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Tuesday, August 19, 2003

My blog is now at ross.typepad.com

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3:37:12 PM    comment []

Saturday, July 26, 2003

Blog for Governor

Peter Kaminski:

In case you've not heard, the Democratic Governor in California sucks. Well, that's what a rich Republican spoiler and a million Californians think. Personally, I'm not sure he sucks more than a lot of other politicians in the country, but that's another story.

Anyway, the petition to have a recall vote for Governor has succeeded, and we're to have a recall election October 7th. The first question will be whether or not to fire the current Governor, and then there will be list of candidates to replace him if is fired.

The interesting thing is that it's pretty easy to qualify to be a candidate. You need to be a US citizen and have 100 voters from your party sign a nomination form. There's a $3,500.00 filing fee, but you can submit 10,000 signatures from voters in lieu of the filing fee. Those are the high points; for details, see the recall docs at the California Secretary of State site.

Should blogspace field a candidate or two?

Should blogspace field a thousand candidates, in a civil protest about the process?

There is only a vanishingly small chance such a blogspace candidate would be elected, but just fielding a candidate and getting a couple hundred thousand votes would say, "We are here." It's an interesting opportunity. Paperwork is due August 9th.

If we did field a candidate, part of the message should be how silly this is.  Its an abomination that 5% of the population can force a recall.  If only the requirements were so low to initiate a public referrendum to amend Article 2 of the California constitution.

11:39:37 AM    comment []

Friday, July 25, 2003

Digital Polity

Attended a networking luncheon this week where Reed Hundt gave a speech quite different than two weeks prior at Supernova.  Perhaps he drank the superjuice -- it was very emergent democratic and second superpowery.

The first speech centered on his proposal to provide Universal Broadband Access to over 90% of US homes by 2013.  Americans take the Net for granted more than anyone, while other enlightened countries (Korea being the poster child) make it a mission.  This year's Supernova had a greater focus on policy and Reed's was the one specific policy proposal I heared -- invest an amount less than the subsidy to analog TV for digital ($75b) to maintain economic competitiveness.  Unless there is a plausible path for ILEC demise, this is the best proposal on the table.  Reed also gets open spectrum, so sing a hallelujah and hope something happens.

One thing is for sure.  When Dean showed he could raise money on the Net, politics changed forever.

Previously the Net had demonstrated its ability to influence decision makers through individualize pluralism, beginning when Kevin Werbach set up the first citizen feedback email address.  Over 2 million emails were sent by citizens on the issue of media ownership, at last count according to Reed.  Blogs have also demonstrated the ability of an influential deliberative network to force the media to play their role as the 4th estate, Lott being the poster child.

But now the Net has become a constituency.  Decision makers like to say they are accountable even the poorest residents of their districts, but money is the source of their power and the group they serve is the group that elects them with it.  Dean has shown the Net as means to money.  And now every politician is finally paying attention.

Reed's talk last week was on the digital polity vs. the analog polity.  He spoke eloquently about the rising constituency and how its "not just that things reoccur, its that they get better."  There are core ideals, parties are means towards those ideals, but are largely ineffective.  A new party of a digital polity is emerging that holds certain core beliefs:

  • We know more than our leaders
  • We pay nobody to say what we want to hear
  • Information is percipient and wants to be free
  • We are build on systems and networks, not organizations
  • We synthesize the whole instead of constructing barriers and silos
  • We believe in truth and civil debate

Now I may not have everything word for word (thumbed it into my Palm).  He also stated digital polity principles of privacy, representation, honesty and equity.   He implies that leaders still have utility and a role to play, but they need to engage the digital constituency and build trust.  We don't depend upon the media because we are skeptics and experts, we are global and can engage in collective action without government.  That said, digital needs to negotiate with analog.  But these are powerful and re-occuring themes.

What is encouraging, if not remarkable, is that Reed is a civil servant, nay, politician, who undertands his new constituency and its reasonable demands.

At the end he did casually remark that we should abolish the US Senate, as they are a distortion of representation, serving only 15% of citizens.  The point he is making, though, is that leaders fall behind their citizens (especially in times like these).  Perhaps because they are not engaged with their constituents.  Perhaps because their interests are conflicted.  But the difference is our representatives need to recognize our new found powers to deliberate and represent ourselves at a pace they need to understand.

Which brings me back to Dean.  If a candidate and causes can raise money on the Net, they can engage in institutional pluralism.  Direct participation within the social network of decision makers.  This scares most policy makers, as the game has changed. 

Its a grass roots game ripe for changing minds and policy.  Valdis forwarded a paper, Encouraging Political Defections: The Role of Personal Discussion Networks in Partisan Desertions to the Opposition Party and Perot Votes by Paul Beck, that I found absolutely stunning.  We are bi-polar in our political views by nature, tend to filter out news we can identify is from the opposition and are comfortable in the absence of change.  But when an issue is socialized we have a greater chance of changing our minds.  When our social network provides new ideas and affirmations, we are more likely to take new positions. 

Perhaps that's the power of Dean's use of Meetup.  Meetup collapses time and space for deliberative groups to get together.  Inevitably, some participants are strong ties for affirmation and weak ties for new ideas.  What Dean is doing is opening up discussion at the social level to enact political change. How neofunctional of him.  What Dean needs to do, however, is get more of us to debate -- instead of the candidates.

4:40:43 PM    comment []

Sunday, July 06, 2003

Internet Access as a Human Right

Estonia's 2000 law that declared Internet access a human right is referred to vaugely in the CS monitor and being slashdotted.

This, hot on the heels, or should I say shoulders -- of the Estonian dominance of the Wife Carrying World Championships.

"We take too many things seriously," concedes Indrek Keskyla, the mayor of Vaike-Maarja. He blames the communists who ran this Baltic nation. "In the old Soviet Union days, we had to be serious, gray people," he says. Under communist rule, the village pushed to be the best farm cooperative in Estonia. Now, it produces the best wife carriers.

12:06:54 PM    comment []

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Is the Web Democratic?

David Hornik at VentureBlog takes on a question from the Internet Law Program: Is The Web Inherently Democratic?

...In an interesting exchange this afternoon, professor Charles Nesson led a discussion on the Internet and emergent democracy. The discussion was principally focused on the question of whether the Internet aids democracy (or perhaps is a democracy in and of itself). In typical lawyer fashion, the discussion stalled almost immediately while everyone debated the definition of "democracy." But once Professor Terry Fisher had created a definition framework, the conversation was back on track -- Fisher made the distinction between political democracy (the ability of the people to have a say in political process), economic democracy (the ability of the people to have a say in their ways and means of making money) and semiotic democracy (the ability of the people to influence mass culture).

... And, as a tool, the Internet can be used to empower each of Professor Fisher's democratic forms: individual political voices (e.g. MoveOn and the MoveOn Primary), individual economic voices (e.g. GetActive as an organizing tool for the AFL-CIO), and individual cultural voices (e.g., HotOrNot and Are You Hot?, the awful TV show spawned from HotOrNot).

... My strong opinion is that blogging is indeed an excellent example of the democratization of information.

... The efficiency with which blogs are now spreading points to a discussion earlier in the day led by Professor Lawrence Lessig. Lessig argues that one of the primary forms of regulation in cyberspace is architecture. ... The difference between bulletin boards and blogs is simple: RSS. The architecture of RSS feeds and modern publishing platforms make the dissemination of information created on an individual level potentially massive. It makes it possible for someone like me to became a source of news that is cited in the mainstream media. Thus, to Lessig's point, by virtue of the architecture of modern blog tools, the limitations of bulletin boards are removed and the information can flow freely.

Despite the potentially democratizing nature of the Web, I think one of the important lessons learned from the Internet and this afternoon's discussion is that the Internet and blogging are indeed just tools. They can be tuned to better promote a point of view or better disseminate information, but they are only as good as the "content" they are spreading. VentureBlog is cited by other blogs when we have something interesting to say. And the more interesting the things we say, the more referrers and traffic we get. But it is not the inherent nature of blogs or of the inherent nature of the Internet that causes that dissemination of information. Similarly, while MoveOn may be able to give Howard Dean a better platform from which to disseminate information about his campaign for the presidency, MoveOn can not make Dean a better candidate. Howard Dean using MoveOn will never have the impact that Bill Clinton would have had using MoveOn. So I think that the democratizing nature of the internet is one of access -- the Internet empowers a vast array of participants to produce and share their own content, the most successful of which will rise to the top and become a mass phenomenon by virtue of the power of that content and the robustness of the tools that allow the virus to spread.

7:57:39 AM    comment []

Sunday, June 15, 2003

Miller Time

Last night I saw Dennis Miller do a new standup bit at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga.  I dont want to get off on a rant here, but the guy has taken such a sudden swing to the right it makes my dizzy.  That the wry swagger that once made him hip with the ladies must not have gotten play any more, he's getting older, fired twice, got bills to pay and as the theory goes, more conservative.

Its become easier, if not fashionable, for comedians to play the right after 9/11.  Jokes about Hitler and facisism and idiot presidents don't play anymore.  People want a gone politico Learyesque, I'm pissed, I'm pissed, I'm pissed, but this time its not because everyone's an idiot, its that those people are Idiots.  Hell bent flag waving border closing don't mess with Texas my gun is bigger than yours what are these people idiots we'll bomb them back to the stone age.   Dennis still has that great Carlinesque if I want to stick my finger there its my business and let's make sure the PC police understand how stupid they are bent, only with a new populist don't tread on me stick.  Oh, and the news he confirmed last night is he is taking that job with Fox.  Maybe if we are lucky we will have a Miller-Franken cage match.

An isolationist liberal is like a compassionate conservative is like a Volvo with a gun rack.

2:06:56 PM    comment []

Monday, June 09, 2003

What Bush Means

A week ago Thomas Friedman offered his Theory of Everything to explain why the rest of the world hates the US.  The concurrent rise of American hegemony and globalization kept the imbalance of power between nation-states in check.  Terrorists have no stake in the system and seek an overreaction to invoke a realist scenario.  He asked for solutions for this very big problem we have created through abusive hegemony. 

There is only one reasonable scenario which could resolve the tension the US has created.  Not US-driven peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as further aggression seems inevitable.  Simply put, the world hates the new and poential America and could tolerate our previous superior but benevolent role.  Bush symbolizes imperialism.  Symbols can be scape-goats.   Regardless of if you think Bush is doing a good or bad job, his departure would diffuse tension more than any other change or action.

8:44:44 AM    comment []

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