Obama's plan: Another corporate bailout?

Representative Kucinich makes good points.

We need to keep standing behind progressives to make sure that the bill reported out includes real reform, not a mere windfall for the insurers and drug companies. As Rep Kucinich says, it’s not yet time to say he’ll vote “no” on the final bill. But he’s not very optimistic.

I do take to heart the advice of my Wetmachine colleague Harold Feld, who constantly reminds us that whining and hand-wringing don’t help. What really matters is getting involved and supporting the people who are doing the right things. As soon as I post this I’m going to call Rep. Delahunt’s office. He’s signed the Progressives letter to President Obama saying he won’t vote for a bill that doesn’t have the American Option (AKA “public option”), and in general I’m very happy with his voting recordd. But his name doesn’t appear on the Progressive Caucus letterhead, so I’m not sure if he’s in danger of “backslidin’”. Now’s the time to dig in, sez I.

Sermon — Will Progressives Be The Generation of the Desert or The Generation of Joshua?

I must interrupt my usual analysis for a sermon.

It is appaling to me that we stand on the verge of seeing the stimulus bill go from a reasonable piece of legislation designed to fundamentally alter the economy to enhance sustainability to a return to the usual failed policies and boondoggles. This is not happening because the Obama people are “stupid” or “failing” or because the “special interests” are too powerful. It does not happen because Rush Limbaugh is “too strong.” If it happensm, it will be because the people who listen to Rush Limbaugh are willing to get off their rear ends and pick up phones and make calls to their Senators and to their local newspapers and browbeat them into cowed compliance — and we Progressives will not.

Voting on election day is not nearly as important as being willing to spend five minutes when it counts. We have the tools, we have the moment, we have a good first step before us. But will we trouble ourselves to save it?

The time has come for Progressives to decide. Shall we be the helpless Generation of the Desert, the generation that time and again quailed before the challenge and demanded Moses return them to the land of Egypt and died in the desolate waste without coming to the Promised Land? Or will we be the Generation of Joshua — willing to make war to take the Land flowing with milk and honey the Lord has promised us? This fight for the stimulus bill marks our first test.

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Looks Like Julius Genachowski Will Get The Nod — And What That Means For the Progressive Media & Telecom Agenda

Sometimes the conventional wisdom gets it right. After much speculation, it now seems increasingly likely that Obama’s Harvard Law classmate Julius Genachowski will be nominated to take over as FCC Chair.

From my perspective, this looks like very good news. Genachowski is no stranger either to the FCC or to the private sector, a distinct advantage given the twin difficulties of managing the agency and dealing with all manner of incumbent dog-and-pony shows. Heck, Genachowski is no stranger to the DTV transition, having been involved in the initial standard setting work back in the day. Genachowski’s close relationship with Obama, heavy involvement in the Obama campaign from the beginning, and general tech background provide fairly strong early assurance that — contrary to the hopes of some and fears of others — Obama does not appear to be backing away from his campaign commitment to open networks and media diversity.

All that said, let nobody think the fun is over and we all get to go home. Now more than ever, progressives need to build on our movement momentum and press our case open networks, real spectrum reform, a more diverse media, adequate consumer protection, and regulation that creates real competition by opening bottleneck facilities and limit market power. We have an opportunity, not a victory, and we must act to seize it.

More below . . . .

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Farewell to Commissioner Deborah Tate

As I observed back awhile ago when describing possible scenarios for the FCC, Commissioner Deborah Tate would need to depart when the 110th Congress expired and the 111th Congress convened at Noon on January 3, 2009. So, at the FCC’s pro forma meeting on December 30, Commissioner Tate stepped down and made her farewell address. Despite the rather tense atmosphere that often prevails on the 8th Floor of the FCC these day, her fellow Commissioners used most of the meeting time to say many nice things in appreciation of her tenure.

Allow me to add my own appreciation for Commissioner Tate’s service. This may come as a surprise to some, given that I disagreed with Tate a fair amount on most matters of substance. As others have noted, Tate voted along fairly standard Republican lines — generally shying away from regulation of “the market” despite a sincere concern about consumer welfare. (I should add that despite her much publicized comments about the dangers of Worlds of Warcraft, her support for strong digital right management and urging ISPs do more to block content potentially harmful to minors, Tate still generally followed a deregulatory line in simply urging industry to voluntarily do more and raising this in the context of voting against the Comcast/Bittorrent Order).

But let me tell a little story below which illustrates why Commissioner Tate deserves a respectful farewell even from staunch progressives such as myself.

More below . . . .

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Off to Big Tent In Denver Next Week.

For anyone who cares, I will be in Denver next week, but not for the Democratic National Convention (although I wouldn’t say no if someone wanted to slip me a pass — hint, hint). I will be attending the Big Tent event for bloggers, progressives, and anyone else who cares to wonder over and see what the changing face of online politics looks like. The event is running in parallel with the Democratic Convention, with significant overlap, although not actually part of it and far enough away geographically to be separate and distinct. I shall leave it to the reader to draw his or her own meaning from this.

Still, the hope is that the Big Tent event will attract significant cross over from the convention. On Tuesday, in conjunction with Common Cause Colorado, there will be a symposium on media issues and all that policy stuff I do over in my day job at Media Access Project. If you’re there, you can catch me speaking on media ownership and its impact on diversity in the afternoon, and/or my colleague at MAP, Parul Desai, talking on network neutrality. In the morning there will be a bunch of other speakers, including FCC Commissioner Jonathon Adelstein, so it should be fun.

Anyway, if you see me out there, feel free to come up and say hi.

Stay tuned . . . .

Why I Have Decided To Endorse Obama.

So here it is “Super Duper Tuesday.” My own local primary (MD) will not be until next week. And while endorsing a candidate is always a perilous thing for those of us that work in Washington, I have decided to give the Tales of the Sausage Factory Endorsement to Senator Barack Obama.

Why? See below . . . .

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Of Legitimacy, Paper Trails, and the Power of The Blogosphere: The Clinton/Diebold Episode

I like this because it makes so many useful points about so many important things in this election season. In particularly, I think there are valuable take aways about the importance of asking questions without pre-judging, the value of a paper trail in voting to everyone, and the power of the blogosphere to raise and answer serious concerns.

Yesterday, the progressive bologosphere began to buzz with rumors that Hilary Clinton had “stolen” the NH primary from Barack Obama because of errors by the Diebold optical scanning machines used by some NH polling places. The allegation rests on an observed swing in results between precincts using the Diebold optical scanners and hand count districts. Notably, the Brad Blog posted this piece which stated that “informal statistics” indicated that precincts counted by hand generally favored Obama by 2%, whereas precincts using the Diebold optical scanners generally favored Clinton by 4.5%, creating a 7% swing.

Few circumstantial evidence items appeared to lend credence to the rumor. Ron Paul supporters claimed Diebold shorted him 31 votes in one NH town. Diebold is not generally trusted by progressives, Clinton is not generally trusted by a number of progressives, and the pattern of wild variance between polling data and actual vote turn outs is similar to that seen in 2004, including the apparent consistency of the error. A general failure of the technology should produce a spread of errors, why would the same machine favor one candidate consistently?

This had the capacity to turn quite ugly (and I suppose still could). But the internet breeds the ability to check facts and analysis and discover more plausible explanations. This analysis from “DHinMI” on Daily Kos Diary, for example, shows why these accusations don’t hold up. Most importantly, NH requires a paper trail, so that it is easy to double check results. The variations are not consistent at 4.5% and only for Diebold optical scanners, but follow a geographic variation that more accurately accounts for the differences. The Ron Paul missing votes likewise appears to be a human error on the part of the town clerk certifying the results rather than the count itself.

To this I will add that we need to remember that we are dealing with relatively modest sample sizes. Quite good by the standards of modern statistical analysis but still relatively small so that a few thousand people changing their minds for different reasons out of over a hundred thousand votes cast can produce a statistically significant change.

But I must disagree with DHinMI that “ultimately, there’s tremendous arrogance and/or ignorance at play when people assume that Hillary Clinton’s victory in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary is or might be explained by election fraud.” It is a responsibility of citizens to hold their elected leaders accountable, to question results that raise legitimate questions, but — ultimately — to accept answers supported by the evidence. Certainly anyone leaping to the conclusion that Clinton conspired with Diebold on the basis of an initial question went way too far, and should accept the lesson in caution. But the investigation and retention of paper ballots will hopefully do what such investigations do when the subject is innocent: provide a definitive answer that lays the matter to rest and proves once again the integrity of the process, providing needed legitimacy.

I expect many people will shake their heads at those irresponsible internet nuts and their vile rumors, and will take the wrong message that the internet is full of whacko progressives who degenerate to conspiracy theories rather than face unpleasant realities. But I prefer to see this as an excellent example of the system working, just as a mild cold is a symptom of my functioning immune system driving out a virus. It emphasizes the need for paper ballots and mechanisms for confirming results, the importance of getting questions about legitimacy answered rather than having them fester, and the importance of the internet in letting people debate the facts and squash “whisper campaigns” one way or the other.

In Kenya, we have seen what happens when an election loses legitimacy because of widespread mistrust and efforts to suppress inquiry. I rejoice to live in a country where citizens feel free to exercise their responsibility to investigate and question election circumstances that raise questions, and equally rejoice that NH and the internet provide the means to answer those questions. It is neither arrogance nor lunacy to want to double check elections — especially in light of the suspicions raised in the past. Nor is it conspiracy or arrogance to provide answers that sustain the result. Indeed, if there is one lesson we can all take from this, it is the value of treating all those who take their duties as citizens seriously enough to participate with the respect due to a fellow and comrade rather than the hostility of an enemy combatant.

Stay tuned . . . .

The Best Senator Money Can Buy

The mainstream media is finally picking up on the real story behind Senator Jay Rockefeller’s (D-WV) push for immunity for the big telecom companies for cooperating with the Bush administration in illegally surveilling the communications of U.S. citizens: the huge spike in telco contributions to Rockefeller in 2007, particularly from AT&T and Verizon executives. According to today’s Washington Post, AT&T and Verizon have given $47,350 in 2007, up from $5,000 in 2006 and $7,000 in 2005.

AT&T attributes the increase to Rockefeller being a senior Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee up for reelection in 2008. However, the contributions from all other major telecoms companies belie this excuse: $4,000 in 2005, $4,900 in 2006, and $5,250 in 2007. The rest of the telecoms industry raised their contributions to Rockefeller by 7.14% in 2007; AT&T and Verizon increased their contributions by 847%.

I’d say the difference has more to do with Rockefeller chairing the Senate Intelligence Committee and shepherding legislation which would free AT&T and Verizon from roughly 40 pending lawsuits which charge the telcos with violating the privacy rights of U.S. citizens by cooperating with the Bush administration’s warrantless surveillance programme.

The story of the AT&T and Verizon contributions was broken by Ryan Singel on Wired’s Threat Level blog.

This is one more example of why progressives need to treat the Democratic Congress with the same skeptical eye that they did the Republicans. Rockefeller has sold out to the telcos and progressives should respond by refusing to support his reelection. It’s better to see real enemies in office than false friends who can be bought to betray you; it would be even better to see real progressives in primary challenges to Democrats who are bought by corporate interests.

Arise Ye Independent Cable Programers! The FCC Wants To Hear Why The Current Cable Programming Rules Suck Rocks.

Well, it took nearly a year since the FCC committed to reforming the leased access and carriage complaint processes as part of its Adelphia Transaction Order, but the wait proved worth it. On June 15, the FCC released a notice of proposed rulemaking asking all the right questions and opening the door for major changes in two critical but dysfunctional laws designed to break the stranglehold big cable companies have over cable programming: cable commercial leased access (47 U.S.C. 532) and the prohibition on favoring affiliated programming (aka “carriage complaint process”) (47 U.S.C. 536).

Done right, these two laws can usher in a new era of independent programming by giving programmers access to cable systems on fair terms. As you might imagine from the current cable programming universe — in which we get 30 different flavors of HBO (affiliated with time Warner) and however many Comcast-affiliated channels Comcast chooses to carry regardless of how few people actually watch, but you can’t find local programming or programming that competes with Comcast or Time Warner programming — the FCC has done a rather crappy job of implementing these rules since Congress passed the current versions in 1992. Nevertheless, wild-eyed optimist and occassionally successful crusader for lost causes that Iam, I think we have a real opportunity here to make these rules work. All it will take is for the progressives and conservatives who like to whine about how the media is all biased one way or another to get off their patooties and actually file something with the FCC. Then all the progressive and conservative would-be programmers will have their chance to sell their programming directly to audiences rather than negotiating with the likes of Brian Roberts, Sumner Redstone or Rupert Murdoch.

Notice appeared in the Federal Register on July 18, which makes comments due September 4 and reply comments due September 21. For those without calendars, this translates to the day after Labor Day and the day immediately before Yom Kippur. So I confess I begged for and got and extension. Now, comments are due September 11 and reply comments due October 12. The relevant docket number for those of you who file (and you know you all should!) is MB Docket No. 07-42.

So tired of watching crap you hate on cable, and wondering why people can’t get good programming on despite having a gazillion channels? See below . . . .

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Correction: Matt Drudge is not a Pedophile! Sorry for the Confusion!

According to this “developing” story, it may be even worse than you think. Shocking, but hardly surprising.

UPDATE: Well, it looks like Kos has taken down the story. Matt Drudge’s reputation, such as it is, will carry on another day, safe from snarky satire on DailyKos. For any who are curious, the linked to story was a satirical piece like you might see in The Onion that used Drudge Report-style innuendo and unsourced quotes to hint that a big story was about to break that would implicate Drudge in sleaze. At no point did it say that Drudge had been caught with child porn; rather it used weasel-wording like “sources say that Drudge will be caught with. . .” etc. This is a technique that Drudge has perfected for sliming Democrats, liberals and progressives, and the corporate media frequently runs with whatever nonsense he promotes. I thought it would be fun to give him a little taste of his own medicine (although a very small dose. Tens of mllions of people get news from Drudge directly or indirectly; Wetmachine’s readership is a tad smaller.) It was intended to be obvious satire, although at least one Wetmachine reader (see comments) didn’t realize that I knew what I was doing. And actually, it *was* fun.

UPDATE April 4

Reader JG makes a good point in the comments, that is, and I quote: “Spreading lies about someone in order to damage their character is wrong.” So, we agree upon that, and accordingly I’ve edited the headline of this story to reflect all that is currently publicly known about Matt Drudge’s possible pedophillic predilictions. I have no reason at all to suspect that Matt Drudge is a pedophile. So we’re clear on that. I was just “making shit up,” in the Matt Drudge way. (Although, in homage to Drudge, I have let stand the innuendo of the “all that that is currently publicly known” bit. Here, obviously, I’m merely demonstrating the technique of innuendo, the hinting without saying, of something nasty.) Now, when we get to the point we JG realizes that “spreading lies about someone in order to damage their character” is Matt Drudge’s stock in trade, a regular part of what he does for a living, when JG will admit that innuendo is a regular part of Drudge’s schtick, then we’ll be getting somewhere.

And one final update (April 4): Please note that *I* never said Matt Drudge was a pedophile. I certainly implied it, which was the point. My original headline was Matt Drudge, Pedophile. That sentence [] no verb. It’s just a list. If I had a headline “Octopus, banana” would it mean that I was asserting that an octopus was a banana? No, of course not. I do admit that when a noun follows a proper name set off by a comma, it’s usually an instance of apposition, and the verb is implied. However, if one wanted to be weasely, one could deny that any implication had been intended. These are the rhetorical tricks and techniques of slimeball “journalism,” of which Drudge is an exemplar.