Not an authoritative Weblog

Comments on things I have no expertise in

Nashville debate

Posted by notauthoritative on Wednesday October 8, 2008

I’m just not seeing the change to believe in.

Yes, during the debate, it became more clear that there is a difference between Obama and McCain. But the differences are in things which hardly matter: domestic policies. Let’s look at:

Tax policy. Yes, it’s true that McCain wants to lower taxes even further for the rich. With a slumping economy, even more people would get caught in the Alternative Minimum Tax and end up paying more. But I can’t worry about that; such plans would never survive in Congress. And for the same reason, Obama’s promises on taxes (cuts for the people making under $200,000; more taxes on people making over $250,000) simply can’t be kept. Obama could campaign on a promise to give every new baby a chocolate éclair, and why not? Congress would end up crafting some compromise with a far less progressive profile, and Obama will shrug, say it’s out of his hands, and it’s the best that could be come up with. So, don’t vote for the guy who promises to lower your taxes – he’s not a dictator, he can’t deliver.

The same goes for health care. Clearly, Obama has a more sane set of suggestions than McCain, even as his proposal falls far short of H.R. 676, which establishes a single-payer health care system in the US and effectively puts health insurers out of business. It doesn’t matter; anyone who lived through the Clinton “plan” in the 1990s can tell you that. On top of that difficulty, Obama and McCain just voted for a massive transfer of wealth to Wall Street, which will constrain what help they can provide to ordinary citizens; expect to see Obama’s proposed expansion of eligibility for federal health insurance go away first.

On issues where the President actually has a lot of latitude, they differ far less. Both would rush troops to Israel were it attacked. Both want to add the Ukraine and Georgia to NATO, effectively forcing our troops there as well in case of a conflict with Russia. Both would violate the sovereignty of any country which may be rumoured to house “terrorists”, including Osama bin Laden. And both speak of “killing” bin Laden, instead of bringing him and his ilk to justice. Such bloodthirsty rhetoric from the two men who would lead a nation built on the concept of laws and justice, where civilized people are glad the Wild West no longer exists.

So, where’s the change we can believe in? In areas where he can’t unilaterally deliver. Don’t be fooled.

Posted in economics, Politics | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Should third party supporters vote for Obama?

Posted by notauthoritative on Tuesday October 7, 2008

Democratic operatives and apologists, asking Nader voters to support Obama in swing states, need to understand that this is a two way street; you can’t ask supporters of third party candidates for their votes while participating in activities which are inimical to third party politics.

It’s pretty simple: if Democratic candidates want our votes, they will need to pledge some things in return:

  1. You must allow third party candidates to participate in Presidential debates. A reasonable threshold (such as appearing on ballots in states which total over 269 electoral votes) is acceptable.
  2. You must pledge never to work against the enfranchisement of third party candidates in their quest to access a spot on the ballot of any state. The track record of the Democratic party is particularly bad on this issue.
  3. You should pledge to implement instant runoff voting or another approval voting system for Presidential candidates. This will allow third party supporters to express their approval of the policies of a third party candidate, while allowing them also to avoid the potential of hurting their second choice candidate (who might be the Democrat!).

If you, as a member of one of the parties in power, can’t pledge to make the playing field more available to third party candidates, then there’s really no reason why we should give you our votes.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Barack Obama has lost my vote

Posted by notauthoritative on Monday October 6, 2008

Look, I know that a McCain presidency would be a disaster for the country. So don’t bother writing that in the comments.

What I can’t do is vote for Barack Obama. On FISA, he voted the same way John McCain did. On the disastrous Wall Street Bailout, same as McCain. He wants to now “reduce” the troops in Iraq – not withdraw. He’s all for invading Pakistan, for supporting Israel against the Palestinians and Iranians, and for admitting Russia’s border states into NATO. The rationale may or may not be different; no matter, the policies are the same.

His speeches expose underlying philosophical differences with McCain. I can respect that. But I don’t see those principles being reflected where it matters – in the conduct of the Executive Branch. Many of Obama’s progressive proposals (funding renewable energy research, altering the health care landscape) will live and die in the legislature, with or without him; at best, he’d not be a threat to veto as McCain would. And his support for the current bailout package means he’s admitting that in the next four years, there will be less money to spend on investment at home: infrastructure building and repair, education, supporting small businesses. There’s no change – never mind change to believe in.

I’ve been leaning toward voting for Ralph Nader but had not yet made up my mind. I think a Ralph Nader presidency would be interesting; his irascible nature may make it difficult for him to work well with Congress to get things done. That would be a shame, but shame on Congress in that case. Would we really want to repeat the Carter presidency all over again? Why would a potentially sympathetic Congress not work with someone who has good intentions and great ideas?

Still – I can’t give my vote to Obama and endorse his policies. I have to make the statement that this candidate (Ralph Nader) embodies my vision for how the country should be run. He won’t win, but at least it will be clear that these ideas have a significant constituency; and maybe in 2012, more of these policies will make it into the debate, and hopefully into the campaign of one of the candidates.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Can it get worse?

Posted by notauthoritative on Sunday October 5, 2008

Okay, here’s yet another reason why letting Paulson buy unrestricted derivatives in secret is a bad idea.

First: I know what credit default swaps (CDSs) are, and I know how they got used to amplify this current crisis. I also am quite aware that they can be used “legitimately” to hedge against risk, even including against non-asset based problems like changes in weather (screwing up airline flights, cancelling outdoor shows, etc). So yes, CDSs are valid tools for risk management; they shouldn’t be removed from the economy, but for heaven’s sake they should be more transparent and better regulated.

Then I listened to this episode of This American Life (you can download it this week for free). What I didn’t know (should I have?) is that people were writing CDSs against assets which they didn’t even hold. They’d bet against the drop of value of, for example, some debt Lehman entered; the insuring counterparty would bet (of course) that the value wouldn’t drop, and they’d collect the “premiums” for a promise to pay later. The insured counterparty would be betting they’d be able to gain the value of the underlying asset (or, more properly, the amount of the underlying loss) if it went down in value, and they were willing to pay for that privilege. This is like the “dead man’s” insurance WalMart was trying to get written against their (non-key) employees. It’s even worse than naked shorts, which of course have to be covered with a real asset at some point. This is trying to make something out of nothing.

There is no economic theory I can think of that can justify this behavior as enhancing the allocation of capital; this is gambling, pure and simple. The legislation enabling the bailout should have very explicitly prohibited the governmental purchase of such swaps; instead, the swaps should be invalidated immediately. Whether the insuring counterparty gets to keep or must refund the premium(s) is none of my concern; although the disposition should probably have been legislated as well, to avoid unnecessary judicial entanglement. Removing the uncertainty of whether insuring counterparties were on the hook for vast amounts of money on absurd gambles would probably go a long way to restoring short-term confidence in counterparty solvency. Long term, these things should be banned outright; a CDS against property (not an act of nature, etc) should require one of the counterparties to actually own the property; and when the property is disposed, the contract expires or goes with it.

We don’t insure office gambling pools; we don’t allow you to write gambling losses off your taxes (except against your winnings); why should we bail out these crooks at all?

Posted in economics | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Is cloud computing rubbish?

Posted by notauthoritative on Tuesday September 30, 2008

Here’s a pretty light-on-analysis piece quoting Richard Stallman and Larry Ellison’s skepticism and warnings about “cloud computing”. What’s going on here? Are these guys just too behind the times to “get it”?

As with anything, the devil is in the details; and this article is too lightweight to give the whole picture. A more nuanced analysis and report of what these two people are talking about would point out that their caution is all about trust – and mostly rooted in the warning not to store data in the “cloud”. Giving your data away to a third party is convenient, but is too likely to lead to long term grief; you have to trust that party to keep your data integral (backed up and accessible at all times), safe (good security from the outside), and secure (no access to your data from the inside, and no use of it for any purposes other than what you explicitly authorize). In truth, no existing web facility can claim to be better at this than keeping your own data on your own machines.

Richard Stallman is additionally making another point about cloud computing: as far as I understand him, it’s okay for you to use the cloud to perform computations if you’ve installed your own software there, but not reasonable to trust a cloud computer that someone else can put software on. In the end, that means really that any cloud computer can’t be trusted, even Amazon’s EC2, since Amazon’s emulator could be designed to allow them access to your running instance at any time. However, I’d guess that on a sliding scale of trust, their setup is more trustworthy than Google Apps (or Sun’s Project Caroline) where you create applications which are written to their libraries and APIs, without knowing exactly how those are implemented (and how they’re exposing your information to the world or to the application hosts). Google Apps is open source code, so you can run a version on your own computer; in this way, you could create your own cloud and trust it after auditing the code. However, you can’t trust Google to be running a version which is the same as what you could run at home, so even having the source code is not sufficient for trust.

I realize this is a lot more subtle than what the linked-to article is expressing. But even if my analysis is wrong, I hope I’ve inspired you to go read the source material and draw your own conclusion!

Posted in Technology | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Just Say NO

Posted by notauthoritative on Sunday September 28, 2008

Congress and the Administration have announced a bailout package for Wall Street which they hope to pass as soon as possible during the week of 29 September 2008. Here’s why the bailout still is a bad idea:

  • It’s still not clear that private capital can’t purchase these “toxic assets” from the institutions that hold them. The rumours of a government bailout have distorted the market to prevent any incentive for private firms to assign any value to these shaky mortgages and their derivatives.
  • The Treasure Secretary (Paulson) is authorized to purchase both mortgages and derivatives. Derivatives should not be purchased with taxpayer money; they’re crap, and should be allowed to stay underwater if the underlying mortgages can’t be rescued.
  • There should be some ceiling/cap on the price the government pays for these poorly underwritten instruments (mortgages, CDOs, and the useless credit default swaps which underlie them). There’s no restriction on this being just another huge transfer of public money to private interests, rewarding them for absurdly risky behaviour.
  • There’s no public shaming of the idiots who got themselves and the rest of us into this mess: in particular, the credit/risk analysis organizations which gave absurdly high ratings to aggregations of bad mortgages (Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s, etc), and there’s little identification of AIG and its ilk for hedging the risk of these mortgages without any intent to pay out (but every intent to collect their transaction fees and “premiums”).
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY, there’s no requirement for transparency; we really need to know what the magnitude of the problem is, how many swaps have been underwritten, what their scope is and who the counterparties are, so we can truly evaluate the magnitude of the mess and determine which financial institutions are functionally insolvent.I don’t see how Congress and Paulson can assign market values to the crap they’ll be buying with our money, without knowing the outstanding inventory.

FREE MARKETS CAN ONLY WORK WITH TRUSTWORTHY COUNTERPARTIES AND GOOD INFORMATION. Without transparency and trust, this exercise is going to just waste $700 billion of our tax dollars. SO CONTACT YOUR FEDERAL LEGISLATORS AND TELL THEM THIS BAILOUT IS UNACCEPTABLE!

Posted in economics, Politics | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

The (stupid) future of the Electric Car

Posted by notauthoritative on Monday August 18, 2008

Wired Magazine, in their Sep. 2008 issue (on the newsstands, but I can’t link to the article yet) has a cover story about an Israeli company called Better Place which is trying to develop an electric car ecosystem “to eliminate oil” as a transport fuel.

First things first. The young visionary who founded the company, Shai Agassi, is impressive; his goal is ambitious, and he’s clearly got the enthusiasm and credibility to bring important partners on board to realize his vision (he’s purportedly already raised $200 million to fund the startup). The plan is to create an area-wide (country-wide in Israel and small countries) grid of electrical charging stations and battery-replacement shops, charging car owners for recharging and battery replacements. This new company would in essence control the new fuel for their automobiles – stored electricity. They would not create or sell the cars themselves (and that would be insane anyway); the goal is to convince auto makers to use their battery and charging technology in new auto lines. To make things easy on car owners (and to hopefully drive adoption), they plan to have on-board software to calculate trips and battery capacity and to locate nearby charging stations and battery replacement shops, and charging stations will be easy to use with swing-out arms to automagically plug your car in for a charge.

This is attractive to a number of different constituencies. People concerned about the environment like the idea of removing oil entirely from transportation; hybrids (whether the 2-mode systems like the Prius or the superior “range extender” technology of the Chevy Volt) don’t do that and will still require gas stations and a gas creation and distribution ecology into the foreseeable future. Car manufacturers might find the idea of having a single standardized battery technology appealing, although to counter that, it may constrain their ability to optimize and/or differentiate their cars sufficiently. Electrical utilities might decide that this approach would bring them an expanded market for electricity much faster than hybrids will; hard to tell. Governments may find the idea of potentially being independent from foreign oil compelling and may subsidize the effort for that reason.

Here are some reasons why this scheme could be a bad idea for governments and consumers:

  1. Presented as a complete ecosystem for purely electric cars, the idea appears air-tight and compelling. However, after any modest reflection, it doesn’t seem to provide much of an advantage over the hybrid technologies which are already farther along in production and which will not put any one company in a monopoly position on batteries, software, or charging technology. Because batteries are large, dense, and expensive, electric cars will always have a limited range; so how you extend that range is still open to debate. The vision of Better Place works fine in a small dense area like Israel or Denmark (perhaps even for much of Europe) – when you run out of range (or are about to) you find a local place to plug in or get a new battery. Now imagine doing that for driving across the US Midwest or Southwest, or really across any sparsely populated area. The hybrid technology answer to running out of charge is to bring the extension with you; and, when that runs out, you can still take advantage of the already deployed gasoline infrastructure until you get to a charging place.
  2. Government subsidies (direct or in the form of tax breaks) should not be used to create monopolies. If any government subsidies are extended to Better Place they should extract a number of firm concessions in the business model (and to be fair, for all we know, these may already be in the business plan, but they should be conditions anyway). First, the charging infrastructure should be treated much like a deregulated residential power grid, phone system, or pipeline; Better Place may be allowed to install the chargers and extract a fee to cover their use and maintenance, but car owners should be able to buy their power from any operator. Similarly, Better Place should not be allowed to operate the battery-replacement shops directly or indirectly, but should instead be required to franchise them out (they are likely to prefer that anyway as it shifts the bulk of the capital investment to the franchise owners). Finally, the batteries themselves should have a number of different suppliers; Better Place should not the sole source or broker for the battery technology (and they might not want to be anyway).
  3. Privacy is a big issue; you can forget about it with these cars. Every time you plug in to charge your car you are announcing your location to a central server; and that’s only if the on-board software in the car isn’t already reporting that on a constant basis so it can find nearby charging stations and swap-shops anyway. Compare that to fueling your car and charging it at home; if you use cash at the gas station (and Citgo even encourages that by giving a 3-4% discount over the credit price) then you aren’t being tracked at all by anyone.
  4. Allowing Better Place too much control over the specification of the battery technology would potentially stifle innovation in the design of the actual automobiles. Because of all the design issues for high-energy-density auto batteries (heat, safety, discharge, operating temperatures, size, longevity, etc.), auto makers need to be able to design all kinds of trade-offs when creating electric cars. I think that in the end, auto batteries will be a lot like lead-acid car batteries or even more varied like laptop batteries; there’s standardization of the input (charging), output (12V/5V, etc), and the macro units themselves are built from mostly standardized cells. But you typically can’t use your SUV’s battery in your sedan, or your Toshiba laptop battery in your Dell or Lenovo, and in fact, you might not even be able to use the same battery across two laptops even from the same vendor. For different models, they make different trade-offs; and this is good. Trying to force a standardized battery profile just to facilitate the “battery bay” swapping would be a bad idea.
  5. What’s the profit model in automated battery swapping facilities? Will people pay a huge amount of money to do that ever, periodically, on a regular basis? Is there any analogue in the sealed-lead-acid battery world? Of course the charge lasts a lot longer in SLA batteries, and they don’t get swapped out as often. How many swaps per day/month/year would have to make this profitable for a shop, at what cost per swap? Put another way, what kind of capital investment would a shop require, and how long would a shop take to see a return on their investment?

In the end, although I like this guy’s vision (a future without oil for transport) and his dedication to the concept, I really think this is not a good way to go about it. I’m fine with getting a range-extender hybrid, since I don’t typically anticipate needing range extension during the work week. With that technology, I’m planning to get as close to an infinite number of miles per gallon as possible, and that’s good enough for me.

Posted in economics, privacy, Technology | Tagged: , | 7 Comments »

Party National Conventions

Posted by notauthoritative on Saturday August 16, 2008

In response to the article here.

Holding pens for protesters and “free speech zones” far away from the national convention are not consistent with the values of the democracy we’re trying to preserve. Peaceful protesters and persons with messages inconsistent with the event should not be removed from the scene. I find it absurd that the judiciary routinely strikes down campaign reform as infringing on the “free speech rights” of contributors; and yet, when we see people trying to exercise the actual rights to speech and assembly, we seem to collectively think infringing on their rights is fine.

I’m sympathetic to the needs of host cities to maintain order. Protests exhibiting the violence of the late 1960s, in so far as they were instigated by the protesters not the police, are not acceptable. Police should show restraint when performing crowd control; as long as speech is peaceful it should be allowed. When protesters instigate violence (against persons or property) they should be removed and charged with the appropriate misdemeanors or felonies.

I find it embarrassing that the Democratic Party in particular is resorting to these police-state tactics, and I certainly won’t send them any contributions until they desist from and denounce these types of crowd control. A pox on your house! It’s emblematic of the desire of politicians of both parties to avoid any real debate of the issues; they can’t handle protesters because they’re unprepared to answer their concerns, and they won’t debate any other legitimate Presidential candidates because they’re afraid “third party” candidates will make it clear that there are significant similarities between the candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties.

In addition – the press should eschew their complicity in the whole affair by making a point of reporting on the protest area conditions, and by giving voice to the protesters, thus negating the effectiveness of the attempted exile. If you tune in over the next few weeks to the political conventions, please make a point of also discovering coverage of the protests; consider http://www.democracynow.org or http://www.indymedia.org as sources.

Posted in Free Speech, Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail

Posted by notauthoritative on Monday July 7, 2008

The Federal Reserve can only fiddle with interest rates, but that manipulation may have little effect on the fundamentals of the current economic slowdown.

Without doing much analysis (I’m a doctor, Jim, not a rocket scientist), it seems there are at least two major drivers for the current economic problems. Inflation does not seem to be driven by a surplus of capital for spending – the type of condition that can be addressed by raising interest rates. Instead, it seems pretty clear that inflation is coming at the low end, as the CPI spikes due to the high cost of goods affected by the cost of transportation and farming inputs (driven by the high price for oil). A way to address this rise in prices is to help lower the cost of oil, or to have the government capture some of the oil profit (taxes on excessive profit, increased exploration royalties) and use that for capital/infrastructure investment. One way to damp the wild speculation in oil prices would be to increase the margin requirements for commodities traders; with margin requirements at 5% – 7%, they are betting on prices and trading oil with other people’s money. Increasing the margin requirement to 50% – 75% means having more capital in the game, and will likely damp the amount of churn in the market. It will hopefully shake out a lot of the speculators while allowing producers and end consumers to hedge prices properly.

The other major economic driver seems to be a huge drop in consumer confidence as the subprime mortgage fiasco unfolds. People caught in loans they can’t pay are forced to walk away from their homes or to cut spending back drastically to pay their mortgage. Other homeowners worry that a large number of houses coming on the market for sale will create downward pressure on their own home values and erode their own equity, perhaps even forcing them underwater. And of course whatever spending was fueled by home refinancing or equity loans will likely dry up, as fewer homeowners are willing to use their equity to finance shorter term expenditures. It seems the best way to shore up consumer confidence will be to allow courts and judges to reset or annul mortgages, refinances, and equity loans which were obtained with fraudulent information, where it can be demonstrated that the fraud was perpetrated by the broker or loan originator, not the applicant. To the extent that applicants participated in fraud to obtain loans or commissions, they should be punished. Profits and commissions obtained through fraud should be clawed back by their organizations to pay for the write-offs; or, if particular organizations are unable to withstand such losses, they should be allowed to go out of business and not be bailed out.

How will it help to have financial institutions bear the brunt of the mortgage meltdown? After all, won’t that dry up capital available for credit? Yes – but when the Fed talks about raising interest rates, they’re trying to effect the same thing anyway. And squeezing fraud, speculation, and unnecessary risk out of the system can only help shore up confidence in the system and convince borrowers that when they enter into a debt obligation, both sides believe it can be reasonably paid off.

Posted in economics | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Executive vs. Legislative promises

Posted by notauthoritative on Thursday June 26, 2008

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’d like progressive voters to evaluate the promises of the various candidates with a critical eye. Presidential policies can be implemented directly by their administration using Executive powers; or they’ll need to be passed by Congress or created in collaboration with some other body (WTO, UN, the private sector, etc.). I think we need to weigh the first very heavily over the second. If I think a candidate would be a miserable Commander-in-Chief, or if their DOJ would be a danger to civil liberties, then I really don’t much care what their position on health care or education is.

Here are just a few areas which would be affected directly by the next Administration through Executive policy. I may update these periodically:

  • Withdrawal from Iraq
  • Negotiating with Iran
  • A two-state solution to Palestine
  • DOJ/DOD: ending torture and the “legal justification” for the use of torture
  • FISA, warrantless wiretapping (and related in the short term: telco immunity)
  • TSA/border search and seizure of laptops and electronics
  • BLS: logging and drilling in public lands
  • Treasury: bailing out banks and other speculators
  • Labor: supporting workers’ rights including the right to organize
  • OSHA: passing meaningful safety guidelines and enforcing what’s already in effect
  • Suppressing science in departmental reports, suppressing whistleblowers
  • Re-implementing the collection and reporting of economic statistics on unemployment, underemployment, and the distribution of wealth

Here are some topics I would like to agree with the candidate on, but they’ll need a sympathetic Congress etc. to get them implemented:

  • structural solution to the mortgage crisis
  • implementing an immediate reform of the minimum wage (to a “living wage”)
  • healthcare reform, preferably a single-payer system
  • cessation of the creation of ethanol from corn for fuel
  • energy: cap and trade emissions control system with full initial auction, proceeds to fund research in low-emissions technology, carbon sequestration, and alternative fuels
  • education: reform of NCLB
  • poverty: fully funding UN and other international programs to reduce poverty and build economic infrastructure in poor countries, avoiding neo-liberal institutions such as the World Bank (or, reform of the World Bank)

etc.

One of the “in between” areas is judicial appointments. This should be a collaboration between the Administration and Congress, but lately Congress has been abdicating its role. So I’d put judicial appointments in the important category given the amount of influence the Administration has over them

Please add comments to help us determine how best to prioritize the importance of the candidates’ policies and promises.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Senator Chris Dodd vs. telco immunity

Posted by notauthoritative on Wednesday June 25, 2008

Everyone needs to read the comments of Senator Chris Dodd on 24 June 2008 as he attempts to block passage of the fatally flawed Senate version of the “compromise” FISA bill.

Please read that and then call one of the senators below. Please make sure you include a call to the campaign of Barack Obama.


Obama’s offices:
Senate DC office: (202) 224-2854
Senate DC fax: (202) 228-4260
Campaign: (866) 675-2008 (choose option 6)

Bayh (202) 224-5623
Carper (202) 224-2441
Obama (202) 224-2854
Inouye (202) 224-3934
Johnson (202) 224-5842
Landrieu (202)224-5824
McCaskill (202) 224-6154
Mikulski (202) 224-4654
Nelson (FL) (202) 224-5274
Clinton (202) 224-4451
Nelson (NE) (202) 224-6551
Pryor (202) 224-2353
Salazar (202) 224-5852
Specter (202) 224-4254
Feinstein (202) 224-3841
Webb (202) 224-4024
Warner (202) 224-2023
Snowe (202) 224-5344
Collins (202) 224-2523
Sununu (202) 224-2841
Stevens (202) 224-3004
Byrd (202) 224-3954
Lincoln (202)224-4843
Reid (202) 224-3542
Coleman (202) 224-5641
Durbin (202) 224-2152
Smith (202) 224-
Stabenow (202) 224-4822
Kohl (202) 224-5653
Leahy (202) 224-4242
Schumer (202) 224-6542

Posted in Politics, privacy | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Don’t Focus

Posted by notauthoritative on Tuesday June 24, 2008

Professor Larry Lessig recently requested that we don’t lose sight of “the goal” – electing Barack Obama as President of the United States. There are a number of ways in which his argument fails, both logically and personally.

  1. Perhaps most important is the conflation of avoiding a McCain presidency with electing Barack Obama. These are clearly not the same goals, given that there are more than these two candidates for President. Granted, so far only these two seem to be on the ballots of all 50 states; however, if any other candidate appears on enough ballots to gain 271 electoral votes, then they are viable alternatives to both McCain and Obama.
  2. Prof. Lessig asks us to worry first about electing Obama, and then about bringing pressure on President Obama to espouse progressive values and legislation. However, it’s clear that after the election it’s too late for influence, except perhaps as an implicit threat not to vote for him for a second term. If progressives don’t make it clear right now that their candidate must espouse progressive values, then they won’t have any seat at the policy table.Voters faced the same dilemma when pulling the lever for Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996. Progressives decided to hold their noses and vote defensively, avoiding a GHWBush second term and a Dole presidency. What they got was certainly better than what we have now, or a so-called McBush presidency, but it was not an administration which pushed aggressively for a progressive world-view. I think this was made clear by the abandonment in this cycle of Hillary Clinton as a candidate.
  3. Professor Lessig encourages us to have a particularly short-range focus over a long-range focus. The long-range strategy is to use the political system to make it clear to the Democratic Party and to individual candidates that they cannot win the Presidency without the support of progressive voters. Democratic candidates should therefore be courting the Edwards/Kucinich/Nader supporters, not alienating them in an attempt to “move to the (non-existent) center”. You’d think that after Gore lost in 2000 (with Lieberman! as his VP), and John “reporting for duty” Kerry lost in 2004, the party would have gotten the message.In fact, you’d almost have given Barack Obama credit (during the primary) for learning that lesson. It certainly sounded like “change” was synonymous with a new progressive approach to policy. His background would have given one “hope” that he’d buck the typical interests in Washington. Certainly his declarations around foreign policy (“meet with anyone”) were bold and appreciated. However (and I’ll go into these in a later post), we have these missteps:
    • Supporting conservative Democratic Congressional incumbents (Barrow, GA) over progressive primary challengers.
    • Support for corn-based ethanol as a fuel alternative, despite its horrible effect on world food prices and its own huge carbon footprint.
    • Auctioning off carbon credits to polluters (in a cap-and-trade system) and using the proceeds as energy credits for consumers?
    • Uncritical support for Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
    • Opting out of public financing – yes, we all know the system is broken, and yes, we know you can’t win without doing this. But it’s a disappointment all the same. It would be nice to be on the podium with McCain and Feingold and discuss why this might be necessary.

I’ll put more in a subsequent post about this, but I thought I’d plant the seed here. Progressives need to look hard at the promises made in the Obama campaign and evaluate each of them in terms of their likelihood of implementation. The most obvious distinction is between executive and legislative prerogatives. For example, when Obama promises a health-care proposal, it’s nice but it’s hot air, since it can only be implemented by the legislature. And we’ve seen how well that worked for the Clintons. Same with a lot of the education and environmental policies (except those which can be implemented by Executive Order). On the other hand, if you have warmed over Clinton foreign policy hawks as advisors, you can predict where the Commander-in-Chief might stand with respect to Iraq, Iran, Palestine, etc. And of course check out Senator Obama’s voting record on judicial appointments.

I fear that Professor Lessig’s post reads like the first in a series of disappointments; if we’re unlucky, leading ultimately to heartbreak. Much like the couple planning to get married in November, you can’t go into this with the idea that “we’ll get married first, then I’ll work on my partner to change later”. You need to work on your partner first, and if they’re not who you need them to be, then don’t marry them in November.

Posted in Politics | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Using GPL Software in for-profit companies (a response)

Posted by notauthoritative on Tuesday June 3, 2008

This post is a response to Edmund J. Walsh, who writes at http://www.law.com/jsp/legaltechnology/pubArticleLT.jsp?id=1202421869652 :

Mr. Walsh, I believe the tone of your article is misleading, as it at best makes some incorrect assertions.

First, as you are probably aware, the GPL does not preclude the use of open software by for-profit companies. Nor does the license interfere with the distribution of free software. The important point which your article initially glosses over (although it comes back to this later) is that the problem comes when a for-profit company modifies free software, distributes the modified version, and refuses to distribute the modifications. This is precisely the behaviour for which Verizon and others have been accused. Except for the AfferoGPL, all other uses (including modification) are fine even by for-profit companies. So in fact these freedoms do accrue to the users not the software. In particular, this assertion is misleading at best: “Any activity that leverages software for business advantage is likely to restrict the software’s freedom, and the growing use of open source software by for-profit companies has been a growing irritant for free software advocates”, since the opening phrase is not true (“Any activity…”).

Second, your assertion that “Running commercial Web services using open source software without releasing source code has also caused consternation in some quarters” is tangential at best. While there may be “consternation in some quarters”, this is not an issue with the GPL and is a red herring. It adds to the negative tone without improving the reader’s understanding of how for-profit companies may be affected by the GPL.

Finally, you make an unsubstantiated assertion with “The next legal fight could be an attempt to force release of proprietary server code due to some part of the output of the server constituting a ‘work’ generated by open source components on the server”. The cases that I know of which involve GPL code embedding parts of itself in derivative “works” have been analyzed and resolved in favor of the user; the user is free to distribute those derivative works without being required to license them in any particular way (GCC, Bison, Flex, etc.). Unless you can provide an example to back up your assertion, you’re at best using this statement to sow fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the ability of for-profit companies to use free software.

Perhaps the best counter-argument to your article would be to simply point to Google and their use (and extension, maintenance, and in some cases distribution) of GPL-licensed and other free software. Clearly their own legal department have determined that they can use free software to create huge business value. I think it’s unclear that your article provides any new or relevant information which would cause their counsel to re-think their model or their use of free software.

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Some Advice for Barack Obama

Posted by notauthoritative on Monday June 2, 2008

We now seem to be in the home stretch of the Democratic Primary, with Hillary Clinton looking less and less appealing as a Presidential candidate. As an aside, I think she could be doing herself some long lasting political harm by clinging so tenaciously to her increasingly unlikely chance to be nominated by her party. She has a chance now to step down graciously on her own terms. I’ve supported her right to be in the race up to this point, but it’s been a position which has been harder and harder to hold; if she had run a campaign on the issues alone, I think the country would have benefit from the debate. Instead, her ad hominem attacks on Barack Obama, and her whining about esoteric Party rules have made this at best an extremely unpleasant experience, and a detriment to her potential image as a states(man).

With that said, here’s my advice to Barack Obama as the putative Democratic candidate:

  1. Debate everyone, including Bob Barr, Cynthia McKinney, and Ralph Nader. Don’t come across as a wimp; if you’ve got the right plan and the right ideas, come out and defend them against all comers. Yes, the televised debates are little better than sound-bite carnivals. Shame on the networks and moderators for choosing that structure. But here’s your chance to show the voters of America that your ideas and plans stack up well against the available alternatives.
  2. In particular, don’t try to alienate Nader supporters.The Democrats have, since 2000, attempted to propagate two simultaneous and contradictory statements:
    1. Ralph Nader is insignificant. We don’t need to address his constituency, debate him publicly, etc.
    2. Ralph Nader cost the Democrats the elections of 2000 and 2004 and can do it again in 2008 if he’s not stopped.

    You can’t have it both ways. If he’s significant enough to cost you the election then you have to appeal to his supporters, with something more substantive than “If you vote for Nader then the Republican wins”. You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar; and don’t assume that the people who will vote for Nader would have turned out for any old Democrat including yourself (they may have instead have stayed home). Show some support for a single payer health care system; eschew violence against Iran; have a firm timetable for withdrawal from Iraq; address the destructive policy of treating corporations as natural persons; etc.

  3. You won’t pick up votes by moving to the right.Don’t make the same mistake Gore did in 2000 by choosing Lieberman as his VP. Don’t try to appear “tough on terrorism” like John Kerry tried in 2004. In this election you’re defending the high ground; as in 2004, this is the Republican’s election to lose. The more contrasts you can show between yourself and Bush/McCain, the better. Moving left will shore up your base and will get you the progressive votes you need to coax out to the polls to win the election.
  4. Make sure every vote counts. Don’t do what John Kerry and Terry McAuliffe did in 2004 – don’t solicit funds for recounts and challenges before the election, then sit on your hands after the election and leave the Green Party to investigate irregularities and fund recounts. As an African-American, you should make it your top priority to ensure that traditionally disenfranchised populations get the opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choice. After having been burned in 2004, you’re unlikely to be able to raise any special funds for that purpose; but then again who knows? The Obama campaign has shown that if nothing else it can turn out the voters and contributors in droves.

And those are my suggestions today. I’m sure I’ll have even more later. Feel free to ignore them, of course.

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Some Advice for Ralph Nader

Posted by notauthoritative on Sunday June 1, 2008

I can’t help thinking about what might happen during the Ralph Nader 2008 campaign, and the advice I’d give if I were involved as an advisor. So here are some observations. Keep in mind I’ve never worked on a campaign, so I have no expertise to call upon; on the other hand, I can see how this looks from the outside, so maybe these are useful:

  1. Nader is perceived as garrulous and difficult to work with. Unwilling to listen to advice, unwilling to work with others, unwilling to compromise – all the negatives ascribed to Jimmy Carter, who was arguably one of the best presidents of the last half of the 20th century. To appeal more broadly, these perceptions need to be reversed. Instead of the campaign appearing like “Ralph against the world”, Nader should consider promoting or even just mentioning Congressional candidates with platforms similar to his. They of course will run as far and as fast away as they can, but Nader can at least help his supporters/voters come out and elect a progressive Congress, and, if lightning strikes and Nader is actually elected, he will have a track record which will make it easier for him to push his agenda through Congress.
  2. Attacks on Democratic candidates overuse generalizations. The points Nader makes about the Democratic candidates (never mind the Republican) being influenced (“bought”?) by corporate dollars are certainly true to their extent. However, by being unwilling to point out real differences between the candidates, Nader alienates possible supporters with his oversimplification of their commonalities. It may be true that the differences between Obama and McCain are matters of degree and not principle; however, in many cases even these subtle differences are important.
    Take for example the topic of health care. None of the presidential candidates promote a single-payer system. However, Barack Obama at least recommends having a Medicare-like option in competition with private insurers; over time, if that option proves efficient and reliable, one could expect the majority of Americans to choose what would effectively turn into a single-payer provider. Yes, it’s not market change by fiat. But keep in mind, we’re voting for a President here; and this sort of change is not by Executive Order, but by an act of Congress.
  3. Focus on the ballots and debates. One of the most important accomplishments Nader can achieve in an election cycle is exposing the lock that the two parties have on the electoral system, and working to make it ever easier for alternate candidates to run for President. In this, he should seriously consider joining forces with other former third party candidates to bring attention to the issue. Unfortunately, ballot signatures are a zero-sum game, so there’s no benefit to working with current third party candidates; they’re both (all?) trying to spend their resources in an attempt to collect what signatures and certifications they need to be on the ballots in as many states as possible.

If Ralph Nader is going to spend the time and effort to talk people into spending their time and money on his campaign, then he really owes it to his supporters to make the best effort he can to be elected. I can’t help thinking of the advice you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

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The Progressive Pledge

Posted by notauthoritative on Wednesday March 5, 2008

Well.

The news today from the March 4 primaries is a bit disappointing. I have to admit that although Barack Obama would be at best my third choice for President (after Kucinich and Edwards), I prefer him to Hillary Clinton. After Edwards dropped out of the race I had to think long and hard about whether I could vote for either of the two candidates left in the Democratic Primary. After reading their campaign sites and doing some soul searching, I’m pretty sure at this point I could place a vote for Obama, but am pretty sure I can’t say the same for Clinton.

The setup: Reading the policy positions on the web sites, and thinking about where change happens on the federal level, I’ve realized that many of their proposals are nice to read, but will be impossible for them to achieve as President without the Congress making them happen. Health care, economic proposals, energy efficiency, etc.: these are all legislative prerogatives. So while it’s nice that they want to try to do all these things, the bottom line is that they just can’t, unless there’s a progressive majority in Congress doing the heavy lifting.

So, much of what they can accomplish in office will depend on what comes out of the legislature. I can see in general three different possible legislative outcomes:

  1. Their proposals come through Congress intact and unscathed.
  2. Bills are passed which implement some but not all of their proposals. In which case:
    1. The partial implementations make conditions better; or
    2. The partial implementations make conditions worse (for example: mandated health care coverage [which puts a huge wash of insurance premiums into the insurer's pockets] without regulation [such as requiring companies to issue coverage despite pre-existing conditions]).

    OR

  3. Bills are passed which end up being more progressive than what the President has in mind.

Here’s how I would ultimately want to tell the difference between Obama and Clinton: I want each of them to take The Progressive Pledge:

I pledge that if elected, I will work with Congress to achieve my stated goals. If I am presented with an implementation which is more progressive than what I have outlined, I will sign it into law. If I am presented with a partial implementation of my proposals which ends up being less progressive than my proposals, I will veto the partial implementation and send it back.

Any candidate which starts with progressive proposals and which can take that pledge has my vote in November. Unless there are more than one such candidate? – boy that would be nice, to have a choice.

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Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety

Posted by notauthoritative on Tuesday January 29, 2008

This quote from Ben Franklin has become popular again due to the debates over domestic wiretapping and spying. Bruce Schneier makes a convincing argument that in fact privacy and security are not a zero-sum game. There are plenty of ways to enhance security without compromising privacy; and in fact many of the privacy-invading programs which have been developed in the US actually could plausibly end up hurting security.

Certainly, in many cases we are asked to accept the collection and inspection of our private communications and actions by both the government and private entities, in return for mostly ephemeral benefits (“security”, “convenience”). The current Administration and Legislature are actively asking us to trust both the government (and the various branches thereof) and private entities to collect only what’s “necessary”, use the information “appropriately”, and to prevent disclosure to “unauthorized persons”. Unfortunately, we really cannot trust those entities and individuals, either today or in perpetuity; this is in fact why we have a government, particularly with oversight through checks and balances. What they consider “necessary” and “appropriate” may not in fact coincide with what we believe.

We also cannot trust that even with good intentions, these entities can accomplish what they set out to do. See this analysis by Matt Blaze, Whitfield Diffie, et al. of the technical infrastructure proposed to implement in the United States communications hubs and systems. It’s clear, given the examples of past systems and performance, that the US could in fact be developing and deploying a network which would allow inimical and nefarious entities to collect information on its citizens as well. The very fact that such a hugely valuable system exists at all is reason alone to expend effort to breach it; add on top the inadequate measures the designers are proposing to secure it, and you have a disaster which can be clearly predicted. Best to find alternate ways to gather information of similar value and perhaps better quality.

Don’t be terrorized! We can have freedom and security, privacy and safety; it’s not a zero-sum game. We just need to be vigilant and creative.

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Vote Edwards on Super Tuesday

Posted by notauthoritative on Monday January 28, 2008

An open letter to the Democrats in Alabama, Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah:

Please consider casting your vote for John Edwards in your upcoming caucus or primary. With Dennis Kucinich out of the race, I think Edwards is the progressive candidate of choice. While I admire Barack Obama’s activism in the past, and his compelling speeches, his voting record in the US Senate is uninspiring, and his campaign rhetoric makes me worry that he’s being coached by the same “center-seeking” advisors who were so successful with Gore in 2000 and Kerry in 2004. There is no political center, and you can’t be everything to everyone. You have to pick a side, and I think Edwards has done that.

Read his web site, his positions and proposed policies. They’re not perfect, but they’re not wishy-washy either. If you want to send a clear message to the Democratic Party that progressives must be heard and cultivated, then please vote for Edwards on Super Tuesday.

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Please, Edwards, stay in the race

Posted by notauthoritative on Tuesday January 22, 2008

I’m not sure I agree with Greg Saunders about being ABC (anyone but Clinton); I would still have to work pretty hard to cast a ballot for Barack Obama. So I really want John Edwards to stay in the primaries through the convention.

I want to be able to signal to the eventual Democratic nominee that there is a significant progressive community with policy disagreements which need to be addressed. We can’t do that if we can’t cast ballots for the actual progressives in the party – Dennis Kucinich (despite his bizarre flameouts) and John Edwards. Given only a choice between Obama and Clinton, how do we express our dissatisfaction with their policy choices, except to sit out the primary process? And afterwards, how do we make clear to them that they still need to earn our votes? Do we really need to repeat 2000 and 2004 all over again?

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Don’t mention Reagan

Posted by notauthoritative on Friday January 18, 2008

This is supposedly a link to the interview with the Reno Gazette Journal, in which Barack Obama compares the current times to 1980 when he alleges the country was “ready for a change” and that Ronald Reagan effectively capitalized on that desire.

Let’s see. I’ve read follow up articles from Obama supporters in which they try to pitch this as a nuanced expression – Obama was discussing the times, and the Gipper’s ability to capitalize on the mood of the nation, but not praising Reagan’s policies? (Friends, Democrats, countrymen, I come to bury Reagan, not praise him?)

Problem #1: Obama makes this reference during a time in which the Republicans are falling over themselves comparing themselves and their policies to Reagan. Even Rudy Giuliani repeats “Reagan, Reagan, Reagan” in between saying “9/11, 9/11, 9/11″. So this comparison or analysis is not happening in a vacuum; it’s not part of an abstract debate. Either Obama knows this and is trading on the popularity of Reagan anyway, or the man is inexcusably clueless (the Ken Lay problem).

Problem #2: Obama calls Reagan’s popularity a reaction to the “excesses of the 1960s and 1970s”. This in fact may have been true about his election and perhaps even re-election. But Reagan was also very clearly saying one thing and doing another. The “shining city on the hill” was also selling arms to Iran to fund covert operations in Nicaragua; participating in violent regime change in and Panama; busting PATCO; allegedly negotiating with Iran to hold US hostages until after the election; blowing out the budget and deficit to fund the military-industrial complex, etc. Does this bring back any fond memories? Is this what the country needs – an affable wolf, who will try to run covert circles around Congress and the Judiciary?

Problem #3: Reagan’s election was a reaction to the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s. Obama gives the American electorate too much credit here for both foresight and historical memory. One doesn’t have to look too far back to see why Reagan was elected: high interest rates, gas/oil embargo, Iran hostages, Carter’s uninspiring personality. Reagan could have explicitly promised all the things he ended up doing: blowing out the budget and deficit, invading small defenseless countries, extending the power of the executive branch through covert operations, etc., and he still would have been elected. And it would have been just a lot more of the same as the 1960s. Americans were reacting to Jimmy Carter, not voicing a desire for some paradigmatic shift.

I don’t want to go on and on. I think the bottom line is: if you’re trying to appeal to Democrats, especially progressives, it’s crazy to bring up the reminder of the last long dark period in American politics. Between Reagan and Bush I, there were twelve years of the same crazy neo-cons who re-surfaced in the administration of Bush II. Mentioning Reagan favorably in a speech or interview rubs a raw wound for Democrats and progressives; it should be considered the third rail of especially primary politics. At best, that kind of pandering to conservatives should be saved for the general election.

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Don’t elect Rudy

Posted by notauthoritative on Monday January 14, 2008

According to this article, Rudy wants to “stimulate the economy” with more supply-side tax cuts, including dropping the rate on capital gains to 10% from 5%, and cutting (nominal) corporate taxes from 35% to 25%.

This will in effect represent a new federal subsidy to the already-rich in the hopes that they will turn around and re-invest that in the economy. However, the rich are actually not very likely to turn around and spend their windfalls – a separate study shows that every dollar given to the rich returns 9 cents of economic stimulation, whereas a dollar increase to the poor (by extending unemployment etc) creates an economic impact on the order of $1.73. If we want to stimulate the economy, we should be giving money to those who will spend it.

I read Barbara Ehrenreich’s excellent book “Bait and Switch” this month. It makes clear that the benefits of increased worker productivity are being reserved to employers and not being shared with workers; instead, workers are seeing an average decline in salaries, and typically a loss of benefits, as they’re forced into the pattern of serial employment. Corporations maintain their economic level of activity with fewer overworked employees. Rudy’s tax cut proposal would allow rich investors to keep more of the same benefits, instead of keeping that money in the federal coffers, and using it to stimulate the economy by actually giving it to people who actively participate in it.

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Not a good idea – Loyalty Pledge

Posted by notauthoritative on Thursday January 10, 2008

The Democratic Party is trying to nullify your influence in the primary process by asking for a loyalty pledge. It would be a bad idea to take them up on it.

According to Wikipedia, a loyalty oath typically comes at a time of stress, crisis, or conflict. One has to wonder whether that crisis or stress is internal or external to the Democratic Party. For example, the Party could argue that the current Administration has caused various crises domestically and in foreign relations, that the candidates for the Republican presidential nomination will likely continue policies which extend and exacerbate the situation(s), and that this is a time to strengthen the Party by a show of solidarity.

However, the crisis may also be internal. Unfortunately for the Party, the candidates from the Democratic nomination for President differ in their policies recommendations; the expressed policies of some of the candidates may in fact also extend or exacerbate some of the problems engendered by the current Administration. Voters in the Democratic primaries and caucuses actually have a real opportunity to express how they feel about the current crises facing America, and by their choices for the nomination, express their priorities. Do you want a candidate who will reverse course from the current Administration, in effect being diametrically opposed to all the Administration’s tenets? Vote for Dennis Kucinich or John Edwards. Were you initially in support of, but currently frustrated with the Iraq war? And still rather hawkish on Iran and Pakistan, and do you want tepid health care “reform”? You may prefer Hillary Clinton. Are you a candidate for change, despite your voting record in the Senate? You might choose Barack Obama, who was endorsed today by John Kerry, a man with so little conviction and charisma that he could not defeat a wildly unpopular sitting president.

Wouldn’t it benefit you as a liberal or a progressive to express support for the Party and whomever is their eventual nominee? No. It might help the Party advertise how “strong” it might be in the general election; how many votes its nominee might be able to count on. But keep in mind one very important fact: once the Party can ‘count on’ your vote, you have lost any ability to expressed a nuanced opinion of the candidates’ positions. Simply put, if you commit now, they don’t have to listen to you any more. Especially if you don’t have any big money to bundle or contribute.

If you believe that there is any difference between the candidates on issues which are important to you, make it clear to the Party that they either need to support sympathetic candidates, or put pressure on their nominee to support your position, or you will ‘walk’. You can only have influence within the Party as long as your defend your right to vote for someone else: the Republican, a candidate from another party, or for no one at all.

And how depressing is this news? What is happening to the Democratic Party – it is intent on eating itself? I hope the Party in TX loses this case. If they don’t, I hope they lose a large number of members and accelerate their slide into insignificance. This is a state party which doesn’t support candidates for state-wide office, has state-wide candidates who endorse Republicans for governor, Lt. Gov, and Speaker of the House, and when they do run candidates, make absurd choices like Tony Sanchez. They might as welll just fold up their tent and go home.

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OLPC and Intel

Posted by notauthoritative on Wednesday January 9, 2008

I’ve got nothing more useful than opinions on the OLPC/Intel spat. That said, here are some observations based on the article at news.com:

  1. If what Nicholas Negroponte says is true, that Intel is selling Classmate PCs to countries at a loss (i.e., “dumping”), then this is at best antisocial behaviour. Dumping your goods on a market at a loss is a tactic to drive off the competition in anticipation of recouping those losses in some other way or by higher prices later on. By dumping computers on a market, with whom is Intel competing except OLPC?
  2. No commercial board of directors would allow a representative from a competitor. Why would OLPC be different? I would guess that Intel was given the choice to stop competing directly or leave the board. But how would I know?
  3. The story makes a more serious allegation: that Negroponte and OLPC demanded that Intel stop supplying chips to other low-cost PC makers. If that’s true, it’s really an absurd thing for OLPC to ask for. At best, OLPC should demand that Intel supply them with chips on terms no less favorable than other PC manufacturers. In that case, OLPC would ensure that as a charitable organization, it’s getting a deal at least as good as for-profit ventures; and that Intel is not trying to undercut sales of the XO laptop by providing chips to competitors on better terms.

I don’t personally believe that there should only be one solution for getting technology to children in the developing world. If the OLPC foundation truly can foster a market in which their XO laptop competes fairly, then the beneficiaries will truly be the constituents they hope to serve. If however the market is being distorted by Intel selling laptops and chips below cost to countries and select manufacturers then in the end, Negroponte is correct to call them on it and boot them from the project.

But again, what do I know?

* Footnote: OLPC stands for One Laptop Per Child.

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US Presidential Candidates and Iraq

Posted by notauthoritative on Wednesday January 9, 2008

I have a bad feeling this will be a common post title. We’ll see. Implosion today: John McCain, in NH, promising to keep troops in Iraq for 100 years?
From democrats.org:

One of our trackers caught John McCain telling a Derry, New Hampshire crowd that we’ll have troops in Iraq for one hundred years. Can you believe it? Just last week, one of our organizers was at a town hall meeting for John McCain in Derry, New Hampshire. When an audience member asked him what he thought about President Bush’s plan to keep troops in Iraq for 50 years, McCain answered, “make it a hundred.”

Okay, so does that mean he’d keep troops permanently stationed in the Middle East, or he’s pointing out that Bush has no plan to bring US troops home?
Personally? I think the US should get out of Iraq. It’s costing them a fortune and achieving little. Even their intense pressure on the Iraqi government to privatise their reserves in favor of US companies is not working.

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