On signs (5×8 – 8/28/12)

Signs in the news, the helicopters of Minneapolis, where are the fathers, your partisan status, and the glamorous world of a country at war.


1) THE SIGNS WE NEED

We need more bells and whistles to get our attention these days. Evidence: flashing stop signs. This is the new thing in public safety. Regular old stop signs don’t get our attention much anymore, apparently, so now they’re putting flashing lights around them, screaming, “hey, this is a stop sign, buddy!”

Bob Ingrassia at Idea Peepshow encountered the new flashing sign off Silver Lake Road (29th and Crestview) in St. Anthony Village and has considered this notion: If it takes flashy stuff to get us to notice stops signs, are old stop signs now less safe?


The effect may be imperceptible at this point. But what happens when other neighborhoods start pushing for those fancy flashing stop signs? Imagine the day when half the stop signs you encounter blink at you as you approach — shouting “Look at me!” — and the other half just stand there like boring wallflowers.

My contention is that drivers will grow to expect stop signs to blink at us. They’ll stop seeing those that don’t. I can hear the excuse now: “I never saw that stop sign, Officer. It wasn’t flashing!”

And then we’ll find ourselves needing to upgrade all stop signs just to get back to a level playing field. And when all the signs flash, we’re back to where we started … with all signs being equal. When everyone is special, no one is special.

And once all the stop signs are flashing, what will we use next to make the really important ones stand out?

More signs: In Stillwater last night, officials were told a simple sign would’ve saved their son from dying from a parasite in the water of Lily Lake. One child died a few years ago of primary amoebic meningoencephalitis and the lake wasn’t closed. Then another child died.

2) ASSAULTING MINNEAPOLIS

The helicopters zipping around Minneapolis last evening were part of some “training exercise” by police and homeland security forces, preparing for some sort of urban assault.

The police put out the word last week that these exercises would be going on, so that people wouldn’t jam 911 with questions. But people called anyway. Question: If you were going to have some sort of high-profile break into a building downtown, wouldn’t a good time to do it be when helicopters are buzzing around the building focusing on some scenario that isn’t like to ever happen and police are ignoring 911 calls?

Oh, and one other question: What is the reason cops need this sort of training?

3) WHERE ARE THE FATHERS?

The woman who copy edits birth announcements for the Fargo Forum newspaper has noticed that more often these days there’s no father listed.

So Kathy Tofflemire has written a commentary today (“Does it take a village to raise a child or committed parents?“) that’s bound to get people stirred up.


Children aren’t doomed if they are born to a single mother, but statistically they are more likely to struggle with hardships.

Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, says, “Raising children is a challenge and an enterprise. Having two people involved in that enterprise will typically make it easier.”

He notes that divorced fathers are more likely to stay in touch with their children than fathers who never married their children’s mothers. And he also says that children living with parents who cohabitate do less well than children of married parents.

And that’s my worry. Will all of these children born to unwed parents thrive to the same degree as those born to married couples?

Tofflemire acknowledges that she was a single parent.

4) YOUR PARTISAN STATUS

You probably know you lean either left or right, but how far? You’re 12 questions away from finding out. PBS NewsHour has rolled out the “Political Party Quiz.” The quiz stores how you and others have fared and it reveals — at least so far — that most people are neither very liberal nor very conservative, a factoid, of course, that is not at all mirrored in many political choices we’re given.

5) THE GLAMOROUS WORLD OF A COUNTRY AT WAR

Could there possibly ever be a more glamorous age than the late 1930 and 1940s?

women_at_work.jpg

CBS has filtered out images from a Library of Congress Flickr page, isolating women at work, showing mostly war-era work. They got no benefits for their work, and lost their jobs when the men returned from war. And even for woman who served in the military, many got no veterans benefits.

Bonus I: Related: Sometimes newer isn’t better. Lauri Ulvestad, of Ames Iowa, has one of those newfangled push-button starters instead of a key on her KIA SUV. So when the accelerator got stuck while she was driving on I-35 earlier this month, she couldn’t just shut the thing off.

For 35 minutes, she had to whiz down the highway at more than 100 mph.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Bonus II: Figures. NASA today broadcast the first human voice from Mars. It was a bureaucrat’s. What would have been cool? Neil Armstrong’s.

TODAY’S QUESTION

The Republican National Convention is compressing its activities into a shorter time because of the weather, and the television networks are offering only limited coverage of its proceedings. Meanwhile, the party’s nominee for vice president has been known for weeks, and its presidential choice for much longer. There has been even less suspense on the Democratic side. Today’s Question: Are the conventions still relevant?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: What issues matter to young Republicans?

Second hour: Why is the demand for high-skilled, foreign workers so high in Minnesota?

Third hour: How will Samsung verdict impact gadget launches?

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Fourth District congressional debate, live from the State Fair.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The latest on Hurricane Isaac.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Dan Deacon composes music on a computer, but a new project brought him into the studio with other people. NPR previews his new album, which mixes electronic music with an orchestra.

  • Robert Moffitt

    My late mother-in-law worked at a aircraft plant during the war years. It damaged her hearing to the point that by the time I met her, she was completely deaf. Of course, she never got a dime from either the aircraft company or the government to help with her hearing loss.

  • BJ

    #4 – put me way left on the chart. Color me surprised.

  • http://www.lazylightning.org Bill Roehl

    Why didn’t the police just tell her to put it in neutral?

  • MikeB

    The militarization of local police forces continues. Getting free or severely reduced equipment (toys) is an easy Yes. Meanwhile crime and massive civil unrest keeps going down.

    I’d like to hear the Mayor or Police Chief state the reasons why we need military assault helicopters. Maybe I missed the foreign invasion during all the State Fair reporting.

  • Josh

    Regarding number 4, I must not be most people.

  • Bob Collins

    apparently, the dispatcher did tell the woman to shift to neutral, but that didn’t work.

  • http://www.lazylightning.org Bill Roehl

    Thanks Bob (no sound at work). Sounds like user error on her part probably due to the stressful situation.

  • Kassie

    The political party quiz has me the absolute left of the scale, then says I should be a “Liberal Democrat.” If there was a Democrat out there that was as liberal as me, I’d vote for them, but there aren’t. So I vote Green, Socialist, Communist, etc because that’s what I am. There aren’t just two political parties in this country and PBS does a disservice pretending that is the case.

  • andy

    @Kassie

    Yeah, what you said.

  • John P.

    #4 – I came up much more of a lefty Democrat than I expected.

    I would have put myself much closer to the middle with a slight lean to the left. That’s probably because I belong to a couple of organizations (church, arts) that are full of people who are even more left-leaning than I am. It would have been interesting to ask people to rank themselves as part of the quiz.

  • Sarah

    I found the website http://politicalcompass.org/ “The Political Compass” to be a much more comprehensive way to see where you land politically and what organizations/people come near what you believe.

  • Roger

    Very Liberal. Reading the questions it’s pretty easy to anticipate what results you will get. It would be interesting if the questions were less revealing of the bias or more difficult to answer.

  • David

    “What is the reason cops need this sort of training?”

    I have a buddy who is an “expert” on matters of police/military training and tactics. He claims these exercises could have been done on military bases and in other locations, but there are a few things to consider.

    1) Psychology – There is a psychological effect to this sort of urban training that can’t be achieved in many other ways. Let’s just say this is not a good thing.

    2) Cover. It’s possible that embedded in the middle of two weeks of training exercises is an actual mission.

    I just find it interesting that the media, aside from a little bit of show, has given the government a relative pass. In my opinion every single exercise should be monitored by the news and followed closely, but that’s the type of work that takes reporters and resources while passing along the spoon-fed government news release is much easier. Sign of the times.

  • Bob Collins

    // aside from a little bit of show, has given the government a relative pass. In my opinion every single exercise should be monitored by the news and followed closely, but that’s the type of work that takes reporters and resources while passing along the spoon-fed government news release is much easier. Sign of the times.

    Tell me what this looks like in real life because I’ve seen this voiced on Twitter this way. What exactly are you saying the media should be saying in the absence of any information to the contrary. That’s it’s *probably* an embedded million for some *actual* threat? That it *might* be an actual mission.

    The suggestion implies that the media, or at least some people, aren’t trying to find out more about these things. But until you can get some reliable information, what exactly should the media be saying, in your opinion, other than that authorities SAY it’s a training mission?

  • Bob Collins

    // questions were less revealing of the bias or more difficult to answer.

    I found the questions to be kind of… questionable.

    How is whether or not I’ve doubted the existence of God indicative of a political belief? Even Jesus had his moment of doubt. So is the significance whether you’ve actually doubted… or whether you’re actually honest enough to admit you’ve doubted?

  • Jim Shapiro

    Re the political quiz –

    I played a little game. I wondered how Jesus – whose message most people in this country claim to follow – would score.

    Even if Jesus, ( the guy who said his followers must leave their wives and who had a “special love” for John), completely disagreed with equal marriage rights for gays and lesbians,

    And even if he was always against abortion, even in cases of rape or the likely death of the mother –

    He would by any honest assessment of the message of the gospels score as a liberal democrat.

    As for perpetuation by PBS that we are all slight variations of democrats or republicans –

    Last night I was listening to my 3rd rate San Diego NPR evening news. ( I’m too far from LA to get consistent reception.)

    The geniuses in management have decided to rebroadcast the audio of the PBS television program, The News Hour. Yes, on the radio.

    At the end of the program, the major underwriter was announced as Wells Fargo.

    Yes, that friendly neighborhood bank that has been numerously cited and fined for illegal lending practices.

    PBS, like the vast majority of politicians, has been purchased by large corporations.

    And while the Solomon-like justices of the Supreme Court have granted corporations the voting rights ( money talks, right?) of a living, breathing human being,

    The primary goal – and legal responsibility – of a corporation is to make as much money as possible for it’s shareholders.

    If I didn’t try to follow the directives of that Liberal Democrat (according to the quiz) Jesus Christ who clearly said we should be pacifists ( you, know, the “swords into plowshares” and “turn the other cheek 7 times 70″ stuff),

    ( and I didn’t understand that the government has overwhelming firepower and all the coolest guns),

    I would probably be following the recommendation of Thomas Jefferson – who was NOT a democrat or republican – who said

    “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

  • Bob Collins

    // “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

    So, I’ll put you down here as agreeing with this guy, then?

    Ah, swell.

  • Disco

    I don’t think we need to worry so much about stop signs. I became nearly short of breath when I read that fear piece.

  • kennedy

    RE #1: We could put a transmitter in stop signs so they automatically apply the brakes in approaching cars.

    RE #4: The inclusion of a religious question in the political survey is interesting. It assumes a correlation between religion and political ideology. While there may be a statistical link, I think the question would be better if worded differently. “Do you think religious beliefs and values are a good basis for writing laws?”

  • Mary L.

    Thanks for the update on the blackhawks. I figured someone knew something as they were going round and round in circles over the river.

    But they were sufficiently loud and scary that it made me think about living in a place where they were omnipresent. A moment of grace and gratitude when they left the skies.

  • John V

    I don’t know if this is the case here, but I’ve often seen the flashing lights go on _new_ stop signs at intersections where no stop existed before. In that case it makes a lot of sense, since most drivers on any given route are “regulars” and may be caught off guard by a change in traffic control. After a few months or a year the lights can be removed.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Bob – “So, I’ll put you down here as agreeing with this guy, then?”

    That’s right. Jesus Christ, Thomas Jefferson, Judge Tom “Crazy” Head.

    My three major influences. :-)

  • David

    “what exactly should the media be saying”

    Saying? No, that’s the problem. The media should be doing more and my comment was pretty clear “In my opinion every single exercise should be monitored by the news and followed closely” as in journalists doing an actual job. Isn’t that what investigative journalism is supposed to be? Men and women collecting information, observing, and forming opinions based on that information. These exercises have been happening for a week. Where’s the meat? Clearly people care.

    I understand you may have a twitter ax to grind here, but conflating what I said with what is being said on Twitter doesn’t make much of an argument. Sort of like the people currently putting words in your mouth on twitter. They also have an ax to grind.

  • Bob Collins

    // t. Sort of like the people currently putting words in your mouth on twitter. They also have an ax to grind.

    I suppose that is meant to distract from me noticing you didn’t answer the question. But you didn’t answer the question.

    Again:

    Tell me what this looks like in real life because I’ve seen this voiced on Twitter this way. What exactly are you saying the media should be saying in the absence of any information to the contrary. That’s it’s *probably* an embedded million for some *actual* threat? That it *might* be an actual mission.

    The suggestion implies that the media, or at least some people, aren’t trying to find out more about these things. But until you can get some reliable information, what exactly should the media be saying, in your opinion, other than that authorities SAY it’s a training mission?

    You’re saying that because the media hasn’t said what the actual mission is, that it hasn’t tried to find out. What if the reason they haven’t said anything isn’t that they didn’t ask — and aren’t asking — the questions, it’s that they haven’t yet been able to ge the answer?

  • David

    Ha ha. And I’ve noticed you didn’t address that I said they should have been doing investigative stories on this a week ago. Doesn’t fit your narrative.

    If nothing else it’s just a training exercise, but it’s not a normal scenario to have feds and police doing maneuvers in an urban environment. If the media can’t see story possibilities there then I feel like the media isn’t doing a good job.

    I’m not sure what part of that demands condescension, but you’re news blogger.

    I feel comfortable with my opinion that our local media suffers from among other things: a lack of resources, a serious deficit in the realm of investigative journalism, and a an ego the size of a UN occupied Texas.

  • Bob collins

    // I said they should have been doing investigative stories on this a week ago. Doesn’t fit your narrative.

    Your suggesting that because there isn’t a story, there hasn’t been an effort. I’m saying that any investigative work occasionally turns up nothing…until it turns up something.

  • Jess

    For what it’s worth, the stories coming out of truly investigative journalism sometimes take months to reach the point where they could be published.

    There might very well be reporters working on investigative pieces right now. You can’t say they’re not doing anything simply because there’s been nothing published since the exercises started a week ago.

  • Jack

    #1 – The problem I have with this set of stop signs (I live in the area) is that they are visible from blocks away. To be perfectly honest, I was distracted the first time I saw the flashing light that I almost drove through the stoplight on County Road C and Highway 88.

    It wouldn’t be so bad if they stopped flashing when you stop but they don’t. There is some motion triggering them to stay flashing – probably the squirrels set them off. :)