The power of corporate propaganda –> Keystone XL has overwhelming public support according to a new Washington Post poll, and the vast majority of respondents believe, wrongly, that the project would create tons of jobs.
And some people power –> Fifteen Vermont towns passed a resolution calling on the legislature to establish a public bank that would serve Main Street like North Dakota’s. Jon Queally reports for Common Dreams.
Separate and unequal –> At Dissent, historian Colin Gordon, author of Growing Apart: A Political History of American Inequality, writes about how growing inequality is tearing our social contract apart.
CPAC –> The annual conservative confab is underway, and Devin Burghart reports for The National Memo that “ugly racial ideology” is front and center. ALSO: Paul Ryan told a moving anecdote that appears to have been lifted from a book, according to WaPo fact-checker Glenn Kessler.
Is the dream dead? –> Salon’s Andrew Leonard writes that a libertarian fantasy has died with the unmasking of Bitcoin’s creator.
Theft is a crime –> But wage theft is rarely prosecuted as such. But in New Haven, that’s changing, thanks to grassroots activism on behalf of mostly low-wage workers. Melinda Tuhus reports for In These Times.
Getting it wrong –> At TAP, Abby Rapoport argues that the media’s beloved ‘establishment v. tea partiers’ narrative is all wrong in Texas.
Irony=dead –> Peter Maas notes that the NSA has an in-house advice columnist — and that one letter writer complained about being watched by his boss.
Threatening for action –> Chuck Schumer says Obama should stop deporting people who would be eligible for legalization under the Senate immigration bill if the House fails to act by September. Reid Epstein reports for Politico.
Probably not kosher –> Oscar Mayer has invented an iPhone app that — with the help of an external device — wakes you up with the sounds and smell of frying bacon.
Good morning! Here are some of the stories we’re reading on another chilly day in NYC…
Kremlin Network News –> An American anchor for Russia Today resigned on-air in protest of the network’s Ukraine coverage. James Kirchick has her story at The Daily Beast.
“Clean” coal –> Spencer Woodman reports for Salon that the head of North Carolina’s Environmental Protection Agency is a former businessman — and a fierce anti-environmentalist and climate change denier — whose agency blocked multiple lawsuits against Duke Energy for its handling of coal ash. ALSO: Alpha Natural Resources, one of the countries largest coal companies, will pay a record fine for polluting waterways in five Appalachian states, reports Dina Capiello for the AP. Alpha acquired Massey Energy in 2011, and more than half of the violations came from that company’s operations.
Not your father’s Pope –> Francis didn’t go as far as endorsing civil unions for gays and lesbians, but he came closer than anyone could have imagined. Catherine Thompson reports for TPM.
Can’t have civil rights defenders defending civil rights –> In a minor debacle for the administration, Obama’s nominee to head the DOJ’s Civil Rights Division was rejected by the Senate — with seven Democrats joining in — as a result of arguing that accused cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal’s death penalty hearing was tainted. Ian Millhiser has the details for ThinkProgress.
That’s some democracy –> Rep. Darrell Issa cut off Democrats’ microphones during a hearing on the IRS’ scrutinizing “social welfare” organizations. WaPo columnist Dana Milbank calls him out.
Lobbying for disaster –> A report released this week projects that if Big Oil gets its way and kills decades-old regulations on crude oil exports, it would release the equivalent of four billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Lauren McCauley reports for Common Dreams.
Good times for some –> The headline on Julie Creswell’s NYT report says it all: “For Rich, ’13 Was Good for Making, and Spending, Money.”
But not for others –> Katherine Peralta reports for Bloomberg that college grads are increasingly being forced to take low-wage jobs, and it’s pushing out people with less education.
Small victories –> TNR’s Alec MacGillis calls the decision by Facebook and Instagram to crack down on illegal gun sales a “small but auspicious” victory for gun safety advocates.
We need a raise –> Eric Morath reports for the WSJ that raising the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour would save the government $4.6 billion in food stamps, according to a new study by the Center for American Progress.
They just want some dignity –> Chinese workers at a factory that was recently sold by IBM are striking, part of a growing trend in China as labor shortages give workers new confidence to flex some muscle. Keith Bradsher reports for the NYT.
Facts are hard –> At MoJo, Chris Mooney offers five obviously false beliefs that have become unimpeachable “facts” for far too many Americans.
Must-read –> A summary doesn’t do justice to this McClatchy report about CIA staffers facing potential criminal charges for monitoring computers used by congressional staffers preparing a report about CIA torture. Jonathan Landay, Ali Watkins and Marisa Taylor tell quite a tale.
Oops –> Rob Garver reports for the Fiscal Times that some of the researchers cited in Paul Ryan’s poverty report are crying foul, claiming that he mischaracterized their findings. ALSO: Paul Krugman on “the real poverty trap.”
Sludgeocracy –> North Carolina cited five more Duke Energy power plants in that massive coal ash spill. AP, via The Guardian.
Strange bedfellows –> Rand Paul and Attorney General Eric Holder are joining forces to push sentencing reform for nonviolent drug offenders. Steve Hsieh reports for The Nation.
Underfunded effort –> At AlterNet, Steve Rosenfeld reports that a referendum that would hike California’s minimum wage to $12 per hour is hugely popular but may not get on the ballot because organizers are running out of cash.
OK, now it’s getting serious –> Chipotle warned that it may stop offering guacamole if climate change worsens. Emily Atkins reports for ThinkProgress.
Better late than never –> The New York Times corrected a 161 year-old spelling error brought to light by Twitter and the popularity of “12 Years a Slave.” Katie Long with the details at Slate.
Life ain’t easy for a boy named Sue –> An Arkansas GOP candidate for Congress has legally changed his name from Conald “Connie” Reynolds to ”Colonel Conrad Reynolds” because the latter sounds more manly, according to TPM’s Dylan Scott.
And finally, don’t miss The Daily Show‘s report on seafood — the “Mercedes of food” — and why it is an inappropriate food source for America’s food stamp recipients.
The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday finalized major new regulations that it says will create a cleaner environment, improve public health and help flight climate change — all by requiring oil refiners to put less sulfur in American gasoline.
While the concept seems simple enough on its face, the 1,000-plus page doozy-of-a-rule was adopted despite harsh objections from the oil industry, which said the new standards would cost too much to implement and do little to help the environment. But public health, environmental and even auto industry groups disagreed. The rules, they said, help create a cleaner vehicle fleet that will eventually add billions to the US economy.
Here’s a brief overview of the new standards — what they do, how much they will cost and the benefits EPA purports they will bring.
Why do we care whether there’s sulfur in gasoline?
Sulfur — that notoriously stinky, rotten-egg like element — is a normal part of gasoline’s chemical makeup. When cars burn gasoline, they emit sulfur, along with a host of other pollutants. Sulfur is not a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change, but it is an environmental pollutant. When it’s emitted from cars, it comes back to earth in rainwater.
But sulfur pollution itself is not the real problem. Peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown that the sulfur in gasoline actually makes the pollution-reduction systems in cars — called catalytic converters — significantly less efficient. More sulfur in gasoline means less effective pollution control. Therefore, when there’s more sulfur, there’s more pollution of every kind, including greenhouse gases and soot. MORE
Speaking of budgets –> Hunter Walker reports for Business Insider that Obama’s 2015 budget will once again include closing Wall Street’s beloved “carried interest” loophole that allows huge hedge funds to pay tiny tax rates. AND: Rand Paul is blocking a deal with Switzerland that would reveal thousands of ultra-wealthy tax-dodgers, reports Rachael Bade for Politico.
Messing with the spies –> Utah lawmakers are considering a wide-ranging bill that would sharply limit the government’s ability to use surveillance data — from NSA and other agencies — in criminal prosecutions. Michael Maharrey with the details at Turn it Off (a privacy advocacy group).
“Liberty” to discriminate –> Gabriel Arana writes at The Prospect that Hobby Lobby v. Sebellius — the Surpreme Court challenge to Obamacare’s contraception provision — might pave the way for discriminatory laws like the one that crashed and burned in Arizona last week.
Government subsidizing a group that hates government –> Virginia’s House Speaker, a former national chairman of ALEC, spiked a bill that would have ended tax-payer funds for lawmakers to travel to conferences whose “agendas and materials are not available to the public” — like ALEC’s. Josh Israel has the story for ThinkProgress.
Jailed for working a legal job –> Nora Caplan-Bricker reports for TNR that people are still being jailed for marijuana that’s legal in their states, and no pardons have been forthcoming.
This one’s bizarre –> Rep. Steve Stockman, running for a senate seat in Texas, has threatened to “jail” people for publishing an old mugshot of him back in the 1970s. Erich Lach reports — and publishes the pic — for TPM.
Putting drones to good use? –> Facebook is considering purchasing a company that manufactures high-altitude solar-powered drones that can fly for five years without landing. They would bring internet connectivity to parts of the world without access, beginning in Africa, reports Sarah Perez and Josh Constine for TechCrunch.
“We often swim there!” –> The BBC offers images of a giant snake eating a large crocodile, along with a charming interview with the Australian woman who took them. Not recommended for those with snake phobias.
Good morning! Eighty-three years ago today, “The Star Spangled Banner” — originally, “In Defense of Fort McHenry” – became the national anthem of the United States. Since then, most Americans have only heard the first quarter of it — we don’t sing about the “havoc of war” or patriots’ blood washing away the Brits’ “foul footsteps’ pollution” or “the hireling and slave” before baseball games. Go figure.
Stat of the day: Under 10 percent — the tax rates paid by a third of America’s most successful corporations.
Arrested –> Hundreds of young people were arrested protesting Keystone XL at the White House on Sunday. Emily Stephenson reports for Reuters.
What Florida needs is more shooting –> Henry Pierson Curtis reports for McClatchy that Florida lawmakers are considering expanding “Stand Your Ground” to make it legal to brandish a weapon or fire warning shots when you feel threatened — one of a number of anti-gun-safety provisions being considered. Meanwhile, Marissa Alexander, sentenced to 20 years for firing a warning shot toward her allegedly violent husband, has been told by prosecutors that if she loses a second trial, scheduled for July, she’ll be sentenced to 60 years. Jon Swain with the story for The Guardian.
Ukraine –> Maria Alyokhina, a founding member of Pussy Riot who was released from prison prior to the Sochi Olympics, has written a piece about Putin’s recent moves for TNR. ALSO: MoJo’s Kevin Drum offers a pretty good prediction about how the crisis in Crimea will play out in our political discourse.
The definition of plutocracy –> The NYT’s Nick Confessore reports: “Clubs of elite donors in both parties are taking a more central role in shaping policy and campaigns, displacing party leaders and… outside-spending organizations.”
There’s always money for war –> At Other Words, Mattea Kramer explains why those defense cuts we keep hearing about won’t actually lead to less defense spending.
(Alleged) sleaze –> Wisconsin lawmakers are seeking to oust state Assembly Majority Leader Bill Kramer (R) after a lobbyist and a staffer accused him of sexual harassment at a Republican fundraiser in DC. He had previously been charged with “inappropriate behavior” at an ALEC conference in Chicago. Daniel Bice reports for the Milwaukee J-S.
View from the other side –> At Slate, Tik Root offers readers the perspective of a Yemeni family that lost four sons to the “War on Terror.”
Dems’ white people problem –> Jackie Calmes reports for the NYT that Democrats are trying to figure out how to win back less educated white male voters.
Buried lede –> Towards the end of this piece by Capital New York’s Eliza Shapiro is news that charter school mogul Eva Moskowitz is closing 22 schools for a day and bussing the kids and their parents up to Albany to stage a rally in support of charter schools.
Bad governance –> At The Nation, John Nichols considers whether Maine’s Paul LePage is the worst governor in the US.
Funny and scary –> The great Roy Edroso takes a tour of right-wing bloggers’ reactions to the fight over Arizona’s gay discrimination bill for The Village Voice.
Good morning! On this very day in 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick announced that they’d discovered the double-helix structure of DNA.
For some newer news, here are our morning reads…
Ukraine –> Viktor Yanukovych, the country’s fugitive president, showed up in a swanky Moscow hotel asking Russia for protection against ‘extremists.’ Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials are calling the sudden appearance of Russian soldiers at two airports an “invasion.” David Stout reports for Time.
Way to support those troops –> Senate Republicans blocked a bill that would increase funding for veterans’ health care and education, insisting that it must also contain new sanctions against Iran. Ramsey Cox has the story for The Hill.
Little democracy, please? –> The Electoral Integrity Project released its annual report which found that the US ranked last among Western democracies. “Experts highlighted concern over American practices of district boundaries, voter registration and campaign finance,” according to The Monkey Cage.
Related –> Bill Clinton is leading a nationwide Democratic initiative to fight back against restrictive voting laws, reports John Whitesides for Reuters.
Still fighting –> At ABC News, Abby Phillip writes that after five years, the tea party movement is still tangling with the Republican establishment.
Getting weirder every day –> At Slate, Katy Waldman looks at a new bill in Iowa that would allow women to sue doctors for “abortion regret.”
Fitting –> The only person to be found liable for fraud in the lead up to the 2008 crash, a notorious Goldman Sachs trader who still owes over $1 million in fines, will teach a class at the University of Chicago — a school that’s notorious for advancing conservative economic theory. Patrick Caldwell reports for MoJo.
Someone’s gotta get rich –> At The American Prospect, Virginia Eubanks looks at how big banks are raking in serious profits from food stamps.
Trigger happy –> Tim Johnson reports for McClatchy that a number of killings by Border Patrol officers have raised questions about training and accountability.
Great #LongRead –> Alok Jha, one of the people stuck on that scientific vessel stuck for days in the Antarctic, has written a great piece about the experience in The Guardian.
Some atheists are OK –> At Salon, Elizabeth Stoker notes the disconnect between CPAC’s ban on atheists and conservatives’ fondness for rabid anti-Christian Ayn Rand.
De Blasio –> NYC mayor fulfills a campaign promise by blocking three new charter schools, reports Rebecca Fishbein at Gothamist.
Losing clout –> At Foreign Policy, John Judis offers a fascinating historical perspective to explain why the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is no longer able to get its way so easily on Capitol Hill.
We saw that movie –> Mississippi man pronounced dead in his home on Wednesday alarms funeral workers when he starts kicking around in the body bag on Thursday. Via: AP.
Demonstrators celebrate after they learn Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed SB1062, a bill designed to allow Arizonans to refuse service to gays, at the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)
Quite a few bad apples –> The Army disqualified 588 soldiers as sexual assault counselors, recruiters and drill sergeants for infractions like sexual assault. Progress, yet one has to worry that they still have jobs. Tom Vanden Brook reports for USA Today.
Not big on democracy –> Ohio cut early voting favored by African Americans. Zachary Roth reports for MSNBC.
Big Brother on your webcam –> The Guardian’s Spencer Ackerman and James Ball report that Britain’s surveillance agency, GCHQ, has been spying on Yahoo webchat users. The Optic Nerve program reportedly targeted 1.8 million users worldwide in one six-month period alone.
Climate change havoc –> At MoJo, Jeremy Schulman reports on a controversial new study that looks at historic patterns of temperature and crime and predicts a significant increase in murders, rapes, assaults and other mayhem as America gets hotter.
Christie’s next move? –> Bob and Barbara Dreyfuss report for The Nation that Chris Christie is likely to attack public workers’ pensions, yet again, as he positions himself for a 2016 presidential run.
Blocked –> Sen. Rand Paul blocks Surgeon General nominee for agreeing with the mainstream medical establishment that gun violence is a public health problem. Sy Mukherjee reports for ThinkProgress.
Rumors of its death are premature –> In Democracy: a Journal of Ideas, Theda Skocpol writes that the tea party movement is alive and well and wielding plenty of influence over today’s GOP.
Army spying on activists? –> At The Stranger, Brendan Kiley previews an upcoming trial that will reveal more details about John Towery, a veteran who was allegedly paid by the US army to infiltrate, monitor and disrupt anti-war activists.
LIZ!! –> Sen. Elizabeth Warren made her first foreign policy address, stressing the need to focus more energy on avoiding civilian casualties when engaging in military action, according to Noah Bierman of The Boston Globe.
Cooking the books on Keystone –> Bloomberg Businessweek’s Brad Weiners has a good backgrounder on the apparent conflicts of interest that critics says tainted Keystone XL’s environmental review.
Trend yet? –> Marijuana legalization in Alaska is going to be decided by a popular vote, according to WaPo’s Niraj Chokshi.
Time to start thinking about a Prime Directive? –> NASA almost doubled the number of planets known to humanity on Wednesday when it confirmed 715 new neighbors identified with the planet-hunting Kepler telescope, reports the AP’s Seth Borenstein.
Good morning! Today is Tell a Fairy Tale Day, but we’ll stick to nonfiction in this morning’s reads…
Stat of the day: 43 percent — the dramatic decline in the obesity rate of young children over the past decade.
How the 1 percent cheat –> Credit Suisse used “cloak-and-dagger schemes that belong in a spy novel” to help thousands of Americans avoid paying taxes on billions of dollars, according to Sens. Carl Levin and John McCain. Dominic Rushe reports for The Guardian.
Welfare queens –> David Cay Johnston offers some shocking numbers on corporate subsidies at Al Jazeera America.
Youth indoctrination –> Salon’s Josh Eidelson has quite a story about a Wal-Mart-backed campus “leadership group” that one professor claims to be marked by a “cultlike character, institutional corruption and corporate conservative ideology.”
Shoot-first –> Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick says “Stand Your Ground” laws are changing our culture in truly dangerous ways.
Trashed –> Alec Luhn reports for The Nation on the devastation left in the wake of the Sochi Olympic games despite repeated promises that these would be “Zero Waste Games.”
Disinvited –> Organizers of the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference changed their minds and decided not to allow an atheist group to have a table, according to Dan Merica at CNN.
A matter of perception –> With six very wealthy Republican businessmen vying for Senate seats, The Hill’s Cameron Joseph says much will ride on whether voters see them as successful problem-solvers who know about creating jobs or out-of-touch rich guys trying to buy power.
Reefer madness –> A Maryland police chief testifying against a proposal to de-criminalize marijuana cited a satirical website’s hoax story about 37 people dying of marijuana overdoses on the first day of legal weed sales in Colorado. HuffPo’s Hunter Stuart with the story.
In this Jan. 19, 2012 file photo, smoke rises in this time exposure image from the stacks of the La Cygne Generating Station coal-fired power plant in La Cygne, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, Filr)
The Supreme Court is hearing two major challenges to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. Last week, Thomas Donnelly, counsel to the Constitutional Accountability Center, wrote a post titled, “Six Reasons the Greenhouse Gas Cases Are Worth Watching,” which detailed the background of the cases and outlined the political landscape that brought them before the court.
The first case was argued in December. EPA v. EME Homer was a challenge to the EPA’s ability to regulate pollution that drifts across state lines. Arguments in the second case, Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, began yesterday.
BillMoyers.com asked Donnelly to bring us up to speed on these potentially significant cases. Below is a transcript of our conversation that’s been lightly edited for clarity.
Joshua Holland: Let’s begin with the basics. Can you give us a little bit of the background of this week’s case?
Thomas Donnelly: Absolutely. Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA is a follow-up case to one of the landmarks of the last decade in the Roberts court, called Massachusetts v. EPA. And that green-lighted EPA’s efforts to regulate climate change. It said that under the Clean Air Act, greenhouse gases are covered and that EPA must go forward and figure out whether or not there’s a genuine threat there, and if there is, must address it by valid regulations.
This case now is a follow-up to that, weighing whether or not EPA can now extend regulations to what are called stationary sources. These are power plants, large emitters of greenhouse gas emissions. And industry challengers, along with some states, like Texas, have come into court and said, “EPA, you cannot do this. You’re overstepping your bounds.” And EPA’s coming back and saying, “Well, the court said seven years ago, in a very important decision, that we have the authority to address greenhouse gases and the threat of climate change, and so we’re doing it here, and we’re doing it in a way that is consistent with the last five presidential administrations in terms of how they’ve interpreted this important provision of the Clean Air Act.” MORE
President Barack Obama delivers the State of Union address before a joint session of Congress in the House chamber Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, in Washington, as Vice President Joe Biden, and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, listen. (AP Photo/Larry Downing, Pool)
In January, The Washington Post reported that an internal White House assessment of what had gone wrong during a very tough 2013 concluded that the administration had focused too much on trying to persuade a recalcitrant Congress, and would instead focus on what could be achieved with “a more executive-focused presidency” moving forward.
Yesterday, Ben Goad reported forThe Hill that new rule-making at various regulatory agencies is a vital part of that strategy, but time isn’t on their side:
President Obama has ordered his officials to step on the gas and clear as much of his regulatory agenda as possible during the twilight of his time in office.
The clock is ticking, creating a sense of urgency in the administration to crank out his new rules without delay. MORE
Good morning! Sorry it’s Monday. Here are some of the stories we’re reading this morning…
Shrinking –> Thom Shanker and Helene Cooper report for the NYT that the Pentagon plans to shrink the size of the army to pre-World War II levels, and eliminate a new class of aircraft.
Fraud –> Bloomberg’s Christie Smythe reports that, according to several lawsuits, some of the biggest oil companies in the world conspired with Morgan Stanley to manipulate oil prices for over a decade.
Toxic water for thee –> Exxon Mobil is the country’s biggest natural gas producer, but its CEO is suing to stop a fracking project near his ranch. This prompted Forbes columnist Rick Ungar to accuse him of “exquisite hypocrisy.”
UAW’s long-shot –> At The Nation, John Nichols looks at the larger significance of UAW’s petition, filed on Friday, to get the recent vote at Volkswagen’s Tennessee plant overturned because of outside interference.
Propaganda –> Rosie Gray reports for Buzzfeed that “several conservative bloggers repeated talking points given to them by a proxy group for the Ukrainian government” — and some got paid.
Trapped –> At TNR, David Dayen argues that when millennials can’t move out of their parents’ homes, it’s a problem for the entire economy.
Bad diagnosis –> Dean Paton writes at Yes! about the “myth” behind public school failure — and the push for privatization.
15 yards –> The NFL is planning to institute a new penalty for using the “n-word” on the playing field. Catherine Thompson has the details at TPM.
Tackling inequality –> Some students and faculty at St. Mary’s College are trying to push for a policy limiting the president’s income to ten times that of the lowest-paid staffer. Ry Rivard reports for Inside Higher Ed.
Gun crazy –> A Florida judge ordered that several guns be returned to a blind man — with a previous history of gun violence — who shot and killed a friend and was then exonerated under the state’s Stand Your Ground Law. Scott Kaufman reports for The Raw Story.
In this April, 15, 2008, file photo, Jackie Doyle, of Greenwood Lake, NY, second from left, waits in line to mail her husband's taxes at the James A. Farley Main Post Office in New York. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg, File)
Your friendly local post office may have an honorable history, but it’s facing tough times, including a fiscal crisis and, more generally, a struggle to keep pace with growing digital communication technologies. Conservatives have increasingly dismissed the United States Postal Service as a clunky relic of old-fashioned America, with right-wing lawmakers seeking to phase it out through service cuts and privatization. Now, some progressives are trying to save the USPS by rebranding it as a financial vehicle: a place for you to pick up your mail and deposit a paycheck in one stop.
Some officials have pitched the idea of the postal service expanding into “non-bank” financial services, carefully designed to complement rather than directly compete with Wall Street. In a recent white paper, the USPS Inspector General’s office suggested that local post offices could offer products such as international money transfers, small short-term loans and prepaid debit cards for bills or everyday purchases. To fulfill needs unmet by big banks, these financial services would ideally be targeted toward “low-income areas like rural communities and inner cities.”
Ultimately, though, many advocates want to see the postal service be bolder and actually delve into full-scale banking services. Labor and consumer advocacy groups like AppleSeed say the USPS is excellently positioned as a government-supported, publicly accountable institution to fill a longstanding gap in the financial system by offering interest-bearing accounts and other basic banking services. In addition, branching into the affordable finance business would offer the USPS a steady revenue stream. MORE
Wednesday’s announcement by Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler that the FCC would write new rules to insure open access to the Internet — otherwise known as Net neutrality — generally was seen by consumers as a step in the right direction. But media reform advocates were concerned that it didn’t go far enough.
As The New York Times’Edward Wyatt reported, Wheeler’s new plan “represents a reboot of sorts for the FCC.
Two previous efforts were thrown out by the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the first in a 2010 case filed by Comcast. Despite the ruling, Comcast agreed to follow the rules as a condition of its purchase of NBCUniversal. Comcast said last week that this agreement would extend to its purchase of Time Warner Cable.
In another case, brought by Verizon, a federal appeals court ruled last month that a similar set of the F.C.C.’s rules illegally treated Internet service providers as regulated utilities, like telephone companies. But the court said that the commission did have authority to oversee Internet service in ways that encourage competition.
Internet wiring at Google's data center in Berkley County, SC. (AP Photo/Google, Connie Zhou)
Rather than appeal that most recent decision, in his announcement, Wheeler wrote that he saw the affirmation of the FCC’s authority as an “invitation” from the court to propose rules “that will meet the court’s test for preventing improper blocking of and discrimination among Internet traffic, ensuring genuine transparency in how Internet Service Providers manage traffic, and enhancing competition.”
He continued, “Preserving the Internet as an open platform for innovation and expression while providing certainty and predictability in the marketplace is an important responsibility of this agency,” and mentioned a recent meeting with start-up entrepreneurs in California:
Their companies may succeed or they may fail depending on whether they are truly creative and innovative. But they and other innovators cannot be judged on their own merits if they are unfairly prevented from harnessing the full power of the Internet, which would harm the virtuous cycle of innovation that has benefitted consumers, edge providers, and broadband networks.
Opposition from Republicans on the commission and in the House of Representatives was quick. GOP Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said, “Instead of fostering investment and innovation through deregulation, the FCC will be devoting its resources to adopting new rules without any evidence that consumers are unable to access the content of their choice,” and his Republican colleague Ajit Pai wrote, “Today’s announcement reminds me of the movie Groundhog Day. I am skeptical that this effort will end any differently from the last.”
Meanwhile, Michigan Congressman Fred Upton, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee denounced the decision: “The Obama administration refuses to abandon its furious pursuit of these harmful policies to put government in charge of the Web.”
Media reformers were dissatisfied as well, but for different reasons; worried that the new rule changes still will face court challenges, as well as other political and industry interference unless the FCC reclassifies the Internet as a telecommunications service that can be regulated, as television, radio and telephones already are. Craig Aaron, president and CEO of the media policy group Free Press said, “If the FCC ultimately fails to act decisively the open Internet will be damaged for good. The American people want the FCC to stand up for them — and reclassifying broadband is the best way to protect all of us. That’s the message millions of people have sent the FCC and the Obama administration. Our voices will get louder unless and until policymakers in Washington take action and protect free speech online.”
ColorofChange Executive Director Rashad Robinson declared, “Any plan that does not include reclassification allows corporate gatekeepers like Comcast and Verizon to block, slow down and choose which voices and viewpoints are heard.” His and Craig Aaron’s words were echoed by former FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, now with Common Cause, who said he welcomed Chairman Wheeler’s prompt response to the latest court decision but that he continued to believe that “reclassification is, by far, the surest and best way to guarantee consumer protections and free speech online. I hope the Commission will get there soon.”
Chairman Wheeler did note that he reserves the right to reconsider and reclassify the Internet as a telecommunications service if the new rules don’t work or are otherwise obstructed. After a period for public comment, the full commission should vote on his proposed rewrite by early summer.
And somewhat buried toward the end of Wednesday’s statement from Wheeler was another piece of potential good news: “The Commission will look for opportunities to enhance Internet access competition. One obvious candidate for close examination… legal restrictions on the ability of cities and towns to offer broadband services to consumers in their communities.”
According to The Washington Post, the FCC may “investigate state-level laws banning the rollout of city-built broadband networks. Many cities, such as Longmont, Colo., and Chattanooga, Tenn., have tried to construct their versions of Google Fiber and to run them like public utilities — much to the frustration of incumbent cable companies and other large Internet providers that view the upstarts as potential competitors.”
Author and communications lawyer Susan Crawford, who appeared as a guest on Moyers & Company a year ago, approves of Wheeler’s move. Writing in the Financial Times, she notes, “He is rightly seeking to replicate the efforts of many small communities across America to create their own wholesale fiber infrastructure. A similar approach has proved successful in Stockholm and Seoul. This would loosen the grip of the cable monopolies on America’s future.”
Wheeler’s statement was accompanied by an FCC fact sheet well worth reading on how Internet growth and investment have “flourished” under the rules of net neutrality. See it here »
Another contender down? –> At The Daily Beast, Ben Jacobs samples some eye-opening tidbits from the 28,000 pages of documents released in the investigation of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
Gun nuttery –> Del Quentin Wilber at Bloomberg: “Record US Gun Production as Obama ‘Demonized’ on Issue.”
On the eighth day… –> Disgraced former Speaker Tom Delay told a radio host that “Americans have forgotten that God wrote the Constitution.” Via: Right Wing Watch.
Drama –> Current Speaker John Boehner said, “I’d rather kill myself than raise the minimum wage,” according to The Hill’s Molly Hooper and Bob Cusack.
Brrrrrr –> Salon’s Lindsay Abrams reports that the polar vortex is coming back with a vengeance next week — about two-thirds of the country can expect temps up to 35 degrees below normal for this time of year.
Science of selfies –> We’re not sure why anyone would undertake a “rigorous analysis” of selfies taken around the world, but someone did and Ariel Bogle wrote up the results for Slate.