Routine of “good Obama, bad Obama”?
I‘ve personally been supportive of Obama all along, but recent posts were rather harsh on him [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6] because money voids trust and certain actions, combined with early appointments (e.g. [1, 2, 3]), represent a betrayal of citizens’ rights, typically in favour of elite interests and preservation of monopolies.
In today’s news we find two contradictory examples that are worth exploring. The first comes from a strong supporter of GNU/Linux, who claims that Obama is fighting Microsoft, despite some contrary examples.
Obama vs. Microsoft”
Obama, the first true 21st century President, and his staff have arrived at the White House to find themselves stuck with 20th century Microsoft software… and they’re not happy.
According to a report in The Washington Post, Obama’s staffers found themselves blocked from social networks, like Facebook, instant-messaging, and even plain old E-Mail.
Another report suggests that White House staff will be using Google Mail. “It might put salt on it to remind about the Abramoff/Gates scandal,” says one reader, “as well as the fact the problems with VBA/Access/Windows on the voting machines helped create the problem and that the failed Microsoft infrastructure is helping prolong the mess, especially the Microsoft exchange E-mail mess.”
As the press release appended to the bottom suggests, Obama challenges Bush’s policies, which is good news. But there is bad news too. Having already put an RIAA lawyer in charge of one area, Obama now puts in power a man from a Microsoft pressure group and task force, the BSA [1, 2, 3, 4].
Obama picks BSA’s antipiracy enforcer for high-level post
For his vice president, Barack Obama chose Joe Biden, a senator with a long history of aiding the Recording Industry Association of America. Then Obama picked the RIAA’s favorite lawyer, Tom Perrelli, for a top Justice Department post.
Now, as one of his first official actions as president, Obama has selected the Business Software Alliance’s top antipiracy enforcer and general counsel, Neil MacBride, for a senior Justice Department post. Among other duties, MacBride has been responsible for the BSA’s program that rewarded people for phoning in tips about suspected software piracy.
The BSA is hostile towards Free software, so there is a certain conflict of interests inside Obama’s cabinet.
Microsoft Uses Politics Against Google
Microsoft’s political games are utterly ugly, even illegal. We have been writing extensively about Microsoft’s political machinations against Google [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8] and now comes this good article from Wired Magazine. Microsoft uses a campaign of smears and manipulation to earn ‘protection’ from the government.
Google’s capitulation marked a rare defeat for the search giant, which has been almost as successful among the regulators of Washington as among the coders of Silicon Valley. And it was cause for celebration in Redmond, where Microsoft spent six months on a massive effort, costing millions of dollars, to block the Yahoo deal. Microsoft played a role in persuading members of Congress to hold hearings. It initiated a campaign that filled DOJ mailboxes with letters from politicians and nonprofit groups objecting to the deal. It convinced the country’s largest advertisers to join together to oppose the company in public. It’s impossible to know exactly what impact all this had on the DOJ decision. But many observers believe that Barnett, who declined to be interviewed for this article, was influenced in part by Microsoft’s arguments.
Bullying as a business model
Mike Masnick remarked on this article:
Plenty of folks have been sending in links to Wired’s article on The Plot to Kill Google, which basically shows how both Microsoft and AT&T — two companies scared to death by Google, are now working hard not to build better products to beat Google in the marketplace — but on hiring better lobbyists and marketers to try to destroy public perception of Google.
AT&T is arguably worse than most. However — quite naturally — we are far less interested in telecoms and government affairs, so given limit on scope, we’re inclined to skip this issue.
A few months ago we mentioned Microsoft’s possible intentions to use patents against Google, but buying Yahoo! — no matter how aggressively or brutally — would potentially be required [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16].
According to this new report, Google is encouraging junk patents by getting some of its own:
Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) has filed for a patent to allow users to enter either search terms and domain names into a search box (such as an address bar), and having the computer figure out if the search term was meant to be a specific domain name or web site.
How on earth can this be granted as a patent?
Meanwhile, Yahoo is trying to patent reciprocal linking.
What is happening to this system and why is any conceivable neural output seen as worthy of ownership?
Microsoft Offers SearchPerks Incentive
Microsoft’s SearchPerks program is running a three-day incentive to encourage participants to do more searches on Live Search. Starting today, and running through January 23, SearchPerks is offering double tickets for every search with a max of 50 tickets available to be earned each day.
Obama Revokes Bush Order on Presidential Records
For Immediate Release
January 21, 2009
The President today signed two Executive Orders and three Presidential Memoranda. These five documents represent a bold first step to fulfill his campaign promises to make government more responsible and accountable, to launch sweeping ethics reform, and to begin a new era of transparent and open government.
Across the country, families are tightening their belts in this economic crisis, and so should Washington. That is why in the Presidential Memorandum Regarding Pay Freeze the President has announced that he will freeze his White House senior staff pay at current levels to the full extent allowed by law. This will enable the White House to stretch its budget to get more done for the country. The President and his staff recognize that in these austere times, everyone must do more with less, and the White House is no exception.
The American people also deserve more than simply an assurance that those coming to Washington will serve their interests. They deserve to know that there are rules on the books to keep it that way. In the Executive Order on Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel, the President, first, prohibits executive branch employees from accepting gifts from lobbyists. Second, he closes the revolving door that allows government officials to move to and from private sector jobs in ways that give that sector undue influence over government. Third, he requires that government hiring be based upon qualifications, competence and experience, not political connections. He has ordered every one of his appointees to sign a pledge abiding by these tough new rules as a downpayment on the change he has promised to bring to Washington.
In the Presidential Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government, and the Presidential Memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act, the President instructs all members of his administration to operate under principles of openness, transparency and of engaging citizens with their government. To implement these principles and make them concrete, the Memorandum on Transparency instructs three senior officials to produce an Open Government Directive within 120 days directing specific actions to implement the principles in the Memorandum. And the Memorandum on FOIA instructs the Attorney General to in that same time period issue new guidelines to the government implementing those same principles of openness and transparency in the FOIA context.
Finally, the Executive Order on Presidential Records brings those principles to presidential records by giving the American people greater access to these historic documents. This order ends the practice of having others besides the President assert executive privilege for records after an administration ends. Now, only the President will have that power, limiting its potential for abuse. And the order also requires the Attorney General and the White House Counsel to review claims of executive privilege about covered records to make sure those claims are fully warranted by the Constitution.
Lee White Executive Director National Coalition for History 202-544-2422 x-116