like Dick Cheney endorsing aggressive ways of handling suspects.
But remember, Barack Obama is actually the one who got Osama Bin Laden.
"WarGames" gave me the image I embrace of Matthew Broderick. I have never even seen "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." I saw Broderick in the "Godzilla" re-make and thought it was just a treadmill performance. "Godzilla" was basically a failure even though technically it was well done.
I saw "Godzilla" in Alexandria at the time when movie theaters were pushing the envelope for how many commercials and previews were shown before the main attraction. I almost had smoke coming out of my ears, such was my anger. Eventually at least one movie patron tried to sue over this. It's the kind of suit that doesn't succeed but it's a "shot across the bow" toward the industry it's targeting. Same with the lawsuit filed by someone chagrined over a newspaper laying off about half its staff and cutting its size right after the aggrieved party sent in a new subscription check.
Businesses had better pay attention to these "shots across the bow." The movie industry seemed to back off with its bad (greedy) habits. Newspapers? Their retrenchment has been staggering, but it seems they will always be with us. Maybe Morris area people really want the Menards or Fleet Farm circulars bad enough to keep getting the Morris paper.
Dicey subject for town paper? 
The Morris paper is telling us the story, at least the superficial facts, about the escapades of our high school principal who appears to be doing nothing now. He's on paid leave from the school. He got in trouble for the kind of conduct that probably shouldn't be reported in a family newspaper.
I once got in trouble (in some circles, OK with one person) for taking a photo of a banner at a high school sports event that read "Like a bat out of h---." (Yes, with the hyphens). My critic was absolutely ballistic. I wonder what he'd say about the paper writing about alleged forced oral sex.
The supreme irony here is that the accused party has the job of high school principal in which he's supposed to discipline our youth for their misbehavior. Now he's looking at (at least one) 30-year prison term. It's first degree criminal sexual conduct. It is going to be hard reconciling his professional role with the criminal charges even if he's acquitted. The word around town is that "his reputation is finished." That's concerning of course.
We read about the police report and wonder whether any misbehavior rose to the level of the charges, to say the least. You can argue that it's misbehavior. The criminal charges seem like killing an ant with a sledgehammer.
I have had occasion to discuss this matter with a couple of esteemed members of our local legal profession, one retired. I asked this retired individual whether the first degree sex charges were called for at all. He seemed to smirk at first as if I might be a little naive, needing a little "education." He filled me in: Prosecutors can be expected to "shoot for the moon" sometimes, as a reflection of basic bargaining strategy. You start out with the most extreme charges, knowing there's no way you can score on that, and you end up happy getting something in between.
The extreme charges might scare the bejesus out of someone, to the extent he'll agree to something more moderate and be thankful for it. In the meantime, the prosecutor can chalk up a "victory" for himself.
Except that we shouldn't have a system that behaves like this, where prosecutors are thinking more about "winning" than about simple justice. It's contemptible really.
The lead prosecutor works for Grant County so he's not going to be sensitive to our interests. According to my "counselor" on this matter he can't even be counted on to be sensitive to the interests of justice, as his extreme charges may be nothing more than "posturing" to try to ensure he eventually "scores."
The police chief and the two prosecutors had better hope they can get a conviction on one of the counts. If they don't, the public blowback will be substantial. We may be talking firings, as in "clean out your desk by 5 p.m."
This matter is ugly, unseemly and embarrassing for Morris' image, an image that is important considering we have an important state institution here: the University of Minnesota-Morris.
We have been fortunate thus far in that the Star Tribune of Minneapolis hasn't leaped in. That could change at any time. Maybe the Star Tribune is disbelieving about the whole thing, as they sense the "posturing" angle and don't want to sensationalize it, I don't know. I think people would read such an article and ask, "You mean this is what first degree criminal sexual conduct is?"
It looks like Glen Taylor might be buying the Star Tribune. 
That Hancock coach who got in trouble many years ago only served about two years in prison, and his misbehavior was with underage girls. In Craig Peterson's case here in Morris, we're talking about a 30-year-old woman. And Peterson is looking at at least one 30-year prison sentence.
The other legal person with whom I have conversed recently, said maybe I shouldn't be surprised at the severe nature of the charges, given the nature of society today and our standards: sort of a "zero tolerance attitude" as it were.
I'll tell you this: Women are extremely delicate, and in light of this, any time a man and woman engage in sexual stimulation outside of marriage, the man should perhaps ensure there's a written "contract for sex." This is hardly outlandish. It would save our legal system lots of trouble.
A "contract" might present a sort of "catch 22." It's practical but it could cross the line of illegality, to prostitution from the woman's perspective. I heard a radio discussion about this once.
God created us with these cotton pickin' sexual urges. Maybe we should be mad at God. I'm mad at God in that he created me in a way that women don't seek any social closeness to me. I'm fortunate in the sense I'll never have to face a lengthy prison term for alleged misbehavior with women. But I'm still angry. 
Wally Behm's guiding hand
Wally Behm was the Morris High principal when I was in school. Del Sarlette who was quite ahead of his time with his video hobby, put together a humorous piece that had Ray Swenson getting called into Wally's office by Wally. Del then inserted the "1812 Overture" as audio and shook the camera. It was like an earthquake, get it?
That's the old way we understood discipline as administered by the gray-haired principal types. Wally also had to fear vandalism at his home on Halloween, remember? I don't think our Historical Society preserves this kind of stuff. My online writing does.
Craig Peterson is represented by Robert Dalager (and perhaps two other attorneys, according to word on the street). Mr. Dalager and his associates will be striving hard to win, and I somehow think they will be driven more by principle than the other side.
Ever wonder why lawyers are so stressed? A lawyer once explained why their job is more stressful than that of a physician. When a physician treats a patient, he doesn't have to worry about another physician in the building trying to kill the patient. To make it clear: Legal work is adversarial.
My blood boiled recently when I was having breakfast with a retired Morris teacher who said the Hancock teacher/coach who landed in prison "didn't have a good attorney." I remember talking to a media person at the time that mess was fresh, who said "the people who were at the trial knew what was going on," i.e. there was criminal misbehavior. A good lawyer can't just wipe that away.
I remember the late Mike Fluegel telling me that Dennis Courneya actually had a very good lawyer, last name of Kurzman as I recall. I remember typing about one heckuva speeding ticket that Mr. Kurzman got at the time he was working on this case.
The reason a teacher might sympathize with the Hancock coach is that teachers are absolutely notorious for sticking together, to the extent they might need some mental health counseling for this. Codependency?
How much longer will we be referring to Craig Peterson as "principal" and not "ex-principal?" Maybe it would be nice if the switch could happen before the Star Tribune of Minneapolis rolls up its sleeves. But a source tells me that long-term budgeting for the school indicates that nothing is going to change soon.
Should we be concerned? Oh, the government just vacuums more money out of our pockets to pay for this. We as constituents just have to shrug. You can't fight City Hall.
Maybe we should have a big town meeting like for the proposed (and failed) new county jail. Maybe "Gabby" from the movie "Blazing Saddles" could address us all, in his "genuine frontier gibberish." All of us out here on the frontier are pretty perplexed.
Could it be that Peterson is being targeted with such inflammatory charges because he's high school principal? In other words, are the prosecutors bending over backwards to make sure there's no "favoritism" being shown the principal, because of his community role?
OK, what this reminds me of, is when that husband of a Minnesota Supreme Court justice got charged with shoplifting, remember? It turns out, the conventional wisdom after the matter was dropped was that prosecutors bent over backwards to show this man was no one special, that there would be no deference to him. However, as a child could plainly see, such thinking is itself a pie in the face to justice. Fairness is fairness.
Now we have to wait a whopping four months for Peterson's trial. Just what this community needs: four more months of street talk about this. The legal system is tortoise-like, and it's running up the bill for keeping the defendant on paid leave. All the legal people connected to this are surely collecting generous compensation.
All because the bowling alley was closed one night? We are so human an animal.
Maybe Mr. Peterson shouldn't have even hired an attorney. Why not just show up when summoned and present info to the best of your ability. In fact, maybe being sent to prison isn't such an awful deal, as long as you can be assured you won't be attacked physically by other inmates. You get a nice little cot to sleep on, three meals a day, and you don't have to deal with contractors.
I remember when Juanita Broaddrick emerged from the shadow of the "Clinton scandals" and divulged she was the target of some of Bill's questionable behavior. Larry King seemed to listen incredulously as Broaddrick said "why should I have to hire a lawyer?"
Why does everyone who seems to be in trouble have to hire a lawyer? If you really think your behavior can be explained, that you're innocent, why not just come forward and profess this, if you're a reasonably articulate person?
Lawyers would sniff at this. They also used to tell us "oh, you have to have a will." Oh, and "you have to have it updated." I have found that if a family establishes proper "joint tenancy" with assets, a will is literally not necessary.
Is the whole legal system a racket? Lawyers are, after all, "officers of the court."

Q. What's the difference between a lawyer and a boxing referee?
A. A boxing referee doesn't get paid more for a longer fight.
Sifting through police report
What reservations do I have about the police report in the Peterson case? I'm left wondering, for one thing, about why there apparently was no 9-1-1 call. I mean, here we have a man now charged with first degree something-or-other, with at least one 30-year prison term staring him in the face, and his alleged victim at no point called 9-1-1, or attempted to call (while the incident was happening). Interference with a 9-1-1 call is itself a significant offense.
The police report as reviewed in the KMRS-KKOK online article about the case, makes no reference to any attempted 9-1-1 call. We read that the alleged victim went to SCMC and was administered a "sexual assault exam and kit." But isn't the defendant asserting the sex that the two had was consensual? What, then, would a sexual assault "exam" prove?
This whole incident happened three days before Christmas. What a shame. The two individuals had "drinks" together, "several" we are told. The rest of what happened will be debated, furiously I assume, when the trial finally gets underway four months from now.
This matter could be dragging down morale in the Morris community. It's happening gradually.
Does the police report assume too much in favor of the accuser?
I remember when my old boss Jim Morrison said "I miss the days when the local police knew everyone in town."
No system is perfect. We don't want a system where police "know everyone" in the sense they show inappropriate favoritism. In 1950s America, that was probably the case. What Jim meant, I think, is that police should be aware of who the real troublemakers are in a community, and distinguish them from the rest of the public, i.e. "the majority of men who live in quiet desperation."
There are desperate people who forget to put on their seat belt. They may live hand-to-mouth. Seat belt fines started out at $40. Now they're up to at least $110. This pattern has to stop sometime. Heaven help us if it doesn't.
Our family was in Fergus Falls last week and upon leaving that community, I forgot how to get to the Interstate. Not wanting to follow the male stereotype of "refusing to ask directions," I did in fact decide to seek help. I saw a police vehicle parked along the curb with the shape of a human being in the driver's seat. It would have been the perfect guy to ask directions.
In the old days we expected police to be common sense helpers of the citizenry. Today, no. Simply answering a citizen's question would be wasted time in the officer's mind, as he would have nothing tangible to show for how he spent that time. He gets tangible rewards by giving out citations. The citations bring in funds that support his agency.
This is what Republican governors like Tim Pawlenty bequeath to us: a system where because of the (Republicans') need to keep taxes low, fees and fines make up the difference. This is where the onerous fines of today come from: Republican leadership. I'm sure many of you haven't realized this.
We're on our way 
I eventually was able to get directions from a very nice woman who was putting gas in her car at a convenience store. She was so very nice and vivacious. I should have asked if she was single. I found I had to drive a ways to get to the Interstate. We got home fine and found the driving much easier than in the morning when we dealt with a semi-blizzard (in late March?).
Police today are predatory so just try to avoid them. And to think we have to deal with climate change too.
The nature of assault or rape
In a situation where rape is being alleged, what kind of evidence can be concrete? We all know there are certain slam-dunk rape cases. If it walks like a duck. . .
Shades of gray seep over the situation where a man and woman engage in accelerating levels of what might be called "heavy petting," foreplay or whatever. All kinds of tactile sensations get involved. So even if a woman asserts that she "pushed" at a man, as if to discourage him, we must question whether this is prima facie evidence, eh?
Even if a woman claims to have said "no," I'm not sure there can't be shades of gray here, especially if there was mutually accepted lovemaking leading up to this. There are porn films where the woman says "no" and it's a reflection of the sexual euphoria she is experiencing (or faking). You're not familiar with that? Well, let me fill you in.
What a tangled web sex can weave. We can't live with it and we can't seem to live without it.
Maybe we should have hired Torrey Westrom as our county attorney. He's blind.
Males and their disposition
What about the notions embedded in males' minds that a woman who says she rejects you might not really mean it? This is not on the margins.
Clint Eastwood in "High Plains Drifter" has a woman attacking him with scissors, furious of course, whereupon he grabs her on the wrist with his superior male strength, and gradually forces her into a lovemaking stance. She acquiesces. Eastwood was the hero character of course.
I remember in the Western movie "Texas Across the River," the heroine saying at the end to the swashbuckling Dean Martin character ("Sam Hollis"): "I wish that when I said 'no' before, you hadn't paid any attention to it."
Boys get these notions in their minds. It's nothing to sneeze at.
We all want what's right
If you have read this far, I just want to assure you I do not condone misbehavior. I think that when a man and woman go through progressive stages of sexual stimulation, mutually agreed-upon, and this is done after your garden variety "night on the town" with alcohol, the authorities might well feel exasperation and perhaps just refer one or both parties for counseling.
Jesus Christ, 30 years in prison? Or, two 30-year terms? Why not just burn him at the stake? Again I'll suggest that maybe cigarettes aren't such a bad thing because they're a sedative, they perhaps help us take life and its tribulations in stride a little better. Cool it.
A major stock market crash might accomplish the same thing, make us focus on our main priorities (of eating and surviving).
The Morris Police have no credibility, in my view. And the prosecutors might as well be baring fangs. We in Morris must guard our image. We lack the amenities that Alexandria has.
Several days ago the prosecution could have dropped charges and said it was all an "April Fool." Click on the permalink below to read a 2010 post I wrote about April Fool's Day. This is a "can't miss" read if you know the Martin sisters: Sharon and Sheila.
Still no sign of that missing plane near Australia (I think). If I keep following the CNN coverage, I'm going to start talking like Richard Quest.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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