By Mark Green
David Corn and Ron Christie debate the need for auto safety regulation on 50th of Unsafe at Any Speed (consensus yes) and for Net Neutrality (split decision). Also, do Bill-O's "war stories" matter since he's a) an influential public figure or b) a smug, blustery braggart as his business model?
On Regulation of Cars and Internet. When is regulation essential and when overreaching?
We hear special guest William Wallace of Consumer Reports describe the record number of recalls last year after the GM ignition switch scandal. Then both Corn and Christie agree it's essential to have minimum auto safety standards for all 50 states, even as each state can set its own speed limits.
But Ron objects to some detailed regs out of EPA that he maintains are hurting California during its drought; Corn and Host, however, support a strong EPA, signed into law by President Nixon, because pollution travels between states. Wallace and Corn go on to urge more staff and powers for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration since it has fewer inspectors for many more cars over 20 years and auto safety law doesn't criminally punish engineers and manger who knowingly sell defective cars, as Mother Jones exposed in its famous "exploding Pinto" articles 18 years ago.
Christie thinks that the FCC Net Neutrality rule is foolish government interference in the free market while David points out that a purely free market for this public utility would be very expensive to average citizens and firms once big service providers buy special access.
Host: But isn't the entire basis of antitrust law to not allow laissez faire theory to condone monopolistic or oligopolistic practices?
Also, GOP rants against "overregulation" and "overreach" are rhetorically convincing so long as they stay general but substantively silly as you get specific -- imagine the poll results if you asked parents, "should cars have proven safety standards built-in when your children ride in them?" And since Unsafe and the 1966 Auto Safety Act, the rate of death per-mile-driven has fallen by half, meaning there are nearly one million people alive today who would otherwise be dead. Now imagine if they knew who they were -- maybe you -- and formed a consumer lobby. That'd be pretty powerful, right?
On DHS funding. The new 114th GOP Congress wants to both show it can govern and mess up Obama. But what happens when those goals collide?
Ron defends House Republican who refuse to vote for DHS funding for a year or even three weeks until the bill monies for Obama's Immigration Executive Order because "it's unconstitutional." David doubts that but wonders why Republicans don't continue to fight that out in court rather than, as DHS; Secretary Michael Chertoff puts it, hold the agency "hostage" to the separate immigration issue.
Doesn't this GOP obstinance show a party unready for governance and help lock in the 3-1 Latino tilt to Democrats for another generation? Ron thinks that even if that were the political fallout, "it's a matter of upholding the rule of law."
On O'Reilly's Exaggerations/Misstatements. Our guest today IS the news since he co-authored a Mother Jones article last week questioning Bill O'Reilly's claims that he reported from a "War Zone" in the Falklands when in reality he was 1000 miles away covering a post-war riot.
Ron says he has no dog in this hunt but concludes that "David is not a 'lying guttersnipe'" and that '"he wouldn't report what he did if it weren't true." David notes that O'Reilly has yet to disprove one fact in his story and that while NBC Nightly has a standards division that led to Brian Williams's six month suspension for his admitted misstatement about getting shot at in Iraq, Fox has no standards. And MSNBC, often lumped together with Fox as mirror ideological cable channels, indeed did fire Martin Beshir and suspend Keith Obermann for perceived offenses.
In any event, is this a tempest in a teapot since, as Jon Stewart jokes, bloviating BS is what O'Reilly does? While David acknowledges that network anchors are held up to a higher standard than cable commentators, "let's at least hold O'Reilly up to his own standards that he's in the No-Spin Zone telling the truth" -- not to mention that he's a public figure with a significant political impact.
Host: Putting on my personal hat: Congratulations to Corn for further illuminating how Fox is a success at making money as a mouthpiece for the GOP but not a real news network.
Here's just one example. A few years ago I'm invited to go on The Factor around War-on-Xmas time aware of the box he'd try to put a Jewish liberal in. O'Reilly: "So Green, if you ban a nativity scene from a public place, what about Menorahs?" Green: "No religious symbol -- which includes a Menorah -- should be shown given the Separation of Church & State." The next night O'Reilly patronizingly says I'm a good guy but wrong to say no to a Crèche but yes to Menorah! I call his producer to ask for a retraction since I said the opposite. He refuses, explaining that "it's a matter of interpretation." This happened. And happens every night.
Mark Green is the creator and host of Both Sides Now.
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