Yes, soon, I may be able to retire from blogging about the Wired State, which I'm not particularly good at, because there are better bloggers with more resources and more attention on this subject now, for example at Red State.
I didn't use to read Red State much at all, but after the elections, when they repudiated the crazies in the GOP like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Michelle Bachman, etc. there was hope. After all, I had just voted Republican for the first time in my life as a protest. I don't think I could become a Republican party member, but I'd like the party to get better than it is.
I only care for about half of what I read on Red State -- so much of it leaves me cold because it's either about gun stuff, which I don't support, or it's about that day-to-day political scrum of domestic issues on the Hill about who said what or who fought with whom or wasn't righteous enough -- and I can't get hugely interested in that.
But I like Tech at Night (I wish the guy would just write and stop clearing his throat all the time and apologizing) and there have been some great pieces on the whole Google problem and politics which have been very well done.
Obama, Google and the Democratic Party
Today, there is a great expose on Google and the intimate connections with the Democratic Party.
Of course, I noticed the picture of Eric Schdmit and Harper Reed on Google+ back in November on election day, and it's taken them all this time to notice it, even though I put links in the comments a few times to my piece, Harper Reed and the Soulessness of the New Machine. It is almost impossible for any new voices to get attention there -- though they promise you a blog page (like Daily Kos) and they promise to elevate some of the blogs, I simply never got the blog page because evidently they are either overwhelmed or don't like me. Oh, well.
Neil Stevens has a great piece, Whose Side is Google On? which really gives the lie to the constant refrain from techies that there are a mixture of political views in these big companies. Of course there aren't. Geez, look at the campaign chart above! Says Stevens:
A few years ago, Google was deeply in bed with the left wing activists like Moveon.org and Free Press pushing for Internet regulation. When Obama was elected, Google got even more deeply embedded with both the left and the government. At this point, Republicans began paying more attention to Google and Google realized it had a political problem.
So, after years of lining up with the left to demand more government regulation of the internet, Google changed course. (“Google cozies up to the GOP“) Google promoted their Republican lobbyists, hired Republican consultants, sucked up to conservative organizations and even hired a squishy Republican, Susan Molinari (R-MSNBC) to run their DC office.
Stevens asks whether Google will jump back into the arms of Moveon.org and CAP etc. on "net neutrality". Oh, of course they will. They never left. They feel they can move in for the kill now with Obama II.
Remember that enormous, sophisticated data operation the Obama campaign had? The one that gave them massive daily data on public opinion trends in almost every segment of potential voters.
It’s almost as if Democrats had access to some sort of huge database of real time information about what the public was reading or writing online. The kind of breathtakingly large, real-time data that could be used for real-time trend analysis, predictive modeling and even behavioral manipulation.
Well, I've been trying to find the smoking guns on that, and of course, in this discussion here over Katherine Maher's article on Westphalia, they all vigorously deny it.
My hunch is actually that Eric Schmidt is not going to stay with Google. I don't know why I feel that. I just do. Maybe because he sold his stock, and because his title is demoted, and because his trip to North Korea to snuggle with the Dictator and bond over connectivity cults wasn't so well-received and even got sort of upstaged by his own daughter's blogging.
But Google may be calving off other nonprofits to permeate society better and maybe they'll have him run one.
Google Running Intel for Dems?
Ben Howe says:
The real threat is that Google, or perhaps just a few people within the leadership of Google, may be quietly operating as a private intelligence agency for the left.
And every time you use Google or Gmail you could be contributing just a little bit more of your behavioral data to the left.
Well, they probably are doing that. But he has no proof. You can be sure that Google would work very hard to keep traces of anything like that out of the public eye. If you notice, the top Googlers really are very well hidden, and aren't even in Google -- McLaughlin doesn't have a Wikipedia entry -- neither to others in the top echelons, current and former. Do they have a deal with Jimmy Wales? Or are they just good at working their own non-secret-for-them algorithms?
Ben Howe is on stronger ground when he simply researches the connections of all the leadership and the engineers to Obama's campaign and OFA:
Obama’s impressive data team also boasts a large number of high-profile connections to Google, starting at the top with Rayid Ghani, OFA Chief Scientist. Not only has Ghani keynoted an address at Google Research Labs, according to his online CV (PDF), but he also spoke this month at his grad school alma mater Carnegie Mellon University in a lecture series sponsored by – you guessed it – Google. Ghani’s former department at Carnegie Mellon boasts seven alumni on Google’s payroll on their website.
Ghani’s role on the Obama campaign was to direct Project Dreamcatcher, which used “text analytics to gauge voter sentiment” about issues and speeches. I wonder how he came up with that idea? Could it have been in talking with Katharina Probst, Senior Software Engineer and Tech Lead at Google, who, according to her own site, is “working on new features for Gmail and Gmail Ads?” (Google is currently facing some heat over how it exploits Gmail user data for advertisers – but they would never exploit user data to help the Obama campaign, right?)
They Have All Come Out from Under the Berkman Center's Overcoat
Ben Howe also notes Catherine Bracy, OFA Community Outreach Lead, Product Manager, Tech4Obama Program Manager, and co-director of Obama’s San Francisco technology field office and formerly of the Berkman Center "an administrative director at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, which receives millions in funding from Google," says Howe. Well, no surprise there; I have spent a lot of time over the years arguing with people from the Berkman Center like Ethan Zuckerman, an avid GrumpyCatFitz follower, and Jillian York, who is no longer there but is now at EFF.
I was trying to undertand what all the neuralgia was from York over my probing on her position about "net neutrality". I put all the tweet fights here on Storify. She claimed she wasn't flogging it at the OSCE Internet 2013 meeting because it's a domestic issue and that's "not her job". I pointed out that it was a position of EFF's, where she worked, and she could hardly separate from it. She claimed it was a division of labour between foreign and domestic affairs and that EFF didn't really lobby on "net neutrality". Oh, come now. I pointed out the blog illustrating that a former intern at EFF had gone on to become the Free Press advocacy director on "net neutrality," surprise, surprise. She made it seem like this was some terrible exaggeration and mocked it by saying OMG, we cited someone's blog! Well, it's not just someone's blog, it's your former guy, now in this other group that does your agenda. She thinks that the microscopic differences between all these Mitch Kapor groups, despite the overlapping of boards and funders, are somehow significant. They aren't.
One of the things I really, really complained about all last year was the way these copyleftists were taking the "net neutrality" gambit and trying to insert it into international fora and put it on par with the problem of countries like Russia filtering the Internet or countries like Tajistan simply blocking all of Facebook or trying to -- not to mention the arrests of bloggers such as in Azerbaijan.
There was no question that Rebecca MacKinnon, on the US dime, speaking as the keynote speaker at the OSCE Dublin conference, pushed for "net neutrality" as did the UN rapporteur Frank Le Rue, somewhat indirectly, and some European states. The US activists also got various Serbs and Azeris and others to speak up from their NGOs about the issue -- and of course there is a very active Dutch group called Free Press (which claims it is not related to the US Free Press group) which is pushing it -- I got into a debate with their staffer and really challenged them doing this -- "net neutrality" in the hands of oppressive governments in fact means further granting of control of the Internet for filtration and censorship -- it's the old New Information Order gambit of yesteryear at UNICEF, or the World Information Society summits in which journalists and ISPs are pressed into service to fulfill "progressive agendas" that are "helping mankind," and then of course kill off competition, markets, freedom.
The fight is more dramatic in Europe where they have a history of distrust toward private media, more state broadcasting for TV, and a natural inclination to have the state then run the Internet, too, in the name of "freedom from capitalism" which they view as a negative -- much the way Lessig calls markets a "restraint" -- or worse.
Fake Claim that Comcast 'Censored' OWS
Free Press' rep at OSCE Internet 2013 Tim Carr openly called for "net neutrality" and gave a talk claiming falsely that Comcast censored OWS and Amazon censored WikiLeaks -- wildly tendentious stuff that no one was available to push back on from the panel, which left me just being able to question some of it from the floor, which was limited. Free Press is of course a Marxist front group (McChesney).
I'm reading an old Rand study now, The Organizational Weapon: A Study of Bolshevik Strategy and Tactics by Philip Selznick. I swear every word reads like the "community organization" background of Obama, and the vehicle that Obama for America is now morphing into. It's refreshing to read a book where there is no apology for frank discussion of how communists infiltrate organizations because they were really doing that and it was really visible just after the war.
We shall speak of organizations and organizational practices as weapons when they are used by a power-seeking elite in a manner unrestrained by the constitutional order of the arena within which the contest takes place. Thus the partisan practices used in an election campaign -- insofar as they adhere to the written and unwritten rules of the contest -- are not weapons in this sense. On the other hand, when members who join an organization in apparent good faith arei n fact the agends of an outside elite, the routine affliation becomes "infiltration".
As this book was published in 1952, there's no Internet -- but that means there's no distraction to studying how organizations work, how people are indoctrinated into them, how recruitment and ideological zeal is cultivated and of course loyalty.
With the whole Google and Wired State sort of thing, it's not like they have to have a YPSL-style summer camp to indoctrinate cadres. There's no need for boot camp when you have bar camp. Through all the various conferences and unconferences, bar camps and TED talks and Sun Valley and Roots Camp and Wikimania and even Tech @State, people find each other and bind and develop that formulation of "the line" that is so important to cadre organizations.
What does "cadre organization" mean to me? It doesn't have to mean some literal communist cell or even special indoctrination; it means people who work with a very aggressive line that does not brook dissent, and who react to outside criticism by either trying to vilify the critics as in the wrong political opponents' group, or demean them as "trolls," or say that they are so complex and technical that the average person just can't understand them. You see all of that cadre work on this thread related to the Westphalia article I discussed.
I think one of the ways the ideological line was crafted and advanced was through RightsCon (aptly named, as it is a con using rights as a cover). This will be back again this fall. Here the Silicon Valley regulars leading the charge like EFF (John Perry Barlow) took advantage of the fact that the Ebay VP's wife, Elaine Donahoe, as an Obama bundler, was named as US ambasador to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. She still holds that post. And that office has been used to advance Internet Freedom, in part understood in the classic way, but also as a toehold to give MacKinnon a platform and slip in the "net neutrality" stuff and anti-SOPA and anti-CISPA work.
At this Rightscon, Silicon Valley was able to bring in all the top human rights officials, like the Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights Michael Posner (whom I've known and worked closely with for some 30 years) and all the leading human rights groups, and lobby them to their heart's content with no outside critics, trying to convert them to their vision of "Internet freedom". They didn't succeed in totalling throwing these people to adopt "net neutrality" -- but they didn't have to, as the purpose was to soften them up to the approach of moral equivalence between control of the Internet by China and Russia and "control of the Internet" through something like SOPA. The result was collaboration, many more meetings to come, and of course, the deploying of budgets.
I don't know who will fill Posner's post now that he is leaving. He and several other key human rights leaders like Harold Koh, the legal advisor, and Samantha Power, the democracy staff person at the National Security Council, are leaving. Maybe they don't feel they can justify drones. Or Bradley Manning's pre-trial detention. Or any number of things. I will be very, very interested to see who gets in that spot at DRL, whether it will be one of these very copyleftist-primed cadres or whether it will a a veteran style civil rights leader like Gay McDougall. In a way, it doesn't matter, as this office already has Dan Baer in charge of the Internet Freedom portfolio, and he may be friendly to all the copyleftist types, but he is under adult supervision at State that means he cannot go too far with this (I hope).
There's no question that these folks are battered mercilessly by the left and those far more radical than they are or can be.
US Delegation at OSCE Gets it Right
There's nothing objectional of the "net neutrality" or "anti-SOPA" stuff in this speech delivered by Baer at OSCE last week. But it has some generic phrases that have been tooled-and-died to fight internal bureaucratic battles with those that might worry if they pass CISPA that it will enable countries like Russia to say they are doing no different (that's actually not the case, because the nature of the regime matters). Says Baer:
But just as we support individuals who are targeted every day for exercising their rights online, we are conscious of a broader threat to the future of Internet openness. Right now, in various international forums, including OSCE, some countries are working to change how the Internet is governed. They want to replace the current multi-stakeholder approach, which supports the free flow of information in a global network, and includes governments, the private sector, and citizens. In its place, they aim to impose a system that expands control over Internet resources, institutions, and content, and centralizes that control in the hands of governments. These debates will play out in international forums over the next few months and years.
Katherine Maher goes much further -- it's clear from her piece that she'd just as lief not have governments at all in her notion of multi-stakeholder approach, except as possibly cash cows to just keep supplying broadband to the masses -- she romanticizes -- and misreports -- the origins of the Internet:
And unlike almost every other global resource in history, the Internet largely escaped government regulation at first -- probably because no one could figure out how to make money from it. From the outset, it was managed not by governments, but by an ad hoc coalition of volunteer standards bodies and civil society groups composed of engineers, academics, and passionate geeks -- awkwardly dubbed the multistakeholder system.
In fact, it was managed by the US government in DARPA and ARPANET and all the rest, and the USG then handed it over to nonprofits like ICANN with the understanding that they would be good stewards. It's not clear that they are. Whenever people hear the term "standards bodies", they genuflect and grow very pious -- as if technical standards are beyond the ability of mere mortals to question.
But that's sheer nonsense, as these bodies like IEEE and IETF are not democratically run with due process like Congress -- they can be swayed by whoever shows up and behaves the most aggressively. I constantly cite from personal experience the example of the Virtual Worlds working group in IETF which was run by a loose consortium of companies and coders who argued about things like copyright, but which then got entirely taken over by the US military. Completely. And they have been unfriendly to copyright and push the open source line as a cost-cutting measure (supposedly) -- they want to be able to download and save all the OAR files and have them as freebies and not pay for virtual builders or worry about licensing fees or problems.
Problems involving people's ownership rights; their livelihoods as designers; issues of identity, geospatial location; proximity data; privacy; on and on and on -- these are not mere technical problems. They are profoundly human problems and they should not be left only to Google and its chosen Democrat or OFA apparatchiks to manage for all of us. We need to fight hard against all of this.