Tales of the Sausage Factory

My Latest 5 Minutes: The Newspaper's Lame Blame Game

I propose the radical notion that not only is changing the copyright law to preserve existing newspapers a bad idea, it doesn’t address the problem and won’t work. The New York Times needs to get with the times and get over themselves.

Of note, Tribune, the bankrupt newspaper/TV chain, continues to have a profit margin of 8%. That’s right, they are making money. Just a heck of a lot less than they used to and not nearly enough to service their debt.



And, for amusing contrast, Jason Jones’ report on the NYT. Comedy Central has better production values.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Less Than One Week Until Freedom2Connect! Last Chance to Get Discount Price.

One of my favorite conferences is Dave Isenberg’s Freedom 2 Connect. On a purely selfish level, F2C is within walking distance of my house at the extremely cool AFI Silver Theater. But more importantly, F2C brings many, many cool and knowledgeable people to discuss real important stuff of interest to pretty much anyone who reads this blog.

This year, I will actually be on the program to discuss the broadband stimulus and what it means from a policy perspective. If that were not enough (and, let’s face it, it isn’t), there will also be a keynote by NYT Columnist Tom Friedman, lots of cool panels by interesting people (I leave it to you to follow the link lest I offend someone by missing them) and lots of very cool and informative hallway conversation.

Sadly, because the conference is held one week early, we will miss Sea Chanty night at the nearby Royal Mile Pub.

Register before Friday and get $200 off the door price.

Stay tuned . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

The Decline of the Chattering Class and the Rise of the Discussion Class.

You’d never know Barack Obama has an approval rating in the mid-60s. Higher if you poll among Ds and Is and exclude Rs.

I say this because there appears to be no lack of people who are either pundits themselves, or can command the attention of the media, with all manner of advice on how Obama should be talking or behaving (substance appears to be utterly irrelevant). The latest is Bill Clinton, who thinks Obama needs to “sound more hopeful.” I refer to this group of talking heads who with the rise of the cable news networks and the 24 hour news cycle have enjoyed a lengthy run as opinion leaders as the “Chattering Class.” To fill the time — and cut back on actual news reporting, which costs money — the talk radio folks, the cable news shows, and now even the newspapers have created a class of pundits, experts, and analysts who exist for the sole purpose of supplying chatter to fill up the space. Indeed, I am always amused at the criticism that the rise of the blogs means the death of news because the hardcore news folks switched from mostly news to mostly chatter some time ago.

For years, the Chattering Class has controlled and framed debates around policy for most Americans. And, as one might expect, chattering about style and insider games takes precedence over actual substance. Not only is it cheaper and easier, as it requires no expertise, it is self-re-enforcing. This has corresponded, not coincidentally in my opinion, with the general disinterest by an increasing number of Americans in politics and public policy.

But what the Chattering Class talk about and how they frame winners and losers has become so disconnected from the reality people experience that folks have begun to notice. Not merely those “whacky left-wing totally non-mainstream” bloggers at TPM and elsewhere. Frank Rich observed in an opinion piece in last Sunday’s NYT that the Washington press corp has degenerated into the equivalent of a high school clique obsessed with their petty gossip and insular rules that define who is in and who is out.

This is why Bill Clinton, a man who in his prime ranked as one of the most gifted political campaigners to grace the national stage,feels the urge to give some “helpful advice” to the man who not only won the election, but is still clocking in with approval ratings that bespeak of enormous popularity. It is why the news continues to focus on things like whether the stimulus is actually a “loss” and is only gradually, and reluctantly, turning to the question of its anticipated impact. And it is why the Chattering Class is, after unquestionable dominance of public opinion for nearly 20 years, starting to lose it’s ability to frame the issues.

More below . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Understanding What The Broadband Stimulus Does, and What It Doesn't Try To do.

Not unsurprisingly, we have considerable debate on the merits of the broadband stimulus package, even leaving aside the network neutrality provisions. They range from this NYT article suggesting that building out in rural is a waste and won’t create jobs to Yochai Benkler’s more optimistic piece to my own previous enthusiastic support (here and here). Along the way, we find plenty of folks with a “yes, but –” because it does not address urban builds or competition or network neutrality or other issues in a way they consider satisfactory, and this weakness, from their perspective, makes the whole bill a worthless boondoggle and a multi-billion gift to the incumbents to boot.

I find the claims of those pushing tax credits or opposing the network neutrality conditions that grants will not create any jobs or result in any new broadband uptake, and that conditions on grants will prevent anyone from building these systems, simply not credible. I can only conclude those pushing this line either don’t get outside Washington DC and New York City much or have their own agendas. Otherwise, they should check out my friend Wally Bowen at MAIN and how he and projects like him are creating jobs for network operators and bringing economic opportunity for their communities. But even setting aside such extremes, it should come as no surprise that we see a variety of opinions on what the broadband stimulus does or should do because:

1) We have a set of complex problems;

2) Everyone has a different perspective on the nature of the problem(s).

This makes assessing the cost/benefit difficult, and makes getting the prospect of any consensus of opinion phenomenally unlikely. What constitutes proof for me that this bill (even after the Senate changes) looks to do a lot of good and is therefore worth the cost won’t persuade others who disagree with me on the fundamental nature of what we need to fix.

In the hope of persuading folks, however, I lay out my arguments below on why I think the broadband stimulus is well designed to handle one piece of the very difficult puzzle of deploying a ubiquitous nationwide broadband system that all citizens will use so they can partake of the rich opportunity for civic engagement, economic development, educational opportunities, and new services such as telemedicine (even if they don’t realize they need this yet). Along the way, the stimulus bill gives another nudge (but hardly solves) the question of how to keep the internet open to innovation and “as diverse as human thought.”

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

A Reminder Why the PK Petition On Mobile Texting Matters (lest you think I only pick on cable operators).

Today’s NYT has this op ed on Obama’s use of text messaging to announce his VP pick. It provides a nice reminder about the importance of the pending Petition by PK and others on text messaging. Filed after Verizon denied NARAL a short code but reversed itself within 24 hours the mobile texting petition often gets bundled with the Comcast complaint as if they were essentially two examples of the same thing. They aren’t. The Comcast complaint asked the FCC to follow through on its previous commitment to prevent broadband providers from blocking or degrading content or applications. For all the (well deserved) hoopla around the decision, it was at heart, as Commissioner Tate described, “a normal enforcement proceeding, regarding a particular complaint within the confines of the specific circumstances presented.”

The Petition for Declaratory Ruling on mobile text messaging and short codes is not a complaint (although it is an adjudication). It does not seek to punish Verizon as a bad actor, and it only refers to the NARAL incident as an illustration of why the Commission needs to act. Rather, we ask the Commission to decide — for the first time — whether mobile text messaging is a Title II telecommunications service, like the underlying phone number and voice service. If the Commission decides that it is a actually a Title I enhanced service (like the internet access you can buy separately), we ask the FCC to impose rules that would prevent wireless carriers from denying a short code to someone or from messing with anyone’s text messaging.

Not that Verizon or any other provider would be so foolish as to deny the Obama or McCain campaigns short codes or block their text messages. I’m not even worried about independent candidates like Barr and Nader. No, I’m worried about us ordinary schlubs, or even unpopular folks who can’t count on getting a front page story on the NYT if something happens but still deserve the right to organize and spread their message to willing listeners.

More below . . . .

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Inventing the Future

where does the Wetmachine crowd go for breaking news?

With Saddams capture last night, I’d like to know the implications for trial. If we turn him over to an international court for, say, gasing Kurdish forces, won’t he want to tell the court where he got his intelligence reports? Could that lead to a subpoena of previous US administrations? What happens at trial and in world opinion if he’s tried by us or by a US-controlled Iraqi “government”.

Where can one go to get the poop? Google isn’t current enough. CBS, ABC, and NBC (GE and Microsoft, my two least favorite corporations) are covering the story, but say nothing of relevence about trial. NPR has an audio report that hasn’t been transcribed yet, so I can’t search for the word “trial”. Slashdot and kuro5hin aren’t on to this yet. (I wonder if I should check Urban Legends.)

My regional newspaper has some coverage (go print media!), but the New York Times and the Washington Post want me to fill out forms before they tell me anything. (And besides, the stuff about trial at the NYT isn’t transcribed from audio yet. Odd, for a newspaper.)

The day after the last election, and on the moring of 9/11, I was at work and had the resources of a hundred well-informed people. While getting paid a lot of money to come up with technology to change the world, we had each other and the best broadband money could buy to get info throughout the day. Now we’re all isolated in our homes. Where do you go for the real deal?

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