Freedom for Expression

December 5, 2012

Studio of Finnish local radio station "Ba...

Studio of Finnish local radio station “Basso radio” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I got busy around the election and had lots of time to digest the outcome.

I’m sure Romney was sad with his loss and as such, Clear Channel Communications, controlled by Bain Capital, pulled the plug on Portland’s local commercial progressive talk radio.  That station had been on the air for over 8 years but according to ownership, was pulling in a small audience.

I’m licking my wounds missing our local liberal broadcast and have some thoughts on monolithic ownership of am/fm and over the air television stations.    In the loss of this talk radio station, I see the echo of the loss of other rich and diverse local radio stations over the years.

I am a gen Xer from the mid 60s.  I grew up tasting the remnants of the heady 60s and 70s ideas and culture.   In a time without Itunes, the culture of radio was rich and vibrant.   Cities had many choices for programming because local ownership was required to receive a broadcasting license.  There was a lack of uniformity , but also there were wide swaths of completely different musical culture simply because of geography.

In some ways, the internet has changed that.  In other ways, national corporate domination of the am/fm and tv airwaves has come to the fore after the local ownership rules were eviscerated in 1996.  Now from town to town, everything is the same on the radio.  All of the stations have been bought by a select group of owners who control it all but for a small fraction of the airwaves.

There is so much that is wrong with the current state of terrestrial am/fm broadcasting.

Years ago, the DJ in the booth could choose the music and shows even had live requests and callers on the air in between songs.  Now more often than not, music playlists are programmed the same across the country by a handful of people.  I  believe it is this fact more than mp3 file sharing technology that has stymied the music industry.

This McMusic approach to radio broadcasting has really made the business about nothing more than money.   Gone are the days that most stations have the freedom to put some love out to their audience and pull in a local crowd.  At this point it is hard to argue that any of Clear Channel is in service to the public except to provide a format that satisfies the lowest common denominator across the country.  Sirius and XM have customers because most of the airwaves are dominated by lame schlocky programming.

I am lucky to live in Portland where there are several alternatives for radio programming, one is dedicated to local bands and musicians even.   I have seen these kind of stations come and go.  The stations with the higher power to have a strong signal over larger area ultimately get sold out to larger corporate owners.   If the broadcast is kind of weak, it is not as attractive.  That is why if you hear anything interesting on the radio these days, it’s on the noisy station with a weak signal.

Ultimately Portland’s former liberal talk station was a business venture that the ownership did not wish to promote or grow.  Nothing personal, it’s just dollars and cents right?  To me it seems like the McTalk approach to engaging an audience at work.

We live in a country with around 50 progressive talk radio stations on low powered stations.  They try to balance out the over 900 conservative talk radio stations, many are high powered strong signal.  The playing field is far from fair and it is this massive megaphone to broadcast lies and illusions that keeps us mired.  It is why, with such a decisive electoral victory for the Dems,  the GOP has failed to react to the election results.  They live in their loud, controlled, self absorbed bubble, to the hazard of all that contradicts their upside down view of the world.

There should be a new guarantee by the FCC to allow diverse and local ownership of television and radio across the country.  It will allow greater diversity in programming, create many jobs in broadcasting, allow for greater freedom and exchange of ideas and create a new flowering of American musical culture.   It will get rid of some of the plutocracy and bring back some Democracy to the airwaves.

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...

 

Meet Paul Ryan, the GOP congressman running to keep his seat in congress.  Oh and he is also running for Vice President with Mitt Romney this year.  Talk about hedging your bets!  What a play this guy has.  I bet he buys about 50 lottery tickets at a time.   It is like playing several numbers on the same spin of the wheel.

 

What a waste of Wisconsin taxpayer’s expense to run Mr Ryan as a representative.  What if he wins both elections?  He will have to forfeit his seat in the House so he can preside in the Senate.   On second thought, maybe he could do both jobs.  After all the House has not done much of anything this year.   Make no mistake, the GOP controls the House this year and all they have done is play golf and change the names of post offices.   If things stay slow over there, he could pick up some extra hours as VP.

 

I had to laugh when I heard Paul Ryan’s first speech.  He did a John Boehner, “Where are the Jobs Mr President?”    The answer is of course, the jobs are waiting for Rep Ryan’s YES vote on President Obama’s Jobs bill back in the House of Representatives.  Of course they won’t vote on that, they would rather try to blame their inaction on Obama.   What a shill,  what a maroon!!  It was a Bugs Bunny guffaw for a minute but then I started thinking about what could happen if Paul Ryan became the next Vice President.    That will be the subject of another post, because I’m not ready to descend into the darkness that the Romney/Ryan ticket signifies.

 

We have to hand it to Romney, however, Ryan is not vapid like Sarah Palin.  Romney seems to have made a better choice than McCain in this area.  He is easy on the eyes and easy on the ears if you are stuck in the permanent state of cognitive dissonance that results from overexposure to Fox News.  He has the easy charming gaze of a rattlesnake about eat his next mouse.  He may even charm some middle road poorly informed ‘independent’ voters.
Even if the Romney wagon doesn’t ascend into the stars,  I think we will see this character on the national stage over and over until the nation figures out that the main product of the GOP is Snake Oil.

 

 

united states currency eye- IMG_7364_web

(Photo credit: kevindean)

Mitt Romney’s  overseas trip has been fodder for the press and media as quite a source of humor and more example of fumbling and mumbling we have seen from the candidate since the primary season kicked off.   Something that has been noted is that his trip was in reality a visit with potential donors for funding his silk stocking presidential campaign.  The question I ask is when did this become ok for politicians in the US to seek campaign funding overseas?

The bundlers who put together funds for campaigns such as Romneys will expect to have favorable access to their candidate should he win.  What happens when the bundlers are foreign and in direct competition with the interests of Americans?  Can we trust Mitt to keep the interests of Americans in mind when his fund raising may come directly from foreign competition?  If Mitt accepts money from mainland Chinese interests, can we trust him to represent American’s best interests if they are in direct competition with those of China?    I believe his presidency is up for auction to the highest bidder.

International fundraising is done under the rubric of collecting donations from expatriate Americans.  Expatriate Americans who happen to host $10k per plate dinners for their foreign friends to meet candidate Romney, for example.  If the host is American, no problem if he puts the 1-2 mil collected from his foreign guests under his name, right?

Under current law, anyone with citizenship or a green card may donate to a campaign, but let us be clear: that is a very low hurdle for huge bundles of money to jump on it’s way from one nation to the candidate in the pursuit of undeserved favor and alliance.  It is tantamount to bribery by a foreign entity.   Funny how times change.  A hundred years ago, that was considered a high crime.  Make no mistake, the US has excelled at this practice with buying its own puppet dictators over the years, but now the game could be played on the American people, where we elect a puppet president obedient to a dark multinational financier.

I’m not an authority on the history of campaign funding,  but I do remember a time in my life when international funds for campaigning were strictly forbidden.  Later the rules changed so that there were strict limits placed on funding so that no one donor could become the sole recipient of the benefits of their elected candidate’s authority.   Also, sources for campaign funds had to be disclosed so that voters could see who the candidate would likely favor in office.   My sense of things is that the funding from international sources has grown over the years and instead of trying to stem the tide or at least disclose the extent to which the monies flow in from over seas, we have just opened the floodgates and declared all money from overseas to be just fine.  (No thanks to the SCOTUS decision on Citizens United)

It may well be that allowing unlimited funding from foreign sources essentially puts our country up for auction to the highest bidder for the next four years.   I think Americans deserve a president who does not bend over for his British and Israeli banking benefactors.   When it comes to the American people or his rich friends, which side do you think Mitt will take?

The lack of controls over campaign funding continues to be the single most powerful factor contributing to the disconnect of the federal govt with the will of the American People.    The escalation of international funding of campaigns only widens the gulf between the will of the American people and the choices made by their leaders.

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Respecting the DREAM

June 19, 2012

 

President Obama did what he could to show people the way this last week on how to deal with the massive immigration dysfunction that our US system has become.  In years past, it has been far easier than present day to enter the US and immigrate.  All the way through the late 70s, immigrating to the US was a process that had a finite beginning and end.  Today it is a maze of bureaucracy hampered by pre 911 prejudices and post 911 paranoia.

Homeland Security is a department in the executive branch and thus under the authority of the President.  The policy change is fairly simple.  Children of illegal or undocumented residents could gain at least a 2 year stay on their deportation if they :

• Came to the United States under the age of sixteen;
• Have continuously resided in the United States for a least five years preceding the date of this memorandum and are present in the U.S. on the date of this memorandum;
• Are currently in school, have graduated from high school, have obtained a general education development certificate, or are honorably discharged veterans of the Coast Guard or Armed Forces of the United States;
• Have not been convicted of a felony offense, a significant misdemeanor offense, multiple misdemeanor offenses, or otherwise pose a threat to national security or public safety;
• Are not above the age of 30.

This announcement has been widely criticized as a political move by the President, but  ask the GOP and Mitt Romney for their vision of how to handle illegal immigration.  They do not have a plan on how to deal with the millions of illegal and undocumented residents.  They do not have a plan on how to change anything from the current status quo which is onerous, cruel and unusual punishment to people for simply wanting a better life but not necessarily committing other crimes.

The children of families caught up in the ICE and Homeland Security bureaucracy are truly innocent in the situation and blameless for the choices of their parents.  This is a bad situation where the government truly needs to reorganize and restructure.

The overall policy is misguided and unrealistic as well.  If we wish to stem the tide with illegal immigration we need to address the rules of employment and the enforcement of hiring and documentation.   As long as illegal immigrants can get a job in the US, they will continue to come.    So far, it appears that Mitt Romney and the GOP want to close their eyes and continue to pretend the current state of our immigration policy is just fine.

The day that President Obama announced the change to deportation policy which is only to be a two year trial, the President was heckled during his opening statement by Neil Munro, an online reporter-blogger for the Daily Caller, a GOP newsite.   As the cameras were trained on the heckler to capture the exchange between President Obama and Mr Munro, you can see the frustration and even seething hatred as Mr Munro appeared to be trying contain himself and allow the President to speak.   Mr Munro, if nothing else is just the latest symbol of the unthinking raging hateful angry opposition which believes that the office and functions of the President is not worthy of high respect, no matter who is in that place.  Mr Munro is just another zombie of the right blinded in their rage.

 

Republicans for Obama

Republicans for Obama (Photo credit: EN2008)

Why does the GOP think they can push unpopular laws through?  We have seen limits passed on access to contraception and invasive laws designed to humiliate women who are seeking abortions.   The polling on these issues is conclusive.   Why do Republicans think they can stir up these contentious issues in an election year?  The prevailing wisdom before this year of breathtaking rollbacks in womens health rights has been that these issues are pushed in off election years.  Has the Right become so drunk with power, holding the majority of assets in the nation and using significant amounts to control access to government and outcomes of elections.   Do they believe they are going to be able to buy the elections or control the vote?

Apparently, they think the time is ripe to pull back the curtain a little to bring in more followers on a moral issue that they can claim is a high ground.  It is an absolutist posture that appeals to someone who does not want to think about the issue.  Oh we’ll hear the various politicians walk back from these extremes.  Mitt is starting to pivot back to the middle but make no mistake, we got to see some holy righteous bare ankle of the extremism of the GOP during their primary.

The GOP trifles with these moral quandaries and does nothing to recover the economy .  Also, they have taken the fight to contraception, the very practice that helps reduce abortions.  They must think we’re pretty dumb huh?  Maybe they just think they have the whole election thing ‘locked up’.  Make no mistake, just like Scott Walker, all these GOP players are wearing long frocks before entering office.  We don’t get to see the whole show until they make it there.  We only get to see their ugly proselytizing souls bared after they attain office.  We have seen enough to say there is definitely a misogynist,racially biased and homophobic agenda lurking behind the curtain.

The GOP is working all the angles and the Dems are days late and billions short.  It is a nearly vertical challenge, but rubber on the road, sweat and tears may still prevail.  If the people do not come together to solidly reject the GOP this years election, we will see the rollback of the 20th century and the ascendency of the robber barons of the new millennium.

Its been nine years and the past is definitely blurry, unless you served.  Not every one served in the theater.

I know I’m way behind.  I finally saw the movie Fair Game, depicting the Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson story.    Holy crap this is a great movie although it depicts a sad reality.  Kudos to Sean Penn and Naomi Watts who were both outstanding in their craft.  I love how the story is shown from the perpective of the family of Ms Plame and Mr Wilson, something I doubt most people considered at the time.  At the time, they were parents of four year old twins and coping with the loss of career, public defamation and desire to shed light on the lies that were leading an angry grieving nation into a war on a country that had nothing to do with 911.

After seeing this film, I am wishing that the real Joe Wilson would enter politics.   He strikes me as a good leader, someone with a conscience.   Also, I wonder if the gender roles had been reversed if the Bush administration would have been so flip as turn on their own agent.

In chess, sometimes it is a good move to lose a pawn to gain the advantage, ultimately Ms Wilson was used as a pawn in the game of going to war that can be played in the white house.   She was robbed of her career, bottomed out, as the ‘fall girl’ for the Bush administration.  There does seem to be a tragic injustice in the end with the family moving to New Mexico to escape DC , while no justice is served to the executive branch out of control.  Scooter Libby, an agent of Cheney, barely served time for his lies and no one else was held to answer for blowing her cover in the press.

In many ways, Valerie Plame was fighting the war on terror before the military even got started.  After the dust clears, it will be units like hers that are left to clean up the mess.  She suffered a huge injustice and paid a high price for putting her duty in front of everything for years.   She is a living hero in my book.  Joe too is a hero for trying to speak the truth to the power that was revving up the engines on a machine that just mows stuff over rightly or wrongly.

Of all the reasons we went to these two wars, it cannot be denied that we waged war on Iraq based on layers of  lies and deception.  Iraq did not have anything to do with 911, yet we were easily led into believing it was so.   At the heart of the reasoning for going to war was the so called weapons program in operation in Iraq.  By the time it was obvious to most informed and reasoning folks, we were embroiled in a second war mostly because it seemed closer to the target.

It is not easy to draw a greater conclusion or gain a moral to the story, but here it is: the GOP in control of our military and intelligence complex will put it to work on expensive and immoral  operations  in order to create a political advantage and/or support their big business cronies.  That’s what happened with Iraq.

Looking at the future, I cannot figure out what the mission in Afghanistan is but to get out.  I think we went there to get Osama but now it’s truly a mission accomplished.

El Rushbo Speweth Over?

March 6, 2012

Rush Limbaugh - Caricature

Rush Limbaugh - (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

I was just graduating from college in the Midwest  in 1991 when I remember becoming aware of Rush Limbaugh.    A good friend of mine listened to him regularly and had become quite partisan to the right back in the days when politics were almost like cryptography, the era for me when anything to do with politics was ‘wonky’.   I checked in with El Rushbo then and sampled his offerings and it did not take long before I was thoroughly disgusted by the content that was alternately misogynistic, racially degrading, menacing, self aggrandizing pomposity and never ending foul tasting ?humor?  Further, the ‘news’ and opinion was full of easily debunked mendacity.   Never truly challenged, Rush’s conservative brand of ‘entertainment’ apparently was embraced by a mostly white male audience.   Being a new graduate, I was moving around through out the Midwest as I started my own career and was able to sample various radio markets while looking for work.  Exploring the radio dial across the midwest was a pasttime and I was amazed by the reach Rush had established already and the lack of any true counterpoint to all of his outrageous claims.

Being curious about this new exciting conservatism and whether there was a fair debate available on his broadcast, I personally spent time calling in to his show to present points in contention with his arguments of the day.   It took only two attempts before I realized there would be no fair debate with liberals on his show.  Anyone who made it to the airwaves was cut off as soon as was convenient and then thoroughly excoriated and marginalized.  Most liberals will never get past the call screener filtering callers so Rush doesn’t have to face the ‘unwashed unruly’ masses with inconvenient and embarassing questions.

Rush established a platform and echo chamber in which only right conservative ideas were allowed and no rigorous debate with consensus beyond that of the right wing could form.  He is an architect of the polarized political environment we now find ourselves in where neither side can have a fair discussion with the other.   He allowed and encouraged conservatives to believe they do not have to concede anything in a debate with the left and that they do not even need to engage in a debate at all with counterpoint from the middle and poverty stricken classes.

In turn, conservatives came to worship at the platform he created and maybe even mistook it for a town square of sorts.  Rush became so elevated in their eyes, that there is nothing the the Rushbo can do that could be wrong or indefensible.  Megadittoes became the code word for everything you say is true and we surrender our critical thoughts over to you Rush.

I say Rush deserves to be able to speak his mind freely, as loudly and as noisily as he wishes — on a street corner.  He should be able to go out on the internet and blog all he wants and podcast all he wants even.  I do not think he deserves however, the benefit of the American public’s am or fm radio air waves.  There is nothing in the bill of rights about the freedom to speak on the radio.  We have something in the US called the FCC that settled that years ago.