Five by 8 – 3/25/10: The stench of death threats

1) I hear something happened to the health care system while I was away on vacation. Let’s jump into some of the first changes people will notice — older people, anyway. Gwen Ifill talks with NPR’s Julie Rovner about changes to Medicare.

But enough about actual issues in this ongoing debate. Let’s move to the nonsense. The FBI met with members of Congress yesterday to go over the procedure for handling threats and violence. The Times reports:

At least two Congressional district offices were vandalized and Representative Louise M. Slaughter, a senior Democrat from New York, received a phone message threatening sniper attacks against lawmakers and their families.

Ms. Slaughter also reported that a brick was thrown through a window of her office in Niagara Falls, and Representative Gabrielle Giffords, Democrat of Arizona, said Monday that her Tucson office was vandalized after the vote.

Republicans say they’ve gotten death threats, too. Most recently, Sen. Jim Bunning was reportedly the target of threats after he blocked a bill extending unemployment benefits.

Are we Juarez, now? Two weeks ago a pig’s head was found next to a sign for the mayor of that city stating he had two weeks to live. Apparently, the threats come after he tried to rid the police department there of corruption. The deadline was yesterday.

To be fair, however, these are often little more than distractions, are predictable and require a healthy dose of skepticism. Opponents tend to use them to dismiss the entire range of arguments against an issue as the rantings of the deranged. True, there are wingnuts at work, and their media darlings are over the top in their rhetoric. But it’s a good time to take a deep breath, and remember the story of the census worker who was — allegedly — the victim of the heightened rhetoric. He wasn’t.

“All this talk could push a deranged person over the edge,” an ABC reporter insisted this morning, ignoring the definition of deranged.

On Good Morning America this morning, everyone seemed to miss some irony after Rep. Barney Frank — appropriately — criticized the rhetoric of his opposition. Then, turning to another subject, the show played video of Frank saying there would be “death panels for insurance companies.” Whoops.

2) Later this morning, Midday will feature a debate on whether the health care bill is constitutional. This week, WBUR’s (Boston) On Point (not carried by MPR) carried a fabulous debate on the question of state’s rights. Find it here. Pay attention to the number of references to nullification and secession.

Related: Swanson in the spotlight over health care challenge.

3) The flood has been a dud. Fears of major flooding, it turns out, were overblown. The predictions of crests were wrong from Moorhead to the St. Croix. It’s an inexact science, to be sure. If the National Weather Service is wrong — as it was in 1997 — and underestimates the problem, the disaster is more costly. If it overestimates the danger, it risks being ignored in the future.

But the real difficulty is figuring out this flood behavior: Television reporters don’t cover fires by standing in the burning building. Why do they cover floods by standing in the water, as one did this morning?


I saw the same thing in Fargo last year…

4) What nickname should we bestow on Target Field? suggests “The House That Kept Joe.” The Web site analyzes the likely effect of a new ballpark on the team.

Target Field will be the 18th ballpark built as a replacement for an earlier MLB home since Baltimore’s Oriole Park at Camden Yards and Chicago’s U.S. Cellular Field (then New Comiskey Park) opened almost 20 years ago to start the trend of new ballparks. (That doesn’t include Coors Field or Nationals Park, both planned before the Rockies’ arrival in Denver and the Nationals’ arrival in Washington, respectively, or Chase Field, the D-backs’ ballpark.)

Eight of those first 17 teams improved in the standings their first year in their new ballpark, three stayed the same and six took a dip. Among the 14 with a long enough track record, 11 went to the postseason twice within the first five years of the new park. Though some — Atlanta, for example — already were contenders, others — Cleveland, most famously — found a new park to be the start of a run of October success that was years in the making.

Perhaps the best corollary for the Twins is the Braves, although Atlanta enjoyed a higher level of success — four World Series in six years — before Turner Field opened in 1999.

But there are bigger things to worry about at Target Field. They’re going to sell wine there. Wine! Which goes with hot dogs – white or red?

Assignment: Write lyrics about wine at the ballpark to Take Me Out to the Ballgame.

5) No matter what the country is going through, it’s comforting to know that the Wilhelm Scream lives on no matter what. Iron Man 2, according to a tweet from its director, will carry one of the most famous sound effects in Hollywood.

Bonus: Today’s Internet viral video. Was it a wipe or a touch?


How would you describe your recession in six words?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Returning to an older way of living. A recent study by Pew Research finds that more families are living together now, in part to financial pressures of the recession and lifestyle of immigrants. This trend toward the multi-generation household also reflects our acceptance of boomerang children returning home for parental support.

Second hour: Author Siri Hustvedt investigates the causes of her migraine headaches and episodes of uncontrollable shaking that began shortly after the death of her father.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley and former Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch debate the constitutionality of the new health care law.

Second hour: A live broadcast of the Westminster Town Hall Forum featuring David Lampton of Johns Hopkins University, author of “The Three Faces of Chinese Power.”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Host Neal Conan talks to historians about their perspectives on the depth of our divisions.

Second hour: Your NCAA bracket.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – MPR’s Mark Zdechlik takes the temperature of New Hampshire voters on the question of President Tim Pawlenty.

The new health legislation offers a hefty tax credit for small businesses that pay health insurance premiums. MPR’s Bob Kelleher looks at how business owners view that provision.

NPR will assess the health care law’s impact on California. With the highest number of people lacking health insurance in the country, California stands to gain much from the new federal health care law.

Tom Weber has a great story lined up for this afternoon. Many American kids eat two of their three meals each day at school. And yet the nation’s school food program is notorious for serving kids low-quality, cheap, processed food. The school lunch program has a long way to go, but there have been some attempts to improve the quality of the food. The farm-to-school movement has teamed small and mid-size farmers with local schools to provide fresh, locally grown vegetables, fruits and meats. During just the first six weeks of the 2009/2010 school year, St. Paul Public Schools purchased 110,000 pounds of locally-grown produce, primarily from farms in Minnesota and Western Wisconsin. Winona schools are buying bison directly from local farmers. Minneapolis schools have made some improvements in their menu, but their progress is held back by the fact that they no longer have school kitchens.

  • vjacobsen

    4) I’d say a nice, crisp white with that hot dog. If you have sauerkraut and onions on it, maaaaybe a red would be OK.

    A question: If Minneapolis schools don’t have kitchens, where does the food come from?

  • Tyler

    Nickname for Target Filed? The Skydome. Oh..uh…wait…the Metrodon’t?

  • Bob Collins

    Re: kitchens. I asked Mr. Weber the question. He replies:

    They have a central processing building where all the meals are prepared and packaged, then sent to the schools where they’re heated before being served. They can’t prepare meals from scratch in the schools in Minneapolis – that’s done at this central building. But they do have some room for storage and equipment to heat the food and get it ready for serving.

  • bsimon

    “Why do they cover floods by standing in the water, as one did this morning?”

    Because there’s no other excuse to show off the cute pink boots.

  • JackU

    First off, definitely a wipe.

    As far as reporters and floods, because they can. It’s the Weather Channel syndrome. Before the Weather Channel did we send crews into a hurricane zone? The fine folks at TWC have upped the ante on weather disaster reporting and everyone else follows suit.