Tag Archives: technology

Wired Mag: Biden Good on Civil Liberties, Friendly to Hollywood

from Wired

Joe Biden

By Sarah Lai Stirland

Barack Obama’s campaign finally texted his choice for vice president in the wee hours of Saturday morning: As reported, he’s chosen Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware as his vice presidential running mate.

Though he’s known best for his foreign policy credentials, the 66-year-old senator’s work on the Senate Judiciary Committee has put him in the middle of most of the defining issues of the internet age — epic fights over intellectual property, privacy and antitrust law.

The role of the vice president in influencing an administration’s tone and policy varies with the character of the executive teams occupying the White House, but as Al Gore demonstrated while Bill Clinton’s vice president, there are plenty of opportunities for the veep to push specific items to the top of the  agenda.

“They can be a thought leader, a convener, a driver of national strategy, an exhorter to industry,” said Larry Irving, a former adviser to the Clinton White House, earlier this week.

Biden, a 30-plus-year veteran of the senate, has been a strong supporter of civil liberties. Most recently, he diverged from Obama’s position when he voted in July against a controversial bill that legalized President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program. The legislation also provided legal immunity to the telecommunications providers subjected of dozens of lawsuits for participating in the Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping program.

And during the fall 2005 senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, Biden grilled Roberts in his views of privacy in the high-tech age — an issue Biden said was of equal importance to Roe v. Wade.

But Biden’s most-recent reputation in D.C. on telecom issues is more ambiguous, particularly when it comes to net neutrality. Though he ostensibly supported the concept as a presidential candidate during this election cycle, in hearings on Capitol Hill he’s been a hesitant supporter for pro net-neutrality legislation.

On the intellectual property front, Biden doesn’t seem to have strayed from the rest of the judiciary committee democrats’ stance of being more of a friend to Hollywood than to Silicon Valley.

Like many other members of congress, on the relatively infrequent occasions when he does talk about intellectual property, his focus is on piracy. He co-chairs the congressional international anti-piracy caucus. Earlier this year, the group fingered specific trading partners, countries where it said digital-copyright piracy had reached “alarming levels.” The group of countries included China, Russia, Canada, Mexico, Greece and Spain.

The group didn’t recommend any specific sanctions against the countries, but Biden repeated an often-heard line on the Hill at the time.

“Our ideas, our music, our books, our movies, our innovations are just as precious as any tangible property,” he said. “With new technologies coming out at warp speed, this global problem will only get worse.”

Back in 2002, Biden also authored a controversial anti-counterfeiting bill that was amended to include a draconian provision that would have made it a de facto crime to replicate a digital-rights management under any circumstances. Critics decried the idea because they said it would crimp individuals’ ability to play their media on devices of their choosing. Violators of the law would have faced prison sentences of up to five years and civil penalties of up to $25,000.

Though he might be known for his foreign policy credentials, Biden often is no diplomat.

As Slate‘s John Dickerson joked in a recent Twitter post, Obama might introduce the senator from Delaware and explain his pick by saying that he’s a “clean and articulate” and “a nice-looking guy.”

Biden caused a furor in February 2007 when he was quoted on Obama by The New York Observer.

At the time, he said: “I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.”

Biden subsequently apologized for the remark.

But when they’re timed right, his blunt remarks can also be a riot. During the CNN YouTube debate last July, when asked about what they liked about the candidate next to them, Biden quipped that he didn’t like anything about Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio.

Then he added: “But the thing I like about him most is his wife.”

Kucinich is married to 31-year-old Elizabeth Kucinich, who’s six foot tall and made a striking impression on the campaign trail with her long red hair and good looks.

In an obvious ploy to build its databases of voter contact information, the Obama campaign promised that it would let supporters know about his vice presidential pick via text message.

The campaign has drawn out the release of its announcement for so long that some people started to prank each other with fake texting announcements.

Twitter became an often hilarious watercooler network of Obama VP pick jokes as people frittered away their Friday wondering who it would be.

“Just warning you Obama, if your txt wakes me up I’ll be much less enthusiastic about your veep choice,” tweeted Joel Davis late Friday night.

The warning, it turned out, was prescient: Obama texted his choice for Biden at 3 am Saturday morning East Coast time.

The message urged supporters to watch the first Obama-Biden rally at 3 pm Eastern on Barackobama.com.

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Ways the Obama Campaign Embraces New Media Tools

Text messaging could help Obama’s turnout

By KEN THOMAS –

WASHINGTON (AP) — When Barack Obama announces his choice for vice president, the real payoff may come during the next few months — one text message at a time.

Obama’s campaign plans to break the news of the Democratic candidate’s vice presidential pick to people who have signed up to receive e-mails and text messages from the campaign. It should give Obama’s team access to tens of thousands of cell phone numbers that could be used to mobilize voters under 30 on Election Day.

“What Obama is creating is this army of individuals, these grass-roots activists, who are out there trying to change the world in 160 characters or less,” said David All, a Republican strategist who specializes in technology.

Obama’s electronic outreach is the most prominent example of a larger movement by members of Congress and political campaigns to present their message and connect with voters through text messaging on cell phones, social networks such as MySpace and Facebook, and the microblogging site Twitter.

In Congress, some Republicans turned to Twitter in their protest of the Democrats’ energy policies on the House floor. When the House recessed in August, microphones on the floor were turned off, the TV feeds to C-SPAN ceased and the lights dimmed, but the Blackberries worked.

“Our voices can’t be shut down,” Rep. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., typed on his Twitter site during the GOP protest.

Hoekstra said using Twitter during the protest “really opened up my eyes” to the site’s potential — the number of people following his postings grew from 10 to nearly 500 by the end of the day. His Republican colleague, John Culberson of Texas, uses Twitter a lot and has more than 3,000 followers.

Obama’s campaign has used the Internet to boost fundraising, building upon Howard Dean’s Web strategy in 2004, but the campaign’s use of text messaging has the potential to mobilize voters in a new way.

Obama’s campaign has encouraged supporters to sign up for e-mails and text messages and sent text messages to voters on the days of key primary contests. The messages also helped encourage supporters to attend local events and tune into Obama television appearances.

On the Web, Obama’s Twitter site now has more than 60,000 followers, who receive updates from Obama’s town hall meetings and links to his Web site.

Nick Shapiro, an Obama spokesman, declined to release the number of cell phone numbers and e-mail addresses the campaign has amassed. He said the text messaging has been “valuable because not everyone sits in front of a computer or a television.”

Republican John McCain’s campaign, meanwhile, has not highlighted text messages, concentrating on more traditional e-mail messages to supporters, outreach to bloggers, Web-based advertising and YouTube videos. McCain’s recent “Celeb” ad, which compared Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, has received about 2 million hits on YouTube.

Brian Rogers, a McCain spokesman, said the campaign’s Web strategy was aimed “at getting votes on Election Day and communicating the messages that we feel are important to our supporters.”

All, a former communications director for Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., said he remains concerned that McCain’s campaign and many Republicans are overlooking the potential of text messaging.

“Text messaging is really powerful. If I have a text message, I can forward that text message to over 100 people in my cell phone list,” All said. “It’s going to be read by every single person — have you ever not read a text message?”

Allison Dale, a University of Michigan graduate student who has studied the impact of text messages on voting, said Obama’s campaign was shrewd to give prospective voters a juicy piece of information — the vice presidential pick — in exchange for their cell phone number.

Cell phone numbers can’t be obtained in a directory, she noted, and the Obama campaign should be able to collect tens of thousands of numbers this way. But she said it was unclear whether the database will be heavy with political junkies or people who would be inclined to vote under any circumstances.

“We’re still sort of at the beginning of figuring out what you can do with the text messaging,” Dale said.

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