When only the money matters (5×8- 10/12/11)

Politics and the game of chicken, pinkwashing, the commute on Mars, lost in a maze, and the death of Frank Kameny.


1) THE NEW ART OF POLITICS

In Topeka, Kansas it’s no longer a crime to beat up your spouse. Forget about whether that’s right or not; it’s all about money. Everything’s about money now in Topeka and practically everywhere else. Right and wrong takes a back seat to money. The effort to decriminalize domestic violence started with a dispute over who should prosecute and pay for prosecuting people accused of misdemeanor cases of domestic violence.

The City Council couldn’t figure out what to do so last night it made misdemeanor domestic violence not a crime. It was a tactical move to force the district attorney to prosecute people under state law, at state expense. The state? It’s broke.

Eighteen people have been arrested for domestic violence since September and released without charges because no agency is accepting new cases in the city. That’s 18 people who might have retaliation in mind against the person who had them arrested in the first place. That’s the way domestic violence works, and the way it escalates from misdemeanor to something more serious that would still be prosecuted.

“Ethical and practical considerations required that we stop filing new criminal cases that we knew would have to be dismissed shortly once budget cuts were instituted and we no longer had the necessary personnel to prosecute these newly filed cases,” the DA wrote yesterday.

Neither side thought the other side would actually let misdemeanor domestic violence become legal — it was a game of chicken, the new “art” of politics. But make your budgetary stand with domestic violence instead of say, shoplifting or marijuana possession?

“Let’s think about the message we’re sending here,” one level-headed member of the city council said.

“I absolutely do not understand it,” Rita Smith, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, said after the vote. “It’s really outrageous that they’re playing with family safety to see who blinks first. People could die while they’re waiting to straighten this out.”

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

2) PINK WASHING

Right on schedule the debate over whether companies are trying to make a buck off women’s breast cancer has begun anew. If you’re getting something in return for your charity, is that charity? The Associated Press today looks at some of the “pink” merchandising taking place during Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Like this baby:

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“A portion of the proceeds will go to a breast cancer awareness charity,” Smith & Wesson says.

“At one time, pink was the means,” a spokeswoman for Breast Cancer Action told the AP. “Now, it’s almost become the end in itself. In its most simplistic forms, pink has become a distraction. You put a pink ribbon on it, people stop asking questions.”

The group just released this video:

“Research doesn’t come cheap. We need to raise money and we’re not apologetic about it,” Leslie Aun, a spokeswoman for Susan G. Komen for the Cure, told the Associated Press.

3) THE MARTIAN COMMUTE

What were you doing between September 2008 and this past August? NASA’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity was making a 13-mile trip from Victoria crater to Endeavour crater. Yesterday, NASA released a video with each picture taken on a day the rover was moving.


It shows the rim of Endeavour becoming visible on the horizon partway through the journey and growing larger as Opportunity neared that goal. The drive included detours, as Opportunity went around large expanses of treacherous terrain along the way.

The rover team also produced a sound track for the video, using each drive day’s data from Opportunity’s accelerometers. The low-frequency data has been sped up 1,000 times to yield audible frequencies.

“The sound represents the vibrations of the rover while moving on the surface of Mars,” said Paolo Bellutta, a rover planner at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., who has plotted many of Opportunity’s drives and coordinated production of the video. “When the sound is louder, the rover was moving on bedrock. When the sound is softer, the rover was moving on sand.”

4) A MAZE ING

Those corn mazes that have become all the rage? They can turn you into the person who has to call 911 to be rescued from one. Just ask the couple in Massachusetts who got lost in a corn maze when it closed and it got dark. We don’t know who they are, however. The police aren’t saying.

“I just can’t believe they didn’t send anyone to come and check on anybody, the people that run this,” the 42-year-old husband said in a call to 911. “They close at six. We’re the only ones in here.”

Here’s advice on getting out of a corn maze: Walk in a straight line through the corn until you end up somewhere. This couple apparently kept trying to walk through the maze.

Here’s the audio of the call.

5) ICONS: FRANK KAMENY

Frank Kameny was fired by the U.S. Civil Service Commission in the ’50s because he was gay. He had already been fired for the same reason by the Army. His lawsuit, which failed, was the first claim of civil rights in this country on the basis of sexual orientation. Someone had to be the first.

Kameny died yesterday, on National Coming Out Day.

TODAY’S QUESTION

U.S. officials announced Tuesday that they had thwarted a plot by Iranian terrorists to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States. The announcement said that the Iranian government was involved in the plot to kill the ambassador and bomb the Saudi Embassy. Today’s Question: How should the U.S. government respond to the alleged Iranian terrorist plot?

TODAY ON THE “BIG STORY” BLOG: The Vikings stadium debate.

WHAT WE’RE DOING

It’s the beginning of an MPR membership drive. Some of these are rebroadcasts.

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Excerpts from conversations with authors Justin Cronin, Daniel Wilson, and Glen Duncan about their literary takes on vampires, robots, and werewolves.

Second hour: Horror, science fiction and fantasy books have long been popular, but now an increasing number of novelists known for literary fiction are getting in on the act. Is it a recognition of the sales potential, or of a desire by writers to explore different genres?

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Political strategists Todd Rapp and Maureen Shaver discuss politics.

Second hour: Syndicated columnist Mark Shields, speaking at St. John’s University about civility in politics.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Political talk with Ken Rudin, NPR’s “Political Junkie.”

Second hour: Known as the “great and infamous whore,” Mary Boleyn’s story has been overshadowed by the life and grisly death of her more famous sister, Anne. But Mary, the mistress to the King of France as well as Henry VIII, left a legacy of her own, and finally chose, a poor but honest life with the man she loved. Guest: Alison Weir.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - For years, Lonni Sue Johnson drew iconic covers for The New Yorker magazine. That is, until 2007, when her artwork stopped as a virus began consuming her brain. Eventually, she was able to create art in a different way. NPR will have her story.