Senate Democrats say they’re a vote shy of reviving net neutrality. They’re doomed to fail anyway.

Republicans control Congress, after all, and Trump could veto — but Democrats have other plans in mind

Senate Democrats announced on Monday that they’re just one vote short of reviving the U.S. government’s net neutrality rules.

That might sound like a major victory for staunch supporters of the open internet. Not exactly.

The U.S. Congress isn’t actually that much closer to bringing back regulations that require telecom giants like AT&T, Charter, Comcast* and Verizon to treat all web traffic equally. That’s because net neutrality crusaders on Capitol Hill don’t have a solid base of support yet in the House — and certainly aren’t going to win the backing of President Donald Trump.

Recall that the Federal Communications Commission under its Republican leader, Chairman Ajit Pai, spearheaded a vote in December that scrapped the U.S. government’s net neutrality rules. Those safeguards had treated internet service providers like old-school telephone utilities, aiming to stop them from blocking, slowing down or otherwise interfering with web traffic.

Pai’s move left supporters of the open web apoplectic. Companies like Etsy, consumer groups like Free Press and state attorneys general around the country soon threatened to sue. Tech giants like Facebook and Google promised to offer their legal aid, too. And Democratic members of Congress said they would try to undo the FCC’s vote with a vote of their own.

Lawmakers have the power to review, and potentially replace, actions by the FCC and other agencies using a little-known law called the Congressional Review Act. In the Senate, it takes a meager 30 votes to force the chamber to debate an issue like net neutrality, then 51 votes to kill the FCC’s decision.

Democrats crossed the 30-vote threshold last week. And they announced Monday night they had 50 votes in favor of restoring the net neutrality rules that Pai eliminated, just one short of what they need. The leaders of that movement saw that as cause for celebration.

“There is a tsunami of Congressional and grassroots support to overturn the FCC’s partisan and misguided decision on net neutrality,” said Sen. Ed Markey, who is leading the charge.

But that milestone never really was in doubt. Democrats boast 49 votes in the chamber, after all, a tally that includes independents like Sen. Bernie Sanders. As expected, they’re sticking together and backing an effort to revive net neutrality protections. Helping them reach 50 votes is one Republican lawmaker, Sen. Susan Collins, who’s previously criticized the FCC for ignoring Americans’ strong views about the open internet.

Things will be different in the House. There, Democrats have 193 votes; they typically need 216 to prevail. Even if they do somehow succeed, though, their proposal would then require the sign off of the president, who has publicly called net neutrality rules an “attack on the internet.” Of course, Congress could try again, aiming to override Trump’s veto. But that would require even more, harder-to-find votes.

Put more succinctly, the news Monday means everything and nothing. Democrats are one small step closer to net neutrality in the Senate, and many large, potentially insurmountable steps away from actually restoring those rules.

For party leaders, though, a loss might still be its own sort of win. Democrats believe net neutrality is a debate that might drive votes — especially millennials — to show up at the ballot box come November. So even if lawmakers fail to restore the U.S. government’s open internet rules in the coming weeks, they hope can leverage it to win something bigger: more seats in Congress.

Or, more votes for the next net neutrality debate.

“When we force a vote on this bill,” stressed Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer, “Republicans in Congress will – for the first time — have the opportunity to right the administration’s wrong and show the American people whose side they’re on: big ISPs and major corporations or consumers, entrepreneurs and small business owners.”

* Comcast, through its NBCU arm, is an investor in Vox Media, which owns this website.


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People in Hawaii received a false alert warning that a missile was headed their way

The smartphone alert was sent in error, officials say, after an early panic

People in Hawaii received an erroneous emergency alert on their smartphones Saturday warning them of a “ballistic missile threat inbound” — and stressing it is was “not a drill.”

The alert quickly stirred intense panic, prompting many to say they took cover — then outrage, as locals and droves of social media users recognized it was sent by mistake. Federal and state authorities later stressed there was no threat to the island, where tensions remain high due to recent threats from North Korea.

Congressional lawmakers, meanwhile, quickly called for accountability — and the Federal Communications Commission said it would be open its own investigation, a spokesman confirmed to Recode. The agency oversees the technical elements of the U.S. government’s emergency alert system; it did not send out the message.

The alert appeared to go out shortly after 8 a.m. local time, according to tweeted photos — including one from Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, who represents Hawaii in the U.S. Congress.

The alert, which also interrupted television broadcasts, caught officials at North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, completely by surprise. A spokesman there told Recode on Saturday that it was looking into the matter.

Soon after, Hawaii’s Emergency Management Agency reported that a missile had not been launched. But it took state officials about 38 minutes to send an update, with the correct information, to its citizens.

Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, for his part, said that the alert had been sent as a result of “human error.” The state’s governor later told CNN that an official had essentially pressed the wrong button.

Later Wednesday, a White House spokeswoman said that President Donald Trump “has been briefed on the state of Hawaii’s emergency management exercise,” adding: “This was purely a state exercise.”


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Everlane’s first store is temporarily closed because its flooring couldn’t handle a New York winter

Physical retail? Perhaps not so easy.

Everlane’s transition from online retailer to brick-and-mortar retailer is off to a rocky start.

The popular millennial fashion brand announced to its customers today that it was temporarily closing its first store, located in New York City, only 42 days after it opened.

The No. 1 reason: the store’s white floors were probably a bad call.

“They’re white. It’s winter,” the company said in an Instagram post. “We got three times more foot traffic than expected. It’s a whole thing.”

An image of a cracking, blackened floor from Everlane’s New York store Everlane on Instagram
These floors were one reason why Everlane said it was temporarily closing its first retail store.

The company also said it needed to fix cracks and a paint job by the entrance, and add lighting to its dressing rooms. Oh, it’s going to add more selection, too.

But a flooring change seems to be the only one that would necessitate shutting the store down completely. The store will re-open on January 24.

Everlane is just the latest digital-first retailer to eventually turn to permanent physical space to get its product into the hands of potential new customers and build more brand awareness. Retail startups from Warby Parker to Glossier to Bonobos started by selling their products exclusively online before setting up brick-and-mortar locations.

The San Francisco-based company launched in 2011 and is known for its minimalist, contemporary aesthetic popular with the millennial generation, as well as transparency around pricing and the warehouses where its clothing is made.

Recode previously reported that the company was projecting annual sales of about $ 100 million back in 2016.

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To understand 2018, you first have to understand the 1990s, Vanity Fair’s David Friend says

Everything from #MeToo to President Trump has its roots in the “naughty nineties,” Friend says.

It would be easy to say that our self-obsessed culture, rampant cynicism in politics and the decline of traditional dating are all recent trends. But to understand how we get selfies, President Trump and Tinder, you have to look back to the 1990s, Vanity Fair’s David Friend says.

Friend joined Recode’s Kara Swisher on the latest episode of Recode Decode to talk about his new book, “The Naughty Nineties: The Triumph of the American Libido.” In it, he argues that the last decade of the 20th century was the start of a sea change in social and political attitudes that have carried us to the present day.

“The boomers took over,” Friend said. “They started raising children, they started coming of age, they started becoming the powerful people that ran Hollywood, that ran Madison Avenue and — for the first time — ran the White House. And suddenly, you had the counterculture becoming the culture. Their values became the main values of America.”

And it’s no coincidence that the world wide web was born in the same decade. Friend said the thing that separated America Online from its early competitors was that that AOL did not censor sexual conversations; for people logging onto the web for the first time (as well as historically marginalized groups such as the LGBT community), the internet enabled a new sexual revolution.

“Porn and sex and these conversations were always — you were with another person,” he said. “Now, it was totally anonymous and it was intimate in a way that people did not know what you were doing. The embarrassment and shame left.”

You can listen to Recode Decode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.

On the new podcast, Friend also talked about Anita Hill’s groundbreaking testimony against Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas in 1991; Hill ultimately failed to convince enough people that Thomas was a serial sexual harasser, and he was confirmed to the court. However, Friend said the #MeToo movement of today that is exposing sexual harassment in Hollywood, Washington and beyond owes a debt to Hill’s actions.

Back then, a record number of women won elections to Congress, the so-called “Anita Hill class.” And Friend suggested that something similar could happen again, as a reaction to President Trump.

“If there’s any silver lining in all this, it would be if men just stopped and let women take over for a while,” he said.

If you like this show, you should also sample our other podcasts:

  • Recode Media with Peter Kafka features no-nonsense conversations with the smartest and most interesting people in the media world, with new episodes every Thursday. Use these links to subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
  • Too Embarrassed to Ask, hosted by Kara Swisher and The Verge’s Lauren Goode, answers the tech questions sent in by our readers and listeners. You can hear new episodes every Friday on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Pocket Casts, Overcast or wherever you listen to podcasts.
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Yes, that was Fred Armisen and Bill Murray you saw on ‘SNL’

They’re back!

You weren’t daydreaming: Two old “Saturday Night Live” favorites returned to the set this weekend in a surprise reincarnation.

Bill Murray, the iconic SNL comedian, and Fred Armisen, who defined the show during the 2000s, came back as guests in the show’s cold open on Saturday evening — playing the roles of a source and a journalist, respectively. (Murray left the show in 1980; Armisen departed in 2013.)

Murray offers himself as Steve Bannon, the former White House adviser who fell out of President Trump’s graces after it was revealed that he gave unflattering quotes to Fire and Fury author Michael Wolff, played by Armisen. In the scene, they’re discussing the salacious Wolff tell-all on — where else — Morning Joe.

Here’s the clip:

Bannon, of course, has appeared on SNL before — as the Grim Reaper, the masked figure mysteriously guiding Trump’s decisions. Little did we know that Murray was available the entire time.


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