Friday, February 11

Two Guns, ready to Fire

in the next week, California Senator Barbara Boxer plans to intoduce two "smoking gun" memos to Congress. One of which is apparently a leaked document written in January by an assistant of Karl Rove which states that "after 60 years we finally have our chance to [destroy] Social Security".

The second document is from a Neo-Conservative Thinktank and lays out a "Leninist" strategy for ending Social Security. That strategy involves ensuring that seniors are neutralized, by assurances that they will not be affected.

"I have a message for every American who is 55 or older: Do not let anyone mislead you. For you, the Social Security system will not change in any way." 2005 State of the Union.

The second involves establishing a coalition of banking and media interests who will work together to help sell the plan to the public.

Not that I find any of this a surprise. George W. Bush claimed in 1978 when he was a candidate for Congress that Social Security was going to run out of money in 1988. He was wrong then. He's wrong now, when he claims that unless we change the system the outgoing benefits will outstrip the incoming revenues for Social Security in 2018. Under his plan of diverting FICA taxes to personal accounts - the latest information is that this revenue deficit will begin even sooner, in 2012. This is not a plan to "fix" the system, far from it.

In his Budget Bush claims that he is cutting "programs that don't work". Really? Part of his cuts are to supplemental funds for our police and firedepartments. He's cut farm subsidies which help keep food prices low, as well as Section 8 housing support, the (Republican founded) Even Start program for ESL parents, Food stamps and far far more all the while making the previous tax cuts permenent and introducing even more cuts for person earning more than $200k per year.

It's clear that the long term goal is to fully implement that age-old neo-con adage of "Starving the Beast". In this view, the poor, infirm, young and old are considered barnicles on the side of our country and economy that need to be scraped off, and make us a far more lean and mean economic machine. Hardcore Libertarians believe that without the welfare state propping up the weaker members of our society, and keeping them in dependance - our populace will be forced to rise up in a outpouring of generousity and charity that will create a life that is better for all. They claim that "America is the most generous nation in the world" - despite the recent and clear evidence that many other nations in the world are more than willing and able to give to the needy victims of the Indonesian Tsunami than was America.

America is a generous nation indeed, however it remains an open question whether the existing infrastructure for secular and faith-based aid to the needy is anywhere near robust enough to handle the demand for those services. Common sense says that some people are going to fall through the cracks, and fall hard.

Could taking such hard-knocks and learning to stand on their own feet ultimately be better for them? That too, remains to be seen. In the long term, there may be some few benefits to a more austere approach to the "common good", but in the near term and forseeable future it's clear that the most vulnerable of us are being asked to pay the highest price for the war and for Bush precious tax cuts. The Bush Administration is not playing straight with the American people. Their goals are not what they claim, their true agenda remains hidden behind false platitudes and assurances. With majorities in both houses of congress, they may be able to rail-road these plans onto the American people even without the support of Democrats -- but I suspect this may prove to be a grave tactical error.

The poor and middle-class outnumber the rich. If the neo-con wing of the Republican Party continues to marginalize the desires of all but the hyper-rich, while the Democrats succeed in holding the line as their staunch defenders - even while losing the House and Senate votes implement these plans. They risk losing control of the House and Senate - possibly both - as well as the Presidency in 2008.

So, although it may seem odd, I am cheering Bush on. That's right - be as arrogant and two-faced as you can be Geedub. Let that electoral over-confidence guide you right off the cliff.
Me and most of America whose values include the tenent that "how we treat the least among us, is how we treat God", will be smiling when you and the other neo-cons finally hit bottom and are completely discredited, never to darken our elections again.


Thursday, February 10

Dailykos : The Propagannon Affair

From: The DailyKos Diarists
To: National Desk, Political Reporter
Contact : Brian Keeler at
RE: The Jeff Gannon Controversy - A Primer for the Press or Beginners

Feb. 10, 2005 - An unprecedented coalition of citizen DailyKos Diarists have recently investigated and uncovered important details regarding Talon News reporter, James "J.D." Guckert (AKA Jeff Gannon). These details, along with other information reported by Media Matters and other blog sites, have led to Mr. Guckert's resignation from his position as Washington Bureau Chief for Talon News yesterday amid a flurry of controversy.

Prompted by a Jan. 26 report by regarding Guckert's "softball" questions to White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan and President Bush, members of DailyKos, an online community, began investigating the matter.

The information discovered by this investigation was in the public domain, readily available to anyone with internet access. Much of the information was derived from Guckert's own sites which he published himself on the internet, or from comments he himself posted on various sites.

In his Talon News profile, Guckert claimed he had a degree in Education from the "Pennsylvania State University System." His only journalistic "experience" was attendance at the Leadership Institute Broadcast Journalism School. The Leadership Institute describes its mission as increasing "the number and effectiveness of conservative public policy leaders" and to "place conservative leaders in the public policy process." Guckert's "training" at the Leadership Institute was a two-day seminar, tuition for which was $50.

Despite his lack of journalistic experience, Guckert used an assumed name and was granted access to the elite White House Press Corps. His application for a press pass to the House and Senate galleries was rejected because Talon News shares ownership with and did not meet press pass standards. Yet somehow he was still given a daily press pass to White House Briefings for over two years.

In a press briefing on Feb. 10th, White House Press Secretary McClellan claimed that Guckert was granted White House access because he "showed that he was representing a news organization that published regularly." (emphasis added).

However, Talon News came into existence on March 29, 2003. It was granted White House Press Corps access just four days (approx. 96 hours) later. During that four-day time period, Talon News published a total of nine "stories."

During briefings, Guckert's questions frequently revealed not only his conservative bias, but also a possible coordination with White House Press Secretary McClellan. Guckert's questions were frequently leading, unabashedly partisan, and at times inflammatory. Moreover, Guckert apparently had unprecedented access, and even claimed at one point to be "entertaining the Prime Minister of Great Britain."

The researchers at DailyKos discovered another issue that suggested close coordination with the administration. According to the Washington Post, Guckert may have had access to a leaked internal CIA memo which revealed the identity of Ambassador Joe Wilson's wife, then an undercover CIA operative. In fact, because of his possible tie to the leak, Guckert was one of a small number to be subpoenaed to testify in the federal grand jury investigation into the matter.

The Guckert incident is part of a larger story involving attempts on the administration's part to "plant" friendly commentators and journalists in the media to advance their political agenda. In the last month, investigations have revealed that in addition to having an illegitimate conservative "reporter" in its Press Corps:

* The Bush Administration paid conservative commentator Armstrong Williams $240,000 to advocate the No Child Left Behind Act , even though previous to the payments, he was publicly critical of the policy. Williams has since admitted that "there are others" paid by the government to promote its agenda.

* The Bush Administration also paid conservative commentator Maggie Gallagher, who claims no credentials as a marriage expert, to promote its traditional marriage agenda.

Recently, in a letter to President Bush, Representative Louise M. Slaughter (NY-28) demanded an explanation, writing that "'Mr. Gannon' is a Republican political operative, uses a false name, has phony or questionable journalistic credentials, is known for plagiarizing much of the `news' he reports, and according to several web reports, may have ties to the promotion of the prostitution of military personnel." Rep. Slaughter asked the President to answer the critical question: "why the individual known as `Mr. Gannon' was repeatedly cleared by your staff to join the legitimate White House press corps?"

Additionally, Senator Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) has written a letter to White House Press Secretary McClellan, asking for the immediate release of all documents relating to Guckert's credentials. Senator Lautenberg, echoing the sentiment of many concerned citizens, has asked for an explanation of "how Mr. Guckert/Gannon passed muster for White House press credentials."

DailyKos is an online community, with over 40,000 members. Membership is free, and the site is one of the web's most popular political websites, with an average 470,000 hits per day. The research was conducted and this statement was released by DailyKos Diarists, not officially associated with Markos Moulitsas, but working with his full support.

The Sliney Incident.

Almost a smoking gun....

9/11 Report Cites Many Warnings About Hijackings, Bush Blocked Release

In the months before the Sept. 11 attacks, Federal Aviation Administration officials “reviewed dozens of intelligence reports that warned about Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, some of which specifically discussed airline hijackings and suicide operations, according to a previously undisclosed report from the 9/11 commission,” the New York Times reports. The report concludes that the F.A.A. did not see a need to increase air marshal ranks “because hijackings were seen as an overseas threat, and one aviation official told the commission said that airlines did not want to give up revenues by providing free seats to marshals.”

In 2001 the FAA distributed a CD-ROM presentation to airlines and airports that cited the possibility of a suicide hijacking, the report said. Previous commission documents have quoted the CD’s reassurance that “fortunately, we have no indication that any group is currently thinking in that direction.” The Bush administration has blocked full public release of the classified version of the report for more than five months. Though the administration did provided a declassified, 120-page version to the National Archives two weeks ago, it was heavily redacted in some areas.

It's rather interesting that this information- which until recently had been classified - was only released after the election and after the confirmation of Condoleeza Rice as Secretary of State. During her 9/11 testimony Dr. Rice claimed that "no one could have predicted" the use of American Airplanes as suicide missles, yet here we have proof that 52 reports of possible hijackings by Bin Laden had been circulated by the intellegence division of the FAA.

The original version of the 9/11 Commission report states the following:

The FAA ’s policy was to use intelligence to identify both specific plots and
general threats to civil aviation security,so that the agency could develop and
deploy appropriate countermeasures.The FAA ’s 40-person intelligence unit
was supposed to receive a broad range of intelligence data from the FBI,CIA,
and other agencies so that it could make assessments about the threat to avia ­
tion.But the large volume of data contained little pertaining to the presence
and activities of terrorists in the United States.For example,information on
the FBI ’s effort in 1998 to assess the potential use of flight training by terror ­
ists and the Phoenix electronic communication of 2001 warning of radical
Middle Easterners attending flight school were not passed to FAA headquarters. Several top FAA intelligence officials called the domestic threat picture a
serious blind spot.52

Moreover,the FAA ’s intelligence unit did not receive much attention from
the agency ’s leadership.Neither Administrator Jane Garvey nor her deputy routinely reviewed daily intelligence,and what they did see was screened for them.
She was unaware of a great amount of hijacking threat information from her
own intelligence unit,which,in turn,was not deeply involved in the agency ’s
policymaking process.Historically,decisive security action took place only after
a disaster had occurred or a specific plot had been discovered.53

It would seem on the surface fair to point out that in her position as National Security Advisor, Dr Rice should have been aware of these reports seeing as the source for the information gathered by the FAA intelligence unit was essentially a "roll-up" of data gathered by the CIA, FBI and other agencies such as the NSA. She clearly should have paid attention to Richard Clarke as it now seems very clear indeed that "The System was Blinking Red", even though FAA Administrator Garvey was not paying very close attention.

Furthermore, during her confirmation hearing she most certainly should have been aware of these reports, which remained classified until recently, with her level of security clearance. Timing the declassification of these documents was most fortuitous, for dodging the bullet on one single PDB and a vague "feeling of doom" that had been reported to pervade the summer of 01 is one thing - dodging 52 bullets is quite another and would have made her confirmation performance even more strained and torturous than it was. The Adminstration certainly "scored" on this one.

Once again, Bush :1 - America : 0.

In further support of this report, were 9/11 commission excerpts played today on the Randi Rhodes show of former FAA Hijack Coordinator Ben Sliney, whose first day of work in this sensitive post was on that fateful September morning of the 11th, 2001. On discovering the approach of an unidentified plane toward New York, Mr Sliney testified that rather than follow procedure and contact Norad himself - he instead contacted the Air Route Traffic Control Center, which in turn contacted Norad, who then called him to ask if he was requesting an intercept. He stated "I'm not asking for anything, just advising you of the situation". After further pressuring from Norad asking if he wanted to authorize an intercept, Sliney then stated he would call them back, conferred with some collegues to confirm that he indeed had the authority to request a military intercept and eventually, received this confirmation in order to have an intercept was dispatched.

Randi intimated that this delay - with took some minutes, possibly a dozen - in authorizing the fighters from NEADS was a crucial loss of time, but in fact the 9/11 Reports continues.
Military Notification and Response.
Boston Center did not follow the protocol in seeking military assistance through the prescribed chain of com ­ mand.In addition to notifications within the FAA,Boston Center took the initiative,at 8:34,to contact the military through the FAA ’s Cape Cod facility. The center also tried to contact a former alert site in Atlantic City,unaware it
had been phased out.At 8:37:52,Boston Center reached NEADS.This was
the first notification received by the military —at any level —that American 11
had been hijacked:115

FAA:Hi.Boston Center TMU [Traffic Management Unit ],we have a
problem here.We have a hijacked aircraft headed towards New York,
and we need you guys to,we need someone to scramble some F-16s
or something up there,help us out.
NEADS:Is this real-world or exercise?
FAA:No,this is not an exercise,not a test.

NEADS ordered to battle stations the two F-15 alert aircraft at Otis Air
Force Base in Falmouth,Massachusetts,153 miles away from NewYork City.
The air defense of America began with this call.

At NEADS,the report of the hijacking was relayed immediately to Battle
Commander Colonel Robert Marr.After ordering the Otis fighters to battle
stations,Colonel Marr phoned Major General Larry Arnold,commanding
general of the First Air Force and NORAD ’s Continental Region.Marr sought
authorization to scramble the Otis fighters.General Arnold later recalled
instructing Marr to “go ahead and scramble them,and we ’ll get authorities
later.”General Arnold then called NORAD headquarters to report.118
F-15 fighters were scrambled at 8:46 from Otis Air Force Base.But NEADS
did not know where to send the alert fighter aircraft,and the officer directing
the fighters pressed for more information:“I don ’t know where I ’m scrambling
these guys to.I need a direction,a destination.”Because the hijackers had
turned off the plane ’s transponder,NEADS personnel spent the next minutes
searching their radar scopes for the primary radar return.American 11 struck
the NorthTower at 8:46.Shortly after 8:50,while NEADS personnel were still
trying to locate the flight,word reached them that a plane had hit the World
Trade Center.

According the Sen Mark Dayton's statements during the Condoleeza Rice confirmation there were 62 successful intercepts of the "normal" type (where fighter planes are scambled to shadow and follow a no responsive aircraft), during 2001 prior to the 9/11 hijacking and over 100 such intercepts during 2000. "I'm tired of the lies" he stated in exasperation.

Under these circumstances, I can understand his frustration - but although Condoleeza may indeed be a liar and even a purjeror guilty of Contempt of Congress, it's not clear that the delay caused by Sliney's inexperience alone was the major factor in allowing American 11 or any of other flights to reach their targets, notwithstanding the alert actions of other FAA members at the Boston Center TMU.


Wednesday, February 9

Faux News : Fairly Unbalanced

Distorting FDR: Bennett and Hume claimed father of Social Security system wanted privatization

In an attempt to promote President Bush's plan to partially privatize Social Security, nationally syndicated radio host and former Reagan administration official William J. Bennett and FOX News managing editor and anchor Brit Hume falsely claimed that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt advocated replacing Social Security with private accounts. In fact, while Roosevelt advocated "voluntary contributory annuities" to supplement guaranteed Social Security benefits, he never proposed replacing those benefits with private accounts.

On the February 3 edition of FOX News' Hannity & Colmes, Bennett declared: "Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the guy who established Social Security, said that it would be good to have it replaced by private investment over time. Private investment would be the way to really carry this thing through."

Earlier that evening, on FOX News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Hume provided the alleged historical basis for Bennett's claim:

HUME: In a written statement to Congress in 1935, Roosevelt said that any Social Security plans should include, quote, "Voluntary contributory annuities, by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age," adding that government funding, quote, "ought to ultimately be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans."

But Roosevelt was not advocating that the present system of guaranteed Social Security benefits "ought to ultimately be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans." Rather, he was proposing that both mandatory contributions and voluntary annuities would eventually eliminate the need for a different fund which was established to provide pension benefits to Americans who were already too old in 1935 to contribute payroll taxes to the Social Security system.

Roosevelt outlined the three major tenets he envisioned for Social Security in the January 17, 1935, speech that Hume quoted. As the Social Security Administration (SSA) has noted, these tenets are: 1) "non-contributory old-age pensions for those who are now too old to build up their own insurance"; 2) "compulsory contributory annuities which in time will establish a self-supporting system for those now young and for future generations"; and 3) "voluntary contributory annuities by which individual initiative can increase the annual amounts received in old age."

The second element, "compulsory contributory annuities," is the backbone of Social Security's current system of guaranteed retirement benefits, which are funded with payroll taxes that employees pay throughout their working years. But it was the first element, a retirement benefit fund for those who would never pay into the new system due to advanced age, that Roosevelt said would eventually be "supplanted" -- or made unnecessary -- by both voluntary annuities and compulsory contributions like those in the current system. In his January 17, 1935, speech, he noted: "It is proposed that the Federal Government assume one-half of the cost of the [non-contributory] old-age pension plan [the other half coming from the states], which ought ultimately to be supplanted by self-supporting annuity plans." As the SSA noted, "It was the President's view ... that ultimately the welfare pensions funded by the states with federal contributions would become unnecessary as the two programs of annuities would gradually come to obviate any need for such welfare type programs."

During 1935 congressional hearings on Roosevelt's Social Security bill, Edwin Witte, executive director of the Committee on Economic Security (CES), clearly stated that the voluntary accounts were intended as a "separate undertaking" meant to "supplement" the compulsory system, not replace it: "The voluntary system of old-age annuities we suggest as a supplement to the compulsory plan." Further, voluntary annuities would be "similar to those issued by commercial insurance companies" -- as Witte explained -- but they would differ from private accounts in that their funds would be deposited into and paid out of the Social Security trust fund, and they would provide a government-guaranteed benefit like mandatory contributions. Prominent contemporary Democrats support Roosevelt's idea of supplemental government-sponsored investment accounts that are paid for by non-Social Security funds, although unlike Roosevelt's plan, these accounts would not be linked to the trust fund.*

Former Social Security associate commissioner James Roosevelt Jr., Roosevelt's grandson, noted in a January 31 Boston Globe op-ed piece: "The implication that FDR would support privatization of America's greatest national program is an attempt to deceive the American people and an outrage."

Monday, February 7

Family Values :Alan Keyes Styley!

Alan Keyes: Conservative Compassion

Alan Keyes' daughter is coming out of the closet.
Featuring Maya Marcel-Keyes, daughter of Alan Keyes and a self-described young queer anarchist who grew up in Darnestown, MD. Maya is speaking publicly for the first time about LGBT issues.

Maya Marcel Keyes, the self-described queer activist who is also daughter of ultra-conservative Alan Keyes, whose recent campaign for senator from Illinois included his calling Mary Cheney a “hedonist.” Maya group up in Montgomery County and will certainly have some interesting things to say about living with someone who is so outspoken in his opposition to gay rights.

Now, if we could just get her Dad to run for President while condemning his daughter (now he's got something in common with Dick Cheney besides radical right wing beliefs!)

UPDATE: Her blog is back, and it looks like Keyes kicked her out of the house...

A couple days ago I got my official two-week warning that I have to be out of this apartment; so finally for real I'm getting cut off. I got no severance or anything like that from my sudden termination of employment (don't I have freedom of speech? the right to protest Bush without losing my job? Hehe... most people would think that working under a parent would be security but for me it's quite the opposite.) and so I definitely don't have anywhere near enough cash to find a new apartment; not even one room rented from someone anywhere. I've been searching craigslist but even places where I'd have enough to pay the first month's rent on some room I never have enough for the deposit as well, so so far I've had no luck at all finding a new home, since shelter requires money. Sad boo.

Finally, a recall for a "questionable" Secretary of State

OLYMPIA, Wash. – Starting at 9 a.m. in Olympia, Wash., Monday, a Thurston County Superior Court judge hears arguments on whether a petition to recall Secretary of State Sam Reed can move forward.

Some Republicans accuse him of wrongly certifying the election of Democrat Governor Gregoire, but Reed says he was simply following the state constitution.

For a happy-go-lucky guy who hates conflict, Reed finds himself the lightning rod for Washington’s endless Election from Hell.

Reed is the state’s chief elections officer—and the screwiest election in state history happened on his watch. So he’s been sued in the courts, vilified by longtime friends in his own party, and made the subject of a recall attempt.

His office got so many nasty and threatening phone calls and e-mail during the three vote tallies for governor that security guards were posted and caller ID was ordered for all of the office phone lines. Death threats—both political and physical—were received.

At one time or another, both major parties have publicly skinned the moderate Republican alive for supposed boneheadedness and mishandling of the election.

Reed’s not looking for sympathy, but says it’s grueling to be in the hotseat: “I admit I am getting weary of it.”

And the roiling controversy over the election for governor could stretch on into the summer.

In Wenatchee—Reed’s hometown—a Chelan County judge is hearing an unprecedented legal contest in which Republican Dino Rossi seeks to set aside the 2004 election for governor and authorize a revote. The judge said Friday that he had no authority to order a new election.

The main guy in the cross-hairs: Sam Sumner Reed.

And back across the mountains in his adopted home of Olympia, a Thurston County judge on Monday will decide whether a citizen effort to oust him can proceed.

Recounting the recount

Reed, a mild-mannered centrist, shakes his head at being caught up in a political whirlwind—for the past year really.

“By temperament, I am not a preacher of controversy. I’m not one who enjoys conflict,” he says.

But Reed has found it impossible to dodge all the bullets. One year ago this month, the U.S. Supreme Court refused Reed’s last-gasp effort to save the state’s popular “blanket” primary that allowed voters to pick their favorite for every office, regardless of the candidate’s party label.

Reed became the foremost advocate for the closest thing he could find to the blanket primary, a “Top 2” system that advances the two top vote-getters to the general election, possibly representing the same party.

Since that dilutes the parties’ power, both Democrats and Republicans blasted Reed, and advocated a system of separate party primaries where voters must restrict themselves to one party’s action.

Through creative use of his veto pen, Gov. Gary Locke gave the parties what they wanted, and Reed lost the battle. Reed had to implement a widely criticized new primary last September, and ironically drew flak from those who thought it was his bright idea.

But Reed had the last laugh—and drew more brickbats from party activists—when the voters approved a Reed-backed initiative to create a Top 2 primary.

Meanwhile, Reed weathered a tough re-election challenge and, together with Land Commissioner Doug Sutherland, became the state’s senior GOP statewide elected official.

He had no time to celebrate either his own victory or that of the Top 2 initiative, since he was immediately sucked into the vortex of the gubernatorial tally that stretched until just before Christmas.

Rossi won the first count by 261 votes out of 2.9 million cast, and a machine recount was mandatory under state law. Rossi won again, by an astonishingly close 42 votes. Democrats then ordered up a hand recount and Christine Gregoire pulled ahead for the first time.

Throughout this, Reed was assailed at various times by both sides—and hauled to court, twice clear to the state Supreme Court.

Democrats were furious when he refused to order all counties to recanvass their rejected ballots and when he criticized party efforts to chase down voters with problem ballots. Republicans were irate when he agreed with Democrats that hundreds of previously uncounted ballots should be tallied in Gregoire-leaning King County but that other counties couldn’t reopen the tallies they had already certified.

Reed won both court challenges.

But what really frosted Republicans was when he certified Gregoire’s victory on Dec. 23. The Rossi camp said there were hundreds of late-breaking examples of illegal votes by felons and dead people, and provisional ballots that were illegally tallied without being properly checked.

Reed certified the returns from the 39 counties, setting in motion Gregoire’s inauguration, giving her an important psychological edge in the election contest that Rossi eventually filed.

By now, Reed was the Democrats’ darling and the Republicans’ goat. He was excoriated on talk radio, denounced at a public rally at the Capitol, and snubbed by some GOP legislators.

Eventually, the angst blossomed into a rare recall movement.

Mixed reaction

Few seem to be on the fence where Reed is concerned. He has drawn high praise from the state’s newspapers, who call him evenhanded and cool-headed, scrupulously apolitical.

His party has always had mixed feelings about Reed. A charter member of the small moderate-to-liberal Dan Evans wing of the party, he has been a pro-choice progressive leader of Mainstream Republicans, chiding his party for veering too far to the right.

Couple that with his position on the Top 2 primary and he already had baggage heading into the election mess, says state GOP Chairman Chris Vance, who at times was furious with Reed. Some legislative Republicans say Reed might not even win the GOP nomination if the election were held today. (Reed says he’s already mending fences.)

Democrats, ironically, are his most vocal defenders these days.

“He is one of the few heroes in this whole thing,” says Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish. “We all had fears of him being Katherine Harris, but he’s been doing great.”

Independent pollster Stuart Elway says Reed is getting “constant cannonade from inside the fort” of his own party, but seems well-liked by the general public.

But Reed also has heard from longtime supporters who think he deliberately sold the party down the river, giving Gregoire every break while certifying an election that is too flawed to definitively produce a winner. Some say they’ll never support him again.

With the megaphone of talk radio, web sites and blogs, critic Martin Ringhofer is launching the recall effort. Ringhofer, who works for Boeing and has homes in Seattle and Soap Lake, says Reed failed in myriad ways to conduct a legitimate election and should be ousted.

“It’s not a personal thing,” Ringhofer says. “I like him. I voted for him. But what happened here is inexcusable.”

If the court allows the recall to proceed, Ringhofer will need well over 600,000 voter signatures to force a new vote on Reed’s election.

Reed doesn’t seem worried. “Obviously, people have a right to do this,” he says. “I feel in many ways that our system worked well, considering that this was an absolutely unprecedented race that ended up with the closest margin in the history of the nation. But it also provided us lessons about where the warts and shortcoming are.”

A matter of Fairness

The Fairness Doctrine
How we lost it, and why we need it back

Extra! January/February 2005

By Steve Rendall

A license permits broadcasting, but the licensee has no constitutional right to be the one who holds the license or to monopolize a...frequency to the exclusion of his fellow citizens. There is nothing in the First Amendment which prevents the Government from requiring a licensee to share his frequency with others.... It is the right of the viewers and listeners, not the right of the broadcasters, which is paramount.

— U.S. Supreme Court, upholding the constitutionality of the Fairness Doctrine in Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC, 1969.

When the Sinclair Broadcast Group retreated from pre-election plans to force its 62 television stations to preempt prime-time programming in favor of airing the blatantly anti–John Kerry documentary Stolen Honor: Wounds that Never Heal, the reversal wasn’t triggered by a concern for fairness: Sinclair back-pedaled because its stock was tanking. The staunchly conservative broadcaster’s plan had provoked calls for sponsor boycotts, and Wall Street saw a company that was putting politics ahead of profits. Sinclair’s stock declined by nearly 17 percent before the company announced it would air a somewhat more balanced news program in place of the documentary (Baltimore Sun, 10/24/04).

But if fairness mattered little to Sinclair, the news that a corporation that controlled more TV licenses than any other could put the publicly owned airwaves to partisan use sparked discussion of fairness across the board, from media democracy activists to television industry executives.

Variety (10/25/04) underlined industry concerns in a report suggesting that Sinclair’s partisanship was making other broadcasters nervous by fueling “anti-consolidation forces” and efforts to bring back the FCC’s defunct Fairness Doctrine:

Sinclair could even put the Fairness Doctrine back in play, a rule established in 1949 to require that the networks—all three of them—air all sides of issues. The doctrine was abandoned in the 1980s with the proliferation of cable, leaving citizens with little recourse over broadcasters that misuse the public airwaves, except to oppose the renewal of licenses.

The Sinclair controversy brought discussion of the Fairness Doctrine back to news columns (Baltimore Sun, 10/24/04; L.A. Times, 10/24/04) and opinion pages (Portland Press Herald, 10/24/04; Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 10/22/04) across the country. Legal Times (11/15/04) weighed in with an in-depth essay headlined: “A Question of Fair Air Play: Can Current Remedies for Media Bias Handle Threats Like Sinclair’s Aborted Anti-Kerry Program?”

Sinclair’s history of one-sided editorializing and right-wing water-carrying, which long preceded its Stolen Honor ploy (Extra!, 11–12/04), puts it in the company of political talk radio, where right-wing opinion is the rule, locally and nationally. Together, they are part of a growing trend that sees movement conservatives and Republican partisans using the publicly owned airwaves as a political megaphone—one that goes largely unanswered by any regular opposing perspective. It’s an imbalance that begs for a remedy.

A short history of fairness

The necessity for the Fairness Doctrine, according to proponents, arises from the fact that there are many fewer broadcast licenses than people who would like to have them. Unlike publishing, where the tools of the trade are in more or less endless supply, broadcasting licenses are limited by the finite number of available frequencies. Thus, as trustees of a scarce public resource, licensees accept certain public interest obligations in exchange for the exclusive use of limited public airwaves. One such obligation was the Fairness Doctrine, which was meant to ensure that a variety of views, beyond those of the licensees and those they favored, were heard on the airwaves. (Since cable’s infrastructure is privately owned and cable channels can, in theory, be endlessly multiplied, the FCC does not put public interest requirements on that medium.)

The Fairness Doctrine had two basic elements: It required broadcasters to devote some of their airtime to discussing controversial matters of public interest, and to air contrasting views regarding those matters. Stations were given wide latitude as to how to provide contrasting views: It could be done through news segments, public affairs shows or editorials.

Formally adopted as an FCC rule in 1949 and repealed in 1987 by Ronald Reagan’s pro-broadcaster FCC, the doctrine can be traced back to the early days of broadcast regulation.

Early on, legislators wrestled over competing visions of the future of radio: Should it be commercial or non-commercial? There was even a proposal by the U.S. Navy to control the new technology. The debate included early arguments about how to address the public interest, as well as fears about the awesome power conferred on a handful of licensees.


American thought and American politics will be largely at the mercy of those who operate these stations, for publicity is the most powerful weapon that can be wielded in a republic. And when such a weapon is placed in the hands of one person, or a single selfish group is permitted to either tacitly or otherwise acquire ownership or dominate these broadcasting stations throughout the country, then woe be to those who dare to differ with them. It will be impossible to compete with them in reaching the ears of the American people.

— Rep. Luther Johnson (D.-Texas), in the debate that preceded the Radio Act of 1927 (KPFA, 1/16/03)


In the Radio Act of 1927, Congress mandated the FCC’s forerunner, the Federal Radio Commission (FRC), to grant broadcasting licenses in such a manner as to ensure that licensees served the “public convenience, interest or necessity.”

As former FCC commissioner Nicholas Johnson pointed out (California Lawyer, 8/88), it was in that spirit that the FRC, in 1928, first gave words to a policy formulation that would become known as the Fairness Doctrine, calling for broadcasters to show “due regard for the opinions of others.” In 1949, the FCC adopted the doctrine as a formal rule (FCC, Report on Editorializing by Broadcast Licensees, 1949).

In 1959 Congress amended the Communications Act of 1934 to enshrine the Fairness Doctrine into law, rewriting Chapter 315(a) to read: “A broadcast licensee shall afford reasonable opportunity for discussion of conflicting views on matters of public importance.”


It is the purpose of the First Amendment to preserve an uninhibited marketplace of ideas in which truth will ultimately prevail, rather than to countenance monopolization of that market, whether it be by the government itself or a private licensee. It is the right of the public to receive suitable access to social, political, esthetic, moral and other ideas and experiences which is crucial here. That right may not constitutionally be abridged either by Congress or by the FCC.

— U.S. Supreme Court, Red Lion Broadcasting Co. v. FCC, 1969.

A decade later the United States Supreme Court upheld the doctrine’s constitutionality in Red Lion Broadcast-ing Co. v. FCC (1969), foreshadowing a decade in which the FCC would view the Fairness Doctrine as a guiding principle, calling it “the single most important requirement of operation in the public interest—the sine qua non for grant of a renewal of license” (FCC Fairness Report, 1974).

How it worked

There are many misconceptions about the Fairness Doctrine. For instance, it did not require that each program be internally balanced, nor did it mandate equal time for opposing points of view. And it didn’t require that the balance of a station’s program lineup be anything like 50/50.

Nor, as Rush Limbaugh has repeatedly claimed, was the Fairness Doctrine all that stood between conservative talkshow hosts and the dominance they would attain after the doctrine’s repeal. In fact, not one Fairness Doctrine decision issued by the FCC had ever concerned itself with talkshows. Indeed, the talkshow format was born and flourished while the doctrine was in operation. Before the doctrine was repealed, right-wing hosts frequently dominated talkshow schedules, even in liberal cities, but none was ever muzzled (The Way Things Aren’t, Rendall et al., 1995). The Fairness Doctrine simply prohibited stations from broadcasting from a single perspective, day after day, without presenting opposing views.

In answer to charges, put forward in the Red Lion case, that the doctrine violated broadcasters’ First Amendment free speech rights because the government was exerting editorial control, Supreme Court Justice Byron White wrote: “There is no sanctuary in the First Amendment for unlimited private censorship operating in a medium not open to all.” In a Washington Post column (1/31/94), the Media Access Project (MAP), a telecommunications law firm that supports the Fairness Doctrine, addressed the First Amendment issue: “The Supreme Court unanimously found [the Fairness Doctrine] advances First Amendment values. It safeguards the public’s right to be informed on issues affecting our democracy, while also balancing broadcasters’ rights to the broadest possible editorial discretion.”

Indeed, when it was in place, citizen groups used the Fairness Doctrine as a tool to expand speech and debate. For instance, it prevented stations from allowing only one side to be heard on ballot measures. Over the years, it had been supported by grassroots groups across the political spectrum, including the ACLU, National Rifle Association and the right-wing Accuracy In Media.

Typically, when an individual or citizens group complained to a station about imbalance, the station would set aside time for an on-air response for the omitted perspective: “Reasonable opportunity for presentation of opposing points of view,” was the relevant phrase. If a station disagreed with the complaint, feeling that an adequate range of views had already been presented, the decision would be appealed to the FCC for a judgment.

According to Andrew Jay Schwartzman, president of MAP, scheduling response time was based on time of day, frequency and duration of the original perspective. “If one view received a lot of coverage in primetime,” Schwartzman told Extra!, “then at least some response time would have to be in primetime. Likewise if one side received many short spots or really long spots.” But the remedy did not amount to equal time; the ratio of airtime between the original perspective and the response “could be as much as five to one,” said Schwartzman.

As a guarantor of balance and inclusion, the Fairness Doctrine was no panacea. It was somewhat vague, and depended on the vigilance of listeners and viewers to notice imbalance. But its value, beyond the occasional remedies it provided, was in its codification of the principle that broadcasters had a responsibility to present a range of views on controversial issues.

The doctrine’s demise

From the 1920s through the ’70s, the history of the Fairness Doctrine paints a picture of public servants wrestling with how to maintain some public interest standards in the operation of publicly owned—but corporate-dominated—airwaves. Things were about to change.

The 1980s brought the Reagan Revolution, with its army of anti-regulatory extremists; not least among these was Reagan’s new FCC chair, Mark S. Fowler. Formerly a broadcast industry lawyer, Fowler earned his reputation as “the James Watt of the FCC” by sneering at the notion that broadcasters had a unique role or bore special responsibilities to ensure democratic discourse (California Lawyer, 8/88). It was all nonsense, said Fowler (L.A. Times, 5/1/03): “The perception of broadcasters as community trustees should be replaced by a view of broadcasters as marketplace participants.” To Fowler, television was “just another appliance—it’s a toaster with pictures,” and he seemed to endorse total deregulation (Washington Post, 2/6/83): “We’ve got to look beyond the conventional wisdom that we must somehow regulate this box.”

Of course, Fowler and associates didn’t favor total deregulation: Without licensing, the airwaves would descend into chaos as many broadcasters competed for the same frequencies, a situation that would mean ruin for the traditional corporate broadcasters they were so close to. But regulation for the public good rather than corporate convenience was deemed suspect.

Fowler vowed to see the Fairness Doctrine repealed, and though he would depart the commission a few months before the goal was realized, he worked assiduously at setting the stage for the doctrine’s demise.

He and his like-minded commissioners, a majority of whom had been appointed by President Ronald Reagan, argued that the doctrine violated broadcasters’ First Amendment free speech rights by giving government a measure of editorial control over stations. Moreover, rather than increase debate and discussion of controversial issues, they argued, the doctrine actually chilled debate, because stations feared demands for response time and possible challenges to broadcast licenses (though only one license was ever revoked in a dispute involving the Fairness Doctrine— California Lawyer, 8/88).

The FCC stopped enforcing the doctrine in the mid-’80s, well before it formally revoked it. As much as the commission majority wanted to repeal the doctrine outright, there was one hurdle that stood between them and their goal: Congress’ 1959 amendment to the Communications Act had made the doctrine law.

Help would come in the form of a controversial 1986 legal decision by Judge Robert Bork and then-Judge Antonin Scalia, both Reagan appointees on the D.C. Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals. Their 2–1 opinion avoided the constitutional issue altogether, and simply declared that Congress had not actually made the doctrine into a law. Wrote Bork: “We do not believe that language adopted in 1959 made the Fairness Doctrine a binding statutory obligation,” because, he said, the doctrine was imposed “under,” not “by” the Communications Act of 1934 (Califor-nia Lawyer, 8/88). Bork held that the 1959 amendment established that the FCC could apply the doctrine, but was not obliged to do so—that keeping the rule or scuttling it was simply a matter of FCC discretion.

“The decision contravened 25 years of FCC holdings that the doctrine had been put into law in 1959,” according to MAP. But it signaled the end of the Fairness Doctrine, which was repealed in 1987 by the FCC under new chair Dennis R. Patrick, a lawyer and Reagan White House aide.

A year after the doctrine’s repeal, writing in California Lawyer(8/88), former FCC commissioner Johnson summed up the fight to bring back the Fairness Doctrine as “a struggle for nothing less than possession of the First Amendment: Who gets to have and express opinions in America.” Though a bill before Congress to reinstate the doctrine passed overwhelmingly later that year, it failed to override Reagan’s veto. Another attempt to resurrect the doctrine in 1991 ran out of steam when President George H.W. Bush threatened another veto.

Where things stand

What has changed since the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine? Is there more coverage of controversial issues of public importance? “Since the demise of the Fairness Doctrine we have had much less coverage of issues,” says MAP’s Schwartzman, adding that television news and public affairs programming has decreased locally and nationally. According to a study conducted by MAP and the Benton Foundation, 25 percent of broadcast stations no longer offer any local news or public affairs programming at all (Federal Com-munications Law Journal, 5/03).

The most extreme change has been in the immense volume of unanswered conservative opinion heard on the airwaves, especially on talk radio. Nationally, virtually all of the leading political talkshow hosts are right-wingers: Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Michael Savage, Oliver North, G. Gordon Liddy, Bill O’Reilly and Michael Reagan, to name just a few. The same goes for local talkshows. One product of the post-Fairness era is the conservative “Hot Talk” format, featuring one right-wing host after another and little else. Disney-owned KSFO in liberal San Francisco is one such station (Extra!, 3–4/95). Some towns have two.

When Edward Monks, a lawyer in Eugene, Oregon, studied the two commercial talk stations in his town (Eugene Register-Guard, 6/30/02), he found “80 hours per week, more than 4,000 hours per year, programmed for Republican and conservative talk shows, without a single second programmed for a Democratic or liberal perspective.” Observing that Eugene (a generally progressive town) was “fairly representative,” Monks concluded: “Political opinions expressed on talk radio are approaching the level of uniformity that would normally be achieved only in a totalitarian society. There is nothing fair, balanced or democratic about it.”

Bringing back fairness?

For citizens who value media democracy and the public interest, broadcast regulation of our publicly owned airwaves has reached a low-water mark. In his new book, Crimes Against Nature, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. probes the failure of broadcasters to cover the environment, writing, “The FCC’s pro-industry, anti-regulatory philosophy has effectively ended the right of access to broadcast television by any but the moneyed interests.”

According to TV Week(11/30/04), a coalition of broadcast giants is currently pondering a legal assault on the Supreme Court’s Red Lion decision. “Media General and a coalition of major TV network owners—NBC Universal, News Corp. and Viacom—made clear that they are seriously considering an attack on Red Lion as part of an industry challenge to an appellate court decision scrapping FCC media ownership deregulation earlier this year.”

Considering the many looming problems facing media democracy advocates, Extra! asked MAP’s Schwartzman why activists should still be concerned about the Fairness Doctrine.
What has not changed since 1987 is that over-the-air broadcasting remains the most powerful force affecting public opinion, especially on local issues; as public trustees, broadcasters ought to be insuring that they inform the public, not inflame them. That’s why we need a Fairness Doctrine. It’s not a universal solution. It’s not a substitute for reform or for diversity of ownership. It’s simply a mechanism to address the most extreme kinds of broadcast abuse.

Republicans Question Social Security Plan

Republicans Question Social Security Plan

Fri Feb 4, 8:02 AM ET

By LAURA MECKLER, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Congressional Republicans are expressing doubt that President Bush (news - web sites)'s plan for personal accounts in Social Security (news - web sites) can win approval, saying lawmakers fear the political consequences of voting major change to the popular retirement program.

Some suggested that Bush jettison the central feature of his plan, which is to let younger workers divert part of their Social Security payroll taxes to private retirement accounts.

"Politically speaking, right now it's probably not doable," Sen. Pete Domenici (news, bio, voting record), R-N.M., said Thursday, citing lack of Democratic support.

"We should take this year to study the issue and come up with solutions," said Sen. Susan Collins (news, bio, voting record), R-Maine. She said there was no consensus for action now and that she had not made up her own mind.

Her Maine colleague, Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe (news, bio, voting record), has said outright that she opposes diverting the program's taxes to pay for personal accounts. Snowe serves on the Senate Finance Committee that would handle any Social Security legislation, making the task before Republicans more daunting.

Not a single Senate Democrat has endorsed Bush's proposal.

That stands in stark contrast to legislation cutting taxes, setting new standards in education and adding prescription drugs to Medicare. In each of these cases, the president had at least one prominent Democrat on board early.

Under Senate rules, supporters would need 60 votes for their plan if Democrats try to block it. That means proponents would have to persuade at least a few Democrats to join them if the plan is to become law.

That was partly the reason behind a two-day tour to five states that Bush began Thursday to sell his Social Security program. Each state is represented in the Senate by at least one Democrat who GOP strategists believe might back the president's proposal.

"Now is the time to put partisanship aside and focus on saving Social Security for young workers," Bush said in Fargo, N.D.

Bush wants to let workers divert up to two-thirds of their Social Security taxes into private accounts that they could invest in stocks and bonds. At the same time, the guaranteed benefit would be cut, though by how much is not clear.

Many Democrats favor personal accounts, but want them in addition to benefits paid by Social Security.

Bush's proposal is also stirring worry in the House, where Republicans have often fallen in behind his programs.

"I've talked to some of my colleagues and they're panic-stricken," said Rep. Mark Foley (news, bio, voting record), R-Fla., who said he welcomes a serious debate over the sweeping changes Bush outlined in his State of the Union address Wednesday.

Two House Republicans with years of expertise on Social Security offered an alternate plan, saying the Bush proposal was too risky politically. They suggested bolstering the program with money from general revenues rather than the payroll tax.

"I think politically it's the most salable. It's not going to scare anybody," said Florida Rep. Clay Shaw, who for six years was chairman of the House Ways and Means subcommittee on Social Security. "It does preserve Social Security as it is today. If we're going to attract some Democrats, that's the way to go."

The subcommittee's current chairman, GOP Rep. James McCrery of Louisiana, said taking money out of the existing Social Security system for private accounts gives a powerful argument to the plan's opponents, including the 35 million-member AARP, which represents older Americans.

"The AARP and the Democrats think if you divert some money from the trust fund," the existing program will be undermined, McCrery said. "That is true on its face. It does decrease the level of the trust fund. Politically, that's going to be a very strong tool that (opponents) can use to defeat a plan."

McCrery and Shaw said in separate interviews that, like Bush, they want to create personal accounts. But they said they favor paying for them with general revenue, which probably would mean borrowing the money.

In that case, they said, taxes collected for Social Security would be left alone to pay for traditional program benefits.

Sen. Rick Santorum (news, bio, voting record), the No. 3 Republican in the Senate, acknowledged the dissent over Bush's plan but said it should diminish as members of Congress learn more.

"We have a lot of work to do, not just among the American people, but in our own caucus," said Santorum, R-Pa.

Rep. Jack Kingston (news, bio, voting record), R-Ga., who serves in the House leadership, appeared less worried. He said he left a GOP retreat last week convinced members were "enthusiastic about taking on a challenge and giving it a good honest effort."


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Sunday, February 6

More of that ole Liberal Media Bias

ABC's Assist to Campus Conservatives

Were censorship stories too good to check?

Action Alert (2/3/05)

On February 1, ABC's World News Tonight offered an uncritical platform to
conservatives who complain that their free speech is being curtailed on
college campuses across the country.

ABC anchor Charles Gibson introduced the segment by saying that
conservatives "claim they are victims of a double standard on college
campuses," and seemed to boost that notion by saying, "There certainly is
evidence to suggest that colleges are bastions of liberal thinking.
Seventy-two percent of faculty members in one survey identified themselves
as left of center."

ABC correspondent Dan Harris ran down a series of examples to back up this
storyline, beginning with a community college that wouldn't allow a
screening of the movie "Passion of the Christ" because it had an R rating.
Harris went next to a soundbite from David French of the Foundation for
Individual Rights in Education: "You're going to get more political and
intellectual diversity at your average suburban mega-church than you are
at an elite university." Harris prefaced that statement by calling
French's group "non-partisan," seemingly an attempt to make an obviously
ideological soundbite seem less so.

Harris then moved on to Columbia University, "where Jewish students
complain about harassment from pro-Palestinian professors." ABC included
a clip from a documentary that makes a series of claims about allegedly
anti-Israel professors, but made no attempt to balance that with a source
who might challenge the arguments advanced in the documentary. The New
York Civil Liberties Union, for example, has concluded that "the major
academic-freedom problem arising out of the current Columbia controversy
is that a film produced by a Boston-based advocacy group has provoked
public officials and others to demand the punishment of certain identified
Columbia professors based largely on the ideological positions that these
professors have advanced in their writings and lectures." (NYCLU letter to
Village Voice, 2/2/05)

In a segment purportedly about free speech threats, ABC might have noted
these issues, which include death threats against pro-Palestinian
professors and the cancellation of at least one class because the teacher
thought its criticisms of Israel might be too controversial. That
Columbia instructor, Joseph Massad, has also publicly challenged the
accuracy of charges made against him in the documentary. Including these
aspects would have complicated the simple story ABC seemed to want to
tell, however.

Harris also cited another case popular on right-wing websites: As he put
it, this one happened at "Foothills College, where this freshman says he
was told to get psychotherapy after refusing to write an essay criticizing
the U.S. Constitution." The student, Ahmad Al-Qloushi, then appeared on
ABC and said, "I was attacked and intimidated because I love America."

ABC apparently felt no need to check Al-Qloushi's claim-- an unusual
journalistic decision, given that he is making a serious charge against a
specific instructor. The network might have at least discovered that the
name of the college is Foothill Junior College, not Foothills, as it is
called on many right-wing websites that have taken up Al-Qloushi's cause.
ABC might also have done well to examine Al-Qloushi's essay, which is
available on the Internet (he did not "refuse to write" it, as Harris
mistakenly reports). The essay is unresponsive to the assignment-- an
examination of a book which argues that the U.S. Constitution reflected
the elite interests of those who wrote it. Even conservative blogger
James Joyner (Outside the Beltway, 1/16/05), after reviewing Al-Qloushi's
work, called it "an incredibly poorly written, error-ridden,
pabulum-filled essay that essentially ignores the question put forth by
the instructor." "I'd have given the exam a failing grade, too," wrote
Joyner, who edits the journal Strategic Insights at the Naval Postgraduate

It appeared that an attempt to balance these perspectives would come from
former university president Robert O'Neil. Harris reported that O'Neil
"says conservative students may be trying to protect themselves from ideas
they don't like." But O'Neil's soundbite fed ABC's storyline: "I think
there's a sense that, well, liberals have had their way and they've
advanced their views for quite some time. There should be balance."

Actually, "balance" is not a major principle in academia, where professors
are supposed to be chosen for the excellence of their scholarship, not for
their ideological views. But it is a professed value of journalism, which
makes this an odd comment by Harris:

"Many academics say conservatives are blowing a few isolated incidents way
out of proportion in order to launch a McCarthyesque witch hunt, which is
designed to intimidate professors, limit academic freedom and promote a
sort of affirmative action for conservative professors."

If "many academics" are saying this, why weren't they included in the
report, rather than being paraphrased by the correspondent? If ABC did
not want to give the professors attacked a chance to respond, the network
was at least obligated to check the accuracy of the stories the students
were telling-- and note that the full story was more complicated.

Contact ABC and ask them why their report on conservative
complaints about free speech infringement did not evaluate the validity of
those complaints, and did not offer any experts who might challenge those

ABC World News Tonight
Phone: 212-456-4040