Response from Third Way

Matt Bennett of Third Way sent me an email following our discussion with the following response to our blogging on the subject of their name and influence.  I'm gratified that Third Way would reach out and have this discussion, and hopefully we'll have more of these back-and-forth's. To briefly recap, Third Way is an insidery think tank that encourages Senate Democrats to push moderate policies with messaging, polling, and communications support.

Matt Stoller has reopened the examination of our name, finding our response to Chris Bowers' post"unsatisfying." We felt he raised some good questions, so we are grateful for the chance to take another crack at it.

We did not invent the term "Third Way" - we borrowed it, quite consciously - from Bill Clinton, whose philosophy of governance we share. We did so to avoid calling our organization something anodyne and anonymous. (Does Washington really need another Institute for the Study of Policy?)

But Clinton didn't invent the term either, and its meaning has evolved dramatically as it has moved through time and between countries:

  • In Italy, Benito Mussolini (whose philosophy of governance we do NOT share), used it to mean his brand of fascism.
  • In Britain, Tony Blair used the term to describe his own government, but it also describes a minor party that advocates Swiss-style direct democracy. And it's a magazine "for people who haven't lost faith in God or lost touch with the world."
  • In Canada, it referred to a 2006 health care plan.
  • In the Middle East, a small Palestinian party.
  • In the Netherlands and parts of Africa, it's used by a group working on human rights in Ghana.
  • In the US, we couldn't use the URL www.thirdway.com because it's owned by the Mennonites. (It apparently describes the Mennonite-Anabaptist theology.)

All of this is a bit confusing. But as Chris and Matt's posts show, the biggest difficulty we face with our name sprang from the addled brain of Dick Morris, who urged Clinton to "be more Republican than the Republicans." This led to the infamous "triangulation," which has, hopefully, ended up in history's dustbin.

We were left with a challenge. It cannot be denied that the salience of the term "third way" was damaged by Dick Morris. But as history and geography have proven, the term has had many meanings, and we believed it is still very relevant. So four years after Clinton's departure, we chose the name and undertook the task of continuing the evolution of the term.

That effort continued with our response to Chris. We call ourselves "Third Way" because our mission is to help bring progressive politics into the modern era: to move beyond the first way (Gilded Age reform and the beginnings of a post-colonial international system) and the 2nd way (the New Deal/Great Society safety net and America as a world leader), and toward a 3rd way (molding government to conform to the massive economic, security and cultural shifts facing us today). That is, we believe, what Clinton meant by his "bridge to the 21st century" - helping progressive ideas evolve to remain fresh and relevant.

But if we left any confusion with that explanation, let us be clear: we also chose the name because it sends a signal about where we are philosophically, and that is somewhere in that governing and political space known as moderation.

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Back from Hawaii

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Over the past week, I've been on vacation on Hawaii's wonderful island of Oahu.  In the winter, Oahu has some of the best surfing in the world, with giant swells from storms in the North Pacific crashing into a whole variety of coral reefs just off the shore.  This produces not just excellent waves for surfing, but regular and predictable waves in an ocean that is warm and turquoise.  The culture of Oahu is very mellow, mixing a military base presence with lots of tourism and rural poverty.  

I did a lot of reading, boogeyboarding, surfing, and general relaxing.  In keeping with a grand tradition, I got really sunburnt and scraped both knees on coral reefs (gross pic of left knee is here, right one is here).  I was also on a movie set for part of the time, and I'll just say that goddamn does Hollywood know how to do logistics.  They have everything catered, measured, lit, sound-prepped, costumed, and taken care of.  If something isn't right they fix it, and roles are clear.  The director can focus on the art of the picture, secure in knowing that the budget, marketing, production, lighting, costume, and logistics are being dealt with.  The actors can squarely focus on the script and their craft.  The grips are unionized, efficient, and mellow, building sets and making sure that everything is perfectly set-up.  The institutional knowledge of Hollywood is stunning.  I never understood that the movie business is not about a creative visionary like Steven Spielberg, but about an incredible collaborative network of assistant directors, sound designers, costumers, grips, logistics and production specialists, writers, and A/V and computer technicians.  It's quite a system, and I wish we could just hire Universal or something to do our convention in 2008.  They really know what they are doing.  For a time, they made Lindsay Lohan likeable. Watching a movie being filmed was a very different experience than watching the 2004 convention cluster*$#*& being planned.

Anyway, this is just an announcement that I'm back.  I'm going to try and focus more on ideology, ongoing campaigns, and history.  If you have specific suggestions about what kind of blogging you find more interesting, let me know.

Update [2007-6-7 14:12:32 by Matt Stoller]:: Apparently my knee injuries aren't manly enough for you. Here's one that's really rough, so don't click/look unless you can handle queasy.

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Edwards to the FCC: Free Our Spectrum

This is very exciting news. John Edwards is the first Presidential candidate to ask the FCC to unlock the incredible block of spectrum coming open in the next few years.  It's a bit complicated, as telecom stuff always is, but basically you have a huge slice of the public airwaves coming free, and the FCC must decide how it's going to be auctioned off.  Because the legislation freeing the spectrum was a budget bill, the auction must bring in a certain amount of money, so just making the spectrum open and free isn't an option.

The rules of the auction are key, because if a wireless incumbent like AT&T, Verizon, or a cable-owned wireless carrier like Sprint can muddle up the economics of a wireless broadband network, they will..  If the FCC decides to auction the spectrum off in regional chunks, then Verizon can, say, bid up the price of the Northeast section.  Since these networks only because profitable if they are national in scope, a large regional chunk controlled by an incumbent would prevent other bidders from creating an open national network.  

A good FCC could ban incumbents from bidding, but that's unlikely.  Still, if the bids are not anonymous, then there's possible collusion among the various incumbents.  Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint do not want to really use this spectrum, they just want to keep it off the market since that increases the value of their own existing-owned spectrum.  So anonymous bidding is important.  

And finally, wireless net neutrality would be really useful.  This basically means if you bought an iPhone you could use it on any network.  Locked in pricing, bans on innovation, and total telecom control of the network would be gone if this rule were in place.

Edwards is visiting Silicon Valley today, so his press release is stamped 'Mountain View'.  He won't be the last to speak out on this critical auction.

Dear Chairman Martin:

The upcoming 700 megahertz spectrum auction presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to shape the next generation of American technology.

In recent years, the Internet has grown to touch everything and transform much of what it touches. It's not the answer to everything, but it can powerfully accelerate the best of America. It improves our democracy by making quiet voices loud, improves our economy by making small markets big, and improves opportunity by making unlikely dreams possible.

As you know, the Federal Communications Commission is now preparing to auction the 700 megahertz slice of the spectrum. This "beachfront" band is particularly well suited to wireless broadband because it has wide coverage and can easily pass through walls.

By setting bid and service rules that unleash the potential of smaller new entrants, you can transform information opportunity for people across America -- rural and urban, wealthy and not. As much as half of the spectrum should be set aside for wholesalers who can lease access to smaller start-ups, which has the potential to improve service to rural and underserved areas. Additionally, anyone winning rights to this valuable public resource should be required not to discriminate among data and services and to allow any device to be attached to their service. Finally, bidding should be anonymous to avoid collusion and retaliatory bids.

I urge you to seize this chance to transform the Internet and the future.

Sincerely,

John Edwards

To offer a bit of historical context, telecom/media issues had not been discussed by the public in any serious way since the 1930s.  After the fight over radio, when big companies began monopolizing everything and captured our regulatory agencies, the public was cut out of the process.  Both television in the 1950s and cable in the 1980s were huge moneypots delivered to business elites, without substantive input or discussion.  The internet was basically an accident, developed off grid by the government.

The first time the public really engaged in a mass scale in structural media issues since the 1920s was in 2003, on media consolidation rules.  Millions of people moved on this because they felt betrayed by the Iraq war and the trivialization of our politics and media.  And then in 2005-2006, we had net neutrality, and now the Presidentials are beginning to weigh in on spectrum.

This is a big deal.  We're at an inflection point.

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Hawaii Blogging

Blogging requires me to have a certain desire to shout or talk into the ether, several times a day, about a narrow set of subjects about which I am unreasonably passionate.  That makes me kind of obsessive, and strangely bad at vacationing.

Nevetheless, I'm going to give it the old college try.  Tomorrow I go to Hawaii for a week, to do something I've read about called 'relaxing'.  I won't give up blogging, I'll just be putting up pictures of Hawaii while pursuing my various secret agendas to undermine your favorite candidate.

I'll be on Oahu, so if you're on that island, drop me a line (stoller at gmail).  And if you want to recommend anything cool to see or do, the comments are open.

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Innovators/Entrepreneurs Wanted for FCC Action

So a bunch of us have written about a wireless spectrum auction coming down the pike.  Basically, a chunk of spectrum is coming free and the FCC is considering how to allocate it.  What happens with this spectrum will determine whether we can build a new America with a genuinely revolutionary open culture, or whether the cable and telecom gatekeepers get to continue to use the public airwaves and prevent innovation.  Today, Moveon, Freepress, and Working Assets all went out with action items.  Moveon's petition is here. There's also a facebook group I want national wireless Internet!.

I have a special request for people who are either entrepreneurs or are innovating in some social capacity that is reliant on communication networks.  We need you!  There is a movement afoot to organize innovators who understand barriers to entry, folks in the wireless technology field, consumer advocates, pro-competition advocates, and organizations active on these issue. If this applies to you, email innovationcompetition@gmail.com.

You matter on this one.  And it's a big deal.  We'll put you to good use, whether you can go public or not.

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Republican Unindicted Co-conspirator to Challenge Yarmuth

Wow, Kentucky is getting fun.  Freshman Congressional Democrat John Yarmuth is going to face a challenge next year from Erwin Roberts, who ordinarily would be considered a rock-ribbed tough on crime security Republican.

Roberts is a former federal prosecutor with a background in homeland security. He joined Fletcher's administration in March 2004 as Kentucky's first homeland security director, and later served as Fletcher's Secretary of the Personnel Cabinet. He left in June 2006 and is now counsel to the Louisville law firm of Frost Brown Todd.

The NRCC is apparently ecstatic about Roberts.  Of course there is the fact that Roberts was an unindicted co-conspirator in one of Governor Ernie Fletcher's many scandals.  He endorsed Northrup in the gubernatorial primary to get away from Fletcher, but that's not going to work since his career really got off the ground as a Fletcher crony.

One thing that's fascinating about the Republican Party is just how embedded corruption and dishonesty really is in their core ideology.  They cheat and lie, even when they don't have to.  It's like there's something fundamental and pathological about how Republican leaders act in politics, a kind of genetic predisposition to acting unethically and flouting the rule of law.  It's really quite stunning to behold.

Yarmuth will make short-work of Roberts.  

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Lobbyist Gephardt

Adam Terando noticed something about the last post on global warming and Barack Obama.  Dick Gephardt is lobbying for Peabody Energy, the world's largest private coal company.  That's rather surprising, but also illuminating.  It's pretty disgusting what Big Coal wants.

But coal executives anticipate potentially huge profits. Gregory H. Boyce, chief executive of Peabody Energy, based in St. Louis, which has $5.3 billion in sales, told an industry conference nearly two years ago that the value of Peabody's coal reserves would skyrocket almost tenfold, to $3.6 trillion, if it sold all its coal in the form of liquid fuels.

Coal industry lobbying has reached a fever pitch. The industry spent $6 million on federal lobbying in 2005 and 2006, three times what it spent each year from 2000 through 2004, according to calculations by Politicalmoneyline.com.

Peabody, which has quadrupled its annual lobbying budget to about $2 million since 2004, recently hired Richard A. Gephardt, the Missouri Democrat who was House majority leader from 1989 to 1995 and a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1988 and 2004, to help make its case in Congress.

One of the most vociferous champions of coal-to-liquid fuels is the Southern States Energy Board, a group organized by governors from 16 states. Last year, the group published a study, which cost $500,000, that concluded that coal-to-liquid fuel could and should replace almost one-third of imported oil by 2030.

As it happens, the coal industry supplied much of the financing for the study and subsequent marketing. Peabody Energy contributed about $150,000 and the National Mining Association added $50,000, officials at the Southern States Energy Board said.

The inducements under discussion would not only subsidize up to 10 coal-to-liquid plants, but also guarantee a minimum market through long-term contracts with the Air Force and minimum prices for at least some producers.

"There is financial uncertainty, which is inhibiting the flow of private capital into the construction of coal-to-liquid facilities," said Mr. Boucher, who supports most of the proposals and is drafting portions of the energy bill.

In addition to construction loan guarantees, Mr. Boucher would protect the first six liquid plants from drops in energy prices. If oil prices fell below about $40 a barrel, the government would automatically grant loans to the first six plants that make coal-based fuels. If oil prices climbed to $80 a barrel, companies would have to pay a surcharge to the government.

Peabody is one of the most aggressive union-busting outfits out there.  Over the last fifteen years, the company systematically shut down union mines and replaced production with non-union mines.  Right now, there's a Justice at Peabody campaign aimed at mines in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee and West Virginia.

Gephardt made much of his political career based on standing up for labor, and in particular his 1988 campaign and his top showing in Iowa.  But there was another side to Gephardt, which showed in his opposition to the minimum wage, his anti-choice stances, his support of Reagan's tax cuts in 1981, and his backing of fast track in 1991, which led to NAFTA.  Gephardt was and is, like most Democrats of that era, weak, untrustworthy, and disloyal.  It's important to note that people like Gephardt are deeply corrupted because they still have a lot of influence within the party.

Gephardt should not be respected.  He's a nice man, a genial person, and very experienced.  But he has no moral compass whatsoever.  When you work for a carbon spewing union-busting corporation just to make a few extra dollars in a high priced lobbying outfit, well, that's DC for you.  But when you do it after a long career pretending to being the true voice of labor, that's the 1980s and 1990s Coelho-ified Democratic Party.

And for 50 bonus points, guess which Presidential campaign Gephardt is advising on policy issues.

Update [2007-5-29 13:59:54 by Matt Stoller]: And here's the answer.

Sperling, who was top White House official, and former Deputy Treasury Secretary Roger Altman are playing leading roles in the Clinton campaign, organizing meetings for the candidate on a wide range of topics. Former House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt is also actively engaged with the campaign.

It's interesting how the consensus in the comments was that Gephardt would be advising the Obama campaign. Perhaps this should be a sign that Obama isn't differentiating himself particularly well.

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"The New Internet Revolution"

Nancy blogged on Sunday about a huge spectrum slice that's going to be allocated by the FCC in the next few days. I've included an email from Free Press on the flip that explains the situation, but the bottom line is that this could be like wifi, only with a chunk of the spectrum that is about 100 times better. Of course the cable companies and the Verizon and AT&T want it for themselves, but there's no technical reason these public airwaves couldn't be used for the benefit of the public. As an aside, winning on this one would be a huge step forward on net neutrality. The deadline for comments has been extended until June 4.

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Non-Ag Committee Bills?

The New York Times has a good editorial on the Farm bill.

For years, reform-minded legislators have been trying to rid the country of a farm subsidy program that lavishes huge amounts of money on relatively few producers, compromises the environment, penalizes third-world farmers and fouls up trade negotiations. With the farm bill set to expire this year, the Bush administration has already proposed several excellent reforms. Now legislators in both houses are offering another approach that actually improves on the administration's.

The architects are respected farm-state legislators, led by the Senate's Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican, and the House's Ron Kind, a Wisconsin Democrat. Their matching bills threaten entrenched interests, and that is exactly why they deserve a close look and wide support.

At the heart of their approach is an overhaul of agricultural subsidies. Four major subsidy programs -- crafted to reward big growers of traditional crops like corn, wheat and soybeans -- would be phased out and replaced by a single "risk-management account" whose main purpose would be to cushion farmers from annual price swings. Crop insurance would still be available for major disasters.

The estimated savings -- $55 billion over 10 years -- would be used to expand rural conservation programs, encourage the production of renewable biofuels, provide more money for food stamps and help smaller farmers of specialty crops who are now frozen out of the system.

One reason the bill faces uphill sledding is that it did not originate in the House and Senate agriculture committees, with their cozy ties to big agriculture. Their lack of enthusiasm helped scuttle the administration's efforts to reform the subsidy system five years ago.

If you've been following Farm Bill blogging here on MyDD, you'll note that big nasty decisions are being made by conservative Democratic Collin Peterson, which is causing consternation among reformers not on the committee.  Peterson says Pelosi is backing him, and will not let the bill be written on the floor.

The New York Times is throwing its lot in with the reformers that Dan Owens blogged about last Saturday.

This presents a challenge for reform advocates, as some of the most significant ideas for change are coming from Democratic House members who are not on the Ag Committee. These members are calling for reform of current commodity programs by shifting money to conservation, nutrition, biofuels, and rural development. If Peterson does in fact have a promise from leadership to limit debate or deny amendments on the floor, this growing chorus of calls for farm bill reform may not be heard.

I'm reminded of this because of some blogging by Ezra Klein on how it's incredibly hard to change preventative health options with public policy.  Klein focuses on health care and not farm policy, but silos in this case aren't helpful.  If you want to change preventative health care with public policy, it's not that hard.  Start with the monster that is the farm bill.  Subsidize nutrition and sustainable farming instead of sugar-rich chemical induced industrial hog farming style agribusiness.

Anyway, now's our chance, and we won't get another whack at this for five years.  

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Evangelicals Shifting?

Apparently this guy is in high demand by white suburban megachurches all over the country.  Here's what he preaches.

We fight terrorism -- the terrorism within each of us, the terrorism of corporate greed, of American consumerism, of war. We are not pacifist hippies but passionate lovers who abhor passivity and violence. We spend our lives actively resisting everything that destroys life, whether that be terrorism or the war on terrorism. We try to make the world safe, knowing that the world will never be safe as long as millions live in poverty so the few can live as they wish. We believe in another way of life -- the kingdom of God -- which stands in opposition to the principalities, powers, and rulers of this dark world (Eph. 6:12).3

I'm skeptical that the Republican white evangelical base is anything but in thrall to its worst impulses at all times.  But I'm told that there's a younger and more innovative generation that is somewhat embarrassed and looking to do more social justice work.

Thoughts?

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Diaries

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