Which comes first: Bullying, or talking about bullying? (5×8 – 5/17/11)

On speaking up, GOP vs. GOP on health care in Minnesota, what your computer desktop says about you, loose politicians sink ships, and the Freedom Riders 50 years on.


jeremiahs_hope.jpg MPR is in day two of its week-long investigation into bullying in the state’s schools. It’s a topic that a lot of people — mostly parents of bullies — don’t quite get. Ann Gettis of Kenyon wrote an e-mail yesterday explaining it:

Thank you so very much for doing this investigation and story! In 2006 my beloved son, Jeremiah took his own life. He was 21. He left several letters. In one long letter he wrote about the effect being bullied had on him, leaving him with “no self esteem and feeling like a loser.” There are simply no words that can express our utter devastation… The guilt of not having realized how bad the bullying was, of not doing more (although Jeremiah would beg me not to tell the teachers) is at times unbearable. I can only do now what I wish I had done before.

I am currently finishing my Master’s degree in Community Psychology with a focus on bullying prevention. We have set up Jeremiah’s Hope Fund with which we give money to schools to support bullying prevention efforts. I have begun to speak to schools and other groups about what happened and what I have learned. I am working at getting myself out there as a resource for youth, parents, schools and communities.

It is apparent to me that a main reason schools do not do more is because they don’t know what to do. I hope to be able to help schools with that process. The media attention is vital to the effort of raising awareness and working to stop and prevent bullying. You have no idea how much your effort and attention to this issue means to me and to ten of thousands of other youth and adults. This is an area of abuse that has gone unrecognized for far too long. I applaud your work. Although I have not read all of the articles yet, I am very impressed with what I have read. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! Ann Gettis

But Julie Kleinhaus of Shirley, NY, writes that all this attention will only make bullying worse.

The issue with bullying will continue to grow because of the emotionally charged attention we give (on both sides) to this issue. If you really look at it, we talk so much about the problem of bullying rather than the solution of confident kids becoming empowered in who they really are. What the schools are missing is that we must teach empowerment and focus on building self esteem, along with the other virtues of heart based living. With so much attention on the negative, of course, we create an environment filled with more and more tension.


The Washington Post is making Minnesota the poster child for Republican attempts to undo the national health care law state-by-state. In its editions today, the Post profiles a bill by Republican legislator Steve Gottwalt that sets up a mechanism for a health insurance exchange program, the cornerstone of President Obama’s plan. It allows people to shop for health care coverage.

Gottwalt’s plan”envisions a nonprofit, government-affiliated ‘corporation’ within the framework of the health-care law.” The bill has languished since it was filed in February because of something we don’t hear about much as the end of the legislative session nears: Republicans feuding with Republicans.

“We would just be setting them [the Obama administration] up with the vehicle that will put Obamacare in place in 2014,” first-term Republican Kathy Lohmer said of Gottwalt’s bill. “A significant number of Republicans will not support it.”

With the current legislative session scheduled to end May 23, the legislature’s Republican leadership is beset from all sides. Commerce Commissioner Michael J. Rothman, the lead negotiator for Dayton, said a health insurance exchange is “a top priority” of the administration, which is trying to determine whether lawmakers have “the political will” to produce a bill. So far they do not.

Republicans, of course, are also battling DFLers at the Capitol over the state budget. Yesterday they rejected a “compromise” budget proposal from Gov. Dayton and insisted on no tax increases. Dayton’s proposal would raise income taxes on about 2 percent of Minnesotans.

In an editorial today, the Star Tribune called on the GOP to give a little...

About that, the Republicans have a point. Minnesota already has the ninth-highest top income tax rate in the country. The state would pay a competitive price if its top rate went to 10.95 percent — the nation’s second-highest — even though Dayton’s latest proposal would shrink the share of filers who would pay that rate to 1.9 percent.

But GOP legislators fail to acknowledge that their no-new-taxes budget also would cause serious economic damage. It would result in thousands of lost government jobs, which would impede economic recovery. It would cost upwards of 150,000 people their health insurance, raising health costs for everyone else. It would reduce course offerings at the state’s colleges, slowing and shrinking their output of educated workers. And it would lead to property tax increases, especially in the regional and urban centers that receive local government aid (LGA).


Computer users with messy desktops are more likely to be liberal, educated city-dwellers who are career-minded and good at math, a new study says. LiveScience.com reports those with neat desktop “are more likely to be young tech-savvy suburbanites that say their personal life is more important than work.”

Men are 13 percent more likely than women to have neat desktops compared to women.

Those with messy desktops are 12 percent more likely to have a stronger aptitude for mathematical concepts and numbers, and are more likely to say work is an important part of their life and sometimes puts their personal life on the back burner.


Why did the U.S. pick a Sunday to chase down and kill Osama bin Laden? Because too many people — politicians — had been briefed on the operation and officials feared they couldn’t keep their mouths shut to the media, the Associated Press reports.

The story also tries to dispel the notion that Geronimo was used as a code name for bin Laden. That angered some Native Americans:

Back at the White House Situation Room, word was relayed that bin Laden had been found, signaled by the code word “Geronimo.” That was not bin Laden’s code name, but rather a representation of the letter “G.” Each step of the mission was labeled alphabetically, and “Geronimo” meant that the raiders had reached step “G,” the killing or capture of bin Laden, two officials said.

The chances are that’s a story designed more to end the controversy. The international word for the letter “G” is “Golf.” It has been for decades and there’s little reason to substitute a word like Geronimo for it.


You’ll not see better television than last night’s Freedom Riders documentary on PBS’ The American Experience. It was only 50 years ago this month that a small group of people — about 400 in all — let white people punch and beat them — because they were black — while forgiving them. It had to be done, because governments couldn’t be trusted to do the right thing.

Watch the full episode. See more American Experience.

You’ll want to spend some time on the documentary’s Web site. It encourages people to share their stories of the ride. This one was particularly poignant:

people often ask me why I went on the Rides. Some people think that Riders were “special” part of history really brave. I was a Rider because I am a human being and I think that is the way human beings are supposed to behave. I did not think it was anything out of the ordinary. I only wondered why everyone didn’t ride.

I still believe the same thing. Once I gained the consciousness of the prejudice in the country, there was no choice at all. Truth, justice and the American Way of Life were all in danger. Any moral person, I thought, would do the right thing and become a Freedom Rider.

If you do nothing to resist Evil, then; by default, you support it. Jackson, here I come.

people often ask me why I went on the Rides. Some people think that Riders were “special” part of history …

— Chela Lightchild new mexico

You may also wish to visit the American RadioWorks Web site for its documentary, State of Siege: Mississippi Whites and the Civil Rights Movement.

Bonus: Should a rapper have been invited to the White House?


With little time remaining to reach agreement, Gov. Mark Dayton yesterday released what he called a compromise proposal to balance the state budget. Today’s Question: Should both sides in the state budget debate give something up to reach a deal?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Where is the job creation?

Second hour: Obama and the Middle East.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Gov. Mark Dayton.

Second hour: An “Intelligence Squared” series debate on the statement, “Don’t give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: The president addresses the Arab Spring on Thursday. What do you want to hear?

Second hour: Why good people do things that are out of character?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – MPR’s Tom Weber will have another installment of his series on bullying in Minnesota schools.

If Devi’s Lake in North Dakota goes up another three or four feet, officials fear its impact on the Red River The Army Corps of Engineers is beginning two days of hearings on efforts to prevent a catastrophic flood. MPR’s Dan Gunderson will report.

In Germany, the glass ceiling fractured when a woman was elected to lead the country in 2005. But in the business world there, women still lag far behind. None of Germany’s top 100 companies has a female C.E.O. So now there’s a movement to mandate gender quotas in corporate boardrooms. That story from NPR News.

  • John P.

    On desktops.

    I would call myself an older tech-savvy liberal leaning suburbanite with an extremely neat desktop. I guess I just defy classification. I like that.

  • Ben Chorn

    While I agree that there should be efforts to try and stop bullying, I think that money would be better spent in having services available for those who have been bullied. Bullying will never stop and kids just need to know that it gets better. I have been bullied in my younger years for everything from the clothes I wore, to who I chose to be friends with, to being a Boy Scout. It really doesn’t matter what you do, someone will always be there to bully. What kids need is someone who will always be there for when they get bullied to help them. Adults will never be able to fully control kids- and that’s how it should be. I have seen my class number drop by one in high school as a student committed suicide during his senior year. No one should think that it is that bad that less than a year before getting out of school you have to end you life. While I praise efforts to try and stop bullying, the most efficient use of money would be to help in counseling for all kids- even those doing the bullying. I dont have a degree in psychology and havent studied the matter, but I have lived it. The thing that gets you through these situations aren’t to stop the bullying (another one will just take their place), but to offer an ear to listen and a shoulder for support.

  • catholicsshun

    On Bullying

    // Adults will never be able to fully control kids- and that’s how it should be.//

    No but like the Freedom Riders we can make a difference by saying NO MORE. And like the changes that occured by acts like the Freedom Riders we can teach children better ways of handling their anger and aggression.

    A keyboard, a cell phone is an instant gratification in retalliation for most humans young and adult. I think that we need to teach children how lethal these can be and that they will be held responsible for thier part in the act of bullying.

    I think Ben has a good point in funding more programs for kids about bullying.

  • Chris N.

    I’m worried that with bullying and other school issues in general that we’re relying on the system to fix something that may have its root in issues at home. Teachers and administrators can only do so much in terms of being surrogate parents. Maybe we should be asking ourselves a) how a child’s home life is involved in whether they bully others and b) what we can do for parents of bullies both in promoting a better home life and holding them to account for their kid’s actions.