Inventing the Future

Duck

I was pleasantly surprised to find the opening remarks on Judge Sotamayor’s confirmation hearing so interesting.

Senator Feingold explicitly referenced Barrack Obama (a constitutional law scholar as well as President) in acknowledging that the Supreme Court decides cases where the precedent and wording of written law is not clear. That’s its job. There could be no mechanical execution of a prewritten umpire or referee program. Such cases are decided by values.

Senator Graham explicitly acknowledged that this is the case and that he wasn’t sure how he felt about that. After all, he imagined Judge Sotomayor’s values were different from his own. The question then was whether he should try to impose his values or interpret those of the electorate.

I was proud of both of these men and my country’s institutions. And….

They all collectively ducked. Kept their heads down. Dodged it. Wimped out.

I think we’re due for a discussion, as today’s obituaries of Walter Cronkite made apparent. Every one contains claims of absolute objectivity and authority, while also citing Cronkite’s commentary in February 1968 that America cannot win the Vietnam War. President Johnson himself said it was a major influence on his subsequent actions.

How we relate values and the quest for objectivity is much debated in journalism today, but the industry is in turmoil and I do not yet see a consensus emerging. (An objective set of values on the issue?!) I share Senator Graham’s ambivalence. For example, I think George Will and Rush Limbaugh are equally hypocritical in their underlying views, but only Will is hypocritical in the pretension to rational thought in his presentation. I’m equivocal about which I fear more: Which is more evil? Which is more undermining to my culture and institutions? I admire the English stereotype of acting properly while leaving so much unsaid, but I consistently favor knowledge and transparent discussion over style, brevity, or unrecognized deceipt and ignorance. Cronkite explicitly alerted viewers that his conclusions were subjective. I share his values. But does that make it right? The same commentary left objectivity to the “referees of history.” The question is vital throughout the economy and government. By not taking this historic opportunity to discuss this reality — by elected leaders in open hearing — we leave it be mulled over or not by individual judges and bureaucrats and businessmen and media personalities. Decisions are still made on values, but it remains taboo to discuss and judge the context and consequences of how it happens.

Posted in "A Republic, if you can keep it", Inventing the Future | Also tagged , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

My Thoughts Exactly

Mukasey == Gonzales==Republican Stooge, let's sing the “I Was Not a Nazi Polka,” Hooray!

You may recall how Fredo Corleone Harry Reid and the rest of the clueless Democrats in the Senate enthusiastically bought into the pious shitpile of festering stinking lies and prevarications that was the testimony of Michael Mukasey, the “Good German Republican”, at his confirmation hearing for the position of Attorney General, when he swore, jawohl, that he would uphold the constitution no matter what, yessir, even unto the gates of Hell or the White House, whichever came first, cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye, yah sure, you betcha, because I am a Federal Judge of Impeccable Credential and Pedigree, don’t you know, and I uphold the law, and I vas not ein SS guard I don’t change my stripes to fit the fashion, and blah blah blah blah blah.

And so he became the highest law officer in the land, with a pat on the back and a friendly howdy-do & welcome, hail fellow well-met, from Harry and Diane and all the other fine Presbyterians & toothless cowards in the Greatest Deliberative Body in World(tm). Alberto is gone! Michael is here! Integrity has been restored to the Department of Justice! Ding Dong the Witch is Dead, Hail Dorothy! (Senators Obama, Clinton, Dodd and Biden just happened to be out of town for the vote, how unfortunate!)

Below the fold: Recalling an old chestnut from the late lamented Chad Mitchell Trio.

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Posted in Memology, My Thoughts Exactly | Also tagged , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Put Up Or Shut Up At the FCC on Net Neutrality “Principles”

When the FCC deregulated broadband by declaring it an “information service,” it also adopted four principles that purported to give broadband subscribers a right to “access lawful content of their choice,” “run applications and services of their choice,” “connect their choice of legal devices that do not harm the network,” and enjoy “competition among network providers, application and service providers.” All subject to “reasonable network management,” of course. So when a bunch of us in 2006 pressed Congress to pass a network neutrality law, a lot of folks claimed we didn’t need one because the FCC already had the authority to deal with any problems that might arise. And, when questioned on this very subject at his confirmation hearing for a second term, FCC Chairman Martin said the FCC had ample authority to deal with any violations of the four principles that might arise.

Thanks to Comcast and their decision to “manage” their network load by degrading BitTorrent,it’s put up or shut up time at the FCC. My employer, Media Access Project, along with Free Press and Public Knowledge, just filed a formal complaint against Comcast and a general Petition for Declaratory Ruling asking that the FCC hold that deliberately messing with a customer’s application while refusing to admit doing it when asked pint blank violates the FCC’s “four principles” and does not constitute a “reasonable network management practice.” This will also press the FCC to find out exactly what the heck Comcast is actually doing (since some folk remain uncertain). Given that Comcast initially denied the very idea as “internet gossip,”, instructed their line staff to lie to customers about it, and are still maintaining that nothing of interest is going on, it looks like the only way will actually find out what the heck is going on and why is to have the FCC pry it out of them.

Hey, maybe they are telling the truth. But the FCC is in a much better position to know whether Comcast is deliberately lying to its customers and, if so, why. Because while my friend and opposite number Jim Harper at Technology Liberation Front may be content to see if the market punishes Comcast for its “lack of transparency”, I see a lot of bad consequences in letting Comcast throttle traffic as a network management tool and then lie (or, at best, mislead) about it when asked about it point-blank by their customers.

At any rate, whether folks think we should regulate this kind of behavior or not (and I recognize that a number of smart folks not employed by cable operators feel we shouldn’t regulate this even if everything bad said about Comcast is true), we deserve to know whether the FCC has the authority to regulate this behavior, and the willingness to do so on an enforcement basis. Because if the cable and telco companies that swore up and down that we didn’t need new rules now come in and say the FCC has no authority to take complaints about their behavior after the fact or no authority to order any remedies, then we should know that. And if the FCC is going to leave us high and dry when broadband providers start degrading applications, then we should know that. Because while some folks may think that lying to your customers is an acceptable network management technique, or even an acceptable technique for managing elected members of Congress, I think most Americans would disagree. And I certainly want to know that by November ’08.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Series of Tubes, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Look what the FCC Found in the Basement!

In response to a Freedom of Information Act Request filed by the Georgetown Institute for Public Representation Communications Law Projects and my employer Media Access Project, the FCC has now posted a collection of 42 final and draft reports relating to media ownership (no Hitchker’s Guide jokes please. Anyone who thinks these studies are definitive answers to anything needs to find their towel and get a life).

A very preliminary bit of analysis below….

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Posted in Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments (Comments closed)
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