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Tech Culture: The presidential election
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Tech Culture: The presidential election

26:30 /

Why should anyone care about broadband policy when the economy's melting down? CNET's chief political correspondent, Declan McCullagh, explains why and answers your questions on this edition of Editors' Office Hours.

[ Music ] ^M00:00:05 >> All right, guys. Welcome to Editor's Office Hours. I know we're a couple minutes late. But it's all right, it's well worth it. Today we have Declan McCullagh, and a lot of you guys have seen more of our product editors here. But Declan has an completely, entirely different background that is really going te be able to open the conversation and flood gates, where he has a blog called the Iconoclast, correct? >> True. >> Here at cnet.com -- news.com, more specifically. >> Exactly. >> And it's really the cross-session of merging technology and politics and all those issues behind. And Declan, how did you get started to even, you know, merging these two worlds and covering them. >> Sure. I mean, I was a computer geek growing up, and always thought that I would be doing programming or something along those lines, System Administrator to make money during the summer in college. And then about 12, 13 years ago Wire had a job opening in their Washington bureau, and they were kind enough to interview me, and so I ended up getting the job and ended up writing about technology and politics. And it's been over a decade, spent a decade in DC and moved out to San Francisco a few years ago. And it's been a great run. >> And what kind of lured you out here, more than anything. >> Well, a few things. The ten years in D.C. is a long time. It was actually a little over ten years in D.C.. And that's -- the -- it -- it -- if you spend over ten years in D.C. you're likely to spend the rest of your life there, and I was unwilling to do that. Also, I -- this is probably a better answer to your question -- I got engaged. My then fiance, now spouse, didn't want to move to D.C.. I didn't want to move to Toronto where she was from, and so we happily compromised on San Francisco. >> Okay, now I guess with this election this year a lot -- this is probably one of the first elections where we've seen technology really integrated with debates, with content. What are some of the thing that's you've seen, really, how this election has been transformed by technology, compared to previous years. >> Yeah, for the last 15 years or maybe even longer, every election has been -- the election of the internet, at least that's what folks have said. Bob Dole endorsement encryption letter in 1996, oh, that might be the year of the Internet. I worked on Jerry Brown's campaign for president in 1992, and one of the first -- probably the first presidential candidate to have an FTP site. Maybe that was the year of the Internet. And so every time we've said that we've been wrong. We being the journalists who write about this stuff. But finally now I think it's happening. Especially video. That has made such a difference this time around. It -- and that and online fund raising. It's been a very dramatic change. >> And have you -- do you have any specific tech blogs or -- sorry, political blogs that you kind of like to go to, and just kind of read up and see all those different views and everyone's kind of different chatter about things. >> Well, I use an aggregator, and I subscribe to a bunch of e-mail services that do that aggregation. But if I had to pick a -- pick a bunch, they would be things like Daily Coast, Red State, Slash Dot, not so much for political coverage, but tech and politics, the intersection of our competitors over at Wired do a decent job. Then of course mainstream sites like the Washington Post, New York Times. I subscribe to the Wall Street Journal. It's the only newspaper I subscribe to, and I generally read that on the way to work. >> But they had better coverage when you were there, right? >> That's what I'd like to think. [ Laughter ] >> Okay, now, there are some stories if you check out the Iconoclast blog, what is the actual direct link to that if people are watching right now, so they can kind of look around. We'll talk about some topics -- >> Well, the easiest one -- let me double-check that this still works. We've been doing some redesigns. Go to news.com and type in my name. But -- we're waiting for a slow wireless connection to actually do its thing. It still does work. So news.com/the-Iconoclast. And so that will get you to our politics and law section. >> Okay now, if you guys do open up that page, the first -- the top story that was just published today is published Palin -- or Palin, you know, however people say it, is ordered to save e-mails. And can you kind of talk about, you know, this story that you just wrote, but how its actually come to be. >> Sure. Actually, my colleague Stephanie in D. C., we hired a Washington correspondent after I left. Our first one was Ann Broch [Assumed spelling], and she left to move to Seattle, and we recently hired Stephanie Condon. And Stephanie wrote that article about Governor Palin ordered to save e-mail messages from private accounts. And this is -- this is part of a broader topic of when government officials should be required to save e-mail messages, when they should be allowed to use outside e-mail accounts, and whether -- how open records, open government laws apply nowadays. You see things like President Bush saying I'm not going to use e-mail at all because it's just going to be used against me. >> Now, and here's an example where it potentially could. With Palin. >> Oh, absolutely. Once we had the news reports a week or two ago about how her Yahoo account was hacked into, and some of the e-mails seemed to be kind of related to state business, and it might have even been the case that she was using her Yahoo e-mail account to avoid or circumvent open records laws that allow people to file freedom of information act or equivalent requests. Then, yeah. It -- it does kind of -- it is kind of interesting. Although the -- actual leaked e-mail messages from her account really weren't all that interesting. That was -- that was kind of the opposite of what you would expect. >> Now also with this whole technology and interaction, we have a lot of user-generated content. You know, people that are private organizations really being able to put their message on line, whether it's through, you know, videos and things like that. Have you -- what's your thoughts on how that is exploded this year -- in regards to politics. >> We've had user-generated content for a long, long time. If you go back to the early days of the Internet, each before the World Wide Web, we had Usenet, a collection of thousands of discussion groups. And so that's kind of user-generated content. But nowadays we have video and we have audio, and those are the two biggest things. Maybe it's taken a while because computers are now fast enough to do a good job editing video, even on a thousand dollar or less laptop. We have relatively inexpensive video cameras, we have enough broadband connections to make it worthwhile. So those are probably the three major factors that have driven this kind of user-generated content, in the form of video. But we've had web sites and we've had the e-mail lists and Usenet for many years. So I'm just trying to say let's not exaggerate how much user-generated content has made a difference this time around. >> Okay, now we have a question here from one of our users that is in the chats. The person's name is Pugdog, and really quickly for people that are watching this right now, if you want to send us any questions, keep them coming, just keep on sending them to us. Up here in the right-hand box for you guys. You just have to pop in the submit question. If you don't have an account with CNET it will just ask you for a user name and password and you can fire them away to us. But we're going to take this one from Pugdog. I guess this is really more picking your brain, and this question asks in your opinion will stocks rebound when we have a new president. >> It depends. There's -- if you look at what happened in the Clinton presidency, from '92 to '94, if you like, '93 to '95, the stocks did not do so well, they kind of went side ways. It was only when we had a divided government you had Newt Gingrich, who was actually here at CNET last week. Check out on news.com for our video interview with him. But when you had the Republicans taking control of the House of Representatives, sort of -- and Clinton in the White House, and from '96 on is when the big dot-com and stock market boom happened. And so I think markets like divided government. That means that extreme legislation isn't going to go anywhere. There has to be more compromise, and probably the worst things get weeded out. So if we have divided government that might work. The counter-argument there is we've had divided government in the form of democratic control of the House of Representatives, and republic control of the White House for the last few years, and that has not proven effective. So all this is a long-winded way to not really answer your question. Let me try to do that. Both candidates are going to be hemmed in very significantly in terms of the extra trillion-plus dollars that the U.S. government has already allocated in this financial bail-out. So a lot of great new spending plans, massive new tax cuts, just not going to happen. I -- I think we're probably in for some rough economic times, and no matter who is elected president I think we probably need to -- for the government to do less instead of more right now. It's actually government interference in the economy in the form of very low interest rates from the Federal Reserve, Fannie, Freddy, all of these laws saying everyone must buy a house, even if you're basically a McDonald's cashier and you can't afford one. And so we probably need more of a free market approach rather than more and more tax payer money going towards the bail-out. And I don't think either candidate will give us that. >> So yeah, it's -- remains to be seen. And this thing's not going to turn around right away. It's going to take time. And maybe not even in the first term of whoever is our president. >> Yeah, I mean, stocks have gone sideways, that is not going up or down, or over a decade in the past. And there's no reason to think that it's going -- we're going to get out of this one quickly. Even though we have today's reality, we're still about 40% below the highs of last year. >> Now you touched upon Newt Gingrich coming out here, and I remember seeing him from behind, while you guys were interviewing him, I was like, oh yeah, that's Newt Gingrich. I hadn't seen his face in a long time, but I immediately recognize him. What did he come out here -- and can you maybe talk about you guys discussed. >> Sure. So, Gingrich has been out of office for a few years, so he's doing the pundit think tank, et cetera, circles. He has a group, American Solutions, and he has a west coast office as of a few months ago. And he's coming out for meetings related to that. And the -- what we talked about is the election, the bail-out, what -- what's the best thing in terms of attack policy. He's in favor of tax credits for things like electric cars. I asked things -- why should the government be trusted in terms of thinking that tax credits for electric cars are better than biotech or Nano tech, and he said, well, let's have it all. So anyway, we have the video up from last week and we're going to post a longer discussion transcribed from an audio recording that we had off camera. >> And the thing is that he did come with an entourage. >> Yes. I think he had a three-person entourage. No, four person, actually. >> Newt has an entourage. Now, we did touch briefly about user-generated content and how that's changing -- or how that's [Inaudible] the current election year. So what we have is a video done by Carser Boy [Assumed spelling] with use.com to talk about some of those things. And we'll play it for you right now. We'll see you guys in about three minutes. ^M00:12:13 [ Music ] ^M00:12:18 >> When you're young, you just think everything's going to be okay. >> What it is, is a woman in about the year 2088. 80 years from now. Looking back at her life, regressing in age, having tremendous amounts of regret because her and her generation, the Millennial Generation, Generation Y, did not go out and vote. >> What Milka [Phonetic] Lily is a San Francisco-based radio personality. >> Alice. >> Hi [Inaudible]. >> Hey! >> And now film maker. He and director Corey Rosen created this non-partisan video as a call to action to get the youth of America to vote. >> You have to take advantage of their freedom, their freedom to be allowed to vote, their freedom to have their voice heard. And to sit back and be lazy about that is unacceptable. >> Over the last two elections, 2000, 2004, the numbers have really spiked. They've gone up 10%, 11%. So we're just really hoping that this election season we just continue to see that on the rise. People just getting involved. >> To make the web video Palm gave the pair $20,000 as part of its Mobilize the Vote 2008 campaign. A chunk of that cash paid for some high-tech special effects. >> Transformations, both kind of morph effects and more interesting ways to turn one woman into another woman. Whether it be just a close up of a hand getting younger as you're looking at the hand, or just a close up of some eyes and watching some wrinkles go away. >> To attract the eyes of the youth the video is posted on social networking sites like Facebook, linked in, and of course, YouTube. >> You don't have to be a fancy advertising executive on Madison Avenue to have your message heard any more. You can be a kid in your bedroom in Daily City and create a video and put it on YouTube and have just as much chance of being heard as any of the big guys. >> Steve Grove the head of YouTube's news and politics division says the site has seen an explosion of do-it-yourself political ads popping up this election season. ^M00:14:19 [ Music ] ^M00:14:22 >> A lot of times YouTube is a place where people can say things that aren't being said somewhere else, but that everyone else is thinking. If you look at the most viewed videos pages on YouTube on any given day, you're going to see political videos in the top ten. >> The first political ad to crack the mainstream on YouTube was a mash-up of an old Apple commercial, criticizing Hillary Clinton and promoting Barack Obama. >> I don't want people who already agree with me. I want honest -- >> And really, just exposed on line. Millions and millions of views. And the fact that the creator of that was anonymous added to the mystique of it all. But it really highlighted this new phenomenon of people creating their own political advertisements. And really changing the way in which we consume political content and share and communicate political messages with each other. >> I'd love to see five million views, because then we know that it's not only something that people are enjoying, but they're passing around. >> Starting one month before election day, YouTube will be doing its part to help get out the vote. A handful of featured videos on the site's front page will point to a Google map where users can type in their address to find the closest registration location. I'm Kara DuBois, cnet.com. >> Okay, there you guys go. So that was the video by Kara DuBois, just showing how, you know, everyone really has an audience now with the Internet to really produce content and have their voice heard. And we were just kind of briefly talking about how it was, you know, even doing the mash-ups of using the classic Apple 1984 ad, which probably will generate just eyeballs for that fact alone. But superimposing Hillary Clinton's face on that Big Brother screen. So it was -- people are getting creative out there. Now during the break we were talking about what other topics there are to talk about. You guys, send us your questions. Anything that's even relevant about what you've heard in the news regarding politics, we'll take care of them. But one thing we want to talk about, for myself, there is obviously this pretty big gap between the tech savvy ability of Obama versus John McCain. And that may be more of how their campaign groups as a whole are painting it. But what are your thoughts, you know, on both of them and how tech savvy they really are. >> This is one of those areas I think I'm probably in a minority. I don't care about a candidate's tech savviness, what I care about is whether the candidate has good policies. Is the candidate going to do what's right for me or my company, or the field I work in and for the country at large. And whether or not they use a Blackberry -- I don't care. But Obama uses e-mail and McCain doesn't very much. And that seems to be the major tech different. There's -- but I bet if you put either of them in front of a compiler and say, hey, write me an application, I don't think either would do very well. But just because someone uses e-mail does not mean they're especially tech savvy these days. >> For me, at first it was kind of like because we're so -- especially in the Silicone Valley, we're so surrounded by tech it's like, how could they not -- but at the same time they're really going to be hired for their decision-making abilities than necessarily how effective they are at using a computer. >> That's true. If you want to hire someone to, say, write PRL code, then you might really want to care about how tech savvy they are and how comfortable they are with their interpreter. But if you're just writing -- if you're hiring someone to be the chief executive you don't -- you don't care if they understand your agriculture policies to the extent that a farmer might. You don't care if they understand transportation policies to the amount -- to the extent that a railroad engineer might. And so I don't know why we care if they understand tech policy to the level of a programmer. But -- and so I don't think it -- it matters that much. It doesn't effect my vote one way or another. There's -- I mean, the Libertarian party candidate was a former cobalt programmer, and I don't see him getting a huge percentage of the vote -- geek or otherwise. >> And also the fact, though, does it -- do you like someone to at least be a little bit in touch with the technology, just because that is the direction of where, you know, the next generation is living, breathing. Just to even have like a sense of it is kind of -- would be nice. But it's not, you know -- >> Well, this isn't going to effect my vote. I -- I know that I'm -- I'm in a minority. I know that [Inaudible] -- [ Multiple voices speaking ] >> But I care much more about the people they choose. I mean, you actually have cabinet departments that are charged with overseeing, more or less, certain areas of tech policy. And if they put the right person in place that matters a lot more than whether they use e-mail themselves. >> Now one point that we also touched upon and you kind of wanted to expand on is, you know, whichever candidate wins, what does that mean for tech, you know, in the long run. You know, depending on -- and you kind of alluded to, well, right now Obama's in the lead and, you know, has a strong position. But -- at the current moment -- but what might the tech world look like or, you know, the future for it with Obama as president. >> Well, I mean tech is never one of the issues that decides an election. This years it's the economy, it could -- almost was the Iraq war. It could, in other years, be things like gun rights or abortion rights. But a candidate's stand on that, neutrality, will not and probably should not determine an election. But there are some areas that the candidates, Obama and McCain, differ on. One of those is net neutrality. Obama wants -- and this is consistent with what companies like Google and Amazon and eBay, and the lefty groups like Move on One, he wants some aggressive neutrality regulations, more rules slapped on broadband providers, and McCain is skeptical of that. McCain, on the other hand, would like greater prosecution of peer-to-peer pirates, he's absolutely with Joe Biden, who is the democratic VP pick who is the recording industry's best friend on Capitol Hill, and arguably still is. And Obama has been skeptical of aggressive new -- copyright laws is going to be a difference in taxes, probably. There's a -- warrantless wire tapping is one area they came together. McCain -- you may disagree with him, but at least he's been consistent saying that, you know, retroactive immunity for wireless communicate systems that violated federal laws and opened their networks up to the -- NSA snoops, that should be granted. In other words, they should be immunized for illegal activities. And Obama said -- he told us last December that -- oh no, I would never do that. And then he flip-flopped circa April, and actually ended up voting for that after all. >> Okay. Now the kind of -- you're talking about wire tapping. That leads to a story that I guess kind of was released at the end of last week. And that was in regard to I guess two former NSA employees or insiders that had come forward and said that communications between -- was it American Workers overseas were being tapped. Is that correct? >> Exactly. >> A little. >> Americans, a journalist, human right workers, and members of the military overseas. This has been floating around for a while. ABC news and journalist Jim Bamford who has a book coming out this week called the Shadow Factory nailed it quite nicely. And the reports were that two former NSA eavesdroppers -- they become whistle-blowers, and said, you know, we were just not happy with what we were doing. We were listening to conversations, innocent conversations, nothing to do with terrorism, from American citizens abroad calling home. We're listening to phone sex conversations -- >> Yeah! >> This is -- yeah, exactly. They were passing around the audio like, listen to this -- [ Multiple voices speaking ] >> Six minutes and 30 seconds in, they're calling the girlfriends and spouses. It's just -- it's just tacky. And perhaps illegal. And two other points, this is exactly what President Bush said would not happen when he defended the program multiple times. And second, the person whose investigating this in the Senate said we would -- is Senator Jay Rockefeller, the West Virginia democrat who [Inaudible] relevant committee, and he's deeply compromised. He's the one who signed off on this before it became public. He was briefed on this program and chose not to do anything about it. >> Hmm. So do you think actually -- your article asks the question do you think they will actually investigate the spying. Historically, with things like, you know, this, do they really follow up or -- >> Well, after the FBI was accused of a bunch of domestic intelligence abuses, this is in the '50s and '60s and early '70s, there were allegations that Eleanor Roosevelt, Martin Luther King Junior, feminists, gay rights [Inaudible] et cetera, were spied on. The Senate created a committee chaired by Senator Frank Church, the Church Committee. And it turned out that, yes, all those allegations are true. The FBI was exactly -- doing all those things and more, trying to sway elections, interrupt the Supreme Court justices -- I mean, this is pretty scary stuff. And the Church Committee went through and investigated this. They came up with a very detailed, very public report. And then we had laws like the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act enacted as a result. And nowadays you don't have -- you have a Senator heading the investigation who has signed off on this when he found out about it years ago. So this is probably not the best body to have an investigation, and we know from the 9/11 committee report that they weren't given access to all the documents they needed or should have had access to. So we had the situation nowadays when some of these investigations are supposedly independent but really are not. >> Okay, so we're about maybe a minute out, and someone asked a question, and I'm just kinda going to rephrase it. Have you -- do you use Hulu.com at all? >> I do. I tend not to like advertisements very much, and even though the ads are relatively short, 15 or 30 seconds, I tend to download more stuff on iTunes. But I'm doing a little more Huluing -- >> Huluing -- Hulu a little more. >> -- than I did just a few months ago. So, getting a pretty good catalog. >> And have you seen the Sarah -- Tina Fay impersonation segments of Sarah Palin on there. >> Those -- those are brilliant. They're beautifully done. And last I heard, the Sarah Palin will appear on this Saturday's SNL. >> Yeah. Yeah. That -- which is crazy. So you know, bring her to the forefront. I wonder what they're going to do. How are they -- how are they going to mess with that. >> Well, it's going to show -- let's look at the way Sarah Palin has been viewed by the media for the last few weeks. First it was -- okay, you just have this sort of crazy huntress up north, and then you have after her speech at the convention that we covered for CNET, she's actually a very competent, very well regarded speaker, et cetera, and then we've gone through a few Katie Couric interviews in which she came across looking a little bumbley. >> Less than elegant. >> She held her own during the debate with Biden, I thought. But now -- but we haven't seen whether she has a good sense of humor or not. And so we'll find that out maybe on Saturday. >> Okay, that sounds good. Now, thanks Declan for coming out, and just, you know, spending your time talking about some of the things that you covered, and also giving us a different slice, you know, of what CNET offers with merging, you know, politics and tech together. So thanks for coming out. >> Any time. >> All right, guys, next -- what is it -- tomorrow, we have our Editor's Office Hours. Eric Franklin will be coming in. He will be talking about monitors and taking all your other questions. Again, it's 11:30 a.m. Pacific time, 2:30 p.m. eastern time. And we will see you guys tomorrow. Thanks. ^M00:26:25 [ Music ]

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