The power of public humiliation (5×8 – 2/1/13)

YouTube vs. the thieves of Brainerd, the coupon clipper’s big haul, Alec Soth’s Oil Patch, when failure was an option, and it gets worse in San Francisco.


It’s getting so you can’t even be an inconspicuous thief, anymore.

In Brainerd, someone stole a server’s tips at the The Sunshine Kitchen & Moonshine Lounge. A single mother of two lost between $70 and $100.

But little did the thieves know that the owners — Phil Holbrook and Matt Taylor — knew YouTube and weren’t afraid to use it.

The Star Tribune’s Paul Walsh reports the thieves’ identities have now been turned over to the cops. But, as usual, it’s the response of the community that should get some attention.

People have stopped in and left money for Kristy,” he said. Some patrons, after already tipping their server, have paused on the way out and said, ” ‘Hey, could you give Kristy this $10, too?’ ” he added.


A University of Minnesota senior has figured out how to help battered women with all the coupons in the paper. Yesterday, Lindsay Gorelick delivered goodie bags of needed items to the Harriet Tubman Center, all products she got with coupons — $3,000 worth of items while spending just $38.

She posted her plan on Reddit this week and became a hit on the social media site.


Minneapolis native and photographer Alec Soth has been traveling the Oil Patch of North Dakota for the New York Times. “We have these pictures in our head of what an oil boom looks like,” he says. “And the fact is the real world never looks like those things.”

The impact on North Dakota has been well documented, but, perhaps, never more beautifully.

Here’s a little more on the artist…

And be sure to go back and read this 2004 piece on Mr. Soth by MPR’s Marianne Combs.


Ten years ago today, the Columbia space shuttle burned up over Texas on re-entry, killing seven astronauts aboard. The greatest scientific minds on the planet were no match for a piece of foam the size of a briefcase that put a hole in the spacecraft when it was launched.

Today, ABC News is reporting that experts on earth knew there was a good chance the break-up would happen, and they spent the mission deciding whether they should tell the seven astronauts what might happen.

They decided not to.

ABC, and other media organizations, are basing their reports on the blog of Wayne Hale, who was the space shuttle program manager at NASA and now retired. It’s a fabulous blog with tremendous first-person details about what happened, including the moment when a flight controller realized the shuttle might have been damaged on liftoff:

Immediately we called Linda Ham in Houston. As chairman of the MMT, she was the senior person to be notified in an event like this. Linda picked up the phone in her JSC office and shortly put us on the speaker so that Ron Dittemore, whose office was next to hers, could join in. Bob described what was seen and asked if they knew of any way to get more data. Since we did not have a robot arm on Columbia for that flight, there was no way to look at the front or underside of the wing. No one mentioned EVA and if one of us had thought of it, the likelihood is that we would not have agreed to take that risk – spacewalks always involve risk – on such slim grounds.

We agreed that Bob would extract a video clip of the strike and email it that day to all parties who might be concerned. After we hung up the phone, I felt I had done my duty by informing program management and ensuring the data would be distributed to the engineers who could perform the analysis. Bob pressed me to discuss options about how to get more data about possible damage to the wing; those options were severely limited.

Sometime after Bob left my office, Linda and I had another short phone conversation in which she told me that Bob was an excitable guy. I had to agree; he was pretty excited. But it seemed to be justified, rather than a reason to downplay the concern. Then she delivered the sentence that would define the rest of the tragedy; a sentence that was repeated as common wisdom by almost every senior manager that I talked to over the next two weeks: ‘You know, if there was any real damage done to the wing, there is nothing we can do about it.’ As unsettling as that was, I had to agree; going back to the first shuttle flight it had been well known that there was no way to repair the heat shield in flight. Nobody, not even me, thought about a rescue mission. Why would we?

Hale tweeted this morning that the news organizations have blown his comments out of proportion, but the other insight seems solid: NASA had become an agency that refused to acknowledge the possibility of failure, where individual expertise was overwhelmed by group-think.

His post yesterday on the lessons learned from the disaster, should be hung on the wall of every company in America.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, this is my favorite:

Dissention (sic)has tremendous value.

“If we are all in agreement on the decision – then I propose we postpone further discussion of this matter until our next meeting to give ourselves time to develop disagreement and perhaps gain some understanding of what the decision is all about.” – Charles E. Wilson (GM CEO circa 1950). If you don’t have dissention, then you haven’t examined the problem closely enough. If there is not a natural troublemaker in your group, appoint a devil’s advocate. Make sure the ‘devil’ is smart and articulate – just like the namesake. Draw people out; make them participate; don’t let them get away with silence.


Dan Savage, the man who came up with the “It Gets Better” campaign after the suicide of a Minnesota teen, is kicking the San Francisco 49ers out of it.

His action comes after the 49ers rallied around a player who said he would not welcome a gay player in the team’s locker room.

So last night, Savage announced he’s deleted this 49ers video from the It Gets Better website. Two of the players in the video, when asked about the comments of their teammate and the video in which they appeared, denied making it, unaware, apparently, it had a gay target audience.

Bonus I: Army Staff Sgt. Justin Gallegos was killed in Afghanistan in 2009 when his son was just 5. For his ninth birthday this year, his boy wrote a letter to his father with 10 questions.

“I wanted to write a letter because I wanted to know more about my dad and to show that I didn’t forget him and to show that I also love him,” said Mac, the boy.

He said he wanted to get the letter “as close to Heaven” as possible. So an F-22 pilot delivered it.

(h/t: Matt Black)

Bonus II: This was a good morning to recall an old article on why the newspaper carrier is still the hardest-working person in the news business.

Bonus III: Ed Koch, the former mayor of New York, has died.

Bonus IV: Quite possibly the most compelling story you read today. Photographer Hannah Stonehouse Hudson shares memories of her husband, Jim, who died last Saturday when he fell through the ice on Lake Superior. (Pioneer Press)


The Super Bowl is expected to draw a record audience again this year, meaning that it will have more viewers than any previous broadcast in U.S. history. Today’s Question: What is it about the Super Bowl that viewers find so compelling?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: Weekly roundtable panelists examine how to be a leader.

Second hour: The effect of adverse childhood events.

Third hour: Is technology the enemy of the middle class?

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): To mark the beginning of Black History Month: An American RadioWorks documentary “Mandela: An Audio History.” (Feb 2, 1990 is date South African president FW DeKlerk announced Nelson Mandela would be released from prison.)

Science Friday (1-2 p.m.) – Do the comments made on a website change your view of the news?

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – This week, med tech companies in Minnesota and elsewhere had to make their first payment of an excise tax levied on medical device sales. Minnesota’s medical device companies are blaming the tax for recent rounds of layoffs but there’s little chance they can get the tax repealed. MPR’s Martin Moylan will have the story.

MPR’s Euan Kerr will provide an update on the controversy surrounding an upcoming concert by locked-out musicians in Minneapolis.

  • Robert Moffitt

    #3 I’ve been a big fan of Alec Soth for years. Great idea sending him to document the Oil Patch boom. Reminds me of the great Depression-era photos rural Americans.

    #5) Honestly, if an NFL team in San Francisco can’t be a little gay-friendly, where can they be?(shakes head)

  • kcmarshall

    Bonus I: “Have you seen what I have accomplished?” tears…

  • kennedy

    One of the best blog collections ever. Heart warming, tear jerking, and thought provoking. Well done.

  • Disco

    Please help Kristy. She is a poor single mother who works for the minimum wage.


    Her employer who pays her the minimum wage

  • Bob Collins

    I just fell to #2 on the list of most cynical people on the planet.

  • Disco


    You don’t see any irony in this quotation from the restaurant owner?

    “It’s one thing if someone was trying to steal from us, but from one of our servers — they get paid minimum wage and tips. It’s just horrible.”

    He is eliciting sympathy for his minimum-wage employee in a tacit admission that the minimum wage isn’t enough. She is a minimum-wage employee because he has chosen to pay her the minimum wage.

    It’s commendable that he went to this effort to get evidence on these two losers. But it would have been better if he’d simply cheered the catching of the scofflaws like the rest of us, and left her low earnings out of it.

  • JSK

    ^He does make a really good point.

  • BJ

    Oh snap – I had a really great comeback about server pay. Lost to the winds of the internet.

    Something like – server pay is based on tips – 5 tables per hour at $20 check per table is between $10-20 per hour.

  • Drae

    Re: #5

    Reading the link, it sounds like the 49er organization wants to show their support for the LGBT community, but it seems this policy hasn’t quite reached the locker room. I think the office has some work cut out for themselves. Like other businesses, NFL teams need to have players engaging with the community. If the 49ers don’t deal with this quickly, they could have some protesters on their hands in the form of demonstrations, or worse – season ticket holders cancelling, major local sponsors withdrawing support. Lots of money the organization could lose because their players don’t know when to keep their mouths shut.

    I think I’m going to stick with rooting for Beyonce. You go, Girl!

  • Drae

    Believe it or not, not all business owners are looking to screw over their employees. It’s real easy to complain that restaurant servers should be paid more than minimum wage. Complaining doesn’t cost anything.

    It’s another thing to pay the bill. In the food industry, margins are everything. Higher wages for servers is money that some restaurants just don’t have. So raising their starting wage would mean cutting jobs or raising prices and then they run the risk of losing customers over the higher pricing. My guess is a cafe in Brainerd is one such restaurant.

    Servers know they work for tips and between the hourly wage and the tips, they average above the minimum wage. Of course, customers can take it upon themselves to ensure their server is adequately compensated for their hard work. You can even go further and let management know what a great job they did.

  • Tim

    I don’t know — tipping isn’t standard in many other countries, and yet their restaurants still manage to stay in business despite paying their servers more, so I have trouble buying the low margins argument.

    I’m pretty free with my tips — I typically tip around 20% — but I also think it’s a silly and outdated practice that shouldn’t be necessary. Disco’s comment might have been harsh, but it wasn’t unfair.

  • Drae

    @ Tim –

    Servers are getting paid a higher hourly wage in other countries, but at the expense of no tips. And what does that average then, in US dollars? Is the cost of living higher or lower in these countries? Are wholesale food prices higher or lower than in the US?

    Are some business owners jerks who underpay their employees? Sure. But if these two owners in Brainerd were jerks, I don’t think they’d have made this sort of effort on behalf of one of their employees.

    Bob’s point was that it’s worth noting the wonderful response of the people of Brainerd in rallying to this server, but instead this has been turned into an opportunity to bash the employers. I think that’s pretty sad.