Columbus Needs City Charter Reform

image of a I support City Council Districts in Columbus Ohio button

The current Columbus Ohio city charter was passed by voters in 1914. It has been amended many times since then but one part that has stayed the same is the size and make up of city council. Currently the council is made up of seven members elected to at-large seats. Also since Democrats have the majority on council, appoint new members on a regular basis, and seem to have decisions made before a vote is taken, it’s time to amend the charter again and change the number and make up of city council so it can be more responsive and more accountable to the voters of Columbus.

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Years Of Rust Not Helping Protesters Of Wall Street

image of a tweet complaining about Burger King

Last night I was following the continuing protesting against Big Corps and the bankers of Wall Street. The umbrella name is called ‘Occupy Wall Street’. Scores of protesters have been down on Wall Street in New York protesting the actions of the bankers and corporations who subvert our democracy and who didn’t go to jail after crashing the economy in 2008. I support their efforts 100% but one tweet last night kind of shocked me and made me laugh in a sad way. I think the current protesters need a refresher course on how to protest corporate power. It doesn’t include complaining when a big corporation doesn’t serve you food.

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Weekend Ear Candy: Elton John

For this edition of Weekend Ear Candy, I wanted to show one of my favorite Elton John songs. Philadelphia Freedom may not be exactly about democracy but he did play at a concert during the Bicentennial in 1976. This version was done with a full orchestra which makes the song that much cooler.


Philadelphia Freedom

4th of July Diminished

The 4th of July use to be one of my favorite holidays when I was younger. Back in Findlay, the holiday was a community event. Some years there would be kid games and BBQ at Riverside Park. Along with the cascade of flags and a parade it was a fun time. Other years my Uncle Bob would have a shindig at his place which ended with shooting off the illegal fireworks he had bought during the year. Other years we would drive over to the Fort Findlay Mall parking lot and watch the firework show sponsored by the old Hill’s Department Store.

Much like the discount retailer, the show was low brow. It seemed they could only afford one fire tube so we would have to wait minutes for a shell to go up. Then more often than not it was dud – with the loud *BOOM* but no works. Later when I moved to Columbus, their Red White and Boom show blew me away and I knew I could never watch a show like the one at Hill’s again.

In recent years, my fondness for the 4th of July has diminished.

I think it has all to do with our principles and the lack of acting on those principles and in some cases doing the complete opposite.

My disillusionment started when learning that even though the founding fathers said at the start of the United States Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That it wasn’t until the mid 1960’s that a majority of people were finally treated as equal humans. But even today there are still segments of citizens, such as homosexual and atheists, who are still treated unequally.

While the United States Constitution had a Bill of Rights, those rights didn’t start being applied equally until after the Civil War and again there are segments of society who don’t enjoy all of those rights today.

Then there was the government supporting dictators in other countries as long as they were anti-communists. This was done with money or training death squads at US bases like the School of the Americas. In some cases the CIA would encourage and finance dissent groups who would overthrow an unfriendly leader like Iranian Prime Minister Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh in 1953.

Then there was using the FBI to infiltrate and disrupt so-called dissent groups in the US under the COINTELPRO project from the 1950’s to the 1970’s. As stated in the article linked to here:

In the Final Report of the Select Committee COINTELPRO was castigated in no uncertain terms:

“Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but COINTELPRO went far beyond that…the Bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association, on the theory that preventing the growth of dangerous groups and the propagation of dangerous ideas would protect the national security and deter violence.”

The Church Committee documented a history of FBI directors’ using the agency for purposes of political repression as far back as World War I, through the 1920s, when they were charged with rounding up “anarchists and revolutionaries” for deportation, and then building from 1936 through 1976.

And today we have a President who doesn’t think twice to using warrantless wiretaps and inhumane interrogation techniques along with a a compliant Congress to further gut our basic principles of democracy and freedoms.

To me, the 4th of July is mere symbolism and until we return to the principles that led to the Declaration of Independence we are just a large body of hypocrisy.

In an illustration of the difference is this quote I heard during the recent HBO series John Adams. Adams is arguing for the passage of the resolution that would lead to our Declaration of Independence. He says to the Congress:

I believe sirs the hour has come… My judgement approves this measure and my whole heart is in it. All that I have, and all that I am, and all that I hope in this life I am now ready to stake upon it. While I now live, let me have a country. A free country.

Adams and the other men gathered in Philadelphia during that hot summer were ready to die for the principles spelled out in the Declaration. King George III had already proclaimed that if the colonists insisted on their course of action they would be tried for treason and hanged.

Today I don’t see men or women with that kind of principle. Too many politicians are worried about being re-elected and too many people take their rights for granted or don’t think giving them up will harm them in the long run. It seems there are few if any people willing to stand up for what our country is suppose to stand for.

Until I see a return to our founding principles, the 4th of July means nothing other than a day off of work.

Courier editorial is wrong about Fairness Doctrine

Friday night I was surfing the web and I checked out the site of WFIN 1330 AM located in my hometown of Findlay. I was checking out any new news since The Courier had published that day.

Along the right side of the screen was a large graphic with a link to a Courier editorial about “Talk Radio”.

Of course I clicked it.

I normally ignore Courier editorials because it is simply the paper’s view of some issue and I usually don’t care what their view is. This time I was compelled to respond. The editorial, published on 6/29, started:

For years it’s been driving the political left crazy that talk radio is dominated almost completely by conservatives.Now, with the 2008 election cycle already under way, Congressional Democrats are doing some talking of their own. Armed with a report released June 20 by the Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal think tank run by former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta, they want to bring back the Fairness Doctrine.

Talk Radio

This the 2nd Courier editorial where the use of certain buzz words concerned me. Mainly because The Courier has never tried to echo the Talk Radio shows its parent Findlay Publishing broadcasts on stations like WFIN.

It then continues:

Liberals have been trying for years to break into the talk show market, but most of their attempts have failed while conservative shows continue to thrive. Now, thanks to the CAP report, we know the reason: “Our conclusion is that the gap between conservative and progressive talk radio is the result of multiple structural problems in the U.S. regulatory system …” It then lists the requirements of the Fairness Doctrine.

In other words, the free market has nothing to do with it. The problem is that the government no longer forces radio stations to give equal time to “progressive” views.

The CAP report referred to in the editorial doesn’t support the use of the Fairness Doctrine and the report also offers evidence that an argument from “the free market” is also suspect.

The CAP report is quite clear why there is a lack of Progressive voices on Talk Radio:

Our view is that the imbalance in talk radio programming today is the result of multiple structural problems in the U.S.
regulatory system, particularly the complete breakdown of the public trustee concept of broadcast regulation resulting
from pro-forma licensing policies, longer license terms (to eight years from three years previously), the elimination of clear public interest requirements such as local public affairs programming, and the relaxation of ownership rules, including the requirement of local participation in management.

The Structural Imbalance of Political Talk Radio June 22, 2007 Center for American Progress

The report makes the point that the Fairness Doctrine still is on the books at the FCC, it is just not enforced and that by itself, is not an effective means of restoring balance on the public airwaves.

Simply reinstating the Fairness Doctrine will do little to address the gap between conservative and progressive talk unless the underlying elements of the public trustee doctrine are enforced, in particular, the requirements of local accountability and the reasonable airing of important matters. The key principle here is not shutting down one perspective or another—it is making sure that communities are informed about a range of local and national public affairs.

And as to the argument about letting the free market decide, CAP offers a couple of examples that put the lie to that view:

More importantly, even in markets where progressive talk is considered a success by the industry standards of ratings and revenue, licensees will often broadcast conservative talk on three or four stations compared to one station for progressive talk. For example, in Portland, OR, where progressive talk on KPOJ AM 620 competes effectively with conservative talk on KEX AM 1190, station owners also broadcast conservative talk on KXL AM 750 and KPAM AM 860. Although there is a clear demand and proven success of progressive talk in this market, station owners still elect to stack the airwaves with one-sided broadcasting… In Ohio, for example, there are 10 radio markets. In eight of those markets, there is not a single hour of progressive talk. In the two markets that do broadcast a total of six hours of progressive talk (Al Sharpton on two urban talk stations), those hours compete against 52 hours of conservative talk. Clear Channel Communications, the ownership group that has committed the largest number of stations to the progressive format, recently canceled the only three progressive talk stations in the state of Ohio.

When 91 percent of the talk radio programming broadcast each weekday is solely conservative—despite a diversity of opinions among radio audiences and the proven success of progressive shows—the market solution has clearly failed to meet audience demand. Even greater deregulation and consolidation of radio station ownership is therefore not likely to meet audience desires or serve the public interest in any meaningful way.

The point was proven in one of the markets that had a progressive radio station. Here in Columbus, Clear Channel changed a station from Air America to all conservative. The company claimed ratings made them change, however the first ratings book after the change showed the station dead last out of 27 stations measured.

The main point in the CAP report and why I support a return to the enforcement of the Fairness Doctrine is to return to the public trustee concept of broadcast regulation. There needs to be a renewal of the idea that the air waves these stations use are “owned” by the people and so they need to serve the local interest and they need to offer all sides to a debate.

The trademark of our democracy is that we believe government should protect the minority from the whims of the majority and again since the frequencies a radio station uses is owned by the public (ie. the government) then it ought to reflect that idea. For a vibrant democracy to flourish there needs to be a collection of views available.

For every Rush Limbaugh a station broadcasts, there should be a show hosted by a local person allowing for local responses (like a call in line) and if that isn’t available then the station should offer a host like Randi Rhodes or both.

This post hasn’t really concerned itself with content too much. I do believe that all points of view should be available – even if I don’t like some of them but the truth needs to be told.

I highly doubt a majority of the public likes what passes for Talk Radio today. Most people listen like how most people slow down to view a traffic accident.

Talk Radio isn’t journalism. It’s just one long editorial and in a majority of cases rebuttals are not even considered and if they are the person presenting the “other side” is either a watered down version of it or they are simply shouted down. The so-called host can say whatever they want, no matter how wrong in fact they are, and no matter who they insult or hurt.

It just happens that most conservative hosts, including the Top 5, do this on a daily basis. It can be entertaining in a sick sort of way but it contributes nothing to democracy or to the public fabric.