Five at 8 -11/20/09: Things to do while reading the health care bill

1) Five things you can do in the time it would take you to read the entire health care reform bill. My favorite: “Accrue enough radio experience to host a national talk show.” Of course this is a silly exercise; Nobody’s going to read the entire health care bill.

Is it still the economy, stupid? Nate Silver at writes this morning that it’s more critical — for Obama’s popularity — to pass a jobs bill than a health care bill.

2) Why does Jon Stewart’s Daily Show do a better job of fact checking than the news media? The surprise here is that it took this long for someone to write an article on the subject.

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3) The lure of the small town. If you’ve traveled through the downtowns of most of Minnesota’s small towns, you know there aren’t many business owners like Patty Forseth in Germantown. She runs a clothing store that decided to stay in town, rather than move to the big cities nearby — “big” meaning populations of 2,000. The Marshall Independent profiles a couple of like-minded businesses who think there’s still a future on Main Street, Minnesota.

4) Going rogue? The Star Tribune has a front-page story this morning from its “Whistleblower” department that alleges law enforcement agencies are abusing the 72-hour-hold which allows authorities to detain people, usually with mental health issues, for 72 hours if they’re deemed a threat to themselves or others. The people with mental health training are not likely to be happy with the story, however, because they’re likely to point to paramedic Nate Berg’s lack of training on mental health issues.

Take this section of the story, for example:

The police officer said the patient was having psychiatric issues and was upset, Berg said in his suit. The officer said the patient may be off his medications, Berg said. But they were unable to produce a copy of the boy’s care plan, which would have shown what medications he was on as well as his doctor’s instructions for handling various situations.

The boy told Berg he was mad because he had gotten into a fight with his caretaker. But Berg said the boy didn’t appear to be suffering from a medical problem and was speaking coherently. Berg told the officer it wasn’t ambulance policy to take someone to the hospital because they were angry.

“Didn’t appear to be suffering from a medical problem?” What does a mental health issue look like? The paramedic said by the time he got to the scene, the young man was in the back of a squad car and seemed coherent. But in many cases, mental health “episodes” are like seizures.

The frustration that people have with medical professionals who determine at a glance that people are or aren’t mentally healthy is a theme that emerged in most of the conversations I had with people in a series MPR produced in 2004. Minnesota has actually made progress in recent years in training its emergency responders on the best way to protect people with mental health issues.

The Star Tribune missed the story here, which is one paramedic overriding the best practices of the emergency responders and going it alone. Is that a serious thing? Discuss below.

Full disclosure: I have a wife who is actively engaged in lobbying on behalf of mental health access and I have a son who is a paramedic.

5) Kid Klingon. The University of Minnesota Daily focused on one of the most interesting stories we’ve seen in awhile, then left it after two paragraphs to do a feature story on a local company that created a Klingon dictionary, which isn’t that interesting. The better story? Why would a linguist sacrifice three years of his newborn’s life to find out if it would make a difference if Dad spoke only Klingon for the first three years of it? It turns out Wired Magazine answered that question in a 1999 story. He didn’t actually. The boy learned both English and Klingon because Mom spoke English.

This isn’t that kid, which in itself is scary:


The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission gave approval last week for an Xcel Energy plan to produce more power at its Prairie Island nuclear plant. Xcel also will store more nuclear waste at the site. Are you comfortable increasing Minnesota’s reliance on nuclear power?


I hope to have a News Cut Quiz posted here by early afternoon.

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: New guidelines recommending against yearly mammograms for women between the ages of 40 and 49 are creating confusion and anxiety among women, and stirring anger in the medical community.

Second hour: Local singer Paul Metsa has performed and worked in music for nearly 30 years. He credits his upbringing in the Iron Range and his love of folk for inspiring his songwriting and his bluesman ethos.

Midday (11 a.m. -1 p.m.) – First hour: Former US Sen. David Durenberger discusses the politics and the policies involved in the House and Senate health care bills. The Senate has scheduled a preliminary vote Saturday night.

Second hour: Live broadcast from the National Press Club, featuring Jim Leach, the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – It’s Science Friday! First hour: Living and working in space. Speaking of space, what did you do at work this week? How cool is this guy’s job?

Second hour: Even more on the new mammogram guidelines.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – MPR’s Chris Roberts profiles a unique company of playwrights who produce their own work and takes turns to direct productions.

Euan Kerr considers the new movie on soldiers who have the toughest detail in the Army — telling families their son or daughter has been killed.

Mark Steil has the latest on the bus crash in Austin with a look into the charter bus industry.

  • bsimon

    “Why does Jon Stewart’s Daily Show do a better job of fact checking than the news media?”

    Working theory: The Daily Show’s premise is to point out ridiculousness. News programs focus on getting the scoop & not being beaten to the story. If major news outlets changed their policy to get the story right, rather than get the story first, the Daily Show would have less material to work with.

  • Nate Berg


    Don’t beleive everything you read in the newspaper. My lawsuit has much, much more to it than what you read and in fact would make you sick to hear th truth behind it. Millions of dollars being abused. People with no mental health issues at all being forced to go into the hospital against their will and legal rights.

    I’m not going at it alone but rather had the balls to bring it to light. This is an issue that is specific to North Memorial in the metro so the fact your son is a Paramedic is irrelevant. The law has been broken and it needs to be fixed.

    Want to hear the truth feel free to contact me before you open your month further on an issue you know nothing about. This is not about the true needs of those with mental health issues.