Category: media

The media vs. independent thought

The Wall Street Journal:

Some institutions are responding better than others to the stress of political polarization, and one of the worst performers has been the press. Its broad and intense progressive partisanship is escalating into attempts to stifle information and stigmatize opposing points of view.

A case in point is the media distortion of a pair of recent reports in The Wall Street Journal. Our Kimberley Strassel wrote a detailed analysis in her Friday column about the emails and text messages of former Hunter Biden business associate Tony Bobulinski. Journal reporters wrote later that day about Mr. Bobulinski’s claims, and media partisans jumped to assert that the news story contradicted Ms. Strassel’s.

No, it didn’t, as more careful analysts like Mark Hemingway have noted. The Journal news story added the fact that their examination of business records found no evidence of Joe Biden having an ownership stake in the Hunter Biden-Bobulinski company.

But Ms. Strassel never said Joe Biden did. She reported that Mr. Bobulinski provided documents supporting his claim that a stake was envisioned for Joe Biden, but that Mr. Biden ought to respond to clear the record if this wasn’t true. The news story treated the emails and texts as real, and thus tacitly confirmed that they weren’t “Russian disinformation” as Joe Biden and others have claimed.

The news and opinion sections of the Journal operate separately, and we can’t speak for our news colleagues. But our view is that Mr. Bobulinski’s documents and statements are news that the public deserves to see. This is why Ms. Strassel reported the story in meticulous fashion, and we published it. By pretending that the two stories conflict, the progressive media are attempting to say that the emails and texts should never have been reported.

This is laughable coming from the crowd that spent four years pushing the Russia-Trump collusion narrative from 2016 that was ginned up and promoted by the Hillary Clinton campaign. They spun the claims of the Steele dossier, despite no supporting evidence and no on-the-record witnesses. Yet now they claim that on-the-record statements from a former Hunter Biden associate, along with emails and texts that the Biden campaign hasn’t disputed, should be kept from the public.

All of this is relevant beyond next week’s election. If Democrats win up and down the ballot, progressives will control the commanding heights of nearly every American elite institution: Congress, the administrative state, Hollywood and the arts, the universities, nonprofits, Silicon Valley and nearly all of the media.

Yet instead of playing watchdog for the public, today’s progressive press partisans devote themselves to attacking anyone who breaks from their orthodoxy. They denounce independent voices like Ms. Strassel with their Twitter brigades, then they unleash reporters who are ideological enforcers masquerading as media critics. They can’t tolerate any opposing political view. This is why Americans in record numbers don’t trust the media, and it’s why we will keep reporting the news others won’t.

Remember when the media wasn’t trying to curry favor with Democrats?


This hot mike/Zoom blog is rated R

Even in the Year of the Pandemic, or maybe because of the Year of the Pandemic, things happen that earn the WTF badge.

Megan Fox writes about the viewer-discretion-advised incident of Monday:

Jeffry Toobin, a CNN contributor and writer at The New Yorker, got caught tickling his pickle on a work Zoom call. This wasn’t a situation where he thought he had hung up but hadn’t. Oh no. Toobin was purposefully masturbating during a work call.

He claims he thought he had “muted the video” but left it on “accidentally.” But that’s not believable, because when turning the camera off on Zoom, there is an avatar where the video used to be. How does he expect us to believe he did not check this before deciding to whip out wee Willie? And worse, why is that a good excuse for flogging the dolphin during a work call? Do we need congressional intervention to tell us that being an Army of One on a Zoom call is the wrong thing to do? Do we need a new criminal code for 2020 specifying that hoisting your own petard while attending a conference call is offensive to others? It’s sad that humans can’t just self-police.

Toobin is rabidly anti-Trump as any famous journalist must be. He’s also already well-known for running afoul of the #MeToo crowd when Patty Hearst blasted him for sensationalizing her rape in his book American Heiress in 2018. Fox canceled plans for a movie based on the book after Hearst got through with Toobin.

And now Toobin wants the world to accept that he made a “mistake” and “accidentally” sexually harassed everyone in a Zoom call. That’s what we’re really talking about here. If MeToo has taught me anything it’s that consent matters and if a man exposes himself to anyone without their consent it’s akin to rape. Remember that Louis C.K. was dragged for engaging in this same activity on phone calls with women. So was Harvey Weinstein, who was reported to have sprinkled his house plant in plain view of witnesses. …

This is no different than Charlie Rose or Matt Lauer groping coworkers or having automatic locks installed on the office door. Why should Toobin get a pass because his crime is embarrassing and rather hilarious? It’s still harassment. Every single one of those people on the Zoom call who witnessed it was sexually harassed, if not assaulted. …

This needs to be a firing offense if the big networks are really concerned about making workplace environments sexual harassment-free. I don’t expect he will be fired, but he should be. …

The other troubling part of this story is the call itself, which reads like some kind of Deep-State media plotting session. Did anyone catch that? While everyone is distracted by Toobin’s lubin’, the description of this Zoom meeting is going largely uncommented on.

Vice reported:

Two people who were on the call told VICE separately that the call was an election simulation featuring many of the New Yorker’s biggest stars: Jane Mayer was playing establishment Republicans; Evan Osnos was Joe Biden, Jelani Cobb was establishment Democrats, Masha Gessen played Donald Trump, Andrew Marantz was the far right, Sue Halpern was left wing democrats, Dexter Filkins was the military, and Jeffrey Toobin playing the courts. There were also a handful of other producers on the call from the New Yorker and WNYC.

An election simulation? What are these people playing at? Coup 2? I’m a reporter and my newsroom doesn’t hold conference calls simulating what we want to happen and gaming different scenarios. We just report what happens. What is the purpose of this “simulation”?

Maybe this is why we lose the media game and we should start doing these simulations and get our narrative together ahead of time, but we’ve literally never even thought of doing this. That’s how honest and naive we are! I think I need to see this Zoom call. In the interest of finding out what the media is doing to undermine our Republic, I think we need the tape (and no one believes this was not being recorded). Let’s see what the media is plotting for November 4. They can edit out the Toobin show. I want to know what Jane Mayer, Masha Gessen, Andrew Marantz, Sue Halpern, Dexter Filkins, and Toobin are cooking up for November.

One day earlier, Fox Sports’ Joe Buck and Troy Aikman exchanged thoughts that they thought were off the air but weren’t:

USA Today reports on the aftermath:

On Monday, we learned that Fox NFL broadcasters Joe Buck and Troy Aikman were not the biggest fans of stadium flyovers. And like many topics in 2020, their remarks were seen as divisive.

Defector Media posted a hot-mic video from Sunday’s Fox NFL broadcast of the Packers and Buccaneers that showed Buck and Aikman mocking a military flyover of four A-10 aircraft at Raymond James Stadium.

Aikman joked that a lot of jet fuel was getting wasted for a flyover of a football game that was being played at a mostly empty stadium. Buck also sarcastically said that it was our tax dollars at work.

The comments, though, were evidently seen by some as anti-military (which they really weren’t). So come Tuesday, Aikman took to Twitter to clarify that his joke was not meant to disrespect the military.

Regardless of their opinion, you would think that after Reds and Fox announcer Thom Brennaman was fired for a hot mike moment that sports announcers would be more careful. Then again, you might think people would be more careful around Zoom.

Noon update: Jimmy Traina of Sports Illustrated:

If you’ve been on the internet over the past 48 hours, you most likely saw the video of Joe Buck and Troy Aikman talking about military flyovers.

The internet, as it always does, ran with the video with no context and spun it to paint Buck and Aikman as super liberal, anti-military people. …

There are many things about this ridiculous story that need to be cleared up. First, it seemed pretty clear if you listened to the audio, that Buck and Aikman were goofing around and being sarcastic.

Two, and most important, they were not caught on a hot mic. This did not take place during a break in the Packers-Bucs game.

This was done before the game, during a rehearsal. That means someone who works at FOX, either in a truck or a broadcast studio, pulled the clip on purpose and then leaked it on purpose to make Buck and Aikman look bad. And the fact that one of their co-workers would leak this clip to make the broadcast duo look bad really sucks.

You can be sure Fox is doing some sort of internal investigation to find the culprit.

There is no question, however, that Buck and Aikman said what they said, whether that should have been exposed by a duplicitous coworker. This will certainly add to the general narrative of Buck and Aikman, who have been criticized for going out of their way to make negative comments about, among other teams, the Packers.


The Looney and Merrie arts

Will Friedwald writes about …

There’s a telling moment in the 1940 Tex Avery cartoon “A Wild Hare” when Bugs Bunny sneaks up behind Elmer Fudd, covers his adversary’s eyes with his hands, and instructs him to “Guess who!” The hunter reels off a list of contemporary leading ladies, including, as expressed in his exaggerated speech impediment, “Cawole Wombard.” Yet even though one of the actresses in the list, “Owivia DeHaviwand,” lived until July of this year, the joke has largely been lost on younger generations—because most viewers born after 1970 have barely heard of most of the movie stars of Hollywood’s golden age.

And that’s the most salient fact about this remarkable cartoon rabbit, a venerable Warner Bros. star who is currently celebrating his 80th birthday (at least in human years). Bugs fans can enjoy a three-disc Blu-ray set being released in December by Warner Bros. Home Entertainment; if you don’t want to wait, he’s also featured in an excellent series, developed by Peter Browngardt, of newly produced Looney Tunes cartoons (viewable on YouTube and HBO Max). Although your average millennial scratches his head at the mention of Barbara Stanwyck, everybody knows Bugs Bunny.

Bugs’s durability clearly has something to do with his intrinsic status as an underdog. Even before “A Wild Hare,” which is generally considered the first full-blown Bugs Bunny cartoon, the directors and animators working for (infamously hands-off) producer Leon Schlesinger had experimented with the notion of a hunted animal—the prey—turning the tables on its armed predator in a prototypical series of hunter-and-rabbit cartoons from 1938-40. Less than 18 months after the cartoon’s release, America itself would seem like a plucky underdog, entering a war in which the whole world was being menaced by little men with big guns. (“A Wild Hare” ends patriotically with Bugs re-creating the “Spirit of ’76” march.)

The tropes in “A Wild Hare” immediately established the rules of the hunter and the game: In their many encounters to follow, we’d find a clueless Elmer unaware that he is talking to Bugs—followed by a dramatic realization (“that was the wabbit!”); a comic death scene by Bugs—followed by exaggerated guilt pangs from Elmer. Nearly two decades later, “What’s Opera, Doc,” perhaps the single best Bugs Bunny cartoon, readdressed all those leitmotifs in grandly Wagnerian terms. The No. 1 rule isn’t so much that Bugs always wins (although that’s usually the case), but that physical aggression is always punished. Bugs triumphs by driving his antagonists crazy (as he does in “A Wild Hare”); rather than by responding with force, Bugs will taunt, tease and gaslight them until they just quit in sheer frustration. The only times Bugs loses are those rare instances when he is the aggressor, as in his three encounters with his persistent racing opponent, Cecil Turtle.

Yet as firm as the rules are, there was room for infinite variation on those familiar themes. And while the brilliant voice actor Mel Blanc gave Bugs his distinctive—and consistent—New York accent, there were noticeable differences in the approaches of the various directors: Bob Clampett’s Bugs was the most wacky, egomaniacal, out-of-control incarnation of the rabbit, in distinct contrast to Chuck Jones’s vision of the character, who was much more coolly calculating. Friz Freleng gave us a highly theatrical Bugs who seemed to exist on a vaudeville stage, always ready at the drop of a downbeat to fly into song and dance.

Even so, those directorial transformations are subtle compared with those that Bugs himself effortlessly achieves. He instantly morphs into the king of England, an imperious symphonic conductor, and a variety of drag roles—from a perky bobby-soxer to a Noo Yawk manicurist to a Teutonic Valkyrie perched on a corpulent white steed.

“Bugs needed a stronger adversary than Elmer, because Elmer was about as stupid as you could get,” Freleng said. “So I came up finally with a character called Yosemite Sam.” And in a cartoon parallel to the Cold War arms race, Bugs’s adversaries grew increasingly powerful over the years. Elmer toted a rifle he rarely used, but Sam’s six-shooters were constantly a-blazing. The rogues’ gallery of heavies gradually grew to include predatory animals (a wolf, a lion, a bear, a hunting dog), mad scientists, a furry monster, giants, an abominable snowman, a gorilla, a pirate, a Martian, a Nazi, a witch, and a Tasmanian devil. In several episodes he even goes up against the entire U.S. Army.

Bugs sometimes presents himself as an actor in a role, although in especially meta moments he is conscious of being a pen-and-ink creation. But Chuck Jones was fond of a little boy’s response when his father introduced the cartoonist as “the man who draws Bugs Bunny.” The child protested that Jones didn’t “draw Bugs Bunny”—rather, he drew “pictures of Bugs Bunny.” The difference is crucial. Even now, as an octogenarian, Bugs is alive and well, no matter who is drawing him.

My two favorites are …

The New York Times discovers talk radio!

Paul Matzko:

At least 15 million Americans every week tune into one of the top 15 talk radio programs. They are not monolithically conservative, but they are overwhelmingly so. A dozen of the top 15 shows feature conservative or libertarian hosts — with devoted followings like Rush Limbaugh’s “Dittoheads” or Michael Savage’s “Savage Nation” — and only one leans left.

Talk radio may face an aging audience, a decline in ad revenue and competition from new mass media forms like podcasts, but there are still millions of Americans whose politics are shaped by what they listen to on talk radio all day, every day. Fox News gets more of the attention for shaping conservative opinion and for its influence on the Trump administration, but we shouldn’t overlook the power of conservative talk radio.

The conservatism of talk radio only partly overlaps with institutional conservatism, that of right-wing Washington think tanks, magazines and the Republican Party itself. By the early 2000s, it had embraced a version of conservatism that is less focused on free markets and small government and more focused on ethnonationalism and populism. It is, in short, the core of Trumpism — now and in the future, with or without a President Trump.

Talk radio’s power is rooted in the sheer volume of content being produced each week. The typical major talk radio show is produced every weekday and runs three hours, so just the top 15 shows are putting out around 45 hours of content every day. Even setting aside hundreds of additional local shows, the dedicated fan can listen to nothing but conservative talk radio all day, every day of the week, and never catch up.

Yet talk radio still somehow manages to fly below the national media radar. In large part, that is because media consumption patterns are segregated by class. If you visit a carpentry shop or factory floor, or hitch a ride with a long-haul truck driver, odds are that talk radio is a fixture of the aural landscape. But many white-collar workers, journalists included, struggle to understand the reach of talk radio because they don’t listen to it, and don’t know anyone who does.

Moreover, anyone who wants to make an effort to understand talk radio runs into a barrier immediately: Because of the ocean of content, one must listen to it at great length, a daunting task for anyone not already sympathetic with a host’s conservative views. The time commitment suggests the depth of listener loyalty.

Each show has its own long-running inside jokes and references, a kind of linguistic shorthand that unites fans and repels outside examination. And since shows have begun to regularly publish online transcripts only in the past decade or so, journalists and scholars have found it hard to wade through all the content.

As Jim Derych, the author of “Confessions of a Former Dittohead,” put it, Rush Limbaugh “makes you feel like an insider — like you know what’s going on politically, and everyone else is an idiot.” There is power in that feeling, the proposition that you and the radio elect have been awakened to a hidden truth about the real way the world works while the rest of the American “sheeple” slumber.

Like single-issue voters, talk radio fans are able to exercise outsize influence on the political landscape by the intensity of their ideological commitment. Political scientists have long noted the way in which single-issue voters can punch above their numerical weight. An organization like the National Rifle Association, which says it has about five million members, has been able to outlobby gun control supporters despite broad (but diffuse) public backing for at least incremental gun control measures.

Talk radio listeners make up a group at least three times as large as the N.R.A. and are just as committed to a particular vision of America. To take one example, since the mid-2000s, talk radio listeners have played a big part in steering Republicans toward the virulent anti-immigration stance of Mr. Trump. Mr. Limbaugh once proposed a set of “Limbaugh Laws” requiring immigrants to speak English, barring them from holding government office or having access to government services, and excluding unskilled workers from the country.

Talk radio is not bounded by physical space. It can follow listeners wherever they go, from the car radio while commuting to the radio resting on the workbench to a radio app on a smartphone. It has the potential to dominate the construction of a person’s worldview in a way that other media simply cannot (until, perhaps, the advent of its white-collar cousin, the podcast).

This was true of conservative radio long before the current generation of talk radio hosts emerged in the 1980s. By the early 1960s, a group of AM radio broadcasters had built an informal national syndicated network of hundreds of radio stations; the largest of the broadcasters, a fundamentalist preacher in New Jersey named Carl McIntire, reached an estimated audience of 20 million listeners a week (which, for sake of comparison, is as many as Rush Limbaugh reportedly hit at his peak four decades later). Americans could tune into a station airing conservative programming all day, every day.

By 1963 President John F. Kennedy was so worried about what an aide called this “formidable force in American life today,” which was able to “harass local school boards, local librarians and local government bodies,” that he authorized targeted Internal Revenue Service audits and the use of the Federal Communications Commission’s Fairness Doctrine to silence these pesky conservative broadcasters. The result was the most successful episode of government censorship of the last half century.

Conservative broadcasters have never forgotten it, and it is a key reason that a conspiracist mind-set has such a grip on listeners. Since 2003, Rush Limbaugh, who got his start working in radio as a teenager in the mid-1960s, has mentioned the Fairness Doctrine on nearly 150 episodes. He credits the rise of talk radio to the lifting of the Fairness Doctrine in 1987 by the Reagan administration. And he worries that the left could at any moment use a revived Fairness Doctrine to silence conservative radio. As Mr. Limbaugh put it in January, “They’ve been trying to nullify or negate me” for three decades.

This suspicion that elite institutions — the media, universities, government, Big Tech — are run by hostile liberal gatekeepers seeking to silence conservative voices continues to fuel right-wing anxiety. It also helps explain conservative support for Mr. Trump, who can be accused of many things but not of failing to speak his mind. When you believe that all politicians lie but that only liberal politicians rig the game, you’re more likely to vote for someone who you think will fight back even if they lie along the way.

Take talk radio’s role in spreading Covid denialism. At each stage of the backlash against government recommendations for fighting the pandemic, talk radio hosts prepared the way for broader conservative resistance. Indeed, many of Mr. Trump’s own talking points about the virus — like comparing it to the flu and accusing China of weaponizing the virus — echoed ideas already spreading on talk radio shows.

The more appropriate term is “COVID skepticism,” and, I would say, for good reason given the mix of government being wrong (remember “two weeks to flatten the curve?”) and outright lies (Gov. Tony Evers saying he wasn’t going to shut down the state three days before he did).

The fact that the New York Times solicited someone from to write this shows how out of touch the Times is, and not just about flyover country. Limbaugh, Savage and Sean Hannity are all on WABC radio in New York. You’d think the Times would know what AM radio is.

The Packers after McCarthy

Jason Whitlock:

Never forget that in 13 years coaching in Green Bay, with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers playing quarterback, Mike McCarthy led the Packers to one Super Bowl appearance.

One. That’s 1. He and Rodgers won it all in 2010. 

McCarthy is now coaching Dak Prescott, a solid NFL quarterback. Favre and Rodgers were transcendent and at different points in their careers were candidates to be the best QBs of all time.

Should we be surprised the Cowboys are off to a pathetic 1-3 start? Jerry Jones made a very bad hire this offseason. 

In a Week 1 loss to the Rams, McCarthy turned down a chip-shot field goal that would have tied the game with 11 minutes to play in the fourth quarter. The Cowboys instead went for it on fourth-and-3 and failed. 

On Sunday, trailing the Browns by three points with nearly four minutes on the clock and two timeouts in his pocket, McCarthy attempted an onside kick rather than kicking it deep. 

It’s the dumbest decision I’ve seen this year. I could be talked into believing it’s one of the dumbest decisions in recent NFL history. Hell, it might be the dumbest decision in football history. Please tell me a dumber one. 

Cleveland’s offense was sputtering. Baker Mayfield was leaking oil. Cleveland had blown a 41-14 advantage. On its previous possession, Mayfield overthrew Odell Beckham Jr., who was wide open. 

Since the safety rule changes, no one recovers onside kicks anymore. McCarthy bizarrely set the Browns up at midfield. Cleveland smartly turned aggressive, giving OBJ the ball on a reverse. OBJ ran 50 yards into the end zone, icing the game. 

What McCarthy did is fireable and unforgivable. His decision-making the first four weeks has been baffling. He’s trying way too hard to prove he’s a great coach. 

The Mike McCarthy-Aaron Rodgers divorce is the opposite of the Bill Belichick-Tom Brady divorce. The coach moved on. Rodgers is winning the divorce in a landslide. So far, Belichick and Brady both seem to be happy with their new lives.

The Packers’ bye week is this week. But as always the Packers can still make news, here reported by Ryan Glasspiegel:

Every once in a while, you come across the perfect headline, and Aaron Rodgers delivered just such a one for me today in his description of the media. On his weekly spot on the Pat McAfee Show, Rodgers was asked by McAfee about a snippet last week that was taken wildly out of context. Rodgers answered:

“Is anybody surprised? All the fucking media does is write stories to get clicks. So it didn’t matter. I can give a long answer about something, they can take a blip of it, and write a story about it that has nothing to do with what I was saying. Nobody’s gonna take the time — unless you’re watching this live — to listen to the entire interview. They’re gonna take pieces of it. If I’m not doing this in person, you can’t see facial expressions. Or if you’re not listening to it, you’re just reading a transcript. You can’t hear voice inflection and tone and inference. So, that’s just the way it is. That’s why I love doing this. Because I have a platform with you guys and the boys to say whatever I want, to speak the truth. Shit like that’s gonna happen. It doesn’t matter. I don’t spend any extra time [thinking] about it. I find it comical because then we can bring it up and be like ‘this is what we were talking about. Here it is.’”

AJ Hawk, Rodgers’ former teammate, followed up by asking him how he determines what to believe when reading stories online.

“I don’t know. You just have to be skeptical in general. I think that’s having an open mind, is being skeptical and not just believing everything at face value or believing everything that your Twitter or social media tells you. I think people need to remember there’s a lot of interesting documentaries about this stuff. Cambridge Analytica, if you watched that documentary about the 2016 election, and you understand how many data points there are out there about us. We are being constantly fed things that confirm our own bias already. It’s called confirmation bias. It’s when they feed information to you that hits you in the areas that you like and just continues to further the things you believe. And you think that you’re learning, but you’re actually being fed information that keeps you on one side. And that’s the division that’s created. And I’m not a fan of it. I think you should read both sides of stories, read books, you know, that tackle both sides of issues. You should be very skeptical of the things that you read and do your own research, and not just listen because somebody told you — some blue checkmark on Twitter told you to believe something. You should have an open mind and do your own research. And feel into what you think is the truth.”

Coming to a road course near you

I normally do not follow NASCAR particularly often beyond perhaps two races — the season-opening Daytona 500 and the Memorial Day-weekend Coca~Cola (formerly World) 600.

The former is sort of NASCAR’s Super Bowl even though it starts the NASCAR season. The first live 500 …

… included this finish …

… and this fight.

(CBS’ race analyst, by the way, was David Hobbs, who will be happy to sell you a Honda in Milwaukee.)

The Coca~Cola 600 became a family tradition when it moved to the Sunday evening of Memorial Day weekend, we started going to Glen Haven for its Fire Department catfish festival, and we started listening to the race on the radio.

Before that, I have been to Road America a few times since the first time in the early 1980s. Somewhere I have pretty good photos of the track, including cars that spun out in front of me. There is also a photo of me looking as if I’m attempting to break into a Ferrari (that may have been owned by a certain Wisconsin car dealer you may have heard of). There are probably no photos of the Three Mile Island-level sunburn I got that day. (I had to peel myself out of bed the next day.)

I went to a few Road America events during my days as editor of Marketplace Magazine. In one I stood near the start/finish line and watched Vic Edelbrock fire up a 1960s Corvette race car for one vintage practice race. Shortly before or afterward I walked past a tent where Carroll Shelby was signing autographs.

The last time I went was in 2010, when I parked my car in media parking, my Subaru Outback kind of pale in comparison with the Corvettes and Porsches parked there that apparently belonged to motorsports journalists. (I should have bought a Corvette, though I’m not sure at which previous point in my life it would have made financial sense to do that.)

For some reason I have been getting NASCAR emails. That turned out to be a good thing this one time, because the most recent email says:

NASCAR officials released the 2021 Cup Series schedule Wednesday, introducing three new tracks, expanding to six road courses and placing a dirt-track race on the calendar for the first time in more than 50 years.

Next year’s Cup Series remains at 36 point-paying races, starting as it did this year with the season-opening Daytona 500 (Feb. 14) and ending with the championship finale at Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 7). In between those bookends, there are new venues and schedule shuffles as part of the dramatic changes long hinted at by NASCAR officials.

Among the shifts for 2021 are these highlights …

— July 4: Road America, a historic 4.048-mile road circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, that last hosted the Cup Series in 1956.

NASCAR has been at Road America before, though not in its top level, since the aforementioned 1956 race.

Somewhere there is a video of a NASCAR truck race with three trucks going down the two-lane track before the one-lane turn. It’s a wild sight.

I may have to go cover this in July.


A Wisconsin earworm of sorts

A Facebook Friend passed this on from Robert Stacy “The Other” McCain:

For the past several weeks, for some reason, I’ve become obsessed with old Chicago songs. Not their later easy-listening pop, but their early stuff from 1969-1972, when they were still avant-garde. And I couldn’t figure out why this happened until I realized that “25 or 6 to 4” had been remastered as a U.S. Army recruiting advertisement:

Fifty years after its original release, Chicago’s signature song, “25 or 6 to 4,” has been reimagined as a hip-hop anthem about finding your inner warrior with fiery new vocals by indie rapper realnamejames. An abbreviated version of the remix first appeared in November 2019 as a part of the launch of the U.S. Army’s “What’s Your Warrior?” marketing campaign, which was developed to showcase the breadth and depth of opportunities for today’s youth to achieve their goals in America’s largest military branch. The track sparked conversation and excitement online, and a full-length version of The “25 or 6 to 4 (GoArmy Remix)” is now available for download . . .

Wow, I feel old. I haven’t felt this old since Led Zeppelin’s “Rock and Roll” was the soundtrack of a Cadillac ad. Back in the day, those early Chicago albums were real stoner music. Every hippie was certain that “25 or 6 to 4” was a reference to acid (LSD-25), but in fact the title and lyrics are about keyboardist Robert Lamm’s struggle to finish writing a song in the wee hours of the morning. He looked up at the clock and it was either 3:35 or 3:34 in the morning — 25 or 26 until 4 a.m.

As I say, Chicago was considered quite avant-garde in their early career. Their first three albums were all double albums, and their fourth album was a quadruple live album. They did a lot of long-form instrumental tracks, and one of my favorite Chicago songs, “Beginnings,” was nearly eight minutes long on their first album. It was not until Columbia Records president Clive Davis personally insisted on editing it down to under three minutes that “Beginnings” became a hit single. Similarly, the album version of “25 or 6 to 4” was nearly five minutes (4:50), which Davis chopped down to 2:52. Of course, the guys in the band resented the hell out of this commercial butchery of their art, but it made them rich. Selling singles (45 rpm) to teenagers required getting airplay on Top 40 radio, and back in the day, there was no way you were gonna get a five-minute song on the radio, let alone eight minutes. So these brutal chop jobs were a necessary part of the business. Chicago could indulge their artistic impulses all they wanted on their albums, but in order to sell those albums, they needed radio airplay, which meant hit singles and — chop! chop! chop! — there went half the song.

Nobody understands this stuff nowadays, in the digital age, where everything is Adobe Audition and kids just download music from Spotify, but once upon a time, a recording was an actual performance, recorded analog on tape, which had to be physically cut and spliced to make edits. And there were actual radio stations run by human beings (or soulless monsters, depending on your point view) called “program directors,” so that turning a record into a hit was a transactional sort of enterprise. Even after Congress outlawed “payola,” there was still a lot of shady stuff involved in promoting records to radio. Of course, in the long run, the music was either good or it wasn’t. Most of the mediocre crap that got played on the radio has been forgotten, but the real classics are timeless.

So I’ve been walking around with this song stuck in my head:

What the heck is that final chord? “25 or 6 to 4” is in the key of A-minor, but that final chord is definitely not A-minor. So I actually researched it and discovered that Lamm ended the song this way:

Dm 6/9 …. F9 … B6(add D) … G/A# … B/A

That’s just insane. In case you don’t know, B/A is an inverted B7 chord, with the 7th (A) played as the bass note. It is completely incongruous with an A-minor scale, which is why that final chord leaves the listener with such a weird feeling. Instinctively, you want the song to resolve to the tonic (I) chord, but instead you have this weird progression of complex chords culminating in something that’s just . . . wrong.

You could spend a lot of time pondering the significance of stuff like that, but that would require a supply of psychedelic drugs, consumed in a basement room with blacklight posters, which was how hippies used to listen to music (according to sources, the professional journalist said).

And so now a hiphop remix of “25 or 6 to 4” is being used for Army recruiting ads. Dude, I never expected to be so old . . .

McCain forgot, or perhaps chose not to include, the ’80s version, with Bill Champlain singing lead vocals instead of Peter Cetera …

… which started the first Chicago concert I ever saw, in Madison in 1987. The correct version started the second half.

What is the Wisconsin connection (besides the fact that all four Chicago concerts I’ve seen were in Wisconsin, that is), you ask? The Facebook Terry Kath Fan Group reveals …

… Chicago guitar legend Terry Kath and his father, Raymond, who owned Kath’s Lake Placid Lodge in Hayward. Terry Kath’s daughter, Michelle, who was 2 when her father died, described the lodge as her father’s “special place.”

Well, it beats having Chicago mobsters using northern Wisconsin as their “special place,” and as you know there was a lot of that.


The ESPN disease

The Packers host Atlanta on ESPN Monday night.

Before you watch, read Jason Whitlock:

ESPN broadcaster Mark Jones doesn’t need to be fired. He needs help.  He needs an intervention. Like the network that pays him, Jones has been radicalized by his Twitter feed.

In reaction to a Louisville grand jury failing to indict the officers who shot Breonna Taylor in an attempt to subdue her boyfriend who shot a police officer, Jones declared on his Twitter feed that he would no longer accept a police escort to the games he broadcast.

“Saturday at my football game,” Jones tweeted, “I’ll tell the police officer on duty to ‘protect’ me he can just take the day off … I’d rather not have the officer shoot me because he feared for his life because of my black skin or other dumb ish. I’m not signing my own death certificate.”

The tweet is insanity. It reveals a dangerous level of paranoia and delusion. Broadcasters of all ethnicities have been receiving police escorts to and from sporting events for at least 50 years. Not one police officer has ever assassinated a broadcaster. Not one.

Mark Jones is crying for help. Twitter is feeding his delusion. Unfortunately so is ESPN. Black Lives Matter cult leaders Colin Kaepernick and LeBron James have indoctrinated the entire network. The Worldwide Leader exists today as a virtual cult compound for racial radicalism.

The network’s reaction to the Louisville grand jury was unprofessional, bizarre and cult-like. Tall broadcasters with no expertise in criminal justice or fact-based journalism ranted and whined. Former University of Georgia basketball player Maria Taylor and former college and NBA star Jalen Rose emoted on ESPN’s NBA Countdown Show.

“I just want people to know that blacks are hurting,” Rose said. “And, uh, as we related to sports that are predominantly black, the WNBA, the NBA, the NFL, all of those players are performing with heavy hearts. And we’re still showing up to try to do our jobs, and I was in that position. I can’t lie to y’all. I was looking in my closet like, ‘I’m going to wear something fresh today, because if I say something to get me fired, then I was crisp.’ That’s what I was thinking.”

I’m not sure if Rose is aware that President John F. Kennedy’s assassination was shown on television and Americans went to work afterward. Breonna Taylor’s been dead for months. It’s also been obvious for months that the police officers who responded to the gunfire of her boyfriend were not going to be charged with murder. BLM cult leader LeBron James and his NBA flock misled their followers into believing the state of Kentucky would waste taxpayer money on a criminal prosecution it could not win.

But Rose wasn’t done. He pivoted into a deeper form of illogic.

“Because when Kyle Rittenhouse in (Kenosha), as a 17-year-old, kills two people and yet three cops aren’t directly charged for killing Breonna Taylor, it shows you how they feel about black lives in America.”

Rittenhouse is white. He killed two white BLM cult members. Rittenhouse has been charged with their murders despite the fact there is quite a bit of evidence that he shot them in self-defense.

Jalen Rose is drowning in the deep end of the pool. ESPN should not allow Rose, Taylor or any of their ex-jocks to swim in the criminal justice waters. It’s too deep. Too dangerous.

If the Worldwide Leader wants to discuss police work, grand juries and race, why not hire former police officers, lawyers and historians to do it at a high level? Why not let trained, experienced journalists lead the discussion? Why let the blind lead the blind?

I’ve known Jalen Rose since he was 19 and a sophomore at Michigan. In the past, I’ve supported his charter school in Detroit. Rose, I believe, wants to make a positive impact on the world. Like all of us, he has blind spots. Wealth invites delusion.

Rose and Jones fit the profile of men vulnerable to Black Lives Matter radicalization. They’re black men married to white women.

I am not disparaging their marriage choices. No one who knows my dating history could argue I have a problem with inter-racial dating. No one.

But, as I’ve written previously, your choice in partners can complicate your racial worldview, particularly in this social media era. Black men who date or marry white women face an incredible amount of racial backlash in the real world and in the social media world. Random people, friends and family members question your blackness.

Swearing allegiance to Black Lives Matter ideology is a protective shield against the criticism. Mixed-race black people use BLM as a shield in the same fashion. It’s not a coincidence that Colin Kaepernick is the head of this cult. Racial radicalism makes him feel black.

I know some of you feel I’m out of bounds discussing the racial makeup and dating preferences of BLM cult members. I’m not. BLM cult members speculate about the racial motivations of police officers, district attorneys and grand juries.

There’s no proof that former Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin was motivated by George Floyd’s black race. There’s no proof the three Louisville police officers were motivated by Breonna Taylor’s black race. The evidence points to the Louisville cops being motivated by gunfire that struck a police officer with a lawful warrant.

It’s not a coincidence that many of the most strident BLM cult members are mixed race or involved in a mixed-race relationship. Kaepernick, Kenny Stills, Jussie Smollett, Bubba Wallace, Chuba Hubbard. BLM Grand Wizard Shaun King is a white man who has adopted a black identity.

BLM is a cult for people with identity issues. When I worked at ESPN, the common complaint from black male employees was that it was difficult for black men married to black women to rise in the management pyramid.

ESPN disrupted the Western-prescribed all-black nuclear family long before Black Lives Matter called for it on its website.

Let me repeat. I have NO problem with inter-racial marriage. None. If you’re going to do it, just make sure you’re man or woman enough to handle the complications without joining a race-bait cult.

Someone at ESPN should convince Mark Jones to delete his Twitter account and seek counseling. He’s melting down. In 2018, he posted a picture of himself smiling and praising police in Syracuse. Thursday, he tweeted that the picture was actually him thanking a black dude for finding a bag he lost. I’m not exaggerating. Look at the tweet below.

What we’ve seen at ESPN over the past several years and in the last 48 hours in particular is why sports fans should ‘Kick their ESPN habit. We’re not perfect here at Outkick. But we’re not a radical cult promoting a race war in America.

Why college newspaper experience isn’t always helpful

UW-Madison student Tripp Grebe:

The recent murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis Police, and the riots and protests that have followed, have forged an essential discussion on police brutality that has been long in the making. In the past, many of us have responded to publicized incidents of police brutality by giving officers the benefit of the doubt because we believe that the other side of the story will justify their actions. We must now reckon that the “other side of the story” does not always absolve police officers’ of wrongdoing. For the first time, many of us now stare directly into the eyes of police brutality’s harsh existence, the same existence that Black people have known to be true their entire lives.

The reignition of the Black Lives Matter movement was undoubtedly justifiable, expected, and necessary in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder. As the movement gains steam, it forces us to have difficult conversations and continue to stare into the eyes of police brutality’s existence.

Naturally, the recent movement has stirred up intense passion, coupled with anger and frustration – which is a good thing. How could someone not watch the horrific video of George Floyd’s murder and not be angry? What’s not so good is the burning desire that many Americans have to argue with one another. We’ve seen this desire play out as cancel culture’s recent growth has swarmed and infested public and private life.

We should take solace in the fact that virtually all Americans agree – police brutality is a problem, and police reform is necessary. The idea that a vast swath of the country rejects this idea is unfounded. A CBS News poll recently found that 91% of Americans believe that police reform is necessary. We have been witnesses to the spawning of a significant culture shift in our country, and that’s a good thing.

The vast majority of Americans believe that if we want communities, particularly the African American community, to feel protected against gross negligence and abuse of power, police reform must be pursued and enacted. While we’re virtually all in agreement on the problem, the discourse begins when deliberating the solutions to the problem.

In Wisconsin, we’ve seen the calls for police reform amplified, peacefully and violently, in its two largest cities, Milwaukee and Madison. If you’re from Wisconsin, you know that the state’s residents typically don’t share the same grievances as those who live in the Milwaukee and Madison area.

Despite this, rallies and marches against police brutality have occurred across the entire state since the death of George Floyd. The grievances against police brutality are not limited to Milwaukee and Madison area residents, as towns across the state such as OshkoshAppletonPlatteville, and Kenosha have seen residents join in the fight against police brutality.

Since this issue is not specific to any part of the state, the state’s Assembly, Senate, and Governor must expostulate with one another to address police brutality. People can post on their Instagram stories all they want. Still, no structural change will be created without thoughtful, comprehensive legislation at the state level.

So, what should police reform look like?

The call to “Defund the Police” has been thrust into the forefront of the police reform debate.
In Milwaukee and Madison, street murals reading “Defund the Police” have been painted in giant yellow letters on major city streets. The Milwaukee Common Council is exploring a 10% budget reduction to the police department that would amount to a nearly $30-million-dollar budget cut. State Rep. David Bowen, (D-Milwaukee), and State Rep. Jonathan Brostoff, (D-Milwaukee) have come out in support of Defunding the Police.

This is a bad idea. The majority of the money allotted to police budgets goes towards the officer’s salaries. If we decide to pay our officers less, they have less incentive to do their job well. If we pay officers more, they have an incentive to perform at a high level in efforts to maintain a high paying job. The National Economic Bureau even found statistical evidence that when officers are paid more, their performance increases.

If we’re expecting police officers to be better, why would we be taking money away from them? When schools are failing, we don’t “Defund Schools,” we give them more money and implement new plans to ensure their success. The city of Milwaukee has been defunding the police department for years. This past year the city cut the department’s budget by 60 officers, and the homicide rate in Milwaukee has more than doubled.

We should increase funding for police departments. The solution to police brutality is better policing, not less policing. We should be training our officers more. By paying more and training more, we can improve the performance of our local police officers.

In addition to increasing funding for police departments, the state should extend Act 10 to cover police unions. Police unions present the same danger that other public section unions present; they place their members’ interests over the broader community. Police unions around the country have lobbied against greater transparency in day-to-day policing, public record laws that would make filed complaints against officers’ public, merit-based pay, and banning contracts with private trainers.

Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wisconsin), passed the controversial union reform Act in 2011. However, the Act did not apply to police unions. The Act restricted collective bargaining, ended mandatory union dues, and required contributions to benefits. The implementation of Act 10 allowed school districts to evaluate teacher’s disciplinary decisions on an individual basis and not worry about letting a lousy teacher go even if they had tenure. The same would be true if Act 10 were extended to police unions. Instead of an officer being shielded by the union, the department could evaluate disciplinary decisions on an individual basis and have the ability to fire the officer for any wrongdoing.

Under the Milwaukee Police Union contract, officers can only be interrogated during certain hours of the day, which leaves the officers time to get their story straight. Last year, 93 Milwaukee police officers were disciplined for egregious misconduct, but all kept their jobs. If Act 10 were extended to police unions, it would have the same effect that it’s had on teachers’ unions. It would provide departments the ability to promote their officers based on performance, not age. And the ability to individually evaluate the misconduct of their officers without police union protection. All in all, extending Act 10 to police unions would make for a more accountable and effective police force.

As we continue to stare directly into the eyes of police brutality’s harsh existence, let’s continue to fight for solutions. Let’s increase training and funding for police while extending Act 10 to cover police unions. By creating a more prepared, effective, and accountable police force, we can take the first step in helping the African American community feel protected against abuse of power from which George Floyd suffered.

Grebe wrote that for the Badger Herald, which when I was a UW student was the campus’ independent and conservative newspaper. Apparently that is no longer the case, as the College Fix reports:

The Badger Herald, one of two student newspapers at the University of Wisconsin Madison, has dismissed a columnist following his submission of an op-ed that argued against defunding the police and instead spelled out ways to reform police departments.

Tripp Grebe, its author, called for better pay, better training, and police union reforms.

“If we’re expecting police officers to be better, why would we be taking money away from them? When schools are failing, we don’t ‘Defund Schools,’ we give them more money and implement new plans to ensure their success,” Grebe wrote in his submission.

“The city of Milwaukee has been defunding the police department for years. This past year the city cut the department’s budget by 60 officers, and the homicide rate in Milwaukee has more than doubled,” he argued. “… As we continue to stare directly into the eyes of police brutality’s harsh existence, let’s continue to fight for solutions. Let’s increase training and funding for police while extending Act 10 to cover police unions.”

After he submitted it, he was told by the Herald’s opinion editor Samiha Bhushan via email in late August that although the piece was “well written” that it was “too much of a hot take,” and that upper management of the paper was worried it may “alienate” incoming freshmen, according to a screenshot of the email.

“Additionally,” the email continues, “we just posted an editorial board supporting BLM and another article publicly endorsing two candidates who want to defund the police. As a result, your article would cause a lot of backlash that we cannot afford right now.”

Bhushan said if Grebe was open to edits, there was a chance it may be able to run.

But a later email from upper management at the paper changed tune, next suggesting that the issue with Grebe’s piece was solely with sourcing, despite the piece containing nearly 20 different sources from news outlets such as CBS News, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the National Economic Bureau.

Grebe was later dismissed from the Herald via email after they were tipped off to an inquiry on the issue by the Young America’s Foundation. YAF originally reached out to UW media affairs division, which apparently alerted the campus paper of the situation.

“It is of the utmost importance that our work is accurately and relevantly sourced,” reads Grebe’s dismissal letter, “your column was not, hence our decision not to publish this column.”

In a statement to YAF, Badger Herald Editor in Chief Harrison Freuk defended the paper’s decision, saying their emails to Grebe were unclear; he denied that their pro-BLM editorials had anything to do with not running the column, and instead told YAF it was a matter of Grebe’s column containing “inaccurate/irrelevant information.”

Freuk did not respond to a request from The College Fix seeking comment.

On their website, the Badger Herald describes itself as “the nation’s largest fully independent student newspaper,” and states it published items that “reflect the interests and tastes of the University of Wisconsin community.”

Grebe was arguably the most prominent conservative opinion voice at the Herald, which has published five of his op-eds this year, such as the “Constitution should be interpreted as written, not as public opinion changes” and “While racialized attacks are unjustified, Chinese government mishandled COVID-19 pandemic.”

Grebe told The Fix he “enjoyed being the only conservative columnist for a publication like the Badger Herald.

“It’s frustrating that my column was censored because its viewpoint was different from the paper’s editorial stance. Like any writer, I want to work for a paper that will permit me to express my viewpoint in a responsible way without being required to change my opinion to satisfy others,” he said via email.

“It was disappointing to see the Badger Herald editorial staff claim my article wasn’t published due to a sourcing issue, once the story became public,” Grebe continued. “The Herald made it very clear both in their emails and when I met with them personally, that my article was well written and there was no sourcing issue.”

UW-Madison has not improved since my graduation.

The media vs. objectivity

Victor Davis Hanson:

In 2017, the liberal Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University found that 93 percent of CNN’s coverage of the Trump administration was negative. The center found similarly negative Trump coverage at other major news outlets.

The election year 2020 has only accelerated that asymmetrical bias — to the point that major newspapers and network and cable-news organizations are now fused with the Joe Biden campaign.

Sometimes stories are covered only in terms of political agendas. Take COVID-19.

The media assure us that the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic has been a disaster. But their conclusions are not supported by any evidence.

In the United States, the coronavirus death rate per million people is similar to, or lower than, most major European countries except Germany.

When the virus was at its worst, before the partisan campaign of this election year heated up, the governors in our four largest states had only compliments for the Trump administration.

Democrats Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gavin Newsom of California and Republicans Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida effusively praised the administration’s cooperation with their own frontline efforts.

The most recent conclusions of impartial heads of federal agencies responsible for coordinating national and state policies are about the same.

Dr. Deborah Birx (adviser to both the Obama and Trump administrations on responses to infectious diseases), Dr. Anthony Fauci (director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases), and Dr. Scott Gottlieb (former head of the Food and Drug Administration) have not faulted the Trump administration’s overall COVID-19 response. They attribute any shortcomings to initial global ignorance about the origins and nature of the epidemic, incompetence at the World Health Organization, or the initial inability of bureaucracies to produce easily available and reliable test kits.

Prominent progressive Trump critics such as House speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized the necessary Trump travel ban, yet Pelosi told people there was no reason to cancel planned travel to San Francisco’s Chinatown.

Democrats Andrew Cuomo of New York and Gavin Newsom of California and Republicans Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida effusively praised the administration’s cooperation with their own frontline efforts.

The most recent conclusions of impartial heads of federal agencies responsible for coordinating national and state policies are about the same.

Dr. Deborah Birx (adviser to both the Obama and Trump administrations on responses to infectious diseases), Dr. Anthony Fauci (director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases), and Dr. Scott Gottlieb (former head of the Food and Drug Administration) have not faulted the Trump administration’s overall COVID-19 response. They attribute any shortcomings to initial global ignorance about the origins and nature of the epidemic, incompetence at the World Health Organization, or the initial inability of bureaucracies to produce easily available and reliable test kits.

Prominent progressive Trump critics such as House speaker Nancy Pelosi criticized the necessary Trump travel ban, yet Pelosi told people there was no reason to cancel planned travel to San Francisco’s Chinatown.

However, the real warping of the news is not just a matter of slanting coverage, but deliberately not covering the news at all.

In the last two weeks, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has achieved the most stunning breakthroughs in Middle Eastern diplomacy in over half a century.

Countries once hostile to Israel, such as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, now formally recognize it. Other Arab nations may follow. Ancient existential enemies Kosovo and Serbia also agreed to normalize their relationship with Israel by signing economic agreements.

Yet none of these historic events have drawn much media attention. All of them would have been canonized were they achievements of the Obama administration.

In 2017, the media suggested that Trump’s plans to get out of the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate accord, to confront Chinese mercantilism, to forge new alliances between Israel and moderate Arab regimes, to isolate an ascendant Iran, to close the southern border to illegal immigration, to jawbone NATO alliance members into honoring their defense-expenditure commitments, and to destroy ISIS and weaken Hezbollah were all impossible, counterproductive or sheer madness.

And now?

An embargoed and bankrupt Iran is teetering on the brink. Its international terrorist appendages, including Hezbollah, are broke.

China is increasingly being ostracized by much of the world.

The U.S. has cut its carbon emissions, often at a rate superior to those nations still adhering to the Paris climate accord targets.

Cross-border illegal immigration has been reduced, according to many metrics.

ISIS was bombed into near dissolution. Moderate regimes in the Middle East are ascendant; radical cliques like Hamas and al-Qaeda are not.

More NATO members are meeting their commitments. The alliance’s aggregate defense investments are way up.

Is any of that considered news? Not really.

Instead, every three or four days the public is fed a series of fantasy “bombshells” much like the daily hysterias of the Robert Mueller investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump team and Russia — a two-year, media-hyped dud.

In recent weeks the media warned us that Trump was dismantling the Post Office to disrupt mail-in balloting.

Trump, we are told, has decided never to concede his sure loss in November and might have to be forcibly removed, perhaps by the military.

We read that Trump defiled the memory of fallen American soldiers in cemeteries abroad. We are lectured that Trump supposedly never took COVID-19 seriously.

All of these stories were either demonstrably untrue, were supported only by anonymous sources, or were the sensationalism of authors hawking books.

Yet such concocted melodramas will continue each week up to Election Day, while fundamental geostrategic shifts abroad brought about by American diplomacy will by intent go unnoticed.

The news as we once understood it is dead.

It has been replaced by the un-news: a political narrative created by partisans who believe the noble ends of destroying Trump justify any biased means necessary — including destroying their own reputation and craft.