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Fri May 11, 2012 at 07:44 AM PDT

Mitt the bully

by umasslefty

I've been watching Romney's botched general election rollout, and this last news cycle's stories about "Romney the Bully" (including Benjy Sarlin's piece on Romney's handling of the Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian Youth) with a great deal of interest and a rather generous sense of validation.  

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Wed Aug 26, 2009 at 10:10 AM PDT

My Experience with Sen. Kennedy

by umasslefty

There has been a veritable flood of memorials on these pages and others regarding Senator Kennedy, his passing, and the legacy that he leaves behind.  

Many of these speak of his legislative accomplishments and his ability to get laws passed that have and will leave lasting impressions on the lives of countless numbers of this country's citizens.  I think President Obama's remarks this morning really encapsulated a sentiment that many out there may share: "His extraordinary life on this earth has come to an end.  And the extraordinary good that he did lives on.  For his family, he was a guardian.  For America, he was the defender of a dream."  

But I wanted to briefly share what Senator Kennedy and his commitment to progressive principles and ideals meant to me.

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Way back last week (which seems like a lifetime ago in blog years), I promised that I would post a final diary in my series on media ownership consolidation (the first six diaries can be found here) that focused on how to move ownership regulations into the 21st century.

Well, after having my laptop screen blow up on me and taking a few days to enjoy the inauguration of President Obama (that's very gratifying to type), I'm back with the final entry.

Before I get to the meat of my policy prescriptions that I think can help grow the media that we need for the future, while assuring that every person has access to the technology that they need to make use of that media, I just want to add the same disclaimer that I added to my previous diary offering possible policy fixes for the media ownership mess. There are plenty of people much smarter than me who can propose other ideas that are probably better or more comprehensive. What I'm trying to do in this diary is provide some basic concepts and outlines as a starting point. I would appreciate your thoughts and ideas in the comments (and I got some good ones in the last post).  

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As I've tried to detail (the other diaries in this series are on my user page), the question of who owns the media in this country is a big deal.  Unfortunately, policymakers and courts have made a mess of the regulations that are supposed to control media ownership concentration.  

Now that we're so tantalizingly close to the beginning of the Obama administration, it seems like a worthwhile exercise to move beyond critique and offer solutions for how to undo the damage that's been done.  At the outset, I just want to make it clear that I know that there are surely a lot of people much smarter than me who can propose other ideas that are probably bolder and better. What I'm trying to do in this diary is throw out some basic concepts and outlines that could be used as a starting point. I welcome your thoughts in the comments.

This diary will focus on policies that I think are necessary for preventing a further descent into the consolidation abyss.  Tomorrow, I'll post some proposals for policies that will help grow the media that we need for the future, while assuring that every person has access to the technology that they need to make use of that media.

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Over the past week or so, I've been publishing a series of diaries about media concentration, laying out how we came to be in the mess that we're in and why we need media regulation in a democracy (you can find the previous four diaries in this series on my user page here).

But there may be some of you out there saying to yourselves: "This guy needs to wake up and smell the electronic revolution brewing. We don't need the old media.  In the Internet age, we have citizen journalists who can do the investigative work that the broadcast outlets and newspapers really stopped doing effectively years ago and post the information online with little or no overhead. And this provides all of the diversity of information that we need."  

To those people who may be thinking along those lines (and I admit that this is a bit of a strawman, but I did get at least a couple of comments along those lines in my previous posts), I would simply argue that, while there are some fantastic new websites and blogs out there doing some inspiring journalism,  we need to look a little closer at where we are in the digital age before we jump to the conclusion that media regulation is soooo 1990s.  

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With news coming today that Obama has selected Julius Genachowski to head the FCC (see Nuisance Industry's diary here for more info on who Genachowski is and discussion of the merits of the pick or you can check out the frontpage post about the choice; you can also find reaction to the pick by a group fighting the good fight on media concentration, Free Press, here), it seemed like a good time to pick up with a series of diaries that I've been posting on media consolidation and what policies the Obama administration can put in place to start working towards a less concentrated, better functioning media.  

In my first three diaries (found here, here, and here), I looked at how the FCC and the courts managed to make such a mess of the regulation of media ownership since the 1980s.  Today, I want to take a step back and look at why we need diverse media ownership in the first place.

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For those of us hoping that the beginning of the Obama administration means the end of the seemingly endless trend towards greater media ownership concentration, right now is a great time to assess the failures of the last several decades and to begin putting together new policies that can work towards building the kind of media that we need if we're going to have a functioning democracy.  

For the past two days, I've written diaries (if you have a chance, you can read those diaries here and here)detailing the policies and court decisions since the 1980s that have allowed huge multinational corporations buy large numbers of media outlets.  

Today, I want to look at what will hopefully be the last of the FCC rulemakings geared towards allowing for greater concentration of media ownership and give my sense of why that rulemaking was misguided.

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Yesterday, I posted the first in a series of diaries that I hope will provide some useful background about the regulatory and judicial decisions that have led to the successive waves of media ownership consolidation that have had seriously detrimental effects on the quality of the news that makes it into the newspapers and on to the airwaves.  In the days to come, I want to outline why media concentration is so harmful for a democracy, detail why diverse ownership of media is still necessary in the public interest, and propose some ideas for fixing the broken media ownership structure that currently exists.  

If you're interested (and it provides useful background for this post), you can read the first diary here.

Today, we're going to look at the FCC's attempts to push through another round of media rules that would set the groundwork for further consolidation in 2002 and 2003 and the Third Circuit's rejection of many of those rules in a 2004 decision.  

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There's a great deal of griping about the media around these parts.  And it's justified.  Large segments of the traditional media just does not do a good job of adequately informing the general public about important political issues.  We could spend all day critiquing the content that the traditional media puts out.  And for those engaged in that project, I say: godspeed.  

But with the beginning of the Obama Administration less than two short weeks away, it seems important to look at why it is that the media just does not provide us with the news that we want.  In my opinion, the traditional media's failings have a lot to do with who owns the stations and newspapers that put out the news.  More and more, the answer to the question of who owns the media is easy: huge multinational corporations.  These conglomerates have been allowed to consolidate their holdings and take control of larger and larger segments of them media because regulators and legislators in Washington (with the assistance of the federal courts) have allowed it to happen.

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Despite a workload that seems completely overwhelming right now, I took election day off to work as a legal observer in New Hampshire as part of Obama's voter protection program, Counsel for Change.

And I did observe.  I watched and listened as the process of same day registrations (they allow them in New Hampshire) swelled the voter rolls by an additional six percent in a small town on election day.  I witnessed the verification and tabulation of absentee ballots and monitored the clerk and the poll moderator as they inspected and scrutinized signatures to make sure that the ballots were genuine (they were amazed that they had close to two hundred to process, admitting that they used to think fourteen was a lot for one election).  And the other legal observer and I stayed until all of the votes were tabulated and the ballots sealed away in tamper-proof boxes in case of a recount.  

But we were much more than merely the last line of defense once the voters reached the polls.  Over the course of the day, we were actually integrated into the greatest GOTV operation that this country has ever seen, helping to ensure that the voters were there to protect in the first place.  

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Thu Oct 30, 2008 at 11:46 AM PDT

What follows the kitchen sink

by umasslefty

I admit it.  

I listen to sports talk radio in the morning.  

I have a ten minute drive to get to the train station in time for my 5:40 am train, followed by an hour and fifteen minutes on the commuter rail before I reach school.  And before I have my coffee and before I finish up my preparations for the day's courses, it's kind of nice to ease in to the day with a mindless diversion.

I'm not proud of this. I know sports talk is home to the kinds of misogyny, homophobia, sensationalism, and anti-intellectualism that most of us here find abhorrent.  I don't completely lose my critical capacity when I switch over to the AM dial. But I love baseball, and the basketball season just got under way again too, so I try to stomach the troglodyte messengers to catch up on what I've missed during the past day in the world of sports.

But lately, it's not even possible to enjoy this ten-minute distraction.

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A couple of days ago, my wife's cousin forwarded me an article from Human Events that tried its darndest to make a mountain out of Joe Biden's molehill comments about Obama being tested during the first year of his presidency (I won't link to the article, but if you want it, you can find it out there on the tubes).  I shot a reply back explaining how the article was editing what Biden said to make it seem as negative as possible and how, if you read all of his remarks, there was nothing really all that remarkable about it.  

But mostly, I just wanted to express my shock at the fact that he was forwarding this steaming pile along to me and my hope that he wasn't voting for John McCain.  

His reply: he's one of those mythical "undecideds" that we all hear so much about, and he wanted to hear why I was so convinced that Obama was the right choice.

I couldn't believe my luck.  Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to help him make up his mind.  

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