Five at 8 – 2/9/10: Trying to make sense

1) One of the MPR producers made a very good point after listening to the interview on All Things Considered with members of Ben Larson’s family. Words on a page are nice, but a voice on the radio is much more compelling. Larson was killed in the earthquake in Haiti.


“I stuck my head in the hole, and I heard Ben,” she said. “He was singing.”

The tune was from the hymn, “Where Love and Charity Prevail,” but Renee is pretty sure he was making up the words.

Renee yelled for him: She and Jon were OK. She loved him. And keep singing!

She heard Ben sing “God’s peace to us we pray.” Then the singing stopped.

“I knew I couldn’t get to him,” Renee said.

It’s impossible to listen to the interview without thinking about the role of God in Ben’s life, an invitation to try to make sense of his death. I heard members of the New Orleans Saints claim that God’s plan was for them to win a Super Bowl. In the wake of the earthquake in Haiti, a country of very devout people and very devout people who wanted to help them, what was the plan?

Here’s the full interview. Take a moment.

An uplifting angle on Haiti: A woman who lost her husband in the I35W bridge collapse in Minneapolis has adopted two young children from Haiti.

2) We have an early candidate for the News Cut our lawsuit-of-the-day. A Boston woman is suing her real estate broker because neighbors in her condo building smoke and she has asthma.


“I’m certainly not a person who’s on a soapbox saying people shouldn’t smoke,” she said in the Back Bay office of her lawyer. “But when it affects somebody else, that’s where the line needs to be drawn. It’s an awful thing to not be able to escape from something that’s hurting your health.”

If she wins, it opens up a new front in the second-hand smoke war.

3) What can we learn from the suicide of Phoebe Prince? From Slate:


In January, Prince, who was 15, hanged herself. Both school officials and students connected her death to the bullying that preceded it, and the school committee meeting that followed her suicide was packed with 300 people. Many of them were parents, and some of them blamed the school. One father, whose daughter had also been bullied in ninth grade said, “This is not a new problem,” according to the local paper.

None of the usual prevention plans — similar to ones employed in Minnesota — worked. Letters to parents about cyberbullying, student handbooks, workshops — nothing worked. It’s not so much that the schools don’t have any cyberbullying policies; it’s that they don’t know how to implement them in a way that will work.

4) Killer karaoke. In the Phillipines, people are dying over disputes about the way people sing “My Way.”

Says the Times:


The killings have produced urban legends about the song and left Filipinos groping for answers. Are the killings the natural byproduct of the country’s culture of violence, drinking and machismo? Or is there something inherently sinister in the song?

Whatever the reason, many karaoke bars have removed the song from their playbooks. And the country’s many Sinatra lovers, like Mr. Gregorio here in this city in the southernmost Philippines, are practicing self-censorship out of perceived self-preservation.

5) OK, I’ll say it. Political coverage isn’t making any sense. The Star Tribune has a story today about how Republicans are making a comeback, thanks in part to the influence of the Tea Party. This means that in 15 months, people’s political philosophy has swung from the left to the right. Maybe. Maybe not. Public opinion usually swings over the course of, say, a decade.

But how to square this notion with fivethirtyeight.com statistics guru Nate Silver’s post today which claims that Republicans are usually on the wrong side of public opinion? He identifies 25 issues — big issues — and finds that polling shows people favor the Democrat philosophy over the Republican brand on 14 of them.


Obviously, this analysis is superficial in certain ways. All issues are by no means created equal, and health care in particular, which is unpopular, has weighed heavily upon the public’s perception of the Democrats. In addition, there is probably another layer of ‘meta-argument’ that goes beyond specific issues, and at which the GOP has tended to excel.

Nevertheless, it runs in contrast to the objective evidence when one asserts, as Hanson does, that “On every issue … the Obama position polls 5-15 points below 50 percent.” Rather, the votes taken by the Republican Congress have far more often been out of step with those of the median voter.

Is the answer somewhere in between? Perhaps we don’t know what we want? Oh, and the horse-race coverage of politics isn’t making us any more informed.

Bonus: Research, but what does it mean? Discover reports that “compared with songs that had no mention of sexual activity, songs with degrading sex were more likely to contain references to substance use, violence, and weapon carrying. Songs with non-degrading sex were no more likely to mention these other risk behaviors.”

TODAY’S QUESTION

The space shuttle Endeavor blasted off yesterday, leaving only four more planned launches in the shuttle program. After that, the United States plans to rely on private contractors to ferry astronauts into space. Should NASA give up its dominant role in human spaceflight?

WHAT WE’RE DOING

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: With the state facing a $1.2 billion budget shortfall, aid to local governments could again be on the chopping block. The mayors of Minneapolis and St. Paul join Midmorning to talk about what those cuts could mean, and how they plan to fight them.

First hour (outstate Minnesota): Forty years into the war on cancer, the death rate for many cancers has not changed significantly. Scientists say a new approach is needed. Midmorning talks with two cancer researchers about the latest and most promising research.

Second hour: In 1973, Rosanne Cash’s father gave her a list of 100 songs every young musician should know. She puts her own spin on a handful of those songs in her latest album.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: As part of MPR’s “Red Bulls: Beyond Deployment” series, Midday hosts a call-in about returning soldiers and the challenges they face back in the civilian world.

Second hour: Former Vice President Walter Mondale, speaking about presidential power and congressional power.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: TBA

Second hour: A preview of the Winter Olympics.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) - PTSD and the military. MPR’s Jess Mador introduces us to Randy Lundborg, an Iraq war veteran who battled mightily to regain some semblance of normalcy after returning from deployment in 2005. He’s doing well now but still suffers from some symptoms. The story is online now.

National Public Radio looks at how employees are searching for their own health care when their jobs don’t provide it.

  • tim

    Did you just call that the tea bag party, was that a Freudian slip of what this group plans to do to America

  • Valerie

    Bob,

    I thought I heard Kerri Miller tell me that her guest this morning at 10a is the signer, Rosanne Cash. When did she change the topic to cancer?

    Love you and your work.

    — Valerie

  • Bob Collins

    Re: Tea Bag — Mistake. i blame Jon Stewart

    Valerie: Fixing. The cancer show is actually the first hour that will be broadcast outside the metro so the audience there doesn’t have to listen to city issues.

    Cash in the second hour. thanks for the catch.

  • Valerie

    Thanks for the update, Bob.

    Is this something new? So because I’m in the Twin Cities, I’ll hear something different during Midmorning than if I were listening to the news station in Bemidji?

  • Jim B.

    > We have an early candidate for the News Cut

    > our lawsuit-of-the-day. A Boston woman is suing

    > her real estate broker because neighbors in her

    > condo building smoke and she has asthma.

    Hmmmm…. do you think we could start a class action lawsuit against all the people filing frivolous lawsuits?

  • Al

    Wow. Walter Mondale on Midday. Who could have seen that coming? I like the former VP and generally appreciate what he has to say, but Gary seems to recycle his guests more and more with each passing month.

  • bsimon

    “The Star Tribune has a story today about how Republicans are making a comeback, thanks in part to the influence of the Tea Party. … But how to square this notion with fivethirtyeight.com statistics guru Nate Silver’s post today which claims that Republicans are usually on the wrong side of public opinion?”

    Easy. Republicans have a very very effective marketing machine. The drive-by media, by which I mean, roughly, commercial media, does not cover political issues, they cover ‘he said, she said’. The electorate are ill informed, and the GOP have a very effective buzzword factory that condenses their views into soundbites that play well on TV. Dems are terrible at this game, and tend to lose support because they don’t explain their positions very well at all. The GOP’s ‘no taxes, ever’ policies win they day, every time. Who likes paying taxes? The Dems haven’t figured out how to make the point that without taxes, you don’t get services, unless you borrow, or play accounting gimmicks. They need a good soundbite to make the point. I think they need to respond to the ‘no taxes, ever’ arguments by calling it what it is: a fraudulent claim of ‘something for nothing’. Instead, they try to get on the ‘something for nothing’ game too – see dem rhetoric on middle class tax cuts that we, collectively, cannot afford and do not deserve.

  • JackU

    I have to agree with bsimon’s comment about sound bite politics.

    Our federal legislature was built on the idea of “reasoned debate”. One cannot have a reasoned debate using 30-60 second soundbites and 140 character tweets.

    With respect to the Tea Party groups, I wonder how many of them realize that if they had been around in 1773 they most likely would have been opposed to Adams and Hancock, and the original Tea Party.

  • tiredboomer

    >>Wow. Walter Mondale on Midday. Who could have seen that coming?

  • kennedy

    re: teen suicide

    Teenage children are intensely private as they establish identities separate from their families and parents. Seminars, rules, and/or legislation cannot force them to open up when they are hurting. That’s what makes the issue of bullying is so tough to deal with. The victims are often ashamed and won’t speak out. The people most likely to observe the bullying are also teens, and they keep quiet under peer pressure and fear of reprisals including social humiliation.

    Kids, be confident in yourselves. Do the right thing even when it is hard.

  • Chris

    “With respect to the Tea Party groups, I wonder how many of them realize that if they had been around in 1773 they most likely would have been opposed to Adams and Hancock, and the original Tea Party.”

    Jack, can you expound on this? Is there something tangible you are basing this on or just your thoughts?