Tales of the Sausage Factory

Whether Obama Will Fight For Public Option Is Irrelevant. The Question Is, Will We?

Chris Bowers, as usual, hits it dead on in this piece on OpenLeft. While we may despair of the Democrats lack of spine, the question is whether we are willing to stand up and fight for our principles.

Opponents of the public option are willing to make angry calls, attend rallies, spend money like water to make their point. Why shouldn’t a rational member of Congress assume that they carry the majority if we cannot muster a tenth of the enthusiasm to fight for our principles?

Donna Edwards (D-MD) spoke at America’s Future Now in June. As the audience pressed their demands she responded “Look, I’ve been to a whole bunch of Progressive retreats. I know what the demands are. The question is whether any of you will actually make calls to members of Congress to try to make this happen.”

And now we find that the Obama Administration has taken the silence of the Progressive movement as a willingness to compromise. Why are we surprised? But the question is not whether Obama is a good or bad person, a traitor, a realist, a disappointment, or anything having to do with Obama. The question is, what are we going to do. As the Bible tells us:

It is not in Heaven, that you shall say: “Who shall ascend into Heaven and bring down the Word to us that we may hear it and obey.” Nor is it over the sea, that you shall say: “Who shall go over the sea and bring back the Word that we may hear it and obey.” For the Word is near to you, it is in your mouth and in your heart for YOU TO DO. (Deut. 30:12-14 )

As always, we must rely upon ourselves, not some imagined political party. How can we be betrayed if we will not even get up off our ass to fight?

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in "A Republic, if you can keep it", Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , | Comments closed

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Important DC Cir Opinion on Boring Procedural Stuff for the FCC,And Why We Should Care.

Every now and then, the fact that I am a lawyer leaks through here. OK, it leaks through a lot — including my insatiable tracking of the minutia of the D.C. Circuit and how it impacts things FCC.

Which brings me to last month’s opinion in Globalstar, Inc. v. Federal Communications Commission. In the grand scheme of things, this decision only impacts two companies, Globalstar and Iridium. What makes the decision important is that it addresses the scope of a Petition for Reconsideration and whether a Petition for Recon re-opens the entire docket. Along the way, it once again admonishes parties about relying on ex partes to build an administrative record, which may actually breathe some life back into the procedural rules at a time when every FCC proceeding is “permit but disclose.”

More importantly, this case illustrates that the details of this stuff matter — not just in telecom but in all aspects of regulatory reform. If we want a real progressive movement, we need to nurture our own special teams in every policy area that follow the day-to-day mundane and prosaic details that make the difference for effective advocacy on the big ticket items.

So for all you procedure buffs out there, continued below . . . .

Read More »

Posted in Life In The Sausage Factory, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Changes for Media Access Project, And For Me Personally.

As everyone not living under a rock has heard, the spirit of change is now sweeping through Washington like a broom enchanted by a lazy animated mouse. Who are we at Media Access Project to resist change? Heck, we bloody well lead change, we make change. We are change agents. We — well, you get the idea.

So what changes will happen at MAP?

1) After 10 years, I will leave Media Access Project, effective January 31, 2009.

2) After more than 30 years as President and CEO, Andrew Jay Schwartzman will become Legal and Policy Director. Andy will handle policy, and MAP will hire a new CEO to handle administrative and fundraising duties.

3) Associate Director Parul Desai will have an enhanced role in the organization going forward.

Why? Because, bluntly, we need to prepare for a very different world. Make no mistake, the telecom policy world still needs MAP — perhaps now more than ever. As I repeatedly stress, anyone who thinks that we can just elect the right people and go home needs to think again. The new Administration, despite what I believe is a very real and strong ideological affinity for our issues and a reasonable skepticism for the blandishments of incumbents, will need a powerful progressive movement to keep it moving in the right direction. MAP will continue to sit at the tip of the spear on media and telecom reform, pushing against media gatekeepers and fighting for an electronic media that lives up to its potential for Free Speech and innovation.

But we can’t do that by staying the way we’ve always stayed. We need to take a deep look at ourselves and ask some hard questions about how we avoid the trap of fighting battles that no longer matter, in ways that no longer work. We have spent the last 8 years in opposition, fighting to hold back some really wretched policies and swimming uphill to create new opportunities for independent voices. Whatever the Obama Administration brings, I gaurantee it will not be anything like the Bush or Clinton years.

Which is why I have decided to move on, or at least give up my job at MAP. I still love this field, and strongly believe in the Progressive movement (including my belief that it is a movement and not a mob). But the time has come for me to move on to something else, although I have no idea what that something else will be (anyone with any thoughts on the subject, don’t hesitate to write). I have a book contract with Ig Publishing for a book on building the modern progressive movement and developing an alternative to the Gods of the Marketplace (I like to think of it as what Naiomi Klein forgot to write about in The Shock Doctrine, the part where people figure out how to get a better system in place). that, of course, will not pay the bills (especially as it will not actually get published until the fall of 2010), so I expect to do some consulting for awhile until I figure out what else to do. I’ll add that if anyone can figure out a way to make this bloging stuff pay, I would love to know it.

In answer to the inevitable question — yes, I’d love to work for the Obama Administration or do something worthwhile on the Hill. And like every other Democratic policy wonk, I’ve filled out the form at change.gov, so they will know where to find me if they decide they can use me.

But even without a job waiting for me, and despite my general satisfaction with my job at MAP, I feel the time has come for me to move on. Cliche as it sounds, I need a change and I cannot think of a better time for one (other than this pesky recession), given how the policy wonk world is undergoing one of its rare ferment moments when the possibility of sweeping away the established order of things seems breathtakingly real if we have the courage to sieze it and dare to do something utterly different.

I may regret it. But I think not. I like to think I’ve done a lot of good doing what I’ve been doing for the last ten years. I also like to think I’ll find other ways to do good and interesting things as well. This feels right, and I would be false to myself if I refused to take the risk.

Stay tuned . . .

Posted in General, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , | 21 Comments (Comments closed)

Econoklastic

The Pity Is That It's True

Commenting on a piece by The Financial Times columnist Clive Crook on Barak Obama’s likely economy policies if elected, The Economist manages to interject a point desperately depressing, but spot on: “His voting record suggests that, if elected, Mr Obama would be the most economically left-wing American president since … well, it’s hard to say. Richard Nixon?”

The Economist has had Nixon in their sights ever since he briefly introduced wage and price controls in August 1971, violating a core tenet of Chicago School orthodoxy, but on reflection they have a point. Nixon was the last president who was willing to seriously entertain the use of government to fundamentally regulate the economy not solely at the behest of Wall Street and corporate interests. The Friedmanite orthodoxy which was religiously embraced by so many around Reagan and which has subsequently stripped government of the will to regulate the unchecked greed machine of the market was viewed as a sectarian movement, very nearly a cult, by Nixon and his principal economic advisors.

But it says a great deal about how much the progressive movement in the Democratic Party has surrendered that the principal organ of neoliberalism, The Economist, finds that the worst thing it can say about Barak Obama is that he might pursue Nixonian economic policies. Lyndon Johnson and the Great Society are beyond the realm of possibility, much less Roosevelt and the policies which underlay the New Deal. And they are almost certainly right. Obama is as much a captive of the corporate-worshipping wing of the Democratic Party as Billary (the principal reason that Hillary Clinton won’t release her joint income tax returns is that they would reveal that husband Bill has been openly a wholly-owned subsidiary of major U.S. and foreign corporate interests since leaving the White House, just as he was more clandestinely since his first days in Arkansas politics).

With Edwards and Kucinch out of the race there’s very little to enthuse me about a contest between a product of the Daley machine in Chicago and the Democratic Leadership Council’s anointed one. I suspect strongly that Obama will be just another case of “run to the left, govern to the right.” I only wish The Who’s lyrics were right: We won’t get fooled again. But I wouldn’t make book on it.

Posted in Econoklastic, General | Also tagged , , , | 3 Comments (Comments closed)
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