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5 things, in no particular order

1. That race is still going on?

Yesterday, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune projected that Saturday Night Live alum-turned-talking head Al Franken would win the long protracted fight for the Minnesota senate seat that still hasn’t been resolved more than a month after the election. According to the paper’s count, Franken leads by almost 200 votes. When hubby told me this, I realized I hadn’t thought about that race or national politics in general in weeks.

To be sure, anytime President-elect Obama has appointed someone to his Cabinet, I have usually looked up from what I was doing and read up on the story for a few minutes, but a few minutes was it. There was a time, mere weeks ago, when I couldn’t get enough political news. In the weeks leading up to Election Day, I read everything I could find, and in the days following loved all the various ways columnists and reporters put the historic win in perspective. It’s likely, I suppose, that I OD’d and am now giving myself time to recover so that when Obama really is president, I’ll go back to a larger dose of news. But, on the other hand, it’s nice to see the wars of words that take daily place on the blogosphere go on without me and without giving me any more ulcers.

And speaking of Senate races . . .

2. Have Senate replacement battles always gotten this much attention?

Obviously, an invitation to join the Senate’s millionaire boys club means you’re set for life, which is why so much attention is paid when someone is tapped — rather than elected — to the position. Still, it seems like this year more than most, people are going crazy over all the possible appointments. Obama (whose own seat is at the center of the most controversial fight, given his governor’s kaching moment after Obama’s election) has asked a handful of senators to join his administration, leaving at least three seats open seats open. There’s VP-elect Biden of Delaware, Secretary of State to-be Hillary Clinton of New York and Secretary of the Interior to-be Ken Salazar of Colorado. Those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Caroline Kennedy has declared she wants Hillary’s seat, which was once held by her uncle Bobby. I think she’s qualified, even though some see it as a dynastic power grab. I’m not from New York, so I can’t speak to what the people of that state think, but at least you know she’s not in it for the money. There’s something to be said for someone who doesn’t need lobbyists to pay for her new house (like they did for former Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska) while she’s deciding on how to vote for particular pieces of legislation. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

In my own state of Colorado, there is a long line of potential candidates for Salazar’s post, but you better believe that Republicans are licking their chops for what they now see as a gettable seat. Nobody would have beaten the popular Salazar in his re-election bid two years from now. His replacement would be an incumbent too, but a much more vulnerable one, and Obama’s coattails may not be what they were this year after he has two years of having to deal with the current economic mess under his belt.

And speaking of Obama …

3. How many pastors does it take to controversify an inauguration?

A lot of people are making hay of his invitation of megachurch pastor Rick Warren to the inauguration to read the invocation. It’s easy to see why. Warren was among the California pastors who supported Proposition 8 in California, which took away the rights of gay couples to marry after those rights had been established as constitutional by that state’s Supreme Court. Gay people helped Obama get elected and celebrated with him on Election Night even as they saw their rights stripped away by a group of people who campaigned on lies (churches would be forced to marry gay couples — not true) and innuendo (children would be indoctrinated into the gay lifestyle — as if).

Obviously, many Obama supporters are upset over this. What really bothers me is not Warren but this: Why is religion allowed to play such a big role in the public square in what is by every definition a secular government? Say what religious people will, our country wasn’t founded by committed Christians “under God” (those words did not appear in the original pledge of allegiance). It was founded by Enlightenment humanists who wanted to establish freedom from religion in government. Many of the first settlers who came to the colonies, including those legendary Pilgrims, were fleeing a monarchy that exerted too great an influence on their religious lives. Those early Christians wanted the government to stay away from their houses of worship. The long and winding road that led us from that to this is a bit baffling to me.

I don’t think that this was a calculated political decision by Obama. I truly believe he is a person of faith and wants that faith represented during his inauguration. But his faith, as far as his office is concerned, is beside the point. He may not agree with me, but the Constitution does.

And speaking of Christians . . .

4. Will this recession finally end the commercialization of Christmas?

I wonder how many pastors out there are taking advantage of this economic downturn — in which many families are toning down the gift-giving — to remind people that Christmas (or Hanukkah for that matter) was never about gift-giving. Bill O’Reilly is wrong about the “war” against Christmas — it isn’t about political correctness and those who say “Happy Holidays!” That’s merely a surface distraction, in other words, O’Reilly’s bread and butter. The true war against Christmas is the commercialization of it. When you’ve got a list of gifts to buy a mile long and it takes an hour just to find a parking space at the mall, who has time to reflect on family and friends, the year gone by and the year ahead, and, most importantly, what the holiday truly means. I don’t hope to have another recession like this one any time soon. The abstention from gift-buying may be a sign, for many families, of economic duress, but I hope at least some embrace the idea that you don’t have to buy anything to make this of all holidays worth celebrating.

And speaking of celebrating . . .

5. Is Tyler Hansbrough the greatest Tar Heel of all time?

Well, no. At least, it’s arguable, but the boy has scored more points than any other player who has worn Carolina blue and that is as great an accomplishment as any in college basketball. It’s a record I don’t expect to be broken again in my lifetime, which is exactly how old it was (30 years) until yesterday, when Hansbrough made it his with a little more than 7 minutes to go in the first half. Besides, few of the players capable of it would stay in college long enough to see it through. That’s what’s great about Tyler — he is a quintessential college player. He loves college life. He may not go on to be an NBA star, but in this game, he is one of the best.

I’m glad I got to watch him break the record. I hope I get to watch him win it all in March. Go Heels!


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