How does a sweet kid end up the killer on the 6 o’clock news, the wrong black history in Woodbury, a red light for traffic cameras, everything you want to know about the sequester, and learning standing up in Fargo.
Apologies for the low number of posts in the last few days; I’m out sick for the next few days so posting will be relatively light.
PBS journalist Miles O’Brien offers some fascinating personal reflections following his outstanding NOVA segment as part of PBS’ week looking at guns and violence in America, the majority of which has been made up of the usual clinical, arms-length, done-it-before stories that have shaped the national debate in the aftermath of Newtown.
But O’Brien takes a much more personal look at the major component of mass killings: the shooter. And a more sobering thought comes from meeting the people who love one: It’s not that impossible that they could be anyone’s son:
I was thinking they could have been pictures of my son. And then the moment came when I was reading an autobiography Andy wrote as a class assignment the in the fourth grade. He expressed a desire to go to the U.S. Naval Academy. That happens to be where my son is – now in his second (youngster) year.
Suddenly I saw myself in Jeff’s shoes. And they hurt.
I was reminded of how fortunate I am: my son has given me nothing but pride and joy. But Jeff must bear guilt for the sins of his son. Tears welled up in my eyes as I pondered at the cruel twists of fate that put us on the opposite side of a coin toss.
On his blog — here — he also talks with the woman who wrote the article, “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” and who now lives in constant fear that her son is capable of such violence.
“After Newtown, we find ourselves asking how and why it keeps happening,” O’Brien writes. “And we all want simple answers. And let’s face it; we are tempted to lay a healthy heaping of blame on the parents. But it is not that simple.”
Indeed, his piece doesn’t focus on the simple — videogames or even guns. It focuses on something much more complex and mysterious: the human brain. It’s well worth taking the time to watch. (Watch online)
This pledge, read before classes at East Ridge High School in Woodbury for Black History Month, caused a dust-up:
I pledge allegiance to my Black people.
I pledge to develop my mind and body to the greatest extent possible.
I will learn all that I can in order to give my best to my people in their struggle for liberation.
I will keep myself physically fit, building a strong body free from drugs and other substances that weaken me and make me less capable of protecting myself, my family, and my Black brothers and sisters.
I will unselfishly share my knowledge and understanding with them in order to bring about change more quickly.
I will discipline myself to direct my energies thoughtfully and constructively rather than wasting them in idle hatred.
I will train myself never to hurt or allow others to harm my Black brothers and sisters for I recognize that we need every Black man, woman, and child to be physically, mentally and psychologically strong. These principles I pledge to practice daily and to teach them to others in order to unite my people.
East Ridge High School principal Aaron Harper says he didn’t get any complaints from students about the Black Panther poem, but he heard from some parents, according to the Woodbury Bulletin.
“It is our history, whether we’re proud of it or not,” he told the paper. “The intent of doing what we’re doing is to honor the differences among the stakeholders of our community. That’s the value we’re attempting to pass on.”
“There are lot better examples and things that can be recited than something from a Black Panther,” parent Kelly Fenton said.
Related: Forty-eight years ago today, Malcolm X was assassinated.
The “photocop” industry has poured money into Minnesota, trying to get the Legislature to pass a bill allowing the red-light cameras to be installed in the state. Yesterday, when it looked like the bill would be defeated in a committee, the bill was tabled. It’s dying, but not yet dead. MPR’s Tom Scheck reported the committee chair tabled the bill after a lobbyist for the industry pushing the bill sent him a note.
A police union official testified the bill is all about revenue. St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis, who testified yesterday, says it could free cops up for other things. The St. Cloud Times posted this video interview with Kleis today.
The cameras have been in place in Cedar Rapids for three years. How’s that working out? The Des Moines Register posted the results of a poll this week showing 51 percent of those surveyed want them eliminated; 46 percent are in favor of the cameras.
The Iowa Legislature is considering a bill now that would prevent the police department from keeping the money — $13 million in Cedar Rapids since the cameras were installed — and dedicating it to road projects instead.
“For the life of me, I find it very troubling. Who can be against reducing collisions, which in turn reduce injuries and fatalities,” the police chief said.
The cameras are also installed in some parishes in Louisiana. New Orleans made about $12 million from scofflaws in 2012. In Jefferson Parish, however, the authorities pulled the plug on the cameras after it was discovered the company installing them was giving a former council member and a judge’s wife a slice of the fines generated.
The company involved is the same one with which Minneapolis contracted for cameras in 2005.
At the end of the month, assuming Congress doesn’t act, cuts will be made to federal spending that could damage program and services and cost jobs. The Washington Post today provides an FAQ, including this section on how many jobs get cut:
Depends who you ask. Stephen Fuller, an economist at the libertarian-minded George Mason University, puts the number at 2.14 million jobs lost. That includes the direct loss of 325,693 jobs from defense cuts (including 48,147 civilian employees at the DoD) and 420,529 jobs from non-defense cuts (including 229,116 federal workers — the rest, by and large, are contractors). The rest of the jobs losses are indirect, resulting in a 1.5 point increase in the unemployment rate. However, Fuller’s estimates predate the delay in the sequester passed in December, and other analysts are more measured. Macroeconomic Advisers estimates the sequester will add only 0.25 points to the unemployment rate, a sixth of the impact Fuller predicts.
The Association of Minnesota Counties provides this primer on sequestration. It says 220 Head Start jobs would be lost, there would be less heating and fuel assistance, 11,000 domestic violence crisis calls would not be answered, and less funding for senior meals programs, among other cuts.
Meanwhile, a new poll today shows an increasing number of people are generally fine with letting it happen. The Pew poll says four of 10 surveyed favor letting the automatic cuts go into effect.
That’s easy to say now. But wait until someone’s airline flight is delayed.
If you work in a cubicle farm, you’ve probably joined one side or the other — the people who stand up at work vs. the people who sit down.
Now, the fad is spreading into schools, the Fargo Forum reports. The Nativity Elementary School has gotten rid of chairs for first-graders. The kids, the teacher reports, don’t bounce off the walls anymore.
Bonus I: This winter has been brought to you by the color gray. Winter in Minnesota is shades of black-and-white. By this stage of the process, we long for just one thing: Color.
Aitkin author Leif Enger’s latest video provides some respite. Keep calm. And color.
Bonus II: Of course, another storm is heading your way, Minnesota. May we recommend an adoption of a program in Calgary? Snow Angels.
Bonus III: Sarajevo 1992: Recognizing yourself in a distant war. An outstanding look back at a war that raged in a European city, the scenes of which are still difficult to comprehend. (BBC)
State senators are considering a proposal to allow Minnesotans to vote up to two weeks before Election Day. Currently, voters need excused absences to vote early. Today’s Question: What changes would you like to see in Minnesota’s voting laws?
WHAT WE’RE DOING
Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: University of Minnesota president Eric Kaler.
Second hour: Is divorce too easy?
Third hour: Gun control at the Capitol.
MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Cube Critics’ Oscar preview and trivia quiz special. Chris Roberts, host. Guests: Euan Kerr and Stephanie Curtis.
Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – Who gets a religious exemption? And why?
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Filmmakers Andrea and Sean Fine explore the dark side of childhood in their Oscar-nominated short, Inocente. The documentary follows the plight of a homeless teen in California whose dream is to become an artist. NPR will have the story behind their film.
Gov. Mark Dayton has been encouraging legislators to come up with a better alternative to the two-year budget plan he unveiled a month ago. Reaction to Dayton’s proposed retooling of sales taxes, income taxes and property taxes has been mostly lukewarm, even among his fellow Democrats. And some are already looking at possible options. MPR’s Tim Pugmire will provide an update.