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Thursday, February 25, 2010
Off Key

The National Catholic Educational Association is holding their annual Convention and Expo in the Twin Cities from April 6th to the 8th. And when a national Catholic organization comes to town who would they want to deliver the keynote address but the thrice married, Episcopalian (currently) public radio funny man Garrison Keillor?

It's a curious choice for a number of reasons. While Keillor is best known for being the soft spoken, mild-mannered host of "A Prairie Home Companion" when it comes to politics he's one of the more divisive, inflammatory, and mean-spirited voices out there. Examples of Keillor's demagogic political rhetoric abound. There's this classic screed against Republicans:

The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong's moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt's evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk. Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we're deaf, dumb and dangerous.

I for one am still waiting for Keillor to apologize to the hirsute marsh improvers he so recklessly defamed.

Then there's Keillor's call to literally pull the plug on the GOP:

...if Republicans should be cut out of the health-care system entirely and simply provided with aspirin and hand sanitizer. Thirty-two percent of the population identifies with the GOP, and if we cut off health care to them, we could probably pay off the deficit in short order.

Nothing like bringing in a keynote speaker who's quite open about the fact that he despises half the country (especially those darn tea baggers). In the same piece where he fondly dreamed of death panelling the GOP, Keillor also offered us this:

The so-called cultural wars over abortion and prayer in the schools and pornography and gays, most of it instigated by shrieking ninnies and pompous blowhards, did nothing about anything, except elect dullards to office who brought a certain nihilistic approach to governance.

Last time I checked the Catholic Church had a rather vested interest in these so-called cultural wars. In fact, you could argue that the Church was often the one "instigating" them with its vocal opposition to abortion and gay marriage. Perhaps someone at the NCEA convention could ask Keillor is he considers the Pope a shrieking ninny or a pompous blowhard.

This is another reason why the decision to have Keillor keynote the convention is raising eye brows. His views on abortion and gay marriage--while not as extreme as those of many on the left--don't exactly fit well with those of the Catholic Church. And even if he personally favors private schools for his own kids, you have to wonder about what Keillor really thinks about Catholic education given some of his past comments, especially on vouchers:

"The American public school, how remarkable it will seem someday. With the introduction of school vouchers, you got to send your kids to schools where they learned the TRUTH-- your truth--Our Lady of Sorrows, Foursquare Millennial Gospel, Moon Goddess, Malcolm X, the Open School of Whatever, the Academy of Hairy-Legged Individualism, the School of the Green Striped Tie, you name it, and who could argue with the idea of free choice? --until you stop and think about the old idea of the public school, a place where you went to find out who inhabits this society other than people like you."

-- Garrison Keillor (talking about other people's kids), "The Future of Nostalgia," New York Times Magazine, 29 September 1996


But as a Minnesotan of the Catholic persuasion, what really irks me most about having Keillor keynote a Catholic education convention in the Twin Cities is that no one probably has done more to propagate the illusion that the people of Minnesota are all Lutherans of Scandinavian descent than him. After all, this is a convention about Catholic education. Why not have, you know, someone from Minnesota who's actually Catholic be the keynote speaker?

If you're outraged about this decision (and if you've been paying attention how can you not be?) you can let the NCEA know how you feel by dropping a note to:

Dr. Karen M. Ristau, Ed.D.
President, National Catholic Educational Association
1005 North Glebe Road
Arlington, VA 22201

Or you can e-mail Dr. Ristau at president@ncea.org

Be courteous and respectful, but be sure to express your view that Keillor is a below average choice for keynote speaker.

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Friday, January 22, 2010
A New Pulitzer Peer for the Star Tribune?

The nomination deadline for the 2009 Pulitzer Prizes is February 1. No word on whether the Star Tribune has nominated any of its work (nothing Pulitzer-worthy comes to mind, but then I don't read the Strib as closely as I used to). But even if they do come up with something, this could be a tough year to break out of their 19 year Pulitzer slump.

Barry Levine, the editor of the National Enquirer, told the Washington Post that he believes the Enquirer deserves a Pulitzer and he just may have a point. With John Edwards' admission that he is the father of Rielle Hunter's child, the National Enquirer has been vindicated on the story in which they scooped the entire media (including the Star Tribune and yes even Fraters Libertas).

If the Strib manages to stay ahead of the National Enquirer in the Pulitzer count, it will likely be due to a technicality: most of the Enquirer's Edwards stories were written in 2007 and 2008 and the Pulitzers for those years have already been awarded. But if I had to put money down on the Star Tribune winning a Pulitzer this year or the National Enquirer winning a Pulitzer this year, I would go Enquirer.

UPDATE: No Pulitzer for the National Enquirer. The administrator of the Pulitzer Prize board has pointed out that the National Enquirer describes itself as a magazine ? and magazines are ineligible for Pulitzer Prizes. Hmmm ? maybe the Star Tribune should drop a line to the Pulitzer board reminding them that they are NOT a magazine.

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