Election Day Should Not Be A National Holiday

One of the nice things about importing decades-old blog posts is you can see how wrong you were how much you’ve grown. Take this post from April 2004: Why isn’t Election Day a national holiday?

On the surface it seems like a decent idea. Democracy is good, holidays are good, what’s not to like? More voters because you can’t use work as an excuse!

Here’s the thing though – do you get Columbus Day off work? Veterans’ Day? Washington’s Birthday? Those are all federal holidays but if you still have to work, does it help voter turnout?

There are some things that actually make voting better. Mailing everyone a ballot makes it actually easier to vote. Automatic voter registration makes it easier to vote. When you make it easier to vote, you hear more voices at the polls and get better outcomes.

So let’s put the holiday thing on the back burner and focus on something that matters more than celebrating democracy: sharing democracy with every citizen.

Jessica Rosenworcel on Net Neutrality

A friend of mine gave me the heads up  that FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel was giving a policy interview about net neutrality yesterday. Sometimes things just drop in my lap like that. Rosenworcel dissented with the FCC’s rollback of net neutrality protections:

The FCC is on the wrong side of history, the wrong side of the law, and the wrong side of the American people. It deserves to have its handiwork revisited, reexamined, and ultimately reversed. I raised my voice to fight for internet freedom. I’ll keep raising a ruckus to support net neutrality and I hope others will too.

She also wrote this tweet, which you may have seen:

Rosenworcel summed up her net neutrality argument as “your broadband provider doesn’t make decisions for you.” I think that resonates with anyone who uses a big ISP.

She spoke a lot about the interaction of net neutrality and broadband competition.

Right now half of Americans don’t have a choice in broadband ISPs. She was clear that net neutrality was needed in the absence of a robust market for broadband. She also said that if Americans had access to multiple, competing broadband ISPs that she would reconsider whether net neutrality was still needed.

Rosenworcel argued that there’s a financial incentive for ISPs to favor  established players, and when there’s no regulation stopping them, you are going to see ISPs selling your traffic to those established players. That means letting the incumbents buy traffic and stopping disruptive innovations. When ISPs compete, consumers can vote with their wallets. When ISPs don’t compete, you get what we have in America today.

She side-stepped a question about whether broadband is a human right, but she did say “You do not have a fair shot at prosperity in the 21st century without access to broadband.”

I’m on board with Commissioner Rosenworcel’s platform. I was also very happy that the moderator asked her to make the case against net neutrality, and that she could do so fairly and without slinging mud. It reminds me of Daniel Dennett’s rules for criticism:

You should attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.”

Daniel Dennett, Intuition Pumps and Other Tools for Thinking

Ultimately protecting a free and open internet comes down to freedom – either freedom to choose what you want to use the internet for, or freedom to choose an ISP that will. Maybe, one day, we won’t need net neutrality. But until then, let’s keep up the pressure.

You can watch the full video of the conversation on the event’s page.

Call to Support Net Neutrality (again)

If you live in the US, call your reps and let them know you support net neutrality. Go to this site, put in your phone number and they'll call to connect you with your reps. It took me 3 minutes. It's also good practice talking to your government.

Do it. I don't want to live in a world where my only ISP option presents me with a screen like this:

I've written about this before. Attacking net neutrality attacks both my values as well as my employment. The free market can't help when there's no competition. It's also really scummy that they're trying to use the Thanksgiving holiday as cover for this. Please don't let them hide. Call your reps.

Call.

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2016 Harold Hotelling Memorial Lecture

The video from the 2016 Harold Hotelling Memorial Lecture has just been posted. This is an annual lecture that Lawrence Technological University hosts in my father’s memory since his passing in 2009. He was a faculty member there and I was fortunate to be able to attend in October before the election.

This year the lecturer was Julianne Smith, former Deputy National Security Advisor to Vice President Biden. It’s a really valuable look at some of the issues that our next president is going to face and I encourage everyone to watch.

The first 9 minutes is an introduction that covers some memories of my father, and every year I’m amazed at how fresh the wounds of losing him are. I have tears running down my cheeks listening to stories about him, reminding me of how much I miss him.

Scott also remembers that shortly after Harold died, and for many months after, he would have this need to go and speak to him. We were in an economic crisis in 2009 and he would start down the hall to go to his office and then regret that Harold was not there anymore.

That’s something I still experience to this day.

In Life-Imitates-Snow-Crash News…

E-residency: The power to choose your nation

At the time of writing, the e-residency project has just come out of its beta stage and has been fully live for two months. During the 60 days more than 4,000 people have signed up to become members, doubling the target number that was set for twelve months. Kotka may be getting carried away when he suggests that “hundreds of thousands, or millions will come after three or four years” but there is an element of truth to his words when he says that the scheme has “already found its place in history”.

By paying a paltry 50 euro fee anyone, anywhere in the world, is able to become an e-Estonian. You don’t become a resident of the country and it doesn’t allow any rights to move to the country, but it allows you to become a digital citizen and, as such, removes some national borders.

I’m looking forward to a future where I can use an app to gain citizenship to Mr. Lee’s Greater Hong Kong or, at least become an annoying Brooklynite without having to move to Brooklyn. Plus you know that Elon Musk is eyeing Sealand for his startup virtual nation-state.