Is the White House being run by little kids?

I read this article in the NY Times and all I can think is that the White House is acting like some little kid that doesn’t want to hear it is time for bed, and is covering his ears while chanting, “I can’t hear you” over and over again.

The White House in December refused to accept the Environmental Protection Agency’s conclusion that greenhouse gases are pollutants that must be controlled, telling agency officials that an e-mail message containing the document would not be opened, senior E.P.A. officials said last week.

But, hey this works.

This week, more than six months later, the E.P.A. is set to respond to that order by releasing a watered-down version of the original proposal that offers no conclusion. Instead, the document reviews the legal and economic issues presented by declaring greenhouse gases a pollutant.

But not only did they water it down, they removed information that doesn’t support the blind faith that de-regulation is the only route to economic benefits.  Yet the original report would have contradicted that premise.

Over the past five days, the officials said, the White House successfully put pressure on the E.P.A. to eliminate large sections of the original analysis that supported regulation, including a finding that tough regulation of motor vehicle emissions could produce $500 billion to $2 trillion in economic benefits over the next 32 years. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

But at least they know this,

Both documents, as prepared by the E.P.A., “showed that the Clean Air Act can work for certain sectors of the economy, to reduce greenhouse gases,” one of the senior E.P.A. officials said. “That’s not what the administration wants to show. They want to show that the Clean Air Act can’t work.”

I would rather see career bureaucrats like this running things rather than this one,

About 10 days after the finding was left unopened by officials at the Office of Management and Budget, Congress passed and President Bush signed a new energy bill mandating an increase in average fuel-economy standards to 35 miles per gallon by 2020. The day the law was signed, the E.P.A. administrator rejected the unanimous recommendation of his staff and denied California a waiver needed to regulate vehicle emissions of greenhouse gases in the state, saying the new law’s approach was preferable and climate change required global, not regional, solutions.

Not sure if this last part refers to the unopened e-mail, but if they do, then the claim of executive privilege is showing some serious chutzpah.  I mean if you don’t open it, how can you claim that is part of that candid advice you are seeking.

Simultaneously, Mr. Waxman’s committee is weighing its response to the White House’s refusal to turn over subpoenaed documents relating to the E.P.A.’s handling of recent climate-change and air-pollution decisions. The White House, which has turned over other material to the committee, last week asserted a claim of executive privilege over the remaining documents.

Once again this White House shows it is pretty awful by pursuing ideology over science.

-Josh

What can taxes do?

What can taxes do, well fund infrastructure improvements.

Back in February I had blogged the construction on the Devil’s Triangle was going to be delayed for a year (to 2009) because of a lack of funding. Well, that construction project will start this July 16th, as reported in the Strib.

A MnDOT construction project that begins July 16 will create a diamond interchange that should relieve congestion and reduce accidents. But it won’t happen overnight. The project is expected to be completed in 2011, raising new concerns along with the sighs of relief from drivers who have had enough already.

I am not sure why the original reporting had a start date of 2009 and completion date of 2011, while this has a start date of 2008 and still ending in 2011. Probably a change in how the project will be done.

A bypass will be built the first year, Roy said. Once traffic moves onto that, then Hwy. 169’s new southbound lanes will be built — between Brooklyn Boulevard and 93rd Avenue on County Road 81. After that, the northbound lanes will be built.

The Devil’s Triangle isn’t the only construction project that has it’s start time moved up, a number of bridge projects do to.

Nearly 90,000 drivers a day got welcome news Monday, when the Minnesota Department of Transportation announced a major bridge improvement plan that would move up by a year the replacement of the Lafayette Bridge, which spans the Mississippi River in downtown St. Paul.

Construction of a replacement for the bridge, which carries Hwy. 52 drivers into the heart of downtown and has a lower sufficiency rating than the Interstate 35W bridge had before it collapsed last summer, is now slated to begin in 2010.

You would think that replacing an urban bridge, less than 1 mile from the RNC at Xcel would get some priority, but it costs money. Where did that money come from?

State Transportation Commissioner Tom Sorel appeared before a House-Senate panel on Monday to share the proposed bridge improvements and other plans for a $6.6 billion transportation package the Legislature put into law over Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto this year.

It is amazing when you invest your money, for the government that is called taxes, what can be done.

By 2018, 120 bridges that lack structural redundancies or rank poorly on a federal bridge rating system would be repaired, replaced or under construction.

Replacing the 11 major bridges would consume about three-quarters of the money. Work has already started on a replacement for St. Cloud’s Hwy. 23 bridge, which officials closed in March. But another bridge that closed recently and reopened on a restricted basis — the Hwy. 43 bridge in Winona — would have to wait until 2014. Crews are set to repair the bridge’s gusset plates this year.

Yeah, that is right, folks in Winona can be happy to know they don’t have to wait 6 years for their work.

I just don’t get the anti-tax crowd, that want to starve government. For our society to function we need to invest in infrastructure to make things work. Fortunately 6 Republican state represents overrode Governor No Pawlenty’s veto.

-Josh

Cold calculation in chasing the cheapest gas prices

I know that seeking the lowest gas price can be about getting the good deal, or just a psychological victory in coping with the shock of $4 a gallon of gas.  But with more and more Americans feeling that pinch in the pocket book we need to do the math in figuring out whether to chase those low gas prices.

Last fill up, I was averaging 25 miles per gallon, which I don’t understand as the previous fill up I was getting 30 mpg with the check engine light on.  Maybe I should have forgone that repair!

So at 25 mpg when gas is $4 per gallon, I am averaging 16 cents per mile in my gas costs.  Now my gas tank holds 13.2 gallons, let us say I fill up when there is 1.2 gallons left, so I am filling up 12 gallons, how far out of the way should I drive for how much savings.

Well if I know of a gas station that is 8 cents a gallon cheaper which means I save a whole 96 cents when filling up 12 gallons, means that I shouldn’t travel more than 3 miles one way or 6 miles roundtrip to break even.  Now if you are thinking green, if you are only driving out of the way to save some pennies on gas, then just give it up because of the greenhouse gas emissions.

The smartest thing you can do is pay attention to the prices of gas stations on your routes and when you need to fill up, go to the one that is usually the lowest.  On days when all the stations go up, well they all go up usually to the same price.  On the other days after they have started to fall, that station will likely be lower than the others as is usual.  For me this means never filling up at the Holiday Station on Franklin Ave in Minneapolis, it is almost always the highest station on my commuting and shopping routes.

-Josh

Coalition for a Democratic Workplace – what a name!

So this ad has been running the Twin Cities for a little while.

Coming from my pro-labor background, I found the ad to be clever by questioning the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). Now as with any ad that focuses on legislation it is important to see who is running the ad, and who supports them.

If you go their web site, you can see their long list of supporters, which seems to just be employers or associations that represent employers, I didn’t see a single labor organization listed.

On their web page about facts, it is all about making sure the EFCA does not get passed. In a great example of cherry picking the facts they quote this:

Private Ballot Elections Have Been Supported By the U.S. Supreme Court, Chairman George Miller (D-CA) and the AFL-CIO

A letter sent by Rep. George Miller and 15 other members of Congress to Mexican government officials in 2001, stated, “We understand that the private ballot is allowed for, but not required by Mexican labor law. However, we feel that the private ballot is absolutely necessary in order to ensure workers are not intimidated into voting for a union they may otherwise not choose.”

Other members of Congress that signed this letter include: Dennis Kucinich, Bernard Sanders (now a senator), Bob Filner, Barney Frank, Joe Baca, Zoe Lofgren, Fortney Stark, Barbara Lee, James McGovern, and Marcy Kaptur.

Now this is a letter in support of privacy in another country which has different labor laws than ours, so similar, but not the same. And when you look at the voting record on EFCA in the House, where it has passed, we find out that:

  • Joe Baca – sponsored it and voted yea.
  • Bob Filner – sponsored it and voted yea.
  • Barney Frank – sponsored it and voted yea.
  • Marcy Kaptur – sponsored it and voted yea.
  • Dennis Kucinich – sponsored it and voted yea.
  • Barbara Lee – sponsored it and voted yea.
  • Zoe Lofgren – sponsored it and voted yea.
  • James McGovern – sponsored it and voted yea.
  • George Miller – authored it and voted yea.
  • Fortney Stark – sponsored it and voted yea.
  • Bernard Sanders (now a senator) – sponsored S.1041 in the Senate, it has not been voted on yet.

So that fact is hugely misleading, but hey they don’t want an honest discussion, or workers to unionize, they want to continue to divide and conquer.

American Rights at Work has a more comprehensive coverage of supposed supporters of worker’s rights including the Coalition of a Democratic Workplace. EcuProphets has a nice blog on it too.

Remember as this election season ramps up ads, that you need to think intelligently and critically about what they are trying to convince you of. Think about who is funding that ad, who supports them, and if that seems out of place. I mean come on, do we really think all these employer associations are really about making unionization easier or better?

The Hill.com has a great article on this topic and this group in particular,

Then there are the lobbying groups whose name suggests the exact opposite of what they really stand for. That should tell you a lot, right there. It tells you that the people behind these groups are less than proud of what they represent.

Take the United Seniors Association, for example. Here is a group funded by drug companies that promotes the interests of drug companies, even when their interests clash with those of seniors. Apparently the “Put Drug Companies First Coalition” didn’t poll well.

So what should we make of a group that calls itself the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace? That sounds like something I might be in favor of. Are these people really trying to give workers more say in the workplace? Heck, that’s what unions do.

Actually, that is most definitely NOT what the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace tries to accomplish. Just look at who its members are. The coalition is made up of groups such as the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), whose biggest member is the notoriously anti-union Wal-Mart; the Associated Builders and Contractors, an association of anti-union contractors; the National Association of Manufacturers; and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

These groups do have a track record on issues that involve giving workers more say in the workplace. Not surprisingly, they’re not for that.

In fact, the Coalition for a Democratic Workplace was formed to defeat legislation that would make it less of an ordeal for workers to form unions and bargain with management for better wages and working conditions.

Think critically for the sake of informed democracy!

-Josh

Republicans trying to limit marriage

By bring forward a Constitutional Amendment to limit marriage to that between a man and a woman.  Not all that surprising.  But when you look at the cosponsors of Senate Joint Resolution 43, it gets more interesting.

Two of the more notorious Senators in the current Congress, Larry Craig (R-ID) and David Vitter (R-LA) are cosponsors.  My hope is that the author of this is so hard up for sponsors he is looking past some of their recent history, which can’t help make the case for the sanctity of marriage.

First there is Larry Craig who was busted for soliciting sex in a men’s bathroom in Minneapolis.  Maybe this is overcompensating or trying to show his anti-gay credentials, what ever the case, he was going to plead guilty to the charge.

Sen. Larry Craig said he “overreacted and made a poor decision” in pleading guilty to disorderly conduct after his June arrest following an incident in a Minneapolis, Minnesota, airport bathroom.

Tuesday, in his first public statement on the arrest, the Idaho Republican said he did nothing “inappropriate.”

“Let me be clear: I am not gay and never have been,” said Craig, who has aligned himself with conservative groups who oppose gay rights.

Most importantly we got this wonderful video out of the whole story.

Now while I am guessing that Larry Craig is staying in the closet because pressure from his community and political party, which is sad, the hypocrisy is shared by his colleague from Louisiana.

David Vitter’s number was found on the DC Madam’s phone list records, and he apologized to God and his wife.

“This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible,” Vitter, 46, said in a statement, which his spokesman, Joel DiGrado, confirmed to the Associated Press.

“Several years ago, I asked for and received forgiveness from God and my wife in confession and marriage counseling,” Vitter continued. “Out of respect for my family, I will keep my discussion of the matter there — with God and them. But I certainly offer my deep and sincere apologies to all I have disappointed and let down in any way.”

So soliciting sex from men (when you are a man) in airport bathrooms or soliciting prostitutes provide you with enough morality hypocrisy to prevent same sex couples from getting married in front of family, friends, and god.

From my world view, let us ignore the hypocrites and embrace these great couples!

Equal rights for all!  Be proud this weekend!!

-Josh

The McCains split on Cluster Bombs

In trying to research some information on the tax credit that John McCain talked about for zero emission cars, kudos, that he states will be available to everybody. I have e-mailed the campaign to double check that it will a refundable credit so that all families, even those with out a tax liability will benefit from the credit. I will post what I learn later.

I noticed a section on Cindy McCain and checked out some of her activities and noticed this trip in April to Kosovo (scroll to the bottom) to look at efforts to remove munitions from the country.

Cindy recently visited HALO Trust’s operation in Kosovo. She met with the de-miners and reviewed minefields and cluster bomb strikes. While in Kosovo, she talked with the students of a school that still has unexploded munitions in their playground. She also spent time with the members of HALO Trusts operation in Kosovo learning about new de-mining techniques and the obstacles HALO faces in making Kosovo mine free. She wrapped up her visit by meeting with both the President and Prime Minister to get their assurances of their commitment to a mine free Kosovo. Shortly after her visit, one man was killed and three were injured at a site she had reviewed.

Now for me the easiest way to prevent this problem is don’t let it happen in the first place. In a weird way it is like a prevention plan, don’t let the mines and cluster bombs be available, then they can’t be put down, which means later they won’t need to be cleaned up.

Now cluster bombs are the worst, they are small, a lot of them don’t explode and they stick around for a long time. Oh, and they are expensive to remove. Cluster bombs are sooo bad that there is a new international convention on this type of munition, the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Countries that ratify the convention are obliged “never under any circumstances to”:

(a) Use cluster munitions;
(b) Develop, produce, otherwise acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer to anyone, directly or indirectly, cluster munitions;
(c) Assist, encourage or induce anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a State Party under this Convention.

Now sadly the US is not currently a party to this convention.  You might wonder what the US has done on this topic.  Well in 2006, there was an amendment that address this issue, SA 4882 (roll call)

SA 4882. Mrs. FEINSTEIN (for herself and Mr. LEAHY) submitted an amendment intended to be proposed by her to the bill H.R. 5631, making appropriations for the Department of Defense for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2007, and for other purposes; as follows:

At the end of title VIII, add the following:

Sec. 8109. No funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act my be obligated or expended to acquire, utilize, sell, or transfer any cluster munition unless the rules of engagement applicable to the cluster munition ensure that the cluster munition will not be used in or near any concentrated population of civilians, whether permanent or temporary, including inhabited parts of cities or villages, camps or columns of refugees or evacuees, or camps or groups of nomads.

Now this amendment isn’t that horrible, it is basically asking that the military draw up (or amend current ones) rules of engagements that will protect civilian locations before authorizing any purchase and movement of cluster munitions.

Now the amendment didn’t pass losing 30-70.  Of the recent candidates, Biden, Clinton, Dodd, and McCain voted against it (for open rules of engagement for cluster munitions), and Obama for it.

To me this seems like a bit of a split in the McCains.

-Josh

Who is breaking their word on public financing?

If you listen to all the talking heads, I mean pundits, and representatives for the McCain campaign, Obama’s decision this week to not seek public financing is like killing a baby. He broke his word to the public, he is flip floping, he is full of blind ambition, and doesn’t care about keeping his word.

The supposedly liberal counterpart, Mark Shields, to David Brook on the Newshour said this,

MARK SHIELDS, syndicated columnist: Judy, Barack Obama made history this week. He became the first presidential nominee since Richard Nixon in 1972 to state that his campaign will be funded totally by private donations with no limits on spending.

Nice smear, equating the forgoing of public financing in the general campaign (not the primary portion) with tricky Dick. But when I look at the Federal Election Commission web site on this topic, this is what I see,

The Federal Election Commission administered the first public funding program in 1976. Eligible Presidential candidates used federal funds in their primary and general election campaigns, and the major parties used public funds to pay for their nominating conventions.

So to talk about the history of the system and go back to Nixon as the last example of a candidate not taking public financing, when the FEC says that the program was first administered post Nixon is an unfair comparison.

Now according to the Wall Street Journal, not exactly your liberal press, this is what they report on this topic,

Both candidates support public financing, and early in the campaign season Obama was a vocal supporter of the system. His campaign, however, has raised unprecedented funds—some $265 million and growing–from a grassroots network of small individual donors.

The Obama campaign argument, in part, is that their campaign is its own version of public financing, since it is built on individual donors and does not accept money from lobbyists or political action committees.

Earlier Obama had pledged that he would sit down with McCain to work out an equitable system if the two candidates were to accept public funds. The Associated Press reported that Obama’s lawyer Robert Bauer said he had met with McCain’s lawyers to discuss terms, but the talks were fruitless.

The decision to opt out of the system will likely set up Obama to have a significant cash advantage over McCain in the general election if the Arizona senator opts in to the system. Even if McCain changes his mind and also opts out, he is unlikely to be able to match Obama’s fund-raising successes.

So Obama is backing out because he is not accepting lobbyist or PAC money, but rather small donations, the net roots. His folks talked with McCain’s folks and they couldn’t iron out an agreement, which it sounds like a condition of his accepting public financing. Also the WSJ suggests McCain might change his mind, which is kind of ironic because he has already done that this election cycle.

As this Washington Post blog covered this March, McCain has already changed his mind on public financing in the primary part of the campaign,

McCain Blows by Public Spending Cap

By Matthew Mosk
Sen. John McCain has officially broken the limits imposed by the presidential public financing system, reports filed last night show.

McCain has now spent $58.4 million on his primary effort. Those who have committed to public financing can spend no more than $54 million on their primary bid.

So has McCain broken the law? The answer is far from simple.

It depends on whether he has, in fact, withdrawn from the public matching program. McCain was certified to enter the matching program last year when he was starved for cash. But once he started to win primaries, he decided to step back from it. On Feb. 6, after his Super Tuesday victories, he wrote to the FEC to announce he would withdraw from the program.

McCain’s lawyers said that gave him freedom to spend as much as he wanted — once he announced his intent to withdraw from the system, they say, he was released from the spending caps.

But Federal Election Commission Chairman David Mason wrote McCain’s campaign last month to alert him that the commission had not yet granted his Feb. 6 request to withdraw, and that the commission would first need to vote on the matter. A snag: The FEC has four vacancies and therefore lacks a quorum to consider the matter.

There’s little agreement on what the FEC would have done, had they been able to meet. In part, that’s because McCain borrowed $4 million from a commercial bank, and promised to pay the money back through his fundraising efforts. If the campaign went badly, he told the bank, he would use future matching funds to help repay the loan. The rules say that candidates who use matching funds as collateral have to remain within the confines of the system. The Democratic National Committee filed a complaint to the FEC about McCain’s actions, but without that quorum, evaluation of the complaint has been stalled.

Meanwhile, McCain’s fundraising has roared ahead, now that he is the presumptive Republican nominee. His campaign announced yesterday that it repaid the $4 million loan last week, ahead of schedule.

So he used public financing as collateral for a loan to keep the campaign going, but the rules say you cannot later opt out, which is what he says he did by a letter, maybe it was another get out of trouble letter that Republicans have when they do illegal things, like ask telecomms to spy on Americans without a warrant. When you really think about this, it is like he is doing the Hokey-Pokey on public financing, “you put your campaign in, your take your campaign out, then your put campaign in again…..”

So when we look at issues of Obama and McCain’s word, it is hard to see where McCain has any ground to stand on, out of need to to stay in the race, he opt-ed into public finance to guarantee a loan, but when he was doing better, spent past his limits, arguing that his letter to the FEC was enough to withdraw. I don’t know about you, but that is a flip-flop, that is political ambition, doing whatever it takes at the time to become the presidential nominee. It definitely isn’t straight talk.

Of course you don’t hear about this hypocrisy from the talking heads, pundits, because it wouldn’t give them something to be outraged by, they might actually have to discuss the issue. And well, the folks paying them make money on political advertisements.

-Josh

Congratulation to California Same-Sex Newlyweds – 2 down, 48 to go

I want to congratulate those same-sex couples in California that are now enjoying a legal right that had been denied them, the right to marry in the eyes of the government.  I know this post may attract some hateful comments as I am sure there are some people who are so freakin’ intolerant in their self-righteous views that they have to spread that hatred and ignorance throughout the web.  But, for those of us advocating for equality, not just our GLBTQI members of society, but also their friends who don’t fall into to one of those categories, we need to be there for them, we need to celebrate the successes, we must share in the sadness at the setbacks, and we must stand up for their rights.

I really hope that this is like the beginning of a tsunami of equality that spreads throughout the US.  Now I will acknowledge that I am science geek, but think about a tsunami.  The first thing that happens is that the water near shore retreats, and along the horizon a small peak starts to form.  To me that water retreating is the numerous awful state constitution amendments that have been passed in the last decade “to clarify” to forbid certain US citizens their right to the pursuit of happiness, oh and equality.  That first little crest on the horizon is Massachusetts and California extending the right of marriage to same-sex couples.  The question is how long will it take for the wave to break and spread equality across the land and wash away much of the bigotry and intolerance that exists.

Now New York has taken a great first step, Governor David Paterson has instructed the various state agencies to examine rules and regulations to recognize same-sex marriages from other states.  But while, this is a great next step, there is a giant hurdle to equality, the federal government.

Thinking to my friends I see two huge parts of equality that need federal recognition.

  1. Citizenship
  2. Social Security Benefits

Citizenship-what about those same-sex couples where one is not a US citizen, how can they have equality if they aren’t allowed to start the process-first green card-due to marriage because the marriage isn’t recognized.

Social Security Benefits-there are benefits for spouses, especially Survivor’s benefits, so without access to these federal benefits, there is no equality.

We have made some steps forwards, and they are huge steps, not just in what they allow, but in providing hope for making that next step forward.  Until we have equality in all senses, we can’t become complacent.  One step I like to take is reclaiming the language.  I have been to a gay marriage and a lesbian marriage, they are not civil unions or commitment ceremonies, they are marriages.  On this issue I won’t accept compromising language, we have to share the language and not compromise for separate but eqaul language.

Pledge of Allegiance-“…with liberty and justice for all”

-Josh

Have a frosty on Father’s Day and help foster children find a family

Today is Father’s day and I would like to recognize the thousands of single men that choose become single father’s each year, providing not just a home, but a family, to children in the US foster care system.

Many people think about adoption and think of infants or of adopting internationally. They don’t always think about older children. My friend Anthony sent me this PSA this past week, I think it is pretty powerful.

Last year I remember talking to single man that took placement of a 17 year old into his home to adopt him. According to the federal government 1,496 children were adopted between 0ctober 1, 2005 and September 30, 2006 (most recent data) by single men.

This weekend the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (DTFA) is going to receive 50 cents for every frosty purchased (most restaurants are participating) yesterday and today (this isn’t the first year, so remember next year) in the US and 1 dollar in Canada.

The PSAs that DTFA has done about waiting children have focused on older kids and sibling groups, and with their shift into recruitment with their Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program.

So in honor of the thousands of single men who have become a father through adoption, that have provided a family to a child or youth that may have otherwise aged out of the foster care system, have a frosty and support the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption’s efforts to recruit families in any shape or form for children who are still waiting for a family!

-Josh

Disclosure: Of the programs I assist at work, one is largely funded by DTFA and I have many friends that are recruiters for Wendy’s Wonderful Kids.

Day 2.2 at the National Conference for Media Reform

This is about the part of the conference after lunch on Saturday.

Media Policy in a New Congress and Administration

I was back in the same room for the two afternoon sessions.  Moderated by Ben Scott with Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA) and FCC Commissioners Michael Copps and Jonathan Adelstein.

I don’t know about you but policy discussions can be rather dry and boring.  These gentlemen made it very entertaining and engaging without dumbing anything down.

The early part of the session was about Low Power FM (LPFM), and how this needs to be expanded to reach more communities.  Existing broadcasters claim interference issues, but the FCC has commissioned a study and the science says LPFM will not cause interference problems.  Rep. Doyle has a bill HR 2802 (text) that will accelerate LPFM’s expansion throughout the US.

Here are two quotes from the Commissioners from the December 11, 2007 Third Report and Order.

Copps on still holding the existing commercial broadcasters to their public interests obligations (pdf),

As important as LPFM is, however, let’s never allow ourselves to see it as a complete substitute
for full power service. Nor should we ever be lulled into a mind-set that says, “Well, let low power cover that stuff and let the full power stations continue on their happy way.” The American people still rely on full power stations for much of their news, information and entertainment. And those full power stations are on the air because they pledged to serve the public interest in return for being allowed to make what is still a very good living. The emergence and strengthening of LPFM does not affect our duty, in any shape, manner or form, to ensure that all broadcasters serve the core public interest goals of localism,
competition and diversity.

Adelstein on the local nature of LPFM stations and regulations that promote it (pdf).

In addition to these reforms, we preserve the non-commercial, local nature of LPFM stations by
prohibiting most sales of licenses and outright ban any transfer or assignment of construction permits. Preventing the creation of a market for the sale of LPFM licenses and construction permits will help protect the true local quality and community service orientation of LPFM stations that have made them thrive.

Perhaps more than any measure in this item, I am especially pleased that we have tightened
LPFM ownership rules. Simply put, we cannot allow what has happened to commercial radio to happen to LPFM. Accordingly, I strongly support the fact that we reinstate the restrictions on local LPFM ownership. In doing so, we explicitly recognize that “doing away with the locality restriction could threaten its predominantly local character, in particular the hallmark of the LPFM’s station’s local character, its local origination of programming.” And, equally important, we clarify that repetitious, automated programming does not meet our local origination requirement.

So contact your US Representatives and tell them you support HR 2802 and they should too!

Adelstein also talked about some other regulatory ideas that I think would be great.  That broadcasters must have on their web site, they all have web sites, what actions they are taking to meet their public service obligations.  Also identifying when things are being sponsored especially video news release, those PR  (public relations) pieces that are distributed to “news rooms” to present information in a news
style format.

On the issue of the transition to digital TV, the FCC commissioners are worried about the process the US is taking in this, which is not very thoughtful or coherent.  Copps said that the UK is taking 5 years, doing education in cities, then making a switch on one, just one station in a market/city and seeing if everything is going well.  Thanks to this experience, the US is going to have a test market in Wilmington NC.  Copps also learned from an engineer working on the new antenna on the Empire State building that TVs will have to re-scan on the transition date.  The FCC knew nothing about this, and I couldn’t figure out what it meant.  Does it mean my converter box will need to re-scan for available channels that day, a mild annoyance, but not unsurmountable, or something more troublesome.

Both commissioners addressed programming on the digital stations.  Since existing broadcast stations could have as many of 6 channels, what were they going to do with it?  The commercial broadcasters really have no plan.    As I scan through my TV here in Minneapolis on Sunday afternoon at 2:55 PM I see what they mean.  Our local Public Television station has Chanel 2 and 17.  Channel 2.1 has an informercial like programming on its main channel for pledge drive, and Cleveland Orchestra on 2.2.  On 17.1 – weather, 17.2 MN channel which seems to be very culturally orientated, 17.3 their kids channel,  17.4 their create channel which has lots of cooking and crafts, seems like the programming is very sponsor driven, and 17.5 the channel that is always weather.  Meanwhile channel 4 has paid programming,  channel 5.1 ice skating, channel 5.2 local news rebroadcast, channel 9.1 and 9.2 (channel 9, 23, and 29 all run .1 as HD and .2 as standard defintion) has paid programming, channel 11. 1 is golf, 11.2 is a national weather feed, 23.1 and 23.2 is paid programming, 29.1 and 29.2 is Twins baseball, and 45.1 is paid programming.

So if the commercial broadcast stations can’t fill up one station with programming that isn’t paid, what do think will happen with the 4-6 stations they could utilize.

Owning our Own and Reaching the Masses

This session was hosted by Davey D and the panelists were “Grouchy” Greg Watkins of Allhiphop.com, Arianna Huffington of the Huffingtonpost.com and Lizz Winstead, co-creator, Air America Radio and The Daily Show.

This session wasn’t the most useful to me.  I was hoping to get more about getting people to read this blog.  Huffington said that we could submit blogs to her and her staff would review them for posting on her site.  So that would be a good way for me to get traffic.  Winstead talked about her new on-line show and that is pretty interesting.  I thought Grouch Greg was the most useful of the panelists for getting our message out.  He said know who your audience is and given them the content they want.  He also talked about using the technology (remember not just internet) that your community uses to get information out, text messaging is huge for his community.

On media reform in general there were some great points.  Winstead talked about for some people, some news is shocking, especially if it bursts their world view, and that these folks need baby steps to be brought around, and she uses humor to do that.  There was also the complaint about the lack of follow up questions in what pass for journalism, targeting Wolf Blitzer specifically for this omission.  The other point that was brought up was why are “journalist” asking questions, like “Why did Obama stay with his church after Rev. Wright made comments like he did?”  As Winstead put it, “wondering aloud should not be a profession you are paid for.”  They should be talking to Obama and getting that question answered.

Media Reform Begins with Me

The evening plenary session was a good time, it started at 8 PM and ran until 10:45 PM, like the Oscars it ran late.  There were many good speakers and the emcees were very fun.  Senator Byron Dorgan was very good, so was Michael Copps, and Naomi Klein.  Naomi Klein was my favorite because she talked about how if Obama gets elected that isn’t enough, we have to keep the pressure on as he will have corporate pressures trying to get him to compromise too much.  Basically hold his feet to the fire to have progressive change happen.

Post party at the Kitty Kat Club

I was feeling a bit bummed out on Friday because I didn’t really connect with anyone.  It is a very different feeling from my organization’s conference where I know hundreds of people well and really get out and socialize.  I did better on Saturday and had dinner with Bon of Washington, we had set next to each other for the morning workshops and across the aisle from each other in the afternoon sessions.  At the end of the afternoon sessions Bon and I connected with Papi from DC and we talked about going to the Kitty Kat Club after evening plenary session for the party.  I mentioned that not only did I know where it was, but I had a car, and I wasn’t going to drink (yes this made me a bit popular).    For the plenary session I sat with Bon and his roommate Dennis (through the conference web site) of Iowa.  The four of us went to the Kitty Kat Club for some further socializing.

It was really fun, I met a local reporter with Lavendar who also works with producing plays.  I connected him with Papi who is an award winning playwright.  At one point we left Papi and head down to Blarney to hear a live rock band and met some other conference attendees.  Papi was really appreciative, apparently he connects with people superficially that talk about staying connected, but then at the end of the night are driving away waving to him, not really connecting.  I am going to stay in contact with them, they were all nice guys.

Skipping Sunday

Sunday consisted of one workshop period and the send off session.  There was a good session, and the send off plenary looked good, but the almost 15 hour day of sessions, plus staying out until 2:30 AM, starting at 8 AM, made me a bit burnt out and I skipped the day.

-Josh

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