Inventing the Future

летающий фаллос and the New Wild West

In December, 2006, flying phalli disrupted a Second Life press conference at a CNET event reflectively dedicated to making money in SL.

Two months later, US Presidential candidate John Edwards had his SL headquarters vandalized in a roughly similar way.

It took just over a year for the world to take the next step, when Russian chess champion cum opposition politician Garry Kasporov had a real world open meeting disrupted by a remote controlled dildo helicopter.

I find it interesting that it didn’t happen here in the US. Of course, five years earlier, cybersage William Gibson had published Pattern Recognition(1), in which Russia is depicted as a tech-hip wild west.

I don’t think the New Wild West is Russia or grassroots politics or astro-turf. It’s cyberspace. For better or worse, what happens there isn’t staying there. And, anyway, how real was the Buffalo West?

1. The netspeak prose didn’t really work for me, and I didn’t think Gibson’s rendering of a female protagonist felt authentic. But it’s easy to forgive these because they don’t really interfere with the spot-on, absolutely compelling ideas. Terrific, thought-provoking read.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

My Brothers In Pakistan

“Go to every corner of Pakistan and give the message that this is the time to sacrifice. Don’t be afraid. God will help us, and the day will come when you will see the constitution supreme and no dictatorship for a long time.”

–Iftikhar Mohamed Chaudry, Chief Justice, Supreme Court of Pakistan

A man in a tailored suit, surrounded by a cloud of tear gas, hurling something at police. Mobs of hundreds of lawyers surrounding a jury-rigged loud speaker so that they can hear the revolutionary message of a deposed Chief Justice under house arrest: “rise up and spread the revolution of the rule of law!” Given our view of lawyers in popular culture today, these images seem surreal, almost comical. Lawyers? Rising as the bulwark of democracy and the rule of law? Aren’t lawyers about preserving the status quo and circumventing the law? Who can forget the cheering crowds when a giant Tyrannosaurus ate the smarmy lawyer in Jurasic Park as he fled to hide in the port-a-john? Or the lawyers as “ambulance chasers.” I have a friend and fellow progressive who would never consider voting for John Edwards because he was a plaintiff’s lawyer, even if he was about suing mammoth corporations to hold them accountable for shafting otherwise defenseless citizens. So when we see lawyers standing before armed soldiers with guns, shouldn’t we be cheering for the soldiers? After all, how many times have I heard that what you call 100 dead lawyers is “a good start?”

But ’twas not always so. Consider a different time, when lawyers like John Adams, or serious legal philosophers such as Benjamin Franklin, believed that the rule of law was a matter to die for. As one of their number so aptly put it:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

And indeed, listed as the first grievance against King George:

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

Law, law, law — the Rule of Law. And of the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence, 24 were lawyers while several others, such as Samuel Adams and Benjamin Franklin, had extensive knowledge and experience of the law and it practice.

It has been a long time since lawyers in this country rose in revolution to defend the Rule of Law against the encroachment of a tyrant bent on establishing the direct rule of one man. In the interim lawyers have not been idle in the defense of freedom. But even the lawyers who have forsaken profitable careers in private practice to pursue the goals of social justice or defend indigent defendants because the rule of law depends on providing a vigorous and zealous defense to everyone accused still live lives of relative comfrt and security. We forget, in a country where the rule of law has remained settled for so long we take it for granted. (If anything, we take it perhaps too much for granted, and have come to pay for our complacency.) When I speak to other activists around the world, I am reminded that people like me are “disappeared” or arrested on a regular basis. And that what protects me is that the respect for the rule of law is so deeply embedded in all of us that the idea that the industrial interests I opposed would have me killed seem like bad fiction. But for many lawyers and other social activists around the world, it happens all the time.

So I am reminded by my brothers and colleagues of the bar in Pakistan once again of the value of the Rule of Law as a bulwark against violence and tyranny. I salute those who could live comfortably off the status quo and drift with the wind of the regime, who instead rise to pledge their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors. And while I hope I never come upon such a “time of sacrifice,” I also hope that I — and perhaps others as well — can appreciate why the rule of law remains a cause to inspire and thing to defend.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in How Democracy Works, Or Doesn't, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Tagged | 1 Comment (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Possible AT&T Shift on Open Access May Signal Seismic Shift In 700 MHz Auction

Until now, the existing incumbents of all shapes and sizes have presented a solid, immovable wall of resistance against any kind of “open access”/wholesale obligation attached to a license. In the context of the Frontline proposal in particular, carriers have railed against it as a “poison pill” that would scare away potential bidders and reduce the projected $15 Billion auction revenue to spare change and half a wooden pencil.

Which makes this tepid expression of possible interest in a Frontline “E Block” license despite an open access condition by AT&T Senior Vice President Robert Quinn Jr. epic news and potentially another major win (on par with support from Senator John Kerry and Presidential candidate John Edwards) for the forces of open access. According to the article — reporting on an interview Mr. Quinn gave to the Center for Public Integrity’s Drew Clark:

“It’s a different business model for us, but one that we’d be looking at,” Quinn said in an interview with the Center for Public Integrity’s “Well Connected” Project. “If, in the end, that spectrum is attached to public safety, and for example there’s a wholesale requirement, we’ll take a look at it.”

AT&T is waiting for final FCC rules before deciding whether or not to place a bid. “Our position is that we need to see the specific rules the FCC adopts for the auction before determining our level of participation,” AT&T spokesman Michael Balmoris said on Monday. The FCC rules are expected by July.

That looks pretty tame, until one considers the speaker and the context. In spectrum lobbying terms, this is roughly the equivalent of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad saying that, under the right circumstances, he would accept an invitation to visit Israel and meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

More importantly, AT&T’s statement that it would consider bidding on an E Block license with an open access condition has significant implications for the debate about the auction itself. Statements churned out by incumbents and their think tank cheerleaders — such as this Washpo Op Ed from two CTIA consultants/think tank dudes — portray open access as so onerous that it will kill the auction revenue. AT&T’s statement that it would consider bidding on open access licenses demonstrates that such arguments are utterly bogus. Because if AT&T would consider bidding, you can bet your last cell tower that every other major incumbent would conisder it as well. What, sit it out and let all that spectrum go to a rival?

So why would AT&T even hint at a change in position, given how deeply this undermines the “absolutely no, never, you must be mad” rhetoric of the anti-open access opposition? For wild speculations, see below . . . .

Read More »

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Look Who's Talking 700 MHz: Edwards, Bloggers, and Moveon, Oh my!

[Channeling Our Great Master, Stephen Colbert]
In an obvious attempt to curry favor and win the valuable “Tales of the Sausage Factory” endorsement, John Edwards released a letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin the day after I announced I was scoping out his campaign. The Edwards letter endorsed three key policy positions of the Public Interest Spectrum Coalition: open access, network neutrality, and — my all time favorite and beloved of intensly geeky issues no one else gets — anonymous bidding.

That’s right! The Edwards campaign is actually cluefull enough and willing enough to get “into the weeds” to the point of endorsing anonymous bidding. Of course, the Edwards letter does not actually mention “ToTSF” or even PISC by name, but I’m sure that was just an oversight from the amazing speed with which they rushed to endorse the PISC positions after hearing that I was “checking them out.”

So, for all you folks from the Edwards campaign no doubt hanging on these words, all I can say is — well done! A tremendous Tip of the Hat to all of you. Still, in fairness to the other candidates (both Republicans and Democrats), I will need to wait to see whether they chose to endorse the PISC proposals before giving an official ToTSF endorsement.

[End Colbert]

Of course, Edwards isn’t the only one to start talking about the 700 MHz auction and what it means to our broadband future. For who else is talking about PISC proposals and the impact it appears to be having on Washington, see below . . . .

Read More »

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