Talk radio update

As usual, it took only a few minutes for NPR to offer more worth listening to than I heard on commercial talk radio all day long. Our papers have been consistently arriving late from Bozeman, for some reason, so I haven’t been able to listen much to Aaron Flint. I need to apologize to Aaron for not attacking him here lately. But I did hear a few minutes on Thursday, and I’m pretty sure I heard him say that we have to trap otters in order to keep them from attacking dogs. Maybe he was kidding, or maybe I was dreaming.

Rush Limbaugh devoted three hours to pointing out how great he is, since it was his 25th anniversary show. This, I thought, might be interesting because it would at least be a break from the usual liberal bashing. But it wasn’t. No doubt he has gained insights into the nature of radio talk over the years that would be worth hearing. But if he shared any of those with his audience on Thursday, I missed them.

“To the Point,” however, had an extremely interesting program on the fast-food workers’ walkout in various big cities. It was so interesting that it actually reduced my own productivity, because I kept lingering in the car to listen instead of delivering my papers like a good boy.

Warren Olney had on one woman who has been at Burger King for five years and makes $8.25 an hour. She got that raise, from $7.25 an hour, when she was promoted to manager. It’s the only raise she has ever received.

Olney being Olney, he also had on an apologist for the fast-food corporations (McDonald’s declined to comment or participate; Burger King released a written statement). The apologist made the usual point, which also was made later by the president of the American Enterprise Institute on the Jerry Doyle show: Raising the minimum wage to even $10 or $12 would force bottom-level employees out of the workforce and drive up prices for everyone else.

As they made this point, it occurred to me that this was not an issue about which we could merely speculate. I had heard that the minimum wage, in real terms, was once much higher than it is now.  And it’s true: In constant dollars, the minimum wage peaked at $10.51 in 1968. And what was the unemployment rate that year? It was a terrifying 3.6 percent. And a year later, after the pernicious effects of the high minimum wage had time to kick in? It was 3.5 percent.

True, the rate rose to 4.9 percent in 1970 — still below the theoretical full-employment rate of 5 percent. Then there was the oil embargo and stagflation, and unemployment soared, not falling to 4.9 percent again until 1997. But I suspect the minimum wage had little to do with all of that.

Granted, this is complicated stuff. The economy moves in lots of mysterious ways. I won’t argue that I can prove raising the minimum wage is a good idea. I just wish others wouldn’t insist on arguing that they can prove the opposite.

We’re No. 6!

Finally got around to reading Kiplinger’s report that ranked Billings as No. 6 among 10 great places to live in the United States.

No quarrel with the choice — I think Billings is a great place to live. But ahead of Billings, at No. 3, came Bryan-College Station, Texas, a place I have lived in twice and visited as recently as this summer. It’s OK, and Texas A&M is a real asset (I got my graduate degree there), but it’s basically flat, hot and architecturally and culturally uninspiring (except for the Chicken Oil, still my favorite watering hole).

Third-best place to live in the United States? It’s not even the third-best place I’ve lived in.

What’s the deal?

I don’t usually read Rolling Stone, but somebody gave me a used copy of the issue with the controversial cover of Boston terrorist Dzhokhar Tsaernav in the latest issue. I didn’t understand the cover controversy even before I read the article, and after reading it I understand it even less. I even found a heated discussion about the cover on what I thought was my Facebook page, but I can’t find it now and my understanding of Facebook — even two years after I promised I was going to try to figure it out — is so limited that I now have no idea what I was reading.

Anyway, there’s a controversy going on, and I don’t get it. On Hannity’s radio show, even alleged liberal Kirsten Powers said she couldn’t see how anyone would defend that cover. But I defend it. The cover accompanied a news story that tried to figure out how a nice-looking kid could do something so awful. It would be pretty hard to make that case without showing what a nice-looking kid he was. And since that was the major story in the magazine, it made sense to put the photo on the cover.

And it’s a lesson worth having. You can’t count on all evil people to look like Adolf Hitler or Charles Manson. Some of them look like Osama Bin Laden, who judging from his photos you might think is somebody you might want to baptize your baby.

So why are so many people angry about this cover? I don’t get it.

Talk radio update

On both Thursday and Friday, Hannity was all over the idea that Republicans should shut down the government unless Obama agrees to defund Obamacare. Actually, there’s a shorter way to say that, since Obama would never agree to defund Obamacare: Republicans should shut down the government.

This strikes me as absolutely insane, something that even a lot of Republicans understand. So Hannity had to interview some of the dimmer Republican bulbs: Michelle Bachmann, Louie Gohmert and, sadly, Ted Cruz. Cruz is supposed to be the smart new thing in the GOP, but he sure didn’t sound like it. His anti-Obamacare screed included one outright lie: He repeated the claim that Max Baucus said Obamacare was a trainwreck. That’s not at all what Baucus said, and Cruz must know that. So he just lied.

Rep. Bachmann claimed that Obama was using Obamacare to funnel money to his favorite community activists, including ACORN. I can’t accuse Bachmann of lying, since she is dense enough that she may not really know that ACORN no longer exists. Rep. Gohmert said something that was equally and mindblowingly stupid, but I forgot what it was. I think the memory of it escaped in the steam that was coming out of my ears.

Hannity and the others are convinced that this is the last chance to stop Obamacare because once uninsured people start to actually get health insurance, it will no longer be politically possible to tell them to kindly, please, give up their insurance and instead go bankrupt and become wards of the state. Apparently, Hannity, Cruz, Jerry Doyle, Glenn Beck, Bachmann, Gohmert, et al, have no problem with telling people who have been clinging to the hope that they might actually be only a couple of months away from getting insurance to just do without.

Meanwhile, the Republican alternative to Obamacare still seems to have only two prongs: Allow insurance companies to sell across state lines, which undermines the 10th Amendment rights of states to govern as they see fit, and tort reform, which undermines the First Amendment right of citizens to petition for redress of grievances against hospitals whose errors result in some 40,000 U.S. deaths a year.

Obamacare, instead, relies on private market exchanges, a plan once favored by Republicans. Now they got nothing.

UPDATE: Apparently, Bachmann isn’t the only Republican who doesn’t know that ACORN no longer exists.

Like a son

Many on the right have complained about Barack Obama’s statement that if he had a son, his son would have looked like Trayvon Martin. I’m no expert on genetics, but as far as I can judge, that is a reasonably accurate statement of fact. Look here and here.

So why does this upset conservatives? I can’t figure, but here is a particularly stupid version of their reaction, a stupidity that only begins to be expressed by the statement that Obama was “implying Martin could be his son.” No, that’s not at all what he was saying.

As Balloon Juice puts it, “Yeah, I’m sure Barack Obama wants to go back to the 1950s so his parents can get arrested for miscegenation, he can use the separate bathroom facilities and not eat at the Woolworth’s lunch counter.”

Talk radio update

Oh, to heck with the whole bunch of ‘em. My schedule was a little off all day, so I missed a fair chunk of talk radio, and Limbaugh and Huckabee have gotten to the point that they whimper so much about how awful it is to be an American in the 21st century that I find it hard to take them seriously enough even to disagree with them. And Hannity just goes on and on about what a great American George Zimmerman is and what a sneaky attack Trayvon Martin launched against him. Oh, bother.

Fortunately, Joe Sample was playing a solid hour of Louis Armstrong. So beautiful. If listening to Louis Armstrong doesn’t make you feel better about being alive on this planet, then maybe you are on the wrong planet.

Joe also had a quote from Armstrong I don’t remember hearing before. When he was a kid, Louis delivered coal to houses in a cart pulled by a mule, the inspiration for this song. One day after he unhitched the mule, he said, he rode it home backward “because I’d lost a dime in his oats.”

Limbaugh, et al, just can’t compete.


Here’s another respect in which liberals have it over conservatives when it comes to patriotism: You never hear (or at least I never hear) conservatives complain about businesses that stay open on July 4 because, you know, free markets.

I am liberal enough to find it appalling. Movie theaters, OK; ballgames, OK; a drug store here and there; a few convenience stores; cops and firefighters, bless their hearts; emergency rooms; maybe a grocery store or two. But there’s no way we need everybody working who has to work on Independence Day. It’s another way in which America has been less equal: the poorer you are, the worse job you have, the more likely you are to lose your holidays.

Folks, it’s a holiday. We’re Americans. Celebrate like you mean it.

The worst this year was the sign that said the store would be closing at 7 p.m. on July 4 so that employees could spend time with their families. The store usually closes at 10, so three whole hours! Is this the America we fought for?

There’s only one way to stop this insidious practice: Hit ‘em in the only place it hurts — in the pocketbook. If they can’t learn to do the right thing for the right reasons, maybe losing a little money will help get the idea across.


Talk radio update II

Hypocrisy is an abundant commodity, so it’s not surprising that it turns up on talk radio. But the sheer audacity of it can at times be breath taking.

This week, radio talkers sounded as confused about Egypt as I am. On the one hand, nobody likes the Muslim Brotherhood, so it’s good to see that go. On the other hand, military coups don’t have a sterling record of success either. On the third hand, it’s nice to see hundreds of thousands speak out for what sounds something like liberal democracy. On the fourth hand, what are the odds of that actually coming about?

But if the talkers weren’t sure what to do about Egypt, they were sure of one thing: Whatever it was, Obama wasn’t doing it. Dumping on Obama is a Get Out of Jail Free card on every issue: Just blame him and you are home free.

A more stunning example was the discussion by the Hannity clone (today’s version: Rose Tennent) with Monica Crowley of the Trayvon Martin case. Both agreed that the media had rushed to judgment and found George Zimmerman guilty before the trial even began. But they ignored the rush to judgment made by the actual host of the very show they were on.

True, Trayvon Martin is not on trial here. But when two guys get into a fight on a dark night on a public sidewalk and one winds up dead, it’s pretty certain that somebody committed a crime. And if Zimmerman didn’t, then Martin almost surely must have.

He now lies beyond earthly concerns, but his legacy and his family still count. If you are going to insist that Zimmerman receive a fair trial and unbiased news coverage, then certainly Martin deserves the same.

Talk radio update

At Intelligent Discontent, Don Pogreba makes the case that liberals are patriots, too. I don’t have much quarrel with anything he says there, but I was struck once again that patriotism seems to be the default position of conservatives, with liberals just hoping to tag along.

Sometimes I think that’s just backward, especially when I’m listening to talk radio around the Fourth of July. Of course, liberal voices are rarely heard in the world of talk radio, so you have to make do with what you can find, in other words, NPR.

This year, it was the same old story: NPR ran a string of stories celebrating America’s traditions and history, from an 11-year-old’s recitation of the Gettysburg Address to a search for the Great American Symphony. Talk radio? Same old, same old. Obama’s destroying the country; liberals are what’s wrong with America; American government is too weak and too strong and too oppressive and too mealy mouthed.

I’m not saying that criticizing the president is unpatriotic. Criticism of the government is older than America. But I am saying that the founders were onto something when they decided to set aside one day a year when we overlook our differences, celebrate our achievements, and reflect on the hard work and sacrifices that got us here.

If all you had to judge America on was what you could hear on the radio, you would have to conclude that liberals are the only true patriots this country has.