Unions demand Change.org worker rights policy

Originally posted at AMERICAblog

Yesterday Ryan Grim broke a story in HuffPost Hill that a number of labor unions, including  “AFT, the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, CWA, IBEW and the Steelworkers,” had written a letter to Change.org, asking the company to have a clear policy about not working with organizations who advocated union busting. This followed a pressure campaign lead by the American Federation of Teachers to have Change.org stop working with the union-busting organizations Students First and Stand for Children.

I’ve received a copy of the unions’ letter to Change.org Founder and CEO Ben Rattray. Of note is the unions’ strong demand for a clear policy from Change regarding their stand on workers’ rights:

An unequivocal public statement from you articulating Change.org’s position on collective bargaining, and on workers’ rights more generally, would go a long way toward clarifying what your brand represents.

The letter goes on:

As you know, leaders from a variety of labor unions and organizations over the past year have attempted to address with you the concerns we raise here. They and we are seeking clarification on how Change.org meshes two compelling objectives: remaining an open platform and (simultaneously) honoring your stated commitment to the public good over private corporate benefit. On a number of occasions, staff from unions that have raised this question with you have been assured that they should not worry about this issue, that contracts violating the spirit of your expressed goals were ending, and that Change.org was engaged in internal discussions about whom you would and would not work with in the future. Nevertheless, it appears that Change.org is entering into new contracts with groups that are not respectful of the right to collectively bargain or the benefits that flow from that right.

Organizations that weaken workers’ rights and facilitate the privatization of public services undermine the common good for private corporate benefit. Experience has shown that when these services upon which the public depends are opened to corporate interests, considerations of equal access, fairness and quality become much less important than profitability. We ask that you issue a response clarifying your position so that we can use your platform again and in good conscience recommend it to our brothers and sisters in labor and in the wider progressive community.

Last night Grim quoted a spokesperson for Change.org as saying, “As we’ve noted, Change.org is undertaking a company-wide process to evaluate and clarify our client policy.” They also said that Change plans on reaching out to “thousands” of “stakeholders” for their input into what their policy should be. Hopefully this process is prompt.

Clearly unions representing workers affected by anti-teacher campaigns taking place on Change.org are not yet mollified by the response from them. Change.org has good, clear policies relating to other issue areas. The big hole is regarding workers’ rights.

The answer to this problem is fairly obvious from a progressive standpoint, but apparently less clear-cut from a business standpoint. It isn’t exactly news that corporate-funded organizations who are hell-bent on busting unions have a lot of money to spend, including on tools and advertisers like Change. Change.org’s decision to stop working with Students First and Stand for Children is one that was undoubtedly a costly one, at least in so far as these organizations have lots of money from the Koch Brothers and the Walton family and others to spend. A broader, blanket policy to not work with union busters would surely foreclose business opportunities for Change.

The flip side, as the union presidents say in the letter, is that labor wants to be able to recommend other labor unions and progressive organizations use Change.org. Doing the right thing from a progressive standpoint should make clear to other liberals that they are a business worth doing work with.

Though the letter doesn’t explicitly threaten a boycott of Change.org by labor and their allies, the implication is that these unions are prepared to use economic pressure strategies if the company doesn’t enact a strongly progressive policy towards This may well serve to light a fire behind the already ongoing process to evaluate Change.org’s client policy.

For me, the answer is pretty simple. Just as Change.org refuses to work with clients who are anti-gay, anti-immigrant, or anti-woman, they should make clear that they will not work with clients who are anti-worker.

Another liberal tech company doing work for conservatives

Updated below

NationBuilder is an online campaigning tool kit, providing clients with the ability to do online advocacy, email supporters, raise money and integrate social media. NationBuilder was founded by a group of progressive and Democratic technologists with campaign and grassroots non-profit organizing experience in the Netroots. It’s not particularly different from other online tool kits like Blue State Digital, Salsa or Action Kit, with the notable exception that it is dramatically cheaper, with pricing starting at $19 per month for smaller campaigns and non-profits. Online tools can be quite expensive, beyond the reach of many state level campaigns, or even congressional candidates. NationBuilder has, in my estimation, been successful at making online organizing tools more accessible to people with less money to spend.

All of this is preface to another disappointing development: NationBuilder has announced a deal to be the “exclusive software provider for the Republican State Leadership Committee.”

Excuse me? The RSLC helps elect Republican state legislators, the very people who are going around the country passing things like bans on marriage equality, racist laws targeting immigrants for deportation, and rolling back reproductive rights and environmental protections. These reactionaries think passing laws banning Sharia law is a good use of time. And NationBuilder is going to provide the technology to help more of these people get into office.

Have no fear, despite being started by progressives and made popular in large part from progressive and Democratic business, NationBuilder is only a technology platform.

[Co-founder Joe] Green said he has no misgivings about providing technical assistance to candidates with whom he likely disagrees vehemently.

“Our ultimate goal is simply to level the playing field and let the people decide based on the strength of the arguments, not based on who has the biggest TV ad budgets,” Green said. “We’re proving that political software can and will be nonpartisan.”

I’m sure Green and his business partners won’t mind, then, if Democratic campaigns and progressive organizations fire NationBuilder today.

Much of the controversy around Change.org revolved around their construction of an open campaign platform, staffing themselves with many notable progressive campaigners, accepting the mantle (both earned and perceived) as being a progressive piece of infrastructure, and then deployed a defense of “But we’re an open platform!” when criticized for working with union busters.

In fairness, NationBuilder has been more open about a willingness to work with the Tea Party from its earliest days. But its founders’ backgrounds in Democratic electoral politics and the activist-progressive film and organizing group, Brave New Films, have lead to many grassroots progressive organizations to embrace the tools. Again, NationBuilder has said they’re non-partisan, but there’s a bit of a difference between being an open platform and inking a contract to provide tools to just about any Republican state legislative candidate in the country.

It isn’t openness when what you mean is you’ll work for anyone who gives you a big check. That’s what Lanny Davis does with his lobbying services and I don’t think it’d be accurate to call him an open platform.

Technology can be used to do anything. At its most basic level, programming may be fundamentally non-ideological. But once code enters the world, it is used for specific ends. The people who sell technology can decide whether they want their code to be used for good or ill. They have a choice. And NationBuilder is choosing to work for people who want to put women in jail for getting abortions and deport any brown person with a Hispanic-sounding name. That anyone can pay to use NationBuilder’s tools is no defense. It’s an excuse and a sad one at that.

I think it’s time for progressive activists and organizations to start putting out clear expectations about the behavior of companies who want our business. Clearly there is a problem with ostensibly left-leaning technology firms and their willingness to do work with conservative activists.

My recommendation is to deny business to technologists who are working with conservatives to turn America back to the late 1800s. If you are a client of NationBuilder, fire them. If you are considering hiring them, don’t. Make your decision public and make sure that even if NationBuilder isn’t going to change, other technologists will know that progressives won’t work with the people whose code is being used to attack the human and civil rights of women, gays, immigrants, people of color, and workers.

Update 6/29:
I’ve received feedback on this post, both in the comments and offline, and I think it was inaccurate for me to describe NationBuilder as a “liberal tech company.” They are non-partisan and honest about that fact. I noted this in the post, but the headline and lede do not make that clear.

That said, the criticism of any company for objectionable business practices is fair, especially one which derives a significant portion of its revenues from progressive organizations and campaigns. NationBuilder should be treated exactly the same way as any other business which works to help get reactionary Republicans elected. Recent examples would be Waffle House, Koch Industries, and Coors Brewing Company, though online progressive groups regularly run campaigns pressuring businesses which support conservative work, as we saw with tremendous campaigns against ALEC’s corporate donors.

In short: There’s no reason to give technology companies that progressives use any different treatment from any other companies who are doing objectionable things.

Change.org drops Rhee, Stand for Children

Updated below

Great news – last night Ryan Grim of Huffington Post reported that Change.org is dropping union busting groups Students First and Stand for Children.

I posted a version of my post from yesterday afternoon on Change.org & union busting on AMERICAblog, after the decision was announced and evolved it into more of a retrospective of why it was important for labor and workers’ allies to stand up to this sort of business relationship with union busters.

This is a huge victory. It’s great for labor to fight back and have this sort of win, which is all too rare. It’s great that Change dropped these groups as clients. At AMERICAblog, I wrote:

Union busting isn’t ever OK, at least not for progressives. While Change has done the right thing by dropping Students First and Stand for Children as clients, it’d be great to know if this means they won’t take other union-busting groups as clients in the future, or if this is them just caving to a particular pressure campaign. As John noted earlier, there are certainly things that are concerning in even how they talked about the choice they made.

Nonetheless, this is a strong victory, lead by the teachers’ unions and progressives who believe that protecting workers’ rights is just as much a part of what it means to be progressive as protecting LGBT rights or immigrant rights.

Part of the discussion that goes beyond opposing union busting is what sort of expectations we place on businesses which provide infrastructure that the progressive movement uses. Change is not only the home to many progressive petition campaigns, but is a consulting group unions and other progressive groups use to help generate lists of new activist supporters. I’ve contracted them in the past for list building and they produce good results for the money.

Care2 is a similar sort of platform to Change, it’s an activist community and it sells email addresses to organizations. I’ve used them in the past too. And like Change, Care2 has had Students First as a client.

Blue State Digital is a technology platform used to conduct online organizing, fundraising and email campaigns. I’ve used their tool set in political campaigns and I hired them while I was at SEIU to provide their tools not only for the International but all SEIU locals. Blue State Digital is the tool set used by the Obama campaign. It’s also the tool set used by Rhee’s Students First.

The political consulting firm SKDKnickerbocker is not only frequently used by labor unions, but also Students First.

Change.org, Blue State Digital, Care2 and SKDKnickerbocker are all examples of pieces of infrastructure which progressive groups use that are or have assisted Students First bust teachers’ unions. None of this should be acceptable in the slightest. While I didn’t have any part in organizing the campaign targeting Change around Rhee and Stand for Children, I’d hope the AFT and other teachers’ unions look at BSD, Care2 and SKDK as potential next targets. Businesses can work with whoever they like, but if they want progressive money, working with union busters should not be tolerated.

Update (6/21/12):
I’ve been contacted by Care2 and informed that they no longer have any relationship with Students First. I’m very glad to hear this.

Additionally, while Change.org is not going to renew their contract with Students First, it looks like they are contractually obligated to fulfill the ad placements they sold to Rhee’s group.

Change.org & Union Busting

I want to follow up on John Aravosis’s excellent post on Change.org’s work for conservative clients. I think John nails a lot of the reasons why Change working for conservatives is deeply problematic, but it’s worth getting into the specifics of what Change is doing and why it is relevant. As a disclaimer, because I view the use of “.org” to be an intentionally misleading piece of branding, I choose to refer to them simply as Change.

Change has a long-running relationship with Students First, a group started by Michelle Rhee and funded by conservative Republican luminaries like Rupert Murdoch. Rhee and Students First are in the business of busting teachers unions, promoting private, for-profit schools, and making it easier for teachers’ to be fired. If you’ve signed a petition on Change in the last year, you’ve probably been asked if you want to sign a petition for Students First. They’re one of the most common promoted petitions I’ve seen, regardless of what issue I’m signing – even those related to workers’ rights!

Despite lots of criticism, Change never backed down from their work with Rhee. Students First has gathered over 1.2 million supporters through Change, though it’s not clear exactly how many of those came from paid acquisition versus visitors to the website genuinely wanting to bust teachers’ unions.

The discussion of Change’s partnership with union busting organizations has exploded this week because it appears they’ve made a jump from working with an organization which advocates busting unions (Students First) to working with a group that is actively involved in a labor dispute (Stand for Children).

What’s the deal with Stand for Children? According to the AFL-CIO, “a billionaire-funded “education reform” group founded by Jonah Edelman, that Chicago teachers say directly interferes with the collective bargaining process between the Chicago Teachers Union/AFT and the School Board.” Billionaire funding including the Walton Foundation (of Wal-mart fame) and Bain. For more information about Stand for Children and their conservative, corporate funders, check out this post and this post.

The Chicago Teachers Union/AFT are currently in a bitter bargaining fight with the Chicago School Board. At issue are such life-changing matters as teacher pay, including the arts in the curriculum for children, and making sure there are nurses and counselors available for children in public schools. The union’s members voted to authorize a strike, with 90% of members approving the move. This is notable, as Rahm Emanuel and Stand for Children had recently support a change to a law requiring CTU to have 75% support to strike.

Jennifer Johnson, a Chicago public school teacher and a CTU member, has created a petition on SignOn.org, MoveOn’s competing toolset to Change, that asks Change founder Ben Rattray to stop working with Stand for Children:

I am very dismayed to discover that you have taken on an anti-labor client, targeting teachers, at the height of their contract negotiations. These teachers are negotiating for libraries, art classes, school playgrounds, and support staff including counselors and nurses. These are important for schools and more importantly, children. To promote an anti-labor group’s anti-labor petition in the middle of a contract negotiation is unacceptable and dangerously close to crossing a picket line. Please stop promoting Stand for Children’s petition immediately. The teachers of Chicago deserve a public apology and assurances that you won’t promote conservative groups who work to weaken their bargaining ability on behalf of their students and jeopardize the quality public education for students that they are fighting for.

It’s really important that Change listen to Jennifer Johnson and be responsive this progressive criticism. It’s worth noting that in recent months, corporations which not only have never marketed themselves as progressive, but are largely anti-progressive, have withdrawn from the conservative advocacy group ALEC in the face of progressive pressure (again, Wal-Mart comes to mind). It may be that Change isn’t actually a progressive business, but a group that will take anyone’s money. But if that’s the case, it’s time for them to stop being a tool used by progressives to wage campaigns.

Hopefully the management and staff at Change take these criticisms seriously. Union busting isn’t ever OK, at least not for progressives.

Netroots Nation Panel on Occupy Our Homes

I wanted to post this video of a panel I was on at Netroots Nation 2012 last week. It was called “Occupy Goes Home: The Occupy Movement and the Foreclosure Crisis.” On it with me were Sarah Jaffe of Alternet, Rachel Falcone of Organizing for Occupation & Housing Is A Human Right, and Nick Espinosa of Occupy Homes MN. It was a really great, powerful discussion and I was proud to be a part of it.

http://cdn.livestream.com/embed/fstvnewswire?layout=4&clip=flv_8817f3ea-9de5-4dd5-8e28-757e961436bc&color=0xffad4b&autoPlay=false&mute=false&iconColorOver=0xe17b00&iconColor=0xb96500&allowchat=true&height=295&width=480

Watch live streaming video from fstvnewswire at livestream.com

Netroots Nation compiled a good run-down of peoples’ tweets during the panel – you can check it out here.

The Loss of Consensus

In his series building up to the announcement of his Wanker of the Decade, Atrios has declared Joe Klein the third runner-up. That post includes a link to a Greg Sargent piece wherein Sargent eviscerates Klein’s casual accusation of Atrios as an “ideological extremist,” with no explanation of what ideas make Atrios extreme. To highlight Klein’s absurdity, Sargent linked to a post by Atrios wherein he described what he believed to a set of consensus positions on various issues within the liberal netroots. The post was written in 2006 and reading in 2012, I remember it well. It had a lot of good stuff, both in terms of long-standing liberal goals (universal healthcare, more progressive tax code) and ones very much emergent in the second Bush term (repealing the bankruptcy bill, repeal the estate tax repeal). After publishing the list, Atrios then updated it with the following additions:

…adding a few more things which would be obvious if we weren’t living in the Grand and Glorious Age of Bush:

  • Torture is bad
  • Imprisoning citizens without charges is bad
  • Playing Calvinball with the Geneva Conventions and treaties generally is bad
  • Imprisoning anyone indefinitely without charges is bad
  • Stating that the president can break any law he wants any time “just because” is bad

…oh, and I meant to include:

  • Marriage rights for all, which includes “gay marriage” and quicker transition to citizenship for the foreign spouses of citizens.

What’s remarkable is that at this date only six years later, I don’t think you can say with a straight face that these are still consensus positions within the online progressive community. With the exception of torture, every policy listed above that was bad under President Bush has been continued by President Obama, or worse, expanded. And President Obama himself opposes marriage equality for all Americans.

By and large, Obama’s agreement with Bush on these issues of civil liberties has been either ignored or glossed over.

Earlier this week, subbing for Glenn Greenwald at Salon, Charles Davis had an essay, The Liberal Betrayal of Bradley Manning, which does a good job documenting the damning pivot by so many in the online progressive community away from caring about civil liberties and the rule of law. Greenwald himself has been the single most prolific documentarian of the ways in which liberal activist groups and bloggers have pivoted from treating warrantless wiretapping of Americans to be a potential high crime by President Bush to being completely accepting of President Obama’s decision to assassinate American citizens who have never been charged, let alone convicted, of a crime.

I can’t speak with certainty about why this has occurred, though a theory comes to mind.

There are far more people who are tribally partisan than who are ideologically liberal. Liberal positions on human rights, civil liberties and the rule of law are politically expedient when a Republican is in the White House, so they are widely deployed. But when a conservative Democrat is in the White House, tribal partisans have no use for liberal positions and they fall to the wayside, presumably until there is next a Republican in office. Loyalty to party over ideology isn’t in itself a bad thing – but there does need to be an honest discussion of this phenomenon.

An additional wrinkle here is that it splits allies apart. Pundits like Greenwald or Davis are regularly attacked by tribal Democrats for being extreme or helping Republicans or being passionate about marginal issues that no one really cares about. These attacks – as well as the partisan abandonment of previously held positions – create an environment where trust is not really possible.

How do we move past this? Well, presumably, the next time we have a Republican president, Democrats will become passionate about these issues again and there will be space for Democrats to work alongside ideological liberals. Liberals will have to accept that their issues are political pawns in the never-ending struggle between Republicans and Democrats if they want to actually make any progress on the issues. But given that parties out of power can’t actually enact their policies, there isn’t much of an upside for liberals on this one. In fact, this speaks to the need for people who care about civil liberties, the rule of law and equality to look past the Democratic Party and identify trans-partisan or non-partisan allies to push on these issues outside the confines of the two parties. Examples of how this can work emerge around internet freedom issues like SOPA, PIPA and net neutrality. This doesn’t necessarily provide a blueprint for changing policies and practices which already exist, but I’m not sure what else to go on.

Membership & Support in the Online Left

Matt Stoller has a long and thought-provoking post on two recent Democratic primary elections where ostensibly progressive candidates with strong support from online progressive organizations were handed crushing defeats. The whole post is worth reading, as it’s a chilling look in the mirror that reveals a lack of effective progressive infrastructure.

Noting that the IL-10 had 30,000 Democrats turn out to vote in the primary and MoveOn has 15,000 members in district, Stoller observes that MoveOn members simply did not turn out to vote for their endorsed candidate – Ilya Sheyman, a former MoveOn and Obama campaign staffer. Stoller notes:

If you can’t turn out your members to vote, then they aren’t really your members.

This is a hugely important observation. There is an assumption in online progressive organizations that the act of participating in one action online – signing a petition, RSVPing for an event, making a small dollar donation – makes an individual a member of their organization. Every online organization that you get emails from considers you a member. By this logic, based on today’s emails alone, I am allegedly a member of Rock the Vote, Brave New Films, SaveOurEnvironment.org, Courage Campaign, New Organizing Institute, Credo Action, New Bottom Line, Presente.org,  and Demand Progress. This is not to mention emails from at least five unions, four Democratic party entities, numerous political campaigns, and two traditionally offline organizations who now complement that work with online campaigning – Students for a Free Tibet and Greenpeace. Of these organizations, the only one I think of myself as a member of is Students for a Free Tibet, on whose Board of Directors I serve. I like and admire the work of many of these other groups, but I would never self-identify as, say, a Courage Campaign member.

I can’t say with certainty how we got here, but I can imagine at some point the reach of an online organization was determined to be the most impressive way to measure its size. Since “We have 1 million email addresses” doesn’t sound as powerful as “We have 1 million members,” groups leaned towards description of an interaction along a model that was familiar to grassroots, membership-based organizations of the offline world. Unfortunately this lends itself to an overstatement of power and an overcommitment of what an individual activist is expected to deliver in the fraction of their life they devote to helping liberal causes. What is glossed over in discussions of massive organizational memberships – especially when defined by possession of an email address and not a deeper tie – is that of the universe of email addresses, the universe of people who open an email from an organization is smaller. Within that, the universe of people who click on a link is smaller and those that sign a petition is smaller still. Change the action ask to making a phone call or a contribution and it’s even smaller. If the ask is to host an offline event, the universe is again reduced in size. And so it is with each increasingly hard or time consuming action, the size of the email list who will do what the organization asks is decreased. The chain continues to the point Stoller notes, if a group asks the people on its email list to vote for someone and they don’t, they aren’t really members. The word is functionally meaningless.

To understand how this becomes a major problem for online progressive groups, read this passage from Stoller:

Two, the internet Democrats need to understand the basis of George Washington Plunkett politics, which is that votes come from getting voters turkeys at Christmas. Voters want stuff, information on how to live their lives, increased incomes, a better world, tax cuts, the trash picked up regularly, whatever – and if you can’t credibly get it to them, your message is unpersuasive. It’s not that your arguments don’t work, it’s that you aren’t a trusted messenger, and you can’t win in a low-trust fight because low trust channels are dominated by oligarchs. This is why the failure of the internet progressive space to focus on wages or foreclosures from 2006-2010 was so catastrophic. It’s why the fact that health care doesn’t kick in until 2014 carried significant political costs. There simply is no progressive advantage on economic arguments anymore. Sheyman laid out standard left-but-not-too-left policy prescriptions – reimplementing Glass-Steagall, lifting the Social Security cap on earnings, Medicare-for-All, gradual withdrawal from Afghanistan – and they didn’t work. Why would one really junior member of Congress without any substantive record of accomplishment really matter? Why would anyone trust the progressive brand on economics?

I would hazard that part of the reason that there is an absence of trust between online groups and the people they consider to be their members is that there is such a disconnection between treating the existence of an email address as membership and how individuals actually think of themselves. It’s not that there are weak ties between organizations and people on their email lists, it’s that there are no ties. This fact, before any discussion of actual political strategy or policy decisions by progressive groups, is likely the formative one that enables activists to apparently tolerate the sorts of failures Stoller describes. That is, it’s not that there is tolerance for them by activists, but that because activists don’t actually consider themselves members of these organizations, they don’t have a stake in these organizations being strategic and effective. How else can you explain the failure of ostensibly member driven groups to turn out their members on campaigns that they think will matter to them?

Challenging the assumptions of the membership model of online groups is hugely important. As Stoller says, these campaigns provide an opportunity for real reflection about what tactics are not working and why this is the case. The membership disconnect is something that needs to be deeply explored, as it is so important to the existence of activist organizations. Hopefully Stoller’s piece sparks some honest dialogue and self-reflection, as online organizers need to address these structural challenges to achieving what we want to achieve if we’re ever going to get to where we want to go.

…Adding, the occasion for this post is related to electoral defeats, but I don’t think this is a problem limited to progressive work in the electoral space. The strength of grassroots organizations is determined by many things – budget, strategic savvy and the quality of their leadership all come to mind – but engaged membership is certainly one of them. Figuring out what isn’t working with membership engagement strategies requires first acknowledging how the problems we see in this electoral context are manifesting themselves in non-electoral organizing (say, participation in a campaign on Issue XX is phenomenally successful but the subsequent one on Issue XY has huge drop-off). Groups need to gain a better understanding of how the people on their email lists think of them. To whatever extent a real disconnect is identified between people who identify as members versus people who occasionally enjoy updates from an organization, those audiences need to be talked to in different ways. Leaders need to figure out how to transition from a mentality of “Whose list is biggest?” to “How can we leverage our committed supporters to affect meaningful change?” This likely isn’t just about internal thought processes, but changing the way leader-activists talk to their donor base.

To put things differently, part of the urgency for figuring out how advocacy groups can build meaningful relationships with activists unto them considering themselves members is that there are always fights being waged. If a major corporation does something destructive or if an elected official introduces legislation that would cause major harm, are groups going to be able to stop them with their email lists? Or are large and always growing lists the Maginot Line of modern progressive advocacy, built to look impressive, but not effective at achieving their purpose?

Defeats create opportunities to re-evaluate our assumptions about how we can engage activists. This is as good a moment as any to evaluate how we build relationships with people we perceive to be supporters and how we honestly evaluate our capacities to affect change.

Daily Caller: Fox News is the head of the GOP

Tucker Carlson’s online rag, The Daily Caller, is doing a series of hit pieces on Media Matters for America. Based on anonymous sources and conspiracy-minded dreck, the whole series is a hot mess. Today’s feature piece is an attempt to discredit Media Matter’s non-profit tax status, with the dramatic sounding headline of Media Matters tax-exempt status may face new scrutiny from Congress. They may face congressional scrutiny! Maybe!

My favorite line in the whole mess is notable in that The Daily Caller concedes that Media Matter’s criticism of Fox News as not just an arm, but a leadership element, of the Republican Party amounts to Media Matters engaging in partisan, political activities which are prohibited by their 501(c)3 status:

Because Brock has referred to Fox News as a political organization and the “de facto” leader of the GOP, Gray and other critics have argued that Media Matters is engaged in the kind of direct political activity forbidden by IRS regulations.

The Daily Caller is trying so hard to kick-start a Republican Congressional investigation into Media Matter’s tax status that they concede Media Matter’s core criticism of Fox News as a Republican propaganda outlet!

Politics is serious business and progressives should be concerned that a major piece of progressive infrastructure is under concerted attack from the right. But if this sort of nonsense from The Daily Caller doesn’t make you laugh out loud, you’re missing one hell of a comedic performance…

The Ideological Continuum

Over at ThinkProgress, Brad Johnson has a good post about the deficit reduction debate that’s been tied to the debt ceiling. He puts the political positions of progressives, President Obama, and the Tea Party side by side to draw out a continuum of recommended actions (or non-action). Johnson writes, “As of this moment, the president’s negotiating stance is a lot closer to the radical, destructive goals of the far right than to the climate hawks and progressives.”

Not included in Johnson’s analysis are the positions of the mainstream Democratic Party (arguably represented by Harry Reid) and the mainstream Republican Party (arguably represented by John Boehner and Mitch McConnell). I think the omission here is interesting in part because it would show the near-total capture of the mainstream Democratic Party by the President’s conservativism, which places them in the same place as most of the Republican Party. Yes it’s important that in Johnson’s chart, Obama is closer to the Tea Party than Progressives. But it’s probably more important that he’s where the non-Tea Party GOP is and he’s brought the non-progressive Democratic Party along with him. This is an incredibly important  dynamic as it signifies the functional end of the Democratic Party as a vehicle for liberalism (let alone populism or progressivism).

Network, 2011



Cenk Uygur of MSNBC does his best Howard Beale impersonation, explaining to his audience why he turned down an offer from MSNBC that would have paid him more money to have a smaller role that prevented him from being as hard on the Obama administration and other Democrats as he currently is. As Cenk puts it, he was asked by MSNBC’s President to stop being an outsider and start playing ball with the establishment.

I’m sorry to see Cenk leaving MSNBC, but very proud to see him taking a principled stand to defend his principles, his reputation, and his belief in questioning those in power.