The musty Constitution (5×8 – 2/7/12)

Is the Constitution outdated, how many ‘helicopter parents’ are there really, a police death up close, remembering Luverne’s Frederick Manfred, and embracing winter in shorts.


Is there something wrong with the Constitution? Is it still the model on which freedoms are guaranteed in other nations? Not anymore, the New York Times reports today. Constitutions of the world’s democracy are less like the United States’ version than at any time since World War II.

There are lots of possible reasons. The United States Constitution is terse and old, and it guarantees relatively few rights. The commitment of some members of the Supreme Court to interpreting the Constitution according to its original meaning in the 18th century may send the signal that it is of little current use to, say, a new African nation. And the Constitution’s waning influence may be part of a general decline in American power and prestige.

Some experts say the Constitution is out of date because it fails to protect a right to travel, the presumption of innocence, and the right to food, education, and health care.

The Canadian Charter of Rights, adopted in 1982, is now considered more influential in the world than the U.S. Constitution.

On the ground, the Constitution is always tested. Maybe the next test will come from Duluth where the City Council is considering an ordinance that anyone purchasing an item with more than 1 percent gold, has to provide a picture of the item and the person selling it to the police.

“I can’t imagine asking a little old lady customer if I could take a mug shot of her to send to the police,” one jeweler told the Duluth News Tribune.

The police say it would provide a needed investigative tool when jewelry is stolen.


NPR might be is overstating the problem of “helicopter parents” with its story last evening on the number of parents who go so far as to sit in on their kids job interviews. The problem is: We didn’t get the numbers. The story only quoted human resources managers and the percentage of them that experienced helicopter parents.

Margaret Fiester of the Society for Human Resource Management, or SHRM, says when it comes to parents acting as lobbyists, she’s heard it all — from parents calling to negotiate better salaries or vacation time for their kids to complaining when their child isn’t hired. “Surely you’ve overlooked these wonderful qualities that my child has,” Fiester says parents often tell her.

Michigan State University surveyed more than 700 employers seeking to hire recent college graduates. Nearly one-third said parents had submitted resumes on their child’s behalf, some without even informing the child. One-quarter reported hearing from parents urging the employer to hire their son or daughter for a position. Four percent of respondents reported that a parent actually showed up for the candidate’s job interview.

The numbers aren’t as illuminating as they could be. If only four percent of the hiring experts had a parent show up for a job interview, how many parents is that? At minimum: 28 in a country of over 300 million people. The story will undoubtedly be used to characterize an entire generation of parents and their kids.


The City of Minneapolis has a lengthy history of writing paychecks for the wrongful deaths of people at the hands of its police department. The Star Tribune has details of what may be the next big payout. It’s got video of the arrest of a mentally ill man. The family of the man says the cops used a Taser and “prone restraint” until the man suffocated.

As usual, experts disagree on the tactic.

George Kirkham, professor emeritus at Florida State University in the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, said the officers “engaged in precipitous and premature physical involvement rather than talk to the guy from a distance.” They used the Taser on him too many times, Kirkham said, then kneeled on his back “in a classic recipe for positional asphyxia.”

John Peters, president of the Institute of Custody Deaths in Henderson, Nev., which trains police officers, said the officers had to be concerned for their own safety as well as the danger that Smith might hurt someone else.

The video is available online and carries a warning of its graphic nature.


Author Frederick Manfred, the pride of Luverne, would’ve been 100 last month. His town is spending the year honoring him, the Worthington Daily Globe reports.

Lanphere said during the course of planning the celebration she has learned quite a bit about Manfred. For instance, he gave the eulogy at the funeral of Sinclair Lewis and was chosen to sit with Native American artist Oscar Howe as he approached death.

“The more I learned about him, the more I realized the really significant lifestyle — life — he had,” she said. “He’s been gone for almost 20 years. You forget what a legendary figure he was in literature. He was nominated for a Nobel Prize in literature four times.”

Indeed, NPR mentioned Manfred’s eulogy in a 2008 story about Elmer Gantry, the flawed preacher in Lewis’ novel.

Related: Today’s Google doodle honors Dickens.


Is there anything going on in the winter that Minnesotans don’t do in shorts?

A WINTER RIDE from Spencer Johnson on Vimeo.

Bonus I: Testing ideas for Duluth’s next anti-racism campaign.

Bonus II: The history of the middle finger.


Today is the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, an English author whose works are read and celebrated to this day. Today’s Question: What living writer might still be read 200 years from now?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Why will voters still caucus even though the results are non-binding and the President has no challenger? What are issues that voters will want to discuss at their respective caucus?

Second hour: Colorado, the nation’s trimmest state, is considering enacting the nation’s strictest trans-fat ban in school food. Other states have banned trans-fat from cafeteria food, but Colorado’s law would eliminate it from vending machines, bake sales and all before- and after-school activities. Is this good public health policy, or is the government going too far?

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Precinct caucuses. Mike Mulcahy with party chairs Pat Shortridge and Ken Martin.

Second hour: Margaret Hamburg of the FDA at Commonwealth Club of California.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: A look at Catholic exemptions. Plus, one patient’s inside view of a clinical trial,

Second hour: Many see poverty, drugs, gangs and violence on Indian reservations, and wonder what’s been lost? Ojibwe David Treuer sees beauty, too, and focuses on what his people saved, like their language.

  • jon

    Of course our constitution is out dated…

    The Federal government is doing things that aren’t specifically granted for it to do in the constitution (war on drugs, when the drugs are grown and sold in the same state. FCC regulations for things occurring in the same state. the “interstate commerce” that the feds can govern has been turned into an excuse to govern everything. Interstates even not governed by the constitution…) And doesn’t bother adding an amendment to say they should do them.

    We’ve updated the thing once in 30 years, and that was from an amendment that was proposed in 1789…

  • Jim Shapiro

    The fault, dear Bob, lies not in our constitution,

    but in the treasonous SOBs that interpret in incorrectly. (Five of whom are currently seated:-)

    A judicial originalist has a wisdom somewhat akin to that of someone who takes the bible literally.

  • Robert Abooey

    Is there any question we live in police state?