What the men in Brainerd know that a candidate in Missouri doesn't, lessons from the flooding of Rushford, when lightning strikes, drunk in South Dakota at 14, and dispatches from the music man.
College grads on food stamps?
It's a headline on the MPR website that certainly hits you like a bucket of water. College isn't supposed to leave you so destitute that you need to be on food stamps -- now known as SNAP, but that's the situation facing some college grads, the story says.
How is this possible? Easy. You don't find a job, or you find one that way pays lousy wages.
In order to get food stamps, you can't have more than $2,000 in the bank -- few college grads do -- and for a one-person household, the maximum amount you can gross in a month is $1,180. Assuming a four-week month and a minimum wage gig, you would need to work at least 47 hours a week (for a large employer) to not be eligible for food stamps. If you work for a small business, you'd have to work 56 hours a week.
The young grad in the story gets just $56 a month in benefits, so using the calculations described on this page, her net monthly income is in the vicinity of $500 a month.
Another person in the story is getting $200 a month, which is the maximum amount of food stamp assistance. She's making next to nothing.
A writer to MPR this morning asks if people who graduated 20 years ago would've similarly been eligible for food stamps, but a few things have changed since 1992. For one thing, people were able to put their college degrees to use in 1992, though not by much.
The unemployment for people with a bachelor's degree in 1992 was 3.2%. In July 2012, it was 4.1%, jumping to 7.1% for people with some college or graduates with an associate's degree.
In 1992, according to HealthGuidance,org, "the average food stamp household size was 2.6 persons with an average monthly gross income of $472 and an average monthly net income of $261; half the households had gross monthly incomes of less than $500. Almost 77 percent of all households had no countable assets and another 18 percent had countable assets of $500 or less. Those food stamp recipients who were able to work were working or otherwise meeting the work requirement--for example, by being in training or receiving education."
Factor in inflation, and it's clear the program hasn't risen to meet today's college grads. Today's college grads -- at least the ones who haven't been able to put their degrees to use -- are lowering to the program.(23 Comments)
Juries sometimes reach unfair verdicts and when they do, a judge is supposed to remedy the situation.
That didn't happen in the case of John Hoff, who blogs as Johnny Northside, and who got in trouble because he wrote something that was true about a semi-public figure, that got the semi-public figure fired, and that's when the case went to court.
As I wrote after the original verdict, this case was a lot simpler than the jury made it, because it's about this:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Even a few area "experts" on journalism pooh-poohed the significance of the case, wedded as they may be to a mainstream media look at the world. But Minnesota is where free speech was most vigorously defended (Near v. Minnesota) and they should've been on edge pending today's decision.
There were many troubling things about the original verdict as I also wrote:
Moore's attorney says Hoff doesn't enjoy First Amendment speech protections because he doesn't get all sides of an issue. And, it's maintained, if others post inflammatory comments on his blog -- they do -- then he should be liable for those, too. That allegation should certainly get the attention of mainstream media, since the comments on their Web sites are (a) more numerous and (b) often at least as horrible as anything found on those newfangled blogs.
But the Minnesota Court of Appeals looked at the case and today tossed out the $60,000 verdict, making fairly short work of the question of whether Hoff's blogging was defamatory. It wasn't.
More troubling, however, was what the court found on the question of why Hoff lost the original case: The jury believed that he had lobbied University of Minnesota officials, by contacting them to get the subject of his attacks -- Jerry Moore -- fired.
The Court of Appeals leveled a bit of a broadside to the District Court for letting the verdict stand when there wasn't much evidence to support it:
Similarly, here, we conclude that the district court's basis for imposing liability on Hoff is too broadly asserted to assure that Hoff's constitutional rights are protected. By concluding that the "trial record as a whole" supported the jury's verdict, the district court did not adequately identify Hoff's behavior that was separate and distinct from his protected speech. The district court pointed to Allen's testimony to show that there was evidence of interference by Hoff separate and distinct from his blog post, but we conclude that this evidence is insufficient to independently support the jury's verdict.
Hoff's communication with Allen (a friend of Hoff's who sent e-mails to the U of M after the blog post and who claims Hoff told him to) is too intertwined with Hoff's constitutionally protected blog post to accurately characterize it as independent tortious conduct. Hoff's information about Moore's involvement in mortgage fraud was the primary reason for his communication (through Allen) to the University of Minnesota. The fact that Hoff's underlying goal in conveying this information was to get Moore fired does nothing to disentangle the protected statement from any tortious conduct. We therefore conclude that there is too great a risk of infringing on Hoff's constitutional right to publish this information if he is held liable for Moore's subsequent employment termination.
Hoff isn't everyone's cup of tea. Neither are Nazis in Skokie, the Westboro Baptist Church members at funerals of soldiers, or candidates who lie about their military service. Tough.
Blogs aren't everybody's cup of tea, either. But the importance of today's decision is that had it gone another way, and the original verdict survived, future courts would have a good reason to expand the infringement of speech that is unpopular. It still may, should it end up at the Minnesota Supreme Court with a different result.
On his blog today, Hoff called the decision "total victory," and urged people to devote their attention to the case of three punk rockers imprisoned in Russia.3 Comments)
Female stand-up comics aren't such a big deal these days. It wasn't always thus.
Phyllis Diller was a stand-up comic who came to the profession by need, she said. She was a homeless family of seven. With the help of Jack Paar in the '50s, she became one of the first female stand-up comics.
She died today at 95.(1 Comments)
Can you name a single member of the U.S. Supreme Court?
If you can, you're more knowledgeable than two-thirds
percent of your fellow Americans, according to a study out today.
Twenty-percent of those surveyed can name John Roberts as one of the justices. He topped the list of justices people could name.
Stephanie Rahlfs, an editor at Eagan's FindLaw.com, which conducted the study, tried to be kind in a news release about it:
"Recent rulings, particularly the decision upholding health care reform, have brought more attention to the U.S. Supreme Court than we've seen in past years. However, the High Court issues its rulings as a collective body. While justices can and do issue individual concurring and dissenting opinions, court sessions are conducted without TV cameras and deliberations take place behind closed doors. So while the decisions often have significant and lasting impact, the justices themselves are generally not very visible nor well known to the public as individuals."
OK, let's go with that.