Dispatches from the land of ‘no’ (5×8 – 6/12/12)


Everywhere you turn today, there’s another news story about a policy that could end up in court.

In Fargo, for example, authorities are cracking down on panhandlers. Standing on a streetcorner with a sign asking for money is already banned in the downtown area. Now the city commissioners want to expand the no-begging zone, the Fargo Forum says:

Fargo commissioners want city attorneys to draft a revised ordinance that also bans panhandling in any residential area; any area within close proximity to an intersection, crosswalk or bus stop; and along any roadway or median that separates traffic.

“I don’t know, I’ll probably go without eating, without paying bills,” Mindi Thompson tells WDAY.

Her fiance, Calvin Norman, says he can’t get a job because he has a criminal record.”Where are they going to leave us to stand if this is the only way we can get anything?” he asks.

He says he stops panhandling each day when he gets $50, enough for food. He’s not greedy, he says.

In Coon Rapids, meanwhile, there’s a simmering controversy over whether a kid should be allowed to wear rosary beads to school. Jake Balthazor doesn’t wear them for religious reasons, a fact that many national news organizations are burying — it makes a better headline if it’s an assault on religion. He wears them to honor his grandmother, who is battling breast cancer.

But rosary beads are worn by some gang members and school officials have added them to the items banned by the school’s dress code.

That’s too much for the Star Tribune editorial team, which rails against the practice today…

The Anoka-Hennepin dress code policy says that administrators may take action to restrict “[s]tudent attire and/or personal grooming which creates a danger to health or safety; creates a disruption to the educational process, or violates common standards of decency as they apply to a community school setting, and/or any apparel, jewelry, accessories, or matter of grooming which … denotes membership in an organized gang.”

That rightly gives individual school administrators plenty of discretion. But we’d hate to see too many items that have perfectly good, nongang uses make the list. Some gang members are known to wear plain white T-shirts, for example. Could those be banned?

They came for my rosary beads, and I said nothing. They came for my pandhandlers, and I said nothing. Then they came for my four-letter words.

In Middleborough, Massachusetts last night, officials voted 183-to-50 to impose a $20 fine on people who swear in public.

Officials insist the proposal was not intended to censor casual or private conversations, the Associated Press reports, but instead to crack down on loud, profanity-laden language used by teens and other young people in the downtown area and public parks.

Neat trick.

All of these issues set the boundary defining where one person’s rights end, and another’s begin.

Writer Jim Hines says people need to respect the word “no” more…

Your confusion, your hurt feelings, the fact that you don’t like someone telling you no, none of that gives you the right to violate someone else’s boundaries.

Whether it’s someone trying to pressure you into bed or someone who keeps pushing their homemade cheesecake at you, you have the right to say no.

I’ve lost friends because I had the gall to set boundaries in my own space, online or in real life. This happened a while back with an editor I considered a friend, and I still don’t understand why things immediately went to hell when I said I wasn’t in a space to have this conversation. Maybe I wasn’t nice enough about it? Maybe I didn’t adopt the proper tone? I don’t know.

How often do we teach people that they have the right to take care of themselves? Why don’t we teach that it’s okay to set boundaries? And why the hell don’t we teach people to respect them?

(h/t: Stasia Gilday)


Good morning! Chances are you’re happier than the kids who are still sleeping, a new study says.

“Past research has suggested that morning-type people report feeling happier than evening-type people, and this research was only on young adults,” study researcher Renee Biss, a graduate student at the University of Toronto, tells LiveScience.

The researchers studied two populations: a group of 435 adults ages 17 to 38, and a group of 297 older adults, ages 59 to 79. Both groups filled out questionnaires about their emotional state, how healthy they feel and their preferred “time of day.”

Even if you were a “night owl” as a kid, by age 60, most people are morning types, the researchers found. Morning-type people said they felt healthier than did night owls in the research. They were happier.

It’s also possible, though, that they reported feeling happier because they weren’t young people anymore.


Michael Lewis, who wrote “Moneyball,” has the latest viral commencement video as a result of telling the Princeton kids that “luck” is a key part of success.

Lewis said success is “always rationalized” because successful people don’t want to acknowledge that they were actually just really lucky. He told the Princeton grads that if they become successful, “You owe a debt, not just to your Gods. You owe a debt to the unlucky.”

Using the Public Insight Network, PBS is asking its audience whether “we create our own luck.” Do we?


Someday, professional journalists will understand that detachment shouldn’t be an ethical standard. Michael DeMocker, a photographer for the dying New Orleans Times Picayune, penned an article this week describing his emotions as he photographed a shooting scene where a 5 year old had been shot at a birthday party:

All attention seemed focused on a white house with cheerful green trim and tables filled with food set up out front. Colorful star-shaped birthday balloons twisted in the wind, tied to a railing. At the top of the steps, bathed in the evening sun, was a little girl in a white party dress decorated with a large, pink flower. A man, who I later learned was her father, gently cradled her head in his hands.

I raised my camera and through the zoom lens realized with dawning horror that 5-year-old Briana Allen did not have a large pink flower on her dress. A bullet had emptied the contents of her abdomen. I continued to shoot the first responders desperately trying to save the girl and the police officers fighting to control the chaotic scene. As I shot, I realized that this was the worst crime I’d ever witnessed, and I fought tears.

I felt ashamed at my lack of professionalism, yet in retrospect, I suppose it made sense to break down. In the days afterward, I heard from paramedics and police officers who said this was the most difficult scene of their career.

I’ve pointed this out before but this is a good time to point it out once again. When the late Ed Bradley aired this piece from Malaysia, the ethicists said he shouldn’t have gotten involved.

Journalism doesn’t have a problem of too many people caring about the stories and people they cover.


The speech went more than 25 minutes, and it’s regarded as one of the key presidential speeches of our time. But most people only know 5 seconds of it.


Supporters of presidential candidate Ron Paul wielded great influence at the state Republican Convention. Many of them are running for state and local office in November on the strength of his libertarian-style appeal. Today’s Question: What do you think of Ron Paul’s libertarian philosophy?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: How will he Common Core State Standards Initiative change education? And why is Minnesota one of only five states that have not adopted the measures?

Second hour: Science fiction literature.

Third hour: The rising use of pain meds.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Three Minnesota business leaders discuss the effect of immigration on economic growth and American jobs.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – First Lady Michelle Obama

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – DJ Diplo sees his job as breaking new music. And the globe-trotting, taste-making DJ has been doing just that, NPR will report. He’s been mining dance scenes from Rio to Washington DC, and Amsterdam to New Orleans. The world traveler has also produced songs for some of R&B and hip-hop’s biggest names.

  • BJ

    Luck. It’s a big part of business.

  • BJ

    oh, and the 4th cookie is mine!

  • Kurt Nelson

    Re #1

    The District is not telling the kid he can’t wear the Rosary, just that he can’t display them. No assault on the First Amendment there. Since he self reported they are not for religious reasons, the District is again correct telling him to conceal them, again no foul against the First.

    Re #3

    Luck is just preparation waiting to happen.

  • bsimon

    I witnessed a woman racking up about $1000 in fines late Sunday afternoon at lake Hiawatha. The kids she was with wouldn’t come out of the water so she carpeted the area with f-bombs.

  • BenCh

    Re: Luck-

    A lot of people think I am lucky. I won a contest to pay for most of my wedding, I have won countless drawings for smaller things like t-shirts and gift cards, and larger ones valued up to $250. I think the biggest thing exactly that people can make their own luck. A lot of friends think I must be lucky because I win so many things, but I enter every contest I can. I still haven’t won any from the Current, or any of those amazing get away vacations, but maybe one day it will come. I did just enter to win Rock the Garden tix…

  • kennedy

    Re: Luck

    It takes luck to be successful (like getting a hole in one on the golf course.) You can significantly tilt the odds in your favor with practice to improve your skill, and by spending time doing what you want to be successful at.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Very few have “made their own luck”. Born white? Healthy? Had anybody help you as a child? As an adult?

  • David G

    I was wondering for a minute how big Middleborough was that it had 233 officials to vote on the profanity issue. 🙂

  • Kassie

    Since I was a teenager people have been telling me that as I get older I’ll become less liberal and I’ll become more of a morning person. Wrong on both counts. I’m 35 and I still usually sleep past 10am on weekends. Often until noon. Given just a few days off work and my hours just naturally shift to staying up until 2 or 3am every night and 11 or 12 every morning/afternoon.

    And I’m happy, dammit. Just not before lunch.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Here’s betting that there’s a least 183 people in Middleborough who could use some good carnal recreation. ( Can I say that?)

  • Chris Nelson

    I would have said the same thing a few years ago, Kassie. I’m 38 now and I wake up at 5:30 am whether I want to or not!