Sunday, July 25, 2010

Leaving Las Vegas

I remember working on a case many years ago that partially involved the jokes Al Franken and his partner Tom Davis told at a Grateful Dead concert at Radio City Music Hall.  (I represented the Grateful Dead, I'm proud to say.)  Franken still remembers those jokes too, since he made a Grateful Dead reference in his closing speech at Netroots Nation last night.  Who would have predicted his evolution into an amazingly knowledgeable and serious Senator?   Franken started by  reminding people of where the progressive movement stood only five years ago, and how far it has come since then.  He also reminded us that right wing activists are now in the same position the left was in then, and they are already organizing and working hard to re-take power.  Hopefully those kinds of reminders will help people on the left stay focused on who their real opponents are.  But Franken also gave progressives permission to keep pushing the Obama administration to the left.  By the way, it was funny that both he and Nancy Pelosi earlier in the day told the story of Franklin D. Roosevelt saying "make me do it," to a progressive leader, except that in Pelosi's version FDR said this to Frances Perkins, and in Franken's he said it to A. Philip Randolph.  Perhaps he said it to both.  Perhaps it is a myth.  No matter.  The story empowers people on the left to keep pushing their agenda, which I guess is ok as long as they keep the tone positive.  Franken did that.

Interestingly, the central part of Franken's speech was about the fight to maintain net neutrality, which he called the most important First Amendment issue of our time.  He believes that if this principle is not maintained, we will see even more consolidation in the communications industry, in the way that television and movie studios merged after de-regulation in that industry.  This time it would be the telephone companies merging with the TV-movie studios.  Such consolidation would consolidate power in the hands of a few media entities, and could slow down access to other voices (like mine-gulp!).  Harry Reid had also talked earlier in the day about the importance of democratizing media.  I guess I will have to stay informed about this issue, and keep blogging!

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