Thursday, November 18, 2010

More Of This, Please

For many years, one used to reasonably assume that, if a story was written by an Associated Press writer, it was pretty close to the truth.

At least, that was, until Ron Fournier took over as Washington Bureau Chief in 2008. Fournier, who was outed as a Bush supporter in 2004 didn't last long at this particular job. A particularly racist push poll he authorized and "analyzed" in September 2008 earned him a reprimand and left him neutered. Ultimately, he left for a job at the National Journal in July of this year.

If you're like me and have some degree of interest in how your media sausage is made, what Ron Fournier has done is interesting reading, and Al Giordano's work on Fornier on his website The Field is quality web advocacy reading as well, that links you onward to better detail than I'm providing here.

But I digress, as I've come not to bury the AP, but to praise it.

The hot topic of the news cycle is the intrusive TSA body scanners and pat downs one must face to fly over the forthcoming holiday weekend. Not everyone is happy about the procedure. I must admit, I tend to fly out of airports that are smaller and don't have the full on invasive photographic machinery and, frankly, if you feel the need to see a clothes free image of me more than once you have a fetish a shrink may need to address anyway. I stand by George Carlin's opinion on the issue, which is that the whole process is nothing but theater and doesn't really do much good.

But I digress, because this isn't really about the TSA either.

Instead, it's about the bleating of Congressman John Mica (R) of Florida who is an advocate of riding us of the TSA altogether, and allowing private security guards do the work instead, and why he's an advocate of said position.

Because of the AP, we know that Mica is essentially on the take and, for a change, the former gatekeeper of our media, AP, takes pains to tell us so by working into the story which companies would benefit from privatization, and how much they donated to Mica's campaigns.

Would private security guards not be as invasive? Nope. They'd have to use the same equipment and procedures as TSA. So really, all you're doing in Mica's world is trading surly public employees for surly private employees from whom he profits personally. So Mica has no point, really, he's just acting in the self interests of those corporations who donated to his campaign by attempting to obfuscate TSA people with TSA policy. The payoff:

Companies that provide airport security are contributors to Mica's campaigns, although some donations came before those companies won government contracts. The Lockheed Martin Corp. Employees' Political Action Committee has given $36,500 to Mica since 1997. A Lockheed firm won the security contract in Sioux Falls, S.D. in 2005 and the contract for San Francisco the following year.

Raytheon Company's PAC has given Mica $33,500 since 1999. A Raytheon subsidiary began providing checkpoint screenings at Key West International Airport in 2007.

FirstLine Transportation Security Inc.'s PAC has donated $4,500 to the Florida congressman since 2004. FirstLine has been screening baggage and has been responsible for passenger checkpoints at the Kansas City International Airport since 2006, as well as the Gallup Municipal Airport and the Roswell Industrial Air Center in New Mexico, operating at both since 2007.

Since 2006, Mica has received $2,000 from FirstLine President Keith Wolken and $1,700 from Gerald Berry, president of Covenant Aviation Security. Covenant works with Lockheed to provide security at airports in Sioux Falls and San Francisco.

This is the type of journalism we thought we had as a nation at one point in time, a fourth estate that laid bare the motivations of people and politicians that pushed advocacy positions. For once, AP saved the blogosphere the effort of doing the research and exposing someone pushing a needless tangential issue because he has a financial interest in doing so. We need more of this, please.