Why we needed a ‘real’ winter (5×8 – 3/26/12)

When suffering is required, health care and the high court, a Vikings stadium smackdown, the war against schools, and are you cash free yet?


The Monday Morning Rouser…

1) WHY NEEDED A ‘REAL’ WINTER

How’s spring working for you so far? At Casa Collins, the magnolia tree (formerly known as “second base”) is in full bloom. The apple trees in the back should be bursting their fragrant blossoms in a few weeks. Judging by the greening of the grass, I should get started tuning up the lawnmower. Up until last night, the heat hasn’t been on in a week.

This isn’t right.

To fully enjoy spring, we must suffer through winter. But, of course, we didn’t suffer and we’re missing out on an important element of spring because of that.

I realized this yesterday afternoon while taking in the opening day of the annual Flower Show at Macy’s in Minneapolis. It was gorgeous.

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There was only one thing missing. This:

Colleague Nate Minor snapped this image near Fergus Falls as he traveled toward Moorhead last winter. A year ago today, there was still snow on the ground.

The Flower Show takes our breath away because of the bleakness still around us; it is our hope at the end of our rope.

Yesterday we remarked about the cool-down and considered taking the skyway to Macy’s. After all, it had plunged to 57 degrees.

Not that anyone’s arguing with that, mind you. These ladies just got out of their winter barn.

2) HEALTH CARE AND THE HIGH COURT

The country never seems more backward than when the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments in a massively important case, and we can’t see or hear them. Today, of course, is one such day as the High Court hears the challenge to the Affordable Care Act.

The court will hear six hours of debate over the next three days. Here’s the schedule the arguments you can’t hear.

One commentator yesterday called the next three days, “the most important six hours in the history of the country.” Two others, Erwin Chemerinsky and Eric J. Segall, say the blackout is a national shame.


We should be outraged by this decision. Supreme Court proceedings are not simply government events; they are important historic moments and are of major educational, civic and national interest. There is a strong presumption that people should be able to watch government proceedings, and in ones as vitally important as this, the public has an especially great interest in transparency.

Meanwhile, the Washington Post lists five myths about the health care law:

1. The “individual mandate” forces everyone to buy insurance.

2. Only the “individual mandate” is at stake in the Supreme Court case.

3. If the court upholds the health-care law, it means Congress has the power to require Americans to purchase any product.

4. The law is socialist.

5. The law is an extraordinary intrusion into liberty.

But the nuts-and-bolts of the health care bill are actually secondary to the debate over the reach of the U.S. Constitution on the state’s, writes Lyle Denniston on SCOTUSblog.


The law at issue is not directly about civil rights, but for the nation’s working poor, the coming ruling on the law’s validity could be as important to them as a 1938 decision was for racial minorities, essentially starting the modern civil rights revolution. And for individuals who want to be left alone by their government, the final decision may be a reminder of a 1905 decision that first spelled out a theory of individual liberty that, in time, would contribute importantly decades afterward to that same civil rights revolution.

Yes, it is that important — at least in potential. Whether or not it lives up to that potential may depend, to a significant degree, on how the Justices react to the 90-minute argument that opens the week on Monday. Many observers, and certainly most of the media, have been waiting most eagerly for Tuesday’s two-hour argument, when the biggest cog in the entire machinery of the Affordable Care Act, the individual mandate, is up for review.

3) A STADIUM SMACKDOWN

The Saint Paul Pioneer Press doesn’t editorialize in harsh words very often. Today it made an exception on the issue of the Minnesota Vikings stadium, calling it a “rigged” game.


The powers that be have essentially decreed the outcome, changed the rules of the game mid-stream – and act as if no one should notice or object. Hats off to (Ramsey County commissioners) Ortega and Bennett who worked hard and played by the rules. It was apparently not meant to be.

It’s a game in which many in the news media are active participants, stadium critic Ed Kohler notes on his Deets blog, exposing a cherrypicked “poll” showing “support” for the stadium that apparently left off answers to significant questions:


Why didn’t Home Field Advantage release the poll results to the question, “You said _____ (answer from above) would the Vikings were to leave Minnesota. How strongly do you feel that way?”

Why? Let’s go with the obvious: The poll results to those questions must not have supported the positions they are trying to convince politicians, the media, and the public to take.

Why would the public feel that way? The poll was conducted over an absolutely beautiful spring week in Minnesota. In fact, it was so nice out that it reminded me of the beautiful fall days Minnesota has while people sit inside watching the Vikings on Sundays. Perhaps people realized that life goes on without spending more than half a billion dollars to subsidize 8 games (+2 preseason) per year of football? It’s not that they don’t like it, but realize that life would go on just fine without it.

4) THE WAR AGAINST SCHOOLS

In Nigeria, at least eight schools have been firebombed, the New York Times reports today. It apparently is the work of an Islamist group. Most of the kids at the schools stayed home, guaranteeing a bleak future for them, the Times says.

Others shoved back with their desire to be educated:


Elsewhere in Maiduguri, though, the will to resume schooling is overcoming fear, government lethargy and the absence of a plan. Early this month, several hundred children — laughing girls in blue-checked head scarves, and some white-shirted boys as well — showed up at the Abbaganaram ruins, preparing to trek a mile or so to another school that had agreed to take them in.

One of the older students, Adam Abagana, 18, expressed outrage at what had befallen his school.

“It’s an abomination. There is no justification for it,” he said. “We never thought the excesses of the gunmen would come down to burning schools.”

5) CASH FREE YET?

Just one question: How much money is in your wallet, pocket, or purse right now?

Bonus:

TODAY’S QUESTION

Comedian Bill Maher wrote an opinion piece last week suggesting that Americans are too easily offended. He suggested that we should stop demanding apologies for speech we find offensive, and instead should just stop listening to it. Today’s Question: Are Americans too easily offended?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Health care reform hits the Supreme Court today. While it will obviously be a legal fight, it’s also a highly-charged political fight. What are the political issues behind health care reform and what are the consequences for the GOP and the Democrats if it gets repealed?

Second hour: Fairness in the courts. The issue of fairness is the cornerstone of our judicial system. Multiple studies show that if litigants or members of the public perceived that the courts provided fair treatment, they had a more positive attitude toward and were more confident in the court system as a whole.

Third hour: The recent killing of 16 Afghan civilians by an American solider has once again brought the extreme effects of post traumatic stress disorder to the public’s attention. While we know that PTSD impacts its victims, we’re just recently starting to understand its effects on our brains. The University of Minnesota’s Brain Science Center is at the forefront of PTSD research and we’ll speak with two doctors whose work is changing the way we view the disorder and our brains.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Jody Kantor speaking at the Commonwealth Club about her new book about Barack and Michelle Obama.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Analyzing “stand your ground” laws.

Second hour: A physician’s quest to transform end of life care. Plus, the health care law’s first day at the Supreme Court.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - High-tech help for filling up the tank. How far are you willing to drive to save on gas? Some smart phone apps will help you decide. But is the extra driving for a cheaper price worth it?

Minnesota law doesn’t allow schools, without special permission, to start before Labor Day. Lawmakers are considering a measure that would let school districts decide if they want to start before Labor Day, as long as they don’t hold class on the Thursday and Friday before the holiday. Schools and education groups in Minnesota support the effort, but the state resort owners fear an early start to the school year would take a bite out their business. MPR’s Tim Post will have the story.

  • jon

    @#3 the media seems to be turning against public financing for the stadium. Good on them.

  • kurt nelson

    With the historic hearings this week, and the intense political fallout regardless of outcome, I thought it might be interesting to go on record with a prediction prior to arguments (at least the ones we will hear late Monday).

    If you respond, just your prediction and why, and no ad hominem attacks or insults.

    Here is mine

    7-2 Upholding ACA

    Chief Justice Roberts will write the opinion, with Breyer, Kagen, Sotomayor, Ginsburg, Scalia, and Kennedy. Justices Alito and Thomas will dissent. Thomas primarily on Tenth Amendment grounds.

    There will be concurrences from every Justice, and both dissenters will have their own take too. There will be a lot of reading.

    The Court will uphold because health care is Necessary and Proper for a nation. The Fourteenth Amendment will have much more sway with the Court than the Tenth, as recent decisions (Comstock) have pointed too. This will not be a vague ruling. This will be very concise and directed.

    They will rule the tax provision is not ripe, and will probably pass that on according to the Anti Tax Injunction Act (1867), which does not allow a penalty to be administered until an actual tort has occurred.

    They will argue the mandate is constitutional using Commerce Clause stare decisis going back to McCulloch, Wickard, and as recently as Raich. They will also not sever any provision.

    That is my prediction – what’s yours

  • Kevin Watterson

    I try to carry at least three $1 bills on me in case I ever lose my bus pass. Other than that I don’t carry much cash.Lately I’ve been trying to use cash for things at smaller places that are less than $10. But that’s usually food and good luck getting a meal in the city for less than $10.

  • Pat McGee

    Oh, Bob. I so do NOT need a snowy, blustery winter to enjoy spring. The longer the spring, the more I enjoy it. I would be quite happy if this weather became our climate.

  • vjacobsen

    @kurt-

    I’ll bite.

    I say the court will uphold it 6-3, with Roberts, Alito, and Thomas dissenting.

    Gosh I hope either one of us are correct.

  • BenCh

    I rarely carry cash because I rarely have any money. I do find that with cash in my pocket I spend more. The only time I ever consistently use cash only to buy something is when I go to a bar. I only bring enough to pay for what I want to drink and when the cash runs out I stop drinking.

  • Ron

    $51, which has been there since the middle of last week.

    I tend to spend less if I use real cash. Plastic is easy, but when I go for it, I see the bills and ponder the purchase more.

    I do use plastic, because it is tough to navigate our society without it (whoever invented pay-at-the-pump deserves a Nobel and honorary citizenship from every state in the upper Midwest). I carry at least two cards at all times.

    For mom-and-pop type shops, I try to use cash rather than plastic because I know that they have to pay a portion of their profit back to the credit card company for the transaction (unless, like some gas stations, they offer a lower price if you pay cash).

  • Josh

    I have $0 in my wallet and used my check card to buy a $1.27 cup of coffee yesterday.

  • Ed

    I usually have around $40 in cash, but I happen to have had $0 the past two weeks. I can get along fine without any cash.

    What that story failed to mention was that though the cost of cash is paid for by taxpayers, the cost of plastic is paid for by the consumer. I would like to see cash incentives to consumers, or at least a credit surcharge to make the cost of plastic more visible. Just like the price of gas, if consumers saw what they were paying to use plastic there would be outrage.

    The cost of paper currency is also much more than coins. I can see a future where we only use higher denomination coins as cash.

  • kennedy

    Re #3: For many months now, stadium proponents have been working to change the question. Instead of “Should the public finance a stadium?” we are being asked “Where should the stadium go?”

    The second question is meaningless if legislators follow public opinion and decline to spend our taxes on a stadium.

  • Kassie

    I have $64 in my wallet right now. Plus quarters in my car and my desk drawer. I try to use cash whenever possible because it helps me keep track of how much money I’m spending and small businesses love it.

  • Joanna

    I think the Wall Street Journal is posting transcripts and audio from today’s proceedings; it won’t be live, but apparently we will get to listen in on the Supremes.

  • Craig Huber

    $24 in cash: mainly intended for use for tiny spot purchases (pack of gum, lottery ticket, bottle of pop, that kind of thing). Only the other hand, I’ve had the same $24 in there for 3 weeks now.

    I’m with several others on the cost of plastic. Being on the business end for several years, I can testify that the costs are sizable, especially for smaller purchases.

    My ACA prediction: basically agreed on all points with kurt nelson, but only 5-4 to uphold, with Roberts, Scalia, Thomas, Alito all dissenting.

  • Kevin Watterson

    Kassie – I find it easier to track my spending using a credit card. Every item is lined up neatly on my monthly bill for me. With cash I have to make sure I write the info down every time I use it.

  • Jim Shapiro

    My ACA bet: 6-3 uphold.

    Alito, Thomas and Scalia in dissent.

    Alito and Scalia because Obama is a black socialist, and Thomas because he’s a moron.

    Roberts is a corporate guy, and the big winner is the insurance companies.

  • kay smith

    Boy, do I hope you Supreme predictors are right. The current complicated and unjust ‘system’ is embarrassing.

  • Kassie

    Kevin, let’s put it this way, I don’t blow my budget if I have cash because I can only allow myself one trip to the ATM. Using my cash card I don’t keep track and I go over budget. I don’t actually have any idea on what the money is being spent on. One step at a time here.