By way of the Star Tribune today, we learned of the death earlier this month of David Leslie, 84, a Twin Cities stockbroker who was probably better known for his love and knowledge of birds.
He also invented this contraption: The Hummer Helmet. Watch the video.
He also held a patent on the device.
It was a good life.(0 Comments)
In the economic calamity that's lingered from the 2008 collapse of the American economy, there's at least a shard of good: Fewer kids seem to be dying while driving.
The Governors' Highway Safety Association released a report today showing 16- and 17-year-old deaths while driving increased 19 percent -- 38 teens -- in the first half of 2012, compared to a year earlier. There was no change in Minnesota.
But overall, there's still be a trend toward fewer teen deaths in recent years, and although the group says you can't ever peg these things to a single cause, it's likely due to the economy.
It has long been known that economic conditions affect fatal crash rates, likely by affecting the amount and type of driving, particularly discretionary driving, and that fatal crashes drop during times of poor economic conditions (Longthorne, Subramanian, & Chen, 2010; Sivak, 2008). Higher gas prices are likely a factor as well. Teenagers and others of lesser means are thought to be most sensitive to deteriorating economic conditions and higher gas prices. The economic downturn may have affected both licensure and the amount of driving among teens, given the costs associated with obtaining a license, including the cost of driver education and license fees, as well as vehicle operating expenses. National licensure data in the United States are too unreliable to indicate trends (Foss, 2013), but Monitoring the Future national surveys conducted annually by the University of Michigan indicate that the proportion of high school seniors who reported that they did not drive during an average week increased gradually from 15% to 22% from 2000 to 2010 (Shults, 2012). A study of age groups 15-24 found that a 10% increase in gas prices reduced fatalities by 3-6%, with the largest reductions among 15- to 17-year-olds (Morrisey & Grabowski, 2011).
The occurrence of a steep economic decline is at least a partial explanation for the overall decreases in fatalities in the 2007-2010 period, especially for drivers younger than age 20. Assuming that teenagers are more affected by economic downturns than are older drivers, one might expect that they also are more affected by upturns in the economy, which could account for some of the bounceback in driver fatalities among the youngest drivers, particularly 16-year-olds.
The notation about the higher price of gasoline leading to fewer teen deaths is a fascinating one. It will be interesting to see if that comes up at the Legislature should a debate over raising the gas tax surface in earnest.0 Comments)
The Supreme Court of New Jersey is holding a hearing today on whether Judge Vince Sicari has to give up the night gig because it's undignified.
Sicari, whose stage name is Vince August, is a comedian. He often warms up the crowd of the Colbert Report before the show. He does stand-up and some TV comedy.
But he's also a municipal court judge in Hackensack, with a state ethics board that suggests being a comedian is more of an assault on the dignity of the bench than being paid $13,000 to do the job, which apparently he does quite well.(2 Comments)
Remember that news conference Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood had last week about the air transportation system will be a "calamity" because the coming sequester will force the FAA to furlough air traffic controllers?
The Washington Post today has a side of the FAA budget that LaHood didn't talk about: The side that sends money to small airports with little real reason for existing, including one -- it claims -- in Minnesota.
But the Post focuses mostly on Lake Murray Airport in Oklahoma which last year got about $1,500 from the FAA for every takeoff and landing.
That's because of a bill Congress passed in 2000 that created a new "entitlement" program for small airports. The rules: If a field was on the FAA's official airports list, and if it had sufficient need for infrastructure improvements, there would be money. Up to $150,000, every year.
The money was paid out of a "trust fund" filled by taxes on airline tickets and airplane fuel.
On Capitol Hill, this looked like a master stroke of pork politics, engineered by then-House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bud Shuster (R-Pa.). His measure carpet-bombed congressional districts with money. In the Senate, the bill won by 65 votes. In the House, it won by 218. (Shuster retired in 2001. He did not return a call for comment about the legislation).
Out in the real world, however, there were problems.
Little airports such as this "need a grant every now and then. Not necessarily every year," said an FAA official who discussed the program's flaws on the condition of anonymity. "Now, we have a system that gives 'em all a little money, every year."
Airport advocates often try to get public owned airports to grab the money because it comes with strings attached: the airport has to stay open or the money has to be paid back.
But there are a few problems with the Post reporting. It lists 88 airports across the country, including the one in Oklahoma, that "have no paying customers and no planes based there."
It lists Glencoe, MN as one of the airports. But that's not exactly true. There are 10 aircraft based on the field and the city sells aviation fuel, although it doesn't sell much. It says the airport has no "paying customers" and that's a slight flaw in the Post's methodology since small general aviation airports don't usually exist for passenger travel.
Several airports in farm country serve as bases for the traveling agricultural crop spraying operations that visit Minnesota farms several times a year.
Still, the airport received $150,000 in 2012, according to the Post. You could pay a few air traffic controllers with that money, the paper figures.
(h/t: Sara Meyer)
The same-sex marriage debate will begin anew in Minnesota tomorrow when sponsors of a bill to legalize same sex marriage unveil their initiative.
Minnesota was one of the first states to legally rule that people of the same sex cannot be married. In 1971, Richard John Baker and James Michael McConnell (picture) challenged Hennepin County's refusal to grant them a marriage license. The Minnesota Supreme Court ruled against the couple and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case.
Twenty-five years later, Congress passed the Defense of Marriage Act and a year later, Minnesota passed its own version, specifically prohibiting same-sex marriage.
In Washington today an 83-year old woman challenged the federal DOMA when she filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court. When Edith Schlain Windsor's spouse died four years ago, she said, she had to pay a $363,053 estate tax. If she'd married a man, she would have paid nothing.
They were married in Canada after her spouse was diagnosed with a terminal illness, and although New York, where the couple lived, recognizes same-sex marriage, DOMA does not.
The 77-page brief filed today provides something so often missing in the political debate around the issue: a human story.
Lyle Denniston at SCOTUSblog tells it:
She noted that, at the time she fell in love with Thea Spyer in the early 1960s, it was "a time when lesbians and gay men risked losing their families, friends, and livelihoods if their sexual orientation became known." The couple then began "a relationship that would last until Dr. Spyer's death forty-four years later."
Before they met, Ms. Windsor had tried a brief marriage with a man "because she did not believe that it was possible for her to live openly as a lesbian." While she was in graduate school, she noted, she worked as a computer programmer for the Atomic Energy Commission at a time when a presidential executive order barred the government from employing homosexuals -- but she was never asked by the FBI about her sexual orientation in reviewing her eligibility for security clearance.
When she was later hired by IBM as a programmer, that employment, too, was supposed to be barred because IBM was a government contractor.
When she and Dr. Spyer were engaging in their courtship in New York City, they met at a restaurant where lesbians were allowed to eat. After they moved in together and became engaged, Dr. Spyer gave her a diamond brooch instead of a ring, to avoid questions from Ms Windsor's co-workers if they knew she was engaged.
Much of the debate about same-sex marriage has focused on perceived morality. When the Supreme Court hears the challenge next month, it may come down to one old woman's tax bill.(13 Comments)