Along the way, a publisher of a local news publication such as the Niagara Falls Reporter is likely to learn a lot about various individuals in the community. A number of them have been elected to public office.
As an example of what a publisher learns, for instance, on May 1, at 11:35 p.m., I heard -- as we all did -- that Osama bin Laden was killed in Pakistan.
Upon learning this -- oddly, perhaps -- Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster's Facebook page became of some interest to me, to learn if he claimed any credit for bin Laden's death or at least how quickly he would jump on the dead-bin Laden bandwagon.
Dyster claims many things that, I believe, are of dubious authenticity. For example, he claims to have been an arms negotiator for the State Department back in the Reagan days -- staring down communists and ending the long-looming threat of the USSR for freedom-loving Americans.
He changed our lives -- as his resume suggests. He was part of history. Then he became a beer salesman.
It turned out -- after a little investigation by the Niagara Falls Reporter -- that back in the Cold War days he may have been doing something a little different from what he claimed on his resume. He spent less than one year at the State Department (1989), and it appears at least some of the time, according to his State Department job classification, he worked in the commissary -- a man of so little significance that no one we could speak to even remembers him, although apparently he regularly served coffee, donuts, hamburgers and beer, if not Pate de foie gras, Canard a la Rouennaise (Duck in Blood Sauce) or caviar.
In any event, on the evening bin Laden was reported killed, Dyster was apparently close to his computer or i-phone. By approximately 11:40 p.m., Dyster posted on his Facebook page, "God bless President Obama and our boys and girls in uniform. God's will be done. God bless America."
It struck me then, as it does now, that it ought not to say "boys and girls." It should be "men and women." It has always been telling how little respect Dyster gives veterans.
I remember Memorial Day, 2010, when Dyster left a gathering of veterans. He had been invited, as mayor, to attend a groundbreaking ceremony for their wondrous, planned Veterans Memorial in Hyde Park.
Dyster left before the speeches started. Perhaps he heard it before -- about men serving their country, men who died fighting for freedom, a freedom that some today take for granted.
Dyster is a member, as he says on his resume, of Mensa -- a society to which you pay money for a certificate saying your IQ is higher than 98 percent of your fellow human beings. Why should he stay and listen to veterans, some of them so old that they fought in World War II, before Dyster came to earth with his superior intelligence and skills to save the planet?
Old veterans who had fought in faraway places like the South Pacific. Old stories of days long gone. Tales better told in Hollywood movies by effete actors with daring toupees, who would faint dead away -- as Dyster himself might -- if they ever faced a Japanese soldier. Dyster never served in the armed forces.
Men who actually fought, but might not possess a Mensa certificate, were going to explain the significance of their monument and the efforts made to get it erected. Why sit through such speeches?
Dyster has the veterans vote locked up, and he knows it. After all, he took credit for getting public money to build this memorial.
He's their guy. They are his "boys and girls."
"One of the most telling signs of a community's character is the way it treats its veterans," Dyster said in his State of the City speech earlier this year. "I'm proud to say that my administration, in cooperation with the Council, has stepped up to provide major financial support for a new veterans memorial."
Isn't it great when an elected official takes your tax money and gives it to a group or an organization -- even a worthy one -- then "steps up" and takes credit for the project as it he had paid for it himself, as if he had done something wondrously fine, almost acting like it was his money and his project?
All he did was support the plan led by Councilman Bob Anderson -- an actual veteran -- to spend public money on this project.
In his State of the City speech, Dyster waxed poetic about the monument: "This reverent and beautiful monument will honor the sacrifices made by hundreds of residents and their families in times of war." Beautiful words, but at the Memorial Day groundbreaking ceremony, Dyster did not make the sacrifice of staying to watch the veterans conduct the consecration of their monument. He left that day, sneaking off to cavort with -- I am not making this up, although the irony is superb, a distillation in one single action of all that is Paul Dyster -- Japanese Ambassador Shinichi Nishimiya, who was wending his way to New York, stopping in Niagara Falls long enough only to see the falls. Nishimiya, who represented a country that fought to kill some of the men who were gathered at the
groundbreaking and actually did kill many of the men who were to be honored at the ceremony, did not come to see Dyster.
Dyster learned Nishimiya was coming and rushed off to get an audience with him. As veterans were making their speeches, Dyster was, according to the ambassador's website, speaking "at length" about trains, which is the polite Oriental way of saying Dyster was a bore.
Well, it is better to be a bore than to be bored, as Dyster might say.
In mid-June, the city of Niagara Falls received a more-than-one-ton piece of the World Trade Center. All the TV news outlets were there. The mayor mugged for the cameras and waxed poetic.
"It's concrete and steel," he said, "but there's so much more emotion packed into that 3,000 pounds of wreckage that it brings back a lot of memories."
Memories? He wasn't there. But Dyster took top billing over two men who actually had memories -- one alive, one dead.
Niagara Falls Fire Capts. John Asklar and Dave Williams arrived at Ground Zero just after the second tower collapsed. Williams died from injuries suffered at Ground Zero.
Asklar recalled "blocks and blocks of dust and wreckage, and piles of steel like this. The size was just unbelievable."
He had memories.
Dyster did not. He just talked about it, and then went home and linked all the TV coverage to his Facebook page -- as he always does.
Actually, it was the city Fire Department that worked to get that piece of the World Trade Center. The mayor and his administration had nothing to do with it.
Along the way, you learn a lot.