What would it take for Russia to be #1?
Posted 19 July 2003 - 09:18 PM
on the contrary the conditions i observed (which, by the way Beat, was in rural Alabama) were open to all employees from the president to the people who drilled a few holes in the body to the people who swept the floor.
<<To paraphrase a Finnish saying (about fire): capitalism is a good servant, but bad master.>>
under capitolism you are the master, under communism the government is the master. if you make capitolism into a "servant" ie with planned economies etc, then it is not capitolism but rather socialism, and as such it will likely fail.
<<Firing someone - In the US it's always same day - unless you're top echelon. In Switzerland it's 2 months notice for everyone up to 5 years of service, after that it's 3 months notice.>>
that's stupid. that gives the individual months for them to A)not do anything while being paid and B)find opportunities to get revenge for being fired. if the employers' are left without a viable option to fire workers for their actions (or lack thereof) then there is no balance to make the employees work
i agree, however, that the golden parachute bit needs work: CEO's success must be tied to the success of their companies; this would be better capitolism, no responsibility for one's actions, no negative results for one's failures is much more like the system under which the workers get a "fourty year vacation"
Posted 19 July 2003 - 10:20 PM
You underestimate workers, and those humans who perform their professional tasks as such.
First, CP, people in Europe are concienscious, they do not take advantage of their workplace because they will be let go. In fact, CP, people here in the US are the same, believe it or not. If that weren't true, then everytime you resign from a company and you give your 2 week customery notice, you'd stay home for 2 weeks and NEVER go back to work. This, obviously doesn't happen.
Because the company is giving you 2 to 3 months to look for a job, you are less likely to look for revenge. After all, it's not like here in the US where you can put a down payment on a house, and find yourself out of work the next day. There, at least you have a chance to recover before those long-term contracts become due.
It's called RESPECT. The worker is respected in Europe and in many places around the world. Not so here. Here, the worker is treated as so much cattle to be herded around where needed, then slaughtered when no longer useful to the company.
THAT is one of the main reasons you hear of a DISGRUNTLED ex-employee seeking revenge. You NEVER hear of this elsewhere in the world, especially not in Europe.
CP, when you get a 13th month pay check, just for working!!!, and 5 weeks paid vacation, medical/dental paid with no deductible, and the assurance that you will NEVER be let go that same day, you'll sing a different tune, trust me.
Posted 20 July 2003 - 06:37 PM
It still was an European company. But I'm still skeptical of the lion and the little animals socializing together, and ever it did, it would take hundreds of years for the other companies to follow suit.
<<To paraphrase a Finnish saying (about fire): capitalism is a good servant, but bad master.>>
<under capitolism you are the master, under communism the government is the master. if you make capitolism into a "servant" ie with planned economies etc, then it is not capitolism but rather socialism, and as such it will likely fail.>
The master is the capitalist, period. He dictates who the president will be, the type of culture--or lack of culture--people get, the kind of--usually unnecessary SUV--vehicle you drive, whether you have health insurance or not and its premium...
Health Care: Is America being short changed?
Well, it seems someone is making a huge profit here... Who's the loser
"Every other industrialized nation provides comprehensive care to
everyone at a much lower cost than our system that leaves so many out.
Other nations spend 6 to 10 percent of their Gross Domestic Product,
or GDP, whereas we, the wealthiest nation on earth, spend 14 percent
of our GDP.
Single payer insurance is commonly defined as a single government fund
within each state which pays hospitals, physicians and other health
care providers, replacing the current multi-payer system of private
insurance companies and health plans. It would provide coverage for
the 44 million who are uninsured. It would eliminate the financial
threat and impaired access to care for the tens of millions who do
have coverage but are unable to afford the out-of-pocket expenses
because of deficiencies in their insurance plans. It would return to
the patient free choice of physicians and hospitals, not just choice
of restrictive health care plans. It would relieve businesses of
administrative hassles and expenses of maintaining a health benefits
program. It would remove from the health care equation the middleman -
the insurance/managed care industry - that has wreaked havoc on the
traditional patient-physician relationship, while diverting outrageous
amounts of patient-care dollars to their own coffers. It would control
health care inflation through constructive mechanisms of cost
containment that improve allocation of our health care resources,
rather than controlling costs through an impersonal business ethic
that strips patients of care to improve the bottom line.
In sum, single payer national health insurance would provide access to
high quality care for everyone at an affordable price. Since this
would be beneficial for individuals, businesses, and even the
government, why don't we have a national single payer plan? The
reason: The political will has not developed because of lingering
concerns over the alleged defects of such a proposal. These supposed
defects have been publicized widely by those interests that for
ideological, financial, or other self-serving reasons are opposed to
it. Since the benefits are unimpeachable, we should look the claims of
the plan's critics."
Meanwhile the industry--or what's left of it--suffers from high labor
Health Costs Soaring, Automakers Are to Begin Labor Talks
By DANNY HAKIM
DETROIT, July 14
Posted 20 July 2003 - 07:00 PM
Other democracies "right" is to the left of your "left," and they work beautiful... There you had the American left--or whatever passes as such--proposing general health care under Clinton, only to be defeated by the right and never being spoken about it again.
>>We are becoming not growth focused but growth centered: everything is geared towards accumulating more wealth and if something is not conducive for that, it's deemed worthless.<<
<By whom? Perhaps an obsessive few, but I find in general that is not the case.>
Health care for example...
>>This is already resembling theocracies with capital (and the power that it brings) being the elusive and for some not so elusive God. It is true that I think that our Western, liberal and free market society is the best there has yet been (in the way of organized, complex civilizations) but as a liberal (in the European sense) I still think that this is deeply primitive and irrational way of living.<<
<Human nature is a deeply primitive and irrational thing, yet it is that which motivates us.>
The "law of the jungle" proposed by capitalism, which is very much arranged in favor of the lion.
Yet America claims to believe in a rational creature created by God. Go figure...
>>Capitalism is of course mostly guilty of effectiveness, unlike the Soviet system it really does deliver. It needs and necessitates the rule of law (especially corporate law) and a measure of free flow of information and debate, but purely in itself it's indifferent to anything but material values of accumulation.<<
<Is there some inherent evil in that?>
Not only the human dimension of it--people fighting for survival in the jungle--but also the religious dimension...
Taking cue from, "What would Jesus have driven?" I propose, "Would
Jesus have chosen to live in America?"
poll taking place at:
two quoted fragments follow:
"Rich men wrote the Bible
to control the masses!"
But if any man be ignorant,
let him be ignorant.
1 Corinthians 14:38
By and large, people are quite ignorant concerning God's word, the
Holy Bible. Yet interestingly enough, they all seem to have some
comment on this Bible that they've never read through one time. One
ignorant comment I've heard time and time again is that the Bible was
written by powerful men in order to control the masses. My friend, the
Bible has a lot to say about the rich man including the one who
exploits his workers--and you can best believe ain't no rich man going
to talk about himself like this--
James 5:1-6, Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries
that shall come upon you.
Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten.
Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a
witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have
heaped treasure together for the last days.
Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields,
which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them
which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth.
Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have
nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.
And, of course, there's the famous quote:
" . . . it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle,
than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God"
THE RICH AND THE EYE OF THE NEEDLE
Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor
to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us
richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in
good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves
a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on
~ 1 Timothy 6:17-19
>>It needs hierarchies and supports irrational power structures (not as psychotic and murderous as Stalin's, for example, but irrational nevertheless).
<I know the left has an instinctive aversion to hierarchical structures (don't ask me why) but irrational power structures??? Could you please cite an example?>
No lion No problem.
The less hierarchy the more democratic. At least that's definition I got of democracy. A kibbutz, the Mondragon coops, the Danish coops, for example, practice real democracy.
>>If we would be more reasonable and more enlightened, we would not need capitalism's blind structures for delivery.<<
<May I ask what you would consider a more reasoned and enlightened approach?>
Canada, Scandinavia, Europe and the first post for this thread.
Posted 20 July 2003 - 07:44 PM
<Don't think MH was arguing that capitalism is failing>
Well America's capitalism is, not Scandinavian one. We can go back and check...
>>Environment. It's so obvious--except for a few countries, most notably Scandinavia--is causing a major catastrophe. Our lands and oceans are being preyed upon with no mercy. Like Jacques Cousteau said, "Living like rats is not my idea of life."<<
<Don't know why you singled out Scandinavia as an exception, but as John K Williams points out...>
Iceland is the first and only country that promised to do away with oil. Besides I saw it with my own eyes: While you see pristine forests in Scandinavia, here you see garbage floating on our seashore. That's kind of a clue. Another one is that in Norway you recycle your bottles at a machine while here they overflow our landfills. Believe it or not America creates 50% of the world's garbage...
<Hence a simple question: Is pollution a natural result of the capitalist system?>
No, it's only the major factor.
<If the free market is responsible for pollution, one might reasonably expect that socialist economies would be characterized by an absence of pollution. The reality, however, is otherwise.
Recent accounts from Poland, for example, paint a picture reminiscent of Dickensian portrayals of the Industrial Revolution.>
To claim that Eastern Europe practiced "socialism" amounts to claiming that America practices "free enterprise". The nations that created the best socialism so far are the Scandinavian countries--at least when it comes to the people's welfare.
<Yet interesting though such considerations might be, they are beyond the scope of this article. What is luminously clear, however, is that far from pollution problems being a natural result of the capitalist system, such problems can and must be ascribed to past and present statist interventions in the market. To the charge, "Capitalism pollutes!" the only in formed response can be: "Not guilty!">
Did the jury itself drive SUVs?
So long as gas is cheap you will have your dirty capitalim.
NATURAL CAPITALISM: CREATING THE NEXT INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
For decades, environmentalists have been warning that human economic activity is exceeding the planet's limits. Of course we keep pushing those limits back with clever new technologies; yet living systems are undeniably in decline.
These trends need not be in conflict?in fact, there are fortunes to be made in reconciling them.
Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution, by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins, and L. Hunter Lovins, is the first book to explore the lucrative opportunities for businesses in an era of approaching environmental limits.
In this groundbreaking blueprint for a new economy, three leading business visionaries explain how the world is on the verge of a new industrial revolution?one that promises to transform our fundamental notions about commerce and its role in shaping our future. Natural Capitalism describes a future in which business and environmental interests increasingly overlap, and in which businesses can better satisfy their customers' needs, increase profits, and help solve environmental problems all at the same time.
Natural capital refers to the natural resources and ecosystem services that make possible all economic activity, indeed all life. These services are of immense economic value; some are literally priceless, since they have no known substitutes. Yet current business practices typically fail to take into account the value of these assets?which is rising with their scarcity. As a result, natural capital is being degraded and liquidated by the wasteful use of such resources as energy, materials, water, fiber, and topsoil.
The first of natural capitalism's four interlinked principles, therefore, is radically increased resource productivity. Implementing just this first principle can significantly improve a firm's bottom line, and can also help finance the other three. They are: redesigning industry on biological models with closed loops and zero waste; shifting from the sale of goods (for example, light bulbs) to the provision of services (illumination); and reinvesting in the natural capital that is the basis of future prosperity.
Citing hundreds of compelling stories from a wide array of sectors, Natural Capitalism shows how these four changes will enable businesses to act as if natural capital were being properly valued, without waiting for consensus on what that value should be. Even today, when natural capital is hardly accounted for on corporate balance sheets, these four principles are so profitable that firms adopting them can gain striking competitive advantage?as early adopters are already doing. These innovators are also discovering that by downsizing their unproductive tons, gallons, and kilowatt-hours they can keep more people, who will foster the innovation that drives future improvement.
Natural Capitalism's preface states: "Although [this] is a book abounding in solutions, it is not about 'fixes.' Nor is it a how-to manual. It is a portrayal of opportunities that if captured will lead to no less than a transformation of commerce and of all societal institutions. Natural capitalism maps the general direction of a journey that requires overturning long-held assumptions, even questioning what we value and how we are to live. Yet the early stages in the decades-long odyssey are turning out to release extraordinary benefits. Among these are what business innovator Peter Senge calls 'hidden reserves within the enterprise'?'lost energy,' trapped in stale employee and customer relationships, that can be channeled into success for both today's shareholders and future generations. All three of us have witnessed this excitement and enhanced total factor productivity in many of the businesses we have counseled. It is real; it is replicable-"
The next Industrial Revolution has already started. Natural Capitalism will prepare you to be a part of it.
Posted 20 July 2003 - 07:53 PM
They could prove to be valuable.
However, consumerism is the cause for 50% of the world's garbage to be collected in this country. Look at the way we buy, and rebuy, to see how the landfills grow. The packaging of products is another way we rule the landfill waves. To get to a cartridge I must open 5 different packages, mainly plastics with some wood fiber, to get to the stinking ink cartridge. WHY???
Posted 20 July 2003 - 08:31 PM
They could prove to be valuable.
However, consumerism is the cause for 50% of the world's garbage to be collected in this country. Look at the way we buy, and rebuy, to see how the landfills grow. The packaging of products is another way we rule the landfill waves. To get to a cartridge I must open 5 different packages, mainly plastics with some wood fiber, to get to the stinking ink cartridge. WHY???>
The packaging companies would probably disagree with you. And the undertaker may even disagree with your desire to live a long and happy life...
If capitalism doesn't work for you, then you work for him...
COMMUNISM AND CAPITALISM, WHAT'S THE DIFF? WHERE IS FREE ENTERPRISE?
From: "Jim Condit Jr." <email@example.com>
Subject: [NA] Only Six Corporations Dominate Major Media Outlets
Date: Mon, 08 May 2000 22:38:10 -0700
"Those who cast the votes decide nothing. Those who count the votes decide
Communist Tyrant Josef Stalin
(Listen anytime to Votefraud vs Honest Elections "crash course" radio show
over the internet at www.sightings.com in the archives, April 3rd, 2000 show,
Jeff Rense host, Jim Condit Jr. guest)
May 6, 2000 NA (Network America) e-wire
Only Six Corporations Dominate Major Media Outlets
This e-wire revisits another piece of Terry Hayfield
Posted 20 July 2003 - 08:50 PM
You need to slow down, If you keep this up, we'll soon be the only web site with the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, entire Constitution of the United States and perhaps 30 other countries as well, as well as the entire news organization of some obscure new political party.
Just to bite off one "small" chunk from all of this:
The movement of jobs to the third world not only makes economic sense, it would be the death knoll of any company that didn't follow suit.
Every product has a life curve to it. When it's new, the R&D costs are high, the defective rates are usually high (therefore the return rates are equally high), production is low and demand is low.
R&D = high
Returns = high
Quantity = low
Demand = low
Labor cost = low
In it's midlife there are some changes. R&D gets replaced by Marketing as the "highend" user.
Marketing = high
Returns = medium
Quantity = medium to high
Demand = high
Labor = medium
In it's life after that, the biggest change is in Labor costs
Marketing = high
Returns = low
quantity = high
demand = high
labor costs = high
If you can get that one factor, labor costs, down you win. You beat the competition.
The US should strictly concern itself with new products. We are masters at it, and we have the wherewithall to do it better than practically any nation. Once a product has reached maturity, give the production to other nations. They will have employment as a result, make money, and will probably want to buy our newer products.
A win-win situation.
Posted 20 July 2003 - 09:07 PM
<Are you bitching about the Bush administration or capitalism, and is it your contention that conflict never existed before the advent of capitalism? I can think of several conflicts which have arisen between socialist states>
Yeah, like "conflict" between an all-powerful lion and a tied up monkey, right? Let me see who got the better chance...
>>Poverty. The poor, the homeless got no hope. The whole society pays the price in the form of crime, litter and blight.<<
<Again, that never existed before capitalism? Under socialism whole nations are poor and hopeless... well maybe not totally hopeless some do escape and almost invariably they head for the good ol' capitalist USA>
Right, like young Russian women marrying decrepit Americans to escape from it all. That's what we are trying to correct though...
>>Culture. The garbage--talk shows, violent programs--the people get is at the level of the roman circus, with even less quality.<<
<Without exception "The garbage--talk shows" are emceed by leftists, and everyone knows that Hollywood is dominated to the point of exclusion of all save a scant few by the left.>
So other than Rush Limbaugh there's no exception. But I get your point, what's the diff?
Not culture, not truth, just the same music over and over and lots of
strident commercials filling the airwaves up to 22 minutes an hour!
Commercial Radio Rules
Source: National Public Radio (the good radio)
Local hosts who may be hundreds of miles away, identical playlists
from town to town ... critics say radio just isn't what it used to be.
Join host Neal Conan for a look at changes in technology and media
ownership, and what it means to your radio dial.
Harry - 02:42pm May 27, 2003 EDT (#1 of 14)
You can't stop the wars. You can't make the old younger. You can't
lower the price of bread. - Sinfonia (Berio)
Limbaugh haters - here's your chance.
BryanDuffey - 03:11pm May 27, 2003 EDT (#2 of 14)
I don't think this has much to do with "Limbaugh haters". In my
opinion, the real tragedy is the "bland"isation of the airwaves.
Consolidated control means less new content, less innovative content
and more "dumb" content. What this means to my radio dial is that it
either stays off or tuned to the local college station. I won't vouch
for the politics but the music is far more diverse and just plain
better than what Clear Channel is feeding us.
Ivan Mikailovich Veritas - 03:27pm May 27, 2003 EDT (#4 of 14)
The first guest discussing Commericial Radio on TOTN show of 27 May
2003 proclaimed that radio today is more diverse in its programming
than ever before.
I maintain this is patently false. Example: Jazz. Only nine 24-hr Jazz
Stations exist in the nation today; certainly a drastic decrease over
earlier times. And the treend there is towards zero.
In my opinion, unregulated uommercialism is ruining the diversity of
choices of the US radio-listening public.
Ivan Mikhailovich Veritas Denver, Colorado
Queen Autumn - 03:28pm May 27, 2003 EDT (#5 of 14)
I am a dj at an independent radio station in Eugene, Oregon. I fully
disagree with every single one of Field's remarks. There has been no
contact, and no interest in of our local bands from ANY of the
national radio stations. There is no interest in local events,
concerts, news etc from corporate radio and there is a reason for
this...Why would they care about anything other than money from
advertising? One case in point, local bands here like the Courtesy
Clerks, the Hunches, the Rock and Roll Soldiers, and the Pass Out
Kings received coverage in Rolling Stone, and Mojo Magazine...and not
a single call, play, or tip of the hat from major radio. These bands
blow our local listeners away!
I would like to ask David if he has heard of bands like the Faint
(Omaha, Neb.) or the High Violets (Portland, Or.). I would bet that he
has not heard of these wonderful bands, because his station is only
interested in promoting corporate artists that sell corporate products
like Britney Spears (Pepsi). When Pepsi can promote the artist on a
radio station with not only paid advertising, but by promotion of the
artist itself, there is no interest in talent, promotion of local
artists or anything else.
The station I work for (KWVA Eugene 88.1 FM) plays independent bands
that are not played at the stations that are owned en masse. Many
towns and cities quite unfortunately do not have the opportunities to
listen to either local music, or other independent artists because the
stations have all been bought out by these corporate giants. This is
How will a small town with one radio station owned by one of these
corporate giants know when a local disaster is hitting...if the radio
station transmits from hundreds of miles away? The answer is...they
will not. Our station has djs on the air 24 hours a day, 7 days a
week. People can call us, communicate with us...and let us know what
is going on. We announce this information. Corporate radio does not
offer this freedom of information, organization, or promotion...unless
the dollar is involved.
Clear Channel and Cumulus...among others...must be stopped from buying
all of the airwaves for their advertising, and control of information!
Autumn DePoe KWVA Radio 88.1 FM Eugene
d.k. wyatt - 03:31pm May 27, 2003 EDT (#6 of 14)
I am going back to college for broadcasting and I hope to work at a
college station because commercial radio is nothing more than a meat
market. Clear Channel and other companies that own multi-stations care
about the stock holders and not the mass audience. Keep up the good
>>Food. Our food supply is fully manipulated into plastic stuff, our children particularly being preyed upon by junk food multinationals.<<
<Under American style capitalism you are free to CHOOSE (a word you guys hate) whatever kind of food you wish. Food is plentiful. inexpensive, and available in variety undreampt of elsewhere or in history.>
Children ain't got a chance, not even they get a label. In Scandinavia though TV advertising for children under 12 is prohibited. Nice, ah?
>>Hunger. 800 million people--300 million of them children--go hungry as we speak.<<
<How praytell is capitalism responsible for that?>
Well, those children are not dying in communist countries--except N. Korea.
So what's the solution capitalism offers? How about the grain fed to the cattle so our children are kept nice and *fat* eating McDonald's?
>>Serfdom. That's the only word that applies to low paying jobs, with total lack of security, not even the security to eat or have a roof, something the serfs took for granted...<<
<You're so full of it Don Q. Tell that to some real modern day surfs who risk death in the desert or a smothering shipping container or in the bowells of a leaky tramp steamer to get into the US for some of those unsecure low-paying jobs which American teenagers eschew.>
I know, the lion controls the water well so the thirsty little animals must come up to him...
>>Well, save for these, and a few other "small" defects with capitalism, everything is alright...<<
<There's others? The way I see it, you have yet to name one. >
I get it, the "capitalism" you defend is not even capitalism. Even if Adam Smith came back from the grave wouldn't recognize it...
Posted 20 July 2003 - 09:22 PM
<With President Vladimir Putin as the Head the this great county of Russia, I would say everything is in place for her to be number#1.>
I got nothing against Putin. But I don't see him even trying something so "revolutionary" and yet so simple: Get advisors and experts from Scandinavia; emphasize Danish coops (I even got their webspage); take ideas from the Swiss, Curitiba; bring in independent media, like BBC, and above all make everything uniquely Russian. This wouldn't assure her to be #1 in the sense of America, but in the sense of *quality of life*...
Posted 20 July 2003 - 09:35 PM
Well I put it like in the Bible: It's in there, then you go and find it...
Sometimes though is so difficult to figure out what's important and what's not.
<Just to bite off one "small" chunk from all of this:
The movement of jobs to the third world not only makes economic sense, it would be the death knoll of any company that didn't follow suit. >
Never thought about it, but I see your point.
Should America though get rid of the automobile industry? I'go along with that, just work on alternative fuel vehicles and high tech bullet trains...
Posted 20 July 2003 - 11:15 PM
Why Liberals Are No Fun
It wasn't in prime time, and the ratings weren't even on the charts. But in the 24/7 broadcasting arena of political talk, where liberals are on the losing side at least 22/7, they must take whatever scraps they can get. For them, it was a rare red-letter day when Al Franken, appearing on Book TV on C-Span 2, landed a rhetorical uppercut to the jaw of Liberal Nemesis No. 1, Bill O'Reilly, and left him even more senseless than usual.
The setting was a panel at the annual booksellers' convention in Los Angeles last month. Mr. Franken was on hand to hawk his fall book, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right." Mr. O'Reilly, plugging his forthcoming "Who's Looking Out for You?," was not overjoyed to find his face among the lying liars (George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Ann Coulter) on Mr. Franken's book jacket. It was downhill from there. After Mr. Franken took the mike to delineate the lies at issue, Mr. O'Reilly started calling his adversary an "idiot" and shouting "Shut up!" Such grace under fire was not so much Reaganesque as Baxteresque, after Ted Baxter, the preening local anchor of the late, great "Mary Tyler Moore Show."
But of course this liberal victory over a conservative blowhard was short-lived. Despite their domination of the entertainment industry, liberals barely have a foothold in the part of show business they are most exercised about. Barbra Streisand may have a contentious Web site, but Rupert Murdoch has an empire. As David Brooks put it recently in Mr. Murdoch's Weekly Standard, Democrats are in "despair that a consortium of conservative think tanks, talk radio hosts and Fox News ? Hillary's vast right-wing conspiracy ? has cohered to form a dazzlingly efficient ideology delivery system that swamps liberal efforts to get their ideas out." This week brought the news that Rush Limbaugh had even infiltrated ESPN's "Sunday N.F.L. Countdown" as a new cast member. And so liberals plot and dream, with the undying hope that their own Rush or O'Reilly or Hannity might turn up as miraculously as Lana Turner supposedly did at the Schwab's Pharmacy soda fountain.
Even as Mr. Franken was goading Mr. O'Reilly, he was talking with AnShell Media, a $10 million start-up financed by Chicago venture capitalists determined to create liberal talk radio programs for syndication. In late June, Time broke the story that Al Gore was recruiting other money men to help float a cable network that might offer some kind of an alternative to Fox News. Given Mr. Gore's own TV track record during the 2000 debates ? wearing more pancake makeup than Milton Berle in drag and talking incessantly about a "lock box" ? this mission seems as quixotic as Al Sharpton's presidential campaign, though considerably less entertaining. Sure, Mr. Gore is unlikely to be an on-camera personality in this enterprise, but even so, his show business r?sum? consists mainly of having not been an inspiration for "Love Story" while at Harvard.
How can Democrats be so ineffectual in the media in which they would seem to have a home-court cultural advantage? The talk-show playing field is littered with liberal casualties: Mario Cuomo, Alan Dershowitz, Phil Donahue. Why waste money on more broadcasting flops? The conventional wisdom has it that liberals will never make it in this arena because they are humorless, their positions are too complicated to explain, and some powerful media companies (whether Mr. Murdoch's News Corporation or the radio giant Clear Channel) want to put up roadblocks.
Others argue that liberals are so down and out that they don't even know what they believe any more. "The reason conservative media outlets work is that they have a mass audience united by a discrete ideology," says Tucker Carlson, who affably represents the right on CNN's "Crossfire" and is one of those I've queried about this topic in recent months. "They believe in nine things. They all know the catechism." In Mr. Carlson's view, Democrats are all over the ideological map in the post-Clinton era, and there can be no effective media without a coherent message.
But the case against liberal talk success isn't a slam-dunk. After all, conservatives have their talk-show fiascos too, as evidenced by MSNBC, the lame would-be Fox clone that, as the comedian Jon Stewart has said, doesn't "deserve all those letters" in its name. MSNBC's just-canceled right-wing star, Michael Savage, drew smaller audiences on the channel than Mr. Donahue did. What's more, there actually are liberals who retain a sense of humor (witness Mr. Franken, Mr. Stewart and Michael Moore), while conservative stars are not infrequently humor-free (witness Mr. O'Reilly).
Norman Lear goes so far as to argue that liberals are intrinsically funnier than conservatives. "Most comedy comes from those who see humor in the human condition," he says. "Most who traffic in the stuff could be called humanists. The far-right talk hosts spew a kind of venom and ridicule that passes for funnybone material with the program executives that hire them."
If humor doesn't bring liberals talk-show success, is the problem that they lack rage? Cal Thomas, the conservative columnist and Fox host, speaks for many when he argues that "liberals don't have the anger" that conservatives have stored up from their years in the political and media wilderness. But this, too, is changing: Pinch most Democrats these days, and they'll vomit vituperation about President Bush as crazed as that of some Clinton haters of a decade ago. The catechism that liberals believe in is arguably more or less as rigid as the conservative catechism, too: a multilateral foreign policy, affordable health care, a progressive tax code, pro-environmental regulation, pro-choice, etc.
Nor is the political complexion of media moguls necessarily an index of what political ideas they promote or stifle. It's Regan Books, an imprint of Mr. Murdoch's HarperCollins, that published Mr. Moore's best seller, "Stupid White Men." Meanwhile, it is a more progressive media gatekeeper, Bill Gates's Microsoft, that is a co-owner of MSNBC, on which Mr. Savage told a "sodomite" caller to "get AIDS and die."
In the end, the line that separates those who succeed and fail in talk TV and radio may have nothing whatsoever to do with ideology and everything to with show business. "It's hard to put a TV show together, let alone 24 hours of programming," Mr. Franken says. "Roger Ailes was a great hire for Fox. You need a showman. Fox had the idea you could do a cable news network that actually had an agenda, and no one had thought of that before."
It's a good point, because while Mr. Ailes is mainly known among political types as a media handler for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, he has equally telling roots in show-biz. He helped make a bland entertainment talk-show host, Mike Douglas, into a star in the 1960's, and learned producing under the wing of the legendary Broadway impresario Kermit Bloomgarden, whose musical hit "The Music Man" could be read as the ur-text for the shameless showmanship of Fox News Channel. At Fox, Mr. Ailes invented not only agenda-driven news ingeniously branded "fair and balanced" but also "the whoosh": that sound that announces the arrival of a new headline. The whoosh may be idiotic, but TV wasn't long ago christened the idiot box for nothing. Idiocy can be fun.
If showmen as shrewd as Mr. Ailes are rare, so are performers with the particular star quality suited to broadcast talk, says Harry Shearer, the liberal radio satirist ("Le Show"), "Simpsons" voice and Christopher Guest collaborator (most recently on "A Mighty Wind"). He argues that "based on sheer radio professionalism," even "a tribe of chimpanzees locked in a room would choose Rush Limbaugh over Jim Hightower," the Texas populist whose radio show has been an also-ran on the national charts.
"Hightower has a fine record as a left politician in Texas, which is not easy to do," Mr. Shearer says. "But he has a voice like a cat being wrung through a dryer at slow speed, and he has no show business chops. Rush Limbaugh didn't start in politics. He was Rusty Limbaugh, playing the top-40 hits. He learned the craft of broadcasting first."
Al Franken, like Ann Richards, Molly Ivins and other entertaining liberals, is a polished performer without a deep history on radio. He says that were he to take on the job of talk host, it would take over his life, and even then, he could fill only a few hours of the broadcasting day. It's not clear if any other performing talents are on tap to shoulder the rest. Tipper Gore's past campaign against rock lyrics doesn't augur well for Gore TV luring pre-A.A.R.P. talents or viewers. The best hope may be for Janet Reno to reconvene her "Dance Party" from "Saturday Night Live."
Then again, maybe the only real hope for liberals is just a cyclical change in the political environment. As the press keeps asking what President Bush knew about his own State of the Union speech and when he knew it, his approval rating has started sinking to its pre-9/11 level. The unemployment record on the administration's watch keeps heading into Herbert Hoover territory. This may explain why Mr. Franken's forthcoming book was at 550 in the sales rankings at Amazon.com when I checked it early this week, while Mr. O'Reilly's was languishing at 24,574. Timing is everything in politics, just as it is in show business. Should this realignment continue, Bill O'Reilly might yet have to face down competition from a liberal talk-show host with an equally self-infatuated TV presence. "The Andrew Cuomo Factor," anyone?
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