The helmet law debate (5×8 – 6/8/12)

When freedoms collide, steal someone’s bike at work day, no money for nothing in West Fargo, the Twins pass on taking a risk, and nature or nurture.


If you want to have a real dust-up, have a discussion about helmet laws. Instantly, it will turn to the assertion of a nanny state, and the “right” to ride without a helmet. People shouldn’t tell other people how to live. It’s a debate that will, no doubt, be racing today, thanks to a compelling article in the Star Tribune with the mother of a young woman who wouldn’t wear a helmet.

The daughter was killed on I-694 earlier this week and the reality of the crash doesn’t usually come up in this debate about the need to wear helmets — the consequences of your actions are often imposed on someone else, who may well want the freedom not to have them imposed. The driver of the SUV that struck her after she hit some debris — he did nothing wrong — doesn’t deserve to live with the accident for the rest of his life.

And, of course, the mother of Brittany A. Larson, 22, shouldn’t have the last memory of her daughter be holding the body that the medical examiner doesn’t want her to see because of the condition it’s now in.

“She wasn’t dressed properly for the bike,” (Inge) Black added, noting that her “extremely feisty” daughter was wearing flip-flops on her ride home from her new clerk’s job in Columbia Heights on the motorcycle she acquired a few months ago. “I couldn’t get her to dress right. She was having so much fun.”

Black said the two of them fought Tuesday over wearing a helmet and that she offered on the day of the crash to drive her daughter to work, but she said, “‘Oh, no, I’m going to ride my motorcycle.'”

Black wants the state to have a helmet law. But there is significant opposition to any change in the current law, which requires people on learner’s permits and people under 18 to have a helmet.

Fourteen motorcyclists have died on Minnesota roads this year. If history is any indication, there’ll be at least 25 more.

Discussion point: Where does one person’s freedom end, and another’s begin?


Social media helped a guy find his stolen guitar earlier this week — by the way, I’m beginning to think the unnamed “teacher” should be a suspect in that story. He made money on the theft — and now it has a chance to help a local celebrity find his bike.

WCCO’s Mike Binkley rode his bike to downtown Minneapolis (he lives in downtown Minneapolis) yesterday as part of Bike to Work Day. He locked it, but someone cut the cable and stole it.

So now he’s using Facebook to try to get the word out…


If Binkley is lucky, maybe a teacher who allegedly knows someone who stole it will sell the bike back to him.


In West Fargo, a contest is underway to win a home worth $500,000. What happens when you win a home for $500,000? Apparently you stand a good chance of going broke. The Fargo Forum ran the numbers…

With the addition of the $500,000 prize, the family’s federal tax bill would be $153,485, an increase of $150,350 over the $3,135 in federal taxes that would have been owed.

On the state side, a North Dakota resident would owe $17,313, an increase of $16,910 over the expected $403 state tax bill, Becker said.

That’s a total of $167,260 in additional income taxes for our fictional winner, whether the family chooses to keep or sell the house.

It’s possible the winner of the home would be able to pay cash for those taxes. But more likely, if the winner wants to stay in the house, he or she will need to qualify for a mortgage.

Leslie estimates a winner who wants to live in the house would need to take out a $200,000 mortgage, giving him or her $300,000 in equity.


The Minnesota Twins have put a hold on its “It Gets Better” video, the videos that some — but not many — Major League Baseball teams have put together as part of the campaign to send a message to GLBT youth so they don’t kill themselves.

What’s more important than sending that message? Not getting linked to the founder of the movement — Dan Savage — who gave a speech in Seattle and was critical about the parts of the Bible dealing with homosexuality, according to City Pages.

Said (Twins director of public affairs Kevin) Smith: Savage’s speech “got everybody riled up. We had worked with the It Gets Better staff not even knowing who Savage was, but his comments got a lot of people upset in a lot of different sectors.”

“It wasn’t a very good scene and it got national publicity,” Smith added. “We want to make sure our message gets out there and isn’t clouded by any sort of controversy, so we decided to take a step back and work with local people.”

Smith said the Twins have reached out to sympathetic local organizations like OutFront, the Peace Maker Foundation, and Fox Sports North rather than work with Savage’s controversy-tainted associates.

“We are going to do something on an anti-bullying message, and we’re bringing in local partners to help us craft that message,” Smith said.

At this point, the video will come off as a half-hearted marketing gimmick than a courageous message to some kids not to kill themselves.

There’s considerable — and tragic — irony here. The power of the original videos from other teams came from popular baseball players with lots to lose, being courageous enough to say “I don’t care about the fallout, this message is too important” not to send.

It required real courage to send that message.


Somewhere out there is a couple whose daughter was clearly too good for them. What fools these mortals be.

Bonus: Neil Gaiman pens a remembrance of Ray Bradbury:

He was kind, and gentle, with that midwestern niceness that’s a positive thing rather than an absence of character. He was enthusiastic, and it seemed that that enthusiasm would keep him going forever. He genuinely liked people. He left the world a better place, and left better places in it: the red sands and canals of Mars, the midwestern Halloweens and small towns and dark carnivals. And he kept writing.

Bonus II: Neil Karlen, of MPR’s Public Insight Network, remembers Dark Star in a commentary today. It is perfect because it makes you sorry you didn’t know him better.

And he did, seemingly leading an unexamined life lived exclusively off angles, bounces and leaked stories. He taught me how to also get away with it for four hours in the middle of the night, at that deadly existential hour that F. Scott Fitzgerald called the “real dark night of the soul [when] it is always 3 o’clock in the morning.” Fitzgerald was speaking metaphorically. Dark spoke specifically to me about the insomniacs, lobster shifters, truckers and cranks who largely made up ‘CCO’s after-midnight audience, which at that time of the clear-channel night stretched virtually from Bakersfield to Bangor.

Dark told me I sounded frightened that there were cranks out there who knew the radio station’s address. “I am afraid of the cranks,” I told him. “They do have the address.”

“They’re just lonely,” he’d say, “like you’re just lonely, like I’m just lonely.”


This week saw the death of author Ray Bradbury, considered one of the writers most responsible for helping bring science fiction into the American mainstream. Today’s Question: How has science fiction changed your world?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Friday roundtable (politics).

Second hour: Dark matter testing in South Dakota.

Third hour: Restaurants and outdoor dining.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): The latest in NPR’s Ted Radio Hour series: “Food Matters.”

Science Friday (1-2 p.m.) – There’s malware that can turn on your PC mic and secretly record conversations. Ira Flatow looks at the newly-discovered ‘Flame’ virus. Plus, why stem cells may be to blame for clogged arteries.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The sea lamprey was one of the first non-native species to invade the Great Lakes, and it’s been one of the most destructive. The eel-like parasite nearly wiped out the entire lake trout population. But the lamprey is actually one of the rare success stories about exotic species. Scientists have devised to keep the blood-sucking fish in check. MPR’s Dan Kraker reports that it’s allowed lake trout to make a historic comeback.

Job growth is slower, but some entrepreneurs are optimistic enough to keep hiring. Still, with economic turmoil in Europe and Congress approaching a fiscal cliff, those small businesses are often reluctant to create even more jobs and faster. NPR will have the story.