Tuesday, May 27, 2003

I'm sorry, Mr. Powell, but less isn't more ...

Michael Powell think’s he knows what’s best for you.

The son of Secretery of State Colin Powell seems to have mastered a core Republican philosophy: We’re safer without safeguards.

The junior Powell heads up a little organization called the Federal Communications Commission, or FCC.

That government entity wants to do away with rules dating back 60 years that state the your local media can’t be wholly owned by one company.

Rupert Murdoch also wants to do away with those rules and I must admit, I’m bound to dislike anything that brings News Corp. or Fox News Channel (unofficial motto: We distort. We deride) joy. And if Murdoch and a group of Republicans all like something, then it must be evil.

Anyway, back to the FCC rules.

They seperated my two current employers several years ago.

WLVL, of course, used to be WUSJ and was owned by the Corson family, the same family that owned this paper at the time.

The thought back then was that if there were too few owners in a media market, it would stifle the potential diversity of opinion.

Now the FCC is trying to redefine “media market.”

They — under Mikey Powell’s leadership — want to say that since the advent of the internet and satellite, there is plenty of diversity to go around. And if there are less owners of “traditional” media companies, you and I wouldn’t even notice.

Many lawmakers, mainly Republicans, also support easing the rules, believing they are outdated and limit the ability of companies to grow and stay competitive.

Apparently, it’s easier to be competitive if there’s no competition.

Recently the FCC softened rules for radio ownerships. That softening lead to three companies gobbling up half the radio stations in the entire country.

Locally, just look at the Buffalo radio market. Are there any stations left that Entercom doesn’t own?

But Powell and the Republicans on the FCC board think that if they ease the restrictions your life will get better.

Here’s their line of thinking: Allowing companies to own several radio stations, television stations, newspapers, or a combination of the three, will give those companies greater flexability and empower them to get you better programming.

It follows, like I said, with the basic Republican philosophy that safeguards prevent safety — kind of like the EPA cleaning up the environment by allowing more carcinogens in that environment.

If you think that buying cigarettes for kids is a good way to keep them from smoking, then this Republican-controlled FCC plan is for you. If not, call your congressman or senator and ask them to pass your opinion on to the commission. Both Democrats on the commission oppose it and one of the three Republicans — Kevin Martin — I’ve heard is on the fence.

They’re expected to make a decision on this matter on June 2, and while you may noticed that the government hasn’t asked for your opinion on the matter, I think it’s vital that you give it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Fighting chaos at all costs

As I put together Monday's Union-Sun & Journal, it struck me what I was doing.

If you'll take a look at page A8 of that publication, you'll notice a theme: Complete and utter chaos.

I even joked to a colleague of mine that I was putting together an "All (the man won't let me use this word) breaks loose" page.

See, we try to put like-themed stories together on a page so that once a person starts reading it, they're likely to want to read the next story and the next, etc.

In the past couple years, we've had elections pages, state budget pages, war pages, terrorism pages, you name it.

But Monday's page A8 was deeply disturbing for me.

To recap, there was a story about the syncronized bombing in Riyadh, below it was a story about the same in Morocco, and to the right was a happy little number about nuclear proliferation in North Korea.

Now keep in mind that my job is to bring you the news. Good or bad, that's what I do.

So Sunday, the purpose of my getting out of bed was to let you know about suicide bombings and an ongoing nuclear program.

Mildly depressing to say the least.

Now I could go into a diatribe here that when we had a good president you didn't read these stories because the world was a more peaceful place.

Then you'd tell me that we didn't read these stories because we were too busy hearing about Mr. Clinton's sex life and then I'd tell you that we had to talk about the president's sex life because the rest of the world was calm and rational thanks to his watchful eye.

But I won't go there.

No, today we're talking about chaos and what we can do about it.

First and foremost, stay away from places like Saudi Arabia, Morocco and North Korea.

Avoiding Israel, the entire Middle East, and the majority of Eastern Europe wouldn't hurt, either.

And apparently Florida at election time is downright pandemonium.

So from the comfort of your porch or living room, call Sally Struthers and send food to sick and needy kids. For less then a cup of Tim Hortons coffee a day, you can feed whole villages.

Ask Sally to connect you with Billie Mays when you're done talking to here. I'm sure they're friends. He'll hook you up with the power of orange so you can clean the furniture that - against all odds - you can still afford to keep after paying your federal, state and local taxes.

Then jump on a plane and take off to New York City or Los Angeles. We'll show those terrorists that we're not scared by attending Broadway plays and overpaying for stuff at Saks Fifth Avenue that celebrities like Winona Ryder get for free.

Oh, and also start boycotting all things French, Canadian, French-Canadian, and Canadian-French. Those two-bit nations didn't support our effort to free the Iraqi oil ... er, people ... and we'll never forgive them.

We'll show them by getting screwed by good American companies like Honda. No more LeCars around here.

Finally, you can help subdue chaos by buying your cigarettes from your local NOCO station instead of the reservation. Pay higher taxes like the rest of us. It's only fair.

Or, of course, you could just go back to bed until this all blows over. Save me some covers.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

When politics and truth colide

Political machines are figuring out which cogs they want to endorse for this November's elections - specifically county-wide elections.

Perusing some of the endorsements, I was surprised - or dismayed might be a better word - at the criteria the endorsements were based on.

The recent IDA shake up seems to be the primary sticking point for the Republican party and how its members voted on that shake up made up the party faithfuls' minds who would get the GOP nod for November.

Case in point: Former Democratic Legislator - and my old high school VP - Bill Ross didn't side with the Republican caucus and the two Democrat turn-coats in their bid to remake the county's Industrial Development Agency.

When it came time for the party of Lincoln to annoint this year's class of candidates, they told Mr. Ross they would deny them access to their line.

Ross, a registered conservative, needs the party's say-so to run as a Republican according to the archaic election system that the state of New York has.

As a Democrat-turned-conservative, Ross isn't likely to get the donkey seal of approval, leaving him standing alone as a conservative.

Now allow me to point out, first of all, that Bill Ross was my vice principal. Secondly, he helped me get an internship at the legislature my senior year of high school. And finally, I was very good friends with his step-daughter.

I just wanted to wear my bias on my sleeve so you would see my POV.

Ross said he's running full bore and if he gets the GOP nod, he'll take it. If not, he'll just run as a conservative.

And knowing Bill, he'll find a way to win.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch - or in Wilson, at least - Democratic Legislator Kyle Andrews got the pubbie endorsement.

More than one person had told me weeks ago that Kyle had been gauranteed no opposition if he voted for the IDA shakeup.

Andrews was one of the previously mentioned turn-coats.

The other - Brad Erck - didn't get endorsed, but rather faces some serious competition from attorney Rick Updegrove.

But back to Andrews.

On April 4, Kyle was my guest on my talk show. At that time I told him that I had heard this little rumor about his exchanging a vote for Shirley Hamilton's ouster from the IDA for a free ride in November.

Kyle flatly denied it and said he just did it because it was time for a change.

A call to Kyle yesterday wasn't returned, but both Henry Wojtasczek, chairman of the county Republican Party; and Frank Soda, chairman of the county Democratic Party, said there was no trade made.

Wojtasczek said the IDA vote helped them decide to endorse Kyle, but also helping was the party's inability to find a candidate to run against him.

Soda pointed out the same.

"I think given his performance, they have a tough time finding a credible opponent," Soda said.

So let me see if I can get this straight: The GOP can't find a Republican in Wilson? Um, yeah.

"Why would one person (Andrews) get a pass and the other person (Erck) get an opponent?" Soda asked.

I don't know, Frank ... coincidence?

I asked Wojtasczek, "The moral of today's story is no quid-pro-quo on Kyle Andrews?"

"Absolutely not," he said.

Maybe my sources were right and there was a trade. Maybe they just made it up completely. Or maybe it really was just a coincidence.

It's in the coincidences of the world, by the way, that we often find the truth.

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

A little of this and a little of that ..'

I don't usually like the hodge-podge columns. I normally like to pick a topic and stick with it.

But this week, there's a bunch of things that I want to touch on - none more so than any other, so forgive me if I ramble.

First off, did anyone find it ironic that our draft dodger in chief (yeah, I'm talking about W here, not Clinton) co-piloted (read as sat in the co-pilot's seat) a jet onto the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln to give his speech about the war being over.

Those of you who have made yourself familiar with our (s)elected president may already know about his service (or lack thereof) in the National Guard.

Mr. Bush, it seems, was fortunate enough to get into the Guard (which kept him on US soil instead of in Vietnam), but then failed to show up for a large amount of his duties.

Sound like a certain former president who went to school in Oxford to do essentially the same thing?

Remember all the people crying about Draft Dodger Clinton?

Where's the crying now?

Had Clinton sat in the co-pilot's seat while that plane landed, every TV station and newspaper in the world would have pointed out his failure to serve.

But when W does it, it's a national event.

In fact, they actually positioned the aircraft carrier just right so cameras would get the right angle of Bush getting out of the plane.

On a similar note, now that W has announced that the war is over but we didn't win (or was it that we won, but the war isn't over), is it OK to go back to criticizing him?

Some of you may know that I took some flak for criticizing a standing president in a time of war (I hadn't read the addendum that said you couldn't do that).

Now that the war is over, I can call him all the things that the Clinton bashers called our former president (who was actually elected - twice - I might add).

But I'll be civil. More than many people have been to me.

And how soon until we go back to war? 41 got us out of Iraq too soon (politically speaking), too. His ratings slipped and he was unable to do anything with our tanking economy. In rode Bill Clinton to save us (thank God).

Is 43 going to have the same fate? Is a Democratic candidate going to sweep into the White House and irradicate the scourge that resides there currently?

A group of nine debated this weekend to see who would get the chance to topple our president.

Vice President - or I mean Senator - Joe Lieberman was declared the victor.

His victory was a huge loss for the party.

Lieberman sounds as much like George Bush as anyone can, in my opinion, and if I have to pick between Bush and Bush, I certainly lose.

I'd prefer to see someone representing the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party - a former governor from Vermont, perhaps - win the Donkey nod.

Locally, I'm sure you'll notice that we're supposed to hire a figurehead - er, county manager - tonight. I can only hope that Mr. Greg Lewis has the fortitute to stand up to the gang of 19 and use his bully pulpit to enact the change that this county needs.

First thing he should do is call for a change in the number of bosses he has - say from 19 to 9. Then stand up to them when they complain about it.

Also locally, Olcott's cruise season started this past weekend. The canal's open again, and Lockport's cruises start Monday.

Lot's to do this summer. Let's get out and spend our money (if you have any left after paying your taxes).

And lastly, Free Jake Kern!