It's all in the question that's asked.
Do you like taxes? Seriously, who's going to say "yes" based only on that question?
So it's a bit odd that KSTP-TV let the phrasing of a question on its poll recently about the "gas tax" stand.
The question asked was:
Last month the Minnesota legislature passed a transportation funding bill that will raise the state gas tax, raise license registration fees and allow counties in the metro area to raise the sales tax in order to pay for highway and transit projects. Do you support or oppose that legislation?
Well, that depends on what the legislation does, doesn't it? If I were to ask you, would you favor or oppose spending $1,200 out of your savings account this week, aren't you going to ask me another question before you answered, so that you can find out whether it was being spent on muffins or, say, a new family room?
Compare the wording of the question with one MPR used last spring:
There is a proposal before the Minnesota State Legislature to raise the gasoline tax by 10 cents per gallon to pay for improvements to roads and bridges.
In that poll, 59 percent (not that much different from the KSTP results) were opposed to the dime increase, but it was a fairly even split on the idea of a nickel increase.
The Star Tribune Minnesota Poll in October asked:
Would you be willing to pay more in gasoline taxes in order to pay more for increased inspection and repair of bridges?
And got a different answer: A -- statistically speaking -- even split. But notice that no mention was made of how much of a tax would be involved -- another sin of omission.
And that's the real question underlying the tax debate: not that there are taxes, but that people do or don't feel they're getting value for their taxes.
If you asked the people in the Worthington area, for example, "do you want Minnesota 60 expanded?" the results would probably be "yes."
Now, there might be a second part of the question, "do you want the gas tax raised to pay for that?" And the results of that end of the question might be entirely different. But we don't know, since people weren't given that type of question.
There are a lot of questions about this poll, mostly because questions weren't asked, and that's a shame because it would be good information.(6 Comments)
Perhaps it's a good sign that we're still surprised -- shocked, even -- by stories like the one today about doctors at Methodist Hospital removing the wrong kidney of a patient whose other kidney was full of cancer. It suggests we have a confidence in the medical system.
Still a study released in Minnesota two years ago found 12 deaths in the state from medical errors between October 2004 and October 2005, and 106 total medical errors in that time. A year earlier, 20 deaths were reported as a result of medical mistakes in Minnesota over a 16-month period. The most recent report found 125 errors between October 2006 and October 2007. The consequences of the mistakes are indicated in the chart .
Much of the attention on the issue of medical errors came as a result of a 1999 Institute of Medicine report. "To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System" (pdf executive summary) set as its goal, a 50-percent reduction in medical errors by 2004.
But last October, two doctors, Tom Delbanco and Sigall K. Bell, wrote a commentary in the New England Journal of Medicine, saying that hospitals need to change the way they react to the new needs of patients after a mistake is made.
Clinicians who feel guilty after a medical error may have parallel feelings of fear -- fear for their reputation, their job, their license, and their own future as well as that of their patient. Although full disclosure of medical errors is increasingly recognized as an ethical imperative, health care providers often shy away from taking personal responsibility for an error and believe they must "choose words carefully" or present a positive "spin."2 Hospitals, insurers, and attorneys frequently advise physicians against using trigger words, such as "error," "harm," "negligence," "fault," or "mistake." The result can be an impersonal demeanor that leads patients to view physicians as uncaring. To date, approximately 30 U.S. states have adopted "I'm sorry" laws, which to varying degrees render comments that physicians make to patients after an error inadmissible as evidence for proving liability.3,4 However, until such statutes become universal and are accepted by health care institutions, frightened clinicians are left to struggle with conflicting personal moral principles, professional ethics, and institutional policies.
This post was updated at 3:07 p.m.
The Washington Post carries a story today that looks a little closer at the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, at least closer than the short clips on TV and large-point headlines have allowed. The article also examines what's known as "black liberation theology."
Flooded with a tide of criticism, Trinity declines to condemn Wright's remarks, instead casting them as consistent with the traditions of the black church. He practices a "black liberation theology" that encourages a preacher to speak forcefully against the institutions of oppression, and occasional hyperbole is an occupational hazard, ministers said. "There's so much passion in what we do that it can overflow," said the Rev. Frederick D. Haynes III, senior pastor at Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas.
Black liberation theology is based on a book (Black Theology of Liberation) by James H. Cone, a professor at the Union Theological Seminary in New York.
"For me, the burning theological question was, how can I reconcile Christianity and Black Power, Martin Luther King, Jr.'s idea of nonviolence, and Malcolm X's 'by any means necessary philosophy?'" he wrote.
Today, Sen. Barack Obama, in perhaps the most important speech of his political career, did not shy from acknowledging the anger that exists where race is concerned in America (Read transcript). "But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races," he said.
Nor did he reject his long association with Rev. Wright. "I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe."
Now for the reviews. This from James Fallows of The Atlantic, watching from China:
This was as good a job as anyone could have done in these circumstances, and as impressive and intelligent a speech as I have heard in a very long time. People thought that Mitt Romney's speech would be the counterpart to John Kennedy's famous speech about his faith to the Houston ministers in 1960. No. This was.
Jeff Jarvis has a slightly different take:
I believe he is trying too hard to dodge making a decision about Jeremiah Wright and his divisive and racist speech. After having thrown Wright to the wolves in prior videos, he now backs up. He tries to explain Wright. He explains him more as a product of racism than a racist himself. He says he cannot leave Wright and his flock behind or we will not come together to solve our problems.
Meanwhile, a new poll from CBS says 30 percent have a less favorable view of Obama because of his pastor's remarks.(5 Comments)
Posted at 11:38 AM on March 18, 2008
by Bob Collins
... or the cold for that matter.
The obituary writers at the Washington Post have calculated that this is a big time of the year for dying.
Posted at 2:41 PM on March 18, 2008
by Bob Collins
It's always a day of some sort at the Minnesota Capitol. Groups lobby for legislation, and for the most part only the most sympathetic legislators pay much attention. That changes for Minnesota Zoo Day at the Capitol, however. Nobody lobbies like a snake, or a frog, or an eagle.
Posted at 3:44 PM on March 18, 2008
by Bob Collins
Now we know. The problem with the Timberwolves wasn't Kevin McHale drafting Ndudi Ebi. Or owner Glenn Taylor signing Joe Smith illegally and giving away years of first-round draft picks.
According to Glen Taylor, the problem was Kevin Garnett "tanking it."
"Good thing they traded that deadbeat!" opined one fan on the Boston Globe's Celtics blog today.
Posted at 4:08 PM on March 18, 2008
by Bob Collins
Today the Fed cut another .75% from the Federal Fund Rate and the Discount Rate. You don't have to be a student of the machinations of the economic system to ask, "what's in it for me?"
Twin Cities mortgage banker Alex J. Stenback, who writes a fascinating blog called Behind the Mortgage, documents recent rate cuts that correspond to an immediate rise in mortgage rates -- at least in the short term.
Of course, as he notes, the biggest factor for a lot of would-be mortgage applicants is the availability of the money as well as demands for higher downpayments.
These are the salient allegations from one of the attorneys general in DFLer Lori Swanson's office at the Capitol that Tim Pugmire detailed in his story today.
Of course anybody who's ever read Dilbert isn't going to do much more than shrug about the "loyalty" thing, or the blog post thing or the bringing consumers in under false pretense thing. But there are certainly questions about inserting false information into affidavits that get more uncomfortable the longer they go unchallenged.
Attorney General Swanson's spokesperson issued a written statement, saying it is impossible for an employer to respond to anonymous attacks from former employees or those who may be disgruntled.
Is it impossible? The answer can be either "yes, we do add false information to affidavits" or it can be "no, we don't and never have added false information to affidavits."
Meanwhile, the DFL-controlled Legislature is not embracing the idea of a hearing into the allegations, even though having Lori Swanson deny the accusations might actually be a good thing, if only to stop the appearance that any politician has when refusing to answer allegations: there's something to hide.
A couple of weeks ago on MPR's Midday program, the two legislative leaders punted when asked about the issue, saying they don't like to get involved in the affairs of the executive branch. This was just a week or so after the Legislature removed Carol Molnau as the transportation commissioner and just a week or so before a Senate committee approved a bill on Monday requiring the commissioner of transportation to appoint a deputy commissioner/chief engineer who is licensed as a professional engineer.(3 Comments)