November 16, 2002

Just thinking.

Ever notice that those nitwits nattering about how we shouldn’t let the actions of a few Palestinians affect our perception of all Palestinians, and how we shouldn’t let the actions of a few Muslim terrorists color our view of all Muslims are usually the same people quite happy to paint all evangelical Christians as fundamentalist idiots, and ascribe the worst excesses of a few Christian fundamentalists to all evangelicals?

. . .

As a conservative let me hereby congratulate the Democrats for electing Nancy Pelosi, the leftist congresswoman representing the ‘67 Summer of Love as their congressional leader. Neither I nor any conservative could have selected a better candidate.

. . .

Professional publicity pimp Jesse Jackson has announced he, too, will try to squeeze in front of a camera at Martha Burk’s publicity grab at Augusta National Golf Club during the Masters. No, there aren’t any racial issues involved whatsoever. In fact Augusta’s chairman Hootie Johnson helped blacks get elected to the South Carolina state legislature for the first time since the turn of the century and ran a committee that desegregated the state’s public colleges. His was one of the first major banks in the South to appoint a black to the board of directors.

Hootie also appointed women to management positions at Bankers Trust, a company started by his father but guided to national prominence by the son. Four years ago, Johnson brokered a deal in which South Carolina became the first major college to name its business school after a woman, New York investment banker Darla Moore.

In the aftermath of the 1968 killing of three black college students by South Carolina troopers Johnson was a key figure in curbing racial intolerance, gradually convincing the business community that integration was vital to the state’s growth.

Women also have far more access to the course at Augusta than they do at other male-only clubs. Women played more than 1,000 rounds last year, with no restrictions on their tee times or access to the clubhouse. Recently Johnson himself invited the University of South Carolina women’s golf team to play 18 holes on the course.

Augusta insiders say Johnson, father of four daughters was already working in a low-key, behind-the-scenes style to admit women to Augusta and Martha Burk has done nothing but monkey wrench the process. Ah, but that doesn’t matter to the Martha Burks of the world, who care only about TV face time any way they can snatch it. Much better to pillory one of the most decent, progressive, inclusive members of the Southern establishment, you’ll score some cheap publicity that way.

And of course the facts of the matter are of no concern to Jesse as long as there are TV cameras around.

. . .

A reader asks: “Since female reporters have gotten the right to go into men’s locker rooms, can male reporters go into women’s locker rooms? Fair is fair and I’ll bet the sport of tennis would get a lot more press coverage if the guys could interview Anna Kournikova coming out of the shower.”

No, as of this writing the world is yet mired in blatant hypocritical double-standards: male reporters are not allowed in professional women's sports locker rooms - not the WNBA, not whatever the pro women's soccer league's called, none. Write your congressional representative.

November 15, 2002

Islam and freedom.

Ross McKenzie, editorial page editor for The Richmond Times-Dispatch wrote an editorial yesterday noting that Muslims have more freedom in the United States than they do in any Islamic country.

This is true. Any way you slice and dice it, whether it’s lifestyle rules, religious beliefs or daily practices Muslims in the United States have more latitude and more opportunity to do exactly what they want than anywhere else in the world – in Turkey (and France) girls are prohibited from wearing headscarves to school; in Saudi Arabia and other conservative Islamic states women are dictated to as to what they can wear and own and when and where they can be seen in public and who with.

There’s a different laundry list of lifestyle regulations, theological strictures and association prohibitions from Islamic country to Islamic country. Only in the United States and a few other Western countries can Muslims – especially Muslim women – do whatever they please. Maybe that’s another reason the Islamofascists hate us so much?

At A Jeopardy! Tryout.

Watching Jeopardy! last night, got me thinking about one negative consequence of living in a wired world: It’s a lot harder to get in Jeopardy! tryouts.

Saddled as I am with what someone once called a “lint-trap mind,” between 1989 and 1992 I passed four Jeopardy! tryouts. When I moved back to the United States in 1996 I passed another one. I’ve never failed a real one – more on what constitutes a real tryout later – but I’ve never been called to be on the show.

Between 1989 and 1992 I lived in Washington, D.C. and Boston. I watched the show as frequently as I could around February or March, since that was when they would announce the tryouts in New York and Washington – “If you’d like to be a contestant on Jeopardy! send a postcard with your name and address to Jeopardy! Contestant, P.O. Box…, Culver City, California…”

I bought 100 prestamped postcards from the Post Office, and bought pizza and beer for a couple friends to come over for an evening and fill out my name, address and phone number on the post cards. They hold tryouts weekly in Los Angeles, otherwise you have to find a local tryout and attend.

I never failed to be called to the tryout – until the last couple announced tryouts, when they combined mail-in contestants with online contestants and said all duplicate entries would be thrown out. When you can’t stack the ballot box you have a much lower chance of being called since they don’t give preference to those who’ve passed earlier tryouts.

But back in the day when sheer human effort counted for something in this world I would get a call saying be at this hotel at this time on this day. In New York it was held at the New Yorker Hotel in Manhattan, in D.C. at the Marriott. I’m told to come in the sort of clothes I would wear on the air. I wear a blue suit.

It’s really not the knowledge.

I don’t do any kind of prep or warm-up before the tryouts except to watch the show. By that time you either know it or you don’t, but more importantly, you can either do it or you can’t: The knowledge isn’t the problem, spitting it out under pressure is.

Lawyers do very well on the show, as anyone who’s watched it knows. This is because it isn’t the knowledge that’s key as much as the ability to hit the buzzer with $2,000 on the line and give a confident answer. Lawyers – I’m not a lawyer, I was a waiter when I passed the first three tryouts, an ESL teacher when I passed the fourth and a writer when I passed the last one – are trained to think fast and answer quickly. This is perfect training for the show.

However, I had appeared on Battle of the Brains in high school and participated in College Bowl in college, so I had a background in quick answers under pressure that not many do.

The fake tryout.

The only tryout I’ve failed was when one year – they only did this one year – all non-L.A. tryouts were at Merv Griffin’s casino in Atlantic City. Merv owns Jeopardy! as well as Wheel of Fortune. I'm not sure why Merv needs to roll out of bed in the morning. You showed up, were given a list of ten questions on a sheet of paper and, standing in a casino, had to write the answer in a blank. You had to get eight correct to pass.

Of course at that point it’s simply the luck of the draw. After twenty or thirty questions the assortment of questions becomes less a factor in who passes. At fifty questions, a real tryout, you can be assured of getting people who know their stuff rather than people who found a lucky eight questions out of ten.

I took the test, knew I’d failed, but had to spend two hours in the casino – clever touch, Merv – before they announced over the loudspeaker who was invited back for the next round. I didn’t give Merv a nickel.

The real tryouts.

The tryouts are held in a large hotel ballroom. Your names are checked against the list Suzanne Thurber – the traveling contestant tryout coordinator – holds in her hand About a hundred of you are there, sitting at rows of tables facing a bank of TV monitors. You’re trying to make casual conversation with the people sitting around you. Some want to talk, others don’t. Those sitting next to you are invariably lawyers or nuclear physicists.

Suzanne and her assistant Greg hand out pieces of paper with 50 answer blanks on them. They’ve already handed out special blue Jeopardy! pens at the door – I lost one, gave one to an old girlfriend, traded one in Istanbul, think one’s in my glove compartment and have no idea what happened to the other one I got.

They explain that the TV monitors will show 50 questions, which would normally appear in the two most difficult money places on the show. You have to write the answers on your sheet in the appropriate blanks – no, not in the form of a question, simply “Mongolia,” “1872” or “anthracite” are fine. You must get 37 correct to proceed on to the next round.

After the test’s over they collect your papers. You sit and make nervous, idle chatter with those around you as they’re out grading the papers. The first tryout I attended in New York, Alex Trebek himself came out to answer questions from the attendees while Suzanne and Greg were checking the papers.

They come back in about fifteen minutes later and call out the names of those who’ve passed. At my tryouts anywhere from seven to fifteen people have passed. The others are sent home.

My first year Alex Trebek himself came out and answered questions about the show during the fifteen minute break, and read the names of the winners. Pretty cool.

Miss Personality.

Those of us who’ve made it this far are told that now we’ll be tested on our game presence, which means our cool under competition, enthusiasm and “personality.” But first we go around and say what we would do if we won a lot of money on the show. I always say I’d do a lot of traveling – my most recent tryout I said “My mother-in-law in New Zealand would get to see her grandchildren more frequently.” Figured I’d win sympathy points. No such luck.

We’re given the sort of bell you ring in a motel to rouse the desk clerk and are told to stand as if contestants in the game. We have to call out categories and dollar amounts and the question’s read, and we have to hit our bells, be called upon and answer in the form of a question.

I’ve been complimented on my enthusiasm and game presence at every single tryout – but have never been called to be on a show. Of course they have many more people pass than they can call to Los Angeles to be on a show, and I don’t know – nobody does – exactly what they’re looking for in those they call. I saw one contestant who said he’s passed 15 tryouts before being called.

One year I figured they must have a surfeit of white guys in the contestant pool, they’re probably looking for a little diversity, so I signed my name “David Gonzalez Sims.” Didn’t work.

Frankly, looking back on it, I’m glad I haven’t been called up until now. This season they’ve doubled the money awards, and since you can only be on Jeopardy! once I’d have shot my wad if I’d been called to appear before now. As it stands I can still qualify for the doubled money awards.

So if I ever get back on a tryout I’m David Running Bear Sims. That’s gotta work.

I’ll take my stand.

A blogger recently – might have been Lileks, I really wish I could remember, it was worth a link – was bemoaning the lack of true invective in politics anymore. I heartily concur, and yearn for the days when Theodore Roosevelt could say about his opponent “I could carve a man with more backbone out of a banana.”

I also yearn for the days of true wit and nose-thumbing in political speech, nowhere better exemplified than in the speech Noah S. “Soggy” Sweat, Jr. delivered to the Mississippi House, April 4, 1952. There are truncated versions and inaccurate renditions on the Web, here’s the real thing:

I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey.

If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.

But if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.

November 13, 2002

Pets and their owners:

Tired of looking like Elizabeth Taylor ca. 1964, Michael Jackson tells his plastic surgeon “Ever seen my pet chimp Bubbles?”

A World War II Veteran’s Story.

Many thanks to South Knox Bubba for posting his father’s oral history of his World War II experiences. Hit the link and scroll down or search for “Veteran’s Story.”

There’s a lot of dreck out there in the blogosphere, but gems such as these are truly worth it.

My New Zealander father-in-law flew for the R.A.F. in the Battle of Britain, and he’s currently writing his memoirs of that time. Next time we get over to Auckland to visit I’ll make sure he’s still working on it.

Goulden Arches

An Irish friend living in England writes about his experience with McDonald’s in Britain:

“I was reading your piece about McDonald’s the other day. I agree that their service levels, cleanliness, order accuracy and staff friendliness have all declined in recent years. But in the U.K. this seems redolent of the fast food market generally.

“However, what the U.K. guy quoted in your piece failed to address is that, in the U.K. anyway, there is a marked difference in quality between the service of such companies when city sites are compared to towns. I live in a semi-rural area and my nearest McDonald’s is generally fine. However, I work mostly in cities and the decline in quality is marked.

“The unpalatable truth for why this is the case seems to me to be the staff in the city establishments, who are almost without exception immigrants. Order accuracy is going to fall if the person taking your order can barely speak English and their general deportment and attitude is hardly what I would call customer conscious.

“I don’t know if this is a factor in the U.S. also but it seems here that the only people willing to take such jobs in cities are those least equipped to perform them. Of course the ultimate responsibility to recruit the right people, to train and develop them rests with the companies but nobody wants to address the issue of city/town differences for fear of being branded a racist. But there is a clear comparison to be made.”

Of course he’s right, it’s an issue nobody at McDonald’s is going to stand up and make: “We’re gonna start hirin’ fewer wogs, we think service’ll go up.”

To a large extent he’s right, taking what’s perceived as a “low” job in the culture isn’t going to improve a person’s attitude. When I lived in Istanbul the fast food restaurants were staffed by Turks, and service was great, they were much cleaner than their American counterparts and did a much better job with customer service.

Working at McDonald’s or Wendy’s had a certain cachet to it, however, unlike here in America. The employees had a job they liked their friends to come in and see them at, instead of America, where you kind of don’t want your friends to know you’re working at McDonald’s and you certainly don’t want them coming in your restaurant.

I had a roommate in Istanbul who’d grown up in India, and he remembers the service in Burger King being extraordinary – people would act like they were in the commercials. And for whatever it’s worth the best doughnut shop service in Richmond is at the Dunkin’ Donuts across from the train station, staffed with Pakistanis – but they own the place, so it pays to give good service.

It isn’t the ethnicity of the person working behind the counter, it’s the perception of the job, I think. Twenty years ago in America valuing jobs as opportunities still obtained, when somebody worked at McDonald’s you didn’t think “Ah, the poor schmuck,” you thought “well, at least he’s doing something with himself.” Today that guy’s seen as a loser.

Bottom line, it’s management’s responsibility to provide a good customer experience, and my friend’s correct, if they’re hiring people who don’t know English there will be lots of screwups. I never try to order anything other than a numbered value meal in McDonald’s anymore when faced with someone who obviously doesn’t know the language, sometimes I just hold up my fingers. And don’t come back.

Dancing in the Carnival.

Once again, thanks to Blogcritics for selecting Clubbeaux’s “Maybe I should've gotten Sports Illustrated instead” for their weekly roundup of the best of the blogs. Do check out the selection, it’s one of the best yet and there’s lots of great stuff linked.

November 12, 2002

Tammy Bruce.

Today’s book recommendation is The New Thought Police: Inside the Left’s Assault on Free Speech and Free Minds.

Not simply a rehash of Ann Coulter and Bernie Goldberg territory, Bruce’s account invokes the spirit of George Orwell and is, I would argue, more important since it comes from a self-described “openly gay, pro-choice, gun-owning, pro-death penalty, liberal, voted-for-Reagan feminist.” Who is also former president of the Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women, the premier feminist organization in the United States.

Not your run-of-the-mill member of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy, which is probably why she seems to irritate leftists more than most – she knows these people from the inside out.

She opens with a strong statement of her support for Dr. Laura Schlessinger whom, you will remember, was pilloried and hounded off the air by the leftist Thought Police for… well, I’m not sure exactly what, after reading the relevant transcripts. Probably just because they could.

Bruce lays it out in the Introduction:

While working at NOW, and in the years that followed, I watched the development of a disturbing phenomenon that today has gripped almost all of American society: the fear of offending by making a judgment and forming an opinion. Every day, the media, special-interest groups, and the power elite bombard the public with the message that speaking your mind will get you into trouble.

Bruce speaks from experience; it’s safe to say she’s not the first one called for NOW reunions.

Her argument is that the classic liberal activist groups birthed in the 1960s – civil rights, women’s rights, etc. – have long since outlived their usefulness, mainly by achieving their objectives. What to do now, disband and melt back into a society made better by their efforts? No, keep going, getting more and more zealous fighting smaller and smaller battles:

As the organized Left gained cultural power, it turned into a monster that found perpetual victimhood, combined with thought and speech control, the most convenient and efficient way to hold onto that power. Suddenly, it was the Left, the protector of liberty, that was setting rules about what could and could not be said, or even thought. And because we do not give up our freedom willingly, the strategy of the left-wing establishment has become one of intimidation, backed up by legal force.

That’s a pretty good road map for the next 268 pages. She takes on the hijacked feminist movement, exposing the Communistic backgrounds of most of its top leadership who all lied about it – Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, et al. A lifelong Angeleno, she exposes the truth behind the “race” riots in Los Angeles after the Rodney King verdict. She tries to explain why the hypocritical feminist establishment elected to give domestic batterer and wife-murderer O.J. Simpson a free pass, and why Bob Packwood was the devil incarnate and Bill “Kiss The Easter Bunny If You Like Your Job” Clinton was, oh, just a harmless little rascal.

Although there’s much here that will get up the nose of conservatives, that’s probably all the better to understand that it’s not simply one mindset which recognizes what’s happening to freedom of thought and expression in America today, that those on the other sides of the lines can be as concerned as we are. And that they have as much to lose as conservatives do from the steady erosion of free speech and free thought in this country.

Bruce’s deft insider exposés on multiculturalism, Dr. Laura and NOW alone are worth the price of admission. Not as larded with statistics and footnotes as, say, Slander, The New Thought Police reads more like a first-hand account than an academic study. Next April Bruce will publish The Death of Right and Wrong: How the Left Corrupted Our Culture in the Name of Politics.

Ball’s in your court.

Well, there you have it.

The United Nations Security Council, which according to the international appeasement brigade holds the wisdom of the ages, voted unanimously to force Iraq to allow U.N. inspectors unrestricted access to any suspected weapons site and the right to interview Iraqi scientists outside the country and without Iraqi officials present. Syria voted in favor of the resolution.

(Has there been a more brilliant example of smart world diplomacy recently than President Bush’s working with the U.N. to craft a resolution that pressures Iraq to comply which the Friends of Iraq – Russia, China, France and Syria – can all vote for?)

Iraq told the U.N. to go piss up a rope. Smelling salts all around the international appeasement brigade, who were confident the moral authority (stop laughing) of the United Nations would inspire Saddam to comply, and that no force would be needed.

Ball’s in your court, international appeasers. You say America and Britain are wrong to threaten force to get Iraq to comply with the United Nations, what’s your solution? Asking Saddam pretty-pretty please with sugar on top?

The New War Of the Worlds

A friend from Down Under reminded me today of this great essay by Shelby Steele written less than a week after 9/11. It sometimes happens that immediate reactions to cataclysmic events are too close to the event to be of value, and it sometimes happens that immediate reactions are probably as close to the truth as we’ll get. Steele’s essay is an example of the latter.

Basically Steele argues that when the First and Third worlds collide, an omnipresent subtext is “Western guilt and Third World ineffectuality.”

Steele writes that “In looking at difficulties in the black American community over the years, it has always astounded me how much white Americans take for granted the rich and utterly decisive heritage of Western culture. There is no space here to reiterate the vast and invisible web of ideas, principles, values and understandings that have evolved over the millennia to undergird the American civilization.”

The evil of slavery and colonialism, as Steele rightly points out, “was that these oppressions kept their victims out of history, disconnected them from the evolutionary struggle. The great white advantage has been living inside history, adapting to its constant demands, nurturing the values and the habits of life that allow one to keep pace. This is the cultural capital that whites too often take for granted and rarely think of insisting on in the former victims of exclusion. It is so easy to look at minority weakness and think of sweeping programmatic solutions when a simple insistence on responsibility for one’s own development might serve far better. (After all, this is how Israel came to thrive after the Holocaust.)”

Embarrassment of freedom.

Yet when formerly enslaved or colonialized cultures are free, they suffer the “fresh embarrassment of inferiority without the excuse of oppression.” When independence means decline the absolute last thing the culture will do is blame itself. Hence, as Steele writes, “today the First World is dealing with an embarrassed Third World that is driven to save face against the anguish of an inferiority that is less and less blamable on others… but blame is only the most common defense against this embarrassment. Terrorism is another.”

It isn’t that long ago that the Arab world was more or less unaware of the West. Before the advent of television in the Arab world, before the Hollywood movies – whose greatest impact wasn’t the glittery excesses, but the parts of the films showing the world how average, middle-class Americans lived, the parts we take for granted but which must have stunned mid-20th century Arabs marinated in the blissfully ignorant belief that theirs was the superior world culture. (“Look, even the commoners live like sultans!”)

This led to what Steele terms the “abiding faith that, but for the evil of others, one’s superiority would be self-evident. The terrorist act is a self-referential event, a self-congratulation that smothers the feeling of inferiority in one glorious blaze of spite… Even if you cannot build the World Trade Center’s towers – emblems of demonstrable Western superiority – you can come along of a Tuesday morning and, like God himself, strike them down.”

White guilt.

That’s the first half. The second is white guilt – “one of the most powerful yet under estimated forces in modern societies.”

White guilt “presumes that Western success is the result not of three millennia of cultural evolution but of the ill-gotten gains of slavery and colonialism. Western success is presumed to have come at the price of Third World inferiority.” This fallacious notion leads to what we see in America today: “White guilt pushes the West into a place where it can redeem its moral authority only by making a virtue of moral equivalency. This means that weakness, backwardness, even sinfulness in minorities and the Third World are unmentionable.”

As Steele notes “American civil rights organizations almost entirely live off white corporate and foundation money despite their total ineffectiveness in solving black problems.”

I’m cynical, I’d say that the reason wealthy white donors keep shoveling money to the Jesse Jacksons of the world is precisely because they’re so ineffective in helping blacks, that in essence they’re paying a social tax to keep blacks out of the American mainstream. Maybe there’s a book in that, maybe not. But what’s undeniable is that wealthy whites do give the most funding to black leaders who impose the heaviest culture of victimhood on blacks – “I gave at the office to keep you out of it, Leroy.”

The narcissism of the ineffectual.

Worldwide, Steele notes, “white guilt morally and culturally disarms the West. It makes the First World apologetic. And this, of course, only inflames the narcissism of the ineffectual. In the vacuum of power created by guilt, a world-wide class of guilt hustlers has emerged.”

Exactly. Ever wonder why Jesse Jackson and Yasser Arafat are such good friends? They both provide for their cultures a blanket and thumb to suck. “Hey it’s not your fault you’re failing miserably, look, it’s the fault of rich whites and Israel. They’re keeping you down, you know. You’re really far superior to them.” That’s a pretty easy message to sell.

What’s chilling is how debilitating that attitude is. If you assign the genesis of your problems to someone else, you’re de facto assigning the job of solving them to someone else, too. If I blame The Man for my problems I’m saying, whether I realize it or not, that I can’t do anything to solve them until The Man raises his finger. But since it’s really not The Man’s fault in the first place he can’t do anything for me that I refuse to do for myself, but I don’t admit that. I keep protesting and protesting until I’m led to violence. Now we see how this plays out internationally – 9/11.

November 11, 2002

Maybe I should’ve gotten Sports Illustrated instead.

Thumbing my latest The New Republic last night – oh I did my Good Deed For The Year, and spent the night at our church to serve a CARITAS breakfast for the homeless at 5 in the morning. Always a relief to get the Good Work out of the way, even this late in the year.

Anyway as I waited for 11:30 p.m. to lock the doors for the night I ran across this, in Democrat sympathizer Jonathan Chait’s frantic search for anything, anyone, anywhere who might be to blame for the Democrats’ irrelevance other than, of course, the Democrats themselves:

The fact of the matter is the Republican Party enjoys certain basic advantages when it comes to getting its message across.

Such as having one, which differentiates it from the Democratic Party these days. It would seem to me the Democrats and their sycophants’ time would be better spent formulating a coherent message that rises above prescription drugs as the #1 issue facing America today.

One is that it has substantially more money for TV advertising.

The classic dodge. As I’ve detailed below in several races where Democrats outspent Republicans, sometimes 2 to 1, Republicans still won. And is it Republicans’ fault if Democrats insist on pouring their money in unwinnable races in Florida and Texas just to tweak George Bush’s nose? Take the millions and millions of dollars Democrats wasted on Sisyphean quests in Florida and Texas, spread it around to where it could have actually affected close races and the electoral results might have looked a lot different.

Were it me I’d develop a message first, then go looking for money to get that message out. That the Democrats don’t seem to realize it’s easier to raise money to get your message out when you actually have a message explains a lot of the carnage last Tuesday.

The GOP also enjoys allied media outlets like Fox News and talk radio, which disseminate its message to its base in a way that Democrats can’t duplicate.

So that’s one national news channel which doesn’t toe liberal party line – it doesn’t toe conservative party line either, by the way – disseminating a “message” the Democrats can’t duplicate with the combined forces of CBS, NBC, CNN and ABC news solidly in their corner. Throw in the dominant newspapers, the left-leaning The New York Times, The Washington Post and USA Today over and against the drop-in-a-bucket The Wall Street Journal’s subscription numbers and I’m sorry, Jonathan, I’m not buying what you’re peddling here.

Talk radio’s interesting, as it’s a purely grassroots phenomenon. Talk radio is nothing but a forum for average Americans, and successful talk radio is that which tells average Americans what average Americans want to hear. That the vast majority of successful talk radio is conservative should tell the liberal Democratic elite and Jonathan Chait something, but instead they insist on classifying it as a result of Republican dominance, a cause of conservative sentiment instead of what it actually is – an accurate mirror of the national mood.

How low can they go?

First you have Yasser Arafat condemning the killing of Palestinian terrorist Iyad Sawalha, a man who’s orchestrated the deaths of 31 Israelis, because it happened during the Islamic lunar celebration of Ramadan:

“It is a very big crime that was committed, through military aggression against our people and against our (religious) holidays,” Arafat told Associated Press reporters at his Ramallah headquarters.

Of course this is the same Arafat whose fellow Palestinian terrorists sent a suicide bomber to blow himself up in a crowded hotel dining room in Netanya last March as more than 200 people gathered for their Passover holiday meal, killing at least 19 and wounding more than 100 others, many of them children.

And Arafat’s disapproval of terrorist attacks during Ramadan didn’t stop his Fatah movement’s Al-Aqsa thugs from murdering five Israelis at the Kibbutz Metzer farm this past week, including a mother and her two young sons shot while she read them a bedtime story. Arafat must have chuckled when he heard that one.

Nevertheless Arafat is shocked, shocked that Israel eliminated a Palestinian mass murderer during Ramadan. But just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse than that, you have this:

NEW YORK (AP) - The Rev. Al Sharpton said Sunday he plans to meet with the Iraqi ambassador to the United Nations this week and is urging clergy worldwide to help “avoid bloodshed.”

Sharpton, an activist who is exploring a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004, said he would meet with Iraq’s Mohammed Aldouri on Monday in New York.

“We will not do anything to undermine the United States, but we clearly would like to see some type of reaching out between moral leaders to try and avert this war,” Sharpton said on “Fox News Sunday.”

Convicted defamist Al Sharpton (cf. Tawana Brawley and Stephen Pagones, to whom Sharpton still has not apologized) thinks he’s going to find a “moral leader” in Iraq to reach out to.

Actually, to be fair, he’ll find lots of people on the same moral level as himself.

Colossal Colon? How About Tour the Tremendous Ta-Tas?

Thanks to A Good Friend Who Wishes To Remain Anonymous for seeing the silver lining behind the utterly absymal product of human effort sadly depicted below that is the Colossal Colon:

Somebody might pick up the idea for breast cancer awareness month.

They Still Don’t Deserve A Break Today.

Look at the headlines:

McDonald’s Profit Drops 11 Percent.

Stocks Fall On McDonald’s Outlook.

McDonald’s To Close Stores, Eliminate Jobs.

Slumping McDonald’s Shrinks Its Super-Size Expansion Strategy, Faces Other Woes.

So what went wrong with the Great American Restaurant? Simple – they forgot the customer experience. Like, totally.

Bogus “Problems,” or What They Blame To Avoid Reality:

Overexpansion. No, that’s not the problem. If people are jamming your restaurants overexpansion’s never a problem - heck, there’s no such thing as “over” expansion. If they stop coming it is a problem. The problem isn’t the number of restaurants McDonald’s is opening, the problem is fewer people coming to the ones they’ve already opened.

Crowded restaurant market, more options for your fast-food dollar. Look at it this way – more opportunities for McDonald’s to attract people to their restaurants. Those people have been walking into other restaurants these days – cleaner, friendlier ones which offer better service.

Lack of “new products” over the past ten years. Hogwash. You don’t go to McDonald’s for an Arch McLuxe or whatever, or that silly deal with the hot side hot and the cold side cold. You go for a Big Mac, shake and fries. Fewer people have been doing that. Smart businesses never count on customers who come for novelty, they count on their loyal customer base – the Big Mac and fries crowd. When you lose the Big Mac and fries people you’re in trouble. McDonald’s is losing those people. They’re in trouble.

Perceived lack of value. This one has some merit. “It’s too expensive now for the junk they give you,” says Clubbeaux contributor Steve Romeo. “For lunch, if I’m out driving around, I’d rather park my ass at an Olive Garden, get a $7.99 macaroni dish with unlimited soup, or pick from a better menu and maybe spend a tiny bit more, but get better quality food. When I go to McDonald’s for lunch, just to fill myself up it costs the same.”

America hasn’t lost its taste for Big Macs, America’s lost its taste for restaurants that don’t even look like they give a damn, because there are plenty others out there that do.

The Real Problem: They Stink. Literally.

Have you been in a McDonald’s the past, oh, year or so? Sure you have. Do you remember what McDonald’s was like ten years ago? I sure do. A whole lot cleaner, friendlier, and as interested in getting your order right as saying “Next, please.”

This is why McDonald’s Corporation reported an 11 percent drop in earnings Tuesday, its seventh decline in the last eight quarters. Their response to this chilling news, this “moving ever so slowly and quietly toward oblivion” as one analyst put it? They’ll reduce new restaurant openings by nearly half next year, cut hundreds of jobs, pull operations out of three countries, run a price-discounting campaign as if anybody ever says “Martha, let’s go to McDonald’s and put up with the dirty tables, surly cashier and long waits since their sandwich is $1.89 and at clean, friendly efficient Burger King the sandwich is $2.19.”

And um, let’s see… tart up the joint, new naugahyde and all that… gotta be something else we can do… uh, run more of those Ronald McDonald House ads with the sick kids? Let’s just off that silly clown, I’m tired of that pansy… settle that damn McLibel trial and buy up a few more shipments of Fast Food Nation to turn into landfill… uh… how about… keeping the restaurants cleaner and treating customers nicer? Naaaaahhh. Hey, I’ve got it, let’s hire Cedric the Entertainer and noted jerk Donald Trump to do ads, that’ll pull ‘em in.

Want to know how bad it’s gotten at the Golden Arches? Besides the fact that Wendy’s and Burger King are kicking its butt in America its biggest growth market now is France. Yes, that would be the same France where the McDonald’s only appears in the news when they’re bombed or vandalized by protesters: sales at stores open at least a year declined in the United States, Germany, Britain and Japan, all of its five biggest markets with the exception of France.

It’s all about the customer.

Mark Kalinowski, senior analyst at Salomon Smith Barney gets it right when he tells Marketing that store redesign isn’t exactly what will save Mickey D’s: “We’d argue that the refurbishments are not needed nearly as much as better manager training. Having a better-looking building does nothing to fix rude staff, slow service or inaccurate order fulfillment.”

And that’s in Britain, where rude service is expected. Indeed, the Brits thought McDonald’s was just the bee’s knees when it opened in London in 1974: “McDonald’s was a breakthrough in efficiency when it first hit these shores, but now the service customers get is often inexpert, monosyllabic or even downright unfriendly,” says one UK brand consultant.

Ah, but it’s so much more bracing, so much more Titan Of Industry-like to fire people and reorder global expansion than to look the Fairfield, Connecticut restaurant manager in the eye and say “Keep your store clean and keep your staff friendly or else.” Fiddling is always so much more fun than firefighting.

Oh, and the coffee still stinks.