Politics, open government, and safe streets. And the constant incursion of cycling.

Month: April 2006

Just Say No

Slate’s Ryan Grim highlights the effects of the Federal law denying financial aid to any student that admits having been convicted of possession.

Tivo: Paragraph 175

Add this to your Tivo assignment list – Paragraph 175, on HBO.  Referring to the section of the German penal code that criminalized male homosexuality, this 2000 documentary explores the memories of five men (of 10 known living at the time) who survived being sent to concentration camps for being gay.  It’s a very personal journey – the anger of Pierre Seel at what happened is shaming, and the scene in which Heinz F. (93 at the time) cries for having been unable to talk about his experience with his father is heartbreaking.

Outsourcing the Drive Through Window

It had never occured to me that the drive through window would be outsourced. According to the NYT article, McDonald’s is experimenting with routing the drive through orders of 40 locations to workers at call centers in Mississippi and Wyoming. The audio is routed from the drive through board mic/speaker to a call center, and the order is sent back to the restaurant over the Internet. I’m rather doubtful that the claimed speed efficiencies justify the costs involved. Minimum wage workers take the order in either place, no? But if you change Mississippi and Wyoming to Kerala and Punjab . . .


¡Sí, Se Puede! Yes, We Can!

I joined what I expect will be pegged at 50,000+ fellow Americans on the Mall today. I, along with everyone else there, went to stand in opposition to the attack on common sense, American values, and basic human dignity that is H.R. 4437. You’ve almost certainly heard a lot of (mis)information about it, but just in case you haven’t, this is a good start. I agree – our immigration system is most certainly broken – but H.R. 4437 and its relations aim only to smash the system to bits.

Instead of listing out the abominations contained in that bill and proposed by its supporters, I’ll offer something different here: hope. The people – the energy – in the march was amazingly positive. While recent protests such as Operation Ceasefire were full of passionate believers in freedom and decency, there was a palpable sense of futility, of raging against the wind. This? This was very different. I had forgotten what it was like to hear “U.S.A! U.S.A!” chanted with hope, instead of fear and anger. It was the same excitement about America that I heard on a flight so long ago. It was the sound of people thinking that the America we know and love will win this one.

Sí, Se puede. Yes.we.can.

Ka-Bloom? How about a pleasant “pop!”

Disney’s realization that there’s value in making shows (officially) available online the day after broadcast? Jeff Jarvis thinks it a “Ka-Bloom!” For me, the sound is more the “pop” of the light bulb coming on over someone’s head. While it does strike me as a step forward for broadband-consuming content, in as much as it broadens the offerings, I don’t think it at all represents a threat to “other media — newspapers, magazines, and even online companies[.]”
Not to say that Jeff is missing everything. But he buries the real explosion in the sixth paragraph –

And that leads to the real danger to media competitors: Ad Age reported last week that the ad industry is “ousting broadcast TV as its central organizing principle.” That is seismic.

Ka-bloom, indeed.

AT&T hearts NSA

So, how can we use competition to address things like this, again?

The Window of Opportunity

In addition to picking up some interesting ideas and wisdom from the F2C folks, I also seem to have picked up a rather nasty cold that has really slowed me down. So I’m a little . . . slow.

In response to comments on the previous post – Geddes hasn’t convinced me that pushing for Net Neutrality legislation is *necessarily* a bad idea right now. As Susan Crawford notes, we need more evidence before we can make a fully informed decision on the matter. But I remain worried that by the time we get that information, it may well be too late. One of the few things I think Powell got right in his speech was pointing out that there is usually a very narrow window of opportunity in which proponents of a regulatory action can make a real difference. And I while I’m not sure that we’re in that window right now, I certainly don’t want to wait until the RBOCs have slammed it shut.

In the end, I’d prefer to serve the values motivating the Freedom to Connect crowd through competition in an open marketplace. But that’s the key – it requires an open marketplace. And I don’t think that its continued existence is at all a given. As Tim Wu’s review of the historical behavior of common carriers has shown, they’ve rarely passed up an opportunity to distort a market. And with all that practice, they will likely be able to accomplish it before the public has even understood what’s happened.

Freedom to Connect

Just finished two days at Freedom to Connect – two stimulating, motivating, and educating days. It was good to catch up with some folks I’d not seen in a while, and great to meet a number of really interesting new people. My plan was to recap some of the highlights – Martin Geddes well-constructed argument against net neutrality, the Dave & Doc show, and the rather entertaining James Salter.  (Update:  Priceless.)
But the Powerbook (with all my notes) simply refuses to work (thankfully, its problems only started at the end of the day), and the onset of sick has robbed me of further enthusiasm for the evening. Manana.

Freedom 2 Connect

A now forgotten flurry of activity kept me from David Isen’s Freedom 2 Connect conference last year, but I’m a little luckier this year – tomorrow and Tuesday will find me there, among a very impressive bunch of folks.

I’m quite looking forward to it – it’s rare opportunity to indulge my personal, political, and professional interests all at once.

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