Monday, May 26, 2014

The Hmong Market

Sunday, May 25, was the first day of summery weather in central Minnesota after a long, hard winter and a generally unpleasant spring and an opportunity for the Twin Cities' southeast Asian population to do some outdoor shopping at their international market on the corner of Marion St. and Como Ave. in St. Paul. The market is the place to find traditional Hmong and Karen clothing and food. At this time of the year it's also the spot to pick out the seedlings for this summer's garden. Individuals are selling pepper, tomato and melon plants as well as plants not generally available on the northern plains. The venue was packed with gardeners making their choices.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

2014 Tuesday Night Worlds at the Fair

The road cycling season in the Twin City area gets underway with the Tuesday Night Worlds at the Fair, a weekly criterium on the Minnesota State Fair Grounds.

The combined women's field lines up for their 25 minutes of laps around Machinery Hill on May 20.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

90 Year-Old Drugrunner Gets 3 Years in the Federal Pen

Ninety-year old WWII bronze star winner Leo Sharp has been sentenced to 3 years in federal prison for his part in a major cocaine distribution ring. Federal agents discovered Sharp by recording telephone conversations between other suspects in an investigation of the conspiracy and arrested him on a Michigan highway with $3 million worth of cocaine in his pickup truck. According to US district judge Nancy Edmunds, if she didn't send Sharp to prison for his crime, drug dealers would get the wrong message, being: "If you want to inoculate your organization from punishment … get an elderly person to do your deliveries for you, because they're not going to go to prison for it."

Is the logic of that statement correct? Does Mr. Drug Dealer look at his operation and think that if the distribution network is composed of geriatrics, they might receive lesser punishments than their younger counterparts and then ...go right back to work dealing drugs? Drug dealers probably try to hire people that they can rely upon that are unlikely  to stand out as stereotypical criminals. If these underlings are apprehended, it's all over for them. Mr. D.D. loses these employees for a long time. But then he gets others. The "War on Drugs", an expensive failure, has never discouraged the participation of those willing to take a chance on its rewards. Sending a 90 year-old to the big house is unlikely to change that dynamic.

"an involuntary termination for reasons other than for cause."

That's how Target Corp. describes the departure of CEO Gregg Steinhafel as the troubled discount retailer attempts to move on from a disastrous data breach, failed Canadian expansion and low sales, as we're told here. In spite of this trifecta of misfortune, Steinhafel will depart the Minnesota company with a $15.9 million severance package. In the previous two years combined the 35-year Target veteran earned $33.6 million in cash and stock awards.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Slavery Museum

A short article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch describes a situation that could lead to controversy in that happy village on the James River. L.Douglas Wilder, 83 year-old ex-governor of Virginia and one-time mayor of Richmond wants a planned Slavery Museum to be erected on the site where once stood the First African Baptist Church on 14th and Broad, in central Richmond.  This is contrary to the previous plan to erect the museum in the Shockoe Bottom district, a warehouse neighborhood that became the night life center of the city and is now also the site of a proposed new baseball park for the Richmond Flying Squirrels.  In antebellum Richmond, Shockoe Bottom was the location of the slave market for the area and then the Richmond Slave Trail, a walk through points of interest in the history of North American Slavery.

There are museums that collect the artifacts of almost everything. We have art museums, automobile museums, mustard museums, a prison museum, and even a roller skating museum. What do we think that a museum devoted to slavery might display? There could be dioramas of slave life in 18th century Virginia, displays of the fixtures and furniture, if any, found in the primitive habitations of the slaves. There would be multi-media presentations of slave life and the history of the practice in the US from the arrival of the first slaves from Africa in 1619 until the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. In fact, there is just such a museum
60 miles down the road in Jamestown.

First African Baptisit Church, Richmond, Virginia

Be that as it may, what is it that a trip through the proposed slavery museum is meant to accomplish? Is it supposed to demonstrate how evil slavery was? Most Americans are very much aware of the evils of slavery, although none of them have any personal experience with it in this country.  Is it to spread knowledge that will insure that the "peculiar institution" is never resurrected here? Probably not much chance of that happening. It could be considered a memorial to the slaves of the past, but why would people who found themselves in an unfortunate situation necessarily be memorialized?

If one were to compare the response to the experience of the black slaves of Virginia to that of the native Americans of the US, one would have to notice that apparently it is worse to enslave someone than it is to kill them and take their property. Maybe that's true, after all, the state motto of New Hampshire is "Live Free or Die". So if indeed enslaving someone is the ultimate wrong, why is the penal system different?

The ultimate punishment in America, or anywhere else, is death. In fact, it's so ultimate that there's been a huge effort to eliminate the death penalty all over the country. At the same time there's been a trend to maximize prison sentences, to hold people in cages for extended periods of time, while making them work for 12 cents an hour. Obviously, some part of America considers death a greater punishment than slavery. But another part of the country, or maybe the same parts but at different moments, considers slavery worse than death.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Texas Cop Guns Down 93 Year-old Woman

No real details have emerged as yet about an incident that occurred on May 6 in the eastern Texas town of Hearne. What is known is that local policeman Stephen Stem fired five shots at 93 year-old Pearlie Gordon, two of which found the mark. More here.

Update: A generally unreliable source has it that Stem has been dismissed by the Hearne City Council.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Friends Life Women's Tour, May 7-11, Great Britain

The inaugural Friends Life Women's Tour, the first ever British women's stage race begins on Wednesday in Oundle, Northamptonshire. Some of the ladies participating are likely to be:
The Boels Doelmans team that includes Lizzie Armitstead in her white champion kit sitting in front of American attack specialist Megan Guarnier.
The youthful Hitec Products team that includes from left, Aussie sprinter Chloe Hosking, Norwegian Cecilie G. Johnson, South African champion Ashleigh Moolman and Norwegian criterium champion Emilie Moberg.
The Rabo Liv Women's Cycling Team, led by the Netherlands' Marianne Vos, top women's cyclist in the world.
The Australian Orica-Ais Team, led by the world's number-one ranked female road cyclist, fourth from the right, Swede Emma Johansson.
Rochelle Gilmore's Wiggle Honda team that includes world champion Gorgia Bronzini, fifth from left and fan favorite Emilia Fahlin on far right.

It's not an Asian carp, it's an "Invasive Carp"

Typical witless politician John Hoffman, a Minnesota state senator from Champlin, representing suburban district 36, adds an amendment to legislation that excludes the adjective "Asian" as applied to a fish, from state communications because it might make people of Asian birth unhappy, I guess. There are people of Asian birth in Minnesota for sure. But Asia is a continent, not an ethnicity or race or attitude. It contains 4.3 billion souls (over half the world's population) of varying skin color and language preference. It extends from Istanbul in Turkey to Anadyr, in the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug of Russia. That's a distance of about 5000 miles. Does everyone in this vast expanse refer to themselves as Asians rather than Russians or Tamils or Koreans? There's also the consideration that some native-born Minnesotans have an ethnic heritage that originates in some part of Asia, the Hmongs for instance. Do the Hmongs refer to themselves as Asians? I'm going straight down to the Hmong market for lunch. I'll report back later on what the Asians themselves have to say about this matter, if that actually has any bearing on it.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Minnesota (?) Politico Jim Oberstar Passes Away

Jim Oberstar, who represented the northeastern Minnesota Iron Range area in the US Congress for 36 years died in his sleep at age 79 on the morning of May 3, according to this obit and this WaPo piece.

Oberstar was an expert on transportation issues and an effective user of the "earmark" process in arranging projects like highway and airport construction in his district.

Interestingly, while stressing Oberstar's commitment to his rural roots, the tribute mentions that he died at his home, in Potomac, Maryland. Also mentioned is that he spent the previous evening at a drama event that included one of his grandchildren, who also live in the Washington area. Here we see another example of professional politicians that are elected in the hinterlands, take up residency in D.C. and then become permanent fixtures inside the beltway, returning home only to campaign for office. More proof, if any is needed, that using the District as a meeting place for Congress is an idea that has long outlived its necessity, usefulness or legitimacy.