Socialists Against NBC-Comcast Merger

Sen. Bernie Sanders, “self-described democratic socialist“, sent me an e-mail:


The recent suspension of Keith Olberman by MSNBC raises the larger question of corporate control of the media in the United States. Thanks to the response of hundreds of thousands of Americans, Keith was reinstated. But without an independent progressive media, progressives like Keith Olberman, Rachel Maddow, Ed Schultz and others can be silenced at any moment by their corporate employers. I am very concerned that the proposed merger of NBC and Comcast will move us in exactly the WRONG direction, increasing the concentration of media ownership among a small handful of huge powerful multi-national corporations.
Please join me in saying NO to this merger by signing the petition below:
Whereas, fewer and fewer large media conglomerates own and control what the American people see, hear and read; and
Whereas, one TV network (FOX) has contributed millions to the Republican Party and is a major propaganda arm for Republicans; and
Whereas, ninety percent of talk radio is controlled by right-wing extremists who speak to some tens of million of Americans every day; and
Whereas, Comcast, which is the largest cable TV company in America, is in the process of merging with General Electric’s NBC, one of the world’s major media conglomerates; and
Whereas, the CEO of this new company will be Stephen B. Burke who, in 2004, was a Bush Ranger and raised $200,000 for the re-election of George W. Bush; and
Whereas, our democracy is threatened when the American media is controlled by a handful of corporate interests.
Therefore, we the undersigned join Senator Bernie Sanders in saying NO to the Comcast-NBC merger…

If you want to sign the petition, here’s the link: Sign the Petition.

If you would rather tell me why this petition is a bad / futile / stupid idea, that’s why this blog allows comments.

How the GOP Governs (Badly)*…or A Few Bumps in the (Rail)Road for our New Randian Overlords…

This caught my eye on one fine New England Monday morning (snark, for those of you not enjoying our rain/wind/grim a.m.). (h/t Midwest Energy News).

Money quote on the rash of GOP cancellations/dissings of transportation projects:

The $810 million from Wisconsin, $400 million from Ohio, and $3 billion from New Jersey will come back to Washington and be awarded to other states instead. California was one state where the anti-train candidate, Republican Meg Whitman, didn’t win. Some of the money could end up there, to help launch the Golden State’s Los Angeles-to-San Francisco high-speed rail dream.

John Mica, a Republican from Florida who will run the House transportation committee starting in January, thinks that the Northeast corridor is the best target for high-speed rail money. Newly elected (or re-elected) Democratic governors in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, and Maryland would presumably be happy to take the money.

I guess I should say thanks, Wisconsin et al.

I was stuck on the “high speed” Acela yesterday between New Haven and Boston which as scheduled is already ludicrously slow — 2 hours to cover about 120 miles, to which track and traffic f/ups added more than half an hour.  I would love to see our Northeast Corridor routes achieve intercity timings routinely achieved in Japan in the late sixties.

Cuomo’s already on the case, and I sure hope that my home state hero Deval Patrick joins him.

Except…well two things.  First, this note from the Economist article at the link above:

It will be interesting to see whether the Obama administration can convince the lame-duck Democratic congress to reassign the money—or whether the GOP-run House will try to cancel the spending entirely next year.

Well, yeah.  Stupid, ignorant, short-sighted bad governance has gone national, again, and there’s no telling just how much badness we’ll endure before we get our next chance to beat back the tide in two years.  From here, we get to the other point that emerges from my attempt at a little schadenfreude above.

Which would be that while the proximate losers in this instance are the folks who in some sense deserve to pay a price for electing folks who do exactly what they say they will do, their losses are likely much larger than just the foregone federal cash.  Worse, this kind of stupid costs the rest of us too, especially if the money is not swiftly reprogrammed.

The first half of that claim is already becoming clear to the Wisconsin electorate. A $28.5 contract to build bridges for the project has already been cancelled, and, as the Wisconsin Builder website pointed out, “high speed rail is no longer just talk at the capitol; it’s turning into real jobs paid for with real money.”

Just to make the folly worse:  as of the most recent statistics I could dig up in haste, WI gets eighty six cents back on every dollar of federal taxes paid.  That’s quite a loss, year over year.  Why not hand back yet more Fed spending?

Hell, the good folks of Wisconsin must be so rolling in it that they don’t mind imposing on themselves what acts as a kind of tax hike.  Shoot, the good folks of Massachusetts need it more, right?

Again, I say thanks, sort of.  May the voters of WI voters enjoy that warm glow of giving.

Except for this, as reported in the WSJ:

if Wisconsin backs out, the decision will endanger a larger planned rail network that would connect Minneapolis, Madison, Milwaukee and Chicago. The line between Madison and Milwaukee was intended to be an extension of the popular Chicago-to-Milwaukee “Hiawatha” route.

It’s OK, I guess, if one crowd wants to be poorer, with fewer tools — which, after all, is what infrastructure is — with which to generate wealth.

But these decisions don’t just make the good citizens of a state noted for its rotted bovine lactation products less likely to prosper. They screw millions more, and ultimately, to the extent that the US really does function as a national economy, perhaps all of us.


*I’m urging a meme here.  I think that we in the reality based community have to start making some serious communication/framing efforts right now.  We’ve plenty of recent evidence that the GOP is a disaster as a party of governance — but that was one idea that had a lot of trouble breaking through over these last several months.  So I think, as we begin the 2012 campaigns (right now) we should be hammering home the notion that these folks screw up all the time.  We should frame every piece on every blog and at every media outlet we have access to as the GOP are the spoiled, clueless children of politics, great at raising a ruckus, but no one you would want near the actual levers of power.  Again and again and again, with every failure, large and small.

As you all have figured out by now, I don’t do pithy well, and that’s what’s needed here.  But the basic idea is pretty clear.  Lots of labels that in one form or another mark stories in memor as “another GOP f**k up.”

Update: Sorry for all the missing line breaks between grafs.  I’ve been trying a bunch of stuff — drafting in word processors, using the html view on the blog tool and so on, but can’t get the final post to reflect the formatting of any of these approaches.  FYWP — and if any of you know what I’m doing wrong, please inform.

Images:  Stephenson’s Rocket, in Mechanics magazine, 1829.

Ynknown artist , Nemunas crossing in Kaunas, c. 1864

Stand By Pelosi

Paul Krugman, who I often believe is exceptionally tone-deaf regarding politics (but usually right on the merits of policy), is, IMHO, absolutely right here:

First, Pelosi has by all accounts been an extremely effective leader. She made health care happen, when it was taken for lost; she has shown an amazing ability to herd cats, and from what I hear her caucus appreciates her talents. If the economic policies fell short, if the White House did a terrible job of messaging, well, that’s not her fault.

Second, and following from this: getting rid of Nancy Pelosi now would serve no purpose other than to throw an alleged wild liberal to the conservative wolves. It would, in effect, be admitting that America won’t accept anything that looks like a progressive policy; it would basically mean conceding that the Republicans were right.

So the Pelosi issue is about whether the Democrats will fall back into their good old cringe.

Democrats would be fools to let the GOP have another scalp. Period.

Defending the Young Non-Voter

Tuesday, Anna North on Jezebel did a post on why she wouldn’t be voting:

… I can’t vote today, because I didn’t register in time. New York State’s voter registration forms had to be postmarked or filled out in person by October 8, and I missed that deadline. Obviously, this was really stupid of me… I’m definitely at fault here, and I feel pretty bad.
However! Requiring voter registration nearly a month before an election is also bad for democracy. Nine states — including Iowa, where I lived and voted before I moved to New York — allow election-day voter registration in some form or another, and those states have significantly higher voter turnout. According to a study by the Caltech/MIT Voting Technology Project, “residents of states with 30-day closing deadlines were anywhere from 3 to 9 percent less likely to turnout than residents of states with election day voter registration.” Public policy research group reports an even greater effect, “States with EDR have historically boasted turnout rates 10 to 12 percentage points higher than states that do not offer Election Day Registration.” The Caltech/MIT researchers say registration deadlines have a greater effect on turnout than any other voting-practices policy, be it polling place hours or absentee ballot regulations.
Also, requiring early registration disproportionately affects certain social groups. According to the Caltech/MIT study, “the impact of the registration closing deadline was greater for voters with lower levels of educational attainment, and those who were generally less able to navigate the voter registration process in their state.”
Young people aren’t the only ones who move a lot — so do low-income Americans. According to Demos, “Census data show that over 35 million people in America moved between 2007 and 2008. Approximately 45 percent of those moving during this period had incomes of less than $25,000.” By requiring early registration, New York and thirty-nine other states (North Dakota doesn’t require registration at all), are disadvantaging would-be voters who are young, who are poor, who move a lot, or who have trouble registering due to lack of information, lack of Internet access, limited English proficiency, working long hours, disability, or a host of other reasons. Since a lot of these voters are already disadvantaged anyway, early voter registration deadlines actually perpetuate social inequality by denying underprivileged groups a voice in the electoral process…

To be honest, I only got to vote yesterday because I took a cab to the registry office 15 minutes before the (extended) evening deadline on the final day for eligibility (October 6, in Massachusetts). Our town dumps you from the voting roles if you don’t mail back its biennial census form, and we do so much of our paperwork online these days that the form got lost. But I had the spare time & cash to show up on their doorstep with multiple forms of ID… and the incentive that I am really, really starting to hate the over-55 voting demographic, of which I will become a member next week.

It’s well worth reading the comments over at the link — there are all sorts of interesting discussions on why people don’t or can’t vote. Historically, the Real American(tm) tradition is that, despite our pious talk, voting regulation is not about ensuring that every citizen votes, but that only the right (Right) people be permitted the “privilege” of exercising the franchise.