Five at 8 – 7/23/09

This is the last 5@8 for a week or so. I’m heading to Oshkosh for the annual aviation festival, AirVenture. I won’t be posting anything here but will be making regular postings on my aviation blog, Letters from Flyover Country.

1) Rep. Keith Ellison’s defense of his trip to Mecca, paid for by the Muslim American Society of Minnesota, is likely to spur a good debate. In a letter to the Star Tribune today, Ellison says it’s none of your business.

Privacy is not undiscovered dishonesty. Some things are private. For example, family and religion. My trip, which was not at taxpayer expense, and paid for by a nonprofit organization that does not lobby, was handled according to the House rules, which balance disclosure and privacy.

Should a politician disclose personal gifts even if the gifts clear ethics rules?(survey)

2) How do you know when newsroom cuts are affecting what ends up on your doorstep? When you see a correction like this one printed in the New York Times this week:

An appraisal on Saturday about Walter Cronkite’s career included a number of errors. In some copies, it misstated the date that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was killed and referred incorrectly to Mr. Cronkite’s coverage of D-Day. Dr. King was killed on April 4, 1968, not April 30. Mr. Cronkite covered the D-Day landing from a warplane; he did not storm the beaches. In addition, Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon on July 20, 1969, not July 26. “The CBS Evening News” overtook “The Huntley-Brinkley Report” on NBC in the ratings during the 1967-68 television season, not after Chet Huntley retired in 1970. A communications satellite used to relay correspondents’ reports from around the world was Telstar, not Telestar. Howard K. Smith was not one of the CBS correspondents Mr. Cronkite would turn to for reports from the field after he became anchor of “The CBS Evening News” in 1962; he left CBS before Mr. Cronkite was the anchor. Because of an editing error, the appraisal also misstated the name of the news agency for which Mr. Cronkite was Moscow bureau chief after World War II. At that time it was United Press, not United Press International.

(h/t: Nick Young)

Apparently the writer is well known for goofs — people actually kept track of her streak of X number of days without a mistake — but this is the New York Times.

3) The pigs among us. Out in Worthington they’re on a veritable archaeological dig, trying to figure out the people who are plaguing the area by dumping trash along the side of the road.

Says the Worthington Township chairman:

“I told one of the other township members we might as well buy a big wagon and create a collection,” he said. “This is something that’s going to be ongoing, the way it looks to me.

“Last spring we had to go around and we picked up 30-some televisions, 20-some microwaves and some vacuum cleaners — a whole farm wagon plumb full,” said (Tim_ Blume. “The county really treated us good on that one.”

I’ll try to swing by Pt. Douglas Road in St. Paul on the way in. Last time I checked, there were mattresses strewn around a sign that warned against illegal dumping.

It an issue that’s an open invitation to an enterprising TV station looking for one of those “hidden camera” stories. Like this one in New Orleans that caught a guy dumping portable toilet waste into a storm drain.

4) Science! A study says a pregnant woman’s exposure to pollution can lower a child’s IQ by 4 points by age 5.

Bad news: An artificial brain is still 10 years away.

5) Health care followup. Given that it’s a local angle, it’s surprising today to see that no local news organizations picked up on President Obama’s swing-and-a-miss on the Mayo Clinic’s criticism of the health care reform plan in Washington. See last night’s live blog. Of course, any online poll is decidedly not scientific — especially this one — but 75% of those who took the News Cut poll say they know little or nothing about the health plans being considered. A good discussion topic: If this is the number one domestic issue for voters, why not?

Meanwhile, the In the Loop boys have produced another video.


Barack Obama came into office riding one of the highest waves of popularity enjoyed by any new president in modern times. Lately, his approval rating has slipped. How are you measuring the success of President Obama?

Be sure to read the commentary on the arrest of “Skip” Gates.

They asked what I was doing. I explained that I had just been shopping. They demanded my ID — my driver’s license still showed my former address, but they allowed me to go into the house and bring out a bill with my name on it. Then they asked to look at the entire collection of IDs in my wallet. It took a while to convince them that I actually lived in that house.

Had I been a white person, I imagine no gun would’ve been drawn and hardly any questions would’ve been asked. The racism that afflicts many police departments across America is not going to go away with a departmental retreat or a couple of workshops.

Following up: The Boston Globe has an interview with the sergeant for the Cambridge Police Department. It turns out he was the officer who tried to save Boston Celtics star Reggie Lewis 16 years ago.


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: A discussion of the health care legislation. Second hour: Newly published research on monkeys’ diets suggest that a restricted-calorie diet could be the key for humans to live longer. How is scientific research changing our view of longevity, and will it give clues to how we will age in the future?

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – Todd Krause of the National Weather Service will be in the studio to answer questions about lightning, thunder, hail, tornadoes, drought and other summer happenings. Second hour: A speech by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Frank McCourt, who died Sunday.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: A discussion of the Gates arrest in Cambridge. Second hour: Shelf discovery: What’s the teen classic you still re-read?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – In Minneapolis some officials say the lower crime rates in the city are due to their policing activities and juvenile focus. MPR’s Brandt Williams will consider whether it’s as much because of a big change in housing on the North Side.

The minimum wage goes up 70 cents tomorrow. Quick! What’s the current minimum wage? NPR’s David Greene reports on the debate that never ends.

Owosso, Michigan will double in size this weekend. The Steam Railroading Institute is having what’s billed as a “once in a lifetime” gathering of railroad enthusiasts. NPR will have a story on it:

  • LK

    The incredible thing about ALESSANDRA STANLEY’s profile of Walter is that she probably had it in the can well before he died, right? If I made that many mistakes in something that I wrote, I’d be out of a job — and I’m not even a journalist.

  • Tyler
  • Joey Iverson

    I’d guess the public knows so little about the proposed health plan because news coverage has focused primarily on the political action surrounding it, with very little in-depth analysis of what is actually being proposed.

  • GregS

    Ellison’s trip to Mecca is no one’s business but his own.

    However, it is public concern that the trip of a Congressional Representative was paid for by someone else.

    The question is, why can’t Rep Ellison pay for his own trips?

    If I went to Rome, would I look for a Catholic public interest group to pay for my trip?

    If I did ask, why would they spend money on me? Do I have to be in Congress to get free trips?

    Members of Congress should take great pains to “avoid the perception” of impropriety, even if that mean shelling out for your own trips.

  • Elizabeth T


    not to enjoy the schadenfreude too much … but how does this record (100-odd days without error) compare to other journalists at the Times? Or MPR? Or any other professional source?

    Why isn’t anyone criticizing the copy editors? Not to detract from the writer’s errors … but this isn’t a one-woman show to get the paper published.


    How is Mr. Ellison’s constituency supposed to know he’s not being influenced by gifts, if we don’t know they’ve been made? I’m willing to accept it was given and taken in good faith – but that’s only true if I know which group sponsored this trip.

    I am a proponent of the public keeping out of some areas of a politician’s life. Especially religion! The fact he made the hajj is personal; the fact another group paid for it is related to his job. Even if the relationship is an ethical pass on its relevance.

    As GregS mentioned, I wouldn’t solicit some Catholic group to pay for a trip to Rome … but I’m not sure if it would make the news, either, if a Catholic (or Jew?) got a pilgrimage paid for, since my faith’s aren’t so organized. It would be easier to ‘hide’ it amongst another trip.

  • Bob Collins

    //Why isn’t anyone criticizing the copy editors?

    My point, obviously cleverly hidden, is that copy editors are among the people considered expendable in newsrooms these days. And this is the result.

    It’s not a very sexy job, perhaps. It just often spells the difference between getting correct and incorrect information.

  • JohnnyZoom

    >> It’s not a very sexy job, perhaps. It just often spells the difference between getting correct and incorrect information.

    Imagine a world where a job that did make that distinction was sexy. [g]

  • I’m glad some people see Ellison’s trip as an ethical problem. I’m sure they’ll all be happy to join me in calling for federal and state judges to stop taking free trips and vacations on the Federalist Society’s dime.

    We are only now emerging from decades of Republican corruption. I don’t feel threatened by Ellison’s trip to Mecca specifically, but I do feel very threatened by the fact that members of Congress accept free trips, reduced rent (not just Norm Coleman — the whole C Street crowd is taking charity from shadowy cult figures), and other deals not available to average people.