Archive for February, 2011

GOP Targets Public Radio, Amateur Radio, and PBS

The so-called age of austerity has some awfully convenient targets if you’re a right-winger.

House Republicans are proposing to defund National Public Radio (NPR) and Public Broadcasting (PBS) and auction off the 420-440 MHz band of the Amateur Radio spectrum to the highest bidder.

NPR is no surprise, as the right has tried to smear it as a liberal organization. That’s the trouble with reporting facts: reality has a well-documented liberal bias.

PBS is no surprise either, as its open forum lets politicians succeed or fail on their own merits. Also, the fact that PBS delivers education and “expressions of care” (hat tip to Mister Rogers for that term) without bias or indoctrination surely rankles those who live and breathe bias and indoctrination.

The selling of part of the Amateur Radio spectrum (HR 607) is a surprise to me, as historically both parties have been good about protecting the Amateur Radio Service. (It’s not hard: just set aside the frequencies, create a little bit of licensing / complaint infrastructure at the FCC, and let HAMs regulate themselves.) The portion of the radio spectrum tentatively for sale is very useful in what HAMs do best: emergency communication via digital and voice methods. Why the sudden urge to diminish our nation’s emergency response capabilities by chipping away at the HAM bands? It just doesn’t make sense in terms of the public interest, but it might make some private companies a lot of money. Sounds about par for the GOP in those terms, doesn’t it?

If you’re concerned about these defunding proposals as I am, you can take action here: petition to save NPR and PBS
FreePress petition to save NPR and PBS
Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) news about HR 607

We Are Wisconsin

A strong majority of Americans support the teachers, firefighters, government employees, and others protesting for the past week in Wisconsin. I believe that most people see what WI Governor Walker is really up to: trying to break the backs of unions, period.

Thank goodness union members and their supporters stood up and took to the streets in Wisconsin. Thank goodness that 14 Democratic legislators in Wisconsin had the guts to deny a quorum in the WI legislature. (This is the state-level equivalent of a filibuster, by the way.) Their swift and decisive action has stopped similar legislation in nearby Indiana, galvanized union supporters across America, and made Gov. Walker a pariah even among his fellow Republican governors (and made him the object of hilarious-and-revealing prank calls as well).

Also, I applaud our President for vocalizing his support for the side of the unions. This is something he didn’t have to do, but he spent the political capital to do so because it’s the right thing to do. I wish he would take a clear stand like this on some other issues, but that’s another post.

Public sector employees are a bulwark in stormy economic seas. When the private sector goes to hell, the public sector provides some stability (Colbert has a good take on this point). They are also a measure of economic justice, a frame of reference to juxtapose with the private sector. Public sector workers typically take a lower pay than comparable private sector employees (with similar jobs, education, and location — don’t settle for comparisons of “average” salaries) but often have better benefits than private sector counterparts. If the private sector is too far off from the standard set by the public sector (in terms of salary, benefits, working conditions, rights, etc), then we can and absolutely should stop to question why that is. The public sector is a sanity check for so-called market forces.

The current problem is that the Tea Party voters of 2010 elected a slew of candidates backed by those who are winning from status quo exploitation of market forces. These people — the Koch Brothers chief among them — only want to protect their bottom line, and they have no interest in protecting working people (whose pensions they would rather raid by way of Wall Street manipulations). These are the special interests granted unlimited election spending power by the Citizens United Supreme Court case. Unions are one of the few forces capable of engaging them in a national-level political dialogue (though unions are still outrageously outspent by these new, unaccountable political entities). That’s why their puppets like Gov. Walker are trying to kill unions.

Maybe it took seeing democracy start to take hold in the unlikeliest places in the Middle East. Maybe it was seeing just how fast and how far the moneyed interests were willing to push their domestic agenda. Maybe it was the appropriate response we are seeing from unions and their supporters. Whatever the reason, we as a nation are rediscovering one of our most important principles which we were in danger of losing: solidarity.

What does solidarity mean? Right now it means we are Wisconsin.

Break out the Popcorn

Social conservatives and libertarians don’t get along. Here’s a FOX News opinion piece about the recent CPAC Conference illustrating that point. (To my friends on the right: yes, I occasionally read FOX News, holding my nose the whole time.) Social conservatives can’t stand libertarians wanting a voice within the Republican Party, though they courted libertarians eagerly enough in the 2010 election cycle, mostly through the TEA Party concept. Now that the 2012 Presidential posturing is well underway, both factions within the GOP are openly rude to each other when the cameras are rolling.

I say: it’s time to break out the popcorn and watch the GOP self-destruct.

The Republican House of Representatives will be unable to deliver a Federal budget that satisfies its TEA Party constituents. That means strong primary challenges in “safe” GOP seats on one end of the spectrum, and growing disillusionment with the TEA Party concept on the other. With President Obama weathering 2010 with an approval rating still over 50%, the Democratic Party is poised to reclaim the House, keep the Senate, and keep the Presidency… IF Democrats get out there and work hard in all 50 states.

To my libertarian friends: this weekend’s spectacles at CPAC are exactly why I think the Libertarian Party deserves access to the kinds of infrastructure enjoyed by both the Democratic and Republican parties (ballot access, financial support from the states for primaries/caucuses, and so forth). As a proud supporter of one of the two major political parties in our country, I still see the need for multiple, strong, national parties. TEA Party Republicans are a mix of two factions (social conservatives and libertarians) that, despite all the media hype, are not a natural fit and never will be.

Political Retribution Against District 1

It’s in the news that District 1 Councilman Victor Hernandez needs to pay his property taxes. No one disputes that.

What is up in the air right now is what can, should, and will happen next. Will the City Council try to remove District 1’s elected representative in the middle of his term?

Let’s look at a little background information. I find two things interesting about this affair:

1) The timing, and
2) The source.

First, the source.

This has, from the beginning, been a KFYO story. KFYO is the most far-right radio station in town. (Don’t agree? Name me one that is farther to the right.) As a station, they have a long history of antagonizing Lubbock City District 1 and its representatives. Last weekend, someone fed them the idea to run a story about Councilman Hernandez’s property taxes. They started running the story right away on Monday.

Interestingly enough, KCBD Channel 11, our local NBC affiliate and also the most right-leaning TV station in town, was fed the same story from (presumably) the same source at the same time, but did not run the story until later in the week when they could verify the details themselves.
Or, to put it another way: KBCD, being a news station first and a right-leaning source of opinion second, sat on the story until they could do their due diligence. KFYO, being a right-wing propaganda outlet first and a news station second, ran with the story immediately.

So, given the initial coverage of this story, who is the source? Who created a story when there was none?

Now, to the timing.

The A-J’s Elliott Blackburn has the best coverage of this story. A careful reading of that article is rewarded with many details not brought to light anywhere else. Chief among them:

1) Both Hernandez and his runoff opponent Glen Robertson had tax issues in their campaign that were known at the time and not seen as a barrier to the job of Councilman. If they were not barriers to service then, why are they now?

2) Both Hernandez and Robertson question the timing of this attempt to remove Councilman Hernandez. Here is the money shot from Blackburn’s article:

Hernandez intended to seek changes in March to city rules to require high-level board members disclose conflicts of interest.

He raised other issues in a late January memo sent to council members and legal staff.

Hernandez questioned possible conflicts of interest between High Plains Diversified Energy Corp. Chairman Scott Collier, who was seeking to purchase power plants and sell electricity in the region, and his father, the chairman of Lubbock Power & Light.

Hernandez also questioned whether the project’s bank was the same bank run by the utility board chairman, W.R. Collier, and challenged participation by Texas Tech and, potentially, advice given to the project by city staff.

Robertson, who lost by just a 10-vote margin last spring and now serves as a council appointee to a volunteer position on two city electric utility boards, said he was “trying to stay as far away as possible” from the matter but questioned its timing.

There was nothing new about the facts of his former opponent’s candidacy, he said. Both of them faced tax questions during the spring campaign, he said.

“I hope I’m wrong, but it just doesn’t pass the smell test,” Robertson said. “I don’t think the motives are pure. I think it’s politics at its worst.”

So, right after District 1 Councilman Victor Hernandez began formally pushing for financial disclosure and prevention of conflicts of interest on city boards and appointments that can act as “Officers of the City,” (i.e. commit the City financially), he is on the receiving end of the political equivalent of a knife to the jugular. I don’t think this passes the smell test either.

For background about what is inspiring possible Council action regarding financial disclosures and conflict of interest ordinances, check out, which features research done by local attorney Charles Dunn regarding a pending electric power deal for our region. The information from was made public on the Wade Wilkes morning show at KRFE AM580 two weeks ago. Elliot Blackburn also has good coverage of that issue from last Sunday’s A-J.

One other thing to consider: redistricting is coming up right over the horizon, and here we see the City Council perhaps removing District 1’s elected representative in the middle of his term. District 1 has always been under attack from those who preferred the (illegal) at-large system of representation that Lubbock used to have. A councilman-less district does not bode well for the redistricting future of District 1.

With these circumstances, it seems that certain members of the Southwest Lubbock power elite and Lubbock’s most far-right media mouthpieces have decided that attacking District 1 Councilman Victor Hernandez is a natural fit.

GOP Un-Redefines Rape

Much ado has been made (and rightfully so!) this week about the GOP’s attempt to redefine rape as part of a bill to reduce or eliminate abortion coverage from private insurance plans. (What does this bill have to do with jobs, GOP?) The media did a better-than-usual job of catching this, and The Daily Show had one of their best segments of all time based on this issue. The reaction from the left was exactly as it should have been, and it was effective. Today House Republicans took the “forcible rape” language out of the bill.

However, the temptation now is to congratulate ourselves on a job well done and move on to the next issue. Not so fast: this bill is still on the GOP fast track. It was never a bill about rape or its (re)definition­. It is a bill about ending all private health coverage of abortions. The Republican Party can “lose” the language battle because they never cared about it in the first place.

We are witnessing political theater by the party that, unfortunately, performs it effectively and often — if not constantly. If this bill passes, it will be a huge victory for the anti-choice movement, not to mention a morsel of red meat for the far right’s base.

The real question is not “How does the party that is terrible on women’s issues choose to redefine rape?” but rather “Why is the party that said it would focus on jobs and deficit reduction doing neither and focusing instead on social wedge issues?” Where is the TEA Party mandate to have the government interfere in medical decisions? The public was sold a TEA Party movement that was about economic — not social — issues. What a crock. TEA Party is the same old GOP.

At any rate, call your senators to make sure that this bill doesn’t make it out of the legislative branch. And remember the lesson from the political theater of this bill: be careful about celebrating victory too soon. We are in for a long two years and we must be vigilant.

Ronald Reagan Was No Barack Obama

My conservative counterpart Dr. May has a post up that draws on a Washington Times editorial to bash President Obama by contrasting him with President Reagan. It’s a silly editorial, and I have to say that most of the side-by-side jokes they make actually leave me with a profound feeling of relief that we have Barack and not Ronald.

Neither president is perfect — far from it. But what we see on the right these days is an ongoing campaign to elevate Ronald Reagan to sainthood. “Yea verily did the Gipper do no wrong and worketh’d he many miracles,” spake Cardinal Hannity. Yea, right.

I understand why the right works so hard to elevate Reagan — he’s the best one they’ve got post-WWI. But the truth is that Reagan was a very problematic president in many ways. Dismantling our infrastructure, tripling our national debt, nearly ending the world in a nuclear holocaust… it’s safe to say he had a few problems for sure.

So, in the spirit of friendly comparison and of (potentially) being snowed in, I came up with my own list of Reagan-Obama comparisons:

Obama: Disarmed the Taliban
Reagan: Armed the Taliban

Obama: Improved access to health care
Reagan: Put mental patients out on the streets

Obama: 2010’s optimism
Reagan: 1980’s materialism

Obama: Ends Wars
Reagan: Star Wars

Obama: Arms reduction
Reagan: Arms for hostages

Obama: Consumer protection
Reagan: Buyer beware

Obama: Listens to our scientists
Reagan: Had a jar of jellybeans on his desk

Obama: Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
Reagan: You’d better find another job

Obama: Ended the Bush Recession
Reagan: Reaganomics

Obama: Said salaam to the Muslim world
Reagan: Unleashed Osama on the Muslim world

Obama: Muslim-Athiest-Marxist-Socialist-Fascist-Nazi
Reagan: Alzheimers

Obama: 50 State Strategy
Reagan: Southern Strategy

Obama: His opponents jokingly call him “The Messiah”
Reagan: His supporters literally compare him to Christ

Obama: Organic vegetables
Reagan: Ketchup is a vegetable

Obama: Yes we can
Reagan: *tilts head* Well…

That should be enough trollbait for one evening. Time to watch the snow fall.

Oh, one parting newsworthy bit: My old college friend John Scott-Railton is one of the folks calling people in Egypt and rebroadcasting their words and voices via Twitter (follow @Jan25Voices). He was interviewed by PRI today. Way to go, John!

E-mail It