July 7, 2007 - June 30, 2007
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Eskin. An illuminating archetype of liberal smarts.
En route to a July 4th event yesterday, I happened to be listening to WIP/AM
Philadelphia and was treated to a kind of epiphany by talk host Howard
Eskin. I'll tell you all about it, but first some background.
We've had all this blabber lately about the Fairness Doctrine, which
gives liberals a chance to show off just how little they actually know
about talk radio and its most influential conservative personalities.
Since they can't bring themselves to listen to Limbaugh, Hannity,
Hewitt, Ingraham et al, they make up their impressions of the shows out
of whole cloth and never learn their mistake because all their liberal
friends who also don't listen have exactly the same unsubstantiated
impressions. That's why they keep saying the same things over and over
again -- conservative talkers are fact-free propagandists, servile to
Republican politicians, vicious to political opponents and callers who
disagree, and sustained on the air by hopelessly uninformed idiots.
Never mind that right-wing talkers have displayed an independence
from the party line you'll look for in vain on Air America, which bores
its few listeners to death with a changeless diet of Bush bashing and
rote recitals of Dem talking points.
In recent years conservative talkers have attacked their party and
their president for profligate spending, the Harriet Miers nomination,
the Dubai ports deal, and almost nonstop on immigration. And their
policy arguments are hardly fact free. Indeed, even the dumbest of the
syndicated conservatives, Sean Hannity, helped sway the senate vote on
the late immigration bill by humiliating Ohio Republican George
Voinovich in an on-air
that exposed the senator's disgraceful ignorance of the
content of the bill and its projected costs, as well as his
paranoid view of the conservative base.
It's true that Hannity may be among the sharper tongued of the most
popular talkers, but he also has two regular features that illustrate
the principal misconceptions liberals have about the medium. Hannity
has a hate-line, a permanent voicemail system on which the liberals who
despise him can record their hostility in whatever terms they prefer.
Obscenities are bleeped, but the comments are otherwise unedited and
used as a bumper going to and from commercials. Their abuse is far uglier and more personal
than any Hannity deals out to callers. Hannity also has a weekly
segment in which he sends one of his producers onto the streets of
Manhattan to ask the residents of that overwhelmingly Democratic city
questions like, "Who is the Vice-President of the United States?" and
"How many senators are there in the U.S. Congress?" He often asks them
about their party affiliation, too. The far-and-away most common answer
to questions like the first two is "I don't know," and the usual answer
to the third is "Democrat." The segment is only entertaining to
Hannity's listeners because they do
know quite a bit about politics and politicians. Otherwise, it would be
about as soporific as watching endless reruns of the exact same episode
of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" It gets dull anyway because after a
while you know they don't know anything about the government or the
Constitution and then they'll boast about having voted for Kerry.
The dirty secret that explains the popularity of conservative talk
radio and the utter failure of liberal talk radio is that except for
their high-profile elitists in academia, the mainstream media, and the
public sector (10 percent of the base? 5 percent?), Democrats are much much
more ignorant and uneducated
Which brings us to Howard Eskin. He hosts the number-one rated local
talk radio show in Philadelphia, another overwhelmingly Democrat city.
But WIP isn't talk radio of the Limbaugh-Hannity sort. It's sports
talk. All sports all the
time. Or it's supposed to be. The listeners are the people -- mostly,
but not all, men -- who pay attention to nothing in public affairs but
the fortunes of the Eagles, the Phillies, the Sixers, and the Flyers.
To them it doesn't matter if Texas is burning, California is breaking
apart along the San Andreas fault, and another European capital is
counting bodies after the latest riot or terrorist attack; they are
pitiful performance last night by the Phillies bullpen. And Howard
Eskin is their favorite. Why? Most of the other WIP hosts are
reasonably friendly and polite to callers. Eskin is merciless. He tells
them they're stupid, he interrupts them, he interrogates them to expose
further ignorance, he makes fun of their lame strategies and diagnoses,
and he hangs up on them in mid-sentence, all while sounding
continuously bored to death with his job and the teams it's his
responsibility to cover. And they love him for it.
Eskin's only real expertise is in-depth knowledge of Philadelphia's
teams and their histories. This he gets from being a born Philadelphian
(nobody can mangle the pronunciation of the letter "P" -- as in 'WIP' -- like a Philly
native). He also has learned the mysterious feature of talk radio Phil
has exploited to become a cult phenomenon. The people who call
in to a radio show are a tiny subset of those who listen, and the
callers will keep calling and keep being as stupid as you dare them to
be. Eskin's bread-and-butter fans would never call him because his
whole shtick is torturing callers for the entertainment of those who
listen for the easy pleasure of feeling
smart; i.e., smarter than the tireless victims who don't ever
get the joke. Unlike Hendrie's application of this principle, which is
creative, funny, and sometimes inspired, Eskin's exploitation of dim
bulbs is akin to masturbation. His whole act is designed to solicit
calls only from the dumbest rocks in the box, and putting them down
strokes his own insecure ego on a continuous basis.
The real genius of Hendrie, who makes up his own on-air guests and
argues with callers as both host and
guest, is that he makes no secret of what he's doing. He talks about
his systematic deceptions on his show
sometimes at length, and he's even been known to perform the whole
charade in front of a large audience. But the callers keep calling,
outraged anew every day by the shocking positions taken by Hendrie's
fictitious interviewees. Eskin is no genius and he never lets anyone in
on the joke. Why? Because his non-calling listeners don't entirely get
the joke either, that is, the part of it that's also laughing at them.
Like Eskin, they're feeling smart because they're smarter than the
inexhaustible parade of self-selecting numbskull victims. Unlike Eskin,
they don't realize that he has just as much contempt for the listeners
who don't have the guts to call. In his own mind, he's a smart guy
because he's smarter than all of them. Could there be any shorter
yardstick of intellect?
And so, you see, Eskin really is
bored to death almost all the time. He talks about sports because it's
his job, but even the idea of a radio audience that is obsessively
concerned with sports and nothing else repels him. Groucho Marx once
said he'd refuse to belong to any club that would have him as a member.
That's Eskin's plight, too. Which explains why, every so often, he
can't stop himself from doing what he did yesterday -- use his air time
on WIP SportsTalk to rant about politics.
Eskin permitting himself to talk politics is a mistake. A HUGE mistake.
He decided we would all benefit from hearing his views on Bush's
commutation of the Libby sentence. As he rolled through his spiel, I
realized I was finally hearing a pure example of what liberals claim
conservative talk radio is -- fact-free propaganda delivered with
maximum rhetorical abuse and so little relation to any foundation of
learning, facts, or actual ideas that it becomes an oxymoron -- dead
air that is nevertheless annoyingly unsilent. He kept referring
to the commutation as a pardon, which it isn't. He raged repetitiously
about the "appearance of corruption," without referencing a single
definable act of corruption. He repeated ad nauseam his personal
demand that George W. Bush should be impeached. "Impeached and
removed." Impeached for what? Exercising a presidential prerogative
that is clearly delineated in the Constitution? Removed how? By radio outrage? If he chooses to, the
President of the United States is legally entitled to grant a full
pardon to a child-raping serial killer and we can disapprove all we
want, but he can't be impeached for it. At no point did he mention the
Constitution, the mechanics of the impeachment process itself
(indictment in the House, trial in the Senate, two-thirds majority
required for conviction), any specific charges that might constitute an
impeachable offense, or the inconvenient conflict-of-interest liberals
have on the questions of perjury and pardons in the context of recent
history, as laid out in a New
Jersey newspaper editorial
Eskin undoubtedly didn't, and wouldn't,
Reasonable people can debate whether
the crime of perjury for which Libby was convicted warranted more or
less than his sentence of 30 months in federal prison. But is it too
much to ask the president’s critics to show at least a minimal respect
for logic and consistency?...
[N]o GOPer is making as much noise as the chorus of the nation’s most
prominent Democratic leaders, some of whom should have Googled
Clinton’s commutation record before opening fire on Bush and his Libby
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, for example, accused Bush of
“betraying the American people” and then added that “he has abandoned
all sense of fairness when it comes to justice, he has failed to uphold
the rule of law.”
Pelosi had a much different understanding of fairness, justice and the
importance of upholding the law back in 1999, when Clinton commuted the
sentences of 16 imprisoned members of the Puerto Rican terrorist group
FALN. The House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a resolution
of disapproval, but Pelosi said she would have voted no had she been
present for the tally. Pelosi was thus defending Clinton’s commutations
of sentences received for seditious conspiracy, conspiracy to make
bombs, bank robbery and illegal possession of stolen firearms, among
other things. Between 1974 and 1983, FALN mounted numerous attacks
against this nation’s police and military, killing six people and
maiming many others.
Then there is Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., who saw in Bush’s Libby
commutation “a clear signal that in this administration, cronyism and
ideology trump competence and justice.” Clinton touts her years as
first lady among her qualifications for being president, but she has
never publicly repudiated either her husband’s FALN commutations or his
pardons of Susan McDougall, convicted of mail fraud, and Marc Rich, the
stock speculator convicted of tax evasion. McDougall was a former
Clinton business partner, and Rich was the former husband of Denise
Rich, a major Clinton fundraiser, both of whom clearly qualify as
Read the whole thing, because it also includes fair criticism of
Republican defenders of the commutation, although it should be noted
that conservatives in particular are hardly unanimous in backing the
president's decision. Some, indeed, despise it. They're against a president condoning lying under oath. Just as they were nine years ago. Go figure.
Of course, Howard Eskin would be exempt from this admonition if he had
ever criticized Bill Clinton's perjuries and pardons in the same terms
that he attacked George W. Bush, whom he declared, without a single
factual citation of any kind, to be "the worst President in the history
of the United States." Do you think he ever handed it out to Clinton
like that? You be the judge.
exhibiting a rare (very) bashful smile.
What was funny as hell about the rant was that my internal prediction
about it came immediately true. The first caller after his eight-or-ten
minute solo tirade wanted to talk about the Phillies. Eskin brushed him
off quickly and resumed his rant, waiting long minutes before the call
board showed him a caller who wanted to talk politics.
The second caller agreed with Eskin about the "pardon." He cited what
he'd heard from other people he knew who believed "in that right-wing
stuff," because even they were saying Bush was incompetent. This
inspired Eskin to shout that Bush was "incompetent, an idiot, the worst
president in the history of the United States." Again.
That's when my better half reached out and changed the channel on the
radio. "That's enough," she said. And she was right, as usual. So I
can't prove to you that subsequent callers kept trying to reintroduce
the one true topic, sports, and the despicable machinations of Phillies
owners and Sixers management, etc ("Yeah, Bush is a big dumb a**hole,
but do you think there's any chance the Sixers could get Iverson
back?...), but I have an educated guess that Eskin didn't have a great
deal more to add to his political analysis. For example, I found this gem
-- from a lefty, no less, in May of this year -- in no time flat:
We had an interesting ride into the
office tonight: We were bopping back and forth between the lunatic
anti-immigrant ravings of Susanne LaFrankie on WPHT -- "possibly the
greatest crisis facing this country" -- and WIP's Howard Eskin, who was
having one of his occasional "political" shows, in which he was
(mostly) anti-Bush on the privacy stuff.
We have very mixed feelings when Eskin goes political. Despite the
stereotypes about "sports guys," most of the talkers on WIP range from
center-left to flaming-lib, and Eskin is no exception, so we
agree with his broader point. George W. Bush is, as Howard would say,
"a dope." [emphasis added]
But the devil in in the details. And when it comes to facts about
American politics, Eskin has less information than your cab driver who
just arrived here from Uzbekistan three weeks ago. Tonight, we switched
over just as a caller was comparing what's going on the Bush
administration to George Orwell's "1984," but Eskin wasn't sure he'd go
"That book came out, what, about 15 years ago?," Eskin asked.
The caller seemed stunned -- pausing for a moment before noting that in
fact Orwell published it in the late 1940s... (To be exact, 1949 --
here's Wikipedia's article on the book.)
We would have been speechless -- especially because "about 15 years"
ago would have been 1991, or seven years after the real 1984. It's very
hard to write a futuristic novel about a time that was two-thirds of a
decade earlier. If Orwell had written "1984" 15 years ago, he would
have had to put in chapters about the Cubs' collapse in the NL playoffs
and a whole riff on Walter Mondale. Probably wouldn't have been as good
Then there's the whole problem of Orwell dying in 1950, but we won't
even go there.
Suffice it to say that Howard has a large "memory hole."
We come full circle. The author of this blog item is obviously one of
the 5 or 10 percent of the Democrat base which works so hard to
maintain the image that lefties are smarter, better informed, and
better educated than Rush Limbaugh's ditto-heads. The emotion on
display is embarrassment. What's missing is any honest insight about
what it means. My own belief is that in Howard Eskin and his sports
ditto-heads we can get a glimpse of the real
Democrat base, people who pay
no attention whatever to politics until some local or categorical issue
(health care, ethnic entitlements, the economy) induce them to go to
the polls on voting day. They vote for Democrats because Democrats
promise them the most and are ever so much better at demonizing the
evil rich Republicans. In fact, they're so ignorant that they don't
even know how often their preferred political party is working against
their own interests in day-to-day politics. (Where is Jesse Jackson to
declare his outrage that illegal aliens who work for less than minimum
wage are directly increasing the already sky-high 9.7 percent
unemployment rate of African-American males? He's greenmailing
corporations. Where is NOW to protest the same catastrophic effect on
unskilled single mothers? They're promoting lesbian marriages on TV.
Where is organized labor to denounce precisely the same impact on union
membership and bargaining clout? They're working out how to funnel more
money under the table to Dem candidates. Phooey.)
There are lots and lots of these people, Democrats by pitiful,
traditional default, but they don't want to listen to political talk
radio at all. Ever
. When you
don't even know the names of your own congressman and U.S. senators, how can
you possibly care about specific provisions of a bill or policy being
chewed to death by procedural maneuvers in the Congress? Howard Eskin
is, in this instance, simply a first among equals (that's primus inter paribus
elitist lefties), the figurehead spokesman for a bunch of know-nothing,
do-nothing idiots who think they are smart because if you asked them,
what do you suppose they would tell you?
Liberal talk radio already exists, and it's enormously popular. It
consists of NPR for the privileged few and Sports Talk for the immense
dumb majority. If you're a lib and you want to experience the paradise
of equal time for your side, just work your way along the AM dial till
you hear the name of the major league baseball team nearest you. (You
can look your team up on the internet if you don't know who it is). You'll
be home then. And they probably have their own ignorant, ill-tempered, arrogant
clone of Howard Eskin. Enjoy.
Thanks, Howard. It all makes sense now.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Lest we forget...
In my home county today, there will be only one parade and one
fireworks display. That's pitiful. Hopefully, an aroused citizenry will
fill in the gap with uproarious and illegally loud celebrations of
their own. Unless our huge government has so eaten out their substance
that they no longer remember why this day is still worth celebrating.
Let's hope not.
Happy Independence Day, everyone.
Monday, July 02, 2007
Good News and Bad News
from the Bird Garden
Our only big birds at present.
. Back in May, I reported that an unlikely pair of
turkeys had taken up residence in the yard and were guarding a nest
filled with eggs.
The eggs are still there. The turkeys, sadly, have gone and with them
any chance the chicks could hatch. Just knowing what sits at the base
of the old willow tree has made this whole vista melancholy to look
day lilies are blooming, though.
We don't know why they left. Turkeys don't offer many explanations. But
nature is a funny old girl. When she causes some bit of magic to
evaporate, she often compensates by waving her wand somewhere else.
Maybe that's why we were suddenly inspired to acquire two new
birdfeeders, one for goldfinches and one for hummingbirds. They've been
in business for a couple of weeks now and the results have been
From the beginning the garden was a magnet for songbirds, and not just
the sparrows that always seemed to take over at other places I've
lived. Instead there's been a rich and lovely diversity of seasonal
visitors and full-time residents. The martin house is stuffed with
martins. The wrens are so much at home they even make periodic
appearances at the feeders. We have two pair of cardinals, one of the
males so gorgeously red that he seems to glow like a light. There's a
blue jay, but he's too outnumbered to be a bully. Once we saw a cedar
waxwing, and once a bluebird. More regularly, we see teams of
red-winged blackbirds, mourning doves, chickadees, and their
upside-down friends the nuthatch and titmouse. Also, woodpeckers.
Thanks to the willow and its hollowed-out limbs (perfect for hammering
beaks), the corn bricks hanging outside the bay window are so
constantly visited by husband-and-wife pairs of red-breasted and downy
woodpeckers that the squirrels can barely steal enough corn to survive.
In years past, it seemed like a privilege just to catch a glimpse of a
red-breasted woodpecker, but one of ours has actually become a mild
pest. When the corn is gone, he lights on the roof and registers his
disapproval with a machine gun tattoo on the rain gutter.
The mister and missus can go through
a corn brick in a day or two.
We thought they were the most voracious of the birds, but that's before
we hung the goldfinch feeder. In all my life I've never seen more than
two or three goldfinches in a year, and generally they're just passing
through with that strangely graceful dip-dipping flight path. If they
light to feed it's for just a moment, and then they're off, a vanishing
flash of sun yellow and black. But they like this new feeder. They like
it a lot. By the end of the second day, we were seeing as many as six
goldfinches feeding at a time, always in married pairs. Apparently, the
dull yellow female doesn't trust her husband to be out of her sight,
and moments after he lands somewhere, she lands next to him. When two
males perch side by side, you can imagine but not prove that they're
complaining to each other about this.
The new goldfinch feeder is a huge
It turns out that goldfinches, with some
assistance from the house finches, can gobble down six inches of
thistle seed in a day. That's a lot. When they get low, they don't peck
the roof, but they keep hopping from one feeder perch to another and
cocking their heads, saying, "Where's the damn food?" They're also not
shy. As soon as the lawnmower gets a few yards away, they're back at
the feeder, pigging out. Fairly soon, they're going to be too fat to
fly away and they'll have to stay. Good for us.
The other great consolation for the loss of the turkeys has been the
hummingbird feeder. I knew we had at least one hummer because I saw him
make lightning tours of the perennial beds on several occasions. But
they're so tiny and fast that as soon as they're gone, you're no longer
sure you saw them in the first place. A feeder right outside the window
is the only way around that problem. Of course, I've known a lot of
people who had no luck at all with hummingbird feeders. So there really
must be some magic at work in the yard. The day after the feeder was
installed, there came a hummingbird, and we both saw it. Now he's a
The only downside is that being able to see them so close up, you're
desperate to capture the event in a photograph. Which just ain't easy
to do. Little as they are, they can see you reach for that camera
through the window and then it's "Adios, heigh-o, Silver" time. But I
did manage to get this one distant shot. It's not good, mind you. All
it's good for is to show you I'm not lying. The hummer did actually get
recorded by the camera.
he is, hovering at the left of the base.
What a small thing to dwell on. I know there are many great affairs
underway right now in the outside world. I know that some of them are
important and worth thinking about. I'll think about them tomorrow or
the next day. Just not today.