How does a sweet kid end up the killer on the 6 o'clock news, the wrong black history in Woodbury, a red light for traffic cameras, everything you want to know about the sequester, and learning standing up in Fargo.
Apologies for the low number of posts in the last few days; I'm out sick for the next few days so posting will be relatively light.
PBS journalist Miles O'Brien offers some fascinating personal reflections following his outstanding NOVA segment as part of PBS' week looking at guns and violence in America, the majority of which has been made up of the usual clinical, arms-length, done-it-before stories that have shaped the national debate in the aftermath of Newtown.
But O'Brien takes a much more personal look at the major component of mass killings: the shooter. And a more sobering thought comes from meeting the people who love one: It's not that impossible that they could be anyone's son:
I was thinking they could have been pictures of my son. And then the moment came when I was reading an autobiography Andy wrote as a class assignment the in the fourth grade. He expressed a desire to go to the U.S. Naval Academy. That happens to be where my son is - now in his second (youngster) year.
Suddenly I saw myself in Jeff's shoes. And they hurt.
I was reminded of how fortunate I am: my son has given me nothing but pride and joy. But Jeff must bear guilt for the sins of his son. Tears welled up in my eyes as I pondered at the cruel twists of fate that put us on the opposite side of a coin toss.
On his blog -- here -- he also talks with the woman who wrote the article, "I Am Adam Lanza's Mother," and who now lives in constant fear that her son is capable of such violence.
"After Newtown, we find ourselves asking how and why it keeps happening," O'Brien writes. "And we all want simple answers. And let's face it; we are tempted to lay a healthy heaping of blame on the parents. But it is not that simple."
Indeed, his piece doesn't focus on the simple -- videogames or even guns. It focuses on something much more complex and mysterious: the human brain. It's well worth taking the time to watch. (Watch online)
This pledge, read before classes at East Ridge High School in Woodbury for Black History Month, caused a dust-up:
I pledge allegiance to my Black people.
I pledge to develop my mind and body to the greatest extent possible.
I will learn all that I can in order to give my best to my people in their struggle for liberation.
I will keep myself physically fit, building a strong body free from drugs and other substances that weaken me and make me less capable of protecting myself, my family, and my Black brothers and sisters.
I will unselfishly share my knowledge and understanding with them in order to bring about change more quickly.
I will discipline myself to direct my energies thoughtfully and constructively rather than wasting them in idle hatred.
I will train myself never to hurt or allow others to harm my Black brothers and sisters for I recognize that we need every Black man, woman, and child to be physically, mentally and psychologically strong. These principles I pledge to practice daily and to teach them to others in order to unite my people.
East Ridge High School principal Aaron Harper says he didn't get any complaints from students about the Black Panther poem, but he heard from some parents, according to the Woodbury Bulletin.
"It is our history, whether we're proud of it or not," he told the paper. "The intent of doing what we're doing is to honor the differences among the stakeholders of our community. That's the value we're attempting to pass on."
"There are lot better examples and things that can be recited than something from a Black Panther," parent Kelly Fenton said.
Related: Forty-eight years ago today, Malcolm X was assassinated.
The "photocop" industry has poured money into Minnesota, trying to get the Legislature to pass a bill allowing the red-light cameras to be installed in the state. Yesterday, when it looked like the bill would be defeated in a committee, the bill was tabled. It's dying, but not yet dead. MPR's Tom Scheck reported the committee chair tabled the bill after a lobbyist for the industry pushing the bill sent him a note.
A police union official testified the bill is all about revenue. St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, who testified yesterday, says it could free cops up for other things. The St. Cloud Times posted this video interview with Kleis today.
The cameras have been in place in Cedar Rapids for three years. How's that working out? The Des Moines Register posted the results of a poll this week showing 51 percent of those surveyed want them eliminated; 46 percent are in favor of the cameras.
The Iowa Legislature is considering a bill now that would prevent the police department from keeping the money -- $13 million in Cedar Rapids since the cameras were installed -- and dedicating it to road projects instead.
"For the life of me, I find it very troubling. Who can be against reducing collisions, which in turn reduce injuries and fatalities," the police chief said.
The cameras are also installed in some parishes in Louisiana. New Orleans made about $12 million from scofflaws in 2012. In Jefferson Parish, however, the authorities pulled the plug on the cameras after it was discovered the company installing them was giving a former council member and a judge's wife a slice of the fines generated.
The company involved is the same one with which Minneapolis contracted for cameras in 2005.
At the end of the month, assuming Congress doesn't act, cuts will be made to federal spending that could damage program and services and cost jobs. The Washington Post today provides an FAQ, including this section on how many jobs get cut:
Depends who you ask. Stephen Fuller, an economist at the libertarian-minded George Mason University, puts the number at 2.14 million jobs lost. That includes the direct loss of 325,693 jobs from defense cuts (including 48,147 civilian employees at the DoD) and 420,529 jobs from non-defense cuts (including 229,116 federal workers -- the rest, by and large, are contractors). The rest of the jobs losses are indirect, resulting in a 1.5 point increase in the unemployment rate. However, Fuller's estimates predate the delay in the sequester passed in December, and other analysts are more measured. Macroeconomic Advisers estimates the sequester will add only 0.25 points to the unemployment rate, a sixth of the impact Fuller predicts.
The Association of Minnesota Counties provides this primer on sequestration. It says 220 Head Start jobs would be lost, there would be less heating and fuel assistance, 11,000 domestic violence crisis calls would not be answered, and less funding for senior meals programs, among other cuts.
Meanwhile, a new poll today shows an increasing number of people are generally fine with letting it happen. The Pew poll says four of 10 surveyed favor letting the automatic cuts go into effect.
That's easy to say now. But wait until someone's airline flight is delayed.
If you work in a cubicle farm, you've probably joined one side or the other -- the people who stand up at work vs. the people who sit down.
Now, the fad is spreading into schools, the Fargo Forum reports. The Nativity Elementary School has gotten rid of chairs for first-graders. The kids, the teacher reports, don't bounce off the walls anymore.
Bonus I: This winter has been brought to you by the color gray. Winter in Minnesota is shades of black-and-white. By this stage of the process, we long for just one thing: Color.
Aitkin author Leif Enger's latest video provides some respite. Keep calm. And color.
Bonus II: Of course, another storm is heading your way, Minnesota. May we recommend an adoption of a program in Calgary? Snow Angels.
Bonus III: Sarajevo 1992: Recognizing yourself in a distant war. An outstanding look back at a war that raged in a European city, the scenes of which are still difficult to comprehend. (BBC)
State senators are considering a proposal to allow Minnesotans to vote up to two weeks before Election Day. Currently, voters need excused absences to vote early. Today's Question: What changes would you like to see in Minnesota's voting laws?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) - First hour: University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler.
Second hour: Is divorce too easy?
Third hour: Gun control at the Capitol.
MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Cube Critics' Oscar preview and trivia quiz special. Chris Roberts, host. Guests: Euan Kerr and Stephanie Curtis.
Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) - Who gets a religious exemption? And why?
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Filmmakers Andrea and Sean Fine explore the dark side of childhood in their Oscar-nominated short, Inocente. The documentary follows the plight of a homeless teen in California whose dream is to become an artist. NPR will have the story behind their film.
Gov. Mark Dayton has been encouraging legislators to come up with a better alternative to the two-year budget plan he unveiled a month ago. Reaction to Dayton's proposed retooling of sales taxes, income taxes and property taxes has been mostly lukewarm, even among his fellow Democrats. And some are already looking at possible options. MPR's Tim Pugmire will provide an update.
I'm ok with the Idea of red light cameras...
The implementation however leaves a lot to be desired.
I've spoken to people who have been ticketed for making a right on red, when it was perfectly legal for them to do so, but the camera wasn't configured to allow that scenario. Of course fighting that ticket in court lead to it being dismissed, but many people didn't bother fighting it since taking the time off work would mean losing more money then the ticket costs. Of course that money never found it's way back to the "offenders" it just kept lining the pockets of the police department. (not really giving them the motivation to repair the camera)
In MN specifically we have snow, and stopping for a red light is often not the safest course of action... We know this, and our lights are designed for this, when the light turns red there is a delay before traffic from other directions starts moving, our yellow lights are longer then other places in the country as well to account for the sliding that happens in winter... however a red light camera doesn't care what was safest at the time, or what the current conditions of the road were, it cares only that the light was red and out passed through it.
Now with out a better way to contest the tickets other then going to court (which is always an expense, both for the "offender" and the tax payer that fund the judiciary) these system where no common sense is applied before issuing a citation lead to over citation (to generate revenue) and generally a populace that doesn't feel like the police force has their best interest in mind (which leads to mistrust in the police, which has all kinds of ramifications)
//... we have snow, and stopping for a red light is often not the safest course of action.
OK that statement is not even close to the truth. It might feel that way sometimes but it is not true. Red lights are not optional, ever. Not having the ability to stop at a red light will get you a reckless driving citation.
Exception exist in everything: a hilly area with pure ice at the area just before the intersection, where a stopped car would slide into the area because of gravity and highly reduced friction.
Yeah pretty sure there have been several studies that show that red light cameras actually contribute to an INCREASE in accidents. People really, REALLY don't want a ticket, so they slam on their brakes and get rear-ended. Or they hit the gas extra hard and get clipped by someone turning right.
http://www.motorists.org/red-light-cameras/increase-accidents (a source for more sources)
Given the length of yellow lights, if you have to slam on your brakes to avoid a red light, you were driving too fast. Same thing if you guy sliding through an intersection.
Undoubtedly, there are times when you drive thru a red light (being behind a truck that blocks the red light is one such example), but it's also undeniable that around here, it seems, people think red lights are optional.
I've lost count of the number of times looking both ways at a green light has kept me alive.
That's not to say there isn't a revenue factor in cities' decisions to install these things, but it would be nice if people would stop running red lights.
// red light cameras actually contribute to an INCREASE
Almost all of the "studies" are TV or newspaper stories. Usually they take previous year or two and compare to the first month to year. Number of crashes at that intersection. What they don't do is compare how many crashes happen at the average intersection to what that intersection has. Usually the red light camera go into intersections with very high crash rates compared to other intersections in the first place. The 'studies' don't have, control groups. They usually give the number of crashes at the location, but they don't give you city wide or numbers for other intersections. So we don't know, for example, if the number of crashes went up across the board.
From DriveCam About 96% of the intersection-‐related collisions had critical reasons for the incident that were associated with the driver. Less than 3% had critical reasons assigned to the vehicle or environment. In other words, nearly every one of these incidents was due to a driver action, not other factors.
I don't get the level of defense on behalf of people who run red lights. They really aren't optional, and shouldn't be treated as optional. And people really do seem more inclined to run lights here, more than any other place I've lived. Related?
I am categorically opposed to red light cameras. There are so many possible points of failure and opportunity for corruption. If cities are so hard up for money that they need to extort their own citizens, then we have a very serious tax code problem that needs fixing.
It's the very definition of what's wrong with American politics. Here you've got some bastard businessman with a bright idea. He'll manufacture cameras, then lobby unsuspecting lawmakers in the name of public safety, but really it's to make money. Total naked corruption. I am so glad this was shot down in committee.
The NOVA program last night was very thought provoking indeed. The difference in the brain scans for healthy people and those with depression was in once sense, not surprising, but that they were so very different was.
What touched me the most, however, was the treatment facility in Madison. This subject is so heavy hearted, with many pit falls for any journalist, but that O'Brien took the time to show how these kids can be helped offered the viewers some hope - the kind I think is more substantial than gun control laws. When these child felons themselves say it's not hard to get guns, then changing their behavior will have a greater impact than any law. imo. Kudos to NOVA and O'Brien for an excellent program. Check for the replay this weekend, folks.
Well said, Drae
I wonder if a 'cop' was sitting on the street and stopped every person that ran a red light, would that be 'extort their own citizens'? Is it extortion to enforce the laws?
My problem with red light cameras is the one BJ mentions - how do you prove that the citation goes to the driver, rather than the owner of the car? They're not always the same person, particularly in families who only own one vehicle.
Also, it does seem like there are significant opportunities for corruption with systems like this.
I, too, am very frustrated by people who run red lights, and would love to see them held accountable for endangering my health and safety with their reckless behavior, but I'm not convinced that this is the way to do that.
The main problem with red lights I see, is failure to stop at all on a red light right turn. A full stop is required. I live out in the 'burbs and abuse of the right turn on red is common. I would say at least 50%. A full stop is required. "... with the intention of making a right turn may make the right turn, after stopping, unless an official sign has been erected prohibiting such movement..."
It's extortion when there's a camera whose rules you don't know. It's extortion when the purpose is not safety, but fundraising. When they did this in Minneapolis, there were tiny little signs alerting you to the presence of a "controlled intersection." It's crystal clear that the system is set up to make money. If it happens to increase safety, that's simply a bonus.
@disco you didn't answer the question as to whether posting a police officer at the light is extortion. How is enforcing the law extortion? what about speed traps? couldn't you argue they are just extorting people.
@Susan WB then how can parking tickets be legal? they are given to a car and not a person.
Sorry, Disco. It's not extortion. The legal dictionary had this to say about extortion by Public Officers:
"The essence of extortion by a public officer is the oppressive use of official position to obtain a fee. The officer falsely claims authority to take that to which he or she is not lawfully entitled. This is known as acting under color of office. For example, a highway department officer who collects money from a tax delinquent automobile owner in excess of the authorized amount on the pretense of collecting a fine is extorting money under color of office. The victim, although consenting to payment, is not doing so voluntarily but is yielding to official authority.
There are four basic ways in which a public officer commits extortion. The officer might demand a fee not allowed by law and accept it under the guise of performing an official duty. He or she might take a fee greater than that allowed by law. In this case the victim must at least believe that he or she is under an obligation to pay some amount. A third method is for the officer to receive a fee before it is due. The crime is committed regardless of whether the sum taken is likely to become due in the future. It is not criminal, however, for an officer to collect a fee before it is due if the person paying so requests. Finally, extortion may be committed by the officer's taking a fee for services that are not performed. The service refrained from must be one within the official capacity of the officer in order to constitute extortion."
Additionally, the camera's "rules" are fairly simple - run a red light and it takes a picture. I don't find that to be oppressive use of authority in and of itself.
So what happens if your back bumper is in the intersection at the start of a red light? Do you get a ticket? What happens when, at the first hint of a red light, you slam on the brakes and get rear-ended by someone who didn't expect you to stop?
. . .
I would argue that it's not extortion if a cop catches you doing it. Then at least it's a human making a judgment, and they have to pay a cop to sit there and watch. It's not the same thing as mounting a dumb camera on a pole and watching the cash roll in.
I might support the idea of red light cameras IF:
- your entire car has to be inside the intersection
- it does NOT get reported to insurance, which I believe I read that it did under Minneapolis's failed plan, which is the biggest crock of you-know-what -- not only do you now have a citation, and a black mark on your driving record, but now you have Big Brother Car Insurance breathing down your neck, when it all could have been a mistake
- everything is null and void if you are rear-ended in a red-light intersection and the city (or local authority) pays ALL damages in this situation
- fine is $25 and not a moving violation since, hell, you might not have even been moving because it's a still camera
Honestly, Disco. The arguement that the owner gets the ticket but may not be the driver is more compelling than your "extortion" line of reasoning. Just sayin'.
Look, I don't have a dog in this fight because I don't drive, and the reason I don't drive is I see how every one else drives. Maybe if people followed the rules and understood they are operating a lethal killing machine we wouldn't need cameras to catch them violating the law and endangering others. Again, just sayin'.
The fact that you don't drive kind of short-circuits your reasoning in my opinion. If you don't drive, then I guess you can't really understand that it's not a black and white issue. It's not as simple as, "Oh, well just don't don't run red lights!" All drivers have been in situations that these cameras would make an issue of, but that a police officer likely would not. The camera cannot make a judgment like a person can. Not all intersections are the same -- yellow lights vary in duration, just as the speed of cars vary on a given roadway. Some yellow lights are too short.
And as I addressed above, it is pretty well established that these cameras are not installed for safety enforcement, but for making money. A city's tax base should be fixed in a more honest, sustainable (yes, I hate that word too, but I think it works here) way.
p.s. I've never gotten a ticket. This isn't personal for me.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not arguing in favor of these cameras. I simply found your lable of "extortion" to be a bit hyperbolic.
However, I do agree with your opinion that government should be more honest, but I won't be holding my breath.