Investigators are in Colorado today, trying to figure out what caused that Continental jet to skid and crash on takeoff over the weekend. Fortunately (I think we use the miraculously word too much), nobody was seriously hurt.
Whatever the reason for the incident, I'm pretty sure it wasn't this: Drag-racing jets.
As you probably have guessed, this is the slowest news week of the year. It's a three-day week. Stories that usually can't see the light of day, find a place on the news agenda this week. I can't wait to find out what they are.(1 Comments)
2009 will likely be the year the Twin Cities becomes a one-newspaper town. The closest thing to us is, perhaps, Denver where the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post (owned by Dean Singleton, who also owns the St. Paul Pioneer Press) are slugging it out to be the last newspaper standing.
The Rocky isn't going down without a fight, and it's willing to shed its dignity in the process.
The newspaper has created iwantmyrocky.com to rally support for the newspaper. In the process, its employees get to publicly beg for their jobs.
The Associated Press is out with a survey that says banks that are getting taxpayer bailouts gave their bosses $1.6 billion in salaries, bonuses, and other benefits last year. $1.6 billion. That was once considered a lot of money.
Even where banks cut back on pay, some executives were left with seven- or eight-figure compensation that most people can only dream about. Richard D. Fairbank, the chairman of Capital One Financial Corp., took a $1 million hit in compensation after his company had a disappointing year, but still got $17 million in stock options. The McLean, Va.-based company received $3.56 billion in bailout money on Nov. 14.
John A. Thain, chief executive officer of Merrill Lynch, topped all corporate bank bosses with $83 million in earnings last year. Thain, a former chief operating officer for Goldman Sachs, took the reins of the company in December 2007, avoiding the blame for a year in which Merrill lost $7.8 billion. Since he began work late in the year, he earned $57,692 in salary, a $15 million signing bonus and an additional $68 million in stock options.
Meanwhile, another AP story today says the banks won't say how they're spending the money.(5 Comments)
One of the saddest stories around here in a long time is the death last week of Stephen Posniak of Alexandria, Virginia. Posniak, charged with setting (everyone seems to concede it was an accident) the Ham Lake fire in northern Minnesota that burned thousands of acres, destroyed 150 buildings, and cost $11 million to put out, killed himself.
From all accounts, Posniak was a nice guy who loved the Boundary Waters and couldn't live with the stigma of being "that guy" once the government decided it would extract its pound of flesh, even seeking its $11 million back. Pozniak didn't have $11 million.
Clearly the guy messed up, but surely someone is wondering whether the prosecution was appropriate. "Can't someone just make a mistake?" they ask.
"I'd known Steve since we were classmates at Wilson High School, and what this represents is an accident caused by carelessness, turned into a tragedy by Mother Nature, and then compounded a thousandfold by the malicious zeal of a prosecutor," Andy Moursund, a long-time friend said (Washington City Paper).
Others say people should be held accountable for their contribution to an incident.
The Edge, a blog in northern Minnesota, points out today that on the day before the fire, the U.S. Forest Service sent out this memo:
Sent: Friday, May 04, 2007 10:17 AM
Subject: Fire Restrictions
There are no fire restrictions in place for this week in the BWCAW, so
what that means is visitors can have a campfire.
Gunflint Ranger District
2020 W. Highway 61, Grand Marais, MN 55604
Says the writer: "The email was sent despite the fact everyone living in the forest was will aware how dry the forest was and that over the next few days high winds were predicted. Lighting any campfire was certainly stupid but what about the actions of the USFS to even allow fires under such conditions?"(1 Comments)
I am not -- by virtue of DNA -- an optimist, and I've made a good living not being one. Still, when I opened up this morning's Star Tribune to read that not enough people are donating to the Salvation Army or Toys for Tots or the food shelves, I couldn't help but notice that thousands and thousands of people are. People are still often doing the best they can to help people they don't know.
Buried deep -- far too deep -- in the story was Kathy Ware, a public health nurse from Inver Grove Heights, who can't throw as much money into the Salvation Army pot this year as in past years, so she's helping out in another way -- she's taking her turn standing by the kettle ringing a bell.
And that's our DNA. Generosity and anonymity go hand in hand.
In today's New York Times, Ted Gup, a professor of journalism at Case Western Reserve University, writes about growing up in Canton, Ohio. Around Christmas 1933, a local newspaper ran the story of Mr. B. Virdot , who vowed to help 75 unfortunate families, men and women "who might otherwise "hesitate to knock at charity's door for aid." He was said to be a man who was prosperous, lost it all during the Depression, and then returned to prosperity.
"...to me, the story had always served as an example of how selfless Americans reach out to one another in hard times," Gup wrote. "I can't even remember the first time I heard about Mr. B. Virdot, but I knew the tale well."
This past summer, Gup finally found out who the Mr. B. Virdot was.
It was his grandfather.(1 Comments)
Mike Wilson of Denver is something of a media star today, mostly because when his jet skidded off a runway and into a ravine, and burst into flames in Denver, he thought it would be a good time to send a note to his Twitter followers (language warning). Twitter, the microblogging social network ummmm... thing ... has gotten plenty of props recently because of its ability to keep people informed with short microbursts of information from people living the news (in this case). And today there are plenty of stories around about how valuable Twitter has become in this regard.
But, still, it raises a somewhat minor question of whether our social networking capabilites are separating us from real life just a bit.
To everything there is a season. A time to be born; a time to die. A time to weep; a time to laugh. A time to tweet; a time to get the heck off a burning jet.
As I posted earlier today, the Associated Press is running a series on the big bank bailout and so far has found that CEOs and execs of failing banks were rewarded with large bonuses last year and also that it's impossible for the average taxpayer to track what the banks are doing with their taxpayer.
On his blog, Mark Cuban writes:
Lets see, is there anything more idiotic than spending more than 100k dollars on a full page ad "thanks for letting me waste your money" ad? Does it make it worse that its a business publication where the readers might just recognize the stupidity of wasting money on ad dollars that doesn't even try to sell the product? How does it make the next unemployed Chrysler worker feel that their entire year's salary just went for a single, ridiculous ad?
Our state and nation face challenges that will not be solved by business as usual - the worst economic times since the great depression, the foreclosure crisis, rising unemployment, and increasing economic and social disparities. These challenges require the kind of change that is only available from a leader of vision and courage.
That's why we are encouraging John Marty to run for Governor and are forming an exploratory campaign. Please join us!
We are encouraging Senator Marty to run for Governor because of his vision, his strength, his integrity and his courage.
The Web site coincides with a mass e-mailing of the announcement. The return address says it's from John Marty. The Web site is paid for by Minnesotans for Marty. The address of Minnesotans for Marty is Marty's Roseville home.
Marty ran for governor in 1994, garnering 33% of the vote, against incumbent Arne Carlson.8 Comments)
A friend told me the other day that Minnesota was so concerned about the stability of the economy during the Great Depression, that it printed its own money. I'd never heard such a claim, and for good reason. It isn't true.
But even wading into the subject revealed how different times were in the Great Depression than in the Great Recession.
I learned this from Shawn Hewitt, to whom I turned today to find out if what my friend said was true. Hewitt is the author of A History & Catalog of Minnesota Obsolete Bank Notes & Scrip .
The claim of your colleague is incorrectly stated. In the 1930s, there were two main types of notes issued by entities from Minnesota. One is National Currency, or National Bank Notes. These were issued since the 1860s by National Banks, bearing the name of the issuing bank on the face. An example is shown on my web site
They were introduced by the Union during the Civil War as a means to finance the war and to bring about a more uniform currency. They were discontinued in the 1935 at the close of the Great Depression as part of broader government efforts to shore up the financial system.
The other type is known as Depression Scrip. An example can be found here. The notes were not issued out of fear of government collapse, but due to the scarcity of money.
There were four main types of issuers of Depression Scrip from Minnesota:
1) Bank Scrip, in the form of denominated cashier's checks. These were issued by banks during the Banking Holiday of 1933 and served as a currency substitute until banks were permitted to resume the normal course of business.
2) Municipal Scrip, issued by towns to fund unemployment relief projects.
3) Company Scrip, issued by companies for payrolls and commodities, or by merchant associations.
4) Barter Scrip, issued by unemployment relief organizations.
Most notes were issued in 1932-1933 as a measure of necessity, not one of fear.
We must delve into the causes of Metro Transit's problems as detailed this afternoon by MPR's Dan Olson.
Money for transit from the motor vehicle sales tax is down because of slumping auto sales. The latest numbers show Metro Transit is short $72 million over the next two and a half years, according to Dan.
I wrote a few weeks ago about the wisdom of financing things by taxing things you want to have less of -- cigarettes or gas taxes in that post. Ideally, a proper public transit model would have everyone riding it, and getting rid of cars. But if you're financed by the sale of automobiles, can you do both?
Ridership on Metro Transit has increased, but the system imposed a fare hike this year nonetheless. One solution for the current revenue shortfall? Another fare hike. At what point do you force people off mass transit?
More Twin Citians are riding public transit, getting squeezed in the wallet, and squished on the ride.
You can fight it, but winter always wins. You might as well embrace it.
Take these lads at Chicago's Soldier Field on Monday night:
The temperature was near zero in Chicago as Vikings fans wondered whether the Packers could help them to the playoffs by beating the Bears. I, on the other hand, found myself wondering why we don't hear more about emergency room cases of people with frostbitten chests.
I, on the other hand, spent the evening making ice lanterns. Several Current listeners sent me tips on how to make them. In the end, I chickened out and just bought a mold.
Let's see south Florida top that!
The floor is open for your tips on how to enjoy winter.(6 Comments)