The Sidestep

Here’s a confession from the Northern Half of Evelyn David. It’s important to distinguish who is talking here because as you will learn, there’s a real schism in this partnership.

When I drive, I listen to Sirius Radio, specifically I listen to On Broadway (channel 75) with Seth Rudetsky and Christine Pedi, self-described as “a couple of dueling divas.” Truth is, I want them both to shut up and just play the music. I also listen to 40s on 4 – the era of the big band sound. I’ll flip to some classical music if the Broadway tune is too depressing or atonal. I switch over to AM radio to catch the traffic conditions and news on the hour. Great, thoughtful discussions on topics arcane or newsworthy? Not so much. I have what is best described as middlebrow taste – verging on low brow. And I have no apologies for any of it.

In contrast, the Southern half of this writing combo listens to NPR with a dedication that borders on religious fervor. I could no more tell you the host of All Things Considered than she could hum a few bars from Fiddler on the Roof.

But I’m not here to discuss our drive-time taste.

The truth is I don’t listen to NPR, just like I don’t watch much of what’s on the public TV stations now that my kids have outgrown Mister Rogers (a national treasure, may he rest in peace). But I do believe in public funding of the arts, even when the nation is in the midst of an economic crisis, because art, in all its forms, is as necessary to the life of a democracy as clean air. George Washington in 1788 declared the arts “essential to the prosperity of the state and to the ornament and happiness of human life.” If it’s good enough for George, it should be good enough for Representative Doug Lambon, a three-term Republican from Colorado who introduced a bill that would block all taxpayer dollars that NPR might receive.

Representative Lambon has glommed on to the sting operation organized by conservative activist James O’Keefe. Was the fundraiser for NPR who criticized the Tea Party to a potential donor absolutely wrong to make such a comment? Sure. Was it absolutely wrong of O’Keefe to play gotcha by setting up this undercover sting? You bet.

But I’m even more irritated with Representative Lambon. Because I know he knows that NPR receives only 2 percent of its budget from Federal funds. He knows, as the New York Times editorial points out, that his bill is “unattached to a budget measure, it will never survive the Senate or a presidential veto.” It’s what I call “posturing.” Doesn’t really intend to do anything for the current budget crisis, doesn’t really impact NPR, doesn’t really address any issues, but is designed to put his name in lights, maybe draw some attention and money to his political career. What a waste of time and energy when there are bigger, more important problems facing America and the world.

Do you remember the movie, based on a Broadway show, Best Little Whorehouse in Texas? One of the most delicious scenes is Charles Durning, playing the governor of the state, who sings and dances to The Sidestep, able to take whichever position on an issue makes him popular. It’s a show-stopper and the audience responds because it’s not only clever (and Durning is fantastic), but also because too many of us believe that is what most politicians on both sides of the aisle are doing.

This is a serious time. The crises we face here and abroad are real and scary. Stop wasting time crafting bills that don’t address the real issues. Quit dancing The Sidestep.

(Nice that I could end this little rant with a reference to a show tune.)

Marian (the Northern half of Evelyn David)

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6 replies
  1. The Stiletto Gang
    The Stiletto Gang says:

    Great post, Marian. I don't listen to NPR either, but that's only because I am tuned to the disco station here in the metro NY area. Why anyone, especially an elected official, is wasting their time talking about this is a mystery to me. Maggie

  2. Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith
    Marilyn Meredith a.k.a. F. M. Meredith says:

    Frankly, I have no use for politicians on either side. Politics corrupts and that's the truth.

    As for radio, I seldom listen. When I'm in the car it's usually with my husband. We have some CDs we listen to sometimes, but usually I'm brainstorming with him about whatever book I happen to be writing.


  3. Vicky Polito
    Vicky Polito says:

    I'd disagree that Ron Schiller, the NPR development exec who criticized the Tea Party, was wrong, or wrong enough to lose his job. If this guy had said this during news programming, that would be a problem for me. He was clumsy and careless in dealing with potential donors who were “acting” in a way to lead him to the dumb mistake. (In law enforcement, they call it entrapment.) Compare what he said with what comes out of a Rush Limbaugh or a Michelle Malkin and it was pretty tame. Analysis of damning tape showed it had been edited to worsen Mr. Schiller's image while cutting some of the prankster O'Keefe's activist goons’ most negative actions out of view.

    I do agree with something I heard on NPR the other week, on the March 11 episode of "On the Media". Let them take the fed funding away. I agree that this stupid, unimportant drivel that you have to listen spew forth on an annoyingly regular basis over public funding for public broadcasting, funding amounting to between 2% and 10% of broadcast budgets depending on the station’s market, can be wiped out by letting those of us who love these broadcasts up our support. I agree with an analyst on that program that NPR would probably see an increase in private donations after such a change. So, go ahead. Take the fed funding from NPR and take the mega-phone of this issue away from the whiners. Not for nothing, this episode presented more than this one view that I support. Go figure!

    I also agree with Ira Glass (from NPR's "This American Life") that NPR should fight back more strongly and loudly challenging anyone to cite clear, exact examples of bias on the news programs of NPR or PBS. They don't exist. In it's news programming, and really in much of their editorial programming, NPR is not biased. Looking for bias being passed off as news? Dial over to any FOX affiliate. I don't think that NPR should fight so hard the funding issue, but they should fight the lies and nonsense in as loud a voice as the lies and nonsense are being served up.

    But, we live in a world of (false) "fairness". Fairness really doesn't mean that ignorant and untrue words have to be given the same weight and validation as actual knowledge and truth. Calling people out on their bull isn’t bias. It’s honesty. Treating truth and lies, facts and fantasy, with false parity doesn't make things better.

    I listen to NPR very often and except for some of the editorial pieces they are extremely balanced and moderate. They present actual news and, mercy me, information from a variety of perspectives and sources. Just because some people don't like honesty doesn't mean they can get away with demonizing it. Nobody these days is as likely to find facts and knowledge to be bad than what passes for the national Republican Party these days. (Seriously, what's happened to the Republican Party of my youth?!) Think I'm wrong? Then take a look at who can't stand someone running down the Tea Party over a salad while at the same time defending and genuflecting toward the guy who calls the President of the United States of America a Nazi that they hope fails as president, and calls our First Lady a gorilla and says that their very young daughters will be ghetto whores pregnant by age 15. And for even more fun, check the political affiliation of the members of congress and wanna-be elected officials who don't call these guys out for being biased, call them "just entertainers".

    Bias is bias. No one should get to condone it when they share it and revile it when they don't. That's just, well, biased.

  4. lil Gluckstern
    lil Gluckstern says:

    Boy, do I agree with you. I'm new to your blog, and I am an ardent reader. I have read some of you and plan to red much more. So many books, so little time…I regard to your "rant," I'm delighted to see it. One thing I enjoy about these blogs is getting to hear more about what you authors think. I can barely listen to the news anymore, and I have always been interested in politics. The Republicans, particularly the women (which is sad for me) have gone off the rails. The democrats insist on acting as though they're absolutely helpless. Drives me crazy. There is a lot to rant about these days, and a lot to mourn.

  5. The Stiletto Gang
    The Stiletto Gang says:

    Thanks Maggie, Marilyn, Vicky, and Lil. I appreciate your views on this situation.


  6. JFC
    JFC says:

    Thanks for a great write up. I too, oddly enough, have always likened the political jabbering ( mostly Republican / TP ) to that scene and song from BLWHIT. It's too bad that our elected officials don't feel obligated to tell the truth, or at least take a stand. The leaders of the current House pretty much can be counted on to attack whatever President Obama has said – but don't EVER speak about how THEY would fix this God-awful mess they've gotten us into. Thanks again for the article and please keep them coming!

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