Home of the brave (5×8 – 4/18/13)

Boston in the key of C, taxing ‘sin,’ ‘Dad, please get out of here,’ warning: cyclist ahead, and the rainout dilemma.


1) THE MESSAGE

Last night in Boston, 17,565 assembled for the first sporting event in the city since the last one was targeted by terrorists. Inside the Boston Garden (I refuse to use the polluted name of corporate sponsorship) were Republicans, Democrats, people who want more gun control, people who hate the idea of any gun control, those who embrace Obamacare, those who don’t, cat people, dog people, grad students and dropouts, the 1 percent, and the 99 percent.

They, too, were the targets of whomever did what they did on Monday. For all they knew, they could’ve been targets last night, too. But they came anyway, because Boston is a hockey town. And they had a message.

The terrorist (s) used nails and ball bearings to make their point. Bostonians used the key of C. (The video taken from atop the Garden is even more impressive)

Before the Anthem, the Bruins played this on the scoreboard:

MPR will be carrying today’s memorial service from Boston.

If people were more like dogs, maybe we wouldn’t be talking about the bombing in Boston.

Therapy dogs have arrived in town to help the victims of the marathon bombing.

They’re helping people who were nowhere near Boston, too. Here. See if this helps bring a little smile.

therapy_dogs_apr_17_2011.jpg

That’s Lee Ann Yanni, who had been training to run her first full-distance marathon, when she was caught in the Boston blast. She said she’s planning to run again when she recovers.

“We have people simply walking by on the sidewalk who see the dogs … and with the memory of Monday, they break into tears,” Rev. Ingo Dutzmann, senior pastor of First Lutheran Church in downtown Boston, said. “It’s the dog that allows them to express their emotions in that way, and if you’re hurting, you’ve got to let it go. With a dog, people are not afraid to do that.

Lutheran Church Charities flew three of the dogs in from Chicago.

They’ll be at a memorial service on Friday, too.

“Dogs don’t speak theology,” Dutzmann said. “They just speak love.”

Meanwhile, in Madison, Alabama, Stephanie Maisel finally completed the Boston Marathon. She was a half-mile away when the bombs detonated. So the elementary school where she teaches lined a half-mile stretch at the school and allowed her to finish.

2) TAXING “SIN”

The DFL has released its tax plan, including the usual targeting of cigarettes and alcohol. Taxes, they note, will force people to reduce the use of both, which — in turn — will result in reduced tax revenue from both. It’s an old question: Can a tax do both things at the same time: Raise money and reduce use of the product that’s taxed?

Economist Ed Lotterman, writing in today’s Pioneer Press, says alcohol in Minnesota seems to have more negative impact on society than smoking, where the heaviest drinkers do the most damage. So why tax the moderate consumers of alcohol who have relatively little impact?


However, alcohol-related externalities differ from externalities like pollution, in that the harm is not linear. Someone drinking a beer or two a week may cause zero external costs for society. Someone getting plastered every other night may create enormous costs. Why, some would argue, should a majority of moderate drinkers pay a tax when the majority of damage is caused by a minority of the population who drink a lot?

One answer is that moderate drinkers pay very little in tax. I drink about a beer a week, on average. My wife doesn’t drink at all, but we occasionally buy a bottle of wine when having guests. The proposed increase will cost us somewhere between $6 and $10 per year. We may lean toward the abstemious end of the scale, but, given the skewed pattern of little alcohol use by many and heavy use by a few, a large majority of households would probably pay less than $50 additional a year.

Smokers, on the other hand, are an easy target. Too easy? Ezekiel Emanuel, a physician and bioethicist at the University of Pennsylvania, and one of the famous Emanuel brothers, tells. Freakonomics’ Stephen Dubner that the practice of refusing to hire smokers is a bad path on which to travel.

“Once you’re on this kick, you can say, ‘Look, those Seventh Day Adventists! They’re the people we really want to employ because those guys they don’t smoke, they don’t drink, they eat very healthy, they don’t engage in high-risk sporting activities.’ That just seems to me exactly where we don’t want to be going.”

It was a bit startling this week to see a local newspaper describe these taxes the way they were described in our less enlightened days — sin taxes. It’s a term used to garner public support for the taxes. Smoking and alcohol are not “sins” for most people, but politicians invented the phrase decades ago to manipulate public opinion.

3) “DAD, PLEASE GET OUT OF HERE!”

This is the video that’s getting plenty of attention this morning. It’s the moment at which the fertilizer plant in Texas exploded.

But this is the version you should watch if you’ve ever — however unintentionally — put your family in a danger zone in order to videotape something dangerous.

4) WARNING: CYCLIST AHEAD

You can only use it in London now, but the sooner the better for a device unveiled in the U.K., which alerts drivers when they’re in an area where they’re most likely to hit someone on a bicycle. The BBC says the company wants to expand offerings.

Related: New documentary hopes to inspire young people to cycling.

5) THE RAINOUT DILEMMA

The Major League Baseball schedule has been a bucket of nonsense for years, forcing teams to play games without much consideration for the people who buy tickets. Some visiting teams only make one trip to a city a year, so postponing a game entails a logistical nightmare.

So home teams — like the Twins did last night — have to wait until the last possible moment before giving in to the weather, where in the past the paying customer might get a little more consideration. Those days are over.

They played two games in Colorado this week, just so they wouldn’t have to reschedule them. This was the scene at the first pitch.

rockies_game.jpg

Bonus: William Ayers, who bombed government buildings during the Vietnam War, was to speak and Minnesota State University Moorhead. Yesterday, the Minnesota Legislature moved to put the kibosh on those sorts of events. It passed easily. This isn’t the week politicians are going to appear to go soft on bombers.

TODAY’S QUESTION

The no-smoker policies are typically justified by the health, insurance and productivity costs related to smoking. Today’s Question: Is a “no smokers” hiring policy unethical?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Reforming standardized testing.

Second hour: Live coverage of interfaith service in Boston.

Third hour: Do we have mental health parity.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Live Westminster Town Hall Forum featuring Mark Tercek of Nature Conservancy. Author of “Nature’s Fortune: How Business and Society Thrive by Investing in Nature.”

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – TBA

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Brothers Ted and Matt Lee have built their careers on the exploration of southern cooking. In a new book, they bite into the culinary history of their South Carolina hometown with dishes such as Huguenot Torte, Syllabub, and Chainey Briar. NPR will show why they call it all things considered.

  • Robert Moffitt

    2) A bit of an apples and oranges mix. The first segment deals with taxation. The second part has nothing to do with taxes, but hiring practices.

    As I have mentioned before, the fact that youth smoking decreases when the price of cigarettes increases is well documented and proven in other states. So yes, raising tobacco taxes can reduce smoking, at least in some groups.

    As for policies on hiring smokers, that’s a moot point here in Minnesota (and 28 other states), no? So what’s the point of asking the question?

  • Bob Collins

    //A bit of an apples and oranges mix.

    Here’s the transitional sentence you missed:

    Smokers, on the other hand, are an easy target. Too easy?

    // So what’s the point of asking the question?

    Because NewsCut isn’t parochial and there’s a bigger world going on out there than Minnesota. People have even been known to cross state lines.

    Also, I have a lot of out-of-state readers. It can’t always be about you. :*)

  • jon

    @ Bonus:

    Ugh.

    I thought we were done with William Ayers back when Obama got elected the first time.

    The man is an educator.

    If our “children’s” impressionable minds at universities aren’t capable of making their own decisions then we need to improve grade schools dramatically.

    College students can write people off, they should be able to make value judgments on their own. If we need to protect those “children” we need to start protecting all of the “children” you know, 20 somethings, 30 somethings, 40 somethings, baby boomers, etc. and when the government is making decisions on what people can read, and listen to, we’ve moved from a democracy to a totalitarian government.

  • Pat

    #3- Dad, please get out of here IS the video that people should be watching. Thank you for providing the link.

  • Robert Moffitt

    Ok, fair enough. I’ve been known to cross some state lines myself.

    I’ll be at the Capitol today to make the case for higher tobacco taxes. I’ll be joined by a lot of other folks doing the same.

    A big Minnesota welcome to all of Bob’s out-of-state readers. Anyone from Indiana?

    PS: “If people were more like dogs, maybe we wouldn’t be talking about the bombing in Boston.”

    Truth. Give the Blog Dog a pet for me.

  • MN 123

    I have found that I’ve been able to maintain a bit of an emotional distance from all of the suffering in the Boston events. Perhaps it’s become necessary after so much horrific violence recently. But when I heard the audio of the hockey arena’s singing of the national anthem on my way to work this morning, I found these dang tears streaming out of my eyes. Then, (while I am at work!) and seeing those therapy dogs, those stupid tears reappeared.

    People are generally good. And that is what gets to me in all of this.

  • Heather

    Thank you for all of this, Bob.

  • Gerg_MN

    I watched the videos last night of the Bruins game anthem last night. Definitely a tear-jerker, much like when the Newtown School Choir sang before the Super Bowl this year. It’s a bit sad that we only seem to come together like this after a tragedy.

  • Cara

    Wonderful 5×8 this morning. Thank you. *sniff*

  • tboom

    Dropping the microphone after starting the anthem was a very classy move, I assume it was Rene Rancourt’s decision. That absolutely made the moment.

  • bri-bri

    #1: I’m with tboom. Obviously an emotional moment, but even under normal circumstances, thousands of people singing in unison moves me in a way that a soloist, no matter how musically talented, will never, ever achieve. I wish pre-event anthems were soloist-free (or perhaps soloist-”assisted”, as demonstrated by Mr. Rancourt) more often.

  • John P.

    //5) THE RAINOUT DILEMMA

    I KNOW!! Let’s build a stadium with an air suspended Teflon roof! We could build it downtown over near the U of M west bank so they won’t need to build their own new stadium! It will bring huge development to the area for blocks around it!

    The Vikings and Twins and Monster Truck events will be set for life!

  • Bob Collins

    Or just call the game earlier; it was hardly a secret that it was going to rain last night.