Thursday, February 5, 2009

Hypocrites Lose and Other News

There is new information for several stories I have posted here in the Premise Loft and elsewhere. For those keeping score, here are some updates on Proposition 8, banks taking tax money, and the digital television conversion date.

Initially I wrote that the California’s Proposition 8 amounted to legalized bigotry. It received almost 200 comment postings at
Blogcritics Magazine after it appeared on New Year’s Day. On March 5, 2009, the state Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in a series of lawsuits seeking to overturn Proposition 8. After the court's seven justices hear those arguments, they have 90 days in which to issue a ruling.

For me it is difficult to fathom the amount of money supporters and opponents spent on the proposition. During the contest's closing days, elected officials, businesses, churches and individuals poured more than $28 million into the race. In all more than $83 million went to the ballot initiative that abolished same-sex marriage in California.

Of the supporters of Proposition 8, the money attributed to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now has a dollar amount. According to the church's report, nearly $190,000 went to its role in getting the initiative passed. $97,000 of that money went to the Utah-based Mormon Church staff for their time devoted to the Yes on 8 campaign.

In the follow-up article I wrote that the Proposition’s backers demonstrated their hypocrisy by petitioning the state Supreme Court to overturn a different ballot initiative than theirs. Citing a potential for harassment, supporters wanted the court to grant a preliminary injunction to remove the contributors’ identities removed from the secretary of state's Web site. The court told them No and noted that most of the activity the plaintiffs called harassment, such as threats of boycotts, was actually protected free speech.

I took banking accountability to task in two articles, especially in Broke Banks Mounting. The president has capped executive pay, but there is a lot more to be done. Bank public relations took yet another hit recently after a torrent of criticism that Wells Fargo was misusing $25 billion in federal taxpayer bailout money. Calling it a “recognition event,” Wells Fargo had booked 12 nights at two of the most expensive hotels in Las Vegas— the Wynn Las Vegas and its sister hotel, the Encore Las Vegas. The bank cancelled the junket.

Wells Fargo spokesperson Kevin Waetke defended the cancelled trip. “This year, we have the unique opportunity to bring together our Wells Fargo and new Wachovia mortgage consultants to focus on continuing to do all we can for U.S. homeowners.” Continuing to do all we can to U.S. homeowners would have been more accurate.

$25 billion TARP recipient Morgan Stanley had been planning to send its top employees to Monte Carlo along with a similar event in the Bahamas. They cancelled those trips. Likewise Bank of America, which purchased Wall Street financial house Merrill Lynch and mortgage giant Countrywide, canceled all employee incentive trips.

Finally, there is new information about the digital television conversion date delay, although it might have gotten lost. In No Viewer Left Behind I concluded, “The Obama administration may know who its friends are, but millions of viewers are now left behind.” House Republicans blocked the postponement. Supporters of the postponement could not make the two-thirds majority when it came to a vote. However, under a "closed rule" vote prohibiting new amendments, the House held the full floor vote and passed the Democratic-backed bill to delay the mandatory shutdown until June 12. President Obama urged the delay and is expected to sign the bill.

I appreciate your comments and invite you to join the conversation at Blogcritics, where the Fairness Doctrine is being debated.

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