31 posts categorized "December 2010"

General Washington and Currency

I just finished reading Ron Chernow's 800 page biography of the most important and most mysterious of the Founding Fathers of the United States, the namesake of the 42nd State of the Union, General George Washington. 

450px-GW-paintingI take it Chernow's biography may not be all that serious in the eyes of Washington scholars. There is so much original source material by and about Washington and everything he did every day of his adult life (Chernow says scholars can get to know him better than his closest intimates knew him), the idea of a one-volume life of the plantation owner, soldier, politician and resident-grownup-among-the-Founders is preposterous.

But I found it fascinating. Most of all because the social issues and political divisions of his time continue to play themselves out today, some 21 decades later. It's amazing how fiercely partisan the country was during Washington's presidency and during his brief retirement.

He was a complicated man, imperfect, not a brilliant rhetorician nor as agile at churning out political philosophy as the other Founders, though a prolific and expressive writer. He was not able to distance himself from his social circumstances nearly enough to assess slavery objectively, but, unlike Jefferson or other prominent Virginians, his struggles of conscience were toward finding some action in the world he might actually effect, not words for the sake of cover. According to Chernow, Washington foresaw that failure to deal with the evil of slavery would destroy the Union. Also according to Chernow, and though this contradicts something I recall reading elsewhere, Washington, unlike Jefferson and perhaps unlike Lincoln, didn't project that those who were forcibly enslaved, once emancipated, should of necessity be driven from the country in which they lived. And while he may have been naive to think that native American peoples would adopt colonial lifestyles, his version of manifest destiny wasn't, from what I can tell, overtly racist.

Before he was President, before the country became the rancourously partisan country that it became by his second term and continues to be today, Washington was physically vigorous. Actually, he remained active his whole life; but Chernow's book emphasized how effortlessly graceful and seemingly invincible Washington was as a young officer and through the harrowing 8 or 9 years of the Revolutionary War. Perhaps not until Franklin Roosevelt did we again see someone so public assume risks so fearlessly and so unselfishly.

So I get now to the point of this post, which is, we have the absolutely wrong image of Washington on our paper and metal money, perpetuating a misguided popular memory of Washington.

Why do we fix Washington in his old age, rather than in his prime? His prime being the Revolutionary War, or the Constitutional Convention, or even his first term as President.

I think the answer may be because Washington was already a myth before he died, and when he died, the country fixed a then-contemporary image of him and "preserved" it in the instant hagiography. That left no room for a popular legacy considered from a longer perspective.

But that was 200 years ago. We ought to have perspective enough now to reject the 19th Century corseting of Washington.

Hamilton Ten Dollar Bill Front

Look at Hamilton (he of the flaming hair) on the Ten Dollar bill: handsome, young, dangerous!

We ought to reclaim an image of Washington as a man as buff as President Obama, as vigorous as Teddy Roosevelt, as canny as Lincoln without the gloom.

The Washington on the Dollar Bill and on the Quarter should be General Washington, perhaps looking across his shoulder astride a horse.

Images, top to bottom: George Washington and William Lee, by John Trumbull, c. 1780 (when Washington was about 48 years old); Alexander Hamilton on the current US Federal Reserve Ten Dollar Note (courtesy of a media kit downloadable from the Bureau of Engraving and Printing); George Washington at Princeton by Charles Peale Polk, c. 1790.


Political Self-Projections

Part of what's fun about Twitter is the opportunity to bear witness to your self-perception.

Mayor Bloomberg's Twitter bio signals he is all about the future:

Picture 19

I may think of him as "Mayor" but he thinks of himself as "Mike," and he wants us to know that being an entrepreneur (innovative, restless, disruptive, looking around the far corner) means more to him than his present occupation as a public servant. "Independent Leader" at the end of the list doesn't signify least important, but instead marks what's next, Mike's daylight for a presidential run should the country's disgust with hyper-partisanship congeal.

You can tell Mike is not writing his own tweets. It's the tone, it's the substance, it's the hectoring without adjustment to account for the lack of an audible accent. All that and the Tweetdeck mark of origin give him away.

Picture 16

If Arnold Schwarzenegger isn't writing his own tweets, then he's at least respectful enough of his fans (constituents?) to hire, not a political spinmeister, but a Hollywood-class creative writer to mimic his voice and to pretend she is using his iPhone. I say "mimic," not "parody," because Schwarzenegger is that rare, authentic personality who transcends and immunizes himself from parody by making self-parody his signature discursive style.

Picture 15

I gotta hand it to the guy. He lives in the moment and doesn't at all seem to be looking past his current job, even as it comes to an end!

Back to the Mayor . . . er, Mike. This week, given the weather, he is finding mayoral duties are requiring him to live very much in the present. Here are some representative tweets from the last 24 hours.

Picture 17

Former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, an earnest, competent public servant, lost reelection last year because, in dealing with a botched snow clean-up, he made the mistake of giving the City's efforts a passing grade (a "B"). If he had it to do over again, maybe he would do like Mike and agree with the whiners while throwing out a stream of stats to occupy the persuadable.

This final tweet is an all-time classic. When it comes to snow wreaking havoc, maybe mayors just can't resist sticking up for themselves.

Picture 21

Government as Protector of Advertising!

If there was any doubt (I harbored a smidgen!) that everyone assumes advertising is by default the lifeblood of the commercial web, doubt no longer.

Here's a two minute segment from a Congressional hearing on potential "do not track" legislation. Listen to how the Congressman and the two federal regulators all assume that advertising and advertising revenue is something to be protected and nurtured (by government!) for the viability and growth of internet commerce!


Note to iPad readers: particularly because the most recent re-design of this blog was undertaken expressly for you, I'm sorry that this -- and all other C-Span clips -- will not work for you; but this one may be worth going to a computer to hear.

Open Internet Rules that Will NOT Apply to Mobile Broadband

This is the second of three posts about the FCC's "open internet" rules and the accompanying Report and Order released in December 2010. The first described how the lengthy Report elucidates the mere two pages of the substantive rules, filling in a picture for how the FCC sees itself extending the golden age of broadband.

Here, in a nutshell, is the FCC's rationale exempting mobile broadband from the better part of its new, open internet rules:

"[W]e . . . recognize that wireless broadband is different from the traditional wireline world, in part because the mobile marketplace is more competitive and changing rapidly. In recognition of the still-nascent nature of the wireless broadband marketplace, under this proposal we would not now apply most of the wireline principles to wireless, except for the transparency requirement."

Except that the quote is not from the FCC's Report and Order. It is from an August post on Google's public policy blog, summarizing Google's and Verizon's proposed open internet framework.

To be fair, the FCC open internet rules also state that, in addition to the transparency requirement, mobile broadband providers "shall not block consumers from accessing lawful websites, subject to reasonable network management;" nor shall they "block applications that compete with the provider's voice or video telephony services, subject to reasonable network management."

So in fact three FCC open internet rules, not simply one, apply to mobile broadband:

  • transparency;
  • no blocking of lawful websites (blocking Wikileaks okay?); and
  • no blocking of competitive voice or video telephony services.

Now, there is context in the body of the Report and Order that makes that third bullet less dramatic:

"The prohibition on blocking applications that compete with a broadband provider's voice or video telephony services does not apply to a broadband provider's operation of application stores or their functional equivalent. In operating app stores, broadband providers compete directly with other types of entities, including device manufacturers and operating system developers, and we do not intend to limit mobile broadband providers' flexibility to curate their app stores similar to app store operators that are not subject to these rules."

I think that means that it's okay for Apple to keep favoring its own chosen voice and video telephony services.

Let's look at the open internet rules that do apply to fixed broadband but do not apply to mobile broadband. By negative implication, we can infer that it is okay for mobile broadband providers to:

  • block lawful content (other than lawful websites);
  • block applications (other than competitive voice and video telephony apps);
  • block services;
  • block non-harmful devices; and
  • unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic.

All told it amounts to the FCC adopting the Google-Verizon framework, at least as to mobile broadband.

Six Favorite Posts of 2010


Lamenting the Twitter That Did Not Become

Malcolm Gladwell's matter-of-fact take down of Twitter prompted a few posts. Gladwell was wrong and he was right: wrong to describe Twitter's limitations as though they were inherent and not a reflection of recent, unimaginative business choices, a mistake no early user of Twitter would make; right to indict social media for settling on no higher ambition than marketing.


How Being a Startuper Is Not Like Being an Assassin

In this post I pursued the unusual thesis that startupers may be the only workers who toil without presuming they must kill or be killed.

The Nooks and Crannies of Inevitable Disclosure

This is the first of a series of guest posts by the brilliant IP and former Microsoft LCA attorney Albert Chu that make plain a sophisticated, inside knowledge of several intricacies of trade secret law. These posts are a real gift to startupers and others running IP-based companies.


Social Networks and Public Utility

As I re-read this post, I realize it marks the beginning of the development of my thinking about an ad-free commercial web. I like the fact that a visit to a public, civic, analog environment, in a city as messy as Los Angeles no less, could inspire me to expect more from social media.


New Accredited Investor Threshold In Effect

So very much of this blog has been dedicated to following the fate of the accredited investor definition, which for some months looked like it might be run over by the Dodd version of Wall Street reform. Along with Joe Wallin and Dan Rosen, I got personally involved in this issue, raising awareness and also contributing toward a compromise reflected in the final bill that became law. I pick this post among the dozens on the subject because it marks a significant milestone in what, alas, remains an ongoing cause.

The Gap Between the Real Deal and the Definitive Agreement

My occasional metaphysical musings can be hit or miss, but, re-reading this one, I'm glad I take the risks. This post fell on me while walking during a rainy lunch hour in Seattle. I stopped under an overhang at Fifth and Union to dictate it, using the Dragon Dictation app.

String of Lights!

Today's post is a graphic holiday greeting, courtesy of Moonshot Games.

I have a wish for you this week before the new year, dear Reader. It is that you have the space to inventory where you've been in 2010, and the peace to visualize yourself in 2011.


Artwork copyright (c) Moonshot Games, LLC. Used here with permission.

The Golden Age of Broadband

The new FCC rules for "Preserving the Open Internet" are succinct -- two pages -- but ambiguous.

And willfully so. Where the rules state it is not okay to block "lawful content" or to "unreasonably discriminate," in each case subject to "reasonable network management," the open-ended adjectives ("lawful" and "reasonable") serve the intended purpose of begging the question. (Little wonder advocates both for and against government regulation of the Internet can project into the rules whatever horribles they most fear.)

But read the full 100+ page "Report and Order," accompanying the short set of rules, and you start to gather how the FCC means to interpret its rules.

Getting there means looking under the bureaucratic double-speak you would expect from a regulatory document. Just to take one example: in one numbered paragraph, number 36, we are told that "broadband providers' terms of service commonly reserve to the provider sweeping rights to block, degrade, or favor traffic"; but in another, number 39, we are told that "Broadband providers generally endorse openness norms."

But with a modicum of effort, you find a consistent subtext. Even if your reading is as abridged as mine (I skipped most of the footnotes, and the entire discussion on FCC authority to issue such rules), you'll pick up on a premature nostalgia for the current moment of the Internet. The actual rules themselves don't begin to say this, but the Report and Order supplies a purpose: the FCC means to perpetuate and prolong what it sees as the golden morning of broadband, one characterized by a "virtuous circle" of innovation.

Slide1The chart to the left illustrates the "virtuous circle," as most clearly articulated in the Report and Order at numbered paragraph 14.

The FCC is predicating the need for its intervention on the belief that the "virtuous circle" will otherwise break at the current moment in the commercial development of broadband, as power over the infrastructure of the Internet is consolidating in fewer and larger providers.

To criticism that imposition of open internet rules will chill further investment in broadband deployment, the FCC counters that "preserving the virtuous cycle of innovation" by rules will only "increase incentives to invest in broadband infrastructure." "Moreover," the Report and Order continues at numbered paragraph 40, "if permitted to deny access, or charge edge providers for prioritized access to end users, broadband providers may have incentives to allow congestion rather than invest in expanding network capacity."

In other words, place the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow of ever broadening pipes.

Coming up: which of the FCC's "open internet" rules will not apply to mobile broadband; and the disappointing openings the FCC seems to leave for corporate Internet vigilantism.

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