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Roundtable: Mayoral Polling; Chargers Fans Moping; Yoga Indoctrinating?; BBC Traveling
October 26, 2012 1:58 p.m.
Andrew Keatts, The Daily Transcript
Jay Paris, UT San Diego
Matthew Hall, UT San Diego
Ros Atkins, World Have Your Say
Related Story: Roundtable: Mayoral Polling; Chargers Fans Moping; Yoga Indoctrinating; BBC Traveling
ST. JOHN: Our guests today are Andrew Keats of the daily transcript.
KEATS: How you doing, Alison?
ST. JOHN: We also have Jay Paris, the sportswriter for the UD San Diego now.
ST. JOHN: And Matt Hall for the UT San Diego.
HALL: Good to be here.
ST. JOHN: And Ros Atkins, the host of ìWorld, Have Your Say,î on the BBC that just aired this morning at KPBS at 10:00.
ATKINS: I made it by the skin of my teeth!
ST. JOHN: You hot-footed it down here. Good. So let's get started. So much is riding on who becomes San Diego's next mayor that poll results are bound to get a lot of attention. But recent polls have been so correctly that it's enough to -- contradictory that it's enough to make you wonder how accurate they are. Bob Filner was ahead. Then the UT poll came outputting DeMaio ahead. Andy, remind us what the actual results tell us.
>> Sure. So there's a survey USA poll that's been released basically monthly. And that's sponsored by 10 news. And it has shown Filner with a pretty consistent lead, though it's bumped along. But he's been ahead in all of them. And in this most recent poll, they had him ahead 47-40.
ST. JOHN: And?
KEATS: And the next public poll we had came from the UT, and they show DeMaio with a 46-36 lead. And they came closely after one another, and the reality is the chances of them both being right and having a 17-point spread within just a few day was each other and virtually none at all.
ST. JOHN: There were some other polls coming out round about the same time from the Republican party and the labor groups.
ST. JOHN: Did they jive with that?
KEATS: Well, when then you get is the campaigns releasing their own polls. And just like when campaigns give you comments on something, you need to be aware they have their own motivations for doing so. That said, the campaigns want to know the truth of the matter, and they commission much more expensive polls that are generally considered much more reliable. The issue is you need to keep in mind that they might have other polls that they're not releasing to you. But in any case, the polls they did release or that were leaked was one from GOP pollster, competitive edge, showed a tied race, 43-43, with 13% undecided. And then a democratic poll from grove insight, which had Filner ahead 44-41.
ST. JOHN: So you have done some research into what are the different strategies used by these companies that could explain the differences. Tell us in the survey USA poll which is is the one that put Filner ahead, what are some of the things people are saying about how they conducted it?
KEATS: One of the hard things to do in San Diego politics is find someone who says something good about survey U.S.A. the reason is they use automated polling which is much cheaper. That's the reason you do it. It's much, much cheaper. About $2,500, as opposed to tens of thousands of dollars. So they make that decision, and in turn opinions, it givens them inconsistent results, and it has certain flaws. The other thing they do that some people say is a reason to take them more seriously is they do include cellphone respondents.
ST. JOHN: Did the UT one not include cellphone respondents?
KEATS: It did not. But the cellphone respondents they use are a little different, you have a push-button response system on smart phones and tablets. And I did also hear complaints about having these mixed forms of responses, you're putting apples and oranges into the same cart.
ST. JOHN: Matt, you've been covering politics for a long time. What do you think about the fact that the UT poll didn't include cellphones? Wouldn't that skew it toward older people or people who don't have cellphones?
HALL: Yeah, the thing to keep in mind with polls is that each is a snapshot in time, and that you got to read the fine print to focus on the numbers, that's a fun parlor game among people who are doing polling, but a good thing to do is not rely on any poll or polling firm but look at more broadly the polls and the trends that they're showing, and I think all the trends are showing that Filner had a lead, and maybe DeMaio is creeping into that. But setting that aside, there's one poll that matters. And that poll happens on November 6th, and it's the get-out the vote poll, it's on election day. And the irony, of course, is that this year there's going to be an astronomical number of people who have already voted and mailed in their ballots. So it's tough to keep all this mind.
ST. JOHN: What do you think polls actually do
Do you think they actually affect the outcome or do you think it's just people's insatable desire to know as soon as they can what the outcome is going to be?
PARIS: Well, I think it's almost like a bar room argument. Who's the greatest pitcher ever. And you request make a case for your guy, and, well, you never saw that guy pitch. Polls are almost like chewing gum for the political mind.
ST. JOHN: I like that.
PARIS: And it's fun to talk about. But you have to be a careful, people answer a question different than how they pull a lever.
KEATS: Yeah, I think what they both just said was very true. But the other side of this is a media conversation. And particularly a local media conversation, and I'll include myself in it. Reporters just aren't very good at reporting on polls. They don't really understand them. And I want to say once again, I don't pretend to be a pollster, but it's an easy story. It comes across your desk, you get these numbers.
ST. JOHN: Looks like it's black and white.
KEATS: It's black and white, it's going to get on the front pain. So it's an easy story, and people write it, and they don't necessarily know that much about it. And we're talking about very complex statistical methods here. So you get this result where people who don't know that much about something are reporting on it, and it gives a sense of authority that the reporter who's writing the story probably doesn't -- isn't qualified to give.
ST. JOHN: That is a very valuable caveat for at this time average reader. Ross, in great Britain, do polls get touted all the time?
ATKINS: Yeah, polling is a good thing, and the media likes a poll because it makes a good headline, and it frames a political story very easily for journalists. And I'm listening to you guys talks, and it's taking me back to the '90s when John Major was the prime minister of great Britain, and he was running to stay in office. And a lot of people thought he wasn't going to do very well. The polls were saying he was down. And what happened was supporting the conservatives had become so socially unpalatable, people lied to the pollsters. They said they weren't going to vote tory because they didn't want to be see speaking to a pollster to admit it. And when they went in the ballot box, they liked his policies and as a leader, and he won.
ST. JOHN: Interesting.
ATKINS: I think ever since then, we've always taken polls with a pretty skeptical view. And the other thing I would say, and I don't know if this is thought the polls, but it struck me, and I've already been up in Ohio and Illinois and Indiana before coming down to California, in states where people know who's going to win, like Illinois, it strikes me that the polls reenforce the point that maybe it's not worth voting. I met people in Illinois who said it always goes Democrat. Why should I bother? Whereas in Ohio, it's up for grabs, and it's driving their voting.
ST. JOHN: That's a really good point. And it actually puts a positive spin on the fact that our polls are so contradictory. Then as a voter, you're not thinking my vote doesn't count. You might even be thinking my vote is going to count more than ever because it could go either way. And this mayor's race, just intuitively, would you say that it's a done deal?
HALL: No, I don't think so. I don't think anyone thinks that. And it kind of goes back to my earlier point. The only vote that matters is on November 6th to the extent that there are people who haven't already voted absentee. I'd like to add to jay's point, the best pitcher of all time is Red Sox pitcher Pedro Martinez.
[ LAUGHTER ]
HALL: But with polls, right, I say that because these polls can be argued, candidates either as Andy said either love the polls or hate the polls. When I was a political reporter, I didn't want to grab that easily headline with a poll. Someone could check my -- the archives of my stories and prove me wrong, but I would by and large look at polls and say, that's nice, and maybe right a brief, or more likely wait till there were several polls and then fold them into even a line farther down into a broader story. Those are the stories that matter.
ST. JOHN: You've got that step back, analytical point of view. Andy?
KEATS: Yeah, to your point that the intuitive sense is that this is eye very close poll, when you talk to people what people have been saying was that it's very, very close within a margin of error, whatever you want it to be. Maybe Filner has a small lead, and DeMaio is probably gaining on him. And in the broader national conversation about polls, you've got Nate silver at 538, and he's made the case for these complex polling averages. If we were to take a simple average of the polls that we have, which every pollster I've talked to says you should never ever do, but I'm going to go ahead and do it, if you took an average, you would find Filner with a 43-42 lead, and undecided at about 15%, which more or less coincides with what you get when you talk to consultants about where they think the race stands. It's too close to call, and there's a lot of people still undecided.
ST. JOHN: Give us a breakdown about which candidate is doing best among various groups. Women, for example.
KEATS: That's the funnier thing. Those down issue things on polls are when you get to erratic, huge levels of margin of error. If you're talking about a 500 person sample, and you're talking 50 of them are African Americans, you're going to make a conclusion that so-and-so percent supports DeMaio or Filner based on these 50 people. It's so hard for that to be representative.
ST. JOHN: So the question arises that the UT editorials have supported DeMaio in a big way. So should voters be skeptical if the UT poll comes out in favor of DeMaio?
KEATS: I don't want to jump on that. I think it veers too close to conspiracy theorizing to me. The reality is they made some very odd choices with their poll. They excluded city workers, which is virtually unheard of within the world of polling. It's against industry standards. And they did so because they said, well, these people certainly are going to have a vested interest in the candidate that's going to be more friendly to them. Sure. But every voter has a vested interest in all kinds of candidates. It makes no more sense than excluding defense contractors from the national polling averages.
ST. JOHN: Do you have any sense as to why that population of excluded? Matt?
HALL: I don't know, frankly. You have to talk to the people behind the poll. But one thing I'd like to point out is that with candidates' statements, polls become a story unto themselves. So I'm glad that other journalist ares in this town are looking at it. And our fine print said that city workers were excluded. Of I don't think the UT was hiding anything.
ST. JOHN: Right.
HALL: I think they threw their poll out there, and they're going to live with the consequences. In 2010, the UT had a poll on Prop B, it said it was a dead heat. Come election D, it went down in flames. And I found myself writing a story about the criticism of that poll. People on twitter on election night were giving it Fs and saying some zany things about it. And the UT and I wrote a story story on it. So I don't think anyone is hiding anything. I think the poll speaks for itself.
ST. JOHN: But you just have to read the small print as Andy is saying. It's all out there, but unless you really know that one poll does not necessarily test the same apples as another poll.
HALL: Polls are complex things and you can't really explore them in just a few sentences.
ATKINS: And speaking of complex things, you're talking about women voters, and since I've been in the states, you can't get away from the issue of how Obama and Romney are playing with women voters. I wonder if you'll find this a little lazy. We never talk about men voters, the idea of treating women voters as a single block seems to me an incredibly simplified way of looking at what surely is a very complex group of people can different backgrounds and interests.
KEATS: Sure. When you pull yourself away from the conversation, it can become very offensive very quickly. Like oh, they're talking about bringing the troops home from war, the women are going to love that! It's, like, well, which women? And when are we going to say --
ATKINS: But who's driving that?
ST. JOHN: Let's ask ourselves. What are the men's issues? Does a man have an issue that's separate than a woman doesn't have? I think women have issues they have more passionately held than men. But where are the men's issues?
ATKINS: Well, I appreciate with the issue of abortion, that is particular to women and a hugely important issue. And there may not be a direct issue that you can say that's the equivalent for men, but clearly there are health issues that don't affect women that affect men. In the family, for instance, how do you approach paternity or maternity leave? In Scandinavia, you just get family leave, and you can divvy it up between the husband and wife or the two partners as you like. In Britain, a woman can take a lot of maternity leave, and I had a baby the other day, I had an option on two weeks.
ST. JOHN: Okay, okay.
ATKINS: These are issues that relate to men.
ST. JOHN: That's true.
ATKINS: I think there are issues that male voters care about and are specific to them.
ST. JOHN: And the men listening are probably jealous thinking, wow, what does Britain have that we don't have? Because that's rare here. But you make a really good point. If you just isolate women, is that discrimination? But it does seem to be one of the groups that a lot of the applications for whatever reason are very much paying attention to
ATKINS: But my point is, it's not a group. It's 50% of all people.
ST. JOHN: Thank you. If not more. So listen, gentlemen, we've come to the end of this segment. I just want to remind people who we have around the Roundtable.
ST. JOHN: The Chargers blew two of their leads in the last two games. And some are accused of using a sticky substance. And if there's a chance for the team to pull its socks off, as they say in Britain, and get on the ball. Do we say that in America too?
PARIS: I think it's Knickers in a bunch or something.
[ LAUGHTER ]
ST. JOHN: What is the chance of the team getting it together? How are they doing?
PARIS: Well, you'll never see 50 guys from San Diego so happy to go to Cleveland in late October as the Chargers will. They're in Cleveland Sunday, and they can still turn this thing around. There's only three other teams in their conference that have more wins. They have a relatively easily schedule going forward. That said, the last two games were such clunkers and such stinkers and such heartbreaking losses.
ST. JOHN: So what happened in Denver? They started off so well.
PARIS: They weren't able to stop future hall of famer Peyton Manning. And they built the big league, and they took their foot off the pedal a little bit. And they allowed 35 unanswered points. And it was a historic night, and what made it even worse, the Chargers had a bye the following week, and they had to let that loss marinate for two weeks instead of one. And it was a tough go for the guys. And they know they have to turn it around quickly. And of course Norv Turner is always the lightning rod for criticism. And here we go again with them .500, and only won 11 of the last 22 games. So it's go time.
ST. JOHN: Matt, go go ahead.
HALL: The team is 3-3, they're tied for 1st place in the division, and there's only three teams better than them. As a longtime fan of both Boston and San Diego sport, I always find it interesting when in a season of 16 game, fans are ready to throw in the towel after just a handful. What I found very interesting about this past week when they had the bye, you would think the conversation might die down a bit, but then they had the two bad losses back to back, you had the stickem situation, and the bill Johnston, the Chargers PR person write a scathing blog post on the Chargers website where he told fans to take a chill pill and said what's wrong with you people? Which is probably the wrong way to approach a fan base, especially one who's watching you for the last ten years trying to get a stadium built.
ST. JOHN: Absolutely.
HALL: Why don't you take a chill pill! What's wrong with you!
[ LAUGHTER ]
HALL: So I think it's a combination of things. I think the Cleveland game probably comes at a good time. And they've got 10 games left!
ST. JOHN: Right. Jay, what do you think the problem is, you've written quite a lot in the past about the coach.
PARIS: Right, going back to Matt and the fans, when Norv Turner was hired, he wasn't a popular hire from day 1. And here weer six years later, and they're a .500 team, and what Norv is known for is developing quarterbacks. And you look at Philip Rivers, and now your quarterback's going the other way. If he can't even do that, it's like hiring a Rolling Stones cover band, and they show up and don't know jumping jack flash.
[ LAUGHTER ]
PARIS: If he's not working with the quarterback, if the team is not winning, if they can't build any good vibes with the fans to build a new stadium, that doesn't leave much. So I think the fans are frustrated. And it's a little bit they think they're in groundhog's day as well. They've seen this before where they were going to do a lot of things, and they ended up nose-first into the ground
ATKINS: Can I ask a question? I had half an eye on the presidential debate and half an eye on the Bears game, because the bar I was in had both, and there was no question which one more people were interested in. I see American football regularly, and the guys seem to be getting bigger and bigger and bigger. And when rugby went through this about ten years ago, and they reached a point at which the big guys no longer served their purpose. They were too big, and they weren't fast enough, and they weren't able to handle the ball well enough. And I know that's not such an issue for defense. But do you think bigger is always best? Rugby has definitely pulled back from that?
PARIS: Not necessarily. I think it's really become more of a speed game. And you're seeing offenses especially in high school and college level, and it's creeping up to the pro, where everybody is spreading out. And it's not a tight alignment where you're going to mano mano and match the guy. They're spreading everybody out, you have to defend every inch of the field, it's no longer concentrated in the middle of the field. So with that, you got to be quicker and faster. But the guys I see, they're big and fast.
KEATS: That's a trend that repeats itself in other sports as well. Baseball you see lately far fewer of the immobile mashing first baseman, other and far more of the defensively inclined on-base guys. In basketball, certainly the Miami Heat had a good run in the finals once they settled in on that much smaller lineup. You're seeing a bunch of jack of all trades master of none type guys as opposed to these --
[ LAUGHTER ]
ST. JOHN: Soccer is becoming more popular in the United States, right in it seems to me -- I have to share my preference, which is that just seems such a much more exciting, faster game than football. I can never get it, it only lasts a few seconds, and then you have to wait for the next play. Do you get the sense that the game of football might loosen up a bit?
PARIS: I don't know they've got a $9 billion industry they're in. They're chasing people away for advertising and tickets. So they've got a pretty good templet of what they do. But it's a point well taken. They talk about baseball and other sports being boring, but a play lasts three second, and they huddle up and talk about it for another minute, which some people find maddening.
ST. JOHN: If you're a fan who knows all the subtleties, it's fascinating, and somebody who's just wanting to get a bit of entertainment.
ATKINS: Well, again, rugby had to wrestle with this. It's always had to play third fiddle to football. And they have looked at it very carefully on the TV coverage, and they've started to explain a lot more about what's happening. When we see American football on the TV in the UK, which isn't so often, we don't get a whole lot of explanation because we're just being given the U.S. coverage, and they just here you go, consume it. So for the diehards, they know what's happening. But American football builds up a lot of good will in the '80s when it got a lot of coverage in the UK. But that's gone away. And even when is they show it, they don't explain it enough. For the casual viewer, it's a tough game to -- you can work out roughly what's going on, and the quarterback is throwing it, and you want to catch it in the end zone. But there's a lot of other things going on which aren't sprained a whole lot. And I wish they would do that. I think it is a sport that could break out beyond America.
PARIS: Is it presented in the same way in the UK? Just to sell beer and car tires pretty much?
[ LAUGHTER ]
ATKINS: Maybe less so the car tires.
ST. JOHN: We've got a few minutes left here, to another sport which is big in Europe, bicycling. And we've got some negative news there. Can you speculate, jay, why doping seems to be so rampant in cycling?
PARIS: Well, I think it really took another turn today. I don't know if you saw the news, but now pee wee her man, his bike, he's not going to be able to --
ST. JOHN: Oh!
PARIS: It seemed like it was one of these even, if the guy next to me is going to cheat, I'm going to cheat too. And Lance Armstrong is taking a big fall here. And people are curious why he doesn't do the big thank you on somebody's couch and go forward.
ATKINS: I've talked with listeners over the last couple of weeks. The amount of Americans getting in touch with me, saying this is a witch hunt, I'm astounded by the amount of Americans still prepared to stand by.
ST. JOHN: Deny.
PARIS: I think a lot of that is the good will buildup from the great fundraising he's done. If it was just Lance Armstrong the athlete, and there wasn't another layer, but the millions of people he's touched and the dollars he's raised through fighting cancer gives him a little equity there.
KEATS: And that's demonstrated by how little charity is demonstrated to bare bonds who is in the same position. Never tested positive, never admitted anything, and if you polled that issue, you would find an overwhelming number of people who think he used steroids and an overwhelming number of people who don't think that.
PARIS: And they can never find a bicycle helmet big enough for Bonds.
[ LAUGHTER ]
HALL: Lance Armstrong, about a year ago, he had Mark Fabiani, he has been the lead man on the Chargers stadium search for a decade. And everyone widely values his worth and says he's very good at his job. But here we are -- he was brought in for damage control when CBS and 60 minutes was -- or excuse me, was airing some pretty damning statements and video about Lance. Lance survived that. But here we are a year later. And I don't know if Mark is still on the case or not. But clearly Lance's ride has come to an end.
ATKINS: I didn't mean to interrupt. I was going to say, I think the thing that has shocked me and a lot of cycling fans is not so much the accusations of doping, quite a few of us thought those might be coming, but the unpalatable way in which Lance Armstrong went about making his feelings clear to anyone who suggested he was doping. And there's a particular case of one required who was in a break during the tour de France, had a chance of getting a rare stage victory for himself, and Lance in the yellow jersey made a jump from the main group up to the breakaway, which the jello jersey never does, sat there, told this guy if you don't drop out of this breakaway, I'm going to sit there, and they're going to chase me down, and everyone else in the group is going to lose out. And this guy just had to drop back with Lance. And this kind of bullying that was detailed in the report adding an extra dimension on top of the fact that he's accused of cheating.
ST. JOHN: But just back to the issue of doping, I have a question in my mind of whether you could win without the use of illegal substances.
PARIS: I'd have to go pretty far down the standings. They say if he doesn't win the tour de France, well, we'll go to the third place, the fourth place, well, there's a kid on a red bike chasing him.
ATKINS: And wiggins has just run the tour de France completely clean, so you can do it!
ST. JOHN: We are going to move on on the Roundtable. We have Matt hall, columnist with the UT, Andrew Keats with the daily transcript, jay Paris, sportswriter with the UT also, and Ros Atkins, host of "World, Have Your Say." And you might have hard him this very morning broadcasting out of Oceanside where they were doing a show out of a tattoo parlor, and we'll get to that later. But first, yoga has permeated our culture so much that it's pretty much mainstream. And these days everyone from moms to businessmen can say they practice it without fear of being looked on with suspicion. But some parents believe yoga classes in the Encinitas school district are pushing Hinduism on their children, and they've brought their concerns to the School Board. So Matt Uwent to Encinitas, I believe, and actually watched some of these classes to write your column. What were you there to watch for?
HALL: Well, I was there to see if Encinitas is teaching the four Rs instead of the three. Reading, writing, arithmetic and religious indoctrination. The short answer is no. Everyone needs to relax in Encinitas. Parents have a birthright to stand up for their kids, so I laud them for that. But they're going overboard there. This is like saying that a book with a black leather jacket is the Bible. These kids, it's kindergartners, 1st grader, it's an elementary school, and these kids are rolling around, squirming on yoga mats doing poses called airplane and alligator. So even the terms are neutered, essentially.
ST. JOHN: I wanted to ask, is there much focus on breathing? Because that is usually a very core aspect of yoga. And some people might consider that being more than just your exercise.
HALL: Yeah. So these classes are 30 or 40 minutes twice a week. And right now, they're going on in about half the district. The district is 5,500 kids. Each class, the kids are in front of an instructor, they mimic her moves, and they do -- they go through four, six, or eight of these poses. And then at the end is when there's what is kind of quiet time where the kids are asked to close their eyes, and the instructor is saying, okay, relax your head and relax your shoulders. They're lying down, so she goes the length of their body, and then she has them open their eyes. And that maybe lasts a minute or two, probably not two minutes. Those kids don't want to keep their eyes closed for that long as I observed. And then she has them repeat after her I'm awesome, I'm great, I'm unique, I'm creative, I'm smart, I'm special.
ST. JOHN: Oh!
HALL: And most important, I'm important!
ST. JOHN: That sounds like good indoctrination to me!
HALL: Yeah, aren't those attributes you want all your kids to think that they are? And it's gotten worse since I wrote my column. My column appeared on Monday which is incidentally is doing an off-period for the school. They're off for two weeks. When they come back, they're going to run into this threat of a lawsuit from the attorney who is with these -- let me just put this in context.
ST. JOHN: Yes, how many parents are we talking about?
HALL: There's dozens of parents, about seven of which who spoke up at a School Board meeting a couple weeks ago. And interesting enough, yoga has been in the district for three years. This is the first year that it's being implemented district-wide. And what is most worrisome to the parents is that it's being funded through about a $500,000 grant by a foundation created by Ashtanga yoga practitioner. And they say it has roots in Hinduism, so this amounts to Hindu indoctrination.
ST. JOHN: So it's more like where the money is coming from rather than what's happening to their kids.
HALL: Well, I think it's both. Parents were quoted at that meeting, I wasn't there, that exercise -- these poses and practices are not merely exercise, they're religious practices. So I think that the fear is kind of twofold. And the legal dispute, I think yesterday it was there's a big, well-known law firm in Encinitas called Coast Law Group, which most people will know from Marco Gonzalez and lawsuits against the La Jolla fireworks, and other situations such as that. They've said that they'll represent the Encinitas school district pro bono. So this is not going to go away as some of the School Board members had told me they hoped during this two-week off period. It's only going to cause more excitement.
ATKINS: This sounds more like self-help indoctrination than religious. I'm curious to know what you guys think about having young children saying I'm important and I'm awesome, and this long list of things. I think if that were happening in a school back in London where I live, it would be that which people were worried about, rather than doing any form of yoga.
ST. JOHN: That's such an interesting question because there's been this huge debate in education about whether allowing kids to go from class to class even though they've failed their exam because it would be such a blow to their self esteem if they were held back. I think there is much more emphasis on self esteem in American schools
ATKINS: But the question has to be whether what you're saying is connected to what you've done rather than just stating -- if you say it enough times, it's got to be true.
KEATS: I got to say, I came through a public school system in the '90s when all of these things were very much part of our curriculum. Telling you how great you were all the time. And I hear a lot of concerns from people older than me, if people don't experience losing, they'll never know what it is to fail. Particularly in sports, you always hear, well, everyone gets a trophy these days! I got a trophy on every team I was ever on as well. But it didn't mean I wasn't aware of when we lost. It just meant that the trophy was meaningless. It just meant, you know, in practice, I think kids are able to discern whether they're doing well or doing poorly. Regardless what adults say to them or give them as a reward, as a token of their experience.
HALL: That's a very good question, Ros. And what's interesting about this particular yoga program, there are researchers from the university of San Diego who are monitoring it, asking the kids questions through anonymous surveys. So there will be a report at some point that gets at some of these questions of how useful this is. And the administrators I talked to said it's not only youthful in terms of physical exercise, because this counts as a gym requirement, but it's also useful in stress management. In two important ways. If Tommy approaches Timmy in an aggressive way, maybe Timmy is and Tommy are both going to be a little more chilled out because they have gone through these yoga exercises. Maybe not. But also during test, it's going to help these kids not get as stressed out and amped up when they're taking standardized tests.
ST. JOHN: Interesting. Maybe put yoga right before the test and see who performs better.
HALL: It's all timing.
ATKINS: Doesn't it seem like a shame that you're even making children that young aware of themselves, aware of whether they are important or not, aware of whether they are awesome or not?
ST. JOHN: How young are we talking about?
HALL: It's K up.
ST. JOHN: It is. Very formative years.
HALL: And the two classes that I observed were both 1st graders.
ST. JOHN: Let me ask you jay, in sports presumably there are exercises like this in sports. I've got two questions. One is are you a bit threatened at these new exercises like yoga coming in? Might it mean that it takes away from enthusiasm from the more aggressive sports that are traditional in American schools?
PARIS: Well, I'm over here saying serenity now.
[ LAUGHTER ]
PARIS: I think it's all right. And maybe we can jot down some of these things and Norv can tell the players that.
[ LAUGHTER ]
PARIS: I think it's going to be awful tough for them to get their quiet time when the helicopter parents hovering overhead.
HALL: There are professional athlete who is do yoga.
HALL: It is mainstream now. Of
ST. JOHN: It's accepted.
HALL: In America, it is mainstream.
ST. JOHN: And to Ros's point about the positive indoctrination, if you're doing traditional sport, isn't there some of that? Perhaps sometimes exercises which are boosting your self esteem because this is so important.
PARIS: Sure. And a good coach is not only drawing up what play to do but to give a kid a boost who's not playing well or psychological stuff to help him out. But in pro sports, the most important 6 inches on the field is between a kid's ears.
ATKINS: I can remember when I was in my school rugby team, and they used to get us in the changing rooms, and make us stamp our studs on the floor and chant various things about how great we are. And I used to stand in the corner, like, what is this all about? I'm feeling focused enough on this game. I don't need to chant some in18 routine to feel like I'm ready to play. But one of the biggest cricketers in England is a reasonably unreconstructed guy, he likes to drink, he's a big bloke, he talks straight from the hip. And he used Pilates extensively in the latter half of his career. And people kind of sniffed at it initially. But I think it helped other sports people make the jump and start using yoga.
ST. JOHN: Right. It is sort of a jump to accept it as being something that's mainstream. Not some weird thing coming from India. And I wonder if there might be an overlap in the population of the parents who are worried about this. We have had a history of complaints from creationist who is object to the way that science is being taught in the classroom. I don't know if you think there could be any connection there.
HALL: I can't speak to this myself, but another columnist at the UT, Logan Jenkins has written about this, and there is a local pastor in Encinitas who is involved in this effort. Interestingly enough, just last night on twitter, someone, a pastor in Encinitas, sent me a link to a blog post that he had just written and said if you're going to go a follow-up, talk to me. He's a Christian and he's saying one of the tenants of Christianity is love everyone and accept people. So maybe we should do that. Maybe we shouldn't be so up in arms about this.
ST. JOHN: Embrace it.
ATKINS: One issue that's been bubbling away in my part of London, my daughter gets taught quite rightly about Hinduism and Islam, and Christianity, and many other religions which are represented in that part of the city. But at the moment, no part of any lesson is put aside to tell the kids there are lots of people who just don't believe in God at all. And atheists are beginning to republic about that. And say of course teach children about the religions of the world, but make an equal chunk for the people who don't have any faith at all.
ST. JOHN: Well, this has been such an interesting discussion. I look forward to your future columns on this, Matt.
ST. JOHN: Ros, world, have your say, and you never know if you're going to hear about the use of new media in the Middle East, or how farmers are doing in the American midwest, or like today, what's going on among marines in North County. So Ros, just for people who may not have heard your show, how do you describe it? What's its mission?
ATKINS: Well, its mission is to take events that are happening right now, it's a news program so we pick our subjects very late in the day, and to try and understand those events through people who are directly affected by them or have experiences which give them an expertise that allows them to comment on them. So we're trying as best we can to understand why people do what they do and think what they think in a huge amount of different environments and situations. And the subjects that we focus on are not the ones which we think are going to be controversial or will wind up our audiences. We look at the issues, or the stories, or the events which people around the world are engaging with on that day so we sit down about six hours before we go on air, and there's a team of about six or seven people, and we analyze and can use information that's being given to us by the BBC online but also information that's widely available and analyze the stories which have really got people excited and animated. And we're guided by that in our choice of story. And then how we report and analyze that story is also driven by regular people's expertise and experiences.
ST. JOHN: So why did you choose to come to North County today? Why here now?
ATKINS: Well, we're in town as part of a broader trip around the U.S. to cover the U.S. election, and of course it's the single biggest election in the world in terms of the amount of interest from our listeners. And we came here because we decided to do a series of programs called "is America working" and to look at some of the most high-profile and best-known professions and industries in your country. And look at the election through the eyes of the people involved in those industries and professions and also to find out how they have been fairing down the economic downturn. So we kind of got the map out and started thinking about the kind of things we would want to look at, the people we would want to speak to, and second or third on the list was was the military.
ST. JOHN: The military.
ATKINS: We get a huge amount of contributions from KPBS since the station picked up world, have your say, and I've known for a long time about the number of military personnel in Southern California.
ST. JOHN: Yeah.
ATKINS: So it didn't take us too long to think we should do the show there.
ST. JOHN: How much help did you get from Camp Pendleton?
ATKINS: Not a whole lot. We wanted to speak to people who were in service and people who had recently come out of service. But we wanted to do the program in an environment where people felt able to be themselves and where we weren't beholden to military authorities to stick to this subject or that subject. So we didn't work directly with Camp Pendleton. Of
ST. JOHN: You changed your location, I understand at the last minute.
ATKINS: We did change it. We were going to do it in a tattoo parlor, and the people there were very kind and said come along. And that was the original plan. But actually a couple of things fed into it. One was that there's a listener of "World, Have Your Say" who we were put in touch with, and her husband is a former marine, and they now run a farm just to the east of Oceanside. And there they teach either men and women who were just in the military and about to leave or veterans who have just left skills relating to agriculture to get them set to perhaps get a nonmilitary job.
ST. JOHN: Was this Archie's acres?
ST. JOHN: Okay.
ATKINS: So we got in touch with them, she said come on out, we can interrupt their lessons for an hour, and you can speak to the whole class. So we thought this is too good to be true. We're going to get 15 men and women, exactly the type of people we're trying to speak to. So they cut their lesson a little bit early, we sat on the terrace for an hour, and hopefully it was interesting to listen to.
ST. JOHN: Can you listen to this on the web?
ATKINS: Yeah, "World, Have Your Say" pod cast into Google or whatever, the MP3 will be there.
ST. JOHN: One of the goals of the show is to get people interested in international news, not just your own country. I don't know whether you think that this country is so big that it's a little difficult to really pay attention to international news. Do you think that we have good media, enough attention being paid in San Diego? Let's make it local right here. That's why we put the BBC on the air, so we could get some more international coverage. But is it expecting too much for people to really take an interest for an hour on a show about the rest of the world?
KEATS: The thing that surprises me when I travel is the awareness that people outside of America have for American domestic issues. What I feel like is missing is the actual domestic issues happening abroad. Of we seem to get a good amount of coverage about foreign conflicts, major disaster, things that are very hot button, timely issues. But are people going to be able to discuss knowledgeably about the issues facing parliament in any given time? That sort of coverage just doesn't come here.
ATKINS: But I suppose what we would argue is that we're not expecting someone in San Diego to be an expert on the parliamentary proceedings in Kenya or India or Australia. But we're trying to perhaps highlight that there's more in common between your experience here in San Diego and someone listening in India or Australia. Or Nairobi than you might think. And hopefully when we pick the right subjects and think about this a great deal, we're picking subjects and stories which are accessible to a huge amount of people because the daily issues a lot of us face, having enough money to get a home, running a vehicle if you can, worrying about your health and your family's health, your children's education --
ST. JOHN: It's a lot.
ATKINS: Whether your politicians are corrupt or trustworthy. These are common themes wherever you go.
ST. JOHN: Do you get a sense that more of your callers are coming from the UK or the US? Where do most of them come from? Because you get calls and e-mails from all over the world.
ATKINS: Right. And inevitably where we get calls from is driven to a large extent where our biggest listenerships are. So when it's on, 6:00 PM in the UK, later in most of Africa, we've got huge audiences in Nigeria, Ghana, Tanzania, Kenya: These countries are offering us a lot of listeners. We have a lot of listeners too in the Caribbean, particularly Jamaica and Trinidad. Overnight in Australia.
ST. JOHN: In terms of your experience with callers.
ATKINS: On average, you're going to hear more Nigerians and Americans calling up than any two nations.
ST. JOHN: ; is that right! Okay.
HALL: I was going to say, it's one world, and the human experience. In American journalism, it's the trend to go micro. What did the planning commission do? Which is good, and there's room for that. But you don't want to lose the big picture, the macro news, and we probably need more of that. Newspapers are shrinking, international news and newspapers are getting smaller. You have the exceptions, the New York Times and LA Times of the world. But there's a place for it.
ATKINS: I think we're part, and I wouldn't claim that we started this, but I think that we're part of a shift in journalism which places more emphasis on regular people's experiences and expertise and explain the world that we live in. And social media is driving that, but it didn't start it. We were in a cab of a truck yesterday, Ontario truck stop, and spending an hour with these guys gives you a different insight into the impacts of the rise of fuel or the rise or fall of unemployment or the health or otherwise of small businesses and on and on it goes. These people helped me understand what those numbers actually mean in a way that I can't really get just by reading the numbers out. I'm not saying don't read the numbers out. But the two fit together well, I think.
ST. JOHN: Right. I really feel like the show is a window to the world that can give you a very real glimpse of something. It's not a report. It's real people talking. Just a couple minutes left. And I wanted to get to this big story which is rocking the UK right now, which is the sex scandal which the BBC prime minister has called on the chairman, Christopher Patton, because there's evidence of sexual abuse by an iconic character on the BBC, Jimmy Savile. So give us a quick thumbnail of what's happening. Could this affect the BBC's credibility around the world and its funding?
ATKINS: Right. Well, it's conof the most complicated stories ever. Essentially this is a celebrity who worked for the BBC for many, many years, he died quite recently. Now it's pretty clear that he sexually abused a number of minors on BBC property and off BBC property. Though the details of that are still being established. Of how the BBC has gone about reporting this is an issue. One program investigated it while he was alive, and the story was spiked close to it being broadcast, and the circumstances in which it was spiked are being investigated. I was sitting in Chicago, I've got twitter on, and everybody is tweeting, while a program on BBC 1 is about a program on BBC 2, and the program on BBC 2 is simultaneously is about the program on BBC 1.
[ LAUGHTER ]
ATKINS: So it's like pop eating itself, really. But the long and the short of it is that the BBC has launched two internal investigations. There's a lot of political pressure on the BBC to get its response right. We have one editor being suspended. Lord Pattons said he wouldn't be surprised if more investigations follow. It's a really, really serious story for the BBC. And in the UK, there's no doubt the credibility of the BBC is being questioned. Abroad, I don't think the impact is quite so much. Until we find out the extent to. People in the BBC knew about this abuse, and the situation in which this story was spiked, it's quite hard to say. But no one is denying it has been a disastrous couple of weeks for the BBC. Can I just mention quickly?
ST. JOHN: You've got a minute.
ATKINS: We're going to be at Wang's Northpark, 7:00 to 9:00 tonight, it's a chance to meet the "World, Have Your Say" team, and tell us about the program, and tell us how we can do it better.
ST. JOHN: Great. Thank you very much. We'll end on that note.