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Thoroughly Modern Bob – Coming to a Legislature Near You!

Paul Hatfield
PERSPECTIVE-Thoroughly Modern Millie was a Tony Award winner. State Senator Bob Hertzberg is rolling out his own sequel. The only problem is the production cost. Actually, the real problem is we will be the ones bankrolling it if Bob gets the green light. It is the most expensive tax scam concocted, more than California HSR. I’m talking…

Elite Girls School Has Brentwood Up in Arms … Over Traffic

John Schwada
INSIDE LA-Hairdresser Mikell Powell is walking her two dogs in Brentwood along Sunset Boulevard just across the street from the Archer School for Girls (photo left). “I’m opposed to anything that would make driving on Sunset here anymore hellish than it already is,” Powell says as her dogs tug on their leashes. No question: there’s a 1.2 mile…

Homeless LA: Safe Havens, Not Sidewalks

Mike Bonin
WHO WE ARE-In recent years, Los Angeles has seen more progress in combating homelessness than it ever has – yet the problem is still getting worse. Since 2011, the region has housed more than 23,000 people – a record number even by national standards. Yet homelessness is on the rise. Encampments are proliferating in our neighborhoods throughout…

Can LA Afford Another Olympics?

Jack Humphreville
LA WATCHDOG-Boston bailed on hosting the 2024 Olympics when Mayor Martin Walsh refused to sign a host city contract with the United States Olympic Committee (“USOC”) that would have put Beantown (and possibly the Commonwealth of Massachusetts) on the hook for any cost overruns associated with this 17 day extravaganza. But Walsh’s refusal to…

The Petty Hypocrisy of Mandatory Ethics Training

Bob Gelfand
GELFAND’S WORLD-As a member of a neighborhood council board, I am required by state law to do 2 hours of ethics training every 2 years. Elected officials such as members of the City Council are also required to take this training. The curious thing about our California ethics rules is that they prohibit the small stuff while looking the other way…

Los Angeles: Brown lives Matter!

Fred Mariscal
LATINO PERSPECTIVE-According to the Los Angeles Times, over the last five years in LA County, coroner's data show that Latinos, who make up about half of the county's population, also represent about half the people killed by police. Of the 23 people fatally shot by law enforcement in the county this year, 14 were Latino. The Times raises an…

Grading the LA Times: Mike Feuer’s B+ Leaves Something Out

Noel Weiss
OTHER VOICES-Reading the LA Times’ Report Card grade of B+ for City Attorney Mike Feuer, it was good to see at least a 'hat-tip' to the issue of whether the City Attorney really is the “attorney for the people.” But their conclusion seems to be that he is not, and I believe that is wrong. Exactly who does the City Attorney represent? Certainly, he…

Beverly Hills Pounds Final Nail in Bike Lanes Coffin

Mark Elliot
GETTING THERE FROM HERE-If you expected that Beverly Hills might install bicycle lanes on our segment of Santa Monica Boulevard when reconstructing it next year, you will be sorely disappointed to know that City Council just pounded the final nail into the bike lanes coffin. City Council split on the Blue Ribbon Committee recommendation to expand…

Helter Skelter, Murder and the Looming Race War

Tony Castro
TONY CASTRO’S LA-In one of our last conversations before his death earlier this year, author and prosecutor Vincent Bugliosi lamented that while he had successfully imprisoned Charles Manson, he feared he had only made a dent in the threat of an apocalyptic race war that the mass murderer had hoped to ignite. “Madness and mad men,” said Bugliosi,…

 

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I'm Big Bird and I Don't Approve This Message

POLITICS AND PBS - A couple of weeks ago, we wrote about how the media giants who own your local commercial television and radio stations have been striking like startled rattlesnakes at an FCC proposal that would shed a light on who's buying our elections. The proposed new rule would make it easier to find out who's bankrolling political attack ads by posting the information online.
The stations already have the data and are required by law to make it public to anyone who asks. But you can get it only by going to the station and asking for the actual paper documents -- what's known as "the public file." Stations don't want to put it online because -- you guessed it -- that would make it too easy for you to find out who's putting up the cash for all those ads polluting your hometown airwaves.

If approved, the new rule would require the ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox affiliates in the top 50 markets to make their files on political advertising available online immediately. Other stations would have a two-year grace period.

In the meantime, the mighty giants of broadcasting have been fighting back. A number of senators serving the industry have spoken up against the proposal and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) -- led by their top lobbyist and president, the frozen food millionaire and former Oregon Republican Senator Gordon Smith -- have been meeting with commissioners urging them to scuttle its proposal or at least water it down until it means nothing.

As Jeffrey Rosen of The New Republic magazine wrote:

"The arguments against transparency offered by the networks show that, having experienced the windfall of advertising dollars that Citizens United unleashed, they have little interest in meeting their legal and ethical responsibility to serve the public interest."

The FCC is scheduled to vote on their proposal on April 27, and on Monday its chairman, Julius Genachowski, walked into the lion's den -- the really nice one in Las Vegas -- and addressed the NAB's annual convention. He noted that, "Using rhetoric that one writer described as 'teeth-gnashing' and 'fire-breathing,' some in the broadcast industry have elected to position themselves against technology, against transparency, and against journalism."

He added, "[T]he argument against moving the public file online is that required broadcaster disclosures shouldn't be too public. But in a world where everything is going digital, why have a special exemption for broadcasters' political disclosure obligation?"

Whatever the result on the 27th, those negative attack ads already are cluttering the airwaves like so much unsolicited junk mail and it's only going to get much, much worse as the super PACs, political parties, the moguls and tycoons, many acting in secrecy, lavish perhaps as much as three billion dollars on local stations between now and November.

But now there's something new in the mix, especially appalling to anyone who truly cares about public broadcasting. On April 12, by a vote of 2-1, two of three judges on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of KMTP, a small public station in San Francisco, and struck down the federal ban against political and issue advertising on public TV and radio. For decades there's been a rule against turning those airwaves over to ads for political campaigns and causes. Now the court has ruled that the free speech rights of political advertisers take precedence.

Imagine if you turned on your TV set someday soon and were greeted by Sesame Street, brought to you by the letter C, for "creeping campaign cash corruption." Perhaps that's a bit of a stretch, but as the late William F. Buckley, Jr., used to say, the point survives the exaggeration.

If ever there was a camel's nose under the tent, this is it -- and we don't mean one of those humped creatures that show up on PBS' Nature or an episode about backpacking through Egypt on Globe Trekker. The current public system was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1967. "It will get part of its support from our government," Johnson said, "but it will be carefully guarded from Government or from party control. It will be free, and it will be independent -- and it will belong to all of our people."

The Public Broadcasting Act uses the word "noncommercial" sixteen times to describe what public television and radio should be. And it specifically says that, "No noncommercial educational broadcasting station may support or oppose any candidate for political office." We've taken that seriously all these years, and most of us who have labored in this vineyard still think public broadcasting should be a refuge from the braying distortions and outright lies that characterize politics today -- especially those endless, head splitting ads.

But in its majority decision the court wrote, "Neither logic nor evidence supports the notion that public issue and political advertisers are likely to encourage public broadcast stations to dilute the kind of noncommercial programming whose maintenance is the substantial interest that would support the advertising bans."

Sorry, your honors: this is the same so-called "logic" that led the U.S. Supreme Court to issue its notorious Citizens United decision, the one that opened all spigots to flood the political landscape with cash and the airwaves with trash. "To be truthful" one former PBS board member said, "it scares me to death." Us, too.

The court decision did uphold the ban on public broadcasting selling ad time for commercial goods and services, although, as corporations and others cover the cost of programming through what's euphemistically referred to as "enhanced underwriting," public TV already is close to the line of what differentiates it from commercial broadcasting.

And understandably, with our stations always in a financial pickle, frantically hanging on by their fingertips, it won't be easy to turn down those quick bucks from super PACs and others. But hang in there, brothers and sisters in the faith: If ever there was a time for solidarity and spine, this is it.

Stations KPBS in San Diego and KSFR, public radio in Santa Fe, have said they won't do it. If enough of you say no, this invasion might be repelled. And viewers, they need to know you're behind them.

(Moyers & Company airs weekly on public television. See more features -- including our all-new TAKE ACTION page -- at BillMoyers.com)
-cw

Tags: Public Broadcasting, PBS, Bill Moyers, politics, political ads







CityWatch
Vol 10 Issue 32
Pub: Apr 20, 2012

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