1) Garrison Keillor channels the people who post comments on YouTube and newspaper Web sites:
Unitarians listen to the Inner Voice and so they have no creed that they all stand up and recite in unison, and that's their perfect right, but it is wrong, wrong, wrong to rewrite "Silent Night." If you don't believe Jesus was God, OK, go write your own damn "Silent Night" and leave ours alone. This is spiritual piracy and cultural elitism and we Christians have stood for it long enough. And all those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck. Did one of our guys write "Grab your loafers, come along if you wanna, and we'll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashanah"? No, we didn't.
Christmas is a Christian holiday -- if you're not in the club, then buzz off. Celebrate Yule instead or dance around in druid robes for the solstice. Go light a big log, go wassailing and falalaing until you fall down, eat figgy pudding until you puke, but don't mess with the Messiah.
Lousy songs by Jewish guys? Here's one written by a Jew:
Are these other candidates in the category? White Christmas, Sleigh Ride, Silver Bells, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer?
One of Keillor's hosts on Monday in Cambridge (Universalist territory) is not amused:
First, as mentioned, he was there as a guest of the Cambridge Forum, and of our Parish. It's likely, though I don't know one way or the other, that he was paid an honorarium for being there. And at the very least, he got a significant amount of PR out of the visit, discussing his newest story with a large audience. So, after visiting our house of worship, as an invited and welcomed guest, he writes this piece. To me, that is rude and disrespectful, to say the least.
Trivia: The guy who wrote "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer was a Gentile. He was a former Gospel singer.
Bonus: Keillor sings lousy Christmas songs. In German.
We say "enough!" The war on Christmas goes too far.
2) Good news/bad news. Eric Ostermeier at the U of M's Smart Politics blog says the recovering employment situation is happening twice as fast as during the economic mess of the late '70s and early '80s. Bad news: We're years away from a full recovery.
3) The infamous Arbeit Macht Frei sign at the entrance to the Auschwitz Nazi death camp in Poland has been stolen.
4) Yesterday was rumored to be the day scientists would announce they've discovered "dark matter" in a mine in Minnesota. Dark matter is the glue that holds the universe together. They actually did announce it, but Minnesota was far too distracted by a much more important story: Al Franken refused to yield to Joe Lieberman.
But the explanation of dark matter and the story's significance would appear to apply to both of these stories if you substitute "politicians" for "dark matter":
Dark matter particles are peculiar because they pass through objects as if they were not there. Their aloof nature has led scientists to name them weakly interacting massive particles, or Wimps.
Scientists at the University of Minnesota will discuss the finding this afternoon in Minneapolis.
5) The state of brain damage? The brain of a former NHL star reveals he suffered from a disease associated with head trauma. The revelation adds to the growing body of evidence that our lust for sports is killing the people who provide the big hits. Eleven former NFL players have been found to have the same disease.
It's a topic discussed on MPR's Midmorning:
The Department of What's Right With Us: A western Minnesota man is hoping to break his own record of last year by placing 500 wreaths on the gravesites of fallen soldiers in Kandiyohi County.
WHAT WE'RE DOING
Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) - First hour: A new private hospital soon opens in Maple Grove, the first new freestanding hospital built in Minnesota in nine years. The hospital business is not like any other -- it's competitive but also controlled in many ways by government.
Second hour: If you're making last minute butter runs to the grocery store, you are in the midst of a holiday baking frenzy. America's Test Kitchen's Christopher Kimball solves listener cooking conundrums. And he weighs in on a new food trend: the crowd sourcing of recipes. (Hint: he's skeptical.)
Midday (11 a.m. - 1 p.m.) - First hour: NPR's Juan Williams talks about the first year of the Obama presidency.
Second hour: Veterinarian Dr. Kate An Hunter will be in the studio with her dog Ansel, to answer listener questions about pets.
Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) - First hour: It's Science Friday! Using cellphones to track air pollution, traffic jams and city park attendance.
Second hour: A talk with Julie Holland, the doctor in charge of the weekend shift at Bellevue's psychiatric ER for nine years.
All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - Neurologist Dr. John Noseworthy took over as CEO of all of Mayo Clinic in November. He's has been groomed for a long time, as any Mayo Clinic leader is. What's he bringing to the table? How is Mayo positioned for regional competition and the national health care reform debate? MPR's Elizabeth Baier has the story.
This week marks the 65th anniversary of the start of the Battle of the Bulge, the last-ditch attempt by the Germans to break through the Allied lines after D-Day. It's believed 19,000 U.S. soldiers died in the battle, which was fought in the depths of winter. Local theater owner Joe Minjares is showing an award-winning film of the battle "The Battleground" at the Parkway Theater, and holding sessions with veterans of the battle on Saturday and Sunday. Euan Kerr will report.
This is Charles Gibson's last day at ABC News. His exit as a nightly news anchor has been relatively unnoticed in comparison to the retirements of some of his contemporaries like Tom Brokaw. That's probably a good commentary on the declining influence of the the "Big Three" nightly newscast.
Still, his exit is worth noting. Gibson was one of the few national TV anchors who came out of his tent or trailer to talk to the locals regularly during his coverage of the I-35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis. "Decent" is a good word to describe him in an ego-driven business.
His recollections of his career this week are also a reminder that it's a heck of a world out there...
"Better than average for a president." That was the assessment of Barack Obama by NPR commentator Juan Williams during today's Midday on MPR. The show analyzed the performance of Obama in his first year in office. That's also code for "if the election were held today, could he win again?"
A Rasmussen poll last month suggested 49% of those surveyed said they were not likely to vote Obama for re-election if the election were held today. But those polls are usually pretty inaccurate until you start adding the names of opponents to the question.
Clearly, the enthusiasm for Obama has waned. But that was "irrational exuberance," according to Williams.
"There will be a greal deal of exultation, especially among Democrats, if you get a health care bill passed," Williams said, predicting passage of "something" by the State of the Union. But then the question is whether the American people. "That could be a huge problem," he said.
"Independents are moving away from Obama on two issues: health care and stimulus. When people hear about limits on Medicare spending, people say, 'No, we don't want that,'" he said.
Eichten asked Williams if perhaps Obama should be a little tougher on Democrats in Congress, invoking the legend of Lyndon Johnson, who took no prisoners. "There's no reason to be afraid of him," Williams said. "People don't fear this White House because they realize ever vote is so critical if you're going to hold that 60-vote majority in the Senate. Every senator is king so it's less about punishment than inducing carrots. He's going to have to break some legs at some point; the famous LBJ response."
"Who's to blame for the lack of bipartisan cooperation?" host Gary Eichten asked.
"It's fair to say Republicans came to the conclusion that there's very little in their self interest in working with the president," Williams said. "It would just guarantee that President Obama would be re-elected. Now, as we see some of the difficulties on the Democratic side, they've been able to point out the flaws. The other side of this is you have people like Rahm Emanuel, who is a hardball player, and not willing to compromise." Williams said Emanuel has made clear that by compromising, nothing will be done and people will vote Republican in the next election.
That's a response that's worth considering further, of course, because it concludes that's what's in the best interest of the people in Washington, is politicians getting re-elected. That may be the only bipartisanship happening.
Williams also noted that the people who supported Obama a year ago, have disappeared from elections since.
What does the electorate say? Here's a sample of some of the callers' opinions.
"One year? This is nothing."
"I don't think this guy has really done anything that he said he was going to do. He came out on a theory of change; nothing has changed."
"The Republicans have abdicated their duty and aren't interested in the political process; they're just interested in preventing Obama from getting any victories."
"The Senate reworked their rules so that it would be more divisive. Americans are fickle. They say they're for family values, but they're only interested in the almighty dollar."
"I think he's had an exceptional year given the circumstances... the financial markets have rebounded, unemployment claims are down, retail's expecting a higher volume."
If you squint a little bit and ignore all the snow, downtown St. Paul could easily be mistaken for Los Angeles today. Officials are calling it "haze," but you may know it better as smog.
Here's a sample courtesy of the Midwest Hazecam Web site:
We're not alone. The whole Upper Midwest is breathing foul air today. Right, Milwaukee?
Minnesota's air quality today is listed as "unhealthy," according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
What's happening here? An "inversion," in which air doesn't rise (and disperse) as quickly as you might expect. That's trapping all the pollution near the ground. Throw in light winds and, voila! We're Los Angeles.
It'll be that way until Sunday, according to the experts.(4 Comments)
National Public Radio ombudsman Alicia Shepard periodically provides a glimpse into the complaints the Public Radio behemoth gets. Today we also find out that people sure have a lot of time to get worked up over things.
Although many listeners find this second reference offensive, it is not a new policy. NPR has used "Mr." since the mid-1970s when President Gerald Ford was in office. The president is the only person who NPR routinely refers to with the Mr. honorific on second reference. If NPR does a story, say on James Hamilton, an Ohio car dealer, he will be Hamilton on second reference, not Mr. Hamilton.
Apparently, a lot of people consider it a matter of disrespect. So one wonders if the Associated Press, whose stylebook is the very bible on these matters, gets even more complaints. It says:
"On second reference, use only the last name ."
News organizations have to be very careful in these matters, for sometimes you can take the "respect thing" a little too far.
The New York Times, for example, is famous for once profiling the '70s rock star, Meat Loaf and referring to him on second reference as Mr. Loaf.
Of course, some people would argue that's a proper second reference for most sitting presidents.(3 Comments)
According to reports out of
Calgary Ottawa, the equipment van for the Minnesota Wild caught fire, destroying much of the hockey players' equipment. In particular, all of goaltender Niklas Backstrom's equipment was destroyed.
The Minnesota Wild is sending another planeload of equipment to
Dean Molberg, a talk show host at a sportsradio station in
Calgary Ottawa posted pictures here.
(Photo: Dean Molberg)(1 Comments)
When it comes to attracting people to St. Paul, city officials take it one person at a time.
MPR News reporter Tom Weber is giving up on the mean streets of Minneapolis and moving to St. Paul. Don't think the mayor of St. Paul hasn't noticed that he's stolen a free agent from the bigshots across the river.
Yesterday at about 5:00, while in the middle of crashing on deadline for a story, the phone rang. I expected it to be my editor but the other voice said "Hello, this is the St. Paul Welcoming Committee, welcoming you to St. Paul. I'm mayor Chris Coleman."
Oh come on. I love a joke as much as the next guy, but this was not a good time.
Yes, I'm moving to St. Paul this weekend but I knew this had to be fake. A certain fellow reporter friend and me had been trading barbs for weeks about my move to St. Paul. "The welcoming committee hasn't approved your application to move," he'd joke. "I got the special waiver," I'd retort.
The problem? This guy on this call really sounded like Chris Coleman. No offense to Hizzoner, but what comedian would spend all that time perfecting the Chris Coleman impression? I asked him who told had told him to call me, he replied that he just knew about it and wanted to call. Then my editor actually did call and I put this actor joker guy on hold - only for a few seconds, but definitely on hold. The "mayor" and I chatted a little more and then I said "I really have to go, I'm kind of crashing on something here." He said "No problem, just wanted to welcome you to St. Paul."
After the call, I still didn't believe it really was him and sought my friend to find out how he'd pulled off this joke with some impersonator. When we finally spoke, he confessed: He had called in a favor with someone in the mayor's office and the caller really was Chris Coleman. And yes, I did put him on hold.
It's worth pointing out that the St. Paul Welcoming Committee was the name of the group that organized protests during the Republican National Convention in St. Paul in 2008.(3 Comments)