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May 01, 2009

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I hope you're using that "expected" in a normative sense, because if you aren't, your character judgment is shot. ;)

"Obama plans to nominate Mignon Clyburn for FCC Commissioner...Name sound familiar?"

First thing that popped into my mind was "Yeah, it reminds me of a steak"

I did a Lexis search on her and the results were pretty thin. Except for the articles about her possible appointment to the FCC the only things that I could find were a passing mention of her as "the editor of The Coastal Times, a weekly black-owned newspaper" in '96 and a one sentence mention of her appointment to the SC Public Services Commission in '02.

She was, though, being mentioned as likely to be headed to the FCC as early as January. Makes her nomination sound like a foregone conclusion to me.

Speaking as someone who works in telecom:

#$%#$^#@$#^#$$!!!!!!!

More specifically:

Clyburn serves on the South Carolina public service commission (which is considered very pro-Bell).

Are there any PUCs that aren't?

She is virtually unknown by knowledgeable telecom people.

On one hand, that's the only way anyone decent will ever get past them -- by being unknown.

Compare Michael Powell, e.g. -- he was snuck in b/c he was (a) black, (b) the son of a prominent Republican, and (c) not all that involved in telecome to begin with, and the industry folks had to get him yanked because he turned out to not be a stooge.

Anyone who comes from outside the industry and isn't a complete idiot is a win for the forces of good, because understanding why the telcos are inefficient rent-seeking behemoths frankly isn't that hard.

(On yet another hand, though, if "Verizon and the cable trade association are very happy" that's never good news)

And, she seems to have focused more on energy issues than telecom, if early accounts are to be believed.

On the other hand, understanding telecom through the lens of energy (i.e., as a public utility or public resource) would be a huge step forward.

However, this comment from your B&C link is encouraging, if true:

Ms.Clyburn [...] has a high level [of] experience for a decade in public affairs and regulatory oversight. She edited an excellent community newspaper in Charleston, and has worked as a broadcaster in radio news. She actively volutneers for community and cultural organizations as well. She is southern voice, a woman with broad knowledge of the technical aspects government regulatory affairs, understands how to work with staff, and has survived major battles with public corporations. She will be an outsanding public servant.

The two bolded statements are important. Having a working knowledge of the technology at work here is 90% of the battle, really. Telecom services are grossly overpriced because the technology surpassed copper-line cost models a long time ago and the industry has been backfilling with the old numbers ever since.

That said, this pick does make me uneasy. But I'm also a bit reluctant to prejudge Ms. Clyburn simply because of who her father is -- maybe she's a rebel? :) i.e. I'd certainly take Meghan McCain over her father any day of the week (same goes for Chelsea Clinton, the Kerry daughters, etc. etc...)

... These posts are always barn burners :)

It's just somehow hard to believe that of all the people in the United States who might have expertise at the FCC, the one who's most suited for the job just happens to be the daughter of a powerful Democratic Congressman.

It's just somehow hard to believe that of all the people in the United States who might have expertise at the FCC, the one who's most suited for the job just happens to be the daughter of a powerful Democratic Congressman.

Well, not really.

Think about it:

An FCC Commissioner needs to be conversant with certain areas of technology, economics, and certainly politics (with small as well as capital "P").

How is a person most likely to get that background?

As a manufacturer? A lobbyist for progressive issues? A mayor? Artist? Teacher, social worker, doctor, lawyer?

All but the last: no.


But as the offspring of a powerful Congressperson, she grew up in that environment: hearing stories of how you compromise without losing what's essential to you; how you communicate and what you communicate; how to deal with disparate, mutually-opposed constituencies; etc etc etc.

Sometimes nepotism isn't such a bad thing.

But as the offspring of a powerful Congressperson, she grew up in that environment: hearing stories of how you compromise without losing what's essential to you; how you communicate and what you communicate; how to deal with disparate, mutually-opposed constituencies; etc etc etc.

I don't find arguments of learning through osmosis compelling. Just like I didn't find HRC's arguments on that score compelling either. I mean, surely someone who read a dozen or so statecraft focused autobiographies could learn the exact same thing, right? Hearing a bunch of stories is excellent training for maybe telling stories, but not for actually doing things. There's a reason medical school consists of more than listening to old doctors recite stories. People learn by doing, and no amount of storytelling is sufficient to replicate lived experience.

For all we know, Clyburn is dangerously ignorant and will easily be swayed by the most golden tonged staffer she can hire. She might not be, but since she has no public record of thinking about and discussing telecom issues, there is no way for us to know. Given the number of people in this country would make fine appointees and who have public records to judge, why should we settle for this cipher? Heck, what's Larry Lessig doing these days?

This doesn't bode well for his Supreme Court picks. It really makes me wonder about Clyburn the elder naming his daughter after meat?

Clyburn voted for retroactive immunity for the telcos, eh? Terrible. Remind me how Obama voted on that?

Given the number of people in this country would make fine appointees and who have public records to judge, why should we settle for this cipher? Heck, what's Larry Lessig doing these days?

Because Larry Lessig would be presumptively disqualified for his views and isn't institutionally competent (see his own account of screwing up Eldred, e.g.).

Likewise, in a this particular policy arena, there's something to be said for a "cipher" (see, e.g., Michael Powell), if only because there's no way we can slip anyone the telco lobby, who are a fairly savvy bunch.

It's a nice though, Turb, but also a little naïve. This is a straightforward Catch-22: if there was enough evidence in the public record to demonstrate clearly that Clyburn was anti-telco, the telcos would block her as an ideologue.

As usual, we're probably just going to have to trust Obama on this one. He's been doing OK so far.

What veto do the telecos have over the pick?

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