The Monday Morning Rouser:
Here's a factoid you can use at your next dinner party, courtesy of the Minnesota Court of Appeals:
"The alcohol concentration of urine in the bladder can decrease from .081 to .079 in 15 minutes."
This would be an important fact if you were, say, stopped for drunk driving and your blood alcohol level was barely over the standard by which Minnesota defines drunk driving.
In a ruling today, the Minnesota Court of Appeals provided quite an analysis of the biological method by which the body disposes of its alcohol, ruling that police can require a urine sample from suspected drunk drivers without needing a warrant to do so.
The Court ruled in the case of Kim Ellingson, who was charged with drunk driving after a breathalyzer showed her blood alcohol level was .09. In Minnesota, .08 is legally drunk. A subsequent urinalysis showed she was, indeed, drunk.
She lost her license but sued because the collection of her urine was an unreasonable search and seizure. The Court disagreed, saying, "... the rapid change in alcohol concentration through the body's natural processes... justify the warrantless collection of a urine sample."(4 Comments)
Today's Supreme Court decision throwing out California's ban on selling "violent" video games to people under 18 contains an unintended invitation to News Cut readers. What children's book contains violence akin to the video games in question?
Justice Antonin Scalia, writing the opinion delivered today, said video games are no different from books, plays, and movies and, thus, are deserving of First Amendment protection. "Our cases have been clear that the obscenity exception to the FirstAmendment does not cover whatever a legislature finds shocking, but only depictions of 'sexual conduct.'" Scalia wrote in explaining why laws against obscenity cannot be used in this case.
Besides, Scalia argue, kids' books are violent, too, and we're not banning them...
Certainly the books we give children to read--orread to them when they are younger--contain no shortage of gore. Grimm's Fairy Tales, for example, are grim indeed. As her just deserts for trying to poison Snow White, the wicked queen is made to dance in red hot slippers "till she fell dead on the floor, a sad example of envy and jealousy." The Complete Brothers Grimm Fairy Tales 198 (2006 ed.). Cinderella's evil stepsisters have their eyes pecked out by doves. Id., at 95. And Hansel and Gretel (children!) kill their captor by baking her in an oven. Id., at 54.
High-school reading lists are full of similar fare. Homer's Odysseus blinds Polyphemus the Cyclops bygrinding out his eye with a heated stake. The Odyssey ofHomer, Book IX, p. 125 (S. Butcher & A. Lang transls.1909) ("Even so did we seize the fiery-pointed brand and whirled it round in his eye, and the blood flowed about the heated bar. And the breath of the flame singed his eyelids and brows all about, as the ball of the eye burnt away, and the roots thereof crackled in the flame"). In the Inferno, Dante and Virgil watch corrupt politicians struggle to stay submerged beneath a lake of boiling pitch, lest they beskewered by devils above the surface. Canto XXI, pp.187-189 (A. Mandelbaum transl. Bantam Classic ed.1982). And Golding's Lord of the Flies recounts how a schoolboy called Piggy is savagely murdered by other children while marooned on an island. W. Golding, Lord of the Flies 208-209 (1997 ed.).
Scalia's interpretation of the application of the First Amendment led to an unusual dissent from Justice Clarence Thomas, who is usually on the same side Scalia's on.
Thomas said the freedom of speech does not include the freedom to speak to children without their parents' permission...
Adults carefully controlled what they published forchildren. Stories written for children were dedicated to moral instruction and were relatively austere, lackingdetails that might titillate children's minds.
. John Newbery, the publisher often credited with creating the genre of children's literature,removed traditional folk characters, like Tom Thumb, from their original stories and placed them in new morality tales in which good children were rewarded and disobedient children punished.
Thomas noted the doomed California law did not prevent a child from getting violent video games with the assistance of his/her parents.
Update 3:51 p.m. - Here's a really great review of the decision from the always-informative ScotusBlog.(5 Comments)
It's not often anymore than a meteorologist can last at one station for 30 years. Mike Fairbourne might be the last of them in the Twin Cities. Fairbourne is retiring from WCCO this week.
Jimmy Carter was in the White House when Fairbourne started his career there.
WCCO has posted some other Fairbourne videos. This personal favorite didn't make the list, though...
Fairbourne is about as low-key and all-business as they come, but he may be best known for causing a ruckus in these parts three years ago when he expressed his opinion on the issue of climate change.
He accused the environmental movement of practicing "squishy science" when it ties human activity to global warming. The Star Tribune outed Fairbourne after his name appeared on a list of 31,000 "scientists" questioning climate change as a human contribution.
The dust-up also served as a warning to many TV meteorologists to avoid getting into the climate change issue.
On its website today, the Department of Homeland Security touts the week it had at the nation's airport screening areas:
** 3 artfully concealed prohibited items found at checkpoints
** 12 firearms found at checkpoints
** 9 passengers were arrested after investigations of suspicious behavior or fraudulent travel documents
And one adult diaper!
Jean Weber of Destin, Florida says her mother -- 95 years old and 105 pounds -- was detained a week ago while on her way to Michigan to be with her family during her last stages of leukemia. The problem, the Northwest Florida Daily News reported, was her adult diaper.
She said her mother was first pulled aside into a glass-partitioned area and patted down. Then she was taken to another room to protect her privacy during a more extensive search, Weber said.
Weber said she sat outside the room during the search.
She said security personnel then came out and told her they would need for her mother to remove her Depends diaper because it was soiled and was impeding their search.
Weber wheeled her mother into a bathroom, removed her diaper and returned. Her mother did not have another clean diaper with her, Weber said.
Weber said she wished there were less invasive search methods for an elderly person who is unable to walk through security gates.
"I don't understand why they have to put them through that kind of procedure," she said
The Transportation Security Administration says everything was done by the book.(1 Comments)
Legislative leaders and the governor have taken a vow of silence on the budget negotiations that may or may not be making progress toward averting a shutdown of state government later this week.
The battle for the hearts and minds is now taking place in the inbox of state employees. House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch sent this e-mail to state employees today:
Dear Valued State Employee:
As Speaker of the House and Majority Leader of the Senate, we want to personally let you know that we do not want a government shutdown. Our best opportunity for resolution is in the next 72 hours. This is a serious time for you, for us and for our state.
The budget that passed the Minnesota Legislature in May spent $34 billion. It represents a 12% increase over the $30 billion this same tax structure brought in for the past two years. If we include the $2.3 billion of federal stimulus dollars that supplemented our current budget during the recession, this $34 billion budget represents a 6% increase in spending. All without raising taxes.
The governor vetoed all but the agriculture budget. He originally wanted to spend $37 billion, and later revised his budget. However, he has yet to provide key details for each part of that budget.
Since the governor vetoed the Legislatures budget bills, we have made three substantive compromises. We funded K-12 education, public safety and courts at the governors requested levels; withdrew our request for tax cuts; and allocated additional resources to higher education, environment, and flood and disaster relief. All were rejected by Governor Dayton.
We also asked to be called to special session - something only the governor can do - so that we can pass bills and avoid an unfortunate, unnecessary and potentially costly shutdown. The Governor has said he will not call a special session.
We, like you, know what it is like to sit around the kitchen table, pay the bills and balance our household budget. We know that our balanced budget includes difficult decisions for state agencies. But you can be sure about one thing: Our budget keeps state agencies open on July 1 and state employees will continue getting paychecks beyond June 30.
We agree with the Pioneer Press editorial from Sunday, June 26 that characterized Governor Daytons negotiations as This is not a compromise. This is hostage taking. Governor Dayton promised as a candidate to not shut down government, and he reiterated that pledge during his State of the State Address this year.
We take him at his word, and we will work everyday to help him keep it. We remain resolved to working with Governor Dayton to complete the state budget by June 30 and to keep state government open.
Speaker Kurt Zellers
Majority Leader Amy Koch
The letter counters one sent a week ago by Gov. Mark Dayton:
This weekend you received notices that, unless a budget is enacted by July 1st, state government will shut down most of its operations. Most of you would be laid off or placed on an unpaid leave of absence until government operations resume. This was an extremely difficult decision for everyone involved; however, we had no choice but to begin planning for this possibility.
As a precaution, we have identified the most critical government services, which we believe must continue even in a shutdown. Today we have submitted this list to the Ramsey County District Court, which ultimately will decide what services will continue past July 1st, if a shutdown occurs.
I consider virtually all services provided by the state to be essential, and all of them have been established by previous governors and legislatures to serve and benefit the people of Minnesota. My decisions were not based upon personal preferences or policy considerations. Rather, they were instructed by the words of the Minnesota Constitution, which states clearly: "No money shall be paid out of the treasury of this state except in pursuance of an appropriation by law." (Article XI, Sect. 1.) Thus my decisions were based entirely upon which functions of state government are so critical to protecting the lives and safety of the people of Minnesota, or which, if terminated, would cause such disorder or severe statewide economic impact, that they should be made exceptions to the Constitution's clear prohibition.
I know that I speak for my entire cabinet when I say that we greatly value you and all of our state's dedicated employees. We deeply appreciate your hard work and the high-quality services you provide to millions of Minnesotans. It is precisely those Minnesotans, those services, and your ability to deliver them, for which I am negotiating.
I will continue to do everything I possibly can to reach a compromise and a balanced budget agreement in time to avert a shutdown. I believe that you - and everyone in our state government - provide very important services to Minnesotans, and I will continue to defend you.
The last several weeks have been, and the next few weeks will be, extremely difficult for you and other state employees. I thank you. Like you, I look forward getting to resolving this crisis as soon as possible and moving ahead to our shared commitment to build a better Minnesota.
My best regards.
Update 4:31 p.m. - The Minnesota Department of Health sent this memo around later today:
Speaker of the Minnesota House Kurt Zellers and Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch today sent an e-mail to state employees about budget negotiations and the possibility of a government shutdown. We have heard from a number of employees who received it, but we also know that some did not. We believe it was intended to be sent to all state employees and that they did not choose to send it to only some. For those employees who have not yet received it, they may still get it.
The email was sent to publicly available email lists, and was not coordinated through the state's central system. The Governor's Office and the MDH incident Management Team are aware of the e-mails. We know that some of employees have asked whether they should do anything in response to the message. We are not advising any particular action.
You can view the letter at http://minnesota.publicradio.org/collections/special/columns/news_cut/archive/2011/06/silent_before_microphones_legi.shtml.
Update 4:44 p.m. MAPE, the professional employees union, has sent this news release:
"Today State Representative Kurt Zellers and State Senator Amy Koch sent out what many of our members have termed an inappropriate, 'political' letter to state employees. Speaker Zellers, do you not remember that it was Representative Keith Downey, a member of your caucus, who said that when it came to the state workforce, it is important to 'starve the beast?'
Do you both not remember that throughout the recent legislative session, your members, in both houses, continually attacked hard-working, dedicated state employees by authoring and passing bills that cut state employees' jobs, wages, healthcare and pensions?
We support Governor Dayton - and do not trust what tricks your party will pull during a legislative session. Leadership is about compromise and fairness for the common good, not ideology that allows the rich to get richer. You are jeopardizing our members' livelihoods and financial well being by not compromising with Governor Dayton.
Senator Koch and Representative Zellers, make no mistake about it - our members believe to their core that the budget impasse and upcoming shutdown rest squarely on your shoulders. It is troubling that you would choose to harm the middle class rather than have the wealthy pay their fair share in taxes. Meet with the Governor and get the job done, don't waste time on insincere and insulting letters.
As an aside, we would also like to know how you got the emails of the state workforce to spam them, and why it appears that the email address it was sent from has bounced back responses from our members."
Don't politicians know how to Google?
Michele Bachmann invoked the name of John Wayne, a son of Iowa with whom she shares a spirit, she says.
How can a presidential candidate possibly go wrong identifying with John Wayne?
Answer: by getting the wrong John Wayne. The John Wayne that was from Waterloo, was John Wayne Gacy, notorious serial killer.
John Wayne the actor, born Marion Morrison, was from Winterset, Iowa, which is about 167 miles away.(7 Comments)
The Department of Human Services in Minnesota has sent out guidelines to their employees about what to do to prepare for a state shutdown.
We were particularly impressed with the suggested script for recording voicemail messages:
"Hello this is __________. Due to the shutdown of state government I am away from work indefinitely. I will return to work when the Legislative funding for the continued operation of the Minnesota Department of Human Services is enacted into law. For more information, please monitor news reports or see our website at www.dhs.state.mn.us."
If you're a regular News Cut reader, you know we can't pass this up.
Even if you're not a Minnesota state worker, write the voicemail message script you'd like to hear if you were calling the state.
Post it below.
Don't let me down.(11 Comments)