People who say it cannot be done should not interrupt those who are doing it. Welcome to From On High.

Monday, March 14, 2005

CBS News When It Mattered

Reid Collins, writing for the American Spectator, jogged my memory of the Walter Cronkite succession saga. He says:

Mudd in the CBS Eye
Reid Collins

There they were, on C-Span 2, for 50 minutes Sunday Evening. Former CBS News Correspondent Tom Fenton interviewed about his book, Bad News. And the interviewer? A man whose truly bad news was inextricably tied to an event of the past week: the retirement of CBS Evening News Anchor, Dan Rather.

He is Roger Mudd. Twenty-four years ago, Mudd was a CBS News Correspondent considered the heir-apparent to then-reigning Walter Cronkite as the man in the anchor chair. It didn't happen. There was this brash Texan, who had made a name for himself as President Nixon'sbete noir while the network's White House Correspondent. It was known that Cronkite was soon to retire, on his own terms, and it was widely assumed, in and out of the organization, that the dignified Mudd would succeed him.

One day, six months before Cronkite was ready, top brass at CBS had an announcement: Cronkite's replacement would be -- Dan Rather -- and almost immediately. Cronkite would be mollified with a seat on the CBS board of directors, a rumored million dollars a year, a cubby hole with staff at the headquarters building, Black Rock, and several handshakes. Mudd swiftly left CBS's employ, went to NBC, and finally was narrating for the History Channel and doing interviews such as that of Fenton on C-Span Sunday evening. (link)

It's funny. I thought I was the only person alive who thought - at the time - that the Rather promotion was a mistake. But I remember when Walter Cronkite was succeeded by ol' Dan. My thought at the time was: CBS has blundered. But not in passing over the very deserving Roger Mudd. It was in passing over the even more deserving Charles Kuralt.

Walter Cronkite at the time was considered "The Most Trusted Man In America." And that moniker provided a big advantage to CBS News. Charles Kuralt at the time was held in similar regard by down-home America. It seemed a natural evolution for Kuralt to replace Cronkite.

Instead CBS went with Rather, "The Most Admired Man In Mainstream Media." The rest is history.

Dan Rather will be missed by the mainstream press. Some of the fawning editorials written in recent days attest to that. But ratings reveal the attitudes of down-home America. We quit watching CBS News long ago.

Roger Mudd is doing C-Span 2. Charles Kuralt is dead. And the geniuses at CBS News are wondering where they went wrong.

When 'Science' Isn't

Several days ago I read an article revealing the release of a new study regarding the effects of second-hand cigarette smoke. The conclusion reached by the researchers was that it had a deleterious effect on women and may increase the risk of breast cancer. Such "studies" have become so commonplace that I finished the article and said, "Bullshit."

As it turns out, I was probably right. Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan, president, American Council on Science and Health, writes in today's New York Post:

ENVIRONMENTAL activists this week brought the credibility of the noble science of epidemiology (the study of the cause of human disease) to another low.

The Air Resources Board of the California EPA declared that exposure to second-hand smoke upped a woman's risk of breast cancer. Nevermind that the "study" was preliminary and was neither peer reviewed nor published.

The national media picked up its scary conclusions in a generally uncritical manner, most scientists remained silent on the travesty and the California regulatory exorcists who are committed to removing all "toxins" from the air, pondered even more legislation to "protect" women from breast cancer by eliminating exposure to second-hand smoke.

But there is no persuasive evidence that smoking, no less second-hand exposures, cause breast cancer. In fact, there is some evidence that women who smoke may have a reduced risk of breast cancer given that smoking reduces the body's natural estrogen levels. Commonsense suggests that if a woman smoking a pack a day is not at increased risk of breast cancer, then a nonsmoking woman transiently exposed to second-hand smoke would not be either. (
But why do "scientists" continue to damage their reputations by putting out such hogwash? Dr. Whelan asks the same question. And provides the answer.
Indeed, why do anti-smoking advocates need to exaggerate their claims when there is already overwhelming scientific evidence of the dangers of smoking? Because the anti-smoking movement is driven by a zeal to regulate cigarette smoking out of existence and the ends justify the means.

They seem unaware that their baseless health claims threaten the acceptance and credibility of legitimate public health initiatives as facts and hype get tangled.
Look, I don't smoke. And I don't have a big problem with people who do. If they know the (considerable) risks to their health and they decide to smoke anyway, that's their deal.

What I have a problem with is the smoking zealots out there who have gotten cowardly and/or menacious politicians to create laws forcing smokers to light up outside their workplace - in subzero weather. To me, that's far more deleterious to one's health. But the do-gooders don't seem to care about that. Which tells me they aren't really interested in public health at all.

They are just zealots. Blind. Ignorant. Unbending. Driven. Frightening.

And Speaking Of Zealots

I just wrote about my fear of smoking zealots. People like them frighten me for this reason:

Wetlands Mired In a Bog
By Russ Harding, Washington Times

Tomorrow John Rapanos will stand before a federal judge for sentencing. The purported crime of this mid-Michigan builder is violating the federal Clean Water Act by moving sand in a cornfield he owns and had hoped to develop.

Mr. Rapanos' cornfield was deemed a wetland by state and federal authorities despite being surrounded by drainage ditches mandated by county drain commissioners in the early 1900s.

... [T]he nearest navigable water -- the basis of federal jurisdiction over "wetlands" -- was some 20 miles away.

Mr. Rapanos no doubt provoked federal authorities when he worked on this farmland in violation of cease-and-desist orders, but there was little to justify the government's use of the Clean Water Act.

This law, passed in 1973, restrains people from using public waters without regard for the rights of others, and it prohibits discharge of pollutants into "navigable waters" -- defined in the act as "waters of the United States" -- without a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Sadly, through creative rulemaking and without explicit congressional approval, the Corps has defined "waters of the United States" as any wetlands that might affect interstate commerce.

Consequently, property owners whose land is distant from any normal understanding of "navigable waters" can find themselves targets of federal wetlands enforcement action. (link)

If we let government bureaucrats and culture nazis get away with this - or with banishing cigarette smokers to prison - we let them run roughshod ... over us.

They came first for the Communists
and I didn't speak up
because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews
and I didn't speak up
because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I didn't speak up
because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics
and I didn't speak up
because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me--
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
Martin Niemöller (1892-1984)