NDN Blog

NBC Getting Radical in Face of Dramatic Changes in Media Landscape

The Washington Post had an extraordinary front page article today that explained the context of NBC’s announcement yesterday that it would shed jobs and slash its budget on a path toward creating NBC 2.0.

Finally the mainstream media is writing the contextual story for what it is: a historical transformation of all media sectors towards a 21st century media rooted on the internet and in digital technologies. This media transformation has a direct impact on politics because every time you change how to reach audiences and consumers, you change how to reach constituencies and voters too.

We at the New Politics institute have been hammering on this theme for the last year, mostly notably in our 2005 report on The New Powers That Be. This report lays out the five tectonic shifts that are driving the transformation of the entire media landscape, and makes the analogy to the impact of broadcast television on politics in the 1960s. We also have been making this argument in our talks, such as The New Politics Begins.

All three avenues will give you an overview of the level of change that we’re moving through right now. It doesn’t get much more fundamental than this.

Peter Leyden
Director of The New Politics Institute


Last month, hundreds of anti-choice activists from around the country met near Chicago, IL. to attend a conference put on by the Pro-Life Action League called "Contraception Is Not the Answer." The Chicago Tribune reported that "experts at the gathering assailed contraception on the grounds that it devalues children, harms relationships between men and women, promotes sexual promiscuity, and leads to falling birth rates, among social ills."  Personally, I’d be very interested to learn the subjects of which these folks are "experts.”  A visit to the webpage for the conference offers more misinformation such as “contraception ushered in widespread promiscuity, divorce, sexually transmitted diseases, single parent households and abortion.”  

In reality, ninety-eight percent of American women use birth control at some point in their lives. Eighty-nine percent of Americans favor more access to information about birth control, and 81 percent think access to birth control is a good way to prevent abortions. 

We must dismantle the political support for groups that are willing to put young people’s lives as risk with their propaganda and ignorant campaigns against condoms! 

In other recent and more positive news, New York’s highest court ruled on Thursday that social service agencies run by the Roman Catholic Church must provide birth-control coverage to their employees.

Immigrants: beware the end of habeas corpus

There are many reasons people have immigrated to the United States over the years.   One of the most important was a sense of security, that here one was safe and secure from bad governments and political strife that had ruined the lives of so many for centuries.

The new Military Commissions Act signed by President Bush may be making that sense of safety and security for newly arrived immigrants to America a thing of the past. While there is debate about whether the new rules apply to American citizens, we do know for sure they apply to non-citizens of any type, even legal residents.  And what are these rules?

According to the NY Times, “While the Republicans pretend that this bill will make America safer, let’s be clear about its real dangers. It sets up a separate system of justice for any foreigner whom Mr. Bush chooses to designate as an “illegal enemy combatant.” It raises insurmountable obstacles for prisoners to challenge their detentions. It does not require the government to release prisoners who are not being charged, or a prisoner who is exonerated by the tribunals.

The law does not apply to American citizens, but it does apply to other legal United States residents. And it chips away at the foundations of the judicial system in ways that all Americans should find threatening. It further damages the nation’s reputation and, by repudiating key protections of the Geneva Conventions, it needlessly increases the danger to any American soldier captured in battle.”

And from Glenn Greenwald:  "The so-called Military Commissions Act of 2006 (.pdf)...is replete with radical provisions, but the most dangerous and disturbing is that it vests in the President the power to detain people forever by declaring them an "unlawful enemy combatant," and they then have no ability to contest the validity of their detention in any tribunal. The President now possesses a defining authoritarian power -- to detain and imprison people for life based solely on his say-so, while denying the detainee any opportunity to prove his innocence…

…the Act creates military commissions and establishes rules for those commissions in the event that the President wants a certain detainee tried, convicted and punished (almost certainly execution). Not even the Bush-led U.S. will openly execute detainees without a finding that they are guilty of terrorism. The commissions exist so that the Executive branch can impose sentence (such as the death sentence) on detainees who are found guilty of engaging in terrorism (or some other war crime).

But there is no right for detainees to be tried before a commission, and there is no obligation for the President to bring any detainee before a military commission. If the President does not want to obtain a finding of guilt and impose punishment, he has no reason to bring them before a military commission. He can just keep them detained forever without any finding of guilt and without any punishment being imposed (just as many of the Guantanamo detainees, and even U.S. citizens, have been kept in cages for years with no finding of any kind of guilt).

The Act even allows U.S. citizens to be subjected to this treatment (though the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdi likely requires for U.S. citizens some opportunity to challenge the detention) because even American citizens can be declared to be "unlawful enemy combatants" under the statute (see Sec. 3(a)(1)(1))."

With this new Act, we now have the ironic and tragic circumstance that the man who has worked so hard to give millions of undocumented immigrants legal status - John McCain - has ensured that when they do come out of the shadows this new legal status will be missing one of the most treasured protections of American life; one that has made America different for a very long time. 

Not sure about you, but I think amending this Act should be a high priority for progressives in the years to come. 

Hispanic Radio in the New Yorker

This week's New Yorker carries a tremendously interesting peek into the world of spanish language radio, one of the fastest growing media segments in America.

“This is why we came to the United States!” he shouts. “To work!” The show’s demographic is broad: the program runs ads for Toyotas, Lasik eye surgery, and Disneyland vacations, as well as for Office Depot and “the perfect diet.” Through KLAX’s owner, Spanish Broadcasting Service, El Cucuy also broadcasts to, among other places, Denver; Seattle; Tulsa; San Francisco; Atlanta; Salt Lake City; Minneapolis; Jackson, Mississippi; Fort Smith, Arkansas; Medford, Oregon; and Greenville, South Carolina.

Note that this doesn't include "the program runs ads for the Democrats." The pieces goes on to talk about how important radio is as a way for the hispanic population learning about life in the US.

Señora Ahumada turned out to be Maria Ahumada, a sixty-year-old Mexican-American who first got involved with the show eleven years ago when, working as the office manager in a law firm, she heard a young woman call in to Almendárez’s show and get bad advice. Though she is not a lawyer, she says that her intervention helped the woman win a two-million-dollar settlement. Ahumada quickly became a regular on the Cucuy show, helping people navigate bureaucracies, communicate with doctors and lawyers, and get answers to their questions

If you can use radio to find a lawyer, you can find out who you should vote for also.

NDN launches new TV ads in AZ, CO

NDN launched new TV ads today. An excerpt from a national e-mail from Joe Garcia, our Hispanic Strategy Center Director, is below.


Today, along with our partner the Civic Participation Campaign, NDN launched two new TV ads in AZ and CO to build public support for minimum wage ballot initiatives in each state. These new ads supplement radio ads that have been airing for the past several weeks, and an extensive ground operation that has been in place for months.

Watch and download the ads here. You can help us buy more ads in more parts of AZ and CO by contributing to NDN’s campaign here.

NDN’s new media campaign concentrates on raising awareness in the ever-growing Latino community, and asks Latino families to vote for Arizona’s Proposition 202 and Colorado’s Amendment 42. Our new ads highlight the fact that many Americans making the minimum wage are forced to work two jobs just to make ends meet.


Clinton: Uncommonly Good

CAP yesterday hosted a conference on the Common Good. Bill Clinton gave a big speech that took the pragmatic "what is good is what works" approach of his administration to new levels.

The problem with ideology is, if you’ve got an ideology, you’ve already got your mind made up. You know all the answers, and that makes evidence irrelevant and argument a waste of time, so you tend to govern by assertion and attack. The problem with that is: that discourages thinking and gives you bad results.

When does not being ideological become an ideology? Who knows? It doesn't stop him making a few, on target pot shots about the state of the Economy straight out of the NDN playbook.

As far as I can determine, these last five years have been the first time since economists have been keeping the figures when we’ve had five years of economic growth, five years of productivity increase in the workforce, a 40-year high in corporate profits, CEO executive pay averaging 369 times the pay of people in the companies, and average wages are flat or declining. Last year, 2005, for the top one percent of Americans, income increased 12.5 percent; for the bottom 99 percent, 1.5 percent, which means for the bottom half it was flat or negative. Now, I don’t think that’s very good. I don’t think that’s a common-good policy. And I believe that we can do better than that, and we should.

Quite so. Still, the overall discription of "common good" in the speech is a little disconcerting. Clinton's type of "common good politics" - basically, what Clinton did in the 90s with an emphasis on community, opportunity and responsibility - is quite different from the radical common good approach proposed by Michael Tomasky and others. This type of approach, a sort of reheated communitarianism, always sounds attractive until people realize the implications it has for a range of progressive issues, from a woman's right to choose to minority rights and other forms of legal protection. Still, even if progressives can't agree on what we mean by the phrase, we can all agree that we like Bill Clinton. Perhaps pragmatism works best after all.

Time for a political solution in Iraq

It is long past time for the Administration to be working towards a new political solution to our failed occupation of Iraq. Les Gelb was on CNN this morning talking about partition. Yesterday morning at an NDN breakfast in NYC, Governor Bill Richardson talked about setting a timetable for withdrawl of our troops from Iraq only after we make significant progress on creating a new political reality in Iraq. Why is the Administration seemingly so uninterested in sitting down with the various groups in Iraq and working out a deal to quell the violence? Where is our Secretary of State, and why isnt she leading a multinational effort to bring peace to the region?

What is clear is that our current strategy isn't working, and that Iraq is on the verge of becoming a failed state or slipping into some kind of civil war. Here's a Times report on a briefing given by an American general on the ground in Iraq, one that I watched this morning live on CNN:

General Urges New Strategy for Baghdad


Published: October 19, 2006

BAGHDAD, Oct. 19 — The American-led crackdown in Baghdad has not succeeded in quelling violence across the capital and a new approach is needed, a military spokesman said today.

Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the senior spokesman for the American military in Iraq, said that the strategy of concentrating on a limited number of highly troubled neighborhoods had not slowed sectarian violence in the city as a whole.

Attacks in the Baghdad area went up 22 percent during the first three weeks of Ramadan in comparison with the three weeks before, an increase General Caldwell called “disheartening.”

The crackdown, which began in August, “has made a difference in the focus areas but has not met our overall expectations in sustaining a reduction in the level of violence,” General Caldwell said, adding that American commanders were consulting with the Iraqi government on a change in plans.

General Caldwell’s statement comes at a time when attacks on American forces have been increasing, in part because of the push in Baghdad, and at a time of increasing friction between the United States and the Iraqi government over how to deal with the Shiite militias that are responsible for much of the sectarian violence..."

What's The Matter With Kansas?

Yet another indication that the Republican Party’s reign is coming to an end, nine former Republican’s in uber red state Kansas are running as Democrats on the ballot in November.  It has become clear that people who have been Republicans their entire lives can no longer stand behind a party with folks like Republican Phil Kline, who became infamous in 2003 for attempting to gain access to the patient records of women who have had abortions.  Kline also drafted legislation restricting late-term abortion and saught to require health workers to report the sexual activities of girls under 16.  Paul Morrison, a prosecutor, is running against Kline for Attorney General.  Morrison is raising more money than Kline and from more Republicans than Democrats. 

Mark Parkinson, a former chairman of the Kansas Republican Party, has also changed parties to run for lieutenant governor with Democratic governor, Kathleen Sebelius.  Sebelius also converted her last lieutenant governor, John Moore, who is pro-choice, to the Democratic Party in 2002. 

With Representative Dennis Moore, who has a 100% pro-choice rating from Planned Parenthood, currently Kansas’s only Democrat in Congress, this move to the left could make a significant change for the state, for women in Kansas and for the Democratic Party. 

NBC News Poll Shows Least Popular Congress..... Ever.......

From this morning's ABC Note:

Although conservatives think the New York Times/CBS poll is always biased against them, that the Los Angeles Times and Gallup is almost always biased against them, and that the ABC News/Washington Post poll is occasionally biased against them, the Right pretty much has agreed over the years that the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll is rock solid. Today, that's a problem.

And here is why:

Voters' approval of Congress has fallen to 16% from 20% since early September, while their disapproval has risen to 75% from 65%..... In October 1994, with the public fed up with scandals and the failure of President Clinton and his party's lawmakers to deliver in key areas such as health care, voters said by a nine-point margin -- 46% to 37% -- that they wanted Republicans to take control. That compares with the 15-point margin today in favor of Democrats' taking the reins.

And there are also a couple of stories today about something that seemed unlikely a month ago - the situation in Iraq, in the face of unavoidable evidence, has become a net negative for the GOP. Note in particular this quote from the NBC / WSJ piece - ""By 40% to 31%, a plurality of voters now see the situation in Iraq as a civil war among Iraqis, rather than a war between American troops and foreign terrorists there." In short - three weeks to go, and there is cautious room for optimism.

Immigration Reform: no greater example of how the GOP has lost its way

There are many examples.  North Korea going nuclear.  Iran rising as a regional power in the Middle East.  The collapse of our occupation of Iraq.  Historic deficits.  No agenda to help the middle class in a more virulent age of globalization.  No action taken on global climate change, energy independence, health care, etc.

There are so many example of how this governing party has failed to deliver on its promises, and left many other critical emerging challenges so unexamined.

But to me there is perhaps no greater example of their inability to make government work for the “common good” than their failure to tackle immigration reform this year.  In a hyper-partisan and disappointing age, immigration reform was different.  Senators McCain and Kennedy built a broad bi-partisan coalition for reform that included labor, the Chamber of Commerce, immigrant advocacy groups and groups like NDN.  Republicans got guest worker, Democrats a path to citizenship and everyone agreed to work on fixing the porous border.  It was a throwback to an earlier era, when reasonable people could come together to solve a vexing problem.

But then late last year, almost out of nowhere, the House Republicans broke from this consensus approach and passed a wild and irresponsible bill that called for the arrest and deportation of the 11-12 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States.  These two approaches seemed irreconcilable.  Debate ensued.  Latinos threatened by both this policy and the extreme rhetoric surrounding the debate, took to the streets in protest.  The Senate came together, led by McCain, Kennedy and Reid and got 58 votes for what was known as McCain-Kennedy.  A version of it finally passed, and off to conference it went.

At that point the national Republican Party and the House Republicans faced a critical choice.  Solve a national problem or succumb to politics? It was a crucial test.  And it spoke to the heart of the criticism of the Republicans these days.  Could they make government work for the common good?

The answer? Speaker Hastert and his able team choose politics.  They said no to any bill with earned citizenship, and renamed the McCain bill the Reid-Kennedy Democratic Amnesty Bill.  Republican ads equating Latino immigrants to terrorists and charging that Democrats were on this side of illegals and terrorists spread like wildfire.

On such a basic level this is all very tragic.  We had a broad bi-partisan approach towards fixing the immigration system in America.  The President went on national TV to support it.  John McCain was its lead sponsor.  Labor and business had come together.  Immigrants groups accepted changes that in many years would have been unacceptable.  The criticism of the Republicans was that they couldn’t make government work.  And what happened? We ended up with an extraordinarily expensive fence that covers only a small portion of the open border, will take years to build and is not guaranteed to make any difference in this difficult problem.  As Travis writes below the governing party cannot even agree on to how and when to sign this new fence bill into law, and may have violated their own rules in holding it this far. 

And we ended up with ads, politics, distortion, fear, lying in the campaigns themselves.  But perhaps reason is prevailing.  As a DCCC blog post yesterday points out, a television station just pulled a GOP ad in Ohio that was clearly lying about the Democratic candidate’s position on immigration.  And Barack Obama jumped in to the fight, cutting a sensible ad for a Democratic candidate in Illinois trying to set the record straight.

I am very proud of the leadership of the Democrats for standing true on this issue of immigration reform.  In this case, they have taken the right moral, political and legislative position.  Tough as it’s been, on this issue, Democrats have shown that they have what it takes to be good stewards of America in a new century. Despite tremendous opposition, we held fast to tackling a serious nation problem and did not yield.

I am also proud of our role in all this.  NDN got involved last year before the now infamous House vote on “Sensenbrenner,” urging all involved to reject that terrible bill.  We have lobbied many Members of Congress and candidates, written many memos, held forums and fought hard with allies like the National Immigration Forum to find a better path.  And in the spring, we launched the first in a series of national Spanish-language ad campaigns that spoke to the hopes of Latinos and not their fears, and we have been on the air, nationally, ever since.

The Republicans, however, in their inability to get this done, have shown why America has grown weary of them and are looking for a new path.  They no longer have what it takes to lead America in this challenging time. 

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