"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
The antiestablishment clause is great and I do not have to bow to Buddha and can spell it Buddah if I choose. DFL people can "peaceably assemble," where currently a will toward "peaceably" is in doubt at the presidential and Minnesota senatorial levels. We all can petition government - none are excluded - although some get to talk while others walk if we believe South Philadelphia Congressman Michael Joseph "Ozzie" Myers' videotaped 1979 comment to FBI Abscam agents posing as freespending Arabs, wherein he voiced his view that differing approaches in petitioning government inherently entail differing likelihoods of success.
But it is free speech and a free press that I salute today.
Ms. Betty McCullom was a lead instrumentalist in the Ciresi campaign which he put into cryogenic preservation a month or two ago, but with Ms. McCullom possibly signaling a thaw.
She does not like Al Franken's candidacy.
She has doubts about Franken ostensibly not because he is someone other than Michael Ciresi, but, she says, because eight years ago he talked dirty - actually he wrote a story in return for money from Playboy magazine, and the story talked dirty. Andy Barr, Franken's spokesperson, says people are smart enough to separate satire from fitness for office while P.T. Barnum along with Ms. McCullom suggest Barr is wrong. One source also quotes a Harper. Interestingly, this Harper is Ms. McCullom's chief of staff. Surprisingly, he is in complete agreement with Ms. McCullom.
I applaud Ms. McCullom's right to speak her mind such as she and Harper have shown her mind to be from speaking. Neither Ms. McCullom nor Harper should be faulted for intently wanting to keep the braying jackass as symbol of the DFL political party. It is her Constitutional Right to do so. And the press may publish about it, so that you may read detail; for example, here where Harper is mentioned, here, here and the original Fred Frommer AP feed which Strib also carried before writing its own version of things, here.
The forefathers [and foremothers] risked hangings had they lost the Revolutionary War, and then after confederating together failed to please enough of them enough of the time they peaceably assembled to write a Constitution endorsing peaceable assembly, endorsing it and free speech as an afterthought amendment, after having spoken their minds and freely published their views before and during the Convention. However, unlike today's bloggers they published under silly assumed names like "Publius." And unlike currently pejorative GOP fashion they were called "federalists" rather than "liberals," although there was a lot of Enlightment to them.
They won their war and got to write the history books about their struggle.
And the press is free.
Except you want a paper you buy a paper - not free in that sense.
Free to rabble rouse. Or free to guide by example. Whatever they like. Whatever sells. Whatever moves more processed trees and ink through the factory.
In giving story links I have reserved for special comment two items of reporting our local press gives us, showing that freedom and license are close with the line indistinct. Yet, the press has every right to write things in words that they feel will best move the greatest number of papers into the hands of a buying public. Lurid coverage has been termed, "If it bleeds it leads."
However, "Body found in closet" journalism is not exactly at issue here as much as arguably more nuanced wording choices, arguably not, and perhaps, just perhaps, xenophobia may exist [comparable to the "not invented here" attitude charged against some corporations and their managements especially Norris of Control Data and Olson of DEC - with all four of them now dead].
Strib coverage is a lesson in freedom of the press.
First, May 29, 2008, the Fred Frommer AP wire feed was carried online by Strib, headline and body, without any photo, stating in its entirety:
Some Minnesota Democrats troubled by Senate candidate Al Franken's 8-year-old Playboy satire
By FREDERIC J. FROMMER , AP - May 29, 2008 - 9:12 PM
WASHINGTON - Senate candidate Al Franken's satirical and explicit take on virtual sex and other topics, published in Playboy magazine eight years ago, is drawing concern instead of laughter from some Minnesota Democrats.
Rep. Betty McCollum, who supported the comedian's rival Mike Ciresi until he dropped out of the race for the party's nomination for the Senate, complained Thursday that she and other Minnesota Democrats will be on the same November ballot as a candidate "who has pornographic writings that are indefensible."
"Do they spend all of their time defending him, or do they spend their time talking about issues that are important to this election?" McCollum told The Associated Press in an interview. "The whole story was a shocking surprise."
Franken, a former "Saturday Night Live" writer and performer and a best-selling author, is the Democratic front-runner to take on Republican Sen. Norm Coleman. Minnesota Democrats hold an endorsing convention next week and a primary Sept. 9.
"Al understands, and the people of Minnesota understand, the difference between what a satirist does and what a senator does," Franken campaign spokesman Andy Barr said. "It's unfortunate that she's trying to create divisions in our party rather than working with other DFLers (Minnesota Democrats) to take on the special-interest senator."
Two other Minnesota Democrats in the House, Keith Ellison and Tim Walz, also expressed concerns about the 2000 satirical article that Republicans began circulating last week. None of the critical House members called on Franken to step aside.
At one point in the Playboy piece titled "Porn-O-Rama!" Franken called the Internet a "terrific learning tool," writing that his 12-year-old son was able to use it for a sixth-grade report on bestiality.
"As a parent and an aunt, and talking to other parents, people are very concerned about the type of Internet use that's out there, and how it has a potentially harmful effect on children," McCollum said. "Sexually explicit material is one of the things that parents are very concerned about, and want to make sure that they're steering their children away from."
Ellison said that and other parts of the article about sexual activities "made me feel a little uncomfortable."
"I have to ask myself, can I explain it to my 11-year-old daughter? I'd have considerable difficulty," Ellison said, adding that voters who have talked with him about it are "just sort of appalled."
Nonetheless, Ellison said he will support Franken if he receives the state party's endorsement. McCollum was making no such promises. "I'll have to see," she said.
Franken is the heavy favorite to take on Coleman, although he faces a challenge from college professor Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in Washington remained firmly behind Franken. "We believe he'll beat Norm Coleman in the fall," said DSCC spokesman Matthew Miller.
McCollum said she spoke briefly with Franken on Thursday and that the candidate wanted to speak again.
"I told him this is a serious problem," she said. "I told him my cell phone's ringing off the hook. Union leaders call me, state House members are calling, I've had people in the coffee shop approach me, very concerned about this. They really feel this article is politically radioactive."
Next day, May 30,, local hands take over writing the story, with local headlining, photo choice, and rewording the body of text, in total saying:
Franken's porn story has party in a lather
A 2000 Playboy article may be a problem for the candidate and the DFL, some Democrats say.
By KEVIN DIAZ and CONRAD WILSON, Star Tribune, May 30, 2008 - 1:42 PM
WASHINGTON - A week before Minnesota DFLers endorse a U.S. Senate candidate, behind-the-scenes rumblings about a satirical Playboy magazine article written by candidate Al Franken eight years ago have broken into the open.
Among those weighing in are Democrat Jim Oberstar, dean of the Minnesota delegation in the U.S. House, and New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.
On Thursday, Rep. Betty McCollum, D-Minn., called the sexually explicit article offensive and potentially damaging to Franken and other Democratic candidates in Minnesota.
The Franken campaign and backers of the candidate said the work was merely satire and faulted McCollum for dividing the party.
"As a woman, a mother, a former teacher, and an elected official, I find this material completely unacceptable," McCollum said of Franken's piece, published in 2000 under the headline "Porn-O-Rama!"
"I can tell you it's not playing comfortably in St. Paul, and I can't imagine this politically radioactive material is doing very well in suburban and rural districts," McCollum said.
Minnesota Reps. Tim Walz and Keith Ellison expressed similar concerns in interviews Thursday with the Associated Press. Ellison said the Franken article made him "uncomfortable," citing passages on oral sex and bestiality. Walz called the piece "pretty inappropriate."
McCollum supported Franken rival Mike Ciresi, who dropped out of the race in March. She said she has not talked to Ciresi about the Playboy article, nor has she encouraged him to reenter the race, although others have.
Ciresi was not available for comment Thursday.
McCollum said Franken's piece came up at a weekly meeting of Minnesota Democrats in Congress on May 21. "The overwhelming majority of us thought it was a serious political problem," she said. "Others thought it was a problem but that it would blow over."
Oberstar, one of those who attended the meeting, said that "some concerns were raised" but that he concluded the matter "is best left to the delegates to sort out at the convention."
The concerns coming out of the meeting came to the attention of Schumer, who talked to Oberstar about them.
Schumer spokesman Matthew Miller declined to discuss the conversation, other than to say, "We support Al Franken and we believe he will beat Norm Coleman in November."
Franken, a former "Saturday Night Live" star, wrote the piece for the January 2000 edition of Playboy, describing a virtual reality sex laboratory involving researchers and "sexbots" (sex robots) at the fictional Minnesota Institute of Titology, or MIT.
"I could describe the incredible sex the three of us had, but this is a piece of journalism about the future of pornography and not one of those cheesy letters from a horny reader," Franken wrote.
McCollum said the piece, in which sex acts are explicitly described, is tantamount to pornography, noting that the Star Tribune would not publish it in its entirety.
Franken campaign spokesman Andy Barr fired back at McCollum Thursday, saying "it's unfortunate that she's trying to create divisions in our party rather than working with other DFLers to take on [Coleman]."
Some Franken supporters took a similar line. "I know that Representative McCollum was a co-chair of Mike Ciresi's campaign, but at a time when Minnesotans are hurting, it's extremely disappointing that she would rather destroy party unity than focus on beating Norm Coleman," said Javier Morillo, president of Service Employees International Union Local 26.
Franken's backers have deflected similar criticism of his past writing, saying that Minnesota voters understand that he was a satirist.
"Al Franken being a satirist isn't something that just emerged," said state Sen. Mee Moua, DFL-St. Paul.
Countered McCollum: "This isn't satire. It's a serious political problem."
Franken's chief rival for the DFL endorsement, University of St. Thomas professor Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, has stayed out of the fray. "We are spending every moment and every resource connecting with DFL delegates," said Chris McNellis, Nelson-Pallmeyer's campaign spokesperson.
firstname.lastname@example.org • 202-408-2753
email@example.com • 202-408-2723
Make what you will of photo and headlines, but first paragraph, "behind-the-scenes rumbling" to make it look as if some exclusive breaking story was uncovered. It was all talking to the press - upfront - and calling it "rumbling" is a choice of words.
Note also the change from reporting what people said, to something less, with Barr's "the special interest senator" changed to "[Coleman]".
That change was made along with dropping the sentences, "None of the critical House members called on Franken to step aside." And, "Nonetheless, Ellison said he will support Franken if he receives the state party's endorsement. McCollum was making no such promises. 'I'll have to see,' she said." It changes the tenor of the story to suggest there was a groundswell of some kind of pressure on Franken to bow out. Strib editors may want him to bow out more than others might. They wrote it that way. The actual quotes did not support an effort to imply that kind of groundswell, but it was re-written that way to bend and sell less of a story into more of one.
And Coleman: I think "the special interest senator" is, after all, what the man said.
Frommer never mentioned Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer. Jack gets at best a footnote reference from Strib's mechanics, while he IS the only other active choice.
Ciresi's early mention is fair, given possible views of McCullom as a stalking horse [talking horse, DFL symbol, whatever you say]. And it is fair, for a local story to get Oberstar saying his friends would decide and he'd agree with his friends.
Jack's saying his position is unwavering and he is campaigning about why he is the best person for the job, based on his attributes and not talking trash about others, went unreported. Instead that "connecting with DFL delegates" statement can be read two ways, and Strib deliberately blurred things that way when Jack's been straight-arrow crystal clear in his rectitude about not making any comments about others and instead running his campaign positively, on his own virtues and merit.
Coleman got an upgrade, Jack a downgrade.
More detail about the Franken item was given in Strib's homebrew version. The added part, we all had a meeting (with Al uninvited) and the consensus was to knife him was reported less judgmentally than that, but it was left out altogether by Frommer who reported without editorial slanting, things people said to him on record.
Besides Jack getting buried to last in the coverage, it was everyone jump on Al for a lot of the story, with the Barr statement buried deep down in the story after that.
It made Franken look like an ill-supported factor, giving an impression of an almost unwavering onslaught of opposition thought. Others may read the stories as merely parallel, neither slanted, and the second version giving more "local flavor" to things. But it sure read like all jumping Al, with his spokesperson and a bare allusion to his support voices played as weak grist for an overwhelming majority view.
And the insult to Nelson-Pallmeyer was palpable and intentional. As the only currently opposing candidate, his sensible "So what, let me run on my record" position had no place among the sharp knives, and was treated accordingly.
The other candidate for endorsement an afterthought, a total footnote because he has the good sense and common decency to not be drawn into the p---ing contest?
Perhaps that is fair, it is Strib fairness in things, you decide.
Now, not quite "finally" but close, "tantamont to pornography" McCullom said. I recall courts wrestling in the past with what is obscene, or indecent, and the approach at one time mentioned, "patently offensive without any redeeming social merit." To me, revolving door lobbyists fit that characterization, as to what to me is "patently offensive" yet Ms. McCullom has had no reservations about endorsing one.
Now, finally, MPR in its report included this:
McCollum isn't the only DFLer with concerns.
"I'm in a swing district," said state Rep. Sandy Wollschlager, DFL-Cannon Falls. "I ran three times to win. I don't really need to be on a controversial ticket with other candidates."
Wollschlager is in her first term in the Minnesota House and is running for reelection. She said Franken's Playboy article, along with the admission that he failed to pay taxes in 17 states, worries her.
"When I go door to door I want to be focusing on my campaign," she said. "Once I say who I am and what I'm running for, the temptation to ask 'What do you think about Al Franken' is going to be out there and that's not what I want to spend my time on."
Wollschlager said she hasn't backed anyone in the Senate race and would even be open to another DFLer entering the race.
Ms. Wollschlager has a big problem. If she lacks the good sense to say exactly what Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, (closer to the fray than she is), has the good sense to say, I simply am running on my merits not about anyone else, then should anyone vote for her or should they wonder, instead, about her experience, wisdom and judgment? If she goes door-to-door and somebody wants her to touch the third rail over another race, who's to blame but her if she cannot figure out how to handle the situation?
As a footnote, not about Jack this time, here's the picture Strib should have run.
I am shocked!
In jumping Franken now McCollum is entering the same foxhole as Brodkorb. They make an odd couple. Ciresi is trying a straddle. Saying he is not behind McCollum's putsch and she speaks for herself, while not disclaiming or distancing himself any further. He knows better. He is not scoring points by being coy. If he wants a primary he may get a primary. It might have the GOP holding off until it's over before they dump.
As a second footnote, again not Jack this time, the press is free to have spelled Ms. McCollum's name any way they wanted, and not constrained to spell it as she does; nonetheless, I have tried to spell it her way throughout this post, resisting a puckish urge toward, "McCull'em," to go along with her partner-voice "Harper."