The rural doctor (5×8 – 2/2/12)

Rural doctors and better people, Romney’s tough day, when business in Saint Paul ain’t Grand, weather from rodents, and math fun with candy.


This quote, from this morning’s Morning Edition story on the crisis for doctors in rural communities, is an instant classic, because it worked in attracting one to a “dying” town in Kansas:

“Ben, our facilities are 55 years old. Our finances are challenged. Our morale is low. Turnover is up. We’ve been without an administrator for six months. We’ve been without a doctor for seven or eight months. We really need this facility in this community. And if we don’t have this facility, we’ll lose our school. And if we don’t have our hospital and our school, this will become a ghost town very quickly.”

The method the hospital board chair used says something about the current crop of young doctors: He stressed that there are sick people to heal, and problems to fix. Novel, indeed.MPR’s Jennifer Vogel looked at this problem in Minnesota last summer. She found that more medical students are focusing on general case; they’re specializing instead. She also found that rural doctors have to be better, “because there’s no one to back me up,” one doctor told her.

There’s evidence that the rural doctor also has to be a better person.

She also found that the school that turns out more rural docs than any other in the country, is the University of Minnesota Duluth.


When nobody was looking, apparently, was when Mitt Romney first uttered his “I’m not focused on the very poor” line that swept through Planet Politics yesterday. Humphrey Institute writer Eric Ostermeier writes today that Romney said the same thing at a Dartmouth College debate in October.

First, selective media attention (and outrage). Although Romney revealed the same idea and policy position in both forums, it made headlines Wednesday because the quote on CNN had a slightly better sound byte. Moreover, although Romney had co-frontrunner status back in mid-October, the media now sees him more than ever as the presumptive nominee. As such, his comments are sifted through with an even finer-toothed comb.

Second, the fact that Romney has repeated this message on at least two occasions (and perhaps more on the campaign trail), suggests his choice of words was not an accident – it’s part of his campaign rhetoric.

The media, of course, is whimsical on what it chooses to focus and when, but whether or not Romney should be punished for holding this policy position is for the voters to decide

Whenever a singular verb is attached to a plural noun like media, you’re bound to get a sweeping — and inaccurate — generalization. It’s entirely possible the Romney line simply went unnoticed.

Does it matter? Clearly, many people in the country hadn’t heard the quote and in the last 24 hours, the presidential debate is focusing on more philosophical questions about the role of government, whether the “safety net” is adequate, and the state of the American demographic rather than which candidate sings better, the moon as the 51st state, or hurt feelings on the campaign trail. More, please.

Besides, news isn’t news until Daily Show says it’s news…If “the media” had a fault yesterday it was this one: Nobody asked Romney whether the thinks there are holes in the “safety net” and, if so, what are they and how does he propose fixing them?

If you didn’t catch the comments section on this discussion yesterday, there was good information in there about whether there’s a significant safety net for the poor in Minnesota.


Is Grand Avenue too snooty for its own good? That’s the subtext — at least in the always entertaining comments section — of today’s Pioneer Press story about Cupcakes, a wine bar for (primarily) women, which wanted to open on Grand in Saint Paul. The owner has given up in the face of opposition from the Summit Hill Association. He had arranged to lease parking space for his business rather than share it. He started construction after the Zoning Board approved the plan. But the City Council pulled the permit when Summit Hill Association objected.

“Walk a few blocks north Kevin, to Selby. We want you, and we’re way cooler than Grand Avenue,” one commenter said.

“This is the same group that didn’t like a small fence that was put up in front of a church. Way too much control of things if you ask me! Too bad for St. Paul,” said another.


The people in Punxatawney booed the rodent this morning when, in the darkness, its handlers said it saw its shadow, meaning six more weeks of winter.

Six more?

Let’s check back for how another oft-quoted weather source did. The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicted last fall that the winter would be colder and snowier than normal, with heavy snow early in the season. “You’ll get some snow on Thanksgiving and then it’s going to snow quite a bit in December,” a spokesman told WJON Radio.


Everybody should start a day with something that makes no sense; it makes things during the rest of the day appear with crystal clarity.

Step one:

Bonus I: Are airplanes poisoning the pilots who fly them?

Bonus II:


Minnesotans will vote this fall on a constitutional amendment on marriage. Legislators are considering proposals for several other constitutional amendments as well. Today’s Question: What do you think of constitutional amendments as a way to make policy?


Midmorning (9-11 a.m.) – First hour: Minnesota lawmakers have begun the debate about a key part of the health care reform bill — the health care exchange. Gov. Dayton has said the state would be unable to create an exchange without legislative approval and he’s running into strong opposition from the Republican-controlled legislature. Is this the norm or are other states faring better with the federally-mandated exchange? And what are the arguments for and against the health insurance exchanges?

Second hour: Merrill Perlman, and Lisa McLendon both have a passion for language. They join us to discuss their work and their observations of our evolving language.

Midday (11 a.m. – 1 p.m.) – First hour: NPR’s Neda Ulaby co-hosts with guests Alyssa Rosenberg and filmmaker Jeff Dupre about the Sundance Film Festival.

Second hour: Toby Jones at City Club on America’s oil wars.

Talk of the Nation (1-3 p.m.) – First hour: The future of manufacturing and American jobs.

Second hour: The great Langston Hughes chronicled the African American experience, in verse. Host Neal Conan remembers the poet and social activist. Plus, actor Anthony Mackie, from Hurt Locker and now Man on a Ledge.

  • Jamie

    Maybe the Summit Hill Association didn’t want such an overtly sexist business in the neighborhood. If so, I say thank you to the SHA.

  • Chris

    Oh Jamie, you are such a comedian.

  • kennedy

    Maybe a goundhog out east saw his shadow this morning, but in Minnesota it was gray and dreary to start the day. Local groundhogs say winter is nearly over (if it ever started).

  • Bonnie

    When I got my LL Bean catalog I was fascinated by the cover. Thanks for the video, I thought it was a drawing/painting, I had no idea it was a photograph.

  • Holy T-hole

    #2 Jon Stewart’s Mitt Romney slam: Mr. 1%, aka Mr. Golden Calf seems to be deeply rooted in cement.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Bob – “She also found that the school that turns out more rural docs than any other in the country, is the University of Minnesota Duluth.”

    Explain to me again how there’s not something just a little better about Minnesota? 🙂

  • Mark

    I think the bigger issue than SHA being snooty is that St. Paul requires dedicated parking for a tiny 32-seat establishment in a pedestrian-friendly area like Grand Avenue that’s only about two blocks from a parking ramp. That’s pretty silly.