1) PREPARING FOR THE PAIN
Lawmakers and the governor may well be trying to end a budget stalemate that could shut down Minnesota government at the end of the month, but yesterday they didn't even meet. Both sides might be trying to win when it comes to public opinion, but increasingly some real Minnesotans don't have the luxury of playing political pundit. They're trying to survive.
Here's the story of a woman in North St. Paul, who sent us this last evening:
I have broken down sobbing twice so far at the news about the Minnesota government shutdown. I am a single mother of three young children, one with autism and receiving services and therapies through Medical Assistance and Waivered Services. I have a masters degree in Experiential Education, which is "hands-on learning" and I am going through bankruptcy and on the brink of foreclosure. It's not like I WANT to be on assistance, it's my situation, and this housing economy, and my soon-to-be ex husband also receiving a "disability" diagnosis of autism, which is a social and communication disorder.
I have received two letters from Ramsey County Social Services saying that my daycare assistance will be shut down, and I've heard from my public health nurse that the Maxis system (welfare, food stamps, etc) and Child Support data base will be turned off during the state shutdown. Which means I will lose my income (through Community Involvement Programs, the fiscal entity which helps pay for my son's disability services) and I will lose my child support payments.
How am I going to keep the bank from foreclosing on my house? And then where are we going to go? How am I going to afford the late fees and legal fees involved in fighting the bank? When I have struggled SO HARD to be the best advocate for my child with a disability as I can.
This "disruption" is impacting the "needy" people of Minnesota the most. We are the people who LEAST deserve to have the rug yanked out from under us. We are the ones who are PRO education, and advocate for the people who don't have a voice: our kids with disabilities.
Who gets to decide which services are "critical" and "essential"? They are essential to my family's well being and to our entire future. We, like so many others with upside-down mortgages, are going to be pushed over the edge in this political impasse and it's going to be difficult, if not impossible, to "clean up" the damage that will be caused if and when our sources of funding get cut off.
I can substitute teach to make up for things like this, however, not in the summer time when school is out!
I feel really stuck between a rock and a hard place, and it's very, very scary. Like receiving a diagnosis of terminal cancer. I've lived through the diagnosis of autism in my son and in my husband, and now, because services are threatened, it really feels "terminal".
Meanwhile, Minnesota state employees are poised to make it more affordable for the state to lay them off during the shutdown. Under the proposed deal, they'd give up severance payments in exchange for keeping health care benefits. "They are broke, so they don't have any money to pay that," Keri Nelson, director of collective bargaining for the Minnesota Nurses Association, told the Star Tribune.
In an editorial today, the Duluth News Tribune says lawmakers grabbing extra pay during the shutdown merely twist the knife they've inserted into the state...
When told that House members could refuse their pay during the hiatus -- which would be a welcome, even if symbolic, gesture to taxpayers who'll be on the hook for millions because elected leaders failed to do their jobs, opting instead to play politics -- House Majority Leader Matt Dean said he hadn't even considered that. He may be the only Minnesotan who hasn't.
"We can't get the government going again unless we pass bills," argued Dean, R-Dellwood. He seemed not to grasp that the suggestion wasn't that he and other lawmakers stop working, only that they stop getting paid -- at least until they earn the checks.
And that's something few did this year in St. Paul.
Minnesotans expect better of their elected leaders than the five months just passed of little more than political gamesmanship; polarized, hard-line, gets-us-nowhere stands; and insincere, buzz phrase-filled negotiations.
We've said it before: In the real world, job performance like theirs would be grounds for firing -- not a justification to continue getting paid while the rest of the state suffers from their failures.
2) THE WATER WINS
Eleven thousand people have now fled Minot, ND, where the Souros River is expected to swallow North Dakota's fourth-largest city in a few days. "We won't have nothing to come back to this time," an elderly woman said as she looked at the flowers in her yard and prepared to race for higher ground.
Here's a live video feed from Minot...
With all of the rain in the last few days, other rivers are flooding. The Red River in the Fargo Moorhead area jumped about a foot in the last 24 hours and is now flooding. The Minnesota River in Shakopee is already flooding again, too.
This can't be what Ann Raiho and Natalie Warren expected when they set out to be the first women to paddle their canoe all the way from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay a few weeks ago. They reached Montevideo on the swollen Minnesota River on the weekend and, according to a tracking map on their Web site, are about to hit the lakes area of Lac Qui Parle near Milan.
"The rain has been a doozy this past week but we knew this trip wasn't going to be all sunshine and daisies," they wrote on their blog.
They seem to be doing fine...
3) THE INFLUENCE IN YOUR INBOX
Inbox Influence, a new tool from the Sunlight Foundation, allows you to see the political contributions of the people and organizations that are mentioned in emails you receive.
The organization says the tool , which you can find here, "can be used for researching influence background on corporate correspondence, adding context to newspaper headlines or discovering who is behind political fundraising solicitations."
The group also admits that in order for it to work, the entire contents of the message are sent to the Sunlight Foundation. Your network administrator is going to love this.
(h/t: Julia Schrenkler)
4) MOVE OVER
Why are there laws in Minnesota and Wisconsin to move over -- or slow down -- for emergency vehicles pulled over to the side of the road. Here's why...
The video was captured by dash cam from a Wisconsin State Patrol car on June 1, according to the YouTube poster. An officer had pulled over a motor coach bus on I-94 near Elk Mound. A passing car missed the squad car, and slammed into the back of the bus. The driver of the car suffered minor injuries, and the driver's wife died at the scene.
5) MYSTERY OF NAZI PHOTO ALBUM SOLVED IN TWO HOURS
An anonymous photo album by a Nazi photographer had the New York Times' Lens blog stumped at this time yesterday.
There are certainly many photo albums of Nazi leaders and many photo albums of the Nazis' victims. But it's hard to imagine many albums depicting both, just a few pages apart.
At least one does, however, and it has surfaced in New York City. Its creator was able -- apparently within weeks -- to photograph Hitler as he warred on Russia and also to photograph some of the earliest victims of that brutal campaign, known as Operation Barbarossa, which began 70 years ago Wednesday.
Enter the power of the Internet. The blog, and another publication, asked readers for help uncovering the mysterious owner of the album and the story behind it. It took two hours:
Before lunchtime in New York, Harriet Scharnberg had written from Hamburg, Germany, to say:
The photographs, at least a lot of them, were taken by the photographer Franz Krieger (1914-1993). Krieger worked as a photojournalist in Salzburg, Austria. In the summer of 1941, he went to Minsk as a member of the Reichs-Autozug Deutschland. In Minsk, he took pictures of Soviet prisoners of war and he also visited the Jewish ghetto and photographed the poor people there. On his way back to Berlin, he took the pictures of Hitler meeting [Adm. Miklos] Horthy in Marienburg.
And the blog details the compelling story of how a man who wanted to be a photographer, became a Nazi...
After graduating with a business degree from the University of Vienna, Krieger opened a business in Salzburg. But he wanted to be a photojournalist. Between 1935 and 1937, he photographed the Salzburg Festival -- and stars like Marlene Dietrich. Following the German annexation of Austria, Krieger went to work for the Salzburg reichsgau, a Nazi administrative subdivision. In that capacity, Dr. Kramml said, "he took most of the important pictures in Salzburg from 1938 until 1941."
Bonus: Someone stole Larry Ross' bike. He's studying to be a director of Christian outreach at Concordia College. He was born without legs and depends on handcycle. He says it taken from his home overnight, near Snelling and Taylor Avenue across from Hamline University, WCCO reports.
The federal government has released nine graphic warning labels it will require on packages of cigarettes beginning next year. The labels include images of damaged lungs and a dead body. Today's Question: What's the best way to discourage smoking?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Former state representatives Dee Long and Marty Seifert discuss the state's budget woes.
Second hour: Darin Strauss, novelist and author of the memoir "Half A Life."
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: MIT security studies professor Steven VanEvera previews President Obama's address to the nation about the war in Afghanistan.
Second hour: Former U.S ambassador to both Egypt and Israel, Daniel Kurtzer.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: NPR political editor Ken Rudin.
Second hour: Will the new cigarette warnings make any difference?
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - A dying craft is being preserved in a small northern Minnesota town. Black Swan barrels is one of only a few remaining wooden barrel makers in the country. Coopers use a traditional approach involving wood, steel and fire to make wooden barrels used for, among other things, aging whiskey. The old craft with a new twist creates barrels used by a growing number of small distillers use to age whiskey. MPR's Dan Gunderson will have the story.
It is sad, very sad, to know that by centralizing all of our social services in the state that families can be so devastated by such a precarious and political entity.
The great and very important battle of "to tax or not tax rich people to solve a budget problem during the summer of 2011" will certainly live on forever and we will tell our children of the heroic Dayton and the equally heroic Koch and how they stood their ground. History books will tell of the importance of the ideological positions and the impact the shutdown had for making generations of Minnesotans better off! Let us not shrink away from this epic bout we are watching a turning point in our state!
What a boring world we would live in if people just cared for each other without the meddling middleman of govt.
Part of the problem with the shutdown is how bad communication has been. As of today, Dayton wants to make sure everyone gets their welfare checks, MAXIS won't shut down, he is now saying providers will be paid, and no one knows what is happening. Sending out letters saying that the child care payment system will be shutdown, when no one knows if it will be or not, is just wrong. Public Health nurses telling people that MAXIS and PRISM (the child support system) will be turned off is wrong, no one knows. Sending out letters to the state's most vulnerable saying their benefits may be interrupted was very short sighted. No one knows and frightening people doesn't help anything.
I received letters on Tuesday regarding health benefits for my sons (I adopted three children that because they were special needs adoptions are offered MinnesotaCare or whatever the current name is for it). I am fortunate that I have other insurance coverage, and even more fortunate that they are healthy right now. But the rhetoric was thick in the letter (don't have a copy handy to quote from)
I also serve on a school board and received a letter from the state dept of education about how the shutdown would affect operations. Nothing wrong with this except it includes lines such as:
"A government shutdown would threaten the lives and safety of the people of Minnesota"
"The Governor believes - as do we - that the services the state provides are essential, particularly our efforts to provide a quality public education to Minnesota students"
I have no doubt that Pawlenty, or Emmer would have used these communications for fearmongering and spin as well so I am not shocked by what Dayton is doing but it just seems so over the top.
Matt: Why are you getting MinnesotaCare when you have other insurance coverage?m Just curious. I thought they were pretty strict.
My sons were adopted from Texas, the states (not sure if all states) have a reciprocal agreement to offer state medical assistance as an incentive to parents considering special needs adoptions. I am required to run everything through my insurance first and MinnesotaCare covers the gap.
I'm pretty sure Matt must mean Medical Assistance. MinnesotaCare has strict barriers against other health insurance. Many people on Medical Assistance have other insurance, particularly disabled people and the elderly. Most private insurances don't cover all the thinks Medical Assistance covers.
This shutdown very well could threaten the safety of Minnesotans. Think about some of the things that will or could occur:
- People on MinnesotaCare get cut off, losing the ability to pay for prescriptions or other needs that manage diseases/conditions such as diabetes or hypertension that can kill if not treated.
- Loss of inspectors for food safety, workplace safety, etc.
- If those four legislators get their way and a complete and total shutdown is required, what happens to the prisons? Do those prisoners have to be let out? I'd think that would threaten the safety of Minnesotans if it came to pass.
I talked with a woman over the weekend who was worried about keeping up with her grandaughter's meds for epilepsy, which are paid for through one of the state programs. I really feel for the people who need assistance with medical costs and who are at the mercy of lawmakers right now.
It is clearly unlikely (based on past shutdowns in this state and elsewhere) that prisoners will be released. But lets carry out the thought experiment anyways. First we must consider that there are already criminals that are not incarcerated so we are at danger today. Second not all prisoners are dangerous, they are simply being punished (could be drug posession, DUI, tax evasion, etc.). Third some violent prisoners have been rehabilitated or committed "heat of the moment" crimes that are unlikely to reoffend. So now we have reduced the perception of threat of the released prisoners by a huge amount.
From what we know about criminal behavior victims of violent crimes are not usually random passers by. Violence is more likely in a family, with a co-worker, another patron in a bar wearing a Packer jersey etc. So the notion that recently released prisoners will roam the streets knocking off little old ladies for fun doesn't hold any water.
Finally we still will have police protection, we may be without state patrol or other state enforcement/investigative agencies but there will still be police and sherriff service.
So if we are (pick a number) 84% safe today it is not like our safety number will suddenly drop to 12% in the very unlikely scenario that you propose. Maybe we drop to 80%. Less safe than today - yes, cause for alarm - probably not for sensible people, great rhetoric to back the outcome you hope for in the stalemate - most certainly.
There's nothing to prevent lawmakers from passing a "lights on" bill (or bills) other than it would disrupt the negotiation value that imminent disaster provides.
The war in Afghanistan is costing $122 Billion for fiscal year 2011.
Of that, citizens of Minnesota are paying $2.9 billion.
That money could pay for healthcare for 1 million low income children.
Apparently, there is a real risk that disabled, poor children will stop receiving adequate healthcare.
By whose mathematics is that scenario sane or moral?
Yes, it is scary and horrible that things like Medical Assistance and PCA services not being available for the most vulnerable portion of the population, the disabled. I worry about myself and how I will get by if the government closes. I also worry about the PCA's and paid care givers that depend on that income to survive too.
I hope the legislators think about the vast number of people who's survival depends on a functioning government. Hopefully, some of them will have a conscience and not accept a paycheck while others go without.
For people concerned about getting their health care in the short term, I want to point out that the Republicans want to cut your health care in the long term. If Dayton bows to the Republican bill that passed and was vetoed, 140K Minnesotans would be cut off of Health Care in Minnesota. A little pain, even for providers and recipients in the short term is better than what the Republicans want to do in the long term.