The rights of the many (5×8 – 12/26/12)

Focus on mental health care, the year’s news, the Oil Patch from space, Albert Lea’s story lady, and Charles Durning’s political analysis.


Sadly, senseless violence didn’t take a few days off. Two firefighters in upstate New York were killed when a gunman set fire to a car and ambushed them, wounded two other firefighters.

“I still have to get ready to see how much of the neighborhood I can burn down, and do what I like doing best, killing people,” he said in a note he left behind.

He was a felon and wasn’t supposed to have the gun he had.

This is the third attempt at mass murder in the last two weeks and while mental illness hasn’t yet been given as part of the latest gunman’s health history, it has been prevalent in other mass murders.

Today, the New York Times op-ed page takes the subsequent debate on treating mental illness to a new, somewhat older level:

Instead we have too much concern about privacy, labeling and stereotyping, about the civil liberties of people who have horrifically distorted thinking. In our concern for the rights of people with mental illness, we have come to neglect the rights of ordinary Americans to be safe from the fear of being shot — at home and at schools, in movie theaters, houses of worship and shopping malls.

“Psychosis” — a loss of touch with reality — is an umbrella term, not unlike “fever.” As with fevers, there are many causes, from drugs and alcohol to head injuries and dementias. The most common source of severe psychosis in young adults is schizophrenia, a badly named disorder that, in the original Greek, means “split mind.” In fact, schizophrenia has nothing to do with multiple personality, a disorder that is usually caused by major repeated traumas in childhood. Schizophrenia is a physiological disorder caused by changes in the prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that is essential for language, abstract thinking and appropriate social behavior. This highly evolved brain area is weakened by stress, as often occurs in adolescence.

The psychiatrist who wrote the op-ed says it’s time to have more hospitals to house people with schizophrenia for longer periods of time.

More guns: What’s the appropriate punishment for parents whose children find guns in their house and kill themselves accidentally? MPR’s Laura Yuen has the compelling analysis of those incidents in Minnesota, finding the parents are rarely prosecuted, presumably because they’ve suffered enough with the loss of a child and what good would a jail term do?


This is the week for looking-back stories in the news, when old things are new again. You probably recall that Whitney Houston died this year, but she died a day before what major music award ceremony? That’s one of the questions in this highly-recommended AP news quiz.

But enough about all those other people. What about you? What was the highlight (or lowlight) of you year?


Last evening, NASA released this image of night lights in the United States. The most astounding aspect of it is the size of North Dakota’s oil patch at night. It provides an area of more light than cities like Phoenix, Denver, and Minneapolis.


It’ll take awhile to load, but click the image for the large version.


Sometimes the lady who tells the story is the story.


Of the many Charles Durning roles, this remains my favorite scene, in which he provides some of the finest political analysis ever delivered.

But Durning’s death is a reminder of the type of person who is vanishing quickly, the World War II hero who went on to fame for doing something else. The Associated Press says…

He was among the first wave of U.S. soldiers to land at Normandy during the D-Day invasion and the only member of his Army unit to survive. He killed several Germans and was wounded in the leg. Later he was bayoneted by a young German soldier whom he killed with a rock. He was captured in the Battle of the Bulge and survived a massacre of prisoners.

In later years, he refused to discuss the military service for which he was awarded the Silver Star and three Purple Hearts.

“Too many bad memories,” he told an interviewer in 1997. “I don’t want you to see me crying.”

But he discussed it once. It was an unbelievable moment.

Bonus I: Nick Ziegler’s winter commute:

Bonus II: Is it too soon to start the debate on what Saint Paul should do when the last department store in the city closes?


Today is the 150th anniversary of the mass execution in Mankato that marked the end of the Dakota War. Today’s Question: Should Minnesota make reparations to descendants of the people who were forced out of the state 150 years ago?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: A look back at the education policies put into place during the first term of Obama’s presidency,

Second hour: Representatives of the SPCO musicians and management talk about the main sticking points in their negotiations.

Third hour: Minnesota’s Okee Dokee Brothers.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): MPR’s Cathy Wurzer hosts a Minnesota Historical Society panel on the 1862 Dakota Conflict.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – Ken Rudin’s grip on political trivia and mind for the minutiae of life in Washington is virtually unmatched; or so he thought, until fifth grader Gabe Fleisher started his newsletter, “Wake Up To Politics.” They’ll have a Political Junkie faceoff. Plus: Charles Blow on the meaning of minority,

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Dakota riders arrive in Mankato today to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the largest mass execution in U.S. history, the hanging of 38 Dakota men in retribution for the US Dakota war of 1862. MPR’s Mark Steil will have the story.

As the orchestral lockouts in the Twin Cities enter their fourth month. many people are asking how will this end? No-one is expecting a quick resolution to the disputes, but people with a great deal of knowledge about the situations have thoughts about how this is going to play out in Minnesota. No one is predicting the end of the orchestras, but it is clear their form and functions are likely to change. MPR’s Euan Kerr will report.

MPR’s Sasha Aslanian enters the Wayback Machine and sets the dial to the time when the rotary telephone was the chief means to connect to other kids. She reports on Jam Lines, the phenomenon that captivated Twin Cities teens in the ’70s and ’80s.

  • Bonnie

    I got 12 out of 12 on that quiz…the old Newscut quizzes put that one to shame!

  • Christin


    I think we need to be careful with this. When we are fearful we let the pendulum swing too far (think post 9/11 or World War II decisions). We are afraid, with good reason, of mass shootings. But we must also remember that our country is great due to civil liberties and rights guarenteed to us.

    For example: Let’s say all brown eyed women were in charge of our biggest corporations, the all three branches of gov’t, most school districts, most state governments, and most prison systems. We all voted them in, and we mostly trust them. Today we want to give up all guns and lock up all the mentally ill; tomorrow we will wonder how it could have happened that a disproportionate number of green-eyed men are institutionalized. This is how our pendulum swings. In the meantime, lobbyists on all sides push and profit.

    Locking up those who have a mental illness without carefully weighing the options and their rights could be extremely detrimental to all of our safety when we step back and look at the bigger picture. Policies allowing for those with disabilities and mental illness to be locked up have historically allowed the system to abuse people of color and women. It is far to easy to dehumanize the most vulnerable among us, and say it is in the name of protecting our children; let us remember that we are all human beings. Because our nation continues to struggle with issues of privilege, and because systemic prejudice is very much alive, I am concerned about who our policies may or may not impact.

    That being said, I have personal experience with the difficulty of trying to get help for someone suffering from mental illness. The system is prohibitively difficult to access for family members or friends trying to get care for a loved one. People experiencing psychosis are unable to make decisions based on logic, yet they get to choose whether or not to go to the hospital unless deemed a “danger to themselves or others” – a gray area indeed. Who decides what is a danger and when?

    Here is a post by Tim Wise discussing the issue of privilege in relation to the school shooting. tp://

    When I think of the idea of hospitalizing people and removing their rights, issues like the ones discussed by Tim Wise cause alarms to go off in my head. Yet, I know we need to do something, because the mental health system is far too hard to navigate.

    Regarding 2:

    Highlights: taking the entire family on a vacation; birth of a new baby, continuing to experience the world with our children

    Lowlight: Struggling with 2 major illnesses in the family this year, one mental and one physical. Watching my children try to cope and make sense of it has been the toughest part of our year.