Joho the Blog » stimulus

May 8, 2009

Robin Chase on the smart grid, smart cars, and the power of mesh networks

Pardon the self-bloggery-floggery, but has just posted an article of mine that presents Robin “ZipCar” Chase’s argument that the smart grid and smart cars need to be thought about together. Actually, she wants all the infrastructures we’re now building out to adopt open, Net standards, and would prefer that the Internet of Everything be meshed up together. (Time Mag just named Robin as one of the world’s 100 most influential people. We can only hope that’s true.)

The article is currently on Wired’s automotive page, but it may be moved to the main page today or tomorrow.

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March 4, 2009

Three from the Boston Globe: Conflict, amusement, and maddening missing of the point

Part One

The big page two story of today’s Boston Globe is an article by Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post. It begins:

Two of the administration’s top economic officials defended President Obama’s $3.6 trillion budget plan yesterday, arguing that the proposal would finance a historic investment in critical economic priorities while restoring balance to a tax code tipped in favor of the wealthy.

The first nine paragraphs are about the fierce conflict. Only in paragraph ten do we get the most important news:

Despite those and a few other contentious issues, Obama’s budget request was generally well-received yesterday, as lawmakers took their first opportunity to comment on an agenda that many have described as the most ambitious and transformative since the dawn of the Reagan era. Democratic budget leaders said they are likely to endorse most of Obama’s proposals sometime in April in the form of a nonbinding budget resolution.

If it bleeds, it leads. Sigh.


Part Two

Because I generally disagree on policy with the Globe’s conservative columnist Jeff Jacoby, I try to give him the benefit of the doubt in his reasoning. But this morning, he’s driven me officially nuts. Well done, sir!

Jacoby devotes his column to the philosopher Peter Singer. First, he lauds Singer for “his commitment to charity.” But the bulk of the column is given over to Singer’s controversial — too mild a word — argument for permitting infanticide under careful legal conditions.

Actually, I’ve misspoken. Jacoby doesn’t mention Singer’s argument. He only gives the conclusion. Jacoby’s own conclusion is that Singer’s stance shows what happens “if morality is merely a matter of opinion and preference — if there is no overarching ethical code that supersedes any value system we can contrive for ourselves…”

In fact, Singer’s most objectionable conclusions come from rigorously applying standards of morality against opinion and preference. For example, if we say it’s our superior intelligence that gives us certain rights, then we should be willing to accord those rights to other creatures that turn out to have the same intelligence, even in preference to humans who lack that intelligence by accidents of birth or personal history. Or, as Singer says in the conclusion of the brief column in Foreign Policy that Jacoby cites:

…a new ethic will … recognize that the concept of a person is distinct from that of a member of the species Homo sapiens, and that it is personhood, not species membership, that is most significant in determining when it is wrong to end a life. We will understand that even if the life of a human organism begins at conception, the life of a person—that is, at a minimum, a being with some level of self-awareness—does not begin so early. And we will respect the right of autonomous, competent people to choose when to live and when to die.

There are lots of ways to argue with Singer’s conclusions. (I found him so convincing on animal rights in the 1970s that I’ve been a vegetarian ever since. I find him less convincing on infanticide.) But saying that Singer is merely expressing personal opinion is not to argue with him at all. In short, Jacoby is merely expressing his own opinions and preferences, and thus is guilty of exactly what he criticizes Singer for.


Part Three

The headline over the continuation of an article from the front page says:

Amid Maine’s extremes, teams of dogs and humans vie

It’s mildly disappointing to learn that the article is about dog sled racing in Maine, rather than about a dogs vs. humans sports event. [Tags: ]


February 25, 2009

Stimulating edumacation

Here’s a useful breakdown of how the stimulus bill will affect education[Tags: ]

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February 21, 2009

Government mandates stimulus outlays be RSS’ed

Aaron Swartz reports that the stimulus bill requires that government agencies use RSS [LATER: or Atom] to report on the stimulus money they disperse, so that those who are interested can get automatically updated. And those who are interested will include institutions and individuals aggregating that information so that the alarms can sound … and, we hope, the bouquets can shower down.

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February 1, 2009

Yochai Benkler on the broadband stimulus

Yochai Benkler, who wrote the seminal book on the new collaborative economics (and of course posted it for free), and is also a Harvard Law professor and holder of the Berkman Chair at the Berkman Center (and is also one of the sweetest people ever) … I got lost in my benkleration, so let’s just start again …

Yochai Benkler has posted at Talking Points Memo his analysis of the Senate and House versions of the stimulus package for broadband. (Thanks for the link to David Isenberg, who provides his own, usual insightful analysis.)

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January 15, 2009

Broadband herring

Harold Feld is very happy that the stimulus package includes “only” $6 billion for broadband to underserved areas. He puts it this way:

There’s an old Jewish joke about how a Frenchman, a Pole, and Jew saved Napoleon’s life. Napoleon asks what they want as a reward. The Frenchman says his family were aristocrats before the revolution and he wants his family lands restored. “Granted,” says the Emperor. The Pole says he wants Poland liberated and her pre-partition borders restored. “Granted,” says Napoleon. The Jew says: “I want a real nice piece of herring.”

Napoleon stares, turns in disgust to one of his attendants, and says “get this man a nice piece of herring from the kitchen and then get him out of my sight.”

The Frenchman and the Pole turn to the Jew and laugh “You could have asked for anything! You idiot, that’s the Emperor of France! And you asked for a nice piece of herring!”

“Ha,” answered the Jew. “You think you’re so smart? I’m actually gonna get my herring.”

That’s about how I feel about the broadband stimulus package. Sure, I’d love to have had the feds build fiber out to every home. But I always knew that wouldn’t happen. Worse, I figured that any HUGE pot of money would invariably end up chock full of goodies for incumbents with zippo oversight. ….

But a reasonable set of grant proposals, properly targeted, can do a boatload of good. Consider Mark Cooper’s community hotspot approach, for example, or the work of ongoing projects such as the Mountain Area Information Network in rural North Carolina or the Lawndale Community Wireless Network in Chicago or any of thousands of projects in hundreds of communities working to bridge the gap between connectivity and digital exclusion…

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