Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Fair in Fairness

“Dear Mr. Liberal,” wrote an opinion writer in Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel, “Why do liberals claim they're for free speech but want to bring back the Fairness Doctrine, which could stifle conservative talk radio?” That is the latest drum beat of the self proclaimed center-right. I found the question irresistible. “Mr. Liberal replies,” I responded. “Liberals do not. We [liberals] have better things to do than to try to hush Rush Limbaugh or stifle Sean Hannity, like listening to NPR.” I thought I was being cute, as I bated the commentator.

But, nooooo.

A young Republican shot back, “Yes, but ‘you’ liberals do not write the rules, vote on them, pass them into law...Nancy Pelosi liberals do.” She continued that it “is not about Hannity and Rush, both of whom I loathe. It is about slowly choking off the First Amendment. It is sickening how vocal liberals are with their incredible amount of misinformation.”

Let me share another point of view, that of Michael Reagan in his blog, Michigan Redneck II. “P.S. My dad, President Reagan, killed the ‘Fairness Doctrine.’ As a result, this rule change allowed Rush, Hannity, and me to have radio talk shows — that’s why the new proposal to bring it back is being called the ‘Hush Rush’ bill. Now the liberals are dying to shut us up.” He is seeking contributions, too.

“The Fairness Doctrine is the last of my concerns for broadcast news. I would settle for some proper grammar and sentence construction here and there,” one of my former radio colleagues, Gary Nelson of WFOR TV4 Miami wrote. “About the vitriol on talk radio,” Gary continued, “in doing a piece the day after the election on Bush losing the Hispanic vote, I interviewed a Colombian-American voter who said he had been a Republican all his life and had never voted for a Democratic presidential candidate. He said the ‘mean-spirited’ attacks on Obama changed him. ‘Rush Limbaugh cost John McCain my vote,’ he said.”

“That's why we now have right wing and left wing media. Some are even in the middle,” a voter on my “Fair in Fairness Poll” wrote. “Let people decide who to listen to. It should not be confused, but often is, with the Equal Time rule. The Fairness Doctrine deals with matters of public importance; the Equal Time rule only deals with political candidates.”

Thank goodness for the Internet and 1st Amendment, without which I would have no one to bate (aa-aa watch it!) nor the freedom to do it.

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To view comments on the Fairness Poll, go to

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pardons Anyone?

I have previously written that both “W and Cheney deserve a place in history – in a penitentiary.” I have urged the president-elect to offer no blanket pardons to Misters Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld or Rove just in case they are prosecuted for “high crimes and misdemeanors” (Constitution, Art. II Sec. 4). According to Jon Roland of the Constitution Society, “High . . . does not mean ‘more serious’. It refers to those punishable offenses that only apply to high persons,” more specifically public officials. Presidential accountability has been obscured by President Ford's pardoning of President Nixon.

Should Bush, Cheney et al. be prosecuted for "High crimes and misdemeanors"? I posed that question at YouPolls.com and got 33 responses. Of those responding, 61% voted yes. 39% voted no. Take into account the following disclaimer from the site. “Polls listed on YouPolls.com are not scientific surveys. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate and can be skewed due to multiple votes, percentage rounding, and biased participants.”
Here is a sample of the opinions the poll generated.

“Definitely; Especially Mr. Cheney and don't forget about finding a way to prosecute Donald Rumsfeld.”

“They should be tried for war crimes,” wrote another voter. “We launched a pre-emptive war on Iraq.” Additionally “…the U. S. was a major party to the UN charter, drafted in 1945, which stated that the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state was illegal.”

Here is quite a different point of view. “History is written by the winner, and in this case we're leaving Iraq as winners. By prosecuting individuals connected to this war we open a can of worms. As always history has and will always be kind to winners.”

Probably the most succinct response was this. “Yes, they should. No, they will not. That's life.”

I tend to concur with that one only because to put that band of “public officials” on trial would certainly be public – a show trial, in a manner of speaking. The enemies of this nation would not understand it and only China would think such a prosecution reasonable if not worthwhile. So perhaps I asked the wrong question.

At minimum the Bush/Cheney gang should retire, collect no pensions, and be prevented from making huge sums of money as private citizens after January 20th. They are criminals. Ted Steven has nothing on them.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More Fairness

The Fairness Doctrine was a 1949 FCC regulation, not a law. When some in congress tried to give it a new name and make it a law, Reagan vetoed it in 1987. It came up again in 1993 and congress did not endorse it. Despite Nancy Pelosi’s pandering to the Christian Science Monitor on the topic, or George Will's sweeping generality in the Post that "liberals have been unable to dent conservatives' dominance" of talk radio, the doctrine is rather problematic under the Constitution's First Amendment. What I failed to point out is that Rush Limbaugh understands self-promotion. The election loss by his candidate and the Alaskan rube Rush idolizes demonstrates that conservative talk radio has little influence.

Augie Grant, PhD, a former radio colleague of mine, wrote of my posting “individuals on talk radio (on all sides of the political spectrum) are guilty of gross misrepresentation. Some is simple hyperbole, but there are enough outright falsehoods that intelligent people can't help but wonder whether there is a better option. Personally, I would like to hear that owners and hosts are willing to consider ‘truth’ as a value, but I'm not holding my breath. Perhaps the audience will wise up and leave the blowhards behind, but conflict is much more entertaining than rational discussion.”

“There is little question that the Fairness Doctrine stifled speech,” Augie also wrote. “In practice, it led to the idea that an issue has only two sides, an argument that is as naive as it is limiting. In a lecture on our campus (University of South Carilina) last week, Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard was asked about the Fairness Doctrine and shot back that liberals had their own voice on talk radio: NPR.”

To which another former radio colleague, John Posey, wrote that “the reason to go to NPR as an alternative - TRUTH.... regardless of your political persuasion. I never feel as though I have to shower after listening to NPR.” John also wrote “I have issues with the Fairness Doctrine and do not want to stifle anyone's speech. I've listened to left and right talk and don't care for either for the very reasons Augie (above) . . . presented. I do believe that Limbaugh and Hannity have a certain self-serving, self-promoting, invective-spewing quality and have taken ‘pathological’ to new levels. That being said, the problem is not the shrieking of Rush and Hannity per se, it's the vast number of ‘followers’ who believe every word they say.”

That hardly seems fair.

Friday, November 14, 2008

This That and the Other Thing

Back in September in my posting titled Radio or Not, I took issue with the Post’s George Will over his assertion that a Democratic Presidency would mean the return of the so-called Fairness Doctrine. I wrote that such a notion is bunk since conservative talk radio is cheap to produce. Will’s colleague Michael Gerson has brought it up again. They probably share a new corner of the Post’s commissary and both wrote that in 1987 President Reagan “eliminated” (Will) or “overturned” (Gerson) the 1949 FCC regulation.

No the president did not. The FCC overturned the regulation. By the way, as an independent regulatory agency, the FCC has the power to reimpose the fairness doctrine at anytime without action by either the executive or legislative branches. What Reagan did was veto a congressional attempt to make the regulation a law. The Supreme Court set the stage for the FCC dumping the regulation in 1984 (FCC v. League of Women Voters, 468 U.S. 364). The regulation has come up since then, but congress would not support it and nor did the Clinton administration.

The broadcast media of 1949 is a chapter of history, as will be the Internet. So who keeps coming up with the fairness doctrine (beware, brother, beware) with respect to the newly elected administration, other than Will and Gerson? I am going to guess they got it off of talk radio. Besides, other than the Palin worshipping Rush Limbaugh, who cares? That is unless
Gerson and Will have information that the Obama administration plans to “pack” the FCC.

Anyway, there you have the “This” part. Now, here is the “That.” I have previously written that both “W and Cheney deserve a place in history – in a penitentiary.” I call on all US citizens to urge the president-elect to offer no blanket pardons to Misters Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld or Rove. I urge their prosecution for “high crimes and misdemeanors” (Constitution, Art. II Sec. 4).

Here is another by the way. “High,” according to Jon Roland of the Constitution Society, “does not mean ‘more serious’. It refers to those punishable offenses that only apply to high persons,” more specifically public officials. I have posted a poll on that topic at
http://www.youpolls.com/details.asp?pid=4143 You can vote and see the results for the next few weeks. I will be writing about what we find later.

And now, here is “the Other Thing,” also known as the Alaska Senatorial race. As of this posting, with 60% of the vote counted, Democratic challenger Mark Begich leads the incumbent Republican convicted felon Ted Stevens by 1022 votes. To check them, go to
http://www.elections.alaska.gov/08general/data/results.htm .

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Stuck in Stupid

The Republican Party is not dead. It might be a tad stinky, but it is not dead. Right now it is just stuck in stupid. There are still plenty of Republican Senators and Representatives to raise a stink. Moreover, there is a veritable plethora of Republican Governors, including the Alaskan. After W and Cheney leave office, the GOP will be able to take a break and retool if they will unstick themselves.

Meanwhile, the conservative punditocracy has already begun its 2012 elephant race that may or may not include Palin, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, or even Newt Gingrich, as the Posts venerable Robert Novak has suggested. But, there are two questions such speculation raises – who are the Republicans and who, in their right mind, would want to lead them? Oh, yah, that would be you know. So let’s take a look at Alaska.

As of this posting there are still 90,000 absentee/early ballots being counted in Alaska to determine whether Ted Stevens, a convicted felon, will be elected to represent the Frontier State. Regardless, he plans to return to the senate next week, where Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina has “ filed official notice that he will call for a vote to have Stevens ejected from the Republican Conference,” according to Mike Ross, of Anchorage television station KTUU.

Governor Palin remains at large, running off at the mouth like the comic king of double talk Irwin Corey after she and the first dude treated “the vice presidential run as a second honeymoon,” as mused Maureen Dowd in her NY Times column. Ms. Palin will join the Republican Governors Association meeting later in Miami. One wonders if the spotlight will tire of her. I am sure the RGA does too since they will be in it.

As to the condition of being stuck in stupid, as I have written, the Republicans may be a lot of things but being stupid is not one of them. After all, they allowed Palin to be on their ticket and successfully lost the Presidential election. Showtime Sarah aside, the Republican Governors are a smart bunch and I expect they will be the most influential in the party’s rehabilitation.

As a business management consultant, I would describe a lot of what I see in business families as people stuck in stupid. They are not stupid; they're just stuck in it. The primary reason they are stuck is their lack of flexibility, which inhibits change. The GOP has a lot of work to do in order to unstick itself. Alaska’s Governor Palin and Senator Stevens will not help them in their efforts.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Enough Already

There are a couple of things being popularized about which I must say, “Enough is enough, already.” First is the “center-right nation” assertion that the conservative pundits proclaim the United States of America is, although they mostly condense the country to “America.” Come to think of it, that’s about as ignorant as Sarah Palin’s confusion that Africa is a country. But, I’ll get to that. The second “enough is enough” is the commentary about the color of the president-elects skin by United States citizens in the press.

My stove pipe black Lincoln top hat is tipped to my hero Charles Krauthammer who is good at making word coins. The first time I read the word coin “center-right” was in his second endorsement of John McCain in the Post (10/31) “McCain is the quintessential center-right candidate. Yet the quintessential center-right country is poised to reject him.” May I suggest that as good as the concept is, the country (not the continent) proved to be “center-left” and just in time.

Let me tell you anecdote to explain why “enough is enough” on the president-elects’ “suntanned” ethnicity, as Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi recently quipped.

“Mac, put on your class A’s and get over to the post chapel to raise the PAO flag,” barked my boss at the Army Public Affairs Office. The occasion was the first celebration of the newly minted “Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day” at the Hunter Army Airfield, in Savannah, GA. Standing beside me, the other white person in the standing room only throng, my Commanding General, John Galvin, asked me what I thought about the holiday.

“Sir,” I said, “it’s a great day for the country for two reasons. First, it celebrates the life of a great American citizen and patriot. Second, it pisses off the bigots.” The General laughed in agreement. I feel the same about the election results. It is just that I am becoming weary of the abundance of commentary on the issue of ethnicity which we should now overcome.

The “quintessential center-right country” was the last safe haven for bigotry of any ethnicity, as opposed to color. Our presidential election overwhelmingly repudiated that bigotry and, in so doing, moved the country quintessentially center-left. I am proud to be a part of that move. Call me "Center Lefty."

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Hail to the New Chief

In the Roosevelt Room of the White House, the horseback heroic Teddy Roosevelt portrait has been hanging over the fireplace since January 2001. As Michael Gerson wrote in his 11/05 Washington Post column, in January 2009, the portrait of “Franklin Roosevelt will be moved back to that place of honor.” The good news for WaPo’s Gerson and Krauthammer and NY Times William Kristol is that they no longer have to defend an incompetent Republican administration. Instead they can indulge in sniping at a competent Democratic administration.

Actually, Gerson’s sniping has already begun. “And as the result of a financial panic that unfairly undermined all Republicans, Obama has stumbled into the most dangerous kind of victory,” he wrote. “Unfairly” and “stumbled” indeed. What part of the United States becoming “the first majority-white democracy on this planet to anoint a black person as a national leader,” as noted by the NYU educator Jonathan Zimmerman did Michael miss? In his op-ed piece A Victory for America, and the World, Zimmerman wrote, “Consider that the United States did not abolish slavery until 1865. The British Empire beat us by a half-century, outlawing the slave trade in 1807 and slavery itself in 1834.”

The conservative pundits have their work cut out for them. It falls on them to articulate what the Republican Party is all about and that will take some time. The country repudiated it and its base of bigotry at the polls. That should be good news. As Republican Congressman Jeff Flake of Arizona put it, “The party is finally untethered from the ill-fitting and unworkable big-government conservatism that defined the Bush Administration.”

Let me offer a clue to the Republicans as they figure out who they are. I would like to think that the election’s repudiation precludes any candidacy for Sarah Palin, who actually thinks she has a roll in the GOP on the national stage. Ignorance is not bliss, it is dangerous. One would think that an endorsement by Alaska’s felonious Senator Ted Stevens would be sufficient to disqualify her from any part of a GOP rehabilitation. Maybe it works in Alaska, but Palin’s stuff does not play in the lower 48 except to bigots.

Let me call on the Obama-Biden administration not to pardon Mr. Bush or Mr. Cheney for the “deception and criminality,” Mr. Gerson dismisses as “lunatic theories.” Both W and Cheney deserve a place in history – in a penitentiary. Let us all look forward to the changing of the portraits in the Roosevelt Room.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Rubes, Parapets, Lions and Lambs

I was incorrect when I wrote that Charles Krauthammer of the Washington Post was “an author of the Bush Doctrine” (Putting Descartes Before Horace). In his September 13 column he wrote “I was the first to use the term.” (June 4, 2001, Weekly Standard) He also wrote “Yes, Sarah Palin didn't know what it is,” after referring to Palin as “the moose-hunting rube.” It’s good to be quoted, even if the term “Bush Doctrine” is incorrect (I looked up doctrine). Krauthammer is correct about Palin (I looked up rube).

In addition to being a Pulitzer Prize winner and an MD, he provides commentary for Fox News and is one of the most articulate conservative writers of our time. I like to read Krauthammer’s Post column because I can philosophically disagree with his well wrought prose and agree with his observations at the same time. For example, “The vice president's only constitutional duty of any significance is to become president at a moment's notice. Palin is not ready.” (September 5)

I agree. However, if he is correct, then how can he endorse John McCain’s presidential bid, which he does not once but twice? In the first endorsement (October 24) the good doctor wrote “. . . I'll have no truck with the phony case ginned up to rationalize voting for the most liberal and inexperienced presidential nominee in living memory.” It’s a nice turn of phrase. The contradiction is that his endorsement of McCain also endorses the most inexperienced vice presidential nominee in memory.

“Today's economic crisis,” he wrote, “like every other in our history, will in time pass. But the barbarians will still be at the gates. Whom do you want on the parapet?” I can just about guarantee you the answer is not the “moose hunting rube.”

By the way his rhetorical answer to the parapet question is “I'm for the guy who can tell the lion from the lamb.” I must agree. There is little worse in this world than barbarian lions and lambs.

I can also agree that “the current economic crisis demands extraordinary measures.” In Krauthammer’s October 31 second McCain endorsement, he continued “an Obama-Pelosi-Reid-Barney Frank administration will find irresistible the temptation to use the tools inherited -- $700 billion of largely uncontrolled spending -- as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to radically remake the American economy and social compact.”

Other than the omission of Joe Biden’s name, I could not agree more. I certainly hope Krauthammer is indeed correct. That is exactly what the nation needs. So does the Republican party.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

October Surprise Ball Booted

The October surprise ball was booted, unless a report that a distant Kenyan relative of Senator Obama is living in Boston “illegally” is the perfect mole hill upon which a political mountain may be built. A Senator McCain spokesman, Tucker Bounds, said his campaign had no comment. That is a shame since it is the perfect fodder upon which the Alaskan running mate likes to graze, but I digress. The real problem with the story is that it has limited television appeal, compared with the presidential debates which were all about television appeal.

The RNC has shown little interest in vetting anyone or anything. However, it sure thinks it knows the importance of television appeal. That is why the RNC booted the “hockey mom” ball with its concern about the Palin makeover. Television appeal is how the RNC booted the “Joe the Plumber” ball when they gave a real person a television name (I’m Joe Plumber, RNC News.) They would have been better off hiring an actor.

Television appeal is how the RNC booted the “Presidential debate” ball. Perhaps it would have better for their standard bearer had the debates been broadcast in black and white – McCain would have come across like Ike and Obama a skinny college kid. Following along that line, it would have better had the debates been broadcast on radio – the skinny kid would have come across like a crooner and Ike would still be Ike.

Twenty years ago ABC News claimed, “More people get their news from ABC than from any other source.” Although a frightening concept at the time, the network can no longer make such a claim. CNN put the debate solidly in the television appeal category, as opposed to a content substance category, with its goofy, color coded crawling graphic. In so doing CNN reduced the candidates to being the red guy and the blue guy with an imaginary green guy in between the two.
Television reduced the debates to an extended, three part infomercial, a ball booted by the vice presidential debate. There is more that television does than suck the substance out of things, it allows for the substance to reappear on the web, such as
http://bravenewfilms.org/blog/39179-mccain-s-youtube-problem-just-became-a-nightmare . It also pays Tina Fey and Will Ferrell.

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Thanks to Dick Cavett in his NY Times column Talk Show for the link referenced above.