November 4, 2008

St. Olaf College ousts a professor who blogged about tearing down a McCain sign.

The college did not appreciate his on-line confession of a crime.

Here's Phil Busse's Huffington post item, called "Confessions of a Lawn Sign Stealer":
[T]he oversized 4 x 8 foot mini-billboard in front of the ranch-style farm house... barely fit in the back of my Subaru. But I carted it away with seven other lawn signs that, like a ninja under the cover of cloudy Minnesota night, I "removed."...

[Y]anking out the signs and running like a scared rabbit back to my idling car was one of the single-most exhilarating and empowering political acts that I have ever done.

Today, national politics amounts to slick TV ads and choreographed stump speeches. A vote often feels like a raindrop in an ocean. But this illicit act of civil disobedience was something visceral. It was unscripted and raw expression. It was a chance to stop talking about theories and projections and get my hands dirty. Of course, I realized there was the very real chance my antics in rural Minnesota would be met with a shotgun, or at least a hockey dad tackling me.
Or losing your job and getting convicted of a crime. Civil disobedience, by the way, includes taking the punishment. You don't get away with crimes because you view yourself as heroic.
But unlike stealing a lawn gnome or a plastic pink flamingo, I admit, stealing a lawn sign is a more heinous crime. There is moral and ethical guilt. I believe in free speech, and also believe and encourage political expression. I guess I could argue that I was flexing my free expression to say "shut up."...

I reached the sign and, for the first time, recognized its sublime size. It stood as tall as me. I grabbed one of the steel rods holding the signs; but unlike the smaller signs, it did not yield. I wrapped my hands tighter around the stake as if I were a Little Leaguer stepping to bat for the first time, and I squatted, thrusting my legs.
Please don't mix sexual imagery -- grabbed... steel rods... did not yield... wrapped my hands tighter... squatted, thrusting ... legs -- with the image of a Little Leaguer.

Anyway, what terrible judgment, including the notion that confessing to your crimes on line transforms them into protected -- and even admirable -- free speech.

ADDED: He was a temporary visiting professor, so perhaps his loss of the position -- along with a conviction for the crime -- is worth it to him. He has acquired a small scoopful of fame. More here:
For his actions, Busse could face up to 90 days in jail and/or a $1,000 fine...

... Busse expressed remorse for stealing the signs, saying that the thefts were “immature and impetuous.”

“Writing the essay was an opportunity to explore and talk about political speech and the desire that most of us have to express our politics — both in mature and immature ways, and sometimes a mix of the two,” Busse said.... “I’m disappointed that most readers seem to have focused on the thefts, and not on the larger thoughts.”
Here's a thought: Maybe your thoughts are not large.

68 comments:

chuck b. said...

Why, this must be the biggest story out of St. Olaf since the Great Herring War.

Roger J. said...

This cant be true--only republicans do that sort of stuff.

What a f**king idiot. Probably a damn sociologist or political scientist.

veni vidi vici said...

The guy sounds like a cartoon version of the stereotypical pinhead professor. Love this: "one of the single-most exhilarating and empowering political acts that I have ever done." Dude needs to get a life, bigtime.

What a putz.

save_the_rustbelt said...

And why do college professors have a reputation as very bright people with almost no common sense?

I rest my case your honor.

Meade said...

"Please don't mix sexual imagery -- grabbed... steel rods... did not yield... wrapped my hands tighter... squatted, thrusting ... legs -- with the image of a Little Leaguer."

No. Instead, please mix it with the image of a visiting professor at St. Olaf College doing jail time.

Synova said...

Article removed from the link?

Otherwise... yeah... what ever one else said.

Sheesh.

pro said...

I love how a college prof thinks that holding your hand over someones mouth and telling them to "shut up" could be equivalent actions.

ak said...

"one of the single-most exhilarating and empowering political acts that I have ever done"

What a buffoon. What a childish, pathetic buffoon. Driving around in the dark stealing lawn signs. Yeah. That's right up there with standing in the way of an army tank or walking past armed insurgents to vote.

He's a theatre teacher, btw. She said, rolling her eyes.

Synova said...

In order to give me hope... did the comments at Huffington Post tear the idiot for taking down lawn signs?

Beth said...

What an asshole. Civil disobedience doesn't mean targeting your neighbors' speech, either. My neighbor put her third Obama sticker on her car this week - anytime she parks near Audubon Park it gets pulled off.

I was tempted this year to do a little alteration -- one guy running for judge has a picture of him and his family on his huge fence signs (it's all about family, of course.) His poor son, maybe 12 years old, has the weirdest hair. It slopes over his forehead, and across one eye and I swear it's a Hitler do. It's SOOO hard not to take a bottle of shoe polish and make one perfect swipe on his upper lip....but then I'd be that asshole, losing her job in a very public fashion.

Bissage said...

Sad. How pathetically sad.

Any college professor worth his salt should know better than to say he removed a McCain/Palin sign.

McCain/Palin signs are not “removed.”

They are not even “stolen.”

McCain/Palin signs are LIBERATED.

Roger J. said...

As I recall, St Olaf has an excellent hockey team. Perhaps this dude could serve as the honorary hockey puck for this years season.

veni vidi vici said...

Beth,
who knew Hitler was one of those emo-dudes?!!

Synova said...

His poor son, maybe 12 years old, has the weirdest hair. It slopes over his forehead, and across one eye...

Oh, I've seen that one. I think it's called "emo" or something.

His dad probably would have (secretly) been thrilled if the hitler mustache got the kid to cut it. :-)

Chris said...

I love how he describes his crime as "antics". Why do I have the feeling this guy still talks about "John Ashcroft's America" and the BUSHBLAIR NWO".?

garage mahal said...

Hi Roger!

Anonymous said...

Please don't mix sexual imagery -- grabbed... steel rods... did not yield... wrapped my hands tighter... squatted, thrusting ... legs -- with the image of a Little Leaguer.

This little boy has learned not to touch another man's rod.

Unknown said...

"one of the single-most exhilarating and empowering political acts that I have ever done"

I can connect "exhilarating" with some "acts" but not "political" ones.

Synova said...

Well, good. The comments at Huffington seem overwhelmingly condemning.

Lem said...

Anyway, what terrible judgment, including the notion that confessing to your crimes on line transforms them into protected -- and even admirable -- free speech.

As for Huffington herself? Well this is how she put it....

Okay, all the arguments have been made. And I am ready to declare a winner in the 2008 race. The Internet.

With Huffington hosting a League of Ruffians ;)

David said...

"And why do college professors have a reputation as very bright people with almost no common sense?"

First of all, this guy was not a professor. He was a visiting lecturer. Or fellow. Or something like that.

Second, quite a number of college professors--even the ones with Phd's--are not all that bright. My son in law is a college prof--a very smart one--and the tales he tells curl my hair.

This guy is stuck in pre adolescence, seeing everything from its impact on himself. Perhaps narcissist is not too strong a word to describe him, and his grant of importance to a puny act of no consequence (except for the deserved negative consequence to himself.)

David said...

More on Phil Busse:

A few years ago, Mr. Busse was paid $16,000 for political campaign services by a John Branam, who was a candidate for public office. A commenter on a Portland Mercury blog site objected to this payment, which was made out of public election funds for which Mr. Branam was eligible. The commenter also characterized as "plagiarism" an much criticized article which Busse had written for Salon.com. (Busse says the Salon article was "sloppy," not plagerized.)

Here is Busse's response, which calls the offending blog poster a "dumb shit."


"Steve -

This is the problem with blogs - you can make accusations with no factual basis. Forced out of the Mercury? John Branam is my drinking buddy? You are flirting with slander.

One article I wrote in 2001 for salon.com had some sloppy journalism, yes. But even the Willamette Week was careful not to call that plagiarism. That's a big, slanderous word to toss around. Moreover, you dumb shit, I wrote and stayed at the Mercury until 2006 (five years after that rotten article that I wrote for salon), and left after six good years at the Mercury - and, moreover, continued to freelance for the paper and play first-baseman for them after leaving.

My relationship with John Branam started with this campaign. Clearly I support John and am champion his cause. He has great ideas, is a strong leader and also a nice guy. But we don't spend social time together, unless you consider planting lawn signs and talking about platform issues social time.

And yes, my salary is public and well-earned. It is far less than I made as attorney, but far more than I made at the Mercury. It will amount to roughly $25,000 for the primary season.

Thanks for your interest and misguided accusations.

Phil Busse"

Busse was apparently trained as a lawyer, but no longer practices. Thank God for small favors.

TMink said...

"I believe in free speech,"

No, not so much, you do not sir.

Trey

LoafingOaf said...

Hey, I went to St. Olaf! It's not a hotbed of ultra-leftism. It's a hotbed of Scandinavian girls! There was ideological diversity amongst the profs as well as the student body. About half the students there are extremely religious, and I guess they're most famous for their choir, who do a beautiful Christmas festival every year that gets broadcast on PBS around the country.

The town is really small and rural, but there are two college campuses on each side (Carleton is the other). I guess the town must seem too old fashioned and conservative to some of the people at the two colleges, but the people of Northfield, MN, are some of the nicest you'll ever meet. Maybe this dude should've had more respect for the town folk - it sounds like he considered them a bunch of shotgun-wielding hicks when actually it was the only town where I've ever felt safe hitching rides from strangers (who were always happy to give you a lift).

Anyway, this guy was just a visiting professor who taught one class -- introductory media studies. Sounds like a real idiot.

The Drill SGT said...

Please don't mix sexual imagery -- grabbed... steel rods... did not yield... wrapped my hands tighter... squatted, thrusting ... legs

I read that as weight lifting imagery, not sexual imagery, but hey, what do I know...

MadisonMan said...

Idiot. The punishment fits the crime.

I wonder what would have happened if this guy was a tenured professor. I'd like to think that such beasts have the political savvy to know when a line is not to be crossed (or at least they know not to write about it on a blog!).

I repeat: Idiot.

Big Mike said...

Kudos to you, Ann, for remembering that the most potent part of Dr. King's civic disobedience was his willingness to go to jail for what he believed to be right. There is a reason why "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" is as much a fundamental defining document of the United States as the Gettyburg Address.

LoafingOaf said...

From his blog: It's common political wisdom, say consultants and campaign managers, that lawn signs play little role in the outcome.

In a poli sci class I took, the prof said lawn sides have been shown to have some influence on other voters. My guess would be that they'd have more impact on local races, but I dunno.

LoafingOaf said...

lawn sides-lawn signs

former law student said...

Busse was apparently trained as a lawyer, but no longer practices.

By his theft and his squelching of free political speech, Busse embarrasses all former law students everywhere.

Phillip W. Busse (sehr boese Rechtsanwalt) was admitted to the California Bar in 1998(Bar Number 195082), went inactive in 2001, and quit paying his bar dues in 1998, rendering him Not Eligible To Practice Law

former law student said...

Oops: Quit paying his bar dues in 2006.

Also, whenever I see "St. Olaf" I too think of Rose from the Golden Girls.

Wince said...

Today, national politics amounts to slick TV ads and choreographed stump speeches. A vote often feels like a raindrop in an ocean. But this illicit act of civil disobedience was something visceral. It was unscripted and raw expression.

Isn't the lawn sign about the most democratic means of political expression remaining?

Beth said,

His poor son, maybe 12 years old, has the weirdest hair. It slopes over his forehead, and across one eye and I swear it's a Hitler do. It's SOOO hard not to take a bottle of shoe polish and make one perfect swipe on his upper lip....but then I'd be that asshole, losing her job in a very public fashion.

How incredibly apt to both of these stories, the lyrics and video of Karma Police by Radiohead...

Karma police, arrest this man
He talks in maths
He buzzes like a fridge
He's like a detuned radio

Karma police, arrest this girl
Her Hitler hairdo is
Making me feel ill
And we have crashed her party


This is what you'll get
This is what you'll get
This is what you'll get when you mess with us

Karma Police
I've given all I can
It's not enough
I've given all I can
But we're still on the payroll

This is what you'll get
This is what you'll get
This is what you'll get when you mess with us

And for a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself
And for a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself

For for a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself
For for a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself
Phew, for a minute there, I lost myself, I lost myself


Are you listening Professor?

TMink said...

Former, when I read St. Olaf I think of St. Alphonso's Pancake Breakfast.

Trey

Synova said...

Guess who still thinks that there are unanswered (important) questions about Palin's pregnancy?

We have been given no actual records of the last pregnancy, or any reccords at all, although we are told by the elusive Dr. Catherine Baldwin-Johnson that labor was at 35 weeks - not as premature as previously believed (if you research the average weight of full term DS babies, you find, by the way, that Trig was not underweight). There is no time for any reporters to ask any questions, of course, or any time for the questions raised by the pregnancy to be aired in the press.

I'm Full of Soup said...

Back in the 1970's we "appropriated" a 5-foot Gorilla replica from the roof of a pet shop during the chaos of a Flyer's Stanley Cup championship.

A picture of the Gorilla made the front page of the Phila. Daily News. And only one of us got arrested.

KCFleming said...

Busse's other skills include Laphamization
(Emphasis mine.)

"Michael Hebberoy, co-owner of that new Gotham Bldg. Tavern, was pleasantly surprised when he picked up the Portland Mercury last Thursday. The alt-alt-weekly's guide to Portland eats heaped approval on ripe's newest project. Managing Editor Phil Busse praised the Gotham's "tiptop food" and "modish ambiance" in his short review, gushing over the supposedly "swanky service" like a regular.

Too bad the highly anticipated "gastropub" doesn't open until April 9. Hebberoy says he's never spoken to Busse about the tavern, nor has the editor ever visited the unfinished space. Hebberoy says the most savory thing stocked at the unfinished Tavern so far is the acrylic finish they're using to seal the floors.

"I think it's beautiful," Hebberoy says of the Mercury's Nostradamus-style reportage. "I love Phil Busse's balls. He's got really big balls."


He does, yes he does.

TMink said...

Come to think of it, St. Alphonso's involved theft as well.

Trey

veni vidi vici said...

From now on, when I read LoafingOaf I'll think "LoafingOlaf".

As to this: "There is a reason why "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" is as much a fundamental defining document of the United States as the Gettyburg Address."

How many jails did they have in Birmingham, anyway?

Anonymous said...

"civil disobedience" is a silly tag, don't you think? How about "vandalism."

One more Angry Leftist in the soup line! Oh, but our wealth will be spread around his way soon, so he'll be okay.

Peter Hoh said...

Like LoafingOaf, I graduated from St. Olaf. He captured the Olaf/Northfield vibe pretty well.

Most of the flaming lefties I knew there complained that the place was too conservative. And the conservatives complained that it was too liberal.

I liked it.

G. Gordon Liddy came to speak once. After his talk, a bunch of us hung around with him while he grabbed a bite to eat. He was entertaining.

I'm Full of Soup said...

So there was a loafing oaf and a hoh at St. Olaf's College!

Did any actual studying get done?

Anonymous said...

Jay Gatsby enrolled at St. Olaf for a few weeks. He was going to pay his way by being a janitor. He hated it and left.

Also, what is it about these non-tenure track professors that makes them so wacky? And how is that guy who thinks the government bombed the World Trade Center doing in his election?

blake said...

Oaf sez...It's a hotbed of Scandinavian girls!

There's some sexual imagery we can all enjoy!

Syn--Yeah, Excitable Andi can't seem to get Palin's vagina out of his mind.

ricpic said...

I think David nailed it, describing this professor or lecturer as a narcissist. That may be the true divide between the two Americas today: the all about me children in adult bodies versus the adults in adult bodies. Very easy to sell narcissists the notion that they are justified in vandalizing/stealing others property.

Kirby Olson said...

Civil Disobedience does mean willingness to accept the penalty as you note, and as do some of your contributors. It can be traced back to Thoreau, but even further back to Socrates, who was willing to accept the death penalty, and drank the hemlock himself.

It's not a ninja action at all.

This guy should have never been a professor in the first place.

He should have thought about Rosa Parks.

But I don't think Rosa Parks would have had the disgraceful notions this guy has. I hope he never gets hired again, but sadly, there are probably many who will applaud his vigilante efforts, and see nothing wrong with them.

Anonymous said...

When I was in elementary school, I used to steal lawn signs every election season. I look back on that now as something very stupid. Not the stealing so much, because, I mean, I was a kid, and not the fact that it was election signs per se. What was stupid is that I did nothing with them. I didn't even have the basic insight that it would be cool to switch them from yard to yard to make the Democrats look like Republicans and vice versa.

Any grown person who does this is silly. Just remarkably silly.

Palladian said...

"Former, when I read St. Olaf I think of St. Alphonso's Pancake Breakfast."

Get on your feet and do the Funky Alphonso.

mrs whatsit said...

Here's what Salon.com had to say about Busse's "sloppy" journalism in 2001, after they published one of his articles:

The article "Down for the Count," published in Salon People on Sept. 19, 2001, left the impression that the author, Phil Busse, had personally witnessed the prison boxing match the article describes. In fact, Busse was not present, and compiled his account drawing on interviews with participants and on material previously published in the Oregonian. The article should have made clear that Busse did not witness the events described, and should have credited the Oregonian. Salon has removed this article from its site and regrets the errors.
[Correction made 09/27/01]

mrs whatsit said...

Oops, here's the link. Sorry.

KCFleming said...

He should have repeated his prior Laphamization and merely pretended to do it.

Feigned civil disobedience is so much easier.

For example, once I chained myself to the NY Times building for 3 weeks, protesting their corrupt propaganda.

Yet all the while I was actually still at work, checking rectums and talking about bowels.

Rectum?
It nearly killed 'im!

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Y]anking out the signs and running like a scared rabbit back to my idling car was one of the single-most exhilarating and empowering political acts that I have ever done.

Almost as exhilarating as setting a brown bag full of dog poop on fire on Mr. Smithers front steps. How exciting.

Anonymous said...

What's interesting about civil disobedience is that the people who do it wish to change something, perhaps something socially profound, or at the least to right some wrong.

Where is that aspect here? What socially profound change does this ass clown want to see? What wrong does he wish to right?

It's just weird.

KCFleming said...

In high school, I did in fact exploit the teacher's absence in the few minutes before religion class and rapidly switched around and mixed up her slides.

Ha ha!

But, errr, um, it was a religion class (ironic, no?) and the teacher was an elderly nun, and that day, it turned out, we were discussing abortion.

Soooooo...
The initial photos of a beautiful baby were switched with that of an aborted fetus. I kid you not. I couldn't have done it more precisely if I had had an hour. Each successive slide was entirely and meaningfully the wrong one.

It was really funny, for about a minute. Then it was uncomfortable. Then painful. Then she left in tears.
Jesus H. Christ.

I did apologize to her, but I am convinced I will spend some time in hell for that, among my many other transgressions.

Thus, having righted no wrongs and having made a grown woman cry, I ended my short and sordid career as a civil disobediencivist.

Anonymous said...

Hey Pogo -- I find something interesting in what you said. You said you spend some time in hell. Yet we hear that people get sent to hell for eternity. It's interesting. I think that people's sense of right and wrong has evolved to a degree that it would only be just for even the worst killer to spend some time in hell. Even if it's a very long time, at some point you've paid for your sins.

Did I digress creatively enough?

Anthony said...

Too bad he was ripping down McCain/Palin signs. If he'd been taking down Obama ones he would have made page 1 of the NY Times and elicited a week of obsessing over the vile hatred being encouraged by Republicans.

KCFleming said...

"at some point you've paid for your sins"

Well, hope springs eternal, and I hope to be sprung before it is eternal.

As I think of my many failings, however, I can't help but worry if God is an economic liberal when it comes to sin, heaping progressive taxation on those who have the most trespasses.

And I was hoping for a flat tax.

Anonymous said...

There is no question in my mind that God is a classical liberal. After all, He set the economic rules. Supply. Demand. All that. You'd think He'd have the good sense to follow them.

1775OGG said...

Interesting spin on this story. Here's an extract from the Northfield News dated Nov. 3, 2008:

Update 4:40 p.m. Monday
Philip Busse, the St. Olaf College professor who admitted to stealing campaign signs in a national political blog read by millions, has resigned.

St. Olaf spokesman David Gonnerman issued the following statement Monday afternoon:

"The St. Olaf College administration first learned of Phil Busse's self-admitted theft and destruction of campaign signs on the morning of Oct. 31 as a result of his posting on the Internet.

"The St. Olaf administration immediately referred the matter to local law enforcement authorities and commenced an investigation of its own.

"Mr. Busse has tendered his resignation and is no longer affiliated with St. Olaf College."

Puts a little different spin on paying a price for his stupidity!

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

So this is how someone becomes the opening act for Ward Churchhill on the university speaking tour...

Meade said...

"Here's a thought: Maybe your thoughts are not large."

Yeah, visiting professor Busse. You want large? We've got large (though you might call it extra large). We've got Bissage large! Wonderful Bissage large!

Unknown said...

Ann --

Please don't mix sexual imagery -- grabbed... steel rods... did not yield... wrapped my hands tighter... squatted, thrusting ... legs

The Drill SGT --

I read that as weight lifting imagery, not sexual imagery, but hey, what do I know...

We all read into something what out ids tell us to, do we not?

Chip Ahoy said...

Thanks for the laugh!

* does the Happy Sign Thief dance *

bleeper said...

Hope he thinks that was worth it. He probably won't do time, nor should he, but he does need some public shaming. And maybe some difficulty finding his next job, but he may become a hero. So it goes in academia...

blake said...

Almost as exhilarating as setting a brown bag full of dog poop on fire on Mr. Smithers front steps. How exciting.

Almost. Until Mr. Smithers releases the hounds.

blogless said...

I think it's more than just narcissism. This just shows that there are fundamentalists on both sides - people who believe they know what is good for everyone else, and that they have the moral authority to silence any opposition.

But like narcissism, they won't recognize this in themselves.

The one thing I remember my father telling me when I was little, was that I should beware of people who told me they knew what was best for me. (Other than him. ;)

JohnG said...

“Writing the essay was an opportunity to explore and talk about political speech and the desire that most of us have to express our politics — both in mature and immature ways, and sometimes a mix of the two,” Busse said.... “I’m disappointed that most readers seem to have focused on the thefts, and not on the larger thoughts.”

This was not about a desire to express political thoughts, it was the much more thuggish desire to suppress the expressions of people with whom you don't agree.

pst314 said...

"Maybe your thoughts are not large."

Oh, I don't know: The progressive vision of an all-pervasive state and suppression of politically incorrect thought is pretty large.

JackOfClubs said...

The most depressing part of this is teh line "I admit, stealing a lawn sign is a more heinous crime. There is moral and ethical guilt." The fundamental nature of civil disobedience is that it involves taking a moral stance against legal and political oppression. Martin Luther King would spew this guy out of his mouth.