1) There are a lot of differences between the health care proposals being offered in Washington and the mandatory health care system adopted in Massachusetts, but the Bay State is still a lab rat for some of the claims of advocates. The Boston Globe has released a survey showing health insurance costs there are expected to increase 10 percent over the next year. The rates are double what they were 10 years ago. Too many people going to the doctor and getting too many tests are some of the reasons.
2) How You Know You Were Meant to be a Father Department: You react like this when your kid throws the ball back.
How You Know You Weren't Dept: You raised one of the kids on this bus:
3) It's out in the open, now. It started with New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd last weekend when she wrote, "Some people just can't believe a black man is president and will never accept it." Now, former President Jimmy Carter has joined in, saying there is "an inherent feeling among many in this country that an African-American should not be president". Joan Walsh at Salon.com adds, "Listening to some parents' expressing actual fear of having Obama beamed into their kids' classrooms, it was hard to imagine such hysteria being inspired by a white president. It would never happen."
And so here we are. The people most likely to play the race card have played it. "I never thought that Obama's election would be all that helpful for American race relations: What if he failed, or even started to show signs of failing?" Ramesh Ponnuru wrote at the National Review.
"If this tactic is proved ineffective in such a high-profile, high-stakes debate, people will become far less likely to use it, which will be even better for race relations," reasons James Taranto at the Wall St. Journal. "The current squabbles over race are stupid, but that is their virtue. They illustrate the pointlessness of dwelling on race."
Where to now?
4) Birds on a wire. A musician noticed birds sitting on some utility wires represented notes on a scale.
5) This week various counties in Minnesota have been releasing their levy plans. There was a lot of chatter last spring that people would be hit -- and hit hard -- in their property tax bills thanks to Gov. Tim Pawlenty's cutting of state aid. They still might; it depends on individual cities. But we can't help notice a trend in the headlines this week:
I'll have another installment in the News Cut series, The Unemployed, early this afternoon.
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - Take us to DEFCON 1. Religious thinker John Shelby Spong tackles the question of whether there is life after death. And he begins by considering that Christianity's emphasis on eternal life may be wrong. This is always good for an afternoon of blistering e-mail.
Second hour: Graphic designer and author Chip Kidd.
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: Award-winning war correspondent and syndicated columnist Joe Galloway will talk about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the lessons we could have learned from Vietnam.
Second hour: Dennis Blair, the director of National Intelligence, speaking at the Commonwealth Club of California about the U.S. intelligence apparatus. He revealed on Tuesday that the U.S. spends about $75 billion a year on intelligence.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: NPR Political Editor Ken Rudin.
Second hour: Bill T. Jones' celebration of Abraham Lincoln... in dance.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Unlike Gov. Pawlenty, all the Republicans who are running to replace him say humans play no part in global warming. Capitol reporter Tim Pugmire will have the story.
NPR will report on Max Baucus' health care plan, Robert Siegel talks with an author -- whose name is not Dan Brown -- about the history of the Masons.
If you pay a computer to say your prayers for you, are you still praying?
The question came up earlier this year when a company started a Web site in which a computer would -- using a synthesized speech system -- say three prayers a day for anyone willing to pay the $4.95 monthly fee. The price, however, depends on the length of the prayer.
"Prayer is like other activities," the Rev. Daniel Henderson said. "You learn from people who are already good at it." Henderson is the former senior pastor at Grace Church in Eden Prairie, one of several mega-churches in the Twin Cities. He's one of several members of the clergy who talked to writer Zev Chafets.
Chafets doesn't answer his own question, but the anecdotes are priceless:
Evangelical Christians, Pentecostals, they go to church to pray," (Rabbi Marc) Gellman went on to say. "Why else would they be there? But Jews are different. People come to temple to identify with other Jews, or socialize. The writer Harry Golden once asked his father, who was an atheist, why he went to services every Saturday. The old man told him, 'My friend Garfinkle goes to talk to God, and I go to talk to Garfinkle.' There's a lot of that."
It started after BigGovernment.com, a site run by commentator Andrew Breitbart, sent a couple of kids into an ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) office to try to get funding for a prostitution ring. Hidden video revealed an intake worker ready to help.
For conservatives, it was proof of a story they claim mainstream media has been ignoring: that of a fraudulent organization tied to the president.
ACORN's response has been -- charitably put -- uneven. At first, according to a press release, the group said an intake worker was just kidding:
When the actors approached Ms. Kaelke with their provocative costuming and outlandish scenario, she could not take them seriously. So she met their outrageousness with her own personal style of outrageousness. She matched their false scenario with her own false scenarios.
But another press release today from ACORN CEO Bertha Lewis suggests now that they weren't:
"As a result of the indefensible action of a handful of our employees, I am, in consultation with ACORN's Executive Committee , immediately ordering a halt to any new intakes into ACORN's service programs until completion of an independent review. I have also communicated with ACORN's independent Advisory Council, and they will assist ACORN in naming an independent auditor and investigator to conduct a thorough review of all of the organizations relevant systems and processes. That reviewer, to be named within 48 hours, will make recommendations directly to me and to the full ACORN Board. We enter this process with a commitment that all recommendations will be implemented."
Said Ms. Lewis: "We have all been deeply disturbed by what we've seen in some of these videos. I must say, on behalf of ACORN's Board and our Advisory Council, that we will go to whatever lengths necessary to reestablish the public trust. For nearly forty years, ACORN has given voice to communities, and gotten results. Right now, our nearly 500,000 member are working their hearts out for quality, affordable healthcare for every American and to help stop the foreclosure crisis. We must get this process right, so the good work can go forward."
It may be too late. Earlier this week, the Senate voted to prevent the organization from getting -- and distributing -- any housing money. When Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken line up against you, it's over.