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Slacker Friday | The Nation

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Eric Alterman

Eric Alterman

Well-chosen words on music, movies and politics, with the occasional special guest.

Slacker Friday

We've got a new Think Again here. It's called "Cable News Blues." My Nation column, comparing Jon Stewart with yes, Edward R. Murrow, is here, and I did a post about Obama's press conference for The Daily Beast, here. Oh and I did an interview with TPMTV about the Israel Lobby here. Oh, and if you didn't make it into the Nation column, here is the key line:

PS: Don't tell my publisher, but Why We're Liberals: A Handbook for Restoring America's Most Important Ideals is out in paperback.

Josh Silver

Hi Eric,

Internet issues continue to take the spotlight in Washington. The $7.2 billion in stimulus that was directed towards broadband buildout has produced an incredibly complex and rushed process to close the gap for the more-than-40-percent of Americans who still do not have broadband at home. The three agencies charged with allocating the funds have to do so in a short timeframe--within 18 months--and with inadequate staff to manage the process. This is a scenario that could easily result in poorly allocated funds to the largest incumbent phone and cable companies, so we are spending huge amounts of time bird-dogging the process. Last week, two of our staff testified at official roundtables, and we just released a broadband stimulus grant scorecard to help agencies determine whether projects are in the public interest.

Also on the Internet front, we put out a white paper exposing a dangerous technology known as "Deep Packet Inspection," (DPI) which allows phone and cable companies to spy on their customers' Web activities and block any application or content they want. For many years, Internet service providers have been clear about their desire to violate Net Neutrality--DPI is the technology that makes that possible. Many Internet service providers already have DPI technology installed in their network, and all they have to do is flip a switch, and the open Internet as we know it will be a thing of the past. We're raising awareness about the dangers of DPI, and pushing for more government oversight.

With the demise of commercial journalism, public broadcasting--or public media--becomes an increasingly critical piece of the long-term reform puzzle. There is simply no way that philanthropists and innovative commercial media alone can provide the news and information that an informed electorate requires. There's good news and bad news on this front. The bad news is that current funding levels are absurdly low--roughly $1.35 per capita--compared to over $100 in some European nations. And the system is dangerously politicized because of a faulty system for appointing board members to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB)--the agency that distributes public monies to noncommercial media.The good news is that the current leadership at PBS, NPR and CPB is stronger than we've seen in a long time. Recently, they have made a commitment to producing more enterprise journalism, more educational and local programming. This is a huge change from the Bush era, when journalism was a swear word of sorts for public broadcasters. In the short term, while public broadcasters' stimulus requests did not gain traction, they are pushing for $300 million in supplemental funding this year and we are supporting the effort. However, their long-term success requires the kind of policy changes in Congress that Free Press must lead: creating a new funding mechanism that moves away from the highly-politicized annual congressional appropriation; reforming governance nationally and locally; and broadening the definition of public media to include more independent media producers.

Name: Ben Miller

Mr. Alterman,

I keep hearing critics say "What has Obama done," and has therereally been change. Should we take a second to compare what PresidentObama has done to what President Bush did in his first 100 days ofhis second term (when he had similar majorities in the House andSenate). Remember, President Bush had political capital and he wasgoing to spend it. Let's see, there was the Bankruptcy Bill right outof the gates. Had to help the credit card companies because we knowthey were struggling. There was the failed attempt to privatizeSocial Security. Should we even imagine what would be going on rightnow had that attempt been successful? Oh and there was the Presidentracing back to The White House at night for Terry Schiavo - a certainurgency in the President's actions that night that stands in starkcontrast to his response to a hurricane hitting New Orleans or atsunami devastating Southeast Asia.

With all of that, do we really need to compare or can we just tellPresident's Obama's critics to shut up on this point.

Name: Victor Archer
Hometown: Columbia, SC

I was watching the Q & A session with the president the other nightwith a good friend of mine, a twenty something who has until recentlyavoided the ugliness of politics. Bright guy...

Although I picked Obama early and even worked briefly on hiscampaign, I try to "curb my enthusiasm", so to speak, and not forgetwhere I disagree with him, but it was hard not to look at the manwith a muted awe, and a formerly a-political twenty something agreed.

Here's this guy, the second youngest president in history, of Africandescent, who thought he was on a test run when he ran for theoffice...who finds himself in charge in the middle of the nastiestpolitical-economic situation our country's seen in many decades.

There he stood, calm and collected, responding thoughtfully, usingsentences chock full of multisyllabic three dollar words perfectlypronounced...addressing issues...making sense...

And I have to say I stand by my choice for president. The only imagecriticism I have (really more of a warning) is that he should bewarethe folksy cheerleading stuff. There's a danger of over familiarityand dignity dinging.

Name: Frank Lynch
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Not sure if your use of "the guy from Univision" portends adegenderization along the lines of "actor" now being for menand women, but Univision's correspondent (Lourdes something...)is a woman.

Best always,
Frank

Eric replies: Whoops, thanks, bub.

Name: Dominic Umile
Hometown: Greenpoint, Brooklyn

Hi Eric,

I'm going to band with the regulars here and say that I'm sorry tosee you're unable to blog more frequently, but I have a deep, deepunderstanding of the unpaid/stretched-too-thin thing, so I'll takewhatever Altercation I can get. Liked the Daily Beast column, and Ithink that you and your peers have done a great job of tracking thepress's indulgent, fantastical gripes re: the recent budget pressconference. Rather than lamenting the lack of inquiries about theAfghanistan strategy review or commenting that "Jeez, it's quiterefreshing that the non-traditionals get called on when the Presidentaddresses the nation these days," the talking heads prattled on abouthis "long answers" (transparency? God forbid) and general "boring"discussion.

In other news, I'm sorry to have missed Mr. Leonard Cohen, and Imentioned in brief your assessment of the Beacon show here. But most importantly, you saw both The Whoand The Clash in one week? Spill it.

Thanks.

Eric replies: Second American tour; Warm-ups were the Undertones and Sam and Dave, at the Palladium. The Who were doing their first-ever post Keith Moon tour. Didn't suck either, but it wasn't the Clash.

Name: Steve McGady
Hometown: Philadelphia

Good for you, taking charge of your life. I read Altercation almostdaily 2004-06, then stopped keeping up. You see, I'm a conservativewho was looking for somebody to put a dent in the Republican Partyfor me. I often chastised you "weenies" for never really getting afirm message to fight back. (Of course, that still leaves me aRepublican. whoop de damn doo) I still don't think you guys ever gotyour stuff together, but I think we have a keeper in Obama. (Couldyou imagine a Clinton adminstration - yikes, she would probably be onher third Treasury Secretary!) Best of luck at your new part timejob. You'll be happier, your posts will be better, and maybe you'llfind time to listen to some good music. And your loyal readers willbe just fine. More or less...

Name: Puthecode Varavanjanapour
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Eric,

Re: Jack Cafferty--not all statements require evidence or back up--there are such things as simple opinions, of which I have one--yourThursday blog was terrific and this is a fact even though I have noempirical evidence.

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