Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Don't Confuse Me With the Facts

Today I got one of those emails that someone is circulating that contains an urban legend. Here's the email:
Subject: Gun Control in Montana


Shooting in Butte, Montana

Shotgun preteen vs. illegal alien home Invaders.

Butte, Montana November 5, 2006 Two illegal aliens,

Ralphel Resindez, 23, and Enrico Garza, 26, probably believed
they would easily overpower home-alone 11 year old Patricia Harrington
after her father had left their two-story home.

It seems the two crooks never learned two things:
They were in Montana and
Patricia had been a clay shooting champion since she was nine.

Patricia was in her upstairs room when the two men broke through
the front door of the house. She quickly ran to her father's room and
grabbed his 12 gauge Mossberg 500 shotgun.

Resindez was the first to get up to the second floor only to be
the first to catch a near point blank blast of buckshot from the
11-year- old's knee crouch aim. He suffered fatal wounds to his abdomen
and genitals.

When Garza ran to the foot of the stairs, he took a blast to the
left shoulder and staggered out into the street where he bled to death
before medical help could arrive.

It was found out later that Resindez was armed with a stolen 45
caliber handgun he took from another home invasion robbery. That victim,
50-year-old David Burien, was not so lucky. He died from stab wounds to
the chest.

Ever wonder why good stuff never makes NBC, CBS, PBS, MSNBC,
CNN, or ABC news.... Now that is Gun Control

Thought for the day: Calling an illegal alien an "undocumented immigrant"

is like calling a drug dealer an "unlicensed pharmacist"

Montana definition of gun control "Being able to hit your Target!!!"
In response, I clicked "Reply to all" and sent this email:
This incident never happened. As usual, you can check it out yourself at Snopes is an organization that tracks down and verifies the validity of “urban legends.” This story is just that: an urban legend (or a rural one, considering there’s more rural than urban in Montana).

Also—be careful about what you circulate. This story is not only false but inflammatory, and plants the suggestion in people’s minds that all immigrants are illegal, and that they are all hell-bent on crime. That simply isn’t true. I wish I could introduce you to all of my Latino students who are immigrants from various Central and South American countries, all of whom are LEGAL immigrants, who all have after-school jobs, whose parents work two jobs each (usually doing manual labor that no one else wants to do), and who are great contributors to our community. They are highly offended by the perception that they are crime-ridden freeloaders, and so am I.

I challenge you to look around you and notice the hard work that these people do in our society, and get to know them as people. Don’t jump to the conclusion that they are illegal aliens simply because their skin is darker than yours and they may speak another language. There was a time in our great society when speaking more than one language made one cultured—I, for one, long for a return to THOSE values.
I am becoming more and more disturbed by this trend whereby people perpetuate their prejudices by emails that contain falsified information. There seem to be no rules or consequences anymore concerning verification of the facts before perpetuating possible untruths. People send these emails around and hide behind the Bill of Rights while they incite fear and paranoia. It's not pretty and I'm not going to be quiet about it anymore.

Every time I get one of these emails I "Reply to all" and tell them to go check it out at You'd be amazed at how frequently people STILL send these things to me even after I have pointed out that I am not interested in receiving them, and have shown them that the emails contain false information. One person actually responded to me one time by saying, "I don't care if it's not true. I agree with it!" Isn't that interesting--they might as well say, "I agree with a mean-spirited, slanderous email that falsifies the facts." Disturbing.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Tips on Etiquette from Delta? Now THAT’s funny!

It is amazing to me how oblivious any and all of us can be to our own behavior. At one time or another all of us have been guilty of trying to remove the splinter from our neighbor’s eye before removing the beam from our own. But this morning I read something really, really ironic and couldn’t keep quiet about it: Delta Airlines has created a series of animated videos to help airline passengers understand the rules of etiquette when traveling. (Read about this yourself at

I found this ironic because at the end of last summer I had to travel on Delta (not my choice—the flight was booked for me) because I was a witness in a murder trial in Alabama. To make sure that I would not have to deal with lost baggage, since it was a quick overnight trip, I only took one change of clothes and my very small toiletry kit, and my laptop computer, all of which I packed in the smallest roll-around suitcase available.

I had intended to take this as a carry-on bag, but when I got to the departure gate (a half hour early, according to my itinerary) I discovered that half of the people on my flight had been sitting at the wrong gate because Delta had printed half of the boarding passes with the wrong gate number on them. Some astute Delta gate agent wondered why half of the flight was still missing when they were making their final boarding call, and started walking down the terminal to the other gates to find out which flight people were waiting for and discovered all of us at the gate printed on our boarding passes. She quickly herded us to the right gate and we all began to get on the plane.

When we all made it down the sky walk to the plane, the cranky flight attendants told us all that we would have to check our carry-on luggage because there was no more room in any of the onboard luggage compartments. She explained this in a scolding tone that suggested this was our fault because we had waited so late to board the plane, even though it was Delta’s fault that we had been sitting for so long at the wrong gate wondering why we weren’t being called to board. She would have none of this back talk and told us that we would have to get on another flight if we wanted to carry our luggage on the plane, so of course we all reluctantly checked our baggage. (I’ve wondered how only half the flight’s passengers could fill ALL the on-board luggage compartments, and have come to the conclusion that the cranky flight attendants weren’t diligent in making sure that the first half of the passengers had carry-on luggage that followed the rules; so the rest of us had to suffer because of the rudeness of those people and the negligence of the flight attendants.)

I had a very bad feeling about this, so I retrieved my laptop out of the suitcase and let them check my bag. As it turns out I was right to have the bad feeling, because the person who filled out the hand-written baggage ticket only wrote in the first leg of my flight to Atlanta, and not the last leg of my flight in Alabama. So, of course, my baggage never made it out of Atlanta. As it turns out, that was a “Level Orange” Homeland Security alert day, so my bag was picked up by TSA in Atlanta as a suspicious parcel when it kept going around and around and around the baggage carousel and was never picked up.

Needless to say, my luggage never arrived in Alabama. I had to go to Wal-Mart on the way to my Aunt’s house so I would have a clean change of clothes and underwear, toothbrush and toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, etc. (thank goodness for those little $1.00 travel sizes you can get now!) for the trial.

The next day, while I was waiting to be called to the witness stand, I had to keep calling the airline to check on my luggage. Each time I called I had to start my story from the beginning—no one that I spoke to had any record of my “lost baggage” complaint, nor did they have any notes available to tell them that I had already called umpteen times before to check on my lost bag. Thank goodness I had thought to take my laptop out of the suitcase!

I got back to Baltimore and spent two more days trying to locate my bag. No one was willing to help me or even seemed concerned that I had been inconvenienced. No one offered to compensate me for the clothes I had to buy to appear in court while I was in Alabama. No one even apologized for the error, or even acknowledged that any of this had been their fault. I finally gave it up as a lost cause and decided that when I stopped being angry about it I would write a letter to the Delta corporate office and complain and request that they compensate me for my lost luggage and its contents as well as the replacement items I had to buy because of the series of errors on their part that led to the loss of my belongings and their poor customer service.

Finally, after I’d given up on the whole thing, two days later a guy from Delta showed up on my doorstep with my suitcase.

I will never fly Delta again. The “friendly skies” were as unfriendly on that trip as I’ve ever experienced them, which is why I find it ironic that Delta is going to teach its passengers how to behave. Perhaps they should start with themselves and do a little in-house customer service training before they put the onus on their passengers to behave themselves. The beam in their eye is obviously blinding them to their own bad behavior.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

The Fox is Guarding the Hen House

Once again the Department of the Interior (DOI) is caught mismanaging an item of concern which falls under its care. Read this article to learn about the latest inappropriate behavior on the part of the DOI:

The DOI’s job is to be a wise steward of the nation’s natural resources. One would hope that that would include keeping any indigenous species from disappearing from the Earth under their watch. One would also hope that the DOI would be impeccable in its bookkeeping and attention to legal matters in the execution of this important job, but there’s an awful lot of evidence to the contrary.

In the case of these endangered species nearly losing some additional protection that wildlife biologists and other scientists in possession of actual data and evidence to that effect have recommended, the DOI allowed a Civil Engineer (not a wildlife biologist) to affect the outcome of this decision. According to the referenced article there have been seven instances of wrongdoing and thirty instances where "questions were raised about the integrity of scientific information used and whether the decisions were made consistent with the appropriate legal standards."

And that’s just in THIS case. My beef with the DOI started over the mismanagement of the American Indian Trust Fund, which I first learned about as a graduate student in Native American Studies. To get all the details of this gross mismanagement by the DOI (and that is being nice—it’s outright theft, really), go to All of the details of the lawsuit are there. In summary, Eloise Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet tribe in northwest Montana, sued the federal government (and won!) because the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), which is a department in the DOI, owes billions of dollars to Native American landowners who were never paid for mineral or grazing leases on their land.

This is where I sometimes encounter a response from someone who knows nothing about the “special relationship” between members of federally recognized Indian tribes and the federal government that goes something like this: “Yeah, well those Indians always have their hands out looking for money from the government.” That is NOT what is going on here.

Let’s say you own some land that you are not doing anything with at the moment, and it has a lot of grass for grazing on it. Let’s say that someone in your rural community has more cattle than his land has grass to feed, and he finds out that your land doesn’t have any cattle grazing on it at the moment. So you and he work out a deal where he will lease your land and let the cattle graze on it for a fee. He grazes his cattle on your land, pays you your fee, the cows get fat, you make some money, and everyone is happy.

Now let’s change the story and say that you are a Native American person, a member of the Blackfeet tribe, perhaps. If that is the case then the way you conduct business with your neighbors has just changed. You can make the same deal with your neighbor that I have just described, but because of your “special relationship” with the federal government you are not allowed to take direct payment from your neighbor—he must pay what he owes you to the BIA, who will put the money in the U.S. Treasury (specifically, the American Indian Trust Fund), and then (in theory) the money will be paid back to you.

The problem with this arrangement, as Eloise Cobell discovered, is that the money was not making the final leg of that trip—around 300 billion dollars never made it back out of the U.S. Treasury and into the hands of the people to whom it is owed.

Why is it done this way? That’s a really great question. Some might say that it is done this way so that the federal government can bilk Native Americans of around 300 billion dollars, because that is what the Supreme Court has estimated that the DOI owes Native American people, and what they have ordered the DOI to pay. To date, the DOI has paid not one cent of that money to Native American people, and three consecutive Secretaries of the DOI have been found to be in contempt of court for failing to comply with the directives of the Supreme Court concerning this case

To me this all sounds like the fox is guarding the hen house. It is definitely up to us to make sure that we don’t wake up one morning to find the continent denuded of all of its natural resources while a few fat cats from Texas enjoy the proceeds of the looting they did during their respective tenures in the White House. If we aren’t careful, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will be next!

Wake up, America, and smell the…the…well, there won’t be much of anything lovely to smell if we keep letting our government rip us off this way. We need to pay more attention to what the government is or is not doing to protect our natural resources and those who are stewards of the same, and make sure that everyone (including ourselves) is accountable in this endeavor.

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