Post from February, 2009

Movie Review: Taken

Sunday, 22. February 2009 20:08

I think I’ll take (heh) a break from the hustle and bustle of politics to review the movie I saw yesterday:  Taken.  One thing to be said for Taken:  it is exactly the movie you think you’re getting, after you see the previews.  Wall-to-Wall Liam Neeson kicking bad guy rear to save his daughter, who has been kidnapped by human slave merchants.  The plot is derrivative, the action completely implausible, and the characters are fairly one dimensional, but if you’re looking for a thrilling, edge-of-your seat ride, you get it in spades in Taken (think Transporter with a better lead).  It has a PG-13 reading for the strong violent content and the depiction of white slave trade. 

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The Fairness Doctrine

Sunday, 22. February 2009 10:19

There’s a discussion of the “Fairness Doctrine” that has started over on the Science of Politics forum.  The “Fairness Doctrine” imposes a requirement of ideological balance on those who use the public airwaves, though its application was limited to radio do to the fact it is a ‘limited’ medium (see the Supreme Court cases on this subject).

The Fairness Doctrine was always of dubious constitutional status despite the earlier USSC decisions upholding its implementation.  Furthermore, the explosion of media and mediums for them may have rendered the primary justification for the FD moot.  While some Democrats have suggested reinstituting the doctrine, any attempt to do so would face legal challenge.  I believe the FD was unconstitutional in 1937 when it was created.  However, given the nature of the USSC decisions upholding it, a court could rule the FD unconstitutional today without overturning those previous decisions (which I believe to have been wrongly decided). 

Recently President Obama cleared up apparent ambiguity as to his stance by stating explictly that he is opposed to the reinstitution of the Fairness Doctrine, and support for the doctrine even among Democrats seems to be weak.  Ironically, the Fairness Doctrine has been most frequently mentioned by conservative radio show hosts, who have used it as a cudgel to attack the Democrats. 

So, if there was any question before, the fact the Obama administration has stated its active opposition probably and effectively quashes any actual effort to reimpose the doctrine.  Indeed, it is a Republican (Jim DeMint) who is currently trying to force a vote on the FD in Congress…which tends to indicate that the Republicans feel this is a winning issue for them.  We are unlikely to see a concerted effort by Congress to reimpose the Fairness Doctrine, and any such reimposition is likely to fail constitutional scrutiny, either through the court overturning its previous precedents on the FD or by distinguishing those precedents as outdated given the changing technological enviornment and the information revolution. 

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Stimulus Bill Passes

Sunday, 15. February 2009 13:23

So, the bill has passed.  It isn’t really a surprise that the Stimulus Bill passed.  The Democrats are pretty much unstopable as long as they stick together.  But Obama’s hope for a bipartisan stimulus plan, in the mold of Reagan’s 1981 tax cut plan which had alot of Democratic support, was quashed.  Ultimately Obama’s failure to court Republicans is a function of the Democrat’s success.  They don’t need Republicans to pass legislation, and thus it is difficult for Obama to convince congressional Democrats to substantively compromise when they don’t need to. 

Of course, this failure is also a product of Obama’s inexperience.  Obama allowed the congressional Democrats to craft the stimulus legislation, resulting in a bill in the House crafted by Obey and numerous other Democrats with varying interests unrelated to economic stimulus.  Faced with rebuking his own party, Obama was forced to go on stage and defend and promote the bill, guarateeing Republicans would oppose it en mass.  With more executive experience, Obama may have been prepared to come into this process with his own proposal.  Democrats in Congress would have then been faced with the dilemna that Obama was forced into (even worse, since they would have been bucking a popular and recently elected president of their own party).  That bill could have garnered substantial Republican support. 

As for the ultimate politics of the stimulus, it’s all rather simple.  It doesn’t really matter if the stimulus works or does not work.  If the economy improves in the next year and a half, Obama, the congressional Democrats, and the Stimulus Bill will get the credit.  If it does not, then it could be a bad year for the Dems in 2010. 

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