Rush Limbaugh As Low As Father Charles Coughlin

I would be remiss if not mentioning thoughts about the death of Rush Limbaugh at the age of 70. If you are looking for some great tribute to the man or lauding his time as a broadcaster, this will not be the post you were hoping for. After all, Limbaugh did more to undermine radio than to lift it, sully it more than to enrich its long history in our nation. The medium that I love, and once worked in was stained by his actions.

Over the years the bombast, crude remarks, and low-balls that were a daily aspect of Limbaugh’s on-air time brought his ratings down and his advertisers far fewer in number. (I have commented on these matters relating to Rush 34 times over the years.) While the ratings and ad revenues are the milk and bread to the industry, I would argue there is something more fundamental that should be considered about his abusing radio.

The stories are countless of those who have looked to radio over the many, many decades for friendship and companionship.  Radio has been there late nights when the baby will not sleep, during morning drive time, at work for music and sports scores, and then catching up on news and weather in the evenings.

Even though television allows us an image, radio remains the most intimate medium.  It is the place where we get to know the announcer and hear the banter about the morning drive into the station, or insights into their life.  The effective radio broadcaster gives us glimpses of who he/she really is and that creates a bond between those on both sides of the radio dial.

But Limbaugh worked feverishly to erode civility on the airwaves. That is how his life can be best summed up.

I am well aware that the low-bar in broadcasting now takes place on both right-wing and left-wing programming as the announcers and hosts seem more interested in red meat tactics for political purposes than striving for high marks in broadcasting. But let us not forget it was Rush who created the basement from which the others could also reside. While there are still many stations that will not stoop to the level we heard about in the news repeatedly with Limbaugh, it remains unsettling to know that national broadcasting standards slipped in large measure because of him.

This morning, after the news was reported Limbaugh had died, a broadcasting friend reached out and asked who else might be viewed as a broadcaster who influenced radio in the past 50 years? He had already placed Larry King on the list, and I readily added Paul Harvey. All my life I have never forgotten the professional standards of Harvey, one of my radio heroes based on his ability to enunciate words, and who wore a tie for his radio broadcasts.  He knew the way he looked and acted in a radio studio would come across over the airwaves.  And it did.

Then while picking up dishes in the kitchen another broadcaster who made history, and like Limbaugh brought hate and bile to the airwaves, came to my mind. Though he was ‘famous’ for his rants about 85 years ago, his linkage to Rush is very clear.

Father Charles Coughlin.

Coughlin is one of those truly interesting, though sad stories, from history. He used his radio program to all but incite violence on Jewish Americans, and over time ramped up his peddling of anti-semitic bigotry to the bizarre. By the time fascism was better known, Coughlin had become a supporter of some of the ideas advanced by Hitler and Mussolini. The broadcasts have been described as “a variation of the Fascist agenda applied to American culture.”

Limbaugh had a different era to play with but used the same base motives and instincts to stir hate. He used white supremacy, xenophobia, racism, homophobia, and misogyny as his weapons. He even mocked the deaths of people from AIDS on his national broadcasts.

Somewhere along the way, those who harvest radio licenses have created a mean-spirited and pitiful listening landscape where now the most base commentary can be heard, and the most pathetic hosts can reap huge profits. Today the one who fostered so much that is currently wrong with radio has died.

There is no reason to feel anything about that news other than a sense of the loss of radio as we once knew it.

Letter From Home “Togetherness” 6/3/20

Anna, the oldest woman in our neighborhood lives kitty-corner to us, remaining the quiet and reserved person I have known her to be since moving into our home.  She has lived her roughly 90 years in this area, and still speaking fluent Greek, refers to James and me with our Greek names.  Her husband, from an arranged marriage as done in ‘the old country’, just calls us “the boys”.  That homey expression always sounds comforting, and also seems to fit with my inner kid who has never grown up.

Anna was weeding her always bright and cheerful front garden beds as I mowed this week. Seeing her bent over pulling the weeds as the scent of freshly cut grass wafted about made me smile.  And think back over the decades to dad mowing back home at the same time mom would be making her flower beds free of weeds; looking good for the folks who drove up and down our country road in Hancock.

Sam and Anna have the type of marriage Paul Harvey would have given notice to on his radio broadcasts years ago. Strong, durable, based on common connections and a lifetime of shared memories.  As my mower was turned and headed back down the terrace James came into view, wearing thick gloves as he removed a few wayward rose shoots that had ventured off from the main plant.  His five-gallon pail was full of all sorts of weeds and clippings.   As I mowed, listened to music, and took in the sights while turning up one way on the lawn and terrace and then down another, I am sure a smile crossed my face.  No one could see it as I wore a mask.  But this is the life I always wanted.

In my late teenage years, and with firmer understanding in my early twenties, I knew I wanted a stable relationship, a home life that reflected parts of what I knew growing up, and a shared experience with someone who was truly interesting.  Unlike my siblings, I had many years for a dating life.  My brother got married soon after high school and my sister at age 25. They both moved within miles of the family home.  I sensed their resentment about my being free; following my dreams and moving away from the rural area of our youth.

Any gay person fully understands why we move away from rural communities. Let us count the reasons!  But for me, there was also the need to be caught up with new ideas and able to experience exciting opportunities that only a large metropolitan area provides.  For instance, John Dean of Watergate fame never visited my hometown.

By the time I met James I was secure with who I was and ready for the life I have known for the past twenty years.  We had our anniversary during the shelter in place orders as the pandemic continued.  We discussed the years that passed, my hairline that slipped away, and in so doing underscored why laughter is an essential ingredient in any lasting relationship, and why mutual priorities about life are key to decades of togetherness.

As gay teens, we were not sure the lives we wanted to live were attainable.  There was nothing to suggest for him in Maine, or me in Wisconsin, that it would be acceptable or even safe to live authentically.  So much has changed in recent decades, and from a historical point of view, it happened in a short time—though for me it never felt fast.  That desire for family life, the front lawn, neighbors, and just ‘being ordinary’ was so real and strong that now having it means we do not take it for granted.

I took the turns back and forth with the mower while scanning James, our home, the lady across the street, and meshed that all with the memories, dreams, and unknowns from over the years. When all is said and done, at the end of the day, there is nothing more meaningful or delightful than togetherness.

More Cursing From Elected Officials Than Ever Before

When it comes to cursing in the public square I come from a very different point of view from many who now toss about any word that comes to mind.  Granted, I was growing up 50 years ago when social norms were different.  Radio did not have crude shock jocks, cable television was not yet an infant, and there were still some rules of the road for what passed as public communication.

I can recall mom hearing an elected official use either the word “damn’ or “hell” and commenting that it was not appropriate, as those placed into office should have a higher sense of self-respect.  I also recall telling her that it was not a big deal.

Given the latest news regarding this topic as reported in The Hill mom might remind me that once a rock starts rolling downhill it gains speed.

Profanity — once considered a major no-no among those seeking public office — is no longer an earth-shattering political snafu. And according to new research, this year could be on track to see members of Congress swearing up a storm more than ever before.

In analysis conducted exclusively for ITK, GovPredict, a government relations software company, found that the frequency of lawmakers using words that might make one’s grandmother blush has increased steadily since 2014.

I have commented before on the use of cursing in our culture, and have always reached back to years of childhood when radio was a constant source of news and entertainment in our home.  The respect announcers showed for their audiences has never left me.  That decorum, that professional touch, that mature quality is not only how I presented myself in work environments, but also in my personal life.

Coming from a broadcasting background where words matter, and working in a legislator’s office where conduct was always viewed or heard by someone, means perhaps I see this issue as more prescribed than others in society.  But it really should not be so.  We all should care about the use of language by elected officials.

I contend it should not be hard to conduct ourselves in society with word choices given the entire dictionary one might use to make a point.   Every day people use words wisely, and so I have to laugh when I sometimes hear that someone is ‘unable to speak freely’ as there are too many rules about needing to use politically-correct speech.  That is just a cop-out for acting with civility in modern-day society.

Words have weight, and if we are to live in a society where the hope of coming together is to exist at all, we need to be aware of the impact of the words we use.  I use to speak before groups of constituents when working in the state assembly and was always aware of the audience I was in front of to push the right message by using the right words.  I used words hours at a time when working in radio and never felt the need to resort to ones that were laced with vulgarity.

The use of words is key to everything we do.  Being an adult is knowing how to employ the best use of words.  It also means understanding the power our words carry for both good and bad.

I very much question those who wish to have a leadership role in the nation when their word choice includes trash talk, cursing, and vulgarities.  It shows a lack of respect for an audience, and a country they wish to influence.

Give me Paul Harvey from the radio world, who would wear a shirt and tie for a broadcast, as it was a sign of respect for the audience he wanted to spend some time with over the airwaves.  That is the world I grew up in, and strive to maintain in the small ways I can.

And so it goes.

Vulgarity-Laced Language, Paul Harvey, And Our Sensibilities

This morning James and I listened to Frank Sinatra on the stereo as we concluded some restoration and painting inside our home from yesterday’s nine-hour visit from an electrician, who added recess lighting and a fan in our kitchen.    James refashioned the walls and a portion of the ceiling, paint was added following the mesh creation as Frank’s big orchestra sound filled the house.   Sunshine outside was waiting for us, the coffee pot was peculating.  All seemed right with the world.

Once showered and outside, as James brought me another cup of coffee, he announced what simply I could not conceive happening.  In a vulgarity-laced telephone call with a New Yorker writer newly hired communications director, Anthony Scaramucci, railed against Chief-Of-Staff Reince Priebus and presidential adviser Stephen Bannon.  After James told me what had been said in the recorded interview I simply sat stunned.

There was no way this could be possible.  There was no way that anyone willingly and purposefully acted this way as a top White House employee.  Even in the times we now are forced to live with Donald Trump in the Oval Office–even now–this could not be real.

At age 55 I am still grounded in a certain professional set of standards when it comes to the way reporters, politicians, or media personalities communicate.  I was raised on radio and newspapers until I turned a teenager.  We had no television in those years.  In my early adult years I was a radio broadcaster and news reporter.  Later I worked with a state assemblyman for a decade where part of my duties were to write press releases and work with the media.   In every aspect of my work life there was a standard to live by.

All my life I have never forgot the professional standards of those like, Paul Harvey, one of my radio heroes based on his ability to enunciate words, who wore a tie for his radio broadcasts.  He knew the way he looked and acted in a radio studio would come across over the airwaves.  And it did.

I have written many times about the lowering of standards on the radio airwaves, and with news publications like Newsweek, and just last week, The Economist.  In both of the latter cases the use of the ‘F’ word has truly angered me.  I find it unacceptable to use in a professional setting.  It is vulgar, low-brow, and shows a great deal about what a person lacks in his/her bringing up.

I am fine if some who read this think I am just not ‘contemporary’ enough to understand that this foul word is now in vogue.   To them I say, no.  Simply NO!

No one will ever find me bending to the lowest common denominator.   I did not do it with those who wanted me to smoke pot when I was young, and I surely will not sell out to those who wish to downgrade our language.  I have too many memories of the countless hours of broadcasters and public servants who knew how to use their skills and talents for lifting up people and not embarrassing themselves and their listeners.

Tonight I would hope we might rise above politics on this one.  We can–and should strongly debate health care, taxes, and climate change.  But when it comes to the type of vulgarity that came from the White House–the most important office in the world–we all need to be as one and denounce it.

We would not act that way at the family dinner table, the work place, church, or even the grocery store line.  We might want to think as Paul Harvey did.  If we show self-respect it will reflect to others.  It seems like an easy lesson, but clearly not all have learned it.

The ‘Soundtrack’ For “Walking Up The Ramp”

If there was a soundtrack to my book, Walking Up The Ramp, it might include some of the following sights and sounds.

Radio was a central part of our home when I was a boy, and some of the legendary voices were almost, it seemed, a part of the family.  While working at WDOR it was a real thrill to announce that Paul Harvey was next on the air and “brought to you by the First National Bank of Sturgeon Bay”.  As a kid I never thought it would be my voice as the lead-in for the guy with ‘the voice’.

While growing up I listened to Arnie Strope in the summer months when I was out of school, and followed how he interacted so smoothly with his listeners on the air.   He would become a part of the Wisconsin’s Broadcasters Hall of Fame in 1992.

But it was ‘Chicago ‘ Ed Schwartz that made me aware that a radio announcer could be a friend to those who listened.  Equally important Eddie was wildly successful even though he did not have what might be considered a classic sounding radio voice.

As a boy growing up in Hancock there was always spirited music to be heard at home, and Mom made sure that when a piano was part of a recording or song being played the volume was increased.  When I started opening the radio station on Sunday mornings I only played music on the up-tempo side that stirred people and made them tap their feet as they drank coffee and got ready for church.  And I was mindful that gospel music had to have a good piano (or as Mom said pie-anna) player.

My very first political rally, and my first chance to report on something more important than county board proceedings was on Labor Day 1984 when Walter Mondale and Geraldine Ferraro came to Merrill, Wisconsin.  I found the right tie and shirt combo in my closet, drove half-way across the state in my old Chevet, and stood on the press risers with some of the reporters I had only seen on TV, or read about through their bylines in the newspapers.  It was a most special day, and remains a fond memory.

The list could continue with countless other sounds.  For a complete backward glance and a smile or two read the book.

Paul Harvey Affection For J. Edgar Hoover Makes Me Queasy

This is sad.

I have had a long time respect and admiration for Paul Harvey as a broadcaster and radio personality.  I will always have fond memories of him.  However, the news today regarding his tight and too-cozy relationship with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover makes my stomach spin.  There is no doubt that Hoover was one of the more despicable characters on the national stage for many decades.  His fondness for deceit, slander and character-assassination is no longer a secret.  It was known during his frightful reign at the FBI what a low-brow person he truly was.  Therefore, how Paul Harvey got wrapped up with Hoover is a mystery.  Paul Harvey was smart and capable and yet somehow was duped into taking sides with the likes of Hoover. 

My stomach spins as Paul Harvey’s name is tainted.

And now, the rest of the story.

Previously confidential files show that Harvey, who died last February at 90, enjoyed a 20-year friendship with FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, often submitting advance copies of his radio script for comment and approval. Harvey wrote Hoover and his deputies regularly. Hoover, in turn, helped Harvey with research, suggested changes in scripts and showered the broadcaster with effusive praise.

But the real twist, suitable for one of Harvey’s signature “Rest of the Story” vignettes, is how they met — on opposite sides of an espionage investigation.

The news is contained in nearly 1,400 pages of FBI files, released to The Washington Post in response to a one-year-old Freedom of Information Act request. The trove supplies new details about how America’s No. 1 broadcaster came to befriend America’s No. 1 G-man.

The records underscore that the men shared deeply conservative convictions and a hatred of communism. And Harvey’s vast audience was of intense interest to the image-obsessed Hoover.

Harvey tried to be of service beyond the FBI as well, writing in 1956 to Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who had made a name for himself by hunting down alleged Communists in the federal bureaucracy, with tips about “known Reds” at a Texas Air Force base. A senior FBI official added a handwritten notation to ensure that Harvey’s letter would not be distributed outside the bureau’s top brass: “No dissemination since identity of Harvey cannot be revealed.”

What Motivates And Guides Caffeinated Politics?

I was reminded this past week that with over 2,500 posts on this blog, there are some over-riding themes and principles that are repeated over and over.  I thought it might be fun to think of the guiding issues and principles found on this blog, and write them down.

…. The process of governing is more important than the politics of any issue.  In addition a  fair and orderly atmosphere both in electing officals, and creating legislation is required to insure a fair and equal playing field.

….Campaign money, and the ever-consuming need for more and more of it,  pollutes the political process, and undermines the enactment of sound public policy.

…. The Supreme Court (both state and national) requires the highest and most ethical standards applied to applicants.  In the states, it is more appropriate to appoint justices through the merit selection process than to have elections for the judiciary.

…. Drunk driving is a most troubling  problem that will require tough-minded legislators being more interested in doing what is right, than  carrying alcohol for the Tavern League.

…. Tough anti-smoking laws are just common sense.

…. Going with principle (Dubai deal) is more important than following the prevailing political mood.

…. Torture is wrong, and spawns more terrorists while undermining a nation’s moral code.

…. Darfur needs the world.  Sadly, history will severely judge the  majorityfor not caring.

…. Preventive wars are a waste  of a nation’s  treasured resources.

….Israel needs to stop the illegal settlement policy, and Palestinians should have, must have, and will have a homeland to call their own.  When it comes to Israel the tail must stop wagging the dog.

….Polar bears are needing us to care more about them, and to reach an understanding about the need to address climate change.

…. Gun control is needed to insure the safety of the citizenry.  Strict regulations on the manufacture, sale, registration, and usage is the means for a safer nation.

…. Marriage matters, for all.   Period.

…. Cheating on a partner, married or otherwise, is smarmy and wrong.  Getting preachy about this issue is still OK.

…. Books are some of our best friends.

…. Just because a singer is older does not mean that they have less value or creative ability.

…. History is in need of more study and understanding, not only in our schools, but also with the average citizen of this nation.

….Never underestimate the lack of humor from Mormons.

…. Never underestimate the damage one Bishop (Molrino) can cause.

…. When it looks like it is a slow news day check in on the antics of Sarah Palin and the Clampetts of Palinland.

…. Newspapers are the foundation for long-form investigative reporting, and an essential ingredient to democracy.

….Journalists are as vital to the nations democracy and well being as our soldiers, sailors. and air force.

….Radio and TV personalities should be considered guests in our house, and when they offend should be rejected from our premises. 

…. Elvis is still The King.

…. So is Roy Acuff.

…. The Grand Ole Opry is a national treasure, and true slice of Americana.

81st Wedding Anniversary!

The much beloved Paul Harvey would have had a story on this couple for sure, as he much enjoyed making note of the longevityof successful marriages.  And this one is amazing!

Britain’s longest living married couple have celebrated their 81st wedding anniversary.

Frank and Anita Milford, who live together in a nursing home in Plymouth, Devon, exchanged vows on 26 May, 1928.

Frank is 101 and Anita will be 101 next month. In February they will break the record to become the longest married couple in Britain.

They say they still have little arguments, but will always have a kiss and cuddle before they go to bed.

The pair, who said there was no “magic secret” to a happy marriage, met at a YMCA dance in the St Budeaux area of Plymouth in 1926 and were married two years later at Torpoint register office.

Mr Milford worked at Devonport dockyard until his retirement at the age of 60.

The couple stayed in Plymouth throughout World War II.

During the Blitz they narrowly escaped two bombs, including one which fell on their house.

They have two children, five grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

Their 74-year-old son, also called Frank, said the main secret of his parents’ wedded bliss was simply being happy with each other.

“They’ve enjoyed themselves, enjoyed their lives very much but they’ve been always very content with their lot,” he said.