My Thoughts Exactly

Inauguration

I’m on a mailing list of people with whom I served in the Peace Corps in west Africa more than thirty years ago. I’m kind of astonished at the emotion that’s been flowing there. People that I’ve considered hard-core skeptics are exultant; the joy is palpable. It’s even gotten to me. I’m a cynical jaded old man; or, at the very least, I’m not yet petitioning the Pope to have Obama declared a living saint. But I must admit, I was very moved by some of the show at the Lincoln Memorial the other day — Ashley Judd and Forrest Whitaker quoting JFK and Faulkner on the values and duties of the artist, among other moments–and wept to see Pete Seger singing This Land is Your Land, even the famous, often bowdlerized verse about the sign that said ‘private property'(“but on the other side, it didn’t say nothing. That side was made for you and me.”). Sung to a joyous multitude that came in a whole passel of different body types and skin tones.

Obama said today:

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends — hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism — these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility — a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

Today I’ll cast off my cynicism for at least a few hours and revel in the dream that maybe, just maybe, after our disastrous eight year experimentation with monarchy, we are again a republic. So here’s to us.

Posted in "A Republic, if you can keep it", My Thoughts Exactly | Tagged | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

A Promising First Step

O.K., it is only a modest first step, but it is still nice to see.

In keeping with that whole “use the internet and new technologies, government transparency, yadda yadda yadda” stuff from the campaign, Obama and his transition team have now set up a new website for the transition at change.gov.

The website includes many of the features that made the Obama campaign website so effective. It is also an unprecedented time to compliance with a campaign promise (even before taking office). More importantly, if you click on the technology agenda, you will observe that it is pretty much the same tech agenda as from the campaign website.

That may not seem like a big deal, until you notice the top items. Protect the Openness of the Internet and Encourage Diversity In Media top the list.

Yes, it is merely a continuation of his previous campaign commitments. Yes, simply saying protecting the openness of the internet is your top priority does not actually gaurantee you will do it. I am not some Kool-Aide drinking neophyte. But I am also not someone who thinks that cynicism substitutes for wisdom and can’t wait to rush to proclaim that all that progressive stuff was just campaign chin music. I find it pleasantly reassuring that (a) these guys continue to show the same level of discipline in planning and execution they did during the campaign, (b) they appear quite serious about the business of governing, and (c) they seem to be on track to take us in the right direction.

Not bad for Day 2 after the election . . . .

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Life In The Sausage Factory, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , | 6 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

The Return of the Great Google Overlords and I Do Another Rant On Why Citizen Movements Are Citizen Driven.

I suppose it was inevitable. Let Google enter the policy arena and suddenly that’s all anyone will ever think about. Never mind that Media Access Project and New America Foundation first participated in this policy exercise back in the spectrum task force days in 2002, that we mobilized around this issue (and I blogged on it) back in 2004 before Google or Microsoft showed up, or that New America Foundation has published some ungodly amount of content on this well before Google even had a wireless policy. No, like last summer and the 700 MHz auction, or the 2006 Net Neutrality fight, it is all about the Great Google Overlords blah blah blah. Because everyone knows that no one in Washington really cares about the public interest groups and its all about refereeing industry food fights.

I should note that the utter refusal of the trade press (and others who should know better) leads them to consistently screw up on where the Commission actually goes. Flashback to last November, and I defy you to find any oh-so wise insider with the cynicism that passes for wisdom these days who thought for a moment that a Kevin Martin-led FCC would even consider our complaint about Comcast blocking BitTorrent. When Martin defied expectation and put it out on notice, no one thought we had a chance of getting an actual judgment in our favor. And of course, when we did win, it didn’t disprove anything, since it was either all the work of the Great Google Overlords or a clever reverse fake by Martin to screw Net Neutrality.

I’d let it go as excellent political cover (since God knows most industry lobbyists make the same mistake) and a reason why folks should read my blog to get some balance, but the pernicious myth that no one in Washington cares about anything but major corporate players is one of those things that becomes self-fulfilling prophecy when regular citizens buy into it. The fact is that decisionmakers and policy folks are all over the map here in DC. You will find people who are wholly owned subsidiaries, people who are driven exclusively by ideology and — surprising to many — a large number of folks in both parties trying to do what they think is the right thing given all the information they have and what they think is right. I class all five FCC Commissioners, even the ones with whom I most frequently disagree, as being in this category.

Does it matter that Google is involved? Of course. Not only is it a question of available lobbying resources, but also a question of whether anyone is likely to take advantage of the rule change. That’s not always determinative, but it certainly helps. As the Frontline debacle shows, FCC Commissioners need to worry about what happens if they guess wrong, while still finding the courage to try new things when required. Seeing a company like Google come gives a certain amount of reassurance and makes it a lot easier for commissioners to beleive us public interest folks when we say “yes, open the white spaces to unlicensed and it will get used.”

But for Om Malik over at Giga Om and other well informed press folks to make their judgments about the white spaces based on Google’s involvement or non-involvement is as ridiculous as the worshippers of the Gods of the Marketplace deciding based on ideology without regard to actual evidence. Google’s financial interests are obvious, their interest here long standing, and their latest outreach effort no more or less noxious than those of any other company. In this case, they have the advantage of showcasing organizations that came on the scene (like MAP and NAF) long before they did.

As I have said before and will say many times again, citizen’s movements must be citizen driven. That is their strength, and why so many pundits and lobbyists who mistake lazy cynicism for experience and wisdom seem utterly incapable of understanding. But as long we believe it we will continue to change the world — and reporters like Malik will continue to be smugly wrong about what to expect.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Spectrum, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

The Bush Administration DOJ Just Can't Do Enough For Its Friends

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. For AT&T and its industry compatriots, domestic spying is the gift that keeps on giving.

Today, the Department of Justice Antitrust Division announced it had filed written comments in the FCC’s Inquiry Into Broadband Industry Practices, aka lets do a wussy study on net neutrality so we can pretend we are defending the public by ‘being vigillant.’ And — surprise, surpirse, SURPRISE! — the DOJ Antiutrust division comments look like the “Cliffsnotes version” of the AT&T filing.

So to recap, in the last few weeks, we have seen top Administration officials go public with classified data to push for retroactive immunity for the telcos for domestic spying, we’ve seen AT&T admit that they “accidentally” bleeped out Pearl Jam’s anti-Bush lyrics, and now we have the DOJ Antitrust division going to the mat for their buddies at the FCC.

I tell you, in this day and age of rampant cynicism and political opportunism, it warms my heart to see the Bushies stick with their buddies through thick and thin, and to see AT&T doing the same. Never mind what it looks like! As Mirror Universe (Evil) Cartman would sing: “You guys are my best friends, through tick and thin we’ll always be together . . . I love you guys.”

Of course, it probably helps that the tiering that the telcos and cable cos want to do makes it much easier to monitor traffic via deep packet inspection, and the fact that it is an “information service” rather than a telecom service means the telcos and cable cos can do whatever they want with the data (they don’t even need to get a warrant, as they would to take advantage of CALEA). But it’s mutual self-interest like this that keeps friendships strong! This way the DOJ gets its domestic spying built into the architecture, and the cable and telcos get to fulfill their fantasies of exacting monopoly rents out of every single bit that crosses their networks (despite the collateral damage to free speech and the long term damage to the economy as a whole). But hey, a “duopoly tax” in the form of higher costs for slower speeds is a small price to pay to have surveillance equipment built directly into the network architecture — and to help a true friend.

You can read my official reaction as VP Media Access Project in this press release on the MAP web page (also reproduced below).

Stay tuned . . . .

Read More »

Posted in Series of Tubes, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , , | Comments closed
  • Connect With Us

    Follow Wetmachine on Twitter!

Username
Password

If you do not have an account: Register