Tales of the Sausage Factory

SOPABlackout And the “Internet Spring”

January 18, 2012 should be remembered as the first day of the “Internet Spring.”

I like to say that the worst thing about PIPA/SOPA is that it confirms every awful, cynical thing people say about how Washington DC works. But the best thing about PIPA/SOPA is how it can also confirm the best things we say about American democracy.

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Susan Crawford and the Spirit of Cincinatus

Susan Crawford is now back blogging again, looking forward to teaching next semester at Michigan Law and getting back into the blogging game. Because those of us in public policy land cannot imagine anyone ever wanting to do anything else, and because the folks on the right have wanted to claim a kill for their “anti-Czar Campaign,” a number of folks want to claim she was pushed to leave. I would ignore this on the right, but it has a distressing tendency to get picked up and believed on the left as well.

I’ve known Susan for over 10 years now, and consider her a friend, so I am hardly impartial. But I personally believe that Susan always meant to stay a year for the transition — no more no less — just as she told her Dean and everyone else at the beginning of this process. Because Susan is an example of a breed long thought vanished from America — one moved by the spirit of Cincinatus.

In ancient Rome, it was the custom in times of crisis for the Senate to appoint a supreme leader, a dictator (this being the origin of the term), who would wield absolute power for the duration of the crisis, then step down afterward. According to legend, in a time of crisis, the Senate elected the retired Consul Cincinatus to act as dictator, and dispatched messengers with the news. The messengers found Cincinatus plowing on his farm. When he heard that Rome needed him, he left his plow and returned with the messengers to take up his duties in Rome. When the crisis passed, he gave up his position and returned to his plow — picking up precisely where he left off.

Public policy is not a quiet way to make a living. It involves long hours on things ranging from the mind-numbingly complex to the even more mind-numbingly complex. People do not play well with one another. There is little understanding of the work, little credit for doing a good job, and plenty of people who will tell you to your face (and even more who will say behind your back) how they could do a better job. Some folks do it for money, and there are no lack of examples of folk who have done well for themselves after a stint in policyland. Some do it for ideology, or for the fun of it (I confess to falling into the later category myself; much as I often find the work wearing and difficult, I find it enormously engaging and intellectually challenging).

But a handful do it because they are asked, and because they understand that they can do something that will benefit people and their country by devoting some portion of their lives to a process they do not find enjoyable or potentially profitable. They serve as genuine public servants, acting where they believe they can do good, returning to what they really want to do with their lives when their service is complete.

Susan Crawford has enjoyed a very successful career as a law school professor and as the founder of One Web Day. She agreed to join the ICANN Board when asked not because she got anything out of it (other than a great deal of work and little thanks), but because she believed she could make a difference for the better. She did not seek it out, but did not decline when asked, because she knew that her talents were needed. Similarly, when the Obama people came calling, she agreed to help with the transition and to get the ball rolling. This she did splendidly and selflessly. Work done, in the best spirit of Cincinatus, she returned to her normal life.

As I say, those of us who live in Policyland — including the wags, talking heads, bloggers and hosts of others who follow the doings in Policyland with the same fervor as football fans prepping for the Bowl Season — may have a difficult time grasping this. In our modern age, the false wisdom of cynicism has far more appeal than the belief that someone would come for a year, do what she felt was her duty, then simply leave. But knowing Susan, I believe it. So I am grateful she set aside her life for a year, grateful for what she did, and glad to see her back where she wants to be. My one regret is that the spirit of Cincinatus, which was once the ideal to which citizens of this country aspired, has passed so into obscurity that we cannot recognize it when we see it.

Stay tuned . . . .

Posted in Life In The Sausage Factory, Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , , , | 5 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Adelstein To Go To RUS, But When?

In a not entirely unexpected move, FCC Commissioner Jonathon Adelstein will shift over to the RUS program. One would be hard put to think of anyone better qualified to oversee spending to stimulate rural broadband deployment (granted, as regular readers know, I am huge fan of Adelstein’s and hardly impartial). Adelstein comes from a rural state (South Dakota) and has long been a champion of rural issues — particularly broadband and wireless deployment — at the FCC. Overseeing a program to spend $2.5B explicitly on rural broadband seems tailor made for Adelstein, especially if this is just the “down payment” for making sure that we make the benefits of high-speed access available to all Americans.

When Adelstein will get a chance to shift over, however, is less clear. The FCC has dropped down to the bare minimum for a functioning quorum of three commissioners. The Administration has now officially nominated Julius Genachowski for FCC chair. In theory, the Senate could hold a hearing, confirm Genachowski, and then shift Adelstein over to RUS at any time. In practice, however, some other considerations intervene. And while a few months might not normally make much difference in the grand scheme of things, the RUS, like the NTIA, is very busy at the moment setting the ground rules for the availability of the stimulus money. No one wants to show up after the rules are already settled, especially if you have some significant experience that would give you some strong ideas on how to spend the money effectively.

Some elaboration and speculation below . . . .

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My Thoughts Exactly

The endorsement Barack's been waiting for!

Today in the Senate, where we were disgraced as a nation, Obama voted with the good guys. Clinton was absent. The bad guys, who included 17 Democrats, won.

In recognition whereof, John of Wetmachine hereby endorses Barack Obama for president. Hillary, don’t bother calling. This decision is final.

For the gory details on the eclipse of the concept of the rule of law and the full embrace of the public-private, all seeing panopticon of the transnational corporate-military-industrial-infotainment-prison class by our disgusting rulers, see the vote tally here.

Read it and weep.

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My Thoughts Exactly

My defiant “that'll show 'em” vote, 2008

I voted today in the Massachusetts primary.

I voted for Chris Dodd.

That’ll show ’em!

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My Thoughts Exactly

Petraeus == Betray us

Or not, who knows, I don’t care. It’s an enlisted man’s pun, you wouldn’t understand. I just want to see if I can get the Senate of the United States of America to debate Wetmachine and maybe pass a resolution denouncing us. I’m sure that would be good for traffic, which is what it’s all about, ain’t it? Net capitalism, dude. It’s what’s for dinner.

But I don’t know why I bother, because Comcast or AT&T, the new Cellular, will edit this en route to your eyballs, and you’ll never even know I wrote it. It will be like the memory hole, only more high tech. And the bits will seal up around the absense of my message just like the metal man in Terminator Two, Judgement Day. (Remember, in Soviet Russia, Internet censors YOU!)

Hey, don’t taze me, bro. I’m just say’n what it is.

You may now go back to reading the triumphal return post, below, from our long-lost Web 3.0 boy, Howard Stearns.

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

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Senator Durbin Consults With the People

Tonight, and for the next several days, Senator Richard Durbin (D-Il), the #2 man in the Senate, is conducting an experiment in direct democracy and taking a bit of a risk. He will spend the next week in real time blogging over potential legislation. No carefully crafted “town meeting” or managed event, and no showing up as a walrus a la Second Life. Just a chance for people to actually hash out issues with someone who will vote on these things in the Senate.

Here is a reprint of the announcement. I will add that I will be participating as a featured blogger as part of the debate on wireless policy and munibroadband on Thursday night.

Stay tuned . . . .

Starting this Tuesday evening, July 24 and each evening this week at 7pm EST on OpenLeft.com, Senator Durbin and his staff will blog nightly on a broad swath of broadband policy issues. Based on this discussion, the Senator wants to attempt to write legislation this session. Each evening kicks off with discussion from individuals who have worked a long time on the topic of the evening, but the intent is to spur broader comment from as many as is possible. This is no meaningless exercise: it is a genuine attempt to try to open up the legislative process. All input matters in a very real way.

I’ve attached below links to the letter announcing the initiative as well as the schedule for the week. Please feel free to share it with those you think might be interested in taking part. It is my hope that those who care deeply about these issues will blog about it, point folks to our discussion, and comment themselves. We’ll also be scouring the web for other places that related discussion happens this week, so if you blog about it, please let me know so we can follow where discussion goes on your site too.

I hope you’ll join us and help to get the word out. Please feel free to contact me with any questions.

Press release: http://durbin.senate.gov/record.cfm?id=279504
Open Letter: http://www.openleft.com/showDiary.do?diaryId=318

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

Kerry drops another good bill

Senator John Kerry (D-MA) has introduced the Wireless Innovation Act of 2007. This bill is essentially the same excellent bill to force the FCC to open up the White Spaces that Kerry, Allen (now no longer in the Senate), Boxer and Sunnunu introduced in 2006 and was later incorporated into the Stevens Bill.

The bill requires the FCC to complete its pending rulemaking on the broadcast white spaces and allocate the use for unlicensed spectrum. Given that the FCC has shifted into reverse on this and has decided to reexplore the licensed v. unlicensed question, it’s nice to see folks on the Hill pushing for this.

Stay tuned . . . .

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Tales of the Sausage Factory

UPDATE: COPE PASSES HOUSE late Thursday Night

To further stack the odds, they went ahead and held the debate and vote tonight after Tom DeLay’s farewell address. Fitting tribute, I suppose, sacrifice the finest engine of civic discourse and free speech on the altar of special interest as a going away present.

And yes, we got spanked as expected. The Markey Amendment failed 152-269, with 11 Rs and 1 independent joining 140 Ds. On the nay side were 211 Rs and 58 Ds. COPE itself passed 321-101.

On to the Senate!

Posted in Tales of the Sausage Factory | Also tagged , | 4 Comments (Comments closed)

Tales of the Sausage Factory

Senate Confirms Tate and Copps

Late last night the Senate confirmed Deborah Tate and Michael Copps for the FCC Commissioner slots. I’d like to think it was my eloquence shaming them into sanity, but I doubt it anyone on the Hill reads this blog (Wonkette this ain’t).

My congratulations to new Commissioner Deborah Tate and reconfirmed Commissioner Michael Copps. Sad for me, I will have to work for a living in January after all.

Stay tuned . . . .

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