Science Addiction

A dormant blog by Devanshu Mehta

Tag: Politics

Change Watch: Aggressive Rules Against Lobbying

Here are new rules put in place by the Obama transition team:

  • Federal Lobbyists cannot contribute financially to the transition.
  • Federal lobbyists are prohibited from any lobbying during their work with the transition.
  • If someone has lobbied in the last 12 months, they are prohibited from working in the fields of policy on which they lobbied.
  • If someone becomes a lobbyist after working on the Transition, they are prohibited from lobbying the Administration for 12 months on matters on which they worked.
  • A gift ban that is aggressive in reducing the influence of special interests.

In all, good news. [via Jonathan Martin]

Change Watch: Of the People, By the People

The new Change.gov web site keeps getting better. There is a section that allows you to submit ideas for the new administration. Also, while you’re there, take a look at the science and technology agenda section.

Change Watch: ACLU’s Wish List

Like I said earlier, everybody’s got a wish list for the new President. Not everyone provides a timetable the way the ACLU has.

They divide up their “Actions for Restoring America” in to things to do on the first day, the first 100 days and the first year. The first day includes things like stopping torture, closing Guantanamo, and ending extraordinary renditions. The next 99 days are more interesting from a geek policy standpoint.constvoter_button2.gif

  • Warrantless Spying: Yeah, no kidding. ACLU wants an executive order recognizing the president’s obligation to comply with FISA and prohibiting the NSA from warrantless spying. Hurray!
  • Freedom of Information Act: Under something called the “Ashcroft Doctrine”, the current administration chose not to release info for all FOIA requests if there was a “sound legal basis”. Translation: if we say so. The ACLU wants that to go away.
  • Real ID: They want Homeland Security to suspend the regulations for the Real ID Act– again, hurray if it happens.
  • Scientific Freedom: To remove political control of scientific and academic inquiry.
  • Media Consolidation: To urge the FCC to address the growing problem of media consolidation. I’m not sure what the FCC can do (other than reverse its rule loosening cross-media ownership), but it’s a noble goal.
  • Network Neutrality: To mold the FCC to enforce these principles. This was part of Obama’s technology policy paper, but it remains to be seen how much he involves government in enforcing it.
  • Online Censorship of Soldiers: “Those who would fight and die to defend our freedoms abroad should not be denied those same rights themselves.” Well said.
  • Fleeting Expletives: At times over the past 5 years it has seemed that the only purpose of the FCC has been to make sure that anyone who says a naughty word on television gets fined in to oblivion.
  • World Intellectual Property Organization: The negotiations that the US has had with WIPO have been restrictive of free speech and fair use of data. Must change.

All valid points. What remains to be seen is how much of a priority these concerns remain in such harsh economic times. In some cases, making the right kind of appointments to FCC and other positions should take care of concerns.

Until inauguration day on the 20th of January, I will be covering some of the aspects of the transition to the Obama administration that affect technology and open government in a series called Change Watch.

Change Watch: Everybody Has a Wish List

Everybody has a wish list for the new President, including the Government Accountability Office. It’s strange how one arm of the legislative branch has a ready list of things they need from the next President. Do they know they have a President in office right now?

In any case, there are two points in their list that are of our interest:

  • Retirement of the Space Shuttle: To get this done, they want the administration to fill key leadership positions in NASA, which should be interesting. Leadership in NASA has recently had a contentious relationship with the scientific community over climate research.
  • Digital TV Transition: Not sure what they want the next President to do here, but basically they want the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to be more proactive.

Again- they already have an FCC, an NTIA and President Bush, and yet they are willing to wait until the end of January for “urgent” action.

Until inauguration day on the 20th of January, I will be covering some of the aspects of the transition to the Obama administration that affect technology and open government in a series called Change Watch.

Change Watch: Change.gov

Until inauguration day on the 20th of January, I will be covering some of the aspects of the transition to the Obama administration that affect technology and open government in a series called Change Watch. changegov.jpg

Today, Change.gov was launched. It is the official web site for the “Office of the President-Elect”. It is an extremely forward-looking web site which hopes to capture the enthusiasm and energy of Obamamania before is subsides. The site continues where BarackObama.com left off- except for the user participation part. One hopes that there is a direct way for citizens to participate. Maybe Joe Trippi’s MyWhiteHouse.gov idea?

UPDATE: Alan Rosenblatt at techPresident has a couple of great ideas about how the new President can keep the Obama social network alive- either as an independent community outside of government or as a “white house social network” to directly channel the energy of his supporters.

Watch Vote Reports From All Over the Country

I’ve been a bit involved with Twitter Vote Report and it is a lot of fun to watch people reporting their voting experiences. I’m helping out with reviewing the reports and some of them are just heart wrenching. (refresh or go to the main site for the latest reports).

Ten Years of the Digital Millenium Copyright Act

On the 28th of October, 1998, Bill Clinton signed the Digital Millenium Copyright Act (DMCA) in to law. And the technology industry was never the same. This week, it turns 10.

The Anti-Circumvention Provision
The purpose of the anti-circumvention provisions in the DMCA was to prevent copyright pirates from defeating copy protection (DRM) mechanisms. In reality, neither the DMCA nor DRM have done nothing to stop piracy on the Internet. The DMCA has had an effect though- a chilling one. An effect on innovation, fair use, competition, expression. Read the rest of this entry »

What Genius Planned the FCC Meeting for the 4th of November?

The FCC commissioners plan to vote on “white spaces” in their next meeting on the 4th of November.

Detour #1: What are “white spaces”, you ask? Why I have a nifty video for you explaining just that. And this from EFF:

For those new to the issue, “white space” refers to the unused spectrum that exists between broadcast TV channels. The FCC has been weighing the merits of allowing newer, smarter wireless communication devices to operate in the the otherwise unused spectrum — similar to the way that Wi-Fi devices exist today.

Detour #2: Who had the brilliant idea of planning the meeting for the 4th of November, when a certain Barry O. and John M. will be fighting it out in the title match of 2008 and the right to insult foreign dictators for the next 4 years?

Back on topic. Predictably, the National Association of Broadcasters has sent an “emergency” request to remove white spaces from that meeting. After 4.5 years of deliberation and 30,000 comments, it is an emergency.

I understand everybody is tired and cranky after all that time, but really- if you cry foul every time something comes up for a vote, people might just think you expect to lose.

In the words of David Isenberg:

Sorry, NAB, the FCC isn’t here to protect the broadcasters. It is time to test this idea in the real world.

Block the Vote

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Greg Palast have a great article on voter suppression tactics at Rolling Stone:

These days, the old west rail hub of Las Vegas, New Mexico, is little more than a dusty economic dead zone amid a boneyard of bare mesas. In national elections, the town overwhelmingly votes Democratic: More than 80 percent of all residents are Hispanic, and one in four lives below the poverty line. On February 5th, the day of the Super Tuesday caucus, a school-bus driver named Paul Maez arrived at his local polling station to cast his ballot. To his surprise, Maez found that his name had vanished from the list of registered voters, thanks to a statewide effort to deter fraudulent voting. For Maez, the shock was especially acute: He is the supervisor of elections in Las Vegas.

Twitter Vote Report Ramping Up

I have already written about it, but the Twitter Vote Report project is picking up steam, with a lot of highly talented individuals and organizations involved. The idea is to:

As news outlets and blogs will report on Election Day stories, we are building an invaluable resource for thousands of voters to get immediate help. From questions like “where do I vote” or “how do I make sure that my rights are being upheld,” Twitter Voter Report augments these efforts by providing a new way for voters to send text messages (aka tweets) via cellphones or computers which will be aggregated and mapped so that everyone can see the Nation’s voting problems in real-time.

You can help:

Right now, you can help out by adding to this set of dummy test data that will be used to test some of the code.