Why Can’t Waushara Argus Keep Publisher Employed?

My county paper, the Waushara Argus, has some serious problems.

Once again, and the second time in a year, the freshly hired publisher has pulled the plug and said goodbye.

The latest hopeful, who had started to make a few changes at the paper, Letty Acosta, resigned on July 24th.    Well-worn publisher Mary Kunasch who has simply never seemed desirous  to have a serious publication returned the following day with  a statement of how wonderful the lakes and streams were in Waushara County.

Seriously?  That was the best a publisher of a couple decades could come up with when the second replacement as publisher up and left after only a short time in the job!

God forbid Kunasch said anything sincere about the way a newspaper should look or read when held in the hands of actual subscribers.  But that has never been something I felt she was overly interested in achieving.  I am not trying to be too hard on her, but just simply responding as a reader of the paper.

After all these years she does have to take responsibility for the lack of quality with the content of the paper.

First and foremost there is no serious reporting at the Argus.  There are a whole host of issues that could be bored into but that might be controversial in small towns that dot the county.  But in the minds of those who run the paper that might also make some people uneasy.   Since the paper seems designed only to make money–and assuredly not that much–why make waves by actually reporting news and covering what people are talking about?

I might add that copying exactly the reports from the police department is not ‘newspapering’ when the identity from a fatal car crash is listed in the fifth paragraph as if it was an after-thought.  Copying press releases is not real reporting.  Having actually written news copy for a radio station for many years I admit to cringing each time I pick up the Argus and turn a page.    I wish it were not true, but sadly that is how it happens each week when the paper arrives in the mail.

The next problem the paper has is that there seems to be a mindset from on-again, off-again, and then back again publisher Mary Kunasch that simply filling the paper with a number photos designed to simply put locals ‘in the news’ is what the press should be all about in the county.

What a waste!

While I know the world of newspapering is a harder road to travel now than ever before there is no rationale that can spin away the wasted time that could have been spent doing solid reporting at this paper.  Surely there are some young bright folks who would love to be unleashed in the news room–but something tells me they would be reined in and told to conform to the way things were always done with the paper.

And I repeat, what a waste.

Anyone who reads this blog or knows me understands my love of newspapers that dates back to my boyhood in Hancock when the Stevens Point Journal  arrived each day in the mailbox.  That love continues with the morning thud now of the papers as they are tossed on the front stoop of our Madison home.  So it really pains me that my home county paper is such a bizarre collection of releases that get sent to the paper just to fill space.

I am not sure what the back story is about why publishers come and go with such speed at the Argus but it might be the culture of the paper is the main problem that needs addressing.

Hold On Wisconsin, Federal Judges Will Take Care Of Voter ID Law

I must say I was not surprised with any of the rulings handed down by the Wisconsin State Supreme Court today.  While I an disheartened when it came to the voter ID law and ACT 10 I was never thinking that this court, given its political makeup, would do anything other than how it ruled.  That may be a sad indictment of the judiciary, but that is just the plain truth of how I feel.

Today the court addressed two cases that were filed by the League of Women Voters and the Milwaukee branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People when it came to the ID law.  In a biting dissent and one that struck to the heart Chief Justice Abrahamson wrote,  “Today the court follows not James Madison — for whom Wisconsin’s capital city is named — but rather Jim Crow — the name typically used to refer to repressive laws used to restrict rights, including the right to vote, of African-Americans.”

The fact that the most precious right to vote became a political football to Republicans in Wisconsin is one of the wrongs we all need to address in November at the ballot box.  Over and over the same point has been made and will continue to be pressed heading into the fall election.  There is not now, nor has there ever been, a long list of offenders when it comes to election fraud in the Badger State.

No Republican was able to stand up in the legislature and produce any court cases, judge’s rulings, or names of those who cast fraudulent votes.  If there was such rampant voting abuses why did the attorney general not intervene?

The reason is that the GOP spun voter fraud as a means to undermine Democratic voting, not due to any voter fraud problem that needed a remedy.  The lack of any court records or media reporting of such events around the state underscores the lack of credibility for the Republicans with this issue.

Today the court majority fulfilled the wishes of those they need to count on at election time, which is yet another reason for merit selection of judges in Wisconsin, but that is another topic for another day.

But when it comes to the highly controversial voter ID law one thing that all Wisconsin can rely on is that the federal courts will have the last say on this matter.  There has already been a ruling from Judge Adelman that this law violates the U.S. Constitution and the federal voting rights act.  The full U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago will render a judgment most likely later this year.

It is never the battles that count but who prevails in the war.

Politicians Fear August

Short and to the point analysis of the political landscape as we prepare for August.

As Congress races to finish its paltry to-do list before leaving town for five weeks, there’s a feeling of unease among wise lawmakers in both parties. They’ve had all summer to address critical hot-button issues like the crisis at the border, but they’ve failed to do so in a meaningful and serious way. They know that the August Congressional recess has a habit of causing trouble. The anger that fueled the rise of the Tea Party came alive during a summer break. (It’s the biggest reason town meetings have become nearly extinct for most lawmakers who believe it’s simply not worth the risk.) Will immigration be the issue of August? Or will it be something else? The members of Congress know that they have little control over what flares up during the summer break. Even though they took the safe approach in Washington, that is likely to do little to insulate them from getting an earful back home.

 

Friendship And Spies

Walter Isaacson never fails me.  He makes me aware of new ideas and always presents them in thoughtful ways and with powerful writing.  Such is the case of his book review for A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre.

Isaacson reviews the book that shows how friendship was central to the often-told story of Kim Philby, the famed spymaster and Russian mole.  The whole article is worth your time, with the intersection of friendship and espionage making for a most compelling case to pick this book up for a read.

The story of Philby and his fellow Cambridge University double agents has been told many times, most notably by Phillip Knightley and Anthony Cave Brown, as well as by Philby himself and two of his four wives. Macintyre, who draws on these and other published sources, was not able to pry open any archives or uncover startling new revelations. Instead, he came up with a captivating framing device: telling the tale through Philby’s relationship with Nicholas Elliott, a fellow Cambridge-educated spy who was, or thought he was, Philby’s trusted friend. In doing so Macintyre has produced more than just a spy story. He has written a narrative about that most complex of topics, friendship: Why does it exist, what causes people to seek it and how do we know when it’s real?

Elliott not only became Philby’s friend, he began to worship him “with a powerful male adoration that was unrequited, unsexual and unstated.” He even bought the same expensive umbrella that Philby liked to sport. What he did not know was that Philby was a double agent working for Russia. That meant he had a different angle on their friendship. “Nicholas Elliott was a rising star in the service and a valued friend,” Macintyre writes, “and no one understood the value of friendship better than Kim Philby.”

There he became friends, in the Philbyesque sense of that word, with another excessively fascinating character in this book, James Jesus Angleton, who was rising in the ranks of the C.I.A. “Angleton was a little like one of the rare orchids he would later cultivate,” Macintyre writes, “alluring to some but faintly sinister to those who preferred simpler flora.” He was obsessed with rooting out spies and moles, but he missed the biggest one in his midst, indeed became enamored of him. Just as Elliott took to carrying around the same umbrella as Philby, Angleton wore the same homburg hat.

Like almost every character in this book, Philby and Angleton were ferocious and competitive drinkers. They would meet at a clublike Washington saloon and oyster bar, Harvey’s, and match each other drink for drink. As they exchanged confidences, Angleton was at a deadly disadvantage: He didn’t know that Philby wasn’t on his team.

Macintyre’s book climaxes with a psychological duel over tea, cloaked by a veneer of gentility, which led to some subsequent meetings and a partial confession from Philby. But instead of arranging an arrest or abduction or assassination, Elliott told his erstwhile friend that he was going to Africa for a few days before the process of interrogation resumed. On his own in Beirut, Philby immediately contacted his Russian handlers, who whisked him on a freighter to Moscow, where he lived the rest of his life in exile.

Why did Elliott let Philby escape? At first it seemed as if he and the British intelligence service were bumbling fools. But Macintyre offers a different theory, one made plausible by his book’s narrative. After extracting Philby’s confession, Elliott may have intentionally left the door open for him to flee. Perhaps he even nudged him to do so. The old boys’ network had nothing to gain from further revelations or a public trial. It also probably had no stomach for punishing one of its own.

At first Philby reveled in the fact that he had escaped. It was only after a few months in Moscow that it dawned on him that he may have been pushed. He smuggled Elliott a letter suggesting that they secretly meet in a place like Helsinki to clear things up. “Our last transactions were so strange that I cannot help thinking that perhaps you wanted me to do a fade.” Elliott rejected him with a cold, blunt response.

One new piece of evidence comes from the former spy John le Carré, who tackled the Philby case in his novel “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.” Le Carré interviewed Elliott in 1986 and resurrected his notes to write an afterword for this book.

He asked Elliott whether he and his MI6 colleagues ever considered having Philby dragooned back to London. “Nobody wanted him in London, old boy,” Elliott replied.

Le Carré followed up: “Could you have him killed?”

To that Elliott gave a disapproving response. “My dear chap,” he said. “One of us.”

That neatly encapsulates the underlying theme of this book, one Macintyre explores with both insight and humor. What does it really mean to be “one of us”?

The Nixon Tapes: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Great read about what promises to be great reads.

But Nixon’s emotional neediness shows through, and not just once or twice. He is obsessed with John F. Kennedy, or more specifically, Kennedy’s image in history, which Nixon feels (not without justification) was inflated. On April 15, 1971, Nixon complains to Kissinger and his chief of staff, H.R. “Bob” Haldeman, “Kennedy was cold, impersonal, he treated his staff like dogs.” (Nixon was more considerate to his staff.) “His staff created the impression of warm, sweet and nice to people, reads lot of books, a philosopher, and all that sort of thing. That was pure creation of mythology .…”

As he often did, Nixon then complains he’s not getting credit for his virtues and blames his staff. “For Christ’s sake, can’t we get across the courage more? Courage, boldness, guts? Goddamn it! That is the thing!” He rants on, fishing for reassurance:

NIXON: What is the most important single factor that should come across out of the first two years? Guts! Absolutely. Guts! Don’t you agree, Henry?

KISSINGER: Totally.

Nixon tried to control his feelings, pretending he did not resent the press, but from time to time his anger surged up, occasionally in rash ways. Remarkably, we still do not know who ordered the June 1972 Watergate break-in that led to Nixon’s downfall. There are lots of theories, including CIA plots and convoluted conspiracies about sex rings, but no conclusive evidence. There is, however, recorded proof of Nixon ordering a different break-in—at the Brookings Institution in 1971.

40 Years Ago Today

N.Y. Times 5-col. lead (out of 8 cols.), “HOUSE [Judiciary] COMMITTEE, 28-10, VOTES SECOND IMPEACHMENT ARTICLE … Nixon Is Charged With Failure to Uphold Nation’s Laws,” by James M. Naughton.

Wisconsin And Mississippi Both Fighting Over Same Abortion Tactic

The morning papers reported that a federal appeals panel has blocked a Mississippi law that would have shut the sole abortion clinic in that state by requiring its doctors to obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals.

The tactic is not a novel one as it has been used in eleven states, including Wisconsin.  But wherever it is attempted a legal fight ensues.  One thing is clear no matter where this law is placed on the books and that is  those who are opposed to abortion are trying to shut down clinics  with this maneuver.

One has to wonder how men would feel if they were asked to travel across state lines to find a doctor for a medical procedure.  But if you can believe it that is exactly what Mississippi officials were telling women to do when it came to reproductive medical procedures.  Let them travel to  Louisiana or Tennessee was the argument that the federal court ruled against.

The federal appeals court did not take kindly to that idea, and in so ruling 2-1 has most likely set up a fight over this issue for the Supreme Court to take up in the near future.  The reason the high court will get another crack at abortion is that this same appeals court gave a contradictory ruling when it came to a similar case from Texas.  In that case the court ruled that the closing of some but not all clinics within a state did not present an undue burden to women seeking abortion.

In Mississippi the sole clinic remains open.  In Wisconsin a ruling is expected later this summer to clarify the matter.

There is no justification, be it women in Wisconsin or in some southern state, that they should be burdened with politicians–most of them men–trying to dictate the terms of how they deal with personal medical matters.

Enough already!

Dolores Disher ‘Too Sick’ For Evaluation

And the miniature violins play.   She knows too much to be answering questions.  Let us cut to the heart of the case.  Delores Disher is charged with theft by fraud, forgery, unauthorized use of others’ personal documents, and mail fraud. All those counts are felonies.

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Prosecutors hoped to learn Monday whether one of three people accused of cashing a presumably dead relative’s Social Security checks — one who had previously been ruled unfit — was now well enough to stand trial.

That decision will have to wait until September.

Defense attorneys for Dolores Disher, 71, of Almond told a circuit court judge Monday that an evaluation on whether or not Disher was fit to stand trial couldn’t be completed because Disher was sick and in a hospital. Disher, her husband Ronald Disher, 73, and her brother Charles Jost, 67, of Amherst, were accused of cashing the Social Security checks of Dolores Disher and Jost’s mother, Marie Jost. Investigators contended that the Dishers and Charles Jost defrauded the Social Security Administration of at least $175,000 by cashing Marie Jost’s checks over the course of several years.

Although her body has not been found, authorities believe Marie Jost is dead because she would be more than 100 years old and she hasn’t used her federal medical benefits since 1982. Theodore Jost, Dolores Disher and Charles Jost’s brother, also has not been seen for several years and is believed to be dead. He would be 76 years old if alive today.

Portage County Assistant District Attorney Cass Cousins said he still plans to seek a competency evaluation. A new court date has been set for Sept. 2.