The evil of gossip (5×8-9/23/11)

A tribute to Eleanor Mondale, the homeless horseman, high school heroes, the marketing meat wagon, and the end of capitalism.


Today’s MPR commentary, by a friend of Eleanor Mondale, is as heartwarming a tribute to a pal as you’re likely to read anytime soon. Kim Kokich also takes a well-deserved swipe against gossip columnists who made Mondale, who died last week, a regular staple.

I read about her being a “wild child” and gossip magnet. Junk writing. She was a good, good person. She made mistakes, as we all do, but she was a family girl, a fair person and a hard worker.

I’ve been going through boxes of pictures, shoeboxes full of letters from her. Pictures of her with my first baby girl at the Chicago Zoo. Her emails are long gone, but her handwritten letters from Kenya, from Chicago, from New York, from L.A. — I’ve been reading them over and over.


Once, her parents were throwing a party at the vice president’s mansion and Andy Warhol was there. I hadn’t planned to stay, but she wanted me to. I hadn’t anything appropriate to wear so she lent me a dress. She would not let me slink away. She introduced me to everyone. “This is my friend Kim. She was a model … she danced ballet in New York,” and so on, and so on.

Many years later, for my 40th birthday, she flew into D.C. armed with two surprises for me. She knew I’d always wanted a Yorkshire terrier, and she knew I admired President Clinton. She arrived with a small puppy in her arms and a request for my Social Security number. She called me later that night, after we’d had dinner together, to say she’d arranged a meeting with him in the Oval Office.

The first thing out of her mouth to the president was something like, “This is my friend Kim. You should ask her about ballet. She knows what she’s talking about!” I was mortified, but honored.

It’s the kind of tribute to a friend that makes you feel cheated because you occasionally read the gossip, and ashamed because you allow it to define people.


One of these days, I’m going to put together a list of everyone who’s walking, riding, bicycling, or canoeing across the country for one cause or another. The latest visitor — Doc Mishler — pulled in to Grand Forks this week. On horse. Years ago, after a cancer diagnosis, he says, he gave up his life as a bail bondsman to ride across the country reminding people that God wants them to feed the hungry and homeless. He’s 75.

I try to live by the Sermon on the Mount,” he said of Jesus’ core teaching. “First seek the kingdom of heaven, then everything else you need will be provided.”

It seems to work before visitors’ eyes: he’s given an extra sandwich at the Emerado Subway Restaurant, as well as a blessing for the road.

He gets help with his horses wherever they go.

The Settle Inn in Grand Forks gave him a room free Wednesday night after the manager met him. Thursday morning, a man came by as Mishler was saddling up and pressed cash in his hand.

“People love the horses,” Mishler said.

He sold his home and 40 acres in Choteau, Mont., in the summer 2002, and has wandered since, mostly on horseback. From Montana to Texas, California, Florida, Washington, D.C., and New York, not necessarily in that order.

His claims of being a former college professor are phony, the Grand Forks Herald says.


Josh Ripley at Andover High School finished dead last in a cross country meet recently in Lakeville. Another competitor was badly hurt along the course, so Ripley scooped him up and ran with him. Two-hundred-sixty other runners didn’t.


NFL players certainly got upset yesterday when they saw this ad on


Jamaal Charles of the KC Chiefs is the guy being wheeled off the field. It was a real injury — a torn ACL, which has a way of ruining careers. Some people, including the Vikings’ punter Chris Kluwe, were not pleased that a real person’s tragedy was being used by marketers for the league.


Charles’ injury affected a lot of fantasy football team owners, but that’s not really the point. The NFL took down the ad and says it wasn’t supposed to go public and, besides, it was only up for about an hour, which — in the era of Twitter — is an eternity.


At least one TV news show opened today’s segment by announcing we may already be in a recession. The equity markets shed more people’s retirement money. Things are bad and the BBC is asking whether this lost decade proves that capitalism doesn’t work?

Capitalism has passed the west by, it’s an “east thing” now, said one expert.

Another took the unusual step of explaining an economic model through slavery:

You could argue that slavery was the first attempt to under-price resources. When slavery came to an end there was colonisation, which was again an attempt by the capitalist model to use resources cheaply. With the end of colonies, we had the globalisation argument of economic growth and then the globalisation of finance.

Yesterday, MPR’s Midmorning considered America’s rising poverty rate, a discussion which has usually involved someone else. The opening of the phone lines, however, was a bucket of cold water. Poverty is working its way up the economic ladder. Most compelling, perhaps, was the woman who called who said her husband took a job in Texas, but they couldn’t sell their house in Minnesota (presumably, without going underwater). So he’s working in Texas. His family is still here in Minnesota. It’s been three years.

This morning, NPR looks at the future of young people who want to get into farm ownership. Bottom line: There isn’t one.

Bonus: Your moment of Minnesota zen.

Friday timewaster: Draw a stickman.


General Mills has hired the stoner comedy duo Cheech and Chong to help promote a line of brownies. A video invites viewers to “get high … on fiber.” Today’s Question: Is using Cheech and Chong to promote brownies genius, folly or something else?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: As GOP presidential candidates continue to jockey for support, we assess last night’s latest debate performances in Florida. Who seemed most “presidential”? What issues took center stage?

Second hour: The death of serendipity.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: State demographer Tom Gillaspy analyzes the census data on poverty.

Second hour: Bill McKibben and Paul Hawken at the Commonwealth Club.

Science Friday (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: Why are big wildfires happening more often?

Second hour: A look at the puzzling geology of the Grand Canyon.

All Things Considered (3-6:30 p.m.) – Two local poets who hold a joint launch party for their new collections of poetry (“Whorled” and “Song I Sing” respectively) tomorrow talk about poetry, Asian American culture in Minnesota, and read a few poems. MPR’s Euan Kerr reports.

  • matt

    Capatilism worked great, too bad we replaced it with corporatism. Sure it still exists on the small scale and not to many people have an issue with the guy who takes out a second mortgage to buy a dry cleaner – you give him $4 to press your shirt, you walk away happy and so does he – yeah capatilism! But as the G20 comes together and pledges to take money from the dry cleaner and the guy who just got his shirt pressed in order to make sure the banks survive the recession with no problems – that ain’t capatilism. When we give tax breaks to new businesses to create jobs, giving them an unfair advantage, that ain’t capitalism, the market is supposed to determine the winners and losers not govt. When we heavily regulate businesses creating barriers to entry and prop up bad business models that ain’t capitalism. When we create laws to protect or limit the liability of a company that ain’t capitalism.

    Growing a crop of wonderful tomatoes and taking it to the farmers market to sell to willing people – that is capatilism, it is a beautiful thing and is sorely missed.

    And for those who hate capitalism you are always welcome to abandon trade, form a social collective, or have an economy of one. If the appeal is so wonderful you will have many willing participants and not need violent coercion to bring about your utopia. Last I checked the commune scene isn’t doing so hot though.

  • Melanie

    Thank you for that moment of Minnesota Zen. In the words of Liz Lemon, “I want to go to there!”

    I was also touched by the story of the high school cross country runner.

    I read your blog all of the time (first time commenting) and I need to thank you for how awesome it is. Thank you for your excellence in journalism.

  • Jim Shapiro

    While I’m a contemporary of hers, I didn’t know Eleanor Mondale during her ” wild child” period. Friends of mine who did said she was remarkably joyful and kind.

    Unfortunately, many of us who at times find our own lives to be insufficiently important or interesting sometimes look to the lives of the rich and famous for entertainment and escape.

    While perhaps there is something to be said for expecting a sense of noblesse oblige’, the industry based on exposing the private lives of others is nothing but cynical, ghoulish and parasitic.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Matt – While you’re right about the evils of corporatism, there are quite a few messy stages of capitalism that occur between Farmer Brown selling his delicious tomato and the masters of the universe playing with gazillion dollar derivatives.

    One of the Marx Brothers – (Zeppo?) – did a pretty good job of explaining and predicting the process.

    (He was way off on that communism thing though.)