1) HOW DID WE GET HERE?
There's not a lot left to say about the government shutdown that hasn't already been said -- or is being said better elsewhere -- so let me focus on 140 characters saying it.
It's true that people may not consciously have said "I'll vote for this person because he wants to raise taxes and I'll vote for that person because he doesn't," but that was the net effect because enough people did. And that's what happens when people vote on things other than issues (a problem with the way the media covers elections, but that's another story for another day).
Here's the legislative results (House) in the 2010 election. The deeper the shade, the more support for the particular party (red for GOP, blue for DFL).
Here's the support map for the governor's race.
It doesn't matter that the general colors don't change much, the shades do and in close elections, that was enough to create the split government with each side insisting that you gave them a mandate.
In his MPR commentary today, John Wodele blames the insiders who dictate the choices you get on Election Day:
But in the general election a funny thing happened. Voters chose both. They elected a "no new taxes" legislature and a "tax the rich" governor, solutions that by themselves - as nearly every nonpartisan economic expert tells us -- are no solutions at all.
But woe to the elected official in either party who would compromise for the good of the people. Or, for that matter, go against party leaders and propose a more substantive solution -- a comprehensive and balanced solution that would include spending cuts, increased revenue from consumption taxes, a short-term surtax tilted toward the highest earners (but also middle to high earners), and the always promised but never quite achieved reform of government services.
You can't go to a state park? You can't pee between Hudson and Fargo? That's an inconvenience; an unhappy inconvenience, to be sure, but an inconvenience it is. They're also the most telegenic aspect of covering the story and -- for the most part -- the people inconvenienced may more closely mirror the readership/viewership/listenership of the news organizations telling those legitimate stories.
But it's important for us to note that even with the judge's order the other day requiring "essential services" to stay open, there are more essential services -- life and death -- that aren't
The shutdown is now in the hands of the professional spinmeisters. In three extraordinary news conferences last night, both sides tried to limit the amount of insight into the negotiations. One side said they were close to a deal, another side said they weren't.
So it fell to the Capitol reporters to challenge them to answer questions with facts and they shrank from the challenge in order to stay on the message.
It started around 9:30 last night with this news conference. Note the question-and-answer portion (paying particular attention to the one at 3:36) that was cut short even though there were more answers being sought.
Not much was working right up at the Capitol last night; the exception was the Capitol press corps.
We in the media spent hours and hours trying to explain what was behind the initial budget stalemate at the Capitol. MPR's Curtis Gilbert and Molly Bloom then did it well in a little under three minutes.
And finally, for now, colleague Jeff Jones offers this historical note:
Looks like the Governor gave his speech last night in the Governor's Reception Room underneath the huge mural of the Battle of Gettysburg, which -- as it happens -- began exactly 148 years ago today (July 1-3, 1863). It's a seriously creepy piece of artwork, but the reason it's there is to honor the 1st Minnesota Volunteers who, in that battle, suffered the highest casualty rate of any regiment in U.S. military history...before or since. 83% of the troops who charged Confederate lines were killed or wounded. Only 47 men came back.
If we are not careful and paying attention, we can let the professional weatherpeople lead us down the path of meteorological despair. "It's 90, but it feels like 106!" they warned today as summer made the apparently unwelcome visit to Minnesota even though we've been longing for it for weeks.
When I let the Blog Dog back in from her morning inspection of the south 40 this morning, she was panting like a two-stroke engine, a reminder to me to keep the windows shut and the air conditioner on. You don't want to go out in this weather because, you know, it's not the heat, it's the humidity that will get you if you're not careful.
That's a phrase that still occupies a disk sector in the hard drive in my head, "it's not the heat, it's the humidity."
It's around 1960, the memory bank reveals, and I'm at my mother's feet while she utters those words to someone. We're in the driveway of our home.
"What's humidity?" I asked.
"You can't really feel it when you're a kid," she said. "But when you get older, you'll know."
I'm older now, of course. I recognize humidity and loathe its existence and the passing of time that made its recognition possible.
The senses are a time machine. A song on the radio takes you anywhere in the past you want to go. A smell -- for me, it's Candyland in downtown St. Paul -- transports you to a boardwalk, a summer night, and a lost love.
I could avoid the outdoors no longer this morning. I had to dump the coffee grounds in the compost bin. I had no choice but to accept fate, open the back door and step into ... 1964.
This temperature. This humidity. I remember this exact combination in a place and moment that no longer exists. It's a trailer on the oceanfront of Plum Island in Newburyport, Massachusetts, which seemed like luxury then but which I realize now was a desperately cramped spot for five kids and two parents.
I am 10 years old and it's the beginning of another perfect day, me with my freedom to spend it roaming the beach looking for lost lures, watching the charter boats head for George's Bank, seeing what's up at the Coast Guard station, standing at the end of the jetty as the tide comes in pretending I'm the captain of a trawler in the storm, smelling the rope at the tackle store, or riding the bike to the variety store for the latest Archie comic book. My parents are half the age I am now. It is summer, I don't know what a dewpoint is, and these are the best days of my life.
Be careful if you go out today. You might become 10 years old again.
If state government is in shambles, do we need a new state logo to describe us?
Reader Colleen Ashton says she awoke this morning and found a new neighbor: A portable toilet, presumably dropped off in advance of the crowds to watch fireworks in St. Paul on the 4th of July. It's a testament that not everything has ground to a halt in Minnesota. It also provides inspiration for an enterprising NewsCut reader to design a new state symbol, given the shutdown.
Maybe you could work this in, too (sent last night from @jwbucklin.
This one seems quaint and outdated...
Take your time, do it well and I'll post what's submitted later.
Updated 2:48 p.m. - Derek Schille, who notes -- accurately -- "I think I'm the only person that ever sends anything for these challenges..." has sent something for this challenge:4 Comments)
The Red Sox have become just the third team in Major League Baseball -- the Cubs and Giants are the others -- to release a video against the bullying of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender teens.
The story is fast becoming the teams that haven't joined the campaign as much as it is the teams that have.
The campaign was motivated in part by the suicide of Justin Aaberg of Anoka, who killed himself two weeks after the end of his freshman year in which he was bullied by other students.(3 Comments)
The newsroom here, like most newsrooms in Minnesota, is "all hands on deck" covering the shutdown. It's quality coverage, to be sure. We imagine everyone hanging on our every word, even if it's just analyzing why one side is calling the other side "liars."
I don't conduct scientific surveys of what people are interested in; I tend to choose them at random and see how their lives are going and where the news fits in, if it fits in at all.
James Taylor of St. Paul was standing at the I-494 on-ramp at Tamarack Road in Woodbury this morning, with a cardboard sign that said "White Bear Avenue." When I stopped and motioned for him to get in the NewsCutMobile, he was still bemused by the woman who'd just stopped, given him $10, said "God bless you," and drove off, presumably in the general direction of White Bear Avenue.
"I apologize for sweating," he said as he fit a too-big frame into a too-small car, "but this air conditioning is great."
"It works pretty well as long as I'm moving but it just blows air when I stop at traffic lights," I said, before adding, "so I don't stop at traffic lights anymore." Apparently, that was the funniest thing he'd heard all day, which started out with him hitchiking in the other direction, he indicated.
He had to make a payment on a storage unit in Woodbury today, but his vehicle -- a Jeep -- is broken down with a bad transmission. "The guy was nice enough not to charge me late fees," he said.
"But it's the first of the month," I said.
"I'm a month behind."
I didn't get a chance to find out what a guy from St. Paul's East Side is doing with a storage locker full of stuff in Woodbury because by then we'd exchanged names and he wanted to tell me that his inspires one of his dreams: To open up a bar or restaurant featuring people with famous names without the famous talent. He's got Steve Miller from South Dakota on board, he said. Some dreams die hard.
When he asked, I told him I work for Minnesota Public Radio, which happened to be playing on the radio as Gary Eichten asked former state finance boss Pam Wheelock if one side calls someone else "a liar," does that make it harder to settle the state shutdown?
"I talk to people," I said. "I leave the big stories to real reporters. I like to talk to people and find out how they spend their day."
He asked if I only talk to Minnesotans and when I said "no," his face lit up. He had the perfect person for me to talk to: the Texas preacher who, he said, has inspired him to turn his life around -- the one who was once homeless and is now a millionaire. James said he's now an inspirational speaker, too.
"You know what the secret is, Bob?" he asked. "Gratitude. I'm very grateful for everything I've got." If you're consistently grateful, he said, you don't have to depend on the state for help.
"It's probably a bad time to depend on the state," I said.
"That's right," he said. "It's like MPR; they're probably grateful to the private donors so they don't have to depend on the state for money."
"Imagine," I said.
By then we'd reached his street and he told me to let him off right behind the broken-down Jeep, and he was off to inspire others and be grateful for the chance to do so.
I went back to the shutdown with no similar sentiment.