Defending their Mic
Being a flagrant left-wing liberal and fan of Air America, I agreed with Vikki Kratz's statement that fans of the show wouldn't like her article. It wasn't that I disagree with all that Ms. Kratz wrote, but I found some of her observations cursory and shallow, as if she listened to one segment of every program and made her judgments accordingly ("The Liberal Line," 6/29/07).
I've listened to Air America since its inception and also mourned the loss of Al Franken. But I never believed that Franken was the anchor of the ship. Randi Rhodes is harsh and abrasive rather like her radio counterpart, Bill O'Reilly, with this major exception: Rhodes actually fact-finds before barking out her opinions, whereas Bill O'Reilly talks out of his rear and blows smoke.
Mike Malloy, who is even more profane and aggressive than Ms. Rhodes, often causes involuntary spit-laughing at his more vituperative diatribes against "the Bush Crime Family." Stephanie Miller and her talented sidekicks are whizzes at lampooning not only politicians but pop culture figures. Jim Ward's voice characterizations are hysterically funny, and his witty and caustic observations are the tasty side dish. Just hearing Chris Lavoie laugh is enough to make the day brighter.
Stu Levitan has one of the most soothing voices in the world, and one of the sharpest minds in this corner of it. His interviews are thoughtful, his manner affable; his questions and comments come from a trained and honed intellect. Stu is one of the jewels in the crown of the Mic, and should be given more airtime.
I wish I could say the same for Lee Rayburn. I find myself switching stations to escape the annoying repetitiveness and banality of his show. I give him major points for finding local issues and people to interview and for doing his homework, but left to his own devices he stumbles and lapses into speech patterns that make me want to play teacher and scream: "STOP SAYING 'YA KNOW.'"
Jan Tessier, Oregon
Vikki Kratz says she doesn't like talk radio. Fair enough, though I presume Isthmus wouldn't engage someone who disdained all theater performance as a theater critic.
Isthmus, unfortunately, missed the real story. The Center for American Progress released a study proving that 91% of talk radio in this country is extremely conservative. Major markets such as Philadelphia, Columbus, Cincinnati and Milwaukee have no liberal talk radio.
Unlike the case with newspapers, there are a limited number of public airwaves, and the airwaves (radio and TV) are dominated by a tiny number of largely right-wing business groups that do not offer a progressive voice.
Conservative politicians and pundits claim that liberal talk doesn't make money. The grassroots support for the Mic, 92.1, proves that this is not the case. Stephanie Miller is number one in her time slot, despite the fact that WIBA's signal covers more than twice the geographic area.
Turnabout seems to be fair play: At its worst, Isthmus can be screechy, self-important and arrogant in a stick-up-the-butt sort of way. On the other hand, Isthmus does have several bright spots, and I hope that staff will be willing to work towards improving themselves in the same way that Clear Channel has shown itself to be willing to improve the Mic.
I agree with Vicki Kratz that Air America radio leaves a lot to be desired, but for entirely different reasons. Most of the hosts exhibit painfully shortsighted analysis.
They critique political developments, usually blaming the Republicans, but most always fail to acknowledge that control of our society by the military-industrial complex is the root of the problems regardless of who is in the White House.
The current occupation of Iraq, the threatened attack on Iran, the dissolution of worker rights, and the lack of health care for millions of Americans can all be traced back to the American way, which is code for unfettered corporate profits.
When are the commentators going to have the guts to acknowledge that the war is just another in a long history of unwarranted interventions that are part and parcel to the corporate way of life?
Sure, Air America provides an alternative to right-wing talk radio, but it doesn't really offer an alternative to the status quo. By the way, has anyone else noticed the irony of the station sharing its name with the CIA airline that transported heroin from the Golden Triangle during the 1970s?
It's ironic that your story was illustrated with cartoon balloons saying "bitch bitch bitch" and "blah blah blah," when the story itself was so negative overall.
Not until the fourth sentence was there an error of fact: "In the face of so much opposition, Clear Channel had no choice but to reverse its decision (to spike the Mic)." That's not true at all.
Do you think that Clear Channel (30,000 employees, $6.6 billion in revenues in 2005) cares or depends all that much on the wishes of a few thousand misguided moonbats in Dane County?
Nine out of every 10 hours of political talk radio slant conservative. With progressive friends like Isthmus, it's little wonder the truth-based community is struggling so.
Your review skipped with unwarranted haste over the Friday- and Saturday-night Mexican-music program La Original. My own Spanish is limited to Basic Gringo Tourist, so I treat the talking part of the show like a game, to see how much I can translate, while tuning my ear to the cadences of native speakers.
But you don't have to understand a word of Spanish to appreciate the most joyful music and exuberant hosts to be found anywhere on the airwaves. I defy anyone to listen to La Original for five minutes without feeling happier.
Richard S. Russell
Randi Rhodes gets a bad rap. She impresses me with how she insists that her listeners don't take her word at face value. She has a homework section on her website that lists her sources, and she encourages people to do their own research. And I must take issue with what you had to say about Rachel Maddow. I love her. She is crazy smart and wickedly funny.
Erin Sievert, Waterloo
The fact that Air America went bankrupt is not germane to whether the station "deserves such devotion"; it speaks of poor management decisions and has nothing to do with the quality of the programming.
Comparing WIBA and the Mic is an apples and oranges comparison. WIBA has been on the air for almost 80 years, the Mic less than three. Rush Limbaugh and many of the right-wing hosts have been on the air for 20 years. Progressive talk radio is a three-year-old format already making significant inroads. Stephanie Miller holds the number-one ranking of any Madison station in her time slot.
Sure, the quality of the hosts is varied. But I would prefer getting my news from an Oxford-educated, Rhodes scholar with a Ph.D. in political science (Rachel Maddow) than someone who plays "Barack the Magic Negro" and mimics Michael J. Fox (Rush Limbaugh).
The Mic deserves my loyalty, and their advertisers deserve my business. I suspect I am far from alone with this opinion.
Thanks to Bill Lueders for revisiting costs and outcomes at Monona Terrace ("Is Monona Terrace Worth It?" 7/13/07). I have never seen figures on the number of people attending conventions there each year. I believe that the facility is failing as a convention center. If this proves true, we should look at whether there are significant savings to be had by either discontinuing its use as a convention center or radically cutting expenses for attracting new conventions.
We can stick with the rooftop music, dancing, weddings, graduation parties, meetings, etc., with which the majority of area residents seem content.
When I read all your negative comments about Monona Terrace, I thought I was reading The Onion - a spoof on a famous landmark.
Surveys completed at the end of Monona Terrace events are 98% positive. Many events are now repeated annually. On a recent weekend, there were three weddings and two class reunions. Employees begin many days at 6:45 to provide support for the many events. Roof events are free.
If you are reluctant to print these successes, how about being proud of the beautiful views and the nice bathrooms?
As a single parent on a cold January day who was looking for an inexpensive outing, I found Monona Terrace to be a welcome haven to explore and appreciate.
My son and daughter have enjoyed many trips to Monona Terrace. They've played with their toys on the lower level, tossed a ball about, rode the elevators and escalators, spotted loons on the lake and explored the skywalk. We have become such frequent visitors of this public space that my son has mastered the changing-hand photographs of Frank Lloyd Wright that hang near the gift shop.
Since I was a teenager, I have frequented the Memorial Union, a unique community place not found elsewhere in America. Few places like this exist, seriously - I've looked for them. Its first director, Porter Butts, even likened it to being the first Madison community center in a 1979 interview I found online.
Sadly, I too have lamented that the Monona Terrace venue sits idle so frequently. I hope you will do a follow-up story on why this is and whether it can be changed.
Michael Watson, Cottage Grove
The 1992 artist's rendering and recent photograph pretty much tell the story.
A funding increase
Thank you for Steve Braunginn's column "Success in Fitchburg" (8/3/07). We are proud of the strides taken through community collaboration to improve the Ridgewood neighborhood, and we appreciate Steve's kind word about the involvement of our Joining Forces for Families program.
One factual correction, however: The county's Children, Youth & Families budget was not reduced by more than $2 million since 2001. In fact, the CYF budget grew from $48.3 million in 2001 to just under $52 million in 2007.
Lynn Green, director, Dane County Department of Human Services
Thanks to Vicki Halverson for reminding us of the importance of recycling those fluorescent bulbs (Letters, 5/25/07). The announcements and advertisements that hammer home the message about saving energy with these products should devote an equal amount of effort to informing us about the importance of recycling, as well as how and where to do so.
The message I have heard most often is to return used bulbs to where you bought them or at least to a place that sells them. I tried this recently at Menards, and the store cheerfully accepted my used bulb at the customer service counter.
Ray L. Rideout
Thanks for the great coverage of the new Yahara Waterways guidebook ("Lake Lovers Companion," 6/8/07). It's the waterways and central isthmus that make Madison a world-class city. Although I was singly credited for the maps, they were a joint effort, as the GIS backgrounds of the lakes and surrounding topography were provided by Curt Kodl of the Dane County Department of Planning and Development. Also, I work at the UW-Extension Environmental Resources Center, not for "Environmental Services" as reported.
Jeffrey J. Strobel
Price of admission
For Sundance Cinema to suggest that "reserved seating equals choice" is a ludicrous attempt to disguise a straightforward increase in ticket prices ("The Sundance Service Charge," 6/29/07).
It isn't a choice because patrons do not have the option of paying only the base price to see the movie. Sundance's bit of verbal fluff suggests that being allowed to pay for reserving a seat makes movie-going "easy." So, I ask, when was movie-going difficult? You buys your ticket and you sits down, no?
Like many people, I am angered about Sundance's service charge turning this theater into an upscale, elitist place. While I do like the programming, I prefer going to Westgate, where such policies are not employed.
I do not find Sundance to be a "premium viewing experience." Watching a movie there is not significantly better than other theaters and certainly not worth the additional price. Furthermore, why should customers pay for reserved seating when many shows are quite empty?
I hope enough people will complain and/or go elsewhere so that Sundance will bring its pricing structure more in line with other theaters in the Madison area.