Thirty Profiles

Dave Burstein of DSL Prime has posted profiles of 30 FCC candidates to his web site, including one transition team member:

Susan Crawford, now teaching at Michigan, also has enormous respect from her peers and would bring international perspective from her role at ICANN setting world Internet policy

The selection of Crawford to join Kevin Werbach on the FCC transition team has already gotten some of my colleagues on the deregulatory side pretty excited, as she has the image of being a fierce advocate of a highly-regulated Internet. And indeed, she has written some strong stuff in favor of the “stupid network” construct that demands all packets be treated as equals inside the network. The critics are missing something that’s very important, however: both Werbach and Crawford are “Internet people” rather than “telecom people” and that’s a very important thing. While we may not like Crawford’s willingness to embrace a neutral routing mandate in the past, the more interesting question is how she comes down on a couple of issues that trump neutral routing, network management and multi-service routing.

We all know by now that the network management exception is more powerful than Powell’s “Four Freedoms” where the rubber meets the road, but we lack any clear guidance to ISPs as to how their management practices will be evaluated. Clarification of the rules is as much a benefit to carriers as it is to consumers. The one way to ensure that we all lose is to keep lumbering along in the murk of uncertain authority and secret rules. Internet people are going to ask the right questions to their candidates, and anybody who can satisfy both Werbach and Crawford will have to be a good choice. Check Werbach’s web site for his papers. Unfotunately, the most interesting of them is not yet in print, “The Centripetal Network: How the Internet Holds Itself Together, and the Forces Tearing it Apart”, UC Davis Law Review, forthcoming 2008. Perhaps he’ll post a draft.

The question of multi-service routing is also very important. Crawford has written and testified to the effect that the Internet is the first global, digital, multi-service network, which is substantially correct. The Internet is not fully multi-service today, however, and can’t be unless it exposes multiple service levels at the end points for applications to use easily. The generic public Internet has a single transport service which has to meet the needs of diverse applications today, which is not really an achievable goal in the peer-to-peer world.
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Live Election Map


This is from AOL.

Obama flips Ohio, and wins Kerry states Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. This is looking like a wipe-out, and even Arizona is too close to call so far. Obama’s turnout models say he’s going to win Virginia, and that will seal the deal.

Nate Silver has called the election for Obama, based on Ohio and his model. Congratulations, President-elect Obama. (7:00 PM PST.)

And congratulations, America, for this historic breakthrough.

And a personal note to Kevin Martin: please clean out your desk and leave the building, promptly.

Early Returns favor Obama

OK folks, we now officially have a trend:

Dixville Notch, NH (AHN) – The town of Dixville Notch, New Hampshire, with a population of around 75 people and only 21 registered voters, has picked Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) to be the next president of the United States. Obama defeated Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) by a margin of 15 votes to 6.

I figure the election is going to be essentially over by 6:00PM Pacific Time: if Obama takes Pennsylvania and Virginia, McCain is pretty much out of it, and if you throw in Indiana it’s all over:

“We could know Virginia at 7,” he said. “We could know Indiana before 8. We could know Florida at 8. We could know Pennsylvania at 8. We could know the whole story of the election with those results. We can’t be in this position of hiding our heads in the sand when the story is obvious.”

For a rundown of the early states to watch, see Nate Silver in Newsweek.

It’s a shame that McCain has to lose so decisively, because he’s obviously a decent man with many admirable qualities. If he had only spent a little more time on his VP pick, he could have saved his reputation. But he’s bound to have already realized that, and probably tried to get Palin to graciously step down. She’s not the sort of person to do “gracious,” of course, and I look forward to reading the full story in the weeks to come.

Election Story

This little gem is from FiveThirtyEight.com

So a canvasser goes to a woman’s door in Washington, Pennsylvania. Knocks. Woman answers. Knocker asks who she’s planning to vote for. She isn’t sure, has to ask her husband who she’s voting for. Husband is off in another room watching some game. Canvasser hears him yell back, “We’re votin’ for the n***er!”

Woman turns back to canvasser, and says brightly and matter of factly: “We’re voting for the n***er.”

In this economy, racism is officially a luxury. How is John McCain going to win if he can’t win those voters?

I surmise that Tuesday night’s election night coverage isn’t going to take very long.

Election not tightening

FiveThirtyEight.com is the most interesting election horse race site. It’s run by Nate Silver, the Baseball Prospectus stats guy, who does the most thorough analysis of polling data, sophisticated in a way that only a Sabermetrician can fully appreciate. Silver rejects the “tightening race” narrative that we’ve started to hear, as he looks at state polls and projects the Electoral College outcome:

If the state polls aren’t showing movement toward McCain, then it is probably the case that any perceived movement in the national polls is sampling noise. If anything, in fact, the state polls are showing movement toward Obama on balance, not just in battleground states like Virginia, but also in non-battlegrounds as diverse as New York, Oklahoma, Oregon and Arizona.

Movement in the popular vote in non-battleground states is not significant, so let’s not get distracted. But let’s not forget to vote, either (I’ve already voted, thank you very much.)

Skype defense not persuasive

Now that the whole world knows that Skype’s Chinese partner, TOM, has been censoring IM’s and building a database of forbidden speakers for the government of China, Skype President Josh Silverman had to respond:

In April 2006, Skype publicly disclosed that TOM operated a text filter that blocked certain words in chat messages, and it also said that if the message is found unsuitable for displaying, it is simply discarded and not displayed or transmitted anywhere. It was our understanding that it was not TOM’s protocol to upload and store chat messages with certain keywords, and we are now inquiring with TOM to find out why the protocol changed.

We also learned yesterday about the existence of a security breach that made it possible for people to gain access to those stored messages on TOM’s servers. We were very concerned to learn about both issues and after we urgently addressed this situation with TOM, they fixed the security breach. In addition, we are currently addressing the wider issue of the uploading and storage of certain messages with TOM.

I don’t know what’s more disturbing, the fact that one of most vocal net neutrality advocates is colluding with the government of China to finger dissidents, or the fact that they didn’t know they were collaborating. Frankly, this corporate defense raises more questions than it answers.

There are always going to be countries where the local laws are antithetical to post-enlightenment values. I think the correct response to such situations is to just say “no” and go somewhere else. For particularly compelling services, such as Google and Skype, the fact that the foreign service provide can’t do business in the fascist state then becomes a pressure point for change. The companies that collaborate with China are selling out their futures to fund the current quarter. How much money does Skype need to make, anyhow?

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Debate Strategy Notes: Don’t debate, pontificate

Tom Shales saw what I saw in the VP debate, a lot of evasion:

Palin basically stated early in the debate that this would be her strategy. She said she wasn’t necessarily going to respond to the questions of the moderator or charges from Biden, but instead, “I’m gonna talk right to the American people.” Since this was billed as a debate, not a speech, her remark came across as arrogant, and as an admission she would duck tough questions.

And duck she did. Biden is an impressive person and he’ll make a fine vice-president.

I never realized that Peggy Noonan had a drug problem before reading this deranged piece of spin. She had to be high to write the last three paragraphs, in which she segues from Palin’s debate performance to some imagined love Tiny Fey must have for her subject. The incoherence is understandable, given what a bizarre event this was.

The so-called debate was actually a conversation between Joe Biden and Gwen Ifill on the issues, conducted while a perky little bunny hopped around the stage singing lines off index cards and weaving a maypole. I hope nobody saw this outside the US, because I’m going to Europe in a few days and I don’t want to have to explain the American political system to quizzical foreigners. Sometimes it sucks to be an American.

UPDATE: Uncommitted voters scored it a knock-out for Biden, with a 2-1 margin.

(CBS) Uncommitted voters who watched the vice presidential debate thought Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden did the best job by a margin of more than two to one, according to a CBS News/Knowledge Networks poll taken immediately following the debate.

My fellow citizens aren’t that dumb, you see.

Joe Gandelman has compiled the mother of all reaction lists, but most of it is boring. Read this instead and find out why some people think Palin won the debate: she’s regular, and Joe’s one of them damn elites. Totally.

Debate Verdict: McCain snatches defeat from the jaws of victory

I score the debate for McCain. The first part, on the financial crisis & bailout, was even, since neither candidate is truly in the loop. They’ve both tried to look they were involved, with McCain pulling the stunt about suspending his campaign to rescue the bill, but it didn’t work: the deal was still uncertain at debate time, so McCain had to break his promise to stop campaigning and work on the deal to make the debate. He didn’t have enough specifics to give straight answer on the bill, and neither did Obama. McCain was weak throughout the whole segment, and Obama should have decked him but didn’t.

The second part, on foreign affairs and national defense, went to McCain. Obama continues with the ill-advised strategy of trying to paint McCain as a Bush clone, and that’s just not going to work. Sure, it plays well with Democratic audiences, but Obama has to reach out to the indifferent voters who still see McCain as a maverick. As Debra Saunders puts it,

George W. Bush is not running for re-election. The gratuitous Bush-bashing has gotten old – and it makes Obama sound like a college student at a political rally. Maybe it works with the moveon.org crowd, but most voters are looking for a leader for the next four to eight years. And it takes no leadership to kick someone with an approval rate higher only than that of Congress.

McCain was able to rattle off a long list of areas where he’s disagreed with Bush, and it’s persuasive. Obama scored points on being opposed to the Iraq War in the first place, but it’s academic at this point, and besides, most of America was where McCain was on that issue.

So at the end of the debate, McCain was the winner, and by a significant margin. The only saving grace for Obama is that a lot of voters probably tuned out before McCain gathered steam toward the end. But the McCain team soundly lost the post-debate debate. Joe Biden was all over the place giving interviews and sounding like an elder statesman, while Palin was in some undisclosed location getting a brain transplant. It was like a tag-team wrestling match on one side against a team of one on the other. Palin’s absence from the airwaves reinforces her lack of ability, and McCain’s pre-debate dramatics made him look less serious as well. So McCain did fine in the second half of the debate, but lost all the surrounding events.

One theory about McCain’s pre-debate dramatics holds that he was trying to buy time for Palin by delaying Thursday’s VP debate. The Couric interview suggests that’s a plausible ploy.

The VP selections are important, because there’s a greater than average chance that the winner of this election won’t live out his term. McCain is old and infirm, and Obama’s black. We have a nasty history of assassinations in this country, and Obama is bound to have his haters among the segment of the population that goes for that. That’s gruesome, but that’s the way I see it. I remember the Kennedy assassination and the attempts on Ford and Reagan all too well.

Another way to look at it: if we consider the candidates even in terms of temperament, preparation, and intelligence, then we have to turn to the VPs to be the tie-breaker. Biden vs. Palin’s not even close.

So how should Biden deal with Heidi Doody in their debate? Certainly, he can’t be snide or condescending, and he can’t be aggressive because she’s a girl. But it’s a real challenge for somebody who’s not an insult to the American system of politics to share a stage with someone who is. I’d suggest he take a page from Obama’s playbook on Bill O’Reilly and tune it for the occasion. Like Palin, O’Reilly’s completely insane, and while he’s probably not a dunce in real life, he certainly plays one on TV. Obama didn’t let O’Reilly ramble, politely interjecting his comments as soon as it was apparent he’d made some sort of point or asked some sort of statement.

Biden should let Palin talk, because she’s her own worst enemy. Let her talk, ramble, and tie herself up in knots, and then summarize her answers for the audience. When she trots out multiple talking points and connects them incorrectly, play it straight and say something like “Gov. Palin says the bailout is a job-creation umbrella program, I think, but I have to disagree. We don’t look to government to create jobs, that’s what free enterprise is for. The bailout is about preserving our financial system so that people *with jobs* won’t be thrown out of their homes. I’m all for job creation, but that’s not what the bailout is about.” He can also look quizzical and scratch his head when she makes some boneheaded remark, and there will be several. McCain tried to protect her by over-using the phrase “Obama’s naive and clueless,” but it won’t be necessary for Biden to say that in so many words, because the voters are going to see it with their own eyes.

But in any event, this is the high point of the McCain campaign. He’s just had his military debate, against a backdrop of high anxiety about the future of our economy. The next three debates are all downhill for him, as are current events, and at this rate the election could easily be a colossal blowout.