Friday, January 29, 2010

First Amendment Protection or Corporate Meddling? or Can a President be "Brazen?"

Has a U.S. Supreme Court majority cloaked a partisan, political move in the guise of free speech?
Is it wildly inappropriate to label a sitting President as "brazen?"
OK, readers, let's start at the beginning.
While watching the State of the Union Address earlier the week, I was impressed and satisfied that President Obama had the conviction in his often-stated beliefs, and the integrity, to comment directly to the six Supreme Court Justices in attendance regarding the Court's landmark decision of the prior week to remove restrictions on independent campaign contributions by corporations.
Personally, I'm a face-to-face, no-baloney kind of a gal. I'd rather be told to my face that I'm too fat, too skinny, wearing too much perfume, too loud, too obsessive (you get the picture!), than to have it stated aloud or whispered behind my back.
I found it honorable and refreshing that Obama took a direct, immediate approach with the Justices.
And after all, in a 2004 State of the Union Address, President G.W. Bush rather off-handedly opined that a Massachusetts Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage was less than favorable. To those who feel Obama challenged the integrity and ability of the Court to make impartial decisions, I offer up Bush's 2004 challenge to the separation of state and federal powers.
Realistically speaking, I find it hard to believe that politics wasn't behind the decision. From the beginning of his campaign for the presidency, Obama has clearly and repeatedly spoken against
special interests, lobbyists, out-sourcing of American jobs, "politics as usual,"and the like.
I reason that when the highest court in our land decides it's OK for corporations to saturate the airways with politicaly-motivated attacks liberally and at will, it is tantamount to disenfranchising each and every common citizen of these United States.
It's true that as a senator, Obama voted against the appointments of the three Justices in attendance who voted to strike down the restrictions. Justice Alito, who mouthed what appeared to be "not true" as Obama spoke (I find that disrespectful!), Chief Justice Roberts, and the author of the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy, were not Obama's choices for the Court. And I would bet that Obama was not their choice for President (ya' think?).
But a president is a president. A president, when all is said and done, at the very least deserves the respect of the office, and should always speak plainly and truthfully. Kicking off the comment to the court by saying,"With all due deference to the separation of powers," was, in my mind, sufficiently respectful of the court's integrity and legitimacy.
Interestingly enough, the majority of Justices, in their decision, did strike down elements of the 2002 Bipartisan Campaign Finance Act ( McCain- Fiengold), clearing the way for corporations to produce ads promoting or discrediting candidates.
The McCain-Fiengold Act, in part, prohibited corporations from making campaign contributions via general treasury funds 30 days before a primary and 60 days before a general election. That element prompted the U.S. District Court for Washington, D.C. to rule that the conservative non-profit corporation, Citizens United, could not air commercials for a documentary it produced, "Hilary: The Movie," the night before a 2008 Democratic primary. The District Court for D.C ruled that the commercial violated McCain-Fiengold because the commercials served no other purpose than to discredit Clinton.
Hmmm . . . a lot to process.
Connect the dots. What do you think?? Seriously, leave a comment. Sound off!
Oh, by the way, it will take a Constitutional Amendment to strike down the Court's decision.
Now, as for the "brazen" characterization of Obama . . .
I read that reference on a Web Site last night just before retiring. Readers were invited to vote in approval or disapproval of Obama's remarks to the Justices. The disapproving vote, as you've gathered by this point, described the President as "brazen."
In my mind, hussies are brazen, spoiled brats are brazen. Brazen, to me, indicates immaturity and/or stepping beyond one's boundaries or rights.
Presidents are brave, honest, forthright, but never "brazen." Obviously, that one rubbed me the wrong way.
It reflects, to me, the arrogant attitude of many on the right that a relatively young, by appearances, African-American man, hasn't got the right to be sitting in the White House.
To those on the right, those who can only tolerate the occasional "token" person of color, but certainly not one in their faces and undeniably in power, I can actually understand (not condone) their distaste for and fear of Obama.
Here is a well-spoken, intelligent, wildly confident (to some, to the point of arrogance) African American man challenging them and their long-held beliefs. It's unseemly. It's unnerving. But it is, in fact, reality. Obama is, indisputably, the embodiment of the free will of a majority of voting American citizens.
I believe that those facts are, very simply, the force behind the barrage of criticism and disrespect unleashed by Obama's comments to the Justices during the State of the Union Address.
What do you think?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Watchin' TV on the Radio

Hurray x 2 ! I have another follower ! Thanks, Tom. Good to know you're still a sweet guy!

Driving 'round the mountain some months ago, my attention was captured by the speaker on the car radio, heralding the birth of a new, local radio station.
Now here in these parts, anything new is cause for excitement.
Add to that the fact that I love radio, and well, I was simply beside myself. My brain began to process the plethora of possibilities offered to the community by a new venue of communication!
Imagine my surprise (I nearly had to pull off the long and winding road!) when my disbelieving ears heard the on-air personalities advising listeners to look at the videos that accompanied the stories, as though I was watching television on the radio!
Holy cow! Or perhaps more accurately, Holy Hillbilly Hyjinx!
Turns out that the new station, celebrated by the Chamber of Commerce and other local luminaries, is broadcasting HLN (Headline News, which was known as CNN Headline News until late 2008).
The broadcasts are laced with local commercials, news and weather. I believe the "station voice" is that of a popular, local on-air personality from a different, established local station.
I understand that some folks desire news of the outside Nation and world. But, wow, what a missed opportunity for local commentators and talents to be heard and to shine!
Imagine a "Down Home" segment featuring local folks sharing local history, customs, and the like. How about a late night spot showcasing local bands and musicians?
In particular, I thought of a former newspaper reporter (not me!) who I've heard broadcasting local news spots on several local stations.
As a reporter, I can tell the woman was going out and researching the stories and is very dedicated to local happenings, as a hometown reporter should be.
I haven't heard her lately on any radio station. I certainly hope she isn't gone! And if she is still around, I bet she'd relish having a local radio show of her own. And I'd love to hear her!
Now before someone assumes that I'm being unrealistic regarding the power, determination, dedication, and ability of the average, local person to build a radio station line up from the ground up, a back story is in order.
Back during my days as a newspaper journalist in East Hampton, NY, our editor went on the air every week to discuss the paper's top stories and other content on local radio stations, with local on-air personalities who any one could run into in the super market, the local restaurant, and so on.
If the editor was unavailable, he'd ask one of his reporters to go on in his place. And I will tell you, when he asked me to go on the air, I loved it!
In later years, I worked for both the paper and for a pair of local radio stations that were built from the ground up by local people.
One station had the coolest progressive rock format and a cavalcade of local personalities. The Town Supervisor, along with my editor, would both stop by once a week to chat with the morning guy.
The other station's format was popular, soft rock and morning talk with local personalities, local advertisers and local people calling in and winning contests. It was wonderful!
I once hit the road in the station van with an on-air personality dressed in a gorilla suit. The object was for listeners to spot the gorilla and pull over for prizes and recognition on the air. It was invigorating and hilarious!
There were similar radio stations and experiences in Indian River County, Florida, where I worked for a community newspaper and did remote, live broadcasts and on-air spots.
The community and local news people (including me!) were immortalized for our contributions and resilience during a two-week period in September 2004 when two hurricanes, Jean and Frances, both hit the community dead-on.
A local radio station published a commemorative Hurricanes of 2004 book, and if I remember correctly, an accompanying DVD.
So why not give the local talent here in NEPA a chance to jump into a gorilla suit - or better yet- onto the air waves- and shine, shine , shine?!

Monday, January 25, 2010

January's Heroes

I grew up on Long Island, NY in the 1960s and 70s. I can't remember a time when our public schools weren't closed for the Jewish Holidays of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanna.
I remember the confusion and horror surrounding the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.
In my mind, January will forever be the month of Dr. King and of other American heroes. Sitting alongside my good friends, African-American girls named Lisa, Jan and Patty, we sang songs lauding the ideals of Abraham, Martin, John and Bobby. We sang about overcoming racism, about daring to dream of equality for all (the audacity of hope?).
When George Wallace ran for president, a truly worried, breathless Jan leaned in after a lesson that included discussion of the then-current presidential race, and in an urgent whisper asked me "Do you know that if Wallace wins we'll never see each other again? We'll be separated!"
Our eyes welled with tears as we silently, fearfully, stared at each other, trying to process what we saw as a brutal threat, a horrible reality.
Decades later, my eyes welled with tears once more as astonished, I drank in the victory of our first, for all intents and purposes, African- American president.
I was awed by the American people. Awed that a majority of voters could actually bring themselves to cast a vote for a relatively young, by appearance, black, man. I honestly didn't believe that when push came to shove, the voters of this county would enter a polling place and cast a ballot for a black man.
I truly believed that the wildly enthusiastic support for Obama was largely lip service. I have never been prouder to be an American than on the day a black man won the presidency.
I am an Independent. I've never been a "one-party gal"(pun intended!). I've never blindly followed any political party, and , yes, I was deeply and painfully disappointed when Hilary Clinton lost her bid for the nomination.
But the day that America put its money where its mouth is, so to speak, was one of the proudest, most emotionally stirring days of my life.
On Inauguration Day, I picked my little guy up from school. We watched the inauguration online in our kitchen among red,white and blue balloons and a front-page picture of President Obama posted on the fridge.
We feasted on "Obama butter cookies," (peanut butter) and "Barack Brownies." My son saw the emotion in my eyes, on my face, and neither one of us was ashamed. At that moment, we were filled with hope and joy.
So you'll understand when I complain that the school district my son attends does not recognize the national observation of Martin Luther King, Jr's birthday. The kids go to school as if it were any other day.
Oh, sure, there are in-school observations, this year's was an online scavenger hunt for facts relating to Dr. King (my son was not impressed or satisfied). And likely, many kids would simply sleep late, play video games, and cause their parents to lose a day's pay.
But I feel that it's just a slap in the face to the entire Civil Rights movement and to all of those involved- all of those who remember- that the day is not a school district holiday.
I am personally insulted by what I see as a tremendous slight.
There aren't a lot of African-American people here in this little corner of NEPA, but Dr. King is a hero and an example for the masses. His legacy knows no racial boundaries.
His devotion to tolerance and non-violence must be perpetuated and respected.
The schools here are closed on the first day of the hunting season, but not on Dr. King's day. And of course, the Jewish Holidays aren't observed, either.
I know there are Jews in this area- perhaps not enough in the school population to garner respect.
I'm not an advocate of days off from school for the sake of sleeping in. I am an advocate for respect and the perpetuation of the ideals and sacrifices of American Heroes.

Friday, January 22, 2010

What's in a Name?

Welcome to The NEPA Follies.
"What's up with the name?"
"NEPA" stands for where I live, Northeast Pennsylvania.
I reason that "Follies" is a word that has been used to describe lavish theatrical productions, entertainment spectacles, such as the Ziegfeld Follies on Broadway during the first four decades of the last century.
My Follies may never be lavish or spectacular, but I will look for humor and goodness wherever one or the other can be found.
I aim to entertain, to build a following, to spark imaginations and to inspire people to speak up, to act up, to make a difference.
I'll also be addressing society-at-large, world events, subjects broader than those specific to NEPA.
I often imagine that if an individual who died 30 years ago came back to today's world, the poor soul wouldn't know where the heck he or she was. I hear my Grandmother's faint voice in my mind, echoing from the 1970s and the 1980s: "Heavens above! What is this world coming to?"
This world has come to some good things, but it's astonishing how many more bad things have come to pass. It's mind-boggling that greed and indifference and self-absorption have led to environmental and societal ruin. It's inexplicable that societies and governments around the world have ignored the blaring warning sirens of (at least) the past 40 years. I'll be writing about those issues, as well.
I hope you'll let me entertain you. I tell a good story, or so I've been told by several accomplished members of the fourth estate, and by the public in general.
More tomorrow! Be well and be happy!