Five at 8 – 1/5/10: The grumpy generation

1) Why are you dissatisfied with your job? The Conference Board has issued its annual survey of job dissatisfaction and found it at record lows. It blames it on the recession, but the index has been dropping for 20 years. “It says something troubling about work in America. It is not about the business cycle or one grumpy generation,” says Linda Barrington, managing director of human capital at the Conference Board. It does say something, but what? The Board says it comes down to interest, pay, and health care. One telling statistic: Only 56 percent of those surveyed like their co-workers. Only 51 percent say their satisfied with their boss.

How satisfied with you with your job?(polls)

If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?

2) Why do we fight the weather so? It is January. It is Minnesota. It is cold. This morning, one of the morning TV “news” shows’ weathermen is standing in International Falls to inform the rest of the world that it is January, it is Minnesota, and it is cold. That’s not always bad news, especially in International Falls, as this story from MPR’s Tom Robertson told us almost a year ago to the date, when it was also Minnesota, January, and cold.

During the 90s, cold weather testing was a $9 million industry, employing some 500 people. Now, the economic impact is less clear. The state no longer keeps track of that employment and revenue data.

There’s still plenty of cold weather testing activity going on in the region. Baudette, Bemidji, Cass Lake and a few other communities all host private test facilities. But Nevanen said the low-key nature of the business makes it difficult to quantify.

Besides, it’s good sleeping weather.

A picture of Minnesota? How about this one from the Prior Lake American? The sun is setting, and a kid is practicing his wrist shot. Just as it should be.

3) The highly intelligent comments we get on News Cut are proof that if news Web sites really cared about providing valuable reader insight, they could. Here’s a comment on City Pages attached to a story about the death of Deborah Howell over the weekend. Does this comment say more about the writer, or about City Pages?

Good Riddance to Deborah Howell. The New Zealander who struck and killed her on January 2 is a hero to whom Washington DC expresses gratitude.

Howell’s shamelessly wicked bias at the Washington Post from 2005 until 2008 was abhorrent and disgusting. She was a genocidal anti-American traitor who advocated, in her WP Sunday ombudsman column, on behalf of Hezbollah during the Lebanon War in 2006.

American journalism and media are now much better off that she is dead.

Her despicably evil soul is now where it belongs — burning in the fires of hell beyond the end of time — in the company of Satan and Saddam Hussein — and those who perpetrated the genocide which Howell championed in 2006.

I’ve seen this from both sides. When my father in law died recently, a very similar comment was posted to his obituary. His crime? He was a Republican. Never mind that he was an old-style (socially liberal; fiscally conservative) Republican. Where’s the decency on the part of the writer? Where’s the decency on the part of the media, that so fanatically trades it for a page view?

Melinda Henneberger’s, editor of Politics Daily, says the psychopaths come from both sides of the political spectrum and wonder what we’re turning into and why a responsible media would want to help us get there?(h/t: Vince Tuss)

4) Minnesota Twins fans are the sixth-most-happy fans in all of baseball, the Hardball Times reports today. This assumes the Twins sign Joe Mauer to a contract extension.

Meanwhile, here are some pictures from yesterday’s ceremony marking the completion of Target Field.

5) Critical thinking? Who needs critical thinking?


Anyone who’s lived here a few years has plenty of strategies for getting through the winter. But days like these call for fresh ideas. What’s your best cold-weather survival tip?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Will politics change in 2010?

Second hour: The year in science.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Former Vice President Walter Mondale.

Second hour: A debate from the Intelligence Squared series: “Is America to Blame for Mexico’s Drug War?”

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Dan Hurley, author of “Diabetes Rising: How a Rare Disease Became a Modern Pandemic.”

Second hour: Inventor Dean Kamen, the father of the Segway, and a host of medical


All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – President Obama is going to announce changes to the air security system this afternoon. NPR will provide reports from New York, Detroit, and Los Angeles about changes passengers have or haven’t seen since the Christmas Day incident in Detroit.

Meanwhile, calls out the Department of Homeland Security today:

“Since their hurried and heavily politicized creation, the fact is that neither the priorities nor the spending patterns of the Department of Homeland Security and its junior partner, the Transportation Security Administration, has ever been subject to serious scrutiny. They have never been forced to make hard choices. On the contrary, both have been encouraged, by their congressional funders, to spend money on more elaborate equipment every year in reaction to every perceived new threat, real or otherwise. So full-body scanners, unacceptable as recently as last summer, will now be rushed into use. In just a few years–under a Republican administration and mostly Republican congresses–these institutions thus grew into vast, unruly bureaucracies, some of whose activities bear only a distant relationship to public safety.”

  • John O.

    #3: The internet has empowered a group of narrow-minded people with (generally) narrow vocabularies whose comments are made behind a cloak of total anonymity on many websites.

    Most of the people making these types of comments would never, EVER have the courage to say the same thing face-to-face if given the opportunity. Even after several rounds at Happy Hour.

    As one individual, if comment sections went away, it would not bother me a bit. I enjoy debating some of the issues of the day online (as do many others). But some of the swill that is presented has to make you stop and wonder where we are headed as a society in the long haul. Nowhere is this more evident than when the recently-departed are ripped.

    If Deborah Howell had been your garden-variety 68-year-old retiree who had worked at the local library or a nondescript office, few would have probably noticed. But since she was a journalist with an extensive resume, and two sons who are visible within our community, some seem to believe this gives them a free pass to castigate.

  • Mac Wilson

    City Pages takes pride in not pulling comments, even those with explicitly racist language or unfathomably vicious personal attacks. The Greenway assault video thread was promptly filled with racist language; this became a cause de celebre for City Pages editors, who said that removing the comments would cause the discussion to suffer. There are vile Internet goons on both ends of the spectrum, but to answer your question, the fact that this comment is still on their site 2 days later says much more about the integrity & human decency of City Pages.

  • Bob Collins

    Under that theory, if someone spray paints the “N word” on the side of a building, if the owner removes it, he’s causing the discussion to suffer.

    Under my interpretation — and I think your, Mac — if a building owner leaves it up, he’s a racist pig, too.

  • BJ

    I think the city pages editors and staff could use a viewing of the “Critical thinking” video. Holding a position that editing or pulling comments is ‘bad’ for the discussion, is a belief that has no proof.

    Regularly pulling comments might lead to pulling to many, but not pulling them at all leads to nothing good.

    A few people yelling on line is not a discussion, it is a few people yelling a VERY minor position.

  • Brian F

    I might go so far as to argue that the discussion suffers BECAUSE such comments are not removed. If I have to wade through all sorts of filth to filter out the thoughtful comments to a story, I’m less likely to contribute myself, for a variety of reasons, not least of which is that there IS no actual discussion occurring.

    If all I want to do is post self-absorbed, bigoted crap, I’m not interested in a discussion. I’m just trying to elicit a (preferably outraged) response. That’s the very definition of a troll, and policies like those of the City Pages editorial staff encourage that type of behavior.

    I have seen some sites that allow readers to give each post a thumb up or a thumb down, and if a post receives a certain number of negative ratings, it is not removed, but is hidden from view by default. Every once in a while I take a look at those comments, and they are invariably of the “Good riddance Deborah Howell” variety. I think this sort of system is a reasonable compromise, because it doesn’t remove the negative comments (and the valuable insight they add to the discussion!), but has largely the same effect because, while individuals excitedly exhibit their idiocy, the masses actually do value thoughtfulness and civil discourse.

  • Noelle

    I enjoy reading the comment threads on certain websites, though I definitely think that pulling belligerent or clearly disrespectful comments keeps the discussion healthier. Comments like that only rile up others and increase the possibility that more people will lash out in the same way.

    Many blogs I follow regularly remove comments that aren’t constructive in some way. I feel like I get so much more out of the comment threads on those sites…not only do I tend to learn something new, but I don’t get angered by comments that are unnecessarily destructive.

    Thanks Bob for fostering a community that breeds so many intelligent commentators! I read News Cut as much for the posts as I do for the comments.

  • teej

    I agree with Brian. I enjoy civilized back-and-forth commentary, but comment threads are so often derailed or completely owned by spittle-flecked psychos that I don’t participate most of the time (see for examples.) Fostering a decent commentary is definitely an active proposition, and it is not the same thing as free speech.

    Nobody is stopping the crazies from establishing their own places to howl at the moon, but that doesn’t mean you have to let them do it in your book club. The atmosphere here at MPR is really nice.

  • Heather

    Spittle-flecked! Hah! Nice one, teej.

    I agree that vitriol is a turn-off. If I start reading comments anywhere and that’s the tone, I stop. And there’s evidence this morning that the Strib has had to pull some comments on the story about the farmer in WI who was killed in a tractor accident. What is the matter with people?

    I make a point of reading comments here, and on the Motherlode blog at Somehow, these are two spots online where folks have their opinions and can state them in interesting ways without being total jerks. Thank you, Bob, for keeping the sandbox nice.

  • Brian F

    The Strib’s is one of many sites where I make a point of avoiding the comments altogether. It would be interesting to see what would happen if they removed the privilege of leaving one’s 2 cents on every news item. What sort of uproar would there be?

    I don’t have evidence for it, but I expect that people would bristle at the thought of “losing” their “right” to post their comments online. I know we’ve gotten used to interacting online, but most of us can also remember when we had to go through the effort of writing a letter and mailing it, then waiting – gasp! – entire DAYS before seeing our words in print.

    It’s an odd phenomenon, because while in many cases (NewsCut, for instance) the ability to have nearly instant communication with others is fruitful, the majority of statements (mine included, I’m sure) in web-based interactions fall into the “who cares?” category.

  • momkat

    News Cut is one of the few places where the comments don’t degenerate into name calling. Thanks for that, Bob. I follow Time mag’s Swampland mostly for Karen Tumulty; she like Bob will respond in comments which is great. But if the trolls start taking over, i’m done.

    Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish doesn’t have comments but he can be emailed and he will post reader comments when he thinks they have value. Another way to handle the highjackers.