The Rogers Twitter scandal, the business of the minimum wage, and the art of getting old (5×8 – 2/20/14)

The school boss in the Rogers school district has appropriately called for everyone to step back from the brink in the case of a student who apparently helped fan a rumor — a completely false rumor, it needs to be stressed — that he had a sexual relationship with a teacher.

The student has been suspended for two months for his part in the Twitter-fed controversy in which he is reported to have acknowledged the phony affair with a sarcastic tweet that said, “actually, yes.”

It’s a horribly unfair situation for an innocent teacher. At the same time, the story has been developing as a slow-motion train wreck, spinning out of control to the point where the police chief in the city was suggesting the kid might be charged with a felony.

High school kids — especially high school boys — can be some of the most idiotic carbon-based units on the planet. But the situation called for something journalists rarely advocate: Everyone to stop talking.

In its editorial today, the Star Tribune suggested everyone take a big step back before something even more stupid happens:

It’s awful that she’s been subjected to this kind of harassment, and it’s appropriate that she’s receiving support from school officials and her union. Sagehorn has been damaged, too. The teen has been named in dozens of news media accounts that will be linked to him for the rest of his life even if he is never charged with a crime. Should a 17-year-old lose two months of his senior year and face speculation about felony charges before prosecutors have even started their investigation?

Many Rogers students and parents support Sagehorn and believe his punishment was too harsh. Some of his peers wore “Free Reid’’ shirts to school this week, and more than 4,000 supporters have signed an online petition.

At the same time, the case is yet another cautionary tale about the impact and legal ramifications of online comments and social media exchanges. It’s one thing for a group of teenagers to gossip in the locker room. It’s another thing to damage the reputation of an innocent teacher in open online forums and social media exchanges

Could it be that a higher mininmum wage is good business? Unless compelled by law — and not even then, sometimes — companies don’t do things that don’t make profitable sense. When Punch Pizza, the Minnesota chain, raised its minimum wage to $10, its owner noted it wasn’t charity. “We think it translates into higher sales and better people and better quality,” co-owner John Soranno told MPR’s Tom Crann.

Late yesterday, The Gap announced that it’s raising its minimum wage across its retail brands to $9 an hour now and $10 an hour next year. That’s an instant raise for 65,000 employees of Gap, Banana Republic and Old Navy.

Chief Executive Glenn Murphy said the firm’s move “will directly support our business, and is one that we expect to deliver a return many times over.”

The last arguments against increasing the minimum wage are gone, Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik writes today:

But the CBO report makes clear that even with a job loss of 500,000 — in fact, even with 1 million — the raise to $10.10 is distinctly a net plus to the economy. Overall national income would rise by $2 billion, and the effect on the federal budget would be minuscule. The report also shows that even a raise to $10.10 an hour would leave the U.S. minimum wage lower — in real, inflation-adjusted terms — than it was in 1975.

The CBO report creates a big problem for opponents of the minimum-wage increase: What’s the argument against it? They can cite those projected job losses as much as they want, but on the other side are increased wages for 16.5 million people and an end of poverty for 900,000. Sound bites aside, that’s a bargain.

What would Walmart do? It’s considering joining in raising the wage.

Roger Angell, the great American essayist, is 93 now. This week he wrote a New Yorker piece on what it’s like to get old. At least initially, it’s pretty much what you’d expect — arterial stents, plastic parts, and the usual replacement of nuts and bolts. “The downside of great age is the room it provides for rotten news,” he writes.

So what’s the point of living long?

Getting old is the second-biggest surprise of my life, but the first, by a mile, is our unceasing need for deep attachment and intimate love. We oldies yearn daily and hourly for conversation and a renewed domesticity, for company at the movies or while visiting a museum, for someone close by in the car when coming home at night. This is why we throng and OkCupid in such numbers—but not just for this, surely. Rowing in Eden (in Emily Dickinson’s words: “Rowing in Eden— / Ah—the sea”) isn’t reserved for the lithe and young, the dating or the hooked-up or the just lavishly married, or even for couples in the middle-aged mixed-doubles semifinals, thank God. No personal confession or revelation impends here, but these feelings in old folks are widely treated like a raunchy secret. The invisibility factor—you’ve had your turn—is back at it again. But I believe that everyone in the world wants to be with someone else tonight, together in the dark, with the sweet warmth of a hip or a foot or a bare expanse of shoulder within reach. Those of us who have lost that, whatever our age, never lose the longing: just look at our faces. If it returns, we seize upon it avidly, stunned and altered again.

Nothing is easy at this age, and first meetings for old lovers can be a high-risk venture. Reticence and awkwardness slip into the room. Also happiness. A wealthy old widower I knew married a nurse he met while in the hospital, but had trouble remembering her name afterward. He called her “kid.” An eighty-plus, twice-widowed lady I’d once known found still another love, a frail but vibrant Midwest professor, now close to ninety, and the pair got in two or three happy years together before he died as well. When she called his children and arranged to pick up her things at his house, she found every possession of hers lined up outside the front door.

The things you’ve got to do to get people to give a damn about Syria. In Norway, SOS Children’s Villages made this ad, putting a young man at a bus stop on a cold day without a coat to see how people would react.

The organization is raising money for the children of Syria.

There’s absolutely no rational reason why dogs don’t live longer. Also: Here’s a tissue.

Bonus I: How to fly a floatplane. First, push it off from the dock (in this case, in Lino Lakes). Hand prop it. At some point, get in. Fly.

Bonus II: Privacy, shmivacy. Stores can track where you go, using your phone (Associated Press)

Bonus III: Neither Rico Roman nor Jen Lee expected to represent their country at olympic games in Sochi. But they didn’t plan on losing a limb, either. (Duluth News Tribune)

Bonus IV: A look at the Crashed Ice track at the Cathedral of St. Paul, where a priest challenged the track this week, according to the Pioneer Press.

Related: In short time, St. Cloud man excels at Crashed Ice extreme sport (St. Cloud Times)

Bonus V: The Minnesota Timberwolves beat the best team in the Eastern Conference last night, perhaps its biggest win of the year. But as the game ended, there were few people to cheer because the Minnesota fans left early. Why do people do this? If everyone leaves at the same time “to beat the traffic,” there’s no point in leaving.

MPR News Photo/ Bob Collin


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Leaders of the Minnesota House of Representatives.

Second hour: An MPR News investigation has found that the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis dealt with child sexual abuse allegations against at least 70 clergy members since 1950..That’s nearly double the archdiocese’s official count. The priests served in nearly every parish in the archdiocese. We’ll talk about the report, what it took to put it together, and what it says about leadership at the archdiocese.

Third hour: “The Ballad of Emmett Till,” showing at the Penumbra Theatre through March 2, has been called “and “austere, impassioned, and soul nourishing Penumbra co-artistic director Sarah Bellamy said they chose to stage the play in the wake of the Trayvon Martin hearing- hoping to spark a conversation about what she calls a legacy of violence Race, history and art are all up for debate when we’re joined by the playwright and the founder of the Penumbra.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm) – Former Vice President Walter Mondale, speaking about national security, intelligence-gathering, privacy and the Constitution.

The Takeaway (1-2 p.m.) – Hours after a truce was declared between Ukrainian government forces and opposition protesters, fighting broke out once again this morning in the streets around Kiev’s Independence Square. Today’s show takes a look at the city of Kiev and
its strategic, historical importance.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Supporters of legislation to legalize medical marijuana in Minnesota are considering a new approach for the 2014 session, and the potential changes are winning the backing of some law enforcement groups. The chief author of the bill in the Minnesota House is working on a much narrower proposal that would allow only the use of some non-narcotic, marijuana-derived chemicals. MPR’s Tim Pugmire will have the story.

The seaside tranquility of Sochi has made it a destination for the Olympics, Russian tourists and a Soviet dictator. A summer home was built there to accommodate Josef Stalin and his paranoia. NPR goes inside Stalin’s dacha.