On Politics and Technology

Seven days ago, John McCain’s campaign posted McCain’s technology platform to his website. As expected, reading through it, it sounds pretty good. A lot of tax breaks for R&D, and technology investment. He wants to “Preserve Consumer Freedoms”. He commits to pursuing “High-Speed Internet Access For All Americans”. He commits to patent reform to reduce the costs of challenging bullshit patents.

Unfortunately, there are quite a few places where this policy falls short. For one, the policy is clear that McCain does not support Net Neutrality, the principle that service providers should not be able to choose what content and applications are allowed across their network. Regrettably, the actions of many service providers in the nation have proven that Network Neutrality is vitally important. This has turned into a battle between consumers and providers, and I am immensely disappointed that McCain has thrown his hand in with the providers, or more accurately the lobbyists for the providers. This opposition to Network Neutrality fits in well with McCain’s stated goal to “Protect The Creative Industries From Piracy”. However, while unlicensed copying (piracy is far too strong a term), is a problem, law makers attempts to regulate the behavior through law has been heavy handed, ineffective, and immensely negative for consumers. I’m looking at you, DMCA.

I would go on, but frankly, Stanford Law Professor Lawrence Lessig does a better job of addressing this issue than I could ever hope to. In the following video, he provides his analysis of McCain’s technology platform, and why he thinks it falls short.

I don’t agree with everything Mr. Lessig has to say. For one thing, I think he ascribes far too much to President Bush in regards to technological failures of the last eight years. But, there is the fact that the Bush Administration has expressed very little interest in technology, particularly after the ‘Bubble’ burst back in 2000, which was more of a function of Clinton-era apathy towards the technology market than anything else. However, whatever the cause, this country has slipped, and this is largely because of the increased regulation placed on users by providers. To date, the Government has done nothing to stop it, and it seems likely that they are, in fact, going to embrace this behavior.

This is one place where I believe that Obama has the upper hand. His technology platform recognizes the need to protect the openness of the Internet. His proposed policy recognizes the need for truly Open Government, an idea which hasn’t been particularly well codified, but ultimately comes down to making the government more transparent, and therefore accountable, to the people. After the last eight years, I suspect many people are interested in that. There is the argument that too much openness can impede the functions of government, but ultimately, so does too much secrecy, as the secrecy impedes the ability of voters to make the best educated decisions about who will lead the nation.

Is this issue of technology enough for me to vote for Barack Obama? I’m not sure. I agree with Lessig that this issue is vitally important to the continued success of this country. However, I’m not convinced that Obama is what he says he is: a maverick, and a vector for change in Washington. According to GovTrack.us’ analysis of Obama’s time in the Senate, he is merely a rank-and-file democrat. His voting for the issue of Telecom Immunity, which he’d sworn to oppose, shows that he is not immune to giving in to special interest. And migrating away from Technology, I agree less and less with Obama’s policies.

I want change in Washington, DC. I really, really do. But it’s simply not going to happen with either of these candidates. McCain is an honorable man who has surrounded himself with slime and morons, and he makes the mistake of listening to them. Obama is like most Democrats, a sweet exterior which hides something different underneath.

Robert Steele gave a talk at The Last HOPE about what he calls the Earth Intelligence Network](http://www.oss.net/EIN). The audio is available for free download, and I’d suggest listening. In the talk, Steele is highly critical of both candidates, focusing on how this is not going to be an election for change, and outlines work that’s beginning to truly bring about change. It’s needed. We, the People, just need to do it.