The wait (5×8 – 10/29/12)

Hurricanes and climate science, why do we burn things when our teams win, measuring racism on the basketball court, the ethics of unmasking, and killing time on the Mississippi.


The Monday Morning Rouser. Take all the time you need; I’ll wait right here for you.

1) ON SANDY

Not much to do now except wait and hope that things hold for the people of the northeast. Oh, and mull over whether a hurricane in November is more evidence of climate change.

“The hyper-charged political landscape we are crossing now creates its own sparks when trying to answer that question,” Adam Frank writes on his NPR science commentary blog.


One thing that does seem clear is that warmer oceans (a la global warming) mean more evaporation, and that likely leads to storms with more and more dangerous rainfall of the kind we saw with Hurricane Irene last year. In addition, a paper published just last month, used records of storm surges going back to 1923 as a measure of hurricane activity. A strong correlation between warm years and strong hurricanes was seen. Thus if you warm the planet, you can expect more dangerous storms.

Which brings us to our bottom line. The science of climate attribution is very exciting and full of cool, new ideas. It has already provided us with first steps towards more precision in understanding how climate change is changing climate now, already. For hurricanes, however, sticking to the science means it is still hard to point to an individual storm and say, yes! Climate change! A more reasoned approach is to take the full weight of our understanding about the Earth and its systems and go beyond asking if any particular event is due to global warming or natural variability. As Kevin Ternbeth of NCAR says “Nowadays, there’s always an element of both.”


Whatever happened to the victims of the flooding in the Northland? People have mostly moved on but the Duluth News Tribune says there’s still suffering going around a Fond du Lac neighborhood. In Moose Lake, it’s been “pure hell,” says one man, whose mother lost her home. She couldn’t get flood insurance and now they can’t afford to repair the home.

“It was really heartbreaking watching her go there every day, just looking at the place and just crying,” he says. “Everything she had was right there, and now it’s gone.”

In today’s installment in the series, the paper says some officials weren’t where they needed to be in the wake of the flood, and, months later, things are disorganized.

2) “OUR TEAM WON A CHAMPIONSHIP! LET’S BURN SOMETHING”

I blame the influence of soccer…

3) MEASURING RACISM

Was a weekend piece about the whiteness of the Minnesota Timberwolves a fair piece? The Star Tribune counted the number of whites on the active roster, compared it to the number of African Americans, and built a story that it mirrors a racist element in the team makeup.


Ron Edwards, a longtime Minneapolis civil rights advocate, said he remembers a day last winter when he was watching the Wolves and the only black player on the floor was Wes Johnson, a situation he calls “somewhat disturbing.” His sentiments grew stronger, he said, as he watched the team’s roster grow even more white this offseason.

“It raises some real questions to me about what’s really intended,” Edwards said. “I think, personally, that it was calculated. Is this an attempt to get fans back in the stands? Minnesota, after all, is a pretty white state.”

Terrell calls it “scary” that the Wolves would assemble a roster almost 70 percent white in a sport so dominated by blacks. For Edwards, the numbers trouble him by the “historical view,” what he calls a “nullification of diversity and a reversal of history.”

4) THE ETHICS OF UNMASKING

You learn the true identity of a an anonymous man who has been “trolling” the Internet. You’re an online reporter. You confront the man and he begs you not to publicize his name because his wife is disabled, he’ll lose his job, and the health insurance she requires. You publish his name, he loses his job, and the health insurance she required. Were you right or wrong? It happened earlier this month.

Wired.com considers the ethics


When someone’s been wronged – or the opportunity arises to use someone to make a statement – it is relatively easy to leverage social media to incite the hive mind to draw attention to an individual. The same tactic that trolls use to target people is the same tactic that people use to out trolls.

More often than not, those who use these tools do so when they feel they’re on the right side of justice. They’re either shining a spotlight to make a point or to shame someone into what they perceive to be socially acceptable behavior. But each act of outing has consequences for the people being outed, even if we do not like them or what they’ve done.

This raises serious moral and ethical concerns: In a networked society, who among us gets to decide where the moral boundaries lie? This isn’t an easy question and it’s at the root of how we, as a society, conceptualize justice.

Related: Woman ‘appalled’ how U.S. site spread ‘dirt’ about her (CBC)

5) KILLING TIME ON THE RIVER

What do paddlers who go on long expeditions on the Mississippi River do all day on their journey. Let’s ask the Okee Dokee Brothers, who canoed from Minnesota to St. Louis last year.

TODAY’S QUESTION

President Obama and Mitt Romney are campaigning hard in the so-called battleground states, like Ohio. Iowa and Wisconsin are also treated as critical swing states, but Minnesota is not. Today’s Question: Do you wish Minnesota were considered a swing state?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: The opiate of American exceptionalism.

Second hour: Jo Nesbo, the wildly popular Norwegian author of crime thrillers, is often compared to Steig Larsson. And for good reason; one of his books is sold every 23 seconds around the world.

Third hour: Kerri Miller moderates a debate between the candidates for the seat representing Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): A debate from the Intelligence Squared series, “Are the Rich Taxed Enough?” Glenn Hubbard and Arthur Laffer say they are. Robert Reich and Mark Zandi say the are not.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – Defining success in Afghanistan. After a spate of so-called green on blue attacks, U.S. troops restricted joint operations with Afghan forces. Retired Army officer Doug Ollivant called this “the latest in a series of setbacks and/or bad news.” Retired Army officer John Nagl says America needs to be reminded of what it’s really like to lose a war.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Colleges and universities have crossed a new frontier in online education. That frontier is the Massive Open Online Course, and supporters say it has the potential to bring high-quality education to the masses at little or not cost to students. But they’re not without their skeptics, including here in Minnesota – and they’re a development that Minnesota state law hasn’t fully understood. MPR’s Alex Friedrich will have the story.