August 27, 2008
Fun and thought-provoking. Perhaps a little romanticized, but hey – if you spend that much time on You Tube I think you get a free pass.
(Note: video is CC-BY-NC-SA)
As mentioned on Groklaw, perhaps the most striking assertion in this presentation (it’s sudden and fleeting during the first few minutes) is that 88% of the content on YouTube is original.
August 26, 2008
The current global policy debate is a cacophony. It is all very well to advocate increased US saving and a cut in the US current account deficit but the process for bringing it about will mean less US demand for foreign products. That will put pressure on jobs and output growth in other countries if no countervailing measures are put in place. Conversely, the return of a stronger dollar without other policy changes will raise US demand for exports but at the price of cutting demand for domestically produced goods and compounding the recession.
These problems will be with us for some time. They may not be at the top of anyone’s agenda right now. But the success of the next administration could depend on its ability to engage with a wider range of global economic stakeholders, on a broader agenda, at a time when disagreements are increasing not just about means but also about ultimate ends.
Are the governmental institutions of the United States up to this challenge? Europe? China?
The collapse of consensus at the global level appears more imminent than ever these days – Doha’s failure and the appearance of ACTA (a proposed trade agreement that would effectively undermine WIPO and the TRIPS agreement) are part of a broader current that may sweep the Bretton Woods institutions into the dustbin of history.
Intentionally or not, the Bush administration has furthered this process quite effectively.
In the midst of a (likely) recession and the ongoing erosion of its diplomatic and military authority, what steps will the next U.S. administration take?
August 26, 2008
That didn’t take long.
Declan McCullagh at CNET takes a look at Democratic Vice-Presidential nominee-to-be Joe Biden’s track record on IT issues and finds a great deal lacking.
Historically speaking, Biden favors an extremist vision of intellectual property and anti-privacy enforcement.
McCullagh sums it up in the story’s lede:
By choosing Joe Biden as their vice presidential candidate, the Democrats have selected a politician with a mixed record on technology who has spent most of his Senate career allied with the FBI and copyright holders, who ranks toward the bottom of CNET’s Technology Voters’ Guide, and whose anti-privacy legislation was actually responsible for the creation of PGP.
In the rest of the article, McCullagh focuses on the areas of copyright, online privacy, peer-to-peer networks, and net neutrality, showing how Biden has built a reputation as one of the Democratic Senators most hostile to the the Open Internet and commons-based business models in the music, film, and IT industry. The summary version: Biden is as anti-Internet and anti-innovation as anyone on the left of the aisle.
What this means for an Obama campaign that has promised to implement a progressive information and technology policy agenda predicated on net neutrality and the growth of innovative industries is anybody’s guess.
In the meantime, what I can’t figure out is why Biden does it.
To judge from McCullagh’s claims, Biden’s positions stem from his close ties to the Intelligence community and the FBI. The Delaware Senator has staked his career on being a credible Democratic hawk. He has backed a corresponding “tough on crime” approach across the board.
Funny thing is, his funding base doesn’t seem to reflect this historical favoritism towards the cultural content industry, anti-privacy interests, and other IP-enforcement extremist groups.
According to the campaign finance data maintained by OpenSecrets, Biden’s strongest bases of support have been lawyers, real estate developers, and investment firms based in Delaware, New York, and Philadelphia.
This makes perfect sense given his positions on the powerful Senate Judiciary and Foreign Relations committees (he is currently chair of the latter), both of which oversee massive budget allocations and key legislative decisions on trade, investment, and legal regulation. It also corresponds to Delaware’s historic role as a tax haven for numerous corporations.
To give you a better idea, here’s a graph from OpenSecrets that breaks down Biden’s funding by industry:
Note how the communications/electronics category is woefully low in comparison to the FIRE and Lawyer/Lobbyist categories. Biden may be a staunch DMCA supporter, but he’s no Howard Berman by any stretch of the imagination.
Instead, Biden’s pattern of knee-jerk support for anti-privacy and anti-Internet regulation suggests a deep-seated misunderstanding of digital technologies and the potential of information networks.
Consistent with McCullagh’s claims, Biden has historically taken advantage of broader fears about terrorism and deviance as justifications for gutting civil liberties as well as freedoms of speech, movement, and organization.
Maybe this is the kind of reputation the Obama campaign believes it needs to appear more hardened and mainstream in the face Barack’s obvious lack of support from foreign affairs and military interests. It also doesn’t hurt that Biden has historically enjoyed such strong backing from elite corporate lawyers, investors, and the FIRE sector – representing a wide swath of the country’s financial elite.
Nevertheless, it’s hard to avoid the writing on the wall following the Biden announcement and Obama’s recent vote in favor of retroactive community for illegal spying and privacy violations by telecommunications firms. We may still be a long way from a U.S. president that is willing to take a progressive stance on the Open Net.
August 25, 2008
August 25, 2008
Friday’s NYT offered characteristically “meh” coverage of the role of political bloggers at the upcoming party conventions next week.
The piece could have been so much than human interest fluff. Instead somebody opted to bury it in the fashion section.
Wonder if there’s a story about the changing nature of the media and the democratization of party politics in here somewhere?
Guess the editors don’t want to look at that angle too closely.
August 25, 2008
A second large international survey has found that Danes are the world’s happiest people.
The strong social safety nets that cradle Danish citizens from birth until death are welcoming to foreigners, too. Kate Vial, a 55-year-old American expat who has lived and worked in Denmark for more than 30 years, passed up opportunities over the years to return to the U.S., choosing instead to raise her three children in Denmark. Vial knows she will never be rich, but says that she valued family, the ability to travel, and simple economic security above all else. “I just chose a simpler lifestyle, one where I could ride my bike all over and where I don’t have to make a great living to survive,” she says.
And a more culturalist version:
Some people attribute the prevailing attitude among Danes to something less tangible, called hygge (pronounced “hooga”). Danes say the word is difficult to translate — and to comprehend — but that it describes a cozy, convivial sentiment that involves strong family bonds. “The gist of it is that you don’t have to do anything except let go,” says Vial. “It’s a combination of relaxing, eating, drinking, partying, spending time with family.”
Gotta get me some of that hygge.
In the meantime, I’m sure a bumper crop of follow up studies will try to explain the results. Personally, I wonder what sorts of behavioral and political results stem from being happy. Are Danes more cooperative? Do they smile more? If you walk into a bar full of Danes and tell a bad joke, are they more likely to laugh?
Please share your own theories, questions, and dim-witted asides (along with any spare hygge you may have lying around the house) in the comments…
August 23, 2008
Worth a second look now that the news is out.
I am still woefully uneducated on Biden’s record and his politics, but here’s hoping that David Brooks speaks for a broad swath of centrists and accurately depicts the imagination of the rustbelt.
If Biden can appeal to someone like Brooks, I’m tempted to be optimistic about the selection.