Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Grow, Growth, and Cohen

News Flash: Dan Cohen protests the buyout of Doug Grow from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Recall that Grow was directly responsible for getting Cohen fired from a job where he had just landed on his feet. Cohen apologized to the former lieutenant governor whose shoplifting arrest he exposed. Maybe it's time for Grow to grow up and apologize.

To the braintrust at the Strib:

Previously, I've dwelled at length on the erosion of conservative readership for the Strib. Now, let's take a look at what is going to happen to your liberal base. As more of your experienced news staffers take the buyout, you are going to lose a lot more than you could possibly gain from, for example, a laptop full of advertsing data.

A Dane Smith is irreplaceable. He is lterally a walking encylopedia of Minnesota political history. But not only is he gone from the Daily Blab, he is reemerging in another format -- I believe it is Joel Kramer's organization -- and thus will be lending his expertise to a competitor for the very audience you have so assiduously cultivated lo these many years as the great, in depth source of all things Minnesota . But that stuff -- the essence, the minutia, the judgment -- ain't in your clip files. It's in Dane Smith's head.

Doug Grow. Jeremy Iggers. Jim Boyd. I may not agree with them-- or even like them very much-- but they have proven appeal to your customer base, and invariably they will draw some of that base away from you as they connect with competing organizations. What do I mean by competing organizations? The Citizens' League. The League of Women Floaters. MPR, Greenpeace. There are a zillion of those damn liberal beats, and that's where these people are going to wind up, converting a lifetime accumulation of local political, business, personal knowledge, sources and contacts into newsletters, blogs, websites, media formats and the like that will bring their Strib readers along with them.

Who needs you?

The people that will produce your new Bloomington friendly version are nowhere near possessing the same knowledge, experience or talent as the people you are losing. And frankly, as you are about to find out, the people in Bloomington, don't really give a damn what you have to say about them. It is a truism of the newspaper business that your most valuable assets go down the elevator every night when the paper is put to bed. Now they are going to be going down someone else's elevator, and they aren't going to forget who kicked them out the door.

Goodbye, consevative readers.

Goodbye, liberal readers.


Dan Cohen

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Cabs, Cartels, and Catchy Phrases

The Minnesota Lawyer blog makes reference to a George Will column and suggests that Mr. Will needed to be prompted to use a "catchy phrase" in reference to the artificial limitation on taxicab licenses in Minneapolis. So, is the word "cartel" so obscure that an esteemed conservative columnist would need a lawyer to clue him in to it?

Decide for yourself. Here is the definition of cartel from Black's Law Dictionary:

A combination of producers of any product joined together to control its production, sale, and price, so as to obtain a monopoly and restrict competition in any particular industry or commodity. Such exist primarily in Europe, being restricted in United States by antitrust laws. Also, an association by agreement of companies or sections of companies having common interests, designed to prevent extreme or unfair competition and allocate markets, and to promote the interchange of knowledge resulting from scientific and technical research, exchange of patent rights, and standardization of products.

Two things. One, the taxi situation in Minneapolis is not a monopoly, because more than one company is involved. Two, as the definition above shows, "cartel" is not necessarily a pejorative. It may have a connotation of big money oil on a national or international scale, such as OPEC or the competitors to Ewing Oil in Dallas, but that is a topic for another post.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Odds, Ends, and SwanBlog

Welcome to Powerline readers! Here is a link to the tribute to Memorial Day referenced in the Powerline post.

In other news, I owe a belated link to Captain Capitalism. Be sure to go there for all your charting needs.

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Friday, May 25, 2007

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (5-25-07)

Open Thread Friday. What's on your mind?


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Plaintiff, Defendant, and Insurance Company

Take a look at my comment on a Minnesota Lawyer weblog post concerning a beef from the trial lawyers.

Peter said... Um, did you interview anyone who was _opposed_ to the legislation?
May 22, 2007 6:55 PM

Anonymous said... The ads against this bill were outrageous anti-lawyer ads. Regardless of whatever merits the law change may or may not have had, the ads themselves were objectively deceptive. The premise was to demonize P.I. lawyers rather than to deal with the actual substance of what was really in the proposal. I doubt you'd find a single lawyer who would speak in favor of these ads.
May 22, 2007 9:49 PM

Peter said... Wow.
I will assume that "anonymous" (comment above) is not a journalist. Hopefully he/she is not a lawyer, either.
Are there any lawyers among the legislators who voted against it? Are there any lawyers/lobbyists for the insurance industry?

There is certainly no shortage of people who would speak against the proposed bill. I also suspect that there are people who would defend the ad.

I recall an ad by a PI firm where the viewer is put in the perspective of a mangled car wreck and a mean insurance company employee is asking the viewer to sign a document, offering to pry his/her hand free from the wreckage ("Which one do you write with?").

And then there are the lovely teacher's union "mediocrity" ads from this last election season.

Two (three) wrongs don't make a right, but let's not play the victim card too much, here.
May 23, 2007 7:48

One more thing. It's not like trial lawyers ever engage in hyperbole, right?

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Lawyers, Journalists, and Slaves

There is something seriously wrong when a story about slavery, prostitution, and human trafficking arises, and you have certain journalists who choose to focus on their favorite topics of the U.S. Attorney controversy and immigration. See here and here.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Gold, Silver, and Webb

Submitted for your approval. A man steals silver from his employer, bit by bit. When he was caught, the story takes a familiar twist.

When police asked Sessing where all the money had come from, he told them he had done work for his brother, that his father-in-law got him a side job doing construction and that his wife "was making all kinds of money with the company she worked for," Jensen said.

Police later took a more hardball approach, telling Sessing they would be questioning his relatives and executing search warrants.

"He says, 'OK, this is too much. They're not involved at all,' " Jensen said. " 'It's all me.' I think part of the embarrassment of getting his entire family involved in his problem was probably the key."

So what, you ask? Well it just seems that law enforcement putting family pressure on suspects was deemed to be unfair during the Whitewater investigation, especially that of Webb Hubbell. Is it a fair/common tactic or not? Remember this quote?

Hubbell accused the Starr's office of trying to pressure him. [Me: Imagine that.]

"Obviously, it's apparent to me that they think by indicting my wife and my friends that I will lie about the president and the first lady," an emotional Hubell said. "I will not do so. And my wife would not want me to do so.

"I want you to know that the Office of Independent Counsel can indict my dog, they can indict my cat, but I'm not going to lie about the president," Hubbell said. "I'm not going to lie about the first lady or anyone else. My wife and I are innocent of the charges that have been brought today."

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Bedrest, Aspirin, and Politics

How dare he! Then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales visited a seriously ill John Ashcroft (then the attorney general) to try to get Ashcroft to overrule the acting AG, James Comey on a point of legal disagreement.

First of all, I think we should calm down a bit on things that did not happen. Whether it is early drafts of firing lists or legal and political wrangling within the administration, the end result should garner more attention than the process. In some ways, this and other controversies could be seen as evidence that the system works.

But the most silly thing about this controversy is the supposed outrage that they visited Ashcroft in the hospital. Does anyone remember then-Senator Pete Wilson being wheeled into the Capitol Building in 1985 after appendix surgery so that he could vote on military funding? Or the alleged deathbed conversation between William Casey and Bob Woodward? The hospital is far from sacrosanct. I once called a client from my hospital bed to get him to follow up on a matter (The morphine had long-since worn off, but not necessarily the Percoset).

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (5-18-07)

You know the deal. It's Open Thread Friday!


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Lurking, Legislating and Safety II

To continue yesterday's discussion of anti-lurking laws, I should point out one area of disagreement that I have with the Minnesota Lawyer blog post on this subject (I say this as a fan of the post's author, Barbara Jones, and of the publication in general). For starters, let's look at the title of the post:

Lurking: Let’s eliminate the thought police

The "thought police" reference comes from the fact that the actual offense is "lurking with intent," although you have to read the Minneapolis Star Tribune article (or presumably the Council on Crime and Justice study, if you can wade through the Council's website to find it) to learn this fact. Jones' post doesn't provide a link to the lurking study itself or to the news reports about it. Blogging pointers aside (I am sure I would need pointers writing for a weekly newspaper), I disagree with the notion that reference to "intent" in criminal law is something unusual or Orwellian. From law school, I can recall general intent crimes and specific intent crimes. Aren't there laws proscribing drug possession with intent to distribute?

There is something to this, though. In addition to criminal culpability and greater penalties based on intent, there is a new (going on 20 years) trend of punishing motive for crimes. To clarify, intent determines what you meant to do. Motive determines why you did it. These new "hate crimes" laws do more than distinguish between an accident and purposeful behavior (which is mainly why the criminal justice system looks at intent), they seek too add punishment for having the wrong attitude about a certain group while committing the crime.

It would be difficult to make the case that merely having intent as an element of a crime raises the spectre of "thought police." However, there is a real debate "lurking" over these new so-called hate crimes. That is where we should focus our energies.

Finally, on the subject of the thought police, Ralph Remington of the Minneapolis City Council favors keeping the lurking ordinance, but advocates a different solution.

.... Police officers should be mandated to have yearly psychological exams along with their already required yearly physicals. Police officers should also be mandated to have muscular, robust, cultural sensitivity training. If we direct our energy toward creating policies and best practices with teeth, we can truly start to whittle away at some of the racial disparities in our criminal justice system. On the other hand, it is completely wrongheaded to take away tools that good police officers need in order to execute their jobs.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Lurking, Legislating, and Safety

Here is the sequence of events:

1. May 7 - Minneapolis Star Tribune reports on opposition to the ordinances in Minneapolis and St. Paul that prohibit "lurking."

2. May 8 - The Minnesota Lawyer weblog strongly opposes the lurking ordinances in the Twin Cities.

3. May 10 - A Roseville man is arrested for lurking near a day care. After police are called, it is discovered that he has a knife. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports, as does the St. Paul Pioneer Press:

Police find man with 16-inch knife lurking at Roseville daycare center
Pioneer Press Press
Article Last Updated:05/15/2007 01:49:40 PM CDT

A Roseville man found lurking at a church daycare center with a 16-inch knife tucked in his trench coat pocket now faces criminal charges.

Prosecutors charged Richard Christopher Petterson, 34, with one felony count of possessing a dangerous weapon on school property.

Petterson showed up at Lake Ridge Child Care at the Prince of Peace Church in Roseville around 6:30 a.m. Thursday, according to a Ramsey County criminal complaint. Petterson approached day care occupants while children were present. Petterson, dressed in a long trench coat and mumbling, appeared intoxicated, the complaint states.

Staff, fearing for the children's safety, called police. A Roseville officer found Petterson walking near the daycare. The officer ordered Petterson to stop but the suspect kept walking. The officer pulled his gun and ordered Petterson to the ground.

* * *

To be fair, it is not clear that he was arrested specifically for lurking or whether Roseville even has such a law. But this story does add something to the discussion of lurking ordinances.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Christians, Disabilities, and Power

News Flash. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Doug Grow, it is OK to ridicule Christians, because Christians "represent power."

Well, sometimes BNW has a pretty good idea what will offend. For example, it's had productions with such titles as "Ripped Off the Cross! The Last Crusade of Bill B'Jesus."

Not surprisingly, some Christians weren't amused. But Christians, and other groups pilloried by BNW, represent power. Mental disability equals powerlessness.

Caleb McEwen, BNW's artistic director, said he can't be too concerned about offending.

"We have the right to be wrong'

"People have the right to be offended and we have the right to be wrong," McEwen said. "If we can't use the word 'retard,' does that mean we should not use idiot, moron, or crazy, either? Eventually, we can't say anything."

McEwen pointed out that the word "celebretard" is never used in the script.

But that, according to Sherry Gray, is part of the problem.

Gray, a St. Paul woman who is guardian for her sister, who has intellectual disabilities, is the person who put a national spotlight on the title. She saw an ad for the production and posted her thoughts -- "This is wrong" -- on an international website for people who have family members with disabilities. Not surprisingly, most of the website users share her despair.

"It's the use in the title, with no context, that bothers me," Gray said. "I'd like to see them change the title. But if they can't do that, I hope this can at least be a teachable moment."

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Monday, May 14, 2007

Secrets, Security, and Soft Targets

I have little insight to add in the way of specifics to the foiled Fort Dix terror plot. To paraphrase Woody Allen, we should not ask why it almost happened, we should ask why it does not happen more often.

There is an assumption that Fort Dix is so secure that no serious terrorist would dare try an attack. That may be a faulty assumption, given that Fort Dix is no longer an active duty base. And even so, one of the alleged plotters had a legitimate reason to be on the base, delivering pizzas.

In my opinion, the reason we do not see more of these attacks is that we are not going to withdraw from New Jersey. Even though there are many more "soft" targets in a given American city than there are overseas, a domestic attack would strengthen our resolve rather than weaken it.

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (5-17-07)

It's Open Thread Friday again. Your thoughts are welcome in the comment block below.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

America, Somalia, and Africa

I meant to have some fun with the use of the term "African American," but not applying it to Somalis. Which continent is Somalia located in, anyway? What color are Somalis?

The first reference is in my post on the Hopkins School District from this week. The second is from a story on a Minnesota high school "Diversity Team" with this quote:

The Asian students hang out in the upper C hallway. Black students hang out in the nurse's foyer, Somali students in the English foyer, and white kids at the senior stair.

* * *

For years, the Diversity Team would give four all-school performances annually: one each on African, African-American, Hispanic and Asian culture. Performances included dancing, music, spoken word and other acts.

The third is from a story about another Minnesota high school:

To visit the Roosevelt cafeteria is to witness the cultural apartheid. Somali girls gather on one side of the room, apart from the Somali boys, the Asian kids, the whites and the African-Americans.

I was going to use this story about violence at the Mall of America. As recently as 8:16PM on Saturday, the Minneapolis Star Tribune website story read thusly:

And in April 2001, a 14-year-old boy was stabbed in the chest in Camp Snoopy during a fight between African-American and Somali teens.

However, the final story carried no reference to race or nationality.

And in April 2001, a 14-year-old boy was stabbed in a fight in Camp Snoopy.

Ordinarily, I would tweak the Minneapolis newspaper for its political correctness. But in this case, the specific race of the victim and assailants was not relevant. However, they could have stated that it was racially/ethnically motivated, which would suggest a greater danger or seriousness of the problem at the mall.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Coke, Pepsi, and Lileks

What are the chances that the Minneapolis Star Tribune is trying to pull a "New Coke" by assigning James Lileks as a beat reporter instead of a columnist?

There are some who believe that Coca Cola introduced New Coke in the 1980s knowing that it would fail, thus energizing the old brand. Is the Strib smart enough to do the same with its columnists?

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Black, White, and Stereotyped All Over

I need your help on this one. There might be some stereotyping and SBOLE (soft bigotry of low expectations) in this story from a local community newspaper about the Hopkins (Minn.) School District's efforts to close the racial achievement gap in its schools. I can't tell.

Nancy Marcy is a physical education teacher at Hopkins High School and a member of the school's equity team, a group of administrators, teachers and district staff working to abolish the achievement gap between white students and students of color.

Part of the problem, she said, is something called institutional racism.

"Institutional racism is really subtle," Marcy said. "Many of us wouldn't even notice it unless someone pointed it out."

For example, she challenged, what does a perfect classroom look like? Is it noisy? Are students moving? "Many adults would say that if a class is quiet, that's a good class," said Marcy. "But what's considered too much noise?"

As a gym teacher, Marcy willingly admits her tolerance for noise probably outweighs that of other adults. Yet she insists activity, and the noise it creates, are necessary in today's diverse classrooms.

"When they get excited in the classroom, students of color speak up. They want to turn and process with their neighbors," Marcy said.

"Many African-American students," Marcy continued, "come from a culture that values collectivity. It's really important for students of color to be supportive of their friends and to feel supported. For them, working as a small group, teaching one another and putting their names together on a project is really important."

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Hip, Hip, and Hooray!

Every once in awhile, someone says it better than I ever could. In the ongoing restroom debate, Mahan sums it up nicely.

Mahan said... Let me see if I understand this question/issue correctly, then:

Legislation is proposed that will force private property owners to allow persons who suffer from Crohn's to use their restroom. This legislation is opposed as government interference in an area where it really shouldn't go (no pun intended). The opposition is a matter of conscience (as shown in the original post). The idea that legislation involving a medical condition might be opposed calls down the fury of the self-appointed guardians of the moral high ground to berate those who oppose this bill, who have already indicated that they can't see anyone not allowing a sufferer to NOT use their restroom.

So far, so good. Par for the course. Now, the question arises, how can this sin be redeemed? Aha! The penitent should donate monies! However, there arises a problem; after all is said and done, the Self-Appointed Guardian of The Moral High Ground (SAGTMHG) has apparently chosen a charity that is also a lobbying group. This does not appear to be charity to members of the penitent, so no monies are forthcoming. The SAGTMHG pours forth its scorn and retreats to the safety of the MHG, secure in the knowledge of its own virtue.

Does that sound about right?

May 04, 2007 5:33 PM


Friday, May 04, 2007

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (5-4-07)

It's Open Thread Friday again!


Thursday, May 03, 2007

Bathrooms, Bathrooms, and Blogs II

MN Observer is still at it. Here is a comment on my previous assertion that the "challenge" by MN Observer to donate to her Crohn's charity might be objectionable because the organization lobbies for the very legislation that many have opposed.

No, you folks were supposed to donate, and I set up a third party - Flash - who was acceptacle to Mr. Bordkorb as the fiscal agent. Mr. Brodkorb assured me that the generosity of his colleagues was so great that the $100 goal would be reached "very quickly."

Flash received not one penny from Mr. Bordkorb's friends, the ones who insisted that they had nothing against Crohn's sufferers.

Stingy is a word that comes to mind.

To review, the issue was not the fiscal agent. The issue was whether the money would go for lobbying. Don't expect cooperation in a charity effort if your first resort is to insult your fundraising partners.


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Converts, Catholics, and Coleman

Nick Coleman wants you at Catholic mass. I am not sure that he wants you to convert to Catholicism, just so long as you show up.

Let me explain. In his latest Minneapolis Star Tribune column, Coleman laments that fact that Lutherans and Catholics have different beliefs (a pesky little 500 year-old problem). Specifically, he cites the generous offer of a Lutheran church in St. Peter, Minn. to share space with the local Cathoic parish after the latter lost its church building to a tornado. Together they celebrated mass, including communion, under the extraordinary circumstances. The problem was that they continued the practice of joint services every Easter for years, even after the church was rebuilt. The higher ups in the Catholic church stopped the practice. Nick wanted them to keep up the hybrid church service.

SwanBlog readers will recall that Nick Coleman expressed delight on seeing a Muslim (not just a person of Arab or Middle Eastern descent, but a practicing Muslim) at Christmas Eve mass in 2004. It is great to find common ground and to pursue ecumenical goals, but one wonders whether Coleman thinks that there are any differences between individual religious denominations that are worth preserving.

UPDATE: I fixed the second paragraph to reflect that it was the Catholic church that was hit by the tornado.