Thursday, January 25, 2018

Question to Henn Co Attorney Freeman: What's so funny 'bout integrity, competence and accountability?

I awoke this morning to the radio news reporting that Hennepin County faux attorney Mike Freeman in a gutless 180 degree turn about will now call a grand jury in the shooting death of Australian citizen Justine Ruszczyk at the hands of rookie Minneapolis Police officer Mohamed Noor.  Freeman who is the same prosecutor who refused to press any charges against the Metro Gang Strike Force despite admissions by the officers that they held a "file burning party" when they learned they were under investigation or against the officers who executed a suspect turned hostage following a police chase despite dash cam video evidence.  I could not help but break out in song, with apologies to Nick Lowe:

As I walk through
This wicked world
Searchin' for light in the darkness of insanity
I ask myself
Is all hope lost?
Is there only pain and hatred, and misery?

And each time I feel like this inside
There's one thing I wanna know:
What's so funny 'bout integrity, competence and accountability? Ohhhh
What's so funny 'bout integrity, competence and accountability?

And as I walked on
Through troubled times
My spirit gets so downhearted sometimes
So where are the strong
And who are the trusted?
And where is the hypocrisy?
Sweet hypocrisy

'Cause each time I feel it slippin' away, just makes me wanna cry
What's so funny 'bout integrity, competence and accountability? Ohhhh
What's so funny 'bout integrity, competence and accountability?

So where are the strong?
And who are the trusted?
And where is the hypocrisy?
Sweet hypocrisy

'Cause each time I feel it slippin' away, just makes me wanna cry
What's so funny 'bout integrity, competence  and accountability? Ohhhh
What's so funny 'bout integrity, competence  and accountability? Ohhhh what's so fun about integrity, competence  and accountability

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Results of President Trump's Physical Examination

The German cartoonist who posted this on Facebook had his account suspended for 30 days.  Apparently meddling in U.S. election is ok but satire is verbotten.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Days That I Keep My Gratitude Higher Than My Expectations Are Good Days

This time of year is particularly hard for those like me who suffer from depression related conditions (e.g. SAD, Bi-Polar, Manic Depression). To those who know of what I speak, as the days grow shorter and everyone else is swept up in the holiday season, socializing and good cheer, all of this make people like myself turn extremely dark, cynical  and morose.  The fact that other people are enjoying themselves only makes it worse.  Coming into work today I was handed one of the sloganeering cards that are handed out from time to time.  I accepted it as usual with a nod and read it on the elevator ride up to my work station.  "Gratitude changes everything" I read, yeah right, they ripped this one off from the great Ray Wylie Hubbard I thought to myself.  Years ago, at the end of an incredible performance of Mother Blues on the Letterman show, Ray Wylie lets the audience in on the fact that the song he just performed was in fact a true, autobiographical tale, ending with the quote which is the title of this blog entry.

This just seemed to worsen what was already a bad day for me.  As I began to take calls and chats as a things got better because I could focus on something other than myself and help others which is greatly comforting.  As the morning progressed, my mood started to lift like the early morning light of dawn.  By lunch time I was feeling a little better but not out of the woods by any means.  It was only until I saw that the Boca Chica was serving my favorite meal today, their incredible deep fried tacos, that my mood turned the corner and I could reflect on that card I was handed without cynicism.

 I am truly grateful for all my colleagues here at work; for the staff at our Cafeterias, the convenience store and the security desk who may not be aware of the difference they make in the lives of their fellow employees.  I could never thank these people face to face but every once in a while I get an opportunity to express my gratitude and it truly makes an incredible difference.  For instance over the Thanksgiving Holiday weekend I had been sick and did not get invited to a holiday dinner.  Instead I worked that weekend and hearing of this, a good friend in the restaurant business decided to brighten my day by delivering a home cooked meal to me at work during my weekend shift. When my friend called to get directions and make sure I was here, I thanked him profusely and told him the only way his kind gift could be any cooler would be if he fixed up a second meal for the person manning the security desk.  The only thing better than the taste of my friends home made meatloaf, real mashed potatoes, vegetables, roll, iced tea and pie was the look on the security guard's face when he learned that one of the meals was for him!  Gratitude and giving.  Try it sometime.  It truly makes a difference!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

"Shame, Shame, Shame": What Jim "Gomer Pyle" Nabors would say to Senate Republicans if he were still alive.

The Republicans used their positions of power and influence last night to commit a carnal act so despicible it can only be described as the financial gang rape of America.  After a total of 0 committee hearings and the most minimal of debate, the GOP singlehandedly (with a straight party line vote) made permanent the financial class caste system in America.

Like a sick, perverse high school sophomore who is self-impressed by the whopping size of a single turd he left behind in the high school boy's room, the senior gangster from the not so Commonwealth (that's a good one) of Kentucky crowed "... this is just the beginning, after repaying the rich for years of legalized bribery..." the chinless turtle McConnell chirped, "...we will not rest until we have full restoration of the antebellum plantation system with the long term goal of turning the United States of America, which the party's first candidate for nationwide office, Abraham Lincoln, once called "...the last best hope on Earth...", into a feudal system with the American people serving as the permanent serf class to the Putin-Trump oligarchs.

As a public service to the Republican and Trump base and the Fox News audience here is what the GOP Tax Reform Act act of 1217 A.D. popularly known as "Taxes, Sodomy and the Lash" will really do to America:

Senator Michael Bennet, D. Colorado

Thank you, Mr. President. I have a few minutes today of time on the floor, so I want to be relatively brief. I want to share with you a chart that shows what's actually happening as a result of this proposed tax bill.

Here's what's happening. There are 572,000 taxpayers. That's about half a million taxpayers in America that are fortunate enough to make more than $1 million a year. As a result of this proposed plan, they will receive $34 billion in tax cuts. They'll receive $34 billion in tax cuts this year, next year, the year after that. That's an average tax cut of roughly $59,000 a person. $34 billion going to 572,000 taxpayers.

What about the middle-class people that the republicans claim this bill is about? Well, there are 90 million taxpayers. Not half a million. 90 million taxpayers that make $50,000 or less. You know what they get under this bill, Mr. President? They don't get $34 billion. By the way, if you include that estate tax, that number is $39 billion, $40 billion. They get $14 billion. That's an average tax cut per taxpayer of $160 a year. And that's in 2019. That's the best year that these guys have.

After that it goes negative. $160 a taxpayer is equivalent to $7.50 a paycheck. I suppose in one year one could say there's a $7.50 tax cut a paycheck, that doesn't sound like a tax bill that's a middle-class tax bill to me. These are the tax cut levels under the republican plan. Also in 2019, this is the $59,000 number. If you're making between $40,000 and $50,000, you get there $492. If you're making between $10,000 and $20,000, you get $8 and so on and so forth. There is nothing about the tax cut proposal.

I was asked by somebody today how could these republicans go home and explain in the states that Donald Trump won, how could they explain that they voted -- that they didn't vote for this tax bill? When I was saying I think we still have a chance to defeat this tax bill. They said how can you say that? How can somebody go home? I can't wait to go home to rural counties in my state that voted 80% for Donald Trump, 75% for Donald Trump, and tell them that I voted against this tax bill. My only regret is I won't be able to tell them I voted against it twice. They're not stupid. People in Washington think that somehow by selling something based on percentages or selling something based on rates that people aren't going to understand what's actually happening to their after-tax income. My farmers and ranchers will understand that. They voted for a guy who said he was going to Washington to drain the swamp. They voted for a guy who said he was going to go to Washington and not help the rich people or the rich, as the president says. They voted for a guy who said that he was going to defend, support, fight for what he called the forgotten man. It turns out that when the rubber hits the road, we see the same movie that was happening before he got here, unless you want to argue that the forgotten man is making more than $1 million in an economy where people at the top earn more of that economy than they ever have, at least since 1928, if you want to make that argument, you can.

My farmers and ranchers won't believe you. They will not believe that argument. This is a disgraceful bait and switch. And wait till you have to tell them that in order to make that tax cut for the wealthiest people in America, you're going to borrow the money from their children. You're going to borrow the money from the children of people here to pay for the tax cuts at this end. You're going to borrow the money through teachers' children and police officers' children and firefighters' children. You're going to blow a $1.5 trillion to $2.5 trillion deficit. Today j.p. Morgan came out. J.P. Morgan came out and said this will result in the largest nonrecession deficit this country has ever had since world war ii. That's what J.P. Morgan said.

We do have problems in this economy. In Colorado, we've got problems because even though we've got one of the most dynamic economies in the country, middle-class families are still having a hard time paying for early childhood education. They're having a hard time paying for housing. They're having a hard time paying for higher education, which this bill makes even worse. They're having a hard time paying for health care, which this bill makes even worse. You can't even make it up.

They're taking health care away from 13 million Americans in a tax bill. And the congressional budget office tells us that because of the tax cuts they are producing here for the wealthiest Americans, there's going to be an automatic cut to Medicare of $25 billion in January. So I say let's go out to those 80% Trump counties and 70% Trump counties in Colorado and have a debate. They are not going to like what's in this plan. They will hate what's in this plan. It's the opposite of what they were told they were voting for. And so what I would implore my colleagues is, before I yield the floor, is that we stop this. Let's stop this bill. This bill doesn't deserve to be on the floor of the senate. It's a disgrace.

There was not a single hearing in the committee of jurisdiction, the finance committee, about this bill. Not one hearing about a bill that touches every recess of our economy. It touches every household in our economy. It's been 31 years since we did tax reform, and back then we did it right, in a bipartisan way. This time we don't even have the decency to have a single hearing so the American people can hear what's in this bill and make a judgment about whether it's a good bill or not a good bill. And I’m telling you, I know what they're going to say when they know what the details are.

We should stop this, and we should work in a bipartisan way. My colleague from Florida is here on the floor, and I know how important the child tax credit is to him. And my colleague from Utah. It's important to me too. That's the basis for a deal. I believe that the corporate rate is not competitive with the rest of the world. That's the basis for a deal. But borrowing money from middle-class taxpayers to finance $34 billion in tax cuts for 572,000 people is not a basis for a deal. And the American people are not going to be fooled by this. They're too smart for this. Mr. President, I yield the floor.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Congratulations to St. Paul on Electing Mel Carter its Next Mayor

As a native Minneapolitan who has never lived in any other city in Minnesota, nor wanted to, for the first time in my life I am envious of our neighbors to the East.  It should come as no surprise to any long time reader ot the Great Roll Call that I wholeheartedly endorsed Mel Carter for Mayor of St. Paul and that was even before the racist smear campaign waged by the Police Federation that backfired so spectacularly and blew back in the face of the cops handpicked lackey, Pat Harris.  In what was believed to be a tight race, Mr. Carter, a former St. Paul City Council member, absolutely trounced the benefactor of the St. Paul Police Federation's failed attempt to hijack the election by approximately a 2-1 margin in votes.

But Mel Carter's success cannot be attributed solely to the police union's stupidity, rather Mr. Carter is a principled man of substance who believes in investing in St. Paul, its infrastructure and people.  Mel first came to my attention back in 2008 during the build up to the Republican National Convention which was held in St. Paul that summer.  The city was inundated with cries for law and order and a debate arose over how to spend nearly a quarter of a million dollars of the public's money.  The St. Paul Police Department wanted to blow it on more tasers.  This caught my attention and I could not resist speaking out on the topic.  I reprint below 3 of my posts from those times which include my interactions with then City Council member Carter.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Re: Agenda Item for Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Proposal for St. Paul Police Dept. to Purchase an Additional 230 Tasers

During these troubled economic times of recession and budget constraints, the St. Paul Police Department is asking the city for $210,000 to buy an additional 230 Tasers so every patrol officer in the city will have a stun gun. Tom Walsh, a spokesperson for the police department claims: "Using the Taser has allowed us to take people into custody without using deadly force, without using a degree of force that would cause a police officer to use a firearm or an additional force that would leave a person injured". "So we find them to be effective and probably safer for both the police officer and the person who's being arrested," Walsh said. (See MPR article of 2/18/08.)

At first blush, if Walsh's claims are in fact true, the logic sounds reasonable and $210,000 is a very small price to pay to save even one human life, be it an officer or a citizen they are attempting to subdue. Unfortunately, reality is never so simple and neat, especially when it comes to questions of expending the public's money on safety. Fear sells. The danger, however, is build it and they will come. Buy it and they will use it, too often and with disastrous, unintended consequences.

These devices, like Officer Walsh stated, are marketed as non-lethal alternatives to firearms. Had the marketing of these devices stopped there it would have been one thing, but as with the marketing exuberance that surrounds any product, uses for the products were promoted that far exceeded the concept of an absolute last chance alternative to the use of deadly force. Soon devices such as the Taser were promoted as a means of gaining quick, safe control over a situation that use to be done through verbal commands and calm and respectful reasoning. But the old ways didn't cost money and took time. Let's face it, low tech is boring.

In today's fast paced society, we have been conditioned to strive for efficient and economical methods of performing any task. We have all seen the controlled demonstrations of stun guns on t.v. where they would solicit a volunteer from the agency or organization they were marketing the product to and hit them one time with a jolt and the person is temporarily incapacitated, but recovers in a few minutes, no less for wear, or so it seems. Therefore the decision on behalf of law enforcement to escalate to the use of devices like the Taser is no big deal. Give every officer one of these devices and the risk of misuse multiplies.

The overwhelming anecdotal evidence is that when these devices are used on persons displaying erratic, agitated behavior, whether due to the influence of mood altering substances or organic mental illnesses, precisely the type of people the product is marketed for, the results have proved to be fatal in hundreds of cases.

Just last month, a Fridley man was on the way to pick up his parents at the airport, got into a fender bender and roadside confrontation. Although 5 state troopers responded to the accident scene and presumably, with that display of force, should have been able to control the situation. For reasons that remain unknown at this point due to an ongoing investigation, the troopers resorted to the use of a stun device and the man died.

Remember the news story from last year of the Polish immigrant who did not speak English and was lost at the Vancouver airport. He actions were viewed as suspicious and reported to the Canadian Mounties who immediately escalated to the use of the stun gun when they misconstrued his inability to communicate as resisting and the man died. Fortunately a passing tourist recorded the incident with a cell phone camera, which directly contradicted the Mounties version.

With a large immigrant population in St. Paul, do we really want to rely on the fortuity of passing citizens to keep law enforcement in line if every patrol officer has one of these devices?

Furthermore, once the industry learned of the mounting death toll as a result of the use of their device, did it act responsibly? Responsible as the tobacco industry. If you think I exaggerate, just see National Public Radio reporter Laura Sullivan's excellent two-part series from February 26 and 27, 2007 entitled
Death by Excited Delirium: Diagnosis or Cover-up?

Here is some food for thought from the attorney who established police takings liability in the state of Minnesota: you are opening the city up to potential liability that will make the expenditure of $210,000 look like pennies. Spend the money on training, mental health issues and more cops. It may be low tech and not very sexy, but at least you won't be raising taxes to pay millions in damages and attorney fees to people like me.
Posted by Plainsense at 9:34 AM

Thursday, February 21, 2008

From the St. Paul Pioneer Press 02/21/2008 12:22:09 AM CST :

“In a financial public hearing that turned into a referendum on the weapon, the St. Paul City Council gave the green light for the police department to spend $210,000 in seized drug money to buy 234 Tasers. That vote was 6-1, with Council Member Melvin Carter III voting against.

But moments before, a move intended to reroute the money and spend it on summer crime prevention programs failed 4-3. Council Member Lee Helgen authored the move, and Carter and Council Member Russ Stark backed it.”

Hopefully for their sake, St. Paul City Council members Bostrom, Harris, Lantry and Thune, won’t someday look back and regret the choice they made yesterday, either because some citizen lies dead due to the unnecessary use of a Taser by a member of the St. Paul Police Department or because one of the city’s young people got mixed up with drugs, gangs and/or crime because of a lack of summer youth programs. Sadly, it is not very likely because the type of person who would choose to spend more money on weapons for the police department over summer programs for the city’s disadvantaged youth are most likely the same caliber of cynics who never see the consequences of their own actions because they are too busy pointing their privileged fingers of blame at others.

I find it ironic but not unusual that it was the son of a cop and the only person of color on the council, Melvin Carter III, who represents Ward 1, that had the background, experience and wisdom to be the sole vote in opposition to the eventual decision to spend the people’s money on more Tasers for the police. But I must say, hats off to Council Member Helgen who authored the progressive plan and Council Members Stark and the aforementioned Carter, who supported the alternative to spend the $210,000 in drug forfeiture monies on something peaceful and constructive instead of perpetuating the violence and destructiveness from which the monies came.

Unfortunately, just like this country’s foreign policy, we would rather spend money on weapons systems than on programs which project our soft power and are often much more effective.
Posted by Plainsense at 7:56 AM

Courageous Council Member Carter

From: Melvin Carter
Date: Wed, 20 Feb 2008 13:41:48 -0600
Subject: Re: Proposal to Purchase an Additional 230 Tasers

Thanks for the information... I will be voting against the
expenditure for tasers.

Melvin Carter
Council Member, Ward 1
City of Saint Paul
Posted by Plainsense at 7:42 AM

Friday, August 18, 2017

Reaction to A New Low for WCCO News For its "Hatchet Job" Story on Beloved 85 year old Local Doctor

  1. I havn't been so pissed at one of our local TV news readers since  WCCO's version of Ted Baxter,   Don "the Blues Man "Shelby opened the WCCO 10:00 PM News broadcast the night Kirby Puckett died with a repetition of criminal charges HE HAD BEEN ACQUITTED OF and was  NO LONGER NEWS having been covered to death by local news readers who traded their journalistic standards and integrity in  for some kind of Hollywood Celebrity Gossip and trash talk tabloid journalism practiced by little people who will never accomplish anything of substance other than to take sadistic pleasure in tearing people greater than them down so they could feel better about their pathetic miserable little lives.  
  2. I can get past the "Shelby Knot" twaddle and not so much his stalking and running off one of the few journalists at WCCO, Colleen Needles, who later said of being the center of Ted "Shelby" Baxter's attention "I can now see why Pat Miles would rather make herself blind then look at him".  Shelby's distasteful running down of Mr. Puckett who gave so much back to this state and his sport in the manner that Shelby disgraced himself and his station that night was utterly breathtaking. 
  3. Totally tone deaf in reading the mood of its audience, the news writers and editorial staff wrote classless and ill mannered copy any real reporter would have sight edited and not delivered.  But that would be way too much to ask of some self absorbed news reader whose sole contribution to his "profession" is for a fashion trend appropriately named for a fop like him, the "Shelby Knot".
  4.  To the horror of the audience that night Ted "Shelby" Baxter plunged ahead oblivious, impervious and incapable of conducting himself with even the slightest hint of any decency, humanity or even common sense.  Don "the Blues Man" devoured his lines with the desperate zeal of a tv evangelist,  infomercial host, or hell, President (the ways things have been going).  When Shelby got done "eulogizing" this great Minnesotan and beloved member of our community,  Kirby is reported to have said in Heaven "I feel as valued and appreciated as Manafort, Kelly, Spicer, Comey and most recently Cracker General, the difference between the AG and I is I like to take steam showers and he likes to forcibly "Hot Box" prisoners in the heat of Alabama summers, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions. I know, I know,  this is just a continuation of the mean spirited, Hollywood styled celebrity gossip coverage I rage about, it just feels good turning it back on the people who peddled this tripe...I just want to know Don was it to much to ask of you to treat Kirby with even a modicum of respect, at least while the man's body was still warm?
  5. Enough Shelby, the torch has been passed to a new generation of idiots, the husband and wife team of news readers who threw all journalism standards out the window to jump on the victimization/witch hunt band wagon to unfairly and in true tabloid fashion treat a beloved 85 year old doctor with the  same unfair pile on character assassination tabloid journalism that was used against Mr. Puckett.  For such "smart people" as you news readers think you are, you would think geniuses like you would know that your reporting only makes you look bad, not the victims of your lies and shoddy journalism..

  6. This a total ” hatchet job” on a terrific doctor. I didn’t see any mention of ALL the great work he has done treating people w/Tourtettes Syndrome. Never mind myself after seeing doctors from ages 6 to 26 ( just a great childhood) how about the Twin’s player Jim Eisenriech who was cast-off to Kansas City only to become a league All- Star? Tramadol? Gimme ‘ a break! It used to be prescribed like Tylenol. It was just 2 years ago it became a controlled substance. It is NOT for SEVERE pain. It is a mild pain-killer. Get your facts right. I’m sure you won’t even acknowledge this.You are ruining a great man when he didn’t MAKE anyone force them into suicide or whatever …..
    TR Swanson
    No Oaks MN.

  1. I agree completely with Mr. Swanson. Like legislation by victimization, news reporting that jumps on the victimization band wagon and loses all perspective is a disservice to their viewers and paints an incredibly distorted view of one of the best doctors in his field in the Twin Cities if not the country. It is truly sad what happened to Mr. Arens but who was in the best position to get him help? Why the family of course and to unjustly heap blame for his tragic death on Dr. Abuzzahab is so misguided and unfair I do not know where to begin. I wonder if you looked at all the psychiatrists in the state of Minnesota and see how many of their patients commit suicide perhaps you will come to the conclusion that unfortunately suicide is part of treating people with mental illnesses and is not always the result of professional malfeasance. Journalists are supposed to be independent and objective not the public relations arm of people lashing out in misguided victimhood. The self congratulatory follow-up story “celebrating” the “countless lives” supposedly saved by driving a good doctor out of the practice of medicine and depriving his patients of care I predict will have exactly the opposite effect. Will WCCO and its husband and wife news readers take credit for having blood on its hands?
    Patient of Dr. Abuzzahab

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Face of Mean Spirited Ignorance and Stupidity: Butler County, Ohio Sheriff Dick Jones

Dick, appropriately named, Jones refuses to allow his deputies to carry and administer life saving overdose reversal medicine, Narcon, while his jurisdiction is in the clutches of an opioid abuse epidemic and Drug overdoses continue to be the leading cause of death in Butler County. That's right Dick puff out that fat barrell chest of  yours and show off your medals because you are a world class Dick, for sure.

Tenth Circuit Warns Law Abiding Tea Drinkers and Gardeners Beware You Could Be Next

Tenth Circuit Judge Carlos F. Lucero began his scathing opinion  in  Harte v. Board of Commissioners of County of Johnson, Kansas, --- F.3d ---- (2017) 2017  WL  3138494  with one of the most remarkable opening passages ever written by a Federal Circuit Court Judge:

“Law-abiding tea drinkers and gardeners beware: One visit to a garden store and
some loose tea leaves in your trash may subject you to an early-morning,
SWAT-style raid, complete with battering ram, bulletproof vests, and
assault rifles. Perhaps the officers will intentionally conduct the terrifying
raid while your children are home, and keep the entire family under armed
guard for two and a half hours while concerned residents of your quiet,
family-oriented neighborhood wonder what nefarious crime you have committed.
This is neither hyperbole nor metaphor—it is precisely what happened to the Harte
family in the case before us on appeal.”

In its per curiam decision but with each judge writing separately, the court affirmed in part and reversed in part the District Court’s granting of summary judgment and remanded the 1983 action and state law claims brought by the Harte family.  For anyone out there who agrees with current Attorney General Jeff Sessions that good public policy is to double down on the failed War on Drugs this case is a frightening and tragic example of everything wrong with that approach and the real toll it has having on perfectly law abiding citizens.

Quoting again from Judge Lucero’s separate opinion, “The defendants in this case caused an unjustified governmental intrusion into the Hartes’ home based on nothing more than junk science, an incompetent investigation, and a publicity stunt. The Fourth Amendment does not condone this conduct, and neither can I.”

The facts of this case literally read like the script for a segment on Saturday Night Live and would almost be funny if the actions of law enforcement were not so inept and despicable.  The case stems from the actions of an overzealous Missouri State Highway Patrol Sergeant James Wingo and his “pet project” to make a major bust on a major indoor marijuana growing operation on April 20 or in police jargon 420, a date that supporters of legalizing marijuana have traditionally held celebrations nationwide.  To achieve this end Sgt. Wingo had spent the better half of a year surveilling local indoor gardening stores taking detailed notes on everyone patronizing the store, from the license plate of their vehicles, the age and sex of the customers and the list of totally legal products they purchased.  Unfortunately for Robert Harte, a stay at home dad, chose this time frame to start an educational project with his 13-year-old son and grow tomatoes and other vegetables in their basement.

A series of bad decisions, bad police work and downright illegal conduct by Wingo and his comedy troup the Johnson County Sheriff’s Office (“JCSO) culminated with “Operation Constant Gardener,” which was the publicity stunt that Judge Lucero referred to.  From the questionable probable cause for the search warrant (based in part on supposed false positive test of tea leaves in the Harte’s garbage as marijuana), the over the top militarized execution of that warrant and the actions of law enforcement in prolonging the unsuccessful search warrant by more than 2 ½ hours wherein law enforcement illegally expanded the scope of the search to try and gather evidence of any kind of legality so they could save face, all the time holding the Harte family, including children at gunpoint, perhaps the most egregious part of this whole fiasco was that despite the raid on the Harte’s residence did not find any illegality let alone a major grow operation, the list of law enforcement missteps and bad judgment was long.
Again quoting Judge Luceros's opinion:

"When Reddin was informed that the two-and-a-half-hour, seven-man raid yielded nothing but tomato plants, he was furious. “You’re lying to me,” he said to Deputy Larry Shoop when Shoop reported the news, later writing “SON-OF-A-BITCH!!!” in an email to Lieutenant Pfannenstiel, who responded, “Nothing?????????????????????????” After learning that the drug raids were not going well, Sheriff Frank Denning attempted to cancel the pre-planned press conference. But notice of the conference had already been sent, so Denning reluctantly proceeded. The subsequent news coverage, which featured pre-recorded video footage of Denning and marijuana plants purportedly confiscated during the raids, suggested a successful operation across Johnson County, even though no live plants had been seized that day. Notably absent from the news reports was any mention of the law-abiding family wrongfully targeted for their indoor tomato garden."

Perhaps the worst decision that law enforcement made from the public’s perception was that the Sheriff and others went ahead with a prepackaged phony press conference replete with props showing nonexistent marijuana plants and firearms purportedly seized.  See local tv news coverage below.
The judges almost seemed apologetic that they had to affirm official immunity for some of the law enforcement agents in this Keystone Cops caper.  For anyone who is concerned over the U.S. Attorney General’s agenda in reviving the War on Drugs and mass incarceration approach to law enforcement this case stands as a stark reminder to its futility and the real threat it poses to the constitutional rights of all American citizens.

Operation Constant Gardener sweep nets drugs, guns, stolen property

Several agencies across Kansas and Missouri took part in a sweep Friday, serving warrants and seizing marijuana as part of the second annual Operation Constant Gardener.
There are several stories on the significance of 4/20, April 20, in the marijuana counter-culture, but it has become a sort of unofficial holiday for the drug, and those who partake. Friday, several law enforcement agencies decided to celebrate too, with Operation Constant Gardner part two.
The campaign is an effort involving the Johnson and Cass County Sheriff's Offices, the Shawnee and Olathe Police Departments, as well as the Missouri Highway Patrol. Ten warrants on indoor growers were served and, so far, they netted 43 plants, one pound of processed marijuana, four guns, a stolen trailer and ATV, smoking and growing paraphernalia and $13,000 in cash. Additionally, officers also confiscated methamphetamines.
Johnson County Sheriff Frank Denning said the combination of marijuana and meth is becoming more prevalent.
"Marijuana is linked to these other crimes - you're seeing stolen weapons, you're seeing stolen property. We're seeing some other crimes that are associated with personal violence that occurs with it so marijuana may not be on everybody's radar but certainly from our crime lab's statistics, there's certainly a lot of it and it is illegal," he said.
Friday's operation is still ongoing so the confiscation numbers currently reported could go up.

Friday, August 4, 2017

R & B Cadets Reunion A Joyous Reminder of What Could Have Been

 One of the great bands ever to hail from the Midwest (Milwaukee) had a reunion concert at the Dakota Bar in Minneapolis on July 28, 2017.  John Sieger, Paul Cebar, Robyn Pluer, Bob Jennings, Mike Sieger and Bob Schneider collectively known as the R & B Cadets, were a force to be reckoned with in their day (1980's) and represented everything good about music at a time when the industry was churning out formulaic pap for the masses.

While all very talented in their own right, the combination of John Sieger's songwriting, Paul Cebar's encyclopedic knowledge of and taste in music and its historical roots and Robyn Pluer's beautiful voice, was pure magic.  Above everything else their music was joyous and fun.  I spent a good part of that decade at their frequent shows at the Union Bar in Minneapolis and even drove to Milwaukee to catch one of their gigs after my brother developed a crush on Robyn.

But nothing that good ever seems to last and the band started to pull in different directions with John and his brother Mike eventually heading west to explore country tinged originals by John with his group Semi-Twang.  Paul and Robyn stayed to form the Milwaukeans.  I remember one particularly heated dust up at the Union Bar where it became apparent to me that the band's days were numbered.  But time heals old wounds and now they were back and no worse for wear.

Friday, July 28, 2017

Goin' Out West

Well I'm goin' out west
Where the wind blows tall
'Cause Tony Franciosa
Used to date my ma
They got some money out there
They're giving it away
I'm gonna do what I want
And I'm gonna get paid
Do what I want
And I'm gonna get paid

Little brown sausages
Lying in the sand
I ain't no extra, baby
I'm a leading man
Well my parole officer
Will be proud of me
With my Olds 88
And the devil on a leash
My Olds 88
And the devil on a leash

Well I know karate, voodoo too
I'm gonna make myself available to you
I don't need no make up
I got real scars
I got hair on my chest
I look good without a shirt

Well I don't lose my composure
In a high speed chase
Well my friends think I'm ugly
I got a masculine face
I got some dragstrip courage
I can really drive a bed
I'm gonna change my name
To Hannibal or maybe
Just Rex
Change my name to Hannibal
Or may be just Rex

I'm gonna drive all night
Take some speed
I'm gonna wait for the sun
To shine down on me
I cut a hole in my roof
The shape of a heart

And I'm goin' out west
Where they'll appreciate me
Goin' out west
Goin' out west

-Tom Waits-

Friday, June 16, 2017

Alejandro Escovedo Band Gives Most Satisfying Twin Cites Performance To Date

Having experienced numerous Alejandro Escovedo shows dating back to a show at the 400 Bar in Minneapolis a couple decades ago, and countless other local venues including 7th Street Entry, Turf Club, Fine Line, MN Zoo and at least 4 times at the Dakota Jazz Bar as well as traveling to the High Noon Saloon in Madison I have witnessed many great shows.  Why else would I keep going?  I certainly am not rich and shows at the Dakota aren’t exactly moderately priced for the working class, but with Alejandro you always get what you paid for and some nights, like last Saturday’s show at the Dakota, you get more.  Much more.
Fresh off the European leg of the “Burn Something Beautiful” tour where they played something like 35 shows in 42 days, the latest incarnation of the Alejandro Escovedo Band was in peak form. One of the reasons I find Escovedo so compelling is he always has the best musicians supporting him and with Austin Texas as your farm team league, to use a baseball analogy, it is not surprising.  However, as fond as I am of Hector, Bobby, David and all of the other great players I have been privileged to witness over the years, there is something about last Saturday night’s performance that makes the current cast of,  Scott Laningham: on drums, Nick Diaz: on guitar and Aaron McClellan: on bass, stand out.  Not to take anything away from Scott and Aaron who were excellent, but Diaz’s guitar work blew me away with his tone, precision and economy of notes all with the ease and grace of say a Denny Freeman.
Even more impressive about Diaz’s playing was it was always about the song and complimenting the songwriting and when you are performing with one of America’s greatest living songwriters, it’s all about the song and he gets it.  Diaz and Alejandro worked beautifully together and at times they and the band hit that eargasmic sweet spot that is so rare but is the drug that musicians and audiences live for.

The show opened to Escovedo and band taking the stage to no applause which caused the formerly, at times, caustic one, to make a sarcastic quip right before launching in to the most menacing and best version of “Can’t Make Me Run” these ears have heard.  Back in November of last year (2016) I caught just the second live performance of a different incarnation of the Alejandro Escovedo band (only the bass player was a holdover).  Although I thought the previous version of the band had done quite well playing such tough material on little rehearsal, it was apparent from the very first song that the current lineup were really a band, firing on all cylinders.
The strong opening was followed by an equally strong “Dear Head on the Wall” which I used to assume (incorrectly) was about the Club Tavern outside Madison, WI.  This would be the first of two songs off the Boxing Mirror cd which signaled Escovedo’s return from the illness that nearly killed him.
The first selection off his latest work, the wonderful “Burn Something Beautiful” cd, was “Shave the Cat”, a crowd favorite.  A fun rocker, Shave is destined to become a staple at wrestling practices and full-service hair salons well into the new millennia.
The good vibe was kept going by the next number, one off his “Man Under the Influence” cd on Bloodshot records.  The ever grateful and humble AE thanked the label for backing this project, a milestone in his career and which he credits with bringing in a new fan base.  What followed was worth the price of admission alone and for all of you who took a flyer on this show (you know who you are, bro) you missed a rare live performance of one of his gems, “Rhapsody”.  The best part was, for a song he never performs live, he nailed it and much of the kudos goes to the wonderful band.  If you had not figured it out up to now there was no way you could miss the fact that you were witnessing something very special after the stunning performance of “Rhapsody”.
Continuing with another off of “Man under the Influence” was the achingly plaintive “Don’t Need You”. 

About this time, as the band was switching over to do the acoustic portion of the show, the only miscue all night occurred and it wasn’t a big deal.  Just a little feedback which took a couple seconds to correct, nevertheless Alejandro did not let the opportunity to try his hand at stand up go by, cracking “that was the Brian Eno portion of our set”.  When you’re hot you’re hot and these cats were on fire.
The acoustic set had the band seated toward the front of the stage including drummer Scott Laningham who traded his full drum kit in for a one-man band setup.  No matter, whether bashing on his big kit or providing subtle nuances perfect for the acoustic numbers, Scott’s expressive drumming was vital to setting the range of moods and shades of music on Escovedo’s songs.  The career retrospective mini set of Five Hearts Breaking, Wave, Suite of Light and Rosalee had the intimate feel of a living room and the relaxed staging paid off.  This was when the band really jelled and played so perfectly together it was as if they were controlled by one mind.  At times the music they were making sounded so beautiful, so exquisite you had to pinch yourself to come back down to earth.
Plugging back in for the electric final segment of the night started off with the slow burn “Sally was a Cop” followed by a deep dive in his catalog to “Crooked Frame”.  Next up was a spirited version of “Break This Time” which first appeared as Alejandro’s sole performing contribution on the tribute/benefit project “Por Vida” and later on “Boxing Mirror”.  The series of songs culminated with a raucous version of “Castanets” that had Escovedo and Diaz exchanging blistering guitar leads with Escovedo hopping up and down and doing windmill guitar strokes ala Townsend circa Maximum R n B era.

A night of surprises and memorable performances was not over yet as the audience brought Escovedo and company back for two more encores, a mesmerizing rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Alexandra’s Leaving” followed by one of my personal favorites off the "Burn Something Beautiful", "Johnny Volume".

The Alejandro Escovedo Band’s performance at the Dakota Jazz Bar in Minneapolis last Saturday night was magical.  A masterful example of pacing and set list selection covering almost all periods of an incredibly rich and diverse career.  The band and Alejandro were in peak form thanks in part, no doubt, to a grueling schedule which allowed the band to get to know each other and the material, even if it was at the risk of exhaustion.  Despite the ravages of the road, Alejandro was in fine form, strong voice and good spirits. One would be remiss not to acknowledge his hidden but perhaps most important asset and ambassador of good will, his gracious partner and wife Nancy Rankin Escovedo.  Nancy has become a staple at his shows and her sweet kindness and sincerity in working the merchandise line is matched only by her talent as a photographer.  Follow her on twitter and/or Instagram not only to keep up with the band, but you will also be rewarded with some of the most creative examples of the art of photography found on the web.  The Alejandro Escovedo Band left the audience at the Dakota satiated from a thoroughly satisfying night of good food and great music.