Beyond gluttons and sloths (5×8 – 9/19/12)

It’s not just personal responsibility in the fat biz, the over credentialization of our culture, return of the Babe, do we care how the Romney tape came to light, and turning good teachers into great teachers.


We’re fat and getting fatter.

A new report says more than half of Minnesota and Wisconsin residents will be obese by 2030; that’s about twice the current svelte rate.

Why are we so porky? We’re not innocent victims.

The Duluth News Tribune, for example, provides some insight to people’s resistance to simple steps that would not make our weight quite so embarrassing.

Efforts aren’t just geared toward schoolchildren. The Complete Streets resolution that the City Council passed in 2009 is designed to encourage walking, bicycling and use of mass transit, said Jim Skoog, St. Louis County public health educator. Because many streets have inadequate sidewalks or lack sidewalks, the network pedestrians can use to get around is incomplete. The idea is to complete the network, he said.

But specific projects have met resistance. The Glenwood Street project was approved on a 5-4 vote after residents objected to plans for sidewalks and bike lanes. But the council voted 5-4 against construction of new sidewalks on Ivanhoe Street, Skoog noted.

Over in South Dakota, the obesity rate will be more than 60%, the study says, making it the obesity capital of the upper Midwest. It’s only slightly less so in North Dakota.

How did this happen? “This goes way beyond personal responsibility,” one researcher says.


What was your SAT (or ACT) score? The chances are that you don’t remember. But if you want a job in the legal profession, it might be a good idea to look it up. The blog, Above The Law carries details about firms that are asking for SAT/ACT scores to weed out “those people” who shouldn’t be general counsels.

It strikes me as obnoxious that any employer would want to see the SAT scores you compiled a lifetime ago when they have three to seven years of your actual work experience staring them right in the face. If anything, should these firms just test their applicants now instead of reaching into the way back machine for SAT scores? If your mastery of SAT math is really necessary to be a lawyer for these guys, shouldn’t it be your current mastery of the concepts, not the understanding you had when you were 16 years old and trying to score well enough to follow your boyfriend to UT?

Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure we’re going to see more of this because of the general over credentialization of our culture. At this point, you need a college degree to tend bar, you need a law degree to gestate a baby, and you need to be a doctor in order to sell soft drinks.


The Fabulous Sports Babe is back. Nanci Donnellan was a pioneer in the testosterone-dominated world of sportstalk radio. She was the first female host of a national sports talk show. How big was she? She was even a guest on a Minnesota Public Radio program. About sports. She loved opera. She could’ve easily been a guest up on the Classical side of MPR. There was an actual person behind the persona.

And then she disappeared.

Grantland has found her and provides a glimpse into what happened in a fascinating glimpse into what happens when someone develops a persona:

“She drew such a stark line between the character and herself,” said Karlen, who later worked at Minnesota Public Radio. “There were things she wouldn’t discuss. It was like the Berlin Wall. You just didn’t go there. She really did not want to break out of the Babe mode. She really had a fully developed character.

“She was ruthlessly not Nanci Donnellan,” Karlen said.

“She was sort of a fugitive of herself,” he added.


Colleague Eric Ringham writes today’s MPR commentary and asks whether anyone is concerned about the manner in which the infamous Romney fundraiser video surfaced. He uses as an example, the Obama “guns and religion” audio secretly taped in 2008. That was obtained by (former) Huffington Post contributor Mayhill Fowler.

Fowler commented on Ringham’s treatise:

Yes, we should be concerned about how the Romney comments surfaced. (Even though he was stupid, in the digital age, to have said something that his campaign wouldn’t be comfortable appearing on YouTube.) In my case, the Obama Campaign people whom I knew in California were happy that I would be reporting about the event. I had reported on Obama fundraisers previously. How could any of us have known that he would say something so different from what he had been saying on the campaign trail days before, in PA, where I had been reporting? As for Marc Cooper, he is often in my thoughts and prayers, although he and my other “boss” Amanda Michel defriended me on Facebook after the election. I cried over that for months, a humiliating admission for a 60-something (doing here only because Minnesotans were so friendly and helpful during the 2008 Republican Convention). I am 66 now–what’s the point other than the truth?

Over to you, Hodgman:


What if teachers were penalized for poor student performance?

NPR reports on research that gauges whether giving teachers money upfront, and taking it away if students fail to achieve, works.

“Teachers who were paid in advance and [were] asked to give the money back if their students did not perform — their [students’] test scores were actually out of the roof: two to three times higher than the gains of the teachers in the traditional bonus group,” a researcher claims.

Bonus: Because it beats having kids digging in the trash for food.


Scholars say they may have found written evidence that suggests Jesus was married and had a woman disciple. Today’s Question: How would a discovery that Jesus was married affect your understanding of Christianity?


Daily Circuit (9-12 p.m.) – First hour: The defense budget.

Second hour: The Archon Genomics X Prize.

Third hour: Science fiction’s future.

MPR News Presents (12-1 pm): From America Abroad, “The Next President: Foreign Policy Challenges.” Ray Suarez is the host.

Talk of the Nation (1-2 p.m.) – The Political Junkie.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Fall is harvest time, but for Ron Bowen, the harvest is a little unusual. He’s a 40-year veteran of prairie restoration and he’ll harvest seeds to create new prairie. MPR’s Dan Olson will have the tale.

For years, it’s not been easy being a Democrat in the Deep South. And this election seems no different. So how are Democrats planning to regain relevance in such red territory? NPR takes a look at their strategies.

  • Chuck

    The story about Friday food bags really choked me up. The man’s quote about being thanked for that food rings very true for me. My wife works for Feed My Starving Children, a local organization that sends food to starving children worldwide. Every year they hold a gala fund-raiser, with a speaker from one of their distribution partners abroad. The speaker puts a human face on the story of kids who otherwise probably would die receiving that food and living to fight another day. To hear the speaker’s heartfelt thanks for life-saving food is the best feeling, and I don’t even work for FMSC! So thanks for another reminder that good people are working all over to help others, whatever their motivations.

  • This is the fist time I know about Friday bag food program. It’s so impressive. I will pay more attention about this. I think I can give a hand in some ways. Thanks for valuable share!

  • Jim Shapiro

    Re The Romney Tape Again –

    The blatant self interest, arrogance and insecurity of a journalist questioning the source of information would be laughable if it wasn’t so frustrating.

    Perhaps some “real” journalists should reconsider their choice of profession and instead enter the priesthood,

    so that they alone can offer the sacrament of truth to their flock.

  • Bob Collins

    I am slowly coming to the realization that you don’t read a lot of the things you comment on, Jim.

    Eric asked several questions and good ones:

    Are we really willing to misrepresent ourselves to get a story? Do we have no problem at all with bugging a meeting room? And if we’re willing to do that, what’s to stop us from hacking into somebody’s phone?

    If your answer to them is “yes,” why not just reinforce your point with a solid and rational reason why rather than belittling the person asking the question?

    I think the advantages of the “citizen journalist” are pretty obvious. However, part of me still wants to know who that “journalist” is and what he/she had to do to get in the room, short of paying the $50,000 fee to get there.

    It’s difficult, I understand, to have this conversation around an election, but — for more my liberal friends — I’ll just point out that these are some of the same questions that were asked after NPR got ensnared by James O’Keefe.

    These questions also get back to long-standing ethical considerations on the part of journalists — real or imagined — and raises, again, the question of whether there are or whether there should be varying ethical standards for a journalist vs. a citizen journalist?

    In order to have that conversation, however, one has to separate oneself from the treasure that the tactics may have yielded.

  • BJ

    Thanks for the Friday Bag program information. I almost missed it. I know that in Robbinsdale’s District – Robbinsdale Area Schools – that Bonfire Ministry and PRISM are providing a similar program.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Bob – actually, I did read the piece.

    Eric had already made the finer points, most of which I agree with.

    My clearly (?) hyperbolic comment, which I stand by, is that journalists open themselves to justifiable criticism when they question the sources of information that was obtained but someone not formally in the “biz”.

    Disseminating the “truth” should be one of the primary goals of all genuine journalistic endeavors – be they professional or from the “citizenry”

    and just as the ethical journalist should be extremely circumspect regarding the importance of presenting a genuine face when getting a story (with debatable “ends justifies means” exceptions),

    he or should should also be extremely careful about complaining when the “truth” is obtained through an informal source.

  • Bob Collins

    Because there are so many people more interested in taking cheap shots rather than engaging in discussing the very real questions?

    “Be careful.” What does that even MEAN if not “don’t ask the questions”?

  • Jim Shapiro

    Bob- “”Be careful.” What does that even MEAN if not “don’t ask the questions”?”

    Good point. Paradoxically, who will ask the question of valid sources via the “major” media if not a professional journalist?

    Perhaps what I am asking for is some semblance of professional humility, or a least a caveat feigning some.


  • Bob Collins

    // some semblance of professional humility, or a least a caveat feigning some. ๐Ÿ™‚

    So you’re saying by asking serious questions, he’s showing a lack of humility. What would you characterize someone not answering those serious questions?]

    and how would this “don’t ask questions because you won’t appear to be humble” differ from, say, not asking questions because you don’t want to appear unpatriotic?

  • Jim Shapiro

    Bob – My REFINED point ( thanks for the prodding)

    Is that while the question of the validity of how and by whom source material is gathered arguably should be asked,

    Professional journalists are in the unenviable position of potentially – accurately or not – being assumed to have ulterior motives in asking it.

    One way to allay those concerns would be to include some sort of a caveat when discussing the legitimacy of sources.

    Perhaps something along the lines of, “Hey,I have to bust my ass to get a good story and then some jerk with a camera on his cell phone breaks a huge development, so what the hell did I go to J school for, huh?!?” ๐Ÿ™‚

    Regarding a journalist not asking questions because they wouldn’t want to appear unpatriotic –

    until the government of our country starts jailing or killing journalists,

    not to ask a question for fear of appearing unpatriotic would be the height of conformity and cowardice.

    Good thing there aren’t any “real” journalists like that, huh? ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Bob Collins

    We’re trying to put serious questions for discussion and you don’t seem to want to engage in one. You’ve made your point.

    Closing comments