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2008 Columns
Quarter 4: October thru December ~ Columns #37 - #50

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December 31, 2008 Column #50: A most historic year for our nation. And a busy year for local discrimination as well.

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

The economy is in a worldwide transition. Significant wars are visiting terror on both a global and local basis in the Middle East, Far East and Africa. And yet the number-one story today is, and will be when historians look back decades from now, the election and presidency of Barack Obama. There is no other story even close to that for the number-one story of the year.

Not even bookies in Las Vegas would have given odds on an Obama victory. Many, worn down by history's failed attempts, felt that it couldn't possibly happen. But through the creation of a well-designed campaign strategy, tremendous loyalty, legions of volunteers, and an excitement not seen in some time for a first-voter generation, Barack Obama did overcome.

Many thought he would misstep, that he would not get out of the primaries or the caucuses, that he would not be able to overcome the popular frontrunner, Senator Hilary Clinton of New York. And if he did accomplish these things, the thought of many was that America was still "not ready" to embrace the dream and elect the man.

But, my friends, the impossible dream became a reality at a crucial time in the history of our republic. He has brought a very much needed uplifting, a renewed vigor, a brighter vision of the future, and a call for America's sons and daughters to close ranks and set aside the differences that too frequently drive them apart.

The challenges he faces are enormous. There is no betting against him now. He has rekindled the American dream in many who didn't think they could continue to dream it. Every American has been freed to dream their version of the American Dream. Just like Dorothy passing over the rainbow to Oz, the election was a magical moment. [Also see here.]

Barack Obama laid the foundation. Barack Obama has stayed the course. On his website,, he has opened a new section, YOUR SEAT at THE TABLE, and asks us to submit ideas. We have submitted our Solution Paper #33 regarding the seats at the table, as well as our new book, A Seat for Everyone. I urge my readers to go to his website and submit their ideas as well.

To look forward to 2009 and beyond, contemplating the future of our nation and the future of our children, we pause briefly to look back to see how 2008 is preparing us for 2009. We humbly acknowledge and appreciate being recognized for our efforts earlier in December at the Minnesota Community and Ethnic Media Awards ceremony of the Twin Cities Media Alliance and its local news website, Twin Cities Daily Planet. [Read our acceptance remarks.]

Perhaps the biggest story in our Minneapolis community in 2008 has been the historic lawsuit of "The Mill City Five," five Black police officers suing the City for discrimination in four major areas, and the ensuing battle between them and the City as "The Five" have dared to attack the wall of nullification and reversal.    [Also see here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here.]

How this is handled will have long-reaching ramifications in governance and race relations as the discrimination deniers face off against the targets of their discrimination. The situation has gotten so far out of hand that we had another historic first: the mostly-White Police Federation's first-ever lawsuit against the City on behalf of a Black officer, one of the "Mill City Five.

We also defended a White officer the department went after who stood up for Black officers, not to mention the Federation's historic request for a criminal investigation of MPD Chief Dolan. We wrote about the continued bad treatment of Black men and about the Civil Rights Department, the Civil Rights Commission , and the DFL failing to stand up for civil rights [also see here regarding the DFL].

We spoke up when traditional media [also see here and here and here and here re the Star Tribune] and minority "spokesperson" organizations failed to do so, practicing "the art of silence," also known as "acts of cowardice" [also see here]. 2009 will shine the final light on these cases.

In January, we asked who will challenge discrimination in this city [see also here and here]. We presented numerous examples, including the denial of jobs to Blacks on major construction sites such as the Twins and Gophers stadiums [see list of six past columns from 2005, 06, 07], as well as discrimination in education (e.g., North High School; also see here).

In closing, for the purposes of the local scene, we know that a Cecil Newman, a Nellie Stone Johnson, and others offer a smile and a wink for a job well done. May there be a happy New Year and peace in our time.

Posted Wednesday, December 31, 2008, 11:20 a.m.

December 24, 2008 Column #49: Time is running out for Police Community Relations Council

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

We join the Native American community in requesting an extension.

The historic agreement creating the Police Community Relations Council (PCRC) was signed five years ago, September 3, 2003. The PCRC officially goes out of business on December 31, 2008. Unless the Council is extended another year, the 60 items not yet resolved will remain unresolved.

The Native American community and its leadership, showing political courage and savvy lacking in other communities, has requested that the mayor and city council extend the PCRC and the Federal Mediation Agreement for six months.

Will the mayor and council rise to the occasion to do the right thing? Or will the U.S. Justice Department (DOJ) finally have to take over our police department, as it once had to take over the Minneapolis Fire Department?

After January 20, that would not come as a surprise.

In my 2002 book, The Minneapolis Story, Through My Eyes, I detailed the community's desire for federal mediation and the fact that the city council fought the community's desire. The DOJ then mediated setting up the PCRC to foster mutual trust and respect between the police and the community by working together in facing up to and resolving the problems of police-community relations, without having DOJ take over.

There was much enthusiasm, and over the past five years there were signs and accomplishments suggesting a model for communities of color across the country.

But, with the departure of former MPD chief William McManus to become chief in San Antonio, Texas, the Crystal Palace of our city hall became a house of hollow cards.

African American police commanders were demoted, transferred, ridiculed and belittled, resulting in the historic December 3, 2007, lawsuit against the department.

If the extension is not granted to cover the remaining 60 issues, the citizens of the city of Minneapolis will be left to face the consequences.

Tensions are at a dangerous high in this city in light of the tragic and questionable death of Quincy Smith on December 9 at the hands of Minneapolis Police Officers, including one who was involved in the beating and tasering of Mr. Smith in downtown Minneapolis in 2006, when he was arrested for jaywalking.

The City only gains by doing the right thing and extending the agreement. It loses nothing in doing so. However, the down side of not doing so is enormous.

First, this is an election year for every council seat and for the office of the mayor. Secondly this is a time of extreme economic difficulty in our communities, and people have a tendency to be more unreasonable and more hostile than during the so-called good times (especially as unemployment rises and food shelves are emptied).

And thirdly, after January 20 there is the DOJ.

Especially in these historic and pivotal times, it makes no sense to have 2009's election driven by city hall's racial animus, hostility, and unwillingness to address the issue of community relationships.

Relationships are tense within the Black community, where there is a suspicion that leadership doesn't have a clue on what it is it should and can do to make the community more safe, nor a clue on how to work through the problems of police-community relations and public safety.

Relationships are also tense in the area of education as well as in the workplace, including in the area of economic parity.

And so, we join the Native American leadership in its request and urge the extension be for 12 months, not six, in order to work through all 60 remaining issues. Let those committed and dedicated participants work through these problems to enable a better and safer city for all citizens. Candidates should not think that this will not be an issue in 2009.

We look for constructive, visionary and vigorous leadership, not tired, divisive, unimaginative and uncommitted leadership. The Democratic Party has been the party in power in Minneapolis for over 40 years. It is time for it to step up with commitment and resolve to work through these problems.

Contrary to what some may think, civil rights is still an important piece of the American fabric as we continue the quest for access and opportunity that comes from justice and fairness, which opens the door to success for those denied equal opportunity under color of law. We hope as we approach the final days of the mediation agreement that leadership will emerge within the corridors of city hall to extend this for an additional 12 months and bring a sense of comfort and safety to our city. Stay tuned.

Posted Wednesday, December 24, 2008, 3:38 a.m.

December 17, 2008 Column #48: Brutality continues against Black males in Minneapolis: Smith's death by police tasers brings his appeal to a tragic halt.

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Quincy Smith, who died at the hands of police in the very early morning of December 9, 2008, along the 1000 block of Knox Avenue North, was previously beaten and tasered for jaywalking in 2006. He was later acquitted.

He sought justice. Documents show the City tried to buy him off by offering a small, paltry settlement. He refused and sued. The City then moved to dismiss his claim. A district judge concurred.

Mr. Smith appealed. His appeal was under review by the Appellate Court of the State of Minnesota when he died at the hands of the police on December 9. Coincidence? There is no way to know for sure.

What we do know is that Quincy Smith sought justice for himself and sought to maintain the integrity and the dignity of his relationships with friends and loved ones despite his treatment at the hands of the police. The final indignity was to die in the snow at the hands of the police while his appeal was under review.

What is troubling and frightening about his two-year ordeal is that the White media has refused to report the events of 2006. The question that awaits an answer is how a 911 call involving a domestic argument became a claim of a Black man with a rifle, followed by his death right after being tasered. And how was it that Smith received five separate taser shots from the five officers so close together in time?

The December 10, 2008, Minneapolis Star Tribune story," Former DJ in clash with police dies after Taser shot," reported that no rifle or weapon of any kind was found. How could the police claim to have seen a rifle, subdue and kill him, and then find no rifle, especially when police procedures call for using tasers only on unarmed suspects that are uncooperative?

How come five burly officers couldn't subdue a 5'6" suspect, opting instead to engage him in hand-to-hand combat (another sign that there really was no weapon)? Evidence suggests that five of the six officers fired their tasers nearly simultaneously, making it easier to understand how death from tasering could occur.

What will result from the ongoing investigation only God knows, but history says that there is a high probability of no justice, no presentation of true facts, and no indictments in a wrongful death suit.

Once again, acts of brutality against African American males were visited upon North Minneapolis and across Minneapolis, as another young African American, who is now under police guard at a North Minneapolis hospital, was also beaten by police that night. The beating was so savage that he lost his sight in one eye.

The record of admission to the county jail notes that jailers refused to admit this young African American until he had received needed medical attention. His name, but not his location, is being suppressed by the authorities. By the time this column is printed, we feel sure that we will know the full story of this tragedy.

The death of Mr. Smith raises serious questions relevant to the relationship between the African American community and a dominant White police force, a predominantly White city hall, and a predominantly White city council.

We know that hope has accompanied the election of Barack Obama, and yet it sometimes feels as if we in Minneapolis would have a better chance in Mississippi.

The interesting question is how many of these officers were also involved in the beating and tasering of Mr. Smith for jay walking in 2006. If any were, it would have a chilling effect upon relationships between community and police, and, in fact, could mean no justice whatsoever for Mr. Smith and his loved ones.

We like to think that we can all rely on city and federal authorities to conduct an investigation of the incident and the facts. As Mr. Smith has died, Eric Holder will not arrive at the U.S. Justice Department in time to champion justice for him, but he will have the chance to see that Minneapolis carefully investigates this.

Despite the coming change, there are still a troubling number of beatings and assaults being carried out against African Americans on the streets of this city. Black leadership continues to fail us, continues to compromise, and neither challenges nor raises the right questions. This opens the door to the juggernaut of nullification and reversal and brutality with little opposition as it works with a free hand for intimidation and terror. Stay tuned.

Posted December 18, 2008, 2:44 a.m.

December 10, 2008 Column #47: North High-Dunwoody Academy partnership raises many troubling questions.

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

On December 2, 2008, the Minneapolis Public School District (MPS) issued a press release ("Teaming Up for Student Success"), and the Star Tribune published the article "Charter school to share Minneapolis public school space." Both touted the "historic partnership" involving Minneapolis North High being shared with Dunwoody Academy (a subsidiary of Dunwoody College of Technology), beginning in the fall of 2009.

Once again we hear a claim that these elaborate plans will guarantee academic success for the students.

We have long stood for educational reform. (As Nellie Stone Johnson always said, "No education, no jobs, no housing.") So, education is critical. It prepared Barack Obama for his path to the presidency.

Education reform we welcome; but is this really reform, or is it just the final taking of North High from the community

When we raised the question of North closing in our June 11, 2008, column (How can we save North High School? Its end looks near, a sacrifice to Northside gentrification) , we were assured North would remain open for the community. But, the changing of school boundaries transferring students within five blocks of North to Henry 50 blocks away created the purposeful drop in enrollment that made room for Dunwoody.

Slick. Quiet. No community involvement. Even North's administration was unaware, adding to the MPS credibility gap.

Will the glowing references to the vision and success of this partnership turn to dust like so many other promises? We like the educational emphasis of STEM -- science, technology, engineering, mathematics -- all under the umbrella of the "most rigorous pre-college curriculum" of "IB", or the International Baccalaureate Program.

Macalister says IB is the "finest preparation available for an American college." But, what about the majority of students who don't go to college? Where are the vocational courses in auto, wood, metal, mechanical, drafting, electrical, IT, etc.?

The press release states that this partnership will be one of only 10 schools in the world where students can earn the IB certificate. But, the IB website ( states that there are more than 2,900 schools in 129 countries offering this IB curriculum to students aged 16-19.

And, how will students fare in the required IB foreign language requirements when many MPS students are at the 6 th -grade level of proficiency in reading and math skills?

And, what about the touted commitment to local, site-based management and local involvement, where site- or local school-based management teams are to adopt well-defined visions for curriculum and instruction? (Teams normally include a chief administrator, the principal, other senior staff, parents, and members of the school's community.)

Was the site-based management team included? What recommendations did they make about this partnership regarding dates, time, and subject matter, which is important in maintaining the integrity of site-based management teams?

Yet, this announcement was a surprise. Will the district share the minutes of the site-based management team prior to the December 2 announcement? We would be excited to hear the kinds of discussions that took place, the recommendations that were made, and whether or not there was a vote taken within the site-based management team.

Another element to question is the kind of progress being made to meet school goals and how much effort was put forward by the district to disseminate information broadly so that site-based management participants could make informed decisions regarding their school. How well are all stakeholders kept informed of current and anticipated school performance?

As we stated earlier, the MPS seems to again mute its commitment and its obligation to these important principles. It would be good to have testimony from the stakeholders on what they were told and on how their input was received in what is now being identified as an historical and unprecedented partnership promising academic uplifting of the African American and other students of color.

After the confidence shown by the voters of the City of Minneapolis in handing over $480 million to MPS, spread out over the next eight years, such openness is the least that the school district can do for the students and parents of North High School. It would be particularly interesting to know the discussions prior to the vote on the November 4 referendum and why the announcement was delayed until after the election.

I have an uneasy feeling that the Black community has again been taken to the cleaners. What we wrote about in June that was denied has now come true, as this arrangement means North High will no longer be of the community. Stay tuned.

Posted December 10, 2008, 4:05 a.m.

December 3, 2008 Column #46: Obama must avoid another 'great white fleet'. This is no time to get sucked into more pointless war

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

As President-elect Barack Obama prepares to select his secretary of state, he is also preparing his foreign policy platform. Our question is whether or not the outgoing administration's actions will help or ambush the new president.

While President-elect Obama appears to be committing himself to withdrawing American forces from Iraq within three years, the Bush administration has set in place a broader military commitment with its incursions inside both Syria and Pakistan. Military planners are of the mind that Syria can be handled and intimidated with military incursions against Damascus without ratcheting up tensions in the Middle East.

Why assume the same for Pakistan, a nuclear power with a very powerful nuclear ally of 40 years -- China?

Why assume that the Pakistani government has given tacit agreement to this violation of Pakistani sovereignty and that all segments of the Pakistani armed forces are on board, when its history says the opposite, particularly the Pakistan intelligence service (ISI: the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence), renown for their own covert operations in that part of the world, which has the task of safeguarding Pakistan's interests as well as monitoring opposition politicians. What are the nuclear consequences of a miscalculation or misstep?

On November 20, two newspaper stories particularly caught our eye. The first, with pictures, was of an American air attack on a village deep inside Pakistan in their Northwest Territories. That brings the conflict extremely close to Kashmir, an area where Pakistani, Indian, and Chinese forces have faced off in a very delicate and unstable truce for four decades.

Iran was at the center of the second story of November 20 that featured the chief of staff of the Israeli Air Force and his comments making it clear that Israel had the capability to strike deep inside of Iran against their nuclear facilities.

Certainly all this sounds glamorous, like a James Bond movie or a Tom Clancy novel, but it certainly doesn't put at ease American sons and daughters and the American public that has grown tired of foreign conflicts.

What is the true reality? What is the untried diplomatic alternative? We still ask what diplomatic shortcoming prevented even a dozen resolutions of united U.N. resolve from stopping the Iraq war.

No one denies there is a war involving terrorism across the Middle East led by both radical Suni Muslims and radical Shia Muslims. And although we don't condone it, we can understand why they feel threatened and surrounded.

We can understand why Pakistan's A.Q. Khan tried to empower Middle East countries with the atomic bomb as a great equalizer with the West against what looks to them like 200 years of disrespect of nations of color ever since the dawn of the days of colonialism in Asia, Arabia, and the rest of Africa.

Despite the witness of history that foreign powers have failed for millennia to take over Afghanistan, are the president-elect and his advisors being sucked into widening the war there anyway? Barack Obama will be under tremendous pressure to show the flag.

We certainly don't want to see a repeat of when Teddy Roosevelt sent what was called "the great white fleet," 14,000 sailors on 16 U.S. Navy battleships and escorts, on a voyage that circumnavigated the world for 14 months, making 20 ports of call on six continents. The ships' hulls were painted white except for the gilded scrollwork with a red, white and blue banner on their bows.

We lucked out in Iraq: It turns out Saddam didn't have WMD. One or two nukes going off now would dramatically change the game.

Elected to keep us out of war, will the Obama advisors instead urge a new version of a great white fleet, especially regarding Afghanistan, where more and more foreign fighters are being drawn in, especially from Central Asia? This at a time when America's new president must turn his attention to the health and welfare of America's people and America's economy, a time when Americans need reassurance that they are the first priority in bringing about change.

The last thing the new president needs are these ambushes with the potential to drain America's economic lifeline in battles fought in foreign lands with no real goals or objectives explained. America's sons and daughters are too precious to be wasted on this occasion of Thanksgiving.

Let us give thanks for hopefully meaningful and real change for America's sons and daughters. Stay tuned.
Posted December 5, 2008, 1:16 a.m.

November 26, 2008 Column #45: City gets down and dirty against Mill City Five: The court should review their tactics

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

For many months, there has been much speculation about the tactics of Minneapolis City officials. In the matter of the "Mill City Five," the Black officers who sued the City of Minneapolis on December 3, 2007, some units of government feel that any tactic they use is okay, including intimidation, refusing to cooperate, and lying.

These tactics need to be reviewed by the federal court. We have every expectation that they will be, given all of the City's missteps that we have reported on in this column over the last 11 months.

The most recent incidents raise a significant red flag because they represent absolute lies against the legal interest of the Mill City Five. These incidents center on the fact that the city attorney's office lied in its report regarding the events surrounding the collapse of the agreed-to $2 million settlement with the Mill City Five in July 2008.

The city attorney's office not only lied outrageously by saying there had been no agreement; it also lied by saying that the reason for no agreement was that the five African American plaintiffs leaked information to the Minneapolis Start Tribune .

The Strib knows from whence came the leak. Some City officials know where the leak came from. With the intended damage done, we doubt there have been any such "leaks" since.

With City officials thinking they are getting away with their lie that the suing officers did the leaking, their allegation provides them with significant motivation not to settle while at the same time boasting that they are prepared to go to trial. That is the kind of pride that will precede their fall.

When we initially heard this story, we were puzzled and wondered what else was at play. Then, about a week ago during an arbitration hearing, the City added to its list of lies.

The City alleged to the arbitrator that the federal magistrate involved in presiding over the settlement agreement in July '08 erred in conveying information to both sides, and that she, the federal magistrate, who reports to Chief Judge Michael Davis, had misrepresented the facts in the letters she sent to both parties.

Thus, on a technicality, we have City officials saying there was never a settlement agreement on the table because, although they did indeed agree, they never voted on the settlement as the court had directed them to do.

Mistaking the short term for the long term, City officials continue their contempt and cockiness. Hopefully, at some point, attorneys for the Mill City Five will ask that the letter the officials claim to have received be produced.

Long term, we sense that there are some very unhappy federal court officials. This is the kind of situation that suggests that sanctions are in order.

In their first appearance before Judge Michael Davis in January of this year, all parties were warned that the court would not tolerate any obstruction or violation of the court's procedures. Judge Davis went on to explain that any violation of the court's rules would receive heavy sanctions.

I saw similar scenarios involving city government about 15 years ago when the late Federal Judge Robert Renner discovered that the City of Minneapolis was violating the rules and regulations of the court and fined the City over $1 million.

Let's review: The City says it has examined the leak and determined it was by the five Black police officers suing the city. Then the arbitrator indicated that he was told by the city council president that a federal magistrate did not understand what was on the table, misrepresented the facts, and then had to send a letter to both parties to apologize for her error.

We await the City producing the material evidence to support its tall tale. We believe that at some point in time the attorneys for the Mill City Five will bring these outrageous acts to the attention of officials within the federal court system. Stay tuned.

In the matter of Carl Eller

It appears the Minneapolis police department has "lost" the videotapes of the arrest of Carl Eller in early April of this year. Within days of his arrest, the Minneapolis Police Department called a press conference and could not stop their laughter doing their reenactment of the arrest, indicating they could do so with such perfection because they had looked at the videos taken by the squad car.

On December 15, Carl Eller will be back in court. It will be interesting. Stay tuned.

Posted November 26, 2008, 1:00 a.m.

November 19, 2008 Column #44: Will Obama's mandate for change energize the '09 City elections? Or will the same old, tired White faces reappear once again?

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Change: It was Barack Obama's national campaign theme.

Change: President-elect Obama's theme needs to be applied to Minneapolis in 2009.

We need to continue the theme of this new era: change. It is for this reason that, as the euphoria of a great political victory in the presidential campaign of 2008 begins to subside, we here in Minneapolis need to turn our attention to the city elections of 2009, in which all council offices and the office of the mayor, as well as other offices, will be contested.

And what a grand contest it will be.

We are not alone in recognizing the need for change in Minneapolis. Many Democratic officeholders in Minnesota and Minneapolis embraced President-elect Obama's theme of "a time for change."

We all agree this is a healthy, visionary slogan. We all recognize and believe that change should also be applied at the local level. It's time for Minneapolis Democrats to walk the talk. Time to change.

The battle lines are being drawn between Mayor R.T. Rybak and members of the council over the City budget. A week and a half ago, the Star Tribune reported that the City's pension fund investment portfolio is in trouble due to the effect of the economic downturn. Time for a change.

The City's bond rating is also in trouble -- time for change. Council members such as Paul Ostrow, DFL, First Ward, are discussing the mayor's inability to address an anticipated $10 million shortfall in the City budget. It is clear that change in the form of fresh new blood and ideas is in order.

Leadership under the Rybak/Johnson administration has grown stagnant, lacking imagination and a vision for how the City should be riding the political coattails generated by Barack Obama's landslide victory. Time for a change.

The Obama juggernaut has hit the ground running. By contrast, the lethargic City government of Minneapolis has ground to a stop. If we were equating this to a basketball game, the City hasn't run a political fast break in years. Their lack of innovation to keep a great city moving shows they have outlived their time. Again: time for a change.

Rumors are circulating that some incumbents have already decided to move on. This should open the door to change, for fresh new faces, and that presents a challenge to the Democratic Party. Are they prepared to embrace the strategy of President-elect Barack Obama and reach out to young and diverse new political office-seekers? That would be change.

We sense they are not, as the Democratic Party has not shown the capacity to get in step with the national platform and agenda. The party resists raising up and running leaders of color. That needs to change;

In February and March 2009, the caucuses and the convention will take place. Will they offer the same old, tired voices and present the same old, tired White faces that do not represent the political rainbow of diversity that was the cornerstone of the successful effort of President-elect Barack Obama?

The city has problems -- public safety, race relations, crime, drugs, education, housing -- when it should be known for its quality of life. Too many politicians are trying to suppress the energetic, diverse, and newly emerging political force that turned out in record numbers to send Barack Obama over the top in Minnesota and Minneapolis. That is the change needed in Minneapolis.

We know that these observations are not looked upon with a lot of affection. But, when people have turned their backs on the need for meaningful and productive change, time has passed to care about their dislike of seeing their continued failures pointed out.

We in this column will watch with interest the pitched battle that will take place within the city council over the mayor's proposed budget and his lack of an innovative strategy. Will they change?

As we move into '09, how will the City handle the lawsuits that raise the questions of public safety and crime? This council, with the exception of Ralph Remington, gave their unequivocal support to the current police chief. It is past time when they can continue to massage the numbers for political reasons and ignore the reality of terror and violence on the streets of Minneapolis.

At some point, the citizens, who are the victims regardless of race, creed or color, will know someone is trying to sell them a bill of goods. The election of 2009 represents an opportunity to eliminate a tired political machine and to bring fresh and innovative ideas of government to city hall. That is the change that is needed in Minneapolis.

President-elect Obama has proved this can be done. Minneapolis must now do the same. Stay tuned.

Posted November 19, 2008, 2:30 a.m.

November 12, 2008 Column #43: OBAMA: With the flame rekindled, let us renew the fight for inclusion

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

America and the world, and no doubt history, will recognize 9:00 pm on November 4, 2008, as the great, historic resetting of our nation's moral compass, the beginning of the great track to bring about the meaningful and sincere inclusion of all citizens in this great nation of ours.

And on the 20th of January 2009, as he takes the oath of office as America's 44th president, that moral compass will begin to be put into play.

In an election night conversation with my 88-year-old mother, I had to admit to her that I did not think that I would ever live to see this historic event in my lifetime. As millions of us in this nation and millions more around the globe watched his victory speech, we were overcome with emotion.

I will never apologize for those emotions, for the felt pride and appreciation of the efforts of those who came before us and who fought the battle that opened doors for us, who knocked down the barricades, who prepared the way for this momentous occasion to take place.

The tears I felt were tears of both happiness and remembrance in this city. I remember the publisher and the founder of this newspaper, Cecil Newman. I remember Nellie Stone Johnson, the embodiment of political history in Minnesota. And I also remember Dr. Frank Alsop, Dr. Thomas Johnson and Dolly Spencer.

We all remember names too numerous to list, names that enshrine the honor roll of those who marched to battle and enabled our movement to prevail, as they before us, us now, and those after us form a link in the great chain of being that brought us to where we are this day.

As I watched president-elect Obama deliver his victory speech in Grant Park in Chicago, I found names and events, joy and success, pain and anger flashing across my eyes and through my mind. I was reminded of the price paid by both Black and White America to enable this great event, this unprecedented election to occur.

Now, Black Americans and others can and will move down the road of change to shape our nation in order to realize the dream that so many have held for so long of inclusion, of equal access and equal opportunity, of fairness and justice, of equality under color of law, consistent with the shaping and crafting of the Constitution and Bill of Rights of this republic.

President-elect Barack Obama laid out once again his vision, his shared dream of an America in which all of the above can, shall and must be embraced.

We know the challenge will not be easy. Old obstacles and barricades must be overcome just as must any new ones that might develop. President-elect Obama has rekindled a flame, has provided a spark, and has initiated a vision that Americans took to the polls November 4, 2008, in an unprecedented outpouring not seen since the emergence of Camelot and John F. Kennedy in 1960.

So many, young and old, Black and White, of all persuasions and nationalities, expressed a renewed confidence that brings us back to the original vision that positive change can happen. To sustain this confidence, president-elect Obama must quickly develop and execute a plan. It is imperative that he and his administration hit the ground running.

The mistakes of President Bill Clinton's start must serve as a historic example for president-elect Obama's team of the importance of having a plan ready to activate. He needs to position and reinforce the confidence not only of the 62 million who voted for his presidency, but also the 55 million who still have doubts and questions.

It is clear that this young, dynamic junior senator from Illinois brings these qualities to Pennsylvania Avenue and to the White House. But more importantly, we feel that he brings these qualities to the legacy and to the history that will judge his presidency and his success and, by extension, the renewed success of this nation.

It is kind of like the saying, " help us God," for these are critical times, demanding times, and we feel that the president-elect brings all of the qualities to continue to encourage our support and our enthusiasm for his presidency and for this administration and for this great nation. God bless America.

Posted November 12, 2008, 11:12 p.m.

November 5, 2008 Column #42: The shredding of 'Operation Payback'

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Efforts are underway to destroy all evidence of this plan targeting Black MPD officers.

In the middle of 2007, rumors swirled around Minneapolis City Hall that an investigation was taking place in the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), causing speculation about who was on a hit list.

Despite strong suspicions that Black officers were targeted by their own administration, there was no "smoking gun," no actionable proof. Then came the Michael Keefe story last summer (see our columns of Aug 2007 and Sept 2007 and Jan 2008) and the recounting of signs of significant racial tensions in the MPD (Read Why Blacks are not allowed to command: The bleaching of the Minneapolis Police Department).

As 2007 came to a close, speculation heightened that something big was about to break. Then, when high-ranking Black officers were removed in early 2008, following two African American officers being suspended in April 2007, it became clear that Black officers were being targeted.

But, as in the tradition of a good spy novel, no one was totally sure what this operation was called. In late summer 2008, the Star Tribune and other media heard about the operation and were promised information. Then, at the last minute, they were told that, for security reasons, all key information would be blacked out (see below, October 8, 2008 Is The Strib Only Interested In Black Corruption? Why Did It Drop Its MPD Investigation When White Officers Were Implicated?)

Truth won't stay suppressed for long, however. The name of the operation surfaced around the third week in September 2008: Operation Payback.

Ever since, unbeknownst to the general public, a battle royal rages over requests to access information on Operation Payback, with special emphasis on issues of overtime, comments written on overtime documents, verifying the name, the actual beginning date of Operation Payback, and what additional Black officers have been targeted and will be targeted.

The attempts to cover the tracks of this operation have become a total disaster for both the executive and legislative sides of City Hall.

Then two smoking canons appeared. The first was a memo sent October 27, 2008, from the City Attorney's Office to all departments of the MPD, directing that all documentation and records regarding Operation Payback, including emails, faxes, and any other transmissions, be delivered to one central handling point in the City Attorney's Office. This was the first step, as we have written before [COLUMN], in the redacting, purging, and actual destruction of information.

This raises serious questions as to whether the appropriate evidence can be acquired and examined by Lt. Michael Keefe, Officer Mike Roberts, and the Mill City Five (Read related columns on the MPD).

The second smoking canon was an October 28 email sent to select City department heads directing that all information, documentation, investigative reports on racial discrimination, allegations of discrimination, studies and actions taken or not taken be collected and delivered to one central clearinghouse.

To observers, the intent of the emails of October 27th and 28 th , 2008, is clear: the immediate and absolute destruction of all information and evidence of Operation Payback (an operation that appears to have commenced in 2006).

When the question is raised of who will stop this terrorizing activity, our response is that we don't think anyone in City government will do so. In other words, in plain sight, not hidden, hangs a great shadow of shame over the city, hung there by the mayor's office and by the city council, as well as by the MPD. Our observation is that it is so out of control, yet so effective in being out of control, that thousands of pages of evidence could be lost.

Always remember that just because documents get shredded, destroyed and lost doesn't mean they didn't exist.

If this opportunity is not to be lost, the attorneys for the Mill City 5, Officer Michael Roberts, Lt. Michael Keefe and Lt. Arthur Knight must act quickly to sue for the information for their individual cases.

It is as simple as the "Crystal Night" of November 9-10, 1938, when no one moved to stop that night's destruction. For those who don't understand or remember, refresh yourself by reviewing Nazi Germany in the 1930s. Stayed tuned and stay safe.

Obama shows his savvy

The Obama TV special of October 29 was top of the line. Thirty minutes. Prime time. On four national networks.

Obama looked presidential. Sounded presidential. His background set looked like the oval office. He showed America that he had such huge support that he had the $4 million to deliver his message on national TV. Powerful stuff.

The young senator from Illinois knows how to play the game. He knows how to get his message across. The results will be interesting. And historic. Our next two columns will look back to examine Barack Obama's extraordinary 2008 race to the White House.

Posted November 8, 2008, 10:15 p.m.

October 29, 2008 Column #41: The victims change, but MPD's script remains the same

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

This past summer, Lt. Arthur Knight, an African American in the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), began to think about applying for some of the more sensitive MPD investigative positions.

Lt. Knight is one of those officers the Police Community Relations Council (PCRC) has been tracking, watching his career develop as opportunities for advanced educational opportunities present themselves. He could be assigned to the FBI Academy in Washington, D.C., or to the Southern Police Leadership Academy in Louisville, KY, or to our good friend Chuck Wexler's Senior Management Institute for Police in Boston, MA.

When Sgt. Art Knight was appointed lieutenant in late winter of 2008, it looked like such career opportunities would open up for him. Rumors that he was on a hit list suggest otherwise.

We are told that there is no basis in reality for these negatives and to stop attempts to stir up problems and create hard feelings. Nonetheless, even if the City isn't interested in reality, we are. We will speak up.

On October 23, 2008, Lt. Knight was summoned to be interrogated by Internal Affairs, reminding us that the beat goes on in the continuing purge of African American officers to eliminate as many Blacks from the department as possible. Why will no one else speak up?

The allegations against Lt. Knight were almost identical, almost word for word, to those leveled at Lt. Michael Keefe in the summer of 2007 (see our five MSR columns of August and September 2007). And, it was the Violent Offenders Task Force (VOTF) unit again, using their same old script.

As with Lt. Keefe, Lt. Knight is accused of looking at police information about the VOTF unit, which scares the VOTF. Why? Same as with the false accusations of Lt. Keefe: They say they fear for their lives. This is code for saying Lt. Knight is going to provide this information to Black street gangs, endangering the VOTF unit (which has little history of diversity and is one of the sources of this whole purge mentality).

How this investigation will play out only the devil knows. Note the recycling of the same claimed scenario: bad Black officers, and in one case a decorated white lieutenant who stood up against racism in VOTF, accused of giving sensitive information to some of the most dangerous street gangs in America.

To retaliate, the latest information is a rumor being circulated that VOTF (which has become like a mini-CIA inside the MPD) is working on a very sensitive internal investigation that will expose significant corruption and criminal activity involving a significant number of Black police officers in the MPD. This scenario is coming from well-placed sources inside the MPD.

How many more times will they work this scenario? Although it will be proven false, they have accomplished their character assassination. Who will speak up against them?

This is coming on the heels of the Giovanni Veliz case (see the Strib , 10-23-08, "Jury rejects Minneapolis sergeant's claim of retaliation") that concluded there was no discrimination or retaliation (not unexpected, as it was an all-White jury with an Hispanic defendant whose White lawyer didn't raise the race issue).

It is obvious from the Strib piece that the police officials lied. The Strib won't stand up and say so. Who will?

The new word on the street is that the City is emboldened to take a hard line against any challenge to their policy of MPD racial cleansing. Some say that was what the roll of the dice was about this past summer when the City reneged on a $2 million settlement of a suit by five Black officers.

It appears their long shot won, renewing their commitment to purging African American officers. Who will speak up?

We are reminded of a poem by a German pastor, Martin Niemoller:

"In Germany, they came first for the Communists,
And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist;
And then they came for the trade unionists,
And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist;
And then they came for the Jews,
And I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew;
And then...they came for me...
And by that time there was no one left to speak up."

Be sure to vote

When we read things like Congresswoman Michelle Bachman ( Strib , 10-23-08, "GOP fundraising committee pulls plug on Bachmann") suggesting that Obama and many members of Congress may be anti-American, we recognize the code for Blacks and the Congressional Black Caucus. Whether you agree or disagree, we all owe it to each other to vote. See you at the polls.

Posted October 29, 2008, 9:24 p.m.

October 22, 2008 Column #40 In the matter of Sgt. Giovanni Veliz

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

On Friday, October 15, 2008, the Civil Rights trial involving Sgt. Giovanni Veliz began in the Federal Court.

As the Star Tribune article, Police officer, department go to court over discrimination, on October 15, 2008, states, Sgt. Giovanni Veliz is truly a man of courage. He understood the dangers and the consequences of not remaining silent and protecting himself for advancement. Instead, he filed his suit in 2005 and has continued to stand his ground as a champion and advocate for the Hispanic community.

This son of Equador choose integrity and honor, and joined his five African American colleagues known as the Mill City 5, in challenging the unfair Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) system that endorses "legal racism."

We do not know how the jury will find, but we do know that facts in testimony will shed light, even as you read this column, on one of the darkest chapters in the history of Minneapolis and its MPD.

At one time, Sgt. Veliz served in the office of Mediation Compliance under the respected and beloved Lt. Medaria Arrodondo .

The city has found both of these men, one Hispanic and one African American, to represent too much integrity and too much commitment to their communities and to the proposition of justice. To city officials with a Plantation mentality, such men make them feel very uncomfortable and very uneasy. The only thing worse to them than toppling the status quo of racial discrimination is to establish a new status quo of merit and equality of opportunity.

When minorities get uppity, Plantation minds think in terms of punishing and "sending a message" to any who would fight their status quo of discrimination. Thus, some City Council members thought Lt. Arrodondo needed to be taken to the bureaucratic woodshed and taught a lesson. So the city reneged on its $2 million settlement offer with the Mill City 5.

Ironically enough, in the matter of Sgt. Valiz, of whom the court strongly suggested the city reach a settlement, the response, again, of some city council members, is that Sgt. Valiz also needed to be taken to the bureaucratic woodshed and punished for the error of his ways.

What were those errors? Very simple: Sgt Valiz confronted and challenged the status quo existence of racism within the MPD and Minneapolis City government. Given the court's reaction, we are sure that testimony during the course of this trial will show that at least two high ranking Minneapolis Police officers perjured themselves in depositions.

And to show the corruption of their thinking and intellectual dishonesty, the City council offers shameless disregard for the tax payer, their attitude being that if the City loses, as they have no personal money at risk, the liability burden "merely" passes on to the tax payers. Sound familiar? Think of recent headlines, of big banks, big lending institutions, the congress of the United states, etc., saying "so what?" and taking care of the sins of their buddies at the cost of hurting main street and tax payers.

Because of the city's actions, we concur with those that hold that this trial is healthy for the pursuit of justice. It may not be healthy for the careers and reputations of some high ranking MPD white personnel, but hey: nothing personal. That's just the nature of the beast.

Many agree that Sgt. Valiz at one time had a bright future in the MPD, as he worked to bridge the differences, the suspicions, and the mistrust between the Hispanic Latino community and the MPD. But for the plantation minded, doing the right thing is not on their agenda other than to exercise their "right" to punish, humiliate, and make life miserable for those that pull the covers off of their discrimination, even if it means sacrificing the good done by Sgt. Valiz to develop better understanding between the Hispanic community and the City.

This "they need to be taught a lesson" response is similar to what is being said in the matter of the African American officers known as the Mill City Five:. The more they can make the African American Police officers miserable, the better these city officials will feel.

This mentality and thinking are not only sick, they endanger public safety. But as we have said before, there comes a time in the life of a society when taking on toxic things is healthy, as how else but to expose the wrongs but also begin a righting of those wrongs, and calling for the MPD to get back to caring for all the citizens.

Hence, in the matters of Sgt. Giovanni Veliz, Officer Mike Roberts, and at the trial in October of next year of the Mill City 5, these are healthy events. Hopefully it will have healthy consequences on the elections of 2009, when voters get the opportunity to show that there are consequences for those who feel that minorities don't have a right to a full franchise.

Good luck Sgt Veliz. Good luck Officer Roberts. Good luck Mill City 5. Stay tuned.

Posted 10-23-08, 7:38 a.m.

October 15, 2008 Column #39: Race will be a factor in this election

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Over the last 10 days, reporters from major newspapers from New York ( New York Times ), Pennsylvania ( Pittsburgh Post Dispatch ), Ohio ( Columbus Dispatch ) and Florida ( St. Petersburg Times ) have reported the role of race in the presidential election for 2008, reporting some "will not vote for a Black man."

But it's not just not words -- it's also actions. American journalists covering the Sarah Palin campaign last week in Florida actually found themselves coming under verbal and some physical attacks, especially after a speech by the sheriff of Clearwater County, Florida. While in uniform, the sheriff referred to Senator Barach Obama as "Osama bid Laden Obama" and berated Black journalists and other citizens of color with racial epithets.

The mainstream media spent most of Tuesday and Wednesday last week attempting to defuse this very unpleasant situation by indicating that both sides were involved in this kind of conduct. CNN anchor Rick Sanchez spent an inordinate amount of time dismissing the incident as nothing more than the frustration of a segment of voters.

In this corner, we reject that.

That is the same argument used by apologists for the mayhem carried out by the Ku Klux Klan and other White folks upset by the demands of the Negro population for full inclusion and full franchise after World War I. Now, 86 years later, CNN, Fox and others are using the same rationale, same logic, same excuses to justify misconduct and threats to the civil order and safety of the nation.

It is these incidents that should be of greatest concern, as objectively, it is not the order of the day for deciding between the candidacy of a White man and a Black man. We like to think that in 2008 we have traveled so far and so fast, and with mutual respect one for the other, that such thoughts do not govern our actions and conduct.

It is sobering to read what New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof reports from researchers of "racism without racists." They say most overt racists wouldn't vote for a Democrat anyway. And although the good news is that that conscious prejudice as measured in surveys has declined over time, unconscious discrimination -- aversive racism (racist acts by people who don't believe they are racist) -- has stayed fairly constant.

They report that Obama's support "would be about six percentage points higher if he were White."

We still hope and pray, as we have said before in this column, that on November 4, at the conclusion of the day, the American voter will be objective and honest in the casting of their vote in determining the future of this nation. But as an African American, you have to have an uneasy feeling that it's "business as usual" and wonder how much we as a nation have matured to embrace the real intent of the framers of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

One reporter noted, however, that some swing voters who have "concerns about voting for a Black man" say, "But you know what? We need a change, and so I'm leaning toward Obama." Will this be the time the racists don't win?

An "investment" for the future?

As we approach November 4, there is eerie silence about a $480 million commitment over eight years that the voters of the City of Minneapolis are being asked to embrace by the Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS). This referendum, also pushed by Special School District Number 1, only talks in press releases about $60 million, "forgetting" to note that it is $60 million per year for eight years. That's $480 million, not just $60 million.

The rationale for why we voters should support this $480 million are outrageous and disingenuous. As test scores for African American students in the Minneapolis schools remain dismal despite the similar referendum rhetoric of 1996, 2000 and 2004, what has changed that would now improve test scores and guarantee greater success for African American students?

When they say this money will enable them to "make every child college-ready by 2012," while offering "transparency, accountability, sustainability and responsibility," I wonder what collapsed bridge they are also offering for sale. The only consistency: more money, more failures. So who, really, is this money for?

We continue to wait for a comprehensive and detailed explanation of how these promises will be met as opposed to more of the same, getting more money to achieve the same dismal results.

We are also hearing interesting rumors suggesting that some are perilously close to being inconsistent with the laws of the State of Minnesota regarding how taxpayer dollars are used to promote campaigns to raise taxes. Hopefully what we are hearing is not correct. We await the kind of explanation and guarantees that the African American community is not being sold another bill of goods, and we will report our findings next week.

The future of all children is too important to continue this business as usual, that being the failure of the school systems to educate children of color. Stay tuned.

Posted 10-18-08, 11:41 p.m.

October 8, 2008 Column #38: Is The Strib Only Interested In Black Corruption?Why Did It Drop Its MPD Investigation When White Officers Were Implicated?

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

About seven months ago, the Minneapolis Star Tribune let it be known that it was initiating an investigative report on corruption in the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD). Many believed the story would not be about the MPD as a whole, but only about Black police officers, using as a start the April 17, 2008, suspensions of Lt. Lee Edwards and Officer Michael Roberts.

With the indictment of Officer Roberts on July 14, 2008, the Strib apparently felt comfortable with the information it has been fed by sources inside the MPD indicating that the entire iceberg of corruption of Black police officers was about to be exposed.

The Strib waited over two months for the crucial information needed to expose the amount of overtime expended by the VOTF (Violent Offenders Task Force) unit at the heart of its investigation of so-called Black police corruption.

Then, during the week of September 22, 2008, according to reliable sources, the Strib was told the information would be unavailable. (Why were they waiting to be told what they could or could not print instead of investigating on their own?)

This plan to destroy the image of African American police officers, first crafted in late 2006, was fully engaged by February 2007. But then a peculiar thing happened during the week of September 22, 2008, when the identification of the operation against Black police officers was finally revealed: "Operation Payback."

It turns out that the evidence instead identified the operation and the names of White police officers involved in putting a Black face on White corruption.

During Tuesday and Wednesday of the week of September 22, an official of the police department and an assistant city attorney, according to reliable sources, went to great lengths to recover and purge overtime slips that went as far back as December 2006 and the apparent initiation date of Operation Payback. The names purged were those of the White police officers.

Sources now indicate that on the morning of Thursday, September 25, a deputy chief of police and an assistant city attorney promised to provide all information pertaining to overtime records, as well as comments made within those records that confirmed the existence of Operation Payback. Unfortunately, they subsequently reneged on that commitment, indicating on October 1 that the information (overtime paperwork, names of officers, etc.) was determined to be sensitive. It was redacted (blackened out, censored).

For whatever reason, the Strib refuses to contest this decision, reinforcing the suspicion that once it was determined that there was no Black police corruption, only White corruption, the investigation lost its probative value to the newspaper.

Thus does the elaborate conspiracy against African American officers continue to advance, with the only significant opposition being the Black officers and this paper, the Minnesota Spokesman Recorder . The purging of the evidence raises serious questions with respect to the violation of the rules of the federal court with respect to discovery, and the position of the federal court that there can be no destruction or tampering of evidence to which both sides have a right to equal access.

On October 1, 2008, they tried to destroy that doctrine of equal access. The opportunity for a fair trial for Officer Roberts and the five Black officers and their lawsuit of December 3, 2007, would be lost forever if not for the reporting of the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder . Once again, the City tries to keep justice blinded, severely injuring the African American community. Stay tuned.

Fuse lit for Robyn Robinson?

Are the rumors true that Robyn Robinson is being forced out at Channel 9? This interesting rumor regarding the very popular and longtime anchor for Channel 9, KMSP, has swept across the Twin Cities market.

Robyn Robertson has been a bright star and certainly an inspiration to African Americans in the Twin Cities community and beyond, particularly to African American females seeing someone break through the television industry glass ceiling for news and primetime anchors.

Of the dynamic African American female anchors at Channels 5, 9, and 11, Robyn Robinson had been the most successful and respected. We are told that ad agency folks snicker on the cocktail circuit about Channel 9's fall and winter schedule promotions for the 6, 9 and 10 pm broadcasts. None feature Ms. Robinson, as she will not only be out of her anchor chair but out of Channel 9 altogether.

Maybe we are being premature. We hope there is a strategy to keep this 10-year veteran newscaster. If not, it would truly be a sad and dark day for the African American community. We would not only lose a true legend and giant of the industry; we would also lose a professional who did not forget nor ignore her ties to the community.

Let us hope that we are wrong. It is a bad time for this at this time in history.

See "Silence by the Star Tribune about discrimination," a list of columns appearing in this newspaper dealing with discrimination covered up or ignored by the Star Tribune, including blog entries, a list presented to the Grand Jury and posted in July as Solutions Paper #30.

Posted Wednesday, October 8, 2008, 2:32 a.m.

October 1, 2008 Column #37: $700 billion bailout — or stickup?

“Through My Eyes, the Minneapolis Story Continues...”
A weekly column by Ron Edwards featured in the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder

Over the last 10 days, President George W. Bush, Treasury Secretary Paulson, Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke, and the host of politicians in Congress have commanded primetime media coverage. Fortunately, they do not have long-term command of the economic future of this nation. Main Street and the voters will be heard as well.

As you listen to the politicians of both parties and their friends in big business and corporate America who contribute so significantly to their political campaigns, you'd think the president and others had just returned from Mars. In fact, they almost speak in tongues as if they did nothing and had no role, no hand, in this national disaster.

They leave us with the impression that investment banks folding, commercial banks teetering, and the world economy shuddering all happened on their own. They say we heroes on Main Street America will do the patriotic thing: Suck it up, tighten our belts, and put our future and the future of our children on hold as we provide this $700 billion bailout as heroic taxpayers.

Last Wednesday, in his address to the nation, the president spelled out to the American people how they could beat the financial doomsday device with a $700 billion bailout. They say the government may make money on it. If not, it will be seen as the equivalent of backing a Brinks armored car up to the back door of the Federal Reserve and just shoveling in $700 billion of America's hard-earned equity.

The president, Congress, and economic "experts" feign innocence and surprise at the magnitude of this economic disaster, even those who identified it some years ago. $700 billion and rising, my friends, is a significant hit to Main Street's economy. But, we know that elected politicians on both sides of the aisle are the corrupt, indispensable enemies who invented this in the first place.

Let's not forget the S&L bailout of the late 1980s, nor the Long Term Capital Management emergency bailout of 1998. Like Pavlov's dogs, Wall Street (and some Main Street bankers) came to believe that high risk would have no negative consequences and their poor management, poor choices, hidden agendas and stupidity would be rescued by government bailouts.

The great investor Warren Buffet has said that first comes innovation (new financial instruments), then imitation (more financial instruments than the system can handle), and then idiocy (more risk leading to financial collapse).

Just as justices and senior judges rely too much on young law clerks, so too do too many corporate executives rely on analysis by young MBAs with computer skills to manipulate "projections" of profit. We the people must now take a close look at the system and demand that computers be used to provide transparency (enabling us to look up what is going on as easily as looking up any other information).

What we don't need is the idiocy of commentators like Rush Limbaugh, who, on September 24, blamed poor people for creating this problem, saying they had not earned the right to participate in the American dream of home ownership. Of course, in the process, he also suggested that Barack Obama had not earned the right to run for the presidency of the United States.

We know Limbaugh is playing the race card. But this is beyond race. He is typical of the elites (whether liberal or conservative) who think they are of a higher and better class.

Poor people didn't create these financial instruments. Poor people did not broker mortgages. Poor people didn't write down higher income numbers sent to the underwriters. Poor people were not the underwriters.

This is where some on Main Street also dropped the ball, thinking all they had to do was follow the Wall Street casinos. None of Wall Street's casino operators are poor people.

Yes, there must be accountability. Yes, there must be consequences for the fat cats no matter who they are, Republicans or Democrats, who have betrayed the trust of the American people and been loyal only to themselves. Fat cats cannot be allowed to walk away from this disaster they created to enhance and increase their personal wealth through outrageous compensation, bonuses, and other benefits.

We in our local communities cannot allow this. It is not only unacceptable, it is immoral. Federal and state legislators must determine which parts were illegal and prosecute accordingly.

The legacy of this nation requires and demands an accounting and consequences for one of the greatest stickups in the history of this republic. The rich who rewarded themselves cannot be allowed to say they were "not in the room" or close to those who made the decisions that will have a severe and devastating impact on those they would blame, the poor.

They gambled with our joint future. It is time to be patriots about the economy and make it safe for everyone.

Posted October 2, 2008, 6:18 p.m.

Ron hosts “Black Focus” on Channel 17, MTN-TV, Sundays, 5-6 pm. Formerly head of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission and the Urban League, he continues his “watchdog” role for Minneapolis. Order his book, hear his voice, read his solution papers, and read his between columns “web log” at

Permission is granted to reproduce The Minneapolis Story columns, blog entires and solution papers. Please cite the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder and for the columns. Please cite for blog entries and solution papers.

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