Troops in the trash (5×8- 11/10/11)

The disposable soldier, the kidnappings we pay attention to, newspaper to Jesse: Get lost, Rick Perry’s memory, and the power of power.


In a week of scandals, the treatment of the remains of returning – and dead – soldiers has hardly gotten any attention. Let’s change that.

Three Air Force officers were disciplined this week for “losing” the remains of some soldiers killed in the wars and returned to Dover Air Force base. But that announcement came days before this nugget was dropped: The remains of soldiers were dumped in a landfill.

Says the Washington Post

Lt. Gen. Darrell G. Jones, the Air Force’s deputy chief for personnel, said the body parts were first cremated, then incinerated, and then taken to a landfill by a military contractor. He likened the procedure to the disposal of medical waste.

Jones also could not estimate how many body parts were handled in this way. “That was the common practice at the time, and since then our practices have improved,” he said.

The families of dead soldiers seem to understand the problem more than the Air Force brass. “My only peace of mind in losing my husband was that he was taken to Dover and that he was handled with dignity, love, respect and honor,” one said. “That was completely shattered for me when I was told that he was thrown in the trash.”

Yesterday Defense Secretary Leon Panetta congratulated the Defense Department on the thoroughness of its investigation. And that, apparently, is that.

Is it?

Oh, three whistleblowers who brought the problem up were either terminated or disciplined for doing so.

What does it take to get people motivated to protest? Fire a football coach.


About an hour before word came that former Minnesota Twin Wilson Ramos has been kidnapped in Venezuela, NPR broadcast this story, detailing what happens to many of the 400,000 people deported from the United States and dropped on border communities.

Avila says that when the deportees were out during the day, many of them were abducted, beaten or robbed. But by keeping them in the shelter, the nun says, they’ve been able to avoid that.

Mexican kidnapping gangs often target people who have family in the United States under the assumption that most can quickly raise a ransom of $500 or $1,000.

This part of Mexico isn’t dangerous just for migrants. Even the former mayor and his son were kidnapped over the summer.

The Ramos kidnapping is tragic, no question. The ones in Mexico are, too. The story is worth listening to.


The Marshall Independent is so upset at former Gov. Jesse Ventura’s declared refusal to stand for the National Anthem again, that it wrote an editorial about it today.

Last Friday, Ventura said he plans to apply for Mexican citizenship so he can live there more often. We say, “fine, go right ahead.” This Friday, we will honor our veterans who fought and sacrificed for the very freedoms Ventura enjoys as an American (or part-time American) – the freedoms that allow him to go in front of all those cameras to let everyone know what his feelings and opinions are. We don’t know what the former governor will be doing on Veterans Day, but we hope he takes a little time out of his busy day to count his blessings and remind himself that without our veterans and their military service he wouldn’t be able to do or say half the things he does.

Go ahead, Mr. Ventura, slap this country in the face again, it’s your right, just be sure those verbal jabs don’t include those who fought for our freedoms.

Ventura took his displeasure to the WCCO newsroom yesterday…


Really, what more is there to say?

Watching the unfolding disaster last night, I couldn’t help but think of Admiral James Stockdale, a war hero and a vice presidential candidate in 1992, who was laughed out of the race for less.

Sen. John McCain told the New York Times that Perry’s performance last night was “the human equivalent of shuttle Challenger.” (Correction: It was Mark McKinnon, a onetime McCain strategist.)

Let’s just pause for two minutes and four seconds to think about that little quip:

I would suggest the space shuttle Challenger doesn’t have a human equivalent because it was the human equivalent.


Two men of the cloth are making news today. Rev. Greg Oats, a Roseville pastor, has been charged with stealing the money of an elderly man with Alzheimer’s, then spending thousands at Wal-Mart, Burger King, and other stores, the Star Tribune reports. He had been named the man’s power of attorney, and also nearly got him evicted — he also has Parkinson’s, diabetes, and is mentally ill — from his home.

The Pioneer Press, meanwhile, reports on the trial of Christopher Wenthe, a former Nativity of Our Lord priest. A woman who suffered from bulimia and had been sexually abused as a child, sought counseling from him. He’s charged with sexually assaulting her. The newspaper has a compelling analysis of what is involved in deciding whether it was a crime.

Bonus I: The story of Monique White is getting plenty of attention on the InterTubes since it was posted earlier this week.

Monique’s Story: Facing Foreclosure from Peter Leeman on Vimeo.

Monique worked for 11 years as a youth counselor at a group home to help troubled teens transition back into their communities. In February 2010, the nonprofit shut down due to state budget cuts. Although Monique still has a part-time job at a liquor store where she has worked for the past 8 years, this has not been enough to afford her mortgage payment.

Monique has gone through the process of trying to get a loan modification writing a hardship letter and sending document after document to US Bank, yet they still refused to work with her and have foreclosed on her home.

Bonus II: Because a flying rhino is something you don’t see every day…

Flying Rhinos from Green Renaissance on Vimeo.

Meanwhile, the western black rhino has officially been declare extinct.

In other animal news: Two same-sex penguins who appear to love each other are being split up.


The Ford Motor Company is getting ready to put its Twin Cities Assembly Plant up for sale. After the final Ranger pickup rolls off the line next month, the 86-year-old factory will close for good, leaving St. Paul with 135 acres of land in a good location. Today’s Question: What should be done with St. Paul’s Ford plant?


This is the last 5×8 of the week. I’m off tomorrow.

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Looking for the truth in 2012 campaign advertising.

Second hour: Chris Paine’s new documentary follows four entrepreneurs from 2007 through the end of 2010 as they fight to bring the electric car back to the world market during a global recession. Paine and auto columnist Dan Neil discuss the film and the future of the electric car.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Former Minnesota Gov. Arne Carlson talks about Minnesota’s financial situation.

Second hour: Rebroadcast of the GOP presidential debate in Michigan.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour (portions pre-empted by Midday): The nuclear evidence against Iran.

Second hour: Homeless veterans.

  • John O.

    #3) Jesse apparently still misses the regular media attention. Assuming that an average schmoe such as myself cannot just walk unfettered into the ‘CCO newsroom and have a go at it, when are the media “jackals” that Mr. Janos allegedly hates so much going to quit enabling him? What would have happened if he had shown up at MPR to vent his spleen?

    #4) After the 1,478th televised Republican presidential candidate debate, the only newsworthy items are down to the gaffes.

  • Bob Collins

    // the only newsworthy items are down to the gaffes.

    I think at this point in the campaign, the biggest issue facing the country is “how can we get the nation’s best and brightest” to run for president?

  • The Governor was in the WCCO building because there’s a company that does satellite uplinks for the networks. If you see someone on cable TV sitting in front of a Minneapolis skyline – they’re in a small studio in our building.

    We often have people come into our newsroom after those chats. But rarely are they as… spirited… as the former Governor.

  • Tim

    I’m certainly not Ventura’s biggest fan, but I think he understands veterans’ sacrifices just fine. You know, what with having been in the military and all.

  • Bismuth

    // I think at this point in the campaign, the biggest issue facing the country is “how can we get the nation’s best and brightest” to run for president?

    Well, a start might be to stop jumping all over minor verbal miscues during an extemporaneous statement. That only ensures a president who can talk smoothly, not necessarily one who can think smoothly. One thing I’ve learned from the reaction to Mr. Perry’s “moment” is that even if I wanted the job and had the resources to run a campaign, I could never get elected president. The reason? Because what happened to Mr. Perry last night happens to me on a daily basis. It’s not that I don’t know what I’m talking about, or exactly what I’m trying to say, but occasionally the words I want to say just aren’t there on my tongue. It doesn’t affect my thinking, and didn’t stop me from getting a PhD in engineering, but apparently would single-handedly disqualify me from elected office.

  • Bob Collins

    I think the context of Perry’s moment is in his other “moments.” He’s come off as kind of goofy and a little bit off the wall.

    Unfortunately, the candidates themselves — and, of course — the media are responsible for this because they deal in images, not in substance.

    Can’t remember the name of the cabinet department you want to cut. Here’s one way to remember it: Tell us why you want to cut it, and it’ll probably come to you.

    Anyway, when you run as a product based on more imagery and style than actual substance (even if you think America can’t handle substance), you have to accept that you’re going to be judged on imagery and style.

  • This is NOT lucy

    About the troops and the 3 Whistle Blowers and what Bill Zwicharowski said, “Face your mistake and take responsibility for it.”

    What an epiphany. Imagine a world that does just that.

  • Bismuth

    Is it even possible to run a campaign that’s not based on imagery and style in the modern political climate? Ron Paul seems to be the only one who’s trying. Maybe that’s the bigger issue.

  • Bob Collins

    //Maybe that’s the bigger issue.

    I think that gets back to the question about the ‘best and brightest.’

    The easy and cynical answer here is to say Americans are too stupid to be able to deal with substance and analysis and critical thinking. But the current situation is that the party insiders make the calls; there really isn’t a legitimate primary system anymore and many states don’t ever get to make a choice of a final candidate for their party.

    It might well be that the party insiders are evaluating candidates based on electability and maybe — maybe — they’re view is mainstream America is too stupid to deal in substance.

    But maybe they’re wrong. How do we test that? Clearly the best and the brightest aren’t interested in testing that theory or they’d be doing less book selling and more campaigning.

  • Bismuth

    //It might well be that the party insiders are evaluating candidates based on electability and maybe — maybe — they’re view is mainstream America is too stupid to deal in substance.

    I don’t think people are too *stupid* to handle substance. It’s more that they will let a candidate off the hook without the candidate having to show that they have any. Why should a candidate risk alienating possible voters by committing to anything specific? Over time, this becomes the standard by which candidates are judged — thus a candidate can be written off for having trouble articulating himself. (Yes, I realize that there are many other reasons/moments to doubt Perry’s chances of success, but never before has the reaction in the media/internet been so uniformly dismissive).

    How do we test the viability of a candidate with substance? You could look at third-party candidates, I suppose. Many of them have well-defined goals and action plans, yet its rare to see them given any serious coverage. Not all of them are well-versed in analysis and critical thinking, though, so it may be a stretch to call them the “best and brightest”. Maybe the best and brightest have the foresight to see that they couldn’t realistically win an election, anyway. (g)