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Third District Congressman John Yarmuth discussed his appointment to the House Oversight and Government Reform committee last week. Yarmuth said he was hoping chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) would back off from his aggressive plans to investigate the administration. Yarmuth also said oversight is necessary; the committee can’t be a rubber stamp for the administration, but a repeat of the mid 90s or glutting the system with subpoenas isn’t the way to do that.

Yarmuth was not as outspoken on the issue as the committee’s ranking Democrat, Elijah Cummings of Maryland. Cummings sent Issa a letter earlier this month, encouraging the chairman to restrain himself and not issue subpoenas unilaterally.

Issa responded to Cummings this week, saying he will consult with the minority party before subpoenaing administration officials.

Cummings also accused Issa of withholding documents, which Issa denies. It all adds up to observers calling this a “terrible start” for the powerful and important committee.

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I talked with Congressman John Yarmuth about his appointment to the high-profile Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Of Chairman Darrell Issa, Yarmuth said:

“When you have a chairman who has gone on the record and said publicly that he thinks the Obama administration is the most corrupt administration in history and that he plans to aggressively pursue investigations. That, to me, reeks of witch hunt potential.”

You can read the story here.

Federal Communications Commission chair Julius Genachowski has a new plan for regulating broadband internet.

Genachowski’s proposal would prohibit internet providers (wired and wireless) from blocking legal uses of their infrastructure. However, the plan also gives providers an option for controlling how their services are used.

From the New York Times:

The proposal will allow broadband companies to impose usage-based pricing, charging customers higher prices if they make heavy use of data-rich applications like streaming movies. Users who use the Internet only to check e-mail, for example, could be charged lower prices for using less data.

The F.C.C. also will allow companies to experiment with the offering of so-called specialized services, providing separate highways outside the public Internet for specific uses like medical services or home security.

But companies will be required to justify why those services will not be provided over the open Internet and to demonstrate that their implementation does not detract from a company’s investment in the more widely used open Internet infrastructure.

Read on for more about how the plan would affect wired and wireless internet providers.

Why might an internet provider be concerned about heavy usage, specifically for streaming video? Listen to this NPR story about the Comcast, NBC and Netflix for the answer.

And, of course, Louisville is going through its own review of internet provider regulations.

 

WikiLeaks’s document dumps have been called everything from terrorism to unparalleled journalism. With past leaks, the value of the revealed documents was covered in tandem with the information in the documents. But the value debate seems to be taking a front seat with the release of hundreds of classified diplomatic cables this week.

The information in the cables is sometimes amusing (which world leader had botox treatments?) and sometimes potentially dangerous (most of the discussions about Iran). But should that danger outweigh the obligations of journalists to report the truth? The New York Times published (and continues to publish) stories about the cables. But alongside those reports, the Times issued a statement that outlined how the paper came to have the cables, and how they treated the information. Some names were redacted, the White House was offered a chance to comment and after much hand-wringing and internal discussion, the stories were printed.

The paper’s editor also took to the airwaves, speaking with NPR about the process.

This is all very exciting to journalists and news junkies who (like me) like to think about ethics in journalism and how different outlets and mediums can present information in different ways and generate different responses. The cables on WikiLeaks are raw. The information in the Times is processed, filtered and interpreted. Pundits will take that interpretation further. The range of the news media’s interpretations is on display, and it’s fascinating.

The Todd County Standard in Elkton, Kentucky has run a series of articles on the need for high-speed broadband in rural areas like Todd County. Recently, though, the issues has made it to the paper’s editorial pages.

From the Rural Blog:

In an editorial this month, the paper said that “despite the best efforts” of the top county official and the county’s two state legislators, the county still lacks broadband and is “losing the race toward the future” even though Kentucky leads the nation in funding from the Broadband Inititatives Program of the Department of Agriculture.

The editorial points fingers at the main local phone company, AT&T, and federal policy. “Some experts have complained that one large flaw in President Obama’s rural broadband plan is that large companies like AT&T have not sought out the broadband funding since it wouldn’t be enough of a profit center.” The editorial suggests a stronger federal role, much like the one that brought electricity to rural areas during the Great Depression: “Why don’t we have a government that provides the service at a low cost and gives some honest competition to the telephone and cable providers?” I

Last year, reporters were struggling with what to call waterboarding and similar practices. Should they be reported as torture or is that word too political?

The issue was never really settled, and this piece in Slate explores the evolving relationship between politicians and the word (and practice of) torture.

 

Seven billion federal dollars have been given out to help telecoms build high speed broadband networks (we’ve written about one post for each dollar awarded), but the government may not have the ability to make sure the money is being properly spent.

From Politico:

The Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration, one of the agencies leading the charge, initially expected Congress to set aside millions of dollars for oversight when the stimulus program expired Sept. 30.

But lawmakers haven’t voted on President Barack Obama’s proposed 2011 budget, which called for roughly $24 million to help keep tabs on award winners. And while Congress is in the throes of approving a bill this week designed to keep the government running until December, that proposal lacks the relief NTIA sought.

In the fight over climate change (with one contingent fighting to stop it and another fighting to say it doesn’t exist, or isn’t man-made, etc.) the next battleground may be state governments.

Politico reports that state environmental legislation is coming under fire, and conservative groups and lobbyists hope to score big for their national cause by defeating state efforts to curb climate change through carbon caps and green energy.

In California, Texas oil giants Valero and Tesoro are spearheading a November ballot initiative to derail the Golden State’s landmark 2006 law capping its greenhouse gas emissions.

In New Jersey, conservatives are leaning on Republican Gov. Chris Christie to drop out of a 10-state regional cap-and-trade compact and show his true political stripes as he raises his national profile with an endorsement tour this fall.

Similar efforts could follow in other states, depending on how November gubernatorial races shake out.

California’s global warming law, which forces emissions across much of the economy to fall to 1990 levels by 2020, is the nation’s strongest and most sweeping policy to tackle global warming, absent federal policy. That, and the symbolism of reversing climate policy in a major liberal state, is why both sides of the Proposition 23 debate acknowledge the upcoming vote has larger implications.

Opponents of the estate tax often say the tax on large inheritances hurts farmers by adding a levy to property and money that’s passed down through families.

But Chuck Hassebrook of the Center for Rural Affairs (h/t to the Rural Blog) writes that a full repeal of the estate tax would make it harder for small farms to compete with farms run by wealthy heirs.

Some are pushing for raising the exemption to $10 million for couples ($5 million per spouse) and dropping the tax rate on the largest estates to 35 percent. Others would repeal the tax entirely on farmland.

Each of these proposals is overly generous to wealthy heirs and puts farmers, ranchers and small business people who must earn their way at a competitive disadvantage. The overwhelming majority of family farms and businesses would be hurt, not helped.

Farming and business are competitive. The heir of a tax-free $10 million estate has a huge advantage in competing for land and business over those who stand to receive modest or no inheritance. The estate tax helps level the playing field between those whose success is based on being born into the right family and those who must earn success through hard work, brains and determination.

Governor Steve Beshear released this statement about today’s Race to the Top announcement.

While we are disappointed that Kentucky did not win an award in the second round of Race to the Top funding, we are confident that the steps we are taking in education will significantly improve the education experience for Kentucky’s students.  The fact that Kentucky was named a finalist twice for these funds speaks to the success of the combined efforts of my office, the Department of Education (KDE) and the General Assembly.

Catch that? “…we are confident that the steps we are taking in education will significantly improve the education experience…”

Well, that’s part of the point of Race for the Top. States push reforms to apply for the money, and even if they don’t get grants, the reforms are in place. But as Marketplace reported last month, those changes may not stick in some cash-strapped states:

Secretary Duncan says states aren’t going to roll back the reforms they promised just because they didn’t get any money. But some cash-strapped states will have no choice.

Jennifer Cohen analyzes education policy at the New America Foundation.

JENNIFER COHEN: Following through on the reforms that they proposed in their Race to the Top applications may be impossible.

Secretary Duncan says, never fear. He’s got other education grants to dole out, at least this year. Next year, may be different. Congress is in a budget-cutting mood.

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