I usually defend the post office — my dad worked there for 44 years and accumulated 4,000 hours of unused sick leave — but I suppose I should mention that two weeks ago today the Outpost received a check in the mail that had been mailed from a Central Avenue address in March 2012. In-town service in under a year — and people complain about the post office.
Because I teach German at MSU Billings, I occasionally get requests to translate old letters that people happen to have around. Yesterday, I translated a letter that a German man wrote to an American in May 1933.
The letter itself was inconsequential: He was introducing himself to a new pen pal in America. He was 20 years old, just out of Gymnasium (which is basically college prep school) and working in a book store. He was looking forward to exchanging letters about German and American characteristics and politics.
I don’t know if any of those letters were ever written. But to be a 20-year-old German in 1933 had to be one of the least promising resumes in world history. Did he survive? If so, in what condition?
Probably, we will never know.
The Outpost has a story this week on allegations that Jennifer Olsen posted a racist joke on her Facebook page (see below). Since we may not get that story posted on the website for a bit, and since there seems to be a lot of interest in this, here it is:
By ADRIAN JAWORT
For The Outpost
The internet meme was one of many racist images floating in cyberspace mocking President Barack Obama for his African-American roots.
Under a cardboard box that was held up by a stick with a string on it, the “snare” had a watermelon as bait. Underneath it a caption read: “BREAKING NEWS: The Secret Service just uncovered a plot to kidnap the president.”
However, this particular image was allegedly re-posted on the personal Facebook page of Jennifer Olsen last Friday. Ms. Olsen happens to be the chairwoman of the Yellowstone County Republican Central Committee and a leader of the Yellowstone County Montana Shrugged Tea Party.
Although Ms. Olsen denied the saved screenshot image was taken from her Facebook page, the image has nonetheless rapidly spread across Montana political blogs on the internet, originating from whistleblower Nicole French’s Montanafesto blog before appearing on the popular liberal political insider mtcowgirl.com blog.
David Pilgrim, curator of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia at Michigan’s Ferris State University, said, “The mission of the Jim Crow Museum is straightforward: use items of intolerance to teach tolerance. We examine the historical patterns of race relations and the origins and consequences of racist depictions.”
He explained watermelon’s negative connotations towards blacks: “The association of Blacks with watermelons is, at its root, a mean-spirited attempt to insult and mock Blacks.”
Pilgrim cited Keith M. Woods from the Poynter Institute, who wrote that watermelon has been “a staple of racism’s diet” since the slavery plantation days.
“Over time,” wrote Mr. Woods, “the watermelon became a symbol of the broader denigration of black people. It became part of the image perpetuated by a white culture bent upon bolstering the myth of superiority by depicting the inferior race as lazy, simple-minded pickaninnies interested only in such mindless pleasures as a slice of sweet watermelon. Like all racial and ethnic stereotypes, this one’s destructive properties have, through the decades, stretched far beyond mere insult.”
French, an active Republican whose credentials include being the former elections director of the Yellowstone Young Republicans, said she felt compelled to make the image public in hopes Republicans would condemn racism in its own ranks.
“We want to rid the party of this sort of ugliness,” she said.
On her own Facebook page, Ms. Olsen said she wouldn’t comment about blog posts. But in an email, she denied complicity in posting the image, stating that the alleged posting was “absolutely not true.”
“The blog posting this about me is all fabricated,” Olsen wrote. “This is not the first time they have made up stories about me as writer, Nicole French, and I had a falling out a few years ago and since then she writes this nonsense.”
She added, “Liberals always try to take our focus away from real issues by doing things like this.”
“I don’t know how I’d ‘fabricate’ a screenshot,” French said in response, noting that someone would have had to hack Olsen’s Facebook account, or she would’ve had to doctor the image.
“I don’t have a personal vendetta,” she said. “If this was someone else posting this in the Central Committee executive board or a Democrat, I would’ve posted it as well.”
The incident recalls the fallout after U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull was accused of racism when he forwarded an email on his government account making light of President Obama’s mixed-race. Nor is this the first time a Tea Party affiliated member in a leadership position in Montana has come under scrutiny for a post made on Facebook.
In 2010 Montana’s Big Sky Tea Party Association leader Tim Ravndal was fired over an insensitive reference to Matthew Shepard, a homosexual who was beaten to death and then tied to a fence post. The remarks stemmed from a Facebook conversation about gay marriage.
One commenter had written, “I think fruits are decorative. Hang up where they can be seen and appreciated. Call Wyoming for display instructions.”
Ravndal replied, “Where can I get that Wyoming printed instruction manual?”
Big Sky Tea Party Chairman Jim Walker responded to the public outcry that followed in a statement:
“The discussion in that Facebook conversation is entirely outside the position of the Big Sky Tea Party. Even though Mr. Ravndal was having a personal conversation and made no reference to our group, we felt strongly that swift and decisive action was required as we cannot accept that sort of behavior from within our membership, let alone from an officer of the corporation.”
“We continually make it known that we will not tolerate bigoted dialog, behavior or messages at our functions, our meetings or within our ranks. If a person demonstrates bigotry relative to race, sex, ethnicity, etc. they are not welcome in our organization. The Tea Party movement is about standing up for individual freedom for everyone.”
While Judge Cebull and Ravndal were immediately apologetic when their online indiscretions were made public, Olsen supporters claimed the picture did not have racial implications after it was posted by French on the Yellowstone County Republicans Facebook page for their review. French said the posting was up for about an hour before she was subsequently banned from the group and it was taken down.
According to Ms. French’s screenshot of the page, Congressional Committeeman Brian Kenat wrote to French on the Facebook page, “You’re the one being racist by saying a watermelon under a box is. If you cut up a watermelon and stuck it under a box, you’d be more likely to trap a child.”
Joe Bailey, a vice chairman of the YCRCC, chastised French as a Democrat and drug dealer for her support of medical marijuana, claiming she was a “failure of a person” before writing, “I feel sorry for your daughter.”
When informed of Olsen’s alleged posting, former representative of House District 47 James Knox wrote to French that it was “a funny take on a picture. If you think that is racist then you got problems. Personally, it would have been better if it was over a gun.”
However, like French, not all Republicans are eager to claim the joke wasn’t racist. “It was completely unacceptable,” said Republican Josh Daniels, the precinct committeeman for House District 47A.
A.J. Otjen, who ran against Denny Rehberg during the last Senate primaries, said such images do nothing to gain adherents. She said, “I think it’s indicative of the wrong direction of the party and the people who want to go in that direction.”
Mr. Daniels said, “I disagree with Obama on just about everything you can think of, but you just don’t bring in a person’s race. That doesn’t solve anything; it just brings hate towards you. (Olsen’s) supposed to be representing the party for the people of this county, and she failed us. We’re the party of Lincoln, who got rid of the slaves and did a lot for blacks and their civil rights when the Democrats were against it.”
Both Otjen and Daniels vouch for the integrity of French, doubting she’d fabricate such a Facebook posting regarding Olsen. When informed of Olsen’s denial, Mr. Daniels said, “Of course she said that, because she got caught.”
“I think for someone who is supposed to be the head of the GOP in this county, it’s just not something we stand for. There’s no way we’re going to be gaining younger voters and GOP members if they keep acting like this. All it does is run people away, and makes us look like rednecks.”
UPDATE: The official response from the Republican Central Committee:
The Yellowstone County Republican Central Committee is fully aware of the media coverage regarding the alleged Facebook posting by its’ sitting Chairwoman. In no way, shape, or form do the Yellowstone County Republicans condone nor accept the use of stereotypes from its’ members in either their personal or political lives. The committee investigates any allegation made against a member and due to the sensitivity of the subject matter, we are approaching the situation methodically. Our chairwoman has received several death threats related to this allegation, which at this time remains an allegation pending further investigation. Because of the nature of these threats, the sensitivity of this situation is heightened. It is widely known that hacking is used to apply fraudulent posts in social media frequently. This alleged posting has not been corroborated by any of the over 1,000 friends following the chairwoman’s personal Facebook at the time or any other witnesses. Ms. Olsen has never demonstrated this of her character to anyone on the board or in public to our knowledge. We believe that asking Ms. Olsen to step down as Chairwoman at this time would be premature, unnecessary, and unwarranted. As the matter progresses we will adjust our approach as necessary in a proper and justified manner which portrays the key values of our local Republican party.
A fairly upbeat assessment of Lee Enterprises’ financial prospects.
Lee is most certainly not a blue-chip company and the glory days of the newspaper publishing business are most certainly over. However, we also believe that the worst for Lee is over and we don’t expect it to buy any other newspaper chains at 25X TTM FCFs using debt like it did with Pulitzer in 2005. Lee has been able to keep its EBITDA stable since it bottomed out in 2009. Although Lee’s revenue has been steadily sagging since 2006, it has been able to offset these headwinds with lower operating costs. Lee has also mitigated its print revenue declines with its revenue from its digital advertising and circulation programs.
If Montanafesto has this right, it should end Jennifer Olsen’s political activities in Montana.
Of course, at Rockin’ on the Right Side, this will be viewed as just another sign of liberal racism.
UPDATE: In response to a question from one of our freelancers, Jennifer Olsen says by email that this blog post “is absolutely not true.” More to follow.
Over at “Big Sky, By and By,” Ed Kemmick rightly takes note of my unsophisticated affection for Jimmie Rodgers’ “I’ve Ranged, I’ve Roamed and I’ve Traveled.” It’s true that I am a musical naif; I’ve often said that if human beings communicated solely by musical notes instead of with words, I would be functionally illiterate. But perhaps some history is in order.
My father loved country music, Jimmie Rodgers above all. In 1964 (when I was 13) my father fulfilled a lifelong dream by hauling us — wife and four boys — all off to Nashville to see the Grand Ole Opry. I don’t remember too much about it, except that it lasted about 8,000 hours, and it was sweltering in the old Ryman Auditorium, and I remember Dave “Stringbean” Akeman in his ridiculous costume and Porter Waggoner in his even more ridiculous costume.
My memory tells me that we drove around town aimlessly for a while after the show, but since that is something we never did, I’m sure that’s a false memory. We were probably just trying to find the motel. Anyway, on the radio came on one of those old half-hour commercials for a two-record Jimmie Rodgers set, in which an occasional song was interrupted by several minutes of sales pitch. That’s when I first heard “I’ve Ranged, I’ve Roamed and I’ve Traveled” — as part of a cornball sales pitch on an AM country station while riding around Nashville in a packed car after a long, hot summer night at the Grand Ole Opry.
We fell for the song — and for the pitch. Not long afterward, we ordered both records as a gift for my father, and eventually they came to me. “I’ve Ranged, I’ve Roamed and I’ve Traveled” became, and remains, the only Jimmie Rodgers’ song I can confidently sing by heart, except for the yodel.
I won’t deny that there was always something just a tad ironic in my affection for the song. Still, the affection is genuine: It’s a sharp piece of story telling that mixes nostaglia, sentiment, innocence and pure cornpone all into one guileless little package. It really is about as universal a story of its time as it could be: Restless country boy heads off to the big city, gets into trouble, and spends the rest of his life trying to get back home. We spend our fancy, modern lives disappointing our mothers: That’s what this song is all about.
Not that Jimmie ever spent much time thinking that through. He just pulled it right out of that storehouse in his heart and strummed along.
Apparently I have been banned altogether from Tom Balek’s Rockin’ on the Right Side. Responding to his recent post claiming that fans of Jon Stewart’s “The Daily Show” are low-information voters, I noted that studies have shown that “Daily Show” fans are, in fact, relatively high-information voters. I even provided a link, which I won’t bother to reproduce here, making the case. Just to make things even easier for him, I also threw in a bit of snark, noting his reluctance to let facts get in the way of his opinions.
Out it all went: facts, links, snark and all. Maybe he doesn’t like me. Could it be because I called him a liar and a racist? But as I noted in that post, I applied exactly the same standard of evidence in making my claim that he applied in claiming that Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice are liars and that the New York Times is racist. In short, no standard at all.
I remain perfectly willing to either withdraw my claims or provide evidence for them as soon as he either withdraws his claims or provides evidence for them. Until then, I suppose, we remain in a standoff — one that you apparently will never read about on his site.
Pretty hard to resist the headline on this BLM news release:
“Landowners encouraged to be mindful of migrating wildlife, fences”
Jon Arneson, sitting in for Aaron Flint, took a call from a man who said Obama was out to destroy America in order to get back at the “white boy.” I guess I don’t blame Arneson too much for letting that go by; on the occasions when he fills in, he usually tries to avoid confrontations with callers.
But jeez. It would be nice to hear somebody on the right call these morons out from time to time. Maybe Tom Balek at Rockin’ on the Right Side will do it — no, wait, he still thinks the New York Times is racist.
Best subject line on an email today that I will not read: “God is irrefutably proven.” I would like to see proof of God as much as the next guy, but this overlong, single-spaced missive has question marks everywhere apostrophes and quotation marks should be. Guess I’m not that eager to find proof of God.