Sunday, January 31, 2010


The Supreme Court has ruled that corporations - even non-profit corporations - can spend any amount of money they want to try to influence national attitudes on issues of public interest, most particularly in elections. The result of this sort of unleashing of third-party advocacy ads - advertisements that have nothing to do with selling any products or services to anyone - can be seen in the decision of CBS to sell a commercial in the Super Bowl telecast to a corporation called Focus On The Family. Their commercial message features a popular college football player, Tim Tibow, and is openly anti-abortion rights. To sway public thinking on abortion rights - that's the only purpose for this non-profit organization to pay $2.5 million or more for this commercial. Focus On The Family has nothing - let me repeat that - they have NOTHING to sell to the American people. No burgers, no fries, no beer, no stocks, bonds or mutual funds, no cars or computers. And Focus On The Family certainly isn't in the dating business.

The Court has ruled. The "right to spend" has been established. But the "right to buy" is still somewhere off in the distance floating, adrift in the unknown. CBS is not required by law or regulation to sell time to Focus On The Family - or to any advertiser... not Coke, Apple, E-Trade, MacDonald's... not anyone. It's entirely up to them. An advocacy ad is treated like any other at CBS - or so they say - and somehow, without comment, this anti-abortion ad seems quite acceptable for CBS on Super Bowl Sunday.

CBS didn't accept everyone who wanted to buy a commercial in the Super Bowl. They refused an ad from a gay male dating service. I've seen the ad. It's pretty funny. Three guys are watching what we are to assume is the Super Bowl. One team scores a touchdown and two of them react as any fans might - jumping up and down, arms raised in the air, shouting, smiling... you've seen it all before. But then, they reach for the chips and their hands touch. Kaboom! Magic strikes. The next thing you know they're locked in an embrace, kissing (although we do not see their faces or lips)... and the third guy in the room is in obvious shock. It is a funny commercial, well within the tradition of funny Super Bowl commercials. Finally we see the corporate logo and ID and we, the viewers, discover this is an advertisement for a gay male dating service.

CBS won't run this commercial. They turned it down. It doesn't meet their standards. We don't know what those standards are. CBS has not made them public. But, talking babies who sell stock... well, they're just fine. And a famous college football player who thinks abortion is against God's wishes (how do he know?)... as far as CBS is concerned that's also a good commercial to broadcast.

I have no dog in this silly race - the one pitting Focus On The Family against a gay male dating service. I'm not in the target market for whatever either of them has to offer. I only want to point out that an absence of a "right to buy" can make a "right to spend" meaningless.

Perhaps you don't care about this one. But what happens when CBS, or any of the networks or any of the thousands of radio and television stations across the United States, decides which corporate ads supporting certain candidates for public office they will run and which they will reject? Take a look at who owns the media and tell me if you don't know already that this will happen and if you can't figure out whose ads will get on the air and whose will never see the light of day.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


CBS has sold commercial time in the Super Bowl to fast food companies selling hamburgers, companies who sell beer, and a Christian advocacy group called Focus On The Family. What could they be selling? The content of the Focus On The Family ad is openly anti-abortion rights and features a famous college football player, Tim Tibow of the University of Florida, previously best known for wearing Bible citations prominently displayed on his glare protectors – those little black pasties some players wear on their cheeks under their eyes to keep the sunshine out. It is estimated that the cost for this 30-second commercial will be at least $2.5 million. Who is really paying for this? The buyer is saying that “a handful of generous friends” are making this ad possible. Focus On The Family is, naturally, a tax exempt, non-profit religious organization. So, in a very real sense you can say that you are helping to pay for this little piece of television propaganda. Since your taxes have to make up for the taxes Focus On The Family doesn’t pay, yes you are footing the bill for them and adding to the revenue at CBS.

As a former broadcaster, I do not feel that advocacy ads (that’s the phrase now in vogue for what is otherwise “propaganda”) have any place in commercial broadcasting. When I was the General Manager of a radio station I had a strict policy that all advertisers had to use their commercial time to sell whatever product or service they offered to the public. The only exception I made was at Christmas when advertisers were allowed to use their time to extend holiday wishes to the listening audience. Other than that – if you sold burgers, your commercials had to be about burgers; if you sold cars, they had to be about your cars… you could say anything you wanted about your business and nothing about anything else… you get the idea.

There were times when certain advertisers wanted to “hitch a ride” on timely issues of public interest. For example, years ago we had a series of terrible child murders and a large, chain operated fast-food company wanted to use its commercials to advertise their donations to a fund for the affected families. I rejected this idea. In the spirit of disclosure, I should add that my station was alone in my city in refusing to run these commercials. I didn’t reject this company making donations. I applauded their good intentions. I just wouldn’t let them use their “generosity” as part of their commercials to influence my station’s listeners. They were selling food – not charity. Some people disagreed with me. I thought I was right then, and I still do.

In 2004 CBS rejected an ad for that year’s Super Bowl from another advocacy group, The fact that they’ve sold time this year to Focus On The Family seems to show that CBS approves of anti-abortion ads – although the legal right to an abortion is the law of the land according to the Supreme Court – but they object to ads critical of the President (if the President is George W. Bush as he was in 2004) – although criticism of the President (no matter who he may be) is also perfectly legal and constitutionally protected, just like the right to an abortion.

CBS made a choice, twice. Good for them. That is what a responsible broadcaster should do. However, it is not CBS alone who is legally charged with making these decisions. Broadcasting on the public airwaves has been regulated by the federal government since 1934. There's nothing new here. Commercial regulation rightly belongs with the federal government. That is what a responsible FCC and Congress should do. It's the law.

The Supreme Court has declared that just about anyone can spend just about any amount of money they wish to express just about any opinion they happen to favor or to oppose any they don’t like. The Court has ruled that there is indeed a constitutional right “to spend.” Money talks. Freedom of speech. Someday, soon perhaps, you may see an advocacy ad supporting or attacking a candidate for public office, a bit of TV propaganda with a disclosure statement saying... "paid for by a few generous friends."Just like Focus On The Family. Maybe "a few generous friends" can swing an election. How will you feel about that?

There may be a right "to spend" but, as yet there is no constitutional right “to buy.” Just ask They had millions in cash ready to hand over to CBS for 30 little seconds. CBS said, “No. You’re not welcome.” Now, Focus On The Family wants the very same exact access to the very same program, to the largest television audience in America, on the Super Bowl, and CBS said, “Yes. Show me the money!”

It’s time for the FCC, or if necessary for Congress itself, to prohibit all third-party, non-commercial, so-called advocacy ads. The airwaves still belong to the public, despite the fact that we “license” them and persist in calling those “licenses” ownership. The FCC regulates many things on-the-air. Remember Janet Jackson at the Super Bowl? There were fines - big fines - for that mishap. The FCC bans pornography. I think “advocacy ads” or social propaganda – are more pornographic than an all too brief look at Janet Jackson's beautiful breast.

Thursday, January 21, 2010


Nobody ever said the Constitution was right about everything, Remember human slavery? It took 76 years to get an amendment to the Constitution ending that. It’s too easy to forget that from 1789 until 1865 owning another human being as a piece of property was perfectly legal and entirely constitutional.

Now, many people are up in arms that the Supreme Court has ended limits on political spending by corporations, unions and just about anyone else. Check the 1st Amendment. If it protects your speech, doesn’t it also protect the other guy’s speech?

And, if a political contribution isn’t speech – protected by the 1st Amendment – what is it? The Court has ruled that nude dancing in a nightclub is speech. Isn’t spending your money to influence public discourse just as much an expression as pole dancing? Actually, that question has been rendered just as irrelevant as is any remaining strip club controversy. The Supreme Court has just ruled that Congress cannot limit political expenditures. As a result some people are crying out like Chicken Little – “THE SKY IS FALLING.” Of course they mean its democracy that’s falling. Corporations will now overwhelm political advertising, won’t they - perhaps, to the exclusion of the candidates themselves? Is the democratic sky really falling?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Federal election laws require that broadcast media, which the Federal Communications Commission regulates, is required to sell time to candidates and when they do sell that advertising they must offer the same amount of time, at the same cost, to all candidates for the same office. What the law does not cover is third-party political advertising – the sort the Supreme Court just ruled could not be financially limited. They may not be financially constrained, but who says Radio & TV has to run these political commercials?

Some of papa’s readers know papa once owned radio stations. There were times when I refused to sell time to advertisers – for various reasons. And there were times when those who were refused access to papa’s radio stations threatened to sue. Naturally they claimed I was interfering with their “1st Amendment rights.” They were wrong. There are no “constitutional rights” to buy advertising.

There is nothing in any FCC ruling that requires a radio or television station to sell time to anyone… except candidates for public office.

So, forget about the Supreme Court ruling. There is nothing to be afraid of. Democracy is not in danger. All we need to do to keep “the sky from falling” is for broadcasters to refuse to sell political time to anyone except a registered candidate for public office.

Or how about a 28th Amendment covering limitations on political spending? Our Constitution is still subject to amendment, isn’t it? So, start one rolling!

Anyone want to bet any of that stands a chance of happening?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


What are we to make of this thing called the filibuster? Neither the idea of it nor the word itself can be found anywhere in the US Constitution. The filibuster is a creation of the Senate, and perhaps its curse as well. They have only themselves to blame for it and the trouble it presents to democratic majority rule. From the very 1st Congress through the 64th Congress, the Senate had no rules whatsoever regarding the length of debate. Unlike the House of Representatives, debate in the Senate was unregulated as to its duration. Any Senator “with the floor” could hold it for as long as they liked.

On March 8, 1917, during the 65th Congress, in which the Senate had 52 Democrats, 43 Republicans and 1 Independent, the Senate adopted Rule 22, otherwise known as the filibuster rule. It established a two-thirds vote as the number necessary to invoke cloture or to shut down a filibuster. The two-thirds requirement remained in effect until the 104th Congress in 1975 when Rule 22 was amended to reduce that vote to three-fifths. The 104th Congress had 52 Republican Senators and 48 Democrats. Nevertheless, two-thirds of them cooperated in reducing the number of votes needed to shut-off debate in the Senate chamber. It’s been that way ever since.

It is interesting to note that of the 111 sessions of Congress in the history of the United States of America only one – the 89th Congress – had a political party breakdown capable of stopping the minority from launching a filibuster. The assassination of JFK combined with the Republican Party’s nomination of Barry Goldwater resulted in the 89th Congress with 68 Democrats and 32 Republicans. It served from 1965-1967. Perhaps it’s only a coincidence that this Congress managed to pass the Civil Rights Bill of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and they created Medicare as well. No other Congress, of all the 111 that have served the country can lay claim to such radical or revolutionary legislation.

The question naturally arises – Is the filibuster, and Senate Rule 22, constitutional? Yes, the Constitution does give the Senate the authority to set its own rules. But, can those rules violate the Constitution itself? What if the Senate passed a rule making only white Senators eligible to serve? Sure, only Senator Roland Burris of Illinois would be affected today, but still… would such a Senate rule be constitutional? Could they do that? Could, for example, a future Senate vote to exclude Senators of a certain religion, or sexual orientation? If the Senate can "determine the rules of its proceedings…” couldn’t it do that?

It’s doubtful that any legal expert would agree that such a Senate rule could survive a constitutional test in the Supreme Court.

So, what about the filibuster rule, Rule 22, and its obvious conflict with the powers of the Vice President as expressly written in the US Constitution?

The powers and duties of the Vice President are only mentioned in two places in the Constitution. In Article II, Section 1 the document details the succession of the Vice President to the Presidency when the President can no longer fulfill that position. However, it is what is written in Article I, Section 3 pertaining to the more mundane duties assigned to the Vice President of the United States that is of importance regarding the filibuster. The Constitution says: “The Vice President of the United States shall be the President of the Senate, but shall have no vote, unless they be equally divided.” That’s it – the Vice President breaks tie votes in the Senate. The Constitution actually says this in clear and unambiguous wording – “…no vote, unless they be equally divided.” Can there be any question about what that means?

The Constitution doesn’t just envision the possibility of a tie vote in the Senate. It recognizes the certainty of it and it further recognizes a one-vote majority as carrying the issue, one way or the other. A majority carries the issue at hand. No mention of any “super-majority.” Whatever the exact vote total may be, if “they be equally divided” the Vice President’s tie-breaking vote is the deciding one. How can the Senate pass a rule – such as Rule 22 – that eliminates the possibility of a tie vote? A Senate rule to the contrary, one making it impossible to have a tie vote seems to violate the constitutional duties and powers granted the Vice President. How else could the Vice President break a tie if no tie vote is possible?

Anything greater than a simple majority essentially robs the Vice President of his or her constitutionally designated power and authority. Thus, the whole idea of needing 67 or 60 or any number of votes greater than a numerical majority to get something passed – even to invoke cloture and call a vote to order – seems to be unconstitutional.

The US Constitution has real meaning. No court has ever said anything like… “Well that doesn’t really matter.” Even the most obscure provision still holds sway. When discussing the Congress and its separation from the Executive branch, America’s founding document states the following: “No Senator or Representative shall, during the Time for which he was elected, be appointed to any civil Office under the Authority of the United States, which shall have been created, or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased [sic] during such time; and no Person holding any Office under the United States, shall be a Member of either House during his Continuance in Office.”

A little on the obscure side, but the intent there is simple enough to determine. No sitting member of the House of Representatives and/or no currently serving member of the Senate may be appointed to a job in the Executive branch which was either created by or had its compensation increased by the very same Congress of which that member was part of. Who could not understand this detailed and specific prohibition? Should Congress create an executive position or increase the pay of an existing executive position, no member of that Congress may take that job. Additionally, if a current member of either house of Congress does take a job in the administration, they must give up their seat in Congress. No one can serve in both jobs at the same time.

The Constitution – on this point - is clear, unambiguous and not subject to any esoteric interpretation.

So it was when Hillary Clinton, then a sitting Senator from New York, agreed to become the Secretary of State in the new Obama administration, she had to both resign from the Senate and the position she was taking, namely that of Secretary of State, had to have its salary rolled back because Senator Clinton was a member of the same Senate that had previously increased the Secretary’s compensation. Check it out… it says, “…or the Emoluments whereof shall have been encreased(sic) during such time…” Sure, the increase was meant for Secretary Condoleezza Rice, but that doesn’t matter. The wording of the Constitution is explicit. No one thought to disregard this when Senator Clinton became Secretary of State Clinton. The pay for the position was indeed rolled back.

The wording of the Constitution is equally clear and equally unambiguous about how Congress goes about deciding to operate on a daily basis. Here is exactly what the Constitution says: “Each House may determine the rules of its proceedings…” It’s simple and straightforward. The Senate can make up any rules at all for its own operation. Are they limited to reasonable rules? How silly or strange might they possibly be? For example: the Senate could require all Senators to stand on one leg when they speak, or require them to speak from a prone position, or sitting down, or while doing a handstand, or with a finger stuck in their ear… or anything? Yes, they could do anything even as foolish as that. If the Senate can “…determine the rules of its proceedings…” then it can do anything, right?

Well, almost anything. No reasonable person would assert that the Senate might promulgate rules that violate the Constitution. Even the constitutional rights of Congress have limits. Hardly any portion of the Constitution is without some limitation.

The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, but everyone agrees – especially the Supreme Court – that this freedom does not extend to crying “Fire!” in a crowded theater, or for that matter, engaging in libel or slander. But, if you want to call the President of the United States a Marxist, a Leninist, a socialist, an illegal alien born in Kenya, or even a fucking idiot – go right ahead – that is Constitutionally protected speech.

The question remains, however, is Senate Rule 22 constitutional?

The Majority Leader of the Senate – right now that would be Harry Reid of Nevada – has the authority to declare, from his desk as Presiding Officer, that Rule 22 is unconstitutional and therefore no longer in effect. If a simple majority of Senators voting agreed with such a ruling from the Chair, the filibuster would become a thing of the past.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


“Big Water” floods “small town” every time.

The closer the Republican Party gets to Sarah Palin, the closer the Republican Party gets to electoral oblivion. That’s not an opinion. That’s a fact.

So long as the Democrats run a “Big Water” strategy, they will win every Presidential election for the foreseeable future. That also is not an opinion. That’s a fact.

The combination of a Democratic “Big Water” strategy coupled with the meteoric, pop-culture, Twitter-Facebook rise to prominence of Sarah Palin will be a virtual guarantee of more Democratic Presidents and the eventual demise, perhaps disappearance of the Republican Party. When the Grand Old Party is no more, the historical blame will be properly laid right at the feet of the one-time, half-term Governor of Alaska, Sarah Palin.

Palin first…

Whether or not you like her, agree wither policy positions (or even believe she has policy positions), respect her as a political figure of national stature, consider her qualified or not to hold national elective office – none of that matters. Just look at what she actually has to say, what she’s actually proud of, in fact what she’s determined to establish as her political signature. There’s no disagreement about this. Sarah Palin runs against the coastal elites, the big city liberals and the entire value system of the modern major metropolitan area. She is small town, old-time, “I Want My County Back!” America running hard against the ungodly, evil “domestic terrorists” in the big city. She stands for “real Americans” – meaning small town, small state, rural folks - against whatever the rest of us are, wherever the rest of us live. That is how she ran her campaign for Vice President and that’s how she’s campaigned on behalf of her book. That will be how she runs for President. You betcha!

All of Sarah Palin’s appearances have been in small towns and small cities. She has never campaigned in or tried to sell her books in, say… New York City, Los Angeles, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit… or even in places like Atlanta, Birmingham, Houston, Dallas or St. Louis – all big cities in states carried by McCain/Palin but also big cities she and John McCain lost to the Democrats even while carrying those states.

Sarah Palin appears to relish the conflict between small and big America. And as long as the Republican Party buys into this view, they are certain to be defeated. Like the stars in the night sky in “Dances With Wolves” there are just too many Big City Americans for Sarah Palin to ever win a national election. You can even “pal around with domestic terrorists” and still beat her hands down.

Why does a “Big Water” strategy guarantee a Democratic victory? Look at the numbers. The coastal elite lives in 3 states on the West Coast with 73 electoral votes. Obama carried all 3 and received all 73 “Big Water” Pacific Electoral College votes. The coastal elite on the East Coast lives in 14 states, which border on the Atlantic Ocean. These 14 states have 136 electoral votes. The Democrats under Obama carried 12 of the 14 “Big Water” Atlantic states receiving 113 of these Electoral College votes leaving the Republicans with only Georgia and South Carolina, with only 23 Electoral College votes.

The same big city elites clustered along America’s ocean coasts are also found in the 8 “Big Water” states with shorelines along the Great Lakes. Obama carried every one of the 8 states for a total of 141 more Electoral College votes. All told the “Big Water” states have 350 Electoral College votes. If a major American political party is going to base its appeal on running against these American people and the American lifestyle of these states, how could they ever hope to win a national election?

In the 2008 Presidential election the Democrats won 327 of the Electoral College votes in the “Big Water” states. Worse yet for the Republicans, in only 3 of these 23 states was the result even close – Indiana, Virginia and North Carolina. These states have 39 electoral votes. If the Republicans somehow won them all, Obama still would have been elected with 288 electoral votes. And this doesn’t begin to count the 4 additional states won by the Democrats that have no “Big Water” connections at all – Nevada, New Mexico, Iowa and 1 electoral vote in Nebraska.

If Sarah Palin wants to do battle – Small Town v. Big City - look at it this way… McCain/Palin managed to win only 1 city in the Top 27 metro areas. That city was Phoenix, Arizona. Look it up. From #1 New York, NY through #27 Orlando, FL, every major metropolitan area voted Democratic except Phoenix. How can you hope to win a national election like that?

Of the Top 100 metro areas in the United States the 2008 Republican Party, with Sarah Palin as the star of their ticket, could only win in 19 of them. And while these 19 are in the Top 100, keep in mind among them are places like Greenville SC, Knoxville TN, Provo UT, Ogden UT, McAllen TX… not exactly the kind of major population centers you need to win a national election contest. And that’s why McCain/Palin lost.

In the electoral fight pitting Big City “elites” against Small Town “real Americans” starting with Metro Area #1 New York NY and going all the way to #150 Naples FL, the Republicans with John McCain and Sarah Palin managed to get more votes in only 30 of these places. If you lose in 120 of the Top 150, are you really a serious contender?

If the Republican Party follows Sarah Palin in 2012 and 2016 that political party may well continue to carry population centers like Naples FL, Boise ID, Wichita KS, Springfield MO and Anchorage AK – but the Electoral College prizes that are in “Big Water” America will hardly know there is a Republican Party. If the Republicans persist in making Sarah Palin the cover girl of their national appeal, whomever the Democrats run will simply waltz into the White House leaving the ghost of the GOP a lonely “first runner-up” in their wake.

Monday, January 4, 2010


The Next Big Thing in the War On Terror and airport security is the full-body scanner. You’ve heard about it. This is the machine that will expose everyone – you, me, everybody who passes through it – as if we were naked. You may think that’s a good idea. A highly trained security expert would be able to spot hidden explosives and other such terrorist dangers. Who will examine and interpret our full-body scans? Who will look at our exposed bodies with an eye to making the American People safer? You know who. Our nakedness will be seen by and interpreted by at least one and perhaps a whole group of minimum wage TSA employees. Real security experts, right? If you have been in an airport lately you know exactly who I’m talking about. Do you think those new full-body scans will make you feel more comfortable flying? More secure? Safer? Sure they will.

Did you know that President Obama’s Dept. of Homeland Security has already purchased more than $50 million worth of these new airport machines, and that they have ordered another $25 million more, which are yet to come? You didn't hear about Congress approving this? That's because they never did. They took the money right out of the Stimulus Package. Exactly what you thought that program was meant for wasn't it?

Guess who the most vocal supporter of this new technology is. How about Michael Chertoff, the former head of The Dept. of Homeland Security under George W. Bush. That fact, I’m sure, makes you feel better, doesn’t it? Chertoff is a security expert. He knows what works and what doesn’t. Right? He has your safety and your interest as his personal goal, doesn’t he? Why else would he be on every television show he can find talking up the need for these full-body scanners at every airport in America and all around the world? Chertoff wouldn't have a personal, private agenda, a special interest here - would he?

Well, maybe. It’s called The American Way.

Michael Chertoff served his country – and now his country is damn well going to serve him. Isn’t that The American Way? Sure it is. Chertoff is now part of the "private sector." Ever hear of The Chertoff Group? Here is what they have to say about themselves. These are their words. This is how Michael Chertoff is selling his services today.

Read carefully.
"For deals in the security industry, Chertoff Group offers unparalleled subject matter expertise and contacts to give you the competitive advantage."

"We have overseen billions of dollars of technology development and acquisition for the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, the National Security Agency, and the CIA. We have keen insight into which new technologies are likely to transform the landscape, and our experience allows us to predict which ones may be headed for obsolescence."

"We have proven success, not only in the domestic U.S. market; members of our team have years of experience in completing international transactions, as well."

"The security and risk management market is large, growing and resilient, even in this economic downturn. Despite its potential value of over $200 billion per year, the market is highly fragmented. Together, these realities provide many opportunities to leverage economies of scale and enhance returns through operational improvements."

"The Chertoff Group partners with compatible private equity firms across the investment spectrum, by providing our sector knowledge to help monitor and manage target companies during periods of transition. Regardless of our role, we are committed experts at aligning interests and maximizing value for our clients."
Impressive, isn't it? So, exactly who are The Chertoff Group?

Michael Chertoff is a Co-Founder and Managing Principal of The Chertoff Group. No surprise there. As they say, it’s his name on the door. Who are some of his partners and colleagues? Take a look.

Charles E. Allen: Formerly at The Dept. of Homeland Security along with Chertoff and before that, 40 years at CIA - the Central Intelligence Agency.

Larry Castro: 44 years at the NSA - the National Security Agency.

Jay M. Cohen: Former Chief of Naval Research at the Dept. of the Navy under George W. Bush.

Michael Hayden: General US Army. Former Director of NSA and former Director of the CIA under George W. Bush.

Nathaniel T. G. Fogg: Top executive at FEMA under George W. Bush.

Paul Schneider: Senior Acquisitions Executive at the National Security Agency under George W. Bush.

Chad Sweet: Former Chief of Staff at The Dept. of Homeland Security under George W. Bush. Previously, a top executive at both Morgan Stanley and Goldman-Sachs.

Imagine having your "interests aligned" and your "values maximized" by such a group.

Now, take a wild guess. Who do you think represents the company that manufactures and sells the full-body scanner? Did you say, The Chertoff Group?

It’s called The American Way.