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Updated: 4 days 2 hours ago

Rightwing 'Legal' Blogger Digs Deep to Find Reason to Defend Scofflaw Nevada Rancher

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 14:21

Republicanist attorney John Hinderaker of the silly, hyper-partisan, rightwing PowerLine blog has always been more than happy to offer "legal" arguments to support whatever Rightwing nonsense his tribe would like to hear. When he's unable to come up with an actual legal argument, he's also happy to just type words to let the tribe know he's still on their side...even when the law isn't.

Commenting Monday night on the weekend's Bundy Ranch idiocy --- in which a scofflaw Nevada rancher who says he doesn't "recognize [the] United States government as even existing", has refused for the last twenty years to pay grazing fees for the use of public lands, as all other ranchers do --- Hinderaker admits that, "legally, Bundy doesn't have a leg to stand on."

Nonetheless, the Republican lawyer/blogger twists and turns to argue, "you should be sympathetic toward" ranch owner Cliven Bundy anyway. The reason for that sympathy takes some explaining, and some pretty impressive gymnastics to result in Hinderaker's final, rather laughable, argument for it.

Hinderaker must be desperate to get himself onto the non-RINO right flank of the Rightwing "FakeTriots" who rode in to southern NV last week with big manly guns a-blazin', but who, notably, did not ride in to the rescue when actual Big Government tyranny was actually cracking down on the public's right to occupy public spaces --- when the government actually used extraordinary violence to crush peaceful First Amendment-protected protests all around the country.

Neither does he, nor they, seem to give a damn when Big Government intrudes on the Constitutionally protected rights of women to privately take care of their own bodies; nor for the rights of millions of legal voters to freely cast their votes; nor for the rights of homeowners who've gone bankrupt and/or lost their homes thanks to Big Government-abetted crimes of gigantic, lawless, Wall Street corporations.

But what's most amusing about Hinderaker's article, in which he desperately (and transparently) attempts to get on the right side of folks he knows are wrong, but who are on his own political team, is that by the end of his article, he's finally figured out how to blame Big Bad Barack Obama and Harry Reid and, I guess, Liberalism or something for all the woes that Bundy is facing brought on himself. That, instead of calling out the rancher for his lack of personal responsibility in disobeying long-settled law, all while enjoying the Big Government welfare of "free" cattle grazing lands.

To do this, Hinderaker offers a pretend argument that the federal government isn't necessarily against development on public lands --- only certain types of development...

"It is obvious that some activities are favored by the Obama administration's BLM [Bureau of Land Management], and others are disfavored. The favored developments include solar and wind projects," Hinderaker charges with pretty much zero evidence to support his claim.

(The tortured tie to "solar and wind projects" refers to a failed Chinese-backed solar project, supported by Reid, over a 100 miles to the north of Bundy's property and offered up by partisans as a reason for the federal "land grab" that isn't a land grab at all. It's a creation of Alex Jones Productions, of course, and one helped along big time over the weekend with an above-the-fold goose from Matt Drudge.)

Hinderaker is smart enough to reject the alleged federal "land grab" plot out of hand, though he nonetheless works hard to place it back at the center of a nefarious Big Government scheme --- by hook or by crook if he has to.

"Wind and solar energy survive only by virtue of federal subsidies," Hinderaker continues with a straight face, while failing to mention the massive mining and drilling operations allowed by the federal government on the very same public lands in exchange for little or no royalties to the American people, from whom such private corporations take those valuable, finite, publicly-owned resources.

Ranchers, on the other hand, ask nothing of the federal government, he claims, while forgetting to mention the cut-rate government prices that ranchers enjoy for the use of thousands of square miles of grazing land.

Bundy, of course, doesn't think he should have to pay anything to use federal public lands. Yet he, unlike those welfare queens relying on the federal government to avoid things like death and starvation and stuff, should be the recipient of great sympathy, says the twisting Hinderaker at PowerLine.

"So let's have some sympathy for Cliven Bundy and his family," he writes in happy conclusion. "Their way of life is one that, frankly, is on the outs. They don't develop apps. They don't ask for food stamps. It probably has never occurred to them to bribe a politician. They don't subsist by virtue of government subsidies..."

Um, wait. Full stop. What?! They "don't subsist by virtue of government subsidies"?! Other than free access to grazing lands for Bundy's herd that Hinderaker feels we should have sympathy for?! (And which doesn't even take into account the hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage to people and property that his cattle are said to have caused over the years --- all for free?!)

Look. People should be free to carry out whatever legal business they like --- even if its on land stolen centuries ago from Native Americans, as is the case with "Bundy's" land. But to pretend that the millions of dollars of use of federal land (at either the discounted federal rate or for free, as in this instance) is not a government subsidy, is just as disingenuous as, well, pretty much everything I've ever seen written at PowerLine over the past decade. So, I guess, nothing new. Just newly stupid. And newly reaching as far as possible to the Rightward-lurching Rightwing fringe of his own party, in hopes of courting their good favor.

This is only gonna get stupider, I'm afraid, and bloodier, thanks to the tacit encouragement by wingnut tools like Hinderaker who don't have the courage to call out his own fellow wingnuts when they are blatantly wrong.

Categories: Brad Blog

Every Sunday Network News Show Failed to Mention U.S. Senate's CIA Torture Report Findings

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 17:39

Late last week, the twenty conclusions of the U.S. Senate's report on the Bush-era's secret CIA torture and detention program was leaked and published by McClatchy.

As we noted on Friday, when we also published the report's disturbing conclusions [PDF], the 6,600-page study, based on first-hand CIA documentation, reveals massive illegalities and war crimes by everyone from CIA contractors to agents to higher level officials at that agency and others.

The report is said to detail wide-spread crimes that are not only in violation of U.S. law, but also international laws which our nation has an obligation to enforce, thanks to treaties we have long been a party to. And, if we don't enforce those laws and hold the criminals accountable for lawlessness such as torture, all the rest of the nations signed on to such treaties along with us, such as the UN Convention against Torture, have a legal obligation to do so.

The prohibition against torture under that treaty is absolute for all nations. "No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture," according to Article 2 of the treaty.

All of that comes on the heels of revelations that the CIA itself had used the computers of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee in an attempt to sabotage the committee's report.

Yet, with a report that important and a story that big, not a single U.S. network "news" show on Sunday found the time to even mention the report. Not NBC's Meet the Press with David Gregory, not ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos, not CBS' Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer, not Fox "News" Sunday with Chris Wallace.

On Friday, we mentioned that the U.S. Senators who recently voted to release 500 redacted pages of the report (we're still waiting on the White House to take action to redact and release it), argue that release is necessary to avoid this country ever going down this same path again.

We opined in response that "only actual prosecution will deter that eventuality", that "As long as those who committed such vile and abhorrent crimes are not actually held accountable, all of this will almost certainly be repeated in the future," (by both us and other nations) and that "if we fail to prosecute, we will also have little ground to hold other rogue countries accountable for the same crimes in the future."

The fact that the twenty, very beasy-to-read bullet point conclusions from the U.S. Senate report, which has been years in the making --- as based on first-hand documentation of the crimes --- were released last week, and not even mentioned once on any of the four major Sunday network news shows underscores our point. The release of data is all well and good. But it's only when the perpetators start being frog-marched to jail that the mainstream corporate media --- and, thus, the American public --- will begin to give a damn about one of the darkest moments in this nation's history.

As of now, at least if Sunday is any indication, evidence suggests that the MSM doesn't give a damn. Therefore, neither will the American people. Thus, we are destined to repeat this abhorrent chapter and, once again, like so many shameful chapters in our recent past, the corporate mainstream media themselves will have played a lead role in helping to make sure that happens.

Categories: Brad Blog

Leaked Findings of Senate Report on 'CIA Torture and Detention' Detail Illegalities, Incompetence, Endangerment of National Security, War Crimes

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 21:03

The leaked release [PDF] of the conclusions from the long-researched and much-debated U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee's still-unreleased 6,600-page report on the CIA's Bush-era secret detention and enhanced interrogation torture program reveals illegalities by the agency that include lying to Congress (and potentially the White House), the leaking of classified material and the misleading of federal investigators at both the CIA Inspector General's office as well as the Dept. of Justice.

The conclusions allege that the conditions for imprisonment and the torture that often accompanied it were "brutal and far worse than the agency communicated to policymakers." But that's not all.

The report finds the CIA was incompetent in their handling of the program, endangered national security in the process, and appears to have committed international war crimes. There is also the small fact that the interrogation techniques used by the CIA failed to reveal any actual intelligence and, as the report concludes, "damaged the United States' global reputation, and came with heavy costs, both monetary and non­-monetary."

Other than that, the program worked great!

It's little wonder then that the CIA has gone to such lengths --- including spying on and attempting to sabotage the work being done by the Senate committee itself since 2008 --- to try and cover it all up. It's also little wonder that one of the program's most ardent supporters, Dick Cheney, has been working so hard to lie about it all for so many years. If you were likely a war criminal, wouldn't you do the same thing?

What may be considered more of an outstanding question is why the Obama Administration decided that it was okay to not prosecute the perpetrators of the blatant and broad swath of U.S. and international crimes detailed in the report as having been allegedly carried out by the CIA, its agents, its contractors, and any number of other high-ranking federal officials who knew about some or all of it.

The Senate Intel Committee has voted to release about 500 pages of the report, though those pages must be first redacted and then released by the White House (which may have its own complicity in a number of the crimes detailed.) The Senators have argued that the release is necessary to avoid this country ever going down this path again. But, in truth, only actual prosecution will deter that eventuality. As long as those who committed such vile and abhorrent crimes are not actually held accountable, all of this will almost certainly be repeated in the future.

Furthermore, if we fail to prosecute, we will also have little ground to hold other rogue countries accountable for the same crimes in the future.

The report should be released in full, even if it must be leaked to the media, and the perpetrators of the crimes detailed within should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. If the U.S. won't do that, other countries are obligated to try and do so themselves under treaties that both they and we are a party to.

The twenty bullet point findings from the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee's report, as leaked to McClatchy, which released them on Friday, follow in full below...

The Committee's complete list of findings follows.

- The CIA's use of enhanced interrogation techniques did not effectively assist the agency in acquiring intelligence or in gaining cooperation from detainees.

- The CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information to the Department of Justice, impeding a proper legal analysis of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program.

- The CIA subjected detainees to interrogation techniques that had not been approved by the Department of Justice or had not been authorized by CIA Headquarters.

- The CIA did not conduct a comprehensive or accurate accounting of the number of individuals it detained and held individuals who did not meet the legal standard for detention. The CIA's claims about the number of detainees held and subjected to its enhanced interrogation techniques were inaccurate.

- The CIA inaccurately characterized the effectiveness of the enhanced interrogation techniques to justify their use.

- The CIA's use of enhanced interrogation techniques was brutal and far worse than the agency communicated to policymakers.

- The conditions of confinement for CIA detainees were brutal and far worse than the agency communicated to policymakers.

- The CIA impeded effective White House oversight and decision-making.

- The CIA has actively avoided or impeded congressional oversight of the program.

- The CIA impeded oversight by the CIA's Office of Inspector General.

- Numerous internal critiques and objections concerning the CIA's management and use of the Detention and Interrogation were ignored.

- The CIA manipulated the media by coordinating the release of classified information, which inaccurately portrayed the effectiveness of the agency's enhanced interrogation techniques.

- The CIA was unprepared as it began operating its Detention and Interrogation Program more than six months after being granted detention authorities.

- The way in which the CIA operated and managed the program complicated, and in some cases hindered the national security missions of other Executive Branch agencies.

- Management of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program was deeply flawed throughout its duration, particularly so in 2002 and 2003.

- Two contract psychologists devised the CIA's enhanced interrogation techniques and were central figures in the program's operation. By 2005, the CIA had overwhelmingly outsourced operations related to the program.

- The effectiveness of the enhanced interrogation techniques was not sufficiently evaluated by the CIA.

- CIA personnel who were responsible for serious violations, inappropriate behavior, or management failures in the program's operation were seldom reprimanded or held accountable by the agency.

- The CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program ended by 2006 due to legal and oversight concerns, unauthorized press disclosures and reduced cooperation from other nations.

- The CIA's Detention and Interrogation Program damaged the United States' global reputation, and came with heavy costs, both monetary and non­-monetary.

PDF version of the leaked conclusions from the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report.

Categories: Brad Blog

Bloomberg: NSA Knew About, Exploited Open Source Heartbleed Bug for Years

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 17:03

Seriously, dudes?...

The U.S. National Security Agency knew for at least two years about a flaw in the way that many websites send sensitive information, now dubbed the Heartbleed bug, and regularly used it to gather critical intelligence, two people familiar with the matter said.

The NSA's decision to keep the bug secret in pursuit of national security interests threatens to renew the rancorous debate over the role of the government's top computer experts.

Heartbleed appears to be one of the biggest glitches in the Internet's history, a flaw in the basic security of as many as two-thirds of the world's websites. Its discovery and the creation of a fix by researchers five days ago prompted consumers to change their passwords, the Canadian government to suspend electronic tax filing and computer companies including Cisco Systems Inc. to Juniper Networks Inc. to provide patches for their systems.

So the NSA knew about this massive security flaw, one of the biggest in the history of the Internet, and rather than warning about the security vulnerability to all Americans, exploited it, instead.

While I can't say I'm particularly surprised by this, I can say, I'm infuriated by it.

If it wasn't before, the NSA has now become a complete joke. What part of "national security" is unclear to the National Security Agency, for chrissakes?!!

* * *

For an additional take on the Heartbleed bug as it pertains to electronic and Internet voting systems (For example, how the fact that this huge flaw in open source software was not discovered for years, underscoring the fact that open source is little more than a panacea when it comes to the foolhardy use of computers in elections, and how this bug should end all talk of Internet Voting forever) please listen to my rant during this week's BradCast, beginning approximately at the :31 minute mark.

Categories: Brad Blog

Free Health Clinic in Arkansas to Close Doors Due to Lack of Customers Thanks to 'Obamacare'

Fri, 04/11/2014 - 14:43

Thanks, Obama. Looks like he's killing yet another "business" with his so-called "health care reform".

We all (well, those who don't watch Fox "News" exclusively, anyway) remember the shamefully long lines of Americans showing up at free health clinics, whenever and wherever they were set up around the country, trying to get much-needed health care in the days before the Affordable Care Act (ACA, or "Obamacare") became the law of the land.

Now that the ACA is underway and millions of Americans who could not get health care before are able to receive it, the days of the free clinic in the USA may be coming to an end.

That's what's happening to the 9th Street Mission Clinic in Mena, Arkansas, in any case, where the Director of that charitable outlet has announced that, thanks to "Obamacare", the number of clients at the once bustling clinic have dwindled to almost nothing.

"Because people are qualifying for insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, our free medical clinic will not be needed anymore," the clinic's Director, Stacey Bowser RN, told The Mena Star. "We've gone from seeing around 300 people a month on a regular basis, but as people were enrolling in Obamacare, the numbers we were seeing have dropped. We were down to 80 people that came through the medical clinic in February, all the way down to three people at the medical clinic in March. Our services won't be needed anymore, and this will conclude our mission."

The paper reports that "the free medical clinic at 9th Street Ministries was started to reach out to those who could not qualify for Medicaid or Medicare, and did not have any other health insurance policy."

"There was such a need for many years that we would have people coming through the medical clinic from the time the doors opened early in the morning all the way until 4:00 in the afternoon," Bowser said about the clinic where a crew of 25 to 30 volunteers was said to always been on hand to meet the needs of those without health care in rural Polk County.

"This complete dropoff of numbers of people coming to the clinic is a result of all those who have successfully enrolled in an insurance policy now," she said.

After being open since 1998, the clinic's final day of operation will be April 24th. "Obamacare" is clearly destroying America as we know it.

[Hat-tip Daily Kos via TPM.]

Categories: Brad Blog

'Green News Report' - April 10, 2014

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 17:42


IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Rightwing Heartland Institute says 'climate change will be good for you!'; Russia threatens to cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine, Europe; PLUS: Attack of the Tumbleweeds! (No, really!)... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

Please help us connect the climate change dots over your public airwaves!

Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

Link: Embed:

Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at

IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Could El Nino take the edge off of CA drought?; Austism 'triggered in womb' by environmental factors; CA salmon hitch a ride to the ocean; NC sides with Duke Energy over coal ash dumps; Restoring the CO River Delta, if only for a few weeks; Weather-related blackouts have doubled since 2003 ... PLUS: Uncharted territory: highest CO2 levels in 800,000 years ... and much, MUCH more! ...


'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

  • Carbon Dioxide Levels Climb Into Uncharted Territory for Humans (Mashable):
    The amount of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere has exceeded 402 parts per million (ppm) during the past two days of observations, which is higher than at any time in at least the past 800,000 years, according to readings from monitoring equipment on a mountaintop in Hawaii.
    Once emitted, a single molecule of carbon dioxide can remain aloft for hundreds of years, which means that the effects of today's industrial activities will be felt for the next several centuries, if not thousands of years.
  • VIDEO: Could El Nino Take the Edge off California’s Drought? (Climate Crocks)
  • Autism Triggered in the Womb by ‘Environmental Factors’ (Environment News Service)
  • Weather-Related Blackouts Doubled Since 2003: Report (Climate Central)
  • In California, Salmon Hitch a Ride to the Sea (BusinessWeek) [emphasis added]:
    Convoys of four to seven tanker trucks, each bearing 130,000 silvery 3-inch smolts, leave a federal hatchery 180 miles north of San Francisco for a sloshy, three-hour drive to San Pablo Bay, where they’re held in netted pens to acclimate them to the chilly water before release. In all, 12 million juvenile fish will make the trip from the federal hatchery plus 18 million from four hatcheries owned by the state. They’ll return to California’s (hopefully replenished) rivers as adults to spawn.
    “Our 2016 fishing season may be riding on the survival of the fish in these trucks.”
  • North Carolina regulator sides with Duke Energy to appeal court ruling on coal ash dumps (Bloomberg)
  • Will Nuclear Subsidies Derail a Renewable Europe? (Climate Crocks):
    Climate deniers often claim to be against subsidies that “pick winners” among different energy options. They are often conspicuously silent when those subsidies go to the nuclear industry. History has shown that nuclear power cannot exist without massive infusions of public money, and guarantees of profit from taxpayers and ratepayers. The danger is, this energy is so expensive it may crowd out other options.
  • Obama Unveils New Wildfire Strategy Citing New Risks Posed By Climate Change (Climate Progress):
    The strategy addresses factors exacerbating wildfire danger such as climate change, increasing community sprawl, and pests and disease affecting forest health. It calls for adopting preventive measures, such as: fuels thinning and controlled burns; promoting effective municipal, county, and state building and zoning codes and ordinances; ensuring that watersheds, transportation, and utility corridors are part of future management plans; and determining how organizations can best work together to reduce and manage human-caused ignitions.
  • Waters to flood part of Colorado River for just a few weeks: (NPR):
    Millions of gallons of water used to flow every day from the Rocky Mountains to the Gulf of California. Now, the Colorado River ends at Morelos Dam on the U.S.-Mexico border. Below it, one of North America's largest wetlands is dry.
  • Why the fossil fuel industry wants us to ignore risk (Renew Economy):
    [Renewable energy] technology is having a massive impact on incumbent industries, perhaps more than any climate policy might have done in such a short period. The fossil fuel industry understands this - which is why they are so desperate to take such technologies out of the market...

FOR MORE on Climate Science and Climate Change, go to our Green News Report: Essential Background Page

  • Skeptical Science: Database with FULL DEBUNKING of ALL Climate Science Denier Myths
  • Warning: Even in the best-case scenario, climate change will kick our asses (Grist)
  • NASA Video: Warming over the last 130 years, and into the next 100 years:

  • Categories: Brad Blog

    FCC, 'McCutcheon', Guns, Knives, (No) Internet Voting and Racial Discrimination: KPFK 'BradCast'

    Wed, 04/09/2014 - 23:34

    This week's KPFK/Pacifica Radio BradCast is chocked full of important news and insightful analysis that actually matters and that you simply won't hear anywhere else.

    Among the items covered on the show this week:

    And all of that in less than an hour! That oughta hold ya until next week!

    Download MP3 or listen online below...
    [See post to listen to audio]

    * * *

    P.S. While you're listening, please consider donating to The BRAD BLOG so we can continue to afford to keep bringing you this kind of news, programming, journalism and analysis. We really need your support these days to keep going. Thanks in advance!

    Categories: Brad Blog

    LIVE STREAM: The BRAD BLOG's Desi Doyen Guest Hosts 'The Young Turks' LIVE!

    Tue, 04/08/2014 - 16:50
    if (window.document.getElementById('post-9385')) window.document.getElementById('post-9385').parentNode.className += ' adhesive_post';

    Desi Doyen of The BRAD BLOG's Green News Report is guest hosting on The Young Turks LIVE right now.

    LIVE FEED HERE (6-8p ET / 3-5p PT)...

    Categories: Brad Blog

    'Green News Report' - April 8, 2014

    Tue, 04/08/2014 - 16:02


    IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Study finds CNN and Fox 'News' FAIL on climate change; CNN looks for missing plane, finds an ocean full of garbage; PLUS: Energy company to pay record fine for 85 years of toxic waste dumping and they couldn't be happier about it... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

    Please help us connect the climate change dots over your public airwaves!

    Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

    Link: Embed:

    Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at

    IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): GOP climate skeptic's on-air conversion in Showtime's 'Years of Living Dangerously'; Waters to flood part of CO River for just a few weeks; Final chapter of IPCC report to be published this week; Low-tech 'living fences' drastically reduce lion killings; Another oil spill on public lands ... PLUS: Scientists Focus on Polar Waters As Threat of Acidification Grows ... and much, MUCH more! ...


    'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

    FOR MORE on Climate Science and Climate Change, go to our Green News Report: Essential Background Page

  • Skeptical Science: Database with FULL DEBUNKING of ALL Climate Science Denier Myths
  • Warning: Even in the best-case scenario, climate change will kick our asses (Grist)
  • NASA Video: Warming over the last 130 years, and into the next 100 years:

  • Categories: Brad Blog

    NJ's Chris Christie Proposes Tax and Spend 'Sin Tax' on E-Cigs, Gets Blasted by NJ Paper

    Mon, 04/07/2014 - 15:37

    There are a number of reasons why it's difficult to stomach the claim that New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie is concerned about "public health". His newest proposal for a pricey new excise tax on e-cigs is just one of them.

    In 2010, Christie slashed $7.5 million --- virtually all of the state's investment --- in smoking prevention and cessation support from the state's "Comprehensive Tobacco Control Program". As a result, the American Lung Association (ALA) now ranks NJ as 50th in the nation on this issue, recently noting, they are "the only state in the country to provide no state funding" for such programs.

    Christie's gutting of the state's once-robust program has resulted in an "F" grade from the ALA on both "Tobacco Prevention" and "Cessation Coverage", leading them to write: "This lack of funding to help tobacco users quit is a stark contradiction with New Jersey's high tax rate of $2.70 per pack generating over $700 million each year in revenues."

    Thus, it's all the more absurd to hear the "fiscally conservative" Christie administration now calling for a massive new "sin tax" on e-cigarettes, which are known to be a far safer alternative to smoking, since "vaping" includes none of the deadly toxins, such as tar and carbon monoxide, found in combustible tobacco.

    But "conservative" hypocrisy aside, what makes Christie's new tax and spend plan even more absurd is that his state Treasurer is now claiming their "main concern is public health."

    Really? The NJ Star-Ledger editorial board --- which endorsed Christie's re-election last year (though they came to regret it after Christie's "BridgeGate" scandal emerged) --- ain't buying it...

    In an editorial today, the board blasted Christie and his administration's purported reasons for taxing e-cigs at the same rate as deadly cigarettes...

    "Our main concern is public health," [the state treasurer] said.

    Excuse our skepticism, but Christie cut $7.5 million from the state's anti-smoking programs in 2010, and since then the state has spent little to nothing on smoking cessation and education programs. No doubt another main concern is the governor's budget: Christie anticipates $35 million in revenue from this tax.

    But do we even know that e-cigarettes are a threat to public health?

    The Federal Food and Drug Administration has not yet evaluated them for safety or effectiveness, or issued regulations. All we know is that they can be less addictive than cigarettes, and lack the added tar and toxins. Many researchers say that nicotine alone is not a serious health hazard - that it's the deadly tar in conventional cigarettes that kills you. E-cigarette users avoid that by inhaling a nicotine-laced vapor, which is why it's called "vaping."

    Studies show this is at least as effective as nicotine patches in helping people quit smoking - the single largest cause of preventable death in our country, killing about 480,000 people a year.

    So there's a real, life-saving benefit to e-cigarettes, which may greatly outweigh any risks. If these gadgets are not known to be an enemy to public health, and may in fact be hugely beneficial, why tax them like cigarettes?

    I've spent no small amount of time plowing through all manner of scientific studies in relation to e-cigs over the past year or so (since quitting my own decades-long habit overnight, thanks to the public health miracle of vaping!) and I've noted on the pages of late that the reporting in the mainstream corporate media has been largely terrible on this issue to date. See this absurdity from the New York Times in late March, by way of just one example.

    But the Star-Ledger's editorial has it mostly right here. (The one exception being their claim that e-cigs "can be less addictive than cigarettes." I'm not sure where that data point comes from, and I'd be surprised if that was the case for all but those who choose to vape e-liquid containing 0% nicotine.)

    Making it more difficult --- or, in this case, more expensive --- for smokers to quit smoking with the use of e-cigs is a deadly idea, as I've noted on a number of recent occasions, such as last month when the L.A. City Council shamefully voted unanimously to ban their use in public spaces, as if they were cigarettes, or as the Minnesota state legislature has recently been considering a similar deadly ban.

    The former president of the American Lung Association has called such bans on e-cigs "misguided" and "a public health disservice."

    So the Star-Ledger editorial's conclusion, then, seems right on the money:

    Taxing e-cigs as if they were cigarettes only makes them less attractive to smokers who want to switch. And if the Christie administration's true concern is public health, that should be reason enough not to.
    Categories: Brad Blog

    Federal Judge Orders TX to Produce Legislative Docs That May Prove Polling Place Photo ID Restriction Law Was Racially-Motivated

    Mon, 04/07/2014 - 08:35

    Just over a week ago, it was North Carolina legislators ordered by the court to cough up documentation relating to passage of new, draconian restrictions on voting rights in their state. Now, legislators in Texas are facing much the same thing, as that state's extreme polling place Photo ID restrictions also face legal and Constitutional challenge.

    By way of an eight-page Order [PDF] issued late last week, U.S. District Court Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos has directed the State of Texas to serve upon the U.S. Department of Justice (DoJ) documents that relate to the question of whether "state legislators, contrary to their public pronouncements, acted with discriminatory intent in enacting SB 14," the Lone Star State's polling place Photo ID restriction law.

    That law had previously been found to be discriminatory against minority voters in TX, and thus rejected by both the DoJ and a federal court panel as a violation of the Voting Rights Act (VRA). It was then re-enacted by the state of Texas almost immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted a central provision of the VRA in the summer of 2013.

    As reported by The BRAD BLOG last September, the DoJ, and Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX), filed separate federal lawsuits (now consolidated into a single case, Veasey v. Perry) in which they allege that the Photo ID law enacted by the Texas legislature (SB 14) violates another section of the VRA, Section 2, as well as the U.S. Constitution.

    The documents in question, created by Republican officials and lawmakers, which must now be turned over to the court, may shed light on the actual intent of those officials in enacting the restrictive voting law...

    The DoJ's case cites previous findings made by the unanimous three-judge, U.S. District Court panel in Washington D.C., which had denied the state's request that it preclear SB 14 under Section 5 of the VRA. In that previous case, the court found: "Undisputed record evidence demonstrates that racial minorities in Texas are disproportionately likely to live in poverty and, because SB 14 will weigh more heavily on the poor, the law will likely have retrogressive effect" on their right to vote.

    When rejecting the law as discriminatory under Section 5 in 2012, the DoJ had determined [PDF], as based on the state's own statistics, that the law would have disproportionately disenfranchised registered Hispanic voters in the state. They found that registered Hispanics are anywhere from 46% to 120% more likely than non-Hispanics to lack the type of state-issued Photo ID that would now be required to vote under SB 14's restrictions.

    The new DoJ complaint also alleges that the Lone Star State's Photo ID law is part of a desperate, racially motivated attempt by state Republicans to cling to power in the face of demographic changes that will --- if accompanied by unobstructed, small-"d" democratic access to the polls --- reduce white voters in Texas, and with them, the TX GOP, to (ironically enough) minority status.

    As the DoJ explained in a supplement [PDF] to its motion to compel the release of documentation relating to legislative deliberation before enactment of the law, Texas refused to turn over a wide array of relevant documents, including "numerous communications concerning SB 14 and prior photographic voter identification proposals amongst Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, Speaker Joe Straus, Senator Troy Fraser (Senate sponsor of SB 14), Representative Patricia Harless (House sponsor of SB 14), and their top aides."

    Texas Republicans asserted that they could conceal such evidence because of what they claim to be an "absolute" legislative privilege --- this despite numerous cases in which courts have not only held otherwise, but have relied upon such things as emails between legislators as evidence of discriminatory intent, according to the DoJ filing.

    Federal judges, in this case, and in the pending federal challenge to North Carolina's massive election "reform" bill have now both rejected the effort by Republicans to hide documentary evidence of discriminatory intent behind a shield of "absolute" legislative privilege.

    As occurred in the North Carolina case, Judge Gonzales recognized the existence of a "qualified" legislative privilege to protect such documents from being released. The question as to whether documents must be produced is arrived at by applying a five-part test: "(1) the relevance of the evidence sought to be protected; (2) the availability of other evidence; (3) the seriousness of the litigation and the issues involved; (4) the role of the government in the litigation; and (5) the possibility of future timidity by government employees who will be forced to recognize that their secrets are violable."

    That five-part test weighs the need for confidentiality amongst legislators and their aides against the need to eliminate "racial discrimination in voting --- the bedrock of this country's democratic system of government," as described by Ramos in her ruling.

    The court found that factors one through four all weighed in favor of disclosure, with three of the five strongly favoring disclosure.

    The evidence the United States seeks to compel is highly relevant to its claim because it bears directly on whether state legislators, contrary to their public pronouncements, acted with discriminatory intent in enacting SB 14. The federal government’s interest in enforcing voting rights statutes is, without question, highly important...Further, the state government’s role is direct. The motive and intent of the state legislature when it enacted SB 14 is the crux of this Voting Rights Act case.

    The court ruled that individual state legislators and the Texas Legislative Council (TLC) are not parties to this lawsuit. Therefore, any records they had not already placed in the possession of the state of Texas must be obtained by a subpoena, as opposed to a notice to produce. The court also ruled that 54 members of the state legislature have already waived their qualified legislative privilege.

    In order to limit the degree of intrusion, however, the court declined "to fully pierce the legislative privilege at this point by authorizing complete and public disclosure." Instead, the court ordered that the documents be produced to the DoJ "under seal," with the question of which documents must be disclosed to the public, as well as which documents should be admitted into evidence, being deferred until the time of trial.

    Trial in the case is scheduled to begin before Judge Ramos on Sept. 2, 2014.

    The TX Photo ID restriction law is being defended by the state's Republican Attorney General Greg Abbot, who will be on the general election ballot this November as he faces off in the Gubernatorial race against Democratic nominee Wendy Davis.

    * * *Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968). Follow him on Twitter: @Cann4ing.

    * * *Please help support The BRAD BLOG's fiercely independent, award-winning coverage of your electoral system --- now in our ELEVENTH YEAR! --- as available from no other media outlet in the nation...

    Categories: Brad Blog

    Toon of the Moment: Koch 'Mergers and Acquisitions'...

    Sun, 04/06/2014 - 23:37

    It was a very good week for the Koch inheritance babies, no matter how much they now whine and pretend to be victims...

    Categories: Brad Blog

    'Honey Maid' Responds With 'Love' to Hate Mail Over Same-Sex, Interracial Commercial [VIDEO]

    Fri, 04/04/2014 - 18:05

    Bravo, Honey Maid. Nabisco shows how to stand your ground with actual courage...

    Categories: Brad Blog

    'A New Kind of Liberty' for the Koch Brothers and Anyone Else Who Can Afford to Buy It

    Fri, 04/04/2014 - 15:37

    During Thursday's Green News Report, we briefly discussed Charles Koch's claim in his Wall Street Journal op-ed this week, that he and his brother David, are using their inherited fossil-fuel millions to discredit global warming science (and other inconvenient realities), simply because they are fighting "to restore a free society and create greater well-being and opportunity for all Americans." Sure they are.

    Over at the Washington Post's "Plum Line" blog, Paul Waldman has another thought on the Koch op-ed this week, which was published at virtually the same moment as the rightwing judicial activists on the U.S. Supreme Court trashed 40 years of campaign finance law in order to allow the approximately 600 Americans who had already maxed out their previously allowed $125,000 per-election-cycle donations to political candidates and parties to be "free" to give millions to candidates and parties instead.

    Waldman avers that the Koch op-ed and the SCOTUS McCutcheon decision "are parts of the same effort," which, he argues convincingly, is "Nothing less than the construction of a new version of liberty."

    In his WSJ piece, Koch joined a growing procession of billionaire Rightwingers recently whining aloud about their perceived persecution at the hands of...well, anyone who doesn't share their political views and who doesn't have the "freedom" to also have billions, inherited or otherwise, in their bank accounts.

    "Instead of encouraging free and open debate, collectivists [ed note: apparently he means anyone who is not a Republican?] strive to discredit and intimidate opponents," Koch bemoans. "They engage in character assassination," he complains, before adding parenthetically,"(I should know, as the almost daily target of their attacks.)"

    "Poor" fellow. Waldman, however, sees the Koch Agonistes very differently...

    What, exactly, is this "character assassination" of which he speaks? I haven't seen anybody arguing that Charles Koch has weird sexual proclivities, or was a terrible father, or has poor personal hygiene. All the criticism he and his brother get concerns their enormous business (the second-largest privately held company in America) and their involvement in politics. In short, it's about their public life, not their private life.

    The system of "free and open debate" Koch envisions is one in which the volume of your voice is determined by the amount of money you have, but no matter how loud that voice, you are exempted from any direct criticism. That would be a privilege only the wealthy would want or need.

    Think about it this way. Nobody is going to run an ad saying, "Barack Obama got a ten dollar contribution from Betty Lundegard of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Just how much do we know about Betty Lundegard? What's her agenda?" The reason is that it couldn't possibly matter, so no one cares. But if you pour $400 million into a campaign, then it does matter, and people will care. Betty Lundegard isn't affecting very many people's votes, elected officials won't jump to take Betty's calls. Furthermore, Betty won't have the luxury of publishing op eds in the Wall Street Journal defending herself.

    So freedom from criticism over your political spending is a freedom only the wealthy would need.

    Waldman goes on to add: "With the McCutcheon decision, there is a way in which the sum total of liberty in America has been expanded. But do you feel freer? Unless you've got a few hundred million in the bank, the answer is certainly no."

    "In a strict sense," he says, "Charles Koch and I both have the 'freedom' to donate a few million dollars directly to candidates. But in the actual world, only one of us has that freedom."

    Apparently, when you own as much "freedom" as the Koch Brothers, you can also purchase the ability not to be embarrassed in the least.

    Koch's op-ed could have been much shorter and to the point had he just quoted Abraham Lincoln instead: "Whoever can change public opinion, can change the government."

    Because if Charles and David Koch --- and all the other billionaire "victims" pretending they have lost "freedoms" by, like the Kochs, becoming richer than ever imaginable even just 5 or 10 year ago --- had an ounce of integrity, they would simply admit that the only "freedom" they are interested in at this point is the ability to buy both public opinion and the government to go with it.

    Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court once again this week, they are now well on their way...and you aren't. Feeling freer yet?

    Categories: Brad Blog

    'McCutcheon' Mints Millions for Mass Media

    Fri, 04/04/2014 - 08:05

    Guess who is popping the champagne cork over this week's Supreme Court ruling in McCutcheon vs. FEC, which will allow wealthy individuals to donate virtually unlimited dollars to candidates, political parties, and political action groups?

    Why, broadcasters, of course. The same companies which operate on our publicly owned airwaves stand to gain the most from McCutcheon and its earlier obscene counterpart, Citizens United.

    On Thursday, the radio industry newsletter Inside Radio wrote [subscription req'd] that the McCutcheon decision was "likely to boost [ad] spending" in 2014. They explain that the 2010 Citizens United decision "opened the floodgates to more dollars in politics and the result was record campaign spending on radio in 2012." They predict that the Court's ruling this week "could help spur even more spending."

    In another piece this week [also subscription req'd] the newsletter trumpets:

    Political ad spending forecast upsized.

    More competitive races, combined with a greater number of outside groups that don't qualify for the lowest unit rate, have the potential to make the 2014 mid-term election cycle more ad intensive than first thought. So much so, that the analysts at Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group (CMAG), have boosted their political spending forecast. Kantar estimates radio could see $180 million in political ad spending by Election Day."

    $180 million? That's chump change when it comes to what the television industry stands to make. Bloomberg reports that TV stations will make in excess of $2.5 billion --- with a "B" --- from political ad sales in 2014. And that's nothing compared to what they expect to make in 2016 during a Presidential race.

    And of course, many, if not most of those ads mislead or outright lie to the very public in whose interest the broadcasters are licensed to serve.

    Am I the only one who sees something wrong with this picture?

    Overturning Citizens United and McCutcheon may take years, decades even, if it ever happens at all. But given that We the People have real power as the owners of the airwaves, I see some ways we can reduce at least some of the political ad spending, and perhaps take a lot of money out of politics...

    First, many of my allies are fighting for names of campaign donors to be disclosed. The FCC has the power to do this, and Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) nearly derailed FCC Chair Tom Wheeler's nomination over this very issue. I think disclosure is a common sense idea (and one GOP politicians supported before they didn't), but I just can't see how telling people that Sal Russo paid for an ad that has just misled them will do much good.

    Second, as I have written at The BRAD BLOG before, broadcasters are required by law to air ads that are paid for by candidates. The stations may not fact check those ads, so candidates are free to lie to the public as much as they choose. However, stations do not have to accept any ads paid for by third parties.

    If they accept those ads, and if those ads lie to the public, the station may be held LIABLE. The problem here is one of legal standing: if an individual is defamed in an ad, he or she has standing to sue the station. But attorneys I have talked with say that the public has no standing to sue if ads lie to us, even though the airwaves belong to us, and even though We the People are clearly harmed by those lies. There MUST be a bright attorney out there who can make a case on our behalf, right?

    But perhaps the best idea is to float a ballot initiative out here in California, simply banning all political ads on our broadcast stations. The airwaves belong to us, after all, and perhaps it is time for We the People to take control of that which is ours, and sharply reduce the influence of money on our political system.

    I wonder if broadcasters would cover that initiative fairly --- or even at all. (So much for the corporate "liberal" media.)

    * * *

    Sue Wilson is a media activist, director of Public Interest Pictures' Broadcast Blues, and a 22 year veteran of broadcast journalism. Her numerous awards include Emmy, AP, RTNDA, and PRNDI for work at CBS, PBS, FOX, and NPR. She is the editor of the media criticism blog, Sue Wilson Reports and founder of the Media Action Center.

    [IMAGE: Shutterstock/Sean Locke Photography]

    Categories: Brad Blog

    'Green News Report' - April 3, 2014

    Thu, 04/03/2014 - 17:59
    Today welcoming aboard GNR's newest affiliate partner:
    The Rick Smith Show!


    IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: Startlingly blunt U.N. climate report warns window of opportunity to act on climate change is closing; The Billionaire Koch Brothers are environmental freedom fighters --- according to the Koch Brothers; Texas breaks wind --- wind records, that is; PLUS: Exxon Mobil agrees 'the risk of climate change is clear' but says 'F#@K you, World! We're Exxon Mobil!'... All that and more in today's Green News Report!

    Please help us connect the climate change dots over your public airwaves!

    Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

    Link: Embed:

    Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at

    IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): 'Killer smog' in the UK; Supreme Court's campaign finance ruling is bad for Greens, good for Kochs; EPA failed to warn of cancer risk in research studies; 1/4 of Europe's bumblebees face extinction; Plowing under native US grasslands has consequences; Citigroup says 'age of renewables' has begun ... PLUS: All the positive and helpful things in the IPCC report no one will talk about ... and much, MUCH more! ...


    'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

    FOR MORE on Climate Science and Climate Change, go to our Green News Report: Essential Background Page

  • Skeptical Science: Database with FULL DEBUNKING of ALL Climate Science Denier Myths
  • Warning: Even in the best-case scenario, climate change will kick our asses (Grist)
  • NASA Video: Warming over the last 130 years, and into the next 100 years:

  • Categories: Brad Blog

    Reproductive Rights, Campaign Finance Law and the First Amendment: KPFK 'BradCast'

    Wed, 04/02/2014 - 20:22

    It was a roller-coaster of a news day today, so it was a roller-coaster of a BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio.

    First, I was joined by Katie Klabusich of and Eric Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League (PLAL). Klabusich was recently "targeted" by PLAL on their website, for her work as an abortion clinic escort trying to help women seeking cancer screenings, termination of pregnancies, prenatal care or birth control as they face a gauntlet of anti-choice protesters.

    Klabusich wrote an "Open Letter to Legislators From a Clinic Escort" this week at Truthout, calling for buffer zones around such clinics, so women can visit their doctor without harassment. Scheidler, who says he supports buffer zones around voting precincts, disagrees that buffer zones should be allowed around reproductive medical facilities. He also feels that his organization did not threaten Klabusich by posting her name, photo and the city where she lives and works and asking supporters to share it far and wide under the guise of "praying" for her.

    It was an enlightening conversation with the two of them.

    In the second part of the show, Constitutional Law expert Ian Millhiser joined me to discuss today's horrific Supreme Court ruling in McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission and the "money laundering by rich campaign donors," that Millhiser argues it will now allow.

    Two totally different issues, both posing serious questions surrounding First Amendment free speech issues.

    All of that, and a bit more here and there (including Desi Doyen and our "April FOX Day" Green News Report) in this week's show. Enjoy!

    Download MP3 or listen online below...
    [See post to listen to audio]

    Categories: Brad Blog

    SCOTUS 'McCutcheon' Ruling to Help Super Rich Purchase Even MORE of American 'Democracy'

    Wed, 04/02/2014 - 13:50

    Scrambling to prep for today's BradCast on KPFK/Pacifica Radio, so this will have to be quick today, but you've probably already read about the U.S. Supreme Court's horrible 5-4 decision in the McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission case by now.

    If not, Andrew Kroll's explainer "The Supreme Court Just Gutted Another Campaign Finance Law. Here's What Happened." is excellent, as is Ian Millhiser's "How The Supreme Court Just Legalized Money Laundering By Rich Campaign Donors".

    [Millhiser will be joining me this evening on The BradCast.]

    In (incredibly) brief, the SCOTUS ruling means that aggregate limits --- put in place 40 years ago, after the Watergate scandal --- that a single person may contribute to federal candidates and political parties were found to be an unconstitutional violation of First Amendment free speech rights. While limits of contributions to individual federal candidates of $2,600 per election (that's $2,600 for a primary and another $2,600 for the general) and $5,000 to a political committee stay in place, the aggregate amount they may now give to many candidates and political parties will now be lifted.

    So, where a single donor could previously give no more than $117,000 to all federal candidates and political committees during the 2012 cycle, that limit has now been entirely trashed. As the SCOTUS minority argued in the case, the ruling will now allow a single individual to give up to $3.5 million in a cycle, if they give to all federal candidates running. In turn, those candidates and political parties may now pool that money and divert it to the most needed races.

    This ruling is great news, for an incredibly small number of very wealthy people. As Richard Wolf and Fredreka Schouten encapsulate it at USA Today...

    Nearly 1.3 million people donated more than $200 to federal candidates, party committees and PACs last year, according to an analysis by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political money. Only about 600 hit the maximum donation limit to federal candidates in the 2012 elections, the center found.

    So this new decision will now allow those 600 --- 600 individuals! --- who had maxed out their $117,000 aggregate campaign contribution limit in 2012, to buy an even larger slice of our democracy in 2014.

    Mind you, this decision deals only with campaign money given to candidates and political committees --- the old-fashioned type of political committees, not the Super PACS. Limits of giving to those organizations had already been done away with by the Supreme Court's infamous Citizens United ruling in 2010. On top of that, of course, there are the non-profit, so-called 501(c)(4) "social welfare" organizations, such as Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, which already have no limits on how much money they can receive from donors they do not have to name and, according to a recent FEC decision, those groups may now spend the majority of the funds --- hundreds of millions, if they like --- on political ads without repercussion.

    That FEC decision is being challenged in federal court, as we reported in detail in February. Given the current Supreme Court's general predilection for taking away virtually all limits on how much of our democracy that rich people can buy, it seems that case, even if successful at the District Court level, could ultimately be overturned as well by these Supremes, in order to favor the "free speech" of the super-rich over the "free speech" that folks like you and I can afford to purchase.

    "Taken together with Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, today's decision eviscerates our nation's campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the minority's dissent.

    This current Supreme Court majority is in place thanks to the 2000 election of George W. Bush, in which he received fewer votes than his opponent Al Gore (even in Florida) and his 2004 re-election in which massive election irregularities took place in Ohio, but went completely unchallenged by his opponent John Kerry.

    In case we need to remind you again: Yes, elections --- and election results --- matter.

    * * *Please help support The BRAD BLOG's fiercely independent, award-winning coverage of your electoral system --- now in our ELEVENTH YEAR! --- as available from no other media outlet in the nation...

    Categories: Brad Blog

    'Green News Report' - April 1, 2014

    Tue, 04/01/2014 - 18:01


    IN TODAY'S RADIO REPORT: "The tide goes in, the tide goes out, never a miscommunication." --- It's our special 'April Fox Day' Edition of the Green News Report! Celebrating the anti-scientists and fossil-fueled fools at Fox "News"!...

    Please help us connect the climate change dots over your public airwaves!

    Listen online here, or Download MP3 (6 mins)...

    Link: Embed:

    Got comments, tips, love letters, hate mail? Drop us a line at or right here at the comments link below. All GNRs are always archived at

    IN 'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (see links below): Hurricanes, climate risk, and bears in the woods; MN: Soil contamination leaking toxic gases into homes; Cable news mostly ignores UN climate report; Toxic coal ash poses persistent threat to US waters; WA mudslide: emergency crews face toxic challenge; White House unveils plan to reduce methane emissions; Transparent solar panels coming to a window near you ... PLUS: Flip-floppin' Bill O'Reilly forgets he was against Tesla long before he was for it ... and much, MUCH more! ...


    'GREEN NEWS EXTRA' (Stuff we didn't have time for in today's audio report)...

    FOR MORE on Climate Science and Climate Change, go to our Green News Report: Essential Background Page

  • Skeptical Science: Database with FULL DEBUNKING of ALL Climate Science Denier Myths
  • Warning: Even in the best-case scenario, climate change will kick our asses (Grist)
  • NASA Video: Warming over the last 130 years, and into the next 100 years:

  • Categories: Brad Blog

    FCC Rolls Back Media Consolidation (A Little Bit)

    Mon, 03/31/2014 - 20:30

    Finally. For the first time in years, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has rolled back the mad consolidation of our public airwaves by huge corporate interests.

    Today's party-line vote by commissioners is just one small step for the FCC, but it may suggest that, under its new Chair Tom Wheeler, the federal agency may once again be showing some interest in fulfilling its mission of assuring that the public airwaves actually serve the public interest...

    The Federal Communications Commission today took a critical first step toward tightening its rules and putting more of the public airwaves into the hands of local owners.

    In a tense vote, the agency closed a loophole that has allowed companies like Raycom, Sinclair and Tribune to evade federal ownership limits. The industry calls these loopholes "joint service agreements," but we call them "covert consolidation" because they allow companies to control as many as four TV stations in the same market. Companies that have exploited the JSA loophole have gutted newsrooms and often broadcast the exact same newscast on multiple stations in the same community - if they run any news at all.
    In the wake of this decision, some companies will be forced to sell off stations that violate the new rule.
    In addition, the JSA loophole was one of many. The Department of Justice has pushed the FCC to close all loopholes and a recent statement from the FCC's media bureau suggests it's primed to scrutinize future deals.

    The LA Times reports the new rules "will greatly reduce and potentially bring to an end the popular practice of business partnerships between competing local television stations."

    Mind you, many of the corporations who have been abusing the rules by partnering to avoid competing with other local stations are the very same corporations who pretend to be in favor of so-called "free market competition."

    The Times goes on to note that "FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said such partnerships have been abused by many broadcasters who have used so-called joint sales agreements to get around the regulatory agency's rules limiting the number of television stations a broadcaster can own."

    "Broadcasters will have two years to unwind their joint sales agreement arrangements or can file a request for a waiver and try to make the case that the partnership serves the public interest," the paper reports. Public advocates like Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron, who otherwise lauded today's vote, still has "concerns about how the FCC will apply waiver standards."

    Still, Aaron said in a statement issued today, the new rules amount to very encouraging news from the FCC for a change...

    "For years, a small handful of powerful conglomerates has used outsourcing agreements to dodge the FCC's ownership rules and grow their empires at the public's expense. And for too long the agency has looked the other way as these companies have dominated the airwaves.

    "While today's vote focuses only on Joint Sales Agreements, it signals that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is willing to break with the past and stop broadcasters from using shell companies to skirt the agency's ownership limits.

    "It's time for conglomerates to start playing by the rules. Divesting some of their stations could open the door for truly independent and diverse owners to enter a marketplace conglomerates have controlled for years."

    "Under the new rules," according to the Times, "a broadcaster that accounts for more than 15% of another station's advertising sales would be seen by the FCC as the defacto licensee of that station. For many broadcasters, such a caveat could put them in violation of the FCC's ownership rules. The FCC typically limits the amount of stations one company can own in an individual market to one in all but the biggest cities."

    Don't know that we've ever said it on this site --- especially following the FCC's most recent debacle folding under one-sided pressure from the corporate rightwing (ironically, issued over the very same public airwaves the FCC is supposed to oversee) forcing them to back off of a Congressionally mandated study that might have helped take back some of the public airwaves from the corporate rightwing which thinks they own them --- but: Good for the FCC!

    It remains to be seen if actual oversight of our public airwaves, as mandated by law, continues under Wheeler's chairmanship at the agency. We may know a lot more once they finally decide on the pending question of whether Rush Limbaugh and friends present "bona fide news" over our public airwaves, as the FCC will soon be forced to determine.

    Categories: Brad Blog