The ‘m’ word (5×8 – 1/14/11)

What is a miracle, why do we need political pundits, should Dire Straits be banned, voter ID, the science of nonsense, and the taste of rain.


The same media forces that made the Ted Williams (homeless guy; nice voice) story into a fairy tale when it really wasn’t are at work again on the recovery of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was shot in an assassination attempt in Tucson on Saturday. At yesterday’s medical briefing, a reporter asked whether her recovery so far is “a miracle.”

Reporters who ask the question do so for one reason: to be able to attribute it in a story. They really want to use the “m word,” but they need a reason to work it in.

Fewer than 10 percent survive the injuries that Rep. Giffords has, but 10 percent is still a big number. And as wonderful as the news has been about the congresswoman, she hasn’t completely survived the attack, yet. Doctors were very measured yesterday about the dangers of the road ahead.

The question certainly put Dr. Michael Lemole, the chief of neurosugery at University Medical Center in a tough spot. He answered, “Miracles happen every day, and in medicine we like to attribute them to what we do or what others do around us. A lot of medicine is outside our control. We are wise to acknowledge miracles,” he said.

You’ll notice the one word he didn’t use was, “Yes!”

Let’s see how that played. Here’s ABC News’ (Australia) lead sentence to the story today:

Doctors are hailing as a miracle the speedy recovery of an Arizona congresswoman who was shot last week.

Here’s the headline at WNYC, the public station in New York:

Sen. Gillibrand Witnessed Giffords’ ‘Miracle’ Awakening

Even NPR this morning used “the m” word in describing Giffords’ recovery so far.

In its front page story this morning, the hometown Arizona Republic newspaper left the Hollywood aspect of the tale out of it:


Giffords’ congressional friend, who’s been with her for nearly a week of agonizing days, says her recovery shows the power of friendship. She too describes it as a miracle, but she can be forgiven. She’s happy, and her job doesn’t require her to provide fact-based information.

Let’s hope that a full recovery for Rep. Giffords doesn’t require defying the laws of nature. Hopes for her recovery have, so far, hinged on the fact that from the start, her doctors haven’t said a miracle will be required.

Meanwhile, NPR today is looking at why people try to assassinate politicians. Surprisingly, it often isn’t for political reasons.


If you follow me on Twitter, you know that following President Obama’s speech the other night, I leveled a fair amount of criticism on the pundits, who assessed the service, not in the context of an event to heal the nation and support the victims and their families, but in how it hurts or helps the president’s standing.


David Gergen, sitting in a studio inside the Washington Beltway, was particularly hideous, claiming it wasn’t what the nation wanted. How did he know? He was tucked away in a studio in Washington.

Pundits have an incredible power to direct the national dialogue, so on a night when the mission was to unite a country, one had to wonder what their goal was? It’s not a question that everyone on Twitter was interested in answering:


That account, it turns out, is a public relations company whose client is — wait for it — David Gergen.

Over to you, Stewart…

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Veiled Criticism
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog</a> The Daily Show on Facebook

As Stewart mentioned, much of punditry involved the cheering and applause in the crowd. That, the mostly white and mostly male group of pundits said, was “inappropriate.” People mourn in different ways. Is this inappropriate?

Who decides?


… they can do it to Dire Straits. Officials in Canada say the group’s song, “Money for Nothing” should be censored because the word “faggot” appears in it three times. Forget that the song has been out for 25 years, or that it’s not used as required listening in schools. But, like Twain’s use of the n-word and i-word in Huck Finn, it was intentionally used to make a point.

Should it be banned?

Dire Straits’ “Money for Nothing” should be bannedMarket Research

Discussion point: When — if ever — should derogatory words be removed from works of art?


Yesterday, a bill to require voters in Minnesota to show their ID at the polls was filed at the Minnesota House of Representatives. With a Republican majority, is this the year the controversial measure finally becomes law?

“I tend to doubt the dynamics of voter/photo identification will change very much,” Michael J. Pitts, associate professor of law at Indiana University School of Law, told the Pew Center’s Election Line. “I think you’ll see voter/photo ID get passed where Republicans control all the levels of government and generally not get passed where they don’t.”

A similar bill was introduced in Wisconsin.

Proponents say requiring an ID to vote isn’t much different than, say, getting through security at an airport; you need a boarding pass an ID and people seem pretty capable of getting on the plane OK. Opponents say it’s a thinly-veiled attempt to get some groups — low income, and minority groups — to stay home by making voting too difficult.

What say you?


Wait! I’m not a Gemini? An expert at the Minnesota Planetarium says things have shifted and wobbled in the heavens and what sign you think you are is the sign you were. The Christian Science Monitor says;

The shift is caused by precession, the wobble in the Earth’s axis caused by the gravitational attraction of the moon to the Earth’s equator. Precession popped into the spotlight this week after Minnesota Planetarium Society board member Parke Kunkle told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune about the gap between the astrological and the astronomical view. The story spread around the Internet quickly, but it’s actually old news, Rao said.

Old news? Yeah, we kind of specialize in that in Minnesota at this time of year. That’s why on a Friday morning I’m pointing out a story that was in the paper on Sunday. Then again, there were more important things going on Sunday.

Here’s the actual list:

Capricorn: Jan. 20-Feb. 16.

Aquarius: Feb. 16-March 11.

Pisces: March 11-April 18.

Aries: April 18-May 13.

Taurus: May 13-June 21.

Gemini: June 21-July 20.

Cancer: July 20-Aug. 10.

Leo: Aug. 10-Sept. 16.

Virgo: Sept. 16-Oct. 30.

Libra: Oct. 30-Nov. 23.

Scorpio: Nov. 23-29.

Ophiuchus: Nov. 29-Dec. 17.

Sagittarius: Dec. 17-Jan. 20.

So I’ve gone from being an honored twin, to a Taurus. I’m a car! Or a bull, which seems halfway appropriate.

(h/t: Molly Bloom)

Bonus: Scientists at MIT are developing a toothpaste dispenser that tells you what the weather will be based on the flavor. In other news: We’re going to get more snow. What flavor would be appropriate?


Twin Cities home sales fell to their lowest level in eight years in 2010. Only slight improvements are expected this year. How is the housing market affecting you?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Twin Cities mayors talk budgets, LGA, and property taxes.

Second hour: The new Coen brothers movie has brought Charles Portis’ “True Grit” back into the public conscious. But the reclusive Portis has a rabid fan club that believes the book isn’t his most significant contribution to American literature.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Brenda Cassellius, Minnesota’s new commissioner of education.

Second hour: David Brooks, speaking at the Commonwealth Club

Science Friday (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Earth’s shifting magnetic field, and plans for a more intelligent electrical distribution network.

Second hour: If you use Facebook for friends and family, is Twitter your professional

outlet? What about FourSquare, Instagram and all the others?