5 x 8: Katherine Kersten and the dog debate

The Monday Morning Rouser:


Let’s start another State Fair week with some additional absurdity; Katherine Kersten came through in the clutch in the Star Tribune this weekend with a wonderfully funny column — though she didn’t mean it to be — which is based on a questionable survey that asked people whether they’d choose to save a dog before a foreign tourist if they were about to be hit by a bus. The respondents said they’d save the dog. Science!

On that flimsy evidence, we get the lecture:

Is it any wonder that, in a society increasingly shaped by ideas like these, many people say they value the life of a dog they care for over the life of a human being they don’t know?

Over time, our accelerating embrace of scientific materialism and moral relativism is likely to produce other troubling consequences. For example, though we now take our civil rights — guaranteed by the Constitution — for granted, we may eventually find they too are based on shifting sand. The Progressive movement that currently dominates our politics rejects the notion that these rights are inherent in man’s God-given nature and so are “unalienable.” It holds instead that the government bestows our rights, and thus can presumably take them away.

What does it say about society? It says too many of its newspaper columnists suffer from confirmation bias. To make this connection, Kersten has to ignore the obvious: many people — almost as if it’s a species instinct — spend every waking moment trying to save people from whatever situation they happen to be in, no thanks to Ms. Kersten herself. Does the fact people love their dogs and say silly things to lightweight survey questions undermine that real-life fact? There’s little evidence to say so.

Why just this last week, for example, a Woodbury woman tried to help a homeless couple by buying them a meal and then shopping for clothes with them. Nicole Coombs’ reward? They stole her checkbook and her tablet computer, the Pioneer Press reported. A dog wouldn’t treat you like that.

Her reaction: “I know what I’m doing is safe,” she added. “Nobody got hurt, so it’s no big deal.” In other words: She’s going to keep trying to help people, despite the occasional jerks.

And let’s also remember just last week when Antoinette Tuff “saved” Georgia schoolchildren by saving the man with a gun who might have killed them.

We could, of course, go on and on and on, but what’s the point? People say dumb things in hypothetical surveys. But by a minimum of effort to view reality, a different picture emerges about how people view and help other people.

There’s obviously a valid discussion to be had regarding Kersten’s predetermined conclusion, but suggesting this survey provides any degree of proof is silly.

Related: Pet dog saves owner's life after sniffing out her breast cancer (Mirror Online)


We’re not hearing a lot of “just let it burn” suggestions as the massive fire in Yosemite’s wilderness continues to burn, even threatening the giant sequoias, the very symbol of the national park system.

How do you even put out a fire this big?

A firefighter uses a hose to douse the flames of the Rim Fire on August 24, 2013 near Groveland, California.

So far it’s burned an area the size of Chicago.

It may be hot in Minnesota, but it’s nothing compared to what young people with picks and shovels are contending with.

Associated Press

Related: Meanwhile, back in the land of sky blue waters (MPR’s Tim Post video)


The skies are — temporarily — safe from journalists. As a pilot, I’ve been concerned that news organizations will start buying the small drones with cameras and start flying them — over the State Fair, for example. Watching a Pioneer Press photographer recently test one out — and crash — in downtown Saint Paul (where, I suppose, it was least likely to hit an actual person) didn’t make me feel much better.

Now, the FAA has shut down the program of two journalism schools in the Midwest who’ve been training journalists in storytelling with drones.

“They have to comply with the same rules as everyone else,” an FAA spokesman said.

It’s not that using the drones to tell a story is a bad idea, just that if you’re going to be a pilot of an aircraft over congested areas, you should probably know how to be a pilot.

More journalism: On Thursday, NPR decided to use male pronouns and explained its decision to the New York Times. On Friday, NPR’s Managing Editor for Standards and Practice Stu Seidel issued new guidance, saying that NPR’s "thinking has evolved" and that the network will honor Manning’s preferences. ( NPR)


At least something good came out of one of the Minnesota Twins’ losses in Cleveland this weekend. Every now and again, Hollywood stories are real.

On Saturday, an 8-year-old Cleveland Indians fan with cerebral palsy met two players on the Indians — Carlos Santana and Jason Kipnis. He asked them both to hit home runs.

They did.


Bonus I: At 99, Brookline toy store owner says the kids keep her going Longtime Brookline toy store owner celebrates 99th birthday (Boston Globe)

Bonus II: The Replacements make a triumphant return at Riot Fest in Toronto (Local Current Blog)

Bonus III: How Technology Wrecks the Middle Class (NY Times)

Bonus IV: Heavy Meddle: Help! My Husband Wants To Move Us To The Burbs! (WBUR Cognoscenti)


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Much attention is being paid to how the GOP should respond to America’s changing demographics in reaching out to new voters. But is geography or population density the culprit?

Second hour: Could Minnesota, the state where the charter school movement began, also be the state that leads the way in redefining how we evaluate their success?

Third hour: Upscale grocery stores.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): Minneapolis mayoral candidates debate from the State Fair. Gary Eichten moderates.

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – What should the extent of U.S. involvement be in Syria?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – The Forest Service has tentatively approved a controversial prescribed, or controlled burn, on Burntside Lake about 10 miles outside Ely. The plan is to burn about 1500 acres of forest that’s overcrowded with thick stands of balsam fir. The Forest Service argues it’s an important step to reduce the risk of a catastrophic wildfire. Historically small ground fires helped clear out smaller trees in the understory. But fire suppression over the past decade has allowed many forests in northern Minnesota to grow unnaturally dense. Many homeowners, however, have serious concerns about the plan. MPR’s Dan Kraker will have the story.

The eight leading candidates for Minneapolis mayor debate at the State Fair today, moderated by Gary Eichten and broadcast on MPR News. Curtis Gilbert will wrap it up.

Fifty years ago, a notorious crime was committed in Manhattan: the so-called “Career Girl Murders.” Two young white women were killed, and police coerced a confession out of an innocent young black man. NPR looks at a case of injustice, and how the March on Washington helped set it right.

  • MrE85

    1) Only Katherine Kersten could turn a silly survey about dogs and foreign tourists into “Obama is going to take your guns!” I think the Strib keeps her around for comic relief.
    ATC: Dear Burntside Lake residents: see item #2.

    • jon

      That’s ok, if you’d save the foreign tourist over a dog you probably love the country of “Foreign” (I can’t even find it on a map!) more then the US, so you should just go live there instead.

  • From Kersten’s screed:

    “Our founders held it self-evidently true that “all men” — unlike other animals — “are created equal” and “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” including “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”’

    Well, except for slaves because at that time they were viewed as property.

    • jon

      Don’t forget women!
      Whose rights are completely alienable, in this case maybe freedom of the press as an example right? 😉

    • Dave

      And don’t forget gay people. Supposedly they’re created equal too, not that you would know it from reading her columns.

  • Vince Tuss
  • Bonnie

    perfect rouser thanks

  • Jack Ungerleider

    #1: I actually made it all the way through Kersten’s column yesterday. Usually I see where its going in a paragraph or two and give up.

  • Matty Lang
  • joetron2030

    I still don’t understand why Kersten continues to be given column space in the STrib. Maybe we’ll get lucky and they’ll give Michele Bachmann a column once she’s left office. Can’t be any worse.

  • Jim G

    #1) Katherine Kersten’s definition of what the progressive movement believes is gross and misleading hyperbole. Many Christian progressives believe in God given rights. Also, many progressive humanists believe in human rights and the humane treatment of animals. Hopefully, our Christian and humanist animal lovers, would save both dogs and “foreign tourists” if given the chance and asked a non-leading question. Both are worthy of lifesaving.

  • KTFoley

    Do they still discuss the giant sequoias in grade school science classes? When visiting Yosemite last year, I was reminded of the lesson about how the bark of the sequoias and redwoods contains a distinctive amount of tannin that renders it fireproof. In fact, the heat of a fire is needed to open the cones and spread the seeds to generate new trees.

    The fire is a very real threat to the park itself. Yosemite and the nearby towns are in peril. The governor has declared a state of emergency for San Francisco because the fire is within a mile of Hetch Hetchy: that reservoir supplies much of the city’s water & power, and the declaration activates some of the emergency agreements to get power & water from other supplies.

    The trees themselves are likely to get through okay. Once the fire passes they may not look like the picture postcards we hold in our minds eye, and we may not be able to visit them depending on the damage to the rest of the park. But when we do get back there, we should observe with a naturalist’s eye at how much of each tree rises above the fire scar on its foot-thick bark. We should note how thickly the seedlings are sprouting from the forest duff, and how many more nutrients now exist there for their consumption and how much more sunlight reaches them as they grow. We should remember how quickly the cycle of regrowth made itself visible in the burnt acreage of the Boundary Waters, and know that it will do the same here.

    Protect life & property. Count the damage to infrastructure and economics. Mourn our emotional connection to the mental images of the forest giants. But don’t worry too much about the trees themselves.