Friday, July 06, 2007

Smucker's ad executive dies at 80

Smucker's ad executive dies at 80

By LARRY McSHANE, Associated Press Writer Fri Jul 6, 5:00 PM ET
NEW YORK - Advertising executive, author and columnist Lois Wyse, who coined the memorable catchphrase "With a name like Smucker's, it has to be good," died Friday after a long struggle with stomach cancer, her family said. She was 80.

Wyse died in her Manhattan home shortly after midnight and 18 months after her cancer diagnosis, said her son-in-law, Henry Goldman. During her lengthy career in advertising, Wyse raised the glass ceiling for other working women while counseling clients from American Express to Revlon to one-time Cleveland Mayor Carl Stokes.

She created the advertising slogan that propelled Smucker's from a small Orrville, Ohio, jam and jelly business into an international brand. Her suggestion that a small chain of stores try a new name — Bed, Bath & Beyond — helped expand that business into a retail heavyweight.

Wyse launched her career as a teenage reporter with The Cleveland News and The Cleveland Press, becoming a columnist age 17. She worked with photographer Alfred Eisenstadt for a Life magazine piece when just 18, and later wrote for Vogue and Cosmopolitan.

Wyse, after co-founding the Cleveland-based Wyse Advertising with her first husband in 1951, came up with the Smucker's campaign while working as her company's creative director. She advised Stokes during his 1967 run, when he became the first black mayor elected in a major American city.

Wyse, who later divorced Marc Wyse, opened her advertising company's New York office in 1966.

As a writer, Wyse penned "The Way We Are" — a column featured on the last page of Good Housekeeping magazine for 13 years, where she recounted tales of her life and family. She also wrote more than 60 books, including the 1989 best-seller "Funny, You Don't Look Like a Grandmother."

Wyse was survived by her daughter, Katherine, and son-in-law Henry Goldman; son Robert and daughter-in-law Denise Wyse; stepson Zev Guber and wife Heidi; and eight grandchildren. Her second husband, theater producer Lee Guber, died in 1988.

A memorial service for Wyse was set for July 16 at Congregation Emanu-El on Manhattan's East Side.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Voice of America: Why liberals fear me by Rush Limbaugh


Policy Review
Fall 1994

There are times in one's life that despite all the blood, toil, tears, and sweat expended in the pursuit of excellence, one really should lean back, light up a good cigar, take a sip of an adult beverage, and just savor the moment. My friends, this is one of those times.

Thirty years after the inauguration of Lyndon Johnson's Great Society; 25 years after Woodstock; two decades after Richard Nixon's resignation; and two years after Democrats secured control of the White House and both chambers of Congress, modern liberalism--exhausted and confused--is on the run. Three decades after Ronald Reagan's brilliant enunciation of conservative ideals at the end of the 1964 campaign, he told me "Now that I've retired from active politics, I don't mind that you've become the number-one voice for conservatism in our country." And liberal fear is palpable.


Thus came the sizzling summer onslaught against me. "He's a showman, a showoff, and a jerk," wrote one pundit. "Chief propagandist for the revolution," said another. "A self-serving, hate-mongering liar," railed one writer. "A tool-shed-sized hate monger," said another. "Rush Limbaugh's ideology makes him a political dinosaur, which puts him on the endangered species list," wrote one critic. "Judge for yourself about that slabhead, Rush Limbaugh," said another.

The assault came from every corner of liberalism--from the White House and the Washington Post, from the New York Times and the New Yorker, from the Nation and the New Republic, from Time magazine and the Los Angeles Times, from C-Span and CNN, from U.S. News World Report and USA Today, and from National Public Radio, the National Organization for Women, and the National Education Association (I'm leaving many out, but you get the picture). In the month that followed President Clinton's June attack on me, I was mentioned in 1,450 stories, including the South China Morning Post and Agence France Presse, as tracked by a media database service.

Liberals have, in fact, elevated me to the role of leading political figure. Target Numero Uno. It is a role I have never sought. My goal has always been to host the most-listened-to radio and television shows in history and, in turn, charge confiscatory advertising rates. But as it happens, not only am I a performer, I am also effectively communicating a body of beliefs that strikes terror into the heart of even the most well-entrenched liberals, shaking them to their core.

The interesting question is, Why? Why do liberals fear me? I am not a distinguished member of Congress. I am not running for President. I do not control billions of dollars in taxpayer money. I can enact no policy, law, or regulation to affect a single American citizen's behavior. So why the high level of liberal emotion? This would seem to me to be a legitimate area of inquiry to be pursued by members of the mainstream media--but their own animus has prevented them from solid analysis of this phenomenon. Yet again, I must do their job for them.

First, liberals fear me because I threaten their control of the debate. These are the facts: Twenty million people a week listen to my radio program on 659 stations nationwide, on short wave and Armed Forces Radio worldwide, while several million more watch my television show on 250 stations nationally. I am on the air 17-and-a-half hours a week. Add to that 6 million copies sold of my two books, The Way Things Ought To Be and See, I Told You So, and 45,000 monthly subscribers to The Limbaugh Letter after just two years in business.

What I do in this rather large oeuvre (a little literary lingo, there) is hard for pundits to peg. Media sages have not to this point been confronted with a conservative who is both commentator and entertainer. A conservative who trafficks in satire, of all things--mostly liberal turf until now. A conservative who dares poke fun at liberal sacred cows, and who does so with relish, optimism, and good cheer. A conservative whose expression of core beliefs is unabashed, unapologetic, unembarrassed--and who has the best bumper music on the air.

How do I attract so many people? First, I approach my audience with enormous respect. I am absolutely convinced that the country contains vast numbers of intelligent, engaged citizens who are hungry for information and inspiration. These are people who play by the rules, who are working hard to raise their families, to strengthen their communities, to do the right thing--and to enthusiastically enjoy life in the process. They are proud to be counted among those who believe in God, American ideals, morality, individual excellence, and personal responsibility.

These are the people who are constantly told: "You are the problem. You aren't compassionate enough, you don't pay enough taxes, your selfishness and greed (which is how the desire to look after one's own family and improve one's lot in life is always defined) are destroying the country." These are the people whose most heartfelt convictions have been dismissed, scorned, and made fun of by the mainstream media. I do not make fun of them. I confirm their instincts, with evidence taken directly from pages of the daily papers and from television news programs. I explain what is actually in legislation. I quote what our esteemed members of Congress and the mainstream media actually say. I detail and analyze news stories (many of which don't get national play except on my programs) that demonstrate the absurdity of liberal policies.


I have not attracted and kept my audience by being a blowhard, a racist, a sexist, a hatemonger. Those who make such charges insult the intelligence of the American people. If I were truly what my critics claim, I would have long ago, deservedly, gone into oblivion. The fact is, my audience knows I constantly champion rugged individualism. One of the most oft-heard phrases on my shows is this: "I want a great America made up of great individuals, an America where everyone is unshackled to be the best he can be." This is the philosophy that sends liberals into fits--because they know a country made of strong, self-reliant individuals does not need them at all.

My tools are not "right-wing demagoguery," as is so often charged. My tools are evidence, data, and statistics. Economic analysis. Cultural criticism. Political comment. I demonstrate. I illustrate. I provide my audience with information that the mainstream media refuses to disseminate. And I do so in an entertaining, enjoyable way. That is why I always say my views and commentary don't need to be balanced by equal time. I am equal time. And the free market has proved my contention.

Despite claims from my detractors that my audience is comprised of mind-numbed robots, waiting for me to give them some sort of marching orders, the fact is that I am merely enunciating opinions and analysis that support what they already know. Thousands of listeners have told me, on the air, in faxes, letters, and by computer e-mail, that I agree with them. Finally, they say, somebody in the media is saying out loud what they have believed all along.

This hard evidence that huge numbers of ordinary Americans have privately rejected the tenets of liberalism is a genuine threat to the decades-long liberal dominance of American institutions. Conservatives--who have been shut out of the debate in the arena of ideas for a generation--are finally understanding the stunning truth that they are not alone. The marginalization of conservative ideas, a successful liberal tactic for 30 years, is over. Most Americans are, in fact, conservative. They may not always vote that way, but they live their lives that way. This fact has been successfully hidden from the population. Until now.


Beyond mere jealousy that their territory has been horned-in on, the political and cultural significance of this phenomenon has finally begun to dawn on liberals. One of the first signs of panic occurred back in the Outlook section of the Washington Post last February. In "Day of the Dittohead," David Remnick opined: "Nearly all the hype about Limbaugh winds up on the entertainment pages. And yet there is very little in the press to suggest that he is, above all, a sophisticated propagandist, an avatar of the politics of meanness and envy. Limbaugh's influence is hard to gauge," Remnick continued. "But attention must be paid...the left-wing media and the 'arts and croissants crowd,' as Limbaugh puts it, ignore him at their peril."

President Clinton picked up this fretful refrain in Atlanta on May 3, amidst sagging poll numbers and embarrassing headlines ranging from Whitewater to Paula Jones. "You [have] got to understand in the rural South where you've got Rush Limbaugh and all this right-wing extremist media just pouring venom at us every day and nothing to counter that, we need an election to get the facts out," claimed the president on CNN. A few weeks later, the president was back on the warpath during an interview aboard Air Force One with St. Louis radio station KMOX. "The Republicans and the far right in this country have their own media networks. We don't have anything like that. They have extra organized political action groups that we can't match, and they have the Republican Party's fund-raising apparatus, which has been strengthened by having had the White House for all but four in the [past] 20 years." (For the record, Bill Clinton had spoken at a $3.5 million Democratic fundraiser 36 hours before. But I digress.)

"I think there is too much cynicism and too much intolerance...look at how much of talk radio is a constant, unremitting drumbeat of negativism and cynicism," the president continued, explaining that he was newly determined "to be aggressive." He then added, "After I get off the radio with you today, Rush Limbaugh will have three hours to say whatever he wants, and I won't have any opportunity to respond, and there's no truth detector. You won't get on afterward and say [what] was true and what wasn't."

The pundits didn't quite know what to make of that. Yes, they agreed, Rush Limbaugh is a blemish on the American political landscape. Still, the president's performance was odd. The response of the New York Times editorial page was blistering: "Whining and public self-pity are not presidential-scale attributes." The Washington Post's Mary McGrory concurred: "His remarks were soggy with self-pity.... Self-pity is exhaustion's little sister and follows her everywhere. Clinton should read what was said about our most saintly president, Abraham Lincoln, and stop whining." Even London's Sunday Telegraph could not resist commenting: "To get into a barnyard scrap with right-wing talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh does little for the dignity of the Oval Office."


The president's tirade on KMOX occurred on June 24. On June 28, a left-wing media attack dog group released a "report" entitled Limbaugh's "Reign of Error." From AIDS to ozone, from Whitewater to the Bible, Limbaugh seems to be able to dissemble and deceive on virtually any subject," read the press release issued by the misnamed Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) and picked up by the Associated Press.

According to FAIR, I am guilty of 43 instances of "sloppiness, ignorance, or fabrication." The National Review recently came to my defense: "Considering that Mr. Limbaugh has logged over 4,000 hours on the air, 43 mistakes would be a pretty good record: how does FAIR's record compare?" But members of the mainstream media, looking for a way to justify their animosity toward me and slavishly devoted to the agenda if not the person of Bill Clinton, could not resist FAIR's seduction.

One charge spread like wildfire because it seemed to best illustrate the premise that I invent stories with abandon and lie about my sources. In January of this year, I mentioned on my radio show a report that the private school that Chelsea Clinton attends had assigned its 8th graders to write a paper on "Why I Feel Guilty Being White." I cited CBS as my source. FAIR's report implied that I made this up out of whole cloth. In an advertisement on the New York Times editorial page, FAIR claimed this was an example of a "groundless assertion." Ellen Hume, on CNN's "Reliable Sources," had a field day. "I don't respect someone who is clearly telling myths and pretending that he's got facts behind him. Occasionally [Limbaugh will] do something like say that the Sidwell Friends School had some test for Chelsea--some essay Chelsea Clinton had to write about why I don't like being white, or why I'm embarrassed to be white, and then he cites a source like CBS News. That simply isn't true. None of that was true. So where is this coming from...and where do you draw the line at a mistake, which we all make, and a deliberate distortion of the fact to pander to myths that people wish were true!"

I did not fabricate this story, as I explained in a column in USA Today. CBS Morning Resource, a wire service for radio talk show hosts run by the CBS Radio Network, reported the story on January 6, 1994. An Ohio radio station brought the CBS wire story to my attention. Playboy magazine and Heterodoxy magazine had both already published the story, and in fact were the sources of the CBS wire story. Sidwell later denied that the incident occurred, and I accepted its word and said so on my radio program. But I refused to accept FAIR's suggestion that I made up the story or lied about CBS as its source.

The following week on "Reliable Sources," Ellen Hume admitted her mistake. "In deference to Rush, I would like to make a clarification, which is that there was a story that he put out on the radio, that Chelsea Clinton had to write some essay about how she hates being white. This was not a true story. Rush, as far as I know, never apologized for broadcasting it, but he did say he got it from CBS. It turns out that the bad guy here was CBS, not Rush. They had a tip sheet that actually put the story out, so I say, Rush, you're off the hook on that one." [emphasis mine].

The media makes mistakes about me all the time. One columnist claimed I call Hillary Rodham Clinton a feminazi. I do no such thing. Another said I blame the falling dollar on welfare and feminazis. I never have. Still another pundit claimed my radio show is carried on more than 1,400 stations. Not yet true, but inevitable. What is undeniable is that my critics--from the president to his left-wing political allies and devotees in the mainstream media--are quick to judge what I say as outrageous, fabricated, and deceptive because I am effective, and they are panic-stricken by my ability to challenge the current terms of political debate.

The second reason liberals fear me is that I represent middle America's growing rejection of the elites. Americans are increasingly convinced they have been deceived by the so-called "professionals" and "experts"--particularly, but not exclusively, in the media. Seeing themselves as sacrosanct, the self-important media elite have adopted a religious zeal toward their business--which they actually consider a "mission." I pointed this out in my first book, but the situation has gotten both worse and more transparent. The Washington Post's advertising campaign for new subscribers states bluntly, "If you don't get it, you don't get it." Fortunately, most Americans don't get it. Meanwhile, the New York Times Magazine promotes itself as "What Sunday Was Created For," which might amuse the Creator, whom, I suspect, had something very different in mind when He did the creating. But that's just it. What you have here is the arrogance of power. And that is why so many people are looking elsewhere, and increasingly to me.

Of course, it is not just the media elites that Americans are rejecting. It is the medical elites, the sociology elites, the education elites, the legal elites, the science elites--the list goes on and on--and the ideas this bunch pr motes through the media. Americans have been told our health care lags behind the rest of the industrialized world; it doesn't. They were told drugs are safe; they aren't. They were told free sex is liberating; it isn't. They were told massive welfare spending would help people get back on their feet; it hasn't. They were told that without government intervention on behalf of environmentalist wackos, the world would come to an end; it won't. They were told that religious people are dangerous to the country; they aren't.

An assistant managing editor for one regional newspaper actually wrote, "I despise the Rush Limbaugh show," throwing the pretense of journalistic objectivity to the winds. Most aren't so explicit, but their work reeks with animosity for my audience and me. The FAIR report, in fact, is interesting precisely because it is far more an elitist attack on my core beliefs than a critique of my accuracy. FAIR was launched in 198 with seed money from the New World Foundation, whose chairman that year was none other than Hillary Rodham Clinton. Its board of advisers include some of America's best-known leftists and feminists, from Ed Asner to Gloria Steinem. Its mission is to expose right-wing bias in the media. That's right--I'm not making this up--right-wing bias: The group attacked the ABC mini-series "Amerika" for being too harsh on communists.


Along the way, FAIR has developed quite a track record for inaccuracy. In 1988 FAIR charged that a Texas reporter had attempted suicide because his paper (Beaumont Enterprise) refused to print an article about toxic waste. The truth was that the paper ran an entire series of articles, which won a journalism prize. The reporter hadn't tried to kill himself; he accidentally wounded himself with a handgun.

In 1993, FAIR promoted the myth that domestic violence soars on Super Bowl Sunday, flooding abuse telephone hotlines with calls and crowding emergency rooms with wives beaten to a pulp by football-crazed husbands. The story was picked up by media outlets all over the country. There was just one problem; it wasn't true. In fact, Washington Post reporter Ken Ringle debunked the story and detailed FAIR's role in the hoax in a widely praised article of January 31, 1993. The next day, the San Francisco Examiner reported: Jeff Cohen, executive director of FAIR, acknowledged that he could not find a specific study to back up his group's claim."

What was disturbing, though not surprising, was that anyone in the mainstream media took FAIR's assault on me seriously, given the group's obvious bias and history of error. But since FAIR was repeating so many elitist liberal myths as facts, many in the mainstream media could not tell the difference. Take health care, for example. Not surprising given the current debate, FAIR attacked my view on health care, a charge quickly picked up by the Associated Press. I'm quoted as saying: "If you have any doubts about the status of American health care, just compare it with that in other industrialized nations." FAIR responded: "The United States ranks 16th in life expectancy and 21st in infant survival among industrialized nations, according to the CIA's 17 World Fact Book. "

The truth is, I was right. The Associated Press bought FAIR's charge hook, line, and sinker, but the evidence supporting my claim was there for the asking--in The New Republic, no less. Elizabeth McCaughey, then a fellow at the Manhattan Institute, in her article, "No Exit," answered this myth directly: "The [Clinton] Administration often cites two statistics--America's relatively high infant mortality rate and its lower life expectancy--to support the need for the Clinton health bill. But these have almost nothing to do with the quality of American medical care. Both statistics reflect the epidemic of low-birth-weight babies born to teenage and drug-addicted mothers, as well as the large numbers of homicides in American cities and drug-related deaths. In fact, if you're seriously ill, the best place to be is in the United States. Among all industrialized nations, the United States has the highest cure rates for stomach, cervical, and uterine cancer, the second-highest cure rate for breast cancer, and is second to none in treating heart disease."

The real issue at stake in the health-care debate, as I have pointed out relentlessly on my programs, has been personal liberty. I examined for my audience the actual contents (a novel approach, I realize) of the Clinton health-care plan and its various Democratic incarnations. I pointed out the strictures, fines, penalties--including jail time--included in the president's plan. I ran the numbers. I detailed projections of the economic effects of the proposal on small business. I examined the history of government-run health care worldwide. I examined the history of government-run programs in the United States. Information citizens needed to make informed decisions, don't you think? Yet the interest of the mainstream media was merely to champion the Clinton plan, and "give the Clintons credit" for "raising the issue."

I welcome scrutiny. I gladly defend my opinions, my analysis, and the evidence I cite for them. But my contention is that this administration's policies do not, except on programs like mine, receive the kind of scrutiny regularly aimed at me. And the emphasis is clearly skewed. I cannot raise your taxes. I cannot regulate your business out of existence. I cannot affect your behavior in any way, shape or form--nor do I wish to. I merely seek to persuade. You are free to turn me off; you can ignore me. But you cannot tune in to another administration, or turn off the one we have. It is their ideas, their assertions, their policies that cry out for careful analysis and scrutiny.

Next, let's go to the issue of condoms. The New York Times sold FAIR advertising space on its editorial page to make this charge: "Rush's groundless assertions on issues of public importance include...condom users have a one-in-five AIDS risk." This distorts even FAIR's own study, which quotes me as saying, "The worst of all this is the lie that condoms really protect against AIDS. The condom failure rate can be as high as 20 percent. Would you get on a plane--or put your children on a plane--if one in five passengers would be killed on the flight? Well, the statistic holds for condoms, folks." That, of course, is distinctly different from saying that condom users have a one-in-five AIDS risk. In addition, though liberals are loathe to admit it, I am right about the ineffectiveness of condoms. A 1993 study by Susan C. Weller for the University of Texas Medical Branch found that "Although contraceptive research indicates that condoms are 87 percent effective in preventing pregnancy, results of HIV transmission studies indicate that condoms may reduce risk of HIV infections by approximately 69 percent," adding that condom "efficacy may be much lower than commonly assumed." Weller's study concludes: "It is a disservice to encourage the belief that condoms will prevent sexual transmission of HIV."


Or take women's issues. The Los Angeles Times couldn't resist citing FAIR's attack on my views on contemporary feminism. I'm quoted as saying: "Women were doing quite well in this country before feminism came along." FAIR's response: "Before feminism, women couldn't even vote." The fact is, the objectives and tactics of militant feminism bear little resemblance to the women's suffrage movement. The true backlash in this country is against militant feminism, yet another sign of victory. The largest women's organization in the country, for example, is not the National Organization for Women, with just 250,000 members. It is, instead, Concerned Women for America, a conservative group, with over 600,000 members. And even liberal women are having second thoughts. Wrote columnist Marilyn Gardner in the Christian Science Monitor (not exactly a conservative rag) : "Every revolution has its losing side. In the sexual revolution, evidence continues to mount that the supposed winners--liberated women--are in some cases turning out to be the losers. Instead of the freedom and equality they thought they had achieved, too many find themselves shackled by unplanned pregnancies, abortions, single motherhood, infections or infertility." Precisely. But with Gloria Steinem and Susan Faludi on FAIR's board, don't expect them to concede these points any time soon.

The elites have far too often dismissed fact for their ideological fiction. More and more Americans are beginning to awaken to this reality, and are looking to me for a second opinion. I give them the other side, which is based on common sense and traditional morality rather than academic hypotheses. And I am right, (as I like to say on the air) "97.9 percent of the time." On radio for six years and more than 4,000 hours, I have of course made mistakes along the way. But I make every attempt to prominently correct every such error as soon as I discover it. Here's an example of what FAIR considers a "fabrication": In one of my books, I attributed to James Madison a quote that he did not make. (People have been misattributing this quote to Madison as far back as Harold K. Lane's 1939 book, Liberty, Cry, Liberty.) This is a mistake--not a lie. And I have yet to publicly promise a middle-class tax cut I privately dismiss as "intellectually dishonest," and which I have no intention of keeping.

Third, liberals fear me because I'm validating the thoughts of the silent majority. Liberals seek to lull Americans to sleep with promises that government will take care of everything, if they will just fork over their money. I, on the other hand, challenge people to wake up. Millions already seriously question the wisdom of handing $1.5 trillion a year to the federal government when the post office cannot even deliver the mail on time--and actually throws away what it is too lazy to deliver. I provide the hard information, statistics, and specific details from the record to confirm many Americans' suspicions about government "efficiency." That is the sort of thing that infuriates liberals, who are wed to the idea that government is good, and the bigger the better.

New York Times columnist Anthony Lewis, in a revealing July article entitled, "Where Power Lies," argued that "power does not reside only in the White House or government anymore." His worst nightmare, apparently. Instead, "those who seek to destroy faith in the American political system have considerable power now, power demanding attention." Lewis breathlessly explained that "Rush Limbaugh's game" is "to throw dirt on government and anyone who believes that society needs government. In his hateful talk about President and Mrs. Clinton and others in office, he is really trying to destroy public faith in our institutions."

The charge is preposterous. He admits he never listens to my program--"a pleasure I deny myself," as he puts it. As anyone in my audience will tell you, I defend the institutions and traditions which have made America great. But perhaps Mr. Lewis should go back and re-read some of his old columns for a clue about why Americans are so upset with government today. In 1992 he wrote: "Hyperbole is to be expected of politicians. But deliberate lies? I think that kind of politics has brought this country close to disbelief in its political system." He was referring, unconvincingly, to George Bush--but a reader can be forgiven if our current president springs to mind. And that is just it. Official deception and dissembling are responsible for Americans' growing anger and frustration with government. I simply shine the light of truth on it.

Lewis asserts: "Indeed, it is especially important to watch, and hold accountable, those who seek power without responsibility." Lewis was erroneously referring to me; the sentence accurately describes, however, Mrs. Clinton--who, unelected and unaccountable, has sought to reorder one-seventh of the American economy.


Liberals are not upset because I am wrong; they are upset because I am right. Every day, I expose the Clinton Administration's real agenda: "How can we fool 'em today?" I ask, "Where is the soul of Bill Clinton?" I point out that under Clinton, achievement must be vilified; the rich must be punished. I warn people that liberals support government programs, because government money is the basis of their political power. These are things Americans suspect anyway, but they have trouble discerning the facts amid the fog created by the mainstream media. I sift through the morning's headlines, through miles of videotape, through books, articles, and speeches in a relentless pursuit of the truth. More often than not, I confirm their fears--the Clinton Administration is engaged in a massive snow job. That is validation.

The question, of course, is what people will do with truth once they have it. Liberals are absolutely convinced that I am always telling people to call Congress to complain about this issue or that (another erroneous FAIR charge). I did so once, simply to prove to a skeptical reporter what would happen if I actually did it. The calls shut down the Capitol Hill switchboard. The truth is, I don't need to urge people to call Congress. They are thoughtful, informed, serious people. That's why they listen to me. It is up to them to decide what to do with the truth. Some, I am sure, do call Congress. Others subscribe to conservative periodicals and read classic conservative books, teach their children at home, write letters to the editor, run for school boards, and volunteer to work on local political campaigns or with a local charity. The possibilities for action and involvement are as unlimited as well-informed, optimistic citizens make them.

"I don't understand: Why does anyone take Rush Limbaugh seriously?" asked USA Today columnist Michael Gartner, proceeding to attack me for producing "a stew of half-truths and non-truths." It is not surprising that this former president of NBC is so baffled. He is, after all, a charter member of the media elite, kicked out of NBC after "Dateline" staged an explosion of a General Motors truck, and after a "Nightly News" report on environmental abuses ran footage of "dead" fish that turned out not to be dead. The answer to his question, however, is simple. People take me seriously because I am effective. I celebrate an America made great because of the extraordinary accomplishments of ordinary people--unlike the media, who promote the mistaken premise that the country's success stems from government programs. What I express is called belief in the American people, not contempt for them.

Fourth and finally, liberals fear me because I am not running for political office, and thus I am invulnerable to the political attacks of liberals. "Demagogues...fizzle out because people weary of the act or because the political equation changes or because they face a real political challenge," insisted the Nation's Alexander Cockburn in a July Los Angeles Times column. "There's almost no one out there fighting the political battles with Limbaugh in language ordinary people can understand and enjoy." The same month, leftist columnist Lars-Erik Nelson lamented in the Washington Post, "There is no leftist equivalent to Rush Limbaugh."

Liberals treat me as if I were the Republican presidential candidate. But I have no interest in running for office. Why should I? I am setting the agenda right where I am--with something very simple: The truth. Liberals, who for so long have dominated the nation's institutions and who have tried so hard to dominate the nation's political agenda, flounder helplessly as a result. They understand how to fight a political challenge--war rooms, bus tours, direct mail, editorials, protests. They do not know how to fight a cultural challenge--the explosion of talk radio--except to try to regulate it out of existence (as in their attempts to revive the Fairness Doctrine, dubbed the "Hush Rush Bill" by the Wall Street Journal.)

What is actually happening now is a threat to liberal control of America's institutions. And this phenomenon is not a political one. The American people are discovering once again what the Founders always intended--that the country's future is in their hands. It depends on parents raising their children; it depends on teachers pushing these children to excellence; it depends on grandparents teaching these children the traditional lessons of morality and virtue; it depends on pastors, priests, and rabbis pointing these children to the God who loves them.


That is not to say politics or the presidency is not important; it is. Washington takes too much of our money and our liberties and reinforces the dangerous myth that government can provide security and happiness and success. Yes, Americans need to send men and women of character to Washington and state capitals. But politics is not everything.

That is my message, and that is why I am dangerous. Neither the 1994 nor 1996 election results will serve as the sole indicators of the impact of my programs, because the battle is not simply for political control; it is for reestablishing control of America's institutions. And because I am affecting the debate on how that can be achieved, liberals are apoplectic.

Many times I get calls on my show from people who rail against one liberal outrage or another and complain that the country is going down the tubes. That was certainly the reaction this summer as liberals fired their salvos at me and my audience. But actually, the liberal extremists may well be on their last legs. Their power source, the Democratic Party and its leadership, is woefully out of touch. They simply cannot extricate themselves from bondage; their power base is a constituency of victimhood. The shrill tone and apocalyptic hyperbole that characterize liberal attacks on me are instructive, speaking volumes about their fear of becoming irrelevant.

Historians will remember 1994 as a watershed year in American politics. This was the year that modern liberalism, the ideology dominating nearly every important cultural and political institution in the country, tipped its hand, revealing its deep insecurity. The summer of 1994 will be remembered as the season that liberals, acutely aware of the seismic rumbles just below the surface of American politics and society, unleashed their fury against a man who is neither a politician nor a candidate for political office. This was the summer all hell broke loose against the "most dangerous man in America."

Liberals are terrified of me. As well they should be.

RUSH LIMBAUGH is host of nationally syndicated radio and television programs, the author of two best-selling books, and editor of The Limbaugh Letter.

Give Bush a break By Jonah Goldberg


Sept. 1, 2006 |

Lord knows I have my problems with President Bush. He taps the federal coffers like a monkey smacking the bar for another cocaine pellet in an addiction study. Some of his sentences give me the same sensation as falling backward in one of those "trust" exercises, in which you just have to hope things work out. Yes, the Iraq invasion has gone badly, and to deny this is to suggest that Bush meant for things to turn out this way, which is even crueler than saying he failed to get it right.

But you know what? It's time to cut the guy some slack.

Of course, I will get hippo-choking amounts of e-mail from Bush-haters telling me that all I ever do is cut Bush slack. But these folks grade on the curve. By their standards, anything short of demanding that a half-starved badger be sewn into his belly flunks.

Besides, the Bush-bashers have lost credibility. The most delicious example came this week when it was finally revealed that Colin Powell's oak-necked majordomo Richard Armitage — and not some star-chamber neocon — "outed" Valerie Plame, the spousal prop of Washington's biggest ham, Joe Wilson. Now it turns out that instead of "Bush blows CIA agent's cover to silence a brave dissenter" — as Wilson practices saying into the mirror every morning — the story is, "One Bush enemy inadvertently taken out by another's friendly fire."

And then there's Hurricane Katrina. Yes, the federal government could have responded better. And of course there were real tragedies involved in that disaster. But you know what? Bad stuff happens during disasters, which is why we don't call them tickle-parties.

The anti-Bush chorus, including enormous segments of the mainstream media, sees Katrina as nothing more than a good stick for beating on PiƱata Bush's "competence." The hypocrisy is astounding because the media did such an abysmal job covering the reality of New Orleans (contrary to reports, there were no bands of rapists, no disproportionate deaths of poor blacks, nothing close to 10,000 dead, etc.). It seems indisputable that Katrina highlighted the tragedy of New Orleans rather than create it. Long before Katrina, New Orleans was a dysfunctional city in a state with famously corrupt and incompetent leadership, many of whose residents think that it is the job of the federal government to make everyone whole.

The Mississippi coast was hit harder by Katrina than New Orleans was. And although New Orleans' levee failure was a unique problem — one the local leadership ignored for decades — the devastation in Mississippi was in many respects more severe. And you know what? Mississippi has the same federal government as Louisiana, and reconstruction there is going gangbusters while, after more than $120 billion in federal spending, New Orleans remains a basket case. Here's a wacky idea: Maybe it's not all Bush's fault.

Then, of course, there's the war on terror. Democrats love to note that Bush hasn't caught Osama bin Laden yet, as if this is the most vital metric for success. Yes, it'd be nice to catch bin Laden — no doubt Ramsey Clark, the top legal gun for both LBJ and Saddam Hussein, will be looking for a new client soon. But even nicer than catching bin Laden is not having thousands of dead Americans in New York, Washington and L.A. Contrary to all expert predictions, there hasn't been a successful attack on the homeland since 9/11. Indeed, the current issue of the Atlantic Monthly contains a long, exhaustively reported cover story by James Fallows about how the U.S. is, in fact, winning the war on terror, thanks largely to Bush's policies (though Fallows works hard not to credit Bush).

Political dissatisfaction with the president rests entirely on Iraq and overall Bush fatigue. The rest amounts to little more than Iraq-motivated brickbats gussied up to look like freestanding complaints. That's how hate works: It looks for more excuses to hate in the same way that fire looks for more stuff to burn.

That's why Bush's Democratic critics flit about like bilious butterflies, exploiting each superficial or transient problem just long enough to score some points in the polls, then moving on. Bush's Medicare plan was an egregious corporate giveaway, they cried, until seniors overwhelmingly reported that they like it. And the Patriot Act? Can anyone even remember what the Democrats were whining about? I think it had something to do with libraries that were never searched.

Look, things could obviously be a lot better. But they could be a lot worse too. John Kerry could be president.

Israel Didn't Lose in Lebanon; America Hasn't Lost in Iraq By Dennis Prager


May 15, 2007

America has "lost" the war in Iraq primarily because most people believe it has. And most people believe it has because the news media have said so.

If this sounds bizarre, consider this: Why is it widely believed that Israel lost its 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon? The answer is essentially the same — people believe it because the media said so. In fact, there is no rational case for arguing that Israel lost its war against Hezbollah.

I have believed that Israel won, or at least that Hezbollah lost, since the end of the war in 2006. I was convinced of this by Michael Young, the opinion editor of the Lebanese newspaper the Daily Star. In an interview on my radio talk show, he made the compelling case that Hezbollah had lost.

I was reminded of this by a recent Thomas Friedman column. Echoing the Beirut editor, the New York Times foreign affairs columnist delineated six reasons why Hezbollah lost that war. In Friedman's words, they are:

1. "Mr. Nasrallah (the head of Hezbollah) demonstrated a total failure to anticipate Israel's response to his raid … Some 1,200 Lebanese died because of this gross error in judgment."

2. "(Hezbollah) did grievous harm to Lebanon's fragile democracy and democratization in the Arab world. All the fears that if you let an Islamist party into government it will not respect the rules of the game were fulfilled by Hezbollah."

3. "By launching all these rockets prematurely, without strategic purpose, Hezbollah has diminished its capability and Syria's and Iran's."

4. "(Hezbollah) has lost its military infrastructure, and can't attack Israel now without getting embroiled with France and Italy (which have peacekeeping troops in southern Lebanon) — a huge strategic loss for Hezbollah."

5. "Israel has embarked on a broad upgrade of its military (thanks to the lessons learned from its poor performance). In any future war Arab armies will meet a much better trained and equipped Israeli force."

6. "Israel's response to Hezbollah's attack has resulted in billions of dollars of damage to Lebanese homes, factories and roads, with Shiite areas the worst hit and with zero security benefit to Lebanon."

So why does just about everyone believe that Israel "lost" the war in Lebanon?

For two primary reasons:

First, the world defines victory of the stronger party — in this case, Israel — as either total victory or as a loss. Israel did not destroy Hezbollah, therefore it lost. Second, the world's news media said Israel lost; and the media now determine reality. Some 40 years ago, Marshall McLuhan made his prophetic statement, "The medium is the message." It is truer than ever. Man-made global warming is deemed the greatest threat to mankind's future because the media have announced it to be so. Anna Nicole Smith's death was significant because the media said it was. Genocide in Sudan is insignificant because the media don't much report on it. The Chinese decimation and annexation of Tibet is insignificant because the media have ignored it.

The Israeli army and defense establishment made grave errors, which have been the focus of a devastating Israeli government report. But those errors do not negate the fact that Hezbollah lost that war.

Likewise, America is said to have lost the war in Iraq. As with Israel, the stronger party — America — has not achieved total victory. Since no one has surrendered and there are still terrorists and insurgents, America is deemed to have lost. And the media — and its ideological ally, the Democratic Party — have been announcing the American defeat for years.

One lesson to be learned from these two wars is that victory as we have understood it in the past may not be possible when fighting terror organizations. There will be never be an equivalent to the Japanese surrender aboard the USS Missouri in 1945. There is no way to completely stop suicide terror against "soft" targets or to stop car bombs in public places. The only total victory over Islamic terrorists will have to come from within the Muslim world. There will have to be a theological and moral revulsion so great that no Muslim would dare risk hell and universal Islamic opprobrium by targeting innocents for murder. Unfortunately that day seems quite distant.

In effect, then, America will have lost in Iraq when America decides it has lost. And then it becomes what is known as a self-fulfilling prophecy.

JWR contributor Dennis Prager hosts a national daily radio show based in Los Angeles. He the author of, most recently, "Happiness is a Serious Problem".

FLASHBACK: Why Bush is good by Garrett Toay


December 6, 1999

Iowa State Community, hello! My name is Garrett Toay, and I am a fourth-year student here at Iowa State.

I am also proud to be the chairman of the ISU Students for George W. Bush. Let me open up to you today and explain why I support Gov. Bush.

First, Gov. Bush has an impressive record of accomplishments as the governor of Texas. Texas is the second-largest state in America, and has a very diverse population.

If Texas were its own country, it would have the 11th largest economy in the world. Gov. Bush pushed through the two largest tax cuts in Texas history -- more than $3 billion. Gov. Bush rewrote state education laws to restore local control and teach every child to read by the third grade through phonics.

He demanded results -- not rhetoric.

As the March 8 edition of Business Week stated, "Is Bush's record on education that good? In short, yes."

Gov. Bush also reformed welfare dependency. Gov. Bush rewrote the juvenile justice laws, insisting on punishment and tough love. Because of his tough-love strategy, violent juvenile crime rates dropped by 30 percent.

Second, Gov. Bush has a compelling vision of where he wants to lead us in the next millennium -- our millennium!

As he has done in Texas, he wants to improve our schools. He will give more control and flexibility to the state and local governments, not the federal government. Parents and teachers know what is best for their students.

Texas is different from Iowa. Different problems call for different solutions. He will also demand results.

Gov. Bush will also cut taxes in America, as he has done in Texas, to continue our prosperity. It is immoral for the government -- federal, state and local -- to take 40 percent of our paychecks.

Gov. Bush also wants to strengthen our national defenses. He wants an anti-ballistic missile defense system to protect our citizens and allies from accidental or intentional nuclear, biological and chemical missile attacks. He also wants to beef up our intelligence capabilities. He will provide more certainty in an uncertain world.

Finally, he wants to usher in the responsibility era. Since about the 1960s, our citizens have become too dependent on the government. Personal responsibility has become old-fashioned. Gov. Bush wants an America again where friends help friends, neighbors help neighbors, and most importantly, where people help themselves.

Third, Gov. Bush is a uniter, not a divider. Gov. Bush's message of compassionate conservatism resonates with a diverse group of people without selling out conservative values.

In his 1998 landslide reelection in Texas, he won a whopping 69 percent of the vote. More importantly, he successfully reached out to non-traditional GOP voters.

He flip-flopped the GOP gender gap, earning 65 percent of the female vote. He made enormous inroads into the African-American community, earning 27 percent of their support. His message of compassionate conservatism resonated very well with the Hispanic community, as he earned 49 percent of the Hispanic vote.

As for political parties, Gov. Bush earned 98 percent of the Republican vote, 73 percent of the Independent vote and even 31 percent of the Democrat vote.

Finally, Gov. Bush can win! It is time to restore dignity to the White House after seven years of malaise. The 2000 election is huge for our generation. He will appoint three to five justices to the Supreme Court.

The party that wins will probably control the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate. The winning party will also control the census. It will get to redraw the congressional lines, thereby influencing the outcome of the House elections for the next decade.

Today, our youth get a bad wrap for being too politically apathetic. We need to change this. Gov. Bush has the best vision for this country and our generation.

Please e-mail me at or call me at 515-292-1954 ext. 2093 to join Students for George W. Bush today! We are open to students, faculty, staff, administration and alumni.

Garrett Toay

Agricultural business
ISU Students for George W. Bush

Forgotten “A”: Move over, amnesty -- it’s time to get assimilating. By Michelle Malkin


July 4, 2007

Amnesty is dead. Now, let’s talk about the other “A” word. It’s the word and the concept completely abandoned during the immigration debate: assimilation.

Over the last year, hundreds of thousands of illegal alien demonstrators took to the streets lobbying for amnesty. Marchers waved Amnestia Ahora! placards in one hand, the flags of their native countries in the other. Open-borders strategists quickly replaced the foreign flags with Old Glory after militant activists caused a public backlash last year. National newspapers played dutiful propagandists and splashed patriotic photo-ops of the “undocumented” masses wrapped in red, white, and blue to drum up sympathy.

But now that they’ve lost their amnesty fight, will they still embrace American symbols and traditions? Or was it all for show? And what of all that talk of illegal aliens being willing to study citizenship and civics? And take English classes? Why must they be bribed with the promise of a temporary guest worker visa and mass governmental pardon in order to adapt to our way of life? When did assimilation become the means and not an end in itself?

The inflection point can perhaps be traced to the moment when politicians were permitted to invoke the “America is a nation of immigrants” platitude as a mindless justification for open borders.

The fact is: We are not a “nation of immigrants.” This is both a factual error and a warm-and-fuzzy non sequitur. Eighty-five percent of the residents currently in the United States were born here. Sure, we are almost all descendants of immigrants. But we are not a “nation of immigrants.”

(Isn’t it funny, by the way, how the politically correct multiculturalists who claim we are a “nation of immigrants” are so insensitive toward Native American Indians, Native Alaskans, Native Hawaiians, and descendants of black slaves who did not “immigrate” here in any common sense of the word?)

Even if we were a “nation of immigrants,” it does not explain why we should be against sensible immigration control. And if the open-borders advocates would actually read American history instead of revising it, they would see that the founding fathers were emphatically insistent on protecting the country against indiscriminate mass immigration. They insisted on assimilation as a pre-condition, not an afterthought. Historian John Fonte assembled their wisdom:

George Washington, in a letter to John Adams, stated that immigrants should be absorbed into American life so that “by an intermixture with our people, they, or their descendants, get assimilated to our customs, measures, laws: in a word soon become one people.”

In a 1790 speech to Congress on the naturalization of immigrants, James Madison stated that America should welcome the immigrant who could assimilate, but exclude the immigrant who could not readily “incorporate himself into our society.”

Alexander Hamilton wrote in 1802: “The safety of a republic depends essentially on the energy of a common national sentiment; on a uniformity of principles and habits; on the exemption of the citizens from foreign bias and prejudice; and on that love of country which will almost invariably be found to be closely connected with birth, education and family.”

Hamilton further warned that “The United States have already felt the evils of incorporating a large number of foreigners into their national mass; by promoting in different classes different predilections in favor of particular foreign nations, and antipathies against others, it has served very much to divide the community and to distract our councils. It has been often likely to compromise the interests of our own country in favor of another. The permanent effect of such a policy will be, that in times of great public danger there will be always a numerous body of men, of whom there may be just grounds of distrust; the suspicion alone will weaken the strength of the nation, but their force may be actually employed in assisting an invader.”

The survival of the American republic, Hamilton maintained, depends upon “the preservation of a national spirit and a national character.” “To admit foreigners indiscriminately to the rights of citizens the moment they put foot in our country would be nothing less than to admit the Grecian horse into the citadel of our liberty and sovereignty.”

We are not a nation of immigrants. We are first and foremost a nation of laws. The U.S. Constitution does not say that the paramount duty of government is to “Celebrate Diversity” or to “embrace multiculturalism” or to give “every willing worker” in the world a job. The Preamble to the U.S. Constitution says the Constitution was established “to provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty.”

As our Founding Fathers recognized, fulfilling these fundamental duties is impossible without an orderly immigration and entrance system that discriminates in favor of those willing, as George Washington put it, to “get assimilated to our customs, measures [and] laws.”

Lest there be any doubt this Independence Day about the perils of ignoring the Founding Fathers’ advice, I invite you to contemplate the abyss at Ground Zero. “The safety of the republic” is indeed at stake.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Eight Words with Two Meanings

Eight Words with two Meanings

1. THINGY (thing-ee) n.
Female...... Any part under a car's hood.
Male..... The strap fastener on a woman's bra.

2. VULNERABLE (vul-ne-ra-bel) adj.
Female.... Fully opening up one's self emotionally to another.
Male.... Playing football without a cup.

3. COMMUNICATION (ko-myoo-ni-kay-shon) n.
Female... The open sharing of thoughts and feelings with one's partner.
Male... Leaving a note before taking off on a fishing trip with the boys.

4. COMMITMENT (ko-mit-ment) n.
Female.... A desire to get married and raise a family.
Male...... Trying not to hit on other women while out with this one.

5. ENTERTAINMENT (en-ter-tayn-ment) n.
Female.... A good movie, concert, play or book.
Male...... Anything that can be done while drinking beer.

6. FLATULENCE (flach-u-lens) n.
Female.... An embarrassing byproduct of indigestion.
Male...... A source of entertainment, self-expression, male bonding.

7 MAKING LOVE (may-king luv) n.
Female...... The greatest expression of intimacy a couple can achieve.
Male.. Call it whatever yo u want, just as long as we do it.

8. REMOTE CONTROL (ri-moht kon-trohl) n.
Female.... A device for changing from one TV channel to another.
Male... A device for scanning through all 375 channels every 5 minutes.

He said . . . I don't know why you wear a bra; you've got nothing to put in it.
She said . . . You wear pants don't you?

He said . . ..... Shall we try swapping positions tonight?
She said . That's a good idea - you stand by the ironing board while I sit on the sofa and fart!

He said . ... What have you been doing with all the grocery money I gave you?
She said . .....Turn sideways and look in the mirror!

He said . . How many men does it take to change a ro ll of toilet paper?
She said . . We don't know; it has never happened.

She said...What do you call a women who knows where her husband is every night?
He said . . . A widow.

He said . .. . Why are married women heavier than single women?
She said . . . Single women come home, see what's in the fridge and go to bed. Married women come home, see what's in bed and go to the fridge.


Sax Player Boots Randolph Dead at 80

Sax Player Boots Randolph Dead at 80

Jul 4, 1:28 AM (ET)


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Boots Randolph, a saxophone player best known for the 1963 hit "Yakety Sax," died Tuesday. He was 80.

Randolph suffered a cerebral hemorrhage June 25 and had been hospitalized in a coma. He was taken off a respirator earlier Tuesday, said Betty Hofer, a publicist and spokeswoman for the family.

Randolph played regularly in Nashville nightclubs for 30 years, becoming a tourist draw for the city much like Wayne Newton in Las Vegas and Pete Fountain in New Orleans.

He recorded more than 40 albums and spent 15 years touring with the Festival of Music, teaming with fellow instrumentalists Chet Atkins and Floyd Cramer.

As a session musician, he played on Elvis Presley's "Return to Sender," Roy Orbison's "Oh, Pretty Woman," Brenda Lee's "Rockin' Round the Christmas Tree" and "I'm Sorry," REO Speedwagon's "Little Queenie," Al Hirt's "Java" and other songs including ones by Buddy Holly and Johnny Cash.

He had his biggest solo hit with "Yakety Sax," which he wrote.

"'Yakety Sax' will be my trademark," Randolph said in a 1990 interview with The Associated Press. "I'll hang my hat on it. It's kept me alive. Every sax player in the world has tried to play it. Some are good, some are awful."

"Yakety Sax" was used on the TV program "The Benny Hill Show" more than two decades after the tune was on the charts.

"It rejuvenated the song," Randolph said in 1990. "So many people know it from the show."

He also was part of the Million Dollar Band on the TV show "Hee Haw."

Randolph was born Homer Louis Randolph in Paducah, Ky., and grew up in the rural community of Cadiz, Ky., where he learned to play music with his family's band.

He said he didn't know where or why he got the nickname "Boots," although his Web site at the time of his death suggested it was to avoid confusion because he and his father shared the same first name.

Randolph began playing the ukulele and then the trombone, but switched to the tenor sax when his father unexpectedly brought one home.

He graduated from high school in Evansville, Ind., then joined the Army and became a member of the Army Band.

After his discharge, he played primarily jazz at nightclubs for $60 a week. He finally landed a recording contract with RCA in Nashville in 1958 and also was hired as a musician for recording sessions.

Randolph had his own nightclub in Nashville's Printer's Alley for 17 years, closing it in 1994 because of declining business and to spend more time with his family.

He played regularly at other nightclubs before and after that. He had lived in Nashville since 1961.

Randolph charted 13 albums on the pop charts from 1963 to 1972. His other single hits included "Hey, Mr. Sax Man" in 1964 and "Temptation" in 1967.

"Every time I pick the horn up, it's more intriguing to me," he said in 1990. "It satisfies my desire to do whatever I do."

"I think I probably get better because I work so much," he said at the time. "You get to a point where you can be lackadaisical or nonchalant. But I'm not like that. I worry if I play a tune bad or my horn is not working right."

Survivors include his wife, a son, a daughter and four grandchildren.

'Unchained Melody' Writer Hy Zaret Dies

'Unchained Melody' Writer Hy Zaret Dies

Jul 3, 4:22 PM (ET)

WESTPORT, Conn. (AP) - Lyricist Hy Zaret, who wrote the haunting words to "Unchained Melody," one of the most frequently recorded songs of the 20th century, has died at age 99.

Zaret died at his home Monday, about a month shy of his 100th birthday, his son, Robert Zaret, said Tuesday.

He penned words to many songs and advertising jingles but his biggest hit was "Unchained Melody," written in 1955 for a film called "Unchained." It brought Zaret and Alex North, the composer, an Academy Award nomination for best song.

Zaret refused the producer's request to work the word "unchained" into the lyrics, instead writing to express the feelings of a lover who has "hungered for your touch a long, lonely time."

The song was recorded by artists as diverse as Elvis Presley, Lena Horne, U2, Guy Lombardo, Vito & the Salutations and Joni Mitchell, who incorporated fragments into her song "Chinese Cafe/Unchained Melody."

An instrumental version was a No. 1 hit in 1955 for Les Baxter, while a vocal version by Al Hibbler reached No. 3 the same year.

But most baby boomers remember the song from the Righteous Brothers' version. The record, produced by Phil Spector, reached No. 4 on the Billboard chart in 1965, and was a hit again 25 years later when it was used on the soundtrack of the film "Ghost."

In all, it was recorded more than 300 times, according to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, which listed it in 1999 as one of the 25 most-performed musical works of the 20th century.

Among other songs Zaret co-wrote were "My Sister and I," a hit in 1941 for Jimmy Dorsey; "So Long, for a While," the theme song for the radio and TV show "Your Hit Parade"; "Dedicated to You"; and the Andrews Sisters' novelty song "One Meat Ball."

"He had some big, big hits," said Jim Steinblatt, an assistant vice president at ASCAP.

In later years, Zaret had to fend off the claims by another man, electrical engineer William Stirrat, who said he wrote the "Unchained Melody" lyrics as a teenager in the 1930s and even legally changed his name to Hy Zaret. Robert Zaret and Steinblatt both said the dispute was resolved completely in favor of the real Zaret, who continued to receive all royalties. Steinblatt said Stirrat died in 2004.

Not in the script: Too many pro wrestlers dying young

Not in the script: Too many pro wrestlers dying young

By PAUL NEWBERRY, AP National Writer
June 30, 2007

ATLANTA (AP) -- Everything is planned. The high-flying moves. The outlandish story lines. The crackpot characters.

One thing isn't in the script: the staggering number of pro wrestlers who die young.

Chris Benoit was the latest, taking his own life at age 40 after killing his wife and son in a grisly case that might be the blackest eye yet for the pseudo-sport already ridiculed as nothing more than comic books come to life, a cult-like outlet for testosterone-ragin' young males to cheer on their freakishly bulked-up heroes.

But the tenacious, grim-faced grappler known as the "Canadian Crippler" was hardly alone in heading to an early grave.

The very same weekend Benoit killed his family, the body of old tag-team partner Biff Wellington (real name: Shayne Bower) was found in his bed, dead at 42. A couple of weeks ago, former women's champion "Sensational" Sherri Martel passed away at her mother's home in Alabama. She was 49.

And on it goes.

Mike Awesome (Michael Lee Alfonso in real life) was found hanged in his Florida home in February, the apparent victim of a suicide at 42. "Bam Bam" Bigelow was 45 when a lethal cocktail of cocaine and benzodiazepine, an anti-anxiety drug, stopped his already ailing heart in January.

And on it goes, dozens and dozens of wrestlers meeting a similar fate over the past two decades. Some died with drugs flowing through their veins. Others tried to clean up but belatedly paid the price for their long-term abuse of steroids, painkillers, alcohol, cocaine and other illicit substances.

How many more must pass through the morgue before everyone stands up and shouts: Enough's enough?

"From my 17 years in the business, I know probably 40 to 45 wrestlers who dropped dead before they were 50," said Lance Evers, a semiretired wrestler who goes by "Lance Storm" when he's in the ring. "It's an astronomical number."

Then, he added in a voice tinged with anger and sadness, "I'm sick and tired of it."

Over the years, there are been numerous proposals to put wrestling under some sort of oversight, be it at the state or federal level. Those ideas usually have fallen on deaf ears, largely because the powers-that-be, be it the old-time regional promoters or WWE owner Vince McMahon, the guy who largely controls the sport today, don't want the government telling them how to run their business.

Jim Wilson, who parlayed pro football into a ring career, says he was blackballed when he began pushing for a wrestler's union. Since then, he has written a book about his experiences and kept up the push to rein in those who govern the sport.

Although Wilson's battle often has been a lonely one, he says Benoit's death might reinvigorate the cause.

A union could be a useful tool for cleaning up the sport. It might lead to a pension plan, improved benefits, more stringent health and safety guidelines and a revamped pay structure that would allow wrestlers to spend more time at home without risking a pay cut.

Now, most top wrestlers get a guaranteed salary, but the bulk of their income is based on how often they compete. That leads some to feel they must get in the ring while injured, often with the aid of painkillers and other numbing chemicals.

And much like rock stars, plenty of wrestlers have fallen victim to excessive partying, alcohol and drug dependency, and marital problems during grueling stints on the road.

"My longest run was 79 days in a row without a day off," said Joe Laurinaitis, the wrestler known as Road Warrior Animal and father of Ohio State football star James Laurinaitis. "It's not as bad now. They've got good guys running the WWE. Still, we need to take a look at it when things like this (the Benoit murder-suicide) are happening. Guys are still overworked."

That's why Wilson's calling for Congress to hold hearings on the wrestling industry, much like it investigated doping in professional sports and just this past week heard from ex-NFL players who believe they're being shortchanged on their pensions.

"In those other sports, they aren't dropping like flies like they are in the wrestling business," Wilson said. "Now is the time to push for legislation nationally."

He's already spoken with U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who instructed his staff to begin gathering information on the issue to determine if a hearing before the Health Committee might be warranted.

Isakson said his main concern is steroid abuse.

"I'm not going to start speculating on federal regulation of wrestling," he said. "The issue is anabolic steroids, which are a significant problem and are known to cause significant difficulties. It's a health issue that's appropriate for us to discuss, regardless of the profession."

Steroids and other muscle-building drugs long have been an accepted part of the wrestling culture, allowing the biggest names to pump up to ungodly proportions that wouldn't be possible through natural means.

Granted, nobody comes right out and tells a wrestler he or she should take steroids. But all one has to do is attend a match in person or watch one on TV to realize some of these physiques just aren't plausible without help from a syringe.

"Somebody says you need to put 25 pounds on your upper body," said Larry DeGaris, who teaches sports marketing at the University of Indianapolis and moonlights on the independent wrestling circuit as "The Professor" Larry Brisco. "Well, if you have an athletic background and have been around sports for a while, you know there's only one way to do that. Nobody needs to tell you. It's just a tacit understanding."

Steroids were found in Benoit's home, though investigators haven't determined if they played any role in the brutal killings of his wife, Nancy, and their 7-year-old son.

World Wrestling Entertainment, which employed Benoit and holds a virtual monopoly grip on the industry, was quick to point out that this tragedy -- apparently carried out over an entire weekend -- doesn't come with the classic signs of 'roid rage, the violent, unpredictable outbursts that can be caused by someone who abuses steroids.

A top anti-doping expert agreed but said it's too early in the investigation to draw any firm conclusions.

"I can paint any number of scenarios that explain this without invoking 'roid rage," said Dr. Gary Wadler, a member of the World Anti-Doping Agency. "'Roid rage tends to be impulse control. This event happened over two or three days. It has the earmarks of some calculation."

The WWE also was quick to announce Benoit had passed his last drug test in April, part of the organization's "Wellness Program" that was put in place after the death of star Eddie Guerrero two years ago.

But Wadler doesn't sound all that impressed with the WWE's testing procedures. He's especially troubled that the WWE refuses to discuss the program in any detail.

Both Evers and wrestling journalist Bryan Alvarez, who've seen guidelines for the program, found two major loopholes:

-- A wrestler can pass the doping test with a testosterone to epitestosterone ratio of 10:1, more than double the WADA standard. Under WADA rules, athletes are in violation starting at 4:1; the average ratio is 1:1.

-- A wrestler who tests positive can be excused if he produces a doctor's prescription and a medically justified reason for taking the drug in question.

There's no justifying that happened at the Benoits' suburban Atlanta home last weekend.

Alvarez, who covers the sport extensively for the Web site, has some inkling of the demons that might have overtaken the wrestler.

He said Benoit never got over the 2005 death of Guerrero, a former WWE champion and four-time tag-team titleholder who was 38 when he died of a heart attack, perhaps caused by the alcohol and drug abuses that friends thought he had beaten.

"Chris' closest friend in the world was Eddie Guerrero," Alvarez said. "He could cry to him. He could tell him everything. After Eddie died, I talked to Chris. He was broken man."

Last year, another of Benoit's wrestling buddies, 263-pound Mike Durham (known in the business as Johnny Grunge), died at 39 from complications cause by sleep apnea, a condition that often affects larger people such as wrestlers and football players.

"It was about this period of time that people started noticing weird behavior, paranoid behavior, which would indicate (Benoit) was using a lot of drugs," Alvarez said. "He was alone. He was on the road a lot, having to perform at a high level, having to look a certain way. I think the drug use escalated, and his whole world basically fell apart."

Laurinaitis knows what a lethal potion it all can be.

His friend since childhood and longtime tag partner, Road Warrior Hawk (Michael Hegstrand), died from a heart attack in 2003. Just 46, Hegstrand had battled alcohol and drugs, in addition to using steroids, Laurinaitis said.

"I used to watch him sometimes and just shake my head. I would think, 'Oh my God, what in the world is he doing? Why is he doing that?"' Laurinaitis said. "I saw quite a few guys go down that path."

Now, they're all gone.

Benoit. Guerrero. Hawk.

Martel. Bigelow. Awesome.

Not to mention Curt "Mr. Perfect" Hennig, Big Boss Man, Hercules, Crash Holly, Davey Boy Smith, Miss Elizabeth, Terry Gordy, "Gentleman" Chris Adams, Yokozuna, "Ravishing" Rick Rude, Owen Hart, Louie Spiccoli, Brian Pillman, Eddie Gilbert, Buzz Sawyer, "Quick Draw" Rick McGraw, Gino Hernandez and much of the Von Erich clan.

All dead before they were 50 -- and that's just a sampling of an ever-growing list.

It doesn't take someone who can distinguish between a full nelson and a sleeper hold to know that's far too many wrestlers dying far too young.

"It's gotten to the point that just about every show in the country is starting with a ten-bell salute," said DeGaris, the professor and wrestler, referring to the traditional farewell to a fallen competitor. "You kind of look at some of the old pictures, and you're the last man standing."

Updated on Saturday, Jun 30, 2007 11:52 am EDT

Heir puts 'Dracula's Castle' for sale

Heir puts 'Dracula's Castle' for sale

By ALEXANDRU ALEXE, Associated Press Writer
Mon Jul 2, 2:18 PM ET

BUCHAREST, Romania - A Habsburg heir is hoping someone will take a bite of his offer Monday to sell "Dracula's Castle" in Transylvania.

The medieval Bran Castle, perched on a cliff near Brasov in mountainous central Romania, is a top tourist attraction because of its ties to Prince Vlad the Impaler, the warlord whose cruelty inspired Bram Stoker's 1897 novel, "Dracula."

Legend has it that the ruthless Vlad — who earned his nickname because of the way he tortured his enemies — spent one night in the 1400s at the castle.

The Habsburgs formally put the Bran Castle on the market Monday, a U.S.-based investment company said. No selling price was announced.

Bran Castle was built in the 14th century to serve as a fortress to protect against the invading Ottoman Turks. The royal family moved into the castle in the 1920s, living there until the communist regime confiscated it from Princess Ileana in 1948.

After being restored in the late 1980s and following the end of communist rule in Romania, it gained popularity as a tourist attraction known as "Dracula's Castle."

In May 2006, the castle was returned to Princess Ileana's son, New York architect Archduke Dominic Habsburg. He pledged to keep it open as a museum until 2009.

Habsburg, 69, offered to sell the castle last year to local authorities for $80 million, but the offer was rejected.

On Monday, he put the castle up for sale "to the right purchaser under the right circumstances," said Michael Gardner, chief executive of Baytree Capital, the company representing Habsburg. "The Habsburgs are not in the business of managing a museum."

He predicted the castle would sell for more than $135 million but added that Habsburg will only sell it to a buyer "who will treat the property and its history with appropriate respect."

Habsburg said in a statement: "Aside from the castle's connection to one of the most famous novels ever written, Bran Castle is steeped in critical events of European history dating from the 14th century to the present."

According to a contract signed when the castle was returned, the government pays rent to Habsburg to run the castle as a museum for three years, charging admission. After 2009, Habsburg will have full control of the castle, Gardner said.

The government has priority as a buyer if it can match the best offer for the castle, he said.

Opposition lawmakers have claimed the government's decision to return the castle to Habsburg was illegal because of procedural errors.

In recent years, the castle — complete with occasional glimpses of bats flying around its ramparts at twilight — has attracted filmmakers looking for a dramatic backdrop for films about Dracula and other horror movies.

Some 450,000 people visit the castle every year, Gardner said.

'Brown v. Board' school could be razed

'Brown v. Board' school could be razed

Wed Jun 20, 10:58 PM ET

TOPEKA, Kan. - The Topeka City Council gave preliminary approval to begin destruction of the former all-white school that was at the center of the Brown v. Board of Education case.

Council and city staff members said Tuesday they would like to save the Sumner Elementary School building, but the cost to the city forced them to consider other options.

"We do not take this lightly," City Manager Norton Bonaparte said. "It is a historic structure. However, it continues to cost the city to maintain."

Two groups are seeking to save the structure, and officials gave them five months to prove their financial capabilities to acquire and renovate the building. Previous proposals from the applicants who want to use the building for housing and a charter school fell "very short" of showing financial capability for the project, Deputy City Manager Randy Speaker said.

A formal council vote would be needed for the two-story brick building to be torn down, Deputy Mayor Brett Blackburn said.

The art deco building became a symbol of civil rights history when Oliver Brown, a black minister, tried to enroll his daughter in Sumner School in 1950.

When the school turned them away, the Browns filed a lawsuit that would eventually lead to the Supreme Court's 1954 desegregation decision in the Brown v. Board of Education case.

The school was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987 and remained open until 1996, when the school district closed it.

In 2002, the city bought the school for $45,000 from the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, which had used the building for storage.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Campaign Finance Reform’s War on Political Freedom: An ongoing danger, despite two recent court victories by Bradley A. Smith


1 July 2007

In February 2006, Norm Feck learned that the city of Parker, Colorado was thinking about annexing his neighborhood, Parker North. Feck attended a meeting on the annexation, realized that it would mean more bureaucracy, and concluded that it wouldn’t be in Parker North residents’ interest. Together with five other Parker North locals, he wrote letters to the editor, handed out information sheets, formed an Internet discussion group, and printed up anti-annexation yard signs, which soon began sprouting throughout the neighborhood.

That’s when annexation supporters took action—not with their own public campaign, but with a legal complaint against Feck and his friends for violating Colorado’s campaign finance laws. The suit also threatened anyone who had contacted Feck’s group about the annexation, or put up one of their yard signs, with “investigation, scrutinization, and sanctions for Campaign Finance violations.” Apparently the anti-annexation activists hadn’t registered with the state, or filled out the required paperwork disclosing their expenditures on time. Steep fines, increasing on a daily basis, were possible. The case remains in litigation.

Should Americans care about what’s happening in Parker North? They certainly don’t seem to. A LexisNexis search finds just three stories, all in Colorado papers, that mention the dispute. That’s it: no commentary by columnists, no national network reports, not even coverage by a single major blogger on this application of campaign finance law to the most basic community political activity. The lack of interest is in a way understandable, since campaign finance reform, whether on the state or federal level, is at once forbiddingly complex and seemingly irrelevant to most citizens’ lives. People tend to see reform as affecting only the powerful—lobbyists, big corporations, “fat cats”—not ordinary Joes. With some notable exceptions, even conservatives, who overwhelmingly believe that the First Amendment protects one’s right to spend money on a candidate, don’t pay much attention.

But as Norm Feck’s story shows, that’s a riskily blasé attitude. Campaign finance reform is creating an intrusive regulatory regime that’s steadily eroding Americans’ political freedoms. Making matters worse, it does little or nothing to combat corruption. Its proponents, mostly on the left, have chiefly used it to bolster their own political fortunes and to undermine limited, constitutional government.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the first federal campaign finance law, the Tillman Act. Named for its sponsor, South Carolina Democratic senator Ben Tillman, the act banned corporate contributions to federal campaigns, and as such remains the backbone of federal campaign finance regulations. Tillman was a racist who advocated lynching black voters and almost single-handedly established Jim Crow in the South. The new law fit neatly with his segregationist agenda, since corporate “money power” primarily backed anti-segregationist Republican politicians.

The modern era of campaign finance reform has an equally partisan origin. From the mid-1960s on, opinion polls showed steady erosion in public support for big government and liberalism. Republicans made substantial congressional gains in 1966, and two years later Richard Nixon won the presidency. By 1970, Democrats feared—with good reason—that their longstanding electoral majority was in jeopardy. There were three ways that they might turn things around, observes Cato Institute election-law expert John Samples: persuading the public to embrace their big-government philosophy, changing that increasingly unpopular philosophy, or “preventing or at least hobbling the translation of the shifting public mood into electoral losses and policy changes.”

The Democrats chose Number Three, and looked to campaign finance reform as a way to achieve it. The Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA), which Congress passed in 1971 (and amended three years later), would, Democrats hoped, strike at the heart of Republican political power—while leaving untouched their own sources of influence, such as union-organized volunteers. The law tightly limited both political contributions and any expenditure that might “influence” an election. It also mandated disclosure of political contributions as small as $10, established a system in which taxes financed part of presidential races, and set up a bureaucracy, the Federal Election Commission (FEC), to enforce the new rules. In Buckley v. Valeo (1976), the Supreme Court struck down the expenditure limits on First Amendment grounds, and held that the disclosure requirements, as well as limits on contributions to non-candidate political organizations (the National Rifle Association, say), would apply only when the group receiving the donations “explicitly advocated” the election or defeat of a candidate, through such phrases as “vote for Smith.” Still, even as truncated by the Court, the new law left American politics more heavily regulated than at any time in history.

Congressional Democrats also drove the next major extension of campaign-finance regulations, the 2002 McCain-Feingold law—though of course one of the bill’s cosponsors, Arizona senator John McCain, was a prominent, if unconventional, Republican. McCain-Feingold banned a kind of fund-raising in which the GOP had a growing advantage: “soft money” contributions to political parties that could fund party building and political-issue ads stopping short of express advocacy. It also restricted the ability of incorporated organizations—like the NRA—to broadcast ads that so much as named a candidate within 60 days of an election, and it raised the limit on direct, “hard money” donations to candidates. Democrats were by now a Congressional minority. But enough endangered Republicans—hating the ads that targeted them—joined the Dems and McCain to get the bill passed.

The extent of the regulatory web now in place is evident even when advocates of free speech score an occasional victory. In June, the Supreme Court, by a narrow 5–4 margin, held in Federal Election Commission v. Wisconsin Right to Life that the government may not prevent citizens’ organizations from broadcasting ads that discuss pending legislative issues within 60 days of an election. The decision usefully prunes back one tentacle of the McCain-Feingold law. But the bulk of over 400 pages of FEC regulations remains intact. The opinion has no effect on the law under which Norm Feck faces prosecution, or the regulations that frustrate other Norm Fecks across the country.

Campaign finance reform neatly accomplishes Democrats’ goal of muffling political speech on the Right. Reformers seldom state that goal explicitly, of course; instead, they claim that reform gets rid of the political corruption that supposedly follows from large campaign contributions. Yet study after study shows that contributions play little or no role in how politicians vote. One of the most comprehensive, conducted by a group of MIT scholars in 2004, concluded that “indicators of party, ideology and district preferences account for most of the systematic variation in legislators’ roll call voting behavior.” The studies comport with common sense. Most politicians enter the public arena because they hold strong beliefs on public policy. Truly corrupt pols—the Duke Cunninghams of the world—want illegal bribes, not campaign donations.

Reformers also often claim to seek something more radical than eradicating corruption: equalizing political influence. During the debate over McCain-Feingold, numerous members of Congress repeatedly picked up on the “equality” theme. “It is time to let all our citizens have an equal voice,” argued Georgia congressman John Lewis, a Democrat. Missouri senator Jean Carnahan, another Democrat, complained that “special interests have an advantage over average, hard-working citizens.” Susan Collins, the liberal Republican senator from Maine, wanted “all Americans [to] have an equal voice.”

Yet political influence comes in many shapes, and campaign finance reformers have little interest in equalizing all of them. Take, for example, large foundations—a major source of political influence. The assets of liberal foundations such as Carnegie, Ford, and MacArthur dwarf those of their conservative counterparts: Ford’s assets top $10 billion, MacArthur’s $4 billion, while the Right’s giant, the Bradley Foundation, commands just $500 million. Campaign finance reform leaves foundations untouched.

Other important sources of influence include academia and Hollywood, both tilting to the left—and both left alone by the reformers. Consider how the law applied to Michael Moore’s anti-Bush film Fahrenheit 9/11 and to competing conservative films released in the run-up to the 2004 election. A number of complaints filed with the FEC charged Moore and others with campaign finance violations; both the movie and the advertising surrounding it, the complaints asserted, amounted to illegal contributions to the Kerry campaign. Despite Moore’s public statements that he’d made his movie to help defeat Bush, the FEC dismissed all the complaints, noting, among other things, that the film was a commercial rather than a political effort.

But when the conservative organization Citizens United tried to release a film responding to many of Fahrenheit 9/11’s anti-Bush assertions, the FEC advised it that any public broadcast or advertising close to the election would be subject to McCain-Feingold regulations. Similarly, when Second Amendment activist David Hardy sought to release a movie before the election favoring gun rights and portraying President Bush favorably, the FEC ruled that campaign finance restrictions applied. In both cases, the FEC based its conclusion on the fact that the conservative producers, unlike Moore, weren’t normally in the movie business.

Then there’s the press—and who would deny that it has great political influence? Nevertheless, campaign finance reform leaves it unregulated thus far. More than that: as restrictions on private campaign spending grow, the free coverage that politicians get from the press becomes more and more important. And that coverage, especially coverage by the national press corps, regularly demonstrates a leftward bias, as many studies have shown. During the 2004 presidential race, the press didn’t remind Americans about John Kerry’s harsh criticisms of his fellow soldiers in Vietnam, or pose questions about the nature of his military service; neither did it dwell on President Bush’s strong post-9/11 leadership. Those tasks, it’s worth noting, were left to two conservative political organizations, Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and Progress for America, whose highly effective campaign ads engaged in the kind of political speech that campaign finance reform chokes.

Which sources of influence are regulated and which are not is a choice deeply entangled with tacit assumptions about who benefits from each of those sources. Despite their noble-sounding claims, reformers aren’t really trying to equalize political influence: in fact, they’re doing exactly the opposite, regulating only those sources of influence that they disagree with.

Democrats don’t back campaign finance reform strictly for partisan reasons. They also like it for ideological reasons, realizing that private campaign funding is a major obstacle to regulating the private sector and to expanding government.

The writings of J. Skelly Wright, one of the Seventies’ most prominent reform advocates, are among the clearest expressions of the ideological values underlying campaign finance reform. As a federal appellate judge, Wright upheld all of FECA’s provisions, including spending limits, only to have Buckley reverse him. After that defeat Wright continued to back campaign finance reform, arguing (incoherently) that it was politically “neutral” but also necessary if Congress was to enact a host of liberal policy goals: increased regulation of auto dealerships, a “windfall profits” tax on oil companies, hospital price controls, creation of a superfund for victims of toxic chemicals, and “any other legislation that affects powerful, organized interests.”

To prove his point, Wright cited ballot initiatives in California and Colorado that proposed regulating certain private industries. In both cases, the initiatives began with leads in opinion polls, but suffered defeat after the targeted industries launched ads opposing the proposed regulation. Such private spending, Wright believed, “distort[ed] the expressed will of the people.” His elitist assumption was that the “expressed will of the people” was not the will that they in fact expressed at the ballot box, but rather the pro-regulation stance that he himself embraced.

Wright’s belief that potential targets of regulation shouldn’t be able to communicate directly with voters—since that could “distort” their true opinions—has remained a staple of reform thinking ever since. Here’s the former president of the liberal advocacy group Common Cause: “At the same time there are efforts to regulate them, [you] have oil and gas companies, [you] have trial lawyers, [you] have all the major interests that have an outcome in this election and an outcome in policy being able to pour this money in . . . they want access to influence the political process. It’s corrupting!” We’ve moved, in this astonishing formulation, from the revolutionary battle cry of “No taxation without representation” to something like: “Because of possible taxation or regulation, no representation.”

The same pro-regulation mindset occupied the reform advocates who, in early 2007, sought to include in Congress’s lobbying reform bill a provision that would heavily regulate “grassroots lobbying”—that is, corporate appeals to citizens to voice their opinions on particular issues to members of Congress. (The classic example: the “Harry and Louise” ad that helped torpedo Hillarycare back in 1993.) The Senate stripped the anti-grassroots-lobbying provision from the bill, to the dismay of Meredith McGehee, policy director of the pro-reform Campaign Legal Center, who decried the practice of “Astroturf lobbying.” Apparently when productive businesses, worried about excessive government regulation, try to get voters on their side, that’s Astroturf lobbying—fake and unworthy of protection. But when a foundation-funded organization with no public accountability, such as the Campaign Legal Center, speaks out in Washington, well, those are the authentic grassroots.

Campaign finance regulation, far from improving our democratic processes, has already begun to undermine them in a number of ways. One is the way that it entrenches incumbents in office. Dissenting in McConnell v. FEC, the case that upheld the constitutionality of McCain-Feingold, Justice Antonin Scalia went to the core of the issue: “Is it accidental, do you think, that incumbents raise about three times as much ‘hard money’—the sort of funding generally not restricted by this legislation—as do their challengers?” he scoffed. Scalia also pointed out that McCain-Feingold allowed higher contributions to candidates running against self-financed millionaires—who tend to be incumbents, since self-financed millionaires are usually mavericks challenging established politicians. Moreover, McCain-Feingold severely limited funding for national parties—which, Scalia wrote, are “more likely to assist cash-strapped challengers than flush-with-hard-money incumbents.” “Those who have power will create election rules that maximize the likelihood that they will win reelection,” the Cato Institute’s Samples says. “Campaign finance laws might be, in other words, a form of corruption.”

A still more insidious problem than incumbents’ self-dealing is the way that campaign finance regulation discourages true grassroots political activity. Longtime Washington campaign finance attorney Jan Baran jokes that McCain-Feingold’s official acronym, “BCRA,” stands not for “Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act” but for “Before Campaigning, Retain Attorney.” Samples adds, more seriously: “Today no one should exercise his First Amendment rights without advice from counsel, preferably one schooled in the intricacies of campaign finance regulation.”

Consider two examples. During the 2000 presidential race, four men placed a homemade sign, reading VOTE REPUBLICAN: NOT AL GORE SOCIALISM, on a cotton trailer along a Texas highway. The FEC spent nearly 18 months investigating the incident, because the sign lacked the legally required information about who had paid for it. And in 2004, NASCAR driver Kirk Shelmerdine spent $50 to affix a BUSH-CHENEY ’04 decal to an unsold spot on his car’s advertising space. The FEC admonished him for making an unreported campaign expenditure. Such cases are not merely examples of bureaucratic excess, points out campaign finance lawyer Bob Bauer, a lonely anti-reform voice in Democratic circles: under today’s intrusive laws, Shelmerdine’s activities ought to have set off an FEC inquiry.

Nor are such cases rare. While serving on the FEC from 2000 to 2005, I kept a file of letters from political amateurs caught in the maw of campaign finance laws. Many of these people had no lawyers; none had the least intent to corrupt any officeholder; all thought that they were fulfilling their civic duty by their involvement in campaigns.

A Texas dentist wrote: “It is 5:30 PM on Good Friday. Today, like many days previous, I have taken time away from my business and my family to respond to the Commission. . . . I am being pursued by the Commission to pay over $30,000 from my personal funds.”

A CPA who had served as a volunteer campaign treasurer, and who was facing over $7,000 in fines for improper reporting, wrote: “No job I have ever undertaken caused me more stress than this one. I was frightened and concerned every day that I would do something wrong.”

Another volunteer treasurer asked the Commission to waive its fines: “We were just honest, hard working, tax paying Americans who wanted to make a difference . . . at this point, we are so disillusioned with the [legal] difficulty of running for office that we wonder why anyone other than a professional would attempt to do so.”

A retired high school teacher wrote: “I taught, and believe, that we have the best government in the world. I was happy to be part of the process. . . . I made every attempt to comply and am now being fined $600 for a misunderstanding.” The letters flowed in—from lawyers, teachers, doctors, retirees, all facing investigations and fines for their volunteer political activity. One summed up: “I will NEVER be involved with a political campaign again.”

Though they claim to speak for average citizens, reformers don’t care much about the way their reforms hurt those citizens. Trevor Potter, president of the Campaign Legal Center and a McCain adviser, has dismissed complaints by arguing that campaign-finance laws are no more complex than antitrust or patent laws. “They are worth the inconvenience and lawyers’ fees they generate,” says Potter—who also heads the campaign finance practice at the upscale law firm of Caplin & Drysdale, where partner billing rates can range upward of $750 per hour.

Despite the labyrinthine complexity of campaign finance law, the reform community is busily expanding regulation even further. For example, the FEC’s regulations implementing McCain-Feingold specifically exempted much Web activity from regulation. So the law’s lead House sponsors, Democrat Marty Meehan of Massachusetts and Republican Chris Shays of Connecticut, sued successfully in federal court to force the FEC to regulate more Web activity, and then defeated a congressional effort to codify an Internet exemption to the law. The ensuing FEC rules took a light hand, but the troubling fact remains that individual online activity is now subject to regulation. (See “The Plot to Shush Rush and O’Reilly,” Winter 2006.)

Another disturbing regulatory trend is to go beyond regulating the money that funds speech to regulating the speech itself. For example, in the Shelmerdine case, the FEC valued the driver’s “contribution” not at the $50 that it cost him to place a decal on his car, but at several thousand dollars—what the FEC determined to be the advertising spot’s monetary value. Similarly, if an executive instructs his secretary to type a fund-raising letter, the FEC values the contribution not at the cost of typing the letter, but at the amount of money that the letter raises. This move dramatically expands the reach of campaign finance laws: not only can the FEC limit funds that can be used for speech, but it can limit speech itself by assigning it a monetary value. And it opens the door to all kinds of mischief: for instance, the FEC could determine that a posting on a popular blog was worth thousands of dollars.

If that sounds farfetched, consider that in Washington State a trial court ordered that radio disc jockeys John Carlson and Kirby Wilbur report their on-air talk as campaign contributions. The Washington State Supreme Court reversed the case this April, but the court didn’t base its decision on the First Amendment, instead ruling that the statute in question didn’t cover radio talk. In a footnote, the court specifically noted that “nothing in our decision today forecloses the legislature, or the people via the initiative process, from limiting the statutory media exemption.”

Such an intrusive regulatory regime is but a logical step toward the holy grail of campaign finance reform: a fully regulated, taxpayer-funded system of political speech. Richard Hasen, an oft-quoted expert on campaign finance whom the media regularly portray as a moderate voice for reform, has proposed limiting citizens’ financial participation in politics to a government-provided voucher, and prohibiting any other private funding of political speech. Edward Foley, a former Ohio state solicitor and director of Ohio State University’s influential election-law program, has made a similar proposal. Both experts would extend their regulations even to newspaper editorial pages. Hasen explains that he’s trying to solve the “Rupert Murdoch problem”—just in case you had any doubt about whom he’s got in his sights.

Conservatives, historically uninterested in mobilizing against “reform,” have tended to depend on the courts to strike down the worst laws. Indeed, many believe that President Bush signed McCain-Feingold because his legal advisers assured him that the courts would never tolerate the law’s new restrictions. But the Supreme Court has been erratic in protecting political speech. In McConnell v. FEC, the case that upheld McCain-Feingold, the Court gave political speech less protection than Internet pornography, simulated child pornography, topless dancing, tobacco advertising, and the dissemination of illegally acquired information.

Last term, the Supreme Court did step back from the abyss. In Randall v. Sorrell, it struck down expenditure limits and very low contribution limits (including limits on volunteer time) in Vermont, while in Wisconsin Right to Life v. FEC, it held that there might be constitutionally necessitated exceptions to McCain-Feingold’s limits on broadcast ads mentioning a candidate within 60 days of an election. (The latter case will be back before the Court this term, since a lower court has held that Wisconsin Right to Life’s ad indeed merited such an exception.)

These are encouraging developments, but free-speech advocates shouldn’t count too heavily on the Supremes to do the heavy lifting. The main reason that the Court decided last term’s cases differently from McConnell is that Justice Alito had replaced Justice O’Connor, giving the Court a 5–4 majority in favor of a more robust interpretation of the First Amendment. But two members of that majority are over age 70. It is unlikely that President Bush will get another judicial appointment; it is equally unlikely that a Democratic president, or a President McCain, would appoint pro-speech judges to the Court.

It also seems doubtful that the Court will ever take a stand against campaign finance regulation in toto. Justice Kennedy, part of the 5–4 pro-speech majority, is a staunch supporter of free speech in individual cases, but unlike Justices Scalia and Thomas, he has been unwilling to hold that all contribution limits are unconstitutional. Absent a clear constitutional bar to regulation, a future Court may remove whatever restraints this Court places on the legislature—much as the McConnell Court did to Buckley’s curbs on FECA.

“I have come to doubt that the masses of the people have sense enough to govern themselves,” wrote Ben Tillman, the founder of federal campaign finance reform, in 1916. Eighty years later, House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt famously described the battle over campaign finance reform as “two important values in direct conflict: freedom of speech and our desire for healthy campaigns in a healthy democracy. You can’t have both.”

Many a tax- and regulation-prone politician, stymied by real political debate, would agree with both men. But Norm Feck and his Parker North neighbors, Washington deejays Carlson and Wilbur, the Texas dentist facing $30,000 in fines, and tens of thousands of NASCAR fans realize that free speech is not a bar to healthy democracy but a cornerstone of it. It’s imperative that we speak up to defend freedom of speech—before that very speaking up becomes impossible.

Bradley A. Smith is the former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, the chairman of the Center for Competitive Politics, and a professor of law at Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio.