Friday Mailbag: Silver Alerts, Religion, Media Credibility, and Is Trumpism Compatible with Patriotism?


MINOT, ND – I shouldn’t say that, as it’s definitely tempting to knock a blizzard on my head, but I kinda like to shovel snow. I love the cold and the ability to listen to music or a podcast on my headphones without being interrupted by my adorable but persistent kids, and God knows I need to exercise.

But this is not a consistent attitude. I think about shoveling snow every year until around mid-January. By then, I’m done with it.

This is the last Friday mailbag of 2021. Next Friday is Christmas Eve, and as much as I love you, I will be spending this day with my family.

If you would like to send me feedback for future post bag columns – in 2022! – launch it at [email protected] Keep in mind that the submissions used in the column can be edited for brevity and clarity.

Money alert logo

Courtesy Image / State of North Dakota

“I totally agree with you on the money alerts,” writes Karen in response to

this column

. “I almost had a heart attack when the last one woke me from a deep sleep. And the point is, I’m so focused on stopping that horrible noise that I don’t see the message, and as soon as the sound is off, the message disappears. So I had no idea what the alert was for. If it is between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., I can imagine that the police and maybe the people on the road would be suitable people to warn. But I can’t imagine anyone else getting out of bed and looking for someone in the dark – if they actually see what they’re doing. ‘action, and especially if the missing person is most likely hundreds of miles away, may be a legitimate reason to sound the alarm in the middle of the night. “

Money Alerts, which law enforcement and emergency management officials can send to our cellphones when an elderly person is missing, is a good idea that has not been implemented very well. for all the reasons I outlined in the column Karen responds to, as well as the points she raised.

If you get a money alert in the middle of the night across the state from the missing person, what exactly are you supposed to do? Drive around your neighborhood? Start calling your friends and family? There is nothing you can really do.

If we’re going to send audible alerts to tens of thousands of North Dakotans at once, they should be relevant to the people receiving the alerts and actionable. I’ve had some heartbreak from people who disliked my argument against the way we currently do money scares, but I’m concerned that the status quo will undermine their effectiveness. The more annoyed people are with loud, disruptive alerts that aren’t really relevant to them, the more likely they are to turn off alerts so that they don’t get them when something more relevant – say, a weather emergency – strikes. present .

I don’t think we should stop money alerts, but we need to spend some time thinking about how they are used.

“Since you seem genuinely interested in understanding the faith, I thought I would tell you where I stumbled upon this,” Dan writes,

reply to my podcast

with religious columnists Roxanne Salonen and Devlyn Brooks. “I was brought up in Catholicism, and I still am nominally Catholic. But that’s not where my head and my mind are these days. I’m not strictly speaking an atheist. I believe we have souls, and I believe there is … something … out there, call it a Higher Power, call it the Force, whatever, that’s there. a deist, but to all For practical purposes, the secular humanist is probably the closest. I think we, as a species, are alone here. But like you, I respect believers because I think religion is just another way of trying to figure out the world. I don’t think any of us know enough to definitely say anyone else is wrong. “

Here’s the podcast Dan is responding to, if you want to listen to it. I thought it was a really good conversation, and it turned out to be one of the most downloaded episodes of the Plain Talk podcast this year. This surprised me, because I am a politician, and not someone who spends a lot of time talking about spiritual matters.

(You can also subscribe to the podcast at this link.)

Religion is a complicated thing for me. Like I said in the podcast, it’s not something I talk about a lot. I talk about it in my public work, when I write about topics that cut across religion, because I think it’s important for me to be transparent with my audience about what’s behind my point of view.

I’m an atheist, but not the type to have any animosity towards organized religion. I understand the appeal of faith when it comes to an exercise in building community to do charitable work and push each other towards traits like humility and kindness. Where I am disheartened is when religious people are so convinced of the infallibility of their beliefs that they feel justified in trying to impose those beliefs on others.

I read religious literature. I listen with great interest to religious leaders and academics. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being an atheist – I don’t need any mythology to fill in the gaps in human knowledge, I agree that they are question marks in the universe – but I will always have respect for people with religious convictions who do not organize themselves to impose these convictions on others.

Joe writes: “Your column in the Grand Forks Herald

on media credibility

proves why there is such mistrust of the media. Speaking of distrust of the media, you mention CNN and MSNBC by name, but conveniently don’t mention the biggest provider of disinformation, Fox “News.” This column alone is a reason why people don’t take your columns seriously. “

Ironically, this email from Joe arrived in my inbox just when I was

write a column

about the January 6 riots in which I lambasted Fox News hosts like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham for their duplicity by sending desperate texts to then-President Donald Trump begging him to stop the riot, even though they downplayed the idea that Trump had instigated the violence in their shows.

The attitude displayed by Joe is central to what is wrong with American politics and culture today. Criticize a leftist politician or media, and it is assumed that you must be a blind devotee of their right-wing counterparts. Express your concern about sports league policies that allow trans athletes to dominate female athletes, and it is speculated that you must be transphobic. Criticize Donald Trump, and that must mean you think Joe Biden deserves the Nobel Peace Prize.


I do opinion journalism for a living which means I always take a stand on something which further means I get overwhelmed by reactions from people who assume they know everything about me because of the only position they occupy. to react to.

We have to stop doing this to ourselves.

President Donald Trump visits Fargo
President Donald Trump takes the stage at Scheels Arena in Fargo on June 27, 2018.

Forum archive photo

“I congratulate you on your column,” writes Don, referring to the one in which I argue that

continued support for Donald Trump is not American

. “First, hypocrisy has no place in American politics. We need and deserve the truth. Second, we don’t need a president who so covets power at all costs that he would undermine it. Constitution and violate the law. We deserve people who run for office regardless of which party follows the duties mandated in the Constitution. “

Mike responds to the same column: “I never thought I would see the light of day, but you give me great hope for the survival of our democracy. Your most recent briefing on Trump’s crimes was exactly what it took to make it happen. bring reality back to the Republican Party. There has never been a time when the country needed rational Republicans so much. If Trump is allowed to continue destroying the Republican Party, we will all be in a desperate mess. It’s time to Hoeven, Cramer, and Armstrong to read what you wrote and told the truth. The country needs an Eisenhower Republican. “

We will never come to a consensus on policy. It just doesn’t work that way. There are no permanent victories in politics. That is why there is always another election on the horizon so that our leaders and their governing philosophies can be changed with regularity.

But there is a certain degree of integrity and loyalty to our nation’s system of governance, which we should all expect from our leaders. Donald Trump did not meet these expectations. He was not fit to hold office on his election day in 2016, and that only became more true when we saw four years in the White House, culminating in an attempt to overturn the national election results. that he lost.

The only good thing I have to say about Donald Trump at this point is that I’m glad he wasn’t more competent.

But that standard shouldn’t just apply to Trump. I look at the way some Democrats have treated honorable leaders like George W. Bush, Mitt Romney, and John McCain (at least while he was running for president against Barack Obama), and I see the same kind of ugliness as our Leftist friends insult Trump.

The appeal of Trump, to many on the right, is that he gave back to the American left some of what it had served on the right for years.

Trump was a terrible leader for our country. The same goes for all other politicians who behave like Trump, left or right.


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