About every six weeks, I am asked to share my ignorance with a statewide audience over Wisconsin Public Radio.
(That's your cue, Basford and Nabilcy. Go for it!)
I did so just this Friday, September 12, from 8 to 9 a.m. on WHA's The Week in Review. The program is hosted by the gracious and unflappable Joy Cardin (pronounced "car-DEEN"). Joy is married to WISC-TV's Rob Starbuck, which, she insists, is his real name and has nothing to do with the coffee house chain. Which is good, because I am a fair bit smitten with her. But I am in true love with my best pal Lisa -- who looks a lot like Sarah Palin. This Sunday is our 34th wedding anniversary. (I must teach her to shoot.)
Week in Review pairs a liberal versus a conservative. Joy throws the puck on the ice and then we high-stick it. If she has a political stripe it doesn't show.
Playing the role of the liberal this particular morning was Ben Manski, former co-chair of the national Green Party. Ben is not just liberal, he is Hugo Chavez left. It is the third time Ben and I have been paired. Producer Rob Ferrett said we work well together. (If you are a member of Wisconsin Public Radio - I recommend it - you can download the show at her Wisconsin Public Radio website.)
I was inserted into WHA's rotation a couple of years ago after Joy chanced upon some printed screed in which I referred to attorney Ed Garvey as "liberal at law." She decided the show needed some humor so I replaced a conservative publisher who had gone semi-postal by yelling "Liar! Liar!" at his sparring partner.
There are much more creative ways to "out" the truth-challenged.
Talk is cheap
I like doing radio talk shows. I first "guested" (if that is a verb) on the Mark Belling show when he was in town back in the late 1980s. He's now at WISN Milwaukee. Once I was held up in traffic while Belling reported my tardiness. I burst into the studio exclaiming that "Traffic was a bitch."
Belling responded, "Kowabunga! Blaska is here." Then switched to a commercial. We were live.
I made the same goof on my first appearance on Joy's show. "Can I get some coffee?" I crabbed, before noticing that the on-air sign remained lit. Joy took it in stride, segueing into a public service announcement with "and when we return we'll get Mr. Blaska some coffee." Hey, that's all I ask, a little coffee, cream if you got it. The gigs are unpaid. But I get to flog my blog.
I've also done Vicki McKenna's show and Mitch Henck's Outside the Box on WIBA, once with Rick Berg as guest host. For a few months in 2003 I was the back-up host to Chris Krok on WTDY, paired with liberal conspiracy-lover Lee Rayburn, now at Madison's Air America Radio affiliate, the Mic 92.1.
(Hey kids! Catch my act on WIBA radio this Friday, September 19, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. with guest host Brian Schimming.)
Person to Person
The Week in Review is broadcast out of a nicely appointed studio facing west across Park Street on the seventh and top floor of the Vilas Communications Building. Like its soul mate across University Avenue, the doomed Mosse Humanities Building, Vilas has no discernable entrance.
Week (on Fridays only) fills the last hour of Joy's daily 6 to 9 a.m. gig. Having done both, hosting is much more difficult than guesting. You've got to keep a lot of balls in the air -- taking news breaks, doing on-air promotions, monitoring the call-ins, while keeping the guests on topic and the airwaves filled.
That's one thing I guess I can do: talk.
Joy is the adult in the room. During one break, our moderator plugged her upcoming on-air road trip, the "Joy Ride," over the great Nelson Riddle theme from Route 66, to which I mimed the hip-tempoed finger snapping of the Rat Pack.
"Our guests are grooving out on the Wisconsin Ideas Network," she ad libbed.
The host sits at an array of audio electronics facing, through a large glass window, the producer and studio technician in the next room. Guests sit in between, facing Joy over the console. That facilitates hand signals and eye contact.
While Ben is trotskying out the party line, I wildly wave my hand like a brown-nosing fourth grader asking teacher to call on me! CALL ON ME! Joy handles these outbreaks of delayed juvenilia with aplomb, announcing to the unseeing radio audience that "I think Mr. Blaska may have an opinion." That's like saying that Cindy McCain has houses.
Just the Facts, Ma'am
The biggest story of the week remains the Republican vice presidential candidate. I confessed that I am a Republican in love and Joy had a hard time getting me off Sarah Palin (if you'll excuse the mental image). She asked if Obama was taking a swipe at Sarah with his reference to "Lipstick on a pig." (Roll it, Lester.)
"That's jus' callin' the same thing somethin' different... You can put lipstick on a pig - it's still a pig." (BTW: what's with Obama's fake American black dialect? He does it even more poorly than Hillary's one attempt at a faux southern accent.)
Damn straight, I said. "Here is a man who, if anyone, is the master wordsmith. 'Lipstick' right now is the word du jour, fraught with meaning."
Now they're pretending "Who, me?" The Divine Peggy Noonan in Saturday's Wall Street Journal writes of the smears on our Sarah, "they used the atom bomb ... so brutally and yet ineptly ... It offended the American sense of fairness. Most crucially, the snobbery of it, the meanness of it, reminded the entire country ... what they don't like about the Left."
Seeking the sensational, ABC headlined its interview with Governor Palin: "War may be Necessary if Russia Invades Another Country" because she condemned the Russian bullying of democratic Georgia. Manski piled on Palin for taking "an even more war-like tone than Bush or Cheney." Georgia was the bad guy, Ben said, and Palin is Dr. Strangelove, he intimated. "People should be very concerned about her temperament and attitude toward the global stage."
But NATO's Article 5 states that an attack on one member country is to be considered an attack on all. And Georgia was unanimously recommended for NATO membership by the Senate last April on a resolution sponsored by Senator Biden of Delaware (population: 840,000 - roughly twice that of Dane County) and co-sponsored by Sens. McCain of Arizona and Obama of Illinois.
I admitted that Palin on ABC was a little sketchy on the Bush Doctrine (I would have lost at Jeopardy myself). Having once worked for the greatest Wisconsin governor since the first Laugh-a-Lot, I told listeners that Palin is a governor who rightly concentrates on a domestic agenda. I don't think Jimmy Carter had a foreign policy when he was governor of Georgia or Bill Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas. (The Dane County Board, maybe.)
Smearing the Lipstick
Ben used the word "extremist" at least four times to describe Governor Palin. "She represents a particular strain of the Republican party which is on the extreme right." That's rich coming from Ben. He is so worried about extremism and temperament that he supports Cynthia McKinney, the anger-management class drop-out, for president.
Ben repeated the canard that Palin had tried to pull books from the Wasilla library. Well, why shouldn't Ben join the smear campaign being waged against Sarah Palin? Everyone else on the Left is doing so.
The great feminist writer Camille Paglia, who proclaims herself an Obama supporter, wrote for the rabidly pro-Obama website Salon.com on September 10:
Over the Labor Day weekend, with most of the big enchiladas of the major media on vacation, the vacuum was filled with a hallucinatory hurricane in the leftist blogosphere, which unleashed a grotesquely lurid series of allegations, fantasies, half-truths and outright lies about Palin.
What a tacky low in American politics -- which has already caused a backlash that could damage Obama's campaign. When liberals come off as childish, raving loonies, the right wing gains. I am still waiting for substantive evidence that Sarah Palin is a dangerous extremist.
I am perfectly willing to be convinced, but right now, she seems to be merely an optimistic pragmatist like Ronald Reagan. (Fresh Blood for the Vampire)
Sure enough, the first caller of the morning was "Brian from Cedarburg."
"Sarah Palin only agreed to do that (ABC) interview with the stipulation that all the questions be submitted to her several days in advance ... which allowed her to rehearse the answer."
"News to me," I said. Joy herself debunked this new rumor: "Nothing says that's true. That would surprise all of us here."
"It would not surprise me," caller Brian responded.
Just the Facts, Ma'am!
Fact Check.org reports "We've been flooded for the past few days with queries about dubious Internet postings and mass e-mail messages making claims about McCain's running mate, Gov. Palin. We find that many are completely false, or misleading." It reported:
1. Palin did not cut funding for special needs education in Alaska by 62 percent. She didn't cut it at all. In fact, she tripled per-pupil funding over just three years.
2. She did not demand that books be banned from the Wasilla library. Some of the books on a widely circulated list were not even in print at the time. The librarian has said Palin asked a "What if?" question, but the librarian continued in her job through most of Palin's first term.
3. She was never a member of the Alaskan Independence Party, a group that wants Alaskans to vote on whether they wish to secede from the United States. She's been registered as a Republican since May 1982.
4. Palin never endorsed or supported Pat Buchanan for president. She once wore a Buchanan button as a "courtesy" when he visited Wasilla, but shortly afterward she was appointed to co-chair of the campaign of Steve Forbes in the state.
5. Palin has not pushed for teaching creationism in Alaska's schools. She has said that students should be allowed to "debate both sides" of the evolution question, but she also said creationism "doesn't have to be part of the curriculum."
To this list, your second-most favorite Blog adds:
6. The smear campaign started with a Daily Kos alleging that Palin was actually the grandmother of her infant son, Trig. -- Lipstick, Dipstick, Debra Saunders.
7. Wife of Todd Palin, Racist. Sarah Palin is now Ku Klux Klansman David Duke. That's what Ralph Nader supporter and Angry Leftist johnnysgothispen alleges at the Isthmus Forum.
Besides insulting Obama with a Step-N'-Fetch-It, "darkie musical" swipe, people who know her say she refers regularly to Alaska's Aboriginal people as "Arctic Arabs" -- as well as the more colourful "mukluks" along with the totally unimaginative "f**king Eskimo's," according to a number of Alaskans and Wasillians ..."
Really, now, how likely is it that Sarah Palin is going to call her husband, Todd, a "f-ing Eskimo"? How likely, given that husband Todd's mother is the former secretary of the Alaska Federation of Natives, that she is one-quarter Yup'ik Eskimo, and that his maternal grandmother is a member of the Curyung tribe?
8. Adultery with husband Todd's business partner. The business partner's divorce papers say different.
9. Troopergate. The governor supposedly pressured state Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan to fire her sister's ex-husband, State Trooper Mike Wooten.
Wooten was suspended for five days in March 2006, after state police commanders determined he had drove his patrol car while drinking beer and illegally shot a moose using his wife's hunting permit. Allegedly, he's been threatening his former in-laws. But worse, he used a taser on his 10-year-old stepson. Wooten said the little boy asked to be tasered. He's a kid, mister. Well below the age of reason. You're supposed to be the adult. This child abuser should be fired.
10. The Iraq war is God's will. Charlie Gibson on his ABC interview fanned that one by selectively choosing only part of the quote. Here is the full quote:
"Pray for our military. He's [Palin's son Track] going to be deployed in September to Iraq. Pray for our military men and women who are striving to do also what is right for this country - that our leaders, our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God. That's what we have to make sure we are praying for, that there is a plan and that that plan is God's plan."
As Palin told Gibson, "... what Abraham Lincoln had said, and that's a repeat in my comments, was let us not pray that God is on our side in a war or any other time, but let us pray that we are on God's side."
11. Bridge to Nowhere. This is the one that may have been over-sold. Even so, Slate reports that "In the last few days, an anti-Ted Stevens site, funded by Alaska Democrats, deleted a Web page noting Palin's view that Alaska "had higher priorities" than the Bridge to Nowhere.
Tune in to this station for my next blog for more on my crusade of the airwaves.