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Cheap Seats Online 2014

Last Laugh

By Rich Trzupek

  Oh how they laughed. What more proof could you possibly need that conservatives were hopelessly thick, out-of-touch morons?

  First you had that idiot, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, telling the world that she could see Russia from her backyard. Well, she didn’t actually say that. That’s what Tina Fey said while she was doing her Palin imitation on Saturday Night Live, but no matter. It’s just the sort of thing Palin would say. We know she’s a moron because she talks funny and all that.

  Of course what Palin actually said was that you can see a Russian island from an island in Alaska, which turns out to be true – not that being accurate matters in our brave new world. The distance separating Little Diomede Island (in America) and Big Diomede Island (in Russia) is all of 2.5 miles, which pretty much was Palin’s point: that she had more practical experience interacting with our Russian neighbors than the future Community Organizer In Chief.

  But Sarah has a weird accent and lives in a red state, while Barry talks Midwest and comes from a blue state – or perhaps from Kenya – which is pretty much saying the same thing. Anyway, toss in a Harvard education and it’s clear to the modern-day electorate that Barry has to be orders of magnitude more fit to govern as chief executive than silly Sarah could be trusted with the role of backing up a real American hero. And so here we are.

  During the 2008 campaign Palin pointed out how then Senator Obama’s idealistic naiveté could be expected to embolden Russian strongman Vladimir Putin to reassert Russian control over the then sovereign nation of the Ukraine during an Obama Presidency.

  This statement was widely mocked in the popular media. It was, according to them, further evidence of just how completely out of touch the moronic Alaskan governor truly was.

  Flash forward to the 2012 presidential race. Republican candidate Mitt Romney says that Russia is our foremost geo-political foe. President Obama treats that statement with an extra-special layer of scorn, telling his opponent that the 1980’s have called and want their foreign policy back.

  Get it hipsters? Worrying about the effect that tyrannical autocrats will have on the world is about as un-cool as owning a pager.

  And let’s be clear about who we’re dealing with here. Vladimir Putin’s grandfather was a personal cook for both Lenin and Stalin, a position that requires something even more than absolute loyalty in a society as full of paranoia as Russia. His father, Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin, served in the NKVD, the forerunner of the infamous KGB, the organization in which his son held the position of Lieutenant Colonel prior to the dissolution of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

  Which brings us to today’s reality, one in which Putin snaps up the Crimea while the world yawns and the President of the United States can barely be bothered to wag an impotent finger while Uncle Vlad piles up more troops of liberation on the border of the rest of the Ukraine.

  One has to kind of admire the shirtless wonder who governs Russia at the head of the new (but really old) privileged oligarchy that harkens back to the days of Ivan the Terrible. In gobbling up the Crimea he had the audacity to go straight to the Hitler playbook.

  Ah, the echoes of history. Our people living abroad are being abused! There is unrest in the streets! We must rescue them! Look the people really welcome us! We will have a referendum to justify our theft!

  Substitute “Sudetenland” for “Crimea” and you can pretty much cut and paste the headlines from 1938 into the latest edition of the New York Times. Not that anyone remembers what the Sudetenland was any more. Hell, nobody can remember what Palin actually said six years ago.

  Mind you I’m not suggesting that we should take military action against Putin. It’s not our fight, even if we had the strength to do something about it, which of course we no longer do. It would have been nice if good old “line in the sand” Obamster could have done a little more in the way of sanctions and economic warfare to hurt Vladdy, but that wasn’t going to happen either.

  We’ve got a brave and scary new world kids and we’re going to have live with it for a long time I fear. Just remember who got it right and who got it wrong in the first place.

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Daring to Lose

By Rich Trzupek

  Let’s start with this: I’m glad that Illinois Senator Mark Kirk came back from his stroke and I don’t give a crap about Kirk’s sexual orientation, whatever that is or is rumored to be. What people choose to do or not do with their private parts neither interests me nor should it – in my not-so-humble opinion – interest anyone else.

  Though in the past Kirk has often behaved as a RINO (Republican In Name Only), I have heretofore believed that he did more good than bad in the balance of things. I now officially and publicly abandon that position and urge all committed conservatives and libertarians to work to ensure that Kirk is never elected to public office again.

  As a conservative who happens to believe that claiming that label doesn’t make me the devil’s spawn, I am deeply offended by Kirk’s implied endorsement of uber-liberal Democratic hack Dick Durbin in his race against Republican challenger Jim Oberweis.

  Kirk was quoted as saying that: "I'm gonna be protecting my relationship with Dick [Durbin] and not launching into a partisan jihad that hurts our partnership to both pull together for Illinois."

  Translation: “I’m a Republican Senator in a state that gets bluer every year, so the only chance that I have of getting my sorry-ass re-elected is kissing up to Democratic voters such that that nose remains as brown as humanly possible.”

  Stick with me here. If you’re a Republican who cast a vote for Mark Kirk, did you do so because: a) you believed he would champion a clear alternative to the kinds of left-wing policies that Dick Durbin espouses, or b) you believed he would become Durbin’s best buddy?

  I’m kind of thinking that “a” is the answer for the vast majority of us on our side of the aisle. Since we live in a blue state, our opinion doesn’t actually matter in a political sense, but the absolute worst thing we could do is to provide support to a fraud like Kirk who is so very willing to jump ship when times are tough.

  There is a huge difference between forming public opinion through active leadership and following public opinion like a whipped puppy. In the former case, real leaders are willing to risk losing elections because they know that the principles they advocate are worth that risk. I can offer no better examples than revered leaders from each of today’s political parties.

  For most of his presidential career, Abe Lincoln was a tremendously unpopular President who swam upstream against popular opinion. The same was true, in a somewhat more limited sense, of Franklin Delano Roosevelt prior to World War II. FDR was admired with respect to his response to the Great Depression, but his belief (and actions) that we needed to get involved in the conflict that Hitler was initiating in Europe were not in line with the polls prior to Pearl Harbor.

  Both Lincoln and FDR believed that it was their obligation to try and move public opinion, not respond to it. If they lost an election as a result, so be it. They each dared to lose and are remembered as great leaders, largely as a result of that courage.

  Kirk is another in the long, pathetic line comprising the antithesis of those legendary leaders. He’s just another political hack.

  My first indication that Kirk is a follower, not a leader, occurred when Chicago Tribune environmental fanatic Michael Hawthorne dumped on the BP refinery in Whiting for supposedly asking to destroy Lake Michigan with massive amounts of new pollution.

  The fact was that the new limits BP sought were barely a blip on the radar compared to overall natural and man-made contributions to lake contamination, but Kirk wasted no time in jumping on the popular bandwagon. He could have, and as a supposed conservative he should have, provided leadership that fairly considered the evidence, but doing so clearly wasn’t nearly as attractive to his handlers as parroting politically correct talking points.

  Kirk went all in with Obama, Emmanuel and Durbin and the fact – in my decided, actual scientific opinion – that those clowns didn’t have a technical leg to actually stand on didn’t matter a whit to Captain Kirk and his crew. He and his handlers are all about the votes, not the facts.

  One final thought. Let’s assume that this column in this Northwest Suburban newspaper makes its way back to Kirk’s handlers and they contemplate discrediting yours truly using the kind of talking points that they have been trained to utilize as professional political hacks. The two themes that those hacks will most naturally default to are: 1) Trzupek is a racist/homophobe, and 2) Trzupek is a tool of big oil or big business or big whatever.

  Carefully consider those default (and oh-so-lazy) positions before you go there my dear political hacks. Check out my history and compare it to your guy, who has lived a privileged life in white enclaves for pretty much his entire life.

  And, having decided that the only way to ensure that your lap-dog of a Senator could get his sorry ass re-elected is by kissing up to Massa Durbin, I can offer a single word to describe you and him: pathetic.

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What I Did On My (Almost) Summer Vacation

By Rich Trzupek

  So I’m back.

  Thanks to brother Ger for filling in these last weeks. You, dear readers, will have learned by now that your not-so-humble correspondent is far from the best writer in the Trzupek clan. Ger is by far the most creative. His mind operates in gears that ordinary people don’t have access to and it’s always a blast to read a Ger creation.

  As a side note, while Ger is the most creative, brother Lar – who occasionally pinch-hits on these pages as well – is the best Trzupek-brother writer from a technical perspective. Nobody can dissect an issue with more surgical skill than Lar.

  That only leaves eldest brother Gene, who has never appeared in the Cheap Seats and, in order to protect our beloved publisher from lawsuits and our dear readers from psychological harm, likely never will. I love biggest bro, but let’s just say he’s the most insane Trzupek-brother writer and leave it at that.

  Two sisters, Dorothy and Ruth, complete my generation of the clan, but neither caught the writing bug. Must be a y-chromosome thing.

  And me? I am basically the most prolific Trzupek-brother writer. A reader/hater whose name I can’t recall has a one-size-fits-all, cut and paste review that he posts whenever I publish a book in which he describes me as a “know it all bloviator”. That’s so perfect that I even had a T-shirt made with that very phrase. Truly.

  Anyway, you may be wondering what the heck has kept me so busy that I couldn’t even be bothered to bloviate for month. The answer, not surprisingly, involves my day job and our pals over at the EPA.

  A couple of years ago the EPA passed a new rule that makes people who operate coal and oil fired boilers of a certain size to comply with a number of new requirements. These are boilers that have long been subject to reams of EPA rules, but in the weird world of “environmental protection” pointless piling-on is always encouraged.

  Anyway, a part of the latest and greatest new rules required people subject to the rule to have a one-time energy assessment completed, in order to identify any potential energy-saving opportunities that could be implemented. As a Certified Energy Assessor, I happen to be qualified to do that work and with a deadline of March 21 to get them done, that’s pretty much been my life for the last month and a half.

  I’ve been travelling across the country, literally coast to coast, checking out a variety of industrial plants to see how well they are using their energy. It’s been quite the adventure.

  And what can I conclude after having done all this work? Surprise, surprise: the folks who run America’s factories run them as energy-efficiently as they can.

  Now I could have written that previous sentence without traveling across the country for a month and a half because I’ve been involved with industry for the better part of thirty years now. Just about everyone in business does everything they can to save energy, not necessarily because they are especially worried about the environment (although many are) but rather because energy costs money.

  Capitalism really does work. In the eternal search for a competitive advantage and increased profits, factory owners and operators are always looking for ways to cut down on fuel use. It’s pretty much a no-brainer.

  No matter. In its infinite wisdom, the Obama administration decided that folks like me, who typically bill out in the $200 - $300 per hour range, should poke our noses into everyone’s business and make darn sure that they’re running their businesses properly.

  It’s been a colossal waste to money for the most part, but then there are few things in the environmental arena these days that are not. Ultimately, it’s you and yours who pay for it all and while I appreciate the support of my career, I do wish you didn’t have to make such silly investments.

  And, that’s only round one. The March 21 deadline covered relatively small units. Another deadline for the big boys is coming up in 2016. I suspect it’ll be another waste of time and there will surely be the usual last minute rush, so you’ll likely be hearing from the alternate Trzupek brothers again.

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By Rich Trzupek

  According to a recent story published in USA Today, North Dakota created more new millionaires last year, measured as a percentage of population, than any state in the union. That’s amazing.

  Think about it. Little old North Dakota! I’d be willing to bet that most Americans couldn’t find North Dakota on a map, much less name its capital (which would be Bismarck). But that state is one of the great success stories in the nation right now, a bright spot in an economy that has remained largely dim and gloomy for the better part of six years.

  It’s all because of oil of course. Specifically because of the huge Bakkan field in the western part of the state. If you want to see wealth creation in action, that’s the spot to look. Fortunes are being made and not just by the people who own the mineral rights.

  Guys driving water trucks are making six figures. Unskilled labor starts out in the $70,000 range. Shoot, the worker shortage is so bad that kids start out making $20 per hour at fast food joints.

  Make no mistake, the folks working in the fields are earning their money. This is particularly true in the winter. (A North Dakota winter has to be experienced to be believed). But, for those willing to sweat and freeze at the same time, there is cash aplenty to be had.

  The trickle down effects are interesting to see. When I was up in the state a couple of weeks ago, I found that some places that have traditionally burned coal in the winter for heating purposes have been forced into burning natural gas and – in some cases – oil.

  So why would a facility that is allowed to burn coal stop burning coal and burn more expensive fuels instead? Because the facility can’t get coal. Why can’t the facility get coal? Because the railroad won’t deliver it. And why won’t the railroad deliver coal? Because it’s too busy shipping crude oil from the Bakkan to refineries.

  A unit train coming out of the Bakkan contains about one hundred tanker loads of crude. My client in the state tells me that the railroad runs about eight unit trains per day through the state. If they deliver a load on time, they make $800,000 per delivery. If they’re late, they “only” get $540,000.

  The difference between delivering eight unit trains on time and delivering them late is about $2 million per day. With that kind of money at stake, nothing has a higher priority than oil. That includes Amtrak. It used to be that Amtrak had priority on the road. No more. Crude is king.

  I thought about all that when I heard the Obama administration is going to make a decision on the Keystone XL pipeline soon. The pundits seem to believe that it will be given the green light, but it really doesn’t matter. Unless and until we truly become a socialist paradise, Canadian crude will find a way to get to our refineries whether it’s through a pipeline, rail cars, intercoastal barges, tankers or whatever. When something is as valuable as oil, the market will find a way. It always does.

  The Keystone decision should have been a no-brainer. After all, the only thing the State Department is being asked to do is to approve the border crossing. That’s it. With this, or any of the other hundreds of pipelines snaking through the United States, the environmental issues are managed by the states, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers. The fact that the Obama administration could dither over this issue for six years should be appalling, were it not for the fact that the Obama administration is the current Guinness World Record Holder for Dithering In Place.

  It remains to be seen whether the President will choose to annoy his enviro-buddies or his union buddies. The smart money seems to be on the former, but don’t worry. The market will find a way.

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By Rich and Larry Trzupek

  And we close this series with a last bit of wisdom from big bro:

  I’d expect that if the political sympathies of the populace could be graphed, they’d display a bell curve, with some degree of distortion to the left due to incessant propagandizing by the MSM.  As with any bell curve, there’s going to be a small number of data points in the narrow tails; among the far left, there are those who undoubtedly want to know more about the detention camps the Tea Party is planning for black people, the deal the Papal Nuncio has with Rick Santorum to contaminate our oral contraceptive supplies with ricin, and the plot the Koch Brothers have been hatching to take over the Federal Reserve and the EPA.  Getting little satisfaction from NBC, nor even NPR for more details on these matters, they do provide enough of an audience to maintain alternative media operations like “The Ed Show” and “Democrat Underground”; if they’re capable of communicating in anything more than grunts and finger signs, they might even keep something like “salon.com” in business.  But they’re no more numerous than the black helicopter crowd on the far right – certainly not significant enough in number to maintain something like Fox News or “The Rush Limbaugh Show”.

  In the old Soviet Union, information control was obviously tighter than it is here.  If there were leftist ideas that were unexpressed, they were few and insignificant, or they eventually would make it through the system.  Anything that made soviet socialism look good (the early space program, Olympic level athletics, chess dominance) was trumpeted by the propagandists, as were any items of truth that favored their world-view.

  But imagine that you were one of the zeks who survived an extended stay in the gulag.  And then further envisage that one day you came across Solzhenitsyn in samizdat – imagine your elation in seeing a minimal chronicling of truth seeping out into that closed environment.  When the oxygen of truth is restricted, it emerges through alternative media; the left in the Soviet Union never experienced the excitement of the revelation of the truth – leftist ideas had no need of samizdat.

   And the thrill of the emergence of truth is palpable - the closest I ever got to experiencing it was during the Dan Rather / Bush Air National Guard incident. 

  When I learned the MSM had documentary evidence that Bush had cut corners on his Guard requirements, I was naturally badly disappointed.  Not because I thought Bush was a national savior, the way so many put their faith in Obama:  Gramm was better on the economy; Gingrich was a far better communicator; still others were more committed to social issues.  Nor was I that concerned about the substance of the incident – Clinton had actually lied to his draft board to escape military service, a matter confirmed personally by individual witnesses to the situation, and neither the public nor the media really gave a rip.  The problem was the media now had a weapon to destroy Bush – and destroy him they certainly would, leaving the presidency to whatever Democrat douchebag was running that year.

  That evening, with a feeling of general discouragement, I went to one of my usual alternate sources of news, Free Republic, just to see what was going on in the rest of the world that day.  I checked out the thread on the Dan Rather story – and then watched the whole thing unravel in real time.  What a trip that was – folks who would ordinarily be minding their own business sitting at home cleaning their Glock 9, knocking away the better part of a fifth of Jack Daniels over a friendly game of Texas Hold’em, or listening to some Alan Jackson at the local bar with their best girl were now busy online, methodically disemboweling Rather and his trolls, along with their silly fantasy. 

  It was exhilarating:  “Hold on – how in the hell did a minor-level National Guard office have a typewriter in the early 70’s that could do superscripting?”  “Look at the kerning in that memo – no way they could achieve that kerning with a typewriter” (I learned more about kerning on that thread than I ever thought possible).  Finally, within just a few hours, somebody took a common font in MSWord and reproduced the entire memo with almost perfect correspondence to the Rather document – the post toggled between the original and the contemporary copy in practically total superimposition.  It was f’n great.

  If you haven’t seen the movie “The Lives of Others”, you need to.  When it came to information control, nobody beat the East Germans – if you weren’t Stasi, you were collaborating with the Stasi, or you were being observed by the Stasi.  But the truth is like water – you can bottle it up, you can constrain it, you can hold it back, but it’s always trying to seek its own level.  Here it’s the internet and talk radio; there it was veiled messages in art – scripts in plays, even themes in musical compositions – all the way to pithy little insights found in the political jokes prominent at the time.  And as illustrated in the movie, in illegal political tracts that made their way back and forth across the Wall.

  With almost the entire country living a lie, pretty much anything Eric Honecker’s toadies wanted to do to push socialism / collectivism / communism/ progressivism they could get by command or suggestion – no need for underground literature or art in that context.  And the whole concept of marketing communism through humor defies conceptualization – you might just as well try to imagine some Islamist fanatic doing stand-up.

  But in the end, the truth makes its way through the entire Stasi apparatus, in ways that one could hardly predict, through agents one could hardly imagine, with an ending of personal redemption so understated one can hardly believe it.  In a sea almost totally deprived of the oxygen of truth, truth somehow finds it way; but when the leftism of the times has little correspondence to truth, those out-of-the-mainstream pathways have no real relevance when it comes to the propagation of its lies.  And similarly here, the alternative media provides crucial escape routes for truths obfuscated by the MSM, but has less importance for the already well-promulgated lies and distortions of the left.

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By Rich and Larry Trzupek

  Big brother Lar’s rant continues:

  Stories that are largely political are another matter.  Depending on their ideological bent, readers/viewers are going to be looking not just for facts, but also for factors that make those they support look better or those they oppose look worse – the MSM is happy to oblige, but almost always in just one direction, no matter what the issue.

  Take golf, for example.  When Bush 41 played a round, it was generally spun as an example of his elitism, like boating off Kennebunkport.  If you’re a stock clerk at Walmart, you can’t just take off Tuesday afternoon and get a tee time at an exclusive country club – but Bush could, and did.  Once Clinton took over, though, shooting a round of golf became cool – Bubba was just a regular guy, riding around with Vernon Jordan in a golf cart, sipping on a drink, yukking it up with reporters, slipping in mulligans as needed. 

  I can remember as far back as Eisenhower, and when he used golf as his primary release, that behavior was characterized as an indication of his disengagement – yeah, he was president, but he really didn’t do much, just played golf.  Fast forward a half-century to the One – he can spend a fraction of his presidency greater than any other on distractions (golf, basketball, exotic vacations, state dinners with fashionable rap ‘artists’) – and what do we get from the New York Times about his latest golf trip to Hawaii?  That it was no big deal – he got daily briefings, he was continually in touch with policy developments, blah, blah, blah – this defending the dedication of a guy who met once – one time – with Kathleen Sibelius preceding the Obamacare rollout debacle, and who is infamous for practically never holding cabinet meetings.  Why in the name of all that is good and holy would a leftist need alternative media to defend their people against charges of slacking off on the job when they’ve got a New York Times?

  I can still recall the media going nuts over John Sununu using his government limo to go to New York to attend (among other things) a stamp auction.  That hissy fit was a subset of reaction to Sununu’s use of government planes for personal and political business which was based not so much on the cost of those flights, but largely their visceral hate for the man:  he was a lot smarter than they were (MIT smart, literally); he didn’t take any of their shit, and would not hesitate to slap them down any time he got the chance.  So they got back at him any way they could, and eventually drove him from his job as Bush’s chief-of-staff.

  But when Nancy Pelosi did essentially the same thing (used government jets at discounted costs for non-essential purposes), only to a greater extent, it was a non-story.  As Jim Geraghty reported ( http://newsbusters.org/node/10891 ) , the Washington Post did 25 stories (almost half of them frontpage) on Sununu – but just one, on page A-15, on Pelosi.  If you’re a lefty, and you want overt information on borderline indiscretions of your opponents, all you need is the WaPo or its ilk – you don’t need alternative media.

  The same holds true for accountability.  I remember all kinds of politicians and commentators holding forth on the likely casualties of the first Gulf War:  tens of thousands of American dead, essentially a mini-Vietnam.  See for example: http://articles.latimes.com/1990-09-05/news/mn-776_1_military-experts .  Much was made of a report of 16,000 body bags that the Pentagon had supposedly ordered for the action.

  Now all that was happening right at the time when I first heard Rush Limbaugh on the radio.  I liked his humor, was gratified that his political views were so contrary to those prevailing on the air, and was impressed with his knowledge of the political scene.  I’d go out of my way to schedule my drives from Champaign-Urbana to Chicago (I was at the U of I at the time) for early afternoons so I could pick up his show while making the 2 hour trip.

  But when it came to the build-up to the war, he kept making these crazy predictions – that our military was going to tear the Iraqis to pieces, that we’d go through their defenses like a knife through butter – that it would be like nothing anyone had ever seen before.

  Now remember, he’s saying all this while the MSM is telling us the Iraqis had the 3rd or 4th biggest army on the planet; that they were battle-hardened and ruthless after 10 years of fighting with Iran; that the Iraqis had the inestimable advantage of knowing the terrain and the environment; that our tanks weren’t designed for desert conditions, and would seize up in the blowing sand; that sandstorms and local conditions would ground our helicopters and wipe out our air advantages; etc;, etc. 

  I had really started to like Rush, and I felt terrible that he as going to be made to look like a total fool once the war started.

  And then it started.  And we ended up with our tanks shooting fish in a barrel. And our A-10’s and choppers and attack fighters manufacturing a “Highway of Death”.  And military dominance of such a magnitude that the action culminated in Iraqis trying to surrender to drones.

  And Rush never got any credit for being exactly on the money when everybody else was fighting the last war.  And the fools in the media and the Democrat Party never got called out for being exactly wrong on the whole business.  We ended up with some 300+ dead in the war – and almost half of those were due to a lucky Scud hit on a military barracks.  Why would a lefty ever look to alternative media to defend their pitiful prognostications? Once facts had proved the views of the “progressive” faction not just to have been wrong, but to have been wildly wrong, the MSM were perfectly capable of flushing those ridiculous predictions down the memory hole.

  (More to come).

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The Media Problem (Part 2)

By Rich and Larry Trzupek

  Last week, you got my media rant. This week, we start my elder brother’s much longer – but in many ways much more interesting – rant on the subject. Let’s begin with part one of his take (which is, annoyingly, part 2 of this series):

  I’m assuming you’ve got at least a passing familiarity with “SpongeBob SquarePants” – like “Duck Dynasty”, “SpongeBob” isn’t exactly the pinnacle of cultural sophistication, but like “Duck Dynasty”, “SpongeBob” can provide useful fodder for insights into our present circumstances, albeit in a somewhat indirect fashion.

  Like most cartoons, “Spongebob” requires a suspension of disbelief inherent in a show in which one has anthropomorphized animal-based characters behaving in a human fashion.  Thus, not only do Patrick Star and Mr. Krabs and Plankton and Spongebob himself speak to each other like normal people with recognizable personality types, but also other concessions to fantasy have to be accepted as well.  Critters in the show travel in power boats that ride on the ocean floor instead of floating on its surface; Squidward Tentacles tends a garden in Bikini Bottom outside his Tiki-idol home – I don’t know if we ever actually see him water his plants, but that action would not be outside the conceits of the show. 

  But suspension of disbelief does have its limits – when the character Sandy Cheeks the squirrel makes her appearances visiting the pineapple under the sea, she always appears wearing an air-filled glass bubble around her head.  It’s not that the ocean is devoid of oxygen – it’s there, but as a solute in a liquid milieu it’s just in a different form, and of course in much lower concentration, and as such, it can’t support a land-based creature.

  Now William of Ockham was on to something when he proposed the theory that the most straightforward of explanations is usually correct, and although I thought that your contribution to the subject of the email to which I’m replying had many useful and thoughtful insights, I’m pretty sure Spongebob provides the basis for all one needs to know in assessing why any alternative media of consequence is largely conservative.

  John 18 is famous for Pontius Pilate’s epigrammatic question “Quid est veritas?”   While the question is generally presented as an inquiry into the nature of truth and how it’s established, I’d prefer to answer the query “What is truth?” metaphorically:  truth is the oxygen of the soul.  The majority of folks in this country, leftists most especially, can get by with truth in small doses, often in a distorted configuration, while others of us require it in a more substantial form.  The mainstream media can’t stay in business by completely ignoring the truth, but what it does supply, particularly in the political realm, is truth in amounts and configurations tailored to their specifications, which are largely leftist in nature.  Those of us with a conservative bent are forced, like Sandy Cheeks, to carry along our own source of oxygen, most conveniently in the form of talk radio and the internet.  The majority of the population swims in a sea that provides sufficient oxygen to sustain their existences, even if most don’t go around gasping for more.

  Since you’re in the business, you know the general nature of what follows, but since you’re responsible for my current obsession with this stuff, I’m going to make you slog through it anyway. 

  In non-political stories, readers/listeners of the MSM are largely going to be looking for facts, presumably ones that reflect reality – what we commonly call the truth.  Say there’s a tsunami – the average person is going to want to know where it hit, how powerful it was, how many people died, the cost of the damage and the like.  The MSM will get much of that stuff right (if there’s a scientific component to the story, probably not all of it); depending on the story, they might try to throw in a bit of political spin (and now the truth can show up in a more diluted and or distorted form – did you know at least some idiot journalists tried to tie the killer tsunami a few years back to “global warming /climate change”?).  In “ideal” situations, the political spin can even dominate the factual components – Hurricane Katrina anyone?  But normally, the problem with these stories is mainly technical incompetence, not ideological manipulation.

  (More to come).

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The Media Problem (Part 1)

By Rich Trzupek

  I was recently asked by a reporter from Newsmax to comment on the relative sparseness of left-wing radio and TV outlets. It’s a continuing problem for the left. Attempts to create far-left outlets either fail, like Air America, or don’t attract many viewers, like MSNBC.

  Having given Newsmax my thoughts, I shared my response with my elder brother, who had a somewhat different take. I then decided that my original response and my bro’s reply would make for a thought-provoking series. So, with that in mind, here’s the text of my reply to the question of why does left-wing media have such a hard time attracting listeners and viewers:

  Oddly, I’ve given a lot of thought to that topic and have a few opinions. More than you want, I’m sure, but I’m a chatty kind of fellow. Anyway, my perspective on this may be a little different since I’m primarily a science guy – a chemist working as an consultant in the weird world of environmental regulation – who happens to do a bit of writing on the side. So I look at much of the world through a technical guy’s eyes who is also interested in communication.

  For me, the biggest problem with liberal radio/TV is there is very little meat on the bone. Good theater – and let’s face it, politically-focused radio/TV is a form of theater – needs more than protagonists and antagonists. To be truly entertaining, it should have a compelling plot, interesting story-lines, maybe a bit of angst and ambiguity sprinkled on top.

  Liberal media doesn’t have any of that and I think that’s by design. It’s all about the protagonist/antagonist relationship and those characters are presented in such a two dimensional, cartoonish way that only the simple-minded or fanatics find it compelling. It is, in other words, boring, even for most liberals. Just one example: even if you agreed with Al Sharpton’s worldview, would you actually want to listen to Al Sharpton? He’s got one message and no substance. There’s nothing compelling or interesting or thought provoking in anything the guy says. I’d sooner beat myself over the head with a ball-peen hammer.

  I mean, during the Bush years, there wasn’t any compelling analysis of Bush policies at outlets like MSNBC. There couldn’t be. If you do compelling analysis, then you potentially create sympathy for the antagonist and – in the liberal world – that is a mortal sin. One must stick to the approved talking points, period. The Alinsky tactic of driving simple points home till world without end (Amen) may be effective, but it’s boring as hell.

  Conservative radio/TV is full of subtlety that makes for interesting plot lines. It always amuses me when liberal outlets like MSNBC or Media Matters get all excited because O’Reilly disagreed with Limbaugh on this issue, or Steyn is arguing with his NRO editor. They think that when conservatives or libertarians argue a point, it’s a sign of weakness – our world must be coming apart! But really, that’s a sign of strength. It’s an indication of the richness of thought that goes with modern conservative and libertarian thinking.

  And it also tells you something about modern liberalism: they believe that uniformity and conformity is essential on their side of the ideological divide. There’s nothing interesting about uniformity and conformity, so if you happen to be a liberal who is interested in compelling entertainment, you go elsewhere to nurture that need, because you sure as hell aren’t going to find it on MSNBC. I don’t think that the lack of liberal radio/TV is representative of the number of liberals in the US, it’s rather an indication of how empty the ideology has become.

  A final observation, based on my personal experience in my world. In the course of my career, I have sometimes had the opportunity to talk with liberals about environmental topics on the radio, during conferences, as part of public meetings, etc. It’s a completely unsatisfying experience. I can speak about climate change or hydro-fracturing or Keystone II, for example, with a great deal of knowledge and explain the nuances about the science in ways that people will understand and find interesting. In response, the fellow from the Sierra Club (or whatever) will stick to the “you’re just a tool a Big Oil” and “97% of scientists agree” kind of talking points. They won’t discuss the actual science, because doing so would legitimize the idea that there may be other views of the science and we can’t have that.

  Accordingly, they hide behind the approved theme song. You can’t have a dialogue with people who are solely interested in listening to their own monologue. And the same is true when it comes to just about any environmental topic about which I consider myself an expert. I love the details and the nuances that are inherent to this and all of the sciences, and I flatter myself that I can paint those details and nuances in bright hues for the non-technically oriented. The other side is only interested in showing the public stark, black and white photographs.

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By Rich Trzupek

  If you are an old fogey like yours truly and if you are also looking for someone else to blame for the Obamacare fiasco in the New Year, I humbly suggest that you consider adding the American Association of Retired People – or, as it is officially known now days, AARP – to your “naughty” list. Simply pointing fingers at liberals and Democrats, however justified, gets boring after a while.

  One of my elder brothers takes great delight in sending postage paid AARP membership applications back to the massive lobbying organization with the rhetorical equivalent of a suggestion that the reader make love to him or herself, although, being my brother, I am certain that he uses phrasing much more elegant than that.

  Sadly, I am denied the pleasure of wasting AARP’s money in a similar fashion because my bride serves as the snail-mail filter in our household and she shreds their literature long before I am able to get my vengeful hands on it. More’s the pity.

  Like most non-governmental organizations, AARP is essentially a business disguised as an “interest group” that supposedly serves as an advocate for its members. This sort of hucksterism is, of course, commonplace in 21st century America, with NGOs from the Sierra Club to the Rainbow Coalition engaging in the same sort of shenanigans.

  It must be admitted that there is something wickedly admirable in the formula. Americans instinctively distrust big business, not without reason. But, over the years, that distrust has led to intense public and private scrutiny of traditional big businesses. Exxon-Mobil, for example, lives under a microscope. That’s part of the price one pays for being a large, successful corporation and everybody – or most everybody – understands that.

  However, if you are a big business hiding behind a cause, you play in a much different league. You get the benefits of power – in AARP’s case, no other seniors’ organization comes anywhere close to their size and influence – but you’re not subject to anywhere near the same kind of scrutiny as corporate equivalents.

  AARP directly profits from selling insurance to its members. While AARP is not an insurance provider, it effectively acts as an agent for its affiliates – most notably United Healthcare – and profits from the sales of policies like any other agent. It has been widely reported than AARP makes more money from insurance sales than it does from membership dues.

  Now I don’t have a problem with insurance companies or insurance agents weighing in when the (un)Affordable Healthcare Act was being considered. Nor do I have a problem with a lobbying organization that represents the interests of senior citizens having their say. But I do not think it is at all appropriate for an insurance agents disguised as lobbyists for old folks to poke their nose in.

  And yet, that is precisely what happened. AARP used its considerable influence to sell Obamacare to its members and to help push the bill through Congress. The e-mail trail would clearly show that AARP leadership acted as hacks for the Obama administration. From a Wall Street Journal article published last year:

  “The emails overall show an AARP leadership -- Policy Chief John Rother, Health Policy Director Nora Super, Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond, Senior Vice President David Sloane -- that from the start worked to pass Obamacare, before crucial details pertaining to seniors had been addressed. This crew was in constant contact with Mr. Obama's top aides, in particular Nancy-Ann DeParle and Jim Messina.”

  Again, I’ve got no problem with insurance agents participating in a health care debate. Indeed, I would rather welcome their perspective. But this particular group of insurance agents are frauds and they betrayed their members through their actions.We are now paying the price for their dishonesty.

  That is not to say that Obamacare wouldn’t have passed if AARP had acted with integrity or stayed out of the debate, but – at the very least – the bill would have been much more scrutinized if it had. As it stands, we’re left with this stinking turd of a law to deal with and AARP should be held accountable for its role in creating the stench.

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That Time of Year

By Rich Trzupek

  You’ve surely seen the story. An atheist group slapped its message on a digital billboard in Times Square, asking the question: “Who needs Christ during Christmas?” and then providing the petulant answer: “Nobody”.

  The American Atheist organization apparently felt compelled to post its message in answer to an evangelical organization called Answers in Genesis who put up a billboard that read: “To all of our atheist friends: Thank God you’re wrong.”

  Note the difference in tone between the two messages. On the one hand we have pouty and mean, and on the other hand we have friendly and clever. Which is not to say that all atheists are pouty and mean. Indeed, some of my best friends…(etc.)

  But there is a particular brand of atheist who seems to revel in being put upon, perpetually taking offense and lashing out at believers with malignance. This time of year seems to bring that particular brand of atheist out of the woodwork.

  It’s unfortunate and unnecessary. As a practicing and believing Roman Catholic, I am saddened by our nation’s slow slide down the slippery slope of secularism, but the trend is clear. Less Americans identify themselves with organized religion every year and the Judeo-Christian heritage of which we were once so proud has somehow become a shameful burden to the modern way of thinking.

  Were I an atheist, I would look at the changes that have occurred in this nation over the last fifty years and say to myself: we’re winning! Or, at least, we’re on the way to winning. So, why all the petulance?

  But to answer American Atheist’s question, everybody needs Christ during Christmas. Yes, it’s very unlikely that Jesus was actually born on December 25. And yes, in choosing to celebrate the birth of Christ on that date, the church co-opted a very popular pagan celebration, that which marked the winter solstice. But it’s not the date nor the history that matters, it’s the idea.

  We Christians mark the birth of the Savior and the renewal of hope in the world, for everyone. We believe that Jesus is not our Savior alone, but everyone’s, believer and non-believer alike. Sometimes, some of us lose sight of that, but it’s part of the foundation of our faith. The door, so to speak, is always open.

  That particular part of the Christian message often gets lost and it did again in the flap over Duck Dynasty star Phil Robertson’s remarks about homosexuality. For while Robertson expressed his belief that homosexuality is a sin, he also said that we’re all sinners and that, as Christians, it’s our duty to love our fellow sinners and God’s place to judge those sins.

  I don’t watch Duck Dynasty and I know very little about the Robertson clan. From what I understand, they are a very devout Christian family and the A&E network surely know that devout Christians generally (but not always) believe homosexual behavior to be sinful. I don’t know why Robertson’s remarks would in any way be a surprise.

  Personally, I believe what consenting adults do with their naughty bits is their business. I have better things to worry about than attempting to discern the Divine Will on the subject.

  All that said, if we live in a society where good people cannot express their personal beliefs without being condemned, we’re all in trouble. Once the thought police worm their way into culture to this extent, no one is safe, for what’s PC today will be condemned tomorrow.

  Agree or disagree with Robertson, but don’t tell him – or anyone – to shut up. And, most of all, listen to all of what the man said. We’re all sinners and we’re all looking to make this journey as best we can. That too is part of the Christmas message. So, as we say every year at this time, here’s wishing you peace on earth and good will to man.

  Merry Christmas

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