My proposal for an American public internet

This is more than a bit off topic, but I was just reading this Washington Post op-ed by Erik Martin, a former policy advisor for President Obama’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.

He calls for a “fresh infusion of public media” onto the internet, paid for at least in part by federal and state government – then distributed by some form of government fiat on major tech platforms.

I am wary of any government involvement, and outright mistrustful of government regulation in this area.

But I share Martin’s enthusiasm for some internet analog to 1967’s Public Broadcasting Act, which funded the development of noncommercial radio and TV programming “responsive to the interests of people.”

So what vacuum left by corporate media would an “American Public Internet” fill?

My answer is that it would tell American stories.

Right now, they are hard to find. And there is certainly no place to go on the web to find out what real American life is like in any sweeping way, what American experiences are in different places and at different socio-economic levels, and how Americans navigate the joys and struggles of everyday existence. (The closest we come now, not surprisingly, are the NPR and PBS websites, but they are not organized around the story-telling mission.)

I think there is a need for such a website — possibly launched with government money but sustainable (through a membership model) without.

So, for what it’s worth, I have dusted off my more-than-a-decade-old list of bullet points describing what an would do:

  • It would aggregate and call attention to the best storytelling in newspapers, magazines, books, TV, multi-media, music.
  • It would also solicit, contribute and collate personal stories, categorizing them by theme, demographics, etc.
  • It would focus not on political issues, but on human ones: Overcoming adversity, seeking justice, helping others, public service, finding common ground, melting pot, loving the country.
  • For structure, it would feature weekly themes: love stories, tragedy and suffering, loneliness, not being alone, community, addiction, celebration, hobbies, neighborhoods, heroes, villains, the everyday, making a home, memoirs, crossing boundaries, generational change, impact of technology, justice achieved, justice denied, male misogyny, female misogyny, effects of misogyny, families (traditional and not) (divided and not), turning life around/redemption, lives of crime, lives of despair, mentors, when government succeeds (and fails), poverty, wealth, military lives, special needs, second childhoods, dying, rituals (graduations, weddings, birthdays), trials, social change, tolerance, intolerance, minority status, power, powerlessness, appreciations of the dead, the immigrant experience, the expat experience, coming of age, coming out, illness, religious observances, religious communities, prayer, work (hated and loved), coming to the city, getting out of the city, vacations, being exploited, being the exploiter, victims of capitalism, capitalist success stories, the invisible.

And it would have a secret agenda: It would help Americans see how much they have in common, rather than encouraging them to tear the country apart.

Slightly updated on Feb. 27.

Expect nothing less than a full report from Robert Mueller

Mueller in 2006.

Special counsel Robert Mueller owes Congress and the American public a full report on the extent of the Russian government’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 presidential election and any links between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government and whether there was any coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts.

This is not simply my opinion. I’ve taken everything but the first ten words of that paragraph directly from former FBI director James Comey’s March 2017 description to the House Intelligence Committee of the ongoing investigation that two months later was turned over to Mueller.

This was at heart a counterintelligence investigation. The potential filing of criminal charges was literally an afterthought, placed in the second-to-last paragraph of Mueller’s remit: “If the Special Counsel believes it is necessary and appropriate, the Special Counsel is authorized to prosecute federal crimes arising from the investigation of these matters.”

So once Mueller has figured out exactly what happened — which may or may not be very soon — he will of course deliver his findings to the Justice Department as well as distribute it through intelligence channels.

But the main goal of a counterintelligence investigation is crystal clear: it’s to make sure that whatever happened doesn’t happen again.

Generally, that information is very closely held, on a “need to know” basis, so as to not tip off the enemy.

But in this case, it’s clear that the parties who “need to know” are the U.S. Congress and the American people.

So do not be overly concerned about the limits placed on special counsel reports in general, or about grand jury secrecy.

We should expect a full report from Mueller. Nothing less than the future of our democracy depends upon it.

For more on this, including the interviews I conducted to reach this conclusion, please read my (admittedly premature) April 2018 article: Mueller’s big reveal is coming, and it could be bigger than anyone thinks.

House Judiciary Committee takes a giant step toward impeachment

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler has previously indicated that impeachment proceedings were a reasonable probability. Just not quite yet.

“There are several things you have to look at,” Nadler said in December. “One, were there impeachable offenses committed, how many, et cetera? And, secondly, how important were they? Do they rise to the gravity where you should undertake an impeachment?”

Nadler took a big step toward impeachment on Tuesday by announcing that he has hired Norman L. Eisen and Barry H. Berke  as “consulting counsels”  — two men who already have answers to those questions.

Norman L. Eisen (Brookings Institution photo)

Eisen, as the chairman of the investigative watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), has been arguably the most prolific and high-profile chronicler of Trump’s many ethical violations. He has written dozens of op-eds for the New York Times, the Washington PostUSA Today, and other outlets.

In fact, he and Berke, a white-collar criminal defense lawyer – along with CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder – authored a voluminous compendium, now in its second edition, of the evidence that Trump obstructed justice, published by the Brookings Institution.

They lay out the legal arguments supporting Trump’s impeachment and indictment, and broadly hint at which they consider preferable by calling indictment the “option of last resort”. They write:

In many ways, the question has become less about whether there is a case that Donald J. Trump obstructed justice, and more about whether and in what form the rule of law will be followed.

Eisen, who served as Barack Obama’s testy ethics czar for two years, has most recently accused Trump of soliciting campaign contributions from Russia and witness tampering.

A case study in normalizing Trump, from the New York Times

I’ve been tweeting a lot about the latest New York Times interview with Trump. Here’s the main article, here’s a partial, edited transcript, here’s a sidebar on Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger’s colloquy with Trump on press freedom.

I don’t have that much more to add, although I’ll note that my first tweet definitely struck a nerve.

There have been lots of interesting repsonses, I encourage you to look through them.

I’ll just leave you with this one: