It's hard to get away from all the Favre talk, but let's try. The commotion is reminiscent of the one that followed Gov. Pawlenty's announcement that the state's most vulnerable citizens would be denied health care next year, isn't it? A Star Tribune columnist today said the story is one of the biggest sports stories ever! Indeed, it rivals the day Harmon Killebrew signed with the Kansas City Royals.
They said yesterday's 5@8 was depressing. Let's see if we can find five themes today that aren't depressing, but also aren't trivial. None of these stories, of course, will be from Minnesota. News organizations here are presently preoccupied.
1) I think I could look at this picture all day:
But I can't do so without thinking to myself, "when is the last time I saw a drop-dead fascinating picture in a newspaper?
In an essay today, Stephen Crowley of the Lens blog considers the era of storytelling in photography. It seems to me we have more outlets for photography than ever before, and we've never had worse storytelling.
2) I appreciate that you check News Cut every day -- you do check News Cut every day, right? But why? Why do we search the Internet so aggressively? What are we looking for? Why aren't we finding it? Why is it the first thing we do in the morning (OK, maybe the second thing)? Why is it the last thing we do at night? We are, it's suggested via Slate, "hard-wired" to love Google and Twitter and texting:
We actually resemble nothing so much as those legendary lab rats that endlessly pressed a lever to give themselves a little electrical jolt to the brain. While we tap, tap away at our search engines, it appears we are stimulating the same system in our brains that scientists accidentally discovered more than 50 years ago when probing rat skulls.
Too depressing? Let's take a break.
3) - Reuben Appelman was 15 and sitting in the library studying when a taller, stronger teenager he knew walked up and punched him in the face for no apparent reason. That punch changed the course of Reuben's life, instilling a deep fury inside of him that he could not shake.
Recently (two decades later) Reuben received a Facebook message from the guy who punched him. The two corresponded. Reuben talks with Dick Gordon on American Public Media's The Story about the power of anger and forgiveness.
4) The "life chemical" has been found in a comet. The discovery of glycine in a comet supports the idea that the fundamental building blocks of life are prevalent in space, and strengthens the argument that life in the Universe may be common rather than rare," commented Dr Carl Pilcher, who leads Nasa's Astrobiology Institute. Let's hit the Tivo remote on that one: "life ..... in ..... the .... universe ... may ... be ... common ... rather.... than ... rare."
5) Let's think about this for a minute:
It all started with a mention in The Financial Times that Barack Obama is like Felix the Cat. That started a brouhaha with The Atlantic's James Fallows (and also the New York Times' Paul Krugman) that the assertion is inherently racist.
Stay tuned for the beer summit.
Republicans and some Democrats in Congress are resisting the public option being proposed as part of health-care reform. One alternative under discussion is the member-owned cooperative, along the lines of those used by dairy farmers. Based on your experience with other cooperatives, would a member-owned co-op work for health care?
WHAT WE'RE DOING
I am taking this afternoon off so posting will be relatively light. Colleagues may fill in here this afternoon. Or not.
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) First hour: We know we spend a lot of dollars on health care, but where does all that money actually go?
Second hour: Photographer Lauri Lyons, who asked people she met on the street to pose with the flag and then talk about what the national symbol meant to them.
Follow-up: Lane Wallace, who was a guest on Midmorning the other morning (I live-blogged it), follows up on a caller who asked "why do so many people tell you that you can't succeed when you say you want to try something different or go out on your own?"
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Rep. Tim Walz, DFL-Minn., will be Gary Eichten's guest from Mankato to discuss his health care reform public hearings and other key issues before Congress.
Second hour: Jim Klobuchar will be in the studio to talk about the Vikings and the popularity of football. He's out with a new book this month, called "Always on Sunday."
Talk of the Nation (1 - 3 p.m.) - First hour: Guest Political Junkie Ron Elving.
Second hour: Stress still plagues troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now,
a new Army program requires soldiers to take mental stress training.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - New rules governing the amount of haze in BWCA take effect soon. How will these clear-air rules work and who will have to cut back to make them happen? MPR's Stephanie Hemphill has the story. It'll also be online around mid-afternoon.
Is the flu color-blind? No. When it swept through Boston this year, minority and the poorer neighborhoods bore the brunt. Richard Knox reports health officials are trying to figure out why and what it means for the return of the H1N1 flu this fall.
Martin Kaste has techniques politicians are using to avoid town hall forums.
Tom Bowman has a story on how tensions between loved ones boil to the surface when Marines are deployed overseas.
Opponents of President Obama's health care plan are never going to vote for Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., so that gives him the luxury of telling them off.
Thanks to the good folks I follow on Twitter, I was alerted to this video today.
Moments. If you could add a second-long image from your life to the video, what would it be:
One of mine (not personally) was in the film, but I'll wait to tell you below until I see if a conversation breaks out.(10 Comments)
At the same time MPR's Kerri Miller was hosting a discussion today on where the money goes that's dumped into health care, and why health care costs so much, a Harvard professor was sounding an alarm that health care reform will lead to rationing, and getting significant pushback from an unlikely source.
"The best solution to this problem of private overconsumption of health services would be to eliminate the tax rule that is causing the excessive insurance and the resulting rise in health spending, Martin Feldstein wrote in a Wall St. Journal column today called ObamaCare is all About Rationing." Alternatively, Congress could strengthen the incentives in the existing law for health savings accounts with high insurance copayments. Either way, the result would be more cost-conscious behavior that would lower health-care spending."
Feldstein went on CNBC this morning, where anchor Mark Haines found his view objectionable.
Haines: Why would that lead to rationing?
Feldstein: Because that's what the administration strategy is. They've said they're going to cut the projected rate of growth on health care spending by 30 percent over the next two decades. That came from a White House study released in June. And the way they're going to do that is by setting rules for doctors and hospitals, what they call 'cost effective forms of treatment' that will limit the kinds of things that can be done.
Haines: And we don't have rationing now?
Feldstein: We have some of it, but this...
Haines: You bet your bippy we've got it. C'mon. You have profit-motivated bureaucrats making rationing decisions.
Feldstein: But I can talk to my doctor. I can talk to my hospital and say, 'should we do this or not do that?' And people with private insurance today have those kinds of options.
Haines: And then the insurance company has the final say on whether it actually happens, right? Rationing care.
Feldstein: They turn down very, very few things and, again, it is not the government that's doing it. So if my insurance company doesn't allow certain drugs, or doesn't allow certain kinds of treatment, I can choose a different kind of policy. And the idea as I see it in the Obama proposal is to force us all into a certain kind of spending pattern because the government is concerned -- the administration is concerned -- about how much the government is spending on health care, and Medicare, and Medicaid, but in order to control that, they want to change the kind of treatments that you and I -- outside the Medicare and Medicaid system -- can get on our own.
Haines. I'm sorry, but how are you being... how are we being forced into anything? You will be allowed to keep your private insurance.
Feldstein: Yes, but what the administration is talking about, what they describe in this White House report, is what they call 'comparative effectiveness research.' In other words: Their studies will say whether a particular kind of treatment is worth the money. And that's what concerns me.
Haines: Wait a minute! You want to be able to have anything regardless of its cost vs. its effectiveness?
Feldstein: No, I want to make that decision.
Haines: How are you qualified to make that decision?
Feldstein: I and my physician together will talk about whether something is worse spending the money to do. Whether the risks associated with not doing this test or that test are risks that we want to take. And I think that individuals who want to pay out of pocket, there ought to be higher co-payments. But I think individuals and their physicians rather than a bureaucratic process should be making the choice.
Haines: First of all, the private insurance companies are a bureaucracy, so this bureaucrat argument is nonsense. And, second, you'll pardon me sir, but your argument is a very easy one to make by someone who has money.
Feldstein: But 85 percent of Americans have insurance. So it's not that we're talking about a small handful of people who have insurance. And one of the nice things is there's choice. I can, here in Boston, I can join any of a number of plans and they're going to differ (Bob notes: He didn't mention that Massachusetts has universal health care) in the kinds of hospitals I would have access to and the kinds of limits on various things. So there's choice and it seems to me that's one of the things that's made the American health care system so good. That it has stimulated research. It has stimulated new technologies...
Haines: Well I'll say, again, sir, you have these choices because you can afford them. A lot of people can't afford them. And we're 29th in the industrial world in infant mortality. We spend two-and-a-half times what Britain spends for worse outcomes...I'm sorry.
Don Hewitt, best known for creating "60 Minutes" has died, according to CBS News.(1 Comments)
As a simple consumer of news, I am easily confused. Take education, for example. Stories about test results in Minnesota are starting to become an instant turn-off.
Take the last few months of test-score stories from MPR.
Just give it to me straight: Are our kids smart or aren't they?
Of course it's all in the packaging. One person's "improvement" can be another's "not quite as abysmal as we used to be." But over the "testing season," the message has generally been that we're relatively mediocre in the big scheme of things. And we can quibble over whether "proficient" is a synonym for "smart."
That's why today's headline caught me a bit by surprise:
How does this fit with the take-away so far? I posed the question to MPR's education reporter, Tom Weber:
The ACT is a voluntary test, presumably taken by those students who most want to go to college and get a good enough score to attain acceptance to a school. So, what these scores show us is that - within that population of students, Minnesotans score well - and they're scoring better than even last year's crop of Minnesotans scored.
Ed Colby, with the ACT, pointed out that the test is "not just about how prepared they are for college - but also how well they've learned what they've already been taught."
The other stories we've been reporting about in recent weeks are all tied to a different test, the MCA-II, which is mandatory. 100% of Minnesota kids (or just about 100%) took the MCA's, only 68% took the ACT.
But even on MCA test, scores were either flat or higher compared to last year. So, if you want to combine all the test stories into one thought, there's a pattern that suggests students in Minnesota are improving their scores, albeit only slightly in some cases.
Here's a screen grab from and ACT report with some more info that wasn't in my story - it's how Minnesota has performed over the past five years on the test; notice all scores are higher from year to year and consistently above the national average. (click the image to see a larger view)
Finally, here is a link to a sample ACT test to try your skills at home.(4 Comments)