The TV reverse Midas touch

The late Trio cable channel had a series called “Brilliant But Canceled” about shows on TV all too briefly:

I wouldn’t call what follows “brilliant,” but they were definitely canceled, and shortly after I started watching them at a very young age.

“The Interns,” which was on briefly in 1970, includes an actor from “Star Trek” and “The FBI,” another “Star Trek” actor, B.J. from “M*A*S*H,” one of those actors whose face you recognized (before his untimely death at 49), and the star of “Highway Patrol” in a series that lasted one season:

Before I knew Glenn Ford as a movie actor of long standing, I saw him in this one-season series:

My viewing preferences of TV series with cars probably started with the 13-episode “Bearcats!”

Perhaps because of his recently canceled “Get Smart,” I watched the next sitcom of Don Adams, “The Partners.” The only episode I recall was when their car’s driver’s side door was sheared off by a passing car, creating a three-door detective car.

“Partners” was moved halfway into its only season. Its time-slot replacement was “Emergency!”

You’ve already read here about “Chase,” produced by Jack Webb;

Another Webb series not long for the screen was “Project UFO”:

Movie fans may remember an actor named Khigh Dhiegh, the Chinese bad guy in “The Manchurian Candidate.” TV fans remember him (name at birth, believe it or don’t: Kenneth Dickerson) as Wo Fat in the original “Hawaii Five-O.” While playing Wo Fat, Dheigh briefly was the lead of “Khan,” about a San Francisco private detective. “Khan” is so rare that you can’t even find a snippet of it on YouTube, perhaps because it was canceled two episodes into its four-episode run.

As you know, quality and popularity are not synonyms. I don’t remember much about any of these series, but since none lasted very long, neither does anyone else.

On a holiday weekend eve

I will be on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Ideas Network’s Joy Cardin Week in Review segment Friday at 8 a.m.

Joy Cardin and all the other Ideas Network programming can be heard on WLBL (930 AM) in Auburndale, WHID (88.1 FM) in Green Bay, WHWC (88.3 FM) in Menomonie, WRFW (88.7 FM) in River Falls, WEPS (88.9 FM) in Elgin, Ill., WHAA (89.1 FM) in Adams, WHBM (90.3 FM) in Park Falls, WHLA (90.3 FM) in La Crosse, WRST (90.3 FM) in Oshkosh, WHAD (90.7 FM) in Delafield, W215AQ (90.9 FM) in Middleton, KUWS (91.3 FM) in Superior, WHHI (91.3 FM) in Highland, WSHS (91.7 FM) in Sheboygan, WHDI (91.9 FM) in Sister Bay, WLBL (91.9 FM) in Wausau, W275AF (102.9 FM) in Ashland, W300BM (107.9 FM) in Madison, and of course online at

This is not a big holiday weekend, when I seem to be on often. Friday is, however, National Bike to Work Day, Endangered Species Day, NASCAR Day, National Defense Transportation Day, National Pizza Day, National Devil’s Food Cake Day, and Plant Something Day. Saturday is Armed Forces Day, National Learn to Swim Day, Pick Strawberries Day, and Do Dah Day, supposedly a Salute to Silliness. Sunday is

One assumes Donald Trump will be one of the subjects Friday morning. And perhaps for the last time, because Sunday is End of the World or Rapture Party Day, along with National Strawberries and Cream Day, if you observed Pick Strawberries Day Saturday.


When the heart interferes with the brain


If you are on Facebook, you have probably seen Jimmy Kimmel’s monologue about his son, who was born with heart defects and required heart surgery shortly after birth.

(When Kimmel mentioned the name of the heart defect, tetralogy of fallot, I immediately recognized it, because earlier in my career I covered, within a few months, stories about three babies with heart defects. One survived, one died, and I’m not sure what happened in the third case.)

Thankfully, Kimmel’s son apparently will be all right, though he will require more surgery. Unthankfully, Kimmel concluded his monologue by supporting something he should not support, Obamacare.

Michelle Malkin explains why:

Millions of American parents, myself included, have walked in Kimmel’s shoes. We’ve experienced the terrifying roller coaster of emotions — panic, helplessness, anger, anxiety, relief, grief, and unconditional love — that comes with raising chronically ill kids.

But Kimmel didn’t use his high-profile platform to educate the public about coping with rare diseases. Or to champion the nation’s best and brightest pediatric specialists and medical innovators. The Tinseltown celebrity turned his personal plight into a political weapon, which his liberal friends were all too happy to wield. Top Democrats tweeted their praise for Kimmel’s advocacy of expanded government health-care regulations:

“Well said, Jimmy,” Barack Obama gushed.

“Thanks @jimmykimmel for sharing your story & reminding us what’s at stake w/health care,” Hillary Clinton effused.

The Huffington Post piled on: “Jimmy Kimmel’s Humanity Underscores Heartlessness Of GOP’s Approach To The Poor.”

I don’t need lectures from Huffington Post and Hollywood elites about having a heart. Neither do the rest of America’s parents, whatever their political affiliations, who know what it’s like to stay up night after endless night with suffering children, wondering whether they would ever be able to breathe normally again or see the light of the next day.

Kimmel doesn’t need more maudlin Twitter suck-uppery. He needs a healthy fact-check.

“Before 2014,” he claimed, “if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you’d never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition, you were born with a pre-existing condition.”

This is false. If parents had health insurance, the child would have been covered under the parents’ policy whether or not the child had a health problem.

Kimmel continued: “And if your parents didn’t have medical insurance, you might not live long enough to even get denied because of a pre-existing condition.”

The term “pre-existing condition” is used to describe uninsured chronically ill people who apply for insurance coverage, not for a child in need of immediate care. Moreover, in the U.S., virtually all hospitals are legally obligated to provide emergency treatment to every patient who urgently requires emergency medical care regardless of the patient’s insurance status. This would include a newborn with an urgent heart condition. This requirement does not apply only to patients who enter an emergency room. It applies to all patients who set foot on a hospital’s property.

Kimmel then dramatically asserted: “If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make.”

I repeat: It does not matter if you are rich are poor or if you are uninsured. If your baby is in the hospital, he or she will receive emergency care no matter what.

“This isn’t football,” Kimmel implored. “There are no teams. We are the team, it’s the United States. Don’t let their partisan squabbles divide us on something every decent person wants.”

Kimmel implies that opposition to Obamacare-style insurance mandates is both un-American and indecent. Had he been less hysterical, he would have acknowledged that different health-care systems have pros and cons — and decent Americans can have legitimate differences of opinion on such matters.

In the land of make-believe, it would be wonderful if everyone had free access to the same high-quality care Kimmel and his family did at Cedars-Sinai and Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

In the real world, Obamacare plans have severely curtailed the number of doctors and hospitals that customers can use. Command-and-control regulations on guaranteed issue, community rating, and pre-existing conditions favored by Kimmel and company are driving up costs for everyone. Limited access to specialists and long waits have become the increasing norm — just like that other model of government-run health care, the Veterans Affairs system, where the despicable practice of “death by queuing” spiked under Obama.

Moving toward a nationalized health system might play well with an emotion-driven late-night comedy audience. But sober observers know it would mean undermining America’s superior access to cutting-edge diagnosis, innovative treatment, top specialists and surgeons, technology, and drugs.

This is what Kimmel’s ObamaCare has done, as reported by the Des Moines Register:

Tens of thousands of Iowans could be left with no health insurance options next year, after the last carrier for most of the state announced Wednesday that it likely would stop selling individual health policies here.

Medica, a Minnesota-based health insurer, released a statement suggesting it was close to following two larger carriers in deciding not to sell such policies in Iowa for 2018, due to instability in the market.

“Without swift action by the state or Congress to provide stability to Iowa’s individual insurance market, Medica will not be able to serve the citizens of Iowa in the manner and breadth that we do today. We are examining the potential of limited offerings, but our ability to stay in the Iowa insurance market in any capacity is in question at this point,” the company’s statement said.

Medica’s announcement comes on the heels of word last month that Aetna and Wellmark Blue Cross & Blue Shield would pull out of Iowa’s individual health insurance market for 2018. Those are the only three choices for individual health insurance in most areas of the state this year.

The pull-outs would not affect Iowans who obtain insurance via an employer or a government program, such as Medicare or Medicaid. But the carriers’ exit could leave more than 70,000 Iowans who buy their own coverage without any options for 2018.The news caught national attention Wednesday, because of fears that residents of other states could also lose insurance as carriers pull out of the market. …

Medica Vice President Geoff Bartsh said his company would have continued selling insurance throughout Iowa if Wellmark and Aetna had stayed in the market. But Medica, which lost $1.5 million covering 14,000 Iowans last year, couldn’t afford to take on tens of thousands more from the other two carriers, he said.

“The decision wasn’t, ‘Should we continue?’ It was, ‘Should we be the only game in town?’” Bartsh said in an interview Wednesday.

Iowa doesn’t meet many definitions of being a high-cost state. What happens in high-cost states?


The stupid people in my line of work

Washington, it is said, is Hollywood for ugly people. (Those who watch Netflix’s “House of Cards” may have noted the lack of really handsome actors.) And on the vertical spectrum of coolness journalists are on the bottom,

And with that context (we’ll get to “wrongheaded” presently), James Freeman reports on Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner, which was missing a prominent guest, Donald Trump:

At a black-tie dinner on Saturday night, Beltway media folk celebrated their adversarial relationship with President Donald Trump. The night was ostensibly a celebration of an independent press and the First Amendment. But event speakers gave the impression that America’s independent press has actually chosen a side.

Writing in the Washington Post, Monica Hesse sets the scene:

The White House Correspondents’ Association punched back this weekend against an administration that has denigrated it, attempted to discredit it and, ultimately, snubbed it by becoming the first administration in decades to skip out on the annual bread-breaking between the White House and the reporters who cover the presidency.

“We cannot ignore the rhetoric that has been employed by the president about who we are and what we do,” association president Jeff Mason told a ballroom of journalists attending the correspondents’ dinner on Saturday night. “We are not fake news. We are not failing news organizations. And we are not the enemy of the American people.”

But sometimes fake news is in the last place you look, and the Post thought perhaps it had discovered some at the very event dedicated to denying its existence among the mainstream press. Ms. Hesse’s Washington Post colleague Emily Heil reports on the evening’s speech delivered by “Daily Show” fake news reporter Hasan Minhaj:

Minhaj implied his hosts told him not to roast Trump. “I was explicitly told not to go after the administration,” he said after launching his first jab at the president, looking over at White House Correspondents’ Association president Jeff Mason with a look of exaggerated apology. (An item in Saturday’s New York Post hinted at a similar embargo, citing “a source who saw the comic” at a Manhattan gig, claiming organizers had declared POTUS off-limits, “because Trump is so thin-skinned.”)

Mason disputes that — and even tried fact-checking the comedian during his act. “You were not told that,” Mason can be heard saying, with a wry smile, as Minhaj claimed he’d been gagged.

Mason told us on Sunday that he was confused by the bit, since he “absolutely” never instructed Minhaj to steer clear of Trump. The two did talk about the theme of the evening, he said, which was to honor the work of the White House press corp and the importance of the first amendment. “I had said all along that I wasn’t looking for someone to roast the president in absentia,” Mason says.

That last comment could perhaps be construed as a request not to attack the President, so maybe fake news is sometimes in the eye of the consumer. In any case, Mr. Minhaj didn’t appear to be pulling any punches. Dave Itzkoff writes in the New York Times about the comedian’s tough love for the assembled media:

“We’re living in this strange time where trust is more important than truth,” Mr. Minhaj said in his performance at the Washington Hilton Hotel. “And supporters of President Trump trust him. And I know journalists, you guys are definitely trying to do good work. I just think that a lot of people don’t trust you right now. And can you blame them?”

A lot of people might have become even less inclined to trust the media upon hearing members of the crowd laughing at Mr. Minhaj’s comments about certain Trump administration officials—though Michael Grynbaum of the New York Times correctly notes that not everyone was laughing:

Wary of looking biased, many prominent journalists in the ballroom kept a poker face during Mr. Minhaj’s nastier punch lines. (He called Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, a “Nazi” and labeled the attorney general, Jeff Sessions, a racist, moments quickly featured on Breitbart News and other right-wing news websites.)

So were the prominent journalists simply wary of “looking biased,” or did they sincerely believe the attacks were unfair? Mr. Grynbaum’s reporting suggests it was the former:

… as reporters fanned out to after-parties, they described the night as a needed tonic to the celebrity-soaked atmosphere of recent correspondents’ dinners and the national climate of hostility toward the news media.

Blake Hounshell, the editor of Politico Magazine, wrote on Twitter, “The WHCD may have lost some glitz tonight, but recovered its self-respect.”

Over at the Washington Post, Ms. Heil says that the Minhaj performance “generally got a collective thumbs-up.” She adds:

Following the dinner, the comic got a warm welcome at the swanky NBC/MSNBC after-party. There were “tons of compliments” for the Comedy Central funnyman, says one partyer who spied the Minhaj looking relieved and relaxed as he mingled and chatted in a corner with MSNBC President Phil Griffin.

Perhaps there’s a hosting gig at MSNBC in Mr. Minhaj’s future, as he joked during his performance. And as for the correspondents who hosted Saturday’s event, the headline in Mr. Grynbaum’s story sums it up: “For Journalists, Annual Dinner Serves Up Catharsis and Resolve.” Having seen what they were serving up, Mr. Trump would be wise to skip next year’s event too.

What about “wrongheaded”? For that, let’s go to Freeman’s colleague Holman W. Jenkins Jr.:

As team Trump digs into taxing, spending and health-care reform, it’s learning a vital lesson of Washington. Once a government benefit is given, it can never be taken away. If young people have been overcharged by ObamaCare so middle-aged people can be undercharged, then the solution is to undercharge young people too. The taxpayer—usually visualized as a hedge fund manager—can always pay more.

Ditto the budget as a whole. The Washington Post moans that the White House’s new spending plan would “eliminate the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, which coordinates the federal response to homelessness across 19 federal agencies,” including providing funding for “Meals on Wheels, a national nonprofit group that delivers food to homebound seniors.”

Never mind that Meals on Wheels is not a federal program. Funding comes from private donations and state and local governments, sometimes using small parts of federal block grants.

The Post further moans that the Trump budget “guts federal funding for affordable housing and kicks the financial responsibility of those programs to states and local governments.”

Never mind that the federal government doesn’t have access to resources the states and localities don’t. Its tax base is their tax base. If housing subsidies are a local priority, let local leaders raise and spend the money locally. They are likely to do a better job addressing a local problem than Washington is.

Such considerations are logical but go unmentioned in the rush to suggest any cut in spending is unendurable. Budget debates are conducted in terms of sob stories: What? You’re not in favor of meals for the elderly? You’re not in favor of export loans for small manufacturers? You don’t think our fighting men and women deserve the best equipment and training money can buy?

Try it yourself. It’s all sob stories, never a discussion of costs and benefits.

The second shoe fell with the Trump tax plan this week, though it was the same shoe as far as the media was concerned. “Trump’s Plan Shifts Trillions to Wealthiest,” went the New York Times headline.

Shifts? The plan doesn’t raise taxes on anybody, except the affluent and businesses by ending certain deductions, and does so partly to pay for lower rates for the affluent and businesses. There is no taking from the poor to give to the rich. Our income tax is almost exclusively a tax of the affluent and business. Working-class Americans are taxed through payroll taxes, which fall far short, even so, of covering their expected future benefits.

As long as the basic structure of American taxes remains intact, the rich would be postponing future tax payments—hopefully fattened by faster growth rather than higher tax rates—to give themselves a tax cut now. As any who are not completely blinded by partisanship will admit, the Trumpian goal here is to bring the economy back to a speedier long-term growth rate. Even the New York Times acknowledges as much, in the 17th paragraph.

There may be much to regret in President Trump’s temperament, his nonmastery of detail, his estrangement from the facts. Not without utility, though, is his generalized disdain for the major media, the most reflexively anti-reform institution in American life. Both major parties look like hotbeds of freethinking in comparison.

The media are a major factor in the outcomes we get. Large spending commitments are willed into being without willing the tax revenues or economic growth to pay for them. Social Security and Medicare are in a $70 trillion hole. Unfunded pension and health-care liabilities of the states and localities are at least $2 trillion. Federal debt has doubled to $20 trillion in less than 10 years. GDP growth has fallen by half. In our next recession, annual deficits could quickly surge to $1 trillion.

Our comeuppance lies in a less and less distant future. But today we get only the horror of any proposed budget cut. We get the intolerability of any entitlement reform—and will continue to get such reporting right up to the day when it all unravels. Any cut in the nominal tax rate for affluent taxpayers is an attack on the poor even if this claim has no relation to the logic of how our tax system actually works.

Entitlements won’t entitle: Medicare will pay for an operation only at a price no doctor will accept. Programmed into law already is a 29% across-the-board cut to Social Security when its trust fund runs out in 12 years.

Then, in the other great twitch of American journalism, will come the blame-laying. The finger will be pointed at everybody but the press itself for wringing out of our politicians any inclination they might have mustered to meet our challenges head-on.

They’re wrong not because they’re being mean to Trump (that’s like the Iran-Iraq war or a Bears–Vikings or Cubs–Cardinals game). They’re wrong because they’re wrong about government and economics.

And by the way, the people pulling their shoulders out of joint patting themselves on the back Saturday are those written about by Becket Adams for this idiocy:

It’s not what Bret Stephens said. It’s where he said it.

That’s the chief takeaway from the press’ collective freak-out this weekend over conservative columnist Bret Stephens’ debut article at the New York Times.

Stephens, who came to the Times after nearly 20 years with the Wall Street Journal, suggested in an op-ed concerning the fierce political debate surrounding climate change that, “if there were less certitude about our climate future, more Americans would be interested in having a reasoned conversation about it.”

“[O]rdinary citizens also have a right to be skeptical of an overweening scientism. They know — as all environmentalists should — that history is littered with the human wreckage of scientific errors married to political power,” he added.

Despite that he was careful to note he doesn’t “deny climate change or the possible severity of its consequences,” the article left many reporters and pundits in a state of disbelief.’s David Roberts said Monday in a bluntly titled response article, “The New York Times should not have hired climate change bullshitter Bret Stephens.”

David Sirota, of the International Business Times added elsewhere, “False equivalence is a newspaper hiring a climate change denier in the name of manufacturing an artificial image of balance.”

Others declared proudly on social media that they had cancelled their subscriptions.

The reactions, though not entirely surprising, are amusing considering who Stephens is, and what he has done with himself for the last decade.

It’s important to remember he is not some random blogger the Times plucked from obscurity and handed a massive megaphone. Stephens, who won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Commentary, spent 16 years at the Wall Street Journal, one of the largest, best known and most circulated newspapers in the United States. He spent the latter portion of his career with the Journal penning opinion articles, many of which dealt directly with the issue of climate change.

His positions are not new, his ideas not out of the blue and he is not unused to having a major platform from which to air them.

The meltdown is more about reporters being upset that a premium media brand has stained its reputation with a conservative voice than it is about the paper giving foolish people space to write (Thomas Friedman and Paul Krugman still have columns, after all).

The anger over Stephens’ article is about the Times’ prestige, not the spread of supposedly dangerous ideas. It’s not as if the Times is unused to giving space in its opinion section to controversial materials or authors. Just last month, the paper’s opinion section published an article by an honest-to-God convicted terrorist. A few days later, it published an op-ed by Vivian Gornick that amounted to little more than a love letter to the now-defunct Communist Party in the United States.

Journalists’ social dynamics often resemble those found in a typical high school, where raging hormones and emerging adult identities fuel an ongoing obsession with status and placement in a pecking order.

In high school, students tend to be hyper-conscious of their social standing. As such, they work hard to avoid even the appearance of association with someone who is other. Every high schooler has his eye on being seen as one of the cool kids, and there’s no surer way of achieving this end than to gain admission into the most popular clique.

With Stephens writing for the Times, reporters seem less concerned with what he says – indeed he has been saying this sort of stuff for awhile – and more upset that the Times, which is considered the most prestigious of media cliques, allows him the space to say it.

It’s not what Stephens said. It’s that he said it while sitting with the most popular clique at lunch.

100 fewer employees later …

The biggest news in sports media this week was Wednesday’s layoffs of 100 ESPN employees.

As someone who was told not to go to work the next day or any future day by an employer (which event started this blog six years ago), I have sympathy for those laid off. It seems highly unlikely that ESPN’s business problems are the fault of, for instance, Ed Werder, ESPN’s 17-year NFL reporter, or Jayson Stark, ESPN’s 17-year baseball reporter. Evidence that life is unfair is that the worker bees get laid off instead of those on the executive floor whose bad decisions caused bad financial results that led to the need for those layoffs.

ESPN’s problems are driven by economics, in two directions. Former ESPN, well, whatever he was Colin Cowherd opined, and Awful Announcing heard him say …

Speaking on 92.3 The Fan in Cleveland, Cowherd said he knew things were going to change at ESPN when he learned of the news that the network had signed a huge megadeal to keep the NBA:

“I told my producers … ‘fellas, it’ll never be the same here.’ You can not pay four times for the house what you paid for the house last year. And I said this company will never be the same.

“It was at that point I started looking, and this is not going to end today. They have really cost-prohibitive contracts, combined with cord-cutting.

“I said this when they cut 850 people, I said it the next day, it’s awful, and it will happen annually for the next decade. You have to have contracts …”

And regarding the layoffs, Cowherd noted that the overpayment for the NBA and in particular, the NFL has come back to bite ESPN and it’s forced the company into layoffs:

These firings are awful. It makes me sick.

“The good news is – most of the people let go are really talented, but this is all about business, and when you have overpaid for products, sometimes six and seven hundred million more than you had to pay, certainly with the NBA that’s the case, they just pay way too much for it. This is the result, it’s awful, and I think unfortunately this was the first of a 10-year deal with the NBA and I just feel awful – there’s are a lot of good people.”

But he added that he feels that ESPN has let go of the most expensive people at the company and that “a lot of them are going to land in really good places.”

The other half is that ESPN charges cable operators more than $7 per subscriber per month, and of course those charges are passed on to cable customers. Cable companies’ failure to get viewers the channels they want and not pay for the channels they don’t want has prompted cancellation of cable TV. ESPN has lost about 10 million subscribers over the past three years.

ESPN has a website, and has an app. But if you’re not a cable subscriber, you can’t see live games on either, including WatchESPN. (You also can’t see live games even if you are a cable subscriber if your cable company doesn’t offer WatchESPN.)

Even if you’re a sports fan there are a lot of ESPN “sports” not worth watching, including so-called “extreme” sports, Mixed Martial Arts (imagine boxing with no rules) and poker, and has replaced them with far too many debate shows. Part of it is that ESPN has lost a few properties, including the baseball postseason, the National Hockey League, and NASCAR auto racing, and according to viewers (of which I am not), its news coverage of sports it doesn’t cover has dropped precipitously.

What viewers may find somewhat ridiculous is who is still at ESPN — namely, Chris Berman, whose best days are well past him, and Stephen A. Smith. The latter got rather defensive about his job status, as reported by Alex Putterman:

In the midst of ESPN’s massive round of layoffs Wednesday, more than a few people brought up Stephen A. Smith as evidence of how the Worldwide Leader had gone astray. How, people wondered, could ESPN fire so many great reporters while keeping a loudmouth hot-take artist like Stephen A. Smith around to appear on First Take and numerous other shows?

Among the legions making some version of that argument was former Sports Illustrated writer and best-selling author Jeff Pearlman, who called Smith’s employment in the face of layoffs “an assault on the profession.” …

Well Stephen A. Smith puts up with a lot of crap, but he apparently wasn’t willing to put up with that. On his radio show Thursday, he addressed Pearlman’s criticism, as well as the general perception that he is unqualified for such a lofty position at ESPN.

Smith began the segment by saying he didn’t like to respond to criticism but that he felt compelled to in this case. He then described the layoffs as business-related and implied that he was protected because his show is popular and well-rated. Then he really got going:

I’m going to ask Mr. Jeff Pearlman and all the Jeff Pearlmans of the world a simple question: Why are you focusing on me? There are people in our business who actually get paid more, who do less and produce less. Why are you not talking about them?

Like when they call me ‘Screamin’ A?’ I’m the only dude on the air who’s loud? I know plenty of white dudes who are screaming and going off. They’re called passionate. I’m called loud. … The real issue at hand is, what you’re bringing into question are my qualifications.

Smith then listed out his career history, from graduating from Winston-Salem State University to holding numerous internships to working at several newspapers, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, where he was promoted again and again until he became on of the only black sports columnists in the country.

His point was simple: He worked hard to earn the position he’s currently in.

Some people will surely balk at Smith’s invocation of race, but he wasn’t really calling Pearlman racist or suggesting all criticism of him is due to his skin color (though undoubtedly some fraction of it is). This was his main idea:

I used to be a journalist? Mr. Pearlman, you used to be a college student. You used to be a high-school student. Last time I checked, there’s a level of elevation that took place because you graduate to certain levels. I’m not a blogger. I came up in this industry where you had to be a journalist. You had to break stories. You had to break news in order to elevate your career to get to a certain point to get to a certain level before you even had the license to give your opinion, especially if you were a black man. 

Mr. Pearlman’s not black, maybe that’s why he doesn’t understand where I’m coming from. Maybe that’s why he’s so quick to talk about what I have deserved. I gave ya’ll my resume. I transferred from newspaper to television, from television to television and radio. I’ve done this. My credentials speak for themselves. I’m so sick and tired of people coming at me. If you want to talk credentials, name the time and place. Tell me what level I didn’t work on.

Smith repeatedly complimented Pearlman, saying he would never dare question another writer’s credentials.

Stephen A. is absolutely 100 percent correct that he has the resume for the position he’s in, that he worked his way up the ladder and earned bigger and bigger roles, and that it’s not easy to get to where he is now. Without question, his critics lose sight of that all the time, unfairly depicting him as a brainless carnival barker.

However, it’s certainly fair to wonder why Smith uses his hard-earned position to propagate a high-pitched, disagreement-centered, occasionally offensive model of television that risks undermining the more journalistic aspects of the industry—and to question why that’s the model ESPN chooses to reward.

The 800-pound gorilla in the room, however, is ESPN’s conscious decision to insert politics into its sports coverage. Those who approve of this have sworn up and down all week that that has nothing to do with ESPN’s current financial problems. Certainly it’s not the primary cause, but if cable subscribers are dropping you, and some number of your viewers are not fans of the liberal politics you’re espousing, one would logically seem connected to the other.

ESPN quotes a fellow La Follette Lancer (we were in the same journalism class) on its editorial policy:

ESPN has issued new political and election guidelines for its employees that, while allowing for political discussion on the network’s platforms, recommend connecting those comments to sports whenever possible. The new policies also provide separate guidelines for ESPN staffers working on news and those engaging in commentary. …

“Given the intense interest in the most recent presidential election and the fact subsequent political and social discussions often intersected with the sports world, we found it to be an appropriate time to review our guidelines,” said Patrick Stiegman, ESPN’s vice president of global digital content and the chairman of the company’s internal Editorial Board, which drafted the new guidelines.

Stiegman said no single issue or incident led to the change, but Craig Bengtson, ESPN’s vice president and managing editor of newsgathering and reporting, said the nation’s tense political climate did play a role.

“We have the convergence of a politically charged environment and all these new technologies coming together at once,” he said. “Based on that, we wanted the policy to reflect the reality of the world today. There are people talking about politics in ways we have not seen before, and we’re not immune from that.”

Stiegman said the new election guidelines are no longer just targeted at presidential elections. “We simply extended our approach to covering presidential elections every four years to major elections, in general, believing all the same principles should apply,” Stiegman said.

So what’s different in the new policies? Let’s start with the Political and Social Issues guidelines. Its first line lays out ESPN’s challenge quite accurately:

“At ESPN, our reputation and credibility with viewers, readers and listeners are paramount. Related to political and social issues, our audiences should be confident our original reporting of news is not influenced by political pressures or personal agendas.”

As I wrote in November, not all ESPN consumers — or employees, for that matter — feel the company has lived up to this ideal. Stiegman said that the buzz around the topic of ESPN and politics — also written about by The New York Times, Awful Announcing, the Orlando Sentinel and many conservative sites criticizing ESPN’s perceived leftward tilt — didn’t play a significant role in the revision of the guidelines.

The two most notable changes from the Political Advocacy policy are the delineation of guidelines between news and commentary, and allowing for increased political discussion on ESPN platforms, as warranted and connected to sports. This isn’t a surprising development, it’s just new.

“We wanted to err on the side of transparency and trust with our reporting,” Stiegman said, “but also give our columnists and commentators the freedom to discuss topics relevant to those sports fans who visit our platforms, even if the issues are political or social in nature.”

Here are other notable points in the Political and Social Issues policy, with my thoughts:

“Original news reports should not include statements of support, opposition or partisanship related to any social issue, political position, candidate or office holder.”

This one seems straightforward and achievable, at least within ESPN’s platforms. The one place on ESPN in which you don’t see straight opinion is on the hard news side of the operation.

“Writers, reporters, producers and editors directly involved in ‘hard’ news reporting, investigative or enterprise assignments and related coverage should refrain in any public-facing forum from taking positions on political or social issues, candidates or office holders.”

The three key words here are “public-facing forum.” That expands this policy beyond ESPN’s borders and brings the Wild West of social media into play. In fact, later in the memo, it is said directly that the policy applies to “ESPN, Twitter, Facebook and other media.”

This is where the potential for problems exists. ESPN news reporters tweeting political opinions from their own social accounts would technically violate this policy. Again, hard news reporters are less likely to use social media for this purpose than commentators, but how effective this policy is will depend on how hard executives choose to look at social media. Let’s be honest: It’s not too hard to find ESPN employees tweeting political opinions. Yes, much of that activity does fall within the new guidelines, which also note that those who do publicly express political views could be reassigned when covering stories. But the propriety of other posts is a tad murkier.

“Outside of ‘hard’ news reporting, commentary related to political or social issues, candidates or office holders is appropriate on ESPN platforms consistent with these guidelines.”

This is meaningful because, unlike the company’s previous policy, it states that commentary on political and social issues is OK. The previous policy not only didn’t say that but also conveyed a tone that suggested that dipping into political waters carried more danger than reward. Put another way, the new policy has gone from “It’s dangerous out there, so probably best to stay home” to “It’s dangerous out there, so here are some tools to best keep you safe.” …

“The presentation should be thoughtful and respectful. We should offer balance or recognize opposing views, as warranted. We should avoid personal attacks and inflammatory rhetoric.”

What is a “personal attack” and what’s considered “inflammatory”? As with many journalistic policy questions, those are subjective. And in policies like these, that can lead to caution.

“There is always a layer of subjectivity in such areas,” Stiegman said. “Editors and producers will work with those offering opinions on these topics to ensure the dialogue and debate is thoughtful, respectful and as fair as possible.”

That is not happening, according to Ben Shapiro back in November:

From giving Caitlyn Jenner a heroism award to stumping for Black Lives Matter, from pushing gun control to praising Kaepernick’s heroism, from firing Curt Schilling for expressing anti-radical Islam sentiments to threatening Chris Broussard for taking a religious view of homosexuality while doing nothing about Kevin Blackistone for calling the national anthem a “war anthem,” ESPN has become – as I’ve long said – MSNBC with footballs.

Now, ESPN’s public editor is admitting that the network has a problem. As Newsbusters reports, Jim Brady admitted, “One notion that virtually everyone I spoke to at ESPN dismisses is what some have perceived as unequal treatment of conservatives who make controversial statements vs. liberals who do the same.” He added:

ESPN is far from immune from the political fever that has afflicted so much of the country over the past year. Internally, there’s a feeling among many staffers — both liberal and conservative — that the company’s perceived move leftward has had a stifling effect on discourse inside the company and has affected its public-facing product. Consumers have sensed that same leftward movement, alienating some…. For most of its history, ESPN was viewed relatively apolitically. Its core focus was — and remains today, of course — sports. Although the nature of sports meant an occasional detour into politics and culture was inevitable, there wasn’t much chatter about an overall perceived political bias. If there was any tension internally, it didn’t manifest itself publicly.

Brady talked to anchor Bob Ley, who admitted that ESPN has no “diversity of thought.” A conservative employee told Brady that “If you’re a Republican or conservative, you feel the need to talk in whispers.” Jemele Hill, naturally, said “I would challenge those people who say they feel suppressed. Do you fear backlash, or do you fear right and wrong?”

This is the problem. And this is why ESPN and the media more generally fail. It is suppression to label those who disagree with you politically morally evil because they disagree. Yet that’s what Hill does. That’s what ESPN does, too. The left believes its opinions and feelings are facts; those who disagree are therefore either morons or fascists. That’s why Hill thinks Schilling should have been fired for putting up a meme expressing that transgender people should go to the bathroom in the restroom that matches their biological sex. Schilling must be evil.

That perspective comes across in ESPN’s casual leftism. And it alienates viewers. I’m one of them. I used to watch ESPN every time I worked out. Now I’d rather have the television off. I’m not interested in hearing talking heads who know less about politics than they do about water polo take for granted that they are morally righteous, and everyone on the right is morally obtuse. Screw them. I’d rather cut the cord entirely.

Sean Davis says:

The industry insider I spoke to said the focus on politics was a symptom, rather than a root cause, of all these current issues. According to this insider, ESPN executives saw the writing on the wall — higher costs, subscriber losses, lower ratings — and decided that it needed a bigger content pie to attract more content consumers. Sports is too small, so why not try for a real mass audience by broadening the network’s focus to include news and politics? If X number of people like sports, and Y number of people like politics, then surely combining sports and politics will lead to a much bigger audience, thereby solving the company’s financial dilemma.

This view, of course, ignores how people consume political news. The diehards who love political news don’t turn on the TV or open the laptop and navigate to sites with zero bias that just play it straight. Why? Because those kinds of political news and commentary providers don’t exist. Because that’s not what political junkies want. Liberals want news from liberals, and conservatives want news from conservatives. The Balkanization of political news and commentary didn’t happen by accident. People in this business know you have to pick a side. That works in political news. It doesn’t work if you have a bipartisan mass media audience.

Instead of expanding its pie by combining two types of mass media content, ESPN ended up communicating to half its audience that it didn’t respect them. How? By committing itself entirely not to political news, but to unceasing left-wing political commentary.

You want to watch the Lakers game? Okay, but first you’re going to hear about Caitlyn Jenner. Want some NFL highlights? We’ll get to those eventually, but coming up next will be a discussion about how North Carolina is run by racist, homophobic bigots. You want to see the box scores of today’s baseball games? You can watch those at the bottom of the hour, but right now some D-list network talent would like to lecture you about gun control. After that we’ll have a panel discussion about how much courage it takes to turn your back on the American flag.

The most interesting aspect of the mass layoffs on Wednesday isn’t that they happened, it’s who the network targeted. Not the high-priced carnival barkers and the know-nothing loudmouths doing their best to make Rachel Maddow proud. Nope. ESPN targeted sports reporters. In an effort to cut some fat from its bottom line, ESPN exchanged a scalpel for a chainsaw, skipped the fat entirely, and went straight to cutting out muscle.

If ESPN wants to once again be the worldwide leader in sports, it should refocus on covering sports, which used to be a refuge from politics and the news. America is politicized enough already, and if its citizens want political news, several cable outlets do political news far better than ESPN ever could. Instead of doing sports and politics poorly, perhaps the network could return to the thing that it used to do better than everyone else in the world: cover live sports.

Unlike those with nothing more than opinions, Deep Root Analysis looks at data:

The FOX blog “Outkick the Coverage” has attributed ESPN’s decline to the rising partisanship coming out of Bristol, labeling the network “MSESPN” in pieces like this one, headlined “ESPN Profit Plummets As Network Turns Left”. “Outkick the Coverage’s” Clay Travis supports his argument with Scarborough data showing most sports fans are conservative politically. With the news of today’s layoffs, Travis argues that the network’s leftward turn is “more a symptom of the collapse than it is a cause of the collapse.”

Naturally, the news out of Bristol has led to a variety of “takes” across the Internet. The National Review Online wrote a warning about politicizing sports. Others have scoffed at the idea that partisanship has kept people from watching ESPN, even as ESPN’s public editor concedes that it is among “a set of smaller causes” harming ESPN. Perhaps the hottest take of the day claimed that “sports fans really don’t like anyone who stands up for civil rights.”


But is there data to support the notion that Republicans are turning off ESPN as the network ramped up its political commentary during the 2016 election and beyond?

Deep Root Analytics specializes in local television measurement by segmenting the population into political, advocacy and commercial groups and matching those segments into observed TV viewership data via set-top boxes and smart TV data. This allows Deep Root to produce customized ratings and indices for every program and daypart on broadcast and cable TV – including data on ESPN’s viewership among loyal Democrats and Republicans.

We analyzed viewership data in a large media market in a swing state (Cincinnati, OH) for the entirety of 2015 and 2016.  Also, to control for any changes in partisan identification between 2015 and 2016, Deep Root Analytics analyzed viewership among the same audiences across both years.

In our analysis, a clear trend emerges: ESPN’s viewership in this key swing state market became less Republican during 2016.

Specifically, in 2015, the ESPN audience on average skewed Republican across all dayparts, ranging from 12% more Republican (Early News, Late Fringe, Overnight) to 21% more Republican than Democratic (Early Morning).

In 2016, every daypart on ESPN became less conservative, with Daytime being only 2% more Republican than Democratic, while Late Fringe and Overnight programming became 10% and 12% more Democratic than Republican – a 22 and 28 point shift, respectively.

The same is true across other ESPN properties. ESPN2 skewed Republican across most dayparts in 2015; in 2016 all dayparts skewed Democratic. Every daypart also switched on ESPN News from 2015 to 2016.

ESPNU was the only network that retained its mostly Republican audience. ESPN Deportes – the network’s Spanish language channel – became even more Democratic in 2016 than it already was in 2015.

Here is a complete look at the 2015-2016 shift in partisanship across ESPN networks:

To be sure, the ESPN layoffs signal a larger business challenge facing the network. But at least in Cincinnati, the partisanship of viewers noticeably shifted – just as ESPN’s problems got worse.

I would contend that there are more conservative fans of sports than liberal fans of sports. Conservatives did not create the odious phrase “the personal is political.” Conservatives did not create today’s culture of participation medals. Unlike most of life, sports is closer to black and white — team A defeats team B; athlete C finishes first, which means the rest do not.

Here is an example of ESPN’s self-defense, from its Undefeated site:

In sports, everything from choosing fantasy sports teams to selecting the teams that will play for big-time college football national championships is rooted in statistics and statistical analysis, wins and losses and strength of schedules. Further, in sports, everything from a player making an obscene gesture to a pro franchise abandoning one city for another can prompt earnest discussions about right and wrong, revenge, rehabilitation and forgiveness.

But in the nation’s public policy, we too often allow ideology and political maneuvering to render facts moot, especially when those facts support inconvenient truths such as global climate change. And morality, if it is acknowledged at all, is presumed to be the province of specific parties or ideologies, instead of governing our thinking, decisions and actions. From public education to health care, we focus more on the politics of changing public policy than the efficacy and morality of making the changes.

Consequently, our nation, a house divided, struggles to stand: We’re a people who talk to one another without a common political vocabulary, a people who seek to silence dissenting voices. We’re a people who seek to move without common direction, a people who would solve our problems without a consensus of what those problems are, or a common moral purpose to guide our actions.

The apologia for this comes from the oxymoronic Think Progress:

I truly wish this went without saying, but apparently it doesn’t: Reports of ESPN’s political agenda have been greatly exaggerated, and politics are absolutely not to blame for the cuts this week.

ESPN is not a political network. Its analysts do not spend hours debating the latest poll numbers, reporting on proposed legislation, or counting down to lawmakers’ town halls in their home districts.

ESPN covers sports. It just doesn’t pretend that those sports happen in a vacuum.

That means ESPN will cover stories like Colin Kaepernick’s protest during the national anthem, a team of WNBA players wearing “Black Lives Matter” t-shirts during warm-ups, and the domestic violence allegations against an potential NFL draftee.

Sports are an escape, yes, but they are also enriched and impacted by the real-life events happening around them. Covering these topics accurately and fairly when they directly intersect with the sports world isn’t politics, it’s journalism.

“The word ‘politics’ has become too all-encompassing,” SportsCenter host Jemele Hill said on the Sports Illustrated Media Podcast with Richard Deitsch in February. “Mike and I aren’t … breaking down the Affordable Care Act. That’s politics. Understanding somebody’s right to speak out against injustice, oppression, and police brutality, isn’t a political matter. It’s right or wrong.”

“‘Don’t hit women’ is not politics,” her co-host Michael Smith added.

“Sorry we don’t tolerate bigotry here. Why are you taking offense to us suggesting that African Americans — breaking news — have been treated differently and unfairly for the entirety of this country? That’s not a hot take.”

Of course, what Hill and Smith are touching on here is that when people complain about anything getting “too political,” it’s a safe bet the criticism is actually that it’s too liberal. And that usually implies it’s too diverse or too outspoken about inequality.

The president of the company has pushed back against this idea, too.

“The Walt Disney Company and ESPN are committed to diversity and inclusion,” ESPN President John Skipper said last year in response to similar accusations that the company had gotten too liberal. “We do not view this as a political stance but as a human stance. We do not think tolerance is the domain of a particular political philosophy.”

Interestingly, not everyone at ESPN seems to be on board. The New York Post reports:

ESPN’s sweeping staff cuts are not just the result of ambitious TV rights deals and an overburdened budget, popular “SportsCenter” anchor Linda Cohn suggested Thursday.

The network may be losing subscriber revenue not just because of cord-cutting, Cohn allowed, but because viewers are increasingly turned off by ESPN inserting politics into its sports coverage.

“That is definitely a percentage of it,” Cohn said Thursday on 77 WABC’s “Bernie and Sid” show when asked whether certain social or political stances contributed to the stupor that resulted in roughly 100 employees getting the ax this week. “I don’t know how big a percentage, but if anyone wants to ignore that fact, they’re blind.”

Cohn agreed with the argument that certain sports fans may have disapproved of the way ESPN covered polarizing figures such as Roger Goodell, Colin Kaepernick and Caitlyn Jenner.

The example used was of the 2015 ESPYs. Jenner, a former Olympic champion in the decathlon, won the prestigious Arthur Ashe Award for Courage for publicly coming out as a transgender woman. Some felt athletes suffering from disease or disability — such as college basketball player Lauren Hill, who died from cancer three months before the ceremony, and marathoner Noah Galloway, who lost an arm and a leg in the Iraq War — were more deserving.

Cohn, a 25-year ESPN veteran, toed the company line.

“You know, when you work for a big company, you have to follow in line, you have to pay the bills,” she said. “But you just kind of look in the mirror and do what you think is right no matter what else is going on around you. And that’s what I always tried to do.”

ESPN and its liberal sycophants are taking the usual liberal tack that any position other than their own is wrong and not worthy of consideration. As usual, the left approves of every kind of diversity except for political diversity.

Whether you agree with ESPN’s politics, or whatever causes you’d like to attribute to ESPN’s decline, ask yourself this question: If ESPN is losing viewers (and it is), why should ESPN go out of its way to alienate its (remaining) viewers?


The non-science guy

This Facebook meme says that Bill Nye the Science Guy is not a scientist. (If he were a competent engineer, he’d be working in engineering, not TV.) Nor is he a constitutional expert, as Michael Bastasch reports:

Bill Nye the “Science Guy” tried to claim the Constitution supported the concerns of thousands of scientists and environmental activists who took to the streets on Earth Day to protest the Trump administration’s proposed budget cuts to federal agencies.

“If you suppress science, if you pretend climate change isn’t a real problem, you will fall behind other countries that do invest in science, that do invest in basic research,” Nye told CNN Saturday as the “March for Science” took place.

The march took place in dozens of cities across the world, and the main march took place in Washington, D.C., Saturday. Nye spoke at the rally where thousands carried signs deriding skeptics of global warming and cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other bureaucracies that fund or conduct scientific research.

“And it is interesting to note, I think, that Article 1 Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution refers to the progress of science and the useful arts,” Nye said.

“Useful arts in 18th Century usage would be what we call engineering or city planning or architecture,” Nye said.

Nye’s used the argument before to underscore how “unpatriotic” it is to not have the federal government hand out billions of taxpayer dollars to universities, corporations and research institutions.

“Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution says the government shall ‘promote the progress of science and useful arts,’” Nye told Vox in 2015 — Vox didn’t correct him or fact check his claim.

“So if you’re a politician looking to derail the progress of science, I think you’re not doing your job,” Nye said.

And, like last time, he’s 100 percent incorrect.

Nye is referring to the Constitution’s Copyright Clause. The clause is one in a laundry list of Congress’s enumerated powers.

It reads: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

The Copyright Clause has nothing to do with government-funded science, but everything to do with establishing a legal framework to protect intellectual property rights.

This is why Nye is not known as the “Constitution Guy.”

On the other hand, Nye’s not good on TV either when he’s required to not read from a script. Slate reports:

“Science Guy” Bill Nye was none too happy that CNN put him on the same panel as a climate change skeptic on Earth Day. “I will say, much as I love the CNN, you’re doing a disservice by having one climate change skeptic, and not 97 or 98 scientists or engineers concerned about climate change,” Nye said during an appearance on CNN’s New Day Saturday to discuss the March for Science that was taking place in more than 100 cities across the world.

During the segment, William Happer, a physicist and climate change skeptic, argued that the Earth is getting greener and that carbon dioxide is good for the atmosphere. “There’s this myth that’s developed around carbon dioxide that it’s a pollutant, but you and I both exhale carbon dioxide with every breath. Each of us emits about two pounds of carbon dioxide a day, so are we polluting the planet?” Happer said. “Carbon dioxide is a perfectly natural gas, it’s just like water vapor, it’s something that plants love. They grow better with more carbon dioxide, and you can see the greening of the earth already from the additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”

An obviously exasperated Nye responded: “What he claims to not understand is the rate. it’s the speed at which we’re adding carbon dioxide.” He latter accused Happer of “cherry picking a certain model” and that the consensus view on climate change “is not controversial in mainstream science.” Plus, Nye added, acting like climate change doesn’t exist is bad for the economy. “If you pretend that climate change isn’t a real problem, you will fall behind other countries that do invest in science—that do invest in basic research,” Nye said.

Happer, who has met with Trump and has been described as the man who may take over the role as top science adviser, later appeared to shock everyone when he compared the Paris Agreement on climate change with the Munich Agreement and Nazi appeasement. “It’s definitely appeasement,” Hopper said. “It’s an appropriate comparison because it was a treaty that was not going to do any good.”

Boo hoo, Billy. Nye, it turns out, is nothing more than a poor entertainer who like all the envirowackos (see Gore, Al) wants to control our lives and gain for themselves political power and money.

For instance, John Nolte reports:

Yes, according to Nye’s guest Travis Rieder, who holds the creepy title of a Bioethics Ethicist, you and I and our precious children are what Rieder calls “individual emitters,” meaning we are inconvenient to the Greater Good because our individual emissions of carbon contribute to global warming (which is a hoax).

But we are not all guilty of doing “a lot of emitting.”

Even though they have one of the highest fertility rates in the world, the good people of Niger, according to Rieder, are totally awesome because they “are doing almost no emitting.”  Yes, these amazing people emit only “0.1 metric tons of carbon annually,” while we American pigs emit “160 times” that amount.

Oddly enough, though, what Nye and Rieder fail to tell us is that Niger is a hellhole of humanity that ranked as the country with the world’s worst standard of living in 2009, a standard that has only gotten worse since. The “absolute poverty rate” in Niger was 61% and climbing in 2012.

But when his guest mentioned Niger, Nye said approvingly, “They burn some charcoal [only] now and then.”

Well, when all you own is a wooden bowl, an old blanket, and herd of bed bugs…

Anyway, things then got super-creepy….

Billy Nye: So, should we have policies that penalize people for having extra kids in the developed world?

Travis Rieder: I do think that we should at least consider it.

Bill Nye: Well, “at least consider it” is like “Do it.”

Travis Rieder: One of the things that we could do that’s kind of least policy-ish is we could encourage our culture and our norms to change, right?

Couple points…


2) Niger has an infant mortality rate of 71.2 deaths per 1000 live births — one of the highest in the world. America’s infant mortality rate, which the left-wing Washington Post called an “embarrassment,” is only 6.1 per 1000.

Life expectancy in Niger is 61 years (the same age as Tom Hanks!). Life expectancy in America is 79 years. America’s poor live like kings compared to the average Nigerian.

So maybe instead of penalizing developed countries, we should use all that activist energy to help develop Niger?

But the inhuman tyrants we call environmentalists actually fight against the modern development of countries like Niger. Like real-life Bond villains, all they care about is their golden calf of Gaia. While they sip lattes and burn more carbon with their television shows than I will in ten lifetimes, they are comforted by the fact that the people of Niger — although miserable, dying, exploited, and despairing — are living worse than animals do on American farms.

The other truth that goes unmentioned is that developed countries like ours are much, much, much cleaner than human hellholes like Niger. Our water and air is cleaner. We use much better methods to dispose of our garbage and sewage. We preserve, recycle, and replenish our natural resources. For example, no one plants more trees than the private logging industry. America has more trees today than we did 100 years ago. Nothing produces a clean environment better than private ownership. You take care of what is yours.

Developed countries that allow for human freedom are not the problem, they are the solution. People are not the problem, they are a blessing and the very ones who invent, create, and come up with the ideas that have, overall, improved both living and environmental conditions throughout the world.

But science-denying monsters like Bill Nye would have us believe the opposite is true. Because it is not about the science. It is about the depraved power that comes with controlling the lives of others.

Detectives on wheels

While looking for something else (Again?, readers ask), I hit upon the idea of combining two of my favorite subjects — fictional detectives and cars — though I’ve done that before here.

The imperative to create online lists of everything (i.e. top 10 reasons you should read The Presteblog, and by the way YOU WILL NOT BELIEVE NUMBER 7!) has created, to no surprise, several lists of top fictional detectives’ wheels, both here and abroad.

Remember the words “detective” (indicating non-marked police cars) and, most importantly, “fictional.” Along with Raymond Chandler’s The Simple Art of Murder and Ten Commandments for the Detective Novel, someone online created this less serious list of private-detective fiction requirements, from which number eight is appropriate for this blog:

  1. Jazzy or Rhythmic Theme Music (if vocalized, should include your name).
  2. At least four suits with assorted ties and one complete tux (for weddings and similar occasions).
  3. A smartass attitude, a smart deductive wit along with a smart mouth (optional depending on who’s holding the gun).
  4. An Admin Specialist who know where all information is stored (along with all hiding places of liquor supply)
  5. The ability to safely tuck and roll while jumping or leaping from a moving vehicle (VERY IMPORTANT!!)
  6. Cache of unlimited funds for informants, bribes and paying off shady gangland figures.
  7. Backup PI partner for real sticky cases or situations (or in case of your untimely demise, will feel obligated to “do something about it”).
  8. A jazzy looking sports car of any year, make or model (SUVs and trucks for emergencies only).
  9. Reliable contact within the Police Department (’cause when the $#!% goes down, SOMEONE’s gonna have to answer the real tough questions).
  10. A capable doctor and a smart, savvy lawyer (preferably of “Perry Mason” caliber).

One of the obvious cars on The Guardian‘s list, Starsky and Hutch’s Ford Torino (which, as with much of you will see herein, fits both rules 1 and 8, at least in the series’ first-season guise) …

… is about as likely to be used by real police detectives as, well, the Ferraris of “Miami Vice”:

Of course, Thomas Magnum can use a Ferrari — well, Robin Masters’ Ferrari (which was modified so Tom Selleck could sit in it):

So could San Francisco police Lt. Frank Bullitt own a Ford Mustang, because it was his personal car that he just happened to be driving on a Sunday morning while doing some work:

So could L.A. private detective Jim Rockford:

The lines got blurred with (one assumes) a Bullitt successor, the SFPD’s Nash Bridges:

To this list I add a detective who may not have made the list because he drove several cars, Joe Mannix …

This was an Oldsmobile Toronado customized into a convertible by George Barris. It was seen in the titles and few other places.

… and a car that doesn’t make nearly enough appearances on TV:

(Apparently the world is waiting for me to create a Corvette-based work of fiction.)

Toptenz contributed its own list of iconic British detective (well, with at least one stretch) cars:

Lotus 7, The Prisoner

Nothing was conventional in the surreal world of the 1960s series The Prisoner, including the choice of car for the lead character Number Six, played by Patrick McGoohan.  Eschewing the director’s suggestion that Number Six should drive a Lotus Elan, McGoohan himself picked out the Lotus 7 arguing that the lightweight two-seater sports car better reflected Number Six’s maverick and freedom-loving persona.

Ironically, said Lotus was driven only in the beginning of every episode pre-capture and in the final scene of the last episode. Motor vehicles apparently were prohibited in The Village.

Volvo P1800, The Saint

Roger Moore’s embodiment of the suave Samaritan Simon Templar meant that nothing less than an ultra-cool car would suffice. Initially a Jaguar was sought, but the company turned down The Saint’s producers fearing that the programme would be unsuccessful. Whoops. For the next seven years Moore drove instead a Volvo P1800: a stylish 2 litre sports car that symbolised Simon Templar’s virtuous, good-looking, sophisticated yet adventurous nature. Roger Moore was so impressed by the Volvo P1800 that he bought one for himself.

Mark III Ford Capri, The Professionals

Tough, reliable, responsive, fast and able to cope in a sticky situation. Are we talking about the car or Bodie and Doyle, mercenary crime-fighters a.k.a. ‘The Professionals’? With its menacing throaty growl, the souped-up 3 litre Mark III Capri stood out in a series that featured many other cars that are considered classics today. With demanding car chases a staple of this action-packed show, the Mark III Capri was a natural choice, not only for its speed but for its (then) sleek lines and agile handling.

1983 Audi Quattro, Ashes to Ashes

“Fire up the Quattro!” barks Detective Inspector Gene Hunt. This is the 1980s, and Hunt’s sporty, four-wheel drive, red Audi Quattro is perfect for throwing around corners and mowing down piles of cardboard boxes in the high-speed pursuit of villains. Getting from 0 to 60 mph in less than six seconds and a top speed of 140mph helps. And Gene Hunt would no doubt be delighted to know that thanks to his patronage of the classic Audi Quattro demand for 1980s models doubled. Proof, as if further proof was needed, of just how iconic the cars used in British TV shows can become even now.

Ford Granada (various), The Sweeney

Jack Regan, as played by John Thaw (again) was the hard-hitting no-nonsense guv’nor in this 1970s cop series based around the crime busting exploits of the Met’s flying squad. Only a tough-looking dependable brute of a car such as the Ford Granada would do for Jack. Swapping between the Granada S and the Granada Ghia at will, Regan and his sidekick George Carter would routinely chase the baddies at high speeds in these 3 litre beasts before leaping out and cuffing the miscreants with a cry of ‘You’re nicked, Sonny’! Luckily for the production team, not only was the Granada good looking, gruff and well suited to Regan’s character it was also light for its size making it a good choice for stunt work.

The aforementioned “Ashes to Ashes” was a spinoff of the series “Life on Mars,” described thusly by Honest John:

Detective Inspector Gene Hunt, star of Life On Mars, was a no-nonsense copper from the ‘70s, so what better car for him than a beige Ford Cortina? Despite famously trading up to an Audi Quattro in the Ashes To Ashes spinoff, set in the 1980s, the Hunt made his mark in a 1974 Mk III Cortina GXL.

That said, the car used for filming was actually made up of various Cortina parts, rendering it unfaithful to the model year it was supposed to be from: some viewers spotted that its spoiler, for example, wasn’t introduced until the 1975 Cortina, while the dashboard was from a later, facelifted car. Quite.

Away from the home islands, Australia brings us, of course, Mad Max:

A Danish–Swedish series called “The Bridge” apparently includes a Porsche …

… of which actor Sofia Hein tells The Guardian:

‘It’s horrible, I hate that car … I don’t hate it. I love-hate it. The thing is, it’s so hard to drive. The gears are very sensitive’

Speaking of TV series I can’t watch, there is “Alarm für Cobra 11,” a series that has run on German TV for 22 years about “Die Autobahnpolizei,” highway cops:

It remains hard for me to believe that this hasn’t become a U.S. TV series. Yes, we don’t have autobahns in the U.S., but you’d think it’d be ridiculously easy to translate the German setting (to be precise, North Rhine–Westphalia) to a state with a lot of freeways — say, California or, if you want more wide open spaces, Texas — and conjure up sufficient freeway-based crime as needed. (If you need a template, watch “CHiPs.” Like California Highway Patrol motor officers Ponch and Jon, “Die Autobahnpolizei” are state cops.)

I have to add one more series that faded away far too quickly — “Chase,” a little-known Jack Webb production about a special L.A.-ish investigative unit that has all the best vehicular toys, plus a police dog:

There are two episodes (and perhaps more that are hidden) on YouTube. Each of the episodes I’ve seen ends with, of course, a chase.

On the air in two hours

I will be on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Ideas Network’s Joy Cardin Week in Review segment today at 8 a.m.

Joy Cardin and all the other Ideas Network programming can be heard on WLBL (930 AM) in Auburndale, WHID (88.1 FM) in Green Bay, WHWC (88.3 FM) in Menomonie, WRFW (88.7 FM) in River Falls, WEPS (88.9 FM) in Elgin, Ill., WHAA (89.1 FM) in Adams, WHBM (90.3 FM) in Park Falls, WHLA (90.3 FM) in La Crosse, WRST (90.3 FM) in Oshkosh, WHAD (90.7 FM) in Delafield, W215AQ (90.9 FM) in Middleton, KUWS (91.3 FM) in Superior, WHHI (91.3 FM) in Highland, WSHS (91.7 FM) in Sheboygan, WHDI (91.9 FM) in Sister Bay, WLBL (91.9 FM) in Wausau, W275AF (102.9 FM) in Ashland, W300BM (107.9 FM) in Madison, and of course online at

One of the subjects is something I haven’t written about here, but have elsewhere, about the wrong-headed efforts to no longer print public notices, both in two bills in the Legislature and in the budget.

Since I always seem to appear on WPR on or around holidays (Palm Sunday? Passover?), I must report that today reportedly is National Beer Day, International Snailpapers Day, No Housework Day, National Walk to Work Day (something I observe every day), National Coffee Cake Day, and Public Television Day.

Republicans, conservatives and RINOs — oh my!

McKay Coppins:

These are confusing times to be a Republican.

For the past several decades, members of the GOP have mapped the ideological range found within their party onto a fairly straightforward spectrum—one that runs from “moderate” to “conservative.” The formulation was simplistic, of course, but it provided a useful shorthand in assessing politicians, and in explaining one’s own political orientation.

A small-government culture warrior in Arizona would be situated on the far-right end of the spectrum; a pro-choice Chamber of Commerce type in Massachusetts might place himself on the other end. And across the country, there were millions of people—from officeholders to ordinary Republican voters—who identified somewhere between those two poles.

But with the rise of Donald Trump—and his spectrum-bending brand of populist nationalism—many longtime Republicans are now struggling to figure out where they fit in this fast-shifting philosophical landscape. In recent weeks, two prominent Republicans have told me they are sincerely struggling to explain where they fall on the ideological spectrum these days. It’s not that they’ve changed their beliefs; it’s that the old taxonomy has become incoherent.

For example, does being an outspoken Trump critic make you a “moderate” RINO? Does it matter whether you’re criticizing him for an overly austere healthcare bill, or for a reckless infrastructure spending plan? And who owns the “far right” now—is it “constitutional conservatives” like Ted Cruz, or “alt-right” white supremacists like Richard Spencer?

When I raised these questions on Twitter earlier this week, I was swamped with hundreds of responses and dozens of emails from longtime Republicans who described feeling like they are lost inside their own homes.

Some, like Jordan Team from Washington, D.C., related how their attempts at explaining their personal politics have devolved into a kind of absurdist comedy:

I’ve always identified as a more moderate R—even”establishment Republican”, if you will. I usually always use “moderate” or “Establishment” when saying I’m a Republican to separate myself from more hard-line Tea Party Freedom Caucus conservatives.
These days, however, I feel like it requires even further explanation to separate myself from the nationalism/populism that Trump & team espouse, since they’re all now technically Republicans. Usually it’s something super catchy & brief along the lines of: “I’m a moderate Republican—or at least, have been one, not really sure that that means anymore—but I don’t support Trump or populism—I’m traditionally conservative.”  And even that doesn’t always get the point across. I think the easiest when trying to have a conversation with someone is a two step process. Step 1: “I’m a Republican but don’t like Trump,” and then if the convo keeps going/they know politics/they’re interested, there’s step 2: “I’m more moderate/establishment than Tea Party/Freedom Caucus.”

Other people, meanwhile, shared more tragic testimonials. “I feel honestly like a part of my identity was stolen,” wrote Alycia Kuehne, a conservative Christian from Dallas, Texas.
But virtually everyone who wrote to me shared a common complaint: The traditional “Left ↔ Right” spectrum used to describe and categorize Republicans has become obsolete in the age of Trump. The question now is what to replace it with.

To provoke interesting answers, I asked people who wrote to me to imagine the Republican voter who is furthest from themselves—be it ideologically, philosophically, or attitudinally—and then to answer the question: What is the most meaningful difference between you and that person?The proposed spectrums that emerged from their responses—some of which I’ve included below—are not meant to be peer-reviewed by political scientists. But they offer new, and potentially more useful, ways to map the emerging fault lines that now divide the American right.

LIBERTARIAN ↔ AUTHORITARIAN: One of the most common responses I received from Republicans argued that the party could be divided between authoritarians (who tend to gravitate toward Trump) and libertarians (who are generally repelled by his strong-man instincts). In an email that was typical of several I received, Aaron L. M. Goodwin, from California, wrote:

I grew up in a pretty conservative household. We were home-schooled Mormons. We listened to conservative talk radio. I was the only 10-year-old I knew of who loved to watch C-Span. These days I feel completely alienated from the GOP. But, I don’t feel like I’m the one who sold out. So where does that leave me?

I believe the conservative/liberal spectrum has been overtaken by one for democratic/authoritarian … Most of the Republicans I still feel some kinship with are from a multitude of ideologies, but they share an ideology based on classical liberal democracy. We all share a deep-seeded suspicion of rule by power, and I believe, are closer to the original intent of our founding documents.

GRIEVANCE-MOTIVATED ↔ PHILOSOPHICALLY MOTIVATED:  Liz Mair, a libertarian-leaning GOP strategist, wrote that she’s been convinced after “300 gazillion conversations with all sorts of conservatives”—including a range of lawmakers, writers, pundits, candidates, and grassroots-level activists—that the biggest division within the party is one that separates Fox News-a-holics driven by tribal grievance from people who have some kind of philosophically rooted belief system:

I honestly think the split in conservatism comes more down to philosophy versus identity politics than anything. Are you opposed to things on philosophical or tribal grounds? Are you a believer or a member of our clan? (Said in the Scottish sense) …

I bet if you polled Trump primary voters and asked them what was the bigger problem—insufficiently limited government or transgender Muslim feminists being celebrated at the Oscars, a big majority would say the latter.

ANTI-ESTABLISHMENT ↔ ESTABLISHMENT: The outsider/insider trope is well-worn in contemporary conservative politics—so much so that you could argue the terms have lost their meaning. But based on the emails I received, many Republicans (on both ends of the spectrum) still view the party through that lens. On one end are people who respect existing political institutions, and believe in conforming to their norms and using the system to advance their agenda. On other end of this spectrum are people who believe the establishment is hopelessly corrupt and ineffectual, and that it should be circumvented whenever possible.

The flaw in this formulation, it seems to me, is that virtually every Republican who has entered Congress over the past eight years started out on the anti-establishment end of the spectrum, and then slid—involuntarily, perhaps, but inevitably—toward the establishment end. That’s because, as Stephen Spiker from Virginia emailed, once you run for office and win, you necessarily become a part of the system, an insider:

I see many colleagues in the party taken in by the “establishment vs anti-establishment” spectrum. Essentially populism, as the anti-establishment folks are “burn it down” because they don’t feel represented and want a fighter. That lead to Dave Brat winning in 2014, and Trump winning in 2016.

Now that it’s Trump vs Brat, you’re going to see the inherent decay in this school of thought: the anti-establishment crowd turning on their former heroes like Dave Brat (as they turned on Cantor previously). He’s in Congress, he’s an insider, he’s standing in the way, etc.

It will eventually turn on Trump as well, as he falls short on goal after goal. When it happens (as in, before or after Trump is out of office) is always dependent on having the right person run at the right time on the right message, but it will happen.

Most notable about the anti-establishment position is that there’s no consistent end game or policy goal. It exists for the sake of itself. That’s what frustrates folks who actually have firm ideological stances.

ABSOLUTISTS  ↔ DEALMAKERS:  Many of the most high-profile intra-party battles in recent years have been fought not over ideas, but tactics and a willingness to compromise. While Republicans in Washington were essentially unanimous in their opposition to President Obama’s agenda, they differed—at least at first—over whether they should cut deals at the legislative bargaining table, or, say, shut the government down until they got exactly what they wanted. The absolutists largely won out during the Obama presidency—but what about now? On one end of this spectrum are people like the Freedom Caucus purists from whom it is all but impossible to extract concessions; on the other are the dealmakers who will compromise virtually anything to get some kind of legislation passed.

Several Republicans who wrote to me were, I think, circling this idea, which my colleague Conor Friedersdorf recently articulated:

Do populist Republicans want a federal government where politicians stand on principle and refuse to compromise? Or do they want a pragmatist to make fabulous deals?

… Is a GOP House member more likely to be punished in a primary for thwarting a Donald Trump deal … or compromising to make a deal happen? Were I the political consultant for an ambitious primary candidate in a safe Republican district, I can imagine a successful challenge regardless of what course the incumbent chose, voters having been primed to respond to either critique.

OPEN/TOLERANT ↔ NATIVIST/RACIST: This is the probably the most provocative construct that was proposed, but it was also a popular one. For many Trump-averse Republicans, one of the biggest perceived differences between themselves and hardcore Trump fans is attitudes toward racial minorities and foreign immigrants. The alt-right dominates one end of the spectrum—and they place themselves on the polar opposite end.

Granted, this spectrum was not proposed to me by any Trump supporters, and no doubt many of them would strongly disagree with this categorization. But there’s no question it’s one of the defining debates inside the party right now. Evan McMullin, a conservative who ran for president last year under the #NeverTrump banner, was quoted in October saying that racism was the single biggest problem with the party.

* * *

This is, of course, by no means a comprehensive list of the divisions within the GOP. For example, one of the most talked-about conflicts to emerge in the past year has been between “nationalism” and “globalism.” But despite efforts by Steve Bannon and other Trump advisers to frame the ideological debate that way, very few GOP voters—at least none who wrote to me—identify as “globalists.” Instead, these new spectrums represent a few of the ways in which Republicans—eager to escape the disorder and confusion of the Trump era—are categorizing themselves and each other.

The term not in Coppins’ piece that I use to label myself more than anything is “conservatarian.” I believe in smaller government than The Donald does. Really small government. (As in state government half the size it is in Wisconsin today.) But libertarians can be naïve about this country’s proper role in the rest of the world. Nature abhors a vacuum, but political power is attracted to a vacuum. Unless you think Vladimir Putin should be more prominent than an American president, this country needs to participate in the rest of the world.

I am turned off by Trump supporters’ nativism, and I believe a lot of Trump supporters are as much sycophants as Barack Obama’s most die-hard toadies. That is not to say that Trump supporters are racist, because the left has defined the term “racism” so far downward as to make it meaningless when there are actual instances of racism in our world. (Here’s a tip: If your opinion about someone is defined by their skin color or their ethnic background, you’re a bigot; if your opinion about someone is defined by how they act or what they say, you’re not.)

The whole Establishment vs. Not thing can be summed up best by saying that while you have to work within the system to get political things accomplished, you should not be of the system, and you don’t have to support the existence of the system even if you acknowledge its reality. There will always be an Establishment, but it should be based on merit, not political power. (Business is usually superior to government because business owners have to earn what they get.)


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