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Ari Melber

Ari Melber is The Nation’s Net movement correspondent, covering politics, law, public policy and new media, and a regular contributor to the magazine’s blog. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and a J.D. from Cornell Law School, where he was an editor of the Cornell Journal of Law and Public Policy.

Contact Ari: on Facebook, on Twitter, and at amelber@hotmail.com.

Melber is also an attorney, a columnist for Politico and a contributing editor at techPresident, a nonpartisan website covering technology’s impact on democracy. During the 2008 general election, he traveled with the Obama Campaign on special assignment for The Washington Independent.

He previously served as a Legislative Aide in the US Senate and as a national staff member of the 2004 John Kerry Presidential Campaign.

As a commentator on public affairs, Melber frequently speaks on national television and radio, including including appearances on NBC, CNBC, CNN, CNN Headline News, C-SPAN, MSNBC, Bloomberg News, FOX News, and NPR, on programs such as “The Today Show,” “American Morning,” “Washington Journal,” “Power Lunch,” “The Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell,” “The Joy Behar Show,” “The Dylan Ratigan Show,” and “The Daily Rundown,” among others. Melber has also been a featured speaker at Harvard, Oxford, Yale, Columbia, NYU, The Center for American Progress and many other institutions. He has contributed chapters or essays to the books “America Now,” (St. Martins, 2009), “At Issue: Affirmative Action,” (Cengage, 2009), and “MoveOn’s 50 Ways to Love Your Country,” (Inner Ocean Publishing, 2004).  His reporting  has been cited by a wide range of news organizations, academic journals and nonfiction books, including the The Washington Post, The New York Times, ABC News, NBC News, CNN, FOX News, National Review Online, The New England Journal of Medicine and Boston University Law Review.  He is a member of the American Constitution Society, he serves on the advisory board of the Roosevelt Institute and lives in Manhattan.

 


  • February 11, 2008

    Does Facebook Own You Forever?

    In a recent feature article on Facebook and the "new privacy," I stressed how the company's invasive data policy seizes lots of information from users, even after they quit the site:

     

    Even if users terminate their membership, pictures of them posted by others remain online. But users can't really quit, anyway. Like guests at the Hotel California, people who check out of Facebook have a hard time leaving. Profiles of former members are preserved in case people want to reactivate their accounts. And all users' digital selves can outlive their creators. As the company's "terms of use" explain, profiles of deceased members are kept "active under a special memorialized status for a period of time determined by us to allow other users to post and view comments."

     

    The issue has generally received far less media scrutiny than user revolts over programs that spread people's information, such as the "feed" controversy and protests against "social ads," though bloggers and social media observers have flagged this problem before. DavidNYC posted one of the more memorable pleas in December, "Delete My Bleeping Account, Facebook!"

    Ari Melber

  • February 11, 2008

    Dems Fight Spying with Clinton and Obama MIA

    A trio of Democratic House Committee Chairmen are stepping up the fight against President Bush's surveillance bill this week, vowing to beat back a controversial proposal to grant retroactive amnesty to companies accused of illegally spying on Americans.

    Congressmen John Dingell, Ed Markey and Bart Stupak are circulating a letter urging their colleagues to stand firm and keep amnesty out of the final spying bill. The House already passed a bill without amnesty, but the Senate is scheduled to pass a bill with retroactive amnesty as early as Tuesday. That would trigger a fight to resolve the issue in a conference committee of Democratic leaders. While a majority of Democrats in both Houses have voted against amnesty, Senators Harry Reid and Jay Rockefeller have fought hard to keep the proposal on the table, quailing at Bush's repeated threats to veto the bill if it does not include amnesty.

    The House Democrats' letter explains that amnesty is distinct from the surveillance bill, which grants the administration more spying powers and weakens judicial requirements for warrants. "The issue of immunity for phone companies that chose to cooperate with the President's warrantless wiretapping program deserves a separate and more deliberate examination by Congress," reads the letter. "No special urgency attaches to the question of immunity other than the Administration's general eagerness to limit tort liability and its desire to avoid scrutiny of its own actions, by either the courts or the Congress."

    Ari Melber

  • February 8, 2008

    Defending Clinton’s Virtual Town Hall

    Hillary Clinton is under fire again for planted questions, but this time she did nothing wrong.

    Clinton pulled a Perot this week, buying a full hour of national television to directly address voters before Super Tuesday. Her campaign convened a virtual town hall, "Voices Across America," and broadcast it on the Hallmark channel and HillaryClinton.com. On the scale of managed presidential campaign events, it was moderately participatory: more than a one-way stump speech, less than an open coffee klatch in Iowa. Specifically, the campaign screened submitted questions, and then Clinton spoke with selected voters, who were sometimes flanked by endorsers or supportive crowds.

    Yet the event was the "opposite of interactive," blogs Zephyr Teachout, former Internet director for the Dean Campaign:

    By spreading a video message instead of handling press questions, she used the internet to actually reduce interactivity, instead of increase it--she didn't have to interact with [live] questions...

     

    Ari Melber

  • February 6, 2008

    Obama Claims 9-Delegate Win for Super Tuesday

    Barack Obama's Campaign wants to make his Super Tuesday victory official.

    Campaign Manager David Plouffe says that Obama won 9 more delegates than Hillary Clinton on Tuesday, based on a pledged delegate estimate conducted overnight by analysts in the campaign's Chicago "boiler room." Obama won 845 delegates to Clinton's 836, according to Obama's data team, which includes Democratic targeting buff Ken Strasma and delegate expert Jeff Berman, who caused the AP to reverse its Nevada delegate estimate a few weeks back.

    "By winning a majority of delegates and a majority of the states, Barack Obama won an important Super Tuesday victory over Senator Clinton in the closest thing we have to a national primary," Plouffe told reporters on Wednesday. Senior Clinton strategists depicted Clinton as an energized underdog in a media conference call on Wednesday, contending that voters are rejecting Obama's "establishment" campaign.

    Ari Melber

  • Covert Ops February 5, 2008

    Will the Senate OK More Bush Spying?

    Democratic leaders are poised to validate Bush's illegal surveillance, giving up even more ground than their Republican colleagues did. Why?

    Ari Melber

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  • February 5, 2008

    Obama’s Wired Tuesday Push

    In one last push to mobilize voters, Michelle Obama is asking her husband's supporters to get viral on Tuesday.

    In a final salvo for Super Tuesday, the Obama Campaign blasted an email from Ms. Obama urging supporters to share the new music video "Yes We Can." The video was a smash hit across the web since launching on Friday, bringing direct footage of Obama's stump speech to millions of people. It already netted over 1.8 million views on YouTube, and potentially hundreds of thousands more from another hub, DipDive.com, which drew over 1,000 links from U.S. websites since last week. The Obama Campaign's new viral push should bolster those numbers -- his State of the Union rebuttal recently topped a million views on YouTube. And Obama's YouTube profile has drawn over 11.5 million views, more than ten times Hillary Clinton.

    While Obama is tapping energized supporters and intrigued viewers to basically spread his message for free, Clinton invested in an hour of national paid media with a televised town hall on Monday night. The "Voices Across America" event was broadcast on the Hallmark channel, and streamed on HillaryClinton.com. (Neither Hallmark nor the campaign would comment on the cost, according to MediaWeek.)

    Ari Melber

  • Election 2008 January 31, 2008

    MoveOn Weighs Dem Endorsements

    The netroots powerhouse is surveying its members on whom to support. It's a test of the candidates and of the progressive movement.

    Ari Melber

  • January 27, 2008

    Obama and Clinton’s State of Surveillance

    President Bush is now daring Congress to defy his demand for more unchecked power to spy on Americans without warrants, vowing to veto temporary surveillance legislation and politicize his last State of the Union address for an attack on Democrats. Last week, Democratic leaders were considering a bill to grant a one-month extension of the administration's spying powers, a "compromise" tilted in Bush's favor, but Republican tactics have finally tried the patience of Majority Leader Harry Reid. He had been managing floor votes to advance the Republican bill and squash opposition from the majority of Democrats within his caucus, but that may change this week.

    "The White House threat to veto a short extension of the Protect America Act is shamefully irresponsible," says Reid, who also derided Bush's new threat as simply "posturing" for the State of the Union. Reid added that if any terror-related problems were caused by legislative delays, "the blame will clearly and unequivocally fall where it belongs: on President Bush and his allies in Congress."

    That's tough talk. It has not been matched by action yet, and unfortunately it does not add up anyway. While most Congressional Democrats have begun confronting Bush's unconstitutional demands, a few leaders like Reid and Intelligence Chair Jay Rockefeller are actually the ones pushing the Bush spying bill. That's the problem with Reid's new complaint.

    Ari Melber

  • January 24, 2008

    Reid Clears Hurdle for Bush-Cheney Spying Bill

    Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid cleared a key hurdle for the FISA Amendments Act on Thursday, advancing President Bush's preferred version of the spying bill, a move opposed by the majority of Reid's Democratic colleagues. The vote, 60-36, sets the Senate on a course to validate more warrantless spying by the Bush administration and provide retroactive amnesty to telephone companies accused of breaking surveillance laws -- an unpopular approach.

    The ACLU, which has collaborated with a network of constitutional activists and bloggers to oppose the administration's surveillance policies, condemned the Democratic leadership in unusually tough language after the vote. "Under Democratic leadership, the Senate will now continue its debate on surveillance with a bill that resembles something from the administration's playbook. Six months after being hoodwinked into passing the Protect America Act, Americans are still waiting for Congress to grow a spine," read an official statement released Thursday afternoon.

    Glenn Greenwald, an attorney who has written extensively about surveillance issues as an author and blogger, blasted the Democrats' caving on the surveillance bill as part of a broader pattern. "Democrats have failed repeatedly to end or even limit one of the most unpopular wars in American history. They have failed to restore habeas corpus. They have failed to fulfill their promise of 'fixing' the hastily-passed Protect America Act," he wrote at Salon. "They don't feel the slightest bit ashamed or remorseful about any of that," he added.

    Ari Melber

  • January 20, 2008

    Clinton and Obama Win Nevada

    So the Clintons like Nevada after all.

    Hillary Clinton beat Barack Obama by about six points in the state's caucus on Saturday, netting 12 of the 25 delegates at stake. But Barack Obama won the number that could matter most, earning 13 of Nevada's national convention delegates, which ultimately determine the Democratic nominee. That made for a "split decision," according to Congressman James Clyburn, an influential member of the House Democratic leadership who is unaffiliated with any candidate. Obama sounded even more confident on Saturday, saying "we came from over twenty-five points behind to win more national convention delegates than Hillary Clinton because we performed well all across the state, including rural areas where Democrats have traditionally struggled." But it's not that simple.

    Rural areas did secure Obama's delegate edge. His five-point lead in the rural section of Nevada's Second Congressional District, which stretches across most of the state north of Las Vegas, won him the single delegate at stake there. With one delegate in play, caucus math is winner-take-all. So while Clinton won about 43 percent of the area, she had no delegates to show for it. And the delegates are weighed by past voter registration -- not the actual turnout on Saturday -- which can also widen a gap with the true popular vote. But the popular vote is not actually available.

    Ari Melber