Posts Tagged ‘Brian Lehrer’

Why Do Republicans Oppose Net Neutrality?

Friday, October 23rd, 2009

[digg-reddit-me]The motto of the Republican Party these days seems to be this: If you’re not getting traction opposing something the Obama administration is doing, then make shit up and oppose that.

This was the approach to health care reform and it’s the approach to cap-and-trade legislation (which had been the Republican, market-based approach to dealing with climate change until Democrats came on board.)  The Republican and right wing opposition to net neutrality provides yet another example of this. It’s not that there are no legitimate grounds to oppose these and other Obama administration positions – libertarians and paleoconservatives have found many – it’s just that the Republicans and right wing media figures opposing it choose instead to pretend that what is being proposed is some fantastical evil scheme.

In this case, they are pretending that net neutrality is (a) a radical change rather than a preservation of the internet as it is; and (b) would create an “internet czar” who would “police content” and force conservative bloggers and website owners to put liberal content on their websites. This is not even close to being true!

Network neutrality is an essentially conservative principle – meaning that it seeks to preserve a core principle of the status quo. (SavetheInternet – a pro-net neutrality group – has a good FAQ page if you’re unfamiliar.) Internet service providers (the companies you pay to be able to get onto the internet) in seeking to find new ways to make even more money want to not only charge you to get onto the internet, but to charge companies with websites to be able to reach you (or to be able to reach you quicker.) Doing this would radically undermine the internet as it is and could easily lead to the entrenchment of any big company willing to pay to best its opponents rather than the company with the best idea.

Net neutrality was a fairly uncontroversial idea as late as 2006 – attracting broad bipartisan support in Congress. A libertarian/conservative group – the Internet Freedom Coalition – did oppose it – on the theory that the internet already was regulated enough and no further laws were needed; but the Republican-controlled House Judiciary Committee still passed the 2006 net neutrality bill 20 votes to 13.

Last summer though, things began to change. I wrote a piece about how money had begun to flow into John McCain’s campaign as well as other Republicans as the cable companies and other opponents of net neutrality began to try to gin up some opposition. McCain himself seemed confused though his campaign had issued a definitive statement saying he was against it (coincidentally right around the time he started to get money from net neutrality opponents.) McCain said in an interview to Brian Lehrer after this statement that he went “back and forth on the issue.” In the interview, he seemed genuinely confused as to what the issue even was.

But as the money began to go to various Republican candidates, and as progressives and liberals began to defend net neutrality, the issue became polarized. Republican and former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, claimed that net neutrality could lead to the regulation of political speech on the internet, calling it a ‘Fairness Doctrine for the Internet,’ which is clearly a Conservative Strawman, as anyone who bothered to do any research about what the meaning of net neutrality was would quickly find out. Even the Internet Freedom Coalition declines to make this exaggerated claim.

Now, the issue has broken into the news again as the FCC is considering writing rules officially adopting net neutrality rather than invoking it on a case by case basis as it has in the past. (Unfortunately, I’m a bit unclear on the distinction being made between guidelines relied upon by the FCC and rules enforced by the FCC.)

And of course, Republicans, having been duly bought and paid for, are now opponents of net neutrality – as rather than conservatively seeking to preserve the structure of the internet, they seek to allow big corporations the freedom to undermine it in any way they find profitable. John McCain who was so confused by this issue just last year now is a leading opponent, introducing a bill this week to prohibit the FCC from protecting net neutrality or any of the other basic principles underlying the internet as it exists now. Marsha Blackburn, a House Republican, has officially taken on the role of the Sarah Palin for the net neutrality debate, as she pushes the limits of public dialogue by demagoguing net neutrality and regurgitating the wacky talking point that net neutrality is the “Fairness Doctrine for the Internet.”

Perhaps in this storyline you can see what it takes to unhinge the public debate from reality: an interest group with money to burn to concentrate the benefits of government policy and disperse the costs.

[Image by -eko- licensed under Creative Commons.]

“The Disgraced Former Governor” on WNYC

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

[digg-reddit-me]Eliot Spitzer was interviewed on The Brian Lehrer Show about AIG last week (in what I believe is his actual first interview post-resignation, contra Susie Madrak at Crooks and Liars and Fareed Zakaria):

Brian Lehrer: Before you go, some of the commenters on our website are angry at us for even having you on.

Eliot Spitzer: Mhmm.

Brian Lehrer: They ask, “Can’t we find any other expert to talk about AIG besides  a disgraced former governor?” and things like that. To those listeners, we’re having lots of AIG-related guests this week. We chose Mr. Spitzer for one perspective because of the unique history between him and the company when he was the only government entity really giving them a hard time. But Mr. Spitzer, it was a year ago yesterday that you left office. How do you feel now about having taken yourself out of the position of being more directly involved with all this?

Eliot Spitzer: Well, I’m obviously disappointed in what led to that; I’ve apologized and have acted in the past way that I should have which is to say that I will remain quiet …

As you suggested, there was a… period when as Attorney General of New York, I was pursing issues that no one else wanted to pursue. We pursued AIG and Wall Street structural failures  in a way that others shied away from because it was politically unpalatable for them to address these issues. Now it is the flavor of the month and everybody’s jumping up and down, serving subpoenas and beating their chests trying to be tougher than the next person.

That’s wonderful.

But as you say there was a moment when that was not the case and so perhaps I can add a slightly different perspective if I can…

Brian Lehrer: You said you would stay quiet but you’re not totally staying quiet. You are a Slate columnist…Are you trying to kind of make a comeback as a media person?

Eliot Spitzer: No. I’m simply trying to add a few words occasionally as I best can to shed light on some very vexing policy problems that are out there and that have not been addressed necessarily in the best way by our leadership. And we all have to work together to do what we can do to move forward and to the extent that writing a few columns and adding my perspective can help, I’m thrilled to do that and help in any way. I think that’s what we all owe to our society.

The clip is from the end of the interview which you can listen to here.

You have to appreciate Brian Lehrer asking questions “tough interviewers” like David Gregory seem to shy away from. It’s not so much that Lehrer asked if Spitzer was attempting a comeback – you can picture David Gregory calling on the control room to “run the tape” with some old footage of the Governor saying something like, “If I’m ever caught in a scandal, I’ll never run for office again!” and then pressing him on that point – but the way Lehrer followed up and challenged the line that Spitzer gave about “staying quiet,” as well as the way he confronted Spitzer with what his listeners were saying – that seems on par with Lehrer’s tendency to ask what most interviewers would be afraid to ask. (Another example being when he asked Sandra Day O’Connor, “Why did you deny the state of Florida the right to recount votes in its own state?” to her annoyance.)

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