The helmet law debate (5×8 – 6/8/12)

When freedoms collide, steal someone’s bike at work day, no money for nothing in West Fargo, the Twins pass on taking a risk, and nature or nurture.


1) WHERE FREEDOM COLLIDES WITH FREEDOM

If you want to have a real dust-up, have a discussion about helmet laws. Instantly, it will turn to the assertion of a nanny state, and the “right” to ride without a helmet. People shouldn’t tell other people how to live. It’s a debate that will, no doubt, be racing today, thanks to a compelling article in the Star Tribune with the mother of a young woman who wouldn’t wear a helmet.

The daughter was killed on I-694 earlier this week and the reality of the crash doesn’t usually come up in this debate about the need to wear helmets — the consequences of your actions are often imposed on someone else, who may well want the freedom not to have them imposed. The driver of the SUV that struck her after she hit some debris — he did nothing wrong — doesn’t deserve to live with the accident for the rest of his life.

And, of course, the mother of Brittany A. Larson, 22, shouldn’t have the last memory of her daughter be holding the body that the medical examiner doesn’t want her to see because of the condition it’s now in.


“She wasn’t dressed properly for the bike,” (Inge) Black added, noting that her “extremely feisty” daughter was wearing flip-flops on her ride home from her new clerk’s job in Columbia Heights on the motorcycle she acquired a few months ago. “I couldn’t get her to dress right. She was having so much fun.”

Black said the two of them fought Tuesday over wearing a helmet and that she offered on the day of the crash to drive her daughter to work, but she said, “‘Oh, no, I’m going to ride my motorcycle.'”

Black wants the state to have a helmet law. But there is significant opposition to any change in the current law, which requires people on learner’s permits and people under 18 to have a helmet.

Fourteen motorcyclists have died on Minnesota roads this year. If history is any indication, there’ll be at least 25 more.

Discussion point: Where does one person’s freedom end, and another’s begin?

2) STEAL SOMEONE’S BIKE AT WORK DAY

Social media helped a guy find his stolen guitar earlier this week — by the way, I’m beginning to think the unnamed “teacher” should be a suspect in that story. He made money on the theft — and now it has a chance to help a local celebrity find his bike.

WCCO’s Mike Binkley rode his bike to downtown Minneapolis (he lives in downtown Minneapolis) yesterday as part of Bike to Work Day. He locked it, but someone cut the cable and stole it.

So now he’s using Facebook to try to get the word out…

binkley_bike.jpg

If Binkley is lucky, maybe a teacher who allegedly knows someone who stole it will sell the bike back to him.

3) MONEY FOR NOTHING

In West Fargo, a contest is underway to win a home worth $500,000. What happens when you win a home for $500,000? Apparently you stand a good chance of going broke. The Fargo Forum ran the numbers…


With the addition of the $500,000 prize, the family’s federal tax bill would be $153,485, an increase of $150,350 over the $3,135 in federal taxes that would have been owed.

On the state side, a North Dakota resident would owe $17,313, an increase of $16,910 over the expected $403 state tax bill, Becker said.

That’s a total of $167,260 in additional income taxes for our fictional winner, whether the family chooses to keep or sell the house.

It’s possible the winner of the home would be able to pay cash for those taxes. But more likely, if the winner wants to stay in the house, he or she will need to qualify for a mortgage.

Leslie estimates a winner who wants to live in the house would need to take out a $200,000 mortgage, giving him or her $300,000 in equity.

4) RUNNING SCARED

The Minnesota Twins have put a hold on its “It Gets Better” video, the videos that some — but not many — Major League Baseball teams have put together as part of the campaign to send a message to GLBT youth so they don’t kill themselves.

What’s more important than sending that message? Not getting linked to the founder of the movement — Dan Savage — who gave a speech in Seattle and was critical about the parts of the Bible dealing with homosexuality, according to City Pages.


Said (Twins director of public affairs Kevin) Smith: Savage’s speech “got everybody riled up. We had worked with the It Gets Better staff not even knowing who Savage was, but his comments got a lot of people upset in a lot of different sectors.”

“It wasn’t a very good scene and it got national publicity,” Smith added. “We want to make sure our message gets out there and isn’t clouded by any sort of controversy, so we decided to take a step back and work with local people.”

Smith said the Twins have reached out to sympathetic local organizations like OutFront, the Peace Maker Foundation, and Fox Sports North rather than work with Savage’s controversy-tainted associates.

“We are going to do something on an anti-bullying message, and we’re bringing in local partners to help us craft that message,” Smith said.

At this point, the video will come off as a half-hearted marketing gimmick than a courageous message to some kids not to kill themselves.

There’s considerable — and tragic — irony here. The power of the original videos from other teams came from popular baseball players with lots to lose, being courageous enough to say “I don’t care about the fallout, this message is too important” not to send.

It required real courage to send that message.

5) NATURE OR NURTURE?

Somewhere out there is a couple whose daughter was clearly too good for them. What fools these mortals be.

Bonus: Neil Gaiman pens a remembrance of Ray Bradbury:


He was kind, and gentle, with that midwestern niceness that’s a positive thing rather than an absence of character. He was enthusiastic, and it seemed that that enthusiasm would keep him going forever. He genuinely liked people. He left the world a better place, and left better places in it: the red sands and canals of Mars, the midwestern Halloweens and small towns and dark carnivals. And he kept writing.

Bonus II: Neil Karlen, of MPR’s Public Insight Network, remembers Dark Star in a commentary today. It is perfect because it makes you sorry you didn’t know him better.


And he did, seemingly leading an unexamined life lived exclusively off angles, bounces and leaked stories. He taught me how to also get away with it for four hours in the middle of the night, at that deadly existential hour that F. Scott Fitzgerald called the “real dark night of the soul [when] it is always 3 o’clock in the morning.” Fitzgerald was speaking metaphorically. Dark spoke specifically to me about the insomniacs, lobster shifters, truckers and cranks who largely made up ‘CCO’s after-midnight audience, which at that time of the clear-channel night stretched virtually from Bakersfield to Bangor.

Dark told me I sounded frightened that there were cranks out there who knew the radio station’s address. “I am afraid of the cranks,” I told him. “They do have the address.”

“They’re just lonely,” he’d say, “like you’re just lonely, like I’m just lonely.”

TODAY’S QUESTION

This week saw the death of author Ray Bradbury, considered one of the writers most responsible for helping bring science fiction into the American mainstream. Today’s Question: How has science fiction changed your world?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Friday roundtable (politics).

Second hour: Dark matter testing in South Dakota.

Third hour: Restaurants and outdoor dining.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): The latest in NPR’s Ted Radio Hour series: “Food Matters.”

Science Friday (1-2 p.m.) – There’s malware that can turn on your PC mic and secretly record conversations. Ira Flatow looks at the newly-discovered ‘Flame’ virus. Plus, why stem cells may be to blame for clogged arteries.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - The sea lamprey was one of the first non-native species to invade the Great Lakes, and it’s been one of the most destructive. The eel-like parasite nearly wiped out the entire lake trout population. But the lamprey is actually one of the rare success stories about exotic species. Scientists have devised to keep the blood-sucking fish in check. MPR’s Dan Kraker reports that it’s allowed lake trout to make a historic comeback.

Job growth is slower, but some entrepreneurs are optimistic enough to keep hiring. Still, with economic turmoil in Europe and Congress approaching a fiscal cliff, those small businesses are often reluctant to create even more jobs and faster. NPR will have the story.

  • Dave S.

    #3: A lot of contests allow you to take a cash equivalent. That would certainly be the way to go in this case.

    #5: It’s amazing how kids can transcend lousy parenting and even genetics. The T-shirt she wore “Talk Nerdy To Me” and the one her mother wore “Being Stupid Is Not A Crime” say it all.

  • MikeB

    Shame on the Twins for backing out of a worthy project because of the hypersensitivities of a few. Backing a generic version doesn’t count. This is what happens when you have too many decision makers in an organization. May explain the on field product.

  • Kassie

    Never lock your bike with a cable. Most bikes that are stolen are either not locked or locked with a cable. Cables are super easy to cut through. Use a U lock and make sure you lock the bike through the frame.

    I don’t know why they even sell cable locks. They are pretty much worthless.

  • Tyler

    Regarding #1: I heard an anecdote that when California passed a helmet (required) law, health care costs went up so substantially that they repealed it. Essentially, motorcycle riders wearing a helmet sustain paralyzing injuries that require more care, rather than simply dieing in the accident.

    Any truth to this anecdote? I’ve always been skeptical of it…

  • Dylan K

    #1: This falls under the same ideas as click-it-or-ticket, or even cigarette smoking. It’s the thought, “Why should anyone tell me I have to wear a seatbelt, if I’m in an accident, not wearing a seatbelt affects no one but myself.” But what about times with multiple passanger rollovers? A seatbeltless individual can do substantial damage to a belted individual. And again, what about the loved ones who now have to endure a loss?

    Same with cigarette smoking. I used to smoke once and a while, I used to think it is my right to smoke as long as I kept second hand smoke in mind, smoking outside away from others. And it is a right. But when I started to think about long term ramifications, I began to see that even though I was aware of the immediate concerns of others (i.e. second hand smoke), the long term effects of smoking on ME was really going to affect others. It was enough to get me to stop entirely.Long anecdote, but the same idea is there: I could not understand why some wanted me to change my ways when what I was doing did not affect them; well, it does affect them.

  • Brad Benson

    Regarding item #1: Where does it stop? Why not also mandate armored riding jackets, leathers, and so? As a 20+ year motorcycle rider who always wears a helmet when riding, I find the notion of simply wearing a helmet to be “safer” to be folly – it’s situational awareness that keeps one safe. And realistically, in this case, I doubt a helmet would have helped someone who chooses to wear flip-flops on a bike instead of more appropriate footgear.

  • Bob Collins

    Tyler, that sounds remarkably like the defense that tobacco companies wanted to use in the 1997 tobacco trial in Minnesota. Their assertion was smoking did not cause state health costs to increase because smokers died earlier.

  • Jim Shapiro

    I won’t let Thing 1 or Thing 2 get on any wheeled vehicle without first putting on a helmet. Once they’re 18, they can ride naked if they want.

    In a minor to moderate motorcycle accident, a helmet can make the difference between animal and vegetable, and life or death.

    In a major motorcycle accident, helmets are wonderful for the organ donor industry!

  • John P.

    //Essentially, motorcycle riders wearing a helmet sustain paralyzing injuries that require more care, rather than simply dieing in the accident.

    This is just plain incorrect. Google the “Hurt Report”. It’s a study done by Dr. Harry Hurt for the NHTSA. It is the most comprehensive motorcycle safety study ever done.

    What it says about helmets is this. Wear one and your chances of injury and death in an accident are greatly reduced. Period. There is no debate among people who are informed.

    I ride a motorcycle. I wear my helmet 99.99% of the time, 0.01% of the time I am doing something really stupid and I know it. However, I also think government is intrusive enough, so I oppose helmet laws.

  • Jim!!!

    Wait, where’s the 2nd hour of Science Friday?

  • Jim Shapiro

    Re The Twinks front office dropping out of the national “It Gets Better” campaign –

    Further evidence that they’re all about keeping their coffers filled to overflowing, and the interests of the fans and well being of the local community in general are secondary, if that.