Need to Know Transcript – July 30, 2010

Need to Know

Episode 113

Airdate: 7/30/10

ALISON STEWART: I’m Alison Stewart.

JON MEACHAM: And I’m Jon Meacham. Here’s what you need to know.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: I’m concerned about the disclosure of sensitive….

ALISON STEWART: Much ado about nothing or putting lives at risk? The effects of the WikiLeaks on the war in Afghanistan…

JOSHUA FOUST: You can find Afghans identified by first name, by last name — we just have a lot of innocent people put at risk for relatively little gain.

JON MEACHAM: One hundred days later, we revisit one hard-hit gulf coast community…

FLOYD LASSEIGNE: At night you cry a little bit, you worry a little bit. We pray a lot.

ALISON STEWART: And, living large by building small. Step inside the tiny house movement.

DEE WILLIAMS: The whole kind of culture ethic of consuming more and having more, I think people are turning that upside down a little bit.

JON MEACHAM: All that, and Andy Borowitz. Next on Need to Know.

ALISON STEWART: Hello everyone. Thanks for joining us. It’s been another week when the news has been about the news…last week the media-driven Shirley Sherrod incident, this week, the more than 90 thousand classified U.S. government documents released by WikiLeaks.

JON MEACHAM: They’re the new pentagon papers. Or, it’s much ado about nothing, with many analysts concluding that the reports simply confirm our worst fears about how the war in Afghanistan is being prosecuted. But, for those taking the time to read the leaked documents there is worry that they contain dangerous information. Among those expressing concern was US Defense Secretary Robert Gates who said Thursday that the leaks could cost the lives of American service member and their allies. Joshua Foust, a military analyst who has lived and worked in Afghanistan, is one of those who fears there could be deadly consequences. Foust blogs at Registan.net and is a contributor to Need to Know’s web site. He joins me to explain the significance of the leak. Thanks for being here…

JON MEACHAM: First, tell us about WikiLeaks. What is it?

JOSHUA FOUST: So WikiLeaks is an organization that’s devoted to transparency. And by this, they mean that there are some organizations that contain secret information, and that it– information should not be kept secret, so they work to expose it as best they can, and post it on the Internet, so that everyone can see it.

JON MEACHAM: That brings us to the most prominent analogy that’s been used which is with the Pentagon papers. Daniel Ellsberg who leaked the Pentagon Papers– in the early ’70s has said, this is a very important– moment. Tell us what you think the differences and the similarities are.

JOSHUA FOUST: I’d say probably the biggest difference is that the Pentagon Papers exposed lies. So they document it, and they were official government documents that had been analyzed, vetted, and published internally, that documented how–

JON MEACHAM: By the New York Times?

JOSHUA FOUST: By the New York Times. That documented how several administrations were deliberately misleading the American public about the Vietnam War. To me, one of the biggest revelations in it is that President Nixon had ordered the bombing of Laos and Cambodia. When you look at what the WikiLeaks archive reveals, you see they’re not finished reports in any way. They haven’t been vetted. No one knows if they’re accurate or not. They’re just uncleared, raw data from daily incident reports. So say, on a pretty fundamental level, they’re actually different things.

JON MEACHAM: And the similarity?

JOSHUA FOUST: The similarities is that they’re secret. I’m not sure beyond that. There’s no real revelations in them. I mean, in the Pentagon Papers, it was official proof that the government was doing something wrong, and trying to cover it up. Despite assumptions that that’s been the case, so far, in the WikiLeaks data, no one’s presented any evidence that there are real bombshells in there. For the most part, they tend to confirm what we already knew about the war.

JON MEACHAM: Well, discuss what’s in the WikiLeaks documents. In your mind, what’s most important?

JOSHUA FOUST: So what’s most important in a manner of speaking, at least, in terms of what they provide to the historical record, is an account of, kind of, day-to-day interactions within the war. So you get an idea of what units going out on patrol do, you get an idea of who they talk to, how they structure meetings, the people they talk to, that’s actually the worrying part of this. And in the midst of it, you also learn that they try to account for civilian causalities when they cause them, and I think just as importantly, you learn that they don’t always know. So there have been a couple of cases that have already been written about, where soldiers talk about firefights they were in, or they talk about examples they’ve had of bombing or firing on civilian areas of villages, where they were patrolling. And their initial reports were actually wrong. And they just– they weren’t able to accurately assess what they did. That’s probably in the grand scheme of things, one of the more important revelations to come out of it.

JON MEACHAM: Also, the names of those who have been cooperating with NATO forces?

JOSHUA FOUST: Right. Also those names. And that’s probably the biggest danger that these documents pose. It’s one thing to publicize the name of a government official, because if there’s a provincial reconstruction team in an area, you assume they’re gonna talk to the local government. That’s how they coordinate things. The problem is digging through those documents, you can find under the meetings category, the names of non-governmental officials. You can find Afghans identified by first name, by last name, if they have one, by their village, by the time the Americans came by. I mean, this is very specific information that identifies who these people are. And we’ve already had evidence that people who do talk to Americans are at risk. They can be killed summarily by the Taliban for doing so. And now, what WikiLeaks has provided is a searchable archive online of everyone who has worked with us over the last six years, and essentially, put their lives in jeopardy.

JON MEACHAM: And the defense from WikiLeaks about why this was newsworthy and should be published?

JOSHUA FOUST: I mean, Julian Assange, who’s, kind of, the main public face of WikiLeaks has said that goal of opening these archives outweighs any risk to the people who might be contained therein. He actually, the other day, said that they took on the risk already by talking to Americans, so the risk is already on their shoulders, and he has nothing to do with it. At the same time, I mean, he– he’s been open about saying that these– these prove that the United States has committed war crimes in Afghanistan. And his evidence for that is pointing to examples of civilian casualties– particularly unreported civilian casualties.
JON MEACHAM: Right.

JOSHUA FOUST: I’m not sure that actually rises to the level of war crime, ’cause, I mean, one of the reasons why war is a terrible thing is because innocent people get killed. It happens all the time. But beyond that, I’m not really sure what the public value is of these. I mean, looking at what they actually give us, which is granular detail for larger trends that we already knew, otherwise, we just have a lot of innocent people put at risk for relatively little gain.

JON MEACHAM: Would you have been in favor of a redacted version in which those names were not there, but the granular information, which one could argue that one man’s granular information is another man’s reporting on the actual human cost of what a democracy does when it goes to war?

JOSHUA FOUST: Right– probably not– for the simple reason that by being marked classified– and I’m saying this because I’ve worked with the military before…being marked classified, I think that means that releasing it could be incredibly damaging. And the fact that these names weren’t redacted properly shows how damaging this information can be. But even if there were no names in it whatsoever, we could still learn the location of meetings. We can learn how those meetings were conducted. In one of the cases I looked at earlier this week, you could see– they were describing their security arrangements in the meeting. They were saying what routes they took to the meeting, because those had comparatively fewer insurgents on them. So even without any names, it still puts people at risk. And it still exposes operations. And it still makes it possible for someone reading this to uncover how we are working in Afghanistan, and therefore, adds to the risk factor involved.

JON MEACHAM: But it, presumably, would’ve been possible to have released– published some documents that would have achieved a measure of public interest without revealing sources and methods.

JOSHUA FOUST: Right. And the military’s done this before. There have been academic researchers that have done studies of what these daily incident reports contain. They’re vetted first by the government, and they do this in fairly large sets. They have their classification removed, and they have operational specific detail removed. And the government’s pretty open about providing this to, especially, political scientists who are trying to do large quantitative studies of how the war is proceeding.

JON MEACHAM: What would you say to those who, listening to your argument, and the argument of– of others, that this is an irresponsible publication of documents, saying that this is war, the government has a long and sorry history– beginning in– most notably, in Vietnam– going forward to the justification for war in Iraq, the progress in Iraq, and even arguably, the progress in Afghanistan, which is now, in its ninth year– that the government has no real standing here to say, you know what, trust us,

JOSHUA FOUST: What we see from this document dump, for lack of a better term, this huge archive of documents, is that we’re actually getting an okay picture of how the war’s proceeding. If you look at some of the biggest revelations to come out of it, we hear that there’s unintentional civilian casualties. We knew that already. We hear allegations that the inner services intelligence within Pakistan is actively aiding the Taliban. We knew that already. We hear allegations about how badly the drug war is going, and we can’t do anything to stop it. We knew that already. We hear that a lot of soldiers believe the Afghan government and the Afghan police, in particular, are unreliable partners, and actively hurt our efforts there. And we knew that already. So in– in the big picture, and part of the reason why I find this leak so appalling, is that it doesn’t fundamentally change our understanding of the war. Is the public interest not served by knowing more than knowing less?

JOSHUA FOUST: In a theoretical sense, I would say yes. And that’s why the question of what level of redaction would be involved, to me, is a tricky one.

JON MEACHAM: Right.

JOSHUA FOUST: Because, I mean, for– I’d say the vast majority of what’s in there, you could easily redact all of the sensitive pieces, and still get a lot of information out of it.

JON MEACHAM: Right. So you would be for a redacted version, even though it re– still classified?

JOSHUA FOUST: It would depend on who did the redaction –

JON MEACHAM: Well, yes.

JOSHUA FOUST: And this– this comes back to the question of trusting the government. I mean, this is– a classic example of why things get classified in the first place. Because releasing them does cause harm, and releasing them puts people in mortal danger. And there are people in mortal danger because of this leak.

JON MEACHAM: You know the old story about President Kennedy who put pressure on the publisher of the New York Times not to publish a story about the Bay of Pigs, and always regretted it. I mean, that’s an eternal tension.

JOSHUA FOUST: It is. And I think that’s, kind of, fundamental to how democracies behave in war time, is that war demands secrecy. And democracy does not work well with secrecy. Because of my experiences working with the military, I– I understand why things have to stay secret. And it makes sense for them to stay secret, and I agree with those reasons for keeping them secret. And I think that that– those reasons should only be reversed after very careful consideration, and after a great deal of consensus within the community, that things will not get worse, as a result of releasing this. And sometimes that goes too far in that direction, and things can get worse by not releasing it. I mean, I’m– I’m of the opinion that releasing information about the NSA’s secret wiretapping scheme five years ago, even though it hurt operations against terrorism, wasn’t that good. Because to me, that posed more danger than what the– what terrorism would pose. But I think we have to recognize that there is a tension, and you can’t swing all the way to a radical idea of transparency, just like you can’t swing all the way to a radical idea of security.

JON MEACHAM: Right. Helps– helps to have curtains.

JOSHUA FOUST: It helps to have curtains, yeah. Or at least– a consideration for what happens. I mean, actions have consequences. The Times of London just found that one of the people that their reporter, Tom Coughlin, recognized in WikiLeaks had been killed already for collaborating with the United States. So we know this is a fatal danger that these informants face. And now their names are plastered all over the internet.

JON MEACHAM: Maybe the only answer here is the Potter Stewart Test, that you know it when you see it.

JOSHUA FOUST: I mean, unfortunately, that’s the case. And that’s the case, I think, in a lot more circumstances than people are going to be comfortable with.

ALISON STEWART: This weekend Arizona is living under its new immigration law…but not the most controversial aspects of it. A federal judge on Wednesday issued an injunction barring state police from checking on immigration status when stopping people for suspected crimes, which critics described as racial profiling. If only it could always be that easy– that a judge’s order could prevent potential misunderstandings based on the color of someone’s skin. But as we saw last week race and class continue to vex Americans.

We note that we were having a similar conversation about race exactly a year ago. On July 30, 2009, a piece of White House stage craft forever known as the beer summit took place. The white police officer who arrested a black Harvard professor in his home went to the White House to meet the first African-American president on the rose garden patio.

Harvard law professor Charles Ogletree represented the professor, Henry Louis Gates, after his arrest. Ogletree has a newly published book calledThe Presumption of Guilt” about that incident and its bigger implications. We recently spoke with him…

ALISON STEWART: There’s a very simple sentence in your book that says “We find ourselves at a critical juncture in history.” With, pertaining to race and class in the United States. What is it about this moment?

CHARLES OGLETREE: Well, we have the first African-American president, Barack Obama. We have the first African-American attorney general in Eric Holder. Uh, we have this unprecedented success at one level. Uh, and it’s an important moment in history because as one of my friends said when we talked about this last year, “It’s great to have a black man in the White House. But we have to remember we have one black man in the White House, we have one million black men in prison.” So, it’s an important moment in history because we’ve never had that prison population of black men ever before. And this book is designed to try to look at what’s wrong with the system, how do we fix it, and using the arrest of my colleague and friend Louis Gates, Jr., as a stepping off point to have that difficult conversation about race and class.

ALISON STEWART: Why are these conversations difficult?

CHARLES OGLETREE: They’re difficult because people just don’t want to believe that people are profiled. I named the book “The Presumption of Guilt,” which is not a legal term, because there are presumptions. There was a presumption that Professor Gates was not, uh, lawfully in his house, the presumption that he really wasn’t the professor that he claimed he was, and even though he showed his driver’s license and his Harvard I.D., there was a sense that he didn’t belong in his house. There’s a presumption that the woman, uh, who was, I think, the hero in all this who called the police said something that no one reported before. She said, “I don’t know if those guys live there or work there.” So she wasn’t making any presumption about crime, she was saying, “I’m just reporting what I see.”

Uh, there’s a presumption about criminality because Sgt. Crowley wrote in his report that he, that he was told there were two black men with backpacks. No one ever said that. No one. Sgt. Crowley’s done great jobs on other occasions and they just can’t believe that on this occasion that he made a very unfortunate mistake and now we’re talking about it a year later.

ALISON STEWART: We all bring our own life experience to each situation. Is this a case where each man brought their own life experience- that perhaps Sgt. Crowley didn’t know somebody like Skip Gates, and that Skip Gates is someone who had experienced something like this and knew friends who had experienced harassment by a police officer, and brought that to the mix?

CHARLES OGLETREE: I think it’s different. I think it’s different in this respect. Gates loves the police, uh, he thinks everybody in jail should be in jail. Make my neighborhood safe, make sure I can go to a restaurant and park my car and not have it be a victim of burglary or vandalism. And I think he was surprised that a police officer, in Cambridge, uh, in the neighborhood where he lived, would come to his house, and have any assumptions about him. I think that’s where it got off the track. And he’s not a black radical, and what he said he sounded like a black radical, “Why are you treating me like this because I’m black and uh, and you’re white?” uh, “black man can’t get a fair hearing anywhere in America,” that doesn’t sound like Skip Gates at all if you know him, and that he doesn’t play the race card. In fact he’s criticized those who have. And so people can make their own judgment, but you know what, people don’t…aren’t always concerned about the facts. They say the facts get in the way, let’s just decide what what we think, what we want to hear, what we want to believe, and that’s what is the divisive America.

ALISON STEWART: Of all the elements that day, uh, Professor Gates’ reaction, the Sgt.’s reaction, subsequently the President’s reaction, saying that the Cambridge Police acted stupidly—the public’s reaction to the president’s reaction—of all those elements, which one do you think is the most telling about race and class in America?

CHARLES OGLETREE: I-I think it was the president’s comments because you just said what most people heard, which was not what president Obama said. He said the Cambridge Police acted stupidly when they arrest a man in his own home. Most of America only heard the first part, an indictment of the uh, police, uh and an indictment by the president who happens to be black, and the vindication of his friend who happens to be black. And the poll, health care as you may recall went off the agenda, in July he was on a roll, he had just finished a wonderful press conference, he was great, but he said something else that was important—and that is that he was aware that black and brown men have been subjected to racial profiling, and as a state senator in Illinois he had supported legislation to deal with racial profiling. And black people were saying “wow did I just hear the president of the United States say that America has a problem with racial profiling?” He has not been that concrete about race before or since that day, because it turned out to, in a sense, take his agenda as president off of its target, and had the press focusing on Gates, Crowley, racial profiling, black criminality, and had Glenn Beck saying the president doesn’t like white people. Reprimanded for that, but what? His ratings went up, and out of the ceiling because people agreed with Glenn Beck.

ALISON STEWART: Isn’t it interesting though that that kind of conversation can kind of eclipse everything else?

CHARLES OGLETREE: Yes.

ALISON STEWART: A conversation about race at this point?

CHARLES OGLETREE: Yes, because as you started with, you know, where are we? And we are, we have a black president, and that’s a great affirmation of where we are in terms of the elections in 2008. At the same time we haven’t solved the problem of the black pathology that underlies this historic event. And I think there are young men in New York and Chicago and Detroit and Philadelphia and Washington D.C. and Boston who still have a fear of police because they think something’s gonna happen. And there are fearful, is this a gang member? Do they have a gun? Do they have a drug? And so the fear element on both sides has not changed and I think that’s part of what I try to address—why don’t we try to find a way that more African-American and Latinos become police officers.

ALISON STEWART: I’m curious of what you think a law, like the Arizona Immigration law, so many other states are considering a law like that. Why are they popular?

CHARLES OGLETREE: Well, I, I think because people have this misplaced confidence in, uh, a system, uh, dealing with the issue of undocumented workers is gonna solve the problem of crime. But here’s the problem: How is an officer gonna discern, looking at me or you, right, which one is legal and which one is illegal, right? Is it by the color of our skin? Is it by something we’re wearing? Even, is it by our language? Can you tell someone who is a life-long Arizonan, someone who is a, a citizen, has become a citizen, and someone who’s an undocumented worker and you can’t tell it by looking at somebody. And then you put the police on the front line and I think in a very risky position to use their discretion to decide. And that’s what creates the problems. It’s not to promote the questions of more undocumented workers. We have to address the issue of immigration. But it’s unfair to the police because we want them to solve our problems because we think every problem in the criminal justice system has a color to it. And that’s just not true. And I hope that people will see that we want to get rid of the presumption of guilt, which should never exist, and really get back to our, uh, time honored legal presumption of innocence, which we don’t have now.

ALISON STEWART: For those people who are comforted by the idea that we’re making such progress because we have a black president, you say, that’s a little premature.

CHARLES OGLETREE: It, it is, when we have a million black men in prison. We have to address that and not think the election of one person will solve it number one. And number two, we have to think about uh, uh, you know whether we want to be color conscious rather than color blind. The Supreme Court is moving toward that color blind that we don’t see race—we do see it. We see it every day. If I were here in New York trying to get a cab, and, and even in a three piece suit with my copy of Colin Powell’s book “American Journey,” can I get a cab? Maybe not. Even immigrants say

they see my skin first and not all the other things that follow. And they’re fearful of that. And I think that’s what we have to break down. No assumptions about people based on race. And it’s not easy, I’m not saying you can just turn around tomorrow and have a different society. But I’m trying to have this, what I call difficult conversation, on difficult topics with the idea that we may not always agree, but at least we’ll identify what we see as the central issues that divide us today.

ALISON STEWART: In the midst of the Shirley Sherrod whirlwind last week, there was something that grabbed our attention. At his mea culpa press conference Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack mentioned this:

SECRETARY VILSACK: For the last 18 months, we have really focused on trying to address the longstanding history of civil rights claims against the department. They’re outstanding claims brought by black farmers, Hispanic farmers, women farmers, Native American farmers, and these are not just a few incidences or a few isolated claims. These are tens of thousands of claims that have been brought against the department.

ALISON STEWART: Wait — whaaat?! Tens of thousands of civil rights claims brought by black farmers, Hispanic farmers, women farmers, Native American farmers…over the years, the USDA has earned a reputation for discriminating against farmers of color. Black farmers, for example. The number of black-owned farms in the country has dropped dramatically through the years. In 1920, about 14 percent of American farms were owned by black farmers. Today it’s not even one percent and black farms are failing at three times the rate of white ones. According to the congressional research service, the USDA’s own reports show that one of the leading reasons for this disparity is the agency’s long standing pattern of racial bias.

The USDA delayed or rejected their loan applications… or provided loan money so slowly that the farmers were still subject to foreclosure and financial ruin. The National Black Farmers Association says the department even failed to adequately notify farmers about the existence of federal loan programs. It wasn’t until the farmers themselves brought a class action discrimination suit in 1997 that the government actually agreed to compensate them for their losses. The $2.3 billion dollar civil rights settlement was the biggest in US history. But for many, the settlement seemed like more of a beginning than a resolution…because there was a catch.

There was a deadline for submitting claims and not everybody got the word. Tens of thousands of farmers were left out. To address that situation Congress in 2008 voted to give nearly 74 thousand farmers another chance. And earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary Vilsack announced a settlement that would provide an additional $1.25 billion to do just that. But again, there’s a catch: Congress has to fund the settlement. And, so far, Senate Republicans have blocked the effort to do so four different times – most recently, just this week. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says Democrats will keep trying to pass the funding measure.

JON MEACHAM: For nearly 20 years, our colleague Bill Moyers and his team followed the story of David Lewis, an ex-con, ex-drug addict, and former gang member. Lewis became known around the world for a simple but radical program he developed to help people like himself get clean, and stay out of prison. It was working wonders – and so was David Lewis — until earlier this summer, when he was gunned down in an East Palo Alto, California parking lot. Nobody has identified David Lewis’ killer. Three weeks ago governor Arnold Schwarznegger announced a $50,000 reward to anyone with information leading to a conviction in the case of Lewis’ death. For now what we can provide, is information about what was a truly remarkable life.

DAVID LEWIS: I go to jails all over the country. All over the damn country and I see y’all there everywhere. I saw you in Sing Sing the other day.…

VOICE OVER: David Lewis was a man with a message…

DAVID LEWIS: Just one mistake can send you back to where….

VOICE OVER: He dedicated his life to proving that even hardened criminals could be rehabilitated.

DAVID LEWIS: We see probably about 500 people a day…

VOICE OVER: His was a larger than life story.

DAVID LEWIS: Y’all didn’t know I knew that word.

VOICE OVER: The last chapter wasn’t supposed to come so soon. Or end so tragically.

Last month, Lewis was murdered in a mall parking lot near his home town of East Palo Alto, California. The crime remains unsolved.

Lewis is remembered for “Free at Last, the groundbreaking treatment program, that he helped start in East Palo Alto. He said he knew how to help drug addicts just out of prison, because he’d been there himself.

DAVID LEWIS:I considered myself probably at 15 having a full blown drug habit …but I still had this burning desire to succeed. And the people that I saw that were succeeding that didn’t look like they was gong to school were people that was involved with criminal activity.

VOICE OVER: Lewis spent close to 20 years in and out of some of California’s toughest prisons. He was in his thirties when he finally got treatment for his addictions …and he became involved with a group of men who were all struggling to stay sober. They’d formed what they called a “circle” and met every week to talk about their lives.

DAVID LEWIS: Am I ever going to have to share a cell with my son?

VOICE OVER: He slowly began to admit the damage his addiction had done to other people, especially the son he’d fathered but never raised, David Jr.

DAVID LEWIS: I got a son, 18, and it hadn’t really dawned on me until tonight how I might have been the cause of maybe him going to penitentiary one day. Soon, probably because he’s got this kid coming. He doesn’t have no job, he never went to school, you know what I’m saying? He’s going to do something. I don’t know what to do. Anybody know anything or have any suggestions?

TONY: Start hanging out with him.. Start doing things with him. I take my son to a show…

DAVID LEWIS: Gradually and incrementally, the obsession to use drugs started to be lifted. I could walk by people who were selling drugs on the streets. I could walk past liquor stores and things like that.

VOICE OVER: Once clean, Lewis wanted to give back and offer ex-convicts more than what they usually got on release – a few bucks and a bus ticket. So “Free at Last” offered real support: housing, education, child care and job training. The innovative program got attention across the country and around the world.

LINDA MILLS: You know, in the past, drug treatment was about taking somebody out of their community, putting them in another community, providing them with that treatment and then re-integrating them. And of course, as soon as they got back, all the triggers from what they’d gone through in the past were all there and they’d go back. And so the idea that this treatment program would happen right there in the community was a radically new idea.

VOICE OVER: Linda Mills, a professor at New York University, worked with Lewis over the years.

LINDA MILLS: David Lewis has a method to teach us about how to move us from what is punishment and shame that hasn’t been successful toward the model of recovery and possibility that can be successful.

VOICE OVER: In fact, 60 percent of the program’s graduates were clean, sober and still out of jail a year later. A success rate more than twice the national average.

RONALD: David let me see that a convict, a dope fiend, a criminal could turn his life around and do something positive.

DAVID LEWIS: This is our banker for “Free at Last” and I think we have one of the biggest accounts here.

VOICE OVER: He charmed everyone – from ex-convicts to local business leaders.

DAVID LEWIS: Pretty big account. And we try to patronize, you know, business. They just brought this bank into our community. This is the first time they’ve had a bank here in East Palo Alto in I don’t know how many years.

BANKER: Fifteen. By now, it’s, yeah, we were the first bank in fifteen years that was here.

DAVID LEWIS: Where is Kathy? I think I robbed the last one. No, I’m just kidding.

VOICE OVER: With his criminal past behind him, Lewis made major changes in his own life as well.

DAVID LEWIS: Kathy, this is my son David

VOICE OVER: Remember David Jr., the son David Lewis feared he would see in prison one day? He did wind up behind bars for a short time…but with the help of his father, he found his way out and got a college football scholarship and eventually a job.

DAVID LEWIS: Working at the Boys Club now…How many of you are fathers? You know what the statistics say.

VOICE OVER: How he was able to transform his relationship with his son is a story that most embodies Lewis’s message of redemption.

DAVID LEWIS: Hey, man, my son is a thug out of East Palo Alto. He went and broke every damn football record that school ever had — And my son was on the news and the guy asked him, he said, “What made you change the course of your life?” You know what he said? I’m gonna start crying. And I understand there’s principles on our belief when those… that men don’t cry. But I don’t care. My son told the news reporter, he said, “My father intervened in my life at a time that I needed him.”

DAVID JR.: I know everybody has a lot of stuff to say about my father.

VOICE OVER: Last month, David Jr., now a social worker in Atlanta, addressed the more than seven hundred people who had come to pay tribute to his father at a memorial service in East Palo Alto.

DAVID LEWIS JR: Thank you for coming out, keep the love coming and keep his dream and inspiration alive.

VOICE OVER: The crowd included politicians, professors, recovering drug addicts and some people Lewis had terrorized before he turned his life around. The irony wasn’t lost on the local police chief.

RONALD DAVIS: Who would’ve thought that I would be speaking at the services for… what was he called? “Funky rat.”

VOICE OVER: It was Lewis, he said, who changed the way local police approached crime fighting.

POLICE CHIEF: We decided as a community to go the route of trying to heal rather than to just incarcerate. Three years later I think we have one of the model programs in the state.

VOICE OVER: The organization’s leaders vow they’ll do what’s needed to carry on Lewis’s work.

MAN AT PODIUM: Anyone who’s life David touched, please stand up.

VOICE OVER: In hopes that it will touch many more.

MAN AT PODIUM: If we can just give David a round of applause for all that he’s done for us.

JON MEACHAM: We passed the 100 day marker for the gulf oil spill this week, and finally…there was a bit of good news: it appears that the gusher of oil might truly be stopped once and for all in the next two weeks. Of course, that news wasn’t enough to save BP’s Tony Hayward, who was ousted this week and is reported to be on his way to oversee BP’s Russian operations. Meanwhile BP claims czar Kenneth Feinberg is just getting started on his job. He’s been on a listening tour along the Gulf Coast, and got an earful from residents who are still reeling from this crisis. Last month, we went on our own listening tour. We visited Grand Isle, Louisiana to try and understand the economic, and psychological toll this oil spill has taken. Here’s a quick update on how they are doing.

VOICE OVER: Back in June, the town of Grand Isle, Louisiana seemed like a ghost town. Its streets were quiet, its beaches were empty, and its legendary fishing grounds were closed. It seemed that nearly everything that drives the economy on this slim little island had been shut down by the oil spill.

STEVEN CHEVALIER: The minute the oil spill rolled-up on our beaches, my property value was cut in half. Nobody wants a motel in the middle of an oil slick.

VOICE OVER: The rooms at Steven Chevalier’s motel are still fully booked – not with tourists – but with the work crews brought here to clean up the beaches… So Chevalier hasn’t filed any claim with BP… At least not yet.

STEVEN CHEVALIER: Whenever all this disappears and there are no workers and there are no tourists, then I should be compensated for that.

NEWSCASTER: Globs of tar continue to wash up..

VOICE OVER: Patti Rigaud owns the local Shell station, and she still hasn’t gone to see the beach that’s right across the street. Too painful to look at, she says. When we first met her, she said her business was down about 80 percent.

She filed a damages claim with BP two weeks ago, but still hasn’t heard back.

PATTI RIGAUD: I may have to close the doors, after 30 years. I go day by day right now. I’m basically at my wit’s end.

VOICE OVER: Back in June, we told you about the growing complaints people had about BP’s claims process. Back then, the company told us they’d written partial checks for about half the claims they’d received. But an updated set of numbers put out this month paints a grimmer picture: now, less than a third of the people seeking help have been paid anything.

Sarah Rigaud owns and runs her own diner on Grand Isle. She got a second $5000 check from BP since we were here last, but it’s barely making a dent. She says her business is down about $1000 a day since the spill began, so she’s had to start spending her own retirement savings just to keep the doors open.

WILLIAM BRANGHAM: Do you think about the future?

SARAH RIGAUD: I try not to. It gets so depressing and everything just to sit down and think. It’s enough to make anybody go nuts. I’m sorry to say that, but that’s the way I feel. Bad.

VOICE OVER: Floyd and Julie Lasseigne are both commerical fishermen who haven’t fished a day since the oil spill began. Normally they’d be out fishing round the clock for these few months, trying to earn enough money to last them through the winter.

The Lasseignes have now run through much of their savings. They’ve received three checks from BP, but with no other income, they reluctantly signed up for food stamps, and just went to Catholic Charities for help paying their bills.

TV NEWSCASTER: As the oil continues to spread, forecasters say it could reach…

VOICE OVER: For a fifth generation fisherman like Floyd – a guy who’s been supporting himself since he was young man – this has been an awful time.

FLOYD LASSEIGNE: Well, you know, at night you cry a little bit, you worry a little bit. We pray a lot. We pray a lot. We go to church every Saturday or Sunday, it depends. I wasn’t angry before, but as the days goes on and on and on, it’s gettin’ worse and worse. It’s just a disaster that should have never happened.

JON MEACHAM: This week online…Need to Know takes a closer look at the controversy surrounding the thousands of Wikileaked documents from the war in Afghanistan, five things you need to know about Arizona’s immigration law, and when bad things happen to good windmills. Energy expert Robert Fri examines some of the many reasons communities resist wind farms, including one you may not have heard before: they don’t want their land being used to power the bright lights of Las Vegas. All that and more of my conversation with Joshua Foust at the Need to Know website.

ALISON STEWART: You’ve heard the well-worn sayings…It’s the little things that matter. Bigger isn’t always better. Good things come in small packages. There isn’t a cliché out there that can fully describe the tiny house movement. In the current economy some people are choosing to downsize – way down – by living in houses not much bigger than some closets. The US census puts the average size of a single family home built last year at about 2,400 square feet. The owners of these micro-homes are living in spaces sometimes a tenth that size. Need to Know visited with a lady that loves her little house -Dee Williams of Olympia Washington.

DEE WILLIAMS: Hey, welcome to my little house. This is my living room — also called the great room. I love this space because I’ve got the giant skylight, I’m next to the heater… it’s actually a sweet spot.

VOICE OVER: Dee Williams lives in a spare but stylish home measuring 84 square feet. It’s powered by propane and solar energy, and sits comfortably in a friend’s back yard. Dee pays no rent and no mortgage. Her utlility bills? Eight dollars a month.

DEE WILLIAMS: This little house fits me. It’s a very simple type of living. The whole culture ethic of consuming more and having more as a way of feeling good about your life, I think people are turning that upside down a little bit.

VOICE OVER: It’s a turn more and more Americans are taking. Proponents say hundreds of people from all kinds of backgrounds are now living – by choice – in eco-friendly homes smaller than 400 square feet. A group called the Small House Society lists more than 60 architecture and building firms which specialize in tiny houses. And many of those report a serious up tick in business over the past three years.

DEE WILLIAMS: The small house movement, it really is a movement. The decision to downsize is definitely a trend, people are simplifying.

VOICE OVER: Dee built her home herself, using blueprints she found on the internet and enlisting the help of friends with carpentry experience. It cost her ten thousand dollars and took three months.

DEE WILLIAMS: Constructing a house is a huge amount of energy. I felt like I had muscles on my muscles. I glued my hair to the house accidentally one time. It’s made out of traditional materials except for the fact that a lot of the materials were pulled out of dumpsters.

VOICE OVER: She moved in in 2004, giving away most of her stuff and leaving behind this 1,500 square foot split level…a home she now describes as giant.

DEE WILLIAMS: My little house is smaller than my old bathroom — I know because I measured it.

VOICE OVER: But Dee says her new, less cluttered life has brought her a contentment those extra 1,416 square feet did not.

DEE WILLIAMS: It’s definitely retooled me and reoriented myself so that I’ve had an opportunity to really explore the difference between what I need and what I want.

VOICE OVER: She gives visitors a tour of her house, and her lifestyle, with considerable pride.

DEE WILLIAMS: This is my kitchen, which is of course very elaborate. I’ve got a one burner stove. I eat a lot of soup and stir fry and coffee that’s about all I cook. This is my wardrobe which involves mostly pants and shirts for work.

VOICE OVER: Dee has been an investigator for the Washington State Department of Ecology for 19 years.

DEE WILLIAMS: I’ve got 3 pairs of shoes 2 of them are outside. The other one is sitting right here so essentially if I get a new shirt, I get rid of a shirt. This is the sleeping loft which is also awesome. I’ve got this window the skylight. It’s pretty spectacular actually.

VOICE OVER: Then Dee shows off the room she says people ask about most often.

DEE WILLIAMS: This is my bathroom, and it’s a composting toilet. My elaborate cosmetics, my towel…

VOICE OVER: Something major is missing from Dee’s bathroom: running water. Many little homeowners have working showers. But Dee says she decided against one because she was worried her amateur plumbing would cause leaks. Instead, she showers at the home of an elderly friend named Rita. In exchange, she helps around Rita’s big house. For now, Dee’s house is parked in Rita’s backyard. And like many tiny homeowners, Dee built her house on a trailer.

DEE WILLIAMS: I decided to put it on wheels because I wanted to be able to take it with me into the future not knowing where my future was.

VOICE OVER: When she wants to move or just take a vacation, the house goes with her – hitched to her biodiesel truck, of course. As Dee – and her house – traveled the country in recent years, a strange thing happened for a woman who likes things small and simple – she became a bit of a celebrity. That’s her on the Tyra Banks Show demonstrating the size of her house. With the publicity came a barrage of email from people intrigued by the little lifestyle.

DEE WILLIAMS: I’ve heard from a lot of people that are interested in downsizing – actually in building little houses. Like, in some cases they’ve lost their job and they’re moving back in with relatives but they don’t want to live in the same house so living in the backyard would accommodate their current economic situation.

VOICE OVER: Tiny homes are sprouting up everywhere now – from the suburbs of Texas to the plains of Wisconsin. This 336 square foot home has a metallic finish and floor to ceiling windows. This one is constructed from previously used pine lumber tiny house advocates prefer to call it “vintage.”

Capitalizing on the trend, Dee and professional carpenter Katy Anderson started what you could call a tiny construction company last year. The company, Portland Alternative Designs, hasn’t turned a profit yet – they hope it will next year. But Dee says the real return on their investment is the satisfaction they get training people to build their own small homes. At a workshop in Oregon in June, seven students worked with Dee and Katy to build the foundation of a 200 square foot home on wheels for Matt Cooper.

MATT COOPER: I’ve always sort of had a fantasy of building an off-the-grid self-contained living unit and this would allow me to do that in that it’s so small it’s feasible.

VOICE OVER: Matt, who’s married with a baby, originally thought of the new structure as a summer home. But he and his wife, who both work at a small human resources company, recently learned they will likely both be laid off by winter.

MATT COOPER: We’ve certainly discussed this becoming our primary residence. I think my wife is a bit more apprehensive  – she feels pretty attached to the home that we have here in Portland. But just the idea that we would always have some sort of a structure that we could always go to and use and be relatively comfortable I find somewhat liberating.

DEE WILLIAMS: And we’re also going to take the rafters…

Other students in the workshop include Paige Gratland, a flight attendant learning to use power tools for the first time…and Jenn Kliese and Kim Langston, a young couple who plan to building matching mini-homes.

JENN KLIESE: Both of us are building tiny houses because we’re wanting to get out of debt culture mostly.

KIM LANGSTON: I grew up in Las Vegas Nevada. I grew up in a place that was built on big and immediate – you know, everything was about showing to the outside world what you’re capable of money wise, and I think that when I moved to Washington I wanted something different.

VOICE OVER: Kim and Jenn’s lives in Olympia – working in a food coop and farming their own veggies -are about as far from the Vegas strip as you can get. Homemade self-sustaining tiny houses would complete the dream, and just a few hours into the workshop, it’s all starting to seem real.

JENN KLIESE: I feel like actually physically starting to make the frame and kind of the nuts and bolts of it I feel like “oh my god, we can totally do this. This is so possible.”

VOICE OVER: The workshop’s final moments add to that sense of possibility. After eight long hours of building, Dee Williams leads her team of enthusiastic amateurs as they raise the first wall of a new tiny home.

DEE WILLIAMS: It really is like an Amish barn raising where everyone has to pitch in – everybody has a role to play. It’s this big heavy thing that you’re lifting up into place. You see a two dimensional dream or idea on paper, you know, you see it become the beginning of a house, and it’s so satisfying it’s awesome.

JON MEACHAM: How will the U.S. get out of Afghanistan? We’re with American soldiers on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border as they prepare Afghan troops to go it alone.

FLEISCHMAN: I truly believe deep in my heart that the Afghan people will eventually say, “Enough is enough. We want to live in peace, and we want to have a nice life.” So, how long that will take?

JON MEACHAM: Next week, on Need to Know.

ALISON STEWART: Like many news shows out there, we work hard to stay on top of today’s news.

JON MEACHAM: But unlike the competition, only Need to Know offers a glimpse into the future.

ALISON STEWART: To do that, we turn to our Nostradamus-in-residence, satirist Andy Borowitz with Next Week’s News. Hi Andy!

ANDY BOROWITZ: Thank you, Alison and Jon, and welcome back to Next Week’s News.

Well, of course, the big news this week was the top-secret Afghan war documents leaked by WikiLeaks. The bombshell revelation? The war in Afghanistan isn’t going very well. Good for you, WikiLeaks, but my question for you is, how exactly does that qualify as a leak? I mean, technically, doesn’t a leak have to be something we haven’t already known for, like, nine years? In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve read this news before – in “Duh” magazine. Come on, WikiLeaks! You can leak better than that. In fact, I can. That’s why this week I’m introducing a new feature here at Next Week’s News: Next WeekyLeaks.

Leak number one: I have in my possession ninety thousand pages of top-secret documents from oil giant BP. According to these documents, BP is about to replace CEO Tony Hayward with a startled deer. Effective immediately, Bucky the red deer will take the helm at BP, becoming the first woodland creature ever to run a multinational corporation. According to these leaked documents, in his first dry run of a press conference, Bucky appeared frightened by the TV lights, kicked over the podium and pranced down the hall. But in the words of one BP board member, “He still did better than Tony.”

Leak number two: just this morning, I acquired, on eBay, ninety thousand pages of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer’s innermost ramblings. According to these documents, Governor Brewer plans to defy a federal judge’s ruling by blocking all illegal immigrants on Facebook.

And finally, the leak that’s going to rock your world: I am in receipt of ninety thousand pages of top-secret wedding plans from Chelsea Clinton’s wedding planner. Bombshell: Al Gore is not invited, but he’s planning to get a hotel room anyway. And here, for the first time anywhere, is a leaked recording of Hillary Clinton informing a non-invitee that he’s not on the list.

Sound:{Mel Gibson’s expletive-bleeped rant.}

Well, that’ll do it for Next WeekyLeaks. And if you’re watching right now, WikiLeaks, I’m throwing down the gauntlet: I hereby challenge you to a leaking contest. Jon, Alison?

ALISON STEWART: Thanks Andy. We’ll look forward to seeing if you can top the 637 comments that you provoked on our website last week. That’s it for Need to Know on the air.

JON MEACHAM: Join us online anytime for news, blogs, videos and podcasts. Have a great week.

 

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