Hiding behind privacy laws, sad Ricky, and how ‘do what you love’ fuels class war (5×8 – 1/17/14)

1) THE CONVENIENCE OF PRIVACY LAWS

Compared to some school districts, archdioceses have been information sieves when it comes to revealing what’s behind the complaints lodged against administrators and other employees. Another school district has paid an employee to be quiet and go away, then told taxpayers it’s none of their business, citing state privacy laws.

This time it’s the Forest Lake School District, which has been paying its superintendent an elementary school principal to stay home.

It’s not just school districts, either. Minneapolis, for example, has never explained why Rocco Forte, considered a hero in the aftermath of the I35W bridge collapse, resigned after someone lodged a complaint against him for doing… something.

In today’s editorial, the Star Tribune lists many similar cases in Minnesota, mostly to the collective shrug of taxpayers, suggesting politicians are hiding behind a law that wasn’t meant to protect them from embarrassment. The school boards and local governments are exploiting a loophole in a recent change in the law, that allows them to keep details secret if not disciplinary action is taken against an employee. So no disciplinary action is taken; they’re simply paid off after they agree to “resign.”

Clearly, it can be difficult to balance the privacy rights of individual employees with the public’s right to know. At times, both parties want to avoid embarrassment or reduce additional costs by settling instead of going to court. In some cases, they may be trying to cover up wrongdoing.

Regardless of the reasons for the secrecy, Minnesotans have a right to know why their tax dollars are being spent on public employees who are no longer on the job.

If only there were some consistency in privacy. A University of Minnesota professor had the personal information of witnesses and victims of violent crimes. It was stolen.

Nobody ever told the victims their private information had even been given to the professor for research. “First of all, being a victim, your trust is broken,” a rape victim tells the Star Tribune. “You’re supposed to trust the state, the laws, to protect you, and then they release information like this,” she said.

2) WHEN RICKY’S NOT HAPPY

As another disastrous Minnesota Timberwolves season unfolds, we’re spending more time thinking of what might have been. Just a few years ago, we witnessed the transcendence of the next great NBA player in Ricky Rubio. He was doing things we’d never seen before and when he walked to the scorer’s table to check into the game, the Target Center buzz was audible. Plus: He was cute and seemed to have fun. So we had fun, too.

Flash forward: Ricky’s not having fun anymore, he tells the Associated Press.

“It’s basketball. I love it,” Rubio said. “But I’m just not having as much fun as it used to be. I know it has to be professional. But I just want to have fun. It’s hard to find it right now.”

Having fun may sound trite in the big business world of the NBA, but there is no denying that the Timberwolves derived a certain confidence from the flair, the flash and the precision that come when he’s humming. And the Timberwolves’ once promising foundation is starting to crack beneath his feet.

The Wolves are 0-11 in games decided by four points or fewer, with the offense getting stagnant down the stretch and opposing defenses daring Rubio to shoot while doubling Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic. The struggles on the court have leaked into the locker room, fracturing the team.

Rubio watched the entire fourth quarter of an ugly home loss to the Kings on Wednesday night from the bench after turning the ball over five times in the first three quarters.

Why can’t we have nice things?

More sports: Project Pay It Forward: Minnesota jersey maker helps struggling single mothers – The Business Journals.

3) DO WHAT YOU LOVE? HOW DARE YOU?

“There’s little doubt that ‘do what you love’ (DWYL) is now the unofficial work mantra for our time,” Miya Tokumitsu writes today on Slate. “The problem with DWYL, however, is that it leads not to salvation but to the devaluation of actual work—and more importantly, the dehumanization of the vast majority of laborers.”

In the essay, Tokumitsu argue “DWYL is a secret handshake of the privileged and a worldview that disguises its elitism as noble self-betterment. labor is not something one does for compensation but is an act of love. If profit doesn’t happen to follow, presumably it is because the worker’s passion and determination were insufficient. Its real achievement is making workers believe their labor serves the self and not the marketplace.”

Do the miners who turned out last night in support of the PolyMet mining proposal really love what they do for a living? And if they don’t, are they doing it wrong? “Under the DWYL credo, labor that is done out of motives or needs other than love—which is, in fact, most labor—is erased,” Tokumitsu writes.

4) THE BEAUTY AND GENIUS OF THE DIVERGING DIAMOND

The Eighth Street on/off ramp to/from I-94 ramp in Moorhead is, like many other ramp intersections in Minnesota, plugged up most of the time.

But a proposal from MnDOT would plant another “diverging diamond” in the state (one opened in Sartell not long ago). It’s genius, really, even though we don’t really understand it.

Behold:

Minnesota Department of Transportation

It looks even more interesting:

Minnesota Department of Transportation

Mall of America shoppers will recognize the diverging diamond. The 494/34th Avenue interchange is one of only four spots that use it in the state. The Moorhead plan would make number five, the Fargo Forum reports.

“It doesn’t look as crazy (in real life) as it looks from above,” MnDOT spokesman Jerimiah Moerke tells the paper.

More MnDOT: After 9-year effort, Rochester businessman gets US 52 sign (Rochester Post Bulletin).

5) NPR AND THE ‘B’ WORD

NPR had to know it would get some blowback from the public radio crowd when it posted this item on Facebook.

npr_facebook

And it did, with dozens of listeners complaining about the choice of language. For example:

Linda Holmes of NPR stepped in to explain…

With a few exceptions, many “inappropriate” words eventually make it to mainstream acceptance, a fact many news organizations ignore when it comes to the question of whether to use it.

Related journalism: A Cautionary Tale Of Selling Your Soul 01/16/2014. A journalist laments the “entertainment culture” is infecting newsrooms.

BONUS: The science behind why we take selfies (BBC).

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: The Friday Roundtable examines all of the latest news on the NSA scandal, and what panelistsy expect the president to suggest in terms of reforms to the program in his speech this morning. Guests: Susan Gaertner, John Wodele, and Gregg Peppin.

Second hour: Live coverage of President Obama’s speech at the Department of Justice, outlining his proposals for changes at the NSA.

Third hour: We air Kerri Miller’s Talking Volumes conversation with author Margaret Atwood from October. Her latest book is “MaddAddam,” the final installment of her science fiction “Oryx and Crake” trilogy.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm) – Libertarian political scientist and author Charles Murray, giving a Chautauqua Lecture titled, “Nurturing the Institutions that Let us Pursue Happiness.”

Science Friday (1-2 p.m.) – In the new movie Her, one man falls in love with the voice on his operating system. Is this the future?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Orfeo is a new novel inspired by the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus. A love of creation leads an avant-garde music composer to dabble in DNA and become a bio-terror fugitive. NPR will have a conversation with the author, Richard Powers.