Network Neutrality and Special Agreements

It was a year ago, this coming Friday, that Senator Barack Obama put up a podcast about Network Neutrality.

It is because the Internet is a neutral platform that I can put out this podcast and transmit it over the Internet without having to go through any corporate media middleman. I can say what I want without censorship or without having to pay a special charge.

But the big telephone and cable companies want to change the Internet as we know it. They say that they want to create high speed lanes on the Internet and strike exclusive contractual agreements with Internet content providers for access to those high speed lanes.

I applaud him for those comments. However, an entry on techPresident, Did Facebook Play Favorites with Obama? raises some interesting questions.

While the Internet itself is a neutral platform, some sites can be much more important in getting your message out than others. Facebook is a good example of such a site. The techPresident article raises an important question of whether or not Facebook provided an unfair advantage to the Obama campaign. Where there ethical lapses or FEC violations?

I don’t know the details of what happened and I’m not a lawyer, so I won’t touch the FEC question. However, if the Obama team did have access to privileged information it raises some interesting questions about how it should have been handled.

During Gov. Dean’s 2004 Presidential bid, I worked with a bunch of volunteer programmers. We started off calling ourselves Hack4Dean, and later changed it to DeanSpace. We were working with Open Source software, in particular, Drupal. We had lively discussions about how widely or tightly controlled our developments should be shared. Many argued that the software could give Gov. Dean a competitive advantage and should not be made available to others. Hypotheticals were presented about whether or not people would feel comfortable with Republicans using the software.

I was always the idealist. Open software should be open. What matters isn’t the software, but what you do with it, and for that matter, what your choices about software say about you. I still have these arguments today and I can well see the other side.

If there was some sort of special agreement between Facebook and the Obama campaign, what does it say about Obama’s commitment to keeping the Internet a neutral platform? What does it say about his commitment to the ideals of Network Neutrality?

Perhaps nothing. I’m sure that is what the more fervent Obama supporters will say. Perhaps they are right. Yet the old idealist in me still feels a little uncomfortable.

(Cross posted at MyDD)

Tom, Sue, Lance, Howie, Ned and Joe

Various people have contacted me about the U.S. Senate race shaping up in Maine between Sen. Collins and Rep Allen. One of the first was a friend of mine who is good friends with Lance Dutson. At the time Lance was first talking with the Collins campaign about possibly working with the campaign. My friend knew that I’m friends with Lance and was also the technology coordinator for the Lamont campaign. He wanted to know if I’d be willing to speak with Lance about working on a Senate campaign.

I told my friend I’d be willing to offer advice, even though I’d supporting Allen. Lance and I never did talk about the campaign, but I’m glad he is working with Collins. Lance is a good guy. He’s smart and will do a good job. Since I’m a fierce democrat, in the good old Jeffersonian way, I like to see good people working on both sides.

Another person contacted me concerning the election in Maine. She noted that she had heard from people in Connecticut that many of them were unhappy about the U.S. Senate race gaining such national attention. She expressed concern about the national attention on the Collins/Allen race and how folks from Maine might feel about that.

I must admit that my ties to Maine have gotten weaker over the years. I was born in Presque Isle, but moved to Massachusetts when I was a toddler. Since then, I continue to go to Maine to visit friends or vacation, but with gas prices, even this has become less frequent.

I can see how folks from Maine might be reticent about national attention to their Senate race and I did speak with folks in Connecticut who were less than pleased about the amount of attention the Lamont/Lieberman race received. However, many people in Connecticut I know were pleased with the attention the race got. It certainly brought many notable politicians to the State that wouldn’t have been there if there wasn’t such an exciting race and it certainly brought

So, to my friends in Maine, get ready. You are likely to have an exciting campaign, which I believe will be good for democracy and for the State as a whole. You will get outside attention. On Saturday at 2 PM, according to Howie Klein, Rep. Allen will be live blogging on Firedoglake. Howie Klein was great in helping with the Lamont campaign from afar and I believe will be a great help to people supporting Rep. Allen. Please stop by at Firedoglake for the live blogging.

(Cross posted on TurnMaineBlue.)

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Random Stuff

This weekend we went and visited some friends who have a house on Cape Cod. Other than dealing with a couple special issues, I was offline for most of the weekend. Because of that, when I got home I found around 1300 unread emails in my main inbox. I’ve whittled it down to a little less than 900, but I have a lot of reading to go. I also haven’t visited any of the blogs I normally visit, with one exception, so I feel like I’m out of touch with what my friends are up to.

The one exception is Mommy’s Busy ... Take a Number!. On Friday, her daughter was supposed to go into surgery and I asked everyone to pray for Faith as well as for her whole family. Well, the surgery has been postponed until Tuesday, so please keep up your prayers.

What I did do is spend time reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance as I looked out at the waves. Lots of blog post ideas have percolated through my brain and I hope to get a chance to write up some of these soon.

Back home, I caught the tail end of the Democratic Presidential debate and added a few comments here and there on various blogs. I spent a bit of time cleaning up the never ending battle of spam. The latest annoyance is that various spambots go out and create userids so they can post ‘authenticated’ comments. This gets around many of the spam filters out there. So, I’ve been busy deleting comments as well as newly created userids. I’ve been adding filters to my user creation rules. If you have a userid that begins with ‘regbot’ or ‘registrator’ or you are coming from certain mail servers in Russia or Latvia, you’ll need to use a different email address. In addition, if you are a webpage scraper looking for people to spam, don’t send emails to addresses like regbot_18@1net.gr.
regbot_n13@rbcmail.ru,
registrator22@Safe-mail.net,
registrator_n20@axigenmail.com,
registrator3005@toughguy.net or blogger4@sdial.biz. You’ll just be spamming one of your own.

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Praying for Faith

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit. It is the first of the month and as I wake up, I remember the old childhood superstition that you should say “Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit” when you first wake at the beginning of each new month in order to receive good luck for the coming month. This comes after the ‘blue moon’ of last night, another bearer of good luck. It seems as if we are always looking for signs that something good is around the corner for us, especially during times of uncertainty or troubles.

On Wednesday evening, I took the train into New York with an old friend to go to a discussion about Group Relations and the 2008 Presidential Election. What are the group dynamics that are taking place in the election? How does it related to the United States standing in the world and people’s views of President Bush?

It seems as if this searching for certainty, for a sign of good luck, is an important part of what is going on. President Bush is presented as a cowboy, the rugged American individualist who can ride in and save the day. It plays well in these days of great technological change and the uncertainty that that brings, in these days of globalization, in these days after the fall of the Berlin Wall as well as of the World Trade Centers.

Yet more and more, faith in the powers and principalities of Mr. Bush and the U.S. Presidency is shaken. The post 9/11 lashing out against Arabs in the form of the Iraq War hasn’t turned out the way people had hoped, and while the stock market soars, so do the financial woes of many Americans.

In my personal life, I’ve been looking for signs as well. I often tend towards the more scientific, and so I had my annual physical. Wednesday, I received a call from my doctor. Yes, I am allergic to shrimp. I’m allergic to all shellfish, as well as to wheat and corn. Beyond that I’m allergic to cats and to dust. Some of the allergies are pretty mild, some of them fairly substantial. With this information, we will seek ways to change our lifestyle so I can be healthier, while at the same time making sure that Reilly, our wonderful and beloved Maine Coon Cat remains well cared for.

As I drove down to the doctor’s office, a chipmunk ran across the road. I tried to avoid it, but in my rearview mirror, I saw the small corpse twist its last convulsions. In ancient days, people would try to predict the future by reading the entrails of sacrificed animals. The entrails of the chipmunk were left on the road only to become crow food in the next couple hours, yet the experience left a bitter taste in my mouth. It did not augur well in my mind.

The haruspices of old interpreted signs from the liver. Today, we use blood tests and sonograms to interpret the liver and other bodily functions. I have more tests ahead of me to find the signs of better health. Yet all of these test and potential lifestyle changes are small on the greater scale.

I spend a lot of time reading blogs. I believe we can learn a lot about ourselves, our nation and our world by listening to those around us, and reading other blogs is a great way to stop and listen. I’m not talking about the rants on political blogs, I’m talking about the reflections of daily life in the personal blogs that abound.

One such blog is Mommy’s Busy… Take a number. The image on the blog is of a six-armed smiling mother, child in one arm, balancing on one foot over another child playing next to the basket of laundry that needs to be taken care of. She is cooking. Her husband is in the background informing her of an incoming phone call. The sun shines through the window. It captures the hope and joy that can still be there in the chaos of daily life.

Stacie has a picture of her young daughter Faith, walking down her gravel driveway holding the hand of her cousin Caleb. It is a touching picture, entitled “The long road ahead…” to which she adds, “is easier when someone is holding your hand.” Yet when you read more, you find how touching this really is.

In the blog post before, she has a different picture of Faith. In this picture, Faith has a tube taped to her face leading to her nose. I can’t describe the look in her eyes. Is it hurt? Is it fear? Is it simply beseeching her mother to just make everything better? Oh, were it so easy. You see, Faith has 22q syndrome. “The 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome is an abnormality on the twenty-second chromosome that can cause such health problems as heart defects, immune deficiency…” I used the ellipses because the list of health problems goes on and on.

Faith’s mother writes,

I have pretended to be fine with all of the above. I have smiled and joked and been very factual and technical. I have been very medically oriented about the whole thing. ...

Because that is what needs to be done. I will smile and joke and figure out a way to not drink around my baby. And I will cry and scream on the inside.

Because its just not fair.

Well, today is Faith’s surgery, and I need to pray for her, for her mother, for her whole family, because that is what needs to be done.

Stacie’s most recent post is from last Sunday. The question…

has been asked. By my kids... The question that I have dreaded and dreaded.
Could Faith die during surgery?
What do you say to that?
They are to smart for the blanket make-everything-better "of course she wont" comment.
They know better.
They know that things could go horribly awry and she could die.
But I said that anyway.
"of course she isnt going to die"
They didnt believe me.

She ends off the blog post with

How do you make your kids feel reassured when you cant even reassure yourself?

My answer?
Hug them tight and say dont worry, everything will be ok. There are lots of people praying for her and wonderful people taking care of her. It will be all right.

I hope that it was enough. I hope that it was the truth.

5 days to go.

Please God let everything be ok.

So, we look for leaders to give us hope, to hug us and tell us everything will be okay. We read the entrails, and if we are lucky, we meet someone like Stacie who says more about hope in a few simple blog posts than many of us may experience in a lifetime.

Pray for Faith. Pray for Stacie. Pray for the whole family, our country and our world, and maybe, just maybe, it will be enough. It will be the truth, and God will let everything be ok.

Adding OpenID to a Drupal 4.6 website

Over on Change.org, there is a discussion about Adding OpenID support to Change.org. What’s good for the gander is good for the goose, so I thought I should investigate adding OpenID to Orient Lodge.

For those of you who aren’t acquainted with OpenID, it is “an open, decentralized, free framework for user-centric digital identity.” The first thing that is needed for such a framework is a way of authenticating identity. So, instead of having to keep track of passwords for lots of different systems, using OpenID, you can have one password, authenticated at a specific place, which is used to sign in at many sites.

Currently, if you have userids at LiveJournal, Wordpress, Vox, AOL, you have an easy to use OpenID userid already. If you use Yahoo!, you can indirectly use idproxy.net. You can also add code to your own site so that it will point to one of these as the authentication service. Currently, Orient Lodge is pointing to my Yahoo! id via idproxy.net.

All of this is well and good, if you can log into other sites using OpenID. Slowly, more and more sites are supporting OpenID, and now (at least until something breaks), you can log into Orient Lodge using OpenID. Read the details below the fold.

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