Five by 8 – 5/25/10: Transitions

1) If you usually come to 5×8 by your RSS reader — and even if you don’t — let me introduce you MPR’s series this week on jobs. It’s hardly an uplifting series, but these are not uplifting times. Maybe jobs that left won’t come back, and maybe we’re in a have/have-not world that’s never going to change. There’s tendency in these things to predict futures that look remarkably like the present. In the mid-’90s we were told the future problem was there wouldn’t be enough workers in Minnesota to sustain the companies doing business here. But, clearly, there are changes in our standard of living underway, and changes in the way we live. Maybe, as Nikki Tundel’s fine video piece suggests, we’re going back to the days of big families and multiple generations living under one roof. Swell.

But people are finding jobs. The Duluth News Tribune notes the unemployment rate in the region dropped a full percentage point, and even mining jobs are coming back.

Last year the unemployment rate in Hibbing was over 18 percent. Now, it’s around 8.

But some towns are dying. A manufacturing plant closed in Lewiston, Minnesota. Then the town’s only grocery store went belly up. Now the community’s “social center” — a bowling alley — has decided to close.

2) A Wisconsin woman is the new face of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” She’s worked for 8 years as an ROTC cadet to be a doctor. She’s close, but decided she had to reveal that she’s a lesbian.” I’ve dreamed since I was 13 of a career as a military officer,” Sara Isaacson said last week. “But I knew I wouldn’t be OK with myself if I had to lie every day.” Her honesty will cost her $79,000.

Or maybe not. A pact to repeal the ban could be announced this week.

James Fallows writes today that the deal could bring ROTC back to elite college campuses:

The case I know best is Harvard’s, where ROTC programs were forced off campus in the late 1960s as part of the general effort to register opposition to Vietnam war policies. That made sense at the time, at least to me. But what was initially intended as a focused objection to a specific war extended into a general separation between an important military intake system and some of the most elite universities. This separation is, in my view, bad for the military, bad for the universities, and bad for the country. Almost no one urging the anti-ROTC change of those days would have argued or imagined that 35 years after U.S. troops left Vietnam the ban should still be in place. As the original Vietnam-related rationale has faded into distant memory, the prohibition on ROTC has been sustained as an objection to the military’s exclusion of openly gay service members.

3) Wounded warriors and the power of a single photograph. Photographer Katie Hayes provides NPR with an essay from the Warrior Games.

From a bird’s-eye view on the catwalk over the pool at the Olympic Training Center, I could see that all of the swimmers had finished the race, except for one lone participant struggling in the middle of the pool. His pace slowed, his legs no longer kicked vigorously and he worked to keep his head above the water. As he reached out toward the lane divider, I lowered my camera, wondering if anyone was going to help him. A moment passed, he caught his breath, the crowd cheered louder and he started to swim again. And I picked up my camera.

4) MPR’s Paul Huttner examines the physics of baseball flight and the weather patterns to figure out that this could be a big week for home runs at Target Field. Whatever bounce we get from having a higher elevation than most stadiums, we lose because we get colder air and higher pressure. We are awaiting word on how hot and muggy it needs to get before the Twins can get a hit with runners in scoring position.


5) Big disaster. Beautiful pictures. The Boston Globe’s fine The Big Picture blog has a healthy new catch of sad pictures.

Bonus: Should history classes wade into the more sordid elements of our past, and if so, how far? In Georgia, a teacher is likely to be disciplined because she allowed four students to dress in KKK robes to film a video production of history re-enactments. The parents of an African American student objected. “You cannot discuss racism without discussing the Klan,” she told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. “To do so would be to condone their actions.”

Need more to think about?

The North Dakota policy on vanity license plates — the Fargo Forum says — puts a number of specific limitations on personal plates. For example, swear words and vulgarity, references to illegal drugs or activity, and racial or ethnic slurs are off-limits, as is a word or term that is “patently offensive or contemptuous, prejudicial, or incites lust, depravity, or hostility.”

So why can’t Brian Magee get the one he wants: ISNOGOD? Should he?


Officials have acknowledged that the government may have to take over the effort to plug the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico. Whose job should it be to stop the Gulf oil spill?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: The culture of unaccountability. President Obama denounced the “ridiculous spectacle” of BP executives trying to shift the blame for the Gulf oil spill, but there are many examples of CEOs and politicians failing to take accountability for their actions. Have we created a culture where it’s acceptable for no one to take the blame?

Second hour: New archeological evidence has revealed more information on what happened during the Battle at the Little Bighorn. Author Nathaniel Philbrick’s latest book details what we now know about how General George Custer died and why in some ways the battle marked Sitting Bull’s last stand as well.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: Congressman Jim Oberstar on the government and private sector response to the BP oil spill.

Second hour: President Obama’s commencement speech given this weekend at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: An evaluation of President Obama’s response to the gulf oil disaster.

Second hour: The story of the summer of 2001 – centered on the disappearance of a young Washington intern named Chandra Levy — the married congressman she was having an a affair with, and the media circus that erupted. A true story of bad politicians, worse policing, and a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative team.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Fox 9’s Robyn Robinson is scheduled to talk to Tom Crann this evening about the end of her Twin Cities news career. But it’s likely we’ll hear more about her possible candidacy for lieutenant governor of Minnesota.

MPR’s Annie Baxter will have an installment of the jobs series, looking at how people are making transitions to new careers.

NPR will have a story of rebirth in New Orleans that involves a Swedish import. The life of musician Anders Osborne echoes the renaissance of that ravaged city.

  • Have we created a culture where it’s acceptable for no one to take the blame?

    Unfortunately, I am reminded of the Family Circus, and the ghostly “Not Me”. “Not Me” seems prevalent in our culture today.

    This unfortunately cuts both ways, too, since it means not only are people getting away with things they should be responsible for, others are blamed and scapegoated in this culture, leading to resentment, anger, and increased tensions.

  • BJ

    Bob – everyday you find very interesting stuff for us to read. Thanks.