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Phone books and other news that is good or bad, depending …

If you’re like us here at the Daily Glean, you tend to look up information about businesses and whatnot online, and haven’t used phone books in years, except to tear them in half in astonishing demonstrations of physical strength. And blogger Ed Kohler has been making the case for a while now that phone books, in general, are no better than spam, and wasteful, and bad for the environment to boot. Well, according to the Associated Press, Kohler is no longer fighting this battle alone: Rep. Paul Gardner of Shoreview is coauthoring a bill that would allow residents to decline a home delivery of a phone book, if they wanted.

So that’s the good news for today. The bad news is that if you’ve been waiting to discover the sordid details of an alleged “orgy” that occurred among Hilton Minneapolis employees a few years ago, well, you’re never going to know. As the Star Tribune’s James Walsh reports, the case, in which a pair of former employees sued their bosses for threatening to fire them after they witnessed “an orgy involving Hilton Hotel upper management,” has been settled and the records sealed. And that’s just how the news goes: some good, some bad.

For instance, there was good news for Denny Hecker, for whom good news has been quite rare lately. The former car sales mogul was looking at doing jail time — in his divorce case, of all things, which should be the least of his worries — as the result of a 401(k) account he liquidated last year without his wife’s knowledge. As Rochelle Olson of the Star Tribune explains it, the judge gave Hecker an option: Pay back the $125,000, or spend time in the pen. The good news for Hecker is that an unnamed friend ponied up the money, according to MaryJo Webster of the Pioneer Press.

In more good news, Randy Furst of the Star Tribune tells us that some of the goods seized — in some cases illegally — by the Metro Strike Force have been returned. Returned items include “$5,000 in cash, an assortment of cars, electronics, jewelry, and a handgun.” If all this stuff went back to one person, we can probably expect one heck of a party this weekend.

A lot of these good news stories are coming from the Star Tribune, but it had its own spell of bad news Monday, when its website hosted an ad designed to infect computers with malware; City Pages sums up the details. What is malware? In this instance, it’s a program that tells you your computer has been infected by a virus, and won’t let you do anything until you buy a specific piece of software to clear out the virus. Of course, the only virus is the malware itself, and anybody who has ever experienced this knows just how pernicious and unyielding the program can be — it won’t let you access web pages (and, in some examples, will spontaneously pop open web pages containing pornography) and generally misbehaves on your computer in a way that grinds the possibility of getting work done to a halt. According to David Brauer, the offending ad was taken down as soon as it was discovered.

Of course, whether news is good or bad sometimes depends on your perspective; for instance, the malware story is good news, if you’re the sort of person who profits from infecting other people’s computers (and if you are, let me be the first to offer my condolences to your friends and family). So when Minneapolis tells area police officers that they’re losing their cell phones, and won’t be able to idle in their cars as much, and can expect fewer oil changes — well, it’s bad news for those officers. But, as the Strib’s Steve Brandt describes it, it’s good news for the city, in the sense that it will save it some money, and, in a way, it’s good for the police, because if the city can cut costs there, it might save some jobs in the department that might be on the line.

But, of course, it’s bad news if you think that a police department should be well-funded enough that it doesn’t have to make all sorts of picayune trims to its budget just to keep people on the force; that’s the sort of thing that gets some people a little het up. MinnPost republishes one such outraged reaction to the state’s budget, from the Ely/Cook/Tower Timberjay: “The state of Minnesota faces an unprecedented budget crisis and what does Gov. Tim Pawlenty propose? How about higher property taxes for average Minnesotans, a shredded safety net for those at the bottom, and hefty tax cuts for big corporations.

The editorial presents the governor’s agenda in a manner that seems a little less addlepated than the governor himself seems capable of. For instance, one of his budget-savings techniques in the current proposal is to rely on federal stimulus funds to pare back the state’s budget deficit. It’s not the first time he’s done this either; last year the governor made use of $2.6 billion in federal stimulus funds to plug holes in his budget. So when a collection of U.S. governors drafted a letter to Congress demanding that it pass an extension to the federal stimulus bill, you’d think Pawlenty would sign it, wouldn’t you? You’d think wrong. “Pawlenty’s spokesman Brian McClung declined to comment,” notes Minnesota Public Radio’s Tom Scheck.

Another example of news that is either good or bad, depending on whom you talk to: Pat Kessler of WCCO reports on three bills that are wending their way through the Minnesota House that would legalize gay marriage in our fair state. This is bad news for people who oppose gay marriage, but good news for those who support it, as well as potentially good news for the local marriage industry, who stand to expand their customer base. But it’s potentially bad news for Iowa, who would no longer be able to lord over us how much more progressive they are.

In sports, there’s an unexpected crossover between Pawlenty and Minnesota Olympiads. For instance, both Pawlenty and skier Lindsey Vonn recently made jokes about Tiger Woods; Vonn’s version, reported in TIME, was to mock Woods’ friends who embraced him after the golfer’s public apology. Vonn’s quip: “”They’re like, ‘Yeah, you’re awesome, you go have that sex.’ ” This seems to confirm The Onion’s guess about of Vonn: That she’s a “joyless judgmental jerk behind her smiling facade.” Vonn’s comments are likely to get a lot more attention than those of Minneapolis/Golden Valley native and cross country skier Garrott Kuzzy, who wrote an open letter on his blog from the Winter Olympics to Pawlenty pleading with him to “support the Winter Training Center at Theodore Wirth Park in Golden Valley,” which would be part of the forthcoming bonding bill. Which Pawlenty says he’ll veto.

So, for Kuzzy at least, that’s bad news.

Comments (5)

  1. Submitted by Andrew Zabilla on 02/23/2010 - 11:23 am.

    I have to say that I rather like having a phone book around. Sometimes I get so tired of trying to wade through the web with it’s never-ending sea of ads and information that rarely pertains to me.

    How often have you searched for something specific only to find that almost all of the links which claim to contain that item actually have nothing like it? Maybe I want to try a new pizza place. I can google it and get 1/4 of the actual listings for my area, half of which have been closed for 3 years, or I can pick up a phone book and find something in a matter of seconds.

    The internet is a wonderful and powerful tool, but sometimes the phone book is the only way to go.

  2. Submitted by Sheila Ehrich on 02/23/2010 - 11:54 am.

    OK, let’s see if I have this straignt – so far Denny Hecker has received $175,000 from a friend and now another $125,000 from someone who remains anonymous. When you receive gifts that size, don’t you have to report them on your taxes? So now Denny Hecker, who is supposedly bankrupt, now owes taxes on these two gifts? The explanation to the IRS should be really interesting.

  3. Submitted by Howard Salute on 02/23/2010 - 12:53 pm.

    Sheila….recipients of gifts do not pay taxes on them. Sometimes the donor may be subject to a tax on the gift, depending upon the circumstances (and the current law regarding estate taxes). Perhaps you are confusing a gift with a prize or lottery winnings? The explanation to the IRS is…no explanation needed.

    As a golfer I enjoyed the good news/bads news routine. When playing competitive golf, somebody likes (and dislikes) every shot.

  4. Submitted by Sheila Ehrich on 02/23/2010 - 02:17 pm.

    You can tell why I have an accountant do my taxes. Thanks!

  5. Submitted by Morgan Matthews on 02/23/2010 - 06:00 pm.

    I don’t have 2 friends who together could give me $300,000. Hell, I don’t have 20 friends who could do that. And which 2 people who have that kind of money would give it to Denny Hecker, right now? They’ll never get it back, and people who get that kind of money didn’t get it by being the kind of people who just throw it away.

    I bet there’s more to where this money is really coming from.

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