Today is the 4th birthday of NewsCut. "They" said it would never last, although by "last" they might have meant, "five years." Here's this week's Monday Morning Rouser:
1) RETURN OF THE SOLIDAGO RIDERS
The Solidago Riders, five women who graduated from Macalester College last May, have finished their summer-long goal of riding their bikes around each of the Great Lakes. Reader Peter Larson spotted them in Stillwater on Saturday.
They were raising money for the organization, Grand Aspirations.
They have a terrific blog with good stories and pictures for those of us who live vicariously.
Since we started our now 67 day trek, the Solidago Riders have had a lot of time for conversation and twice as much for imagination. As much as we focus on the road, we also talk with each other about what's to come in our new lives after college. Robin and Ainsley want to run a backyard bakery when they return-it might be on Fridays. Jacque, Tressa, and I hope to build an Art Shanty this winter using found materials and replaceable magnets. We all want to host our people's festival, Solidago Bombago, again next summer. We all want to find jobs. Both collectively and as individuals, one thing we've gained from our adventure is a desire for imagining ways to improve and support our communities. Roberto Mangabeira Unger writes that "If we accept that society is made and imagined then we can believe that society can be REmade and REimagined." For our sakes, acknowledging that the problems we face in the world (like wars, economic upheavals, and institutional inequalities) are made, demonstrates how we can all feel empowered to imagine and practice the solutions we hope to discover in our futures.
In our first days of biking, one friend told us that "If you fall in love with the place you live," then the things you do for your home and your community "will never feel like a sacrifice." Two months later, this notion has become somewhat of an anthem to us, as friends from around the Great Lakes region give the same advice described in different words. However they put it, such advice always returns to our relationships-how we build connections with each other and our environments.
These sorts of expeditions -- I imagine, since I've never gone on one -- are transformational for those who take them. The riders' trip through Cleveland, for example, provides a great testimonial for the value of getting out of Minnesota once in awhile.
Though I consider myself an open-minded person, there are very few times in my life where I have been in the racial minority. In my life, I have lived in white-dominated areas and even our college, which may have more diversity than other small colleges, still is very white. On a daily basis, I generally haven't been stared at, or had people suspicious and confused because I look different. Though unintentional, I- like many Americans-live a life surrounded by people like me because that is just the way it is. It's a problem, but it's "the system." However, that seems an incredible pathetic answer to the lines that divide and plague our country. It is far too easy to ignore my white privilege and isolation. I do not have a hard time with airport security, will not be arrested for not having enough bus fair, will not be started at in wealthy neighborhoods for my skin. Our country and cities and towns are segregated by race, gender, income, culture, religion, etc., etc., etc., and the inequalities are ghastly. These lines are everywhere. Though they lead us no where, we follow them because we are afraid of going anywhere else.
2) AN OCCUPIED WEDDING
Scenes from the Occupy protests:
Protesters in Cincinnati saw the story of a woman who was concerned her wedding pictures, which she'd planned to have taken in a park, would be affected by the fact Occupy Cincinnati has occupied the park. So the protesters moved and they ended up in the pictures anyway.
In Gainesville, Florida, Occupy Gainsville protester Ellas McDaniel was arrested in a park named after Bo Diddley. McDaniel is Bo Diddley's son.
Barry Ritholtz at The Big Picture ponders the future of Occupy Wall Street...
The founders of OWS are aware of how the Tea Party was Jiu Jitsued by the existing GOP political establishment. OWS want to avoid a similar fate. Such an end could occur of the leaders of MoveOn.org, a partisan Democratic group, gets their way. They have bulled their way into the media, pretending to speak for OWS. (The media are suckers for a simple narrative, and MoveOn.org provides that).
Hence, OWS needs to demonstrate a few things: A clear leadership. A consistent message. But most importantly of all, some specific policy objectives.
Ritholtz also takes the usual shot at mainstream media for not properly covering the protests (charts don't translate to sound bites well). But if anyone ever gets around to focusing on something other than tents, maybe this story -- did I mention it comes from mainstream media? -- might get some attention: Some banks, it's alleged, are proceeding with foreclosures, even after agreeing to modified mortgage payments with people who are struggling to keep their homes.
"It is all too common for banks to enter a loan mod and then try to foreclose on people and try to harangue them for money,'' a spokeswoman at the Center for Responsible Lending said. "All the evidence shows that servicing procedures and record keeping are just a mess. It ranges from disarray to out-and-out fraud.''
Perhaps the debate surrounding OccupyXX can be modified from a question of whether capitalism is or isn't good to "is a deal a deal?"
3) FEAR AND HATE IN DOWNTOWN MINNEAPOLIS
Michael Dennis and Winfred Bates don't hold hands when they're out in public anymore, not since the couple was attacked by about 15 men, punching them and shouting gay slurs last month, the U Daily reports.
"Everyone is telling us to act like straight people and pretend this never happened," Dennis said. "I think this is a chance to show people that this does happen and encourage awareness to hopefully end this kind of hate crime."
Dennis said he transferred to the U of M from out of state because of the culture and resources for gay people here.
4) THE THINGS THAT AREN'T FOREVER
"Parenting advice is all future directed," writer Emily Rapp writes in the New York Times. The Santa Fe woman's son won't survive past his third birthday and her compelling story raises a question for many parents: What if we just parented for right now?
Nobody asks dragon parents for advice; we're too scary. Our grief is primal and unwieldy and embarrassing. The certainties that most parents face are irrelevant to us, and frankly, kind of silly. Our narratives are grisly, the stakes impossibly high. Conversations about which seizure medication is most effective or how to feed children who have trouble swallowing are tantamount to breathing fire at a dinner party or on the playground. Like Dr. Spock suddenly possessed by Al Gore, we offer inconvenient truths and foretell disaster.
And there's this: parents who, particularly in this country, are expected to be superhuman, to raise children who outpace all their peers, don't want to see what we see. The long truth about their children, about themselves: that none of it is forever.
The other end of the spectrum: Every five hours in the U.S., a child dies from abuse or neglect, the BBC says.
5) NEVER TOO LATE
It took Fauja Singh more than eight hours to finish the Toronto marathon yesterday. He was the last competitor on the course. He's also 100 years old.
Mr. Singh ran his first marathon when he was 89.
He runs 10 miles a day.
Bonus: The sugar beet harvest in the Red River Valley might start this afternoon or tonight, if the weather cooperates. That's good news for dozens of "hoboes," profiled by the Fargo Forum today. They're part of the workforce upon which the industry depends each season.
They are young, footloose types, living on the road, maybe homeless, technically, traveling with friends by freight train or their thumbs, playing music for tips and finding odd jobs when they can. Word of good jobs travels fast among them.
Micaela Madden, from Petaluma, Calif., is a three-year veteran of the road.
"I've been in box cars with 20 people," she said. Gesturing to include the gathering around the picnic table, she says, "I guess we are all travelers, or just hoboes."
They are part of a workforce that often goes unnoticed during the valley's sugar beet harvest.
Bonus II: The Conversationalist has returned after two years in Japan. The Idea Peepshow blog talked with Taylor Baldry yesterday, who set up shop along Lake Calhoun in Minneapolis.
"The Conversationalist is a performance art piece that invites guests to select a topic from the conversation menu...as a means to engage human interaction with a stranger without the aid of social media and technology. As users of social media, we have become consumed with one-sided, broadcast conversations that we have weakened our analog social skills that allows us to converse with friends and strangers alike."
Which brings us to...
Eighty-three percent of American adults have cell phones, according to the Pew Center's Internet & American Life Project. Nearly 90 percent own some kind of computerized device. Three in four Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 use social media. Today's Question: Has technology taken over too much of our lives?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: Hope is a word that's used often in our culture, a concept that is promoted by some and disparaged by others. Is hope less important than hard work, courage and determination, or a necessary companion to those traits? Midmorning examines the value and meaning of hope. (Rebroadcast)
Second hour: We apply principals of ethics to all areas of life, from law to medicine to everyday behavior. But where do our ideas about ethics come from, and who decides what's ethical and what isn't? (Rebroadcast)
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Milken award-winning math teacher Seth Brown, from Wayzata West Middle School, on how to teach and learn math.
Second hour: Three award-winning reports from MPR's young reporters series.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: Most big companies aren't hiring, a lot of small businesses can't get loans to expand. But there is a bright spark; many mid-sized companies are holding their own and they could start the engine, and drive the U.S. economic recovery.
Second hour: It's 50 years since the Jets and Sharks rumbled on the big screen. Rita
Moreno and George Chakiris, two of the original cast members, join host Neal Conan.
Wall Street is one tough taskmaster.
It is being characterized as "disappointed" in the earnings reported today by Wells Fargo bank and, as a result, the Dow industrials are dropping.
What did Wells Fargo do to warrant such scorn? It reported a $4.1 billion profit in the third quarter, a 21-percent increase over a year ago.
But while its profit increased, the amount of revenue the bank generates did not.
Still, more people are putting money in the bank than taking it out -- deposits are up 8 percent, and the total amount of "bad" loans dropped.
How can Wells Fargo increase its revenue? The company has dropped all of its reward programs for credit cards and is "testing" a monthly fee in some markets, mostly in the south.
What's good for banks and Wall Street isn't always so hot for customers.(8 Comments)
You're charged with domestic assault and your attorney works out a deal in exchange for a guilty plea. But your attorney doesn't tell you that by pleading guilty, you'll no longer be able to possess a firearm in Minnesota. Can your guilty plea be invalidated because of ineffective counsel?
Thomas Sames was arrested in Shakopee in May 2010 during a fight with his wife at their home. He admitted to slapping and kicking her. Officers also found a small bag of marijuana.
Under a plea deal, the marijuana possession charge was dropped, and Sames was placed on probation for a year on assault charges. He didn't show up at a domestic abuse assessment meeting and shortly thereafter he appealed his conviction on the basis of the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution.
Today, the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the conviction citing, a 1970 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that " a defendant's guilty plea is voluntary if the defendant is 'fully aware of the direct consequences' when entering the plea." Not being able to buy a firearm is not a direct consequence, the Court of Appeals said. Instead, it is what's known as a "collateral consequence."
Mr. Sames claimed a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year that overturned a man's conviction because he was not advised that pleading guilty would result in deportation is, essentially, the same thing (I wrote about a similar case in Minnesota last May).
The claim is not without logic, the Court of Appeals said, "but the (Supreme) Court did not clearly state that the direct-collateral distinction should not be applied in cases not involving the risk of deportation. In the absence of such a statement, we are obligated to follow the precedent that binds us on that issue."6 Comments)
Tom Hanks, as Forrest Gump, didn't really win the Medal of Honor. Is it a crime to say he did?
Of all the things you can say in this country under the First Amendment, there's still a law on the books that says you can't say you were awarded a military honor when you weren't.
The Supreme Court today said it will review the law passed by Congress -- the Stolen Valor Act. It calls for a fine and/or six-month jail term for anyone who "falsely represents himself or herself, verbally or in writing, to have been awarded any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for the Armed Forces of the United States." It increases to a year in prison for lying about a Purple Heart, a Medal of Honor or another particularly high honor.
Filed in 2005, it passed the House of Representatives in December 2006 on a voice vote. No member of House, therefore, could be on the record one way or the other. That followed a September 2006 voice vote in the Senate that similarly avoided a record for any senator on the question.
As with most First Amendment issues, the question isn't whether people who lie about their medals and service diminish the contributions of those who actually served. They do. The question is whether there's a danger in giving the government the authority to regulate lies, and whether lies as a rule do enough damage to be constitutionally unprotected.
""The sad fact is, most people lie about some aspects of their lives from time to time," Ninth Circuit Judge Milan Smith wrote when his panel overturned the law last year, in the case of a water district board member in California who claimed he'd been awarded the Medal of Honor (Read decision).
"The government's approach would give it license to interfere significantly with our private and public conversations," he wrote. "Placing the presumption in favor of regulation...would steadily undermine the foundations of the First Amendment... How, based on the principle proposed by the government, would one distinguish the relative value of lies about one's receipt of a military decoration from the relative value of any other false statement of fact."
And that's the question, too; if this lie can be regulate, what other speech might soon follow?
The decision included references to Jon Stewart's Daily Show, Stephen Colbert's Colbert Report, and even a scene from Forrest Gump as examples of speech that might be threatened under the law.
But in a dissent to the decision overturning the law, Judge Jay Bybee said not all speech is entitled to First Amendment protection -- defamation, for example -- but Stewart's, Colbert's, and Forrest Gump's are.
"I must, that the Act will be applied with some modicum of common sense, it does not reach satire or imaginative expression," the judge said.
Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif is being held at the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay.
In July 2010, a federal judge ordered his release -- he's been there for almost nine years -- because of lack of evidence that the man was part of al Qaeda.
The man, who is from Yemen, says he went to Afghanistan because he was promised free medical care for head injuries he received in a car accident. The judge says that's a plausible explanation.
Since then, the Justice Department appealed the ruling. A hearing on the question was opened last spring, and then everyone was tossed out of the courtroom while it continued in secret.
And the judge has now ruled:
That opinion is making the rounds on the Internet, but this document is not:
The Lawfare blog got a copy of it, but doesn't translate what it means.
A docket entry explains that there is a classified opinion consisting of a 53-page opinion for the court by Judge Janice Rogers Brown, a 14-page concurring opinion by Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, and a 45-page dissent by Judge David Tatel.
At some point, a redacted opinion will be issued and we might be more informed about what we're not supposed to know.