Talk radio update

All healthcare ruling, all day long.

Fortunately, NPR offered extra coverage through much of the day, which spared me from listening to considerable whining. I have to give NPR credit: Not only did it seem to have the story right from the very beginning (unlike CNN and Fox), it kept expanding the coverage throughout the day with an enormous range of views and perspectives.

Commercial radio, not so much. A caller to Aaron Flint’s show said the ruling actually was good for conservatives. Then he was interrupted by a stretch of dead time (which happens a lot on that show), so I’m not sure I fully got his point. But I think he was saying that since the ruling limited the commerce clause, which is the important thing to real conservatives, the ruling actually had a bright side. This made sense to me, but nobody else seemed to be buying it.

Dennis Miller pretty much dropped his cooler-than-you act and seemed genuinely angry about the whole thing. So were his callers. The common thread essentially was that now hardworking taxpayers will have to pick up the burden of paying for healthcare for everybody else.

To me, this seemed exactly backward. As Michael Smerconish later pointed out to a caller, hardworking taxpayers already are paying for healthcare for everybody else. The individual mandate means that people who thought they could get a free ride if they ever got sick now have to put some money into the pot. Miller also seemed to think it was a 6-3 ruling, so his thinking cap wasn’t on real tight.

Limbaugh was so angry he was reduced to a mountain of slobbering blubber. I could only stand a couple of minutes of it, but I think it is safe to say that in his world America no longer exists.

I had to fetch my wife at the doctor’s office, so I missed most of Huckabee. I did hear him actually talk some about other topics, so I guess he must have had his emotions better under control.

After a couple of more hours of NPR coverage over the noon hour, I girded up my loins to listen to Hannity’s well of outrage. But when I flipped over there, I heard a guest actually making some fairly measured comments about the whole issue. It was so disconcerting that I had one of those slightly disoriented, wobbly moments that occasionally occur when I have been delivering papers too long while drinking too little on a summer’s day.

Then I realized that by mistake I actually had flipped to Smerconish’s show, who, as usual, was more interested in making sense of the ruling than in spinning it. Actual Hannity had no such interest. I have mentioned before that one of his saving graces is that he occasionally will listen to dissenting voices when he feels magnanimous and unthreatened. Thursday was not one of those days. It was nonstop rant from start to finish, much of it focused on the claim that Obama was deliberately lying when he argued during the congressional debate on the Affordable Care Act that it was a penalty, not a tax.

At the very end, Hannity finally let a liberal caller on, but the guy never got out a single sentence. Hannity interrupted every single thing the guy tried to utter. This was Hannity in full defensive mode, all pretense to balance sacrificed.

Things only got worse at 4 p.m. Glenn Beck’s show airs here in the afternoon, but it is taped in the morning, so he didn’t have the ruling yet. He meandered along for a while on the general theme of how terrible Obama is. It got so tedious that I actually flipped for a moment to Michael Savage, who was calling for drug tests for every member of government.

So these were my commercial radio talk choices: uninformed speculation or insane rage. I couldn’t take it any longer. Brad Edwards, here I come.


Montana challenge defeated

Despite four dissenting votes, the U.S. Supreme Court has rather cavalierly struck down the Montana Supreme Court’s ruling on corporate campaign contributions.

UPDATE: My earlier thoughts on the topic.

UPDATE 2: Much more here.

UPDATE 3: Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock responds:

     “It is a sad day for our democracy and for those of us who still want to believe that the United States Supreme Court is anything more than another political body in Washington, D.C.  

      “I am very disappointed in what the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision means for state and local elections in Montana – and for our entire nation.  One hundred years ago, Montanans passed an initiative to protect democracy, to give everyday people a voice that would no longer be silenced by a sea of corporate money.  Their wisdom and the Corrupt Practices Act of 1912 have served Montana well for over a century, and could have provided the Court with the opportunity to revisit some of the fundamental fallacies underlying the Citizens United decision.

      “I am proud to have led this fight for Montana and honored that 22 other states and Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) stood shoulder to shoulder with Montana.  Despite this disappointing decision, the last word has not been spoken on the issue of how we preserve a viable democracy in which everyday people have a meaningful voice.  History will show that it was Montanans and the Montana Supreme Court that understood the heart of this issue and stood on the side of ‘We the people.’”

UPDATE 4: U.S. Sen. Max Baucus responds:

“This decision is a dangerous blow to democracy. But our fight is far from over. 100 years ago, Montanans stood up and said elections belong to us, not to the copper kings.


“And today we say the same thing. Our elections are not for sale to corporations. My constitutional amendment would right this wrong once and for all, and today’s announcement makes me more determined than ever to get it done.”

UPDATE 5: E.J. Dionne chimes in.

Plugging along

The Outpost editor writes a column that not even he thinks is quite up to snuff. As Groucho  Marx said in “Horse Feathers,” “All the jokes can’t be good.”

To make up for it, he also writes a baseball story and a theater review. If you can’t write good stuff, write lots of it.

Speaking of good stuff, you should go read Ed Kemmick’s column today. As usual, I’m hoarding Gazette links, so you will have to find it on your own, but it’s worth the effort. I watched Joe sit through a few years of county commissioner meetings myself, and I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have gotten that good a story about him. I’m glad to see somebody could.

Talk radio update

Talk radio was all over the Fast and Furious controversy, especially in light of the Obama administration’s claim of executive privilege with respect to some documents a congressional committee wants.

Mike Huckabee devoted an hour and a half to the topic, mostly along the lines of this is an important controversy and you should be concerned whether you are a Democrat or a Republican. He never persuaded me that even he would care as much if the parties were reversed, much less that I should, and even if he had, so what? I don’t need ideological persuasion on this issue; I need evidence.

But I shouldn’t complain because Huckabee devoted one segment of his 90-minute diatribe to Andrew Napolitano, whose opinions I respect. Napolitano made what sounded to me like a pretty persuasive case that executive privilege shouldn’t apply in this case, although he didn’t quite answer all of the questions I would have liked to ask. So 15 useful minutes out of 90 minutes of talk radio — that’s a darn good ratio.

Michael Smerconish tried to take a balanced approach, as always. He didn’t say much I hadn’t heard, some of it from him when he was subbing for Chris Matthews on MSNBC the day before. But it’s always so quirky to hear balance in talk radio that it never fails to take me slightly by surprise.

No such surprises on Hannity, of course, whose sole interest appeared to be in pinning the whole scandal on President Obama. Even guest Karl Rove wasn’t willing to go that far, so I guess that counts as balanced from Hannity’s point of view: insane speculation that makes the president look bad balanced by sane speculation that makes the president look bad.

Even Hannity had a useful segment when he had on Austan Goolsbee, formerly part of Obama’s cabinet. Goolsbee appeared to want to make the point that both parties should work together, but this effort was immediately sidetracked by Hannity, who noted that it is all Obama’s fault, except for the parts that are the fault of Democrats in general.

This forced Goolsbee to defend Obama, so we had 15 minutes of Hannity bouncing his usual talking points off Goolsbee, who really is a pretty sharp fellow and was able to blunt the attacks without ever getting back to his main point. Too bad.

Single moment on NPR that was better than everything on talk radio all day: an interview with Mike Wilson, who mentioned the title of his book: “The Difference Between God and Larry Ellison: God Doesn’t Think He’s Larry Ellison.”


Editor vs. writer

I’ve been following the migration of George Ochenski from the Missoula Independent to the Missoulian through 4 & 20 Blackbirds (see here and other posts in the same general time frame). So I made a point of listening to Ochenski’s appearance on Voices of Montana Wednesday morning when I probably should have been asleep.

I was less enthusiastic than jhwygirl about the interview. The implication from Aaron Flint’s reporting and interview was that Ochenski was canned (if a freelance writer can be canned) but that wasn’t clear from what Ochenski actually said in the interview — although he appeared to be quite willing to go into the down and dirty. But as soon as the interview got to that point, Flint switched to other topics.

So I dunno. Ochenski’s examples of editor malfeasance sounded like pretty routine head bumping between writers and editors. It sounds to me like either something else was going on, or one or the other (perhaps both) of the parties involved chose this occasion to act like a total jerk.

In fairness to Flint, I am probably more interested in inside baseball about editor-writer conflicts than anybody in the state, so he may have been right to switch off the topic. I’ve certainly had my own terse exchanges with columnists over the years; a certain tension is inevitable. It’s a given in journalistic circles that writers are lazy and incompetent, editors are idiots, and publishers are cowards, which makes for some nimble mental gymnastics in those of us who handle all three jobs.

As the Outpost’s Roger Clawson once put it, “My job is to stretch the envelope. Your job is to make sure the envelope doesn’t tear.” So we have exchanged a punch or two, but he’s still writing, and we still drink coffee together.

More importantly, Flint seemed to miss what may be larger story about Montana’s changing media landscape. Here the storyline could be something like this: Scrappy daily saves day for popular columnist let go by out-of-state editor of overbearing weekly. It’s a new world, and this episode is just one more example of it.


Talk radio update

While I was sick, my temperature hit 104 a few times, which my daughter says is high enough to cause brain damage. So I approached Thursday deliveries as something of a science experiment. I figured if I found myself agreeing with Sean Hannity, I would know that I had baked my brain.

Fortunately, Hannity was as wacky as ever. His theme of the day was that Obama is a whiner who constantly blames others, especially George W. Bush, for economic weakness in his own administration. Glenn Beck pounded the same argument, and Huckabee was on the case this morning, another example of the amazing fidelity with which talk yakkers adhere to the Theme of the Day.

Hannity’s take was especially interesting, considering that every time a caller tried to defend Obama’s record, Hannity would ask, “Are we better off than we were four years ago? Are we better off than we were $5 trillion worth of Obama debt ago?”

Well, it’s impossible to answer that question without considering, you know, where we were four years ago. But if you talk about that you are whining. And how can an honest broker like Hannity expect to talk sense into someone who just whines out Democratic talking points?

Mike Huckabee’s continued descent into uselessness continued with his discussion of a Wall Street Journal article that argued Obama’s policies are to blame for the continued weakness of the recovery. OK. I’ve heard a lot of complaints that Obama’s policies are to blame for weak job growth, but very little in terms of specifics. There is a fair amount of evidence that Obama’s biggest policy initiatives — second round of TARP, stimulus bill, auto bailout — actually did work. Obama’s jobs package hasn’t worked, arguably because Congress hasn’t passed it — and job growth has correspondingly slowed.

So what policies exactly are we talking about? Not clear, at least not from Huckabee’s summary of the article. He described in some detail how weak the recovery has been, which we already knew. But his critique of Obama’s policies boiled down, according to Huckabee, essentially this: We have to get our fiscal house in order.

Not clear to me whether he meant by this that Obama has a deliberate policy of NOT getting our fiscal house in order. Failing that, it’s pretty hard to guess what he meant. And Huckabee was no help.

Hindquarters in the saddle

Miss me? I came down with a pretty serious infection last week, struggled mightily last Tuesday to get the paper out, barely moved all day Wednesday, and woke up dripping in sweat Thursday morning but feeling much better.

But not for long. Within two hours, my body was shuddering nonstop, and I finally agreed to go the emergency room. The doctor booked me into a hospital room, where I lay in various stages of misery until Sunday afternoon.

With a great deal of help from the tiny but willing Outpost staff, I managed to get our another paper last night and am feeling OK now, if not exactly spry. Another triumph of modern medical technology.