Mondays are for the Rouser, but today it seemed fitting to make it a blues piece.
1) A car bomb in Times Square didn't work right over the weekend, a guy's underwear bomb fizzles on Christmas. The difference between a normal day and an international tragedy is the incompetence of some people. But this weekend's "near miss" in New York has us thinking "what-if?" Apparently, the New Yorker's Nick Paumgarten is too. He considers the work of Irwin Redlener at the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University:
The idea of preparedness, during the Cold War, was absurd, a fantasy; a full-tilt exchange of warheads would have been unsurvivable, and so, as people came to recognize the futility of the Eisenhower- and Kennedy-era placebos and sops (duck-and-cover, Bert the Turtle, back-yard fallout shelters), they stopped thinking about preparing. Prevention was all. But a terrorist attack is different: harder to prevent, easier to survive.
Bombs have been going off all over the world for years -- why has New York been spared since the first World Trade Center attack? Luck.
It's New York, so there's always at least one camera watching (like downtown St. Paul in that respect). At least one caught the image of the guy who apparently drove the car bomb to Times Square. Here's the game changer: He's white.
When they find this guy -- and they will -- will he be tried in New York?
2) David Longbehn, a 25-year-old veteran of the St. Paul Police Department, is going to get some time off, as is standard when police officers are involved in a shooting. Officer Longbehn is the officer who fought off an an attack by 21-year-old Jason John Jones and fatally wounded Jones, who is believed to have been one of two people who killed a Maplewood police officer a few hours earlier.
Officer Longbehn was featured on an episode of Animal Planet in October 2008. You can watch it here.
Longbehn was also one of several police officers and city officials sued by the protesters at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul for a raid on a home several days before the convention started. (Read affadavit)
3) This is one of those "what's right with people?" days. So here's one: A 90-year-old woman had a "bucket list" item remaining -- go to a prom. So she did, thanks to her great grandson.
In New Ulm yesterday, about 75 seniors went to their prom, too.
4) I wish This American Life would encode individual segments, but they don't. So if you want to hear the very definition of poignant, you'll have to scroll ahead to Act 3 of this week's Scene of the Crime program. Dan Savage tells the story of the death of his mother and his return -- sort of -- to church. Here's some Kleenex.
Bonus: How long could you go without the technology invented after you were born. There'll be a fair amount of "tsk tsking" abut the younger generation as the result of this story in the University of Minnesota Daily, but it's unlikely any current generation could do it.
A professor asked students to replace their technology with the technology of the '70s for a week. Apparently, they lasted only two days. The professor wanted to teach them that technology is just a tool, and not an extension of themselves.
Most teenagers play some sort of video games, and some of the most popular games feature violent content. How have you seen violent video games affect your friends or family?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Video games that award points for killing opponents in brutal ways turns the stomachs of parents, but do they harm kids? The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear a case that contests California's wish to ban the sale or rental of violent video games to children. Two guests who have studied the effects of video games talk about what happens when kids participate in virtual violence.
Second hour: A typical pre-teen girl today obsesses with her appearance and forms close attachments to friends, according to psychologist Leonard Sax. He says the shrinking window of childhood hurts girls in the long run because it prevents them from creating their own identities.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour:
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: Remembering Kent State.
Second hour: TBA
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Wildfire officials say the moisture levels in much of northern Minnesota is worse than any time in recent memory; probably since the drought years of 1976 and '77. State and federal agencies are aggressively attacking wildfires from the air to prevent small fires from quickly growing to very large ones. Meanwhile, continued dryness could result in more restrictions on activities - including a potential ban on logging in some places. MPR's Bob Kelleher will have the story.
Film maker Robert Altman, writer/raconteur Studs Terkel, novelists Ray Bradbury and Phillip Roth. Hear why they feel they owe so much to radio legend Norman Corwin.
Strange things can happen late in a legislative session. The 2003 abortion legislation, known as the "women's right to know' bill, was tacked onto a bill regulating circuses. The law requiring law enforcement officials to issue gun permits to people requesting them was added to a funding bill for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. And the legislation creating funding for the Minnesota Twins' stadium came late in a session, when lawmakers ganged up on their colleagues from Hennepin County.
Today, a Vikings stadium bill was born, with just a few weeks left in the 2010 session of the Minnesota Legislature.
Proponents are citing the relatively low cost of interest rates and construction costs, saying waiting would cost $50 million.
Rep. Loren Solberg called the Vikings a "state legacy" and said they're an asset to the state. Solberg, who is chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, said one Vikings playoff game -- the one with Dallas -- indirectly contributed $9 million to the economy.
But at the same time, Solberg said that only "people who benefit from the stadium," should pay for it. Theoretically, that would be everyone if the Vikings are a major contributor to the Minnesota economy.
Sen. Tom Bakk, who voted against the Twins stadium bill in 2006, said it's appropriate to bring a Vikings bill forward because other major bills have passed out of their committees. True, but the Senate's health and human services bill cut $114 million in health care cuts.
"This is the year to do it," Bakk said. "When you look at the unemployment we have in this state, someone has to do something to put Minnesotans back to work."
Sen. Julie Rosen, a Republican, pointed to Target Field and the Xcel Center in St. Paul. "Once the facilities are built, there's job creation and a lot of excitement. Rosen was a supporter of the Twin stadium bill, which she pointed out today, was passed at 4 in the morning.
"Imagine Minnesota without the Vikings," she said.
Rep. Morrie Lanning, a Republican from Moorhead, said the key to the Vikings bill is not having it paid for with general revenue money. But he noted there's still not a local community that's stepped forward to host the Vikings, and contribute the money that will be required. He said the state will lose $20 million in taxes if the Vikings leave when their lease at the Metrodome is up at the end of next season.
"Our ability to market the destination will be enhanced by a multi-purpose stadium," said Melvin Tennant, the CEO of Meet Minneapolis, the tourism agency in the city. "Many other events could be attracted if we have the stadium."
Tim O'Connor, the chair of the Minneapolis Downtown Council, suggested the Vikings need to stay in Minnesota to keep CEOs of companies wanting to live in the region.
ELEMENTS OF THE PLAN
* The stadium will cost $791 million.
* The Vikings contribute $32 million to pay off debt for 40 years. The team's total contribution is $264 million.
* There will be taxes on hotels, sports jerseys and memorabilia, and car rentals.
* A lottery game would be created.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
Q: If not Minneapolis, where?
A: "No decisions have been made," Solberg said. There are two proposals; one is site-specific and one is not. "Any of the 'fees' would not be imposed by the Legislature, but by someone else."
Q: The governor will not sign bills with new taxes. Why propose them?
A: Bakk: "What I like about it is taxing sports memorabilia. They're taxed at the wholesale level. The governor was opposed to taxes at the regional level."
Q: The governor would be opposed to car rental taxes.
A: Bakk: "I haven't had a meeting with the governor on this subject."
Q: Should the Vikings be contributing more?
A: Solberg: "They should pay for it themselves. That's not going to be happening. This is a facility that's used by more than just the Vikings."
Q: Do you have the votes to pass this?
A: Solberg: "It'll go through the committee process. The budget had to be done first. And we're there. The other part of the timeline as it goes through committee, those who benefit will be a funding source. People will judge and vote their conscience on that. "
Q: Have you talked to leaders of the Legislature?
A: Bakk:" I had a brief conversation with Sen. Pogemiller on this weeks ago." ( Bob notes: How do you propose a bill like this and not talk to the governor and legislative leaders?)"
Interesting to note that officials with the Minnesota Vikings were not part of today's news conference, but an official was meeting with reporters after the news conference.
Q: Is there a reason the only legislators here today are non-metro?
A: Lanning: "I understand the reluctance of local government officials in the metro area wanting to stand up and cheer. They have lots of pressures. We need to make it clear that unless there is some local government partner and partner with the state of Minnesota and the team, it's not going to happen. We're elected to solve problems. Minnesota has a problem, not just with the budget, but we're going to lose one of the major assets in the state."
Is Moorhead interested?
Q: Is a racino part of this?
A: "Thanks for coming everybody"(18 Comments)
In proposing a hotel and car rental tax, political boosters of a publicly financed stadium for the Minnesota Vikings aren't breaking new ground. The two taxes are the most-often-used methods of public financing in NFL stadiums. Only one other team -- Seattle -- uses lottery revenue. The Vikings' 33.3% contribution to the new stadium is about in line with most other cities.
In many cases, county resources are the most often used public financing, rather than state money.
Here's a rundown of how recent NFL stadiums were financed:
Cleveland Browns (1999)
Stadium cost: $290 million
Percentage of public funding: 74.7%
Cleveland recently refinanced $132 million in bonds. The city owns the stadium and leases it to the Browns for $250,000. The public financing was conducted through the sale of bonds.
Pittsburgh Steelers (2001)
Stadium cost: $357.5 million
Percentage of public funding:78.7%
The stadium was funded as part of a package that also provided new facilities for the city's hockey and baseball teams. A county hotel tax contributes about 10% of the annual financing cost of construction bonds. A 5% surcharge was added to tickets, a 1% wage tax was levied on players who don't live in the city, the state provided matching funds.
Denver Broncos (2001)
Cost: $365 million
Percentage of public financing : 68.4%
A six-county sales tax of .1% that was used to build the baseball stadium for the Colorado Rockies was increased after the measure was approved by voters.
Percentage of pubic finacing: 72%
Houston Texans (2002)
Cost: $424 million
Percentage of public financing: 73%
The Houston City Council waived taxes on the stadium as part of a financing plan. Hotel occupancy and car rental taxes were earmarked for use by the sports authority, which also agreed to provide loans (at future taxpayer expense) to the team. A ticket tax (10%, not to exceed $2) and parking tax was also imposed.
Arizona Cardinals (2007)
Cost: $455 million
Percentage of public financing: 67.7%
$298.5 million of the tab is provided by the Arizona Tourism and Sports Authority, s from taxes on hotel beds and rental cars. Each ticket has a $4.25 surcharge. The city of Glendale provided $9.5 million.
Cost: $720 million
Percentage of public financing: 86%
Marion County hotel tax increases to 9 percent from 6 percent. This is on top of the 6 percent state sales tax. Marion County car rental tax doubled to 4 percent. The county doubled its food and beverage tax, to 2 percent. Neighboring suburban counties implemented 1 percent restaurant taxes. A surcharge on tickets was increased by 1 percent.
Dallas Cowboys (2009)
Stadium cost: $1.2 billion
Percentage of public financing: 28.6%
The city of Arlington's sales tax was raised by a half-cent, the hotel occupancy tax was raised by 2 percent and a car rental tax was increased by 5 percent. The NFL contributed $150 million towards the stadium.
New York Jets/New York Giants (2010)
Stadium cost: $1.6 billion
Percentage of public financing: 0%
$300 million was provided by the NFL, under a program the league had to help teams build stadiums. The program no longer exists. The stadium will make the two franchises the most lucrative in football. Although public money was not specifically used, the New Jersey Sports and Exposition Authority is stuck with $100 million in debt on the old stadium. The stadium is built on public land.
A study commissioned by San Diego, which is considering a new stadium, claims that private investment has averaged 46% recently, compared to 35% prior to 2002.
If people start feeling better about the economy, does that change the coming elections?
People are feeling better about the economy.
A New York Times/CBS News poll out this afternoon says 41 percent of those surveyed say the economy is getting better. That's an 8 percent jump from last month. Only 15 percent say things are getting worse.
President Obama got a 5-percent jump in ratings for his handling of the economy.
As usual, polls don't make a lot of sense.
Last Monday, a Harris Poll found that only 32 percent of those surveyed are optimistic about the economy. And President Obama got disapproval ratings from 19 percent more people than today's poll.
1) Why do security officials always take it out on airline passengers? When a man tried to light his shoe bomb on fire, we all had to take off our shoes, and we couldn't take mouthwash on our carry-ons. In December, another guy tried to light his underwear bomb on fire, and for a few days, we couldn't get up out of our seats.
Last weekend, someone tried to blow up Times Square with a car bomb in an SUV, and yet SUVs are still allowed in Manhattan. Why? Because the TSA isn't running midtown Manhattan.
The Atlantic's James Fallows says the response shows the difference between Washington and New York:
Something about airplanes and air travel heightens the emotional response to such threats (as Bruce Schneier and I discussed in a Second Life conversation recently). Thus the mood of fear and panic after this event seems less than after the foiled "underwear bombing" airline plot at Christmas time. But as a matter of logic, the steps above are what the TSA approach would necessitate. After all, we still feel the consequences (shoes off! no liquids!) of the failed "shoe bomber" in 2001, and there is no foreseeable reason to expect that to change.
There is one other crucial element in the Times Square case, and it can't be stressed often enough. So far we have seen a New York-style rather than a Washington-style response to the threat. And while New York is the least "American" of U.S. cities, its emotional and social response is just what America's should be.
Meanwhile, the suspect in the Times Square attempted bombing has been arrested. He's a Pakistani American. The "white guy" suspect? The one seen changing his shirt in the middle of a sidewalk? That, apparently, was just another guy on just another day in New York City, according to authorities.
Slate Magazine today considers three lessons from the incident, one is that terrorism manifests itself in criminal acts, and the acts are solved the old-fashioned way, treating it as crime, not war.
2) I've written a number of posts in recent weeks about court decisions protecting the right to free speech, even if it's despicable speech. What about "speaking" (publishing) the names of dead soldiers? California's Assembly has passed a bill making it illegal to print the names of fallen soldiers on T-shirts. It's aimed at shirts like this, which is being sold by a Web site called Carry A Big Sticker.
3) University of Minnesota Duluth officials have shut down a webcam that showed live images of the school's library. The live stream was also being posted on the Web site of a gay sauna in Duluth. The connection is unclear.
Down in the city, the University of Minnesota Daily reports that the U is shifting away from full-time faculty and opting for non-tenured faculty who can be easily cut. The paper raises the possibility that the trend will result in less long-term research.
4) A study out today confirms what your father told you: TV is rotting your brain. The study of 1,300 children started when they were between 2 and 4. Researchers revisited them when they turned 10, and found they did worse in school and had more physical problems. One problem with the science: It isn't science. There was no mechanism for an objective assessment of academic performance. The researchers asked the children's teachers for the assessment.
5) It's Ballpark Magic night at Target Field tonight, but you won't find it on the promotional schedule. The blog that's documented the construction of Target Field delivers one of the better lines we've heard in awhile: "You may also have noticed that ticket prices are climbing precipitously. I'm thinking that baseball outings this year will be about as spontaneous as mortgage refinancing -- and have similar origination fees!"
In Philadelphia, there's a brouhaha because a cop Tasered a kid who decided to run onto the field. Who hasn't wanted to Taser those goofs?
Legislators have unveiled a plan to use public money to pay two-thirds the cost of a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings. Do you support the proposal for a new Vikings stadium?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: The Naked Economist explains why government needs "hacks" as much as "wonks," why the economic turmoil in Greece matters to us, and what he makes of the latest economic numbers.
Second hour: Bruce Feiler was diagnosed with cancer in 2008 and dreaded the thought of his young daughters growing up without a father figure. So he reached out to six men in his life and asked them to play his role for the girls in all passages of their lives.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: The Independence Party candidates for governor. I may live-blog the hour.
Second hour: MPR President Bill Kling will be in the studio to answer listener questions about MPR.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: Everyone has an opinion about Arizona's stringent new immigration law. But on the border, it's more than talk. It s daily life for folks like chili farmers who need workers to harvest their crop.
Second hour: The author of Wide Awake talks about her struggle for slumber.(1 Comments)
Martin is charged in the killing of Maplewood police Sgt. Joseph Bergeron. Suffice it to say Martin tells a different story than witnesses.
There is a suggestion, however, of what precipitated the shooting. Martin said Jason Jones, who was killed by police on Saturday afternoon, had a parole violation.
MPR's Elizabeth Dunbar has filed this report on the charges.
If the "miracle on the Hudson" hadn't involved a miracle, what might we be saying today about US Airways flight 1549, which ditched in the Hudson River in January 2009?
The National Transportation Safety Board revealed today that tests showed that Capt. Chesley Sullenberger could have made it back safely to Laguardia Airport, after its engines flamed out in a collision with geese.
Airbus, the maker of the aircraft, said in a filing published today that while the flight could've returned to Laguardia, the pilots made the right decision:
Although an emergency return to La Guardia Runway 13 was technically feasible from an aircraft flight performance point of view, the emergency landing on the Hudson seems the most appropriate decision.
The safety board is considering whether there should be design changes to aircraft to make them better able to withstand bird strikes. One change that you may notice during those pre-flight briefings from flight attendants: The NTSB is recommending they had a demonstration on how to put on a life vest.
The NTSB has been holding its final hearing on the incident this morning. You can watch it online.(1 Comments)
Attention drunk drivers: Blood tests to determine your blood-alcohol content are not a violation of your right against unreasonable searches, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled today.
The court ruled in the case of Jesse Harrison, who was stopped twice for suspicion of drunk driving in Carver County. On both occasions, Harrison agreed to have blood drawn by authorities, but when the tests later showed he was over the legal limit for alcohol, he said the tests were inadmissible because they were obtained without a warrant.
"The protections of the Minnesota Constitution against unreasonable searches and seizures are not triggered unless a person has a legitimate expectation of privacy, defined as 'those expectations of privacy that society is prepared to recognize as reasonable,'" the court said in today's ruling.1 Comments)
The Independence Party has played a critical role in the last three elections for governor of Minnesota. In 1998, Jesse Ventura came from nowhere to win the corner office. In 2002, Democrat-turned-Indepdendent Tim Penny attracted enough DFL voters to get Tim Pawlenty elected governor. And the same could be said for Peter Hutchinson's 2006 bid for governor.
So it's possible -- even likely -- that the IP will influence this election, too. Will it be as a spoiler? Or as a winner.
MPR's Midday is featuring the three IP candidates for governor for Rob Hahn, John Uldrich, and Tom Horner today.
Who you are
Rob Hahn - Resident of Winona and a true outsider. I offer not just an alternative, I'm going to set forth why I'm a better alternative.
Tom Horner - I bring 30 years of business and public policy. I also bring an extensive political network and that's what it's going to take to win.
John Uldrich - Native Minnesotan. Business began in 1960. My specialty is creating jobs and I've been doing this all my corporate life.
Q: Will you run in the primary if you don't get the party's endorsement this weekend?
All three said "yes".
Q: What do IP delegates need to know about you?
Horner - I have the stature to win. I have the political network to go toe-to-toe with the Republican and DFLer. It's going to take $2 million to win. I offer combination of expertise in public policy and the ability to mount a winning campaign.
Uldrich - They need to understand there's going to be a lot of pain out there. Everything is on the table to be cut. On the positive side is the creation of jobs. I have experience in business on an international level.
Hahn: I'm the most electable. The only candidate who's won as a third-party candidate is the true outsider. They know when a Republican is masquerading as an independent (a shot at Horner). I'm a true independent.
Q: Republican Tom Emmer said if he's elected, he'll cut state spending by a third. As a percentage, how much would you cut?
Hahn: At least 8 and closer to 15 percent. But we have to beyond that. We have to do it with a combination of cuts. We have to look at tax reform. I would support an additional income tax on the uber rich. I favor riverboat gambling and a "fat tax" on fast food.
Uldrich: As governor, I will take a 20 percent pay cut. I don't even know what the governor makes. Anyone who is an appointee, they'll have to take a 20-percent pay cut. That's the figure that is realistic. One-third isn't possible.
Horner - Minnesota is tired of slick answers and evasiveness from politicians. The fact is the state has a 20-percent shortfall. We cannot solve the budget shortfall with budget cuts alone without devastating Minnesota. Minnesota is the largest purchaser of health care. We can fix how we purchase it and save $750 million in doing it. We cannot continue to think that every problem has a government solution.
Q: (Brian from Winona calling) What do you propose for K-12?
Uldrich: We have to try to maintain and improve our educational standards. It is going to be a tough call. Everybody is going to have to get into the trenches and work harder, think smarter, and try to take advantage of any economies that come through IT/electronic area. There's going to be less money available for K-12.
Horner: I disagree with that. The budget shortfall doesn't automatically mean we put less money in education. We need to say more money isn't the answer; we need smarter money. We have to change structure of K-12. It's structured around clocks and calendars. June comes and a student is done. If the student gets a "C", that's enough to move on. We need to invest more money in early childhood education and we need to make sure they're leaving 12th grade ready for success. We need more money in research at the University of Minnesota and have a tax credit. Recommends moving more money from the institution to the students. We need more honest conversation with the unions.
Hahn: The cost of higher education is out of control. Need partnerships between higher education and local businesses. Re: K-12: More performance pay for teachers. We need to phase out the tenure system. We have to look at charter schools that are working. The governor is going to have to work with Education Minnesota. Tom Dooher, the head of Education Minnesota, needs to recognize that he represents teachers, not just himself. (This is the ad he's referring to.)
Q: Would you favor an Arizona-style immigration law?
Horner: Absolutely not. It's a law that addresses a political need. Do we as Minnesotans need to make sure we are providing opportunities for legal immigrants? Absolutely. But you don't sacrifice constitutional rights for the sake of driving a political agenda.
Hahn: It's not only a joke, it's a bad one. I'm embarrassed. We need to look at an immigration bill that allows those who are here illegally to have a certain amount of time to file papers to become citizens. We have to tighten our borders and remember this country was founded on the backs of immigrants.
Uldrich: It's a horrible proposition. But I understand the force that allowed the governor to put the bill into effect and get the support she's getting. This a step toward a despotic, Nazi-based concept.
Q: (Online question) I voted for Peter Hutchinson because of his policy. His personality didn't carry the day. Will you withdraw if it's obvious you can't win in the general election?
Hahn: No. I don't believe polls. Look at Jesse Ventura.
Uldrich: I'll hang in there with creating jobs.
Horner: No, I'm in this to win. This is the question -- Is a vote for an IP candidate a spoiler vote. I think it's the Democratic and Republican parties that have spoiled things. It wasn't a lack of personality. Peter was running in a year when there were two very skilled politicians and an incumbent. That incumbent was able to shut off a lot of exposure opportunity for Peter Hutchinson.
Q: (Caller Sean) If you had to endorse one of the candidates -- Kelliher or Emmer -- which would it be?
Uldrich: In good conscience, I couldn't endorse either one.
Horner: I'm not even certain Speaker Kelliher is going to win the nomination. But I didn't get in the race and then all of a sudden wake up one morning with the opportunity to run against Tom Emmer, or a candidate on the far left. I got into it with the presumption that the Democrat would march to the left and the Republican would march off to the right.
(Bob notes: That's a sucker question. The minute a candidate answered it, one political party would've been cranking out a press release.)
Hahn and Horner spar. Hahn says Horner speaks in platitudes. "This is a man who has been tied to Republicans for years. His firm benefitted from a contract in the wake of the I-35W bridge collapse. It was a job for the Pawlenty administration to clean up its image."
"Rob knows better than that," Horner countered. That contract had nothing to do with Gov. Pawlenty. If you go to those businesspeople, community, people affected by construction of the bridge and ask 'was the fast-track option successful?' to a person they would say 'yes.'"
Horner criticizes Hahn's riverboat gambling idea and says the state should not be increasing the amount of its revenue from gambling. He also says the "fat tax" is a great idea, unless you run a fast food restaurant.
"I haven't heard any ideas here for how we raise revenue," Hahn countered.
Q: Are any changes needed in abortion laws?
Uldrich: The law has been written. If people want to change the law, I'll respect their willingness to do battle.
Horner: We have to be focused on reducing the number of abortions, but not through the laws Minnesota has passed that harass women and doctors. Make sure women have access to contraception.
Hahn: Abortion is a federal issue. But I'm pro-life. It starts with protecting the living, such as more stem cell research.
Q: Would you support public funding for a Vikings stadium?
Hahn: I'd leave it up to the county. I would support state public money as long as there's revenue sharing on the back end.
Uldrich: I don't think it's going to get out of the system in the next two weeks. Would I support it? No, I couldn't support any movement of tax dollars to support the Vikings at this point in time.
Horner: This is the issue where the governor needs to step up. The Vikings are an important asset in Minnesota's quality of life and need to be preserved. We should look at financing schemes that are responsible and fair. If state investment is the only way to get it done, we're going to have to figure out how to do that.
Q: Realistically, how much money will you be able to raise to run a campaign?
Uldrich: "I'll raise in the half-million-dollar range."
Hahn: Looking to raise between $500,000 and $1 million. It's preposterous to spend more for an office that pays $137,000 a year.
Horner: It's not reckless spending to engage in a campaign that allows a candidate to speak to the people of Minnesota. I'm confident I can raise $2 million.
Hahn: Voters are going to have a clear-cut choice. They can vote either for a Republican, even one on the IP ticket, or a Democrat. If voters want someone who'll bring the same-old same-old, they'll have plenty of choices. If they want someone who can lead, I'm the choice.
Horner: The Independence Party is going to have to grow to be a viable force. That's going to take Republicans, Democrats and independents.
Uldrich: Jobs, jobs, jobs and jobs. That's my skill set. I also understand the state, nation, and global macroeconomic dynamics that are involved. We've got some horrific problems. The oil spill is one of them and I'm working on a Minnesota solution.(3 Comments)
Miranda rights are again at the center of an investigation into a criminal/terrorist act in the U.S.
At a news conference today, FBI Deputy Director John Pistole said Faisal Shahzad, arrested in the attempted car bombing of Times Square, was questioned by authorities before he was read his Miranda rights. He did not say how long he was questioned before he got the famous "you have the right to keep silent" warning, but said he cooperated before and after the reading.
Sen. Joe Lieberman suggested changing the law to strip citizenship -- and the accompanying rights -- in cases like this:
"Don't give this guy his Miranda rights until we find out what it's all about," Sen. John McCain added.
Nothing seems to be preventing investigators from finding out what it's all about. In just a few days Shahzad was picked up with nothing original to go on but a smoking SUV, it's been determined he attended a "terrorist training camp" in Pakistan, and was losing his Connecticut home to foreclosure.
Still the Miranda warning is still a flashpoint in the incident, although conservative commentator Glen Beck and some civil liberties advocates appear to be on the same side.
"He is a citizen of the United States, so I say we uphold the laws and the Constitution on citizens... If you are a citizen, you obey the law and follow the Constitution. [Shahzad] has all the rights under the Constitution," Beck said.
Maybe that's the news.(5 Comments)
If you were born on 5/5/55, you turn 55 today.
1) The news gives us lots of opportunities to put ourselves in the position of others and ask, "What would I do in that situation?" Earlier this week, for example, we heard from the jogger who witnessed the shooting of a police officer, and got involved in summoning help.
Last evening's interview with Julie Pearce on All Things Considered is another example. The Duluth TV anchor, trained in nursing, knew she had to do something when the earthquake struck Haiti; more than just read into a camera and tell you about it. So she quit, and went to Haiti. She left the rest of us asking ourselves, "What would I do?"
"I've seen dead bodies line the street, seen babies born, watched babies die, held mothers who have lost their children, treated gunshot wounds and children hit by cars, watched children cry, helped children smile, been in several earthquakes, been scared to go to sleep, and grateful to see another day. I've seen the worst in people and the best in people."
2) Last summer, a Detroit columnist got it right when he said a tragedy in life is that Ernie Harwell never got a chance to sit on the porch on a summer night and listen to Ernie Harwell call a baseball game. Harwell died yesterday, leaving Vin Scully as the last great baseball announcer.
3) If you turn right at a red light today, think of Roy Schulz, who sponsored the legislation in the Minnesota House. Schulz, from Mankato, was a long-time lawmaker until his retirement in 1970. He died over the weekend.
The Mankato Free Press offers a tribute to him, along with a reminder that back in the day when the Minnesota legislative process worked, it was -- technically -- non-partisan.
Schulz was a Republican but the Legislature was technically nonpartisan throughout his tenure, so he was a member of the Conservative Caucus that held the majority. Searle remembers one of the most monumental battles coming when lawmakers wanted to pass the state's first sales tax despite the objections of Republican Gov. Harold LeVander.
Searle said the entire Conservative Caucus was invited to a meeting with LeVander the night before the vote, where he pleaded with them to not pass the sales tax and then threatened a veto when they weren't persuaded. They passed the bill, LeVander vetoed it and the conservatives recruited a pair of liberals to join them in overriding the veto in the House.
Fast-forwarding to May 5, 2010. The Minnesota House late last night passed a health and human services bill with $164 million in cuts, mostly to programs for the poor. They're wasting their time. Gov. Tim Pawlenty says he'll veto the bill and whack almost a half-billion dollars from the budget on his own. Can he do that? Yes, unless the Minnesota Supreme Court overturns his authority to do so. A ruling on that question could come tomorrow morning.
A bill providing public financing of a new stadium for the Minnesota Vikings survived its first test yesterday.
5) The oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico will never work its way up the Mississippi, of course. But its impact will. Local farmers may be unable to ship crops throughout the world, the Winona Daily News reports.
Bonus: Your flash mob video of the day:
I believe the university president is in that group.
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Architect and author Sarah Susanka talks about how to remodel your home when money is tight and the space is small.
Second hour: Minnesota's famously short growing season begins and Rebecca Kolls has ideas for growing vegetables and managing your landscape.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: GOP-endorsed gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer.
Second hour: John Heileman and Mark Halperin, authors of the best-selling book, "Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, and the Race of a Lifetime."
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: Last year, Sen. Arlen Specter bolted the Republican Party. Now, he has to prove himself to Democrats in his home state. Joe Sestak, his opponent in the Pennsylvania primary this month, won't make that easy. They both join NPR political editor Ken Rudin.
Second hour: Meghan Daum has a house problem. For her, happiness was always just a new house away, and real estate was an obsession. Finally, she sunk her savings into
900 square feet of bungalow at the height of the housing boom.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Next year, the first wave of baby boomers turns 65. That will set into motion a demographic shift that will strain state and federal budgets for decades to come. In 10 years, one in six Minnesotans will be over the traditional retirement age. But some rural parts of the state are already there. Todd County, located an hour northwest of St. Cloud, is discovering the difficulty of caring for a growing elderly population with less state money to pay for services. MPR's Curtis Gilbert will have the story.
An ongoing study of prairie land in North Dakota and South Dakota shows some prairie birds appear to be affected by the presence of wind turbines while others are not. Researchers are also trying to determine if wind turbines will scare ducks away from prime nesting habitat. MPR's Dan Gunderson will report.(1 Comments)
The giant oil spill from the BP-leased oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico is apparently having no effect at BP's convenience stores.
The Associated Press reports a check of BP stations around the country shows no drop in gasoline sales or any indication that the brand has become "toxic."
BP spokesman David Nicholas said the company hasn't told gas stations to cut prices. He said he doesn't know if BP-branded stations had done so on their own. "But I'd find that highly surprising," he said.
No kidding. The per-gallon price of gas at BP stations in Minnesota ranges from $2.79 at one station (Le Suer) to $2.95 a gallon in the Twin Cities, according to minnesotagasprices.com.
The average statewide price of all gas stations is $2.93.
The Minnesota Supreme Court is releasing its decision in the case challenging Gov. Tim Pawlenty's authority to cut the state budget on his own. The case was argued in March.
10:05 a.m. - The Court says the unallotment was unlawful.
10:08 a.m. - Here's the decision. I'll be highlighting key points in a few minutes.
10:12 a.m. - Chief Justice Eric Magnuson wrote the decision, which must be a cruel blow to the Pawlenty administration. The governor appointed Magnuson to the position. He has announced his retirement after several years of feuding with the administration over court funding.
10:17 a.m. - The court did not address whether the governor's actions were unconstitutional. It said that it avoids constitutional decisions if there's another basis on which to rule in the case. That would certainly appear to invite more unallotment actions by the governor if the court's uneasiness with the other "basis" can be settled.
The inherent authority of the executive branch concerning actual spending decisions once appropriations are made is not, however, directly implicated in the issue we decide today, that is, whether Minnesota's unallotment statute was properly invoked in this case.
10:21 a.m. - The court hints that it might not be a bad idea for the Legislature to fix the law under which Pawlenty exerted his perceived authority:
Although the competing interpretations advanced by the parties are each reasonable, that fact simply brings into focus the failure of the statutory language to clearly answer two questions: (1) probable receipts anticipated when? and (2) amount available for what purpose? Because we determine the language of the unallotment statute is ambiguous, we must employ the canons of construction to determine what the Legislature intended by the language it used.
10:25 a.m. - The "money quote". Literally.
In the context of this limited constitutional grant of gubernatorial authority with regard to appropriations, we cannot conclude that the Legislature intended to authorize the executive branch to use the unallotment process to balance the budget for an entire biennium when balanced spending and revenue legislation has not been initially agreed upon by the Legislature and the Governor. Instead, we conclude that the Legislature intended the unallotment authority to serve the more narrow purpose of providing a mechanism by which the executive branch could address unanticipated deficits that occur after a balanced budget has previously been enacted.
10:26 a.m. - While not addressing the constitutionality of the governor's actions, it certainly portrays a constitutional question of whether unalloting items approved by the Legislature neuters the Legislature.
The unallotment authority so construed would result in an alternative budget-creation mechanism that bypasses the constitutionally prescribed process. There is nothing to suggest that was the purpose for which the unallotment statute was enacted
10:30 a.m. - So, here's the "perfect storm" for DFLers that gives them the "win" on this issue. They didn't balance the budget and the unallotment authority, the court said, is used to adjust unanticipated deficits:
The unallotment statute provides the executive branch with authority to address an unanticipated deficit that arises after the legislative and executive branches have enacted a balanced budget. The statute does not shift to the executive branch a broad budget-making authority allowing the executive branch to address a deficit that remains after a legislative session because the legislative and executive branches have not resolved their differences.
Which, presumably, means that if the Legislature had delivered a fully balanced budget, and there were no major disagreements, and then the deficit appeared, Gov. Pawlenty's actions could have been legal.
10:33 a.m. - Justice Alan Page takes on the constitutional question:
I write separately to highlight my concern that the unallotment statute confers on the executive branch such broad and uncircumscribed authority to rewrite legislative spending decisions that it may constitute an unlawful delegation of legislative authority in violation of the separation of powers principle in our constitution.
10:35 a.m. - It might not be a bad idea, Justice Page signals, for the Legislature to work on cleaning up the language of the process to avoid a constitutional question. Perhaps it could get fast-tracked as if it were a stadium bill. He didn't write that part. I did.
The lack of direction in the Minnesota statute about how unallotment authority may be exercised once it is triggered leaves the executive branch with virtually unfettered discretion to decide which funds to cut entirely, which to reduce in some measure, and which to leave fully funded. Such decisions inevitably change the legislative priorities established in the properly enacted appropriations laws, and the grant in subdivision 4 of section 16A.152 to the executive branch of broad and uncircumscribed authority to make such changes may run afoul of the separation of powers principle. Although we need not decide that issue today, the legislative and executive branches should be aware of that potential problem.
Rest assured, of course, that Minnesota Public Radio will be providing plenty of coverage of this during the day. In a few minutes, on MPR's Midday, state rep and gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer will appear. My guess is he'll have something to say about this decision.(8 Comments)
Let's drop in on Capitol insiders to see how the unallotment ruling is playing. I'll add to this through the early afternoon.
First up: Rep. John Lesch:
Really? Impeachment? That's the tone you want to set for the final two weeks of the legislative session when some big problems are facing the state?
Gov. Tim Pawlenty:
Over here, governor.(3 Comments)
MPR's Web site was down during Rep. Tom Emmer's appearance on Midday today (We're told it had something to do with Qwest). So many may have missed it between that and people running around on the unallotment story. So here's a recap of the GOP-endorsed gubernatorial candidate's appearance, without the pledge drive interruptions.
Q: Did you expect to win endorsement on the second ballot?
A: We expected three ballots. It was hard work.
Q: What's your reaction to the state Supreme Court ruling?
A: It puts the Democrats in a hot spot because they're the ones who are supposed to be leading, balancing the budget. We've got literally a week from Monday as the constitutional deadline. I haven't had a chance to read the decision. A couple of things that caught me quickly: It was a 3-3 decision. In effect they're reading timing issues into the statute that aren't there. We've got concerns about the judiciary when they read things into a statute that doesn't exist. Judge Gearan said at the beginning of her ruling, the unallotment statute is constitutional.
The bigger issue is: now what do we do? What is their solution?
Q: Would you recommend that the Legislature adopt the program that the governor instituted? Adopt the delays in the state-aid payments etc?
A: Tim Pawlenty has done a good job trying to hold the line. There's a lot of politics in this. There was a $6.4 billion deficit when we came into session in 2009, we worked on native earthworms, indigenous peepers and cocoa bean compost. There's a proposal I put in January 2009 called first-things-first. The governor would have the ability to declare a fiscal emergency and if it has been declared, the Legislature would have 45 days to put its balanced budget out on the table. Now you have everyone's cards out on the table and you can focus on those areas of disagreement for the rest of the session.
Q: Tom Horner said you're the most conservative candidate for governor ever. True?
A: I don't know. I'm just a guy from Delano. If conservative is just being consistent, I'm very consistent. People know best how to take care of themselves and should be given the opportunity to do that. We're mainstream Minnesota. Government ... there's a lot of duplication. There are priorities to be set. You have to put people back in charge of creating their own opportunities and that's not happening right now. The two issues that keep coming up around the state are taxes and regulation.
Q: Last week on Midday, you said you wanted to cut the state budget by a third. Still sticking with that?
A: What i said was we could do that. You have to listen to what people are telling you. There are a lot of people out on Main Street Minnesota who don't think government is listening. My answer to you last week, I think you can do that. You have to look at the entire amount we're spending, and not just the General Fund. We have a Department of Human Rights and an EEOC. They do the same thing.
Q: Does the government have any role to provide a safety net?
A: If you're a constitutional purist, that's not set forth in there. Article I says government will protect the citizens and their property, it says the government will provide an infrastructure, and it says the government will provide uniform education. But let's be realistic. What's happened in this country and in this state over many decades is the social safety nets that were originally provided by faith communities and community networks, more and more we became conditioned to believe the government was supposed to provide the safety nets. It's not that we're going to say "no' to these in the future, it's simply that we've seen that they're not sustainable in their current form. I think you have to start moving back to solutions that don't involve all-encompassing bureaucracies. MinnesotaCare was intended to be a health-care safety net for people who are between jobs. Rather than have a turn-key insurance program, we literally have taken into the program. We need to start looking at going to a private health care voucher system. We would still qualify for a certain level of benefits but we'd take that voucher and participate in the private health care insurance market with other Minnesotans.
Q: DFL leaders say there's no support, even among Republicans, for further local aid cuts. Is that true?
A: I would change the question and be more direct. I would ask "why are we talking about cuts?" Why don't we talk about the problem with it and why it's become a political football. LGA was created with the intent that it provide for the #1 function of government: that we'd have basic police and fire services throughout the state. Now, you've got only half the cities in the state get local government aid. And only a handful get the lion's share.
When I was on the Delano City Council, our general fund budget was about $2 million. I think Chisholm was close to that in local government aid. That's not the way it's supposed to work.
Q: Is there any circumstance where you would sign a statewide tax increase of any sort?
A: No, not under the circumstances we face. We've got to be able to go to the people and say it's not a problem of revenue. It's a problem of spending. Colorado, a state of similar population and size, is spending almost a third less than we are as a state. We've got to take a step back and say "why"?
Q: (Caller) I was a former criminal investigator for unemployment in Minnesota. What would you do as a candidate to return to the taxpayers of the state, all the six fraud investigator positions that have been eliminated?
A: This gets to the #1 priority of government: Protecting citizens and their property. We have other areas of fraud as well, and we've not been filling the positions internally. Agencies have been eliminating positions like yours.
Apparently our DNR is taking buses of metro women on camping trips. I think that's great, but it shouldn't be a priority of government.
Q: (Caller) Do we really need 855 cities in this state?
A: We may disagree on this. The problem isn't the number of cities or counties, but we've consistently pushed authority up from the most local level -- the individual -- up to the county, up to the state, and the state is collecting everything and sending mandates down. You need to get rid of those mandates and give more authority at the local level. It's really easy for someone in St. Paul to spend your money. It's a lot harder for the person you see in church or the grocery store.
Q: (Caller) We've become reliant on government but at the same time are you going to ask people if they're sure that's what they want? (Caller cited floods, hurricanes, health crises etc.)
A: We have become conditioned as a society to believe we go to government for help. But it's not sustainable. What you leave out of your statement is the fact that why is this happening? Why can't we sustain the safety nets? You can't sustain it because of something called wealth. The trailer that they're pulling is way overburdened. That ultimately is what creates wealth. You have to have jobs that allow people to improve their quality of life.
Q: Would Gov. Emmer kick grandma out of the nursing home?
A: No, this isn't about kicking grandma out of the nursing home. What Gov. Emmer would do is recognize that what the federal government created may not exist when our children are ready to access it.
Q: What makes a good governor?
A: A good leader is someone who can articulate where they need to be. Someone who is willing to stand up against strong public opinion that may lean a different way. It's somebody who can draw others to the message and help move it. It's not one person who's going to change anything.
We're at a crossroads and we can't afford to continue doing things as we've been doing them. It's time for a fresh, new view. We have to take control of our own future again.
Q: Is it going to be tough to get your message out this summer with the Democrats having a lively primary that will get media attention?
A: We have the benefit of reality and people are with us. The Emmers are just another family. We'll do it one handshake at a time. The truth has a wonderful way of coming to light.
Q: What about the people who tell you we need to raise taxes. Do you listen to them?
A: i do. But that's where leadership comes in. Everyone's got a program. We have plenty of revenue in this state if we're willing to set our priorities. Do I expect every person in Minnesota is going to agree? No. The question is who is going to be most credible over the next few months.(6 Comments)
1) 1000 Friends of Minnesota is releasing the results of its essay contest in which Minnesota writers described a connection with a Minnesota lake. It will post one each day.
The latest comes from Will Weaver who recalls building a house in turtle country.
"There's another one, too!" my wife said, pointing to the yard. In fact there were several. All had come up from the river on the same day-which over the years we have charted to fall on or close to June 21, the longest day of the year. We had as many as dozen big turtles crawling about the yard, digging up the new lawn they tried to find their former nesting sites.
We felt like intruders. Like we had built our house upon sacred ground. The next few days we watched the turtles lay their eggs. They hunched backwards, scraping away dirt with their rear claws, urinating to soften the crust of gravel until they were half-way underground. Afterward, sometimes the same night, predators-crows, skunks, raccoons- dug up the nests and ate the eggs. We felt helpless.
Find the latest essay here.
Extra credit: Identify the lake above.
2) You go to work today and you wonder, "Am I making a difference?" Sometimes, it's the little things you do that deliver the big payoff. Take Det. John Wright of the New York Police Department. He cracked the big New York car-bomber case. He never fired a shot. He just knew where to find the VIN number on the SUV that a man tried to use to kill people with a car bomb. The VIN near the windshield had been rubbed off. So there he was last weekend with a can of degreaser and a flashlight, finding the number on the engine block. That led police to the original owner, which led police to the suspect in the nick of time.
"Some guys have a knack for guns; some guys have a knack for drugs," he said. "I have a knack for cars."
Enjoy your day at work. You and your knack. Making a difference.
3) Sometimes, of course, making a difference involves more direct action. We heard from St. Paul Police officer David Longbehn last evening, after the visitation for Sgt. Joe Bergeron, whose funeral is being held this morning. Longbehn shot and killed the man believed to have killed Bergeron early Saturday morning. "The real hero here is Sgt. Joe Bergeron. He's the hero that came first and foremost and confronted the suspects. So if there's anybody that's a hero, it's Sgt. Joe Bergeron," he said.
4) The editor of Newsweek was on Daily Show last night, newsworthy because earlier in the day the Washington Post announced it wants to unload the magazine.
"This is an existential crisis... and it's not just because I feel incredibly strongly that this magazine, for 77 years and unto this hour, has mattered to the life of this country, and is one of the very few common denominators in a fragmented world."
He challenged people to pay for the news they value, which is, as you know, crazy talk.
5) Beauty is not in the eye of the beholder, research out today suggests. It's quantifiable.
Researchers in Scotland say that while there are some idiosyncrasies from person to person, it's possible to predict who will be attracted to whom, livescience.com reports.
The researchers measured the pitches of voices of 113 female college students, and then played them recordings of men saying either "I really like you" or "I really don't like you," and were asked how attractive they thought they were.
The women found lower-pitched voices more attractive regardless of what the men were saying.
"The findings suggest that women's own attractiveness in some way influences their preferences for masculine traits in men's voices," Jones said. "Effects like those in our study might simply reflect people finding their place in the mating market and taking that into account when judging others' attractiveness."
Now, what are we supposed to do with that knowledge?
Bonus: Filthy state seals. (Minnesota isn't one of them)
The Minnesota Legislature may be asked to clarify the circumstances under which the governor can use unallotment to balance the state budget. Should the governor be able to act alone to set the budget?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Rep. Laura Brod and Sen. Ellen Anderson consider the impact of the new budget deficit in the wake of yesterday's ruling from the Minnesota Supreme Court.
Second hour: Psychologist Alison Gopnik says that scientists have learned more about the brains of young children in the last 30 years than they had in the previous 2,000. She joins Midmorning to talk about what's going in kids' brains, and what that means for parents and educators. This is from a Ted talk held in St. Paul last night. Here's a video that was played at that session:
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Nick Hayes, author of "And One Fine Morning."
Second hour: Norman Corwin tribute.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - MPR will have coverage of today's funeral for Sgt. Joe Bergeron.
It's believed that a state court judge will issue a ruling this morning in the lawsuit between the Vikings' Pat and Kevin Williams vs. the NFL, which suspended them for a positive drug test. MPR's Brandt Williams will have the story.(4 Comments)
With our Internet connectivity woes today, I've been unable until now to dive into the "other side" of the unallotment decision from the Minnesota Supreme Court. That is, the dissent filed by Justice Lorie Gildea. Like Chief Justice Magnuson, who wrote the decision, Gildea is an appointee of Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
Gildea, in her dissent, does everything but use the term "judicial activists" to describe the four justices who ruled against the governor.
The judiciary's duty is simply to apply the law as written by the legislature.The majority is unable to do so because the language the Legislature used in the unallotment statute leaves the majority with uncertainty and ambiguity. The majority therefore rewrites the statute to insert additional conditions, and then finds that the Commissioner of Minnesota Management and Budget (Commissioner) violated the statute because he did not comply with the conditions the majority has added.
Gildea says she did not find the law ambiguous, she also says she does not find Pawlenty's actions unconstitutional, an interesting distinction since the majority pointed out they weren't ruling on the constitutionality of the case.
Because I would hold that the executive branch complied with the plain language of the statute, and that respondents have not met their burden to prove that the statute is unconstitutional, I respectfully dissent
Justice Gildea points out that it wasn't until after the legislative session ended, that state finance officials reported the state budget was still $2.7 billion in the red for the biennium. She said because state officials found the budget deficit higher than the anticipated revenues, the power to "unallot" belonged to the governor.
Of course, it's worth pointing out, the financial wizards of the state had been wrong for many months, consistently underestimating the problems in the state budget. It's also worth noting that the governor first threatened unallotment (though not with the programs specifically mentioned in the court case) in December 2008. All the more reason, perhaps, why it might've been nice if the Supreme Court had considered the general constitutionality of the process. But it didn't, so let's move on...
Of course, all of this ignores a certain reality. The court case hinges on the timing of the actual unallotment. In reality, the Pawlenty administration had been using the threat of unallotment as a hammer for months. In reality, nobody was surprised that the governor did what he did. But a court challenge couldn't be mounted, apparently, except on the question of the timing of when the budget was sent to him, and when it was officially known that it wasn't balanced.
Respondents argue, and the district court held, that the Commissioner's unallotments violated the statute because the budget deficit was not ―previously unforeseen.‖ Respondents' argument is based on the fact that the budget deficit was known in February when the Commissioner prepared the forecast. Moreover, respondents contend that when the Governor signed appropriation legislation and vetoed revenue legislation, the Governor (and therefore the Commissioner) knew that the state would not have funds sufficient to satisfy the financial obligations in the appropriation legislation. Therefore, respondents argue, the budget deficit was not unanticipated.
Gildea comes down on the side that says the administration had all the power in this dispute:
Moreover, even if the judicial branch were inclined to wade into this dispute, it would be irrelevant in this case because there is nothing in section 16A.152 that limits the Commissioner's authority to unallot depending upon what or who is most responsible for the budget shortfall. The judiciary cannot rewrite the statute to add such restrictions.
Justice Gildea also turns the "separation of powers" argument on its head, noting that if Gov. Pawlenty has no power to unallot, then the budget power rests entirely with the Legislature.
Where one branch purports to perform completely a function assigned to one of the other branches, such encroachment violates the separation of powers principle... We have recognized that such encroachment into the judiciary's sphere of constitutional responsibility is unconstitutional. For example, where the Legislature purports to remove from the judiciary a class of cases that the constitution vests in the judiciary, the Legislature has violated the separation of powers doctrine.
She goes on to note that the Minnesota Constitution clearly delegates budgetary responsibilities to both the executive and legislative branch.
Because the function is one that the constitution commits to both branches, the unallotment statute--which simply acknowledges this joint responsibility--does not delegate pure legislative authority to the executive branch and it does not violate separation of powers. There are many instances in the operation of government, such as the prohibition against deficit spending, where the function at issue requires responsible effort from both of the political branches.
By the way, sometimes with unallotment, those affected get their money eventually. Not often, but it happens. Ethanol producers got a pile of cash in 2008 when the Legislature gave them money it took away in a previous budget crunch. That, Gildea points out, shows the Legislature retains budgetary power if it chooses to use it.
Finally, the Legislature, of course, remains free in the next legislative session to undo the unallotments as it has done in the past. The fact that the Legislature retains, and has exercised, the authority to undo the Commissioner's unallotments provides an important check on the Commissioner's exercise of discretion.
So what will this mean for the future? Here's one scenario: A government shutdown. Clearly, the Legislature did a poor job of playing "chicken" with a governor in the 2009 session, by sending him a budget and painting him into a corner. It could've simply done what it did in 2005, when it forced Pawlenty to consider a shutdown.
But there's political blood to be paid for such things and, besides, Gov. Pawlenty has shown over the years that he can make DFLers look impotent, even on matters of threatened shutdowns.
In any event, DFLers in the Legislature won a war today, and now have a very large battle to fight among themselves: How to turn their victory into a balanced budget.
Stories about sportsmanship and generosity are often accompanied by questions of on-field integrity. Who can forget Bret Favre intentionally being sacked in a Packers game against the New York Giants, so that Michael Strahan could break the NFL sack record?
A few years ago there was a wonderful story about a local high school cross country ski team that scheduled a quick meet, so that a skier on another team, who'd been out of state when other meets were held, could qualify for the state high school cross country competition. A nice gesture, indeed, that was followed by criticism that the skier didn't really earn her way onto the team.
There's a golf story like these out of Chicago today, courtesy of Yahoo Sports.
Grant Whybark, a sophomore at the University of St. Francis, had locked up a spot in nationals with his team, which won the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference Championship, but was in a playoff against Olivet Nazarene's Seth Doran for individual honors.
As championships go, both the winning team and winning individual are asked to move on to nationals, so if Whybark won the playoff against Doran, he'd be honoring both spots and Doran wouldn't be asked to move on.
What happened next is the type of stuff movies are made about. Whybark stood over his tee shot on the first playoff hole, looked down the fairway and back at his ball, and hit it 40 yards right of the fairway, out of bounds by a mile. He made double bogey, Doran made par, and Olivet Nazarene had a man in nationals.
What makes it so incredible? Whybark intentionally did it, because he felt Doran had earned a spot in the next round.
A commenter raises the usual concern:
I am all for giving someone a leg up especially if it is for someone at a disadvantage. However, I don't think you should shank it and let someone get a win. I have been an athlete my whole life and would feel cheated if someone just gave me a "win". This is what being competitive is all about. I think it is a great story, but just not how I would want to take a victory.
What is the balance, by this definition, between being a competitive sportsman, and being a darned fine human being?
(h/t: Sean Collins)
In the shadow of mourning at the Cathedral of St. Paul today, about 100 people were in a more celebratory mood.
The Minnesota version of a National Day of Prayer was held on the grounds of the Minnesota Capitol. Minnesota politicians were not at all shy about participating, despite the ongoing controversy about linking government with religion. Last month a federal judge in Wisconsin ruled that a federal government declaration of a National Day of Prayer violated the U.S. Constitution.
Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau, subbing for Gov. Tim Pawlenty, read his proclamation declaring a day of prayer for Minnesota, then stood by as a pastor prayed over her and declared the superior power of Jesus.
House Speaker Margaret Kelliher was asked to speak, but declined, opting instead to join other lawmakers as the pastors prayed over them. Before that, however, Sen. Terri Bonoff, who is Jewish, offered a Hebrew prayer, "so we can feel included."
Not everyone was thrilled with the event's timing. Sen. Linda Higgins posted this on Facebook:
Disrespectful? You decide.
After the funeral at the Cathedral, the cortege did not pass the Capitol grounds where the rally was being held.(6 Comments)
1) I don't have a lot to add to all the coverage here on MPR NewsQ about yesterday's funeral for Sgt. Joe Bergeron of the Maplewood Police Department. You've probably seen all the pictures from the sidewalk of the procession from the Maplewood Community Center to the cemetery. Here's what it looked like from inside one of the Maplewood public safety vehicles.
(Click for a larger image. Look at those faces!)
The takeaway: We're still a place where school kids (in this case: Edgerton Elementary) come out of class, stand by the side of the road, put their hands over their hearts, and show respect to someone who's earned it.
(h/t: Jeff Morgan, Maplewood Fire Dept.)
2) The odds are increasing that there's going to be a state government shutdown to compensate for the huge budget deficit that lawmakers seem unable or unwilling to close. So let's start assembling a list of our priorities. Select as many of the following as you like, and add your own.
Some already-implemented cuts are hitting Main St. Blue Earth County is the latest to consider cutting a Sentence to Serve program, according to the Mankato Free Press, designed to keep low-level offenders out of jail.
I know the arguments against the idea. Stewart is the first to tell anyone who will listen that he is an entertainer, not a journalist. He intends to make people laugh and think, probably in that order.
But what is a journalist, anyway, in 2010? A blogger, who has no experience, can consider himself or herself a serious journalist. So can your garden-variety loudmouth on any cable-news channel.
Then we have Stewart's case. He may just be America's most trusted name in news among his fans, the young, hip, educated, affluent cable audience.
It was a trick question. He already has.
4) Remember when public radio was stuffy white folks talking about dead classical music composers and Greek tragedies? The truth is: We're still pretty stuff and there are a lot of conversations about the latest trip to Europe, but ...
5) The target of racist Facebook comments by a couple of white University of Minnesota Duluth students says she'll return to the school next year. The two students who ignited racial tensions at the school have not apologized, she said.
"It's not like they stepped on my toe ... or called me ugly. It's deeper than that," Savannah Caldwell told the Duluth News Tribune. "The things they were saying were so racist, like from-the-1800s racist. Monkeys and trees? I thought we got past that."
(Video h/t: Jay Cole of Youth Video Quest)
This morning at 11
afternoon, MPR's Michael Caputo will host another online conversation about race. This week: How we talk about race. What does it take for conversations to begin on race? How do we keep perspective as we engage in such discussions? Find it here.
Bonus: Is it time to get rid of the mortgage interest deduction?
The home mortgage interest deduction also subsidizes Americans to buy bigger homes, and there is little reason to like that. Americans, even poor Americans, have almost twice as much living space as the average resident of France or Germany. According to the Residential Energy Consumption Survey, homes with between 2,500 and 3,000 square feet of heated living space use 41 percent more electricity than homes with between 1,500 and 2,000 square feet of space. In an age of global warming, why should we subsidize the greater energy use inherent in larger homes?
Follow-up: Last month, MPR's Euan Kerr talked with Neil Gaiman about "why he loves libraries." Who wouldn't love a place that pays you $45,000 for one afternoon's work? The Star Tribune reports on how Legacy money (sales tax increase) was spent to "expose suburbia to authors of national acclaim." Excuse me? "Expose suburbia to authors of national acclaim." You pay for the author. The condescension comes free.
The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico threatens environmental and economic disaster. How has the Gulf oil spill affected your view of America's energy future?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Rosanne Cash (Rebroadcast of the 2/9/10 show).
Second hour: Midmorning reprises two music shows recorded live at MPR. We'll hear brothers, Minnesota natives Dan and Matt Wilson and sisters in song Sweet Honey in the Rock.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour:An update on the legislative session and budget negotiations, from MPR's Mike Mulcahy, Tom Scheck and Tim Pugmire.
Second hour: University of Minnesota meteorologist Mark Seeley.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - Science Friday! First hour: A study finds that people making a tough decision may find some solace in washing their hands. Writing this week in the journal Science, researchers report that having test subjects wash their hands after making a difficult decision could reduce 'cognitive dissonance,' the uneasiness that comes from holding two opposing ideas in your mind at the same time. Test subjects who washed their hands after the decision-making test appeared to be more at ease with the choices made during the experiment. We'll talk about the finding, and what it tells us about the human mind.
Second hour: The ecological damage from the Gulf oil spill.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - MPR's Dan Gunderson will report on whether wind turbines are driving prairie birds away from habitat.
Christopher Lehman, a professor of ethnic studies at St. Cloud State University, has done extensive research on the history of African Americans in St. Cloud. He's reviewed census records and newspaper articles from as old as the late 1800s to string together a historical narrative of slavery in St. Cloud. The slaves were, of course, in the single digits. So slavery was not rampant in St. Cloud. Southerners also vacationed in St. Cloud with their slaves. MPR's Ambar Espinoza explores how the legacy of slavery has influenced race and ethnic relations today in St. Cloud.
We'll all meet back here at 3 p.m. to determine whether we still have a viable stock market.7 Comments)
MPR's Michael Caputo is holding a forum on how we talk about racial issues. It's part of a continuing Friday series on the issue. Join in.
There's no chance of State Rep. Steve Drazkowski's Arizona-style immigration bill becoming law in Minnesota anytime soon. There's no chance it'll even get a hearing in the remaining days of the legislative session. The only purpose it has is reigniting a debate that had started to die down a little as the nation got distracted by oil spills and incompetent terrorists.
But reignite it, it has.
Today, the police chiefs of St. Paul and Minneapolis responded with this press release:
We believe that mobilizing local police to serve as primary enforcers of federal immigration laws will throw up barriers of mistrust and cause a chilling effect in immigrant communities, impairing our ability to build partnerships and engage in problem-solving that improves the safety of all members of the community. The culture of fear that this bill will instill in immigrant communities will keep victims of crime and people with information about crime from coming forward, and that will endanger all residents.
It is a mistake for our state to try to fix our nation's immigration system. We urge Minnesota lawmakers and the people of our state to join with us in denouncing HF3830. We believe this bill runs contrary to the values of community policing and problem-solving that the people we serve have rightly demanded and will make our communities less safe.
In reality, this debate about the role of local cops predated -- by a lot -- Arizona's new law.
Gov. Tim Pawlenty proposed a statewide team to crackdown on illegal immigrants in 2006. It included a proposal that would require police to check immigration status. It got the same reaction from then-Minneapolis police chief William McManus.
"It's difficult now to get members of those communities to report crime and to work with the police," said McManus. "So I can see that magnifying exponentially if local police were given the authority of INS officers."
But not all police chiefs were against the idea.
"We have these second-class issues that, because of illegal immigration and the need for the workforce to get here, it seems like we've winked and nodded at some of these issues. and now we need to rein in what we've created," said Worthington police chief Mike Comiskey of Pawlenty's proposal.
Both St. Paul and Minneapolis have ordinances restricting police officers' ability to ask about immigration status unless it relates directly to a criminal investigation.
Whatever happened to Pawlenty's idea? It passed the Minnesota House easily in March 2006 with plenty of DFL support, but never got a vote in the Senate.
We've had a "spirited" discussion on my cubicle row today about the Star Tribune story concerning author Neil Gaiman's $45,000 speaker's fee to speak in Stillwater, paid for via the Legacy Amendment money. That's the arts and outdoors dedicated fund from an increase in the sales tax.
You can hear Gaiman's speech for free:
The arts community has offered a little "pushback" to the criticism of Gaiman since the Star Tribune article appeared.
Says Kevin Hoffman of City Pages:
Sure, $45,000 sounds like a lot of money for an author, even one as acclaimed as Gaiman. But that's pennies compared to the $791 million Vikings stadium the Star Tribune wants taxpayers to help build.
Amy Goetzman of MinnPost:
But predictably, this unleashed the comments-section mob of torch-bearing, anti-library Tea Party types, who will no doubt think of this item when it comes to voting to support their local libraries.
That's a lot of money, to be sure, but author Sarah Palin's been bringing in more than double that for appearances, and a quick look at this talent site finds plenty of other writers charging in the $30K to $50K range for an appearance, including Alice Walker and Anderson Cooper
All of this is low-hanging fruit for those who argued against including arts funding in a bill that originally was intended to help outdoors and natural resources projects. And it caused me to take a look back at how the Legacy Amendment was marketed to voters -- heavy on the outdoors, light on the arts.
Former MPR arts commentator Dominic Papatola delivered a classic quote when asked about it during the campaign.
"It's easy to make a kneejerk argument against the arts; all you have to do is mention Robert Mapplethorpe or Karen Finley. You know, the outdoors don't get naked and smear themselves with chocolate."(14 Comments)
The amazing diversity of news on a given day, eh? State shutdown threats, water coolers that make a city stop, teachers who steal lunch money from autistic students, and the people for whom we'd drink poison. It's on today's news conversation with The Current's Mary Lucia.(1 Comments)
Lena Horne has died. Here's the Monday Morning Rouser:
1) Should there be any morality in the financial promises you make? There was troubling moment or two in last night's 60 Minutes story on people walking away from their mortgages. A young man declared he felt no responsibility to pay his mortgage, even though he can afford to. So he and his bride have stopped making their monthly payment and with the money they'll save, they'll rent an apartment nicer than their house. "It's the 'in' thing to do," he declared. Swell.
A man who has set up a company to help people walk away from their mortgages declared that people shouldn't let emotion -- or morals -- play a part in their decision. We've seen the likes of him before -- they were mortgage brokers who helped get people into mortgages they couldn't afford.
But the clients now are different. One in five foreclosures is by people who can afford their mortgages.
The comments have run the gamut, but there's this defense: It's what big business does.
A government official says regular people shouldn't walk away from their mortgages because it's the wrong thing to do. It's irresponsible. Other regular people will get stuck paying for those who walk away. Big business got millions of dollars from the government to save them and they used that bail-out money to dole out millions of dollars in bonuses while not paying back their debt to the government. Meanwhile, the average American is losing his/her home but it's irresponsible for that average American to walk away from a fraudulent mortgage! How does that make any sense?
2) Why? Because it's Betty White, that's why.
The New York Times -- predictably -- has the finest line of any review of Betty White's Saturday Night live appearance: All it took to reinvigorate a 35-year-old comedy show was the presence of an 88-year-old woman.
3) Should America buy American? The Boston Herald makes a big stink because the government bought its swag for the U.S. Census overseas. Or did it?
Meanwhile, a new census analysis shows whites are fleeing the suburbs.
4) Much has been made of Twitter's and Facebook's utility for giving voice and exposure to protesters in Iran and elsewhere. But they're not the only ones using social media; so is the authoritarian state they protest. Twitter and Facebook give Iran's secret services superb platforms for gathering open-source intelligence," according to Devin Gaffney of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. New Scientist reports on a conference that considers more research into all of the interactions spawned by the Web.
At the Raleigh meeting.. Gaffney ... described how in mid-2009 he set up software to archive every message posted by Iranians using the social messaging service Twitter to coordinate dissident protests. Now that the buzz from bloggers and journalists declaring that this was a "Twitter revolution" has subsided, Gaffney is analysing the 766,263 tweets he has collected in order to assess how justified that description was.
At the time, Twitter boasted about its role in connecting the protestors, but Gaffney's initial results suggest that Twitter had a greater impact internationally. "Evidence so far suggests a demographic of non-Iranians generating awareness about the situation," he says.
Gaffney is now trying to find out if the Iranian government itself has been monitoring and reacting to online activity, and whether the authorities have used Twitter to keep track of the protests. "Twitter and Facebook give Iran's secret services superb platforms for gathering open-source intelligence," he says.
Today's MPR commentary is about the usefulness of social media by another authoritarian state -- parents.
For example, when Emma and her boyfriend broke up, I learned about it on Facebook several days before she was ready to tell me. The public gossip flew faster than the personal message. But hasn't that always been the case with social networks? What's concerning is how prominently Facebook encourages gossip, complete with candid photos, while more personal communication takes a sorry back seat. As if we all were tabloid celebrities.
When Emma finally told me the news, though, I said just what mothers have said for centuries: "I'm so sorry you're sad. I was hoping it might not be true." Some things must still be spoken face to face. There is no virtual substitute for tears and a hug.
5) The changing face of politics. SCOTUSblog looks at the appointment of Elena Kagan as Supreme Court nominee and more:
As the days wound down this past week toward Kagan's selection by President Obama, the nation could look West and East and see cultural conventions on the verge of change, much along the lines of Dylan's title track. At the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, a Republican U.S. Senator who is a Mormon and has absolutely solid conservative credentials was dumped by his own party. In Boston, some 2,400 miles -- and perhaps a world -- away, the gay rights movement got a serious hearing in the Moakley U.S. Courthouse on its plea to change the nation's legal perception of marriage.
What those events have in common, though, is that both will figure in the fight over the future of the Supreme Court that begins later this morning with the announcement of Kagan's nomination, and both will influence, in coming months and years, the political pressures on the Court.
It's the best analysis you'll read today.
Advocates for children warn that they are at risk from cyberbullying, adult predators and other dangers on the Internet. What steps do you take to protect your kids online?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Author Siri Hustvedt investigates the causes of her migraine headaches and episodes of uncontrollable shaking that began shortly after the death of her father (originally broadcast on 3/25) .
Second hour: Sassy spinster Elizabeth Philpot befriends young working-class Mary Anning over their love of fossils. In this historical fiction, the unlikely pair navigate the early 19th century sexism of England's scientific community as they try to gain ownership and respect for their archaeological finds (originally broadcast on 3/31).
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: The IP-endorsed candidate for governor.
Second hour: Speaker of the House Margaret Anderson Kelliher and Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - NPR, of course, will have plenty on the Supreme Court nomination and its reaction. It will also look at the possibility of a national ID card.
MPR's Dan Olson reports on the 20-year-old Americans with Disabilities Act, which , requires transportation officials to make conditions safer. In Minnesota, advocates say, compliance has been slow. Officials say they are making progress. He'll sort it out.
It is another day of waiting for the DFL solution to the suddenly-huge state budget gap. The MPR Capitol team is staking out hearings and meetings today and we'll have plenty on the subject here on MPR NewsQ during the day.
How much is motherhood worth? Every year, salary.com jiggers up the numbers and calculates how much the functions of motherhood should fetch on the open market. This year? $117,856 for stay-at-homes.
The figure is down from last year. Times are tough all around.(1 Comments)
Even after all these years of reading about his exploits, I'm intrigued by the life and times of Zack Hample, who specializes in catching balls at Major League Baseball stadiums. Long-time News Cut readers know this is one of the few remaining items on my Bucket List. He's caught over 4,000 of them. His technique is a little more sophisticated than mine, which explains his success. He actually goes to games.
He stopped at Target Field during the Detroit series and evaluated its ball-catching goodness:
My biggest gripe about the stadium is that it doesn't open earlier. I think it's a real slap in the face to the fans that they can't even get inside early enough to watch the Twins take batting practice. Every team should open its stadium two and a half hours early. Not just for season ticket holders. Not just on weekends. Always. For everyone. Forever. And especially when it's the first season of a new stadium and the crowds are extra large. Seriously, Twins and MLB: duh.
His column may be the longest and most detailed look at Target Field in its short and over-covered history.
The day before his Minnesota game, Hample got 24 baseballs at a game in Cleveland. Impressive? Sure. Of course, in Cleveland these days, when you call the Indians' offices and ask them, "What time does the game start?", they'll usually answer, "What time can you be here?"(4 Comments)
Two firebrands of the anti-tax movement in Minnesota -- Michele Bachmann and Tom Emmer -- headlined a rally at the Capitol in St. Paul on Saturday, the Star Tribune reported.
But a photograph in the Star Tribune revealed an obviously racist message that muted the message protesters wanted to deliver.
The rally at the Capitol was organized by Jason Lewis of KTLK. To be clear: Most of the signs were merely political in nature. But, at some point, doesn't someone have to say, "Hey, buddy, ditch the sign; you're killing our cause, here"?
Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that the Tea Party movement, in particular, is battling a perception of racism:
Judson Phillips, the founder of Tea Party Nation, said that at the heart of the effort to counter racism accusations is dissociating from protesters who cross the line. Around the time of the health-care vote, FreedomWorks and Tea Party Nation worked to form a federation of tea party groups to coordinate strategy and do a better job sticking to a similar message, organizers said.
At a protest in Nashville, Phillips said, there were "a couple of signs -- which I'm not convinced weren't plants from the other side -- that were really tasteless and inappropriate." The people who carried them "were told to put their signs down and leave. . . . They were literally thrown out of the event," he said.(17 Comments)
Let the debate begin! Are there enough rich people to close the state's newfound $3 billion budget gap?
The DFL, which released its budget plan this morning, thinks there is. The Minnesota House today will vote on a plan to raise the income tax rate on people making more than $200,000 (after adjustments on tax returns). It says that will provide $400 million.
Last year, the Minnesota Senate tried to raise the tax rate on the wealthy to 9.25%. This plan raises it to 9.15%.
Arthur Laffer, the guru of the supply-siders, predictably is opposed to the concept. He wrote in the Wall St. Journal last year that in state's where rich people are taxed more, rich people move out:
Finally, there is the issue of whether high-income people move away from states that have high income-tax rates. Examining IRS tax return data by state, E.J. McMahon, a fiscal expert at the Manhattan Institute, measured the impact of large income-tax rate increases on the rich ($200,000 income or more) in Connecticut, which raised its tax rate in 2003 to 5% from 4.5%; in New Jersey, which raised its rate in 2004 to 8.97% from 6.35%; and in New York, which raised its tax rate in 2003 to 7.7% from 6.85%. Over the period 2002-2005, in each of these states the "soak the rich" tax hike was followed by a significant reduction in the number of rich people paying taxes in these states relative to the national average. Amazingly, these three states ranked 46th, 49th and 50th among all states in the percentage increase in wealthy tax filers in the years after they tried to soak the rich.
But the DFL plan is more about cutting than revenue increases. It provides big cuts in local government aid, the Department of Natural Resources, it reduces county mental health payments, grants for chemical dependency treatment, and the Metropolitan Council (kiss your bus route goodbye).
The budget deficit over the next biennium grows to $4.6 billion, according to the House Fiscal Analysis Department.
The idea is probably dead on arrival and sets up another round of vetoes and veto override attempts.
The two legislative leaders -- House Speaker Margaret Kelliher and Senate Majority Leader Larry Pogemiller -- will be on MPR's Midday at noon.
House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher (and late in the broadcast, Sen. Larry Pogemiller) joined MPR's Midday program this afternoon to answer questions about the DFL budget proposal unveiled today.
Q: How serious is the budget problem?
A: (Kelliher) As serious as I've ever seen it. If one of the other people affected by unallotment decided to sue for their money, we would not be able to pay that bill. Because the budget is unbalanced, it's difficult -- if not impossible -- to do any borrowing. This is a crisis situation.
This plan more than meets the governor, but it doesn't shortchange kids or people in nursing homes.
Q: Doesn't it set up the same dynamic that we've seen over the last few years. The DFL leaders are proposing a tax increase. The governor threatens a veto, and there you all sit?:
A: (Kelliher)The governor created this financial straitjacket. He's been raising property taxes. Those who've been doing well in this economy -- they're earning over $200,000 a year after deductions. It (the tax increase) is pretty reasonable to most people.
The governor by this delay is borrowing from school districts to float the state.
Q: You say Gov. Pawlenty has raised property taxes. Shouldn't local governments reduce spending rather than scream entitlement to state funding?
A: (Kelliher)A lot of what we ask counties to do is fulfillment of work we do at the Legislature. Cities and counties don't get to say "we're not going to do that anymore." We've had a lot of reductions to local government aid that holds down property taxes.
Q: Why not just adopt the unallotments the governor proposed and next year they'll be a a new governor and another Legislature?
A: (Kelliher) The problem is the budget wouldn't be balanced. It's kicking it down the road. You might have another $300 to $400 million to balance in January.
(Pogemiller) Even if we adopted all of the governor's recommendation -- which we're proposing doing by and large -- you're still short of solving the problem. The level of cuts we're adopting are almost equal to the governor's. The level of borrowing he's willing to undertake, we're willing to do that. And we're still $400 million short of solving the problem. You could adopt the entire proposal from the governor, it doesn't balance the budget.
Q: Why does the Legislature continue passing bills that will certainly be vetoed?
A: (Kelliher) We'd love for the governor come to the table and negotiate in good faith, but his answer is always "my way or the highway." The court said, "get in a room, work together, and get this done." We don't have enough votes for an override on our own, but if three Republicans want to come over to make sure we keep our kids learning and not losing money, then we would be interested in that. Last Friday, we voted on the governor's proposal and it had bipartisan opposition. The Republican leadership in both the House and Senate did not vote for it.
(Pogemiller) I understand people's frustration; that has to do with the messaging. There is no solution that is politically viable in which this problem is solved just with budget cuts. I'm concerned that this level of borrowing that's going on is very dangerous for the long-term fiscals of education. The property tax implications for this situation are very severe.
Q: Why not?
A: (Kelliher)When the rubber meets the road, the governor has made bad decisions and they know it, too.
Q: Why did you settle on an income tax increase rather than other proposals -- broadening the sales tax, for example?
A: (Kelliher) It's the most fair for most Minnesotans to understand. If Minnesotans want us to do more tax reform, it's going to take more time and a different governor.
Q: Why are we always looking to the wealthy to fund everything?
A:(Kelliher) Everyone is paying here. They're paying through property taxes. The cuts that have happened -- over $2 billion just this year -- will affect Minnesotans and it's a form of taxation when they don't get a good K-12 education or good services for their disabled child. The higher income Minnesotans have not been paying their fair share.
Q: If you've been spending our money wisely, how can you come up with $2 billion in cuts in the blink of an eye.
A:(Kelliher) We have seen a major fall-off in the revenue coming into the state. We are in the process of a continual restructuring of the services we are delivering.
Q: Don't we have a 'rainy day' fund?
A: (Kelliher) We still have the rainy day fund, it just has nothing in it. We've used that money already and the economy has not improved enough to pay into it.
Q: Would it be easier to reach an agreement if the governor wasn't running for president and you weren't running for governor?
A: (Kelliher) It's up to the governor to decide if his presidential ambitions are influencing how he's negotiating. My job is to put what's best for Minnesota above politics.
Q: Is there likely to be a special session or government shutdown.
A: (Kelliher) A government shutdown could happen immediately if someone who was unallotted now demanded to be paid. We have enough time to solve this problem.
Q: How do you get out of this mess?
A: (Kelliher) It'll take three courageous Republicans.
The fastest-spreading story on the Internet today is the one from Georgia where -- allegedly -- senior citizens have been told they can't pray aloud before their meal because the food is provided courtesy of the federal government.
The Associated Press kicked things off last week with a story that the agency that runs the senior center -- Senior Citizens Inc. -- told the seniors they couldn't pray aloud because praying over food that is paid for with federal money violates the separation of church and state.
The agency claimed it's in the federal guidelines, according to the Associated Press.
FoxNews got in on the story today, featuring a politician who's taken up the cause:
"I told them they're not fighting this alone," Eric Johnson, a Republican running for governor, told FoxNews.com. "To heck with the federal government -- we can't stop people from free practice of their faith."
What we have here is a failure to communicate.
There is no evidence such a guideline -- as interpreted -- exists in any federal contract, however. And there's no indication there's anything involved here other than an official of a senior citizen center who doesn't quite understand the Constitution.
Nothing infringes on the right of people to pray. But a government agency cannot force someone to pray, lead a prayer, or sponsor a prayer. Praying to oneself is not any different than praying aloud and if the senior center official believes a silent prayer is acceptable under the Constitution, a verbal prayer would be as well.
But it's too late. The story is already spreading. "Oppressive Government: Feds Tell GA Old Folks They Can't Pray Before Meals," screamed one Web site headline.
Expect to find this story in your INBOX on a regular basis for the next several years.
Update 4:10 p.m. - From Georgia Public Broadcasting:
"There are no guidelines or policies set by the Division of Aging Services that would prohibit public prayer," says James Bulot, head of the Division of Aging Services at DHS. "We serve over four million me
(h/t: Julia Schrenkler)(7 Comments)
1) - As the Minnesota budget drama plays out -- extra credit for correctly predicting what movie the governor will quote when he vetoes the DFL budget bill today -- more comparisons are being made comparing "us" to Greece. Steve Franta of Wayzata writes to the Star Tribune today:
The situation in Greece is dire. The country is on the brink of bankruptcy because of excessive government spending. Here at home, the Democrats' cradle-to-grave benefit programs are sending us down the same path. Gov. Tim Pawlenty gets it; our DFL Legislature doesn't. Wake up, folks.
Are we a young Greece? Sort of. It's a problem of spending and borrowing. All of the politicians at the Capitol -- including the governor -- have some sort of scheme involving borrowing. It's just a matter of who is borrowing from whom.
The other problem is Greece "faked' its deficit problem, lying about it financial situation. Now, nobody -- other than the European Union -- will lend it any money. Here's a Q&A on the crisis from Business Week.
It may not be debt that's bad -- this vlogger says -- it's debt you can't repay.
2) Some of the worst news at the Capitol this session, however, is the departure of the dean of the Capitol press corps. Eric Eskola has chosen to take a buyout from his employer, the once-mighty WCCO. "Nobody cares," he told the Star Tribune's Jon Tevlin in declining an interview for his column today. It's not just that another chunk has fallen from an institution many people grew up with; that's been going on for years. It's that people know the answer to many of Minnesota's problems rest with a more informed and educated population, and it's illogical to expect people to be more informed by providing less information. Eskola is a dying breed; a journalist who'd go above and beyond on a regular basis because what's happening is too important to keep secret.
According to MPR's Cathy Wurzer (via Twitter), "The Mn. Historical Society has been asked to enshrine Eric Eskola's eye poppingly messy office for posterity. Saves him from cleaning it!"
3) I don't have any background on who shot this video but it was uploaded to YouTube last evening. It's a look behind the scenes at the Minneapolis light-rail system:
4) This video is getting big play in the world of sports. The mayor of Boston flubs the city's great sports moment, while honoring Bobby Orr:
"Varitek splitting the uprights." He meant Adam Vinateri. Jason Varitek plays for the Red Sox. There are no uprights in baseball.
But how great must it be to be a fan in a city where it's fairly easy to mix up the names in all the championships the city's teams have won?
5) One moment in time. The New York Times' Lens blog has created a globe with images stacked on the location at which they were taken at the same time -- 10 a.m. (CT) on May 2. This is pretty much where you'll be spending much of your workday.
As part of their response to the state budget crisis, DFL legislators have proposed an income tax increase for wealthy Minnesotans. What sort of tax increase would you support, if any?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour:Lynne Rossetto Kaspar of the Splendid Table and Ray Isle of Food and Wine magazine.
Second hour: Travel expert Rudy Maxa.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - Both hours: Stephanie Curtis with her list of best and worst courtroom dramas.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: For almost a decade, Joel Kotkin and Mike Shires have been compiling a list of the "best' and "worst" places for jobs in the country. And this year, they say is easily the most depressing. But there are places where the jobs are growing.
Second hour: Doug Lemov watched teachers closely for more a decade, -- and learned that the best share several specific characteristics. Now, he's got a new handbook that collects the best techniques.(3 Comments)
Don Shelby will announce his finalized plans for retirement from WCCO tomorrow. Let the remembering begin!
Unfortunately, I can't find any video of Shelby doing David Letterman's Top 10 in the mid '90s, in which he uttered the classic line, "there is a gopher in my pants."(3 Comments)
Once you've seen the same movie four or five times, it doesn't become that interesting any more, as you probably know. The same is true for "showdowns" between Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the Legislature, most of which have the same ending. Today -- stop me if you've heard this before -- the governor vetoed the DFL's budget bill, which everyone knew was dead on arrival before it even arrived.
Now we'll tell you about an attempt to override the governor's veto, an effort that will likely fail. Next, we'll have a story with each side accusing the other of failing to serve the state.
Until something happens, this is what we're reduced to. Translating the governor's veto message into "Swedish chef."
Deer Speeker Kelleeher:
I hefe-a fetued un em retoorneeng Chepter 340, Huoose-a Feele-a 2037.
Es yuoo ere-a evere-a, Meennesuta und zee neshun ere-a ixpereeencing heesturic icunumeec chellenges. Um gesh dee bork, bork! Meennesutuns ere-a cuncerned ebuoot zeeur jubs und zee jubs ooff zeeur femeely members, neeeghburs, und freeends. Um gesh dee bork, bork! Meennesuta is elreedy oone-a ooff zee must heeghly texed stetes in zee neshun. Zee DFL prupusel tu edd a fuoort teeer incume-a brecket et a rete-a ooff 9.1 percent vuoold geefe-a Meennesuta zee 5t-heeghest incume-a tex rete-a in zee cuoontry. Bork bork bork! It vuoold elsu deesprupurshunetely herm smell booseeness oovners und hemper jub creeshun in oooor stete-a. Zee beell vuoold reeese-a texes fur eppruxeemetely 122,000 feelers, veet un eferege-a tex increese-a ooff $2,800 in 2010.
Mureufer, it is nunsenseecel tu increese-a texes oon jub prufeeders merely veeks effter I seegned a beell tu prufeede-a tex incenteefes fur Meennesuta booseenesses tu groo jubs. Um gesh dee bork, bork! Thees behefeeur sends a cunffooseeng und meexed messege-a tu cumpuneees luukeeng tu prudooce-a jubs in Meennesuta.
Zee beell elsu dues fery leettle-a tu eddress zee boodget deffeecit in zee next beeennioom, leefeeng a neerly $5 beelliun deffeecit fur zee next Legeesletoore-a und Gufernur tu eddress. Um gesh dee bork, bork! It is irrespunseeble-a leedersheep nut tu seencerely ettempt tu eddress thees creeticel issooe-a, es I deed in my Febrooery boodget prupusel.
I luuk furverd tu vurkeeng veet yuoo oon un epprupreeete-a boodget sulooshun thet dues nut reeese-a texes oon Meennesutuns und seegnifficuntly redooces zee boodget deffeecit in thees boodget cycle-a und zee next oone-a.
To which the speaker replied:
Vell, ve-a certeeenly ere-a luukeeng fur iff meybe-a zeere-a ere-a thuse-a Repoobleecuns vhu hefe-a idees ebuoot vhet tu du. Zeey certeeenly ere-a in a plece-a vhere-a zeey hefe-a a fery strung hund reeght noo. Iff zeey ceme-a furverd und seeed ve're-a interested deen sume-a furm ooff refenooe-a, ve-a vuoold prubebly be-a interested in telkeeng tu zeem.
We can learn a lot from the Swedish Chef about playing a game of chicken:(5 Comments)
Today's fastest-moving story on the Internet is the study that purports to show that we really aren't paying the taxes we think we're paying, we're paying fewer taxes now than we have since 1950.
As with most swift-moving stories, there are some hard-to-fathom numbers, and truthiness depends on an individual's particular situation.
It started on the personal finance column on USA Today's Web site, citing a study from the Bureau of Economic Analysis:
Some conservative political movements such as the "Tea Party" have criticized federal spending as being out of control. While spending is up, taxes have fallen to exceptionally low levels.
Federal, state and local taxes -- including income, property, sales and other taxes -- consumed 9.2% of all personal income in 2009, the lowest rate since 1950, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reports. That rate is far below the historic average of 12% for the last half-century. The overall tax burden hit bottom in December at 8.8.% of income before rising slightly in the first three months of 2010.
According to USA Today -- there's nothing on the Bureau of Economic Analysis Web site to refer to -- the average household making the average income -- $102,000 -- paid over $3,000 less in taxes in 2009.
But the 9.2% figure is hard to swallow.
First, Social Security takes 6.2% of your income right off the top and you don't get it back until you retire, if the system is solvent at that point. The fact you may not get it back for several decades doesn't ease the bite.
That leaves 3% left to be consumed by all other taxes, if the report is to be believed, and we know that's simply not true.
The Medicare tax alone is 1.45% (the employee's share) of all wages, and it is soon to go up to 2.35%.
That leaves .75% to be consumed by all other taxes.
For an average family making $102,000. That's $765.
Do you drive a car? That's about $100, $35 of which you can deduct from your itemized deductions on your federal tax return (returning about $12 to you in all). And that doesn't include the "fees" Minnesota imposes on top of the registration "tax."
Even if we just take half of the average miles driven per year -- 7,500 -- and generously figure a car gets 30 miles per gallon. At a tax rate of 40.4 cents per gallon, that's $101 in gas taxes.
And there's still cigarette taxes, liquor taxes, homeland security taxes, and we haven't even started our federal or state income tax returns yet.
The USA Today story says one reason the tax bite is low, is because of the federal stimulus package. But that's part of the "we're taxed too much" complaint; that it's a bill that will come due in the future, not a handout without incurred debt. It also says we paid less sales tax in '09 because of the downturn in the economy.
But as with many statistical exercises like this , it's an average. A few weeks ago, we heard that over half of Americans don't pay any income taxes. Is that you? Probably not. It probably isn't the people who are complaining about high taxes, either.
As with every average, an individual's "mileage may vary."
1) Same -sex marriage came roaring back into Minnesota's political debate yesterday when three couples sued to overturn Minnesota's ban on gay marriage. In the gubernatorial campaign four years ago, DFLers tried to derail the issue of a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman by saying there's already a law against same-sex marriage in Minnesota. Yesterday's action shows why the constitutional amendment issue will be back shortly.
But there are at least five myths about homosexuality to be debunked in a scientific way and Live Science does that today. "Gay parents aren't as good as a father and a mother" is one of them, according to the writer:
The bottom line is that the science shows that children raised by two same-gender parents do as well on average as children raised by two different-gender parents," said Timothy Biblarz, a sociologist at the University of Southern California. "This is obviously inconsistent with the widespread claim that children must be raised by a mother and a father to do well."
Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby says the federal government has already decided what marriage means:
To be sure, an individual state is free to adopt an irregular definition of marriage -- or anything else -- for purposes of state law. But it doesn't have a constitutional right to impose that definition on the rest of the nation. Massachusetts could decide to recognize martial-arts studios as institutions of higher education, and to make them eligible for state-subsidized education loans. Plainly, that anomalous definition of "higher education'' would not be binding on the federal student loan program. By the same token, Massachusetts can decide (or be required by its supreme court) to treat same-sex partners as married spouses. But it can hardly insist that its definition of "married spouses'' trumps that of the federal government and 45 other states.
2) Arizona is at the center of a racial firestorm, again. The governor has signed a law which bans ethnic studies in state schools. The bill says:
Prohibits public schools from including courses or classes, which promote the overthrow of the U.S. government or resentment towards a race or class of people, and specifies rules pertaining to pupil disciplinary proceedings are not to be based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin or ancestry.
The job of the public schools is to develop the student's identity as Americans and as strong individuals," the state school's chief said last year. "It's not the job of the public schools to promote ethnic chauvinism."
Courses about Native American history are excluded. They're protected by federal law.
3) Take us to DEFCON-1, we've got a real crisis here. Intelsat has lost control of the satellite Galaxy 15. It might smash into another satellite. That satellite contains programming for cable TV.
4) Today's timewaster: Strange signs from abroad.
Bonus: The sign man has a job!
A Philadelphia police officer used a stun gun last week against a teenager who ran onto the field during a Phillies game. In Minnesota, a complaint alleges that a man was shocked with a Taser after shouting at authorities in the Sherburne County jail. When is it appropriate to use a stun gun?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Author Laura Munson was married for a decade, and raising two children with her husband when he said he wanted out of the relationship. She has a surprising reaction to his request that she says actually kept her family together. (Originally aired on 4/28)
Second hour: Single at age 40, writer Lori Gottlieb started to wonder if looking for the perfect mate was the best approach to dating. Her new book chronicles her attempts to find Mr. "good enough." (Originally aired on 2/12)
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Chris Farrell on the economy.
Second hour: Civil rights leader and Congressman John Lewis, speaking recently at the 50th anniversary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: NPR political editor Ken Rudin.
Second hour: New research shows that the family values divide between red states and blue
states is real, but there's a paradox. The redder the state, the more traditional the family values, the higher the divorce rate, and the more teen pregnancies. There are differing interpretations as to why
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - MPR's Tim Pugmire is tracking the budget debate at the Capitol.
Employers who provide health insurance to early retirees can begin applying for money under the new federal health care law next month. That program aims to encourage employers who provide such benefits to keep doing so. The $5 billion program will reimburse companies, state, local governments, and non-profits, a portion of the money they pay out in claims for their retirees. MPR's health care reform reporter Elizabeth Stawicki will have the story.
From NPR: Wealthy students in the Middle East have long come to the United States for their college education. Nowadays, American universities are coming to them.(2 Comments)
In the span of just a few minutes, Britain switched prime ministers, and the new guy promised a coalition government. "Real change is when people pull together," David Cameron said.
It was an impressive display.
Cameron hit all of the right notes, reminiscent of the end of the last presidential campaign in the U.S.
All things seem possible on the day governments change leaders.
The UK will be back to this in no time:(1 Comments)
|YEAR||LOCATION||WHO WON THE STATE?|
|2008||St. Paul, MN||Democrats|
|2004||New York, NY||Democrats|
|1996||San Diego, CA||Democrats|
|1988||New Orleans, LA||Republicans|
|1976||Kansas City, MO.||Democrats|
|1964||San Francisco, CA||Democrats|
A University of Nebraska study of a "Midwestern high school" reveals that most high school students cheat. The study was limited to a junior class at the unnamed school, but it supports previous studies on the extent of cheating in high school.
For example, 89 percent said glancing at someone else's answers during a test was cheating, but 87 percent said they'd done that at least once. Also, 94 percent said providing answers to someone during a test was cheating - but 74 percent admitted to doing it.
Other behaviours weren't as cut-and-dried in students' minds. Surprisingly, only 47 percent said that providing test questions to a fellow student who had yet to take a test was academically dishonest, and nearly seven out of 10 admitted to doing so.
Boys tend to cheat more than girls, the study said. There's no link between cheating and "moral development," according to the author.
They cheat on tests, homework assignments and when writing reports. In some cases, though, students simply don't grasp that some dishonest acts are cheating," the study's author said.
As it usually does, the Boston Globe's Big Picture blog does a masterful job of organizing the finest images from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
One might feel somewhat guilty noting the beauty in the disaster.(2 Comments)
A group of conservative evangelical leaders today called for a "ratcheting down" of the rhetoric surrounding the immigration issue in the wake of the passage of the Arizona crackdown on illegal immigration.
"In 2010, people are willing to look the other way while other citizens are racially profiled," Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference said. "Is the conservative movement exclusively for white people? Latinos are more socially conservative than white evangelicals," he said warning politicians by name, including Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, to "remember Reagan and remember Lincoln, and simultaneously eliminate threats of xenophobia from the conservative movement."
Pawlenty's pastor, Rev. Leith Anderson of Edina's Wooddale Church, said the group will take out a full-page ad in tomorrow's Roll Call newspaper that will call for "dignity for each person, unity of families, respect of the rule of law, secure borders, and the establishment of a path to legal status for those who wish to become legal residents." That's the part that appears to divide conservatives.
Anderson, who is also president of the National Association of Evangelicals, said the Arizona law is "not pro family and we're interested in what we can do to have intact and healthy families."
The Arizona law found little favor in the group. "This is not an issue that can be dealt with by one state," said Dr. Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Conference, who criticized some opponents of immigration reform who refer to pathways to citizenship as amnesty. " To say a person willing to pay a fine, learn English, take a civics course ... to say that's giving them amnesty, they need a course in remedial English. Amnesty is what Jimmy Carter gave the draft dodgers... this is not amnesty."
He took aim at conservative commentators who use the term. "They may be conservatives, they may be social conservatives, but they're not evangelicals," he said.
The pastors appeared to embrace the idea of a multiple approach in immigration reform that starts with securing borders, but also provides pathways to citizenship for illegal immigrants. They rejected mass deportations.
"The reality is that just doing one piece of solving a problem is going to unbalance the issue," Rev. Anderson said. "What we have already is a number of people whose families are divided who need to be reunited. We typically don't deal with other issues incrementally. What we need is Republicans and Democrats to come together and address the issue and not just shout opinions to a broader audience."
There may be little political payoff for many politicians to follow that advice. A poll out today shows most Americans favor the Arizona approach.
1) We usually get our best insight into people in politics after they've dropped the better-not-say-anything-that-might-cost-you-an-election strategy that's made campaigns so utterly predictable. It's too bad. Rep. Marty Seifert, the unsuccessful Republican candidate for governor, writes the MPR commentary today, revealing to us the human toll of being a politician. He described the day after he dropped out of the race:
Two days later, after mass on Sunday, my wife Traci and I took Brittany and Braxton to Sioux Falls -- the closest "big town" to where we live -- and played games at Chuck E. Cheese's, saw a movie and had a great buffet dinner.
When I snuggled with Braxton, our 5 year old, that night, he said, "Daddy, this was the best day ever. I am so glad you lost."
Meanwhile, at the Capitol, there's no agreement over a new budget despite a night of meetings. Some 5-year-old isn't getting to snuggle with mom or dad.
The governor says he'll go fishing this weekend, even if there isn't a budget deal.
2) For the last week or so, I've wondered if there's another word we newspeople can use for what the oil is doing in the Gulf of Mexico besides gushing. Then the House Commerce Committee released this underwater video yesterday of the "leak" and I got my answer. It's "no."
A congressional investigation continues today. So far, it's suggested the multi-billion dollar disaster might have been caused by parts that cost a few dollars and incompetence -- the two things that cause most man-made disasters.
But a poll out overnight shows it doesn't much matter. Those surveyed are still fans of oil drilling.
Unclear on the Concept Department: In Ohio, a legislative committee has approved a plan to tighten oversight of coal mines. It funds it by taking money from a fund to help miners with Black Lung disease. (h/t: Midwest Energy News)
3) Other than Updraft, Tim's Weather Blog, is one of the most enjoyable area meteorological endeavors. It's written by Tim Burr of Duluth. This morning, he recounts his weekend trip to Tornado Alley. He went storm chasing, and found what he was looking for.
4) They're killing off Little Orphan Annie. The quote from the licensing company is hilarious:
'Annie' is more of a kids' property, so it's less relevant to newspaper audiences than say a 'Dick Tracy' or a 'Brenda Starr,'" Tippie said
If that doesn't describe the problem facing newspapers, nothing does. They're places where Dick Tracy and Brenda Starr are still relevant.
The whole subject makes me want to head for the Wayback Machine:
5) We have a winner in the Best Illusion of the Year contest:
The gathering in Naples, Florida examined how our brains deceive us on a daily basis because it attempts to "solve what it sees."
Bonus) "Did you see this video? It seems like something that'd be on a 5@8," Ryan Vanasse wrote yesterday. He's right, and it is. Let's just put it here in the "what would you have done category?
Jon Stewart said, "Love what you do. Get good at it." Winston Churchill said, "Never give in. Never, never, never, never." It's commencement season, and you or someone you know will soon be listening to a speech. What's your message for the Class of 2010?
(Bob notes: It's the same message I had for the class of 2009)
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: The classic gumshoes, spies, and femme fatales of crime, mystery, and spy novels.
Second hour: Broadcast of Kerri Miller's conversation with author Colum McCann. (Originally broadcast 10/5)
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: NPR health reporter Julie Rovner answers questions about the new health care law.
Second hour: Best-selling author and attorney Scott Turow, speaking at the Commonwealth Club about his legal thrillers, including his latest: "Innocent."
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: In the last 10 years, changes swept every branch of the military. Besides the enormous strain of deployments in the Army and Marines, more and more Air Force pilots fly unmanned drones, women will soon serve on Navy submarines, and Marines can no longer get Semper Fi tattooed on a forearm.
Second hour: It's a medical mystery: Why do sugar pills work so well? In some drug trials they work better than the real thing.
It's a rare day when an appointment of an associate justice to the Minnesota Supreme Court gets more attention than the naming of a chief justice for the same court. But David Stras, a University of Minnesota professor, gives the court a pro-unallotment majority.
Stras submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Gov. Tim Pawlenty's appeal of a lower court ruling that overturned his unallotment action on the state budget, according to MinnPost.
Some of Stras' ideological opponents have pointed out he's only been a member of the Minnesota Bar Association since 2009, but it's a red herring. He's was admitted to the DC bar in 2002.
Stras has some impressive credentials, including the fact he's from the Midwest and still overcame the Harvard/Yale club to clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas, who hasn't asked a question at the Supreme Court in years.
"By the time he gets to oral arguments, a lot of his questions have already been answered," Stras told SCOTUSblog in an interview in February (listen to the interview). Stras says oral arguments are overblown.
Stras was a guest on MPR's Midday last year when Sonia Sotomayor's confirmation hearings were underway. During the course of the hearings, he said he was an "agnostic" on the appointment and believed President Obama "could have done much better."
But it's his work on Pawlenty's unallotment case that marks today's appointment and it's, perhaps, important to note that the Supreme Court did not rule on the constitutionality of the governor's budget actions when it issued its ruling last week. The tools are in place for the state's highest court to deliver a victory to the governor should it be asked again to do so.
Gov. Pawlenty lives a charmed life.
The Iowa home of the Field of Dreams is for sale.
The family that has owned most of the property on which a baseball diamond was built for the '80s movie has decided to sell. The listing includes "the actual movie site, including the baseball diamond, a two-bedroom, 1½-bath house featuring the movie's familiar front porch, six outbuildings, and a parcel of land totaling 193 acres," according to KCRG.com.
It'll probably remain a tourist spot, but if times get tough, it wouldn't be hard to turn it into a cornfield. $5.4 million and it's yours.(1 Comments)
Commencement season is fertile ground for generational assessments as one age group tries to pass off knowledge to another. As I get older, I'm increasingly sensitive to the occasional Twitter post that describes the Baby Boomer generation as one of the worst ever -- as I read the other day. It handed its problems off to the incoming powers, and has left a mess to clean up.
But generations don't change things. People do.
MPR All Things Considered producer Jeff Jones lost his mother a week or so ago. Her funeral was held last weekend and today he distributed this story about her. He kindly agreed to let me print it here, because it's a reminder that it's possible to make a difference, but it requires actually doing something.
In 1973, my mother, Linda Jones, was in charge of 18 babies on a so-called "orphan flight" from Seoul, South Korea to Minneapolis. She also had an envelope full of secret documents. Volunteering for the orphan flight was a good way to get to the U.S. for a good price, but when members of the underground Korean pro-democracy movement heard that their friend, my mom, was on a flight that would stop over in Tokyo, they asked for her help. She was to deliver an envelope of papers documenting human rights abuses -- including imprisonment, torture and execution -- to a contact who would disseminate them to western diplomats and media in Japan. Such papers would have been opened and censored if they'd gone through the mail. A Korean found with them would have been imprisoned, or worse.
My parents went to Korea as teachers and missionaries. But when the presidency there turned into a dictatorship, my mom decided to help the university students she was getting to know to organize a resistance. She helped hide wanted men in her home, sometimes for weeks at a time. She served tea as my father (willfully ignorant about her associates) was questioned repeatedly by the Korean CIA. And she arranged secret meetings between visiting diplomats and dissident leaders. When she botched one such arrangement, it led to the arrest and torture of one of the student leaders.
When her plane landed in Tokyo, a team came on the plane to help with the babies. My mom got off, carrying only the secret envelope (her ticket and passport were with those for the babies). She was to pass it through the decorative openings between the airport's passenger lounge and the visitor lounge. This method had worked well before. But when she arrived in the in-transit lounge, she could tell something had changed. The wall was sealed. There was no way to connect with Japanese visitors anymore. Knowing time was tight, she decided to leave the in-transit area and step, effectively, onto Japanese soil without her plane ticket and without her passport. The airport was crowded and her only hope was to muscle her way to the information desk. And there, muscling his way to the same spot, was her contact, Dr. Kim. Both were trying to page the other.
The documents delivered and some important verbal messages exchanged, the race to get back on the plane began. Neither of them spoke good Japanese and the check-in, security, and immigration staff could not understand why she had left the in-transit area without any ID. Her only defense was "but who will help with the babies?"
Fortunately, back on the plane, the Northwest Airlines flight attendants were asking the same question. All the other volunteers on the flight were old men who were NOT going to change diapers for the next 10 hours. My mom was the only hope. The flight crew brought the ticket and passport to the security folks who elected to stop asking questions. Three days later, she saw information about the democracy movement from those documents start to appear in U.S. newspapers. (ed. note: Jeff says one of the people who received the documents was former Minnesota congressman Don Fraser.)
For the 19 years after she left Korea, she supported the movement and the missionaries who were aiding it from a cramped office in Chicago. She also raised two kids who complained about the middle-of-the-night phone calls, the boxes full of funny papers she kept around the house and the smell of the food she brought home from meetings. She went back to Korea many times to introduce American women to women there working in sweat shops and brothels. We complained that she wasn't home enough.
Even if that complaint had been legitimate, in the 10 years since she was diagnosed with leukemia, she made it all up to us. My sister and I traveled with our mom to eight national parks, Canada, and Alaska. She made sure to be healthy enough to attend both of our weddings and hold her first grandchild. We went back with her to South Korea in 2003, where the democratic government gratefully accepted those boxes full of papers that were the only copies of documents long since destroyed in the days of the dictatorship. And I had dinner with the tortured student leader, who looked me in the eye and called my mom a hero.
Nothing has ever been as hard for me as these past two weeks. But I know my mom crammed more living into 65 years than many of us will ever imagine. And I'm still hearing great new stories about her life from friends near and far. I can't express how touched I was by the card you all sent...I've always wondered if cards are worth anything at a time like this. Now I know they are like an anchor when we feel cut adrift. And you have my family's deep gratitude for the generous donation to the cancer resource center my mom started from scratch in her hometown of Rockford, IL. She cut the ribbon there just a month before she died (video). 150 people have come through the door so far and seen a glimmer of the hope that motivated her entire life.
So here's today's commencement message to graduating seniors: Top that.(7 Comments)
The writer of the blog cannot come to the page right now. He's off until Tuesday. Please leave a message.
Seriously, get up on the soapbox in the comments section and tell us what's on your mind.(13 Comments)
As with any truly massive disaster, finding the terms to describe the scale of the destruction is a feat rarely accomplished. Perhaps our inability to describe is really what qualifies an event as a catastrophe.
Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, you can now put the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in your backyard. Or, more precisely everybody's backyard.
Paul Rademacher plotted the oil spill and with some Google Earth magic, you can plop the spill right on to your neighborhood, or, rather, your state. (You'll need a modern browser and the Google Earth plugin to view it.)
As it stands now, the spill would extend from Duluth-Superior to Isle Royale in Lake Superior. Or on land, all the way from Faribault to Pine City.
By the way, it appears that officials estimates of the amount of oil gushing from the sea floor could be 10 times too small.(1 Comments)
Posted at 3:24 PM on May 17, 2010
by Than Tibbetts
Filed under: Crime and Justice
In a 7-2 decision today, the Supreme Court upheld a federal law allowing the government to hold "sexually dangerous" persons in civil commitment after they have served the length of their criminal sentences.
Minnesota's state sex offender facility in Moose Lake, and the state laws under which it operates, aren't directly affected by the Supreme Court ruling (pdf), but program certainly gains a hefty constitutional endorsement with the decision.
When MPR's Rupa Shenoy visited the facility last month, she found that 90 people at the facility currently don't participate in the treatment programs they are ostensibly locked down in order to receive .
Among them is Wallace Beaulieu. He was in pre-treatment therapy at Moose Lake but stopped participating.
"Anybody can say they're providing treatment, but if you're never giving anybody the opportunity to be released, what's the treatment then?" asks Beaulieu, 38.
Beaulieu said he was convicted twice for a forced sexual encounter -- one of a woman, in 1990, and 1992, a teenage girl. He said he spent four years in prison and was released in 1996.
Bob Collins also took a brief look at the history of the issue.
The Legislature changed the provisions under which "sexual psychopaths" are locked up after one came close to being released. The law shifted the burden to the state. It hasn't been much of a burden, however. Nobody has ever been released from the Moose Lake facility.
I'm back after four days away. Thanks for checking back today to be sure there still is a News Cut. There is.
1) I'm the first to admit, I don't get Texas, scene of an NPR story today where patients and doctors engage in "speed dating."
Physicians and parents pair off for five minutes, then rotate into new conversations.
"How far along?" Dr. James Wheeler asks Kim Gage, a 36-year-old computer programmer pregnant with her third child, as she approaches his table. "I usually am not too cavalier about that question, but I thought I was safe here."
"You are safe here," Gage replies with a laugh. The two seem at ease, and Gage peppers him with questions. How accessible would he be as a doctor? How does he feel about medications for attention deficit disorder? And what does the office look like?
2) Our mission today is to figure out what we're supposed to do with research out of the UK today that says men are bigger liars than women. The survey studied 3,000 people and found that men tell lies twice as often as women. Didn't we really already know this? What are most lies about? Whether they've been drinking. Women's top lie is "Nothing's wrong. I'm fine." What researchers don't know, however, is whether the lying habits of men are the result of upbringing or genetics.
3) Do numbers lie? The anti climate-change crowd probably will say so, but it's hard to dismiss the statistics MPR meteorologist Paul Huttner dispensed to All Things Considered host Tom Crann last evening. The planet is on a pace to have its hottest year ever, and April was the 302nd consecutive month with a temperature higher than the 20th century average. He's posted all the numbers on his blog.
Meanwhile, the United Nations will investigate its own climate change panel, the New York Times reports:
As you may recall, the panel found itself in hot water about six months ago when critics accused it of scientific sloppiness. They also accused the panel's chairman, Rajendra Pachauri, of conflicts of interest because he served on some corporate boards.
Yet many noted that the most serious charges originated with a camp that denies that global warming is even under way, even though mainstream scientists agree that human-caused climate change is a reality.
Still, the climate panel has apologized for a significant error in its latest report, issued in 2007: an errant figure on the rate of melting of Himalayan glaciers that was not supported by scientific research.
4) You really can't go wrong learning your biology from Julia Sweeney. Don't leave a book around for your ready-to-learn kids. Just show 'em this:
5) Here's something you've never seen before, in all probability. And it's something you probably won't see again. Yesterday afternoon at South St. Paul, the last remaining 1929 Hamilton airplane flew for the first time in decades, and the last time around here:
This is a real part of history in the upper Midwest. The Hamilton, built in Milwaukee, is how people used to get the mail in these parts. Here's some background:
I wrote more about it on my aviation blog.
Bonus: In order to save downtown St. Paul, we have to kill it.
It sometimes seems that Minnesota's political debate centers on one choice: whether to raise taxes or cut services. Can you name a government service you'd be willing to do without?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Insomnia from a patient's perspective.
Second hour: Lee Child, author of more than a dozen novels. His latest in the Jack Reacher series is "61 Hours."
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Gov. Tim Pawlenty.
Second hour: MPR's Stephen Smith interviews best-selling author Hampton Sides about his new book, "Hellhound on His Trail: The Stalking of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the International Hunt for His Assassin."
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: The next steps for the new health care law.
Second hour: From Islam to America.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - How many times have we seen this movie, anyway? The legislative season ends, and both sides fly around the state or head for the talk shows to proclaim victory. We'll have a report or two tonight, which will sounds vaguely similar.
The University of Minnesota's David Kittelson is among a batch of researchers investigating lower carbon alternatives to gasoline. Part of the reason is because of the remarkably energy intensive and dirty nature of creating a gallon of gas. MPR's Dan Olson will have the story.
Along Mexico's border with Texas, two drug cartels battled for control. One of them managed to gain the upper hand, but was that because of help from the country's army? NPR investigates the role of the military in Mexico's fight against the drug cartels.(3 Comments)
Et tu, soap?
The University of Minnesota is out with a study today showing chemicals from hand soap are polluting the Mississippi.
Researchers found four dioxins in sediment samples from Lake Pepin. They say they could only have come from triclosan, a chemical added to hand soap in 1987.
They don't know yet if the dioxins are toxic. According to a release from the university, the Food and Drug Administration is studying the chemical, "which has been linked to disruptions of hormonal function (in animals) and may also play a role in the evolution of bacterial resistance to antibiotics."
Is it toxic to humans? "It is not known to be hazardous to humans," the FDA says, which is a bit of short of saying it's not.
The European Union has moved to ban the substance in any product that comes into contact with food. It's also used in toothpaste and deodorant.
The lesson plan for an Alabama classroom: A teacher, lecturing his class on parallel lines and geometry, taught his charges how to calculate where to stand to shoot the president.
"He was talking about angles and said, 'If you're in this building, you would need to take this angle to shoot the president,'" Joseph Brown, a senior in the geometry class, told The Birmingham News.
The Secret Service checked the teacher out and found he wasn't a threat. The school superintendent checked it out and determined there's no reason to fire the teacher.(11 Comments)
If the guy on the right looks pretty healthy to you, it's because of the two guys on the left.
Nic Kuehneman, left, and Robb Prechtel, middle, were honored at Regions Hospital in St. Paul this afternoon for the fastest time between the moment a call came in of a person having a heart attack, and the moment at which a surgical team at the hospital opened a blocked artery. Dan Campeau, 62, of Fridley had the heart attack.
Campeau was picking up some documents at the Ramsey County Law Enforcement Center last February when he slipped on some snow. Sitting in his van a minute later, he realized he was having a heart attack. "I went into the police station and told them to call 9-1-1," he said today.
A minute later, Kuehneman and Prechtel showed up. The clock was ticking. "A lot of people talk in terms of mortality with heart attacks," Dr. R.J. Frascone, the medical director of Regions, said. "They don't think in terms of morbidity. They can survive but be 'cardiac cripples.'" He says heart attack victims have 90 minutes to have a blocked artery open if they want to live; substantially less than that if they want to live without heart damage. Prechtel and Kuehneman, and Regions' staff, did it in 30 minutes -- 1 minute less than last year's record, and 6 minutes less than the record set a year earlier.
"I have no ill effects now," says Campeau, who was in the hospital for two days and met Kuehneman and Prechtel today for the first time since. "I thank the Lord for them every day. If you're going to have a heart attack, the best place to have it is in St. Paul."(1 Comments)
The Minnesota Court of Appeals today ruled the state doesn't have the authority to incarcerate Native Americas as sexually dangerous persons, but the court gave the state permission to do so.
Ruling in the case of two Minnesota Ojibwe men, the court said Congress has not granted Minnesota the jurisdiction to commit the two to a "treatment facility" after serving their prison sentences.
Minnesota has used the law to incarcerate more men since the killing of Dru Sjodin by a man released from prison several years ago. No man sent for "treatment" in Minnesota has ever been released.
But the two men in the case said Minnesota doesn't have civil jurisdiction over "Indian Country." The court agreed, but said "the state has a compelling interest in protecting the health and safety of the public, including persons both on and off tribal land, from dangerous and repeat sex offenders."
It said sending the two to the "treatment facility" would not interfere with federal interest in preserving tribal self-sufficiency and self-government.
1) A new poll out today reveals that.... somebody's poll is wrong. In the MPR- Humphrey Institute poll, former Sen. Mark Dayton beats all comers and Republican-endorsee Tom Emmer beats all DFLers and Independents but Dayton.
The margin of error in the MPR poll is 5.8 -- that's a lot. An equal number of DFLers and Republicans were measured.
Flashback almost two weeks and we have a KSTP poll that showed Emmer beating all DFLers by a lot. He beat Dayton in the survey of 900 people, most of whom were registered to vote. It surveyed an equal number of DFLers and Republicans, but a greater percentage of independents than the MPR survey. The margin of error was a little over 4 percent.
In the KSTP poll, 17 percent were undecided. In the MPR poll, 25 percent were undecided.
The KSTP poll was put in the field right after the GOP state convention, perhaps giving Republicans a bounce if you assume the average Minnesotan was on the edge of their couch all weekend paying attention to it.
Has there really been an 11-point swing in two weeks from Emmer to Dayton? Not likely. More likely: Somebody's poll isn't scientifically representative of the voters as a whole. But after last night's election results in other states, how would you even try to figure out what representative of the electorate means?
Which poll should you believe? The one you want to.
2) A Connecticut politician admitted yesterday he misspoke. He didn't serve in Vietnam. He served during Vietnam? Let's see now: How many political careers have been ruined by questions about service during Vietnam. The Washington Post, naturally, is keeping score.
Dan Quayle kicked off the "what didn't you do in the war, Daddy" era when reporters questioned how he stayed out of the jungle, and instead got stuck writing press releases in Indiana? Later, questions about the service of someone who actually did go to Vietnam, labeled John Kerry a "coward" while someone who didn't go got the "patriot" treatment.
Messed up? It's a perfect political quagmire for a war that was nothing but, says the Post.
These kinds of issues have not arisen for politicians who have gone to war in subsequent conflicts, largely because there was no draft for Iraq and Afghanistan that separated the privileged and the connected from those who had no choice. But the Vietnam War generation will never escape them. What looked at the time to be the most personal decisions -- ones bound in honor and survival and ambiguity -- have become metaphors for the larger sins of a war whose history continues to be written.
It all comes back to the draft. Thirty years from now, nobody is going to ask politicians what they did during the war in Afghanistan and Iraq, because there's no longer an equal responsibility to serve as there was in the '60s where by design everybody could be drafted but by reality the fortunate sons did not.
But the more puzzling question is this one: Why do politicians keep lying about stuff like this? It's 2010 and while the news business is circling the drain, it's still pretty easy to catch someone in a lie.
3) The new ground zero in the anti-smoking battle is Rochester, where the City Council has widened a smoking ban in the downtown area to include two blocks of West Center Street between the Kahler Grand Hotel, Methodist Hospital and the Gonda Building. And, the Rochester Post Bulletin reports, it may expand it even more. It started, as smoking bans do, as an indoors ban, now it's an outdoors ban, too. Some Mayo Clinic employees told the paper they can't get to the part of the city where they can smoke and then get back to their jobs in the 10-minutes they have to take a break.
Which brings up the question: At what point is a ban on smoking in a certain spot simply the outlawing of smoking in general?
4) Children of the Great Recession. I wonder what stories today's 7-year-olds will be telling their grandchildren 50 years from now about what it's like to grow up during the Great Recession?
5) "Not in my middle-of-nowhere." Wind farms seemed like a great idea years ago and maybe they still are. But dozens of people packed a hearing room in Stearns County yesterday to consider whether the county should ban large wind farms, according to the St. Cloud Times.
It's a growing issue. Should the wide-open horizon of greater Minnesota be dotted with dozens of wind turbines as far as they eye can see?
You know, like Iowa:
(h/t: Midwest Energy News)
Security cameras are becoming such a regular feature of urban life that they raise privacy concerns in some minds. Have security cameras ever made you feel intruded upon?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: What happens to security camera information once it's viewed or recorded? As federal security agencies and local police forces try to come up with ways to prevent terrorist attacks, this raw information is up for grabs.
Second hour: As a Jesuit priest in a gang-ridden neighborhood in Los Angeles, Father Gregory Boyle has seen his share of violence and unnecessary death. The jobs program he created offers youth a different path from gang life.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Second hour: Live broadcast from National Press Club with the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Tim Kaine.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: NPR political editor Ken Rudin sorts through yesterday's election results.
Second hour: Theauthor of "Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us."
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Since DDT was banned, the population of bald eagles has recovered dramatically. But how healthy are they? MPR's Stephanie Hemphill will have the answer.
MPR's Tim Post looks at what's happening with college tuition rates around the state.
NPR will look at job retraining in the sad state of Michigan. There has been plenty of retraining, but not many jobs.
For the last three days, it's been open season on the father who -- stupidly -- lifted his kid over a barrier at the cougar exhibit at Como Zoo so he could get a picture of the lad. A cougar wounded the boy when it reached through a fence.
The always-entertaining commenters at the Star Tribune Web site did not disappoint:
Another cool picture might be if you put your kid on the highway centerline and the blur of the cars speeding by made neat streaks right next to him. C'mon...what are people thinking when they do things like this? Kids deserve better from adults. Especially their parents.
Boy vs. cougar is an unusual confrontation, and there's no excusing what the father did here, especially since there were signs warning him not to do it.
But it's not as if we don't deliberately put our kids in increased danger from time to time.
Like with these things:
It's a great invention that allows you to get your exercise while taking kids out for fresh air. But there's got to be at least some elevated risk of danger to a youngster if a car strays from its lane. According to Parent Guide News, "Bicycle trailers are more often involved in collisions with motor vehicles than bikes with baby seats, leading to serious injuries and death. In addition, the jarring motion from regular riding can lead to injuries similar to "shaken baby syndrome" that might not show up as developmental delays until years later."
Those things always remind me of the giant yellow pads behind MnDOT trucks that are designed to cushion the impact from another driver not paying attention.
You'll probably pass more people with bike trailers today than men putting their toddlers near cougars.
Over the weekend, I saw a youngster of about 7 riding on a motorcycle with his, presumably, father. On a per-mile-driven basis, people on motorcycles are 37 times more likely to die in a crash than people in a car. But nobody called the media -- or the cops -- on the guy for child endangerment.
On the bicycle trails near my home, I see kids all the time who are allowed by mom and dad to ride without a helmet, even though they probably know it's safer to ride with a helmet than without one. But have you tried getting your kid to keep a helmet on past a certain age? Eventually, parents give up trying.
How do we determine what that point is that putting our kids in increased danger is acceptable? We must be thinking before we do it, because we do it all the time.
Today's Midmorning conversation with Father Gregory Boyle, the founder of a jobs program for Los Angeles gang members, was already interesting before Michelle called. But then she brought us from Los Angeles to North Minneapolis with her story.
"I live in North Minneapolis and there's lots of murders around here, but I actually witnessed one," she said. "It was a 14-year-old boy and he was in a gang and he was shot right off his bike. In a pool of blood, laying there dead. And I have tried to share this experience with my friends who don't live in North Minneapolis and even my family, and they brush it off and say, 'oh, it's North Minneapolis. He was a gang member.' He was 14 and he's dead. On my street. I saw it. And it's so interesting how it's utterly horrifying and no one can offer me any compassion, or see him as subhuman."
"It's a common thing, " Fr. Boyle responded. "As long as there's a them, we're in trouble as a society. The measure of our compassion lies not in our service of those on the margins, but in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship with folks who are on the margins... He was some mother's kid. That had to count for something."
Michelle clearly does feel a kinship with people on the margin. She moved to North Minneapolis from Highland Park -- naively she said -- 12 years ago and she seemed to question whether North Minneapolis feels a kinship with "folks who are on the margins."
She said she "wasn't trying to save North Minneapolis, just trying to make the invisible visible to our daily lives. Our neighbors really are trying to make North Minneapolis better and are trying to make it more livable and (they're) saying, 'we can't highlight these murders. We have to highlight the good things about our neighborhood. So, really, could you just move on, Michelle?'"
She said it needs to be just as alarming "when there's a murder on my street as it is in Highland, where if there was a murder, it was the talk of the town for three years."
Fr. Boyle knows something about dead kids few people care about. California cut funding to his program -- he says it has plenty of money to save the Hollywood sign and some famous alligator, but not for gang kids -- and he had to lay off more than 300 people.
One of the young men who lost his job went to see him on Sunday. "And he said, 'I want to thank you for everything thing you've ever done for me, Father. I especially want to thank you for the layoff, because it woke me up, and I start to see how valuable life is." He said the youngster just enrolled at a public college to study psychology because he wants to be a counselor. "But he said, 'I wouldn't have come to that if you hadn't saved me,' and he thanked me."
Last night, he was shot in the head outside of his home.
His name is Omar.
Now that the debate has ended over whether one teenager was too young to take on the risk of adventure, debate can begin on another one.
Jordan Romero, 13, is embarking on a mission to climb Mt. Everest. If he survives, he'll be the youngest person ever to do so. He departed the base camp with his father on Saturday.
"Jordan's a physically strong teenager who's like an unfinished Ferrari -- raw power, without brakes, lights or the ability to maintain equal pressure on the gas pedal," said Dr. Michael J. Bradley told the New York Times. He's a psychologist and author of "When Things Get Crazy With Your Teen: The Why, the How and What to Do Now" "Most 13-year-olds just don't have the wiring to make cognitive life and death decisions and are not truly able to understand what they're signing on for."
That's very much like what people were saying about Laura Dekker, 16, who wanted to sail around the world alone. Last year, the courts in The Netherlands declared she was too young and refused her permission.
This week, Jessica Watson -- also 16 -- proved she's not too young to sail around the world alone. She arrived in Australia, completing her trip. When she left last October, her parents were heavily criticized for allowing her to go.
In most of these cases, the question is usually "who's running the show?" Is it a kid who really wants an adventure? Or a parent who's pushing a child? That harkens back to the tragic story of Jessica Dubroff, a 7-year-old who allegedly wanted to become the youngest person ever to fly across the country. She crashed and was killed in Wyoming, along with a flight instructor, who was actually doing most of the flying.(3 Comments)
A study out today debunks the notion that autistic children lead to divorced parents.
'There really weren't any significant differences in terms of family structure when you consider children with autism and those without," said Brian Freedman, PhD, clinical director of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore.
Advocacy groups for autism have often quoted the 80-percent figure but nobody seems to know where it came from. There appear to have been no studies examining the divorce rate of parents of autistic children.
But there's been evidence that it's a made-up number. In a 2008 study, Easter Seals reported that only one-third of divorced parents of autistic children said the stress of a special needs child contributed to the end of the marriage.(2 Comments)
A week or so ago, a Newsweek reporter followed Rep. Michele Bachmann around and dispatched his observations via Twitter. It's still not entirely clear what Andrew Romano's story was supposed to be about -- Twitter or Bachmann. But it had enough "legs," as we like to say in the dying-media business, that all of his "tweets" were retweeted with great regularity, as if they provided some insight.
They didn't, and in a Web column today, Romano let's on that that appears to have been the point.
I sounded, in other words, like a kneejerk Bachmann hater. But that wasn't really the case; I hadn't spent enough time with her to decide if she was unserious, or crazy, or whatever. Instead, I was simply doing what Twitter demanded: being pithy and provocative. Straightforward narration would go unnoticed. Quotes from Bachmann's old friends would seem un-newsy. Nuance would cost too many characters. So I became a color commentator, casting off the reporter's traditional cloak of detachment and publicly weighing in on the proceedings at regular intervals. And because observation and publication were now compressed into a single act, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to phrase my tweets that I otherwise would've spent absorbing a scene or speaking to locals. I don't remember much about the crowd in Monticello, the businessmen in Blaine, or Bachmann's larger themes. I do remember what I wound up tweeting, and that's about it. Real magazine profiles require more.
Still, Romano found reporting advantages to Twitter, including the somewhat scary notion that he didn't have to approach some people for comment; they came to him.
But the Bachmann camp also read his tweets and, suddenly, she didn't have time for an interview:
My guess is that her staff read my tweets and decided that it wasn't in Bachmann's best interest to talk to me. And that says as much about Bachmann as anything I observed on the road. Given her mastery of the provocative soundbite and her recent ranking as the most influential Twitterer in the House, I'd initially believed that Bachmann, love her or hate her, was emblematic of a new, niche-media breed of politician. But it turns out that she's just a louder-mouthed version of the old model: happy to attack her opponents from afar, happy to play the victim, but unwilling to engage, mano a mano, with anyone she deems insufficiently friendly. What Twitter revealed about Bachmann is that she's not democratic enough for Twitter--or the new era it embodies.
And so, Newsweek killed the print piece -- the in-depth look at one of the country's most polarizing politicians and leaving Romano with another online blog entry that sounded "like every other Bachmann hater."
Maybe Romano has stumbled on another story idea, though. In 2010, is that pretty much all we want anyway?
1) The Duluth area has spent months wooing Google, which is to select a city in which to build a high-speed broadband network. Few communities have been as aggressive as Duluth.
Now a film producer has created "Google Goes to the Twin Ports," about a little girl named Google "who comes to the Twin Ports and carries with her magical powers. The cast members are all local people who donated their time to help the grass roots effort." (h/t: Northland News Center)
2) We've got another MPR/Humphrey Institute poll out today, and as these things tend to do, it leaves us wanting more answers.
Here's the takeaway question:
If you had to choose, would you rather have a smaller government providing fewer services, or a bigger government providing more services?
Are we really surprised by the answer?
We didn't ask the obvious follow-up question: Like what? People have answered this question pretty much the same way for years, but as with most polls, it's all in how you ask the question. Everyone wants fewer services, as long as the services that are extended aren't the ones that we use.
I've asked this question since the days of the old MPR Forum and people almost never have an answer for what they'd give up. MPR commentary editor Eric Ringham gave it a go the other day with the obvious question:
People whose kids have grown said "K-12." People in the city said "subsidies and programs for farmers." People who aren't poor said "social services." People who get speeding and parking tickets said "parking enforcement cops."
Writer "Mike" put it this way:
I'm willing to do without all the services that other people use. The ones I use are clearly essential.
Meanwhile, the New York Times considers the lessons from the electorate from this week's elections and notes this relic, which may be of some interest to Minnesota:
The first is that this age-old idea of "clearing the field" for a preferred candidate, so as to avoid divisive primaries, is now, much like the old party clubhouse, a historical relic. This should have been clear to everyone after 2008, when Barack Obama, shunned by most of his party's major contributors and its Washington establishment, simply shrugged off endorsements and raised more than half a billion dollars from his own constituencies.
Another lesson is that people simply have less affinity for a political party than they once did, a notion that -- if true -- dooms the current incarnations.
3) This could be bigger than the bear den cam in Ely. Bowing to pressure, BP has agreed to provide a live video feed of the Gulf oil spill. You'll be able to find it here some time today. Maybe. If BP allows it. "Are they in charge out there?" a CBS News anchor asked an Obama administration official today. An Associated Press investigation found the answer. "Yes."
Here's a fantastic interactive from the New York Times. It allows you to track the oil spill and review the various estimates about how bad it is.
Meanwhile, the head of BP says the impact on the environment in the Gulf will be "minimal." While NPR reports BP's accuracy is more than suspect.
4) It was Mukhtars Fødselsdag's birthday the other day:
Also in the "We Appreciate the Work You Do" file: Ida the canal mule is retiring.
5) Today's reason to love the Internet. A politician in Alabama creates this:
... and a day later, this is racing around the Internet:
Nurses involved in a labor dispute with Twin Cities hospitals say their main concern is patient safety. Do you believe hospital patients are either more or less safe than in the past?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Author and activist Azar Nafisi says the repression in Iran goes beyond the holding of the three American hikers. She talks about how the Iranian regime tries and occasionally fails to stifle creative expression.
Second hour: Susan Orlean, staff writer for the New Yorker. She's perhaps best known as the author of "The Orchid Thief." Her most recent book is for children, "Lazy Little Loafers."
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - Alice Swan, associate dean of nursing at St. Catherine University, and Connie Delaney, dean of the University of Minnesota School of Nursing answer questions about what nurses do, and how that's changed over the years.
Second hour: Hanan Ashrawi, speaking at the Westminster Town Hall Forum about the prospects for Middle East peace
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: Investigating the oil spill.
Second hour: The future of NATO.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - MPR's Dan Gunderson has a look at the turnaround challenge facing the Waubon High School. It's one of 34 Minnesota schools identified by federal officials for turnaround incentives, and one of five on the list that have high numbers of American Indian students. School officials say the turnaround remedies won't fix problems that have hindered American Indian educational achievement for generations.
The unemployment rate in Minnesota for April will be released today. MPR's business unit will translate it into English.
Democracy is plentiful in India. But so are poverty and weak infrastructure. Some Indians looking for a model of stability think they've found it next door -- in China. What citizens of the world's largest democracy hope to learn from their communist neighbor.(5 Comments)
If you want to get a Tea Party member's blood to boil, mention lingering concerns about the perception of a link between its philosophy and racism. Is there smoke there or is it a liberal media attack?
Senate nominee Rand Paul is in the thick of it today after last evening's conversation with All Things Considered host Robert Siegel. The key question was whether the 1964 Civil Rights Act was an overreach of federal authority.
"Well, actually, I think it's confusing on a lot of cases with what actually was in the civil rights case because, see, a lot of the things that actually were in the bill, I'm in favor of. I'm in favor of everything with regards to ending institutional racism," he said. "So I think there's a lot to be desired in the civil rights. And to tell you the truth, I haven't really read all through it because it was passed 40 years ago and hadn't been a real pressing issue in the campaign, on whether we're going for the Civil Rights Act."
So far so good -- except for not knowing what's actually in the Civil Rights Act. It's kind of an important piece of legislation in the history of the United States. And, of course, making a distinction of being opposed to institutional racism raises the obvious question of whether there's a form of racism you're OK with.
So Siegel asked if he thought "that business shouldn't be bothered by people with the basis in law to sue them for redress?"
I think a lot of things could be handled locally. For example, I think that we should try to do everything we can to allow for people with disabilities and handicaps. You know, we do it in our office with wheelchair ramps and things like that. I think if you have a two-story office and you hire someone who's handicapped, it might be reasonable to let him have an office on the first floor rather than the government saying you have to have a $100,000 elevator. And I think when you get to the solutions like that, the more local the better, and the more common sense the decisions are, rather than having a federal government make those decisions.
That got the wags talking, and not because he answered the question by talking about disabled people and elevators to the third floor.
It intensified when he went on MSNBC a few hours after that interview and wouldn't answer a simple question with a "yes" or "no".
"Do you think that a private business has the right to say we don't serve black people?" Rachel Madow asked.
Paul could've made the issue go away with one word, "no." He didn't. Which is why he put out a statement answering the question today, and said it was in response to "liberal media attacks."
"I believe we should work to end all racism in American society and staunchly defend the inherent rights of every person. I have clearly stated in prior interviews that I abhor racial discrimination and would have worked to end segregation. Even though this matter was settled when I was 2, and no serious people are seeking to revisit it except to score cheap political points, I unequivocally state that I will not support any efforts to repeal the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
"Let me be clear: I support the Civil Rights Act because I overwhelmingly agree with the intent of the legislation, which was to stop discrimination in the public sphere and halt the abhorrent practice of segregation and Jim Crow laws.
"As I have said in previous statements, sections of the Civil Rights Act were debated on Constitutional grounds when the legislation was passed. Those issues have been settled by federal courts in the intervening years
"My opponent's statement on MSNBC Wednesday that I favor repeal of the Civil Rights Act was irresponsible and knowingly false. I hope he will correct the record and retract his claims."
"The issue of civil rights is one with a tortured history in this country. We have made great strides, but there is still work to be done to ensure the great promise of Liberty is granted to all Americans.
"This much is clear: The federal government has far overreached in its power grabs. Just look at the recent national healthcare schemes, which my opponent supports. The federal government, for the first time ever, is mandating that individuals purchase a product. The federal government is out of control, and those who love liberty and value individual and state's rights must stand up to it.
"These attacks prove one thing for certain: the liberal establishment is desperate to keep leaders like me out of office, and we are sure to hear more wild, dishonest smears during this campaign."
What might have been a better answer? How about this one?
It ought to be possible for American consumers of any color to receive equal service in places of public accommodation, such as hotels and restaurants and theaters and retail stores, without being forced to resort to demonstrations in the street, and it ought to be possible for American citizens of any color to register to vote in a free election without interference or fear of reprisal.
That was John F. Kennedy's assertion on the day the Alabama National Guard was deployed to escort two black students to the University of Alabama.
In the speech, he announced his intention to ask Congress "to enact legislation giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public--hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments."(6 Comments)
Bar patrons in West Allis, Wisc., are reportedly being investigated because they burned an effigy of President Barack Obama.
"In my eyes it's a form of racism," one person-on-the-street told the local TV station.
In January 2009, some college kids burned an effigy of George Bush:
And it's likely that most presidents since the discovery of fire (all of them ) have had their likenesses defaced in some way or another. But Obama, of course, is the first African American president and a racial meaning is often attributed.
If you're a bar full of drunken Wisconsinites, what would be the proper way to express dissatisfaction with a president?
Sen. Al Franken introduced a bill today designed to protect gay and lesbian students from bullying at school.
There was a moment in his conversation with MPR's Cathy Wurzer this morning that caught some attention.
After Franken described the case of Alex Merritt, the Anoka-Hennepin student who was allegedly bullied by two teachers, Wurzer asked Franken to define what constitutes harrassment.
"I think that harassment and bullying is one of these things where you know when you see it," the senator replied. And that might be true, but the law usually requires a definition.
So Wurzer asked how it's defined in Franken's bill.
"I don't believe we have language in it to define bullying, but maybe I do. I'm not sure about that aspect of the bill."(4 Comments)
I mentioned on 5X8 this morning that BP was going to provide a live video feed of the Gulf oil spill.
That feed -- dubbed SpillCam -- is now live. You can find it here, although it's obvious the oil is spewing out of the earth faster than the bytes are traveling through the InterTubes.
BP has also put up a new video. It's about how great the Louisiana oyster business is, and how helpful the oil company has been.(1 Comments)
This might be the worst news for baseball fans since the designated hitter. The system that's used to set airline ticket prices is now migrating to baseball tickets.
We've already seen some changes in this area in the last few years. The Twins' charging more for games against the Yankees, for example. But now it's possible you'll never pay the same price twice for the same seat.
It's an experiment being used by the San Francisco Giants. Traditionally, prices for games are set before the start of the season. Now, they're being set depending on such things as the weather, the team being played, the starting pitchers, and whether the team is in a playoff hunt.
Just as you could be sitting on an airplane next to a person who paid $200 more (or less) for the same seat, you could soon be sitting next to someone who paid more for his/her ticket because the forecast was for sunshine when he/she bought it, while you waited for the clouds.
With that system in place, the next idea was only a matter of time -- an "options market" to hedge against it. The Giants are rolling out a system allowing fans to "lock in" their ticket prices at a given amount.
In the meantime, buying a ticket is becoming like playing the stock market, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
But ticket prices vary widely. A lower box seat for a Tuesday night in June against the Colorado Rockies, not usually a big draw, was priced at $30 (down $1 from last week), while that same seat for a Sunday afternoon matchup with the popular Boston Red Sox was priced at $89.50. In the middle was a Saturday match against the cross-bay rival A's costing $65.75.
Still, Stanley said, the Giants aren't trying to match prices on the secondary market. Similar lower box tickets for that Sunday Giants-Red Sox game were going for $355 each on StubHub.
"We're not gouging," Stanley said. "We're not sticking it to people. While we increase prices, we're not getting greedy."
If you're following a model perfected by the airlines, you will. You will.
(h/t: Bill Catlin)(1 Comments)
We met software developer Thomas Schunk last year as part of News Cut's series "The Unemployed," when he lost his job at United HealthCare after 11 years. He looked forward to being the one who brought treats to his job-search support group, indicating he found work.
Presumably, he's ponied up for the snacks because we got this update from him today:
I wanted to follow up with you. I have been busy lately. About two months ago, I was offered a position with Trail Blazer Campaign Services, Inc. I am a Software Developer.
Originally it was meant to be a part-time position. However, a recent rapid increase in sales has kept my work schedule to nearly 40 hours per week. I have been so busy installing new customers and importing their data into the Trail Blazer software that I have spent less than a total of 20 hours programming.
I like my coworkers and love being productive again. Of course, having a regular paycheck again helps.
Again, thank you for meeting with me and publishing my story.1 Comments)
First, two things:
(a)We're having an open house on Sunday to say "thanks" to MPR members. Will we see you there?
(b) I'm looking to talk to small business owners in Minnesota who employ members of the Minnesota National Guard. I'm thinking there's a story to tell and you can help me tell it. Contact me.
1) Polaris is closing its factory in Osceola, Wisconsin, cutting 500 jobs. Some of the work will be shifted to a plant in Roseau, some to Iowa and some to a new plant the company is building in Monterrey, Mexico. This will, presumably, reignite the debate over whether Minnesota (and Wisconsin) is business-friendly enough to keep jobs like this. But how can U.S. states compete with the lower labor costs of Mexico? Perhaps an unrelated blog post in the Los Angeles Times this week provides a clue. Maybe the answer is pointing out that Minnesota isn't Mexico.
Now, however, as drug-trafficking syndicates expand their reach across Mexico, they have brought even Monterrey to its knees.
And as authorities lose control, the business elite is worried, ordinary residents panicked.
"The tradition of a tranquil Monterrey has ended," said Gilberto Marcos, a textile manufacturer who belongs to a citizens board that advises the state on security issues.
"And if Monterrey is lost, everything is lost."
Monterrey is perhaps paying the price for tolerating the presence of traffickers for so many years, allowing them to fester and grow amid the shared wealth.
"For two decades, our deliberate ignorance and our indolence have made us de facto collaborators" with organized crime, said Father Rogelio Narvaez, head priest in the struggling Our Lady of the Rosary parish. "Legality and the social fabric are in crisis.... It is easier to get guns than a scholarship."
OK, so it ain't Roseau.
Drug gangs blocked off city streets recently. They've kidnapped people from businesses, killed engineering students, and so far this year nearly 200 people have been killed.
Bloomberg reported this week that executives in Monterey have a new expense: hiring extra security to keep from getting killed or kidnapped:
Drug-trafficker turf wars and kidnapping gangs have elevated the cost of doing business and hurt Mexico's ability to attract foreign investment, Canales said. More private security isn't going to solve the problem and the government has to ensure citizens' safety as its most basic function, he said.
Minnesota can't compete with that?
The company says its Mexico plant will help improve delivery because many customers are in the south and should provide significant savings in logistical and production costs.
From the Times report, its sounds as though businesses will have to factor in the additional cost of doing business in a developing hellhole.
But back to our workers for a moment. We got this e-mail from a reader last night:
Polaris shutting down will not only be "tough" for the individuals affected, it will completely devastate hundreds of families those sole income came from Polaris. I got a call from my Dad tonight who has been an employee of Polaris for 25 years. My Dad and my Step mother both work at Polaris and have for decades. They have four children, my sister and I are both in college and my little brother just got braces. The saddest part is that there are so many families in even worse situations than my family, at least they have their house paid off. I am deeply saddened by the news and am worried for my Dad who does not even have a high school diploma. What will he do now? I hope the media will aid in giving a voice to the employees at Polaris, and help relieve some of their suffering.
2) Nitpicking with the Preservation Alliance of Minnesota's annual list of the 10 Most Endangered Places in Minnesota but, assuming nothing much changes from year to year to save them, shouldn't some of the same places appear on this year's list that appeared on previous year's lists?
Of course, things do change for some sites. The Rock Island Swing Bridge in Newport was on last year's list.
Most of it has been demolished.
Here's this year's list. Included in this year's list is the Cottage View drive-in theater in Cottage Grove. How do you save a drive-in? It's just a big billboard. It's difficult to keep these things operating; it's only open weekends now and in the dead of summer you can't start the show until after 10 p.m. Of what actual value is a field with a billboard stuck in the middle of it if it's not an operating theater?
(Photo from Minnesota Drive-Ins.com)
3) The best show in town -- any town -- are comments attached to newspaper stories. The Rochester Post Bulletin today profiles the retirement of Dave Rikhus from the Olmsted County Sheriff's Office after 28 years of work. He's known around town, apparently, for being a great cop and a master at getting the perps to confess to their misdeeds.
In retirement, the lifetime officer and Babbitt, Minn., native plans to spend time at his cabin in the Wabasha area and also with his 22-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter.
He lost his wife in 2006 to breast cancer, which has caused him to take a longer look at spending time with family.
"Life is so short," Rikhus said. "You have to take time to enjoy it."
OK, newspaper commenters, your turn:
This is why were are going broke... retiring at 54! give me a break, glad all of us tax payers will be paying for him to sit around for the next 40 years!
4) Sen. Satveer Chaudhary went up to Fish Lake last night to talk to his neighbors, who are upset that he snuck a provision in a bill late at night last weekend that changes the fishing regulations on the lake where he has a cabin. The Duluth News Tribune reports:
"I screwed up really, really badly," said Chaudhary, who lives in Fridley, Minn., and owns a home on Fish Lake.
He said he had been given incorrect information about public support for special walleye regulations on the lake, but he neglected to blame anyone who gave him that information.
"I got erroneous information, but I should have known better," he said. "The buck's gotta stop with me."
It's a little more complicated than not checking with the neighbors first, however. It's whether a state legislator should be slipping changes in fishing regulations on one lake, a lake where he has a vested interest.
Republicans at the Capitol want an ethics investigation. Chaudhary says he did nothing ethically wrong.
5) Did someone say fishing? This video has been on our Web site for about a week, and I haven't noticed it until now.
The meaning is in the eye of the beholder, but here's my takeaway: I'm not going to work today to sort leeches.
WHAT WE'RE DOING
We will have an MPR News Cut Quiz by mid-afternoon.
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: The Gulf oil spill.
Second hour: Author Tim O'Brien pursues a truth in his fiction that is only somewhat based on what he experienced as a soldier in Vietnam. But the resonance of his work, particularly "The Things They Carried" has convinced people that the characters in his stories are drawn more precisely from life.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: MPR political commentators Todd Rapp, Maureen Shaver and Jack Uldrich jdiscuss Gov. Pawlenty and the 2010 Legislature,
Second hour: A debate from NPR's "Intelligence Squared" series on President Obama's foreign policy.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - It's Science Friday. First hour: Thee latest in stem cell research news. Plus, a talk with genome pioneer Craig Venter on creating a synthetic
Second hour: Your privacy online. Can you have a Facebook profile and protect your privacy?
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - MPR's Chris Roberts profiles a group of 12 'Gen Y' yarn spinners who are updating the ancient art of storytelling. They perform at the Bryant Lake Bowl this Sunday.
Two electric plants on the Iron Range are replacing some of the coal they burn with wood. The project is the result of a state requirement that Xcel Energy produce electricity from biomass, to reduce the state's greenhouse gas emissions. It was also hailed as a way to save jobs in the struggling northern Minnesota forest industry. But there are worries about the project's effect on wood supply for traditional uses and on soil health. It may also be hard for loggers to make a living bringing in low-value fuel wood. MPR's Stephanie Hemphill will have the story.
Regina Carter is a world-renowned jazz violinist and a Macarthur fellow. But her jazz career wasn't always celebrated. Carter's first teacher thought she was ruining her career. Her mother was outraged. Now, she turns to the folk music of Africa. NPR will have the story.(3 Comments)
It's been almost two years since the Republican National Convention was held in St. Paul and the court dockets are still clogged with the aftermath of the protests that broke out.
Want to have another one?
Minneapolis is vying to host the 2012 Democratic National Convention, the Minneapolis St. Paul Business Journal reports.
The paper says St. Paul's Xcel Center was not included in the city's application, a smackdown of the smaller twin by its bigger sibling.
Update 12:01 p.m. - The blog, DemConWatch says Minneapolis' bid "came out of left field."(8 Comments)
The Monday Morning Rouser. It's Bob Dylan's birthday.
1) When I was 15, Janet Lynn was winning Olympics medals. She was 16. And what had I accomplished? A couple of prize-winning chickens at a 4-H fair. Big deal. So, 13-year-olds, I feel your pain of inadequacy today. Jordan Romero, 13, became the youngest person to reach the top of Mt. Everest over the weekend. "I'm doing this to inspire other kids, hopefully across the world, to get outdoors and to set goals in life. I'm doing this to set an example for them," he said. What do you do with the rest of your life once you've climbed Mt. Everest at 13? Clean your room?
2) A tale of two communities and how residents are -- or aren't -- adding glue to what keeps us together. In Rochester, residents of the Slatterly Park neighborhood got together to repaint murals. And, the Post Bulletin reports, people from other neighborhoods showed up to help. "Every time they drive by, they can see that they had an impact in improving and beautifying their community," an organizer said.
In Duluth, meanwhile, they're battering "problem properties." The Duluth News Tribune's investigation found that "despite repeated inspections and orders that landlords clean up their properties, many of the worst properties remain decrepit eyesores." Some of the worst slumlords get "hefty' federal subsidies, it said.
Some people paint murals. Some make slums.
3) Let's play. An interactive developer in Estonia has developed this Google map, which shows the most touristy areas in the world. You'll have to click here to play with it. The yellow/red show the most interesting areas.
Let the record show that North Dakota, Nebraska and South Dakota (except for Mt. Rushmore) are not interesting. I shall further alienate my Nebraska friends by pointing out that border signs that say "Welcome to Nebraska, birthplace of Arbor Day" aren't likely change your tourism luck. I've got no suggestions for you, North Dakota.
4) Climate change skeptics had a get-together in Chicago and the BBC's environmental analyst found science and data often took second place to politics and theology:
In a bravura performance he had the audience roaring at his mocking impersonation of "railway engineer Rajendra Pachauri - the Casey Jones of climate change"; hissing with pantomime fury at the "scandal" of Climategate, then emotionally applauding the American troops who have given their lives for the freedom that their political masters are surrendering to the global socialist tyranny of global warming.
His closing words were delivered in a weeping whisper, a soft prayer of praise to the American constitution and individual liberty.
As the ecstatic crowd filtered out I pointed one delegate to a copy of the Wall Street Journal on the table. A front page paragraph noted that April had been the warmest on record.
"So what?" he shrugged. "So what?"
Why don't ice ages last forever? New Scientist explores the question today, featuring a University of Minnesota scientist.
5) Milton Bradley, now of the Seattle Mariners, has been well-known over the years for "erratic" behavior. He's been easy to ridicule. That all changed a few weeks ago when he finally sought help and now he's sharing his story of thoughts of suicide in the Seattle Times:
Now, obviously that's an attention-getter right there. It's what folks will be talking about in the street tomorrow. But it's only part of what Bradley wanted to convey. This doesn't mean he was about to end his life. What it does mean is that Bradley, as a man who does an awful lot of thinking and put quite a bit of thought into the answers he gave me this morning, began pondering the merits of suicide. He told his wife that he could understand why people chose to end their lives. Not that he was about to rush out and do it himself. But that he could sympathize with their feelings. And that's not a good thing. To be so unhappy that suicide begins to look like a reasonable alternative.
In the past, no sane person rooted for Milton Bradley. Suddenly, no sane person can root against him.
Bonus: As we're in to poll season, fivethirtyeight.com's Nate Silver's confronts the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Everyone's got a cellphone. Many don't have landlines, and political pollsters can't -- or won't -- call cellphones. What's the impact on a poll's accuracy?
Cellphone-only households are different from their landline-using counterparts. They tend to be younger, poorer, more urban, less white, and more Internet-savvy. All of these characteristics are correlated with political viewpoints and voting behavior...
I certainly wouldn't go out and append 6 points to the Democrats' generic ballot number. For one thing, some pollsters do include cellphones in their sample. For another, the results from Pew reflect just one study/experiment, one which itself is subject to sample bias. Also, Pew's study finds that cellphone-only adults are less likely to vote, so the differential is probably less in the case of likely voters.
Genetic scientists say they have taken a big step toward the creation of synthetic life. What concerns does the prospect of synthetic life raise for you?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Are too many attending college, when they don't need to? Students that don't excel in high school academically still feel the pressure to pursue four year degrees. Some who study higher education question why that degree should mean more than a career certificate or an apprenticeship. Others say a BA is the only sure way to higher earning power.
Second hour: Author Monica Ali is considered one of the best young novelists in Britain. Her latest novel, "In the Kitchen," is about the efforts of a chef to succeed in a once grand restaurant, despite huge pressures at home and a murder. Last week, she talked with Kerri Miller in the Talking Volumes finale.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Former 9-11 Commission senior staffer Michael Hurley discusses the upheaval in the intelligence staff and recent intelligence failures
Second hour: A new documentary from the America Abroad series: "Iraq: The Next Act."
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: The battle over ethnic studies. A month after its strict new immigration law, Arizona's legislature and governor approved another controversial measure... high schools that promote the study of one ethnic group -- Mexican American history, or African American literature -- risk losing 10 percent of state financing.
Second hour: Blair Coward is a senior at American University, and she has been to a lot of job fairs with very little result. She's terrified. And she's not alone. The job market, for most grads in most areas is absymal. Neal Conan discusses the great graduate job search.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - State transportation officials say they will increase the amount of money they spend to hire more minorities and women. The announcement by the Minnesota Department of Transportation comes after five years of talks with ISAIAH, a coalition of religious groups that proposed the change. At the same time MnDoT says it is increasing its efforts to expand the business it does with women and minority owned companies. MPR's Dan Olson will have the story.
MPR's Annie Baxter reports the outlook for workers has dimmed. The U.S. economy is likely to grow slower than in previous recoveries. And Minnesota's jobless rate is likely to remain high by historic standards for years to come. But within a decade the retiring baby boom will bring down the jobless rate, and may lead to a shortage of workers that crimps the economy.
NPR profiles sparsity? To enlarge a picture, sometimes you don't need the original-- just parts of it. That's the idea behind a mathematical theory called "sparsity." It's being explored as a way to do more with less -- paving the way for quicker M.R.I. scans and other high-tech applications.(4 Comments)
As a rule, I don't go to fundraisers or benefit dinners for organizations that have lobbyists at the Capitol, even though I work for one.
The exception is the annual dinner for the Minnesota chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which was held last night in Golden Valley.
The only part of the evening that puts me in an uncomfortable position is when the executive director recounts the legislative battles of the just-concluded legislative session. This year, Sue Abderholden declared, NAMI MN stopped $50 million in cuts to mental health programs in the state. There was applause all around.
Bowing to my duty as a journalist to engage in the fraud of making you believe I don't have opinions and biases if you don't know about them, I don't applaud legislators or governors. The current crowd makes the task easy.
"Then why are you at a function like that?" I imagine people asking. I'm for whatever gets people help for their mental illness. Aren't you?
The evening often compels people to acknowledge their own battles. A marvelous speaker with bipolar disorder told of her journey with an illness that "feels like someone sticking pins at me from the inside."
At a pause in the music, the head of a jazz group revealed his diagnosis. Later, singer Charmin Michelle talked about her uncle who battled schizophrenia.
A gentleman grabbed a woman and danced in the dark by the tables through much of the concert, eliciting states of disapproval by some Minnesotans. If there's ever a Minnesota version of Apocalypse Now, the signature quote from it will be, "Minnesota don't dance."
They ate, they listened, some danced, they threw money in an envelope for a new computer server for the organization, and then everyone went home and if they combed through this morning's obituaries, they spotted this account of another battle well fought.
Sievers, Harold Thomas "Hal" age 34, originally of St. Paul, died unexpectedly May 10 at his home in Iowa City. He was a psychology student at the University of Iowa, had deep interests in schizophrenia and hypnosis and was nearing graduation. Hal loved his family, friends, art, cats, gardening, cooking, baggy floral shorts, movies, hockey and reading the Koran. He accepted others, was open to their ways and beliefs and was well regarded in return. He was active in AA. In recent years he opened his apartment on several occasions to people living on the street. He offered them safe haven, sometimes for many months. To his mother who expressed concern, he said, "I can't just talk about what I believe, I have to live it." Hal loved Frisbee golf and was a strong and graceful player. He organized the first annual Frisbee golf tournament, The Sweet Melon Open, in Muscatine, Iowa. For years Hal battled the lethal duo of schizophrenia and cocaine and fell, in the end, under their grip. He fought hard to be "normal". It is all he ever wanted. We are proud of him. We loved him well and will miss him forever. Hal is survived by his partner, Lori Steele of Iowa City; his parents, Mary Sievers (nee Huberty) and Jerry Sievers; his brother, John; his grandmother, Leona Miller; and a large extended family, including 15 beloved aunts and uncles, 22 cousins, and second spouses of his father and grandmother. Most of the family resides in Minnesota. A celebration of Hal's life will be held from 1-4 pm on Wednesday, May 26, at The Commodore Hotel, 79 Western Ave. North, St. Paul. In place of flowers or gifts, donations may be sent to New Beginnings at Waverly, 109 North Shore Drive, Waverly, MN 55390.
We love surveys that tell us how wonderful we are.
Today's action comes from Forbes where Minneapolis has been proclaimed the Minneapolis are to be the third-most-fit metropolitan area in the country, behind only DC and Boston.
"A penchant for exercise offsets slightly above-average obesity rates in the Twin Cities," Forbes says.
Now this from the grain-of-salt department: Just a few short years ago, Forbes named Kevin McHale as the best general manager in all of sports.
chew on that.
When I tell Barbara I am a reporter, she stalks off and says she's not talking to me, then comes back and hugs me and says she was just playing. I tell her I don't understand why I can't see Elmer's Island unless I'm escorted by BP. She tells me BP's in charge because "it's BP's oil."Trying to stop the effect of a reporter with a blog and/or a Twitter account is about as difficult as trying to stop gushing oil from the ocean floor.
"But it's not BP's land."
1) If you usually come to 5x8 by your RSS reader -- and even if you don't -- let me introduce you MPR's series this week on jobs. It's hardly an uplifting series, but these are not uplifting times. Maybe jobs that left won't come back, and maybe we're in a have/have-not world that's never going to change. There's tendency in these things to predict futures that look remarkably like the present. In the mid-'90s we were told the future problem was there wouldn't be enough workers in Minnesota to sustain the companies doing business here. But, clearly, there are changes in our standard of living underway, and changes in the way we live. Maybe, as Nikki Tundel's fine video piece suggests, we're going back to the days of big families and multiple generations living under one roof. Swell.
But people are finding jobs. The Duluth News Tribune notes the unemployment rate in the region dropped a full percentage point, and even mining jobs are coming back.
Last year the unemployment rate in Hibbing was over 18 percent. Now, it's around 8.
But some towns are dying. A manufacturing plant closed in Lewiston, Minnesota. Then the town's only grocery store went belly up. Now the community's "social center" -- a bowling alley -- has decided to close.
2) A Wisconsin woman is the new face of "don't ask, don't tell." She's worked for 8 years as an ROTC cadet to be a doctor. She's close, but decided she had to reveal that she's a lesbian." I've dreamed since I was 13 of a career as a military officer," Sara Isaacson said last week. "But I knew I wouldn't be OK with myself if I had to lie every day." Her honesty will cost her $79,000.
Or maybe not. A pact to repeal the ban could be announced this week.
James Fallows writes today that the deal could bring ROTC back to elite college campuses:
The case I know best is Harvard's, where ROTC programs were forced off campus in the late 1960s as part of the general effort to register opposition to Vietnam war policies. That made sense at the time, at least to me. But what was initially intended as a focused objection to a specific war extended into a general separation between an important military intake system and some of the most elite universities. This separation is, in my view, bad for the military, bad for the universities, and bad for the country. Almost no one urging the anti-ROTC change of those days would have argued or imagined that 35 years after U.S. troops left Vietnam the ban should still be in place. As the original Vietnam-related rationale has faded into distant memory, the prohibition on ROTC has been sustained as an objection to the military's exclusion of openly gay service members.
3) Wounded warriors and the power of a single photograph. Photographer Katie Hayes provides NPR with an essay from the Warrior Games.
From a bird's-eye view on the catwalk over the pool at the Olympic Training Center, I could see that all of the swimmers had finished the race, except for one lone participant struggling in the middle of the pool. His pace slowed, his legs no longer kicked vigorously and he worked to keep his head above the water. As he reached out toward the lane divider, I lowered my camera, wondering if anyone was going to help him. A moment passed, he caught his breath, the crowd cheered louder and he started to swim again. And I picked up my camera.
4) MPR's Paul Huttner examines the physics of baseball flight and the weather patterns to figure out that this could be a big week for home runs at Target Field. Whatever bounce we get from having a higher elevation than most stadiums, we lose because we get colder air and higher pressure. We are awaiting word on how hot and muggy it needs to get before the Twins can get a hit with runners in scoring position.
5) Big disaster. Beautiful pictures. The Boston Globe's fine The Big Picture blog has a healthy new catch of sad pictures.
Bonus: Should history classes wade into the more sordid elements of our past, and if so, how far? In Georgia, a teacher is likely to be disciplined because she allowed four students to dress in KKK robes to film a video production of history re-enactments. The parents of an African American student objected. "You cannot discuss racism without discussing the Klan," she told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "To do so would be to condone their actions."
Need more to think about?
The North Dakota policy on vanity license plates -- the Fargo Forum says -- puts a number of specific limitations on personal plates. For example, swear words and vulgarity, references to illegal drugs or activity, and racial or ethnic slurs are off-limits, as is a word or term that is "patently offensive or contemptuous, prejudicial, or incites lust, depravity, or hostility."
So why can't Brian Magee get the one he wants: ISNOGOD? Should he?
Officials have acknowledged that the government may have to take over the effort to plug the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. Whose job should it be to stop the Gulf oil spill?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: The culture of unaccountability. President Obama denounced the "ridiculous spectacle" of BP executives trying to shift the blame for the Gulf oil spill, but there are many examples of CEOs and politicians failing to take accountability for their actions. Have we created a culture where it's acceptable for no one to take the blame?
Second hour: New archeological evidence has revealed more information on what happened during the Battle at the Little Bighorn. Author Nathaniel Philbrick's latest book details what we now know about how General George Custer died and why in some ways the battle marked Sitting Bull's last stand as well.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Congressman Jim Oberstar on the government and private sector response to the BP oil spill.
Second hour: President Obama's commencement speech given this weekend at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: An evaluation of President Obama's response to the gulf oil disaster.
Second hour: The story of the summer of 2001 - centered on the disappearance of a young Washington intern named Chandra Levy -- the married congressman she was having an a affair with, and the media circus that erupted. A true story of bad politicians, worse policing, and a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative team.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Fox 9's Robyn Robinson is scheduled to talk to Tom Crann this evening about the end of her Twin Cities news career. But it's likely we'll hear more about her possible candidacy for lieutenant governor of Minnesota.
MPR's Annie Baxter will have an installment of the jobs series, looking at how people are making transitions to new careers.
NPR will have a story of rebirth in New Orleans that involves a Swedish import. The life of musician Anders Osborne echoes the renaissance of that ravaged city.(2 Comments)
Every year at this time, News Cut begins posting commencement speeches. So far, this season, we have been generally underwhelmed by the speeches we've heard.
NBC's Brian Williams spoke at Notre Dame's commencement, warned students not to let the gulf oil spill "become a metaphor for our country."
The pick of Williams avoids last year's controversy over the commencement speaker at Notre Dame -- Barack Obama. Some in the Notre Dame community objected to his policies on abortion.
The most entertaining speech we've heard so far this year wasn't a commencement speech at all, but instructions on how to accept your diploma.
More commencement speeches as they happen.
Paralleling the commencement season are the stories about how difficult it will be for graduates to get a job.
But what about last year's graduates? We worried about them at this time last year. This year? Not much. If you were in the class of 2009, let us know whatever happened to you.(1 Comments)
A man in Austin is in custody after allegedly threatening to shoot a Census worker. The Austin Daily Herald says the census worker showed up around 9 on Friday evening:
The man allegedly ordered the census worker to leave his property. When she complied and went to a neighbor's house, the man followed her there and proceeded to tell her that he would shoot her if she did not leave his property, Amazi said.
The Census Bureau has been producing vignettes of census workers describing the joys of their jobs. So far, nobody has listed having a gun pointed at them:(5 Comments)
In Erie, Pennsylvania, a 55-year-old man, apparently with a gambling problem, is facing charges of violating his self-imposed ban on gambling. In Pennsylvania, the law allows people to "ban" themselves from casinos. They can ban themselves for one year, five years, or life. If they're caught -- usually by cashing a winnings check -- they can be charged with trespassing.
The man went to a casino and won over $2,000 before he caught himself. He'll be giving the money back.
Any day in the news business brings its share of bizarre tales, but for reasons we cannot fathom, today has been particularly filled with head-scratchers in the absence of significant news that's not about oil.
In no particular order:
-- In Chicago, fire crews investigating a mysterious stench found an elderly couple buried alive under mounds of garbage in their Chicago home. Police had initially been called to the two-flat apartment building by neighbors who had not seen the couple in some time and wondered about their welfare. One neighbor said that she used to see the woman sitting on the front porch as she walked by but no longer could because the hedges had not been trimmed for years and had grown level with the second floor of the building, obscuring the view. (AP)
-- In Ohio, the Franklin County coroner has apologized for a mix-up that led to the wrong baby's body being cremated. Dr. Jan M. Gorniak said her office failed to follow procedure and erroneously released the boy's remains to a funeral home. Jaylen Talley's body was picked up from the coroner's office last Wednesday and taken to the wrong funeral home, where it was mistaken for another child's remains and cremated. "On top of all that, my son had a funeral with a whole bunch of people that he doesn't even know, he already had a funeral without me, in ashes," the father of one of the dead children said. (WBNS-TV)
-- In Philadelphia, a 21-year-old New Jersey man pleaded guilty today to vomiting on another spectator and his 11-year-old daughter in the stands during a Philadelphia Phillies game. Matthew Clemmens stuck his fingers down his throat and vomited on
Michael Vangelo, an off-duty Easton police captain, and one of Vangelo's daughters after Clemmens' companion was ejected from the park. (AP)
The Minnesota Department of Education today released the results of math graduation requirement tests taken by high school juniors. "Graduation test scores in Minn. show modest gains," the headline on our Web site says, but "Hundreds of kids don't have a prayer of succeeding" might've worked, too.
Only 58 percent of 11th graders met the math graduation standard -- up 1 percent from a year ago. The primary reason for the low score is the "achievement gap." Only 23 percent of black students met the math standard. Of course, there's still more than a year before they're ushered out the door.
"Minnesota students are better prepared for career and postsecondary education than they were only a few years ago, the Department of Education said in its press release.
"There's nothing alarming here," the education commissioner said
Last year, 78 percent of Minnesota 10th graders met the state's reading graduation requirement on the first try. This year? 78 percent.
"We are seeing improvement in all the categories, but the achievement gap is still so large - for the black students to have a 23 percent graduation rate is just not acceptable." Education Commissioner Alice Seagren told MPR's Tom Weber.
If that sounds familiar, that's the boilerplate response state officials have been giving on days like today for several years. Whatever's being tried isn't working.
Last year, a federal report said Minnesota has one of the highest gaps in the country. Some Minnesota experts said the problem isn't that black students are doing worse, but that white students are doing better.(8 Comments)
1) The Twins couldn't beat the Yankees in 6 innings last night, so Major League Baseball took it out on the fans. So far in 2010, we've had our first opening day at Target Field, we've had the first raptor, the first squirrel, the first day game, the first night game and last night we got the first application of the rain-check policy. The game was scoreless in the sixth against the Yankees when the rain came. The game was delayed, then suspended. The game will be completed before today's game, but fans who bought tickets for last night's game won't be able to watch the conclusion of last night's game. Baseball rules say a six-inning game is an official game. The fans paid to see a game; they got a game, the Twins said.
"What a joke! The Twins completely ripped off the fans tonight!" WCCO's Mark Rosen tweeted. Actually, it's the umpires who made the call.
What could they have done? Waited? The curfew in baseball is 1 a.m. and by 10, the rain had stopped, according to some fans. But more rain was on the way.
There is, of course, a greatness to outdoor baseball. But when we were traveling down memory lane before the stadium was built, we forgot a few things about its hazards.
And now, our favorite squirrel baseball videos:
More nature news: There's a robin roosting in the foliage of a plant for sale at a Cub in Duluth.
2) 223 years ago yesterday, the Constitutional Convention started meeting in Philadelphia. For many months, it made the Minnesota state government seem like a well-run machine. Eventually, out popped the U.S. Constitution. One wonders what the Founding Fathers would say if we could go back in time and tell them that starting now, an account -- @SecretDelegate -- is providing updates on the Convention, on a thing called a computer, run by magic called electricity? The true identity of the delegate will not be revealed until the Constitution is signed.
Unlike Minnesota lawmakers, the Founding Fathers apparently went drinking with each other from time to time.
3) Should government step in to ensure that users of Facebook own their privacy? The New York Times is hosting a spirited debate today.
"And once again, as on multiple other occasions when Facebook unilaterally changed the way it handles our personal information, some observers shrug and conclude that technology simply "moves too fast" for the law to handle. I don't know which is more exasperating, Facebook's tone-deaf approach to privacy or the defeatist chatter that follows," says William McGeveran, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School.
Facebook is announcing new privacy settings today -- which is different than what they did earlier this week, adding settings that defaulted to lack of privacy without telling anyone .
MPR's Midmorning will tackle this issue tomorrow. Incidentally, want to follow me on Facebook? Me, neither.
4) How come U.S. citizens aren't as excited to be U.S. citizens as people who aren't, and then are? Aguibou Barry of St. Cloud is one of our newest citizens, after a ceremony yesterday in St. Cloud. But his daughters had to stay in school and couldn't attend. "I wish they could be here," Barry said, "because I did this for them."
A commenter on the St. Cloud Times' Web site nails it:
THIS is the kind of story that should be told more often. The VAST majority of immigrants that come here legally are appreciative of their opportunity and excited about their future. Usually, we only hear about the ones that are disenchanted - or never should have come to begin with. Anyone that can't see the positives in a story like this has other "issues" that prevent them from being a TRUE American at heart.
5) Bill Hinkley has died. The folk music giant was on the first A Prairie Home Companion show. He provided the folk in the folksiness of the show.
Candidates for governor of Minnesota have been announcing their running mates ahead of a June 1 filing deadline. Would a candidate's choice of running mate ever decide your vote?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Greece's bailout and the future of the Euro.
Second hour: Memories of stock market's steep decline at the end of 2008, and Wall Street's recent roller coaster ride, might be giving many investors pause. Two market watchers share their thoughts on where the value is, and what to avoid.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Karl Marlantes on his best-selling novel about the Vietnam War, called "Matterhorn."
Second hour: Live broadcast from the National Press Club, featuring President George W. Bush's daughter, Barbara Bush, speaking about global health.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: NPR political editor Ken Rudin.
Second hour: A look at gays serving in the military in other countries.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - MPR's Mark Steil has one of the bright spots for employment. The health sector has grown in size and importance statewide. In some areas job growth and wages outpace the average. Blue Earth County has seen health care employment and wages grow faster than the county average. But some of the fastest-growing jobs are very low-paying. And a growing health sector reflects growing health costs, which are problematic for the economy.
National Public Radio reports on California's last car assembly plant, which shut down earlier this year. But now, it has a new lease on life. Electric sedans will roll off the assembly line there. And that means thousands of former workers will be lining up for jobs again.(4 Comments)
There's a little something in this story out of Oshkosh, Wisconsin for everybody. A couple has been forced to take down the American flag they've put in their window.
The building's management company says it has a policy against putting things in the window, according to WTMJ in Milwaukee.
"We just don't allow people to stick things in their window," Midwest Realty Management president Rodney Oschleger explained. "Instead of drapes or blinds, for example, we don't allow them to put sheets. We don't allow them to put flags or banners or religious or political things."
But it's the flag, counters the apartment renter:
"We're talking about the American flag, we're talking about what this country was founded on," she said. "I believe that people have the freedom of speech that my husband fought for and they can portray that all they want, but we are in America right now and I think we should be able to hang the flag with dignity and with pride."
The apartment complex owner denies he's unpatriotic -- pointing to four American flags on the property. He is, however, guilty of some ridiculously terrible timing.
For the record, the flag in Oshkosh is displayed improperly, according to the U.S. flag code:
(i) When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag's own right, that is, to the observer's left. When displayed in a window, the flag should be displayed in the same way, with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street.
If you're going to make an issue out of the display of the American flag, at least understand the proper way to display it.(7 Comments)
One of the more curious aspects of coverage of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf, is how little attention an early interview with a worker on the Deepwater Horizon platform got.
Today, for example, the Associated Press is carrying a story headlined:
The AP story is based on documents it obtained:
Truitt Crawford, a roustabout for drilling rig owner Transocean LTD, told Coast Guard investigators about the complaints. The seawater, which would have provided less weight to contain surging pressure from the ocean depths, was being used to prepare for dropping a final blob of cement into the well.
"I overheard upper management talking saying that BP was taking shortcuts by displacing the well with saltwater instead of mud without sealing the well with cement plugs, this is why it blew out," Crawford said in his statement.
It was a fascinating account, but it's not really new. Mike Williams, a worker on the rig, had already documented the story in a 60 Minutes interview almost two weeks ago, that got very little attention in the news cycle.
Shortcuts may be too gentle a word for what happened on the Deepwater Horizon.(3 Comments)
Another post for our "They Like Us. They Really Like Us" file:
Kiplinger's July issue is naming Rochester, Minnesota is #6 on its list of the Best Cities of 2010:
The result is a community of great hosts and hostesses. Rochester's mayor, Ardell Brede, is proud of his community's welcoming way. "The other day a woman came up to me and said, 'You have a such a wonderful city, when I ask someone for directions, more often than not, they offer to walk me there themselves,' " he said. (That's a phenomenon I experienced during my own visit -- more than once.) To entertain its guests and residents, the city offers 60 miles of bike trails, more than 100 parks, and a civic center that attracts regional and national conferences and entertainment. And almost everything is accessible by skyway and underground walkways connecting many of the hospital, hotel, and retail buildings -- a near-necessity during Minnesota winters. There are public art projects scattered throughout the city, and a huge art-glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly is installed in the Mayo Clinic's Gonda Building. It all traces back to the Mayo brothers, the founders of the clinic, and their belief in the healing properties of art.
Who's better? Salt Lake City (#5), Boulder Colorado (#4), Washington DC (#3), Seattle (#2), and Austin, Texas (#1).
A lot must've happened in Rochester we don't know about in 2009, however, because only Washington and Austin were in last year's list of top cities. Austin, Seattle, and Des Moines were all on the 2008 list.
6:57 p.m. - A media briefing on the day's attempt begins at 7 p.m. CT. The "unifed command" live blog of it can be found here.
* * * * *
BP reports (via Twitter) that it has started the "kill shot" operation, the desperate attempt to cap the oil well on the sea floor in the Gulf of Mexico.
There has been some confusion over whether BP would provide video coverage of the process and, at least so far, the live video is operating. Find it here.
1:38 p.m. - The video has now disappeared. Perhaps the camera is now covered with mud and cement.
1:40 p.m. - The video has returned.
1:42 p.m. - The video feed could use a "mission control"-like narration. It's impossible to know what we're looking at:
1:51 p.m. On the video, right click "zoom" and then select "full screen."
1:55p.m. -- BP says (via Facebook) "It will take 12-48 hours to complete this procedure, which is why the feed is not showing anything different yet."
1:58 p.m. - Aha! Some smart TV station has provided an embed option:
(All the updates are below the fold)
1) Does it matter to you how the products you love get made? iPad users and potential customers are faced with a growing ethical dilemma. Apple customers historically have tended to be more concerned about social justice; they change their avatar colors on Twitter in protest of human rights abuses in Iran, and boycott BP because of the oil disaster (a boycott that likely won't work, Jason Derusha reports). The Independent reports that there's blood on the iPad. The company in China which makes the iPad has even set up suicide nets to keep people from jumping out of the buildings:
All the incidents involved workers aged under 25, who apparently have been disturbed by the long shifts and strict discipline. Talking and music are banned during shifts, which last at least 10 hours. Workers must perform a certain number of repetitive operations per shift, under the eye of allegedly harsh military-style supervisors.
Yesterday, company officials gave journalists a tour of the plant to show how happy everybody is there. Hours later, another worker committed suicide.
So, how do we decide when to push back against injustice? How do we decide what is worth protesting?
(h/t: Paul Douglas, Star Tribune)
2) FiveThirtyEight.com wades into why two polls on the same subject have two different results if they purport to be representative of the public. In the process, it analyzes the Rasmussen polling system:
In general, if you're trying to understand what makes Rasmussen polling "different", the key heuristic is to assume that their polls are suffering from significant self-selection bias, and that the people who respond to their polls are significantly more likely to be active consumers of political news. This is probably why Rasmussen polls tend to show extremely large "bounces" associated with seemingly banal political events, and why they tend to show good results for candidates associated with activist movements, even if those candidates are barely known among the broader public. In essence, they're about half-way toward being polls of political junkies. (I'd love to see the percentage of people in their polls who claim, for instance, to have donated to political candidates, something which we could cross-check against FEC records; I'd bet you that it's very high.)
The Rasmussen poll in Minnesota this week showed the governor's race a tossup, according to MPR's Tom Scheck.
3) A company that makes American flags in Pakistan is doing a booming business. A resurgence of pro-American attitude? No. Protesters burn the flags.
"I have nothing to do with any political party, but it is really enjoyable when you see your work on TV screens," a laughing Rasheed told AFP.
"I'm busy every day making banners and placards for different religious and political parties, but work gets a boost -- especially when international controversy concerning Muslims breaks out," he said.
4) Viral video of the week:
I don't have anything to say about this. The story is here.
5) Webcams are like looking in someone's windows. Hello, Northfield!
KYMN Radio and the Northfield Historical Society have just set up this camera in Bridge Square. Can't wait for something to happen.
Eye Candy: Clouds and stars above a volcano. (h/t: Open Culture)
A major new study finds a strong link between indoor tanning and melanoma. Does vanity lead you to do things you know are bad for you?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Members of the Minnesota National Guard's 34th "Red Bull" infantry division have been back in Minnesota for more than three months now. Midmorning speaks with two Guard members about the reintegration process.
Second hour: Facebook has made privacy a new priority following pressure from advocacy groups and Washington. These changes will give users more control of their information, but are the updates able to keep up with our ever-changing expectations about privacy?
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Special reports from MPR News' "Retooling Minnesota's Job Factory." Comments from economist Louis Johnston.
Second hour: Live coverage of President Obama's news conference about the oil spill and other matters.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: Debt put Greece on the edge. Spain or Portugal or Ireland or Italy may be next. Bond trader Scott Mather says the dominoes may fall from there. What happened in Europe? And what does it mean for us?
Second hour: The only thing more jarring than incessant sound might be silence. Fed up with all the noise, George Foy sought silence in Parisian catacombs, under noise cancelling headphones, flotation tanks and finally, the quietest place on earth -- a sound-blocking chamber in Minnesota.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Stories about people dying are in the news every day. What's not usually in the news is how families cope day after day with their grief, and how differently each person in the family can be affected. Sixteen-year-old Antonio Gonzalez's mother, Judy Ojeda died suddenly last October of an undiagnosed and untreated brain infection. She left behind her husband and six children. Today in MPR's Youth Radio Series, Antonio Gonzalez gives us a portrait of life in his family, seven months after losing his mom
We'll have another installment in the MPR series, Retooling Minnesota's Job Factory. For years, the job market has been tilting in favor of educated workers, and that trend is likely to accelerate in the future. Many of the fastest growing occupations will only be accessible with college experience-- and, in some cases, multiple degrees. In addition, educated workers earn more and are less likely to suffer unemployment. But many people in Minnesota's fastest growing demographic groups don't even finish high school. Those individuals have suffered badly this recession, and life will likely only get harder. Minnesota's labor market watchers say the public sector will have to improve the graduation rates of Minnesota students, the workforce in waiting, and do more to prepare the state's existing workers for the global marketplace of the future. That means facilitating adult education and worker retraining. Minnesota's prosperity depends on it.
Wait until this afternoon to hear it or read it now.
Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak injected race into the equation of Minneapolis' murder rate today when answering a question posed by Morning Edition host Cathy Wurzer. She asked him about why so many murders are occurring this year in his city, whereas last year was remarkably quiet?
Rybak told Wurzer that white, middle-class Minnesotans are buying marijuana "with a little wink and a nod, thinking it has nothing to do with anything. It is literally paying for bullets that kill people."
"What fuels a gang? Where is the money right now? It's in the marijuana trade. Where's the money in the marijuana trade. Frankly, white middle-class Minnesota is buying marijuana and with a wink and a nod thinking it has nothing to do with anything. It is literally paying for bullets that kill people. So anyone listening here who feels they're not connected to this, wants to help in any way, spread that message. That any person who thinks that it is OK to be involved in what is an underground economy that is violent, spread that message. Boycott the people who are killing people... I believe that anybody who buys marijuana... is directly or indirectly giving money to gangs."
It's undeniable, of course, that white people -- like people of color -- buy marijuana. But making a connection between an increase (and not a small one) in the number of murders in Minneapolis and the number of white people buying marijuana, implies that there's been a big jump in the number of white people buying marijuana. Rybak offered no such proof. He also offered no data to show that the money in gangs is primarily from marijuana, although it certainly may be. There's also been no data supplied to indicate the white people who buy marijuana do so in a state of denial that the money ends up in the hands of gangs, or whether they do know the money ends up in gangs, but don't care.
Rybak's distinction of marijuana vs. other illicit drug use makes the racial angle easier to inject. But the National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2007 (based on '04-'05 data) reported that illicit drug use overall -- and even use of marijuana alone -- is more prevalent among non-whites.
Rybak also stayed away from the term "gang war," preferring instead to refer to the problem as one between people who know each other and are into drugs and guns.
Last fall, MPR's Gary Eichten asked Rybak why crime was dropping in his city. Rybak took credit for it.
"In Minneapolis, we said public safety was going to be job one. We put more money into it, we put more technology into it, and we also put the focus upstream on youth violence prevention. And the results are pretty significant in the city of Minneapolis -- double-digit crime decreases for three straight years. Homicide rate the lowest in 20 years, and my favorite: juvenile crime down 40 percent. That's success and that's hard-working police and people in the community partnering with them, and that's everyone in the community looking in the mirror and saying, 'we're going to do hundreds of little things and many, many big things to make sure we raise our kids right. And we are really proud in Minneapolis that the community has come together to drive crime so far down. We have a long way to go."
What Rybak didn't say then, however, is that the drop in crime rate was a fluke. In fact, he pointed out that the drop in crime in Minneapolis was not mirrored in cities, such as Chicago and Philadelphia.
In today's interview, Rybak again acknowledged the work of police, but then said "we're not going to have years like that every year."
Rybak outlined efforts his administration is taking to stem the crime problem in Minneapolis, but never really answered -- because he was never really asked -- to explain how one year's drop in crime can be attributed to the actions of police and politicians, but an increase in crime can't be.
"I don't want to be too specific," he said. "But we're doing a lot."
On that same Midday broadcast last year, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said he was taught by St. Police police chief John Harrington not to, "take credit for crime rates going down, unless you're prepared to accept blame if they go up."
In truth, of course, there are no easy answers to the question of crime and gangs. Why do people end up in gangs in the first place? Consider this from the Drug Policy Alliance: The war on drugs.
The racial disparities in drug arrests and convictions have had a devastating effect on families. Of the 1.5 million minor children who had a parent incarcerated in 1999, African American children were nearly nine times more likely to have a parent incarcerated than white children and Latino children were three times more likely to have a parent incarcerated than white children.
The racial inequalities of the war on drugs also disproportionately affect pregnant women of color. Despite similar or equal rates of illegal drug use during pregnancy, African American women are ten times more likely to be reported to child welfare agencies for prenatal drug use. In a recent Supreme Court case, Ferguson vs. the City of Charleston, the practice of drug testing pregnant women without their consent and prosecuting the mothers for "distributing an illegal substance" to an unborn child through the umbilical cord was challenged under the Fourth Amendment right to privacy. Out of the 30 women who were arrested at the South Carolina hospital,29 were African American. The one white woman arrested was married to a Black man - a fact noted on her medical record.
What can be done? This might be one of the issues on which the most accurate answer is the one politicians least like to give: "I don't know."(24 Comments)
The Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that a state law preventing family members from suing other family members does not prevent a Walnut Grove woman from suing her brother for sexually assaulting her as a child.
Mary Lichteig, who grew up in Walnut Grove, claims she was sexually abused by her brother as a child in the early '70s, but didn't remember the abuse until she saw a therapist in 2005. He denied it. She also said the brother raped her older sisters while she was in the room, an allegation the brother acknowledges.
She sued him for damages but a lower court threw the case out because Minnesota law prohibits one sibling from suing another for personal injury.
A federal appeals court, however sent the case back to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which today said Minnesota's law does not prevent a sibling from suing another in cases of sexual abuse.
The court said a Minnesota law that extended the statute of limitations in sexual abuse cases to six years from the point from which a victim remembers sexual abuse, can be applied in this case even though the original statute of limitations had already run out by the time the law was passed.
"In addition to the language establishing the effective date of the statute of limitations, the purpose of the statute to protect young sexual abuse victims suggests that the Legislature intended the statute to be retroactive. We hold that the delayed discovery statute applies retroactively," outgoing chief justice Eric Magnuson wrote.
On a make-it-or-break-it day for the future of the earth's environment, it was a bear in Ely that got our attention this week. The reunification of the cub with its mother, no doubt, prompted hundreds of phone calls to mom today. So do we love our bears more than we love our oceans? That imponderable and more on today's Fresh Eye on the Radio with The Current's Mary Lucia.(6 Comments)
1) No doubt, we'll hear the phrase "the traditional start of summer" uttered by newsies over the next few days. One wonders if by making major holidays three-day weekends, we've reduced the significance of the holiday.
Each year, we ask News Cut readers to tell us the story of their relatives' or friends' (or themselves, sometimes) service to the country. Please do so, in the comments section.
I don't remember his name, if I ever knew it. He was just one of the grease-monkeys up the street at the Texaco station, the one I used to ride my bike to with a pocketful of dimes to buy Cokes out of the vending machine. He was the one who looked at me funny when I bought a pack of cigarettes -- Salems -- out of the vending machine. "They're for my father," I insisted, even though they weren't. And he made sure I knew that he knew that when he said, "Sure." Then he stopped being there and a few months later another grease-monkey said he was dead. His Jeep overturned "somewhere in Vietnam," he said. That was the first time I knew someone who went off to a war and didn't come back. I didn't even know his name.
2) If you could build your house from scratch, would you put in a furnace? Would you make more energy than you use? The blog, The Adventures of Johnny Northside, provides a terrific tour of a passive solar house under construction in Hudson, with 22-inch-thick walls, blinds that open and close automatically, and a view.
The only thing missing is the pricetag. The builders also have a blog here.
3) Is there a bigger waste of time than expending energy analyzing a gubernatorial candidate's choice for lieutenant governor? Probably not, judging from the inside view provided in the story from MPR's Mark Zdechlik today. The big news in it, perhaps, is that Mae Schunk got more coverage today -- nine paragraphs -- than she got in four years of being Jesse Ventura's lieutenant governor.
"I had a fear of saying the wrong thing," Schunk said. "You know this is the media. This is going out all over the whole state. But I guess I did alright."
Sometimes I walked into his office and I said, 'governor, this dish rag is getting a little bit soiled.'" she said.
But the most intriguing quote is this one:
Schunk said she and Ventura talked about her taking on the job of education commissioner, but decided that position required full-time attention.
Which brings up the question, if being a lieutenant governor isn't a full-time job, what is it? The job pays $78,197, by the way.
Discussion point: What's the best job in Minnesota?
4) A lot of smart people have expended a lot of carbon dioxide discussing why online comments are so uncivil and what can be done about it. National Public Radio expends more. In its All Things Considered story, NPR points out that suggestion that Web sites let everything fly because that's what gets "page views" -- audience. There's good news, NPR reports. Web site editors have realized that comments are content too and are starting to take editorial responsibility for them:
The reason people come to blogs, the story says, is the best ones converse with the audience.
5) There was nobody in charge aboard the Deepwater Horizon on the day it exploded. A woman who issued a "mayday" was reprimanded.
Bonus: iPad and velcro.
Meanwhile, the iPad is launching internationally.
Imponderable: Lou Reed and his wife are holding a concert in Australia. You won't be able to hear it. It's for dogs.
After complaints from users and government officials, Facebook has introduced measures to simplify its privacy controls. Have you had a privacy problem on a social network?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Are you glued to your job?
The recession saw a huge number of layoffs, scaring many into staying in jobs that they ordinarily would have quit. But there are signs that people are beginning to feel confident enough in the economy that they're willing to voluntarily leave their jobs. Career counselor Amy Lindgren offers advice for listeners about how to find new opportunities in a tough market and when to know it's OK to walk away.
Second hour: From his 1970 debut album to his more recent work, the songs of Loudon Wainwright III have provided a keen and humorous commentary on his personal relationships, society, and current affairs. His most recent album takes a look at the country's current economic woes. (Rebroadcast)
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Carleton College international relations professor Roy Grow discusses reconciliation between the U.S. and Vietnam as we head into Memorial Day weekend.
Second hour: NBC Meet the Press moderator David Gregory interviews Gov. Tim Pawlenty on "Meet the Press, Across America."
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - It's Science Friday! First hour: A very similar blowout spewed oil in the Gulf for nine months 31 years ago. So why don't we have better prevention and cleanup technologies than we did back then?
Second hour: Gardening on the cheap.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - A class of systemic insecticides first introduced in the 1990s is now ubiquitous across the urban landscape. The use is expected to increase as people treat for emerald ash borer in the Twin Cities. A University of Minnesota researcher says there are troubling indicators the insecticide stays active longer than previously thought and is killing beneficial insects. She's starting a new research project this summer examining the impact of neonics in urban areas. MPR's Dan Gunderson will have the story.
Chris Roberts profiles Zoo Animal, one of the most well-regarded indie rock bands on the local scene. A new CD features songs with devout Christian themes, but is Zoo Animal a "Christian" rock band? Yes and no.
MPR's Tim Nelson visits Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the completion of the chapel at the cemetery(6 Comments)
Every time I write one of these "near miss" posts, I get a bucketload of email from pilots and controllers who remind me I don't know what I'm talking about and the media is exaggerating the problem, but it's undeniable that the National Transportation Safety Boad -- which does seem to know a thing or two -- is reporting more "near misses" this year involving airliners than I've ever seen.
Here's today's release, which occurred last Friday in Anchorage and involved US Airways Flight 140 from Phoenix (A319) and a cargo jet (B747):
According to the TCAS (collision avoidance system) report from the A319 crew, that aircraft was approaching ANC when, because of the effects of tailwinds on the aircraft's approach path, the crew initiated a missed approach and requested new instructions from air traffic control. The tower controller instructed the A319 to turn right heading 300 and report the departing B747 in sight.
After the A319 crew reported the B747 in sight, the controller instructed the A319 to maintain visual separation from the B747, climb to 3000 feet, and turn right heading 320. The A319 crew refused the right turn because the turn would have put their flight in direct conflict with the B747. The A319 crew then received a resolution advisory
to "monitor vertical speed" and the crew complied with the descent command. During the descent, the A319 crew lost sight of the B747. At about 1700 feet above ground level,
the A319 crew received a "clear of conflict" aural command.
One supposes one of the first questions will be why the controller directed one airliner to a heading that put it on a course with the other one.(3 Comments)
MPR's Tom Scheck calls out attention to this little piece of constitutional savagery as described in the
Toronto Toldedo Blade.
A Michigan lawmaker crafted a bill that requires reporters to be registered.
Says the columnist:
"I mainly just wanted to stimulate discussion," he told me. "I didn't think the bill would be likely to pass, but I thought I'd put it out there and if there was any support from your profession, we'd move forward. Heck, I thought it might be helpful to legitimate journalists," he said.
Indeed, he made some valid points. "There are fewer legitimate reporters who cover the legislature all the time. I see stuff being written by people I never heard of, and I don't know whether they have any credentials.
"You have bloggers and editorial writers who write about what we are doing who never come up here and have no idea what's going on. If I need a plumber, I want one who has credentials and who is licensed by the state."
So, he reasoned, why not reporters? His bill would set up a governor-appointed board to determine who could be a Michigan Registered Reporter. According to his specifications, successful candidates would have to show that they had a journalism degree, three years of experience, or other qualifications, including letters from already sanctioned reporters.
The columnist -- an ombudsman -- points out the bill also requires registered reporters to be of good moral character.(7 Comments)
Gov. Pawlenty has issued an order for the display of the American flag over the holiday weekend:
Governor Tim Pawlenty today ordered that all U.S. and Minnesota flags be flown at half-staff on state property from sunrise until noon on Monday, May 31, 2010, in honor and remembrance of the sacrifices of those brave men and women who have served our country in the past and of those who serve our country today.
Big points to the governor for having a clue regarding the U.S. Flag code, which says:
On Memorial Day the flag should be displayed at half-staff until noon only, then raised to the top of the staff.
Memorial Day is the only holiday with a specific directive for how the flag is to be displayed.(1 Comments)
What always struck me about this iconic Iraq War photograph (2004) of Sgt. Theresa Flannery was the entirely different expressions on her face from those of her colleagues (click the image for a larger version).
She and other U.S. soldiers were trapped on a roof in Najaf when militiamen attacked. "A bullet meant for her struck one of her companions. She helped to care for the wounded, and their blood soaked her clothing," McClatchy News reported.
She died in her sleep a few days ago. Her father is convinced it's the result of the war:
She had nightmares, he said, and she went through periods of deep depression. Memories of Iraq could send her into tears. Her father said she was invited to speak at a military memorial event in Richmond, Ky., a few years ago, but she became too emotional to finish her speech.
"There were a lot of ups and downs," he said. "They would put her on some drug for a few months and it would help. Then, it would stop working and they would switch to another drug. It was really hard for her, particularly trying to raise her son."(2 Comments)
After listening to James Fallows this weekend on NPR and reading his column on The Atlantic's Web site, one wonders how America achieved its greatness while the U.S. Senate existed.
The Senate, one of the more secretive fraternal organizations in America, believes in giving individual members the opportunity to derail the desires of 99 other elected representatives.
It's a bipartisan game -- absolute power is like that. But Fallows pinpoints the actions of a single senator, upset about one of 80 appointments the Senate was to vote on:
On Thursday afternoon, just before its Memorial Day recess, the Senate had planned to consider about 80 of these nominations as a group. They all had been through financial and security vetting; they had been through committee consideration; they were headed for jobs that in many cases now stood vacant; they were ready to go. Sen. Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, moved for approval by unanimous consent, apparently believing that a deal to clear out the huge backlog had been struck. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, begged to differ. He was still sore about the recess appointment of Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board. Therefore he wouldn't agree to the en-bloc vote.
A nominee for one diplomatic mission, who got caught up in the tantrum, talked to Fallows later:
"I'm about as well positioned to handle this as anybody," the nominee told me this morning. "I don't have kids in school, I'm self employed, I can simply keep receiving briefings and working on the local dialects. But is it any wonder why people don't want to take these jobs when they get dicked around like this? I consider myself a patient person. But this is turning into a test of how long you can wait without going crazy."
Here's Fallows' entire segment on the week in Washington.
(News Cut's daily Five By Eight column returns on Tuesday.)
My friend, Pete Howell (he's the pilot I've written about who rescues dogs), was flying around the Twin Cities on Saturday and took some amazing photographs of our fair cities by air. This one, in particular, struck me. I've always referred to the Mississippi River as "America's longest sewer."
As anger builds over BP's destruction of the Gulf of Mexico, there's plenty of pollution around here to disgust us, too.
Find more pictures here.(12 Comments)
On Memorial Day, owners of flying World War II aircraft are in high demand. If you're in the Twin Cities, you've probably seen some of them flying over the Capitol and various parades and Memorial Day celebrations.
Here, a T-6 returns to South St. Paul after a morning flight.
They're not cheap to fly. The use about 30 gallons of fuel per hour. A gallon of aviation fuel at South St. Paul goes for about $3.84 a gallon.(1 Comments)