Interesting Stuff: 04/12/2017

Maria Schneider against Net Neutrality: “But that’s only part of the story. The elephant in the room, that almost nobody mentions or maybe realizes, is the position of the “FTC” on this Open Internet Order reversal.  During the notice and comment period for the current FCC reversal, both the FTC director herself, Maureen Ohlhausen, (who seems to be an unassailable woman appointed by Obama), and all of her staff, separately submitted comments completely blasting the 2015 Open Internet Order.  Her comments in particular seem incredibly well researched and presented. She is our nation’s chief consumer watchdog, and her opinion is important. You can download her piece here.

All of the feigned panic Google and its flying monkeys have whipped up are addressed by the FTC Director in her comments.  The simple reality is that the architects of the 2015 OIO never expected such agency turmoil would result between the FCC & FTC.  However, a big federal case from California between AT&T and the FTC basically said that because of the OIO, the FTC is stripped of its powers.  And that’s a very unfortunate consequence of the OIO. Frankly, I’d rather have the FTC taking the lead in policing real-life bad ISP behavior.  It’s what they do (or what they did) and they’ve been a pretty good watch dog in the past. It seems the FTC stats on policing ISPs are impressive.  The FCC has never done that, it’s not in their DNA. And their ability to police is even very limited, unlike the FTC.  The power of the people is best reflected through the FTC, not the FCC.”


Niskan Center on the limits of legalism: “But I would bet against it. The courts have good reason for reticence. They are institutionally reluctant to pick fights they can’t win with either Congress or the presidency. Only deciding live cases and controversies is a fundamental norm of the American judiciary. And the executive branch has constant opportunities to play shell games with its policies in response to judicial challenges. The addition of North Korea (from which the United States gets essentially no immigration) and Venezuela (in an asymmetric way that makes its inclusion misleading) to the Muslim-majority countries on the original list is a good example. If the courts look likely to restrict executive discretion to engage in religious discrimination in immigration, the executive can lightly disguise it.  In the time it takes slow, deliberate courts to reach a final decision about that policy, the policy can change again. The executive’s built-in speed advantage over the judiciary, and its freedom to opportunistically alter particulars while the judiciary struggles to find general principles, make it extremely difficult if not impossible for the courts to keep up.

I’ve slowly become persuaded by some of this, and also by some related worries about the political implications of legalism. The American willingness to subordinate everything else in politics to the fight for control of judicial appointments is extraordinarily unhealthy. The most conspicuous examples right now are the ongoing opportunistic rewriting of the procedural rules of the Senate and the idea that Alabamians should elect as Senator a child molester who was twice removed from the bench for disregarding the law, in order to ensure a Republican vote for judicial confirmations. But I’m also tremendously troubled by the classical liberal legalists who seem willing to tolerate any amount of substantive authoritarianism in politics for the sake of friendly judicial appointments.”


Three Excellent Pieces from Status 451 covering how the left succeeds at politics. Truly worth reading, regardless of your political leanings. A few extracts:

“Bob Wing, a grassroots organizer, explains this nicely: “If winning feels impossible, then righteousness can seem like the next best thing.” But righteousness is not conducive to getting normies to join your team if your team cannot demonstrate ability to, at least sometimes, win. Nor does righteousness help you make real inroads with regular people.

Occupy, at the height of its power, turned people away, even snubbing prominent mainstream Lefties. That kept Occupy’s radical cred, but also cooled normies on Occupy: “If Occupy won’t welcome my hero John Lewis, it’ll never welcome me.”

In Smucker’s view, Occupy trapped itself in activist space, and started performing for an audience of themselves. What he argues is that activists need to leave activist space and focus on converting or nudging normies. It’s safe to say Smucker is not a fan of the Benedict Option. He champions its opposite: “seed work,” aka entryism.”

“If you’re a Lefty? Holy hell are you awash in hardcore options. You wanna take over a city park? You want to go live out in South Dakota blocking a pipeline? You want to occupy a government building with protesters? You want to organize a fleet of kayaks to prevent an oil tanker from offloading? You want to go for a mass bike ride, frustrating every commuter in the city? If you’re a Lefty, people are tripping over each other to give you ways to be hardcore at varying levels. (The “varying levels” is important: people have different capacities and desires for hardcore, and different levels of ability to bear its consequences.) What Lefties are really great at, and what Righties should be better at, is providing an experience that feels hardcore to participants but still looks like moral high ground to everyone else. The classic example: SNCC going into the deep South to register poor black voters at a time when segregation is law, the Klan is powerful, and Lefty organizers are getting straight-up murdered. That’s hardcore. SNCC and Weatherman were both hardcore Lefty groups. But SNCC was smart. Weatherman was stupid. Hardcore that is unproductive is stupid by definition.”

“The other essential tip is growing the movement. In Alinsky’s view, everything is a movement numbers game. Job one for the Alinskyite organizer is to build a mass power base, because without numbers you have nothing. So the most important question is, “How will this increase the strength of the organization?” How many recruits will it bring in? If losing a fight will bring in more recruits than winning that fight would, then the organizer must lose that fight. Because more recruits mean a larger long-term victory.

Alinsky also explains that your organization also has to have a bunch of issues. Having a bunch of issues broadens your appeal, bringing in more people, and gives you ways to keep your people engaged. If your organization isn’t doing anything, people will get bored. They’ll occupy themselves with busywork, not actually accomplishing things, and they’ll get mired in internal factionalism. (This explains a lot of the internal factionalism on the Hard Right, actually.)”


“Today’s Left has prioritized shallow mobilizing (professionalized, top-down, Alinsky) over deep organizing (massed, bottom-up, old-school industrial unions). McAlevy says this is a mistake. What you want, she says, is a real grass-roots movement in which everyone is active, making relevant decisions, and leading. Specifically, McAlevey’s calling for the Left to update and use the 1930s/1940s methods of the Congress of Industrial Organizations, or CIO.”

“There are three ways people react to this information. Some people say, “Well, I’d like a better bus service, but nah, this isn’t for me.” Some say, “Eh, I don’t hate your causes, I’ll join.” Some sing the Internationale.

The people who actually join Mann’s group fall into two groups: active members and warm bodies. Active members attend at least four meetings per year. This qualifies them to run for office in the BRU/SDP and vote for its planning committee. Active members are organizers, marchers, recruiters. The warm bodies (Mann’s group calls them “dollar members”) pay dues, sign petitions, and participate in phone trees.

A very good recruiter has maybe a 10% chat-to-recruitment success rate. Maybe a third of those noobs will actually show up for a meeting. Every meeting sees ten to twenty new recruits. Maybe half of those will come back for another meeting. Between the orientation filter and just flaking out, only half to a third of the new recruits who go to even one meeting of the BRU/SDP become active members. Do the math: Mann’s BRU/SDP recruiters talk to six hundred people, in person, to get two or three new active members and a maximum of seven more warm bodies.

And it works for them. The BRU/SDP organized bus riders and led campaigns: sit-ins, fare boycotts (you ride the bus, but don’t pay), and lawsuits. They fought for years and won a lot from the MTA, including non-stinky natural gas buses to replace the old stinky diesel ones. (A cynic might wonder if they got any funds from natural gas bus manufacturers.) They won real and meaningful results for poor people of color who ride buses. They showed value.”

“The legendary biographer Robert Caro mentioned once that he had heard college professors talk very convincingly about how the paths for freeways in New York City were chosen. The professors listed variables, and considerations, and trade-offs, and they talked very knowledgeably and nothing they said was worth a damn because the paths for freeways in New York City were chosen for one reason and one reason only: a freeway was where it was because Robert Moses wanted to build the freeway there. Considerations meant nothing next to power.

That’s what movements are about: gaining power. Movements don’t just happen. And they’re not the product of orders from on high, or rent-a-protestors paid out of somebody’s checkbook. They’re the product of a lot of people doing a lot of hard work over a very long time.”

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