Archive for the 'politics' Category




The First Campaign

If you’re looking to make sense of what’s happening in national politics right now, pick up a copy of The First Campaign.  At the risk of sounding like I’m kissing my professor‘s ass, I’m going to say that it’s probably one of the best books I’ve read on politics in the last year.

The basic thesis of the book is this: The 2008 campaign will be the first one in which the Internet will be a deciding factor in the outcome.

It might sound cliche to say the Internet is changing politics, but it’s actually occurring in significant ways NOW.  Not only does Garrett make a compelling case about the new era in which we are entering, but he also ties it in with everything else going on in the world.  One of these major trends is globalization, in which goods, services, and people move almost effortlessly across geopolitical borders.

Let’s talk about a more timely topic related to all this. How about, say, John McCain and his admission that he’s not so good with technology. In fact, he doesn’t use e-mail or surf the Web.  He lets his staff do that for him.  Graff had an op-ed published in the post about this very topic.

Indeed, knowing how to use the Internet is an essential skill set for the President of the United States to have.  By the time the next president leaves office, I will venture to say that most Americans will rely principally on the Internet to communicate and consume information.  If we can expect that people running for office know the price of a gallon of milk or gas, shouldn’t we expect that they also know how to compose a simple e mail message or find something using Google?

Enough of my thoughts. What do YOU think?


Tweet-complaint Against Hillary

Just ran across this little item in the New York Observer.  A former Hillary staffer is complaining about not getting paid and is using Twitter – the ultimate in passive-aggressive technologies – to let the world know.

I think this little item has the potential to get a lot of MSM attention considering the complaint lies at the perfect intersection of politics, technology and controversy.  We’ll see what happens.



Have you heard of Global Voices Online?  Probably not.  Why?  Because if you’re like me, you’re already suffering from some MAJOR Internet-related information overload.  It seems like everyday I come across a new blog I want to read, a new online shopping site I want to browse, or another slice of the long tail that I want to explore.

Wouldn’t it be nice if someone did all that work for us? You know, like if there were editors whose job it would be to digest all the “stuff” that’s out there and just throw us the good parts of the Interents?  Well, that’s exactly what Global Voices Online does. Major bonus: they do it for a good cause.  Check it:

Global Voices seeks to aggregate, curate, and amplify the global conversation online – shining light on places and people other media often ignore. We work to develop tools, institutions and relationships that will help all voices, everywhere, to be heard…

At a time when the international English-language media ignores many things that are important to large numbers of the world’s citizens, Global Voices aims to redress some of the inequities in media attention by leveraging the power of citizens’ media.

Oooooo!  Sorta reminds me of something. Oh yeah, that book I read a few weeks ago called “We the Media.” How bout that.  Anyway, I digress.  Maybe I’m just trying to change the subject because Global Voices is making me feel guilty for ignoring parts of the world.  Let’s try and fix that.  Let’s take a look at Romania.

With a few clicks here and there on GVO I’ve learned enough about that nation’s political landscape to keep an informed conversation going at a cocktail party in Bucharest.  Here’s what perusing Romania’s blogosphere showed me:

  • The Romanian political system is starting to embrace new media.  According to this editor, blogs are now fashionable to have if you’re a politician in Romania.  In fact, some candidates pay big money to have blogs, and the nation’s Social-Democrats are banking big time on blogs to help revive their image after four years of being in the minority. Interesting
  • This blogger-journalist from the Economist draws attention to a major problem in Romania: corruption.  The blogger posted this article by a fellow journalist regarding a stifled EU report that found that the nation is moving the wrong way on fighting corruption. Corruption seems to be a big topic in the Romanian political blogosphere.  This blogger writes about it also.
  • The third catagory of content I’ve found in the Romanian blogosphere is random stuff.  Posts about traffic during a NATO summit in Bucharest, reviews of travel articles about visiting the Balkans, etc.

Well, this journey through the Romanian blogosphere has been fun.  Some final thoughts: Overall, it seems to me that Romania’s blogging environment is in many ways similar to ours.  Just like in the U.S., citizen journalists and people who care about important issues are taking matters into their own hands and publishing their thoughts online. They’re hoping to make change through sharing and distributing information.  While there were interesting items on the Romanian portion of the GVO, it seemed like it needed to be updated more frequently.

Global Voices Online should be commended as a public service.  I’m pleased the site’s founders have committed themselves to raising awareness of what’s happening in some of the most ignored regions of the world.


Istanbul is Not Constantinople, or YouTube-Friendly for that matter

I’ve just returned from Istanbul.  With the exception of the tragic terrorist attack on our consulate, I had a great trip. Not only did I get to visit incredible cultural landmarks like the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque, but I also got to experience first-hand what Internet censorship is like. (geeky, I know).

Here’s what happened. Not long after checking into my hotel, I fired up my laptop and connected to the Internet.  Waiting in my e-mail inbox was a YouTube link a friend had sent me linking to some remarks made by one of the U.S. hostages that was recently rescued in Colombia.  After waiting about 3 minutes for the page to load, I got a network timeout notice.  I hit refresh on my browser to try and get the page to load.  Nothing.  Finally, after about 15 minutes of trying to get to the video I gave up.  Here’s a screencap I took of the error message:

Suspecting that something was up, I did a Google search for “YouTube Turkey.”  It didn’t take long to figure out what was going on.  Turns out, Turkish authorities have blocked access to the site.  The Turkish government took this action after some controversial videos emerged on the video sharing site.  According to the Times Online:

[A] court order was issued yesterday and most internet users logging onto the site in Turkey are met with a holding page with a Turkish message, which translates as: “Access to this site has been denied by court order ! …”.

Greek and Turkish YouTube users have been trading video insults over the past few months, attracting much coverage in the Turkish press. Greek videos reportedly accused the founding president of the Turkish Republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, of homosexuality; a Turkish user responded by calling Greece the birthplace of homosexuality.

Pretty interesting stuff.  Being back on U.S. soil, I can’t help but to wonder if anything like that can ever happen here.  If we’re not careful, I think it can.  Just yesterday, the FCC recommended sanctions be placed on Comcast after it was discovered that the ISP was blocking some peer-to-peer internet traffic. A good move by the FCC.  Hopefully, this will fuel the fire for meaningful net neutrality legislation in Congress.

Enough of the geeky stuff.  Here are some photos I took during my visit. Enjoy.


WikiScanner Report: Amnesty for Amnesty?

There was a whole lot of outrage a year or two ago when it was discovered that staffers on Capitol Hill had been anonymously making edits to the Wikipedia pages of their Members of Congress.

Shortly after this was uncovered, Wired Magazine took it upon itself to see what kind of “evil” corporations were trying to get away with the same thing.  Turns out, Diebold (the folks who make voting machines) and Wal-Mart (a company which according to some runs entirely off of the blood of the American working class) had been making anonymous edits to their entries as well.  Shocking!

Well, it looks like two groups everyone loves to hate – politicians and “evil” corporations – have already been nailed for making anonymous edits to their own Wikipedia pages, so I’ve decided to put some effort into looking at the NGO community to see if anything interesting is going on there.  It’s only fair, right?

Well there’s some really juicy stuff out there.  Particularly of interest to me were edits that Amnesty International – the renowned global human rights organization – has made to its own page.  Here’s what WikiScanner allowed me to uncover:

  • In February of 2006, an IP address linked to Amnesty completely deleted an entire section of their page devoted to “Articles Critical of AI.”  In total, eleven reports linked to sources were removed, including some that raised criticism that Amnesty has an Anti-American/Israeli bias and that the organization is “selective” in how it defends human rights.
  • That same day, Amnesty also completely deleted multiple sections on its page regarding Criticism and Rebuttal, Ideological Bias, and Selection Bias. Amnesty also wholly deleted sourced examples of their alleged bias in the article.
  • Under the pretext of adding “balance,” an anonymous contributor from Amnesty added content in a section called “Guantanamo Bay “the gulag of our times.” that cited a retired U.S. Foreign Service Officer defending Amnesty International and alluding to comparisons between prisoner abuses at Guantanamo Bay and the Soviet gulag prison system.
  • Amnesty also made several anonymous contributions to their talk page.  Some disclosed that the poster worked for Amnesty.  Most did not.
  • Finally, Amnesty also used Wikipedia to anonymously promote their campaigns on the online encyclopedia.  For example, they spent a lot of time editing on the “Make Some Noise” page – an article that describes an Amnesty campaign that used record artists to promote their human rights agenda.   (For example, they added the following to the page: “A fundraising album is scheduled to be released in June 2007, with exclusive new tracks from the likes of [[Christina Aguilera]] or [[Green Day]], to highlight the need to solve the crisis in Darfur.”)

Unfortunately, this is appears to be just the tip of the iceberg.  In addition to making edits to their own page, Amnesty has also made changes to the following Wikipedia pages:

  • “Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp”
  • “Extraordinary Rendition” (in which the person making the edit added what I think is a weasel word to the entry)
  • “Rendition Aircraft” (Here, the editor added a link to an Amnesty report critical of rendition)
  • “Anarchist communism” (Yikes)

I respect Amnesty.  Generally, they do great work.  But for an organization that spends such a large amount of time and effort criticizing human rights violators, it doesn’t seem like they’re able handle criticism of themselves all that well.  In many of these edits, Amnesty would have been able to make a convincing case in the discussion pages for removing certain content because it did not meet Wikipedia’s reliable sourcing, NPOV, notabilty, etc guidelines.  However, by unilaterally removing large chucks, hiding behind a wall of anonymity, and ignoring the discussion page, they violated the spirit of Wikipedia.

One of the greatest things about online collaboration is that ANYONE can contribute content.  Should Amnesty, Congressional staffers, and corporate employees be allowed to participate?  Absolutely.  After all, often, these are people who might know the most about certain topics and subjects (even though they may be biased).  But if we want a system that’s transparent and accountable, these users should disclose who they are and where they work.  After they post, I trust the wisdom of the crowds to balance out any bias that arises.


McCain “Aware” of the Internet, “Vaguely Familiar” with the Existence of “Shitty Video Games”

In case you missed it, a rep for McCain today revealed that the candidate is “aware” of the existence of the Internet. That’s comforting.

Rumor has it McCain will also hold a press conference tomorrow to confirm that he has also once used a “telephone” and watched a “talkie” that was preceded by a “newsreel film.”

Just to hit home how mindful McCain is of those “fancy machines” all the kids are using, his campaign has posted this awesome “Pork Invaders” game on its Web site.  Presumably, the point of doing this was to remind everyone of the early 1980’s, a time when there weren’t quite as many things that were younger than John McCain.

(Thanks, Jen)