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?