Ted Cruz, Attacking FCC Nominee, Unwittingly Makes a Damn Good Argument Against Donald Trump

The state of Texas has been suffering from extraordinarily poor representation by their junior senator, Ted Cruz, for many years. He has distinguished himself as the most hated man in the Senate, and excelled only at scoring airtime on Fox News and humiliating himself and his state.

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Ted Cruz, Donald Trump

On Tuesday the Senate Commerce Committee held a confirmation hearing for Gigi Sohn to the Federal Communications Commission. Sohn’s nomination has been held up by Republicans for two years, despite having outstanding credentials and support from a broad and bipartisan array of industry and citizen constituents. So naturally Cruz is expressing his customary knee-jerk opposition to whatever any Democrat proposes or is associated with.

RELATED: Fox News (and Ted Cruz?) are APPALLED that the Biden Family Goes on Holiday During the Holidays

During his time to question Sohn, Cruz unleashed an extended rant slandering her with flagrant falsehoods. He enumerated all of the things about Sohn that he regarded as disqualifying. It was a list of utterly fictional grievances. However, his complaints actually applied more closely to Donald Trump than to Sohn.

Cruz began by objecting to Sohn having been associated with “far left organizations.” They were actually fairly mainstream organizations, but Cruz, and all Republicans, accuse every liberal organization of being far left socialist commies. And of course, Cruz has no problem with all of the radical right organizations that Trump is beholden to. He then elaborated in a stream of petulant whining (video below)

“[Sohn] retweeted and liked posts by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calling for defunding the police.”

Cruz didn’t provide any examples of the tweets that offended him. But if liking allegedly offensive tweets is disqualifying, he should address Trump’s embrace of truly heinous postings by QAnon and other fascist, racist, hate mongers.

“And, in July 2020, during riots in Portland, Oregon, she retweeted a post attacking federal law enforcement officers as armed goons in riot gear with tear gas. It’s no surprise that her nomination is opposed by multiple law enforcement groups, including the Fraternal Order of Police and National Sheriffs Association.”

Again, there was no evidence of offending tweets. But attacking law enforcement is one of Trump’s favorite pastimes. Just this morning he referred to the FBI as the “Gesatpo.”

“Ms. Sohn portrays herself as a defender of free speech but has a history of campaigning to censor conservatives.”

Sohn has never campaigned to censor conservatives. But Trump has literally called for the termination of the Constitution and repeatedly maligned the press as “the enemy of the people.”

“[Sohn] calls Fox News ‘dangerous to our democracy’ and has urged the FCC to revoke Sinclair’s broadcast licenses.”

Ok, let’s give him this much. Sohn is correct about Fox News. However, Cruz is lying about her urging revocation of Sinclair’s licenses. Although she did suggest that a hearing should be held to ascertain whether Sinclair should be punished beyond the $48 million fine they received for lying to the FCC. Trump, on the other hand, regards all of the media (except those that worship him) as dangerous and hopes that most of them go out of business.

“At the same time, she has a history of fighting against indecency regulations that protect children from exposure to filth on TV. To Ms. Sohn, it seems conservative speech is worse than obscenity.”

Often what Cruz regards as “filth” is just anything that he disagrees with, including lifestyles of LGBTQ persons or non-Christians. And To Trump liberal speech is an apocalyptic-level abomination.

So every point that Cruz made fit Trump better than it did Sohn. Consequently, if we accept his arguments, then Trump should be disqualified from public service. That, of course, is a given for so many other reasons: inciting an insurrection, undermining democracy, pathological lying, hoarding hundreds of classified documents, promoting racism, embracing dictators. The list goes on and on.

RELATED: Trump Post Urges His Cult Followers to Take Up Arms and ‘Physically Fight’ for the Presidency

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Sinclair State-TV Chairman to Trump: ‘We Are Here to Deliver Your Message’

As the walls close in on Donald Trump and his crime syndicate associates, the conservative propaganda networks are furiously trying to twist the facts into an unrecognizable perversion of reality. Fox News is at the top of the list of Trump-fluffing sycophants with hosts and contributors who relentlessly defend the President and smear his critics.

Donald Trump

However, Fox News is not alone on that battlefront. Sinclair Broadcasting is moving at breakneck speed to offer an alternative to Fox that is even more extreme and irresponsibly dishonest. With their “must run” segments featuring former Trump shill Boris Epshteyn, and their mandatory corporate written screeds against “fake” news, Sinclair poses a serious risk to journalism and democracy.

During the 2016 presidential campaign, Sinclair’s chairman, David Smith, made a deal with Trump to provide him positive coverage if he granted them greater access. They were blatantly selling their integrity to get closer to Trump. Now the Guardian is reporting that Smith was even more servile when he secretly met with Trump at the White House. The Guardian discloses that:

“The chairman of Sinclair Broadcast Group met Donald Trump at the White House during a visit to pitch a potentially lucrative new product to administration officials, the Guardian has learned.

“David D Smith, whose company has been criticised for making its anchors read a script echoing Trump’s attacks on the media, said he briefed officials last year on a system that would enable authorities to broadcast direct to any American’s phone.

“‘I just wanted them to be aware of the technology,” Smith said in an interview. He also recalled an earlier meeting with Trump during the 2016 election campaign, where he told the future president: ‘We are here to deliver your message.'”

Oh really? Promising to be there to deliver a president’s message is not the mission of a legitimate news enterprise. To the contrary, it’s the mission of journalistic lackeys with a political agenda who are brazenly and unabashedly biased. And everything that Sinclair does affirms that it is serving as a mouthpiece for Trump and the Republican Party.

The Guardian also asked Smith about the rightward leanings of his operation, which he forthrightly denied. He called assertions that the scripts he forced his anchors to read were biased in favor of Trump “the most absurd thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” That’s like Hannibal Lecter feigning offense that anyone might suggest he eats people. But his justification for that denial just made matters even worse. He said that:

“If people believe you more than they believe somebody else, they’re more likely to watch you,” he said. “And you know what that means? We might get a higher rating. And you know what that means? We will therefore make our spots worth more. And you know what that means? That means I will make more money, which means I can pay you more money.”

In summary, he’s saying that it’s his policy to convince viewers that all other sources of news are false. And the purpose of that slander is to discredit the press at large in order to get more viewers for Sinclair. That’s different than competing news organizations touting their skills and experience to appeal to their audience. It is a cult-like scheme to convince gullible people that only one truth exists and that Sinclair owns it. And it dovetails perfectly with Trump’s cultist tendencies that aim to achieve the same blind loyalty.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Sinclair is currently trying to expand their reach by buying their largest competitor, Tribune Media. Trump’s Federal Communications Commission is likely to approve the acquisition, despite its breach of existing regulations. The American people need to join together to preserve the integrity of our free press. And one way to do that is to visit Stop Sinclair and lobby Congress to intervene to oppose this dangerous, anti-consumer merger.

Campaign Ally Says Donald Trump Should “Turn Off” CNN’s FCC License (Which They Can’t Do)

Advancing the already stridently fascist policy platform of Donald Trump’s candidacy, one of his closest friends and political allies is now recommending that Trump put his boot down on the free press should he become president.

Roger Stone Clintons' War On Women

Notorious dirty trickster, Roger Stone, has made a name for himself pushing ludicrous conspiracy theories and offensive smear campaigns. He is a veteran Clinton-hater who once started a group he called “Citizens United Not Timid,” or C.U.N.T. On the basis of that he later became a Fox News Contributor. (Media Matters has compiled a useful guide to his antics).

Yesterday, in an interview with Brietbart News, Stone floated more of his trademark trash in the form of advice for his buddy Donald Trump. In the midst of a tirade against CNN, which he said “is not a news organization, but an advocacy group,” he complained that at CNN “they turn you off” if you try to talk about the women in Bill Clinton’s past. But he has a solution to that problem:

“Frankly, when Donald Trump is president he should turn off their FCC license. They’re not a news organization. They’re about censorship.”

There is so much wrong with that statement that it’s hard to know where to begin. Let’s start with the fact that he could have been talking about Fox News and it would have been more accurate. But the larger issue is that advocating that the government take a roll in deciding which news enterprises should be permitted to operate is not only a violation of the Constitution, but an overtly oppressive tactic generally favored by tyrants. On that measure, it’s easy to see why Trump might be on board.

Trump has previously espoused similar nonsense. In February he threatened the New York Times, and other media outlets he assumes are biased against him, with lawsuits and the prospect of “open[ing] up our libel laws so when they write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money.” And notwithstanding the fact that he can do that now if he actually had a case, he warned that these publishers would “have problems” if he is elected.

Another problem with Stone’s suggestion to de-license CNN is more pragmatic: It’s impossible. The FCC’s authority to regulate licensing is restricted to broadcast media (radio and TV) and they cannot revoke a cable news channel’s license because they don’t issue them. Broadcasters operate over the public airwaves, while cable channels are transmitted on privately owned cable facilities. So Stone’s counsel is not only unconstitutional, it demonstrates his utter ignorance of the subject matter.

Stone has a history of flagrantly offensive remarks that have insulted women and African-Americans. His racist and misogynist tendencies are often expressed openly. As a result he has been banned from both CNN and MSNBC. At Fox News they canceled a few of his recent appearances but have not formally banned him and he has not appeared in several weeks. That may be why he is resorting to fringe platforms like Breitbart to put out his repugnant message. Breitbart has all but officially endorsed Trump and there are credible allegations that Trump paid Breitbart for favorable treatment.

In closing the interview, Stone got to the point of his remarks with a shamelessly self-serving plug. He recommended that listeners get the “truth” by reading the book “The Clintons’ War On Women,” by Roger Stone. It’s a book that has been roundly rebuked by liberals and conservatives alike as being poorly written and sourced. But one thing it has going for it is that Donald Trump has made it his anti-Clinton bible. The diatribes Trump is currently spewing about Clinton’s past are all straight out of this book.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

Listen to Stone’s interview via Media Matters:

GOP Leader Seeks To Reverse Ban On Snipe Hunting

SnipeIn a speech at the Akron Sportsman’s Lodge, Republican House Speaker John Boehner promised local game stalkers that he would soon be taking up legislation to remove snipes from the endangered species list. This action is a prerequisite for granting permits for snipe hunts. Boehner told the appreciative audience that he has long advocated this measure and that he believes there is no justification for continuing to protect the elusive snipe.

In other legislative news, Boehner told the National Religious Broadcasters convention that the House would act to pass legislation that would ban any attempt to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. He told the NRB gathering that…

“…some members of Congress and the federal bureaucracy are still trying to reinstate – and even expand – the Fairness Doctrine. To them, it’s fair to silence ideas and voices they don’t agree with, and use the tools of government to do it. […] Our new majority is committed to seeing that the government does not reinstate the Fairness Doctrine.”

Speaker Boehner did not name any of the congressmen or bureaucrats that supposedly want to reinstate the Doctrine. He did not inform the group that there have been no bills introduced or hearings scheduled on the subject. He also did not mention that both President Obama and FCC Chairman Genachowski are both on record opposing reinstatement of the Doctrine. So Boehner is taking a courageous stand in opposition to something that nobody has proposed or is working on.

Boehner also spoke to the NRB about his opposition to Network Neutrality, or as he called it, “the Fairness Doctrine for the Internet.” In the process he repeatedly mischaracterized the matter as a “government takeover of the Internet.” His remarks were somewhat confusing as he sought to define the issue:

“It’s a series of regulations that empower the federal bureaucracy to regulate Internet content and viewpoint discrimination. The rules are written vaguely, of course, to allow the FCC free reign. The last thing we need, in my view, is the FCC serving as Internet traffic controller.”

Of course the truth is that Network Neutrality has nothing whatsoever to do with “content and viewpoint discrimination.” In fact, it is just the opposite as it’s only purpose is to preserve a purely non-discriminatory environment on the web. Not only does it not designate the FCC as a “traffic controller,” it prohibits the corporations who presently have that power from abusing it. Boehner’s position is to deny the FCC a magisterial role that isn’t in the initiative, but allow it for AT&T and Comcast.

To recap: Boehner wants to stop an Internet policy from doing something that it doesn’t do. He also wants to block a broadcast doctrine that no one is proposing. Those are tall orders that should keep him busy in the coming weeks and months while the nation is struggling to recover from an economic calamity and is crying out for solutions to stubborn problems like unemployment, the national debt, and enduring wars.

At least we can wish Boehner well on his snipe hunt – something with which he is apparently well acquainted.

Fight The FCC’s Phony Net Neutrality Plan

One of the most promising signs of the early Obama administration was the appointment of Julius Genachowski to chair the FCC. There was significant hope that the days of coddling Big Media and permitting more consolidation and concentration of corporate influence was about to end. However, it is now turning into one of the most disappointing appointments as Genachowski appears to be caving on Network Neutrality, one of the most important free speech issues of this decade.

The New York Times is reporting that “Genachowski has decided not to use the commission’s telephone regulatory powers to govern broadband Internet service.” He also seems to be prepared to allow Internet service providers to engage in “paid prioritization,” which could lead to favoritism on the part of the ISPs and discrimination against smaller, independent web enterprises.

This is not exactly the sort of plan that was promised by candidate Obama in 2008. It charts a course that smothers efforts to increase broadband access while giving more control of the Internet to monopoly-minded corporations. Josh Silver of FreePress.net summarizes the ill-effects of this proposal as “a shiny jewel for companies like AT&T and Comcast.”

Net Neutrality has been a target of right-wing disinformation for several years. They wrongly portray it as anything from a new Fairness Doctrine to something out of Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia. That is how obsessed they are with defeating a proposal whose actual purpose is to protect a free and open Internet. That’s how obsessed they are with advancing the interests of their wealthy benefactors at the expense of the American people.

This administration has been notably weak-kneed when it comes to anything remotely controversial. They demonstrated this tendency to bail with Van Jones, Shirley Sherrod, the Public Option in the health care debate, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and presently the matter of extending tax cuts to the wealthy. It seems that any opposition to common sense progressive proposals is met with complete surrender. We can’t let liars like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh drive the debate. And we can’t let the White House cave in to pressure from factions that represent greed and corporate power.

You can fight back by signing this petition from Bold Progressives to urge the FCC to protect free speech online by supporting Net Neutrality. And here’s another from Credo Action. Or you can use this form to contact the FCC directly and submit your comments. But you only have a couple of weeks, so act soon. You will surely regret it if you don’t and you later find that you can’t access some of your favorite web sites because they were blocked by ISPs because they couldn’t pay the toll.

Justice Scalia Knows Foul-Mouthed Glitteratae

The Supreme Court ruled today on a case pitting Fox Entertainment against the FCC and involving the use of naughty language on TV. The crux of the debate centered on “fleeting expletives” like when Bono of U2 appeared at an awards ceremony and used the phrase “fucking brilliant” in his acceptance speech.

The court’s ruling actually shied away from taking a position on the Constitutional question of free speech, preferring to decide narrowly on whether the FCC rules were “arbitrary and capricious.” In the end, with six justices writing separate opinions, the court overruled by 5 to 4 a 2nd Circuit decision in favor of Fox. The decision affirmed the FCC’s regulations regarding profanity, but sent the issue of free speech back to the 2nd Circuit for a reasoned analysis.

In this matter I would actually line up with Fox inasmuch I don’t like the FCC setting moral boundaries for expression. But Justice Antonin Scalia had to go and make such an asinine statement in his opinion that I just can’t let it stand:

“We doubt, to begin with, that small-town broadcasters run a heightened risk of liability for indecent utterances. In programming that they originate, their down-home local guests probably employ vulgarity less than big-city folks; and small-town stations generally cannot afford or cannot attract foul-mouthed glitteratae from Hollywood.”

What a complete and utterly idiotic remark. Brooklyn-bred Scalia obviously doesn’t know a fucking thing about down-home folks or small towns. He is a big-city, elitist asshole whose only acquaintance with Hollywood glitteratae is via his perverse imagination and insulting stereotypes.

It is embarrassing beyond description that someone this stupid remains a sitting Justice on America’s highest court.

Even More Right-Wing Stupidity On The Fairness Doctrine

I’m getting a little tired of writing these responses to the paranoid rightist Chicken Littles who persistently pretend to be aghast at the prospect of the return of the Fairness Doctrine. I mean, how many ways can you say that it isn’t going to happen? There is no legislation being drafted. There are no hearings being held. There are no advocates speechifying on it. There are no agencies studying it. And yet every conservative blowhard with a pen or a microphone is fretting about it and attempting to incite panic (and donations) amongst their followers.

Now Jed Babbin and Rowan Scarborough at Human Events have aggregated what may be the most comprehensive collection of inane and fallacious griping related to the matter. Here I will respond point by point in the hopes of settling the issue once and for all (yeah, right).

1) “Conservative talk radio is the most potent political weapon in America.”
That’s why it was so successful in turning back Barack Obama and the wave of Democrats cresting over Congress. That’s why President Bush will leave office with such a high approval rating. That’s why Americans overwhelmingly prefer the Republican agenda over the Democrats’. Oh, wait…..reverse that. Contrary to being a “potent political weapon,” conservative talk radio is more like soggy, day-old pasta.

2) “Liberal talk radio has been a huge failure.”
Don’t tell that to Ed Schultz, Randi Rhodes, Stephanie Miller, Bill Press, Rachel Maddow, etc. They are top performers in many of the markets in which they play. The rightist mantra about radio’s alleged rejection of liberals is based on the tale of Air America’s financial woes. What they don’t tell you is that Fox News lost $80-90 million a year for its first five years. They were fortunate to have Rupert Murdoch’s deep pockets to keep them out of bankruptcy. Air America is still not five years old. And they won’t talk about failures either, including John Gibson, Michael Reagan, and Bill O’Reilly who just ditched his struggling radio show.

3) “[T]he liberal control of both sides of Capitol Hill, along with a compliant Obama Administration, may bring [the Fairness Doctrine] back…”
As noted above, no side of Congress is planning any such thing. And on what basis are they alleging that Obama’s administration will be “compliant” toward Congress?

4) “The Censorship Doctrine would require conservative talk radio to spend a large part of its time praising liberals and their ideas […] Can you imagine what talk radio would sound like if every time a host talked about the newest liberal outrage, he then had to give the liberals equal time?”
Now they’re just making stuff up. There has never been a provision of the Fairness Doctrine that mandated any party “praise” any other party. And “equal time” was never a part of the Fairness Doctrine. Do these guys have even an inkling of understanding of the subjects about which they’re writing?

5) “Liberals now control the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate, providing the political left its most absolute hold on power since the 1960s.”
Or the 1990’s, when Democrats held all three branches. Babbin and company were only 30 years off.

6) “Other than the Supreme Court, there’s nothing to prevent them from trying to attach the same rules to other media, including cable television and the Internet.”
That’s like saying that other than gravity there is nothing preventing you floating off into space. Plus, the Fairness Doctrine has never applied to anything but publicly owned and scarce assets like broadcast spectrum. Thus, cable and the Internet would never have been subject to its jurisdiction. Later in this article they claim that the FCC will expand the Doctrine to include Network Neutrality. That doesn’t even make sense since Network Neutrality is about open access to the Internet and has nothing to do with content. This is the right’s way of paying off the big Telecom corporations who benefit from closed systems from which they can gouge both web businesses and consumers.

7) “What left-wing blogger would not like to see Rush Limbaugh led await [sic] in handcuffs from his Palm Beach, Fla., estate for failing to present balanced programming?”
Wasn’t Rush Limbaugh already led away in handcuffs from his Palm Beach, Fla., estate for drug possession and forcing his housekeeper to purchase his contraband? I must admit, that was great to see. However, Babbin and Scarborough are once again showing their ignorance by suggesting that violations of the Fairness Doctrine were ever criminal offenses that would lead to arrest. In fact, the Doctrine was never codified into law at all. It was a regulatory statute and the worst that could happen to a violator was a fine or license review.

8) “The problem is that Limbaugh has a sense of humor. Liberals don’t.”
That’s why Jon Stewart is so reviled and Dennis Miller is so adored. Seriously, did any of these dolts ever see the abominable Half-Hour News Hour on Fox News? The problem is that conservatives actually regard Limbaugh and Ann Coulter as comedians, but everyone else considers them clowns.

The lies scattered throughout this column are typical of the ethical vacuum from which the right operates. They have no shame when it comes to propagating falsehoods for their greedy self-interest. In one particularly abhorrent instance they claim that former Sen. Tom Daschle got overheated because Limbaugh called him an “obstructionist.” That truth, ignored by these authors, is that Limbaugh also called him a traitor and routinely referred to him as the devil. Dashchle’s alleged anger was actually just an admonition that that sort of shrill rhetoric has the potential to incite people to act out violently. And on this issue Dashcle can speak with authority. He was, you may recall, the target of a terrorist Anthrax attack in the days following 9/11. But Babbin and Scarborough can’t be bothered with insignificant facts like that. Just as they can’t be bothered to display some sensitivity to a victim of an attack that infected 22 people and killed five.

As much as I would like for this to be the last time I have to shoot down fraudulent fulminations such as this, I expect that there will be more forthcoming. The Babbins and Scarboroughs of the world have so little upon which to base their ranting, they will cling to non-issues like these until their readers eyes have nothing left to bleed. And they will lie with abandon because they regard the truth as just an impediment to their propagandizing.

Obama To Name Julius Genachowski To Chair The FCC

Remember this name: Julius Genachowski. He appears to be Barack Obama’s choice for chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. In that role he will have an opportunity to not only undue a lot of the damage done by Bush’s henchmen in the post, Michael Powell and Kevin Martin, but he can actually make progress toward a more competitive and diverse environment in the media community.

Josh Silver, executive director of the media reform group, Free Press, issued the following statement:

“Under Julius Genachowski’s leadership, the FCC’s compass would point toward the public interest. President-elect Obama has provided a clear roadmap of his media and technology priorities. We share Obama’s goals of creating a more diverse, democratic media system and providing fast, affordable, open Internet access for everyone. We greatly look forward to working with Mr. Genachowski to put the president-elect’s plan into action.

“The challenges facing the next FCC are enormous — a vast digital divide, an open Internet in jeopardy, consolidated media ownership, newsrooms in economic freefall and entrenched industries invested in maintaining the status quo. This moment calls for bold and immediate steps to spur competition, foster innovation and breathe new life into our communications sector. With his unique blend of business and governmental experience, Genachowski promises to provide the strong leadership we need.”

I thoroughly agree. It is encouraging that the FCC will finally be run by someone with the specific skills and experience to address the many challenges ahead – as opposed to the cronies who were installed solely to pursue the interests of Big Media and the friends of a corrupt White House. Kevin Martin was recently the subject of a Congressional report titled “Deception and Distrust” that cited his abuse of power in his role at the FCC.

While we must continue to monitor the actual performance of the new administration, there is a certain sense of relief that a new era is dawning, and I wish Mr. Genachowski well as assumes the leadership of a critical agency overseeing some of the most fundamental rights of American society.

Update: After Genachowski assumes the leadership of the FCC, the outgoing chair, Kevin Martin, will become a fellow at the Aspen Institute. By embracing Martin, the AI has shown that it has pretty low standards for integrity. Apparently they consider it a badge of honor to be repudiated by Congress as deceptive and untrustworthy.

Media Reform Alliance Presses Obama To Keep His Word

Free Press has assembled over 100 media reform organizations and activists to sign a letter to President-elect Barack Obama that asks, in essence, for him to implement the media agenda that he articulated in his campaign. What follows is from the press release issued by Free Press:

We congratulate you for putting crucial media and technology issues in the public spotlight. Not only did your campaign embrace new technology and innovative media, you have embraced these values in your policy agenda. Your commitment and detailed plan represent a fundamental shift toward communications policy in the public interest. We happily offer our support and service in pursuit of our common goals.

We look forward to working with the leaders you will appoint to the White House, such as the Chief Technology Officer, the positions on the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Trade Commission, Corporation of Public Broadcasting and in the Commerce, Education, Justice and Agriculture departments. We urge you to select strong proponents of the public interest who will embrace and enact the policy proposals you made on the campaign trail to shape the future of the media, the Internet, the economy — and our democracy.

Together, we have a unique opportunity to break with the past, lift the stranglehold industry lobbyists have had on communications policy, and put the public’s priorities first. In your own words, you pledged:

  • Protect an Open Internet: To “take a backseat to no one in my commitment to Net Neutrality” and “protect the Internet’s traditional openness to innovation and creativity and ensure that it remains a platform for free speech and innovation that will benefit consumers and our democracy.”
  • Promote Universal, Affordable Broadband: To see that “in the country that invented the Internet, every child should have the chance to get online” by bringing “true broadband to every community in America.”
  • Diversify Media Ownership: To create “the diverse media environment that federal law requires and the country deserves.”
  • Renew Public Media: To foster “the next generation of public media,” and “support the transition of existing public broadcasting entities and help renew their founding vision in the digital world.”
  • Spur Economic Growth: To “strengthen America’s competitiveness in the world” and leverage technology “to grow the economy, create jobs, and solve our country’s most pressing problems.”
  • Ensure Open Government: To reverse “policies that favor the few against the public interest,” close” the revolving door between government and industry,” and achieve “a new level of transparency, accountability and participation for America’s citizens.”

The more than one hundred people who signed onto this letter — and the millions more we represent in our organizations, workplaces and communities — join your call to create a more vibrant and diverse media system and to deliver the benefits of the open Internet and new technology to all Americans.

That is an ambitious and commendable agenda, and one that we all must work hard to pursue. It is very easy for a new administration to get bogged down in competing priorities, particularly in challenging times such as we are enduring today. And it is easy for politicians to abandon principles in the face of opposition or in the name of compromise. That is a pattern that both Obama and the Democratic Party has displayed far too often.

However, despite the obvious severity of our nation’s present condition – economic turmoil, multiple wars, environmental calamity, legal and Constitutional decay, etc. – media reform must remain at the top of the priority list. The solutions to every problem that threatens America’s well being relies on the participation of the people in the process. The media provides the only channel to communicate and educate on a mass scale, and without it there can be no progress. It is, therefore, critical that we shape the media in a fashion that promotes independence, diversity, and respect for openness and honesty.

The Obama agenda, as articulated by him, is a good model for how to proceed. Now he (and we) need to follow through.

Deception And Distrust: The FCC Under Kevin Martin

The House Committee on Energy and Commerce just released a report on the activities of Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin. The report, titled “Deception and Distrust” (PDF) chronicles an agency rife with abuse, manipulation, intimidation, and incompetence. The level of corruption would be shocking if it hadn’t come from the same administration that gave us Alberto Gonzales, Michael Brown, Scooter Libby, Donald Rumsfeld, etc. The introduction to the report stated that…

This investigation was prompted by allegations to the effect that Chairman Kevin J. Martin has abused FCC procedures by manipulating or suppressing reports, data, and information. Allegations of a broken process at the FCC came from current and former FCC employees, telecommunications industry representatives, and even other commissioners and were often reported in the press.

The report detailed Martin’s attempts to mislead members of Congress by withholding studies that didn’t produce the results he preferred. Then he forced commission staff to rewrite the studies to reverse the findings, even though the data did not support his conclusions. Uncooperative colleagues were dealt with harshly. The result was a collapse of morale in an environment the report calls “a climate of fear.”

Chairman Martin has forced the retirement of senior FCC staff. He has also directed the involuntary transfer of senior staff to lesser positions, often without explanation or notice – a process that was commonly called being “Martinized” or “blue-boxed” – because they disagreed with his policies or agenda…

Under Martin’s dictatorial rule, employees were instructed not to talk to colleagues within the agency without permission. This gag rule was so comprehensive that they were also ordered not to talk to employees at other Federal agencies. Martin further fortified his control by installing a hand-picked Inspector General, Kent Nilsson, who was a close associate, insuring that there would be no independent oversight of his misdeeds. Nilsson himself is alleged to have violated agency procedures repeatedly according to the report.

Kevin Martin is a charter member of the Loyal Order of Bushies. He was on the front lines of the Florida 2000 battle to prevent votes from being counted. His wife Kathie has worked the PR brigade for both Dick Cheney and Bush. For his entire tenure at the FCC, Martin has advocated on behalf of the beleaguered corporations whom he believed were hamstrung by regulations that prevented them from dominating markets and from growing into ever larger monopolies. And now we learn that his administration was modeled on the Stalinist school of management and ethics.

There is a certain irony that this report was released on the same day that Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich was charged with multiple counts of corruption in office. While Blagojevich’s alleged crimes are thoroughly repulsive, Martin’s crimes are far more serious with longer lasting consequences. Nonetheless, I have not seen a single report about this on any of the television news outlets.

Barack Obama will have an opportunity to replace Martin shortly after his inauguration, and it will not come a moment too soon. But that won’t stop the rantings from rightist outposts who believe that Obama has secret plans to invoke censorship on conservative talk radio. It won’t stop the pro-monopoly lobby from disparaging common sense, and popularly supported, initiatives to bring more local and independent voices into the public square.

The only way to stop these assaults on the First Amendment freedoms of speech and the press, is for the people to take seriously the threat posed by multinational media enterprises whose sole allegiance is to their bottom line. And, of course, we also need to address threats posed by the sort of political cronyism that produced Kevin Martin, who did for the FCC what Katrina did for FEMA.