Friday, January 30, 2009
Citing Obama Opposition, McDowell Warns Against Fairness Doctrine
Reimposition Could Undermine Kids TV Regulations, Public Radio
John Eggerton -- Multichannel News, 1/28/2009 3:27:00 PM MT
FCC commissioner Robert McDowell had a message for Democrats, or anyone else contemplating trying to reimpose the fairness doctrine: The move could undermine the justification for existing localism and children's TV regulations, and could be used against public radio.
He also suggested it would not come back wearing a big sign saying, "it's me, the fairness doctrine," but would likely instead be rebranded.
Those were some of the observations McDowell provided Wednesday in a speech to The Media Institute in Washington, which is a strong opponent of the doctrine.
The fairness doctrine, which was scrapped by the FCC as unconstitutional in 1987, required broadcasters to air both sides of controversial issues.In the speech, McDowell cited candidate Barack Obama's statement to B&C--through an aide--that he did not support the doctrine, adding that the new administration has a terrific opportunity to enunciate its strong opposition to anything resembling the fairness doctrine.
He spoke at length about the doctrine's origins and its use by both Democrats and Republicans against their opponents. He said he did not know whether recent calls for its return would bear fruit, felt it was a good time to talk to his audience--of media executives, lobbyists, journalists and others--about its creation, its historical abuses, and the legal difficulties involved with restoring it and trying to enforce it.
McDowell warned that if the doctrine were revived, it might not "wear the same label. That's just Marketing 101: if your brand is controversial, make a new brand," he told his audience.
He suggested the doctrine could be woven into the fabric of policy initiatives with names like localism, diversity or network neutrality. "According to some, the premise of any of these initiatives is similar to the philosophical underpinnings of the Doctrine: the government must keep electronic conduits of information viewpoint neutral," he said.
McDowell suggested that a stealth version of the doctrine may already be teed up at the FCC in the form of community advisory boards to help determine local programming. McDowell says he is fine with those boards if they are voluntary--some stations already seek such input. But that if they are required, as the FCC has proposed, "Would not such a policy be akin to re-imposition of the Doctrine, albeit under a different name and sales pitch?"
McDowell also said that efforts to reimpose the doctrine could stretch to cable, satellite, and even the Internet. "Certain legal commentators have suggested that a new corollary of the Doctrine should be fashioned for the Internet, on the theory that web surfers should be exposed to topics and views that they have not chosen for themselves," adding: "I am not making this up."
In a move obviously calculated to strike fear into the hearts of regulatory-minded Democrats, the same ones who have meen making noises about liking the fairness doctrine when it comes to reining in talk radio critics, McDowell had this:
"Actually, in a string of media cases stretching back over more than 20 years, various judges on the D.C. Circuit - both Democratic and Republican appointees - have suggested that it is time for the Supreme Court to rethink the concept of spectrum scarcity as a justification for limiting broadcasters' First Amendment rights. A revived Doctrine would provide a big, bright bulls-eye for those who wish to make that happen. That development would have implications far beyond the Doctrine itself. Much of our content regulation of broadcasters - including most of the FCC's existing localism rules and the regulations requiring three hours a week of children's programming - rest on the spectrum scarcity rationale. If that rationale is invalidated, serious legal challenges to all those other content rules may follow."
McDowell said he was hopeful that the Obama administration understood all this.
"As I watched his inaugural address last week," he said, "I was struck by the relevance of the debate over the Doctrine to a section of his speech where he said, 'To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history ....' 'I am encouraged that President Obama can, once and for all, end the speculation of whether something akin to the Doctrine will come back to life during his term."
Monday, January 26, 2009
*The Tax Poem*
Tax his land,
Tax his bed,
Tax the table
At which he's fed.
Tax his tractor,
Tax his mule,
Teach him taxes
Are the rule.
Tax his work,
Tax his pay,
He works for peanuts
Tax his cow,
Tax his goat,
Tax his pants,
Tax his coat.
Tax his ties,
Tax his shirt,
Tax his work,
Tax his dirt.
Tax his tobacco,
Tax his drink,
Tax him if he
Tries to think.
Tax his cigars,
Tax his beers,
If he cries
Tax his tears.
Tax his car,
Tax his gas,
Find other ways
To tax his ass.
Tax all he has
Then let him know
That you won't be done
Till he has no dough.
When he screams and hollers;
Then tax him some more,
Tax him till
He's good and sore.
Then tax his coffin,
Tax his grave,
Tax the sod in
Which he's laid.
Put these words
Upon his tomb,
Taxes drove me
to my doom...'
When he's gone,
Do not relax,
Its time to apply
The inheritance tax.
Accounts Receivable Tax
Building Permit Tax
CDL license Tax
Corporate Income Tax
Dog License Tax
Federal Income Tax
Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA)
Fishing License Tax
Food License Tax
Fuel Permit Tax
Gasoline Tax (currently 44.75 cents per gallon)
Gross Receipts Tax
Hunting License Tax
IRS Interest Charges IRS Penalties (tax on top of tax)
Marriage License Tax
Personal Property Tax
Real Estate Tax
Service Charge T ax
Social Security Tax
Road Usage Tax
Recreational Vehicle Tax
State Income Tax
State Unemployment Tax (SUTA)
Telephone Federal Excise Tax
Telephone Federal Universal Service FeeTax
Telephone Federal, State and Local Surcharge Taxes
Telephone Minimum Usage Surcharge Tax
Telephone Recurring and Non-recurring Charges Tax
Telephone State and Local Tax
Telephone Usage Charge Tax
Vehicle License Registration Tax
Vehicle Sales Tax
Watercraft Registration Tax
Well Permit Tax
Workers Compensation Tax
Not one of these taxes existed 100 years ago, and our nation was
the most prosperous in the world. We had absolutely no national
debt, had the largest
middleclass in the world, and Mom stayed home to raise the kids.
And now that their greed has consumed them, they've come to *me* for help, and I don't have the option of saying 'no' ....
You know, these bailouts, for me, go far beyond partisan politics and power struggles -- to me, they represent the worst of American businesses' greed and the unfair role the common citizen plays.
They made their money on the backs of indebted Americans, then squandered the wealth they accumulated, and now the same Americans who were pillaged by these institutions are being forced to help them?
That's like a newly freed slave being told he has to go back to the plantation because his former master needs the free labor to keep his business afloat.
To add insult to injury, do you ever remember a time, when the banks were doing well, that they passed that good fortune on to us, in terms of high interest rates on our savings, or by lowering the interest rates on the money we owed?
No. They never helped us when we were down. Hell, kicking us when we were down made them even more money.
Just a few weeks ago, I had a credit card payment that was in 1 day after the due date (I forgot about the holiday), and my interest rate went from 12% to 22% -- no questions, nothing, just BAM, an additional 10% because of a 1-day-late payment.
And now that they're failing, it's up to us to save them?
And I know that there are jobs at stake, and a lot more at stake, but I can't shake the feeling that this is all so unfair. We're giving them money to continue the same pattern of behavior and greed, helping them continue to exploit us.
Sunday, January 25, 2009
For all the hype about the Bush Administration's oil-and-gas energy bias, one of its last official acts was to give the go-ahead to what could be America's first offshore wind farm -- thus enraging more than a few self-deputized environmentalists. Such are the ironies of the wilderness of mirrors known as the Cape Wind project.
For the last seven years and counting, the green entrepreneur Jim Gordon has been trying to build a fleet of wind turbines in federal waters near the upscale seascapes of Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. The site seemed ideal, given the stiff ocean breezes and the eco-friendly politics in Massachusetts. The company says its 130 towers could meet 75% of the region's electricity needs and reduce carbon emissions by some 734,000 tons every year.
The sort of people who can afford to use "summer" as a verb are in favor of all that. Completely in favor, really. But they did want to raise one quibble. Unfortunately, the wind farm would create "visual pollution" in Nantucket Sound, particularly the parts within sight of their beachfront vacation homes.
Mr. Gordon went ahead anyway, and the opposition rose to gale force. Supposedly the wind farm will lead to everything from the disruption of seabird habitats to "desecrating ancient American Native burial sites," in the words of Glenn Wattley, the head of an antiwind outfit funded by the likes of Bunny Mellon. But what really upsets these well-to-do Don Quixotes is the thought of looking at windmills that would appear about as tall on the horizon as the thumbnail at the end of your outstretched arm.
Then there is the political saga, with the Kennedy family as the Hyannis Port Sopranos, supplying the muscle. While Ted Kennedy was castigating President Bush for destroying the environment, the Senator was working furiously behind the Congressional scenes to kill Cape Wind. He even had the inspiration of getting former GOP colleague Ted Stevens of Alaska to slip wording into a spending bill that would have handed a veto to then-Governor Mitt Romney, another aesthetically minded opponent. Robert Kennedy Jr., a Time magazine "hero of the planet," tried to get the Sound designated as a national marine sanctuary to bar development.
Incredibly enough, this political sabotage has so far failed. And last week the Interior Department issued its long-awaited regulatory study, mostly finding "negligible" environmental impact -- apart from a "moderate" impact on the scenery. If the Obama Administration signs off, construction could begin next year.
Mr. Kennedy blustered that the report was rushed out: amusing, considering it runs to 2,800 pages. Bill Delahunt, the windy Cape Democrat, also denounced the action as "a $2 billion project that depends on significant taxpayer subsidies while potentially doubling power costs for the region."
Good to see the Congressman now recognizes the limitations of green tech, such as its tendency to boost consumer electricity prices -- but his makeover as taxpayer champion is a bit belated. Green energy has been on the subsidy take for years, including in 2005 when Mr. Delahunt was calling for "an Apollo project for alternative energy sources, for hybrid engines, for biodiesel, for wind and solar and everything else." The reality is that all such projects are only commercially viable because of political patronage.
Tufts economist Gilbert Metcalf ran the numbers and found that the effective tax rate for wind is minus-163.8%. In other words, every dollar a wind firm spends is subsidized to the tune of 64 cents from the government. The Energy Information Administration estimates that wind receives $23.37 in government benefits per megawatt hour -- compared to, say, 44 cents for coal. Despite these taxpayer crutches, wind only provides a little under 1% of U.S. net electric generation.
We'd prefer an energy policy that allows markets to shape the sources that predominate -- which would almost certainly put Cape Wind out of business. But President Obama seems determined to unload even more subsidies on green developers as he seeks to boost renewables to 10% of the U.S. electricity mix by the end of his first term and 25% by 2025; their share today is about 9% (5.8% of which is hydropower).
We wouldn't be surprised to see the President's green future wrestled to the ground by the likes of Mr. Delahunt, the Kennedys and other anticarbon Democrats. Environmentalists love the idea of milking Mother Nature for power, but they hate the hardware needed to make it work: huge windmills, acres of solar panels, high-voltage transmission lines to connect them to the places where people live. Of course, they still totally, absolutely, wholeheartedly support green energy -- as long as it gets built where someone else goes yachting.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
From WSJ Editorial Page :
Waiting for Dodd
Where are those Countrywide papers?
With the opening of the 111th Congress yesterday, all of Washington is tingling with the allure of a fresh start. Not so fast. We've got some leftover business from the 110th Congress -- namely, Chris Dodd's July 2008 promise to release the details of his sweetheart loans from Countrywide Financial.
The Connecticut Senator got favored treatment from the subprime mortgage purveyor, even as he was a power broker on the Banking Committee that regulates the industry. When the news broke, the Senator first denied that he sought or expected preferential treatment. He later admitted that he knew he was considered a VIP at the firm but claimed he thought it was "more of a courtesy." He also promised the Connecticut press that he'd come clean with the documents and details of the loans. But six months later -- nada, zip, nothing.
The rest of the press corps may have moved on, but we'd still like to know. All the more so because former Countrywide Financial loan officer Robert Feinberg told us last fall that Mr. Dodd knowingly saved thousands of dollars on his refinancing of two properties in 2003 as part of a special program for the influential. Mr. Feinberg also reported that he has internal company documents that prove Mr. Dodd knew he was getting preferential treatment as a friend of Angelo Mozilo, Countrywide's then-CEO, and Mr. Feinberg has offered to provide those documents to investigators.
- Dodd and Countrywide 10/10/2008 – The Senator should take the witness stand.
- Mortgage VIPs 06/25/2008 – Sweetheart deals are just a phone call away.
- Angelo's Angel 06/19/2008 – The senate bailout for Countrywide needs more scrutiny.
- Congress and the Countrywide Scandal 06/18/2008 – Some senators want a bailout for big political donors. What a surprise.
- Beltwaywide Financial 06/16/2008 – The new ARMs: Angelo-rated mortgages for senators.
Just before Mr. Dodd made his promise, Bank of America closed its acquisition of Countrywide and Mr. Dodd has continued to oversee BofA and the rest of the mortgage industry as Chairman of Senate Banking. He will now play a lead role in drafting legislation affecting the very business that gave him preferential treatment, yet he still refuses to release the mortgage documents that would illuminate this treatment. As the Senate Ethics Committee examines this case, Mr. Dodd's office reports that he is cooperating with the investigation and that he still intends to make good on his six-month-old pledge. But nothing in the Senate ethics process prevents Mr. Dodd from coming clean with the public whenever he wishes.
We suspect there's at least one habit of the 110th Congress that won't change in the 111th: The Members think they can get away with anything -- and usually do.