Five at 8: 9/23/09 – Flipping and flopping

1) There’s been plenty of focus and media attention on Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s process moves as he inches toward a run for president. He’s about to set up a PAC. He’s visiting somewhere that doesn’t end in “sota.” That’s taken some attention from his changing political philosophy; away from the kind of things that might play better in Minnesota than to Republicans on a national stage. MPR’s Tom Scheck follows his transition away from a “green” tinge, something that never sat quite well with some Republicans in Minnesota, even as it earned him some distinction from the other Republican candidates for president.

The template for the strategy comes from the guy who may be Pawlenty’s biggest competition — former governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts. He had to run as more of a moderate in Democrat-leaning Massachusetts, and then changed his beliefs on the national stage. Romney, too, has turned his back on a climate change position he once held — ever so briefly — as governor.

It’s the problem with running for president. You have to become someone else. You have to fit a party template. Flashback: One of the reactions to Sen. John McCain’s concession speech last November was, “If that guy were running, maybe I’d have voted for him.”

2) The new Twins ballpark at night:


Any ballpark with grass can look good during the day, but how does it look at night? The New Twins Ballpark blog has the answer.

A few years ago, Detroit — the economic basket case of America — built a new stadium for the Tigers. Sports Illustrated looks at how that turned out. The stadium is full, the team payroll is high, and the team may be about to go to the playoffs. It’s one of the few bright spots in Detroit.

3) Far under the radar in the Twin Cities-dominated media is the stunning reversal of fortune for Warren Nelson, the mover-and-shaker behind Big Top Chautauqua, along Lake Superior in Bayfield, Wisconsin. He also hosts a public radio show. He’s resigning as artistic director in the face of two criminal charges within nine months, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

4) Who among us — assuming “us” is a group of 50-year-olds — doesn’t remember standing in line at the teacher’s desk, waiting for the word on whether our attempts at cursive penmanship was worthy or whether we’d be sent back to the drudgery of trying again? If we’ve got computers and texting, why do we need to teach kids penmanship anymore, the editor of the Fargo Forum asks. Good question.

“In the age of computers, I just tell the children, what if we are on an island and don’t have electricity? One of the ways we communicate is through writing,” a teacher told the Associated Press, tapping into the universal fear of students of being trapped on an island.

5) Science is Cool Department: Artificial noses. Someday, cancer may be detected by an artificial nose sniffing your breath.


America’s image has improved in most parts of the world, reflecting global confidence in Barack Obama. This week at the United Nations, he’s pursuing a busy agenda, focusing on climate change, peacekeeping and nuclear proliferation, among other issues. How can President Obama strengthen America’s image abroad?


I’m heading for Walker, Minn., today for a presentation on MPR’s digital efforts. I’m flying up so I’ll take aerial views of September in Minnesota along the way and post them here this evening (Note: No, MPR members are not paying for an airplane. Rest easy!). But posting will depend on my valued colleagues today.

Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Live broadcast of President Obama’s speech to the United Nations.

Second hour: Technology has made a huge reach in helping the physically disabled, but what specific roles will the Internet and smart phones play as they begin to make life easier for the wider population?

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Analysis of President Obama’s speech to the United Nations by Brian Atwood, dean of the U of M’s Humphrey Institute.

Second hour: David Wessel, economics editor of the Wall Street Journal, speaking to the Commonwealth Club of California about his new book, “In Fed We Trust: Ben Bernanke’s War on the Great Panic.”

Wessel, you may recall, was a guest on MPR’s Midmorning a few weeks ago in a fascinating hour.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Political editor Ken Rudin kicks around that which must be kicked around.

Second hour: Former ad man James Othmer ponders the moral quandries — and the thrill — of the ad business.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – It’s pretty well proven that admitting you’re going to raise taxes is not the way to get elected, but all the DFLers running for governor have said it’s going to have to happen. MPR’s Tim Pugmire will report.

Tom Scheck looks at Gov. Pawlenty’s assessment of the economy in 2012. He’ll, perhaps, take a shot at the state economist who he labeled a pessimist months ago. The economist also turned out to be right.

NPR, of course, will have plenty about President Obama’s speech to the U.N. Jenny Brundin will report on how cellphone makers are racing to create technology that will prevent you from texting while driving. Ina Jaffe reports that California is about to clamp down on electricity-sucking big-screen TVs. And Andrew Wallenstein has assessed the new TV season and declared it the year of the TV actor retread.

Note: I may disappear from posting without notice for a week or so. My father-in-law is very ill in New England and we’re about to head back. But check News Cut daily while I’m gone.