Five at 8 – 7/17/09

I usually start writing Five at 8 around 6 in the morning but today I’m starting at 5, so this might be a tad short today, especially since Mrs. News Cut and I were out late at the Arlo Guthrie concert at the Fitz. That nobody reviewed the concert in the dailies — Beyonce is much bigger — is, itself, a great review of the state of music.

So no promises here. I have to be at the University of Minnesota by 8 to speak to one of the National Scholastic Press Association’s summer high school journalism workshop sessions.

So let’s start our day with a little hope. Journalism is one of the worst professions in America right now. But kids still want to go into it. Moreover, they (and their teachers) want to get up early and spend a few days in the Twin Cities during their summer vacations to talk about doing it better. That’s hope. And I have no intention to tell them anything but America needs them to get into the business as soon as they can.

On to Friday!


1) Let’s consider life outside the cubicle farm. Cowboy Cadillac. They’re not riding horses much anymore on the ranches of the Great Plains. They’re flying airplanes. Watch a video of the life of Cindi and Travis Nelson of Montana. Don’t try to start the video by clicking the player above; it’s just a screenshot.

How about living this guy’s life for a day?

Day-dreaming discussion: If you weren’t doing the job you’re doing, what job would you be doing? Answer below, please.

On the job front, 215 Delta Airlines pilots have decided they’ll take the buyout and go do something else. Here’s the thing: Almost all of them are Northwest Airlines pilots.

2) Continuing our observance of the Apollo moon mission. Be sure to listen to Tom Crann’s talk with Buzz Aldrin.

A lot of people don’t know this, but the race to the moon was a sprint in its final stages. The trip that’s being recreated now on doesn’t entirely recreate the suspense. Little known, for some reason, is that the Soviets had a spacecraft racing toward the moon at the same time. It was unmanned, but it was thought the Soviets would try to land on the moon, scoop up some rocks, and come back, thus winning the “race to the moon.” Even as Apollo 11 circled the moon, the Soviets made their move. It didn’t work.

The rest is history, history which the Pew Research Center reports fewer people care about.

As soon as we finish with the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11, we can move on to the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. It might be harder to find people who remember it, however. But if you were there, contact me.

3) Beyond the “wise Latina” angle in the Sotomayor hearings: Where is the line between an application of the law and the point at which world view and life experiences comes into play? There has to be such a point. We’re humans and if being a judge were merely an academic and intellectual exercise, well, we can write computer programs to do that.

Two people go to the same law school and end up facing each other in court on opposite sides. All things being equal, why do they have two different interpretations of the same law? Take two people on the Supreme Court who are usually on opposite sides of the law. Same law. But consistently different opinions. Why?

Lane Wallace digs into this a bit with her essay, The Myth of Objectivity, on The Atlantic Web site:

I’ve never met Sonia Sotomayor. I can’t see inside her head. But for the past 20 years, I have worked as a female journalist and writer in the field of aviation–a field that is not only 94% male, but has maintained that percentage, unchanged, for the past 50 years. (The percentage of female commercial pilots within that 6% has increased over time, but the overall male/female ratio has remained pretty constant.) And that experience has taught me a lot about “norms”, assumptions, lenses, and bias.

I remember reading somewhere that power politics are always better understood by those on the bottom than those on the top. A large part of the reason for that is, if you’re in the majority of a system, industry, or group, surrounded by people who share your experience and views, the world as it is doesn’t look out of place, manufactured, or tilted in your favor. It looks normal. But if you’re a minority, you are always aware that your experiences, view and perspective are different. So you can’t possibly mistake any of that for some kind of accepted norm or pure, objective truth.

Read her piece and discuss.

4) What does Maine know that the rest of us should’ve learned long ago. How to be frugal, says the Boston Globe.

The art of living cheap is hard-wired into the regional DNA, a skill proudly passed down through the generations. Here, where hardened farmers and fishermen have been long battered by economic squalls, and incomes have lagged well behind the rest of New England, bargain-hunting and bartering are practices widely embraced.

It’s great advice if you feel like heading out in the old Ford Aerostar to pick some fiddlehead ferns to can this weekend. For those of who don’t, we’ll have to keep looking.

Meanwhile, Joe Biden’s office has released an update on how the stimulus money is being spent. For Minnesota, comparatively little has been spent here. Here are a few tools for tracking the stimulus money in your area.

5) I don’t know how these words can’t be the top discussion topic in America today. They won’t be, I realize, but they should be:

We have to say to our children: ‘Yes, if you’re African-American, the odds of growing up amid crime and gangs are higher. Yes, if you live in a poor neighborhood, you will face challenges that someone in a wealthy suburb does not.’

“But that’s not a reason to get bad grades, that’s not a reason to cut class, that’s not a reason to give up on your education and drop out of school,” he said.

It’s President Obama’s first speech on race since becoming president. He channeled Bill Cosby during an appearance before the NAACP.

Visit for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

Aside from the message, it was fascinating to note Obama adopted an entirely different pacing and style for the speech.


For many Americans, access to health care depends on having an employer who offers it as part of a benefits package. Others may depend upon a spouse’s coverage. Does a fear of losing health care affect your decisions? How might your life be different if you didn’t have to worry about health care?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Among the biggest losers in this recession have been small businesses, who are being hit by decreased revenue and the loss of credit. Where’s the bailout, I mean stimulus, for them? Second hour: An FDA panel recommends sweeping restrictions on a widely used over the counter painkiller, acetamenophin, and eliminating prescription drugs such as Vicodin and Percocet. How will these limitations reframe the way doctors treat chronic pain and prevent addiction?

Midday (11 a.m. – 1p.m.) – Vice President Walter Mondale will be in the MPR studio with Gary Eichten. It was 25 years ago Saturday that Mr. Mondale was nominated for president.

That sends me down memory lane. It was 30 years ago this week that Mondale’s boss, Jimmy Carter, gave his “malaise” speech. Let’s see how well it stands the test of time:

Second hour of Midday: MPR sports analyst Howard Sinker will be in the studio to talk about the second half of the Minnesota Twins season.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – It’s Science Friday and nobody would think of talking science this week without devoting an hour to the Apollo astronauts. That’s the first hour. Second hour: Test Your Energy-Savings I-Q.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – NPR’s Eric Westervelt reviews a new film that brings up a taboo subject: The Red Army’s mass rape of German women in World War II. An estimated two million women were raped and the film’s release coincides with a psychological study of the effect of the rapes.