Posts from October 26, 2004

The Daily Stern: Howard Stern v. Michael Powell

The Daily Stern: Howard Stern v. Michael Powell

: Michael Powell appeared on my Ronn Owens‘ KGO Radio show in San Francisco and Howard Stern called in to give him a proper piece of his mind. Many good readers sent me a link to the stream but because they said it would go down Wednesday, I transcribed the entire Stern/Powell segment. Stories here, here, and here.

Stern went after Powell for getting his job because of his father. Powell whined “unfair.” Stern said, no, it’s fair and relevant because broadcasters who’ve devoted their lives to this industry now answer to this First Amendment hypocrite.

Stern pushed Powell on fining him and Viacom over Jackson but not fining Oprah Winfrey because she’s beloved. Powell denied saying that (his aid did say it) and said the Winfrey case is still open.

Stern called the fines and the FCC’s holding station renewals hostage “racketeering.”

At the end, Powell admitted as the conversation continued without Stern that there’s worse on other stations.

My old friend Ronn (I used to appear on his air once a month when I worked in San Francisco) blew it by cutting Stern off at the end to get to commercials. This was news and they should have gone at it for the rest of the show. The transcript:

Stern: Ronn, hi.

Owens: Is this who I think it is?

Stern: Yeah, and I want to say hi to the commissioner and a friend of mine told me the commissioner said he was going to be on the show….

The commissioner has fined me millions of dollars for things I have said and consistently avoids me and avoids me and I wonder how long he will stay on the phone with me.

Owens: Go ahead and ask your questions.

Stern: Hi, Michael, how are you?

Powell: Hi, Howard, how are you?

Stern: Does it make you nervous to talk to me?

Powell: It does not….

Stern: All right, so well, I’ve got about ten zillion questions for you because you honestly are an enigma to me.

The first question being: How did you get your job? It is apparent to most of us in broadcasting that your father got you your job. And you kind of sit there:

You’re the judge, you’re the arbiter, you’re the one who tells us what we can and can’t say on the air and yet I really don’t think you’re qualified to be the head of the commission. Do you deny that your father got you this job?

Powell: Well, I would deny it exceedingly. You can look at my resume if you want, Howard. I’m not ashamed of it and I think it justifies my existence. I was chief of staff of the antitrust division, I’m an attorney, I was a clerk on the court of the United States I was a private attorney I have the same credentials that virtually anyone who sits in my position does and I think it’s a little unfair that just because I happen to have a famous father and other public officials don’t that you make the assumption that is the basis on which I sit in my position.

Owens: Caller already asked this question so move on….

Stern: So out of all the people that sit on the commission, you were moved to the head of the class. I don’t buy your explanation but OK.

You know, the thing that amazes me about you is, you continually fine me but you’re afraid to go to court with me and I’ll explain myself if you give me a second:

Fine after fine came and we tried to go to court with you to find out about obscenity and what your line was and whether our show was indecent, which I don’t think it is. And you do something really sneaky behind the scenes. You continue to block Viacom from buying new stations until we pay those fines.

You are afraid to go court. You are afraid to get a ruling time and time again.

When will you allow this to go to court and stop practicing your form of racketeering that you do by making stations pay up or you hold up their license renewal?

Powell: First of all, that’s flatly false.

Stern: It’s not false. It’s true.

Powell: I’m afraid it is. There’s no reason why Viacom or any other company who feels that they have been wrongly fined can’t sue us in court. We have no basis whatsoever to prevent them from going to court.

Stern: You’re lying. I’ve lived through your fines, Michael. And Mel Karmazin came to me one day and said, Howard, we’re gonna have to pay up some sort of cockamame (sp?) bunch of fines that we don’t we’re wrong because we can’t get our paperwork done. We are finding it increasingly difficult to boy radio stations. I know you’re not telling the truth. And I question why you are selected to be one who is the FCC commissioner….

I’m going to Sirius satellite radio….

Owens: That’s the question I was going to ask. Now he’s going to go to satellite. One of the things that I read is that there are people who said cable TV, satellite radio, that ought to fall under the aegis of the FCC that content there…

Stern: Nobody’s saying that… That’s not going to happen. Michael knows that. This is the guise of the public airwaves. Michael’s a Republican He knows that the marketplace….

Owens: By the way, weren’t you appointed by Clinton?… No, no, no, no, he was appointed head of the FCC by George W. Bush.

Powell: Howard, the only thing I would ask is that if we’re going to be fair is that the commitment to the indecency provisions is not Republican or Democrat. I have Democratic colleagues on the commission that argue for license revocation… You know the Congress just debated indecency fines in the United States Congress. It passed the Senate 99 to 1. There aren’t 99 Republicans and one Democrat. It was bipartisan.

I mean, I think you have a right to be concerned about the ways that the indecency fines are done but rather than attack me personally, you can challenge the regime. But the entire commission has voted on those fines. The commission has a statute that it’s required to enforce and I think that it’s a cheap shot to say that just because my father’s famous I don’t belong in my position even though I’ve served longer than any commissioner in decades on the commission.

If you don’t think the commission should have any rights to draw limits, I think that’s a respectable position but it doesn’t happen to be the law.

Stern: Well, Michael, it’s not a cheap shot to say that your father got you your position and I’ll tell you why:

Guys like me who came from nowhere out of nothing and worked their way up and committed themselves to broadcasting and making a career of broadcasting have to answer to you.

And it is a question as to how you got to where you got to. And let’s face it: You got to where you got to, you got to the head of the class the way George W. Bush got out of the draft.

And it’s completely fair to question because you’re the guy sitting there telling me I’m guilty of saying something and Oprah Winfrey isn’t. And I wish you’d address that.

Owens: We talked about Oprah, I brought it up…

Powell: One point I would make, Howard, if I could.

Stern: Make the statement that you made originally, which was that Oprah is, I guess, a beloved figure and Howard Stern is not.

Powell: No, I don’t know when I made that statement. I think Ronn might have made that statement. I don’t think I ever made that statement. Indeed my argument was, we’re going to enforce things fairly regardless of the noteriety of the personality involved. I mean the only thing I would say, and I respect your opinion, is that you personalize it about answering to me. You’re answering to the commission if anybody. All of these fines are voted by five members, Republicans and Democrats alike, and they have been unanimous. The only dissents in these cases have been from the Democrats who argued for even stricter fines and enforcement. So I don’t mind having an honest debate about the role of the commission in indecency. I think as a public institution we’re responsible to do that. But I don’t think I have been personally the one that you’re answering to.

Stern: Of course you are. Listen, Michael, if I were a friend of George W. Bush you know he’ll give you the word and you’ll back off from me….

Powell: Well…

Owens: Well, give him the chance to say know if that’s the case.

Powell: I think that’s just ridiculous.

Stern: Why don’t you fine Oprah Winfrey, then?

Powell: That case is still at the commission. I mean, if we don’t, then you can ask that question. But until we resolve it, I don’t think it’s fair to ask that question. And to be perfectly honest, you know, I’ve been chairman for four years and I think we’ve had fines against your station twice and I don’t think we have made any particular crusade of the Howard Stern show or you.

Stern: Yeah, OK, Michael, that’s why I’ve received the largest fines in history and I’ve said the exact, identical thing that Oprah Winfrey said and you said she’s beloved and I’m not….

Owens: Howard, I got some bills to pay. I’m thrilled you called.

Stern: Ronn, wait a second, let me say one last thing:

I invite Michael onto my show, which he won’t come on. Number two, I’ve been respectful, I hope there’s no sort of retribution as a result of my phone call, which I believe Michael’s capable of. I’ve been the victim of it. You can call me crazy, you can call me nuts, Michael knows what I’m talking about. I’ve been slammed. I’ve been not allowed to go to court over this thing and prove my innocence and I don’t think a court would have found me indecent at all. I’m not here to set upt he commissioner. I called because a friend of mine told me two hours ago that Michael Powell was going to be there and there’s about ten zillion questions and maybe you’ll ask this after I get off the phone:

Janet Jackson — do you really think that…

Owens: We talked about it. Next question.

Stern: What do you mean next question?

Owens: Because I asked him about Janet Jackson, pointing out the absurdity that if you’re going to get upset about anything it’s the ripping off of the bra, what’s the big deal about the nipple.

Stern: Not only that why would you blame Viacom for Janet Jackson going up there ripping off her shirt at a live event and then not fine people for using the F word and the S word during live events. What’s the difference? You really think that Les Moonves sat in a room and conspired with Janet Jackson….?

Powell: Can I answer part of that? …

Owens: Answer that and then, Howard, honestly, I got to go.

Stern: Why do you have to go, Ronn?

Owens: Because they’re paying for this thing and I’ve already cut out one commercial cluster…. Let him answer the question then.

Powell: Just two quick things. I don’t think we’ve been inconsistent. He says we do Janet Jackson but we let people say the F word. One of the most controversial decisions this year was we let Bono say the F word … I think we have been consisten across that line. Second what the order found on Viacom: Viacom is a big media conglomerate and it includes MTV and MTV produced the programming and it was our conclusion after investigating that it was not just a sort of passive…

Stern: Michael I know I’m going to get cut off. I absolutely don’t take this personally. I don’t think you personally hate me. I think that what you are doing is dangerous to free speech. I don’t think just against me. I think things have gotten way out of control. I am not personally vindictive. I’m happy to be going to satellite radio. I welcome the move. I think it’s a sad day, though, when the markeplace no longer determines what is indecent. I think that there’s tremendous hypocrisy that you allow late at night with teenagers calling into Love Line talking about blatant sexual acts. There’s a complete double standard here when it comes to me and morning radio when it’s probably the only time of day that parents listen with their children, 6 to 10 in the morning. I think there’s a lot of inconsistencies and I’m going to ask you while you’re still in office and, who knows, Bush’ll probably win and you’ll be there a while….

Owens: Awright, on that note, Howard, let me go…

Stern: Ronn, take a good look at this with the commissioner. Ask him about the billion dollars of computer equipment and he knows what they’re talking about. And good luck to Michael Powell and good luck to all of you.

[Stern is off]

Powell: Well, you know, I think it’s interesting. Howard has an argument and his argument is that there should be no limits on what he should be able to do on the radio. And if there are going to be limits, someone’s going to have to define them and someone’s going to have to enforce them.

Owens: He’s kind of the poster child, though. The truth is that you go to some major markets and there’s going to be some morning zoo that’s going to be worse.

Powell: Oh, I think, absolutely…

Earlier posts (not a complete list) here.

Boss blogs

Boss blogs

: Seth Godin gives good advice to CEOs wanting to jump on the blogging trend train:

Here’s the problem. Blogs work when they are based on:

Candor

Urgency

Timeliness

Pithiness and

Controversy

(maybe Utility if you want six).

Does this sound like a CEO to you?

Short and sweet, folks: If you can’t be at least four of the five things listed above, please don’t bother.

The same advice holds for big media blogs, advertiser blogs, brand blogs, PR blogs, politician blogs….

Blogs are the printing press of the people. The elite already have their press.

‘The lesser of two risks’

‘The lesser of two risks’

: Andrew Sullivan writes the endorsement he thought he’d never write: for John Kerry.

The phrase “lesser of two evils” often comes up at this time every four years, but this November, I think, it’s too cynical a formula. Neither George W. Bush nor John Kerry can be credibly described as “evils.” They have their faults, some of which are glaring. They are both second-tier politicians, thrust into the spotlight at a time when we desperately need those in the first circle of talent and vision. But they are not evil. When the papers carry pictures of 50 Iraqi recruits gunned down in a serried row, as Stalin and Hitler did to their enemies, we need have no doubt where the true evil lies. The question before us, first and foremost, is which candidate is best suited to confront this evil in the next four years. In other words: Who is the lesser of two risks?…

So we have two risks. We have the risk of continuing with a presidency of palpable incompetence and rigidity. And we have the risk of embarking on a new administration with a man whose record as a legislator inspires little confidence in his capacity to rise to the challenges ahead. Which is the greater one?…

This is how I, too, compute Kerry’s stand on the issues that matter most to me:

Kerry has said again and again that he will not hesitate to defend this country and go on the offensive against Al Qaeda. I see no reason whatsoever why he shouldn’t. What is there to gain from failure in this task? He knows that if he lets his guard down and if terrorists strike or succeed anywhere, he runs the risk of discrediting the Democrats as a party of national security for a generation. He has said quite clearly that he will not “cut and run” in Iraq. And the truth is: He cannot. There is no alternative to seeing the war through in Iraq.

Damn, I hope we’re right about that.

Pushing that evelope

Pushing that evelope

: Ana Marie Cox was just on FoxNews (again) and anchor David Asman asked her what’s hot on Wonkette today. Dangerous, Dave. She came back and said she quite liked a headline on CNN this morning: “Clinton pumps base from the stump.” Sly, evil grin. Nervous sweat.

Happy holidays

Happy holidays

ramadan.jpg: It probably shouldn’t have, but I have to say that seeing this billboard on I-78 on the way into work gave me a start. On the one hand, yeah, sure, it’s a sign of our multifaceted culture, our chunky stew, our steaming melting pot that we have a Ramadan billboard on the way to Newark airport. But then again, as unPC as this is to say, it is also a reminder that many who plotted the attacks on America live right here in New Jersey; the terrorists are our neighbors. Of course, I’m not saying that Muslims are terrorists. But terrorists are Muslims these days and they launched their attack on 9/11 only a stone’s throw from this billboard. And seeing this, I wondered what would happen if somebody put up a “Holy Easter” or “Blessed Passover” billboard in Baghdad or Riyad or Tehran or…. You get the idea. I suppose what I should do is look at this billboard and be thankful for living in this open, welcoming, tolerant, modern, protective, wise place and not in any of those….

Issues2004: 30 issues in 30 seconds

Issues2004: 30 issues in 30 seconds

: Fred Wilson quite properly busts me for dropping the Issues2004 ball. I dealt with the issues that mattered to me most (see the list on the right of the home page or follow this link) but intended to come back and at least touch on the rest. I didn’t. My bad. If you want a good and comprehensive discussion of many issues, see Brian Lehrer’s 30 Issues in 30 Days on WNYC). I have the time to give them only short shrift but here goes:

: Judicial appointments: Yes, Chief Justice Rhenquist having thyroid cancer brings this issue to the top of the heap. And it’s pretty obvious that judicial appointments are the biggest thorn in this tiger’s paw when it comes to thinking of voting for Bush. There are so many issues that matter to our daily lives that I do not want in the hands of a right-wing court — many having to do with strict interpretation (how’s that for spinning?) of the separation of church and state as it affects efforts to legislate one side’s morality regarding abortion, homosexuality, marriage, science, and religious freedom. This is the wisdom of the founding fathers; this is how they get us to think past just one issue. Ideology matters and it matters most for the Supreme Court. See Fred Wilson’s post today.

: The deficit: Yes, these are extraordinary times, with a downturn to deal with and a war on — and I mean the war on terrorism and Islamic fascists (take your rhetorical pick) more than just the war in Iraq. So it’s not easy to balance the budget. But we should at least try. And I don’t trust either guy on this. Bush cynically lowered taxes without responsibly cutting spending. Kerry has not made clear how he’ll pay for his promises. We need responsible budgeting especially now that we are intertwined with the world economy and we, the voters, need to start demanding it.

: Gay rights: For them. Period.

: Death penalty: Against it. Period.

: Freedom of speech: For it. Absolutely.

: Abortion rights: Leave it the way it is.

: Stem-cell research: It’s not abortion and efforts to tie this research to the abortion fight are cynical and ultimately destructive of important science that can save lives. Supporting this research is very much about maintaining a culture of life.

: Social Security: This isn’t a simple one-liner (well, none of them is). We need to reexamine what our national goal is: If it is to maintain a national pension scheme, then, yes, I see sense in allowing us to invest our own. If, on the other hand, it is to assure a safety net for our elders, which I certainly support, then we need to look at this as a tax funding an entitlement. We’re trying to mix the two now. This potato is too hot for any politician to handle. And so I say give it to the 9/11 Commission. No, I’m serious: Take a bunch of respected political yesterdays and make them grapple with it and come to consensus and fight for it so the politicians can blame them.

: Immigration: I don’t believe the rest of the world has an inalienable right to come here (hell, Canada gave me trouble about moving there once). That’s the way the world works. I also find efforts to give noncitizens local voting rights ridiculous; citizenship means something, damnit. Further, immigration is a security issue these days. So I’m not the most open regarding immigration and believe it is OK to judge immigration on two scales: humanity (allowing refugees to come, keeping families together) and self-interest (bringing in smart technicians and students is good for America). I also think we can’t keep on giving amnesties and neverminds, for then our immigration laws become meaningless. If the laws don’t work — and in many ways, they don’t — then we need to fix them and not work around them.

: Israel: I support Israel and its right to be a nation. Yes, I believe the world has a special obligation to assure the security of Jews after everything that happened in the last century. Though I may sympathize with the Palestinians’ right to have a nation, I abhor their tactics of terrorism — especially today — and so I do not believe we should deal with them until they stop murder for political gain.

: Gun control: The founding fathers didn’t say which arms. Yes, we must have controls on certain people and certain weapons and you can scream at me all day long — don’t bother — I will still say this. I am a First Amendment absolutist but I do think we can restrict people from yelling “fire” in a crowded theater or jeopardizing troops in war by giving their positions. Similarly, I understand the right granted by the Second Amendment but believe any reasonable soul has to agree that keeping weapons out of the hands of nuts and restricting weapons intended only for murder on a large scale is necessary. All others belong to the NRA.

: Trade: We’re part of the world and need to have open trade. There isn’t a lot of choice about that these days.

: The environment: Yes, it matters. But I also see too much thrown in under this PC tent. In my town, building ball fields becomes an environmental issue. I like the environment more than I like environmentalists.

: The draft and national service: No. Serving our country has many definitions and working for government, armed or unarmed, is only one of them.

So that’s my list. It’s short shrift, as I said, but in the interest of continuing the Issues2004 discussion…. join in….

How (not) to win friends and influence voters

How (not) to win friends and influence voters

: It wasn’t hard to guess what would happen when I wrote this post yesterday about what I think Bush should have done in his first term and what he could have done to win a landslide this time around.

Keep in mind that I’m a lifelong Democrat talking about how I might have voted

for Bush — even me, even Bush.

You might think that people would come in and convincingly try to push me over the edge. You might think that. But I didn’t.

Some — but not all — of the comments were vituperative and venemous; so were some of the links (get a load of this inane and infantile spit-sputtering).

That, sadly, is what is going on across America in this final week.

Now I’m not exactly an undecided voter, as I’ve made clear, but let me give some advice to both sides:

This is no way to win friends and influence undecideds.

And it is a failing of both sides. Whenever I said anything civil and respectful about Bush or supported the war in Iraq in the last year, I got self-appointed Democratic PC police coming after me with two-by-fours yelling that I wasn’t Democratic enough. Now I dare to say something critical about Bush and the execution of the aftermath in Iraq and I’m getting bashed from the other side.

The biggest lesson of this election — of all elections — is the same lesson for both sides:

Your guy is not perfect. Far from it.

So to defend him as if he were perfect and error-free lacks credibility for you and your side, whichever one that is.

If you think that the state of things in Iraq is good then I don’t trust your definition of “good.”

If you think that that the other guy is a decisive decision maker, then I don’t want to be around you when it’s time to decide what to order from the Chinese restaurant.

No, it’s far more credible and convincing to admit the errors of your guy’s ways and then say how he’s still better. I don’t mean to repeat the theme of my sermon last Sunday, but, heck, even God makes mistakes. So do politicians.

So I’d be much more comfortable if Bush and the Bushies said, yes, we didn’t anticipate the ability of the terrorists (the so-called insurgents, if you prefer) to disrupt Iraq and murder their own people and we need to change our assumptions and increase our resources and force to make sure we get this in hand. I’d be much more comfortable if Kerry and the Kerryites said, yes, we flip-flopped on this war but we’re there now and we need to assure we’ll bring peace and, you’re right, it was pretty damned dumb to say that we’d rely on the French and Germans and that we’d put it to a world test and — while we’re at it — that terrorism could ever be just a “nuisance.”

But instead, this is like an argument between Yankees and Red Sox fans who don’t want to convince the other side, they only want to yell.

And that’s fine for baseball. And it’s fine for blogs and comments and forums.

Except don’t forget: There are people you can convince. You have to try. You have to know how. And spitting in their faces while calling them idiots and insisting that your guy is perfect is no way to win an election.