Can time pass history by? (5×8 – 5/16/13)

History is a young person’s game, the gas price game, the Texas tornadoes, the poop detectives, and opening day for the Saints.


Does time ever pass history by?

That question has nagged at me for several weeks after MPR’s Sasha Aslanian tried to put the final period on the historic story of how same-sex marriage came to be legal in Minnesota.

There’s a certain symmetry to any history that’s missing in Minnesota’s story. And Minnesota’s story, as Aslanian well told it, started when Jack Baker, a student at the University of Minnnesota, and Mike McConnell sought a marriage license in Hennepin County. It was denied and although they obtained one eventually from Blue Earth County, their attempt to challenge the norms ended with the U.S. Supreme Court wanting nothing to do with the case.

The date was May 18, 1970. Forty-three years ago Saturday.

The symmetry of history dictates that Baker and McConnell step forward, if not now, then to the front of the line at midnight on August 1 in Hennepin County, when it becomes legal to do what was not in 1970.

McConnell and Baker were not at Tuesday’s bill signing, although McConnell watched the Senate proceedings on Monday from the Senate gallery, Aslanian reported.

But the couple has declined interviews, insisting that the legalization of same-sex marriage belongs to a younger generation. It is an impressive display of modesty and a small ego. But it’s poor historic symmetry for the state, even though the couple is clearly mindful of their role in it.

Fortunately, Aslanian didn’t give up to preserve it for good on the unofficial history book of the planet — the Internet. She found an interview the couple gave in the 1970s on the David Susskind show.

For the present generations, it’ll have to do.


Two oil refineries in Illinois have shut down for seasonal maintenance; that’s why the price of gasoline has gone up so much. But they’ve been down for longer than normal and there appears to be little incentive to hustle to get them back online. The price of oil has been dropping and the law of supply and demand has boosted gasoline prices to record levels. Even the refineries that haven’t shut down are in line to make plenty of money on the situation.

Experts also blame ethanol, gas taxes, the potential flooding last month in the Midwest, and anti-smog regulations. But it’s the “butterfly effect” that may be having a significant impact, the Chicago Daily Herald explains.

“If the price goes up in China, we export our oil. It helps make us richer as a nation but the price goes up and we pay a lot more,” he said.

“If China reports bad economic earnings, there are fewer vehicle sales, less oil usage and the price of oil goes down. When the economy turns upward in China, the price of oil starts to go up again.”

A similar paradigm occurs with natural gas production.

Thanks in part to fracking, “we now have more natural gas than we know what to do with,” Hillebrand said. “In Japan, natural gas costs 10 times more than it does here. So what is it better to do — to provide cheap natural gas in the United States and figure out how to use it, or ship it to Japan and charge 10 times the cost here?”

Bottom line? There’s more money to be made by sending oil overseas. That creates a supply problem here, which jacks up the prices. Some game, eh?

All of this requires us to pull out the tools we pulled out years ago. Here’s our calculator to show how silly it can be to drive far out of the way for cheaper gas.

Here’s our calculator that shows you what the increase will do to your bottom line.


The strangest people on earth are the ones who drive into a tornado. This is the best video from yesterday’s killer tornado near Fort Worth.

Six are dead and 14 are missing this morning.


We cannot reject a story about mysterious explosions taking place in the poop on hog farms.

Mother Jones reports that in the pits under factory hog farms in these parts, a foam is rising, creating toxic gasses, and exploding. The most interesting thing about the story — aside from the obvious — is that right now, somewhere nearby — people are getting ready for a day of work studying this.

I then got Larry Jacobson, a professor and extension engineer at the University of Minnesota who has been working on the issue, on the phone. He confirmed that the problem persists–just about a month ago, he said, workers were welding metal fixtures in an empty hog facility and a fire broke out, likely because a spark managed to penetrate foam enough to free trapped methane and ignite it. (No one was injured.)

Jacobson said that surveys show that around 25 percent of operations in the hog-intensive regions of Minnesota, Illinois, and Iowa are experiencing foam–and “the number may be higher, because some operators might not know that they have it.”


Scenes from the St. Paul Saints block party on Wednesday.

Bonus I: Good news for dogs in Minnesota. There’s a squirrel shortage.

Bonus II: Why is the U.S. becoming nation of science illiterates? Maybe because we look upon natural curiosity as a potential crime. (h/t: Will Lager)


Small drones could save police time and money, but privacy advocates worry they might also make it easy for police to spy on people. Today’s Question: Should police be allowed to use drones for crime fighting?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: If you knew you were being sent away to a remote, desert island and could only bring a few books to last you for perhaps the rest of your life – what couple of books would you bring?

Second hour: Mike Mayo, author of The Horror Show Guide: The Ultimate Frightfest of Movies.

Third hour: As the summer travel season arrives, we’ll ask our guests – and listeners – about which travel books they find inspirational and influential?

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Two historical documentaries from MPR’s Stephen Smith: Red Wing modern artist Charles Biederman and “Song Catcher: Frances Densmore of Red Wing.”

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – After the bombs at the Boston Marathon last month, corporate donors and the public wondered how they could help. Gov. Deval Patrick and Mayor Tom Menino established The One Fund for Boston, and named Kenneth Feinberg to oversee disbursement of the donations — more than $30 million, so far. Ken Feinberg discusses who gets what.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – This evening, the first Master of Tribal Administration and Governance class in the country will graduate from the University of Minnesota Duluth. UMD created the program in 2009 at the behest of area tribes, to train people specifically for the unique challenges of administering tribal governments. UMD’s first graduating class includes three executive directors of Indian tribes, and many others running tribal programs on reservations across the Midwest. MPR’s Dan Kraker will have the story.

The French musical duo known as Daft Punk made their mark as electronic music innovators. After eight years without a new album, fans are about to be rewarded for their patience. The new music is being described as brilliant — and as sounding nothing like Daft Punk. NPR reports on the musicians behind the transformed sound.

  • jon
  • Bob Collins

    Ten years ago, people filtered the news by relating it to a Seinfeld episode.

    Now, people filter it by relating it to XKCD.

    I’ve always found this fascinating.

  • davidz

    Given that Seinfeld was a show about nothing, and xkcd is a comic strip about romance, sarcasm, math and language (their own words about each), I think that we’ve come a long way. Math and romance top nothing, any and every day of the week.

    Then again,xkcd is the first thing I read from my RSS feed. News Cut comes in at second on the list. Sorry Bob, but you show up every day and Randall only comes by a couple of times a week.

  • BJ

    As of this week 15 years ago new Seinfeld episodes stopped being produced

  • Xopher

    Maybe we’re becoming science illiterate because conservatives spend tons of money to deny science, and fight against education spending.

  • Kassie

    The video of Baker and McConnell is a great find. So many of the same issues we hear today are brought up in that decades old video.

    I remember debating in a Minorities and Public Policy class in the late 1990s about what was the best way to fight the good fight for LGBT rights. It seemed most people believed that the courts were the way to go and that gay marriage was a non-starter. Seems, at least in Minnesota, we were wrong.

  • David Wilford
  • Susan in MN

    Science – I tried to get a science fair started in my son’s elementary school. It ended up not happening because the teachers didn’t want it (they had too much to do already) and we couldn’t find a time that didn’t conflict with high stakes testing.

  • tboom

    >> Exploding Poop

    So why aren’t factory farms required to treat hog poop the same way municipalities are required to treat the human variety?

    Potentially the same pollution, same pathogens, same methane and same problems – but with MUCH weaker regulation.

  • jon

    I never liked Seinfeld. I don’t think I’d ever relate anything to Seinfeld episodes if I could avoid it.

    I think XKCD is much less approachable to the general populace then Seinfeld was.

    Perhaps you are just dealing with a more enlightened group of people now bob? Perhaps there are still people relating the news back to what happened on american idol this week (or defining what happened on american idol as news), and you’ve just managed to surround yourself with people of a higher caliber.

  • BJ

    //and you’ve just managed to surround yourself with people of a higher caliber.

    I like the poster named jon, no matter what anyone else has said about him 🙂