The Star Tribune, on New Year’s Day, carried a moving article on the harm defamation can do (“Online attack targeted wrong April Sellers”). It told of how an internet falsehood interrupted the career of a Minnesota choreographer. It also illustrated that lawsuits are ineffective in dealing with the defamation problem.
April Sellers prevailed in her defamation suit. But it was never about money, she said.
What she wanted all along was a correction.
And that is what the Uniform Defamation Act, drafted by the National Conference on Uniform State laws, is designed to deliver.
In multiple ways, the uniform act encourages and facilitates correction of falsehoods in order to minimize real damage.
The lack of legislative passage of the Uniform Defamation Act by the Minnesota Legislature is disappointing.
But the reasons for the lack of success are easily explained. Media companies, benefited by the act, are reluctant to petition the Legislature, feeling that to petition may be thought to conflict with their obligation to report on legislative work without self-interest. And victims of defamation are without lobbyists and without knowledge that this great act is available to their Legislature.
And lawyers — fans of lawsuits — are always watching. They think they are better off with defamation lawsuits rather than corrections or clarifications.
Lawsuits rather than truth.
Jack Davies, Minneapolis
The writer, a former state senator and appellate judge, served on the committee that drafted the Uniform Correction and Clarification of Defamation Act.
EARLY CHILDHOOD LEARNING
Supporters and a skeptic weigh in on Ciresi-Rolnick commentary
As a retired and an active pediatrician, respectively, we want to thank Michael Ciresi and Art Rolnick for their convincing Dec. 27 commentary (“A plan to get the most bang for the pre-K buck”) and for their dedication to early childhood learning over the past 13 years. They explain so clearly the value of high-quality preschool education to the children and communities in Minnesota. Funding this early learning for the many parents unable to cover the cost is a tremendous bargain that repays itself as many as 16 times over during the child’s lifetime. That means that for each dollar spent, taxpayers save up to $16 in costs later in that child’s life for remedial education and every kind of social service that is not required.
Many children have completed two or even three years of preschool before entering kindergarten. For those without access to this early learning, the deck is stacked against them before they even enter the school system. We agree that the best way and, in fact, probably the only way to eliminate the educational gap is to prevent it from the start by leveling the playing field before kindergarten entrance. We cannot expect elementary school teachers to make up for a two- to three-year difference for children who may also be learning English.
In this budget year at the Legislature, we ask our legislators to consider which of their allocations can provide a better return for our state than access to early childhood education for all children, including those who need funding support. The children of Minnesota and their teachers will thank you.
Mary Meland and Anne Meland Skemp, Minneapolis
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My male-bovine-animal-excrement detector rang loudly when I read Ciresi’s and Rolnick’s commentary. They claimed that their research showed that every $1 invested in early childhood education for low-income children “yields up to $16 in societal benefits.” That set off my detector. It goes off every time I hear a politician or other public figure describe a new spending program as an “investment.”
I am not arguing against the proposed early-childhood education program. But, if the alleged 16-to-1 return-on-investment figure is correct, at some point in the future we — the taxpayers — should be able to see a reduction in state spending for the items listed by the authors: special education, social services, income supports, health care, law enforcement and prisons.
What do you think the odds are for taxpayers seeing any of those alleged savings? Somewhere around zero is my guess.
Why don’t we just be honest with ourselves and describe the early-childhood education program for what it is: a transfer payment from wealthy and middle-class families to low-income families? That way you don’t have to insult our intelligence by describing the spending as an “investment.”
Armand Peterson, Maple Grove
THE ROSE BOWL
It was, indeed, once a pinnacle, as Patrick Reusse remembers
I’d like to thank Pat Reusse for his wonderful Dec. 29 tribute to the phenomenon that was the Rose Bowl (“Pasadena, Big Ten’s former pinnacle”). It was a great read and brought back wistful memories of the pre-purple days when the “Sunday Sports Peach” section would describe the Saturday exploits of a dominant University of Minnesota Gophers squad. Winning a trip to the exotic, far-off land of Pasadena was, to those of us in the Midwest, the pinnacle of achievement in sports.
“Iowans chugging Amaretto straight from the bottle … you had to be there” is pretty good stuff. Thanks, Patrick.
Chris Jordan, White Bear Lake
CLEARING THE SNOW
If you take it for granted, don’t: MnDOT excels on our behalf
I wish to offer my appreciation for the work the people at the Minnesota Department of Transportation do during and after the snow events in the Twin Cities area. They do an excellent and very timely cleanup effort with the highways and roads. I don’t always agree that our tax dollars sent to the government result in positive benefits, but in this case we get our money’s worth. Thanks to the men and women of this agency for their dedication and hard work to make travel during difficult road conditions as safe as possible.
Bob Adams, Plymouth
The figurative ones hurt, too
Reflecting on 2018, it is sobering to note how many walls were built: between us and China, our European allies and our North American trading partners. Most distressing is the wall between those on the left and those on the right. Then there is our president’s ongoing fixation with the physical wall with Mexico, the source of serial Twitter tantrums. We constantly hear about the need for infrastructure projects. It seems that building a few bridges may serve us far better than a host of walls. Ronald Reagan said, “Tear down that wall.” A world-changing event in 1987, and sage advice for 2019.
Susan Barrett and Eric Weinberg, Mora, Minn.