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Friday, August 15, 2008

McCain Prepares to Hand the Internet Over to Comcast, Verizon, AT&T

Yesterday, if you listened closely, you could hear the sound of John McCain selling off the internet to his campaign backers, the cable and telecom interests. After being shocked by a 3-2 vote punishing Comcast for illegal behavior at the FCC, cable interests are freaking out and using every tool at their disposal to reinstitute discipline among wavering Republicans.

The cable and telecom pushback started with former telecom lobbyist and current FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, who is desperate to become Chairman of the FCC under a McCain administration, launching a salvo against internet freedom, claiming that net neutrality would lead to censorship of the internet and requirements that bloggers and sites like Google offer 'equal time' to different views. This incoherence was quickly picked up by the Drudge Report, all to be timed with the coming release of McCain's technology policy, which is slated to come out this week or next. McDowell, who of the five FCC Commissioners is by far the most favorable to cable, did this at the Heritage Foundation. He even warned his side that there are more dissident conservatives like Kevin Martin getting ready to come out for net neutrality, a clear sign they know they are losing this fight and need to reframe their strategy.

McDowell denounced net neutrality under the guise that it's intertwined with the Fairness Doctrine, which he says Obama will reimpose. McDowell wouldn't actually explicitly say that net neutrality and the Fairness Doctrine are the same thing, means, because he knows he'd get laughed out of the room, but he implied it. Here's his statement.

Matt Stoller :: McCain Prepares to Hand the Internet Over to Comcast, Verizon, AT&T
"Then, whoever is in charge of government is going to determine what is fair, under a so-called 'Fairness Doctrine,' which won't be called that - it'll be called something else," McDowell said. "So, will Web sites, will bloggers have to give equal time or equal space on their Web site to opposing views rather than letting the marketplace of ideas determine that?"

Google is one of the strongest proponents of net neutrality, and there's no way in hell that company would support a policy that placed content regulations on their business. But who is actually censoring our communications networks? Verizon, for one, which refused to allow a text message from NARAL to be sent to their members, citing its 'unsavory' and controversial nature. AT&T, for another, which censored a web-casted Pearl Jam concert when the lead singer shouted out anti-Bush statements. And Comcast, which not only was caught illegally blocking file sharing by its customers, but has a history of blocking political ads on its cable service that criticize politicians company executives have given money to.

And lo and behold, these are the same companies that are seeking a McCain Presidency, as Amanda Terkel notes in her piece on McCain's tech policy.

The current campaign cycle is also shaping up to be lucrative. U.S. Telecom Association president and CEO Walter B. McCormick Jr., Sprint CEO Daniel R. Hesse, and Verizon chairman and CEO Ivan G. Seidenberg have each raised between $50,000 and $100,000 for McCain's campaign. AT&T executive vice president for federal relations Timothy McKone has raised at least $500,000.

Add to that list the Alison H. McSlarrow and Kyle E. McSlarrow, both of whom work for cable and telecom interests and both of whom have raised more than $50k for McCain.

What's really going on is that this week or next, McCain is going to release his technology policy, and he's looking for cover from business allies, as his policy was written by the telecom lobbyists running his campaign and libertarian Michael Powell, who used his FCC position to garner lucrative business opportunities within the tech and telecom worlds. McCain will talk - just as Bush did in 2004 when he called for universal broadband by 2007 - about how every American needs broadband, but his plan - just like Bush's - will do nothing to achieve it. What his plan will do is eviscerate consumer protections on the internet, allowing for censorship by private interests like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T who have already demonstrated that they have and will engage in censorship of political speech for business and political reasons.

That's what is going on here, and FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell is the point person in the propaganda campaign. Now, the question is not substantive, it's whether this campaign will work to persuade people that up is down, that black is white. I don't think it will. Organized interests understand, and elite actors understand, that Comcast is full of lying scumbags trying to restrict the behavior of their users. That's why Republican Kevin Martin realized he had to punish Comcast. And the base of this campaign is solidly pro-net neutrality; the issue is the most important protection for Silicon Valley, a powerful political constituency.

More to the point, the question next year will pivot away from arcane discussions about issues like net neutrality and towards something the public does understand, through an alliance called, appropriately enough, Internet for Everyone.

This is something we're ready to fight on. Obama isn't going to reimpose the Fairness Doctrine, which is content regulation on talk radio, because he's smart and the Fairness Doctrine is fundamentally about government regulation of a public commons unfairly given over to private actors. Rather, what Obama will seek is to give the public airwaves back to the public, now that we have the technology to allow anyone to broadcast digital signals without interfering with anyone else, like wifi. There will be broad fights over media consolidation and ownership structures, universal broadband, and the future of news, mobile phones, the mobile economy, copyright, movies, and the way we communicate and define ourselves.

Obama is firmly with us on most of this. McCain? Well he just wants to use this stuff to get campaign contributions, and his allies at Comcast, Verzion, and AT&T want to use it to censor an internet they are intent on controlling.

Original here

McCain Says He Couldn’t Pick A Running Mate Who Is ‘Pro-Gay Rights’»


In an interview with the Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that he wouldn’t rule out former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge as his running mate even though “he happens to be pro-choice.” McCain added that being “pro-life” is a “fundamental tenet” of the Republican Party, “but that does not mean we exclude people from our party that are pro-choice.”

McCain then indicated that he thought the party could “exclude people” for being “pro-gay rights“:

“I think it’s a fundamental tenet of our party to be pro-life but that does not mean we exclude people from our party that are pro-choice. We just have a–albeit strong–but just it’s a disagreement. And I think Ridge is a great example of that. Far more so than Bloomberg, because Bloomberg is pro-gay rights, pro, you know, a number of other issues.”

Asked if McCain meant someone couldn’t “be pro-gay and still be a Republican,” an anonymous McCain adviser told the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder that McCain’s Bloomberg comment was actually “a message of inclusion.”

McCain’s comments contradict the inclusive tone he struck in the past when he sought the support of the gay community. In 1998, McCain told Chris Matthews that the Republican Party shouldn’t “discriminate against anyone” because of “their sexual orientation“:

MCCAIN: And I’ll tell you right now, the Log Cabin Party–Republican Party–should be part of our–of our party. And I believe the Christian right should be part of–of our party. I respect their views. My view is that in the case of the military, the don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy was appropriate. And I also believe that–that gays should not be in the military, and I know that that’s a–a s–a–a problem that a lot of people would have. At the same time, I don’t believe that we should discriminate against anyone. And with that–and that includes because of their sexual orientation. [CNBC Hardball, 6/15/98]

Now McCain is more than respecting the views of the Christian right when it comes to gay rights, he’s kow-towing to them. Earlier this year, McCain personally met with the president of the Log Cabin Republicans, but the group has yet to officially endorse him.

What do the Log Cabin members think of a candidate who now supports excluding those who are “pro-gay rights?”

Original here

Media Blindly Accept Notion That Russia-Georgia Conflict Is Good For John McCain

Since the violence broke out last week between Russian and Georgian military forces, pundits and media figures have been trying to determine how the conflict will affect the U.S. presidential election. Many in the media, however, have blindly asserted — seemingly without examining any evidence — that the war in Georgia helps Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Some recent examples:

Jill Zuckman, Chicago Tribune: “It’s just sort of a perfect thing for him.”

Jeff Birnbaum, Washington Post: “This is McCain’s advantage here, advantage McCain. This is right in his sweet spot in foreign policy national security.”

Mark Halperin, Time Magazine: “I think McCain benefits…this is good politically for John McCain”

Watch the compilation:

Halperin hinted at why many in the media think the Georgia-Russia conflict is a winner for McCain, becuase it “allows him to talk tough on foreign policy.”

But as Josh Marshall notes, “watching John McCain speak about the Georgian crisis […] should deeply worry anyone interested in a sane US foreign policy,” suggesting that a President McCain would have pushed the U.S. closer to war during this particular crisis: “People need to wake up and get a look of the preview he’s giving us of a McCain presidency.” Some reasons to be worried:

Group of 8: McCain wants to kick Russia out of the G8 — a plan he reiterated just yesterday and one that a “senior U.S. official” recently called “impossible” and “just a dumb thing.”

League of Democracies: McCain has cited Russian “behavior” as justification to create a “League of Democracies” — a radical plan with a “hidden agenda” to “kill the United Nations” and one that has been “greeted with alarm by some Republican supporters and wariness by important U.S. allies.”

Trusted Broker: The fact that McCain’s top foreign policy adviser, Randy Scheunemann, has spent a number of years lobbying on behalf of Georgia which raises some questions about whether McCain would serve as an honest broker in the Russia-Georgia conflict.

So it seems that for the media, McCain’s “tough talk” and thus predisposition for war is a political benefit.

Original here

Putin's war enablers: Bush and Cheney

The run-up to the current chaos in the Caucasus should look quite familiar: Russia acted unilaterally rather than going through the U.N. Security Council. It used massive force against a small, weak adversary. It called for regime change in a country that had defied Moscow. It championed a separatist movement as a way of asserting dominance in a region it coveted.

Indeed, despite George W. Bush and Dick Cheney's howls of outrage at Russian aggression in Georgia and the disputed province of South Ossetia, the Bush administration set a deep precedent for Moscow's actions -- with its own systematic assault on international law over the past seven years. Now, the administration's condemnations of Russia ring hollow.

Bush said on Monday, responding to reports that Russia might attack the Georgian capital, "It now appears that an effort may be under way to depose [Georgia's] duly elected government. Russia has invaded a sovereign neighboring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people. Such an action is unacceptable in the 21st century." By Wednesday, with more Russian troops on the move and a negotiated cease-fire quickly unraveling, Bush stepped up the rhetoric, announcing a sizable humanitarian-aid mission to Georgia and dispatching Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to the region.

While U.S. leaders have tended to back Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, there are two sides to every dispute, and in the ethnically diverse Caucasus it may be more like a hundred sides. Abkhazia and Ossetia are claimed by Georgia, but they have their own distinctive languages, cultures and national aspirations. Both fought for independence in the early 1990s, without success, though neither was Georgia able to assert its full sovereignty over them, accepting Russian mediation and peacekeeping troops.

The separatist leaders of South Ossetia and Abkhazia now speak of Saakashvili in terms reminiscent of the way separatists in Darfur speak of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. Sergei Bagapsh of Abkhazia and Eduard Kokoity of South Ossetia have come out against conducting any further talks with Georgia, calling instead for Saakashvili to be tried for war crimes. Kokoity told Interfax, "There can be no talks with the organizers of genocide." The Russian press is full of talk of putting Saakashvili on trial for ordering attacks on Ossetian civilians.

All sides have committed massacres and behaved abominably. There are no clean hands involved, notwithstanding the strong support for Georgia visible in the press of most NATO member countries. (Georgia has been jockeying to join NATO, something Moscow stridently opposes.) Still, not everyone in NATO agrees that Saakashvili is a hero. While traveling with the negotiating team of President Nicolas Sarkozy, one French official observed that "Saakashvili was crazy enough to go in the middle of the night and bomb a city" in South Ossetia. The consequence of Russia's riposte, he said, is "a Georgia attacked, pulverized, through its own fault."

An emboldened Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin sarcastically likened Russia's actions to Bush's foreign policy. Pointing to the invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Putin said, "Of course, Saddam Hussein ought to have been hanged for destroying several Shiite villages ... And the incumbent Georgian leaders who razed 10 Ossetian villages at once, who ran over elderly people and children with tanks, who burned civilians alive in their sheds -- these leaders must be taken under protection."

In the run-up to the Iraq war, Bush officials repeated ad nauseam the mantra that Saddam Hussein had killed his own people. Thus, they helped create a case for unilateral "humanitarian intervention" of the sort Putin says Russia is now pursuing. Washington had failed to get a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing a war on Iraq, and Iraq had not attacked the United States, so no principle of self-defense was at stake. But since all governments (even the United States under Abraham Lincoln) repress separatist movements, often ruthlessly, Bush was turning actions such as Saakashvili's attack on South Ossetia into a more legitimate cause for an outside power (especially one bordering it) to wage war against Georgia.

Indeed, Putin's invoking Bush's Iraq adventure points directly to the way in which Bush has enabled other world powers to act impulsively. With his doctrine of preemptive warfare, Bush single-handedly tore down the architecture of post-World War II international law erected by the founders of the United Nations to ensure that rogue states did not go about launching wars of aggression the way Hitler had. While safeguarding minorities at risk is a praiseworthy goal, the U.N. Charter states that the Security Council must approve a war launched for this purpose or any other, excepting self-defense. No individual nation is authorized to wage aggressive war on a vigilante basis, as Bush did in Iraq or Russia is now doing in the Caucasus.

Eight years ago, the United States would have been in a position to condemn Russia for its unilateral war without necessarily seeming hypocritical. After all, even the Korean War had been sanctioned by the United Nations, and President Dwight Eisenhower had condemned the 1956 tripartite attack on Egypt by Britain, France and Israel for violating the U.N. Charter.

Bush's recent argument, that a democratically elected government should not be overthrown (no matter what its behavior, apparently), was intended to sidestep comparisons between his own unilateral wars of aggression and ones such as the current Russian intervention. He was implying that his invasion of Iraq toppled a government that lacked the legitimacy enjoyed by Saakashvili's.

In fact, Bush's foreign policy includes a long list of actions intended to undermine elected governments.