Air America Radio is dead. Long live Air America Radio! The big news today is a mixture of good and bad for Air America Radio. The Washington Times reports that it has been rescued from bankruptcy, but it is losing its big-name talent, Al Franken:

Air America Radio was rescued from bankruptcy yesterday, but still faces the impending loss of Al Franken, its most popular talker.

The liberal network will be sold to Stephen Green, a Manhattan real estate investment mogul with heavy Democratic ties, including his brother Mark Green, who ran for mayor against Michael R. Bloomberg in 2001. The sale of the network — deemed a “personal investment” by the two brothers — will be completed in mid-February for an undisclosed sum.

Mr. Green is intent on bringing solvency to Air America, which has been troubled by flagging ratings, cash deficits and management turmoil since it was founded almost three years ago as a foil to popular conservative talk radio.

The network was often called “Err America” by critics.

“In the long run, content is king,” said Mr. Green, vowing to stabilize the network’s finances, beef up the talent roster and extend the Air America “brand” into other marketing or broadcast opportunities. The network’s weekly audience has been stuck at just under 2 million since the beginning — about one-tenth the number of listeners who tune in each week to conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh.

Al Franken’s replacement will be Thom Hartmann. Yeah, I said “Thom who?” But according to his webpage, Thom’s show has better ratings in Seattle than Rush Limbaugh. Now the challenge comes in matching or beating Limbaugh’s ratings across the U.S., and cannily competing with the many other successful conservative talk radio shows. Based on past performance, that will be a very difficult task.

I have listened to the local Air America radio station, and it is going markedly downhill. Two of the local radio hosts have left the show, and their replacements have been either lackluster or canned shows from elsewhere. I have listened to Air America Radio on the way to and from work, and I have written about my reactions before. I figured I was bravely investigating something that hardly anyone else was listening to, but I can’t stand listening to the local Air America radio station any more. I don’t like the attempted humor of the canned afternoon show, and the local morning show is dry and boring. I wish them the best of luck in their business, but I don’t hold out much hope that the new Air America will be a booming venture, even in this liberal city where hippies go to die.

If Air America Radio, and liberal radio in general, were able to compete well against conservative talk radio, it would do so. But three years and many millions of dollars and man-hours later, we see that it can’t compete. That is why I predict we will hear more people calling for a return to the Fairness Doctrine, the First Amendment’s protection of free speech notwithstanding. Assuming that the Fairness Doctrine isn’t implemented, liberal talk radio will continue to do lackluster business. The question is whether the Brothers Green will acknowledge that the free market just doesn’t like liberal talk radio much — or will they continue in the fantasy that just a little more money would really see it take off?

If so, they’re very typical of the liberal mindset.

UPDATE (2/7/2007 12:28:30 PM): The Smoking Gun website has reported that the buying price for Air America Radio was $4.25 million. Yep. The free market really supports liberal talk radio.

We have an early crop of Presidential hopefuls springing up, but none all that exciting. Since Vice President Cheney has already said he won’t run, there will be no clear leaders for either the Democrat or Republican presidential candidates this year as we normally would with an incumbent President or Vice President running for the office.

What makes a good President? Well, the Constitution explains that the President is the chief executive of the country, so the President had better have good executive skills. There is no way any one person could juggle all the responsibilities of a modern American President, so a successful President ought to be able to delegate responsibilities to competent staff. But regardless of how few or many people there are to help with duties, the President is the chief executive who has to make the really tough decisions.

So what is the best way to prepare to be an American President? For the rest of this article I’ll look at the last 19 Presidents — the ones who have served from 1900 to the present — and take my calculations from their numbers. Of these 19 men, six were Vice Presidents first (G. Bush, Ford, Nixon, Johnson, Truman, Coolidge). So is being a Vice President the best way to train for the job of President? I guess that would depend on the President. Some Presidents have included their V.P.s in the day-to-day workings of the Presidency, and others seem to have tolerated the office of V.P. as a necessary evil. John Nance Garner, twice Vice President under FDR, is reported to have said that the job of Vice President was “not worth a bucket of warm piss,” although the newspapers substituted the word “spit” to protect the tender eyes of their readers.

Of the six former Vice Presidents, four gained the office of President via death or resignation (Ford, Johnson, Truman, Coolidge), while two were elected President after having completed two terms as Vice President first (G. Bush, Nixon). Going solely by these numbers, you’re twice as likely to become President because of death or resignation than you are by showing how much you have learned in the Vice President slot.

What about being a Senator before running for President? Judging by the number of Senators who have announced their candidacy or who are expected to do so, you’d think the Senate would be the best place from which to launch a Presidential run, but recent history doesn’t back that theory. Only five of the last 19 Presidents had served in the Senate first (Nixon, Johnson, Kennedy, Truman, Harding), but of these five, only two left their Senatorial positions to become President (Kennedy, Harding). The other three served as Vice Presidents first. Ignoring the long odds, a Senator is a legislator and not an executive, so serving as a Senator doesn’t necessarily train one to be a good Chief Executive. This fact alone could explain the relatively few modern Presidents who were formerly Senators, and it also explains why I’ve not been excited about any Senator who runs for President.

Since the office of President is an executive position, it makes sense that people elect proven executives to that office. This could explain why so many state governors have been elected President (G. W. Bush, Clinton, Reagan, Carter, F.D.R., Coolidge, Wilson, T. Roosevelt, McKinley). That makes nine the last time I counted them — nearly 50% of our Presidents since 1900. And whether the state is large or small, the office of Governor is an executive position. With all else being equal, I would prefer a candidate with proven executive experience over a legislator any day (but when do we ever have two candidates that are close to equal in belief and position?).

And now to prove how badly I cannot predict elections from 18 months out, I will now give my predictions for 2008. This prediction assumes (and it’s a big assumption) that there are no major upsets such as a shooting war breaking out with Iran or anyone else, another major terrorist attack on the U.S., or new revelations about the candidates popping up between now and Election Day 2008. Looking at the current crop of Democrat candidates for President, I have to give the nomination to Senator Clinton. Of the current crop of hopefuls, she has the greatest capability to raise money for her campaign, and she has the best name recognition. On the other hand, I think her biggest obstacle to being elected is her name recognition.

Of the current Republican candidates, I think it will be either Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney or former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Both candidates have more executive experience than the Republican Senators who aspire to be President.

I can’t predict who would win if it came down to a race between Senator Clinton and Mitt Romney. She would have to overcome the large group of people who actively dislike, if not outright despise her. He would have to overcome the “I can’t vote for a Mormon!” hang-up some people have, although the argument sounds so 1960s to me. But I have to believe there are fewer people with a Mormon hang-up than there are with a Hillary hang-up.

I know I’d be much happier with another Republican in office, so maybe that’s coloring my prediction.

A few days ago, this news article caught my eye:

Major corporations and environmental groups on Friday announced what they called an “unprecedented alliance” to push for quicker action against global warming — urging lawmakers to pass mandatory curbs on carbon emissions, in contrast to President Bush’s voluntary approach.

In a statement, the 10 U.S.-based companies and four environmental groups called for mandatory reductions of greenhouse gas emissions, including those from power plants, transportation and buildings.

Called the U.S. Climate Action Partnership, the group includes aluminum giant Alcoa, BP America, Caterpillar, DuPont, General Electric, Lehman Brothers and four utilities with a big stake in climate policy: Duke Energy, FPL Group, PG&E and PNM Resources.

Well, big business appears to be calling for a government intervention against itself. The U.S. Climate Action Partnership is calling for the government to step in and place some mandatory curbs on the carbon emissions that are the normal result of life, business, and manufacturing. Keep in mind that if any business wanted to reduce its own carbon emissions, it could choose to do so right now, without government intervention. I know that big-government fans tend to see government intervention as a panacea for all life’s ills, but my libertarian nature says we should only allow government to step in and meddle with the free markets as a last resort.

Here’s the real crux of the matter: why do you suppose these ten organizations are calling for the government to make carbon emission reductions mandatory for everyone? If cutting back on carbon emissions is so crucial to saving the planet, why don’t they set the example for others by voluntarily cutting their own carbon emissions by, say, 10-33%? Then other companies might react to their bold planet-saving decisions by voluntarily cutting back their own carbon emissions. But no, it can’t be left to individual entities to choose for themselves: government must enter the fray and force everyone to cut back.

Why such strong-arm tactics? As with many businesses that look to the government for national solutions to free-market problems, there is a simple motivation: the bottom line. These ten companies know instinctively that if they spend the necessary time and money to cut back on their carbon emissions voluntarily, they will find themselves at a financial disadvantage against any of their competitors who choose not to spend their money on cutting carbon emissions. It is far more likely for a competing business to use as much of its resources as possible to create cheaper products — and divert customers with them — than it is for that business to spend money on stemming carbon emissions, if it isn’t required to do so.

Of course, there are some ways to get around this initial financial disadvantage — if a company creates really superlative products, for example, or if it uses its investment in cleaner manufacturing processes to enhance a “greener, Earth-friendly” company image and thus attract more customers. But there’s too much uncertainty involved for most businesses to choose this route and risk losing some of their customers, even in the short run.

Due to fears over the competition getting ahead, then, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership seeks to hobble all businesses with the same burden, to force everyone to work under the same restrictions. So they are petitioning the government to play the role of heavy and force all American businesses to spend money to cut back on their carbon emissions. Hey, it’s for the good of the planet, don’t you know!

Of course, even if the government were to force all American businesses into adopting more planet-friendly manufacturing processes, that wouldn’t do a thing to fix or even coerce the other competition — carbon-spewing businesses located outside the United States. Which brings us to the Kyoto Protocol.

Are we in agreement that keeping one company to a high standard while loosening standards for its competitors results in an unfair burden on the company that must labor under the higher standard? That does seem common sense. So why do people continue to labor under the belief that the Kyoto Protocol is a good idea? Kyoto calls for extremely rigorous carbon emission standards on highly productive countries such as the United States, but it fails to apply those same standards to growing industrial powers like China and India.

If the Senate under President Clinton had ratified the Kyoto Protocol, rather than voting 95-0 against it, the United States would be laboring under a hugely restrictive set of environmental standards, while other nations would be free to do as they chose. The United States’ legendary productivity would have been hobbled under Kyoto, which is precisely why the Senate voted against it. In essence, those who pushed for the United States to implement the Kyoto Protocol were suffering from a classic case of tall poppy syndrome — attempting to use the ham-fisted force of treaty law to punish the United States for its dominance in world markets.

Yet that’s exactly what the U.S. Climate Action Partnership wants the U.S. government to do to its own economy.

Even though most of my writing is nonfiction, I have written a few fiction pieces, and one of the more difficult parts of that process is coming up with character names. Boring names are, well, boring. My dear wife has suggested that I collect common names and create a quick program to randomize them, but that sounds like too much work. I’ve tried the phone book trick for names, but I have an even better method now: I’ll let the spammers come up with names for me.

I’m not talking about the email addresses of spammers. Those often look like an explosion in an old-fashioned typesetter’s office with names like nmn6n87mxh57dh@yahoo.com or mfctd1yqgsz@ccpc.net. (Hmm… I wonder how old mfctd1yqgsz is doing these days.) I guess you could take those names, sprinkle some apostrophes throughout, and set them in some fantasy story since nothing says fantasy like random punctuation. (“And thus did Trogdor smite the M’fct’dly’Qgsz. And there was much burnination.”)

But I’m more interested in the friendly name that can be associated with an email address. These look more like real people. Speaking of people, here are just a few names I pulled off my server today:

Luis Henry
Felicia Johnson
Dennis Hall
Christian Lopez
Danika Arnold
Tiffiny Powell
Ophelia Duncan
Katherine F. Easley
Willie Richardson
Wayne Freeman
Russ Harris
Leonard Harrison
Laurence G. Walker
Gloria Peterson

I don’t know about you, but some of these names seem to come pre-equipped with personalities. “Tiffiny Powell, of the New Hampshire Powells, explained the spelling of her name to her new roommate thus: ‘Mumsie wanted to name me after her favorite store, but she wanted my name to be unique, so she toyed with “Tiffani” and “Tiphanie” before settling on my current spelling.’ Ophelia appeared to be listening, but her mind was somehow caught up in visions of flowers and thoughts of swimming.”

On second thought, I think I’ll have Trogdor burninate both T’iffiny and Oph’eli’a.

Well, it’s now official: Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton has tossed her hat into the presidential ring. Good for her, but I can’t support her. In recent days I have written about Speaker Pelosi and CBS News anchorwoman Katie Couric, and with Senator Clinton, that makes three. I don’t care that they are women, but I do care that politically we rarely see eye-to-eye on issues. It is for this reason that I can’t support Speaker Pelosi or Senator Clinton, and I will not vote for them.

In the case of Senator Clinton, my determination is nothing new. I first wrote that I would never vote for her when her book, Living History, was first published, clear back when I had just started the Captain’s Comments:

Hillary claims in her book that she believed Bill when he denied a relationship with Monica Lewinsky. Knowing what she must have known about Bill’s previous dalliances, she must be the most gullible woman I know, and I would love to sell her a used car or some Florida land by the quart. Gullibility is not a prized quality in a public official. Do you really want Hillary to negotiate on behalf of the United States when she can’t recognize a bald-face lie told her by a bald-faced liar?

There is a wide field of presidential aspirants from both parties. They’re either actively campaigning already, or still testing the waters to see if they will run. It promises to be an interesting two years.

The following comes from a recent blog entry by CBS News anchorwoman, Katie Couric, about a meeting she and other news anchors attended at the White House.

And yet, the meeting was a little disconcerting as well. As I was looking at my colleagues around the room—Charlie Gibson, George Stephanopoulos, Brian Williams, Tim Russert, Bob Schieffer, Wolf Blitzer, and Brit Hume—I couldn’t help but notice, despite how far we’ve come, that I was still the only woman there. Well, there was some female support staff near the door. But of the people at the table, the “principals” in the meeting, I was the only one wearing a skirt. Everyone was gracious, though the jocular atmosphere was palpable.

Katie Couric was the only woman seated at the table. *gasp* The horror! How was she ever able to carry on in the meeting? Having identified both the Bush administration and the news shows as being sexist pigs, Ms. Couric continues with an old bromide: sexual equality only comes when employee ratios match population ratios.

The feminist movement that began in the 1970′s helped women make tremendous strides—but there still haven’t been enough great leaps for womankind. Fifty-one percent of America is female, but women make up only about sixteen percent of Congress—which, as the Washington Monthly recently pointed out, is better than it’s ever been…but still not as good as parliaments in Rwanda (forty-nine percent women) or Sweden (forty-seven percent women). Only nine Fortune 500 companies have women as CEO’s.

That meeting was a reality check for me—and not just about Iraq. It was a reminder that all of us still have an obligation to ask: Don’t more women deserve a place at the table too?

By Ms. Couric’s logic, any business that doesn’t employ 50% women is guilty of not being diverse enough. Obviously, that business is being run by sexist pigs. But there is an inherent problem with looking at pure numbers and drawing a conclusion of discrimination. If we were to do so, we would have to condemn the Supreme Court for failing to hire enough minorities. Thomas Sowell wrote about the fallacy of judging based on averages in his book, Civil Rights: Rhetoric or Reality?.

Even in a random world of identical things, to say that something happens a certain way on the average is not to say that it happens that way every time. But affirmative action deals with averages almost as if there were no variance. If Hispanics are 8 percent of the carpenters in a given town, it does not follow that every employer of carpenters in that town would have 8 percent Hispanics if there were no discrimination. Even if carpenters were assigned to employers by drawing lots (or by some other random process), there would be variance in the proportion of Hispanic carpenters from one employer to another. To convict those employers with fewer Hispanics of discrimination in hiring would be to make statistical variance a federal offense.

To illustrate the point, we can consider some process where racial, sexual, or ideological factors do not enter, such as the flipping of a coin. There is no reason to expect a persistent preponderance of heads over tails (or vice versa) on the average, but there is also no reason to expect exactly half heads and half tails every time we flip a coin a few times. That is, variance will exist. [emphasis by the author]

And based on the blog entry by Ms. Couric, it appears she has a hard time understanding the difference between averages and variance.

“Congress shall make no law … abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press…” – First Amendment

You’d think that with language as clear as that, Congress would not meddle with freedom of speech, but you’d be wrong. Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) is planning on resurrecting the Fairness Doctrine of decades past. In a nutshell, the Fairness Doctrine says that radio stations can’t host one political side without giving equal time to the other. That’s only fair, don’t you agree? We don’t want our media to become too lopsided, do we?

Regardless of how you wrap this idea up in nice platitudes, the fact remains that the Fairness Doctrine is Congress making laws restricting and abridging the freedom of speech. If a radio station wants to play all-conservative or all-liberal shows 24/7, that decision should be up to the owners of the station, not Congress.

Besides, why should we grant Congress any say in the playlists of radio stations? Is there any indication the Fairness Doctrine worked before? The Fairness Doctrine caused radio stations to languish during the ’70s and early ’80s. Two things fueled the resurgence of AM radio: the removal of the restrictive Fairness Doctrine in 1987, and the subsequent ascendancy of the Rush Limbaugh show made possible by the vanished Fairness Doctrine. (Whether you like Rush or hate him, he did usher in a new public interest in the talk radio format.) But with the near-complete dominance of talk radio by conservative shows, it is no wonder that the newly-elected Democrat Congress is drooling over the prospect of reanimating the corpse of the old Fairness Doctrine.

You won’t hear Democrats admit openly that they want to oppress conservative talk radio, although that is their goal. Instead you will hear them talk about how unfair it is that only one side of the political spectrum is represented on mostly-conservative talk radio. Liberal talk shows have not met much success in the free marketplace, so Democrats want to try to level the playing field by shackling conservative shows. Handicapper General Diana Moon Glampers, call your office.

It’s only fair to follow three hours of the conservative Rush Limbaugh show with three hours of the liberal Randi Rhodes show, right? Well, it depends on what your definition of “equal” is. To be really equal, the three hours of any conservative show with a ten-point market share must be followed by thirty hours of any liberal show with a one-point market share. 3 x 10 = 30 x 1, right?  So everyone is happy and everything is fair in the topsy-turvy world of Democrats. Well, except the listeners, the hosts, and the radio station owners who are getting shafted.

Feel free to send Rep. Kucinich a note reminding him that the First Amendment phrase “Congress shall make no law” applies to him and to the Fairness Doctrine. I am.

Are you as tired as I am of hearing news stories about how wonderful life is now that a woman is Speaker of the House? Yes, Nancy Pelosi is the first woman to be Speaker of the House. Did you know she is a woman? Aren’t you impressed at how we, as a nation, have become so progressive as to have a female Speaker of the House? Oh, and she is a woman.

I believe that our nation will have reached a state of true gender equity when we don’t focus on the gender of the person holding a position of power. Frankly, I believe the mainstream media are more enamored with Speaker Pelosi because she is a Democrat, not because she is a woman. When Condoleezza Rice became the Secretary of State, her particular first was not lauded like Speaker Pelosi’s has because Secretary Rice is a Republican. Apparently it’s OK to call her an “Oreo,” “Aunt Jemima,” or to caricature her in a derogatory — dare I say racist — way. It’s all right for the media to do this because they are only “speaking truth to power” against those evil Republicans.

At this point, when it comes to Speaker Pelosi, I’m like Mr. Waturi in Joe Versus the Volcano: “I know she can get the job, but can she do the job?” That is the question. Here’s Cox and Forkum’s take on Speaker Pelosi taking up the gavel:

Madame Speaker

Today Rep. Nancy Pelosi made history by becoming the first female Speaker of the House. Yesterday

[S]he alluded to one of the reasons women have been slow to climb the political ladder, saying federal policy has never recognized women’s need for child care. “This Congress is going to be about children,” she said.

In other words, congress is going to be about expanding socialistic entitlements, and children will be used as the rationalization.

And hey, did you know she’s a woman?

I love the snow! And it’s about time we got some this winter. This area of the Pacific Northwest doesn’t often get snow, so it was nice to see that 3-4 inches had fallen overnight. Here is a shot taken with my cell phone close to work.

Let It Snow!

Since many people don’t have a clue how to drive in snow and ice, I left early for work to make sure I’d have plenty of time. Only on the clear, straight stretches of the highway did I get up to 35 MPH, and then only because the car in front of me was way in front of me. I lost count of the number of large SUV and pickup trucks that passed me going too fast for conditions. Driving fast in a rear-wheel drive vehicle is not a smart thing to do on slick snow.

The drive in was slow, but not all that scary. Tomorrow will be really interesting. The overnight temperatures should drop low enough to ice up all the roads. I’m tempted to stay home if the roads around my house are as slick as I fear they will be. I know I can drive safely, but I have years of experience driving in snow and ice. I don’t trust the others around me to have the same skill.