Wednesday, March 25, 2009

What does one Trillion dollars look like?

What does one TRILLION dollars look like?

All this talk about "stimulus packages" and "bailouts"...

A billion dollars...

A hundred billion dollars...

Eight hundred billion dollars...

One TRILLION dollars...

What does that look like? I mean, these various numbers are tossed around like so many doggie treats, so I thought I'd take Google Sketchup out for a test drive and try to get a sense of what exactly a trillion dollars looks like.

We'll start with a $100 dollar bill. Currently the largest U.S. denomination in general circulation. Most everyone has seen them, slighty fewer have owned them. Guaranteed to make friends wherever they go.


A packet of one hundred $100 bills is less than 1/2" thick and contains $10,000. Fits in your pocket easily and is more than enough for week or two of shamefully decadent fun.


Believe it or not, this next little pile is $1 million dollars (100 packets of $10,000). You could stuff that into a grocery bag and walk around with it.

$1,000,000 (one million dollars)

While a measly $1 million looked a little unimpressive, $100 million is a little more respectable. It fits neatly on a standard pallet...

$100,000,000 (one hundred million dollars)

And $1 BILLION dollars... now we're really getting somewhere...

$1,000,000,000 (one billion dollars)

Next we'll look at ONE TRILLION dollars. This is that number we've been hearing so much about. What is a trillion dollars? Well, it's a million million. It's a thousand billion. It's a one followed by 12 zeros.

You ready for this?

It's pretty surprising.

Go ahead...

Scroll down...

Ladies and gentlemen... I give you $1 trillion dollars...

$1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion dollars)

Notice those pallets are double stacked.
...and remember those are $100 bills.

So the next time you hear someone toss around the phrase "trillion dollars"... that's what they're talking about.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Food security and global warming

Food security and global warming: Monsanto versus organic

Organic farming beats genetically engineered corn as response to rising global temperatures

Posted by Meredith Niles (Guest Contributor) at 1:57 PM on 16 Jan 2009

This week Science published research ($ub. req'd) detailing the vast, global food-security implications of warming temperatures. The colored graphics are nothing short of terrifying when you realize the blotches of red and orange covering the better part of the globe indicate significantly warmer summers in coming decades.

The implications of the article are clear -- we need to be utilizing agricultural methods and crops that can withstand the potential myriad impacts of global climate change, especially warmer temperatures. The article significantly notes, "The probability exceeds 90 percent that by the end of the century, the summer average temperature will exceed the hottest summer on record throughout the tropics and subtropics. Because these regions are home to about half of the world's population, the human consequences of global climate change could be enormous."

Whether you believe global warming is part of a "natural cycle" or a man-made phenomenon is irrelevant. The bottom line is that our earth is rapidly warming, and this is going to drastically affect our food supply. We must undertake both the enormous task of reducing our carbon emissions now to avert the worst, while at the same time adapting our society to the vast and multitudinous effects of unavoidable global climate change. Failing to do either will, as the Science article indicates, have dire effects on a large portion of our world's population.

Determining the best course of action for ensuring food security in the face of global climate change remains a challenging task. Recognizing that climate change is slated to affect developing countries and small-scale farmers the most is a crucial point. Such understanding enables people to realize that viable solutions must be accessible, affordable, and relevant to the billions of small-scale farmers in the developing world. Unfortunately, it appears that some of the solutions on the table fail to meet these criteria.

Last week, Monsanto made a big public relations splash by filing documents with the FDA regarding a drought-tolerant GM corn variety it is developing with a German company, BASF. Monsanto claims that in field trials, the corn got 6-10 percent higher yields in drought-prone areas last year, but the release is extremely short on details. Regardless of the reality, Monsanto is presenting the corn as a way to help improve on-farm productivity in other parts of the world, notably Africa.

Yet, absent from the media hype were the many technical and social problems with Monsanto's corn.

A little over a year ago, the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics held a conference specific to drought and drought-tolerant crops. As a follow up, the Australian government's Grains Research and Development Corporation published a piece detailing the research shared and lessons learned from the conference. One topic addressed was the potential of GM drought-tolerant varieties. In the analysis stated, "The most notable and problematic (effect) is the tendency of drought-tolerant GM lines to not perform as well under favourable conditions. This appears to be the case for CIMMYT's GM wheat and Monsanto's GM corn. The flaw is a profound one. It amounts to shifting the yield losses experienced in dry seasons onto the good years." In essence, farmers might get a small bump in yield during droughts, but will suffer yield losses when conditions are favorable. Considering that climate scientists continually point to increased erratic weather patterns as a symptom of global warming, this reality is clearly disastrous. Surely there must be better solutions that increase production under all weather conditions

One promising solution appeared in an article published in BioScience in 2005. The authors outlined the Rodale Institute's Farming Systems Trial, a long-term comparison of organic and conventional farming systems conducted between 1981 and 2002. Significantly, the trials found that organic production yielded equivalently to conventional systems after a transition period. Yet even more importantly, Rodale found that in drought conditions in which rainfall was 30 percent less than normal, organic systems yielded 28 to 34 percent higher than conventional systems. Rodale equates the yield gain to increased water retention as a result of higher soil organic carbon. Water volumes percolating through the various systems were 15-20 percent higher in the organic systems as compared with the conventional systems over the 12 year period.

The BioScience article additionally noted that the organic systems used 28 to 32 percent fewer energy inputs, retained soil carbon and soil nitrogen better, and offered a higher profitability over conventional systems. What is so significant about this research is that it demonstrates the ability of organic agriculture to both reduce greenhouse gas emissions with fewer energy inputs and withstand climate change impacts like drought with greater efficacy.

Most importantly, it offers an economical and accessible form of agriculture for billions of small-scale farmers. Scaling up agricultural development in rural areas like Africa can be accomplished with organic methods like manure, compost, and cover crops. Even the United Nations recognized the opportunity presented by organic production in a report late last year. Conventional breeding and improved seeds are also part of the solution. Between 1939 and 2005, conventional breeding contributed significantly to an almost six-fold yield-gain in corn in the U.S.

This point is crucial, since the seeds Monsanto is planning to release will be owned by the company and sold at exorbitant prices. GMO seeds cost from two to over four times as much as conventional seed varieties, and the disparity is increasing. How will small-scale farmers pay for such seeds? How will they pay for the chemicals and synthetic fertilizers necessary for such production? Shouldn't we be looking for solutions that are viable and realistic for those people who are most food insecure? Monsanto does not have the answers here, but organic methods can and should be a big part of the solution.

The future of food security in the face of warming temperatures cannot be based on a system of profits and research that fails to address the needs of food-insecure farmers. We need real solutions that will enable farmers to maintain and increase yields with those materials and techniques already available to them with little extra cost: animal manure, increased irrigation opportunities, cover crops, compost, and integrated pest-management systems. Organic agriculture will reduce, mitigate, and adapt to climate change impacts and still remain accessible and economic to the billions of subsistence farmers around the world. If we really want to fight the food crisis, let's start investing in and promoting organic production today to ensure better climate adaptation in the future.

The Inflection Is Near?

The Inflection Is Near?

Sometimes the satirical newspaper The Onion is so right on, I can’t resist quoting from it. Consider this faux article from June 2005 about America’s addiction to Chinese exports:

FENGHUA, China — Chen Hsien, an employee of Fenghua Ningbo Plastic Works Ltd., a plastics factory that manufactures lightweight household items for Western markets, expressed his disbelief Monday over the “sheer amount of [garbage] Americans will buy. Often, when we’re assigned a new order for, say, ‘salad shooters,’ I will say to myself, ‘There’s no way that anyone will ever buy these.’ ... One month later, we will receive an order for the same product, but three times the quantity. How can anyone have a need for such useless [garbage]? I hear that Americans can buy anything they want, and I believe it, judging from the things I’ve made for them,” Chen said. “And I also hear that, when they no longer want an item, they simply throw it away. So wasteful and contemptible.”

Let’s today step out of the normal boundaries of analysis of our economic crisis and ask a radical question: What if the crisis of 2008 represents something much more fundamental than a deep recession? What if it’s telling us that the whole growth model we created over the last 50 years is simply unsustainable economically and ecologically and that 2008 was when we hit the wall — when Mother Nature and the market both said: “No more.”

We have created a system for growth that depended on our building more and more stores to sell more and more stuff made in more and more factories in China, powered by more and more coal that would cause more and more climate change but earn China more and more dollars to buy more and more U.S. T-bills so America would have more and more money to build more and more stores and sell more and more stuff that would employ more and more Chinese ...

We can’t do this anymore.

“We created a way of raising standards of living that we can’t possibly pass on to our children,” said Joe Romm, a physicist and climate expert who writes the indispensable blog We have been getting rich by depleting all our natural stocks — water, hydrocarbons, forests, rivers, fish and arable land — and not by generating renewable flows.

“You can get this burst of wealth that we have created from this rapacious behavior,” added Romm. “But it has to collapse, unless adults stand up and say, ‘This is a Ponzi scheme. We have not generated real wealth, and we are destroying a livable climate ...’ Real wealth is something you can pass on in a way that others can enjoy.”

Over a billion people today suffer from water scarcity; deforestation in the tropics destroys an area the size of Greece every year — more than 25 million acres; more than half of the world’s fisheries are over-fished or fished at their limit.

“Just as a few lonely economists warned us we were living beyond our financial means and overdrawing our financial assets, scientists are warning us that we’re living beyond our ecological means and overdrawing our natural assets,” argues Glenn Prickett, senior vice president at Conservation International. But, he cautioned, as environmentalists have pointed out: “Mother Nature doesn’t do bailouts.”

One of those who has been warning me of this for a long time is Paul Gilding, the Australian environmental business expert. He has a name for this moment — when both Mother Nature and Father Greed have hit the wall at once — “The Great Disruption.”

“We are taking a system operating past its capacity and driving it faster and harder,” he wrote me. “No matter how wonderful the system is, the laws of physics and biology still apply.” We must have growth, but we must grow in a different way. For starters, economies need to transition to the concept of net-zero, whereby buildings, cars, factories and homes are designed not only to generate as much energy as they use but to be infinitely recyclable in as many parts as possible. Let’s grow by creating flows rather than plundering more stocks.

Gilding says he’s actually an optimist. So am I. People are already using this economic slowdown to retool and reorient economies. Germany, Britain, China and the U.S. have all used stimulus bills to make huge new investments in clean power. South Korea’s new national paradigm for development is called: “Low carbon, green growth.” Who knew? People are realizing we need more than incremental changes — and we’re seeing the first stirrings of growth in smarter, more efficient, more responsible ways.

In the meantime, says Gilding, take notes: “When we look back, 2008 will be a momentous year in human history. Our children and grandchildren will ask us, ‘What was it like? What were you doing when it started to fall apart? What did you think? What did you do?’ Often in the middle of something momentous, we can’t see its significance. But for me there is no doubt: 2008 will be the marker — the year when ‘The Great Disruption’ began.”

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009

Executive pay caps cut from the Stimulus Bill

Cenk Uygur Cenk Uygur Host of The Young Turks
Posted February 12, 2009 | 01:45 PM (EST)

Who Keeps Screwing Us Over?

I shouldn't be surprised by now. But I still was when I read the article this morning in the Washington Post explaining that the cap on executive pay has been removed from the stimulus bill. I knew what Congress was doing yesterday by bringing the Wall Street executives in and scolding them in public was a dog and pony show. But I had not realized how profoundly full of shit these politicians are.

They make a big display of yelling at the CEOs and then the very next day they quietly remove any cap on their compensation. These people are not on our side. This is why so many Americans are so damn frustrated. Everyone in power appears to be bought and paid for. There is a circle of people in DC and NY that keep passing the money around to one another and then come and collect it from us.

I want to know -- no, I demand to know -- who killed this provision? Who argued for taking this cap on executive pay out of the stimulus bill? Do we have a free and strong press in this country? Or are they in on it, too? If not, then find out who did this to us.

The constant non-sensical argument is that if we cap their pay, they won't want to participate in this system. Ooh, don't scare us now. So, we won't get the most incompetent and corrupt losers in America to participate in their own rescue? I'm shivering thinking about the possibility of losing out on the help of these geniuses.

We're wasting our time here. Just nationalize the damn banks already. Almost all of the top economists are now in agreement that we should take this step. The people who put the money in are the people who own the company -- that's how capitalism works. I'm a die-hard capitalist. I don't want the federal government owning banks for an extended period of time. But what's worse is to continue letting these bankers rob us of our money day in and day out while we sit around like fools.

We buy it, we own it. Kick the clowns out. Run it for a limited amount of time while we stabilize the credit markets. And then sell them off in the free market. Instead of begging the bankers to loosen up credit, we take the banks and do it ourselves.

At the very least, it is unconscionable to get rid of these pay caps. On what grounds do these people think they deserve millions of dollars for bankrupting their companies? How is that capitalism? That's not capitalism, that's cronyism. They pay the politicians, the politicians pay them. They have perverted the whole system.

No way. No way. No way. We have to stop this. If we don't, I guarantee you that we will look back and realize that the bankers actually did the most amount of damage and ripped off the system for millions more after the TARP program started and we let them walk away with all the money after the companies were bankrupt.

As Joseph Stiglitz says, they are bleeding the banks right now. It's a zero sum game, every dollar they take out is a dollar we have to put in. Why are we paying them for their incompetence?

My favorite joke is when people say if we don't continue to pay these clowns millions of dollars they will take their talent elsewhere. I literally laughed out loud after writing that. Please, have at it hoss. Take your talent wherever the fuck you would like.

Is it possible that the Obama administration is behind this move? Absolutely. First, Tim Geithner is a complete Wall Street guy. He believes in protecting the Wall Street bubble. That's why they were ecstatic when he was selected. And Obama himself is a guy who is instinct is almost always to be conciliatory. If Wall Street says this is necessary, he's going to want to reach out and appease them to get things moving. But not this time. This is a conciliatory move we cannot abide.

I voted for Obama, but I did not loan out my intellect to him. I can still make up my own mind on whether he is right or wrong. And if he is participating in this, he is 100% wrong.

One last thing, the banks say that part of the stimulus cap on pay might be retroactive and that's not fair because that's changing the rules (I love how they're complaining about fairness now). They say that the banks might pull out of these deals if we change this rule on them now.

First, great, pull out. Where are you going to get the money elsewhere? Nowhere. It's the world's worst bluff. And even if they do, they run out of money. We are forced to nationalize them and we arrive at a better result anyway. Please make our day and don't take the money.

Second, on the retroactive issue. As one of our listeners pointed out, if a bank makes an error and deposits some money into your account that isn't yours and you spend it, you know what happens to you? You get arrested! We have covered numerous stories like this on the show. The bank accidentally puts in an extra $100,000 in someone's account. They spend it and they go to jail.

Here we have accidentally put too much into the bankers' accounts. I know it's too much because they took $18 billion of it home in bonuses instead of spending it on the problem at hand. If they spend it after we notify them of the error, they get arrested. They have to give the money back. It's what they do to their customers all the time.

Now, that's my solution. But that's not even in the bill. We should get that $18 billion back. But instead all we're asking for is that they not pay their executives more than $400,000 a year for being the worst businessmen in the country. Here's what I know as a fact -- that is not too much to ask for.

And if our politicians claim that is too much to ask for, then they are either the most pathetic weaklings around or they are in on the heist. Either way, if they don't put this back in the bill, they gotta go. Democrat or Republican, I don't care. If they don't understand the urgency of this, then they are not for us.

Every day we wait is another day they "bleed the banks." If there isn't a popular uprising to stop these guys from stealing our money, then we deserve what we get. The old saying goes, a fool and his money are soon parted. Are you going to be that fool?

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President Obama, quit kissing their ass

It is time for President Obama to quick kissing Republican ass. He has spent far too much time wining, dining, and reaching across the aisle to the conceited assholes. Again, no Republican support from a SINGLE republican House member. All of the concessions made in that bill, when it could have just been passed with out all the bullshit.

The Right-Wing is more interested in their political careers than in the stability, security, and livelihood of the American Citizens.

We need to get people to work, and rebuild this country into what it once was.

Write, call, e-mail, and fax your representatives. And more importantly, when your officials are up for re-election, remember how they voted.

Houses Passes Stimulus, Again Without Any Republicans

ANDREW TAYLOR | February 13,

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif., center, flanked by House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Md., left, and Rep John Larson, D-Conn., right, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Feb. 13, 2009, after the House passed the stimulus legislation. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

WASHINGTON — In a major victory for President Barack Obama, Democrats muscled a huge, $787 billion stimulus bill to the brink of final passage Friday night in hopes of combating the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Republican opposition was nearly unanimous. The vote in the House was 246-183 for the package of tax cuts and federal spending that Obama made the centerpiece of his plan for economic recovery.

The Senate was following suit in a roll call that was without suspense but extended into the night. That was to allow time for Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown to fly back from Ohio, where his mother died earlier in the week. His was the decisive 60th vote for the bill.

Obama is expected to sign the bill soon.

Supporters said the measure would save or create 3.5 million jobs. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer conceded there was no guarantee, but he said that "millions and millions and millions of people will be helped, as they have lost their jobs and can't put food on the table of their families."

Vigorously disagreeing, House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio dumped a copy of the 1,071-page bill to the floor in a gesture of contempt. "The bill that was about jobs, jobs, jobs has turned into a bill that's about spending, spending, spending," he said. No House Republican voted for the measure.

The legislation, among the costliest ever considered in Congress, provides billions of dollars to aid victims of the recession through unemployment benefits, food stamps, medical care, job retraining and more. Tens of billions are ticketed for the states to offset cuts they might otherwise have to make in aid to schools and local governments, and there is more than $48 billion for transportation projects such as road and bridge construction, mass transit and high-speed rail.

Democrats said the bill's tax cuts would help 95 percent of all Americans, much of the relief in the form of a break of $400 for individuals and $800 for couples. At the insistence of the White House, people who do not earn enough money to owe income taxes are eligible, an attempt to offset the payroll taxes they pay.

In a bow to political reality, lawmakers included $70 billion to shelter upper middle-class and wealthier taxpayers from an income tax increase that would otherwise hit them, a provision that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said would do relatively little to create jobs.

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Also included were funds for two of Obama's initiatives, the expansion of computerized information technology in the health care industry and billions to create so-called green jobs the administration says will begin reducing the country's dependence on foreign oil.

Asked for his reaction to House passage of the bill, Obama said "thumbs up" and indeed gave a thumbs-up sign as he left the White House with his family for a long weekend in Chicago.

Congress cast its votes as federal regulators announced the closing of the Sherman County Bank in Loup City, Neb.; Riverside Bank of the Gulf Coast in Florida, based in Cape Coral; and Corn Belt Bank and Trust Co. of Pittsfield, Ill. That raised to 12 the number of failures this year of federally insured banking companies _ the latest reminders of the toll taken by recession and frozen credit markets.

The day's events at the Capitol were scripted to allow Democratic leaders to fulfill their pledge to send Obama legislation by mid-February.

"Barack Obama, in just a few short weeks as president, has passed one of the biggest packages for economic recovery in our nation's history," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, anticipating final Senate passage.

The approval also capped an early period of accomplishment for the Democrats, who won control of the White House and expanded their majorities in Congress in last fall's elections.

Since taking office on Jan. 20, the president has signed legislation extending government-financed health care to millions of lower-income children who lack it, a bill that President George W. Bush twice vetoed. He also has placed his signature on a measure making it easier for workers to sue their employers for alleged job discrimination, effectively overturning a ruling by the Supreme Court's conservative majority.

Obama made the stimulus a cornerstone of his economic recovery plan even before he took office, but his calls for bipartisanship were an early casualty.

Republicans complained they had been locked out of the early decisions, and Democrats countered that Boehner had tried to rally opposition even before the president met privately with the GOP rank and file.

In retrospect, said White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, the White House wasn't "sharp enough" in emphasizing the benefits of the bill as Republicans began to criticize spending on items such as family planning services, anti-smoking programs and reseeding the National Mall.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid faced a different task _ finding enough GOP moderates to give him the 60 votes needed to surmount a variety of procedural hurdles. To do that, he and the White House agreed to trim billions in spending from the original $820 billion House-passed bill, enough to obtain the backing of GOP Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine and Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania.

As the final compromise took shape in a frenzied round of bargaining earlier this week, it was trimmed again to hold the support of the moderates, whose opposition to a new program for federal school construction caused anger among House Democrats.

In the end, a compromise was reached that allows states to use funds for modernizing schools. But in a display of displeasure, Pelosi decided to skip the news conference last Wednesday where Reid announced a final agreement.

In addition to tax relief for individuals and businesses who purchase new equipment, lawmakers inserted breaks for first-time homebuyers and consumers purchasing new cars in an attempt to aid two industries particularly hard-hit by the recession. In response to pressure from lawmakers from Pennsylvania, Indiana and elsewhere, the bill was altered at the last minute to permit the buyers of recreational vehicles and motorcycles to claim the same break as those buying cars and light trucks.

In the House, all 246 votes in favor were cast by Democrats. Seven Democrats joined 176 Republicans in opposition.


Associated Press writers Andrew Taylor, Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Ann Sanner and Darlene Superville contributed to this report.

Progressive Voices Silenced In Washington

As published in The Washington Post
Sunday, February 8

By: Bill Press

If you’re looking for a break from those conservative voices that dominate talk radio, take time out today to listen to local station Obama 1260 AM.

Providing a welcome relief from the constant Obama-bashing by Rush Limbaugh and others, you’ll hear the progressive voices of Stephanie Miller, Ed Schultz, Lionel – or, during morning drive, my own “Bill Press Show.” Unfortunately, today’s the last day you’ll be able to do so.

As first reported by the Post’s media critic, Howard Kurtz, Dan Snyder’s Red Zebra Broadcasting Company, owner of Obama 1260, has announced plans to jettison all progressive talk and replace it with canned, pre-recorded financial advice programming.

The commercial use of public airwaves is supposed to reflect the local community. But not in Washington. On the AM dial, 630 WMAL features wall-to-wall conservative talk. So do stations 570 WTNT and 1580 WHFS. For the last two years, AM 1260 - even with a weak signal that can not be heard in downtown Washington – was the one exception. No longer. Starting Monday, February 9, our nation’s capitol, where Democrats control the House, Senate, and White House, and where Democrats outnumber Republicans ten to one, will have no progressive voices on the air.

Or maybe one. In order to mollify critics, Red Zebra has said it will add Ed Schultz to its conservative line-up on 570 AM. Which means Shultz will be outgunned in this market by at least 15 conservative talkers: Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, Chris Plante, Michael Smerconish, Michael Savage, Andy Parks, Fred Grandy, Bill Bennett, Monica Crowley, Bill O’Reilly, Dennis Miller, and Lars Larsen. No matter how good Schultz is, that’s not a fair contest – nor a fair use of the public airwaves.

Unfortunately, what’s happening in Washington reflects what’s happened in one city after another across the country. In Miami, Clean Channel recently dumped progressive talk for sports: the same move made by Clear Channel stations in San Diego and Cincinnati. Sacramento abandoned progressive talk for gospel music. In fact, according to a study released by the Center for American Progress and Free Press, there are nine hours of conservative talk for every one hour of progressive talk.

Why? Station owners complain they can’t get good ratings or make any money with progressive talk, but that’s nonsense. In Minnesota, independent owner Janet Robert has operated KTNF AM 950 profitably for five years. Madison’s 92.1 just scored its highest ratings ever. And Portland, Oregon’s KPOJ soared with progressive talk from #23 in market ratings to #1. Nationwide, progressive talkers Randi Rhodes, Ed Schultz and Stephanie Miller have proven that, given a level playing field, they can more than hold their own in ratings – and make money for their stations.

In fact, the only reason there’s not more competition on American airwaves is that the handful of companies which own most radio stations do everything they can to block it. In many markets – witness Philadelphia, Boston, Providence, or Houston – they join in providing no outlet for progressive talk. In others, as in Washington, they limit it to a crappy signal, spend zero dollars on promotion, and soon pull the plug.

In other words, there is no free market in talk radio today. The airwaves have been taken over by an oligopoly offering conservative talk only, which totally contradicts what commercial radio is supposed to offer.

Companies are given a license to operate public airwaves – free! – in order to make a profit, yes, but also, according to the terms of their FCC license, “to operate in the public interest and to afford reasonable opportunity for the discussion of conflicting views of issues of public importance.” Stations are not operating in the public interest when they offer only conservative talk.

For years, the Fairness Doctrine prevented such abuse by requiring licensed stations to carry a mix of opinion. However, under pressure from conservatives, President Reagan’s FCC cancelled the Fairness Doctrine in 1987, insisting that in a free market stations would automatically offer a balance in programming.

That experiment has failed. There is no free market in talk radio today, only an exclusive, tightly-held, conservative media conspiracy. The few holders of broadcast licenses have made it clear they will not, on their own, serve the general public. Maybe it’s time to bring back the Fairness Doctrine - and bring competition back to talk radio.

Bill Press is working on a new book on talk radio.