Thursday, August 20, 2009

Gov. Good N Plenty and the Gang Strike Force

Mr. "No New Taxes", Mr. "Go It Alone" (i.e Minnesota Governor Tim Good N Plenty) was the driving force that single-handedly revived what is now documented as one of the most corrupt law enforcement (sic) enterprises this state has ever seen.

On July 25, 2004, the Minneapolis Star Tribune printed the remarks of Governor Pawlenty following his idea of Unicameral state government by refusing the legislature any input into balancing the budget by vetoing all the finance bills passed by the legislature that he disagreed with while squandering precious state resources on Minnesota's version of "Inglorious Basterds", the Metro Gang Strike Force. Governor Pawlenty's statement read in part:

"...Because partisanship has drawn things to a halt in the State Capitol, I've taken extraordinary executive actions to move ahead without legislative action. The budget deficit the Legislature ignored was wiped away with a stroke of my pen. A critical crime-fighting agency, the Gang Strike Force, was slated to disband because the Legislature didn't pass funding. Our administration found the money to keep the group working for Minnesota."

"A critical crime-fighting agency"? "Working for Minnesota"? More like working for themselves!

Today a review panel comprised of former law enforcement officials, including an ex-FBI agent and former federal prosecutor, released its findings that the Metro Gang Strike Force was guilty of widespread corruption and criminal misconduct.

Well knock me over with a feather. I have been telling everyone I come into contact with in connection with my profession as a criminal defense lawyer over the past twenty-two years, be it judges, prosecutors or just plain citizens, that the government strike and task forces were the most disreputable, unprofessional, unlawful and at times, most criminal, organizations in this state. I cannot even tell you the number of times I have said that the behavior of the members of these multi-jurisdictional, so-called strike and task forces, put to shame any illegal behavior on behalf of the groups and individuals they are supposed to police. This specifically includes most of the two-bit, street gang members, organized crime syndicates and/or outlaw motorcycle clubs, the latter of which I have represented many an honorable person. Unfortunately, most of the time, the same could not be said of the strike and task force members.

Like in Watergate, when members of the executive branch of government, the branch of government tasked with the duty to uphold and enforce the law, are engaged themselves in criminal behavior, this is unchecked governmental power that strikes at the very heart and soul of a constitutional form of government, a government of laws, not people, not personalities and certainly not a bunch of badge wielding bullies.

So it is with this in mind that I harken back to those days in mid-June of 2004 when Gov. Good N Plenty, to prop up his credentials as a "law and order" Governor and future right-wing Presidential candidate, made it his personal crusade (for personal political gain) to resurrect the now infamous Metro Gang Strike Force, and what is now the well documented, biggest waste of law enforcement resources in state history. Take a licorice-flavored bow Governor, because like licorice, your conduct in this matter makes me wanna sh#t!

For links to the entire review panel's report including their thoughtful and well reasoned recommendations to abolish all similar multi-jurisdictional (i.e. uncontrolled) task forces and a change in the forfeiture laws as well as links to recent articles on the trials and tribulations of the Metro Gang Strike force see

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Zoo Brings Out the "Real Animal" in Escovedo

Someone unfamiliar with the subject matter probably would not have known what to expect out of Alejandro Escovedo's performance at the Minnesota Zoo's amphitheater last night, Saturday August 8, 2009. Most people who pay any attention to real music in this country have heard the mercurial story of Alejandro's journey to the edge of music's and life's boundaries with bands like the Nuns and Rank and File, how he leaned over the abyss, spit into it and came back. Much like the fabled bird of fiction, the phoenix, Escovedo rose from the ashes of serious illness which had cut him down in Arizona. But just like the true believer son of a prizefighter that he is, Escovedo has battled back to the point of "Real Animal" a reflective mixture of his history as an artist as well as somewhat of an homage to one of his big inspirations, the little, godfather of punk himself, Iggy Pop.

Did I say homage? The music on "Real Animal" is like its inspiration in many ways, bare and open for all to see, like Iggy's chest, with broken beer bottles cuts and blood dripping from its wounds. From the autobiographical tale of living next to Sid and Nancy in the "Chelsea Hotel" to the stark beauty of "Sister Lost Soul" Escovedo has crafted another in his long list of musical tour de forces. Now, to someone hearing about Alejandro for the first time, this would make no sense. No, it makes perfect sense.

My first glimpse of Alejandro on Saturday night, a night so warm and humid that Escovedo quipped that he felt like he was in Thailand, came on the side of the stage. With about three songs left in the set of the opening act, Romantica, Alejandro and his entire band, all four of them, came stage-side to check out several songs from this impressive, up and coming local band. Lead singer Ben Kyle, guitarist and pedal steel player Luke Jacobs, drummer James Orvis, and bassist and old Grumpy's pal, Tony Zaccardi turned in a performance such that Alejandro pronounced towards the end of his show: "I've played with alot of bands over the years; some good, some not so good and Romantica is definitely one of the good ones" and then invited Romantica's Kyle onstage for a raucous, call and response refrain ala Mick and Spleef during "Beast of Burden" replete with audience participation.

But I'm getting way ahead of my self. My son August and I had arrived early, around 5:30 PM as a matter of fact, with plans on catching a quick tour of the Minnesota Zoo's much acclaimed Grizzly Coast exhibition. As the Zoo closes at 6 PM and supposedly does not reopen until 6:30 PM for the concert, we were on a mission, you might say. You see our other plan was to attempt an intervention and rescue my friend and co-worker Esmond from what can only be described as the zoo's version of the bad acid at Woodstock, the Harry Potter Movie being shown at the zoo's IMAX theater. For a guy who supposedly likes good music, the choice here seemed a no brainer: catch the best live music in this year's summer season at a beautiful and great sounding venue or get your feet stuck to the floor and possibly catch the swine flu from the grotty little brats watching some pre-adolescent bore-fest.

Unfortunately my attempt at bringing Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers to cultural matters was unsuccessful despite repeated attempts at locating poor Esmond, even including checking out the Imax Theater Men's (Boy's) Room (I had drank several beers after arriving in the zoo parking lot in that time-honored Minnesota tradition: tailgating). After coming up dry on our attempt to rescue my co-worker it was off to Siberia. Much like the salmon swimming upstream in the Grizzly's faux Siberian river, August and I fought against the stream of leaving zoo patrons until we were all alone in large sections of the zoo. This enabled me to light up and partially enjoy my obligatory (Bob Enos) cigar I take to every live music event (to remind me of my good friend who is not forgotten) while gawking at the tigers and bears, oh my.

Between sets August and I met a cool, fellow music fan, Margaret, who we shared the story of the etiology of August's name and she remembered with us a heart wrenching story of her favorite, kid brother who died in a motorcycle accident over one year ago. We would run into Margaret later that evening as Dad searched for the car (which had apparently been moved by the same character who over-served me those Summit Red and Extra Pale Ales that were going down so smoothly in the August heat and humidity). But just as Margaret was starting to say something I hear the power chords opening of Alejandro's closest thing to a hit single, "Always a Friend" and it was off to the races for our seats. In a role reversal of epic proportions, I was reduced to fist pumping, lyric mouthing adolescence while my son looked over with one eye askance, as if to say "You're not going to embarrass me...again!" "You damn right", I think to myself.

After this point, the evening becomes a blur, or more appropriately, like the hallucinatory montage sequence in Apocalypse Now but to the strains of a better soundtrack. From the aforementioned "Chelsea Hotel"(which made no sense or perfect sense) to the semi-autobiographical cover, "Everybody Loves Me", but I know why. One of the big reasons why is the always excellent side men and women Escovedo brings with him. This particular evening had Alejandro playing as a rock quartet backed by David Pulkingham on lead guitar, a fantastic bassist from Alabama and last but not least, the master of thunder, lord of the thighs, Hector Munoz, pound for pound the greatest drummer in the business this side of Michael Bland or say, Eric Gravat (that one's for Esmond).

Mix in some old gems from By the Hand of the Father, my personal favorite Rosalee and the now customary, welcome back to the line-up version of "Castanets" complete with the absolutely hysterical story of the song's inspiration (female concert promoter in Tampa), who bears no similarity to certain real persons either living or near dead, such as , say a late 1980's version of Keith Richards but certainly no resemblance whatsoever to our own erstwhile Sue Mclean, who deserves Diva status for continuing excellence in concert bookings. As tornadoes and damaging severe thunderstorms were ravaging towns and communities just to the west and north of us, we listened to the final strains of "Beast of Burden". Real music by real animals, just another night at the Minnesota Zoo.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Formerly Reluctant Participant Enjoys National Night Out

This may be hard for those who know me to believe, but until I get to know someone I am somewhat shy and introverted. Hence, in the past, when my neighbors would invite me to participate in our neighborhood's version of National Night Out, I usually deflected the invitation with some asinine comment such as: "I'm a criminal defense lawyer, why would I participate in something that's against my own economic interests?"

It was not until more recently, when I began having trouble with some of my less reputable and certainly less honorable, former criminal clients, that I have learned to truly appreciate and value the friendship and mutual connectedness of my good neighbors. So it was with this important lesson in mind that I pulled my head out of my posterior and proceeded on my motorcycle across the Mississippi River to pick-up my contribution to our pot-luck dinner gathering, some potato salad from Lunds and a six pack of Two Hearted Ale. Sufficiently armed, I rode down our street and into our cul de sac where my neighbors had already begun to gather, and dropped off my contribution with a McArthur-like "I shall return".

Over the course of the next two and a half hours I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the faces I sometimes saw, but never knew the names associated with. As the neighborhood children played flashlight tag, the adults traded stories, (Lenny's fireworks stories won the funniest moment award hands down!), patiently listened to my numerous filibusters and only occasionally commented, like my neighbor Sally did, with "...that's too much information". Despite my sometimes boorish behavior and a late night appearance by Sausage the wonder dog, all in all, a marvelous time was had by all. Thank you to our hosts Bruce and his lovely wife (I know I am still horrible with names) and daughter, Madison.