Friday, September 30, 2005

Ari, Scott, and Maher

Today, the White House press secretary criticized talk radio host Bill Bennett. More on the substance of Bennett's comments, later.

Don't forget that the previous press secretary criticized Bill Maher for his comments following 9/11. Maher and the media were in high dudgeon about the heavy hand of government criticizing his show, which was later cancelled.

PREDICTION: Tonight on HBO, Bill Maher will mention Bennett's comments, but will not criticize the White House for criticizing Bennett.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Terrorism, Al Qaeda, and 9/11

I have got to stop defending prominent bloggers and columnists. They certainly don't need my help. But I need to write something tonight, and this really bugged me.

A certain columnist recently wrote the following:

Vold's view is 180 degrees different from the protesters'. For years, he says, America took a passive approach to extremist threats. We learned the hard way that this emboldened terrorists and ultimately led to Sept. 11. Abandoning our mission in Iraq now, he says, would be both ill-advised and dangerous.

Today, a letter to the editor in the Minneapolis Star Tribune makes an accusation of a "mistruth."

The next time _________ or any other columnist implicitly or explicitly describes a link between the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Iraq, please add a footnote indicating such a link has been invalidated by the bipartisan 9/11 Commission.

Mistruths do not make for a convincing column.

Did I miss something? The real "mistruth" is the allegation that the column made such a link. The point was not that Saddam Hussein was involved with the terrorist attacks on 9/11, but that showing weakness in our foreign policy invites such attacks. We learned from 9/11 that if you wait until there is a smoking gun, it is too late. We can apply that lesson to Iraq without saying that Iraq was involved in that particular act of terrorism.

Part of the problem is that people use the terms 9/11, Al Qaeda, and terrorism interchangeably. That is why you see poll data that indicate people believe that Saddam was responsible for 9/11. It is not that people are dumb, it is that they and the pollsters are sloppy with terminology.

For the record, it is not entirely clear that all 19 hijackers knew the plan on 9/11. It is very doubtful that the planners would share this highly sensitive information with Saddam. But that does not mean he has no link to terrorism. Or that would-be terrorists in other parts of the world are not watching our mission in Iraq to see whether the insurgents can break our resolve.
For once and for all, here are the links:

Saddam most likely had no knowledge or responsibility for 9/11.

There is some evidence of links between Saddam and Al Qaeda.

There is undisputed evidence that Saddam supported terrorism, from harboring Abu Nidal to paying the families of suicide killers in Israel.
Bullies, Bluster, and Blame

Feeling left out of the blame-the-victim frenzy from supporters of convicted murderer Chai Vang, the family of school murderer Jason McLaughlin joins in.

They are resolute that bullying played a role - not by one child, but by
many - and believe that bullying still isn't taken seriously at Rocori or other

To review, it is good to be against racism and bullying, etc. Just don't begin your initiative immediately after a murder conviction.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Souter, Shays, and Gergen

I've discovered a new template: (Liberal Republican Name) is (Language) for Souter. The original was "Gonzales is Spanish for Souter." Here are some examples:

(David) Gergen is German for Souter.

(Rep. Chris) Shays is Irish for Souter.

Powell is Jamaican for Souter.

Try it yourself!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Salt, Water, and Stouffers

There is a nice piece in the local community newspaper about a science fair semi-finalist. He did a project on how the snow-melting salt we use affects the ecosystem. Congratulations to the kid. I am reminded of an episode of "Leave it to Beaver" where Beaver's history project was not as polished as that of all of the other students. Without diminishing the kid's accomplishments one bit, it is fair to say that he may have been inspired to do a different project if his mother were, say, a pest control worker for Orkin.

Speaking of road salt polluting our water, I remember my first day of Environmental Law class in law school. The professor read a piece about how road salt affected our environment, ultimately hurting our diets by increasing our sodium intake. I got a little hot under the collar and stated that it was absurd to use the salt-in-our-diets argument because there was way more sodium in a box of Stouffer's Lean Cuisine than in a glass of tap water. The exchange was memorable because I declared myself "pro-road salt."

Can I ever be a nominee to the Supreme Court with such views on road salt?

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Banned, Challenged, and Assigned (2005 Edition)

Once again the American Library Association's Banned Books Week. And once again it is up to SwanBlog to challenge conventional wisdom. I was unable to find a news story on the ALA initiative that was critical of it. The Minneapolis Star Tribune did its usual poor job on the story.

I believe that a major portion of the controversy over banned and "challenged" books is about librarians and school officials wanting to choose what is assigned or on the shelves. Does a given public library shelve every book that is published? No. If choices must be made, the library or curriculum committee will make a value judgment. When taxpayers or parents seek input into these decisions, they are accused (unfairly, in my view) of censorship.

I will post on the American Library Association throughout the week. In the meantime, here is last year's SwanBlog post on the subject:

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Happy Banned Books Week! Hope your tree is trimmed and your pumpkin is carved. Congratulations to the American Library Association for creating this Hallmark holiday.

That's right, in between protesting the Patriot Act and promoting one of Michael Moore's books, the librarians have time to plan a celebration that rivals Alligators in the Sewer Week and Spider Eggs in Bubble Gum Week.

A close examination of what qualifies as "banned" or "challenged" reveals that the ALA does not want any interference with its choices for acquisitions or curriculum. To them, any complaint about accuracy or age-appropriateness is the equivalent of a book burning.

The Library of Congress is the most comprehensive collection of books that are published in the United States. Every other American library's collection will be a smaller subset of this. Each library must choose which volumes to acquire and shelve. When a librarian makes that choice, it is deemed to be based on quality or pedagogical criteria. When a taxpayer or parent questions that choice, it is deemed to be narrow-minded censorship.

The arrogance is compounded when discussing school curriculum. In choosing a certain book for a certain class in a certain grade, it is necessary to whittle down the millions of books in the Library of Congress to a mere handful. Then students must attend classes, under penalty of truancy, and read the assigned books. Is it wrong for parents and taxpayers in a free society to involve themselves in the choice of books? Should we limit the discussion to those people with degrees in teaching or library science?

Government employees who seek to squelch citizen dissent should be careful when they throw around terms like "censorship."
Murders, Gangs, and the Truth

Thirteen years ago today, Minneapolis Police Officer Jerry Haaf was murdered in cold blood by gang members. The murder brought to light, however briefly, the activities of The City Inc. organization in Minneapolis.

The Minneapolis Police Federation website discusses the series of events that led up to the murder, including the actions of The City Inc.

What Led Up to the Murder

Tension between the gangs and the police had been mounting. In the late 1970s the gangs arrived in Minneapolis. Instead of fighting the gang problem with good aggressive police work, the leaders of this city decided to embrace these disenfranchised youths. The city leaders were being duped by these gangsters. They in turn fed the local anti-police media and this just helped to legitimize these criminals. In the meantime, the leader of the Vice Lords, Sharif Willis, was convicted of murder but released from prison after serving only six years.

After his release, Willis was embraced by the city. His phony programs were then funded with city and donated corporate funds. Willis was able to sell a bogus program called “United for Peace” to the city. The Vice Lords were welcomed with open arms and the new sanctuary for these criminals became a place known as The City Inc. The street cops and most of the police department knew first hand what these criminals were up to, but the politicians and the media protected them. As time went on the gangsters realized that the police were still a thorn in their sides. The police would not back down or give up no matter how much intervention by city officials and the media occurred.

With city funding the Vice Lords came up with a new plan; they would use donated portable cellular phones to dispatch gang bangers to police calls. Once there they would try to incite a disturbance, then complain about police brutality. The media loved this action, as did the local self-appointed community leaders who would use this to get sympathy from the citizens, then rape the city for more money.

The day before Jerry was assassinated in cold blood, police officers working for the MTC bus company got caught in one of these bogus complaint schemes. A blind black man, who is a chronic problem for the bus drivers and the police, would not pay his bus fare. While MTC officers tried to deal with him, gangsters using their portable phones arrived at the scene and started trouble.

After the bus incident, word spread throughout the community that the Minneapolis police had beaten a blind black man on the bus. The media then played into the hysteria and things got stirred up. Members of the city council even jumped on the bandwagon. That night, the Chief of Police was at the local high school talking with residents. As the Chief addressed the crowd, the gangsters crashed the meeting and demanded to know about the bus incident. The Chief made an attempt to explain what happened. The gang punks, not wanting to hear the truth, left the school and purposely damaged several police cars that were parked outside the school.

Later after leaving the meeting, AC Ford, Shannon Bowles, Amwati McKenzie and Monterey Willis went to Sharif Willis' house. While there AC Ford (second in command of the Vice Lords) said, “Let's do it.” The plan was made and the order was given: a police officer in the Pizza Shack was going to die. The murderers were driven to the Shack in two separate cars. Just before they arrived, two plain clothes robbery investigators left the Shack. The two investigators had been sitting with JERRY HAAF having coffee. McKenzie and Bowles then entered the Pizza Shack and shot Officer JERRY HAAF in the back.

It is hard to get a handle on the exact nature of The City Inc. Every couple of years, some official gets in trouble for having the temerity to raise questions about the organization, demonstrating that old saw about a gaffe being when a politician accidentally tells the truth. The Minneapolis Star Tribune has been little help in this area. Read the following excerpts from the newspaper and see if you can determine what The City Inc. is all about:

Title: Accused officer's sister squares off with The City Inc.
Author: Rosalind BentleyDavid ChanenStaff Writers
Date: November 6, 2003

``Please send me information on your funding and staffing,'' Deborah Jindra wrote. ``Where do the dollars come from and who is on your staff? I would like to know the details of some of the folks who are speaking on behalf of your organization. . . . Are Spike Moss' recent media activities supported by your organization? Is he using personal time to hold street rallies or are these activities sanctioned by your board?''

* * *

The City Inc. is a longtime north Minneapolis agency that serves youth who have dropped out of school, have had run-ins with the law or who have been involved with gangs. It also serves teen parents. Apart from schooling, counseling is provided and child care is available for the toddlers of teen mothers who are students.

Title: County-funded cleanup plan criticized on the North Side - Neighborhood activists decry process that provided money to The City Inc.
Author: Jeffrey W. PetersStaff Writer
Date: September 18, 2002 was made with The City Inc., a nonprofit organization whose efforts to organize citizen patrols in the wake of the Aug. 22 disturbance upset some residents who felt police should have worked through existing neighborhood groups.

Title: Judicial elections - Reprimanded incumbent vows to do better
Author: David Peterson; Staff Writer
Date: October 23, 1996

Porter is a complicated figure: a military man who was appointed by a Republican governor, Al Quie and who has served on the board of the controversial City Inc., an inner-city social agency attacked for its links with gang members.

Title: City Inc. worker sentenced on gun violation
Author: Staff Writer
Date: August 31, 1995

Farley Cotten, a youth worker at The City Inc. in Minneapolis who pleaded guilty to a federal charge of possessing a sawed-off shotgun,

Title: United for Peace leader's arrest stems from spat over car parts
Author: Kevin Diaz; Staff Writer
Date: October 23, 1994

A receipt obtained by police indicated that Willis was the owner of the two-door, older-model Mercedes. However, a police check indicated that the car is registered to The City Inc., a nonprofit youth agency where Willis works.

Title: The City Inc. vows to cooperate in probe of assault on woman
Author: Mark Brunswick; Staff Writer
Date: March 9, 1994

Clarence Hightower, president of the school and youth center, said he would turn over names of staff workers or others at the building to assist police in the investigation.

Title: Uncertain future - United for Peace to lose funding as connection to City Inc. ends
Author: Jim Parsons; Staff Writer
Date: November 26, 1993

Support from politicians has long since evaporated as a result of the assassination police officer Jerry Haaf that has led to convictions of three gang members. In addition, United for Peace was told recently that it will no longer be operating under The City Inc., a nonprofit agency that focuses on the problems of Minneapolis' inner-city youth and families.

Title: Derus softens his comments on gang's link with The City Inc.
Author: Patricia Lopez Baden; Staff Writer
Date: October 14, 1993

Responding to an audience question, Derus told a crowd of about 180 listeners that city money "did go to The City Inc., and The City Inc. is part of the Vice Lords organization, and that Sharif Willis and the people that run it are the people who got that money."

That statement took away the breath of the crowd and even elicited a few hisses from those who had gathered at Mayflower Congregational Church in south Minneapolis to hear the League of Women Voters forum.

Yesterday, Derus said that he "did not intend to say The City Inc. was part of the Vice Lords." He did, however, insist that The City Inc. "is the link group between the gangs and the political structure. There are close affiliations between The City Inc. and gangs. Members of The City Inc. are part of the Vice Lords."

The City Inc. is a nonprofit organization with an annual budget of $3.5 million that provides alternative high schools, day care, parenting classes and job programs for inner-city youths.

It also is an organization that has displayed a flair for controversy by openly cultivating relationships with gang members and serving as the midwife to United for Peace, a gang coalition that catapulted to prominence last year with its vow to end gang violence. The coalition's leader is Sharif Willis, leader of the local Vice Lords gang.

Despite a high-profile beginning and early praise from police officials for quelling a near-riot last summer, United for Peace flamed out when Vice Lord gang members were arrested in the shooting death of Minneapolis police officer Jerry Haaf last September.

Title: Precursor to a night of violence - A scuffle over a blind man's bus fare sparks tensions
Author: Chris Ison; Patricia Lopez Baden; Staff Writers
Date: September 26, 1992

Police arrested Robert M. Cook, 44, a staff member of The City Inc., a multi-service agency that caters to at-risk youths and their families, on suspicion of throwing the punch. Neither Cook nor officials at The City returned phone calls yesterday.

Title: Wellstone backs gang peace effort
Author: Randy Furst; Staff Writer
Date: September 1, 1992

Wellstone made the pledge in a meeting with United for Peace, an organization of rival gang leaders who have come to oppose violence among gangs, and with leaders of The City Inc., an inner-city Minneapolis community agency that helped bring about the gang peace effort.

Title: Beating victims receive support - City Inc., others offer their help
Author: Jill Hodges; Staff Writer
Date: November 8, 1991

Among those offering support to the family were representatives of The City Inc., a youth outreach center in north Minneapolis.

Title: Leaders of The City Inc. charge article was unfair
Author: Lou Gelfand; Staff Writer
Date: May 12, 1991

The City Inc. operates alternative schools and reaches out to troubled youths and families

Title: The City, Inc. - building trust on society's front line
Author: Leonard Inskip; Staff Writer
Date: December 19, 1990

When members of a youth gang wanted to dispute the initial police version of Tycel Nelson's death, they went to a community agency they trust - for some, perhaps the only one. It's called the City, Inc.

* * *

The City reaches out to troubled youths and families, those whom other agencies often can't reach.

* * *

With a $2.7 million budget funded by the United Way, government, foundations and corporations, the City has "something that can and does work in the inner city," Nelson says. That something is to work with gang members, not to promote or coddle gangs, but to change members' negative behaviors.

Title: Old `Way' building reopens to serve troubled youths
Author: Wendy S. Tai; Staff Writer
Date: September 24, 1990

The City, a south Minneapolis youth agency, took ownership of the Way building last summer.

* * *

Several of the Way's former employees now work for the City, including Smith, who was the Way's recreation coordinator, and Spike Moss, who was its executive director. Moss is now director of the City's At-Risk Youth Services, the gang-outreach program, and will work at both the north center and the south one, at 1545 E. Lake St., Nelson said.

* * *

Born of the racial disturbances of the 1960s, the Way Opportunities Unlimited Inc. symbolized black activism on the North Side. Its name was chosen because the agency was to provide "a way out," opportunities for black youths who did not fit in more traditional programs.

* * *

Yet as the Way and the City Inc. walk a fine line between befriending gang members and appeasing funding groups, some social service experts say the two agencies and their unorthodox methods more than ever need to be sought out and not shunted aside as Minneapolis' growing social problems defy orthodox solutions

Title: Minneapolis / Deputy chief offers apology for comments about The City youth center
Author: Staff Writer
Date: February 27, 1988

Minneapolis Deputy Police Chief Bob Lutz apologized Friday to the City Inc. for disparaging remarks he made publicly about the youth center in the wake of a shooting there this week.

Title: Tough year leaves City, Inc. stronger
Author: Terry CollinsStaff Writer
Date: June 5, 2004

The City, Inc. was founded in the mid-1960s as a youth club in a south Minneapolis church. It moved to a building on Lake Street in 1967. Its alternative school, believed to be among the first in Minnesota, opened in 1970, a group home for girls came a year later, and social-service programs were added in 1980.

A second location was added in north Minneapolis in the mid-1980s after The Way, a well-known community organization once run by Moss, ceased operations. The City, Inc. took over the site and installed its alternative high school curriculum.


Me: They have a Mercedes registered to the non-profit?

Rita, Katrina, and Hope

Here is a follow up forwarded e-mail to my post on the World Shelters team from Seattle that is building temporary shelters in the Gulf Coast:

From: [] On Behalf Of Amani Ellen Loutfy
Sent: Friday, September 23, 2005 11:33 AM
Subject: [WorldSheltersTaskForceOne] short note

This only illustrates a tiny tad bit of what we've got here. There is joy and fun, too. We are okay.

Things are well here. We had to evacuate from the Stennis base yesterday because of Rita. She's a bitchy hurricane, for sure. We're now in the middle of nowhere at a motel called the Windwood, in Grove Hill alabama. No telling how long this connection will last, it's rigged from the hotel phone system through a PDA and a laptop. Crossing my fingers.
It's scary here and the devastation is worse than imaginable. It goes on for miles and miles and miles. TOTAL devastation. Piles of crap that have been dozed to the side of most roads, some are still full. Refrigerator trucks at funeral homes. Truckers who cry when you ask them if they are doing okay. Grateful firefighters from all over the country. The shelters are good and welcome, lots of logistical details have kept us from putting too many up yet, and then yesterday right when we were on a roll, we got the call to get the hell out, so we had to pack up our personal stuff and head for the hills, which as it turns out is here, in the midst of nowhere. This place was heavily hit a month ago, so some signs are down, but the peopel are super nice. We have everything we need, including frustration in spades. We are taking a news break right now and the room is filled with laughter becasue we're watching comedy central. It's a nice thing to hear, it's pretty stressy here. It's awful and scary and fun and rewarding and very emotional. I cried the first couple of days and now it's just below the surface. I think that while we're here I am going to get in the bath and cry and prepare to head back into it. I miss you. I wish you were here with me, it would be so nice to have a close friend here. The people are cool, it's just hard to get to know anyone in the midst of all this, and they'r mostly GUYS and one girl who is pretty manly. It's weird. It'll all be okay. It is a lot like burning man, where you wonder every ten minutes what the fuck you'r doing out here in the disaster, tehn it's great. There's a fair amount of magic here too. The other day we were putting up a shelter at the fire station and we were super hungry. Right when I was about to lose it, the Red Cross came along with a meal wagon full of hot beef stew. Then the firemen had gatorade, and we were okay. It's to the point where you drink so much water that you would kill for something with flavor. I have never sweat so much in my life. Everything is wet ALL the time. It gets down to 80 at night. HOT and BUGS like I've never seen before. Luv Bugs, the kind that fly in pairs, like they're humping a lot. Don't bite or smell though. Other things do. Sheeeeeeit, we have a lot of bug bites. From unseen bugs. Itch like hell on earth. Fun, huh?
One of th areas that's a huge shelter is the wal mart store, called wally World. It's been looted to within an inch of standing, and the smell was indescribably bad. I guess they just pulled a body out the other day, after we were there. I insisted that there was a body, but they said there wasn't. There was. AWFUL. There's som video on that camera phone site- if you want to see what we're up to.
I should run.


Friday, September 23, 2005

Trespass, Murder, and Domestic Violence, Part II

In a recent post, I criticized the poorly timed calls for tolerance in the wake of the Chai Vang murder trial. Tolerance is a good thing, but the initiative happened immediately after Vang stated that the victims "deserved to die" in his murder trial. Vang relatives and supporters made unfortunate statements in the aftermath of the trial, as well.

In this context, saying that the murders could have been avoided with cooler heads and greater tolerance tends to blame the victim. It may also be completely false. Investigators want to question Vang in the unsolved murder of Jim Southworth, who was shot in the back near his tree stand four years ago. If the many apparent similarities between the cases hold up, we may have a serial killer instead of a victim of an unfortunate misunderstanding.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Laryngitis, Deafness, and Definitions

All this talk over definitions reminded me of a funny story. When I was first stationed in Taszar Hungary, I came down with a virus nicknamed the "Taszar Crud." One of the symptoms was a sore throat that became laryngitis. When I finally went to sick call, the nurse/screener would not write "laryngitis" on my chart because that would be a diagnosis. Only a doctor can give a diagnosis. I toyed with the idea of having her write down "inflammation of the larynx," but I decided against being a smart aleck. We settled on "lost voice" or some such.

The funny part was when I had client meetings that day. I would write out my questions instead of speaking. Sometimes the clients would take the pen and write their responses, thinking that I was deaf. One of the Hungarian translators played along with the joke, telling people that I was the first deaf JAG attorney in the Army.
Definitions, Definitions, and Definitions

A debate that has seen some ink (electrons?) here at SwanBlog and elsewhere in the blogosphere has taken a turn for the absurd. I no longer have interest in the debate itself. But I would like to point out the absurdity. Here is an analogous debate:

SMITH: Johnson is a really bad dude. He hops into vehicles that do not belong to him and drives them to a location that is out of view of the public. He does this multiple times during the night and makes a tidy profit doing so.

SWANBLOG: You make it sound like "Gone in 60 Seconds." I hate to break it to you. Johnson is not a car thief. Johnson is a parking valet. Yes, he does it for money, but the car owner gives permission for the transaction. You are trying to create a scandal where none exists.

SMITH: Aha! I never said "car thief." I never said "scandal." SwanBlog apparently came to these conclusions after looking at the facts. Gotcha!

SWANBLOG: Someone in the comments section used the word "larceneee" (sic). Obviously, you were implying that Johnson steals cars.

SMITH: It's official. Johnson is a car thief. Even SwanBlog came to this scandalous conclusion. Johnson must answer for himself.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Gripes, Scripts, and Unanswered Questions

I saw Winter Soldier last night at the Bell Museum auditorium. The film documents a three-day conference in 1971 that was supposed to document atrocities during the Vietnam War. In addition to Dick Gregory and Jane Fonda, future Senator John Kerry was one of the organizers. Kerry appears briefly in the film.

A spokesman for Veterans for Peace introduced the film. His organization and Women Against Military Madness were responsible for bringing the film to the Twin Cities, he said. The unintentionally funny moment of his speech was when he referred to the subsequent event where veterans threw away their medals. This event had become a mini-controversy in the last presidential campaign with Kerry scrambling to explain why he still had his medals if he had thrown them away.

I wondered why such a "powerful" movie for which John Kerry was largely responsible would not have been released before the election. Apparently, there are allegations that much of the testimony was faked. It is not just that the witnesses were embellishing their testimony, but that some of them had never served in Vietnam and had appropriated the identities of real veterans.

Minneapolis Star Tribune movie critic Colin Covert mentions the controversy, but asks us to attend Winter Soldier and "judge for [ourselves]." That makes sense for evaluating a work of fiction, but not a documentary of questionable accuracy. If the witnesses are imposters and the testimony faked, how are we supposed to judge that from the movie itself?

There was one moment where an interviewer made a statement to a former Marine about being in the "Army." I suppose that the interviewee could have just been polite in not correcting the mistake. Another interesting issue is how "the Few, the Proud" Marines were overrepresented in the film. In general, the witnesses seem to come from only a handful of units.

The interviews on the screen are mostly done in a press conference setting. Most of the value of corroboration is lost as the panelists listen to each other's stories and almost seem to be engaging in one-upsmanship. The stories range from true atrocities, to bad strategy in the war, to gripes about Boot Camp.

Even if they are telling the truth, the testimony does not support that atrocities were committed with, as Covert says, "full awareness of officers at all levels." If helicopter pilots are told not to count prisoners when they get on the aircraft (to avoid evidence that some were thrown overboard), that means that they were trying to keep higher ups from finding out. Similarly, one witness stated that he was not supposed to abuse prisoners when people from outside his unit. This suggests that there was not full awareness of officers at all levels. Why hide it if everyone knows about it?

Many of the press conference stories are scripted. The panelists' eyes go back and forth from the audience to their notes on the desk. This does not necessarily mean that their testimony is false, but the investigation lacks the value of separate, unprompted witness interviews. The stories of troops being brainwashed are laughable. Overall, there are no convincing explanations of how each witness went from cold-blooded killer to an enlightened peace activist. There are no whistleblowers among them. It is all confessions by formerly brainwashed war criminals.

I am interested to see if the witnesses are who they say they are and served where they claimed to have served. In that way, I agree with Colin Covert. Release this thing on DVD and we can conduct our own investigation. Better late than never.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Trespass, Murder, Domestic Violence

I have written about the tendency to blame the victim when there are allegations of "bullying" or racism -- click here and here. Racial reconciliation is a very important goal to me. But when you link it to a murder victim, you defame someone who is no longer able to defend him/herself.

A recent editorial and column about the murders by Chai Vang continue the defamation of the victims. They should have calmed down when confronting a trespasser. We need more understanding of cultural differences, etc, etc. The problem is that the victims did not choose the race of their murderer. Also, we know that Vang had an arrest warrant pending for failure to pay a fine for another trespassing charge. That could have been the motive for the killing. At the very least, it casts doubt on the allegation that it was a big misunderstanding. There is also evidence of domestic violence and death threats against his wife, along with an eerily similar unsolved murder in Wisconsin.

There are many reasons to promote non-violence and racial reconciliation. However, I am afraid that Chai Vang is not the poster boy for this effort.
Smoke, Fog, and Amazing Facts

News flash from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Smoking ban cuts down on smoke in bars and restaurants.

Coming up in the next issue: Road blocks reduce traffic by 99%.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Blame, Sweat, and Tears

Neal Justin wrote a piece for the Minneapolis Star Tribune concerning reporters showing their emotions during hurricane coverage. His conclusion is that the reporters got it right, and that the evil right-wingers won't get away with unfairly criticizing the media this time.

My first question is how Justin is able to evaluate the accuracy and fairness of the coverage. Even if he had spent time in the flood zone (he does not mention any such experience), how would he be able to judge the coverage of a tragedy spanning three states? More likely, Justin is basing his evaluation of the reporting on the reporting itself. This is circular reasoning at its worst -- I know that the coverage is accurate because the coverage tells me so.

Justin also implies that the term, "blame game," is a new creation of Republican High Command. I was able to locate several instances in the Star Tribune archives. Check out this piece from 1992 on the failure to enact a middle-class tax cut:

Meanwhile, legislators have not demonstrated a willingness to undo that
1990 deal. Democratic leaders in the House, lacking the votes to win, have four
times delayed bringing up a measure to amend that budget agreement to open the
way for shifting billions of dollars from the Pentagon to social programs. The
Senate killed a similar bill last week in refusing to wipe away Republican
procedural delays holding up similar legislation.

So the election-year blame game will go on, with each side saying it is
the other's fault that there will be no tax cut this year. But the question is
whether anyone was ever serious about making it happen. (emphasis supplied)

Either it is a legitimate phrase to use, or it is a masterful Republican Jedi mind trick developed more than a decade ago. I thought that Jesse Jackson had the corner on the rhyming market!
Elected, Appointed, and Confirmed

A member of the Minnesota judiciary wrote a letter to the editor questioning why Chief Justice nominee John Roberts should be able to decline to answer questions on cases that may come before the U.S. Supreme Court. The jurist cries fowl in light of the U.S. Supreme Court's holding in RPM v. White. Specifically, the letter posits that there is no difference between Roberts declining to express his views, and state court candidates being prohibited from expressing theirs.

The letter asks, " Can it be Justice Scalia's view that it is OK that candidates for state judicial election be put under pressure to reveal their views on disputed legal and political issues, but it is not OK for federal nominees? As I read the underlying rationale of White, a nominee to the federal courts should have no less a First Amendment right to speak than a candidate for state judicial election."

Ever helpful, SwanBlog would like to explain the difference:

1. The holding in White involved judges who were elected, not appointed. The Court specifically cited that fact and hinted that Minnesota may want to go to an appointed judiciary, where it could arguably enforce a prohibition on "announcing" views on disputed matters. The letter to the editor glosses over this important difference.

2. The litigants in the White case, as well as the Court, recognized the distinction between announcing views and pledging or promising to rule a certain way. Some may view the confirmation hearings as an attempt to get Judge Roberts to make such a pledge or promise.

3. The refusal of Roberts is not only consistent with previous nominees, but also consistent with the First Amendment jurisprudence in White. The First Amendment protects a candidate's right to say nothing, just as it protects the candidate's right to announce his or her views. Having a right to speak does not mean that one is required to speak. Consider the Supreme Court rulings that allow lawyers to advertise their services. Does that mean that all lawyers are required to run advertisements?

Friday, September 16, 2005

Tempest, Teapots, and Misdirection

A blogger is claiming that Katherine Kersten plagiarized the story about Jim Lodoen from my weblog. For the record, I have never met Jim. I never claimed to have interviewed him. I merely posted his e-mails, sent by a mutual friend, on my weblog.

If the newspaper story has similarities to the e-mail, that is because she presumably interviewed the author of the e-mail. I love to take credit for things, but this is not an instance where I can do so. (Darn!)

The attempts to turn a positive story into a scandal is disappointing.

If you prefer feel-good stories about liberals, scroll down to the post about my friend and former roommate Dan Corcoran. He is a self-employed Seattle architect who is going to the Gulf Coast as a volunteer to build shelters for emergency workers. And he dislikes Karl Rove like any proper liberal should.

I should get out of the business of feel-good stories and stick to Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica. The Pegasus episode will soon be with us.

Wind, Rain, and Snow

One of my old college roommates, Dan Corcoran, is a self-employed architect. He and eight others from Seattle are traveling to the Gulf Coast to help construct shelters for emergency workers. He is requesting small donations to defray his airfare.

World Shelters is a small business that has invented a unique temporary shelter that protects against the weather better than the plastic sheeting delivered in vast quantities to disaster victims by government agencies. They helped out in the recent Tsunami crisis and recently converted their corporation into a 501c3 non-profit designation.

I can personally vouch for Dan Corcoran. He is asking for help with his own airfare and the expenses of the Seattle crew. The rest will go to World Shelters. He is asking for small dollar donations. This seems like a nice way to help a specific effort in this disaster.

Here is the e-mail from Dan:

Being raised in Montana where we pride ourselves on a
homesteading self-sufficiency, it's not often I'll ask you this.

I am volunteering the next two weeks or so to travel to Biloxi, MS
(Harrison County) with a group of 8 from Seattle to help World
Shelters (Arcata, CA based) construct 60 emergency shelters for
localfirefighters and emergency management personnel
gathering in the area.

I'm looking to raise money to cover my airfare down and back
and offset costs our group will incur in provision food, water, and

Our group from Seattle will be clearing sites of brush and debris,
unpacking the shelters, and assembling them on several sites.
More waves of volunteers will follow us as the demand for World
Shelters services increases in the area (several agencies have
expressed interest).

We are being co-ordinated by FEMA, the Mississippi Emergency
Mgmt Agency (MEMA), and the local Harrison County Fire Dept.

We are all volunteering our time and loaning tools and gear for
the deployment, and have paid airfare to fly into Mobile, AL
(Monday 9/19).

Being self-employed, I have no vacation/sick leave/etc. to tap for
this time away from gainful employment. But also because of this
I have the flexibility in schedule to help out in a way many

Northwest airlines has given us discounted tickets costing $320
each, so my initial goal is to raise $320. Any over this amount I
will donate World Shelters/our Seattle crew to cover our
provisions etc. We anticipate spending nearly $10,000 over
several weeks of constructing shelters.

I'd like to ask for your donations in any amount, from $5 to $50.

You can paypal ( them to me at


Or mail them to my address at:

daniel Corcoran
Seattle, WA

I will be in Seattle until Monday morning, and will be over at
Shelly's house party Saturday night.. you can donate there in
person if you'd like!

World Shelters is a 501(c)(3) corporation and tax receipts will
be available (when I return).

Thank you for helping us provide support to those in dire need.



Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Rescue, Recovery, and Moving Forward

President Bush is set to address the nation tomorrow. Here is what I think he should say.

My fellow Americans. This nation has experienced the worst natural disaster in generations. Gulf Coast communities in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama have been devastated. Throughout this tragic event, there have been heroic efforts by first responders, the military, and even ordinary citizens who volunteered to help strangers. Through the unprecendented evacuation of a major U.S. city, many lives were lost, but many more lives were saved.

There are small numbers of people who exploited the tragedy to engage in criminal behavior. I have directed the FBI to make forensic examination of fingerprints, DNA, and other evidence from crime in the hurricane aftermath to be a top priority. Law enforcement and the judicial system will have all the help it needs.

As far as the government response to the disaster, if there is blame to be placed, it belongs with this American President. Any failure of government is my responsibility alone. There are things that we can do better on military and civilian fronts, at all levels of government. In the weeks and months ahead, we will explore things that could have been done better. Emergency services were overhauled after 9/11. We will continue to adjust the organization of homeland security to streamline our response to the next emergency, be it a natural disaster or a terrorist attack.

We are still devoting resources to the recovery and clean up. An evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of the response is premature, as it is in progress as we speak. But there will be an inquiry that is focused on the future. Any hearings should be sober, constructive, forward-looking, and non-sensationalist. The victims deserve this; the American people deserve this.

We are a resilient and committed nation. We will rebuild. Thank you and may God bless you.
Scoops, Gratitude, and Anger

My friend Kathy Kersten has a column on Jim Lodoen's volunteer work with Katrina evacuees. Let the record reflect that SwanBlog had the story first. And second and third.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Texas, Target, and Twin Cities

Here is the final Katrina update from Jim Lodoen (via Gene Allen) of the Minneapolis law firm of Lindquist and Vennum.

Thanks for the e-mail. Yes, I can still use contributions. My stay
been extended to Sunday due to Mom's condition.

I have had $7,000 in total contributions to distribute from L&V,
client and a couple of friends. I distributed another $1,600 in
cards this afternoon. Tonight I had $500 remaining, a
$100 Target card
and $400 cash left in my wallet, after I
returned from the Reliant
Center. I went to the hospital for the
evening to visit my mom until
about 9:15 I had planned to walk
back to the hotel but as I walked out
the Holiday Inn shuttle
was by the door so I got on instead of walking.
As it made its
rounds to other hospitals on the way back I spotted a mom

with 4 little kids walking out of another hospital. I noticed they
on wristbands indicating that they were staying at the
complex. I asked the driver to stop and I jumped off
to talk to them.
As I walked up to them to ask how they were
doing mom explained that her
first granddaughter was born
there today and they had been there to see
her. (God's timing
is good!)

She is here alone with her 5 children and now her grandchild.
Four of
the kids appeared to be between the ages of 1 and 9 or
10. The daughter
who had the baby is 18. I don't think they
know anybody else. Her 16
year old son is missing. She hopes
to get on CNN tomorrow to try to
find him. She has been through
the facilities in Houston and hasn't
seen him. They were going to
take the train back to the Reliant Center.
I gave her the Target
card and told them to wait and that I would drive
them there.
I ran back and got my car, returned 10 minutes later and
them to the Center. She was so grateful for the card and the
Before she got out I also gave here the $400 cash because I knew
she would need it. I asked the kids if they have been telling their
what a wonderful job she is doing. Mom said, "yes they tell
me that all
the time." Her kids were perfectly well behaved.
Before dropping them
off I asked if they wanted to stop for ice
cream and Mom said yes, then
remembered that she needed to
be in line at 4:00 a.m. tomorrow to try
and get a FEMA debit card.

She explained that she had her family back in the corner of the
and that things have been stolen from her so life has
obviously been
difficult. Everyone else I have visited with here
with children has a
support network of either two parents,
sisters, mom, dad, grandma or
grandpa. She has none. They
were sent to Dallas. I didn't even get her
name. However, I
know the hospital where her daughter is staying and
expect if I
snoop around there tomorrow I can get back in touch with

them. I intend to use any further donations, including yours, to
this women and her children (assuming I can find them)
including the one
with the baby.

As I left she had broken down in joy. She told all the kids to give
a hug and she did likewise, and then walked down the
sidewalk to their
shelter. She will use the Target card to buy
something for her first
grandchild (although she said she is too
young for that). I mentioned I
was down here from Minnesota
to visit my mom in the hospital. She asked
all about her
condition. She has my name, my mom's name and the firm
name--and all will be written in her prayer book this evening.

* * *

People at L&V have been so generous. However, I don't want to
this so I hadn't planned to send any more e-mails of
stories from
Houston. However, you are welcome to circulate
this to those who might
be interested.

Thank you.

Plaintiff, Defendant, and Official Capacity

They still can't get it right. Here is an AP story on Chief Justice nominee John Roberts that mentions the infamous duck hunting trip that included Justice Scalia and Vice President Cheney.

Roberts May Be Sidelined in Some Cases

By GINA HOLLAND, Associated Press Writer
Sat Sep 10,12:32 PM ET

* * * * Judges also are required by law to withdraw when their impartiality might reasonably be questioned. Last year, Justice Antonin Scalia refused to step aside in a case filed by Vice President Dick Cheney, a friend. Cheney and Scalia had taken ahunting vacation together shortly after the court agreed to considerwhether the Bush administration had to release information about privatemeetings of Cheney's energy task force.

Cheney filed this case? Of course, there is no mention of the fact that he was sued in his official capacity, not his individual capacity. They could just as easily have named a cabinet secretary or a government bureaucrat as defendant.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Remembrance, Rebuilding, and Resolve

Last year, I was in New Jersey last year for Labor Day weekend. On Sunday I went to New York City. We rode on a PATH train to the World Trade Center subway station. The train takes you through past the site where the towers once stood. I took some pictures and later found out that it was forbidden, as we were nearing both the Republican National Convention and the anniversary of 9/11. I think it is OK to post this one photo.

Then, just three years after the tragedy, the sparkling new subway station was humming along quite nicely. It was in contrast to the large hole that surrounded it. Both a hole in the ground and a hole in our hearts.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

WaPo, STrib, and Editing

National Review's Media Blog caught the Minneapolis Star Tribune in an interesting edit:

I noticed it was edited/shortened because Sean Hannity was reading from it and when he reached what I had as the last paragraph he continued on with information not in the Star Tribune version of the article. The Star Tribune ends with this;
"We've been hollering about funding for years, but everyone would say: There goes Louisiana again, asking for more money," said former Democratic senator John Breaux. "We've had some powerful people in powerful places, but we never got what we needed."
But the WaPo version continues with this;
That may be true. But those powerful people — including former senators Breaux, Johnston and Russell Long, as well as former House committee chairmen Robert Livingston and W.J. "Billy" Tauzin — did get quite a bit of what they wanted. And the current delegation — led by Landrieu and GOP Sen. David Vitter — has continued that tradition.
Interesting choice on where to end the article...

Interesting that the Strib would cut it off to make it look like Louisiana got shortchanged? From what I know about the Strib, that's actually pretty predictable.

Washington Post story here. Star Tribune story here.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama

Here is another report, sent through Gene Allen, from Jim Lodoen who was visiting a sick relative in Houston when the hurricane hit. Jim is with the Minneapolis law firm of Lindquist and Vennum:

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Thank you everyone for additional contributions of $2,505 on Tuesday, making a grand total of approximately $6,300 from L&V, one client and a friend. Your generosity has touched many lives. (Visa called Teresa today to make sure we knew someone had made to $2,000 and one $1,500 charge to Target in the past 4 days). Teresa told her what was going on and she was impressed with your generosity too.

My stories for today are much like yesterdays except different people. I probably won't send any more beyond what I am sending this evening, but thought you would like to hear a bit about my day.

I spent about 5 hours at the Astrodome complex today walking among the cots, talking to folks, and sharing the gift cards. I happened to come upon several situations where three generations were bunked together. Two involved 60-70 year old grandfathers, each of whom had lost their spouse-one 5 years ago and the other when his five children were all under 12 years. He raised them all by himself and with the help of some good neighbors. They viewed it as their obligation to keep their generations of family safe and intact. One gentleman had been on social security disability for 5 years and the other was a post office retiree. Each had 3 or 4 children living in their own homes within about a 4 block area. One is focused on finding ways for his children to stay in Houston and make a new home. The other is focused on going back. Each had all their earthly possessions in a plastic bag under their cot. Both were thankful and grateful. And tears welled up in their eyes. One said the Houston facility is a palace compared to the Superdome in Louisiana. I gave each of them Target cards to share with their family. I gave three $100 cards to one gentleman. He offered to give one back because he didn't want to take more than his share for himself and his five children and their children. I told him to give one to another family in need if he wants. Air mattresses allowed one to save his family from death as they escaped the water. They had to leave so fast at the end to catch a ride with a rescue boat that he didn't have time to grab his wallet from his bedroom so he lost every penny and his identification.

The volunteer staffing area asked for lawyers to work in the press room because they needed someone to help write stories. I showed up for my shift and watched a lot of nonsense that didn't seem to be too productive. They didn't appear to need more help. I soon decided that I could be more helpful talking to people than holed up in a communication center so I slipped out. I am glad I did. As I was walking outside I came across a 40 year old husband/wife with their 14 and 12 year old girls and their 2 year old son. As we visited, I learned that they were thrilled today after spending two days crying, because they just learned that their 22 year old daughter and her two kids are safe. They still don't know the fate of his 83 year old mother who he adores, but they are relieved their daughter and her children are fine. They shared that they had dropped out of school at age 17, were married, and worked hard to make it because they had no education. Michael said that they had the American dream--a nice house in a safe neighborhood with good schools. He said they had everything they wanted and at 40 he has to start over. But, they too are thankful--they left their house with water up to his nose while he walked on his tip toes to lead his family to safety. They just about gave up--but kept on going. His focus was to keep his family together at all costs. They have and I have no doubt they will. They were on their way to target to buy some shoes for their cute 2 year old because they didn't have any at the Astrodome. I said friends from Minneapolis would like to help and I gave them some cards. Tears and hugs followed. I then loaded them in my car and took them to Houston's version of Sebastian Joes ice cream shop, and we enjoyed some time together. Michael said they try to go out for ice cream twice a week and that this was a real treat for them to do this again. His focus tomorrow is to try to get a job with a Houston division of the water delivery company he worked for and to work with his insurance company, etc. to see what their new beginning will look like financially. He and his wife are busy planning their future at night as their children sleep on the cots next to him. A beautiful family. He said we will start small again and build as we can. He said he teaches his children that if you work hard, treat people well, study in school and do the right thing you will be rewarded for it. And he was too by your generosity. He said to thank you all.

I ditto everything I said in my e-mail of last evening about the faith, gratefulness, love and hope of these guests of Houston. The other thing that comes across is the family love and connectedness that goes on for 3 or 4 generations. Many live within blocks of each other. I have also seen that $100-200 from a real person vs. an institution has much more value for people in turmoil than the actual worth of the donation. Of course, we all need to donate big dollars to the big charities as so much of what is done for folks in terms of mere survival has to be done on a grand scale. However, the kind words or hugs of the volunteers working for the charities, or a contribution "from some friends at Lindquist & Vennum in Minneapolis", does something more by letting people know someone--an actual person or group of persons--cares! That makes them feel special--like we are all in this together. And we are!!


Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Executive, Legislative, and JUDICIAL

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said something that should concern true conservatives. Not that he would sign the gay marriage bill passed by the California legislature. In fact, he will veto it. But his reasoning is a symptom of a larger problem with judicial activism.

A spokeswoman for Schwarzenegger said he believes the issue should be
decided by the courts, not by his signature on legislation. A state appellate
court is considering appeals of a lower court ruling that overturned California
laws banning recognition of gay marriages. "He will uphold whatever the court
decides," Schwarzenegger spokeswoman Margita Thompson said.

When courts create new rights without legislative action, be afraid. On the other hand, if the people decide to do something through their elected representatives, even if one doesn't like the outcome, one generally has to respect democracy. Arnold has it exactly backward.
Barbara, Babies, and the Astrodome

Is it up to me to defend former First Lady Barbara Bush? She made comments about the displaced persons in the Houston Astrodome wanting to stay. She also said that they were underprivileged.

I wonder about the context of these comments, both on the NPR interview and in her conversations with the displaced persons. Could she be talking about the offers of jobs, schools, and housing? Could she be saying that these people have little safety net to fall back on, and that the people of Houston provided a safety net? Could she be comparing the Astrodome to the Superdome? Why is it OK to say that they are poor, when talking about their lack of transportation to evacuate New Orleans, but not OK to mention that same poverty when they reach Houston?

Some on the Left are so desperate to label the President as uncaring that they will do it by proxy, through his mother.

Let us not forget that Barbara Bush was memorably one of the first public figures to embrace babies who were infected with the virus that causes AIDS. Let us also not forget her work with literacy.

Finally, Gene Allen has a report from the Astrodome by his former law colleague, Jim Lodoen. The notion that things are much better in Houston than in the New Orleans Superdome or Convention Center for the relocated people is not particularly far-fetched:

Monday, September 5, 2005

I am sitting in my hotel room Monday evening and thought I would share my day in Houston with you.

I arrived in Houston on Sunday with $3,695 dollars of contributions from almost 55 of the L&V family. Monday morning I arrived at the Astrodome complex with 50 Target cards in $50 and $100 amounts. The complex also includes Reliant Center and Reliant Stadium. They are housing a total of 30,000 from New Orleans.

I signed up as a volunteer and spent the day on the floor of the Reliant Center with the guests from New Orleans. I was overwhelmed with the love, faith, determination and compassion shared by all. My row of volunteers was called to monitor the shower facilities, pass out towels, etc. However, the volunteer coordinator who himself is a refugee from New Orleans, directed me and another guy to "monitor" the the other volunteers tending the showers. He thought it would be good if we could spend most our time visiting with the "guests" so I spent 5 minutes an hour monitoring the volunteers (really a non-job) and the rest of the time sitting on cots and talking with the guests.

The people are comfortable and the Houston operation is very well organized. A lot of food is available although the selection is not too extensive at the moment, and doesn't work for special diets. Free stores stocked with clothing, personal items and games are well stocked. Social Security, FEMA, Job Service, etc. are all in place and helping people. Volunteers are on laptops helping people find family and friends. People are very secure with police everywhere. Children who were almost dead from dehydration when they arrived in Houston have been rehydrated and are running around and having fun with everyone else. Many of the families felt very threatened when the were in the Superdome in New Orleans. People were shooting, rape was occurring, some received no or minimal water and food, etc. While most saw bodies throughout the city, I think they believe the most difficult scenes were at the Superdome. Interestingly, I heard not one complaint but only gratefulness for what was done everywhere. In fact one family spent their first four days in the stadium seats at the Astrodome after arriving in Houston because the cots on the floor were full. They slept in the stadium seats. I said, "That must have been terrible." She said, "No, it was o.k. I was just grateful to have food, air conditioning, lights and a roof over us."

I cannot begin to share all the stories with you. Everyone to a person that I spoke with first and foremost praised God for protecting them. Everyone I approached was anxious to share his or her story. They all are extremely grateful for the people of Houston for opening their city, for the support from around the nation, and are just thankful to be alive. Many are still waiting to hear from other family members (mostly older aunts, uncles, parents, etc.) but were receiving good news regarding many of them. Some ended up on buses to different cities and were in the process of being reunited. One husband/wife with 4 kids had both been working two jobs to buy their first house. The closed on Friday and stayed at the house that evening, moved in on Saturday, waited out the storm on Sunday and evacuated on Monday. They were grateful for the two days they had in their home. The father shared that all he does in life is about and for his family, and he needed to get them out. (His wife took me aside and shared that he is thinking that he did not do as much as he should have to protect his family so when he and I spoke I was able to give him a big pat on the back for saving his family, etc.) They left the house hand in hand with the two youngest on he and his wife's shoulders and walked through blocks and blocks of water up to their necks to a bridge where they waited for buses. As they were walking one daughter screamed as the looked over and say a little baby that had died floating down the street. Their house is history. They hope their children forget the scenes. They left her father with emphysema behind in the house, and their uncle assisted them to safety. Their uncle then went back to get her father (his brother). They do not know if they survived.

The volunteer coordinator used his truck to make round drips to take 200 people to safety. It ran out of gas just has he was delivering the last bunch to the Superdome. He lost his house, the bar he owned and his truck. But he was upbeat because he is a licensed plumber and electrician and he has the skills to work and rebuild. He said many do not. Many of the families he saved have been coming up to him and thanking him. I gave him several cards to distribute to the families he knows are in need of the most help.

Another family included a 60 year old dad, his several kids and grandkids, totaling 10 adults and twice as many children. The shared about 30 cots This family lived in assistance housing and the 60 year old dad rescued about 200 from the housing project before he left. He was ripping the doors off refrigerators and putting them in the water to use as boats. I gave them several cards.

Another mother along with her four young children and her mom spent 2 full days on a bridge before they were rescued. Many others were rescued by helicopters. Lots of the folks had left their homes when the warnings came only to move into motels/hotels that were later evacuated.

After I talked with folks for 10-15 minutes I then gave them the Target cards that I explained were from my colleagues from Minneapolis who wanted to help. They responded with smiles, tears, hugs, prayers and extreme gratefulness. They will use them to buy pillows for their children, larger size clothing that is unavailable, underwear, food to meet special dietary needs, and lots of other things.

One older gentleman was by himself reading his Bible. He was a pot scrubber at the Inter-Continental Hotel in New Orleans. He was very bright but seemed to have some type of disorder. He was so excited that he got connected to the same hotel in Houston and they probably have a job for him. He said he had always thought that if he transferred he would like to transfer to Houston. I asked what the most difficult part of him being here was and he said that he was unable to find a nail clipper/file. I told him a promised that before I went hope I would get a nail clipper for him. I spent a half hour (the women volunteers left their purses behind) and finally found a male volunteer who had a nail clipper. When I delivered it to this gentleman it was as if I had delivered him $1,000. So, you see, everyone has their needs and wishes.

One older woman was there with her sister. Her only son was killed a few years ago and she was divorced a couple of years before that. She lives by herself but is close to her sister. When trouble strikes they get together. This women is in a wheel chair and has severe back problems. She was rescued by a helicopter along with her sister, and they were dropped in a large field outside of town. She shared all the blessings of her rescue, the fire department getting the field lit up just as darkness was setting in so it seemed like a new day, etc. Finally, as she saw a string of old school buses coming by to pick the people up she realized that she couldn't ride in one of those seats with her back condition. So she prayed that God would send her a Greyhound bus with nice seats and air conditioning. A few minutes later two such buses came along. She got on one but her sister didn't make it. Again she prayed and through a series of events her sister also got on and their cots are together in Reliant Center. Her sister will push her in her wheel chair the two blocks to Target. She says the hurricane is Gods way of building faith in His people and in providing opportunities for others to serve their brothers and sisters in love. It all makes sense to her! She shared many tears of joy as she told me her story and even more after I gave her one of my last cards.

These people have lost all material possessions, their jobs, many friends and perhaps some family, and have no idea what tomorrow holds. Yet they are grateful for this day and for the many blessings they have received and are receiving from people like you. Our challenge is to live as well! It is also to help them by contributing through whatever organization we choose. And we need to keep doing it because needs will exist long after the media is on to something else.

I hope to make it back to volunteer one more time--probably the late evening early morning shift Tuesday evening. As I mentioned earlier, Gretchen will let me know if any additional contributions are made on Tuesday and I will buy additional Target cards to distribute.


UPDATE (9/15):

Welcome Powerline readers. To see the other two posts from Jim Lodoen, click here and scroll down through three or four posts.
Bus Rides, Lawn Care, and Phone Repair

As noted on Powerline, Mayor R.T. Rybak says that Minneapolis is a "safe city for those not involved in high risk lifestyles." Such risky lifestyles have included lawn care, riding a bus, sleeping at home, eating in a steakhouse, and now...

A Qwest Communications employee working on a telephone service box was shot
twice about noon Tuesday in north Minneapolis, police said.

The man was able to return to his van in the 4500 block of Bryant
Avenue N. and call police. Spokesman Ron Reier said the man was semi-conscious
when police arrived. He was taken to North Memorial Medical Center in
Robbinsdale and was expected to survive, Reier said. Police did not release his

Reier said police suspect the shooting happened during a robbery
because they couldn't find the man's wallet.

Remember when the falling off the telephone pole was the most dangerous thing about the job of telephone repair?
Gilligan, Maynard, and Ken Burns

Bob Denver passed away on Friday. Like many Americans, I ran home from the school bus to watch Gilligan's Island while eating a bowl of ice cream.

My favorite routine was when Skipper was trying to see if the radio worked. After the Skipper called out on the radio with no response, Gilligan answers Skipper by saying, "Hello." Skipper thinks that he has received a radio transmission and carefully asks:


To which Gilligan responds in the same cadence:


Then there was the one where they were testing out a boat to see if it was booby trapped. They are stuffing dummies to look like the seven castaways. Gilligan keeps adding more hay in the belly of Skipper's dummy, which the Skipper keeps removing. "I'm not that big, Gilligan." "Sure you are, Skipper."

There was once a debate on PBS Newshour concerning funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In response to arguments that the market should decide, filmmaker Ken Burns exclaimed, "If we give the public what they want, we'll get Gilligan's Island." I wonder if Ken Burns will be remembered as fondly in as many countries as Bob Denver.

Don't drop those coconuts from up there, Bob.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Hurricane, Looting, and Rove

Howell Raines, former New York Times Executive Editor, appeared on ABC News This Week yesterday. He was one of four roundtable panelists, which is interesting. To hear him talk, it is a good thing he no longer has the imprimatur of the journalism profession. He's not much of a commentator, either, but at least we are not pretending that he is unbiased.

Raines claimed that the White House was exaggerating the lawlessness and looting in New Orleans to deflect attention from the administration's own failures before and after Hurricane Katrina. He went on to guess that Karl Rove was behind the alleged "spin." No proof stated, mind you, just a hunch by Howell.

It is doubtful that the media images of looting were directed or even suggested by any politician. The video of looting is compelling, whether in Baghdad or Baton Rouge (actually, New Orleans). Time will tell how accurate the reports were of armed thugs roaming the streets. But the video coverage was not the invention of a political consultant.

Even if Raines were correct that reports of looting were invented or exaggerated by the White House, what difference does it make whose idea it was? Hatred of Karl Rove is a given among most liberals. Therefore, the mere mention of his name automatically adds to the sinister nature of a given endeavor. Currently, the Democrat-Farmer-Labor booth at the Minnesota State Fair has computer terminals set up to e-mail President Bush demanding that Rove be fired.

The bizarre hatred of Karl Rove only proves one thing. He's effective.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Robinson, Parks, and McNabb

Continuing the theme of the post below, I wonder if ESPN will ever acknowledge that Rush Limbaugh was treated unfairly in 2003 for his comments on ESPN about Donovan McNabb.

To review, Rush said that McNabb was overrated and that there was "a little social concern in the NFL. The media has been very desirous that a black quarterback can do well—black coaches and black quarterbacks doing well. There's a little hope invested in McNabb, and he got a lot of credit for the performance of his team that he didn't deserve. The defense carried this team."

It is hardly new for a Sunday morning sports talking head to call a quarterback overrated. And most would consider it a good thing that the media want black coaches and quarterbacks to succeed. Is Rush wrong? Do the media want them to fail?

The criticism was that Rush somehow injected race into a totally colorblind system. But the coverage of the last Superbowl proved Rush right. There were countless references to Donovan McNabb's chance to be the first black quarterback to win a Superbowl since Doug Williams. This is hardly the same thing as being the first black (fill in the blank) ever, or since Reconstruction.

My theory is that every minority wants to be Jackie Robinson or Rosa Parks. They want to be the trailblazer whose accomplishments are even more amazing, given the hurdles they had to climb. If the media have to add a little disclaimer (e.g., "...since Doug Williams") to make the story work, so be it.

It follows that every reporter wants to be the lone non-bigot in the bunch. Kind of like Howard Cosell being the only supporter of Muhammad Ali during his draft controversy. It is these players and reporters that inject race into the discussion, not Rush Limbaugh.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Complex, Unwise, and Life-Threatening?

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has a predictable op/ed piece on the University of North Dakota Fighting Souix nickname. Check out the opening paragraph:

I'm glad to see that the Star Tribune recognizes in its recent editorial
that North Dakota's use of Indian nickname and iconography is "more complex"
than some other cases. It is indeed, as I know from 34 years on the faculty
there, during which time I never had a year when there were not Indian students
in my office explaining how it eroded their educational experience at the
university, damaged their children,
made, in some cases, their very lives unsafe in Grand Forks. (emphasis mine)

Ooo. One would expect more information about how the logo and nickname made "lives unsafe in Grand Forks." Read on:

The controversy undermines the educational life of the institution as well,
as the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) acknowledged
after its accreditation review two years ago. Instead of addressing it in its
"diversity" section, it moved its concerns to the "academic" portion of the
report, saying "continued use of the Indianhead logo and the 'Fighting Sioux'
nickname reduces the university's ability to accomplish its purpose and
diminishes its educational mission."

OK. A little hyperbole about the logo and nickname lowering test scores and such. That's a little appetizer before we talk about how they threatened lives in Grand Forks, right? Continuing reading...Talk about the designer of the logo being Chippewa...Native American programs on campus oppose the name...We must be getting to the part about lives being threatened:

A trip to Grand Forks four years later would reveal a second arena, "the
Betty," and "in-your-face" use of the logo by a variety of merchants to sell
every conceivable item including shot glasses and other alcohol containers,
sweat pants with the word across the butt, hotdogs called "Siouxper dogs,"and so

Demeaning puns abound, as do a host of other uncontrollable usages by
opponents and fans alike, some of which are not printable in this newspaper.
Every one of these items is a use of the name that Native students, and others,
worked against almost four decades ago.

No university president can stop those abuses by fans and opponents,
especially under the arrangements of the sellout your editorial so rightly
described. At the very least, the NCAA can insist that, while such behavior may
be understandable in those who sold their integrity in that way, the students
and athletes of other institutions need not sanction it through such
high-profile events as postseason tournaments.

Wait. I missed it. I'll have to re-read the piece to find out about the death threats. Meanwhile, the author James McKenzie has retired from the UND English Department and now lives in St. Paul -- home of 3M and Scotch Tape.