Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Clock Game, Race Game, and Plinko

It looks like Bob Barker is stepping down. In a recent post, I wrote the following:

There are many things to remember about Bob Barker and his pricing games. One seemingly small aspect is the number of military personnel who wear their dress uniforms to the studio. If they are called to "come on down" to contestant's row, Bob will note their rank, branch of service, and how many years the enlisted have served based on the hash marks on their sleeves.

In this era of "I support the troops," it is important to remember that servicemen were not always applauded as they walked through airports. In the 1970s at a soundstage in Hollywood, Bob Barker made it cool for the troops to wear their dress uniforms. Ding, ding, ding. Bob is a winner.
I do not believe it is possible to overstate the importance of what Bob Barker, also a veteran, did. As a reservist in the late 1980s, I heard stories from Vietnam vets. It was not so much that they were spat upon in uniform, but that they took the first opportunity upon arriving home at the San Francisco airport to change into their civilian clothes. What was related to me is that someone would take the returning heroes aside and tell them not to walk through the terminal in uniform. This was a time when Bob Barker stood alone in saluting the troops.

Later, when the show expanded to one hour, the contestants would spin the big wheel to determine who made it to the showcase. For some contestants, it was questionable whether the wheel would make the requisite full revolution. But the uniformed military would always make the big wheel sound like baseball cards in the spokes of a bicycle.

Please tell all your friends to thank Bob Barker for his service.


The Price is Right
Price Productions
7800 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
Eighteen Months, Eighteen Years, and Vindication

The Pioneer Press finally blows the whistle on Keith Ellison.
Crime, Punishment, and Exact Change

I saw this story about a 15 year-old boy who stole a bus and actually drove the bus route, picking up passengers and charging fares. I could only think of a particular episode of Seinfeld:

Kramer: Then, everybody is screaming because the bus driver is passed out from all the commotion. The bus is out of control! So I grab him by the collar, take him out of the seat. I get behind the wheel and now I'm driving the bus!

George: You’re Batman.

Kramer: Yeah, yeah I am Batman. Then the mugger, he comes to and he starts choking me. So I'm fighting him off with one hand, and I kept driving the bus with the other, you know. Then, I managed to open up the door and I kicked him out the door, you know. With my foot, you know, at the next stop.

Jerry: You kept making all the stops?

Kramer: Well, people kept ringing the bell.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Wallace, Safer, and Reasoner (The Next Generation)

After the recent trifecta-plus-Rooney on 60 Minutes (three stories and an Andy Rooney segment that were either pro-Democrat, anti-war, or anti-Bush), I predicted another hit piece before the election.

To my mild surprise, there was not an overt story to influence the election. Scott ("Food Lines Under Republican Administrations") Pelley did a report that was actually favorable to one aspect of the Iraq campaign, medical evacuations. But he had to add a gratuitous introductory statement about there not being enough troops on the ground. There was also a revealing moment where an Iraqi-born American doctor was asked whether it was all worth it. When the doctor answered in the affirmative, Pelley squeaked an incredulous, "Really?" Pelley's editorializing does not appear in the online transcript.

Even in a positive report about the war, there are revealing snippets of liberal bias.

I should add that the context of the discussion over whether the war was "worth it" was a young Iraqi boy wounded in a (presumably insurgent) bombing. If a boy is maimed by other Iraqis, that would not seem to prompt soul-searching about our own involvement. If he were accidentally wounded by Americans, then of course we would have remorse. But to place responsibility on the U.S. for what seems to be Iraqi-on-Iraqi violence has a whiff of Jeane Kirkpatrick's Blame America First.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (10-27-06)

What's on your mind? As always, put your comments in the section below.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Kate, Dan, and Sid

More from our friend Dan Cohen:


As usual, the Strib's ruminations about anonymous sources omit their own dismal public record on the subject. It comes as no surprise that they failed to mention they had their pants pulled down in front of the entire nation in the United States Supreme Court. If they are skilled at anything, it is at supressing information that might cause embarrassment to themselves.

I sent the following message to Kate Parry yesterday:

Dear Ms. Parry,
Good news for you and Mr. Gillespie. No need to worry about your credibility being shot. It's been gone for years. Somehow, in the same week that your Opinion Editor ran a piece from [powerline], you missed this item.

Me: And another Powerline post on the anonymous source controversy here.
Fame, 15 Minutes, and Postscript

Here I thought I had finished the "shrimp boil" controversy with this post. The story was all about how a consortium of law firms encouraging minority recruitment, Twin Cities Diversity in Practice, was dragging its feet on allowing the Maslon Edelman firm to join. Three of Maslon's lawyers had represented plaintiffs in a challenge to the University of Michigan's affirmative action policies. Around the same time, TCDIP held an "authentic Cajun shrimp boil" for which the invitation limited attendance to minority law students and minority attorneys.

The Minnesota Lawyer decided to keep the issue going with a story about the former head of TCDIP:

Judge Leung resigns from board of Twin Cities diversity group
Maslon firm's application to join remains in limbo.
By Barbara L. Jones | October 23, 2006

Hennepin County District Court Judge Tony Leung has resigned his post as chair of the board of a local nonprofit group promoting the recruitment and employment of attorneys of color in the Twin Cities.

The Twin Cities Diversity in Practice (TCDIP) group — which is composed of 19 local law firms and nine other businesses — came under media scrutiny when Minnesota Lawyer broke the story that the group had tabled an application for membership by Maslon, Edelman, Borman and Brand, the 13th biggest law firm in the state. The decision was made after the Minnesota Black Lawyers Association expressed concerns about admitting Maslon because of the firm's role in representing white plaintiffs in a challenge to the University of Michigan's use of affirmative action in its admissions policies. (See, "The Diversity Divide," in the Aug. 28, 2006, issue of Minnesota Lawyer.)

Following up on the Maslon story, attorney Peter Swanson reported on his blog that last July TCDIP sponsored an "authentic Cajun shrimp boil" that was exclusively for minority lawyers and minority law students.

Both of TCDIP's actions proved highly controversial and drew some negative press coverage. Critics expressed outrage at the treatment of Maslon and at the idea of sponsoring an event to which whites were not invited. TCDIP supporters countered that the actions were justified and in the best interests of the group's mission of attracting lawyers and law students of color to Minnesota.

In a recent interview with Minnesota Lawyer, Leung said that he had told his fellow board members in a memo that he had decided to step down after examining recent events. Leung also told the board, "Although the torch has passed, I remain steadfastly supportive of the board's mission."

Leung declined to elaborate on his statements or provide the memo to Minnesota Lawyer. He did say that his decision to leave the board was made in the "context" of articles that had been written about TCDIP in Minnesota Lawyer and other publications.

* * *

[article continues with stuff about the Maslon application]

* * *

Leung hopes that the good work of TCDIP won't get overlooked.

"I hope there's room to write about some good things," the judge told Minnesota Lawyer. "We've put together a unique collaboration. We've done some unique things to promote the Twin Cities generally."

Me: Here's an idea for getting the media to write some good things about your organization -- Stop demonizing lawyers for representing unpopular clients and stop having racially exclusive events!

Monday, October 23, 2006

Shrimps, Boils, and No More Teasers

The final installment of the anonymous comment is here. In the first installment, the anonymous commenter chided me for misrepresenting the fact that the "Cajun Shrimp Boil" was racially exclusive. Then there was this post in which a group of lawyers defended the exclusive nature of the event. In the post analyzing the second paragraph of the comment, I explained how there was nothing extreme about opposing affirmative action, and that a large percentage -- possibly a majority -- of Michigan voters feel the same way, for example. This was all in the context of excluding a law firm from a minority recruiting consortium because three of its lawyers had represented the plaintiffs in the University of Michigan affirmative action lawsuit.

Here is the rest of the comment:

Finally, you are forgetting (or perhaps you are just ignorant of)the fact that Twin Cities Diversity in Practice is a consortium of law firms and corporations in Minnesota. Minority bar organizations do not have a vote on who is or is not invited to be a member of this organization. The fact is that Maslon's law firm peers - Dorsey, Faegre, Briggs and the like - decided against Maslon's admission after taking the debate to their own diversity committees. As such, the "majority" also find Maslon's representation of anti-affirmative action plaintiffs counterproductive to the goals of the organization. It became obvious to most people that Maslon's push to be in TCDIP was not motivated by a genuine desire to promote diversity and affirmative action. In fact, they were the only large law firm that declined to submit an application when the group first formed. They only became interested in the organization after many of its corporate clients - who ironically are part of TCDIP - demanded it. If you don't believe me, check the date of the Maslon application and compare it to the others.

Perhaps you should do a little more fact-checking before you begin spreading inaccuracies that are libelous.

P.S. I wholeheartedly agree with your statement that not all minority attorneys think alike. Many of us actually remember that we have benefited from affirmative action policies at some point in our lives - either directly or indirectly through our ancestors. In fact, even though you'd loathe to admit it, I'm positive that you have as well. At least some of us remember not to pull up the ladder behind us.

P.P.S. I suspect that you won't print this, but who knows, you might actually have some redeeming qualities after all if you do.

Me: There is so much to respond to. In the case of excluding Maslon from the group and in the case of excluding whites from the shrimp boil, the commenter wants to have it both ways. 1) We didn't do it; and 2) we were perfectly justified in doing it.

On the question of "pull[ing] up the ladder behind" myself, please note that I did not express an opinion regarding affirmative action. However, the commenter provides ammunition for those who say that affirmative action creates a stigma. What does the commenter know about my grades and test scores? That is exactly reason that some opponents cite, saying that people assume that you achieved everything as a result of affirmative action.

Finally, I did post the comment, albeit in chunks, so I hope that I now have redeeming qualities.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (early Thursday Edition)

This is a special Thursday edition of open thread Friday. I intend to finish up this shrimp boil business soon, possibly tomorrow.

Until then, tell me your thoughts on whatever topic.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Siskel, Ebert, and You

What does this blog do that is particularly effective? This is not an opportunity for you to suggest a pet issue that I should write about, but a chance for you to say what you have liked in the past.

So what I gotten right over the past 18 months or so, when I started blogging every day?

Enter your review in the comment section below.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Predictions, Endorsements, and October Surprises

I have two predictions:

1. In the next three weeks, 60 Minutes will have at least one more "October Surprise" report designed to affect the election.

2. The Star Tribune will not endorse a Republican in a close race, either statewide, congressional, or local. Read more here, here, and here.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (10-13)

Open thread Friday. Your choice of topics.

One topic might be special situation comedy episodes on death. Last night's The Office had a good one. Rivals the "Chuckles the Clown" episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I vaguely remember the Family Ties one where Alex P. Keaton's friend was killed.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

More, More, and More Shrimp Boil

On this post, Cyborg 2000 asks:

What kind of topics do the members of this organization feel the need to disucss, where its imperative that no whites are around to hear....?

Me: People like to be with their own kind. People are, on some level, uncomfortable with those who are different. In the majority, it is properly seen as prejudice. For some in the minority, the very same prejudice is seen as "diversity." So the ordinary public scorn for people who self-segregate is missing in a segment of the minority population. White guilt will often reinforce the behavior (which explains the many white law firm partners who signed the letter justifying the exclusive shrimp boil). In addition, there is a rationalization that racism is about power, so no minority could ever be guilty of racism.
Computers, Dorms, and Affirmative Action

The recent Supreme Court ruling on affirmative action upheld the University of Michigan's "critical mass" plan for racial minorities for the purpose of "diversity." In part, the Court tells us that diversity requires enough minorities so that individual minorities will not feel like they are the only spokesman for their race's point of view. Moreover, if there are enough minorities, the white students will learn that there is not one single point of view per racial group, but a variety. So the rationale behind diversity (which rescues a racial spoils system that would otherwise be unconstitutional) rests largely on its effect on the white students.

That said, here are two links:

Minorities are moving toward online distance learning.

The University of Minnesota has created special dormitory and advising communities for certain ethnicities.

In the comment section below, tell me what these two developments have to do with the Michigan affirmative action case. Talk amongst yourselves. DISCUSS!

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Shrimp, Shrimp, and Shrimp

If you have read this blog within the last month, you know about the controversy over the Twin Cities Diversity in Practice (TCDIP) law firm consortium designed to recruit and retain minority attorneys. In the name of diversity, the group co-sponsored a "Cajun Shrimp Boil" whose invitation was apparently designed to limit attendees to minorities.

On the one hand, it is reported that whites did attend the event. This was used to disprove the complaints by others (initially, I merely linked to the invitation) that the event was racially exclusive. However, this was contradicted by those who defended the right to hold an exclusive event so that minorities could feel free to speak their minds. I explained the apparent inconsistency by saying that some "crashers" probably did not read the invitation very closely. Who goes to a bar association event and wonders which color of people are welcome?

I received the following comment from Mahan:

So, all the foofawraw about this event, all the sound and fury, then, really did signify nothing!

Amazing. Simply amazing. I wonder if the attendees felt stifled by the presence of the crashers?

Me: I respectfully disagree. Someone made the invitation racially exclusive, probably on purpose. This was not a very public decision (at least someone has some shame), which explains the fact that they can't keep their story straight. Not everyone was in on the decision. Some defend the right to have racially exclusive events, others claim that they intended no such thing.

Because they were not vocal about the restricted nature of the invitation, enforcement was lax. But that does not change the fact that someone apparently tried to make it "whites not allowed."

Monday, October 09, 2006

Flame, Black Horse, and Cherry Tree

I have a comment from Mahan that I will address presently. In the meantime, I have found two new songs using the Bo Diddley beat.

Black Horse and the Cherry Tree (woo hoo, sounds like Annie Lennox)
by Tunstall

His Latest Flame
sung by Elvis Presley

Keep 'em coming.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Posts, Promises, and Lies

OK. I know I promised to wrap up the shrimp boil stuff (see all the posts below), but I got a great new comment to an earlier post:

What interests me, if I may return to the topic of the invitation for a moment, is the fact that it reads, and I quote:

"This event is for minority attorneys, minority summer associates and minority law students.

No other guests please."

Now, if your anonymous commenter was correct, and there were white guests attending this shrimp boil, then what was the point of this invitation? If it's aimed solely to allow minorities an environment where they can speak freely in the company of other miorities, why were the white guests invited there at all? That seems to me to defeat the purpose of having, as the signers of that letter put it, "some of the organization’s activities...directed specifically and exclusively at attorneys of color."

The organizers of this event cannot have it both ways. Either the invitation was for minorities or it was not. If it was for minorities only, then they should admit as much and take their lumps for it (what lumps they will take; personally, I don't see the Star-Tribune getting too hot and bothered about this). If it wasn't, then they should admit they screwed up the invitation and deal with the consequences, instead of this heavy-handed attempt at damage control after the fact.

Me: They crashed. Who reads the fine print of a flyer? Plus there are a lot of summer law clerk events that are word of mouth. I think that no one would think to ask whether certain races were excluded. So the invitation was exclusive, but I suspect that there was no one at the door keeping people out.

We will finish this up next week, I promise.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Stay tuned for the final installment of the anonymous shrimp boil letter. Look at the posts below to recap the earlier installments.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Cajun, Controversial, and Comments

In this post, I dissected the first paragraph of an anonymous comment I received. The topic is a social event for the legal community apparently restricted to minorities only. The second paragraph deals with the exclusion of a law firm from Twin Cities Diversity in Practice because three of its lawyers represented the plaintiffs in a challenge to affirmative action:

Obviously, you do not see the irony that an organization that works to end affirmative action actually wants to join an organization that promotes affirmative action. Perhaps you are not curious about the motives, but those of us who work tirelessly to promote minority recruitment and retention are puzzled by Maslon's change of heart. Mr. Purdy has on numerous occasions stated that he personally wants to work to abolish affirmative action. He made these inflammatory statements at a Hennepin County Bar Association CLE. He has never once separated himself from Maslon when making these statements, and when asked, Maslon has not separated itself from these statements either.

Me: In November, voters in Michigan will go to the polls and decide whether state government agencies will be allowed to use affirmative action. This would include state colleges and universities, essentially reversing the policy that was challenged in the recent Supreme Court lawsuit. The referendum may very well win. But let us assume that it is roundly defeated, say 80% against and 20% in favor. Does that mean that it is not a legitimate position to be opposed to affirmative action? The real vote totals will be much closer than that. Affirmative action proponents have worked hard to keep it off the ballot, suggesting that they are afraid it might win. But win or lose, being against affirmative action is a mainstream position. It is troubling that there are prominent lawyers who characterize honest disagreement as "inflammatory."

Even if the three lawyers who took on the litigation are the only people at Maslon Edelman to oppose affirmative action, the firm would be on shaky legal ground to try to distance themselves from their clients' aims. If the plaintiffs in the affirmative action cases hear Maslon attorneys attacking their goals, they will wonder whose side the firm is on. The best (and perhaps only) course of action is to keep quiet if a lawyer disagrees with a particular client that his firm represents.

Whether there is an inconsistency between Maslon's actions in the Michigan cases and its desire to join a minority recruiting consortium depends on one's perspective. Opponents of affirmative action may view recruiting initiatives such as Twin Cities Diversity in Practice as the perfect way to ensure equal opportunity, without resorting to quotas. And it is interesting for the TCDIP folks to talk about irony, given their position on the "minorities only" shrimp boil.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Black, White, and Red-Handed (Get Your Story Straight Edition)

In the post below, I highlighted a conflict between two versions of a racial controversy. An invitation to a "Cajun Shrimp Boil" clearly seemed to tell white people that they were not welcome. An anonymous comment on this blog took me to task for my "patently false" representations. Initially, I only linked to the invitation and allowed people to make up their own minds. I also noted that an angry phone caller to another person involved in the story defended the racially restrictive invitation on the grounds that minorities would not be able to speak freely at an integrated event.

The plot thickens with a letter to the editor in the September 25, 2006 Minnesota Lawyer:

As lawyers with some of the large firms that have formed Twin Cities Diversity in Practice, we believe recent media coverage critical of the organization has been unfair. We do not speak for the organization or for our law firms, but only as individuals who are deeply committed to the goal of increasing the diversity of the Twin Cities bar.

We personally support the organization’s mission to attract and retain attorneys of color in the Twin Cities. For that we do not apologize. We think it’s clear that fostering more diversity in our community is critical to remaining competitive and credible in the global marketplace. With that single mission, of course some of the organization’s activities are directed specifically and exclusively at attorneys of color. How could it be otherwise? We believe that an organization such as Diversity in Practice is critical to improving opportunities for attorneys of color.

One of the best tools for creating those opportunities are networking events aimed at fostering the community of diverse lawyers already here. The shrimp boil social event referred to in recent stories brought together more than 150 lawyers, judges and law students of color and was a great success in fostering community. It was no more “discriminatory” than a special event sponsored by a sports team for its season ticket holders, a university for its alumni or a social club for singles.

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that most of the lawyers in the Twin Cities’ largest law firms and largest law departments are themselves majority lawyers. We believe we are not alone among our colleagues in believing that our long-term interest is served by fostering diverse communities, generally all together, but sometimes focused on attorneys who share common backgrounds and experiences. In fact, this particular event has already enhanced dialogue between majority and minority legal colleagues to everyone’s mutual benefit.

Jennifer C. Debrow
Charlie Ferrell
Joel H. Green
B. Todd Jones
Thomas C. Kayser
Philip A. Pfaffly
John A. Satorius

Editors Note:The signers of this letter are responding individually and not as representatives of Twin Cities Diversity in Practice or their member firms.

Me: There is so much here. Anyone want to take a shot in my comment section below?
Ragin', Cajun, and Controversial

In this post, I talked about a controversy surrounding a law firm that wanted to join a minority recruiting consortium, Twin Cities Diversity in Practice (TCDIP). I did a follow-up on the controversy, including objections to an event co-sponsored by TCDIP that was billed as only for "attorneys of color."

I received the following comment on my blog. I have delayed posting it, trying to get the anonymous commenter to come forward. Here is the first paragraph:

Mr. Swanson,
Since you have identified yourself as an African-American attorney in the Star Tribune article, it is interesting that you did not attend the "controversial" cajun shrimp boil. It is pretty obvious that you did not, because if you did, then you would have seen white people at the event. Believe it or not, they [sic] were white guests. Therefore, your representations about white people not being allowed at this event are patently false. The "no other guests" provision was actually intended to discourage people from bringing non-attorney spouses and guests because this was a targeted networking event.

* * *

Me: The point is not whether white people attended or not. The fact is that they were not invited. A person involved in this story received an angry phone call from Ms. W., who is involved in one of the sponsoring organizations of the shrimp boil. Ms. W. explained that it was appropriate to limit the invitation to minority attorneys, because that was the only environment in which they could speak freely. Apparently Ms. W. did not get the talking points down before she made her call.

On the issue of whether I indentified myself as an African-American attorney, I did not. The Star Tribune did that just by looking. I try to keep myself out of the story as much as possible. Sometimes I will share an anecdote that helps the understanding of one of my posts, but that's it. In this particular instance, I did not even comment on the restricted guest list of the shrimp boil. All I did was to link to the invitation and let people read it for themselves.

At the very least, the invitation was poorly drafted so as to leave the impression that whites were not welcome. If the hosts did not intend to be racially exclusive, they should be embarrassed that they gave the impression to so many people who read it. But read the relevant portions again and decide for yourself:

This event is for minority attorneys, minority summer associates and minority law students.
No other guests, please.
Thanks in advance for helping us focus this event on networking with our peers.

Why say "minority" so many times, if the idea was to keep non-attorney spouses away?

More to follow from the anonymous comment....