Your message from the great unknown (5×8 – 8/3/11)

The message-in-a-bottle mystery, the retirement crisis, leadership qualities of the mentally ill, forgiveness in Olivia, and the problem with ‘Wigger Wednesday’.


1) BOTTLED MEMORIES AND MESSAGES

bottle_message.jpg What would you like to tell your family — or anyone else — 50 years from now? Paula Pierce’s father put a note in a bottle 50 years ago, and tossed it into the ocean at Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. It wandered around the Atlantic and then washed up on an island in the Caribbean. A tourist from Kentucky found it — he also says he’s found other bottles with letters in them, and the occasional toilet seat .

Alas, there was no profound message from Paula Pierce’s father. It was just a note to return the note to the motel he owned and collect $150 from his wife.

The Boston Globe picks up the story:


She thinks the message was meant to be a joke on her mother, a fastidious woman who ran the motel and guarded every penny the family earned. A $150 reward would have been big money back then.

“I couldn’t believe he did such a funny, lighthearted thing,” she said.

The message came to her at a particularly stressful time, as she struggled to keep the motel in business.

“It was like he was reaching across the great unknown and telling me to relax, to hang on through the duress and adversity, that everything would be OK,” she said.

Reach across the great unknown. What would you like your note to say?

2) THE RETIREMENT CRISIS?

It certainly appears that the era of austerity and cutbacks in programs for older Americans — Social Security — is at hand. Coupled with this factoid, one wonders whether we’re heading for a “retirement crisis.” One in five employees is dipping into their IRAs and other retirement accounts to make ends meet. Aside from not having money for retirement, there’s another danger here: If you get laid off — increasingly likely as we head toward another recession — you have to pay the money back.

Politicians have lately drawn a lot of parallels between government spending and what the American family does when times get tough. The two are closer in sync than we thought.

3) LEADERSHIP QUALITIES OF THE MENTALLY ILL

Does depression make you a better leader? A Tufts University psychiatry professor’s book claiming so goes on sale tomorrow. “A First Rate Madness” claims, for example, that a suicidal Winston Churchill could handle what a perfectly sane Neville Chamberlain could not.


“Normal” nondepressed persons have what psychologists call “positive illusion”–that is, they possess a mildly high self-regard, a slightly inflated sense of how much they control the world around them.

Mildly depressed people, by contrast, tend to see the world more clearly, more as it is. In one classic study, subjects pressed a button and observed whether it turned on a green light, which was actually controlled by the researchers. Those who had no depressive symptoms consistently overestimated their control over the light; those who had some depressive symptoms realized they had little control. . . .

Great crisis leaders are not like the rest of us; nor are they like mentally healthy leaders. When society is happy, they toil in sadness, seeking help from friends and family and doctors as they cope with an illness that can be debilitating, even deadly. Sometimes they are up, sometimes they are down, but they are never quite well.

When traditional approaches begin to fail, however, great crisis leaders see new opportunities. When the past no longer guides the future, they invent a new future. When old questions are unanswerable and new questions unrecognized, they create new solutions. They are realistic enough to see painful truths, and when calamity occurs, they can lift up the rest of us.

Their weakness is the secret of their strength.

“What if our contemporary political landscape has been shaped by madmen?” the Boston Globe asks today.

4) THE NATURE OF FORGIVENESS

An unusual act of forgiveness was on display in a courtroom in Olivia yesterday. State sentencing guidelines called for a 48-month sentence for Xiong Moua, 20, of Eau Claire.

She was driving a van in July 2010 when she failed to slow or stop at the intersection of State Highways 19 and 4, despite signs and rumble strips there, according to the complaint. She hit a car driven by Jason Petty, 39, sending it spinning into a truck. He died while being airlifted to the hospital.

His family, however, said it didn’t want another young life ruined in this case; it did not want a four year term for young Xiong. Instead, a judge ordered her to jail every July 29-31 (the anniversary of the crash) for the next 10 years.

The woman will also perform community service, probably some sort of driver education program to help prevent other young drivers from making a similar mistake.

5) WIGGER WEDNESDAY? WHAT ARE YOU WINKING, RED WING?

A local high school is being sued by a black student over a longstanding student tradition known as “Wigger Wednesday,” City Pages reports.


On this day, the white kids wore cocked baseball caps, sports jerseys, and gang colors instead of the Hawaiian shirts they were supposed to sport.

Bonus 1: There’s nothing sexier than a woman with four iPads for a head.

Bonus too: The mayor of Lithuania’s capital went to great lengths to demonstrate his frustration with people who park illegally in his city, disrupting bike traffic.

I admit that I momentarily had the same thought when a bicyclist on Robert Street in Saint Paul yesterday kept changing lanes during rush hour without a signal, ran red lights, and didn’t yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. Instead, I merely waved.

TODAY’S QUESTION

Under federal rules announced Monday, women with private health insurance will be able to get birth control free of charge starting next year. Today’s Question: What do you think about the requirement that health plans must offer free birth control?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: What does the debt deal do for conservatives?

Second hour: An interview with Juan Williams.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: What will the new congressional “super committee” do?

Second hour: American RadioWorks documentary, “Power and Smoke: A Nation Built on Coal.”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Politics with NPR political editor Ken Rudin.

Second hour: Counting calories.

  • BenCh

    Didn’t the Republicans try to make a big fuss over Gov. Dayton’s depression?

  • http://ofbuckleyandbeatles.wordpress.com/ Drae

    The real retirement crisis is demographics. We are moving from a young society to an old society. We don’t have enough young workers to tax to pay for the retirement bill of the Baby Boomers. Retirement benefits are driving the national debt, and Congress can’t bring itself to be honest with the American people about the serious need to reform these entitlements. What this is doing to future generations (and their tax burden) is wrong.

  • Kassie

    The story of forgiveness is great. I wish we could have more sane laws and forgiving people. The young woman probably is devastated already killing the young man, no need to ruin her life over it too.

  • Bet

    If I were going to pitch a bottle into the ocean I would put the message in an old Ham’s bottle and the note would say:

    “The Jew that grew

    In the Great North West”

  • John

    “One in five employees is dipping into their IRAs and other retirement accounts to make ends meet. Aside from not having money for retirement, there’s another danger here: If you get laid off — increasingly likely as we head toward another recession — you have to pay the money back.”

    The reference to IRA’s is misleading.

    The statement about having to pay the money back applies only to outstanding loans from 401(k) and similar employer-sponsored retirement programs. The “1 in 5″ number is specific to 401(k) loans and has nothing to do with IRA’s (which don’t offer loans but are still … dippable.) Finally, “1 in 5″ applies to workers with 401(k)’s, which is a much smaller number than “employees.”

    Full disclosure: I really like Bob Collins.

  • Jamie

    I posted this in the wriong place before:

    // “Politicians have lately drawn a lot of parallels between government spending and what the American family does when times get tough. The two are closer in sync than we thought” //

    I don’t know why you wrote this, Bob, but I disagree wholeheartedly. Politicians (mostly Republicans) do use this “parallel” but a family’s finances are not anything like government budgets.

  • Jamie

    // “Congress can’t bring itself to be honest with the American people about the serious need to reform these entitlements.” //

    Some in Congress talk about raising the retirement age to 70 and about minimizing cost-of-living increases and the like, only solutions that hurt lower-income people and people who do physical labor and people who are working with disabilities that would make working until age 70 extremely difficult. I never hear them talking about solutions that would affect more affluent people, like raising the cap on income that gets taxed for Social Security, or means-testing. You’d think it’s just Republicans who won’t consider those solutions, but it’s Democrats, too. It’s very frustrating.

  • http://ofbuckleyandbeatles.wordpress.com/ Drae

    @ Jamie – increasing the cap on income subject to the payroll tax doesn’t affect those who don’t collect a pay check, i.e the ultra-rich. So even that solution would not affect the affluent of whom you speak. The problem with SS funding is structural, and I don’t believe cosmetic fixes (like increasing the cap) are any sort of meaningful solution. BTW- the payroll tax is the most regressive tax on the books and hurts the working poor the most.

    Additionally, for me anyways, it’s the larger issue of “what is Social Security supposed to be?” Welfare for the elderly poor? Then why are we paying senior citizens who work on Capitol Hill Social Security benefits? Should wealthy retirees be allowed to subsidize their retirement on the backs of the working poor and tomorrow’s workers (the children)?

    We don’t have a national discussion on these questions because SS and other entitlements are sacrosanct. We’ll never get anywhere until that mentality changes.

  • Bob Collins

    //but a family’s finances are not anything like government budgets.

    they are on this story.

  • Jamie

    // “Should wealthy retirees be allowed to subsidize their retirement on the backs of the working poor and tomorrow’s workers…” //

    That’s why I mentioned “means-testing.”

    And I’ve read that raising the cap WOULD help a great deal. Maybe what I’ve read was wrong. But I know it can’t hurt.

    Social Security, as far as I know, was never meant to be “welfare for the elderly poor.” If I remember correctly, the creators of the program/system specifically did not want it to be considered “welfare.”

    Bob – I guess I missed your point. I’ll go back and re-read that section.

  • Jim Shapiro

    My message in the bottle would be “This too shall pass.”

    Kudos to the judge who honored the wishes of the grieving family. Why does this same wisdom not occur in capital punishment sentences, where the consequences are far more grievous than 4 years of incarceration?

  • http://ofbuckleyandbeatles.wordpress.com/ Drae

    @ Jamie – it’s not that an increase in the cap wouldn’t help, it’s that the payroll tax is not the best means by which we could fund the program. The problem with the payroll tax funding the program is the very large increase in retirees with a significant decrease in the number of workers/payroll recipients. The creators of the program never could have envisioned this problem. Our problem is we continue to think this (the payroll tax) is the only means by which we can fund the program, when other forms of taxation could supply a better stream of revenue – such as a consumption tax.

    And I don’t care if the SS creators didn’t envision a welfare program for the elderly poor. I’m discussing the here and now. Do WE consider SS to be an elderly poor welfare program? Should we? Should we consider ending benefits for wealthy retirees? Again – it’s hard to have such a national discussion when the government program in question is considered sacrosanct.