Shutdown stress (5×8 – 6/22/11)


Lawmakers and the governor may well be trying to end a budget stalemate that could shut down Minnesota government at the end of the month, but yesterday they didn’t even meet. Both sides might be trying to win when it comes to public opinion, but increasingly some real Minnesotans don’t have the luxury of playing political pundit. They’re trying to survive.

Here’s the story of a woman in North St. Paul, who sent us this last evening:

I have broken down sobbing twice so far at the news about the Minnesota government shutdown. I am a single mother of three young children, one with autism and receiving services and therapies through Medical Assistance and Waivered Services. I have a masters degree in Experiential Education, which is “hands-on learning” and I am going through bankruptcy and on the brink of foreclosure. It’s not like I WANT to be on assistance, it’s my situation, and this housing economy, and my soon-to-be ex husband also receiving a “disability” diagnosis of autism, which is a social and communication disorder.

I have received two letters from Ramsey County Social Services saying that my daycare assistance will be shut down, and I’ve heard from my public health nurse that the Maxis system (welfare, food stamps, etc) and Child Support data base will be turned off during the state shutdown. Which means I will lose my income (through Community Involvement Programs, the fiscal entity which helps pay for my son’s disability services) and I will lose my child support payments.

How am I going to keep the bank from foreclosing on my house? And then where are we going to go? How am I going to afford the late fees and legal fees involved in fighting the bank? When I have struggled SO HARD to be the best advocate for my child with a disability as I can.

This “disruption” is impacting the “needy” people of Minnesota the most. We are the people who LEAST deserve to have the rug yanked out from under us. We are the ones who are PRO education, and advocate for the people who don’t have a voice: our kids with disabilities.

Who gets to decide which services are “critical” and “essential”? They are essential to my family’s well being and to our entire future. We, like so many others with upside-down mortgages, are going to be pushed over the edge in this political impasse and it’s going to be difficult, if not impossible, to “clean up” the damage that will be caused if and when our sources of funding get cut off.

I can substitute teach to make up for things like this, however, not in the summer time when school is out!

I feel really stuck between a rock and a hard place, and it’s very, very scary. Like receiving a diagnosis of terminal cancer. I’ve lived through the diagnosis of autism in my son and in my husband, and now, because services are threatened, it really feels “terminal”.

Meanwhile, Minnesota state employees are poised to make it more affordable for the state to lay them off during the shutdown. Under the proposed deal, they’d give up severance payments in exchange for keeping health care benefits. “They are broke, so they don’t have any money to pay that,” Keri Nelson, director of collective bargaining for the Minnesota Nurses Association, told the Star Tribune.

In an editorial today, the Duluth News Tribune says lawmakers grabbing extra pay during the shutdown merely twist the knife they’ve inserted into the state…

When told that House members could refuse their pay during the hiatus — which would be a welcome, even if symbolic, gesture to taxpayers who’ll be on the hook for millions because elected leaders failed to do their jobs, opting instead to play politics — House Majority Leader Matt Dean said he hadn’t even considered that. He may be the only Minnesotan who hasn’t.

“We can’t get the government going again unless we pass bills,” argued Dean, R-Dellwood. He seemed not to grasp that the suggestion wasn’t that he and other lawmakers stop working, only that they stop getting paid — at least until they earn the checks.

And that’s something few did this year in St. Paul.

Minnesotans expect better of their elected leaders than the five months just passed of little more than political gamesmanship; polarized, hard-line, gets-us-nowhere stands; and insincere, buzz phrase-filled negotiations.

We’ve said it before: In the real world, job performance like theirs would be grounds for firing — not a justification to continue getting paid while the rest of the state suffers from their failures.

California is in much the same boat as Minnesota. The state’s comptroller, however, has ruled lawmakers won’t be paid until they balance the budget. He’s become a Facebook hero because of the ruling.


Eleven thousand people have now fled Minot, ND, where the Souros River is expected to swallow North Dakota’s fourth-largest city in a few days. “We won’t have nothing to come back to this time,” an elderly woman said as she looked at the flowers in her yard and prepared to race for higher ground.

Here’s a live video feed from Minot…

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With all of the rain in the last few days, other rivers are flooding. The Red River in the Fargo Moorhead area jumped about a foot in the last 24 hours and is now flooding. The Minnesota River in Shakopee is already flooding again, too.

This can’t be what Ann Raiho and Natalie Warren expected when they set out to be the first women to paddle their canoe all the way from Minneapolis to Hudson Bay a few weeks ago. They reached Montevideo on the swollen Minnesota River on the weekend and, according to a tracking map on their Web site, are about to hit the lakes area of Lac Qui Parle near Milan.

“The rain has been a doozy this past week but we knew this trip wasn’t going to be all sunshine and daisies,” they wrote on their blog.

They seem to be doing fine…


Inbox Influence, a new tool from the Sunlight Foundation, allows you to see the political contributions of the people and organizations that are mentioned in emails you receive.

The organization says the tool , which you can find here, “can be used for researching influence background on corporate correspondence, adding context to newspaper headlines or discovering who is behind political fundraising solicitations.”

The group also admits that in order for it to work, the entire contents of the message are sent to the Sunlight Foundation. Your network administrator is going to love this.

(h/t: Julia Schrenkler)


Why are there laws in Minnesota and Wisconsin to move over — or slow down — for emergency vehicles pulled over to the side of the road. Here’s why…

The video was captured by dash cam from a Wisconsin State Patrol car on June 1, according to the YouTube poster. An officer had pulled over a motor coach bus on I-94 near Elk Mound. A passing car missed the squad car, and slammed into the back of the bus. The driver of the car suffered minor injuries, and the driver’s wife died at the scene.



An anonymous photo album by a Nazi photographer had the New York Times’ Lens blog stumped at this time yesterday.

There are certainly many photo albums of Nazi leaders and many photo albums of the Nazis’ victims. But it’s hard to imagine many albums depicting both, just a few pages apart.

At least one does, however, and it has surfaced in New York City. Its creator was able — apparently within weeks — to photograph Hitler as he warred on Russia and also to photograph some of the earliest victims of that brutal campaign, known as Operation Barbarossa, which began 70 years ago Wednesday.

Enter the power of the Internet. The blog, and another publication, asked readers for help uncovering the mysterious owner of the album and the story behind it. It took two hours:

Before lunchtime in New York, Harriet Scharnberg had written from Hamburg, Germany, to say:

The photographs, at least a lot of them, were taken by the photographer Franz Krieger (1914-1993). Krieger worked as a photojournalist in Salzburg, Austria. In the summer of 1941, he went to Minsk as a member of the Reichs-Autozug Deutschland. In Minsk, he took pictures of Soviet prisoners of war and he also visited the Jewish ghetto and photographed the poor people there. On his way back to Berlin, he took the pictures of Hitler meeting [Adm. Miklos] Horthy in Marienburg.

And the blog details the compelling story of how a man who wanted to be a photographer, became a Nazi…

After graduating with a business degree from the University of Vienna, Krieger opened a business in Salzburg. But he wanted to be a photojournalist. Between 1935 and 1937, he photographed the Salzburg Festival — and stars like Marlene Dietrich. Following the German annexation of Austria, Krieger went to work for the Salzburg reichsgau, a Nazi administrative subdivision. In that capacity, Dr. Kramml said, “he took most of the important pictures in Salzburg from 1938 until 1941.”

Bonus: Someone stole Larry Ross’ bike. He’s studying to be a director of Christian outreach at Concordia College. He was born without legs and depends on handcycle. He says it taken from his home overnight, near Snelling and Taylor Avenue across from Hamline University, WCCO reports.


The federal government has released nine graphic warning labels it will require on packages of cigarettes beginning next year. The labels include images of damaged lungs and a dead body. Today’s Question: What’s the best way to discourage smoking?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Former state representatives Dee Long and Marty Seifert discuss the state’s budget woes.

Second hour: Darin Strauss, novelist and author of the memoir “Half A Life.”

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: MIT security studies professor Steven VanEvera previews President Obama’s address to the nation about the war in Afghanistan.

Second hour: Former U.S ambassador to both Egypt and Israel, Daniel Kurtzer.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: NPR political editor Ken Rudin.

Second hour: Will the new cigarette warnings make any difference?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – A dying craft is being preserved in a small northern Minnesota town. Black Swan barrels is one of only a few remaining wooden barrel makers in the country. Coopers use a traditional approach involving wood, steel and fire to make wooden barrels used for, among other things, aging whiskey. The old craft with a new twist creates barrels used by a growing number of small distillers use to age whiskey. MPR’s Dan Gunderson will have the story.