Why MyDD Isn't Free

Bumped -- got lost in primary night shuffle a bit. Thanks, Matt! - Todd

Hi, I'm dipping my toe back in the water here at MyDD for a brief moment.  In June, Chris and I launched OpenLeft to explore politics in a more explicitly ideological direction.  Since we left, Todd has come on board here, and Jonathan has really put his stamp on this place.  I miss posting here, but it is a different place now, one that the two of them (and Jerome) have really created along with all of you.  They took MyDD, which if I may say so was a great blog, and have made it simply indispensable.

Now, I could go on and talk about how awesome they are, but that's not the point of this post.  Blogging the way they do, with 50K people screaming every day about how they are biased against one candidate or issue or another, while going on the road and doing interviews and constantly scanning the news, is hard.  It's really damned hard.  It's also incredibly fun, which is why they do it and why all of us are here and write diaries and whatnot.  But it doesn't really pay the bills, and it's axiomatic of our society that there's no such thing as a free lunch.

The reason the corporate media is so shitty is because it's free.  NBC and CBS and Fox News don't charge you anything for their content, because you are the product that they sell to soap companies and car companies and defense contractors.  They don't really care about the truth and they certainly don't care if you know what the truth is, because the truth to them isn't very profitable.  In fact, if NBC tells the truth about the war or the housing bubble, they may cost their defense contracting or financial services arm more money than they make in a whole year of advertising at CNBC.  You are their product, so while their content is free, it comes at the cost of systematic lying.

Blogs are different, but they are not immune from the golden rule, that he who has the gold makes the rules.  If you want Jonathan and Todd to be limited in what they can do, in the interviews they can get, in the places they can travel, then by all means keep them dependent on advertising from soap companies, movies, and progressive nonprofits.  I can assure though that content on MyDD that you consume every single day will suffer in ways you will never notice, but that will be immensely costly to all of our understanding of politics and ability to affect change.

If you believe, as I do, that quality in content is important and that it is way more expensive in the long-run to consume lies for free than to pay for truth today, drop $50 in the kitty for Jonathan and Todd. Truth, like our democracy, is only sustainable if we fight for it, and sometimes that means investing in the people who are obsessed with bringing us news, content, and often original information with a deep sense of integrity.

Let's keep this institution growing and flourishing, and together we will change the country as fundamentally over the next thirty years years as we have in the last five.  

So please, throw them some coin, and thanks for letting me come back for a moment.

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Blue Majority: Dan Seals for Congress (IL-10)


The next addition to the Blue Majority page is Dan Seals, who is running in Illinois's 10th district against Republican Mark Kirk.  The district is one of the bluest in the country held by a Republican, going for Kerry over Bush in 2004 by 53-47.  Seals ran a hard race in 2006, and had a heart-breaking and narrow loss.  Running for office is incredibly difficult; you must work 14 hour days for months, with almost no income, no sleep, limited family time, and no exercise.

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Transformers, Emily's List, and Strategy: What's on OpenLeft?

I'm really pleased to see the great work being done by Todd Beeton, Jonathan Singer, and of course, Jerome.  I'm particularly excited for the anti-NRA campaign, as they are obviously a cornerstone of right-wing power and someone should take them on directly.  At my new home, OpenLeft, we've already had a bunch of significant discussions that are bearing on progressive power.  Here's a sampling:

We're trying a number of things on the site, including videoblogging with people in politics engaged in big fights, comedy, and a 'right to respond' feature where groups that are criticized have the official right to respond on the front page.

Come by, and let us know what you think.

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Maggie versus Lisa versus Mr. Burns versus Stewie [with poll]

I'm hanging out at the New Organizing Institute's training of young political organizers.  It's an intense seven day experience where trainees learn from top people in the various parts of campaigns - field, media, organizer, technology, research.  During the day, they sit through grueling days of powerpoints.  In the evening, they are split up into teams, each one of which is given a cartoon character to elect as President.

Here are the different campaigns.  If you like a team, sign up for more information.  Like good organizers, they are rapaciously after your email address.

Maggie Simpson

Stewie from Family Guy

Draft Homer

Lisa Simpson


There are a few more candidates, but I can't find their websites.  I did enjoy the attack video by Mr. Burns and Lisa has a statement out on Scooter Libby.

You can track the campaign at the NOI blog. These NOI folk are going to be running our campaigns for a long time to come.

I'm leaning Lisa, but the Burns video is nice.  And I'm wondering when polling data is coming out.

Update [2007-7-5 14:15:11 by Matt Stoller]: Here's the website for Mr. Burns.

Update [2007-7-5 15:14:25 by Matt Stoller]: New polling numbers are out.

Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Total
Lisa: 22%, 3% 15% 14%
Homer: 15% 1% 15% 9%
Bart: 15% 1% 14% 9%
Krusty: 3% 31% 14% 16%
Maggie: 23% 2% 12% 15%
Stewie: 19% 2% 14% 10%
Mr. Burns 3% 60%16%27%

As you can see, both Lisa and Maggie are struggling for the same pot of voters, and neither has managed to solidify their liberal base. A cruel Mr. Burns has reaped much of the authoritarian right, with the 'maverick' Krusty sweeping a fair number of independents into his camp and keeping him competitive. I'm surprised by Stewie's poor showing among Republicans and his strength among Democratic voters, which is clearly hurting the more liberal candidates in the race. His message blurring is effectively peeling off votes from the similarly young Maggie, while possibly losing some Republicans who might otherwise be attracted to his youthful viciousness. Burns has the strongest message, focusing on terrorism, national security, and his own penchant for dominance. And while independent voters may not like him, they know where he stands. The MyDD poll is ongoing, so keep voting (and like good liberals, MyDD readers are going for Lisa by large margins).

Update [2007-7-6 0:3:3 by Matt Stoller]:: And here's Krusty's site.

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Debating Funny with a Democratic PR Person (with poll)

One of the most annoying arguments you can have with someone is whether something is funny.  Either you think it is or it isn't.  Earlier today I linked to a youtube clip a comedian friend of mine made mocking Hillary Clinton for her stupid 'pick my song' campaign trick, which had an impersonator asking users to submit a theme song for Iraq.  Whether the jokes pop out at you, the impression of Clinton is just dead-on.  When I linked to it, a few hundred people had watched it, but Boingboing picked it up and now it's at over 5000 views.  

I sent it around to a few people involved in the Iraq fight.  Here's the email I received from a Democratic PR person (who is a nice guy deeply embedded in the Iraq fight) when they saw the video.

Big deal, really.  211 people have viewed the video by some unknown comedian.  It doesn't say anything about the troops, it (frankly accurately) points out she was for the war and now against it.  I'd just assume leave it alone and let this comedian flounder in obscurity rather than help her out with publicity.

I've shown the video to a bunch of friends because the whole 'pick a song' trivialization of politics really really bugs me (Dodd had a nice hit on the same theme with his youtube spotlight video). The reaction has been mixed; some people love it and some don't.

Anyway, I think that 'culture bombing' the political system is going to become increasingly the norm in politics.  I'm curious what you think.  Pretend you are a Democratic PR flack, and that this is a real live PR decision, of whether to push this content.

What do you think?  Funny?  No?  And what does the email about the PR person say, if anything?

For my money, the Bill Clinton joke in there kind of bugs me, though it is a really funny joke. I do like the song list, and the vaguely creepy hallmark-esque vibe. It does capture Hillary Clinton, who probably really does like Celine Dionne, Hallmark cards, and casserole (as do millions of Americans who don't watch Adult Swim but do vote).

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Hillary Clinton Needs More Advice

Can you pick the perfect theme song?

The video was directed by Kent Nichols, performance by Candace Brown.

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Book Review: A Tragic Legacy

The Bush presidency has fundamentally transformed the way we speak about our country and its responsibilities, entitlements, and role in the world. In reviewing the pre-Iraq "debate" this country had both on television and in print, one of the most striking aspects in retrospect is the casual and even breezy tone with which America collectively discusses and thinks about war as a foreign policy option, standing inconspicuously next to all of the other options. There is really no strong resistance to it, little anguish over it, no sense that it is a supremely horrible and tragic course to undertake - and particularly to start. Gone almost completely from our mainstream political discourse is horror over war. The most hears is some cursory and transparently insincere - almost bored - lip service to it being a "last resort".

A Tragic Legacy, Glenn Greenwald p. 129

I'm working my way through Glenn Greenwald's excellent new book, A Tragic Legacy, on how Bush's good versus evil mentality destroyed his Presidency and fundamentally altered the political system of our country.  I'm not done yet, but I want to note a few things about his account as I'm going through it.  The first few chapters are largely devoted to the rise and fall of Bush's Presidential influence, as well as his relationship with the conservative movement that put him in office.  What's unique about Greenwald's book, and, I suppose, his blog, is how much credit he gives to conservatives, and how he offers so much good faith to their arguments and follows them as far as he can, until they collapse on themselves.  Peggy Noonan's embrace of Bush, and later repudiation, is a kind of delta of how weak and isolated Bush has become.  Greenwald takes people like Noonan seriously, and in doing so, allows them to prove his case all the more strongly.  I often wish I could pay attention to arguments from conservatives as faithfully as Glenn does, as it's really an art form to discredit them.

Reading about Bush's Presidency with some distance is a strange experience, since the events are so clearly etched in my memory.  And yet this book puts distance between the reader and Bush, almost as if he is out of office.  And with that distance, I'm beginning to appreciate just how destructive his Presidency has been, how thoroughly he has corrupted our system of laws and our political fiber.  When put together like Greenwald has done, it sort of feels like another country, only one whose history is very familiar.  Bush is accurately portrayed as a President whose sole motivating ideology is a sure-fire belief that whatever he does is good, and any opposition or disagreement - even by former allies - represents an evil that must be crushed.  The vicious behavior towards enemies is actually a need for enemies, a Manichean culture devouring itself.

I have some disagreements with Greenwald, in that I believe that the sadistic mindset of Bush was no different than that of Reagan, and that the conservative movement has never been moored to any consistent set of principles except a ferocious will to dominate the disempowered, even in 1960 or 1964.  But reasonable people can disagree, and the stunning legacy of Bush and his worldview of inerrancy is important to understand.  We have a lot of work to do, and what Bush did in eight years, and what the conservative movement did in forty, will take many lifetimes to reverse, if we can reverse it at all.  

Anyway, since I am an avid fan of Greenwald's blog, and I think it's a good idea to promote thinkers and writers who have emerged in spite of the establishment and through channels on the internets, I'm going to do a few separate reviews of 'A Tragic Legacy'.  The fight over Bush's Presidency is ongoing, with a possible war with Iran in the cards.  But even if we manage to prevent that war, the 'stabbed in the back' canard, which is extremely powerful, will be used to resurrect the conservative movement nearly instantaneously.  That's why when Bush leaves office, the fight over his legacy will be ongoing, until the movement that put him there is fully discredited.

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Adelstein Steps Up on Open Access

As we build our new blog, I'm going to keep you updated on the FCC 700 auction on MyDD.  There's some seriously important news out - Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein has come out for open access (last week he was pushing for business models for larger national chunks of spectrum).  Telecom wonk extraordinaire Harold Feld is feeling good.

Commissioner Adelstein publicly supported some kind of open access requirement for the 700 MHz auction licenses. Wooo Hoooo! For us policy geeks, it's kind of like the moment when the Millenium Falcon comes out of nowhere and blasts the Imperial tie fighters targeting Luke as he barrels down toward the access port. Not that I had any doubt where Adelstein's heart was, but it's always reassuring to see him commit himself.

The whole model of auctioning off public assets like spectrum is messed up, but that's where we are at this moment in politics.  We use something like 5% of our spectrum efficiently.  Still, this is a good step forward.  We're making progress.

Meanwhile, there's other news on the FCC.  AT&T agreed to offer $10 DSL as a condition of its merger agreement with Bellsouth.  According to the Consumerist, they lied, and are giving consumers the run-around on the deal they legally have to offer.  This is egregious, but it's possible to put some leverage here as Bush is renominating Commissioner Tate for the FCC.  That's a potential leverage point, since Democrats control Congress.

AT&T executives are a bunch of crooks that steal from consumers and block innovation.  Conveniently for them, they are also massive campaign donors and contribute to think tanks and charities all over the country to whitewash their behavior.

Update [2007-6-21 11:56:51 by Matt Stoller]:: Whoa. There's more on Tate here and here. She's tied into industry and wants to use her position on the FCC as a 'bully pulpit' for DRM, which is 'digital rights management', or technology that allows corporations to control how you use the digital tools you own.

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The People We Love and the People We Hate

I guess I'll start explaining why I'm leaving MyDD by giving you the real story of why I'm in politics, and what I actually believe.  I wish I could say that it starts with a noble battle with developers, a war, or a fight with an employer, but the reality is that it's a lot more petty and unnoble.  It started with my relationship with my immediate family, along my relationship to the past.

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Net Neutrality Law Passes in Maine

I've been meaning to blog this for a few days, but you may have noticed a few items on Breaking Blue about a major step for the Save the Internet coalition: our first legislative victory.  Maine passed into law a provision ordering the Office of the Public Advocate to investigate what Maine could legally do to protect net neutrality in Maine, with the understanding that net neutrality is critical for Maine business and democracy in Maine.  There was heavy lobbying against this by Time Warner, Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon, but the lobbying campaign failed.  

The Maine legislature, pressured by Common Cause, League of Young Voters, the Community Television Association of Maine, the Maine Civil Liberties Union, and the blog Turn Main Blue, has taken the extraordinary first step of pushing for net neutrality protections.  There was some discussion about whether to pass a full-blown law mandating protections for net neutrality, but the legislature settled on an investigation of the state's authority to prevent a costly legal challenge.  Depending on the outcome of that investigation, you can expect either a state resolution calling on Congress to mandate net neutrality protections, or an actual law protecting net neutrality in Maine.

There are a few reasons this resolution passed in Maine and did not in Maryland.  First of all, Maine has a clean elections system, so legislators can make decisions without immense pressure from corporate interests.  Second of all, for institutional reasons, CWA is weak in Maine, and so did not really play in this dispute.  It was CWA that killed the Maryland resolution, and that is keeping the Democratic leadership from embracing net neutrality in their technology agenda.

The lessons are clear going forward.  We need public financing of elections, and we need to persuade CWA to adopt net neutrality as a core policy principle.  They aren't far, and I'm hoping that we can have a fruitful dialogue with them on the issue.

In April, I asked you to email CWA President Larry Cohen.  You may have noticed that I stopped blogging about them for awhile, and that's because I have been in contact with senior policy analyst Debbie Goldman, who has been patiently working to facilitate a dialogue.  Their President, Larry Cohen, invited me to meet with them on May 11, and since then we've been working to schedule a dialogue and negotiating the contours of it.  Their spam filter ate about eight of my emails, so if you emailed Larry Cohen there's a good chance it didn't get to him.  So bottom line, I've been trying to schedule a meeting with the CWA for about a month now, a meeting Larry kindly suggested we have.  

Aside from this willingness to dialogue, there's a lot of great progress on the telecom reform front.  Maine's resolution is a great step forward, since we know have a demonstrated legislative success.  And CWA's willingness to talk to net neutrality proponents is hopeful, as is the Brodsky bill being discussed in New York state and blogged on the Albany Project for near universal build-out.  This one's in Eliot Spitzer's court, if he decides to get going on it against the interests of the telecom and cable companies, we can have his back with a massive CWA/Moveon/blog push.  That bill, which includes buildout provisions and net neutrality is backed by a coalition of consumer groups, media reform groups, and CWA.  And then of course, there's the 700 spectrum auction, which Kevin Drum frames really nicely here.  

All in all, we're making great progress organizing around this policy issue.  Every single Democratic Presidential candidate has come out for net neutrality, and so has Mike Huckabee (for an amusing threat from big business interests towards Huckabee, see Scott Cleland's post, where the operative quote is 'Don't believe this is his "official" policy position for a minute.').  Freepress, for whom I did a bit of consulting work earlier this year, just won a webbie for its SavetheInternet campaign, and is well-respected in the Beltway for their expertise.  We've got strong industry allies.  This is an ongoing fight against some of the nastiest industries in America - cable and telecom - and it's going to take a long time.  But I'm encouraged, because our strategic openings keep expanding, and we're getting better and better at this.  

Congrats, Maine lawmakers, for doing the right thing.  And good job, Common Cause, Maine Civil Liberties Union, the League of Young Voters, Community Television Association of Maine, and Turn Maine Blue.  This stuff matters.

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