Friday, August 29, 2008

The Anti-Johnny REVEALED!!!!! (Um, I Think)

Fair comment and criticism

So today, reading the Anti-Johnny blog I think I figured out the identity of my semi-anonymous un-fan...

Again, I say I *think* I figured it out. I'm not 100 % certain. I shouldn't be interested in this too much...everybody who is habitually out in the public eye needs a harsh critic to keep one's head on straight, and the identity of the Anti-Johnny is more interesting to me than to my readers, who want NORTH SIDE topics...but the identity of this critic may go back to the very conception of this blog, as outlined in the "brief history" of some blogs in my previous post.

Born in fiery blog discussion about T.J. Waconia

This blog was, in effect, born on a discussion thread at Behind The Mortgage Dot Com...a discussion thread about mortgage fraudsters T.J. Waconia which grew so hot, it radiated a strange other worldly Tron-like energy and transformed me into Johnny Northside, blessed and cursed with special blogging powers to help transform my adopted home planet--er, neighborhood--of North Minneapolis.

Jim Watkins is a guy down in Texas--but originally from Minnesota, a place he has told me he loathes with all his heart--who is the true blue friend-to-the end of one Thomas Balko, a principal with the infamous T.J. Waconia. (The other is Jon Helgason, and one assumes "TJ" stands for "Tom" and "Jon.") T.J. Waconia was the subject of a huge mortgage fraud investigation which ultimately resulted in plea bargains.

This history is long, messy, and one of those "inside baseball" things not terribly interesting to the average person. Suffice to say, Watkins worked for Tom Balko at one time, but ultimately decided to go to Texas and do his own thing in real estate. Watkins--though an ardent public defender of T.J. Waconia--is apparently NOT implicated in any criminal wrongdoing and has consistently held a position that the prosecution of T.J. Waconia is pretty much all political.

Watkins--who claims or claimed to be a "real estate mentor" but recently had a terrible run of luck with at least one of his own properties in the current "mortgage meltdown"--is often accused (not without justification) of not commenting under his own name.

Enemies, friends, oops, enemies again

Though Jim Watkins and I started out as adversaries on the issue of T.J. Waconia, our exchange of views grew quite respectful and friendly--though I always kept Watkins at arm's length. I could tell he WANTED something, and that "something" usually appeared to be trying to convince me to turn from ardent critic to converted defender of T.J. Waconia. Watkins tried in many ways to paint the victims of T.J. Waconia as being involved in their own shady dealings and therefore not "victims" at all.

If you click here and read the comments for the article, written by Jim himself, you can see where Jim called me his "friend" and directed folks to this blog.

My so-called "friend" Jim Watkins has indeed made a case to my satisfaction that the victims are not all poor little innocent lambs, but I've never considered his mediocre case to be worth the effort it took to make, unless you're the true blue friend of Thomas Balko, which Watkins proclaims himself to be. His so-called "case" against the T.J. Waconia victims is rather like the case a criminal defense lawyer might make by trying to point out how a rape victim was wearing a short skirt and walking alone at night. In fact, it's very much like that case: Watkins is always accusing one of the most vocal victims of being (how shall I put it?) sexually promiscous.

To be fair, the victims are pretty good at slinging the same exact kind of dirt and innuendo in the direction of Tom Balko's (former? estranged?) spouse. Any discussion about T.J. Waconia which happens in a chat room becomes pretty much a bare-knuckle bloody affairs.

I have advocated for moderation in these discussions. For example, it's not right to say harsh things about little children, no matter who their parents might be.

At one point, Watkins (seriously) suggested I should help him write a book exposing the "truth" about TJ Waconia. I said, in so many words, that project would be a big waste of my time. At another point, Watkins tried to offer me a really fine deadbolt lock for the front door of my house. Like, oh, yeah, I'd be happy to accept a LOCK to my DOOR from a STRANGER I know mostly via THE INTERNET.

Ultimately, Watkins and I had a falling out--on the pages of this very blog, though some of it was by email--over the topic of (this is so silly and tedious) whether his girlfriend really existed and whether it was respectful for me to tell him to provide a picture of this (alleged) girlfriend, to show whether she really existed and so I might learn what she looked like, whether she was "hot."

Click here and also here to read some of the Watkins-influenced posts, a "new sign for North Minneapolis" and Jim's rather interesting "bullets in the stucco" story of getting shot at in North Minneapolis.

It was my feeling--and still is--the "falling out" with my "new buddy" Watkins was contrived. Watkins thought he could get more psychological leverage by being my "friend," then falling out with me, and then hoping I would want to "win him back." And, actually, I find Watkins a fascinating, intense, and intelligent character. I've said I'd be glad to have lunch with him when he's up in the Twin Cities to (in effect) see his friend Tom Balko go up the river.

But I'm useless to Watkins for one reason: I see the T.J. Waconia principals as guilty and deserving of punishment, and it's apparent to Watkins that while whatever "facts" he presents will be given a fair hearing, I'm not going to change my stance. I'm throwing my lot in with the "decent people" of the neighborhood, not the scammers and flippers. (Though it appears both me and Jim Watkins loathe crack heads and prostitutes ruining neighborhoods)

Let the punishment fit the crime

It should be noted Jim Watkins HAS influenced my opinions, but I'm not sure if it was in a way Watkins intended or hoped. I have advocated for a "let the punishment fit the crime" sentence for the T.J. Waconia principals. Force them to live in North Minneapolis in one of their own houses, and make themselves useful to the neighborhood, I say.

Frankly, I figured Watkins would be more enthusiastic about this particular posting and my rather consistent promotion of the idea. Watkins never showed any enthusiasm for the idea, however. In fact, I think it may have contributed to the (contrived?) "falling out." He wants his T.J. Waconia friends to receive NO PUNISHMENT and has strongly advocated that position and doesn't appear to like my advocacy of "let the punishment fit the crime."

What is the case for Jim Watkins being the Anti-Johnny?

At first I thought the Anti-Johnny was the same person who argued with me on a comment thread over "the article of clothing I have vowed not to mention again." But in light of contrary opinion, I compared one to the other and Different people.

True, the Anti-Johnny appeared and seized on the "prostitute's distinctive article of clothing" discussion, leading me to conclude it was the same person. However, Jim Watkins has certain stylistic writing quirks...odd, not correct, but expressive and consistent things he does with ellipses and capitalization, as well as sentence fragments. As an English Major and writer, I notice that kind of thing. And in his latest posts, Anti-Johnny is showing some Jim Watkins stylistic quirks, which are rather unique.

Secondly, Jim can't stay out of internet discussions, even if he can't appear as himself. Jim has been gone from the Johnny Northside/T.J. Waconia blog scene for a while...but I figure he can't stop reading and he can't stay away, which is why I suspect Jim of being the Anti-Johnny, because it's really time for Jim to appear again, even in some guise.

Third, the things said by Anti-Johnny are consistent with the real-estate based interests of Jim Watkins, who calls himself a "mentor" in real estate but, well, um...there was that whole deal- kinda-went-south episode, just recently. Yeah. Yeah.

Anyway, Anti-Johnny criticized my use of the phrase "plastic pipes" instead of "PVC," and my saying "title person" instead of "escrow officer." Anti-Johnny is particularly incensed over my (alleged but non-existent) claim of real estate expertise, which would logically be something of a sore point with Jim right now, given what he's gone through, personally, after styling himself a "mentor" in real estate in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

I think my suspicion is on solid footing: the Anti-Johnny appears to be none other than the most ardent defender of T.J. Waconia, one Jim Watkins, most recently of the Dallas/Fort Worth area. He is angry because as his real estate dealings have gone South, mine have literally gone North. As his friend has been branded a villain, I have (according to the Anti-Johnny) cast myself as a hero, savior, even (and this is extreme) "God."

His most insistent criticism: I am only doing what I'm doing for the money.

Right, Anti-Johnny. Show me the dime I have made from doing all this blogging, so I can stoop over and scoop it up from the ground. I fight for North Minneapolis because I am the kind of person who loves a good fight for a good cause. I sold my house because I didn't want to stand in the way of progress and, yes, it was a chance to make a profit and get a better house...hopefully on the SAME EXACT BLOCK, so I can keep fighting for the eco-village and a better North Minneapolis.

An olive branch at Olive Garden?

I don't dislike Jim--no, not even believing he's the Anti-Johnny--but I think I really upset Jim when I added some comments to an article he wrote for the "Bigger Pockets" real estate blog.

My comments--meant as compliments about the article--publicly linked Jim Watkins to his T.J. Waconia friend, and this in a forum which Jim apparently considered his own little private reserve. Jim just about FLIPPED OUT over those comments linking him to T.J. Waconia on that blog. I have the emails where he flipped out. Jim does that. He flips out and spews ink, but when he does there are those special, unique things he does with ellipses, capitalization and sentence fragments.

I told Jim, hey, if it's a problem...have the "Bigger Pockets" webmaster remove the comments in question, since you're buddy-buddy with him and all that. Words to that effect. I mean...I have archived about a jillion emails that went back and forth between me and Jim, when we were sorta "friends" and Jim was suggesting I should help write a book defending T.J. Waconia and making a case for Thomas Balko being a political scapegoat.

Some folks may find it dodgy that I have engaged in conversation and correspondence with somebody so closely linked to the notorious entity of T.J. Waconia. But I was fascinated by that saga and--more so--it was interesting how a blogger could somehow have an IMPACT on the participants in the saga, even if it was just to make 'em mad. Tom Balko apparently kept up with my on-line comments and wondered what my "thing" was, why I had such an obsession with T.J. Waconia.

Yeah, I heard this through Jim. If Jim wanted something from me, I also wanted something from Jim: insight, inside info, details of the saga...even if I was promising not to share that stuff.

Honestly, I'm not sure, sometimes, why a particular topic seizes my interest and drags me in though a common theme is always realizing my ability to have an impact on the topic by ferreting out and exposing information.

This much I know: it would be incredibly interesting to have that lunch with Jim Watkins. I would select "Olive garden" because of its symbolism.

We are left to pick up the pieces

Entities like T.J. Waconia and Universal Mortgage and--this must be pointed out--a great number of other fraudsters and "little fish" who are seemingly being allowed to get away with fraud have made North Minneapolis what it is today: a post-apocalyptic land of boarded doors and windows, missing copper, desperate crack heads, advancing armies of slumlords and--this must ALSO be pointed out--visionary idealists (some already present for decades) who perceive the potential to remake North Minneapolis into something different, better, and GREENER than it is at present.

And what is the Anti-Johnny doing? He is offering a scathing critique of somebody who is trying to deal with the mess created by people like Thomas Balko, and doing it from behind a fascade of semi-anonymity.

And who is he? Well, I've given my unproven theory of who Anti-Johnny is. This much I'll say: he's a distraction and so I should avoid being distracted by him, because there are bigger fish to fry or--if you like that sort of thing (I sure do, Green Party member or not)--bigger frog legs to fricassee.

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