Wednesday, June 27, 2007

RIP, classi--*bzzt*crackle*

I like classical music. I don't go out of my way to listen to it, but I'd hardly be inclined to turn it off, either--and it's far more tolerable than a great deal of what passes for "music" these days.

However, I hardly ever listened to WFMR-FM, which was Milwaukee's only classical music station--until midnight Monday, anyway, when the station switched to smooth jazz--and consider its format switch no great loss.


Because I listen to the radio pretty much exclusively when I'm in a car, and WFMR's radio signal was exceptionally weak. Rarely, if ever, could I get a clear reception; static riddled the station's broadcasts, and occasionally, when driving through the wrong spots, other stations' feeds would overlap and actually break through.

If there's anything less welcome than classical music with more static than cello, it's classical music interrupted by bursts of country or hip-hop.

The classical music radio format was already in decline; given the lousy way it was presented around here, it's amazing WFMR held on as long as it did.


Friday, June 22, 2007

6 degrees of Bill Clinton

NewsBusters reminds us just who is behind the Center for American Progress, the group that co-authored Thursday's report on the Evils of Conservative-Dominated Talk Radio (TM):

For those unfamiliar with the Center, its President and CEO is none other than John Podesta, the former Chief of Staff for President Bill Clinton. And:

In reality, the staff and Senior Fellows listing of this Center reads like a Clinton administration Who’s Who.

Starting to get the picture?

Of course, far be it from me to ascribe something so base as a political motivation to all this. After all, the Clinton Administration was famous for its highly principled stances and...

...I'm sorry, I can't type that with a straight face.


Wednesday, June 20, 2007


I normally don't say anything when I make a change to the sidebar (I'm tinkering with it all the time) but I decided to make an exception here.

Under the Ideology section, "My Axe"--which previously led to the National Right to Life Committee--now links to a site that makes it just a little clearer what it is I have to grind.


But I thought AMERICA was the problem.

That was why all the fuss about us not signing onto Kyoto, wasn't it?

From Guardian Unlimited:

China overtakes US as world's biggest CO2 emitter

That would be China, as in long one of the fastest-growing countries in the world--and the same country that Kyoto let completely off the hook.

We may as well all get together and wish the environmentalists of the world the best of luck--they're going to need it. If they thought they were having a tough time pressuring the United States to go along with their insane, self-destructive agenda, just wait until they try sneering at the Middle Kingdom.


Saturday, June 16, 2007

On Fairness (or lack thereof)

In the Brew City Brawler's recent scuffles with Patrick McIlheran over the Fairness Doctrine, it seems to me that there is a certain lack of understanding on the part of both combatants as to what the doctrine in question would actually entail.

Saith the Brawler:

A radio station can run Rush Limbaugh if it wants. But if it's going to run the rantings of that big, fat idiot, it needs to run countering views.

Confirmeth McIlheran:

Suppose WTMJ runs Charlie Sykes in the mornings, then gives the Brawler all afternoon to rant in reply.

In short--both apparently believe the doctrine would simply require conservative commentators to be balanced by liberal commentators.

Here's the thing, though. The Fairness Doctrine wasn't looking to regulate a balance in political commentary as a whole. It was looking to regulate balance individually, on each specific issue discussed.

In other words, it wouldn't be enough if you gave, say, Al Franken two hours to offset two hours of Rush Limbaugh. You would have to take each and every issue Rush raised, and find someone to offer the opposing view on each and every issue--more than likely several someones, unless you have a duly appointed anti-Rush, who argued the opposing positions simply because it was his or her job (in other words, a lawyer).

It's not a rule friendly to freewheeling, multi-topic talk radio. You, as a broadcaster, would be far better off picking a single issue and then bringing in the opposing viewpoints.

And even then, you're not safe, because the presentation for each issue doesn't just have to be equal--it also has to be fair. Is it a fair presentation if one side did a better job than the other? If one side failed to present the best arguments? If one side presented its arguments in a busier timeslot than the other?

And horror of horrors--what if one side actually won the argument? Would that be fair?

(Keep in mind, too, who's enforcing this--the FCC, whose chair is a presidential appointee. If you think the party in power isn't going to make a difference as to what's considered "fair," I have a bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in.)

It's virtually the same situation as the Title IX athletics fiasco. In theory, there were three ways for schools to come into compliance with that law:

  1. Demonstrating continual expansion of athletic opportunities for women.
  2. "Full and effective accomodation" of women's abilities/interests.
  3. Athletic opportunities proportionate to the student body makeup (i.e. a strict quota).
In practice, the first two methods for compliance were so vague as to be virtually unintelligible. Schools trying to follow one of these methods had no way of knowing whether they were doing it right until they were ruled to be in violation.

The only safe way of complying with Title IX was option #3: the quota. And so--because it's far easier economically to eliminate existing men's programs than to add new women's programs--a number of men's sports were decimated.

Likewise with the Fairness Doctrine, and its vague, undefined "fair." When you don't know the rules, the only winning move is not to play--and by and large, that's exactly what broadcasters did, and would do again. Rather than risk being penalized for an unfair presentation of an issue, they would simply seek to avoid presenting the issues altogether.

That may be a win for stances shared by the "unbiased" fraternity of journalists--whose "objective" news broadcasts would once again reign supreme over the airwaves--but it's hardly a win for the public interest.

And after all, as the Brawler rightly noted--the public interest is the bottom line here.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

An excellent turn of phrase

There's very little I like about Rudy Giuliani. There is no circumstance where I would vote for him in the Republican primary, and I have serious doubts about whether I would vote for him in the general election.

But I will give him this--in announcing his campaign's "Twelve Commitments" (H/T Power Line) Giuliani leads off with the perfect response to John Edwards' idiotic denunciation of the War on Terror as a mere bumper sticker slogan:

1. I will keep America on offense in the Terrorists’ War on Us.

Giuliani shouldn't win the Republican nomination. But Republicans would be well-served to adopt this particular facet of his campaign party-wide.


Rule of law? HILLARY?

President George W. Bush believes warrantless wiretapping to be justified by the threat of terrorism--which, as far as justifications go, is a pretty high-level danger.

As National Review's Byron York relates while discussing two new biographies, Would-Be President Hillary R. Clinton's threat threshold is just a little bit lower:

For example, we’ve all heard about the famous War Room of the 1992 Clinton presidential campaign. But Gerth and Van Natta reveal that across the alley from the War Room was a more secretive effort, headed by Hillary and known as the Defense Team, that really got into the down-and-dirty stuff. The Defense Team’s job was to knock down any allegation, no matter how well founded, about Bill Clinton’s girlfriends, his avoidance of the draft, Whitewater, Hillary Clinton’s legal work — anything that might hurt the campaign. And to do it by any means necessary, legal or not: Gerth and Van Natta report that on one occasion Mrs. Clinton listened to a “secretly recorded audiotape” of Clinton adversaries talking on the phone about the next possible bimbo eruption. “Bill’s supporters monitored frequencies used by cell phones,” Gerth and Van Natta add, “and the tape was made during one of those monitoring sessions.” Who knew that Mrs. Clinton was an early advocate of warrantless wiretapping?

I've said it before, and I'll probably say it again--the more I hear about Hillary Clinton, the harder it is to believe that anyone could take her seriously as a candidate.

That she has at least an even chance of actually winning the presidency is scary.


More understanding = less understanding

Kathleen Parker has a real head-scratcher of a column on the departure of General Peter Pace as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, filled with all kinds of bizarre explanations--from speculations on how a move initiated by the White House was "a way for the Democratic Congress to further undermine President Bush" to this little gem:

What we do know is that even in wartime, everything is political. Thus, a better route to understanding may be to pose the question raised by Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness: ``Cui bono?'' Who benefits?

One doesn't need much of a running start to make the leap to Sen. Hillary Clinton, who also sits on the Armed Services Committee and who, you may have heard, is running for commander in chief. No one benefits more from Pace's removal than Clinton, who would have had to vote for or against the man and be stuck with a position that could hurt her.

So President Bush removed General Pace to help Senator Clinton's presidential campaign.



Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Fred builds steam, friction

The latest polls show Fred Thompson rising rapidly--only six points behind Giuliani, according to the most recent LA Times/Bloomberg poll.

Meanwhile, George Will has a column in the June 18 Newsweek blasting Thompson as a candidate who's all sizzle and no substance--Reagan as his critics saw him, Will charges, as opposed to the real thing. (Judging from the only policy stance ascribed to the candidate in the column, Will has an axe to grind here--namely, McCain-Feingold, which Thompson voted for while in the Senate.)


Sunday, June 10, 2007

Gore caught using bogus data (again)

This time, as Andrew Ferguson details in the Washington Post, the Inventor Of The Internet (TM) is abusing not science, but history:

You can't really blame Al Gore for not using footnotes in his new book, "The Assault on Reason." It's a sprawling, untidy blast of indignation, and annotating it with footnotes would be like trying to slip rubber bands around a puddle of quicksilver. Still, I'd love to know where he found the scary quote from Abraham Lincoln that he uses on page 88.

In a chapter entitled "The Politics of Wealth," Gore argues that the ancient threat to democracy posed by rich people run amok has finally been realized under the man who beat him in the 2000 presidential race. Even Lincoln, Gore says, saw the age of Bush coming in 1864: "I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."

The quote is a favorite of liberal bloggers, which is probably how Gore came across it. And as a description of how many on the left see the country seven years into their Bush nightmare, it's pretty much perfect.


It's a fake.

Writing in 1999 in the Abraham Lincoln Association's newsletter, the great Lincoln historian Thomas F. Schwartz traced the bogus passage to the 1880s, about 20 years after Lincoln's death. One theory is that it first appeared in a pamphlet advertising patent medicines. Opponents of Gilded Age capitalism -- Gore's forerunners -- found the quote so useful that Lincoln's former White House secretaries felt compelled to launch a campaign "denouncing the forgery," Schwartz said. Robert Todd Lincoln, who was the president's only surviving son and himself a wealthy railroad lawyer, called it "an impudent invention" that ascribed to his father views that the former president would never have held.

"I discovered what I think is the true and only source of this supposed quotation," Robert wrote in an unpublished letter, probably tongue-in-cheek. "It originated, I think, at what is called a Spiritualist Séance in a country town in Iowa, a number of years ago, as being a communication by President Lincoln through what is called a Medium." Even bloggers might think twice about trusting such a source.

For more on the fake Lincoln quote, see


Saturday, June 09, 2007

Back in the day...

Jessica McBride notes that a conservative state legislator submitted a letter to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in her support, but that the paper didn't run it. She ponders:

Pretty telling. Imagine what happened to the conservative voice on various issues in the days before blogs. It just didn't get through the media gate.

Now, as it happens, I have some experience in this area. Over the years, I've written, and had published, a number of letters to the Journal Sentinel, and to the Journal before it. And I can tell you from experience that the media gate wouldn't just sit on the conservative voice. Even when they let it through, they'd work to dilute it, with every loophole in their arsenal; if you didn't know the rules of the game, you were screwed.

A couple of examples:
  • My very first letter to the editor, written way back in the days of the Milwaukee Journal, blasted an aspect of the pro-choice position prominent in the abortion debate at the time. (I haven't changed much, as you can see.) I never heard back from the Journal; my letter just suddenly appeared in the paper one day--almost half a year after I sent it in. Lesson learned: always respond to specific events/articles.
  • When the Journal and Sentinel merged, one of the first editorials the new paper put out described the board's position on abortion. I didn't think much of their reasoning, and sent a letter blasting the paper's stance as "journalistic cowardice." (Hey, cut me some slack--I was still in high school.) The Journal Sentinel printed my letter, all right--again, many months after I sent it, long after anyone had any idea what editorial my letter was referring to. Lesson learned: always include the date and/or title of the event/article you're responding to.
There have been other examples. The paper used to have a "Talk Back" feature, where the editors would respond to selected letters. They once picked one of mine--another abortion letter, to which they flippantly replied that Roe v. Wade was the law of the land, so there. (They ended up printing another letter about a week later blasting their response, so I count that occasion as a win for me.) On a number of occasions, I've had letters edited--changes that seemed to me to be more about blunting the effectiveness of my wording than about conserving space, though I suppose that is open to debate.

My most interesting experience, though, came when I once had a letter published in response to another letter that had recently appeared in the paper--this one on the subject of US promotion of birth control internationally, if I remember correctly. A few days later, the Journal Sentinel printed a response to my the author of the original letter, in blatant violation of the paper's "1 letter every 2 months" limit. (I tried sending in a response to the response--sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, I argued--but the paper did not print it.)

Even more interesting--I received an anonymous letter a few days later claiming that the letter-writer I'd just been clashing with had been dead for several years. I didn't investigate then (and I've since forgotten the name of the deceased scribe) but that, in combination with the paper mysteriously waiving its normal restrictions, leads me to believe that I'd stumbled over a member of the Journal Sentinel staff, publishing his/her own letters under a pseudonym.

(I once mentioned this incident to someone who works at the paper, and was told that some time ago, the paper tightened up its verification procedures. Certainly, sometime after that incident, the paper started contacting me for verification before publishing my letters, so something like that last one probably wouldn't happen anymore.)

So yes, it would happen--and that's not counting the letters of mine that never made it into the paper. And given that it happened so often to me--an above-average wordsmith, in my not-so-humble opinion--I can only imagine what the "gatekeepers" did with other writers.


Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Two tales of 2006

It strikes me, in following the Democratic and Republican campaigns for President, that there are two competing explanations about the 2006 elections.

The explanation bandied about on the Republican side is that the GOP lost big in 2006 because the party had lost its way--because of wasteful spending, because of corruption, because of mismanagement in Iraq. These are fixable issues, according to this explanation--and on Iraq, in particular, what voters want is victory.

The explanation bandied about on the Democratic side, by contrast, is that the GOP lost big in 2006 because of America's very presence in Iraq. The voters don't want victory anymore, according to this explanation--what they want is out.

Candidates on both sides are, by and large, running their campaigns according to their party's explanations, and whichever candidates win the nominations of their respective parties will likely continue to do so through the general election.

Here's the thing, though--these two explanations are mutually exclusive. They cannot both be true. At least one of them is false.

Either the Republicans or the Democrats have drastically misread the message voters sent in the 2006 midterm elections. Whichever party that is will likely find itself completely out of power following Election Day 2008.

(Which party do I think that is? Much as I'd like to buy the GOP vision, the Democrats and their media allies have been pushing a self-fulfilling prophecy of unremitting gloom and disaster in Iraq for the last four-plus years. Their Big Lie has worked, and worked to perfection--and I fear it's far too late for anything the Republicans [or General Petraeus in Iraq, for that matter] can do to make a difference.)


Monday, June 04, 2007

How to attack Fred?

NewsBusters takes a look at what it calls three "trial balloons" from the media regarding potential negative storylines about Fred Thompson.

The first--that Thompson isn't to be trusted because he quit his acting job in order to run for president.

...right. Moving on...

The second--by running, Thompson is stabbing his friend John McCain in the back.

A compelling soap opera storyline, but I doubt it will get much traction in a presidential race. (I also suspect that someone across the pond has been reading a few too many tabloids.)

The third is the one I brought up a few days ago--the charge that Thompson is too lazy to be president, exemplified here by a new story in Newsweek.

Thus far, that looks like the most credible line of attack--and that's not much.

As I've said before, we haven't seen anything yet. When Thompson enters the presidential race, he's accepting an invitation to run the gauntlet. Thompson's opposition will give him as thorough a vetting as anyone could imagine--and if they can't manage to dig anything up, someone, in desperation, will make something up.

Either way, the media will fall on whatever comes to light like a pack of wolves.

And that's the point where we'll find out whether Fred Thompson is presidential material.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Van Hollen: WI partial-birth law unenforceable

The AP reports:

Wisconsin’s ban on so-called partial birth abortion likely will remain unenforceable even though the U.S. Supreme Court in April upheld a federal ban on the procedure, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said Thursday.

That is because Wisconsin’s law is based on a broad Nebraska ban the Supreme Court struck down, not the more narrow federal ban it upheld, Van Hollen said in a legal opinion requested by two Republican legislative leaders.


The Supreme Court said the differently worded law that Congress passed and President Bush signed in 2003 does not violate a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. Van Hollen said that law contains a more narrow and precise definition of the procedure than Wisconsin’s ban.

Because of that, a federal judge is unlikely to lift the injunction, Van Hollen said.

Van Hollen issued his legal opinion in response to a request from Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch, R-West Salem, and Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau.

In light of the opinion, Fitzgerald will now look at what changes need to be made to bring Wisconsin law in line with what the Supreme Court ruled was an acceptable ban, his spokesman Mike Prentiss said. When the bill passed in 1998 it had bipartisan support, he noted.

I have a feeling Fitzgerald can put "a new governor" at the top of his list of changes needed. Given the recent example of legislators like Harry Reid and Joe Biden--who voted for the federal ban and then proceeded to express shock and dismay when the Supreme Court had the audacity to actually uphold the law they'd passed--it's safe to say that many Democrats who supported the ban did so solely to try to lure pro-life voters...with the unspoken expectation (understanding?) that the courts would strike the ban down.

There's no reason to think things are any different on the state level. Now that Democrats know that what they vote for will actually stick, you can expect that "bipartisan support" to dwindle rapidly--to well below the numbers required to override a Jim Doyle veto.


Friday, June 01, 2007

Early shots at Fred Thompson

As expected, now that Fred Thompson is in the presidential race, the scrutiny is starting to ramp up. An early example of how he'll likely be attacked comes from John Dickerson of Slate:

One of the biggest (and longstanding) knocks against the former senator is that he doesn't have the heart for the race or the job. In short: He's lazy. A campaign that relies on pithy lines and the Internet feeds the lounge-chair image. It looks like he's trying to elevate laziness into a virtue. Several of Thompson's rivals, who know him from his time in Washington, elaborate on that theme. He wasn't known for his hard work in the Senate. Exhibit A, they say, was the 1997 campaign-finance hearings he chaired, which he started with a bang by promising grand disclosures but ended in a fizzle without uncovering much.

Fair or not, the laziness rap against Thompson is like the rap that former presidential hopeful Sen. George Allen isn't a genius. Or that John McCain is a hothead. It's an unresolved issue waiting for its moment to become a crisis for the campaign. Thompson's spokesman, Mark Corallo, brushes off critics with a line Ronald Reagan used when belittling what he considered his opponent's hysterical distortions: "There they go again."

The laziness charge can be deadly because however much voters like the notion of no-sweat solutions, they also want to be sure that their president is up at night worrying about terrorist attacks so they don't have to. They also like to know they're getting their money's worth from their public officials. After the early-to-bed Bush administration, this may be truer than ever.

The other problem with being a lazy candidate is that laziness makes you think you can wing it. This may explain Thompson's much-discussed (by Republicans anyway) lackluster performance at the California Lincoln Club in May. He tore up his speech and just ad-libbed. The lack of direction showed, at least as far as influential conservative columnist Robert Novak was concerned. Because Thompson's candidacy benefits so much from his performance abilities, like Barack Obama on the Democratic side, he pays a bigger price than other candidates if he doesn't consistently excite party activists each time he gets on stage.

Jessica McBride also notes potential problems for Thompson in abortion, as he was apparently pro-choice at one point back in 1994.

I'm not very concerned on that front. Thompson's voting record in the Senate was consistently pro-life; his conversion--if there was a conversion--was not a recent or politically contrived phenomenon (as opposed to, say, Mitt Romney) and is thus far more likely to be the genuine article. I think he can be trusted here.

It's still early, and as of yet the opposition hasn't really dug into Thompson. It'll be interesting to see how he handles it when they do.

I'll be watching.