Category Archives: Radio

News I can do without

Oh, be quiet, Kitty. Jeff Bezos owns you now...

Oh, be quiet, Kitty. Jeff Bezos owns you now…

Earlier today I said that at some point, I’m going to write a post about how tired I’ve been getting lately of reading and hearing the news of the day, and I might just stop at some point, because I’m sick of hearing the same unpleasant stuff over and over.

This is not that post. I don’t have time now to write that post. But as a tiny example of what I’m talking about…

Right after I wrote that, I went for a walk around the neighborhood. And I started out by listening to the last half-hour news summary on NPR. The stories were:

  1. Mass shooting with multiple fatalities in San Jose. I definitely don’t ever want to hear about one of THOSE again. Especially since I know we’re not going to do anything about it. (And no, that’s not a pitch for gun control, because as you know, I’m pretty pessimistic that we could ever pass any gun control that would actually deal with the problem. But I’d sure like to be offered some hope.)
  2. Secstate Blinken in Jordan. OK, I do want a summary about that. But I didn’t need the long digression about how Hamas doesn’t want aid from anybody because they don’t need it because Iran keeps giving them all the money they need as long as they keep firing missiles at Israel and getting them to strike back.
  3. Amazon buys MGM. Mildly interesting, but you notice how all our major economic news lately is about people buying and selling entertainment content? Does this bode well? I enjoy my movies, but maybe we should start shifting back to making useful things…
  4. Where COVID came from. I forget what the upshot was, but I think it was probably like the other gazillion stories I’ve read and heard, which said, “We don’t know.” In fact, I’d be perfectly happy for you to not mention the subject again until you DO know. At least, thank God, we didn’t have to listen to a discussion of the President of the United States saying “Jina” caused the “Kung Flu.”
  5. There was some sort of plot to pay bloggers in France to pass on lies sowing doubt about vaccines. Something was mentioned about Russian involvement. Not that I want the Russians to go back to putting nukes in Cuba and shooting people trying to cross the Berlin Wall, but at least back then they weren’t perpetually insulting everyone’s intelligence.
  6. The Dow was up. OK, nice. But talk about monotonous. One day it goes up. Another day it goes down. It seldom does anything interesting, and if it did, it probably wouldn’t be good.

After that summary, I switched to a Kara Swisher podcast that promised to be interesting, but it wasn’t.

So I switched to Pandora. I do that a lot lately.

So what is this? Ennui? I’m just getting kind of… jaded from this stuff. Was it always this tiresome and repetitive, or is it me?…


Marquerite Willis’ race-baiting radio ad (and the debate, too)

Cynthia Hardy, Jim Felder, me and Jon Parker on the radio Sunday night.

Cynthia Hardy, Jim Felder, me and Jon Parker on the radio Sunday night. At this moment I’m apparently making a terribly cogent point that requires hand gestures, even on the radio.

(Editor’s note: I wrote this last night, but am just posting it today because of problems with the sound file. WordPress will take an MP3, but not a WAV.)

Did y’all watch that Democratic gubernatorial debate tonight? I didn’t get to see most of it, but I heard a good bit on the radio while I was driving first to a program at my youngest grandchildren’s school, then over to my parents’ house to check on my Dad (he had a fall recently, but is doing better), then home. A few seconds after I turned on the TV, it was over.

I did pull over a couple of times to Tweet about what I was hearing. I Tweeted this at the end:

Speaking of unpleasantness…

Sunday, I was a guest on Cynthia Hardy’s show on the Big DM (you can watch the show here). Before the show started, Cynthia asked whether Jim Felder and I had heard the “race-baiting ad” — as she said some had called it — that Marguerite Willis was running. I said no, and she played it for us.

Give it a listen. And (let me know if you had technical difficulties.)

When it was done, I said, “So… I suppose she’s playing that mostly on the country stations…” As soon as I said it, it occurred to me that my joke might fall flat, although Jim Felder laughed politely.

That’s really something. And it’s totally consistent with what I heard of the debate, which at another point caused me to Tweet:

But that ad was something — grossly unfair, misleading and desperate. But the issue remains, will she and Noble manage to inflict enough damage on a good man so as to ensure a GOP victory in the fall? Because surely the two Democratic challengers are bright enough to know neither of them would have a chance in a general election…

Left, right; left, right; left, right… Give it a REST, people!


This morning, I was surprised to see that The Washington Post didn’t lead with their big scoop, which I had heard about on the radio first thing, on my way to my 8 a.m. dental appointment:

The special counsel overseeing the investigation into Russia’s role in the 2016 election is interviewing senior intelligence officials as part of a widening probe that now includes an examination of whether President Trump attempted to obstruct justice, officials said.

The move by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III to investigate Trump’s conduct marks a major turning point in the nearly year-old FBI investigation, which until recently focused on Russian meddling during the presidential campaign and on whether there was any coordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin. Investigators have also been looking for any evidence of possible financial crimes among Trump associates, officials said…

That’s so much bigger than other turn-of-the-screw stories that have led the paper in recent months.

Instead, the paper led with the congressional-baseball shooting, which of course is HUGE, especially if you’re published in Washington, but there was nothing new since last night. Rep. Scalise (may God send his healing grace upon him) was in critical condition yesterday, and he still was today.

But I guess I was wrong, based on what I heard on the radio later on a call-in show. Apparently the latest murderous nut-job case was Filled With Historic Political Significance, to hear what folks were saying.

Sorry that I didn’t take notes — I was driving — but it went kind of like this:

A man calls in and blames the shooting on the Left. After all, this guy was a lefty (so of course every liberal in the country was to blame). And he was made about Trump (so everyone who is mad that Trump is president is to blame). He had some kind of complicated theory about this all being part of the Left’s campaign against free speech, somehow connected to all the silly “safe zone” nonsense on college campuses. He explained that people were expressing themselves politically by electing these Republican lawmakers, who were delegated to speak for those people, and this guy was trying to shut them up by killing.

He was immediately followed by a woman who had zero hesitation about blaming it on the Right. After all, Trump had encouraged violence at his rallies, and didn’t Ted Nugent say something about assassinating Obama, and Trump invited him to hang out for hours at the White House? Therefore, she implied, everyone to the right of center was to blame for this, yadda-yadda.

Oh, come on, people! This isn’t a left-right thing. I mean, I was pretty disturbed by the whole Bernie Sanders billionaires-are-oppressing-us-all-and-we-must-get-angry-and-rise-up-against-them shtick, but it’s an outrage to suggest that even Bernie Sanders (whom the shooter supported) is in any way to blame for this, much less every other liberal in the country.

Obviously, such thinking must be refuted. But to do so by trying to turn it around and blame on conservatives everywhere is equally absurd.

Give it a rest, people! Not everything is an expression of the left-right dichotomy that you seem to think explains everything in the world. In fact, most things aren’t.

What we have here is a nut, one who went on a murderous rampage for reasons particular to him, which we’ll never know for sure because, as a result of what he did, he’s dead.

If there’s a political point to be made, it’s the one I made yesterday: It’s too easy for homicidal nuts to get their hands on guns. If we’d all like to have a constructive conversation about doing something to prevent that, great. But in this atmosphere, I’m not holding my breath…


‘Electrocution chair?’ Is that like a ‘Holocaust center?’


Speaking of words, has anyone noticed an uptick of mispronunciations and bizarre word choices lately on broadcast media?

I’m not even talking about Donald Trump, who is so justly famous for such. I’m talking about normal people.

I should have been keeping a list of the mispronunciations, but at the moment I’m only thinking of one: My wife heard someone say “pre-VALE-unt” on the Tube the other day, instead of, you know, prevalent. (I called just now to ask her for another, and she offered “contri-BUTE,” as opposed to contribute. And yes, the Brits might say, “CON-tribute,” but as my wife noted, these were Americans speaking.)

As for word choice, my current fave is from Friday’s installment of “The Takeaway.” A perfectly lucid, intelligent-sounding young woman with Arkansas Public Media was being interviewed about the crowd of people that state is trying to execute. She was asked (at about 2:29 on the recording) whether, when it runs out of approved poisons for lethal injection, the state would have any alternative methods of administering death. She replied, informatively:

The alternative on the books is electrocution chair…

Electrocution chair? Is that something they have at “Holocaust centers?”

She was probably just nervous being interviewed on national radio. Either that, or — she sounded really, really young — she has been blessed by never having heard of that fixture of more barbaric times, the electric chair. (She may have even realized she wasn’t on solid ground, based on the questioning way her voice went up at the end of the phrase, as though she were asking, “Is that a thing?”)

Ultimately, I suspect all of this is a result of far too many people trying to say far too many things on far too many outlets in much too quick a hurry.

But maybe there’s another explanation…

I miss Garrison Keillor


Saturday, the radio in our kitchen was on at 6 p.m., and when “Prairie Home Companion” came on… we turned it off.

Instead of turning it up, which is what we usually would have done, ever since we started listening to it out in Kansas in the ’80s.

It’s just not the same without Garrison Keillor. That deep, mellifluous, soothing voice, speaking of things that prompted nostalgia and peaceful reflection on the human condition, was what the show was about. I appreciated that the new guy made a joke in the first show about his high, piping voice, but you know, after a bit it’s not funny. I’ve lost my reason to listen.

Keillor is still writing. But frankly, I’ve never liked his writing quite as much on a page or screen — I prefer to hear him say it. Also, his unspoken stuff tends to be more political, and he’s such a doctrinaire liberal that a lot of stuff he says is a bit off-putting to me.

But… I find that if I can imagine him reading it, I’m fine with it. And this latest piece in The Washington Post yesterday made it very easy to hear the voice. It was gentle, it was kind, it was reassuring, unassuming and forgiving. And when you write in a voice like that, I can handle pretty much anything you have to say. An excerpt:

Face it, Southerners are nicer people

I’ve been down in South Carolina and Georgia, an old Northern liberal in red states, enjoying a climate like April in January and the hospitality of gracious, soft-spoken people, many of whom voted for He Who Does Not Need Intelligence, but they didn’t bring it up, so neither did I.

I walked into Jestine’s Kitchen in Charleston, and a waitress said, “Is there just one of you, sweetheart?” and her voice was like jasmine and teaberry. There was just one of me, though I wished there were two and she was the other one. She showed me to a table — “Have a seat, sweetheart, I’ll be right with you.” Liberal waitpersons up north would no more call you “sweetheart” than they would kiss you on the lips, and if you called one of them “sweetheart” she might hand you your hat. I ordered the fried chicken with collard greens and mashed potatoes and gravy and read a front-page story in the Charleston Post and Courier about a Republican state legislator charged with a felony for allegedly beating his wife in front of their weeping children, and then the waitress brought the food and I dug in and it was luminous, redemptive, all that chicken and gravy could be. If this is what Makes America Great Again, I am all for it….

I thought to myself, “A person could live in a town like this.” I’ve spent time with people whose politics agreed with mine and who were cold fish indeed and now that I’m elderly and have time on my hands, maybe I’d enjoy hanging out with amiable sweet-talking right-wingers. I’m just saying….

Indeed. And I miss hanging out with him on Saturday evenings…

(It’s fun when Yankees find us so captivating. Reminds me of the one year I lived above the Mason-Dixon line growing up. I attended second grade in Woodbury, NJ. I read more fluently than most 2nd-graders, and once a teacher heard me read aloud, she started lending me to other classes to read to the kids. I was happy to oblige. They thought my accent was so charming. They looked upon me as a pint-sized Ashley Wilkes, and that kind of thing can make a certain sort of Yankee lady just swoon.)

I’ll be on Cynthia Hardy’s radio show at 6 p.m. tonight


… which should give me plenty of time to get back home from the Big DM way across town in time for what could prove to be (although I hope not) the last game of the World Series.

Cynthia Hardy

Cynthia Hardy

According to the text I received asking me to be on the show, we’ll be talking about “talking the importance of down-ballot votes, red states leaning blue, and the millennial vote.” Which sounds to me like the discussion could go almost anywhere, as long as we’re talking about the election.

I’m told that Allen Olson — whom I don’t know, but I assume it’s this Allen Olson — will be in the studio as well. Kathleen Parker may join us by phone, from wherever she is at the moment. And there could be another guest. I get the distinct impression this show is a bit in flux — I was asked to participate this morning, although I usually get asked several days ahead of time.

So listen in, and if you’re inclined, call in…

In the studio with Todd and Joel on Cynthia Hardy’s show


Just sharing this shot of Rep. Todd Atwater, Sen. Joel Lourie and me in the studio during Cynthia Hardy’s On Point radio show on the Big DM this evening.

Note that Todd is alert and looking around, Joel is playing the nerd studying the notes he had brought with him about the SOTU and Gov. Haley’s response, and I’m staring at my phone, probably writing this Tweet:

Which prompted Rob Godfrey from the governor’s office to respond:

Yes, this is a very self-referential blog post. But then, blogs tend to be that way as a medium — they are to journalism what selfies are to photography.

We had a good discussion, with everyone on board with agreeing with both the president and the governor in their calls for greater civility and less negativity. In fact, if our Legislature consisted entirely of Joel Louries and Todd Atwaters, we’d get a lot more done at the State House.

Not that there wasn’t sincere disagreement. Todd and Joel had a pretty good back-and-forth about Obamacare and Medicaid expansion. At one point I almost jumped in on Joel’s side, when Todd said it was a shame the president didn’t meet Republicans halfway on the issue.

Hey, I was about to say, the president and the Democrats did meet Republicans halfway and more from the get-go — before the debate on the Act was joined, before the president was even elected.

That happened when Obama didn’t run advocating for single-payer, which is the one really rational approach to healthcare. And he backed away from that in deference to the wall of Republican resistance that already existed against it. So he and the other Dems started out with a compromise position.

But then the subject changed, and we didn’t return to it. Just as well. I was being presented to listeners as the guy in the middle between Joel the Democrat and Todd the Republican, and it would have just confused everybody if I had jumped out on the one issue where I’m to the left of Bernie Sanders. That is, that’s where my position has been cast popularly — mostly by Republican resistance that has made Democrats afraid to embrace it. I don’t consider it to be to the left of anything. To me, it’s the commonsense, nonideological, pragmatic option. And a lot simpler than the ACA.

Speaking of Bernie… He and the author of Hillarycare will be on the tube in awhile, so I think I’ll stop and rest up to get ready to Tweet during that. Join me @BradWarthen if you’re so inclined.


Any of y’all vote early? Why? And how did it go?


A couple of things we talked about last night on Cynthia Hardy’s radio show (there I am with host, crew and fellow guests above) stuck with me.

One was all the talk about voter turnout. I joined in with the others in urging people to get out and vote — I even threw in the cliche about “If you don’t vote, don’t come crying to me about what happens after” — but I also shared my personal doubt about get-out-the-vote efforts. Basically, if you have to be reminded, cajoled, begged and prodded, I’m not at all sure I want you voting. I’d rather have elections decided by people who care enough that they would never consider not voting.

Then, I was struck by all the talk about early voting. Not “early voting” technically, but “absentee” voting — which is engaged in more and more by people who won’t actually be absent. My fellow guest Jim Felder kept urging folks to get out and vote today rather than wait until Tuesday, in case the weather is bad on actual Election Day. Various anecdotes about busloads of folks voting early were shared.

So I thought I’d ask: Did you vote early? If so, why? And how did it go? And anything else you’d like to share.

I know that Doug, at least, voted on Friday, because he texted me about it, saying it was very busy at the Parklane location. Perhaps he’d like to share some more about that.

Anyone else?

The importance of understanding politicians (and media types) as people

There I am after the show, second from left, followed by Eva Moore, Cynthia Hardy and Will Folks...

There I am after the show, second from left, followed by Eva Moore, Cynthia Hardy and Will Folks…

Having heard my limit of cynical statements bordering on paranoia, I resolved, on live radio over the weekend, to do The Most Daring Thing a Journalist Can Ever Do.

I decided to stick up for politicians. And for the media, for that matter.

I learned long ago, well before I started blogging, that the surest way to be the target of derision and contempt — from the public, and even one’s peers — is to praise someone in politics. It’s way more damaging to your reputation than criticizing people. We’re expected to do that. And those of you who know me know that I do my share of that. (In fact, some of you claim, hyperbolically, that it’s all I do, when the subject is Mark Sanford or Nikki Haley.)

But just let me say something laudatory about a politician — say, Lindsey Graham, who I believe is more deserving of such defense than anyone in high office in our state — and here comes the tsunami of cynicism. (Try to say “tsunami of cynicism” several times really fast.)

Journalists tend to relish the criticism that comes from being critical. It means we’re tough, and hard-hitting. Nobody pulls the wool over our eyes! We’re no saps. Cutting remarks make us sound like John Lennon. Saying nice things makes us sound like Paul McCartney. And everybody knows which one was the cool one, right?

Anyway, as Sunday’s show wore on, I endured a number of cynical remarks about media, politics and politicians, letting them pass by because of my long experience of knowing how hard it is to change people’s minds when they say things like, “They just stress all that negative stuff to sell papers,” or, “You can’t trust the MSM because they take advertising and are in the grip of corporate America,” or “He’s no different from all politicians; they’re all crooks.” (These are reconstructions; I wasn’t taking notes. But I’ve heard these kinds of comments SO many times.)

But finally, I couldn’t sit still, and I explained:

  • People who think advertisers control content in a newspaper have probably never worked at one. In my 35 years in newspapers, most of it as an editor, I never once was involved in a decision that was in any way influenced by money considerations, either involving advertising or circulation. (The only way money affected what we did was that the lack of it prevented us from having the people we needed, or to pay for travel, to do everything we wanted.) I DID find myself making decisions that I knew made life miserable for the ad people, and even lost the paper money. I mentioned a situation in which we took, and maintained (and the newspaper maintains to this day) an editorial position that cost the paper hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of several years. That didn’t make me happy or anything, but it had no impact on our position.
  • As for Will Folks’ assertion that we were supportive of lawmakers he despises because of the newspaper industry’s sales tax exemptions, I had to ask how he explained our ongoing repeated calls, year in and year out, for comprehensive tax reform that would put all exemptions on the table? (Doug likes to talk about that one, saying we should have called specifically for eliminating the newspaper exemption. But the truth was, I’ve never seen that one as in any way more egregious than the rest, and I would have been lying, and grandstanding, to say otherwise.)
  • Those who say this or that gets published because “it sells newspapers” don’t understand what makes journalists tick. There CAN be the temptation to be sensational, and we’re always trying to grab your attention, but not for anything so normal and sensible (the way most people see the world) as selling papers. What we wanted, what we want, is to be read. In terms of indulging my deep-seated need, no one had to buy the paper. They could steal it, just as long as they read it. Bryan loved that. After he wrote about it on his blog, I felt compelled to explain a bit. It’s not that I was advocating stealing the newspaper, mind you…
  • People talk about there being too much “bad news.” Well, I’m sorry, but to a great extent, the definition of news is something that has gone wrong. You don’t report on the 10,000 cars that pass a certain intersection safely in the course of a day; you report on the fatal wreck that occurred there. You don’t write about the thousands of buildings that didn’t catch fire; you report on the one that burned down. And you don’t write about the vast majority of politicians who are honest and doing their best; you write about the ones who are derelict and/or have their hands in the till — because that’s what people, as voters, need a heads-up about.
  • On that last point… I blame my profession, and particularly my generation of Watergate-influenced journalists, for the cynicism about government and politics that infects so many in our society today, from Will Folks and many other bloggers to the Tea Party to some of our best friends here on the blog. Maybe that’s one case where we DID overemphasize the “bad news.” We were so adversarial toward public officials and public institutions, so aggressive in chasing after scandal — and (seemingly sometimes) nothing but scandal — that we created an indelible impression among the reading and viewing public that government is a bad thing full of bad people. When it isn’t. We’re just trying to let you know about the bad parts that need addressing.

When I stated that probably 90-something percent of politicians were good people trying to do the best by their lights for their communities (even though they might, in my opinion, be really wrong about what’s best), Will erupted in derision, both on the air and on Twitter:

But I insisted it was true. I might think most of the things lawmakers try to do is stupid sometimes, but I don’t doubt their sincerity or honest intentions. As for the idea that people go into public life to enrich themselves monetarily — well, they’re really have to be stupid to do that, because the greater potential is definitely in the private sector, and the chance of getting caught is a lot lower than in public office.

Not that there aren’t some politicians for whom the pathetic renumeration that legislators receive is the best job they ever had. We had some people like that in the Legislature in the late 80s and early 90s. Lost Trust caught people selling their votes for pathetically small things, such as a new suit or some such.

Lost Trust was the low point in South Carolina, leading to indictments of 10 percent of the Legislature. But I turned that around to say that, when an aggressive federal prosecutor did his best to catch every lawmaker open to bribery or some other form of corruption… he could only get 10 percent. Which fits my 90ish-percent thesis.

Bottom line, people in politics are people, like any other. Oh, they may be more extroverted and given to exhibitionism of a sort, but they are not worse than other people. They might not be the wise solons that they should be — and I, for one, would prefer that they were a good deal wiser than average — but they’re just people.

So are journalists, for that matter, just to come full circle…

Hear me Sunday evening on the Big DM



This Tweet from Will reminds me:

I’m going to be on Cynthia’s show tomorrow evening, at FM 101.3. As I recall, we’re going to be talking about social media vis-à-vis traditional media.

Tonight on ‘Fresh Air,’ Brigid talks about her new book

Remember a couple of months back, when I told you about the new book by my friend and colleague Brigid Schulte?

Well, she’s going to be talking about it this evening at 7 on NPR’s “Fresh Air.”

That’s all. Just wanted to give a heads-up, particularly to any of y’all who remember Brigid from when she worked for The State, before her long stint at The Washington Post, where she still works when she’s not writing books…

Here’s how we used to find stuff out in the old days, kids

Since this post the other day, I’ve been listening more closely to the Christmas music to which I’ve been exposed.

This morning, I heard something really unusual. What got me was the very different rhythm part of this rendition of “O Come Emanuel.” I’d actually been listening a while before I realized what the song was — even though it’s my favorite Advent song. This was before coffee, you understand.

I wanted to know right then who it was. But I couldn’t do what I would normally do. I was driving the truck, which is straight-shift and takes two hands, and wearing my winter coat that zips up, and couldn’t get at my phone to get my SoundHound app to give it a listen and ID it for me. Frustrating (in any event, as I discovered when I got to work, I’d left my phone at home — again, the lack of coffee).

So I decided that I’d fall back on trying to find out who that was when I got to a keyboard. To my inexpert year, it sounded like Pearl Jam. So I hunted on Google, and on YouTube. I asked everybody on Twitter:

Heard a very offbeat rendition of “O Come Emanuel” on radio this a.m. Sounded like… Pearl Jam. Google couldn’t find that. So who was it?

Weirdly, no one answered. I asked again about six hours later. Still no takers. Which is unusual. Normally, someone at least guesses.

So you know what I did? I found out the old school way. Soon as I got a moment (late this afternoon, after a busy day) I called the request line at Magic 98.5. I asked who that was doing “O Come Emmanuel” between 7:45 and 8 this morning.

Turns out it was Third Day, a Christian rock band that formed back in the early ’90s. You know, when everybody was trying to sound like Eddie Vedder.

The fact that my crowd-sourcing efforts failed, I suppose, testifies to grunge-style Christian bands  occupying a lesser-known part of the pop music spectrum. Even Rob, Dick and Barry might have had trouble with it.

I’m just glad I solved the mystery. I’m sure you’re happy for me.

E. J. Dionne: ‘The best choice for pope? A nun.’

Over the weekend, E.J. Dionne — who does this sort of thing every week with David Brooks — was kind enough to write me and say he’d caught my bit on Weekend Edition Saturday on NPR, and “I wanted to tell you that you were excellent.”

Which, along with similarly kind plaudits I got from other friends and family, made my day.

While he had me, as a fellow RC he brought up Pope Benedict’s retirement, and asked whether I had read his “make a nun Pope” column.

I had not, but I went and read it immediately, and really enjoyed it. Excerpts:

In giving up the papacy, Pope Benedict XVI was brave and bold. He did the unexpected for the good of the Catholic Church. And when it selects a new pope next month, the College of Cardinals should be equally brave and bold. It is time to elect a nun as the next pontiff.

Now, I know this hope of mine is the longest of long shots. I have great faith in the Holy Spirit to move papal conclaves, but I would concede that I may be running ahead of the Spirit on this one…

Nonetheless, handing leadership to a woman — and in particular, to a nun — would vastly strengthen Catholicism, help the church solve some of its immediate problems and inspire many who have left the church to look at it with new eyes…

More than any other group in the church, the sisters have been at the heart of its work on behalf of compassion and justice. Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times made this point as powerfully as anyone in a 2010 column. “In my travels around the world, I encounter two Catholic Churches,” he wrote. “One is the rigid all-male Vatican hierarchy that seems out of touch. . . . Yet there’s another Catholic Church as well, one I admire intensely. This is the grass-roots Catholic Church that does far more good in the world than it ever gets credit for. This is the church that supports extraordinary aid organizations like Catholic Relief Services and Caritas, saving lives every day, and that operates superb schools that provide needy children an escalator out of poverty.”…

Throughout history, it’s not uncommon for women to be brought in to put right what men have put wrong. A female pope would automatically be distanced from this past and could have a degree of credibility that a male member of the hierarchy simply could not…

And a church that has made opposition to abortion a central part of its public mission should consider that older men are hardly the best messengers for this cause. Perhaps a female pope could transform the discussion about abortion from one that is too often rooted in harsh judgments (and at times, anger with modernity) into a compassionate dialogue aimed at changing hearts and minds rather than changing laws.

Unborn children are vulnerable. So are pregnant women. In my experience, nuns are especially alive to these twin vulnerabilities…

There was a lot of other good stuff, about how consistent this would be with the church’s devotion to Mary, and other points. But I fear I may have exceeded the bounds of fair use already.

You might wonder, “Is Dionne kidding? He knows this can’t happen, right?” Yes, he knows it won’t happen, and no, he’s not kidding. At the least, he hopes “they at least consider electing the kind of man who has the characteristics of my ideal female pontiff.

I urge you to go read the whole, well-reasoned piece.

NPR’s take on Lindsey Graham’s political situation

I notice there was another SC story on Weekend Edition this morning, aside from my interview about Mark Sanford. It was their take on why Lindsey Graham’s been posturing so furiously on issues that endear him to the right, in the wake of his risky stepping out on immigration again:

It seems Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham has done his best in recent weeks to get as much ink as possible, talking about things that play well with the conservatives in his home state of South Carolina, like Benghazi and gun rights.

Graham also held up the nomination of Chuck Hagel as defense secretary to get more answers about what happened in Benghazi, even as he admitted Hagel had nothing to do with it. But his opposition might have more to do with home state politics than the nomination itself.

Republican senators who have shown moderate leanings have been hit with primary challenges from the right recently, and while no serious challenger has emerged yet in South Carolina, there are a whole lot of people hoping one does.

“There are some legitimate concerns to be asked about Benghazi … [and] Chuck Hagel,” says Tom Davis, a Republican state senator in South Carolina. “That being said, I do think it is fair to say that there has been a conscious effort on the part of Sen. Graham to elevate his role in those debates.”…

Don Gonyea didn’t ask me about this one in my interview, but if he had I would have said the obvious: That Tom Davis, whom they quote, was the threat from the right that everyone had expected, but that he says he’s not running.

But Graham’s still not taking any chances. After all, as we saw in 2010, especially in the 4th Congressional District, these days a successful challenge to a Republican incumbent can come out of nowhere.

Hear me on Weekend Edition tomorrow morning

If you’re not sleeping in tomorrow morning, you might want to listen to Weekend Edition on NPR. I taped an interview with Don Gonyea this morning about the 1st Congressional District special election. [Update: You can listen to the interview here.]

That is, it was sort of about the 1st Congressional District special election.

Earlier in the week, I got a call from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation wanting to interview me about that race, and I begged off. I told them I just hadn’t been following it that closely.

When Brigid McCarthy called from NPR, I told her the same. But she said what they really wanted to do is talk about Mark Sanford.

That, I said, I can do.

And that’s mostly what we talked about.

But just in case, I did some reading up on the contest so I’d have a broad familiarity with it, in the event that we went beyond Sanford (which we did, a bit). That’s what led to this earlier blog post.

To update y’all from that post…

0729545367It’s looking to me like the GOP candidate running the hardest other than Sanford is Larry Grooms. Hogan Gidley, the former SC Republican Party executive director who in recent years has been associated with Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee, has been sending me releases this week for Grooms, including one yesterday noting that Jeff Duncan and Mick Mulvaney (two of Tim Scott’s fellow Tea Party classmates of 2010) have endorsed him. And like Sanford, Grooms released a TV ad this week.

But then, maybe some of the other candidates are running just as hard, but don’t have my email address. If you’re out there, it’s

Also, I’ve sort of been operating on the assumption that the winner of the GOP contest will likely be Scott’s replacement, rather than Stephen Colbert’s sister. Republicans have held that seat since Tommy Hartnett won it on Reagan’s coattails in 1980. But… in 2008, the Democratic nominee came within a couple of points of winning. That was another coattails situation, though, in this case Barack Obama’s. There won’t be any Obama coattails operating this spring.

More than that, I checked this morning with someone who was fairly intimately involved in the most recent reapportionment. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that the district is now safer for Republicans than it was in 2008.

The firing of Keven Cohen

Somehow I missed this this morning, until Silence brought it to my attention on a previous thread:

Keven Cohen, the longtime afternoon drive host on WVOC-FM 100.1, was fired Thursday afternoon before he went on the air.

Cohen had been hosting the 3-6 p.m. slot since 1999.

“I had a great run at WVOC,” Cohen, sounding gracious, said when reached at his home Thursday evening. “It will always have a special place in my heart.”

Removing Cohen, who peppered his talk show with news and opinion, is a curious decision by the Clear Channel-owned station, especially with a momentous presidential election just four days away. Cohen also anchored the station’s pre- and post-game coverage of USC Gamecock football.

“It’s a scary and confusing time,” Cohen said. “It’s a very challenging time for me emotionally to not know what I’m going to do when I wake up tomorrow morning.”…

From what I’ve seen, radio is more abrupt than print is about these things. I had a couple of weeks to clear my stuff out of the editorial suite; this seemed to hit more suddenly.

For my part, I always thought Keven did a good job. I didn’t hear his show much because of the time of day, but I was a guest on it a few times, and always thought he was a considerate host and a thorough professional. I wasn’t the only one who thought so. I recall walking around Madison Square Garden with Lindsey Graham during the 2004 Republican National Convention (I was doing a column on the way he was working the media), and between chatting with Tim Russert and Biff Henderson of the Letterman show, he paused to take a call from Keven.

There was no one else like him in this market, to my knowledge. He will be missed in that role. I hope he finds another one, just as fulfilling, as soon as possible.

What made the Spin Doctors disappear?

I’ve been enjoying the new 92.1 on FM, partly because it plays things I like, but have forgotten.

Today, I was driving up Lady Street when the Spin Doctors came on. Which made me think, What happened to those guys?

They came out of nowhere in the early 90s with an album just jammed with single-worthy tracks. They had a distinctive sound. “Pocketful of Kryptonite” was the last album by a new band I can remember buying based on hearing them for the first time on MTV and/or radio. Which I guess isn’t that remarkable given that rock, to the extent that it still exists, isn’t so album oriented any more. Still, at that point in my life, I had to be impressed to buy new music.

I think maybe my favorite song was “Jimmy Olsen’s Blues,” on account of it being about the Daily Planet’s newsroom personnel. How often pop song speak of having it bad for a journalist? Yah, Lois Lane, you don’t need no Superman… Although “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” was quite catchy as well.

And then… I haven’t heard from them since. According to Wikipedia, they’re still out there. But you couldn’t tell by me.

So I appreciate hearing them on the radio this morning.

The next track played after that was Neil Young’s “Ohio.” Gotta get down to it…

Fifty years of summertime pop, rated

The sleeve of my "Honky Tonk Women" single.

Last week, I called into question the value of recent pop music. I was moved to do so by this feature on NPR, regarding “The Songs Of The Summer, 1962-2012,” which ran the gamut “from surf rock in the early 1960s through British then American rock ‘n’ roll, disco, power ballads, R&B, boy bands and hip-hop.”

I thought it particularly meaningful that it counted from what Gene Sculatti’s The Catalog of Cool described as “The Last Good Year.”

I listened to the Spotify mix that the story linked to (there’s also a version provided by NPR itself, but you don’t get to pick where you jump in — it’ more like conventional radio that way).

The list confirms me in my belief, that there hasn’t been a summer like that of 1966 since. As I said before:

Puts me in mind of the summer of ’66. I came back from the beach determined to go out and buy three singles: “Green Grass” by Gary Lewis and the Playboys, “I Am a Rock” by Simon and Garfunkel, and “Little Red Riding Hood” by Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs.

OK, so sue me. I was 12. At least “I Am a Rock” was cool.

But look at what else came out that summer:
WILD THING – The Troggs
PAINT IT, BLACK – The Rolling Stones (still my favorite Stones song)
SUMMER IN THE CITY – The Lovin’ Spoonful
HANKY PANKY – Tommy James & The Shondells
AIN’T TOO PROUD TO BEG – The Temptations
DIRTY WATER – The Standells
MONDAY, MONDAY – The Mamas & The Papas

Not to mention these forgettable items that I loved at the time:
SWEET PEA – Tommy Roe

That was all just one summer.

Come on — what will today’s 12-year-olds have to look back to in the future?

The answer to that question doesn’t appear to be very encouraging.

Gradually, over the past week, I listened to that mix while doing a lot of other things. Here’s how I rated what I heard, on a scale from zero stars to five:

2012: Carly Rae Jepsen, “Call Me Maybe”

2011: Adele, “Rolling In The Deep”

2011: LMFAO, “Party Rock Anthem”

2011: Nicki Minaj, “Super Bass”

2010: Eminem featuring Rihanna, “Love the Way You Lie”

2010: Katy Perry, “California Gurls”

2010: Taio Cruz, “Dynamite”

2009: Black Eyed Peas, “I Gotta Feeling”

2009: Taylor Swift, “You Belong With Me”

2008: Coldplay, “Viva La Vida”

2008: Katy Perry, “I Kissed A Girl”

2008: Lil Wayne featuring Static Major, “Lollipop” – Only gets a 1 because, if you only hear a second of it, it’s catchy. After 2 seconds, you hate it

0 2007: Rihanna featuring Jay-Z, “Umbrella”

0 2007: T-Pain featuring Yung Joc, “Buy U A Drank”

2006: Gnarls Barkley, “Crazy”

0 2006: Nelly Furtado featuring Timbaland, “Promiscuous”

2006: Shakira, “Hips Don’t Lie”

0 2005: Gwen Stefani, “Hollaback Girl”

0 2005: The Pussycat Dolls featuring Busta Rhymes, “Don’t Cha”

0 2004: Juvenile featuring Soulja Slim, “Slow Motion”

2004: Usher, “Confessions Part II”

2003: Beyoncé featuring Jay-Z, “Crazy In Love”

2003: Chingy, “Right Thurr”

2003: Sean Paul, “Get Busy” – This would get a 2, but for the monotony.

2002: Avril Lavigne, “Complicated” – Almost it to a three in the middle part, but not quite.

2002: Jimmy Eat World, “The Middle”

0 2002: Eminem, “Without Me”

0 2002: Nelly, “Hot In Herre”

0 2001: Destiny’s Child, “Bootylicious” – What did this in from the start was the ripped-off sample from Stevie Nicks’ highly irritating “Just Like the White-Winged Dove.” It only got worse from there.

2001: Eve featuring Gwen Stefani, “Let Me Blow Ya Mind”

1999: Christina Aguilera, “Genie In A Bottle”

1999: Jennifer Lopez, “If You Had My Love”

0 1999: Len, “Steal My Sunshine”

1999: Smash Mouth, “All Star”

0 1998: Next, “Too Close”

0 1998: Vengaboys, “We Like To Party”

1998: The Backstreet Boys, “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”

1997: Hanson, “MMMBop” – Bubblegum, but not bad bubblegum. The chorus almost raises it to 3.

1997: Notorious B.I.G. featuring Puff Daddy & Ma$e, “Mo Money Mo Problems”

1997: Puff Daddy featuring Faith Evans & 112, “I’ll Be Missing You” – How much credit should a sample get? Because without that, this is nothing.

1996: Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, “Tha Crossroads”

1996: Los Del Rio, “Macarena” – Yes, the craze became a joke, but at least it has some musicality.

1996: Mariah Carey, “Always Be My Baby”

1995: Seal, “Kiss From A Rose”

1995: TLC, “Waterfalls”

1994: Ace of Base, “Don’t Turn Around”

1994: All-4-One, “I Swear”

1994: Lisa Loeb, “Stay” – Keeps threatening to sound good, but doesn’t get there.

1994: Warren G & Nate Dogg, “Regulate”

1993: Tag Team, “Whoomp! (There It Is)”

1993: UB40, “Can’t Help Falling In Love” – Too bad Elvis never heard this version.

1992: Boys II Men, “End of the Road”

1992: Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Under the Bridge”

1992: Sir Mix-A-Lot, “Baby Got Back” – I agree with the sentiment, at least.

1991: Bryan Adams, “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” – Not his best effort.

1991: DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, “Summertime”

1991: EMF, “Unbelievable”

1990: Mariah Carey, “Vision Of Love”

1990: New Kids on the Block, “Step By Step”

1989: Martika, “Toy Soldiers”

1989: Richard Marx, “Right Here Waiting” – Syrupy.

1988: Cheap Trick, “The Flame”

1988: Steve Winwood, “Roll With It” – Not as good as his work with Blind Faith, not by a long shot. But it’s catchy.

1987: Heart, “Alone”

1987: U2, “With Or Without You” – Perhaps their best song.

1987: Whitney Houston, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” – Excellent example of the genre, but I’m not a big fan of the genre.

1986: Madonna, “Papa Don’t Preach”

1986: Peter Cetera, “Glory Of Love”

1985: Huey Lewis & The News, “The Power of Love”

1985: Tears For Fears, “Shout” – One of the best of the 80s.

1984: Cyndi Lauper, “Time After Time” – Not as good as “Girls Just Want to Have Fun”

1984: Prince & The Revolution, “When Doves Cry” – Not as good as “1999”

1983: The Police, “Every Breath You Take”

1983: Irene Cara, “Flashdance…What a Feeling”

1982: Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder, “Ebony & Ivory” – Just chock full of good intentions, though.

1982: Human League, “Don’t You Want Me”

1982: Survivor, “Eye of the Tiger”

1981: Rick Springfield, “Jessie’s Girl”

1981: Kim Carnes, “Bette Davis Eyes”

1980: Lipps, Inc., “Funkytown”

1980: Billy Joel, “It’s Still Rock & Roll to Me”

1979: Donna Summer, “Bad Girls” – It would be a 1, but I don’t want Bud to hate me.

1979: Anita Ward, “Ring My Bell”

1978: Andy Gibb, “Shadow Dancing”

1978: Frankie Valli, “Grease” – Sorry, Frankie, but there were better songs in that show.

1977: Fleetwood Mac, “Dreams”

1976: Starland Vocal Band, “Afternoon Delight” – An oddball little hit.

1976: Elton John & Kiki Dee, “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”

1976: Wings, “Silly Love Songs”

1975: The Captain & Tennille, “Love Will Keep Us Together” – Perhaps a better song, done by someone else.

1974: Bo Donaldson & The Heywoods, “Billy, Don’t Be A Hero”

1974: George McCrae, “Rock Your Baby”

1973: Diana Ross, “Touch Me In The Morning”

1973: Jim Croce, “Bad Bad Leroy Brown”

1972: Bill Withers, “Lean On Me” – This just gets better and better.

1972: Sammy Davis, Jr., “The Candy Man” – How did this get in there?

1971: Bee Gees, “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?” – I’m throwing the Bee Gees a bone here.

1971: Carole King, “It’s Too Late”

1970: The Carpenters, “(They Long To Be) Close To You”

1970: The Jackson 5, “The Love You Save”

1970: Edwin Starr, “War” – Good song, though it overstates its case (“absolutely nothing”).

1969: The Beatles, “Get Back”

1969: The Rolling Stones, “Honky Tonk Woman” – Not only a superlative summer song, it’s a great driving song, too.

1968: Simon & Garfunkel, “Mrs. Robinson”

1968: The Rascals, “People Got To Be Free”

1967: Aretha Franklin, “Respect” – Give her some.

1967: The Doors, “Light My Fire” – I probably would have rated this higher at the time.

1966: Tommy James & The Shondells, “Hanky Panky”

1966: The Troggs, “Wild Thing” — Elemental, proto-punk, garage band purity.

1966: The Lovin’ Spoonful, “Summer In The City”

1965: The Byrds, “Mr. Tambourine Man” — I’d have given the Dylan original another star.

1965: The Beatles, “Help!” — I feel bad that I didn’t give the Beatles five stars on anything, but none of their best songs were listed.

1965: The Rolling Stones, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”

1965: Sonny & Cher, “I Got You Babe”

1964: Dean Martin, “Everybody Loves Somebody”

1964: The Animals, “House of the Rising Sun”

1964: The Beach Boys, “I Get Around”

1963: Lesley Gore, “It’s My Party”

1963: Jan & Dean, “Surf City”

1962: Ray Charles, “I Can’t Stop Loving You”

1962: Neil Sedaka, “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do”

1962: Little Eva, “The Loco-Motion” – Had trouble deciding on this one; may only be a 3.

A song from the deepest early memories

I had an unexpected bit of pleasure this morning. In a desperate bid to get away from the ETV Radio pledge drive, I accidentally pressed button 3 on my radio, forgetting that the format had changed a while back to country.

And I heard “Singin’ the Blues,” which struck deep chords of early-childhood memory for me. I couldn’t have told you the words, and I mistakenly assumed it was a Hank Williams song — it seemed to have that sort of universal appeal. But the tune was as familiar, as wired into every cell in my brain, as if it had been sung to me as a lullaby.

All I knew about the song was that I really, really liked it. As though I was MADE to like it; it was part of my early formation.

Unfortunately, the radio didn’t tell me who was singing it (which should be a violation of FCC regulations). Fortunately, there’s Google and Wikipedia.

I quickly learned that the song was written by one Melvin Endsley, and first recorded successfully by Guy Mitchell. But I’m pretty sure that what I heard this morning was the Marty Robbins version.

Whichever, I loved hearing it. Next thing you know, I’ll hear “Volare” on the radio one morning (to cite another song that made a deep impression on me before I was old enough to worry about what was cool and what wasn’t, and able to just respond to music on its own terms)…