"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

More on Internet Empowerment

This is a good follow-on to the bit I quoted from _Air Guitar_ earlier. Someone at PBS had the brains to interview my former comrade Zephyr Teachout to talk about the internets and politics this cycle, comparing and contrasting Dean For America with The Ron Paul Revolution. It's an extremely good interview:

NOW: Could you talk about how that sense of connection to the candidate is determined by the way the campaign treats them?

ZT: I could answer to two real possibilities with politics on the Internet. One is that you use the Internet as a massive and really effective marketing tool. You build massive databases, you learn everything you can about the people in those databases, you figure out exactly how they can be useful to your campaign, and you ask them to donate money, door-knock, the virtual equivalent of being a sort of army of stamp lickers.

And you may be useful as a supporter in such a campaign. But you're not gonna have a pretty deep identification in the campaign. It's clear that you're taking your marching orders from Hillary Clinton or Mitt Romney. That they have figured out how you can be useful.

The other latent possibility is that it enables groups of people to come together—offline and online, outside of the campaign, do their own scheming, do their own thinking, and take real responsibility for the strategy and the policy of the candidate or group that you're supporting.

Almost all the candidates, this cycle, have tended strongly towards the managerial use of the Internet.


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Site was down a bunch yesterday.

Here's why.

Nice to have transparency from a hosting provider.

Unrelatedly, here's this music that seemed to be following me in the distance at Burning Man, and which I tracked down because I'm working in a client's office this Saturday, and one of the clients themselves had it play on his radio stream.

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Tubes on a Plane

Looks like I'll miss out on JetBlue's in-air internet service rollout by a couple of days:

bq.. Starting next week and over the next few months, several American airlines will test Internet service on their planes.

On Tuesday, JetBlue Airways will begin offering a free e-mail and instant messaging service on one aircraft, while American Airlines, Virgin America and Alaska Airlines plan to offer a broader Web experience in the coming months, probably priced at about $10 a flight.

p. In a certain dream of techno-utopian fantasy, I can see the appeal of blasting off around the world -- business class, natch -- and never skipping a beat in terms of social participation. We'd be masters of the universe, each and every one.

Part of my DC meditation is trying to hone in on the distinctions between the old world and the new one, between a world based around corporations that are modeled after the WWII-era Pentagon, and a post-postmodern world modeled on networks. There was maybe something in-between these two -- there in the 80s and 90s -- some intermediary stage marked by first-wave globalization, a world modeled on TV commercials maybe.

Ok. Now I'm rambling. Back to work!

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You Become What You Hate

Another politics post, this time to note something techy about how campaigns use email. Previously, I'd said mean things about Team Obama for sending out a message "from a supporter" to a much wider subset of their email list. Today, the Dodd campaign used another SpamKing tactic, faking an apparent "mistake email" as a gimmick to get people to donate.

This stuff may work in bringing in the dough, but I really hate it. Creating the illusion of peer-to-peer contact (in Obamas case) or of an unfiltered "behind the scenes" look into a campaign (as Dodd's email does) undermines the most important virtuous things I like to think teh internets can bring to a Democracy.

You know, people want real connections, they want to know what's really going on, and instead of actually engaging, these tactics prey on that desire. They're false in very important ways, and they undermine the hope that such things as an egalitarian and transparent society are really possible, even in a networked era.

It calls to mind this quote from George Meyer (the most influential of all the Simpsons writers) in a Believer interview:

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Tech Note: Use FireFox pre-release w/Leopard

A quick nerd-note. Since upgrading to my new laptop, which came with the new version of the Mac OS, Leopard, I've been stymied by the fact that drop-down menus don't always work in FireFox. Basically, select form elements on a lot of sites (including Basecamp, which we use for work) don't drop-down when you click them. You can still switch the settings using the arrow keys, but this is unpredictable and a pain.

Anyway, leaning on my ever-expanding reach of A-list contacts, I hit up Mr. Ponderer and he pointed me to the nightly build ftp spot. The package has dropdowns working fine and isn't unstable in any other ways I've observed yet. Plus, you can run some pre-release software, which is worth at least two or three geek credits.

So, just in case anyone has this problem. Maybe google will send them here and find a solution.

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I got a chance to peep the OLPC product at Drupal Camp last weekend in Berkeley. Now mine is on its way.

This project may or may not work, but it's the strongest concerted effort to date by socially conscious technologists to directly alter the course of human events. I think it sets an important precedent.

Plus, based on my brief test drive, these are awesome little machines. I'm looking forward to playing with mine.

Update: extended through the end of the year if you want one (thanks for the tip, Andrew!)

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Eagles Follow Radiohead

Another imageless post, but via Atrios check it out: The Eagles are also disintermediating record labels.

Building on early work by Prince, and several upstart indie successes, it looks like more and more established acts are taking this route. Look for a new kind of helper company to emerge that can do online distribution, fan-club stuff, and booking for tours.

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Back In Black

Well, I have a new lappy. A late-night food run on my bike resulted in me marinating my old computer in Sprite for 15 minutes or so. That's not so good. It may or may not be resurrectable, but with deadlines looming I pulled the trigger and drove over to Walnut Creek to get a fancy new black MacBook (the Apple store in Emeryville was sold out).

It was a necessary thing, but the whole experience gave me The Fear. I don't like the Apple retail experience, a strange mix of yuppie consumer snobbery and cultish fanboyism. It's a dark future, and the "upscale exurban shopping area" kind of scene around Walnut Creek only served to increase my paranoia. It seems like the sort of place that will be caught in the vice pretty soon -- too decadent, too soft, lots of useless luxuries to lose.

But I can't complain. BAD Camp is rolling on well. The weather here is gorgeous. Mighty Oregon prevailed over the Sun Devils. And the new computer is pretty sweet. It's got the latest OS, and it really is way cooler to have a matte black laptop as opposed to shiny white. With any luck the old machine will live again and it can become the new house computer. At the very least, I think I'll be able to get my old data back. Lots of ancient email that I like so search through from time to time.

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Obvious Systemic Problems Part 2

Via Mr. Kos, more proof that we are not as free as we can be:

bq.. Goodwin leads me over to a red 2005 H3 Hummer that's up on jacks, its mechanicals removed. He aims to use the turbine to turn the Hummer into a tricked-out electric hybrid. Like most hybrids, it'll have two engines, including an electric motor. But in this case, the second will be the turbine, Goodwin's secret ingredient. Whenever the truck's juice runs low, the turbine will roar into action for a few seconds, powering a generator with such gusto that it'll recharge a set of "supercapacitor" batteries in seconds. This means the H3's electric motor will be able to perform awesome feats of acceleration and power over and over again, like a Prius on steroids. What's more, the turbine will burn biodiesel, a renewable fuel with much lower emissions than normal diesel; a hydrogen-injection system will then cut those low emissions in half. And when it's time to fill the tank, he'll be able to just pull up to the back of a diner and dump in its excess french-fry grease--as he does with his many other Hummers. Oh, yeah, he adds, the horsepower will double--from 300 to 600.

"Conservatively," Goodwin muses, scratching his chin, "it'll get 60 miles to the gallon. With 2,000 foot-pounds of torque. You'll be able to smoke the tires. And it's going to be superefficient."

p. Because we are serfs in our cars, beholden to a relatively small business elite when it comes to answering the automotive engineering questions of our times, we are not doing what we could be doing.

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Obvious Systemic Problems

So, in 2001 the Bush Administration cut the funding that NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab was using to investigate some promising nuclear fusion technologies. This guy's project is sitting around in need of $2M in funding to do a proof-of-concept which would demonstrate something we've never seen before: a controlled fusion reaction that produces a net energy gain.

Why can't this guy raise $2M on the internet? It seems totally possible, but there's a critical gap in expertise and entrepreneurial acumen. I'm a fan of the positive disruptive potential that this here world-wide-web offers, and if we can scrounge up tens of millions for a bunch of lag-ass politicians on a regular basis, why can't we start making strategic investments in things that Make Sense for humanity?

This would be cool, and essentially means dis-intermediating existing political systems as a means of shepherding the Public Good. It's an exciting prospect, both in this particular case (who wouldn't kick down $20 if it would get this thing off the ground?) and as a test case for how we might Solve Obvious Problems going forward. It would be nice if the State were more useful here, but it's priorities are fuxxored, and its ability to deal proactively with big problems that are associated with entrenched influences (global warming for $2000, Alex) is apparently quite weak.

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