Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Fairness Doctrine?

Several Democrats, led by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), want to resurrect the Fairness Doctrine. This poorly named law was cancelled during the Reagan administration. What it did was dictate that media providers had to give equal time to opposing viewpoints.

An obvious result (and the aim of Pelosi and crew) were this enacted is that a radio station airing a show such as Rush Limbaugh would have to provide the same amount of air time for a liberal radio host.

The first problem with this is the obvious hit the First Amendment would take. We would have the Federal Government dictating to media outlets what programming they could air. We are not talking preventing pornography or foul language. The though police would be assessing political speech and deciding it needed balance from another viewpoint.

Further we need to ask, who decides what political slant a show has? Are we going to set up a panel to decide that a radio station has to balance someone like Rush? How do they decide who should balance him? We will have a situation I which the government is rating programming as either conservative or liberal. What criteria will they use?

This is not only too ambiguous but also set up for significant abuse. Because of the ambiguity, any panel seated can decide anything they do not agree with is conservative or liberal, whichever their bias, and would therefore be targeted for “balance”.

The second problem is economic. The reality is that conservative radio sells and liberal radio does not. If a station has to provide 3 hours of programming for the 3 hours of Rush, will anybody listen? You have to look no further than Air America for an answer. Air America was a liberal radio network. It was given strong financing, aired in large markets, had a strong cast of household name liberal commentators, and failed miserably. If no one was listening to Air America, who is going to listen to 3 hours of a liberal program a station is forced to air? This will cause stations to choose between taking a financial hit for the 3 hours of liberal programming for the ability to run 3 hours of a profitable program like Rush Limbaugh.

The likely scenario is that the station will eventually have to drop programs like Rush Limbaugh or Shaun Hannity because of the financial hit. Therein lies the true reason for re-enacting this law, to silence commentators like these. These programs are a thorn in the side of liberals and a potent political tool for the right.

People on the left like Nancy Pelosi will not admit to themselves that the real issue here is their message. Liberal radio does not fail because of Limbaugh or Hannity. It fails because no one wants to listen to what liberal commentators have to say. So instead of self-examination and realizing that their message is out of the mainstream of America, they will turn to censorship and force us to listen. What we have is just more the tired old liberal attitude that they know what is best for us, even if we are too stupid to see it ourselves. Usually this attitude is annoying, occasionally it’s humorous, this time it is downright ugly and scary.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

With Friends Like This…

Barack Obama’s continuing “friend problem” is in the news again. Foxnews.com had an article today here: about the most recent Obama associate with a questionable past. Jim Johnson was on Obama’s team tasked with searching for a Vice Presidential candidate.

Mr. Johnson resigned today due to his ties with mortgage lender Countrywide Financial Corp. Johnson, a long time Democratic power player, has secured several potentially questionable loans totaling more than 7 million dollars from Countrywide. While no one has said the loans were obtained illegally, the questions arise from the fact that Johnson received below-market rates for the loans likely because of his friendship with the CEO of Countrywide, Angelo Mozilo.

Once the loans came to light, news sources started looking further into Mr. Johnson’s history. Johnson worked for Fannie Mae before they drew suspicion from regulators, among other questions about his personal career.

The real issue for Obama though is his constant criticism of Countrywide for it’s predatory lending practices. Having Mr. Johnson on his board was rightly criticized as being more than a little hypocritical. The response from the Obama campaign was that they could not be responsible for knowing everything about his staff. There are two problems with this. One, he has attempted to hold John McCain to the same standard. Can we say hypocritical again? Second, he should know who is on his staff. This does not appear to be some deep dark secret, the media got the info pretty easily days after he was named to the search team.

Mr. Johnson was one of three members of Obama’s search team. One of the remaining two members, Eric Holder, is now under scrutiny for his role in helping Marc Rich get his pardon from Bill Clinton. Marc Rich was a wealthy financier who was indicted for tax evasion and illegal trading with Iran. Mr. Rich fled to Switzerland and remained there until his pardon, a member of the FBI’s most wanted list. Fortunately for Mr. Rich, his wife had her own well placed investments. Mrs. Rich had made several large donations to the Democratic party and the Bill Clinton Presidential Library. To his credit though, Mr. Johnson has had his character vouched for by John Kerry and Howard Dean. You can’t make this stuff up.

If this is how Obama screens his staff now, how will he screen his cabinet. The ironic thing about all of this is that so far two out of three members of his VP search team are of questionable character. These people are responsible for selecting the person who could potentially be our next Vice President, a person who is a ‘heart beat away from the Presidency’. Fortunately the remaining member is Caroline Kennedy. What are the odds that a Kennedy could be tied to scandal?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Does The Democratic Party Really Stand For Democracy

Well, the two year Democratic primary appears to be over. I say appears because as I write this, we are waiting for Hillary’s press conference to suspend her campaign. The word is that she will suspend, not quit her bid for the White House. This will give her wiggle room if Obama blows it (not impossible), lets her continue fund raising to retire some of her debt, and finally lets her keep her delegates as bargaining chips.

With the campaign done, it is time to reflect on the curious way the Democrats select a candidate. The entire system for selecting a candidate that the Democrats use is, in my mind, un-Democratic.

First we have caucuses. This is a system the Republicans use also and it flies in the face of Democracy. Basically they get together in meeting places and have a series of open votes for candidates in the party. Eventually some of the weaker candidates are eliminated by the process and then the caucuses of the remaining candidates go after the voters who supported candidates that were eliminated. This continues until one candidate is chosen. While on the surface this appears to be the epitome of Democracy, what ultimately happens is voters are bullied and cajoled to vote for someone who, given a chance to make a private, reasoned decision, they would not have supported. This system awards the candidates who have set up a better organized and louder group of supporters, not the one viewed as the most qualified.

This is more of a concern because of the disproportional relevance given the Iowa caucus. It is often the scenario in which a candidate wins the Iowa caucus and comes out as the ‘front-runner’. This gives them considerable play in the press and has a tendency to sway voters in later states. I am not entirely sure why, I never put any stock in Iowa and New Hampshire but it is a phenomenon that is well documented.

A strong case can be made for explaining why Barrack Obama, though not the most experienced or qualified Democratic candidate, managed to survive the nominating process and win the Democratic nomination. While I don’t think any of the Democratic candidates are worth their weight in cow manure, Obama was not even close to the most qualified. You could go down the list of every single Democratic candidate that started the process (ok, except Dennis “I see flying saucers” Kucinich), and make a case for them each being more qualified on most issues. Give him credit though, he has used the Iowa caucus win more to his advantage than any other candidate that I can remember.

Finally we have the “Super Delegates”. This is a system unique to the Democratic party in which a group of elected and unelected Democratic officials get a vote in the nominating process. This group comprises approximately 20% of the votes in the nominating process. They are not in any way obligated to vote for any specific candidate. The reason they were started in 1982 was to be a check against primary voters selecting a candidate that would be weak in the general election. This process gives the party leaders a measure of control over the selection process and an ability to ‘correct’ a poor choice by voters.

This is an incredibly arrogant and condescending opinion of the voters. The party bosses are essentially saying that the voters may need their guidance and occasionally, their intervention, to select an appropriate candidate. This doesn’t just fly in the face of democracy, it dive bombs it and then dumps a big bird turd on the shoulder of democracy.

These arrogant know-it-alls can literally reverse the will of voters and change the Democratic nominee to someone they view as the “right” candidate. The real idiots here though are not the party leaders, it’s the voters who allow this kind of system survive and flourish. It is inevitable that voters will favor another Michael Dukakis type candidate and the “Super Delegates” will rightly decide he does not have a chance to win the general election and will over-ride the will of the voters. This will be fun to watch.