[ Music ]
>> 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?
>> Here at cnet.com -- news.com, more specifically.
>> 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
>> And what kind of lured you out here, more than
>> 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
>> 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
>> 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
>> 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
>> But they had better coverage when you were there,
>> 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
>> 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
>> 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
>> 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.
[ Music ]
>> 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
>> Hi [Inaudible].
>> 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
>> 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
[ Music ]
>> 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
>> 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
>> 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
>> 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?
>> 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 --
>> This is -- yeah, exactly. They were passing around
the audio like, listen to this -- [ Multiple voices
>> 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
>> 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
>> 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.
[ Music ]