Wednesday, September 22, 2010

WVXU and equal time for candidates

Among the chatter I caught this morning while reading through the news feeds by fellow Ohio Libertarians was an item in The Cincinnati Beacon involving Ohio's 1st congressional district candidate Jim Berns and local National Public Radio affiliate station WVXU.

WVXU's Maryanne Zeleznik has coordinated and extensively promoted with advertising a debate to be held between Republican candidate Steve Chabot and Democratic incumbent Steve Driehaus. Conspicuously absent in this process are Berns and Green candidate Rich Stevenson.

Very simply, Berns contends that by not inviting him and Stevenson and then extensively promoting the presence of the major party candidates, WVXU violated the Federal Communication Commission law requiring broadcasters to afford equal air time to all candidates for a specific federal office.

What has been published by the Beacon's online edition is an exact copy of Berns' FCC complaint. Following below that on the Website are three comments on this story: two of which contend Berns has no case. One of those dissenters is a Beacon staffer who concludes, "I wonder why Berns doesn't get that?"

That is when I felt not just compelled but (at the risk of sounding like an ideological zealot) morally obligated to post a counterargument.

Since my two-cents-worth in the comments section is still "awaiting moderation," I have chosen to publish them independent of the paper's online forum.


Donald quoted from the statute:

"No obligation is imposed under this subsection upon any licensee to allow the use of its station by any such candidate."

Your counter argument is based on a misinterpretation of this sentence.

Berns contends that in Section (a) of the law, "If any licensee shall permit any person who is a legally qualified candidate for any public office to use a broadcasting station, he shall afford equal opportunities to all other such candidates for that office in the use of such broadcasting station..."

The clause stipulating "no obligation is imposed" means the broadcast station is not expected to give any candidate air time in the first place.

BUT, once they have allotted any broadcast time to a candidate THEN they are obligated by Title 47, Chapter 5, Subchapter III, Part I, § 315 to afford a reasonably similar length of coverage to the other candidates for that particular office.

Also, when a candidate appears on air under the premise of being a guest of the station, if that does not constitute "use" of the station (under any imaginable context) then I would very much like someone properly explain what the applicable definition(s) would be.

A debate is not an incidental news story (i.e., breaking news report). It is a planned event that is thoroughly coordinated between the respective candidates' campaigns and the host media outlet.

In all reality, Mr. Berns has a very solid argument going in his favor.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Another chapter in the spontaneous debates saga: federal regulation

Sometimes the most effective stimulation of one's intellect happens when you least expect it. Here is another one of those examples.

An old friend of mine from high school weighed-in on an article I posted on my Facebook wall. The story enters into speculation that proposed resale regulations to be wielded by the Consumer Product Safety Commission won't be limited to larger resale outlets but also can be directed at individual and family garage sales.

I contend (along with a pair of fellow Ohio Libertarians) that this is part of the overreaching nanny state mentality of Washington, D.C. My high school friend disagrees. Below is the full exchange as it has taken place at the time of this posting. It's pretty long already so I won't be making any additions to it. Also, I'm anticipating more than likely future offerings (especially mine) are likely to contain a significant degree of redundancy in the effort to impart our respective points of view.

Note: I've left out names due to the fact I'm publishing participants' comments. The idea is not to make anyone look good or bad but present the points offered on both sides of the topic.


Fellow Libertarian A: It's just amazing; I'm in awe. How did we let it come to this?

My old friend: Really? The CPSC is too "nanny state" for you? People should have the right to buy and sell cribs that kill children?

Me: What's "nanny state" about this is the door being opened to holding individuals and families to the same standard as larger entities which have the cash reserves to absorb the costs of a fine. Scott Wolfson can claim all he wants that the new standards are limited to larger resale operations. But, invariably, every new law and its set of regulations -- regardless of the industry in question -- starts out the same way: the intent is to keep the largest operators in check without encroaching upon their smaller counterparts; but between 5 to 10 years after the new rules are in place someone in Washington decides (usually with a little nudge from lobby money supplied by the same companies that were targeted in the beginning) that ALL levels of businesses must fall into compliance.

At what point do we decide that people are no longer responsible for and have no need to exercise judgment for themselves? (Meaning, do the sensible thing and scrutinizing the product they are about to buy before they go ahead and buy it) Based on the logic of these regulations, every home in America would have to be mandated to have the CPSC's guide in the odd chance one of the occupants may decide to sell any used children's merchandise currently in their possession.

I understand most people feel the need to have rules and regulations for retail products out of the commonly held principle of an inherent public trust. But, resale by its very nature carries with it an inherent amount of risk that whatever the product may be it may well have flaws present if for no other reason than it is USED -- someone already has used it and as a result may be more well-worn than either the buyer or even the seller may be aware.

Fellow Libertarian B: First off, this is definitely not within the purview of the federal government. Any argument on that matter?

Second, should regulatory agencies at any level have the power to arbitrarily level fines and penalties without taking you to court first? Or, since it is a matter of enforcing the law, is it a criminal matter where you are cited, then the judge issues the fine?

My old friend: ‎"Wes Benedict, executive director of the Libertarian National Committee, told 'Consumer product safety is best left to a free market where suppliers can compete based on reputation and track records.'"

That's the crux of my problem with this libertarian orthodoxy: Trust the corporations, not the government.

"At what point do we decide that people are no longer responsible for and have no need to exercise judgment for themselves?"

I would say, when kids are killed. What would you answer?

At what point do we decide that people can freely sell products known to be deadly to children?

The slippery slope works both ways. FOX News can speculate all they want about jack-booted thugs breaking up granny's yard sale. But nobody has to imagine kids getting killed by magnets and cribs.

If it's not in the purview of the federal government to protect children, in a global market, then whose purview is it? Sure, parents should be responsible, but are we as a society willing to let the children of irresponsible parents get killed?

"Should regulatory agencies at any level have the power to arbitrarily level fines and penalties without taking you to court first?" Who is "you" here? If it's a corporation, then yes. And when we start giving corporations the same rights as people, we're trading away our liberty as quickly as if we let the government take it.

Me: For the sake of not going into yet another of my miserably long treatises, I'm going to try to focus on three of those premises.

When [Fellow Libertarian B] uses (or any of the rest of us, for that matter) the word "you" he/we are talking about "all of the above" -- the individual, the family, small businesses, non-profits, and larger corporate operations. All five fall under the umbrella description of private interests.

Laws such as what puts the teeth into the CPSC are not written to differentiate between those five segments of the private sector. As I mentioned above, large corporations have the financial wherewithal to endure such fines where the individual, the family, small business, and some non-profits do not.

As a result, we are left to trust the government (essentially, politicians and their cronies) to employ common sense in enacting and enforcing these laws. Today's crew may promise not to be spectacularly stupid on that front. But, without a guarantee that voters won't elect a Bush or Obama clone in '12, '16, or even '20, trusting Big Government is an even dicier proposition than trusting Big Corporation.

Next, "Granny's" yard sale isn't what concerns me. Granny most likely depends on Social Security to get by: and last I knew Social Security can't be garnished. It's yard sales by younger families I'm thinking of as they typically live paycheck-to-paycheck -- which is why they're selling their old stuff in front of their homes instead of donating them to Goodwill or Salvation Army. These are the folks who are being subjected the greatest degree of liability exposure.

Finally, in a truly free-market environment -- not this Keynesian setup in motion today -- companies that put bad products into the market lose enough customers to fail as they rightly should (in addition to being fined) due to the abundance of viable competitors of all sizes who can meet consumers' needs. That cannot happen with the way things stand right now because the enormous expense of satisfying federal regulations before any company can even begin producing a consumer good makes starting a new company or expanding an existing small one too financially prohibitive.

By its very nature, that setup favors the largest of corporations -- which are supposedly the evil doers in the first place that inspired the need for those regulations. And that is because they enjoy the aforementioned financial wherewithal to endure costs incurred by compliance with federal regulations. Most of that financial security is achieved despite those costs due to their ability to lobby for the kind of equal application of those laws that Wolfson claimed in his lip service won't be coming down the pipe.

Oh well, so much for "No New Treatises".

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Another survey reply: American Association of University Professors

I received my candidate questionnaire this week from the American Association of University Professors. This actually was meant for an Ohio General Assembly candidate but I played along anyhow. Here is how I responded to their questions (everything is verbatim).


1. Do you believe that all graduates of Ohio high schools should have access to quality higher education?

My answer: Yes

2. Do you believe there is a positive return to the citizens of Ohio from dollars spent on our institutions of higher education?

My answer: No... Now, for the graduates, I do say, "Yes." But, with Ohio's economic situation in comparison to most other states, ultimately Ohio taxpayers are not seeing a positive return due to the oppressive business climate both major parties have created as a result of reckless and irresponsible taxation, spending, and regulatory policies over the decades and in particular the past 12 years: this has led to far too many of our university and college graduates leaving the state in search of better career opportunities elsewhere in the United States.

3. If elected, will you work to maintain current funding levels for higher education in the 2011-2012 state budget?

Although not really applicable to me, but my answer would be: Yes... At the same time, I would work to transition the higher education funding process toward more of a free market system to encourage greater efficiency in how funds are put to use.

4. Will you help keep Ohio's public universities and colleges competitive with those in other states by supporting the current retirement options offered by the State Teachers Retirement System.

My answer: The problem with the wording of this question is the false premise that without an expensive defined benefits retirement package Ohio's institutions of higher learning cannot be competitive. Ohio's colleges and universities boast of being among the most outstanding learning institutions in America. It is this reputation that makes them so competitive, not benefits packages that have been proven to be too great of a burden on taxpayers.

So, in the spirit of this questionnaire as it relates to the best interests of American Association of University Professors, the short answer would have to be: No.

5. Are you concerned about the trend in Ohio's institutions of higher education which has resulted in a majority of the faculty members being part-time, many without benefits?

My answer: Yes. If the AAUP does not begin making concessions in their collective bargaining efforts, under the current economic atmosphere in America and Ohio that percentage will continue to rise.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What will the NEA think of me?

Before I mail my congressional candidate questionnaire back to the National Education Association, I thought I would share with my interested supporters and readers a few of my replies to the teachers union’s questions.

1. a. NEA supports federal legislation that would close achievement gaps, including by requiring states to submit, as a condition for receiving Title I funds, plans describing the steps they will take to remedy identified disparities in educational tools, services, opportunities, and resources among districts and schools.

Do you support or oppose NEA’s position? Support ___ Oppose _x_

If you oppose NEA’s position, please explain

“I oppose No Child Left Behind because it has served to further mire state and local education systems with even more federal bureaucracy. Federal education mandates do not work.”

My replies for the next few so-called questions echoed the same message as my conclusion to answering question “1. a.” I used this same message so frequently that about halfway through the questionnaire I became thoroughly disgusted with the slanted nature of each interrogative, as evidenced in this response:

2. b. NEA supports mandatory full funding for special education (IDEA [Individuals with Disabilities Education Act]).

Do you support or oppose NEA’s position? Support ___ Oppose _x_

If you oppose NEA’s position, please explain

“Education is a state and local issue. You guessed it: no federal mandates.”

3. NEA supports restoring the purchasing power of the maximum Pell Grant so that it keeps pace with increases in tuition costs.

Do you support or oppose NEA’s position? Support _x_ Oppose ___

Although I did not mark “Oppose” for my answer, I felt inclined to add comments anyway: “The problem is the Department of Education has squandered so much on wasteful, failed policies that money will not be available for proper Pell funding until the U.S.D.O.E. is brought under control and eliminated.”

Then, Question 4 nonsensically meandered the questionnaire into health care reform. In case you hadn’t guessed, I checked “Oppose” to both questions presented on the issue, adding in the comment sections:

“The NEA ought to endorse repealing the so-called Health Care Reform Act, thus eliminating the perceived need for any form of tax exclusions;”


“The public option is a gateway to socialized medicine.
“None of this has anything to do with education.”

I oppose the NEA’s position on charter schools, telling them, “This is a state and local issue. Federal standards and policies will only water-down the quality of education in the same manner as public schools.”

Additionally, my stance on private school vouchers and tuition tax subsidies differs from the NEA’s: “The parents’ money should follow where the students go.”

And then the NEA wanted to know my thoughts on Social Security and protecting pension plans. Although – to be fair – they do oppose mandatory Social Security coverage for public employees. I agreed with them on that point.

But, I followed that with this reply to their pensions question: “America can no longer afford defined pension plans for public employees. We need to transition to a contribution-based retirement plan.”

And then, things get really entertaining. Question 9 was titled, “Protect Workers’ Rights to Unionize”. The full policy statement reads as follows:

The National Education Association advances the education profession by advancing the economic interests, protecting the job security, improving the terms and conditions of employment, and securing the right to bargain collectively for all education employees. NEA believes that attaining and exercising collective bargaining rights are essential to the promotion of the needs of students and education employees.

NEA supports legislation making it significantly easier for private sector workers to unionize and providing protection against discrimination or intimidation for workers who exercise their right to organize.


NEA supports legislation making it significantly easier for private sector workers to unionize.

Do you support or oppose NEA’s position? Support ___ Oppose _x_

By now I could not contain myself and unleashed the following statement in the comments section. “Private sector unionization has nothing to do with education. When America’s unions acknowledge and address violent intimidation tactics such as we’ve witnessed with SEIU, then we can have an honest conversation about intimidation.”

This was followed by a question stating the “NEA supports a $40,000 starting salary for pre-K-12 teachers” as well as a so-called living wage for education support professionals. I checked “Oppose” and added this: “Public employee wages and salaries are grossly outpacing the private sector. Taxpayers can not afford this anymore.”

After telling the NEA on more time, in Question 11, that education is a state issue, I was met with the questionnaire’s finale: “Please describe your top five priorities for public education and how they contribute to ensuring all students attend a great public school.”

So, in true Don Kissick fashion I gave the NEA my five priorities for public education.

1. Getting the federal government out of our schools.

2. Getting the federal government out of our schools.

3. Getting the federal government out of our schools.

4. Getting the federal government out of our schools.

5. Putting an end to the U.S. Dept. of Education once and for all.

So, what do you think the NEA will think of me?