1) Political talk. Is 56 the new 60? For all the hand-wringing that losing a super majority would grind Congress to a halt (how would anybody know?), a funny thing happened yesterday. A jobs bill got passed in the Senate with the help of moderate Republicans. Fivethirtyeight.com's Nate Silver says more are likely to be elected in November, but most Republicans running are conservatives, he notes. But yesterday's vote re-establishes that northeast Republicans, for example, don't generally play by the same rules as the rest of the caucus.
Meanwhile, likely presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty has painted Gov. Tim Pawlenty into a corner. As a presidential candidate, Pawlenty is against extending the federal stimulus. But as a governor, Pawlenty is for the federal stimulus, at least enough to use the cash in the budget proposal that he submitted just last week?
Pawlenty's dilemma reveals the difficulty in having two jobs at once as these two paragraphs from Tom Scheck's story show:
In the past, Pawlenty defended his position on accepting stimulus money by arguing Minnesota gives more in tax money to the federal government than it gets back. He also said the stimulus funds would have been better spent if they were geared towards cutting payroll taxes and taxes paid by small businesses.
But state economist Tom Stinson noted the federal stimulus included $231 billion in tax cuts. That includes a $400 credit for low and middle income workers, a $250 one-time payment to Social Security recipients and disabled veterans, and a break for businesses that purchase capital equipment.
This is the sort of thing that keeps Jon Stewart in business, comparing the words of politicians with the words from the same politicians.
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2) How to get your kid into college: Get him/her on YouTube. The New York Times says student applications are increasingly including produced YouTube videos, like this:
Once you get to college, what do you have to do to get out? A relic of post World War II is still in force at some of the premier institutions, the Boston Globe reports. You have to prove you can swim.
Also on the competition front, today is the first day of the February Bar Exam.
3) George Clooney is up for an Oscar for his latest film role in which he plays a man who fires people for a living. But what's it really like to sack people? The BBC profiles those who spend their days ruining others'.
4) Science! What's in household dust? You don't want to know.
More science: Some of the world's greatest cities may be the next Port Au Prince.
5) Spotted outside a grocery store in Woodbury yesterday (by Mrs. News Cut). It begs for a caption contest, doesn't it?
More dogs: What is it about the Law and Order theme that's freaking out dogs?
Bonus: Embracing winter. An aerial tour of St. Paul and environs. Hat Tip to Pete Howell. He's the guy I've written about several times who uses his airplane to rescue dogs around the country.
Severe cold cracks pavements. Moisture seeps in and expands when it freezes. The ice displaces pavement, more moisture seeps in, the cycle repeats and a pothole is born. Do the potholes seem worse than usual this year?
(Another question: Is this machine the solution?)
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Reading a favorite book a second, or third time can be like seeing an old friend. It can also spark new insights and emotions, or a new appreciation for the beauty of the language. Midmorning looks at the pleasures of rereading.
Second hour: Think you know where words come from? A special challenge edition of Midmorning with word origins scholar Anatoly Liberman.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - Both hours: MPR chief economics correspondent Chris Farrell answers listener questions about the economy and personal finance! He's out with a new book, "The New Frugality."
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: After September 11th, John Yoo wrote some of the most controversial legal documents in recent history -- the so-called "torture memos." He's Neal Conan's guest.
Second hour: Some college campuses now have threat assessment programs, to spot potentially dangerous people, before they act. Can you predict violent behavior?
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Northstar commuter rail ridership numbers for last month exceeded projections. Ridership numbers increased on snowy days, confirming that people are using rail as a bad-weather alternative. MPR's Ambar Espinoza will have the story.
NPR will report on how climate change science has been rattled recently, how figure skating music is selected at the Olympics, and the grilling Toyota will get on Capitol Hill.
Have you got another flood-relief effort in you?
On the heels of last year's massive effort in Moorhead and Fargo, another anti-flood brigade seems highly likely, according to the National Weather Service.
Moorhead is opening its sandbagging site on Monday and is looking for volunteers (Fargo Forum - registration possibly required). The city hopes to fill 300,000 sandbags, and will provide them free this year. In past years, residents had to purchase sand and sandbags but the city changed its strategy last year -- building a single dike along the Red River rather than let each homeowner decide how to fight the water. It worked.
The city is also planning on obtaining a machine to fill sandbags automatically. Last year piles of sand were dumped in the neighborhoods and volunteers and residents shoveled and hauled.
Fargo had a different plan. Wayback Machine time:
Last year (as the above link shows), I spent the flood on the Moorhead side of the river, following three families in one neighborhood. This year? We'll see but if you live in the area and have a plan, drop me an e-mail.
Posted at 11:12 AM on February 23, 2010
by Bob Collins
There are a million potholes in the naked city, and a million stories for each one. Here's one submitted today by Bonnie Jean MacKay of St. Paul.
I was on my way home from dance practice at about 9:45 in the evening last week Wednesday, and I hit a pothole really hard. It was dark, and this one I just didn't see in advance. The car immediately began to handle poorly and pull to the right, so I pulled over, and got out to look at the tire. I couldn't see it because the slush was too deep. I got back in and pulled forward. Totally flat front passenger side tire. We were stopped near the intersection of University and St. Albans.
As we were getting the roadside assistance number out of the glove box, my daughter looked over to the left, at a car that was slowing to turn left at the same intersection. "The same thing happened to them." she said. We could see their car's front passenger side tire was totally flat.
I checked traffic, put my car in gear, my blinker on, crossed University and pulled up behind them. Two men in suits were getting a spare tire out of their trunk. I stopped my car about 20 ft behind them and followed suit, only it took me longer, because I had just emptied a storage locker, and had a full box of miscellaneous books in my trunk, and the box had broken to the point where I had to take all the books out in little stacks and put them in my back seat.
My 16-year-old daughter remained in the front seat on the phone or on hold or being transferred about by the roadside assistance dispatch people. Eventually she told me that it would be about 35 minutes before anyone got to us. I got out the spare tire, and placed the jack where it needed to be, and proceeded to try to loosen the lug nuts. Too tight, so I called to the people working on the other car, where by now a whole family, including women and children were gathered 'round. I didn't see where they all had come from, but presumably from inside the car. I asked which way to loosen? Because even though I thought I knew, it wasn't working, so one man came back to my car and loosened all my lug nuts. I think he was originally from Sierra Leon or some such country in Africa. He was very helpful and kind (and especially importantly, bigger and stronger than I).
So I jacked up the car, took off one lug nut, and some guy in a little car pulls up right behind me. He sat in his car for a bit, while I worked, and then got out and said, "Oh! You are changing your own tire! You don't have to do that!" This puzzled me. "Why?" I said. "It's flat. I have to change it". He said, "That's my job! I'm the roadside assistance guy." "Oh!" I said. "Well I am nearly done now." "Well, stop. Let me do it", he said. "Why didn't you wait?" I said that I was told it would be 35 minutes, and I figured if I could do it myself, I wouldn't have to wait that long, and I was nearly out of gas.
So the roadside assistance guy finished changing my tire. My jack failed, and he had to use his, so it was good that he came. I thanked the people in front in the other car who had hit the same pothole with the same result, and we all drove away. I stopped at the gas station on the corner of Marion and Rice, and hailed a police officer.
I asked how we report really bad potholes, and told him that I and another guy had both hit the same one and flattened our tires. He looked at my car and saw that the little spare was installed, which he took as assurance that I didn't need further assistance at that time, and said he would call public works. I said 'thank you.' I filled my tank, bought ice cream (a rare treat, but one I decided I deserved), and we went home.
The next morning I took my car in for a new tire. Fortunately I had a lifetime warranty from Fleet Farm that covered all labor and half the price of the new tire. My damaged one had a large cut in it, and the rim was bent. The new tire held despite the bent rim. I drove that same route in the daylight on Saturday around noon, and saw that many potholes had been filled, including the one I must have hit Wednesday night, because I didn't see one that could have flattened my tire about where that had happened. So I was very glad that the Public Works team had been out on University Avenue filling potholes.
THANKS you guys and gals who take care of our roads! I hope we continue to have money to pay you well for your services!!
You can report your community pothole here.
The verdict is in: The stimulus plan created 1 - 2.1 million jobs through December 2009.
The report comes today from the Congressional Budget Office, a non-partisan office that is cited as reputable by both sides when it suits them. Here's the full report.
That's quite a wide range of numbers there. The CBO says while 600,000 jobs were reportedly created in the 4th quarter, the actual number might be higher or lower than that. Lower, because the jobs might've already existed, and higher because the reports measured only the jobs created by employers, not by subcontractors.
That's a nice way of saying that when Democrats say the stimulus has worked, and Republicans say it hasn't, both are just guessing and cherry-picking data.
For its part, the CBO reports tax cuts are going to be $7 billion more than it originally estimated because tax changes were carried out more quickly than it expected. It also said spending was lower -- albeit slightly lower -- than it had predicted.
Incidentally, here's a moment of serendipity in reading an otherwise dull government report. In a typically bland preface, the report credits various people who worked on it, including Lenny Skutnik who was in charge of printing it. Does that name sound familiar? Maybe this will help.
It's the answer to the "whatever happened to Lenny Skutnik?" question. A non-descript government employee who became internationally famous for jumping into the Potomac to rescue victims of a plane crash in a "rousing act of courage," then went back to being a non-descript government employee. It's too bad. He's not a guy who should be forgotten:(4 Comments)