More

Why we should all be mad that Congress banned members from video streaming.

Banning members from streaming video to social media poses a big challenge to transparency.

Why we should all be mad that Congress banned members from video streaming.

On Tuesday, Jan. 3, members of the 115th Congress were sworn into office.

It was kind of like a first day of school: There was a lot of light chat among members and their families and a somewhat relaxed atmosphere. That didn't stop Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) from getting a bit of business done, however.

As is first-day tradition, the House of Representatives voted on the set of rules that will guide them for the next two years.


Photo by Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.

Tucked away in the House rules was a provision aimed at preventing lawmakers from streaming video from the floor to social media.

Violators would be charged a fine for streaming. At first glance, it seems to make sense in a sort of "no phones at the kitchen table" kind of way. After all, if C-SPAN cameras are rolling and streaming to the world, why would any individual member of the House need to start their own live broadcast?

The answer: Sometimes those C-SPAN cameras aren't rolling — and for a very troubling reason.

In June 2016, Democrats in the House took to the floor in an act of protest after Ryan decided against bringing a gun safety bill up for a full vote.

In the wake of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Democrats made a push for gun safety reform. In the Senate, Chris Murphy (D-CT) led a 17-hour filibuster aimed at getting Republican leadership to agree to put two gun control amendments up for an up-or-down vote. (He succeeded in getting the vote, though both amendments were shot down days later.)

In the House, Democrats, led by civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis, staged a sit-in after Republicans made the decision not to bring similar gun control legislation up for a floor vote.

The real controversy began when Ryan ordered the C-SPAN video feed of the House floor turned off. The Democrats were free to protest, but would no longer have an audience.

It turns out that the cameras that show the action on the House floor aren't owned or controlled by C-SPAN, but rather, by Congress itself. Given that Ryan and his Republican colleagues finished up for the day and the cameras are only required to be "on when the House is in session" (as per the rules voted on by the 114th Congress), Ryan did have every right to cut the TV feed.

In response, some members of the protest began to broadcast the sit-in from their phones. It was an innovative approach to a complicated problem. Using Periscope and Facebook Live, the legislators provided insight to constituents. C-SPAN even picked up the feeds, sharing them on their TV and social channels.

The newly proposed rules, however, aim to prevent members of Congress from repeating such a broadcast, something Ryan may want to reconsider.

In 2008, the very same thing happened — except it was the Republicans holding a protest with Democratic leadership giving them the cold shoulder. On Aug. 1, 2008, then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and her Democratic colleagues voted to adjourn. The chamber's lights were turned off, the cameras were cut, and microphones were shut off, making some Republicans pretty upset.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi and other House Democrats speak before the 2016 sit-in. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

For hours, members of the GOP held the floor in protest. They had hoped Pelosi would bring a bill related to off-shore drilling up for a vote. To their dissatisfaction, she didn't, and so the Republicans traded off impromptu speeches from the floor about the benefits of drilling, arguing that it would lower gas prices and having the type of discussion the House of Representatives was meant to have.

In 2008, the ability to broadcast live video from a cell phone wasn't as easy as pulling up an app, the way it was during last year's protest. Regardless, it was wrong of Democrats to use their majority to silence Republicans in 2008, just as it was wrong for Republicans to do so to Democrats in 2016.

If we want to have robust, transparent debate between parties, we need to make sure all voices are heard, regardless of which party sits in the majority.

It sets a dangerous precedent for members of Congress to be able to create a media blackout anytime one of their colleagues makes an argument they don't like. If Ryan wants to fine members of the House for streaming from the floor, he should allow C-SPAN to install their own independently-run cameras. Knowledge and transparency should not be subject to partisanship.

Being able to see what happens on the floor of the House and the Senate is one of the most wonderful things to come out of technological advancement. While not every word spoken will be beautiful or insightful — for example, there's the time Ted Cruz read "Green Eggs and Ham" on the Senate floor — it's all part of our history.

Constituents have a right to know when the people they put in office are going to great lengths to represent the values they voted for — and when their opponents are trying to block them from doing so. Being able to see when our representatives are arguing on our behalf, staying up all night to protest, and broadcasting from the floor shows citizens that their voices are being heard.

The rules, as they were just voted on, take that away from us, and it's a major blow to democracy and transparency.

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
True

Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

Keep Reading Show less

After rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol, forcing lawmakers into hiding and ultimately leading to the deaths of five people (six, if we count the Capitol Police officer who died by suicide in the days following), Twitter took the unprecedented step of permanently banning Donald Trump from its platform. Since the election Twitter had flagged the president's tweets that pushed disinformation about the election, but in the wake of the violence in the Capitol, concerns about incitement to more violence led them to warn Trump that he risked being banned if he kept up his inflammatory posts.

He was warned. He was given an explanation. Nevertheless, he persisted. And so Twitter followed through, as did Facebook, YouTube, and other platforms that could be used to stir up extremist violence.

And quite predictably, people who inexplicably still support the president started crying about free speech.

Twitter also took the step of removing in bulk accounts that were dedicated to pushing QAnon, the quacky conspiracy theory that says Trump is in the process of taking down a secret cabal of Satan-worshiping, pedophile Democrats and celebrities. QAnon adherents have been a growing part of Trump's extremist base and the falsehoods they push have grown more and more a part of mainstream right-wing rhetoric.

In fact, they've grown so mainstream in the conservative ecosystem that removing those accounts resulted in many high-profile conservative politicians and personalities losing tens of thousands of followers all at once. And hoo boy, were they not happy about it.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
True

Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

Keep Reading Show less

Here in the U.S. many of us had our eyes glued to the news yesterday as a pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol, disrupting a constitutionally-mandated session of Congress and sending lawmakers into hiding. We watched insurrectionists raise a Trump flag on the outside of the building, flinched at the Confederate flag being marched through its hallowed halls, and witnessed the desecration of our democracy in real-time.

It was a huge and horrifying day in our history. Our own citizens attacking our own government, all because the president refuses to accept that he lost an election. In their minds, they are patriots defending democracy from an illegitimate election. In reality, they are terrorists destroying the foundations of what makes America great.

The disconnect between what these people believe and actual reality could not be starker. Years of misinformation and disinformation, bald-faced lie upon bald-faced lie, and conspiracy theory upon conspiracy theory have led to this place. It was predictable. It should have been preventable. But it was still stunning to witness.

As an American, it's a little hard to digest in its entirety. We've been in this weird space of "alternative facts" for years, and have grown accustomed to hearing blatant lies pushed as truth. We've gotten used to being gaslit daily, from the highest office in the land. That constant deluge of falsehood has an effect on our psyches, whether we fall on the side of eating it up like candy or spitting it out like the poison it is.

So seeing what happened at the Capitol through the eyes of another country's media is really something.

Keep Reading Show less
Kristen Wilson/Twitter, Ian Bremmer/Twitter (Photo by Ashley Gilbertson)

As more footage from last week's attack on the U.S. Capitol comes out, we're getting a fuller picture of what took place that day. And frankly, it's terrifying.

We've now seen the gallows erected outside of the Capitol and the rioters shouting "Hang Mike Pence!" We've seen reports of insurrectionists carrying zip tie restraints and now know how close we were to possibly witnessing lawmakers being taken hostage—or worse—live on TV. We've seen journalists attacked, a policeman dragged down steps and beaten with an American flag, and feces and urine left in the hallways and offices of the U.S. Capitol.

One piece of footage that has emerged shows how one Capitol Police officer's bravery may have saved members of the U.S. Senate. Officer Eugene Goodman found himself alone and confronted with a mob forcing him backwards up a stairway within the Capitol. Video from HuffPost reporter Igor Bobic shows Goodman attempting to hold back the rioters, but he is clearly outnumbered. They keep pushing him farther and farther up the stairs, toward the floor where the Senate chambers are.

Keep Reading Show less