Why 'Geronimo,' the war on pencil-necks, proof baseball hates the Twins, the new Dust Bowl, and I dare you not to click this link.
The White House is putting a lot of thought into whether to release photos of the late Osama bin Laden. It doesn't want to be insensitive and inflame some people. But many Native Americans are asking where that sentiment was when it came time to pin a code word on Bin Laden?
The people who decided on the name -- they came up with "Geronimo" -- either had great respect for a man who was responsible for plowing planeloads of innocent people into buildings and the ground, or had no respect for Native Americans and one of their greatest historical heroes. It has to be one or the other.
most many white people, the decision to name Bin Laden Geronimo probably won't register as an insult. Think of it this way, then. What if they'd called him Robert E. Lee? Or Washington? Or Sibley? Or Mandela?
Steven Newcomb of the Indigenous Law Institute puts it another way in Indian Country Today: "What the hell were they thinking?" he asks.
In the reported stories of Osama Bin Laden being killed by U.S. military forces, bin Laden was code-named "Geronimo." According to a CBS news report, those who came up with that "inappropriate code name" apparently "thought of bin Laden as a 21st-century equivalent" of Geronimo. In other words, the code name was based on an extension of the metaphor "Indians Are Enemies" to "Geronimo was a Terrorist," thus perpetuating the U.S. tradition of treating Indian nations and peoples as enemies.
Geronimo was fighting against the invasion of his country and the oppression of his people. He did not invade the United States. Rather, Spain, Mexico, and then the United States invaded the Apache Territory and the territories of hundreds of other Indigenous nations. Horrific atrocities were committed against the Apache, and men such as Geronimo, whose family was massacred by Mexicans, did not hesitate to retaliate. Geronimo died a "prisoner of war" in 1909.
St. Paul native Thomas Friedman, who appropriately fancies himself a learned man, piles on by naming today's column, "Farewell to Geronimo."
"I was celebrating that we had gotten this guy and feeling so much a part of America," Tom Holm, a former Marine, a member of the Creek/Cherokee Nations and a retired professor of American Indian studies at the University of Arizona, told the Washington Post Tuesday. "And then this 'Geronimo EKIA' thing comes up. I just said, 'Why pick on us?' Robert E. Lee killed more Americans than Geronimo ever did, and Hitler would seem to be evil personified, but the code name for bin Laden is Geronimo?"
What would have been a better code name for Bin Laden? How about Osama?
Leftovers: This is a topic for another day, perhaps. But last night's Frontline look at the hunt for Bin Laden spawned a constant question: Why does the local PBS affiliate pre-empt these intelligent, well-produced shows for concerts with over-the-hill '60s Motown singers during pledge drives?
When any major news story happens, many of us wait for the Taiwanese animation firm Next Media's "interpretation." The irreverent firm, however, may have crossed the line with its version of the Bin Laden raid, which suggested military people urinated on Bin Laden's body, and pigs had their way with him in Hell. The firm took the video down yesterday and replaced it with this version in which Bin Laden wasn't the story at all; the person who "tweeted" the raid without knowing it was a raid, is now the bigger story:
It's a fine commentary -- whatever it says -- on national and social media's ability to turn an absolutely irrelevant angle into a story.
2) THE WAR ON PENCIL-NECKS
Minnesota legislators, some of whom are facing the possibility of working five-day weeks before they take the next seven months off, are usually pretty testy at this time of the year as they race toward the end of the session. There still isn't the whiff of a state budget and the state is still without an officially-designated state mammal.
But Rep. Matt Dean's comment about author Neil Gaiman yesterday, quoted in today's Star Tribune, was still pretty raw, even for this time of the year.
Dean said that Gaiman, "who I hate," was a "pencil-necked little weasel who stole $45,000 from the state of Minnesota."
Dean was "reminding" one of his colleagues that the Republican leadership isn't happy about arts and cultural funding in the Legacy Amendment, the sales tax increase approved by voters a few years ago that constitutionally dedicates money to outdoors and arts programs (Trivia: The original concept of adding adding arts funding to an outdoors amendment came from a House Republican).
How did Gaiman steal the money? Doing this, giving a speech in Stillwater:
But Gaiman accepted -- stole, if you will -- a $45,000 speaker's fee from the Washington County Library, if by stole, you mean donated to charity, which would make him a modern-day Robin Weasel, if anything. As Gaiman relayed the last time he became a political football...
I figure money like that, sort of out-of-the-blue windfall money, is best used for Good Deeds, so I let a couple of small and needy charities (one doing social work, the other library/book based) know that I would be passing the money on to them, after agents had taken their commission, and did not think twice about it.
Gaiman charges a lot of money for his speeches, he acknowledges, but part of the "problem" here is the legislation that created the Legacy Fund. The money can't be used for books, or computer equipment. And when the library paid Gaiman his fee, it either had to spend it, or lose it a month later. That's the way the bill works; a bill, for the record, that Rep. Dean voted against.
In an editorial today, the Pioneer Press says the amendment was a bad idea:
Yet at the same time, the state has plenty of money for the environment, parks and trails, water quality, the arts and our "cultural heritage." That money cannot be used to help mentally ill people whose services may be cut. It cannot be used to blunt the increase in college tuition or to help schools and nursing homes that are cutting back.
That's because in 2008, Minnesotans cemented the environment-and-arts spending, and the sales tax hike that pays for it, in the state constitution. Minnesotans voted for the Legacy Amendment at the same time they and the nation voted for Barack Obama for president. They can change their minds and vote for Obama's opponent next year but it would take a multi-year legislative effort, against tremendous odds, followed by another statewide vote, to undo the Legacy Amendment. On this page, we opposed the Legacy Amendment, reasoning that budgeting by constitutional amendment is a bad idea.
But one of the reasons there isn't money for the things the Pioneer Press (appropriately) thinks there should be money for, is because legislators and governors have skimmed the money for other things. MinnesotaCare, for example, is funded with a tax on providers. The reason MinnesotaCare may not have enough money isn't because voters approved a sales tax for arts and outdoors, it's because lawmakers made a choice to skim the surplus in the Health Care Access Fund to keep from having to do what the voters decided they were willing to do for arts and outdoors programs in the state: raise their taxes.
There's a legitimate debate to be had, of course, over whether constitutional amendments are the way to budget -- yesterday, the GOP unveiled yet another constitutional amendment to do just that, by the way -- but it's simply wrong to portray the Legislature as having their hands tied by voters who favored the Legacy Amendment. If the Legislature's hands are tied, that's the fault of the Legislature.
3) IF IT'S NOT THE FLOODS
Now that Minnesota and North Dakota have mostly passed on their floodwater to neighbors, flooding is getting more attention nationwide. What's not getting any attention is the second-coming of the Dust Bowl. Oklahoma is having its driest four months since 1921.
4) BASEBALL HATES THE TWINS
Everybody who knows that the game of baseball is played with a baseball knows that the biggest superstition in the game is never say the word, "no-hitter," when a pitcher is pitching a no-hitter.
So what does MLB.com have against Francisco Liriano?
Liriano, however proved the superstition is without merit by pitching a no-hitter last night.
More sports: Commentator Frank DeFord says America's love of team sports comes at a price: The U.S. is no longer a power in tennis and golf.
5) I DARE YOU NOT TO CLICK THIS LINK
A West Virginia man found wearing women's underwear and standing over a goat's carcass told police he was high on bath salts.
And for no particular reason...
Google has taken first place in a Harris Interactive poll ranking the reputations of major corporations. Johnson & Johnson took second place, and Minnesota's 3M took third. Today's Question: What corporation do you hold in high esteem?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
A pledge drive starts today. Some of this programming is repeat material.
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: The private life of George Washington.
Second hour: What if John Kennedy had been assassinated before he became President? What if Robert Kennedy had not been killed and went on to defeat Nixon in 1968? A longtime political reporter looks at how American history might look different.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - Both hours: On the 50th anniversary of the first "Freedom Ride," Midday presents an American RadioWorks documentary, "State of Siege: Mississippi Whites and the Civil Rights Movement."
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: Political editor Ken Rudin.
Second hour: TBD
I would think they could have come up with another code name for OBL...then again, "Tinker Bell" might have spawned a copyright infringement suit.
Do you mean, "The Native American as enemy"? I'm not trying to be overly politically correct, but an Indian is a citizen of India, whereas "Indian Country" is a legal term of art.
No, I meant Indian. It was the phrase Newcomb used in Indian Country Today.
I was of the impression that Geronimo was the code name for the MISSION, not Bin Laden himself. In that context it is not an insult at all but a tribute to bravery, courage and doing your best under extreme circumstances. Also, for all we know, whomever it is that chooses the code names for missions probably picks from a list, or draws one out of a hat, like they do for names that are assigned to hurricanes.
tinkerbell would have been a perfect code name...
how about a different g name like greta
It was not the code name for the mission. It was the code name for the man.
I had the game up on MLB.com last night while doing homework. I realized in the 6th what Liriano was doing... and so did MLB. On the front page going into the 7th they had "Liriano has no-hitter after 6". After that I had to watch it on TV to see for myself that someone with an ERA of 9 was pitching a no hitter.
First, MLB tries to contract the Twins. Then it tries to spoil the team's no-hitters.
I think the "Geronimo" code name is obviously offensive, and I could not be more white. There were plenty of other choices, including some great FICTIONAL bad guys. Voldemort? Vader? Kurtz? I'm curious about how code names are assigned. Nobody vets them? Really?
Funny how Rep Dean is foaming at the mouth over Gaiman. Name-calling is always a sign of a great leader. Wonder what his stance is on the constitutional amendments being introduced right now.
I really had no recollection of the history of Geronimo, which is sad in itself, but my heart sank a little when I heard that was their code name. Why did it not occur to them that hunting down an Indian, again, is the wrong thing for the military to do?
Why not a bird name, like a hollywood stereotype of the Secret Service? "Emperor Penguin EKIA" would have been just as effective.
Social sensitivity has never been the military's strong suit.
I don't believe that the code name was malicious. Just dumb.
Here's an idea for a name for the next operation along these lines:
How 'bout ExtrajudicialExecutionsR'Us?
Regarding the Twins:
Bob, the morning of the no-hitter, you referred to them as the Stinkies.
Apparently this was a motivator. Could you do a similar piece daily to try to keep the streak going? Here are some ideas for nicknames: binkies, clinkies, dinkies, finkies...
Frontline was pre--empted for pledge drive pap?
Frontline, the best and arguably most important program on television? A Frontline special report on Afghanistan?
Clearly the work of a marketing moron, er, mavin who wouldn't know journalism if it bit him/her in the ass.
According to interviews he has given, the reason why Gaiman charges so much is to *discourage* speaking engagements. If he didn't charge so much, he'd never have any time to write. He values that, highly.
And he donated the 45K to charity afterwards.
I thought that when they said "Geronimo!" it was like saying "Hooray!" Or "We did it!" I've heard "Geronimo" used like that before. It didn't sound at all like they were saying a code name for Bin Laden. The context just wasn't right for that. Where did you see or hear that it was a code name for Bin Laden, Bob?
Re: Frontline... I didn't watch Frontline last night because that's when The Good Wife is on, but I saw on that tv-guide thingy that tpt does between programs that Frontline WAS scheduled for last night. Maybe Bob was talking about how they have pre-empted it in the past (and probably will in the future). They have explained that those cheesy concert programs get more people to pledge, surprising as it may be.
Re: code names
If the term had been "Nero" instead of "Geronimo", would it be reasonable for Italians to be offended? Would "Napoleon" have offended the French? How about "Jefferson" or "Hamilton"? Well, Hamilton would have been a problem because he was shot and that could imply that the goal of the mission was assasination of the target.
Anyone who can't quite grasp why Geronimo as a code name for Osama, clearly has never suffered greatly by any insensitive stereotyping, unless of course you are a lawyer). Maybe "Ito" would've been better.
any bets for when the "Geronimo story" becomes an "original" story with one of our local newspapers, or even national network? I give it until tomorrow evening (5/5/2011) at the latest.
I agree that it is easily possible to interpret the naming convention used as offensive.
I don't think such was the intention to any degree though, since the utility of a codename is precisely in that it does not have any obvious connection or reference to the thing or person itself. If it did, it would be a pretty poor "code".
However, it is probably in poor taste to use historical figures as codenames for targets since you will always be creating an association between that figure and an "enemy" and risk offending the people from which that figure came. That this association is incidental and devoid of meaning is not an understanding that can be depended on in any individual, thus the potential for offense is always there. I would not personally be upset if Osama bin Laden had been assigned a codename of a caucasian historical figure, but I can't speak for everyone so it's probably better to just not do it.
The other thing in this is the stupidity of having code names in the first place. Sure, if this was 1940 and things are being broadcast on open channels, by all means, code away.
But it's not 1940, it's 2011. That picture I put up the other day of the braintrust of this country watching the raid -- visually -- live? Trust me. They were the only ones watching it.
The transmissions are encoded who knows how many times. There are no open channels. You don't need silly code names like it's an episode of Get Smart.
Just call him the "the target", or "bin Laden" or something and spare us the GI Joe nonsense.
BINGO, Michael, BINGO!
// ..."Geronimo story" becomes an "original" story with one of our local newspapers, or even national network? //
I don't understand this comment, Mrs. Newscut.
(That still makes me chuckle!)
On another note Bob, did you hear about the stealth helicopters used in the raid? ABC did a report about it...
Get over it.
Liberals Always crying about something.
i was directed to this page from a neil gaiman tweet and most enjoyed the speech. you should be happy to get him for $45K, folks. bargain, considering the windfall for the charities.
but, as for the whole code word controversy, what seems to have been missed in all this is the well-known military convention of using words that cannot be mistaken for others in garbled transmission. combinations such as "yankee bravo foxtrot" are stand-ins for "YBF" because any portion of this alphabet-in-words can be understood by the receiver as the whole. as well, the other oddity, such as "operation dawn odyssey", while utterly unfathomable to civilians, is how these letters crop up in such weird and unwieldy aggregations.
but, as for "geronimo", it is also the time-honored exhortation of paratroopers jumping out of airplanes and, as such, just the sort of thing to get one's blood up and, therefore, as good as any gospel-shouter's "hallelujah!"
so cut them some slack, eh?