Wednesday, August 26, 2009

George Gilder Should Join the Winning Team

Legendary conservative thinker George Gilder made a rare guest appearance in the second hour of today's Michael Medved show promoting his new book The Israel Test. This afternoon, as it happens, I couldn't get past the busy signals, much less the tough-to-impress Medved screener, so in case you're interested in what I would have said to the noted philosopher, I'll fill you in via, as the kids say, texting:

Always an honor to make air on the Medved broadcast again, Michael! I thought I'd not only endorse but further Mr. Gilder's thesis and also make a rather bold suggestion to him, which I'm confident he'll reject out of hand. By the way Michael, I'm looking forward to your Seattle Mariners Medhead night out at the ballpark, which as you know commences in about three hours down at Safeco.

As to Mr. Gilder's arguing that the Jewish people have consistently had a disproportionately large impact on our civilization's progression through the ages, I not only agree with it, but years ago I coined a term for it. While we have too many anti-Semites even two generations after Hitler, we don't have enough pro-Semites, as I happily plead guilty to being.

And that of course is also why I converted to Judiasm, although through a movement that represents a non-believing strain of the religion.

But I tell you, Mr. Gilder, this comes into play with my occasional charge voiced on this very program that Michael is soft on terrorism in general and on the Palestinians in particular.
The Israel-Palestine dispute is one of those cases where both sides have powerfully correct positions. But what Michael fails to take into account, in always promoting supposed "moderates" among the Palestinians, is that this is in fact not a mere "problem" needing an elusive "solution", but rather a long-running asymmetrical war in which I happen to find my favorite Middle-Eastern state besieged by an ethnic group I also greatly admire. So if I was advising Hamas, I'd tell them to up the ruthlessness against the Israelis in this asymmetrical conflict. But I'd advise Israel to do whatever it had to do to contain the violence.

This war hasn't been settled because each side is absolutely correct, not to mention determined. So I suspect it won't be solved in my lifetime or in the lifetimes of Michael's future grandchildren. That said, Mr. Gilder, I now want to challenge you to do the intellectually right thing and abandon your Christianity, which Michael in your introduction this afternoon described you as being committed to. If the Jewish people collectively truly are the successful strivers your book portray them as, you should be willing to do what I've done, and that is, join the winning team.

As always, thanks Michael for letting me be part of your terrific broadcast, and we'll look for you down at Safeco Field tonight!

Now all that, all six verbal paragraphs of it, times out at 1:54 at my speaking pace. So it's a good thing I didn't make air with these comments, since at about :35 of that 1:54 I'd likely have been admonished by the host, "Hey, Bryan in Puyallup, focus like a laser!"


Monday, August 24, 2009

Maybe Merrily and Manifestly Magnanimously Meet Megalomaniacal Me Amid Michael Medved's Mariners Meet-Up

So it turns out after all, I will be going to the Medved baseball outing as the Mariners take on the visiting Oakland Athletics at Safeco on Wednesday night (see "The Weight of Medved's Words", two entries below).

So if you're there in the Medved group's portion of the stands—in $40 seats, we oughta to be in a favored section, no?—go ahead and spy a guy who looks like the fellow behind that microphone to the right and introduce yourself, please.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Screaming Back at Mark Levin



Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Weight of Medved's Words

Perspicacious neoconservative newstalker (and Ned Flanders doppelganger) Michael Medved is scheduled for yet another local public appearance next week. He'll be accompanying some avid Medheads and Seattle Mariners fans to the Oakland Athletics game at Safeco Field on August 26th, and I'd encourage you to attend. If f0r no other reason, it'll afford you a chance to see Medved up close and interact with his remarkable mind, and in a less stuffy environment than that of his terrific nationally-syndicated show, of which I'm proud to report he has allowed Styble into his stable of regular callers.

His well-earned celebrity aside, Medved is a fascinating person to get to know, though I'm hardly one of his pals. But he was always friendly to me as my colleague for three years at Entercom Broadcasting even when professional courtesy didn't dictate him so being, and I now cherish my continuing occasional in-person exchanges with him, which typically display his intellect and wit every bit as much as his broadcast does weekdays (KTTH 770 kHz, 12-3pm Pacific).

Of late Medved has been doing public appearances promoting his latest nonfiction book, the brief but incisive volume The 10 Big Lies About America. And in the process exposing how disrepectful his putatively loyal audience is. I say this because of what transpired at the last two such Medved appearances I've been fortunate enough to take in.

It so happens that after a University of Washington morning address, and then again a month later following a Discovery Institute lecture at the group's downtown Seattle headquarters—Medved was reduced to carrying his own box of unpurchased books back to his car after each signing was wrapped.

I'm not lamenting about poor sales here; I'm sure Amazon, Borders, et al. move more than enough Medved inventory to keep him living the good life, as you'd expect of any man of his professional station. Rather, I deplore the sight of a man of his professional station lacking adequate support staff.

Medved should have had a flunky carrying the box for him. So I became his ad hoc flunky in both instances. (Which, incidentally, is about as close as I'll ever come to working for Medved; while I can't imagine a more exciting off-air gig than the production staff of his daily national program, Medved cheerfully admits on his show that he discriminates in all hiring in favor of religious types, and RadioactiveSeattle readers—not to mention Medved show listeners—know I'm a decidedly agnostic fellow.)

I doubt I'll make the baseball game, so may I suggest that someone else volunteer at Safeco to go back to the concession stand to fetch Mr. Medved his yummy Ivar's chowder?


Friday, August 7, 2009

NEVER Be Surprised By Death

The news about suburban teen flick auteur John Hughes yesterday no doubt came as a shock to his legions of fans. After all, the famously-reclusive director and onetime wunderkind behind Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Sixteen Candles was only 59 when he succumbed to an apparent heart attack during a morning stroll in Manhattan while on a family visit to New York.

But Hughes's demise shouldn't really have been a surprise. Not because of his age, or that he hadn't experienced reported health difficulties, but rather because in a vital existential—if not also emotional—sense, we should never be surprised by death.

Let me explain.

It so happens that Hughes died on Hiroshima Day, the 64th anniversary of history's first nuclear attack, and that of course reminds everyone of Japan. And Japan, it turns out, follows a capital punishment policy which for over a decade has positively haunted me.

I first heard of this from that so-often-unreliable media realm, commercial newstalk radio. I wish I could aver that my favorite variety of media and longtime meal ticket is a dependable source of factual data, but the sad truth is that newstalk hosts often don't display absolute respect for fact. Clowns on the right like Glenn Beck and Michael Savage, on the left like Mike Malloy and Randi Rhodes, and like George Noory in the pseudoscientific mudd, er, middle—dispense all sorts of musings littered with half-truths or total misinformation. I'm not talking here about commercial radio talkers' intentional misrepresentations, which each of those reckless, if also sometimes talented, jerks are also known to promiscuously deal in. Rather, I refer to those incorrect statements they make which they honestly think to be true.

Intended to buttress their ideological arguments, these pieces of misinformation are believed or assumed to be accurate by hosts even though they've never taken the trouble to nail them down for accuracy before incorporating them into their ideological acts. Whatever my shortcomings as a commercial newstalker, I can go to my grave with the consolation that every moment of my 19 years of on-air hosting I considered my principal role to be that of a broadcast journalist, and thus subject to every constraint legitimate newsmen must work within in order to ensure factual integrity. It's true several management types in newstalk radio, and many more of my fellow hosts, counseled me that "you take this all too seriously, Bryan—this is just entertainment," but I'm proud I handled myself like a newsman, not a court agitator, or jester.

No it wasn't "just entertainment". Rather, my beloved—and, alas, former—profession was always about reliably providing information and perspective on the news and the society (and for scientifically-literate shows like my own, the universe). The fact is that probably fewer than a third of my colleagues recognized this journalistic responsibility to maintain the highest possible standards of factual accuracy.

Knowing how rare my shouldered burden was amongst my colleagues made me leery of something I heard a guy say on WXYT, a scrappy Detroit newstalk outlet competing with my onetime home, WJR. In 1994, I heard him claim that Japan employs a novel approach to the death penalty: upon receiving a death sentence for some capital crime, the condemned is not assigned an execution date, either immediately or even on a deferred basis after appeals and other bureaucratic considerations had been fulfilled. Instead, the predicament that at least some Japanese death row residents face is, oddly enough, both a certain and uncertain future.

The host claimed in passing to his caller that the policy in Japan was to let death row prisoners contemplate their fate while awaiting the inevitable, never knowing until the day of the event when their sentence would be completed. Thus each day, when the guards came around to deliver the breakfast meal, they could actually be there to accompany the prisoner on his last long walk.

Now this also came into play on my own Detroit show—as well as all my subsequent broadcasts in Chicago, Albuquerque and up here in Seattle—whenever the capital-punishment issue came up. And as every newstalk listener knows, it's a frequent topic of speed-of-light conversation on just about every station. I'd invoke this supposed Japanese policy typically in response to a caller's familiar argument that the death penalty is too easy on the worst of the worst. Isn't life without parole possibility a more fitting fate for mass murderers, they'd often posit, since obviously you can't equate the condemned's sole corpse with the multiple bodies he left in his wake at the crime scene? Well, I argued, if true, that unusual Japanese approach would have offered something of a solution to that problem, for in effect, it made every day on death row an execution date.

If that Japanese policy was indeed the case. Something which I never could confirm, despite considerable research on the question. I never got the chance to meet my competing colleague, else I would have questioned him as to his source for this elusive supposed fact. So for the ensuing decade, I kept periodically delving through Japanese crime stories or just asking acquaintances whom I thought might know about this, without success.

Still, whenever I used it on the air, I was always scrupulous about qualifying this in "Well, I've heard that..." terms, never once leading my audience to believe it definitely was true. Besides, even if the story regarding the policy in Japan was spurious, my point still was valid, and thus at least arguably possible for some U.S. state to institute. (When advancing that, of course I also observed it would be immediately assailed as unconstitutional on cruel-and-unusual grounds, and probably wouldn't pass Supreme Court muster unless the high court was then impanelled by Antonin Scalia and at least four of his clones.)

Now it so happens that late last year an article ran on the AP International wire which established that, for at least four current male residents of Japanese death row, the Detroit newstalker was correct! The way the AP covered the story, it was unclear whether the policy was also still applied to every male death row inmate, much less for condemned women as well. But of course the important part was that nearly a decade and a half after hearing of this, I finally had it confirmed. The AP copy concerned a review of their cases to see if the policy would be lifted and specific execution days set.

When I read this I was naturally relieved at having never dealt in misinformation on the question, and also looked at my former WXYT competitor with newfound retrospective respect. But mostly I was enjoying the pride I felt in having endeavored to invariably qualify my passing on hearsay as something yet unconfirmed. My hunch is that's a consideration very few of my colleagues honor beyond an initial basis. After that, the wording tends to morph into "it is said" or some other such consensus phraseology, and soon enough it's simply misremembered as fact.

At this point, and at the risk of sounding colossally impertinent, it should be mentioned that the ever-determined Wile E. Coyote, in his perennial pursuit of the vanishing-point Roadrunner, usually enjoyed an advantage I didn't have working for me that day last year when I read the AP dispatch. And that's my own fault, a simply egregious lapse of forethought. For remember, I'd been wondering about all this for well over a decade, and thus had had ample opportunity to contemplate its consequences. (And you also have had as long as it's taken to read the previous six paragraphs for this sober realization to dawn on you.) For whenever his latest plan involving a special-ordered Acme anvil somehow backfired and Wile E. found himself about to crushed instead, he still typically had three or four seconds staring aloft to brace himself for the impact. Sure, that never did much good for the hapless but crafty cartoon critter once the plummeting iron made impact, but at least he usually saw it coming.

Unlike me. For while wallowing in professional pride about tirelessly upholding journalistic standards, a profoundly disturbing truth pulverized me. For the reason this whole business had been haunting merather than merely piquing my curiosityall these years is that it was focussed on conjuring the worst possible fate any human might endure.

So this condemned guy awakens every morning knowing it could be the day of his painful death. And given the extraordinary variety of ways today, Friday, August 7, 2009 may calamitously prove to be the final day of my life, I also constantly face this reality, even while not thinking about it. And so do you.

So we're all on Japanese death row. Anvil flattens.


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Styble Has NOT Suffered a Coronary !

Though I bet I very nearly did a few minutes ago.

But not because of my vigorous exercise regimen of a daily two- or three-mile jog pretty much seven days per week. (No, my cardio condition seems pretty decent for a 54-year-old heartbroken-by-career-evaporation guy. Or so my physicians report, I hope reliably.)

Rather, I nearly ended up on a Harborview Hospital cardiac gurney today after I was shocked by a new posting on the BlatherWatch newstalk radio blog. RadioactiveSeattle readers know that that particular competing site is not merely hugely left-leaning, but downright despised The Bryan Styble Program on KIRO 2005-2008 pretty much as much as Holocaust survivors hate Himmler.

Which is fine, by the way, since the blog serves a critical function, after all. (For the record, even though the proprietor of BlatherWatch may very well wish me a fate similar to another of his targets—my murdered KIRO colleague, Mike Webb—I always volunteer that Mr. BlatherWatch is a witty and trenchant if repeatedly vulgar newstalk critic.)

Sure, I wish BlatherWatch , an often angry blog where ideology is everything and the sort of broadcast standards I labored to uphold are disdained and even scorned, had at least occasionally credited me with what other Styble-never-shuts-up-but-at-least-he's-an old-school-broadcaster critics have always granted: That my work featured an all-but-extinct newstalk style radio nowadays—not merely all-open-lines-all-the-time (on the audience-respecting premise that callers need not be spoon-fed host-selected subjects, which often aren't what most energizes them anyway), whenever I wasn't conducting an occasional Radioactive interview with a nationally-prominent figure. But also taking those open-line calls unscreened for content, a risky show format which few of my former colleagues ever attempt at all, much less routinely. But everyone wants to be loved, or at least appreciated, right? But those nasty BlatherWatch writers and posters never liked me, nor were ever polite in their critiques, something I always endeavor to be.* Again, fine.

But inexcusably, BlatherWatch also engaged in relentless character-assassination against me, and once even tried to stage a campaign lobbying KIRO management to fire me and thus destroy my newstalk hosting career which had spanned four timezones, eight radio markets and 19 years, likening me to fecal canine product soiling Seattle newstalk listeners' footwear. (Never mind that neither that one, nor my other alleged crimes against Puget Sound listeners, was an accurate charge. All of which is, uh, not fine.)

Ironically enough, just as RadioactiveSeattle is largely apolitical, so my KIRO work was, though the BlatherWatch proprietor never seemed to realize that self-evident fact, which in turn suggests he never listened to my show closely anyway. And I guess there's no reason he should have, since he for literally years displayed professional and personal vitriol toward me; for my part, I'm a polite guy, so I won't return his sentiments. And besides, I wish good health even to people whom I don't like, or even are trying to ruin my career. (The preposterous charge that I had defended chattel slavery was an accusation management laughed off, and the credible ensuing death threat I received through the mails—that Federal authorities insist remains an open and active investigation—obviously came from someone who doesn't return my good-health wishes.)

Anyway, in answer to a question BlatherWatch posed ("Which talk shows would you pay to have on the air?"), someone using the screen name "Bill" wrote, "Bring back Radioactive and Bryan Styble[;] I'll kick in the initial $10..." And he—or she?—even spelled my name correctly, something BlatherWatch posters often got wrong in their frequent complaints about how pathological or stupid or just unlistenable my KIRO efforts were.

I swear on my beloved Father's grave that I didn't post that startling statement of "Bill"; I don't anyway have nearly the cyber-skills to do so without anyone determining it came from this screen, the Batcomputer here in the Styble Batcave. Besides, I never post anonymously anywhere, least of all on BlatherWatch, where previous posts of mine attempting to correct falsities alleged against my broadcast or me have been deleted or corrupted by the site's owner. Neither will any of my friends I've telephonically queried over the last few minutes own up to posting that. (Few of them tell me they read the often well-written but vulgarity-dense BlatherWatch critiques anyway, much less the respondent reader postings thereto.)

Again, I've absolutely no idea who wrote that, and it doesn't seem to be sarcastic in tone either, much as the BlatherWatch vitriol against Styble almost always has been. But I do expect that "Bill" will be accused of being either a pal of mine, or me. (Again, I can barely turn on my computer; how on earth does one hide one's Internet identity from tech-sophisticated bloggers like the BlatherWatch operator?)

So all I can say is, "Thanks", Sir Bill, whoever and wherever you are. Actually, make that THANKS!


*No Seattleite has ever heard me utter a word less polite than "heck" or "darned"...on or off the air.