843 Should Huppenthal resign over blog comments?

Comments

Tom Garrett 5 months, 4 weeks ago

I'll tell you right up front, admittedly having only read a portion of John Huppenthal's posts, my answer is a resounding NO!

In case you haven't already heard about it, our Arizona Department of Education Superintendent used his right of free speech to make anonymous comments on the website Blog For Arizona.

Bob Lord, the attorney who runs the blog, traced the IP address of "Thucydides," Huppenthal's screen name, to a computer inside the state's Department of Education building. I have not yet seen a comment regarding the legality of someone who operated a website tracing the identity of participants when anonymous comments are allowed, but Lord apparently sees nothing wrong with it since he is gloating over what he did.

"We even had one that came from Japan, when he was in Japan," Lord said with a chuckle.

The news media are having a field day. CBS 5 News reports that Lord said, "There was one where he referred to poor people as lazy pigs. There was another where he referred to the Mexican-American studies program down in Tucson as the 'we hate whitey' program."

CBS 5 News points out that, "A handful of posts made comparisons to Hitler and the Nazis."

Here's one they quoted:

"Hitler worked to eliminate the Jews. Margaret Sanger founder of Planned Parenthood was given the job of eliminating African-Americans. Hitler fed 6 million Jews into the ovens. Sanger has fed 16 million African-Americans into the abortion mills."

I'll put up Huppenthal's entire statement to CBS 5 News so that you can make up your own mind:

"I take my role as an American citizen seriously and public policy has been a passion of mine for my entire life. In recent years, I have chosen to participate in online blogs as a forum to advocate for and discuss issues related to economics, energy, criminal justice reform and in recent years, education.

"I have engaged in these debates under the moniker 'Falcon9' and 'Thucydides.' I chose this approach because I felt that any other would limit a free and open exchange. Anonymous discourse has been an established practice throughout U.S. history, including the development of the Federalist Papers, and has become even more prevalent since the advent of the internet.

(more)

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Tom Garrett 5 months, 4 weeks ago

"I strongly believe that no citizen should give up their right to free speech - sourced or anonymous - simply because of a position they hold. However, I take my position as an Arizona leader very seriously and I sincerely regret if my comments have offended anyone.

"I do need to say that context is everything.

"Philosophical political bias can inhibit unbiased understandings. Given this, I have three main points to make with regard to my online blogging.

"First, it is no accident I have been in the public policy arena for 30 years in elected office. I am a passionate advocate for furthering our understanding of public policies that affect our citizens. I care deeply about education, criminal justice, economics and policies that affect the general welfare of our society. Blogging is only one avenue of discourse that I've engaged in over my public career.

"Second, Why did I blog anonymously? I believe in rigorous public discourse, in furthering ideas and reforming ideologies that don't always work. I have engaged both sides of the ideological spectrum to think deeper about their positions. I recognized my position as an elected official would influence the dialog, and I was interested strictly in an exchange on issues and ideas. Anonymity has its value as our founding fathers believed when they developed the Federalist Papers. It is not a new concept, our history reflects that.

"Third, In fairness, my blog entries have been taken completely out of context, or perhaps, misunderstood. Why would I devote my life to uplifting the human condition if I truly believed the insinuations that are being derived from a few of my specific comments. I do not apologize for holding conservative values that I have fought for during my 30 years in public life. I do however, regret that the intent of my comments have been misconstrued."

In addition to any other comments you may care to make, I'd like to ask you a question. Two of them in fact.

  1. Looking at the more than 13,000 posts I have put up, would you by any stretch of the imagination call me anything other than a political independent?

  2. Specifically, what do you think about this sentence in Huppenthal's reply: "I do not apologize for holding conservative values that I have fought for during my 30 years in public life."

Nope, make that three questions:

  1. I suppose that CBS 5 News is in favor of the part of the First Amendment covering freedom of the press; I wonder how they feel about freedom of speech for the rest of us?
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Pat Randall 5 months, 4 weeks ago

In my opinion which I know a lot of you don't think much of it. If you don't have guts to sign your name then don't write it. From day one my name has always been on the posts I put up. I was so glad when they made the rule everyone on here had to use their real name. A lot of people dropped off. I am assuming they either owned a business was afraid of losing their job or held a public office. Once in awhile an anonymous one gets thru.

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Tom Garrett 5 months, 4 weeks ago

"Huppenthal should resign."

Why? What did he do wrong?

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Bernice Winandy 5 months, 3 weeks ago

The following letter to the editor published in the Arizona Republic 7/2/2014 gives some explanation to my position:

"In response to a letter to the editor published Monday, 'Unlike teacher's union,' I support Huppenthal':

The Arizona Education Association is funded by its members, who are free to choose whether or not to belong, not by the state.

The AEA is the teachers' professional organization, just as the AMA is for medical professionals, and the Bar Association is for the lawyer profession. They keep us abreast of laws that affect us and represent if need be.

The reason so many are upset by what John Huppenthal, state superintendent of public instruction, did is because of his position. As a teacher I could have been fired if I had done what he did, or at the minimum I could have had letter of reprimand placed permanently into my file.

Shouldn't the head of the state schools be held to the same standards?"

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Pat Randall 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Huppenthal should not have used state equipment. Should have had guts enough to sign HIS name. If you really believe in something stand up and be heard. Don't hide behind an anonymous name. He had something to say but didn't want anyone to know who said as he may lose his job. That's the chances you take.
I don't think he used his right of free speech if he was afraid he would lose his job by using his real name. That isn't freedom of speech.

Bob Lord should be fired. What right did he have to trace the IP address? Or was he ordered to do it by someone? Aren't they both employees of the state and using state equipment for personal use? I thought that was a big no no. Reason for both of them to be fired. No one is safe from him or other people that can trace the IP address on a whim.

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Tom Garrett 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Bernice,

I was interested to learn that you too used to be a teacher. It explains why you understand some issues so well. Welcome to the group.

You are absolutely right about AEA. It is often referred to as a union by people who are hostile to teachers, but as you no doubt know from long experience it does not operate in any way shape or manner like a union. To be honest, if I could have been hired in Mesa without being an AEA member I would have done so, but I was told it was a prerequisite. That comes from my military background; I kinda sorta have the attitude that I hire on to do what my employer says I should do.

"As a teacher I could have been fired if I had done what he did, or at the minimum I could have had letter of reprimand placed permanently into my file."

I'm afraid I have to disagree with that, but for a good reason. You have a constitutional right of free speech. If a school district tried firing a teacher for expressing an opinion on an open forum while off duty it would find itself being sued and ending up paying a whacking large sum for its mistake.

Schools may reasonably control what a teacher says in class, but not anywhere else — at least not any more than such comments are controlled by case law. Anyway, Arizona black letter law on the subject is quite clear, so this is not a legal issue. Huppenthal broke no laws; he didn't even come close.

What Huppenthal did, he did off-duty, by the way. If you take a close look at the articles printed on the subject you'll see that they specifically point out that the comments were made at times when he was not on duty. They cite very early morning times, and believe me if they had any other times to cite they would.

I have to agree with Pat about what Bob Lord did. My feelings are so strong about it, I'll put them in a separate post.

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Tom Garrett 5 months, 3 weeks ago

Pat, just as you say, to me, there is an issue involved here which overrides all else:

Evidently, Huppenthal wanted to say some things he couldn't very well say while using his own name because he would have then been speaking for the State of Arizona. For the State Superintendent of Education to make strong political statements about issues would obviously be improper unless they fell directly in his line of duty, which these statements did not.

So in that sense, what he did was correct. Wanting to comment, but prevented from doing it in his official position, he went on a blog where he was assured anonymity.

It is at that point that I run head on into some things that journalists are taught the minute they sit down in their first journalism class. Those things involve the very roots of First Amendment Freedom of the Press, the protection of sources, and confidentiality. They so override any other questions that might arise in this issue that I just can't get beyond them, and I think that if you asked anyone else in this business how he felt about it he would tell you the same thing.

You see, the Journalists Creed speaks very plainly when it says, "I believe that the public journal is a public trust; that all connected with it are, to the full measure of responsibility, trustees for the public; that all acceptance of lesser service than the public service is a betrayal of this trust."

In general, journalists look upon the suppression of news as improper, but when a web log (blog) encourages anonymous comments it becomes a contract, whether written or unwritten, and whether legal or moral, between the owner or operator of that site and his clients. For someone to put up a web log, to invite anonymous comments, and to then use the inside information provided by a client to track down his or her identity and to make that identity, as well as his comments, public is so morally, and perhaps so legally, indefensible that it cannot be condoned. To me that issue overrides all other issues, and I feel that instead of nit-picking at a few comments taken largely out of context, we should be commenting on what the owner and operator of that blog did.

Also, since the gloating of that owner and operator suggests that what he did was done either for political gain or to enhance the participation on his site, it runs head on into another portion of the Creed: "...that bribery by one's own pocket book is as much to be avoided as bribery by the pocketbook of another..."

Therefore,with the greatest sincerity, I feel we should set aside all other issues than Huppenthal's First Amendment right of free speech, and his treatment by the site manager, and come down on his side.

Otherwise we are condoning the actions of someone who used insider information provided by a trusting client to track down that client and do a political smear job on him.

That, I cannot condone.

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Tom Garrett 5 months, 2 weeks ago

I left something out of my last post that I meant to put in. Maybe that's a good thing because by putting it here in a separate post it helps it to stand out better, and so someone may come on and say something that he or she wanted to say.

I don't know how I forgot to say this; it was supposed to be a big part of what I was saying, but I'll be honest with you I am having trouble — BIG trouble! — with sciatica and sometimes find it almost impossible to concentrate.

Anyway, here's the bottom line in an issue like this: It comes down to being a matter of opinion. There are no hard and fast rules or laws for a situation like this one. It's a matter of personal opinion. Some people will weigh one factor as being more important, and others will give greater weight to another factor. That's just the way life is, so if you feel you have something you want to say, say it.

While I'm about it, having already mentioned the sciatica, I might as well tell you that I have decided to have an operation and so will be missing a few days here on the forum sometime soon (I hope!). I'll try to let you know in advance so you won't wonder about the silence.

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Bernice Winandy 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Tom, sorry to hear about your sciatica. I have had the same problem. I'm OK now. Therapy did the trick. I know the pain, and I hope it will be taken care of with the operation. What plans are in place to handle the situation when you are out of commission?

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Pat Randall 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Tom Didn't Huppenthal use the computer in the work place? I thought I read that right at the beginning? Yep, just went back and read that. Using state owned property was a big no no.

I hope you have given surgery a long, long time to think about it. Have you considered an injection in your back? I had one last week and it did wonders. Had been trying to find a Dr. to do it for the last 4 yrs. Had it done here in Payson.

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Tom Garrett 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Thanks, Bernice. I've been fighting this now for over two years, trying every conceivable way of handling it, including just toughing it out. I can handle it up to a point, but it's hard to concentrate when it gets really bad. I have to be able to take care of Lolly, which is the bottom line, so off the hospital I go, I guess.

Have no fear though, Lolly will be fully taken care of while I am down for a while. She'll never notice the difference. Thanks for asking.

Pat, an injection just doesn't seem to help. Wish it would.

I am very lucky. I have a high threshold of pain. I can't tell you how many times someone who was working on me told me that. The ones who always sound amazed are the dental technicians. I'm very lucky that way.

One time when Lolly and I were living in Utah we had a kitchen that lacked enough wall plugs, so I ran an extension cord out into the living room for the hand mixer I was using. I tried mixing some flour and butter, but the butter was still hard and it bent the mixer blades.

I wanted to straighten them out, but knew better than to try it with the machine still plugged it, so I went out in the living room and unplugged the extension cord. Just as I grabbed one blade with my left hand and started pulling on it, Lolly came into the living room, saw the plug pulled out, thought it had happened by accident and plugged it back in. The blades ran up by left hand, cutting all four fingers and jamming them so tightly I could not get them back out.

I knew that if I yelled it would scare Lolly and we'd never get me out of that thing, so I just walked into the living room where Lolly was sitting watching TV. Holding my hand so she couldn't see the blood (which wasn't much), I said, "Do me a favor, will, you sweetheart? Will you grab one side of these blades so I can grab the other side and get my hand out?"

She grabbed the blade, I grabbed the other side and bent the blades, got my left hand out and grabbed it with my right hand to slow the bleeding.

What a sweetheart! Lolly looked up at me innocently and said, "Didn't that hurt?"

Oh yes, it hurt all right. I still have the scars on my fingers. :-)

And no, we didn't have an argument about it. We've never had an argument in 55 years.

Anyway, I feel very lucky because I am sure my high pain threshold has let me carry on for a long time. I can't go too much longer because it is beginning to interfere with doing my primary job — taking care of Lolly. It's aggravated by a bad hip, but I can live with that. That's just pain. Sciatica is different, as I'm sure you folks know.

Thanks for worrying about me. The surgery should be no big deal. If they start talking about anything drastic I'll just change my mind. I am able to get out of pain while in bed, so I can get a break every day. If I have to live with that I will.

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Tom Garrett 5 months, 2 weeks ago

Yes, Pat, Huppenthal did use his computer at work, but apparently he always did it early in the day before he started work. I see nothing wrong with that. It's no different from calling home from work using a work telephone. As long as it not does not interfere with your duties and as long as you don't make a habit of doing it too often, which he didn't, it's okay.

But notice that in that sentence I said, "I see nothing wrong...." Comes down to a matter of opinion, doesn't it?

Resigning because of what some scuzzball did would be a mistake. I think Huppenthal's proper approach is to leave it up to the voters. If he does that then the people will decide whether to vote for or against him.

As to that site? Running a site which encourages anonymous comments, and then using your special knowledge of your client's web location to seek him out and report his name after having offered him anonymity to get him to participate is pretty low. Personally, I think the man has set himself up for a very large lawsuit.

What a betrayal of trust! If I were someone who participated on that site I'd quit it so fast you wouldn't believe it.

Wouldn't you?

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