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Andrew Rothman
Drawing a bead on truth

Date: 2011-09-21 14:03
Subject: How many people have Minnesota Carry Permits?
Security: Public
About 87,000, as of this writing. The graphics below will continue to update as the number changes.

Based on the rate of increase so far, I predict we'll hit 100,000 some time in the first half of 2013:

Want to move that date back? Get a permit. Have one already? Convince a few friends to exercise their rights, too.
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Date: 2011-09-21 12:40
Subject: There's another word for it
Security: Public
US hikers released from Iran prison after $1 million bail paid

I think the word the whole of the media can't seem to say is "ransom."
Their families and the U.S. government said they were just hiking in northern Iraq's scenic and relatively peaceful Kurdish region when they might have accidentally strayed over the unmarked border with Iran.

Does anyone on either side really believe this?
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Date: 2011-09-21 12:32
Subject: Give them an inch, and they'll take you prisoner
Security: Public
Tags:bureaucrat, carry, permit, wi, wisconsin
From the Green Bay Press-Gazette:

New Wisconsin concealed carry rules remain unknown

The state Department of Justice said it won't release training rules for carrying concealed weapons until a few weeks before the law takes effect, so instructors are trying to cover all bases in the meantime.

Dana Brueck, spokeswoman for the DOJ, said training rules will be released in mid- to late October after being approved by the department. The law allowing people to carry concealed weapons takes effect Nov. 1.


The DOJ also will release its decision on whether online courses will satisfy requirements in mid- to late October, Brueck said.

This is what happens when the law leaves any discretion to bureaucrats: the discretion gets abused.

The MCPPA is notable for its almost complete lack of discretion left to public "servants." What discretion there is -- danger to self or others, permit fees, and instructor org certification -- has been abused.

In a just and sane world, the Legislature wouldn't have to micromanage bureaucrats through incredibly specific, detailed legislative prescription. Unfortunately, we don't live in a just and sane world.
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Date: 2009-06-12 18:11
Subject: "Never Again" is not a prayer.
Security: Public
On Facebook today, I noted that today would have been Anne Frank's 80th birthday, and closed with "Never Again."

A Jewish friend sent me a message, saying I was too optimistic.

It's not optimism.  When I say "never again," it's not a prayer -- it's a warning.

European Jews had a shtetl mentality.1 Unfortunately, a lot of American Jews do, too. Israeli Jews, largely, don't.

And neither do I. If they should come with the cattle cars, they won't find all sheep: there will be some sheepdogs2 in the herd. Fuzzy and gentle, like sheep, but with teeth and claws, too, and the willingness to use them.

Read about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.3 That's what a small group of utterly unprepared Jews did. Well, we aim to be better prepared, which may go a long way to prevent the next time from even happening.

It was said that the Japanese never invaded the U.S. mainland during World War II because they feared "...a man with a rifle behind every blade of grass."

Well, the same goes for the Buford Furrows, the James von Brunns, and the Mahmoud Ahmadinejads of the world. Don't try it -- there'll be an armed Jew behind at least some of those blades of grass, and we won't come quietly again.

Happy Birthday, Anne. Never again.

  1. http://www.forward.com/articles/12985/

  2. http://www.gleamingedge.com/mirrors/onsheepwolvesandsheepdogs.h

  3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warsaw_Ghetto_Uprising

Photos by Oleg Volk
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Date: 2009-04-16 09:16
Subject: Words mean things
Security: Public
Music:Don Henley, "Dirty Laundry"
And folks wonder why newspapers like the Star Tribune are circling the drain...

There was a horrible story in the news last summer here in Minneapolis. A family was just finishing their day at Valleyfair, an amusement park in the south metro, and were on their way to the exit when a young man allegedly grabbed the butt of one of the daughters.

The father challenged and/or chastised the man. Shortly thereafter, the young man and five others beat the living shit out of the father. He suffered brain injuries, skull fractures, and permanent nerve damage.

(It turned out that at least some of those arrested were members of a notorious, multi-generational crime family, specializing in prostitution.)

Two of these fine, upstanding young men just pleaded out to third degree assault. Here's a piece of the story as reported in the Star Tribune (the emphasis is mine):

Guilty pleas have been entered by two of the six defendants accused of beating a suburban father at Valleyfair after he tried to defend his teenage daughter last summer.

The men are accused of taking turns stomping on and kicking the head of a 41-year-old Apple Valley man just after midnight July 4. He was knocked unconscious as his wife and three daughters tried to help him.

Prosecutors say the fight began when one of the suspects harassed and assaulted the victim's 15-year-old daughter. The man was attacked as he stepped in to intervene.

The fight? How is that a fight? I decided to ask the Star Tribune reporter, Paul Walsh, about the choice of words. Here is the email exchange, verbatim. My emails are in green; Paul's are in blue.

Subject: Words mean things...

...as a professional wordsmith should know.


Given these words...

The [six] men are accused of taking turns stomping on and kicking the head of a 41-year-old Apple Valley man just after midnight July 4. He was knocked unconscious as his wife and three daughters tried to help him.

 ...how is this word appropriate?

Prosecutors say the fight began when one of the suspects harassed and assaulted the victim's 15-year-old daughter.

Since when is a six-on-one beatdown a "fight"?  Are we missing part of the story (and if so, why)? Was this an incredibly careless use of words, or is there an agenda in minimizing the actions of members of a multigenerational crime family? Come to think of it, I can't remember a story in the Star Tribune identifying the Evans as such.

Andrew Rothman

I don't mind challenges involving the use of the language. Keep `em coming. However, you obviously don't have a clue why we do what we do if you think that we pick words based on personal agendas and somehow we have the time or motivation to contemplate how we can manipulate our readers into thinking the way we want them to.
Your message offers nothing more than a grand broad-brush sweep of subjectivity across every person in this newsroom. You must believe that we are robots all marching to the same beat of single thought. Nothing could be further from the truth. I know, having been in daily newsrooms in 5 states and Washington, D.C., for the past 33 years. I don't know for sure, but I'm guessm guessing your interaction with newspeople is far less extensive.


Thanks for the reply.  A few thoughts:

You say you welcome the challenge involving use of language, but your only response was name-calling and defensiveness. I never did hear from you how or why the word was chosen.

Second, you seem to have missed the fact that I offered three possible alternatives to explain the word choice: carelessness, unreported information, or an agenda.

You responded only to the third possibility, and somehow took my question as an attack on the whole newsroom.

I had already rejected ignorance, but in hindsight, I should have offered a fifth possibility: unintentional centering bias. It is a well-researched fact that newsrooms tend to be staffed by a cohort far more liberal than the general public. That's not always a fatal flaw, but it does lead to an environment where world views tend to be reinforced, not challenged.

As to your unkind words that I "obviously don't have a clue," I wonder exactly what keen reporter's instinct made you so certain? Not that it matters, but my undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota was in journalism; Kevin Diaz taught one of my reporting classes; I found him to be an extraordinary public affairs reporter, and a fair-to-middlin' teacher.

Like many journalism students, I served as a reporter for the Minnesota Daily while in school, and spent plenty of time among the staff there, several of whom now work in local media.

So, yes, I think I have some idea what goes on in a newsroom. Sometimes, the copy desk will screw up perfectly good writing. Sometimes, a section editor will inject his own writing style, or even political views, into a piece.

Usually, errors are more benign; Maybe you wrote "altercation," and a copy editor followed the advice that Bill Huntsinger, a former AP editor and now a journalism professor, pounded into our heads: "Never use a dollar word where a two-bit word will do."

So, once again, the challenge to the use of language: was the word "fight" accurate? Did the man who suffered skull fractures and brain injuries after being hit, kicked and stomped by six young thugs start out toe-to-toe with them? Was he a mutual combatant? If so, why wasn't it ever in the story? If not, why use the word?

While we're speaking of content, was it ever reported that at least some of the thugs were members of the notorious, multigenerational prostitution family, the Evans? That would seem relevant.

But keep writing. I enjoy the engagement and the opportunity to enlighten as well.


Like I said, your depth of insight about what goes on in a newsroom pales to mine and every one of my colleagues'. Thank you for your thoughts.

Yes, Paul, you have worked as a reporter for a long time, and I have not.  Of course, I've been in the real world, surrounded by a diversity of viewpoints, while you've been, well, in the Star Tribune newsroom, so perhaps there is something we can learn from each other?

Perhaps it is my lack of newsroom experiences that prevents me from understanding why you pretend to welcome dialogue, and then ignore it.

Regardless of my relatively brief exposure to the vagaries of the modern American newsroom, I am fairly certain that there are some basic steps that usually occur in the process of producing a news story, called "assignment," "reporting," "writing," "editing" and "publishing" (though lately, I sometimes wonder whether budget cuts have resulted in skipping one or more of those steps).

Somewhere in that process, the Star Tribune either forgot to tell its readers about mutual combat, or mistakenly referred to a brutal beating as a "fight."

You've taken time to tell a reader in some detail what he thinks and how wrong you think that is, but you have now, twice, ignored the fundamental question, which was, after all, about a single word.

When I covered the police beat, and even now, when I recently rode along with a Minneapolis police officer as he patrolled the North Side, I was struck by the insular, us-versus-them, it's-a-cop-thing-you-wouldn't-understand attitude evidenced by the boys in blue. I was powerfully reminded of that attitude by your reply.

Lou Gelfand was an exception to that attitude; he believed that he could help readers understand what went on inside a newspaper, and he called it like he saw it, sometimes defending the paper, sometimes chastising it. I still miss his column. I think you would do well to reread some of his work.

So, how about it, Paul? Lay off the ad hominems and lets's talk about words -- about reporting, and editing.

Once more, what's with the word "fight"?



The word is a fair word, even if the sides aren't balanced. It was not chosen for any subliminal reason or cloaked motive. You are trying too hard. I've enjoyed this. Write again when a new subject catches your eye.

Nah, you're not trying hard enough. "The word is a fair word" is an assertion, not a proof, nor is it evidence . Are you saying it was a fight? If so, why was it never reported as such?

Come on, Paul, this isn't that hard, and you can't really be this condescending.

You're the one obsessing about motivations, when I've given you every possible opportunity to offer a different explanation.

So, number four: WHY is the word "fight" appropriate?

See previous answer. Thanks again goodbye.

His editors must be proud.

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September 2011