Five at 8 – 8/27/09: Why are we afraid of the C-word?

Did you ever wake up feeling sorry for the people who don’t get to live in Minnesota? Me too. Here’s last night’s sunset:.


See more of the images from David DeCoded.

Sunrise this morning, however, was nowhere near as glorious. But press on, we must.

1) Let’s step back and think some more about yesterday’s legislative hearing into the out-of-control Metro Gang Strike Force (which I live blogged). While focusing on policy changes, few of the media stories about the hearing asked the most salient question: How can the people who uncovered the wrongdoing not bring themselves to use the word corruption, even when invited to do so by Sen. Linda Higgins, DFL-Minneapolis? A week ago, the principal investigator described the Strike Force as “criminal,” and said crimes had been committed. But on Wednesday he wouldn’t describe cops who shakedown people for their cars, cash, or possessions (people who wouldn’t be likely to blow the whistle), or who arrange a sweetheart deal with a used-car lot to sell their cars, or who just walked into an evidence room and took home whatever jewelry was there, as “corrupt.”

That’s why Pioneer Press columnist Ruben Rosario’s column today describing how one man lost his money to the cops may be the best story yet about the — let’s call it what it is — corruption.

None of those bagged that night had gang ties. Rodriguez-Cardona had no arrests, not even a parking ticket. Other than an acknowledgment that a little more than $4,000 was seized, Luger’s report found minimal information on the encounter in strike force records. No crime was alleged or prosecuted against those arrested and held in custody that night.

Yet, police contacted federal immigration officials in violation of a Minneapolis ordinance that prohibits officers from doing so unless a crime has been committed.

2) Our changing us. It seemed like only last January when Barack Obama was urging Americans to volunteer as part of the enthusiasm that swept him into office last November. How’d that turn out? Not so well, the New York Times reports. Seventy-two percent of Americans are reporting they’re giving less time to volunteer activities. The report, the Civic Health Index, from the National Conference on Citizenship, blames the recession, but it also notes that in past economic downturns, “civic engagement” has gone up. “We are,” the report said, “in the middle of civic foreclosure.”

Compared to a year ago, how would you describe your volunteer activities(surveys)

Tell me your volunteering (or not) story below.

3) Step away from the computer! In China, people who are addicted to the Internet — mostly young people — are being sent by their parents to boot camps, the BBC reports. Addicted is defined as anyone who spends at least six hours a day on the Internet and has little interest in school.

Slogans on the wall:

“Those who are masters of the internet are heroes,” reads one, before adding, “Those who are controlled by the internet are slaves.”

In Washington state, by contrast, they’re using a different approach to Internet detox, although it’ll cost you $14,500. Would that be covered under the new health care reforms?

4) The Gunflint Trail:


Sigh. So pretty. So relaxing. It’s amazing what Mother Nature can do when left alone. Well, except that it’s not a matter of leaving her alone. The Department of Natural Resources has released a draft vegetation plan. The state designated the trail a scenic byway in 1999 and the big July blowdown that year convinced officials that some of the “woody fuel” along the byway needed to be replaced with man-planted vegetation. Large stands of “over mature” Aspen are to be removed (or have been). The draft report, despite its rather bureaucratic name, is actually a great read.

It also provides a great question for discussion while you drive the byway: Is the best scenery that which is specifically built by hands to enhance what nature provides? Or is the best scenery completely what nature provides without the involvement of human hands?

5) Boarding up history.The Full Scale Tunnel, where researchers have spent the past 78 years readying many of the nation’s airplanes for flight, where Charles Lindbergh and Howard Hughes walked the halls, is being closed by NASA. It’s underutilized, anyway. NASA hasn’t built a wind tunnel since the 1980s and the ones it has are being closed one by one. Maybe we’ve learned everything there is to learn about flight.

In space, meanwhile, three different space vehicles are studying the dark side of the moon.



“I picked 3 ripe ones yesterday and see color on another,” Kay Smith writes.

Send your photo that screams “August!”.


When you spend a day at the State Fair, what’s your strategy?


Posting, at least by me, will be sparse here today. I’m taking a sick day.

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: The CIA terror investigations.

Second hour: The history of dinosaurs.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – Gary Eichten is at the State Fair. First hour: Sen. Amy Klobuchar.

Second hour: Climatologist Mark Seeley and his annual weather quiz.

Talk of the Nation (1 – 3 p.m.) – First hour: Do “harsh interrogation tactics” (or torture, if you prefer) work?

Second hour: The man behind Nike’s ubiquitous Air Jordans isn’t Michael Jordan. It’s legendary sports agent Donald Dell. The lessons he’s learned negotiating in the most high-powered arenas.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – MPR’s Stephanie Hemphill reports that 3M and state are moving to clean up chemicals from a Woodbury landfill, one of the sources of contamination of drinking water in the East Metro.

Dan Gunderson profiles a few Minnesota counties that are using a relatively new program designed as an alternative to jail time. It’s used mostly for drug and alcohol offenses and run by retired law enforcement officers. So far, the results appear promising, Dan says.

Howard Berkes reports on the opening — and then, the closing — of the Zion Tunnel.

Small wind turbines. Folly? Melissa Block will answer that question.

And NPR will have the story of an investigation into what happened at Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The investigation will be published in this weekend’s New York Times.

  • I’m going to hazard a guess here, but the inability to use the word “corruption” seems to be very much part of a pattern. The Minnesotan sense of decorum that is politeness on a good day and a form of sarcasm on an ordinary day is a red-cheeked glance away from unpleasantness on a bad day.

    Those hearings were a really bad day.

    The reason I am sure that corruption exists here is that people are in such heavy denial about it. We have the environment where corruption starts to ooze and fester as an untreated wound.

    Why can’t we call this what it is? We rarely call anything what it is out of fear that we’ll appear impolite. Corruption isn’t the only problem that’s too embarrassing to face, either. There is a pattern here.

  • Tyler

    Regarding NASA’s wind tunnels – I think there are a few reasons for closing them down:

    1. Cost – NASA is on a diet, and this kind of research doesn’t get headlines like a space shuttle launch.

    2. Substitutes – I would imagine that more valuable data can be gleaned from running computer simulations than actual wind tunnel tests.

    3. Limitations – I think you hit the nail on the head – we’ve learned most of what there is to learn about flight—up to a certain speed. NASA continues to do research on scramjets and other high speed (Mach 7+)

  • kennedy

    Many things can make for good scenery. From a metro skyline, to a majestic mountain, to an english garden, to the north woods of Minnesota.

    My quesiton is, should forests be managed to minimize the risk of fire or should fires be managed to minimize the risk to the forest?

    With the former being more proactive, I hope it would be less costly overall, would allow the responsible harvest of trees as a resource, and maintain the ability of the forest to thrive and provide us beautiful scenery to enjoy.

  • I’m going to cheat and tell you about my volunteering here.