The Monday Morning Rouser....
I'm working a short week this week. Today. Then I'm heading to New England to paint my saintly mother's house, returning in a few weeks. Others will fill-in while I'm gone but I don't believe there are plans for 5x8s during this time.
1) THE FLAG PARTY
You probably won't be seeing a lot of American flags in campaign commercials for Democrat candidates. A University of Chicago study has found that when people see an American flag, their political belief shifts toward the GOP, the Discover blog reports.
Perhaps the volunteers moved towards the dominant party at the time? Carter thinks not. In the spring of 2010, with Obama a year in power, Carter recruited 70 people and asked them to look at four photographs. Half the people saw buildings with flags in front of them; the others saw photos where the flags had been digitally removed. Even though the two groups had the same spectrum of political beliefs beforehand, the flag group shifted towards a Republican worldview after seeing the photos. It doesn't seem to matter who is sitting in the White House at the time.
We like to think that their political beliefs and choices are the result of thoughtful consideration and objective analysis. In truth, several studies have now shown that voting simply isn't that rational. Our choices are affected by unconscious preferences, our reflexes, and even local sports results. We are so predictable that people can guess the victors of elections with a surprising degree of accuracy based only on fleeting glances. In this context, the idea that a powerful national symbol like a flag could affect political preferences is not unreasonable.
2) MUCH ADO ABOUT TWITTER
When used by politicians, Twitter has an amazing ability to distract otherwise intelligent people from the issues.
Sure, there's plenty of hypocrisy involved in Michael Brodkorb's -- the long-time GOP attack man -- tweeting on state time; he made a name for himself railing against such things when he operated the Minnesota Democrats Exposed website. But he's the communications boss now for state Capitol Republicans and partisan communication is hardly limited to one side of this mess. As Tim Pugmire points out in his story today, both sides have taken to Twitter to push positions that enlighten or inform no one.
But this is the theatrical part of any political debate.
The reality of the Brodkorb and his opponents' tweets is that they have virtually no impact on any aspect of the shutdown. Nobody on Twitter turns to Brodkorb -- or any other partisan at the Capitol -- for news at the Capitol. They do so for entertainment. Followers already have an opinion that's firmly rooted on one side of the issue or the other, they're usually insiders -- other politicians, special interests, or the media. No tweet is going to change that.
In other shutdown "news," we got an interesting comment yesterday from one of the state workers who didn't get laid off:
I work for the State of MN and am currently working as my job was deemed critical. I'm fed up w/ the union types leading this story. Your story didn't mention the amount of unemployment these "idled" employees will receive if the shut down continues much longer. We calculated it last week and would receive almost enough UC (unemployment compensation) to make up the net pay we receive. Where is that in your boo-hoo story? I worked during the last shut down as well. I worked for my income while the unions got back pay for those that didn't -- paid vacation without having to use vacation time. Why don't you cover that? But I trust that MPR is only interested in furthering Dayton's and the union's agenda. By the way, I am not Dayton's cook or house keeper, which, as you know, he requested be included in the list of essential employees -- can you say "elitist?"
Elitist. I guess I can.
But back to the issues, MPR's Elizabeth Dunbar has an excellent assessment of what the budget debate is all about.
3) FLIPPED OUT IN SPACE
It's a series of "lasts" for the space shuttle Atlantis, the last manned space mission for the U.S. for a lifetime, for many of us. Over the weekend, it did the "backflip" so a photographer on the space station could check for damage.
The tech editor of ZDnet writes today that the sooner the shuttle is put out to pasture the better:
We don't need no stinking re-useable components. Give us safe, simple systems that work, so we can get our people up there safely and more often, instead of the ridiculous turnaround time that it takes to refurbish and recycle launch systems.
Space trivia: Thirty-two years ago today, the abandoned United States space station Skylab burned up in the atmosphere, showring the Indian Ocean and Australia with debris. Only three Apollo crews went to Skylab before its fiery death. (Wired)
4) THE CURSE OF THE NOAA RADIO
I took the advice of meteorologists a few years ago and bought one of those NOAA Radio/alarm clocks that goes off when there's a weather warning. Over the last two nights, I haven't been able to sleep, but I've been fully informed in knowing there was a line of severe thunderstorms extending from some small town I've never heard of to another small town I've never heard of.
Judging by the damage in my neighborhood this morning -- overturned recycling bins -- the sleep-to-risk ratio was out of whack. I heard the warnings, I ignored them. If I'd met a meteorological fate in my bed, at least I'd know why. But the technology is a flawed one, forcing us to be roused with alerts that might better be aimed for someone 10 or 20 miles away.
But this was all good news for teenager Trevor Cokley, a storm chaser, who caught the weather near New Albany yesterday...
On the side of my house this morning, incidentally, there are dozens of dead mosquitoes, smooshed against the siding. Is it possible that the wind was heavy enough to slam the poor critters to their demise?
5) CAR RACE BREAKS OUT AT TOUR DE FRANCE
Is this the Tour de France yesterday or rush hour in St. Paul?
Nearly 700 million people use Facebook, but many of them complain about some of its features. Now Google has launched Google Plus as an alternative social network site. Today's Question: What part of your social network experience would you like to change?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: The "war on drugs," officially declared by President Nixon in 1971, has largely been viewed as a failure. 40 years later, we look back at what has been achieved and what changes need to be made in US drug policy.
Second hour: Live coverage of President Obama's news conference.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Former finance commissioners John Gunyou and Jay Kiedrowski explain the budget and tax options available to lawmakers and the governor.
Second hour: From the Aspen Ideas Festival, two speakers address the question, "Are the girls beating the boys?
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: The bottom line on the debt ceiling,
Second hour: The challenges facing the world's newest country, South Sudan.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Keeping prisoners locked up remains a core government function during the shutdown, but the Department of Corrections is minimally staffed and only performing critical functions. For inmates, that means no visits from family or volunteers, and no indoor recreation time. MPR's Sasha Aslanian checks in with the guards, inmates, families and volunteers about the impact during shutdown.
Meg Talbot, the author of "The Princess Diaries," has migrated to vampires. She'll talk vampires, summer reads and how she was copied. MPR's Euan Kerr will have the story.
The words "corporate jets" came up again in President Barack Obama's news conference today.
"What we have talked about is that starting in 2013, that we have gotten rid of some of these egregious loopholes that are benefiting corporate jet owners or oil companies at a time where they're making billions of dollars of profits," he said.
It's a recent conversion for the president, who has identified corporate jet travel as something for fat cats. How did these fat cats get the break? President Obama gave it to them.
He signed the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010. Among its components was the ability of corporations to depreciate the cost of a corporate jet 100% in the year it is purchased, rather than over five years. The net effect is about a 40% reduction in cost.
Now, the president refers to this as a "tax loophole."
The beneficiaries of the loophole are corporate jet manufacturers Gulfstream (about 7,000 are employed in Georgia) and Cessna (which has made Wichita a company town).
Their trade group is fighting a perception problem, reports the Atlanta Journal Constitution:
The industry argues that it does not necessarily conform to a "fat cat" generalization. Most business flights carry midlevel staffers rather than chief executives, and many fly into airports without commercial airline access. One of the more common purchases is the Cessna Citation Sovereign, priced at roughly $17.5 million.
"People would be very surprised if they knew how many small-turbine and piston powered aircraft are used by businesses every day all across America," said Steve Champness, president of the Atlanta Aero Club. "Corporate aircraft give American businesses an advantage over the rest of the world."
The companies, however, seem to acknowledge that they can't prove a link between the accelerated depreciation and the number of jobs in the industry, a fact which also might undermine the notion that tax breaks are linked to jobs at all.
Mark Schmitt, senior fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, writes in the New Republic that the "corporate jet" focus sends the wrong message when it comes to taxes:
Call it economic populism on the cheap. By narrowing in on a single sharp example -- jets, Paris Hilton, Bermuda inversions -- these metaphors let Democrats grab a bit of the pitchfork tone of populism, while still protecting their ability to fly up to the Hamptons over the weekend on a donor's plane to assure their hedge-fund supporters that they certainly don't mean them, the dear friends whose contributions to economic dynamism they so admire and respect.
Modified, limited populism is probably the worst of both worlds. And in so narrowing the scope of the argument, Democrats also misrepresent the substance of their policies, in self-destructive ways. Their metaphors make it sound like taxes are more of a penalty for the grossest extremes of fat-cat America, rather than obligations that all of us share, relative to our ability to contribute. The insistence that any tax increases should affect only households earning more than $250,000 is similar. It leads, predictably, to families with two incomes just edging over the quarter-million mark protesting that they aren't really that rich and shouldn't be punished.
So where do all of these fat cats fly to? The Wall St. Journal last month created a database of corporate flights. But most of the database doesn't include flights in 2011 because corporations have elected to block their aircraft from being tracked.
Kenya today refused to open a refugee camp for East Africans fleeing drought. Kenya has taken Somalia's refugees for more than a decade, but it has appeared to literally draw a line in the sand. Dadaab's three existing camps were designed to house 90,000 people. Today, there are almost 400,000 people crammed into them and more than 1,400 arrive each day.
There's a camp already built, but Kenya won't open it because of "security concerns." So thousands of refugees have camped outside of it instead.2 Comments)
The Minnesota Court of Appeals today upheld the University of Minnesota's right to discipline a student in a mortuary sciences class who made jokes about a cadaver and made threats on her Facebook page.
In a series of posts in 2009, Amanda Tatro first posted a reference to a cadaver:
Amanda Beth Tatro Gets to play, I mean dissect, Bernie today. Lets see if I can have a lab void of reprimanding and having my scalpel taken away. Perhaps if I just hide it in my sleeve . . . .
In a subsequent Facebook post, Tatro appears to have threatened someone...
Amanda Beth Tatro: Who knew embalming lab was so cathartic! I still want to stab a certain someone in the throat with a trocar though. Hmm..perhaps I will spend the evening updating my "Death List #5" and making friends with the crematory guy. I do know the code . . . .
After the posts, the University banned her from campus for a time, then flunked her out of the course.
Tatro claimed the action violated her right to free speech, but the Court of Appeals said schools may limit or discipline student expression if school officials 'reasonably conclude that it will materially and substantially disrupt the work and discipline of the school.'"
Her Facebook posts did just that, the court said:
Beyond the university‟s concern for the safety of its students and faculty, Tatro‟s posts presented substantial concerns about the integrity of the anatomy-bequest program. Tatro‟s posts eventually reached families of anatomy-bequest-program donors and funeral directors, causing them to contact the university, expressing dismay and concern about Tatro‟s conduct and to question the professionalism of the program in general--a program that relies heavily on the faith and confidence of donors and their families to provide necessary laboratory experiences for medical and mortuary-science students. Indeed, the rules requiring respect and professionalism in the sensitive area of mortuary science appear designed to ensure ongoing trust in this relationship, and Tatro agreed to be bound by these rules as a condition of her access to a human donor. Because Tatro‟s Facebook posts materially and substantially disrupted the work and discipline of the university, we conclude that the university did not violate Tatro‟s First Amendment rights by responding with appropriate disciplinary sanctions.
Tatro also argued that the U of M didn't have authority to discipline her because the activity to which it objected took place off campus. "Whether or not Tatro intended her posts to be satire or mere venting does not diminish the university's substantial interest in protecting the safety of its students and faculty and addressing potentially threatening conduct," the Court of Appeals said. It added that in these times, schools need to watch for and respond to student behavior that indicates a potential for violence.1 Comments)
Every now and again I think of the old days, when kids would have pick-up baseball games at the local park, instead of the highly-organized, parent-heavy operations that dominate youth sports these days.
Today is one of those days...
Prosecutors in Colorado today charged three parents -- including the town prosecutor -- with third-degree assault and disorderly conduct after the brawl during a youth baseball tournament.(2 Comments)
Ever pull into a city in a suburb and notice a shopping center with a Target at one end, a Home Depot at the other, a bunch of chain stores in the middle and forget what city you're in? It could be Anywhere USA. That, my friends, is what people are trying to do with the English language.
NPR's All Things Considered this afternoon interviewed Billy Baker of the Boston Globe, who wrote an
ahticle article about a class in Boston to help residents get rid of their accents (Story here but audio won't be posted until later, apparently)
Treating Bostonians as if they were dogs pooping indoors, the teacher uses a clicker -- a dog clicker -- to call attention to any hint that Bostonians were, in fact, from Boston.
I went through something similar in college back in the '70s, without the dog
clickah clicker. Constantly beat into us was the notion that the perfect accent for aspiring radio broadcasters is the Midwest accent. Well, good for y'all.
I've always been fascinated by regional accents. I have a hard time understanding, for example, what people in St. Louis are saying (my Kentucky colleague refers to this as Mississippi mushmouth), I love the Cajun influence of someone from Louisiana, or the slow drawl of Charleston, South Carolina.
Why do we want to get rid of these and bulldoze our way to the language version of Target and Home Depot?
As you might expect, this notion isn't sitting well with the people of Boston, judging by their comments attached to the story...
"What sounds dumb is judging people's intellectual abilities by the sound of their voice. Taking all the regional flavor and character out of peoples' accents also sounds dumb - do we all want to sound like newscasters?"
"If this were an article about a class which taught African Americans to lose THEIR speech patterns(like "ax" for ask) we would hear shouts(and rightfully so) of racism. I moved here in 1973 with a mixed London/Brooklyn accent tinged by some upstate New York. No one could tell where I was from. I pick up speech fast(foreign and otherwise) and picked up somewhat of a Boston accent. Of course my kids, born here, speak with one tho my son who recently moved down South now says,'Hey did youall pak youh cah?'"
"All language is composed of dialects which in part are comprised by accents. So the question, unanswered by the story, is what accent these folks are being taught to adopt. Presumably it is a Midwestern accent. So it's not about 'getting rid' of an accent, it's trading your local, native accent for one from 1,000 miles away. That's pretty self-hating.
We are who we are. We're from where we're from.
And with the close of this post, I'm heading back to Boston for 10 days of house painting. I'll miss you all and your perfect accents, but I shall try to console myself with a cup of Dunkin' Donuts coffee and a cinnamon doughnut.(13 Comments)