Daniel Eran Dilger
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Obama’s Apple, McCain’s Microsoft: the Politics of Tech

obama mccain
Daniel Eran Dilger
While the United States prepares to elect a new president, candidates on both sides have made interesting comments about their affiliations with tech companies and their perspective on issues facing the tech industry.

Here’s a look at Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain compare, looking first at how each relates to Apple and Microsoft, how corporations are leveraging money and political power to shape public policy to fit their own interests, and followed by a look at each candidate’s stance on issues related to technology.

Obama and Apple.
Barack Obama’s campaign has casually referenced Apple directly or indirectly on a number of occasions. Last year, supporter Phil de Vellis edited Apple’s legendary 1984 Mac ad to portray opponent Hillary Clinton as Big Brother. The Obama campaign did not sanction the video, but it did cast Obama as a challenger that “thinks different.”

In January, Obama appeared on David Letterman to recite a series of comical campaign promises including, “I won’t let Apple release the new and improved iPod the day after you bought the previous model.” Again, Obama was merely referencing the popularity of the iPod rather than endorsing it, but more recently Fake Steve Jobs pointed out that Obama was captured on camera consulting his iPhone (McCain has a Motorola RAZR).

More significantly, Obama said last fall that Apple board member Al Gore could play a key role in his administration if Gore were interested in doing so, and even left the door open to possibly naming Gore as his running mate. Apple itself has remained relatively political neutral, with no campaign donations of record to either Obama or McCain, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. As a company, Apple has regularly presented presidential debates in iTunes without any political bias.

While CEO Steve Jobs served as an adviser to Democratic candidate John Kerry in 2004, he has made few political donations recently. Last year, Jobs described Gore as an ideal but reluctant candidate, telling Newsweek, “We have dug ourselves into a 20-foot hole, and we need somebody who knows how to build a ladder. Al’s the guy. Like many others, I have tried my best to convince him. So far, no luck.” Jobs hasn’t made similar comments in support Obama.

Obamamania sweeps the Hill – Ryan Grim – Politico.com

McCain and Microsoft.
On the other hand, John McCain told Wall Street Journal columnists at last year’s All Things Digital conference that he would select individuals for his cabinet who have “been a success and understands the issue,” specifically naming Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer.

Ballmer’s reputation for throwing chairs, sweaty theatrics on stage, vowing to “kill Google,” and his association of Linux with Communism played into blogger Kara Swisher’s reply, “Steve Ballmer, Secretary of State, right?” which elicited some laughs. McCain added, “How about ambassador to China, that would be good.”

Microsoft’s PR agency declined to comment on the possibility of its CEO leaving to join McCain’s cabinet. Ballmer lacks any public sector experience but the fact that he was the third person McCain’s thought to name as a potential cabinet member shouldn’t be surprising. Microsoft lobbies the government intensely and contributes more to political campaigns and special interests than any other tech company.

Those political contributions have historically been split equally between Democrats and Republicans, although according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Microsoft has been funneling nearly twice as much money to Democratic candidates this year, anticipating a change in the nation’s political direction. Eight years ago, Microsoft’s political affiliations turned decidedly toward Republicans.

McCain: Bring me Steve Ballmer
Mr Gates Goes to Washinton – The American Prospect

Microsoft’s Political Action: Defense.
The company’s interest in politics is relatively new. In 1995, Microsoft had a Washington DC political influence staff in of one and made minimal contributions. In the late 90s however, the government’s antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft resulted in a dramatic upswing in the company’s funding and staffing for political causes. By 1999, Microsoft was the fifth largest soft-money donor in the US. Microsoft even founded its own political action committee and hired Ralph Reed, former director of the Christian Coalition, to lobby George W. Bush on the company’s behalf.

Some of Microsoft’s money goes into mobilizing political astroturf campaigns. According to Corporate Watch UK, Microsoft has “established phoney grass-roots groups, hired people to write opinion pieces for newspapers and magazines, pose as ordinary citizens in various Internet chat rooms, sponsored polls to make it appear they have a groundswell of support, and have enlisted their stockholders and business partners to lobby for them.”

Microsoft directly funded the work of the Association for Competetive Technology and its Americans for Technology Leadership group, which invented a sham grass roots campaign that wrote letters to states involved in the antitrust case, asking them to ignore Microsoft’s predatory, anticompetitive monopoly. At least two of the fake letters received by Utah’s Attorney General Mark Shurtleff were found to be addressed by names of dead people.

Minnesota’s Attorney General Mike Hatch called Microsoft’s astroturf campaign “sleazy,” saying, “This is not a company that appears to be bothered by ethical boundaries.”

Microsoft also lobbied to defeat a budget increase for the Justice Department’s antitrust division, hoping the agency would subsequently lack the resources to pursue its case. Once George Bush took office, Microsoft’s antitrust troubles vanished.

iPod vs Zune: Microsoft's Slippery Astroturf

iPod vs Zune: Microsoft’s Slippery Astroturf
Awaiting Verdict, Microsoft Starts Lobbying Campaign – New York Times

Microsoft’s Political Action: Offense.
After successfully buying its way out of any meaningful impacts related to its conviction of illegally monopolizing the market for PC operating systems, Microsoft retooled its political machinery to begin lobbing against the use of free and open source software. Microsoft is the largest backer behind the Initiative for Software Choice, which exists to thwart the use of public funds to develop any software delivered under the open source GPL.

“When public funds are used to support software research and development, the innovations that result from this work should be licensed in ways that take into account both the desirability of broadly sharing those advances as well as the desirability of applying those advances to commercialized products,” the group says. However, it simply isn’t true that innovation is hampered by open source, even with the GPL. Apple and IBM have both successfully used open source software in their commercial products.

Instead of open source software being the threat to technical advancement, Judge Jackson’s findings of fact in the Microsoft monopoly trial noted that “some innovations that would truly benefit consumers never occur for the sole reason that they do not coincide with Microsoft’s self-interest.” Open source proponent Bruce Perens called the Initiative for Software Choice’s policies a deceptive campaign, saying, “Their policies are written to maintain an unfair bias for proprietary software in the market.”

Outside the US, Microsoft has lobbied hard to stop any efforts to promote the use of open source, leveraging its American political clout. John Hamilton, then US Ambassador to Peru, wrote a letter to the president of the Peruvian Congress applying pressure against a bill intended to promote the use of open source software. That followed an intense campaign led by Microsoft to stop the bill. Bill Gates subsequently visited Peru to donate $550,000 to the national Peruvian school system, targeted at the same improvements the open source bill was intended to fund.

Microsoft has similarly thrown cash around to stifle the One Laptop Per Child project’s use of Linux, as well as other efforts by governments to back the use of open source, free software, and open standards.

Group campaigns against open source – CNET
Microsoft’s Big Stick in Peru – Wired
Microsoft’s Unwinnable War on Linux and Open Source

Microsoft’s Political Action: Intellectual Property Protection.
Bill Gates is spending Microsoft’s vast fortunes in a new style of philanthropy; Gates began transferring Microsoft’s wealth into his private foundation in $5 billion increments as the antitrust verdict loomed. However, while his foundation channels millions to the needy, it is also used to support “education initiatives” that favor Microsoft’s business in emerging markets such as India and in Africa.

“In the case of SchoolNet Namibia,” Corporate Watch reported, “it turned out that the $2000 Office software license donation was conditional on the project spending $9000 to pay for operating system licenses, and Microsoft attempted to get the project to spend a further $22,500 on equipment that would have mainly been useful as part of a Microsoft marketing campaign.”

Microsoft offered a similar sort of “philanthropy” in the wake of hurricane Katrina, offering a free year’s worth of Windows Vista and Office 2007 licenses for businesses, but requiring them to sign up for a three year plan. A local paper noted “For the typical small business of 50 employees and 25 personal computers licensing Microsoft Windows Vista and the Office 2007 suite of programs, the free year can result in savings of as much as $12,050.” Of course, what that really meant was that recovering small businesses would actually have to shell out $24,100 just for software licenses over the next two years, in addition to buying computers capable of running Vista. That isn’t philanthropy, it’s predatory marketing.

August 2007 Zoon Awards for Technical Ignorance and Incompetence
August 2007 Zoon Awards for Technical Ignorance and Incompetence

Gates’ foundation also staunchly supports genetic modification of food as a solution to global hunger. Monsanto, notorious for its work in patenting GM food supplies, delivered the head of the foundation’s Global Health program, linking Microsoft’s intense support for intellectual property protection to the incredible monetary power of Microsoft’s illegally gained wealth, now being used to set public policy on a global scale, frequently in ways that benefit Microsoft’s interests and without regard for public opinion.

Gates’ view of his own power was evident back in 1993, when a close friend noted, “We were talking about Clinton, who’d just been elected, and Bill was saying blah, blah, blah about whatever the issue was. Then Bill stopped and said, ‘Of course, I have as much power as the president has.’” Microsoft as a company and Ballmer as its CEO share the same arrogance on their relationship to law and society.

The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing But The Truth – Wired
Gates gives $100m to fight HIV, $421m to fight Linux – The Register

Will America Become More Like Apple, or More Like Microsoft?
The presidential elections in the US will determine the influence of money over the public vote. While active in global issues, Apple primarily engineers real products to be sold in open markets. Microsoft services a monopoly that sells intellectual property, a business that requires it to invest heavily in political maneuvering and law evasion.

Whether the future US government will seek to support the needs of legitimate businesses or continue to protect corporate shenanigans that act against the interests of the American people depends greatly upon the vision and policies implemented by the next president.

In issues that involve the tech markets, Obama and McCain see things differently. Last fall, speaking at the Google campus, Obama presented a detailed outline of his stance on tech issues related to net neutrality, encouraging diversity in media ownership, children and freedom of speech, privacy rights, open access to government, modernizing communications infrastructure, and employing technology to solve problems and to increase the country’s competitive edge. Here’s how Obama and McCain differ on those issues.

Barack Obama – Change We Can Believe In – Technology

Net Neutrality
Obama strongly supports keeping Internet access free of content discrimination by the corporations that supply it to individuals, even linking the idea to freedom of speech. His website states “A key reason the Internet has been such a success is because it is the most open network in history. It needs to stay that way. Barack Obama strongly supports the principle of network neutrality to preserve the benefits of open competition on the Internet. Users must be free to access content, to use applications, and to attach personal devices.

[…] Because most Americans only have a choice of only one or two broadband carriers, carriers are tempted to impose a toll charge on content and services, discriminating against websites that are unwilling to pay for equal treatment. […] Such a result would threaten innovation […] It would also threaten the equality of speech through which the Internet has begun to transform American political and cultural discourse.”

McCain opposes net neutrality, saying, “When you control the pipe you should be able to get profit from your investment.”

Sen. John McCain – D5 Highlights – All Things D

Media Ownership Diversity

Obama: “the nation’s rules ensuring diversity of media ownership are critical to the public interest. Unfortunately, over the past several years, the Federal Communications Commission has promoted the concept of consolidation over diversity. […] As president, [Obama] will encourage diversity in the ownership of broadcast media, promote the development of new media outlets for expression of diverse viewpoints, and clarify the public interest obligations of broadcasters who occupy the nation’s spectrum. An Obama presidency will promote greater coverage of local issues and better responsiveness by broadcasters to the communities they serve.”

McCain: “I’m all for the government encouraging competition, but I’ve found over time that less government involvement is better. Unless there is a clear-cut, unequivocal restraint of competition, the government should stay out of it. These things will sort themselves out.”

However, McCain also voted against a 2003 joint resolution to prevent FCC approval of larger media conglomerates, so his position isn’t really one of less government involvement and free markets, but rather of encouraging big media consolidation as a matter of public policy.

John McCain on Technology

Children and Freedom of Speech
Obama: “values our First Amendment freedoms and our right to artistic expression and does not view regulation as the answer to these concerns. Instead, an Obama administration will give parents the tools and information they need to control what their children see on television and the Internet in ways fully consistent with the First Amendment. […] Obama supports tough penalties, increased enforcement resources and forensic tools for law enforcement, and collaboration between law enforcement and the private sector to identify and prosecute people who abuse the Internet to try to exploit children.”

McCain: [Would you police the Internet culturally, such as for predators & pornography?] “Absolutely not, but I also want to point out this Internet child pornography is a terrible evil. It’s got to be addressed. And everybody knows the way you stop it is go after the money.”

At the same time, McCain also suggests requiring filtering software for all public school and library computers as a way to keep children from potentially harmful Internet sites. Again, McCain describes an ideal of less government and free markets, but then promotes big government involvement in a broadly targeted and frequently flawed form of censorship.

John McCain on Technology

Privacy rights
Obama: “will strengthen privacy protections for the digital age and will harness the power of technology to hold government and business accountable for violations of personal privacy […] ensure that powerful databases containing information on Americans that are necessary tools in the fight against terrorism are not misused for other purposes […] will increase the Federal Trade Commission’s enforcement budget and will step up international cooperation to track down cyber-criminals so that U.S. law enforcement can better prevent and punish spam, spyware, telemarketing and phishing intrusions.”

McCain: “When companies provide private records of Americans to the government without proper legal subpoena, warrants, or other legal orders, their heart may be in the right place, but their actions undermine our respect for the law. I am also a strong supporter of protecting the privacy of Americans.”

However, McCain voted against “an amendment to deny AT&T and other telecommunications companies legal immunity if they are proven in court to have violated federal privacy law by opening their networks to the National Security Agency.” One can’t be a strong supporter of protecting privacy while voting to protect the corporate interests of companies who collaborated to support illegal programs to spy on American citizens.

Obama, not McCain or Clinton, votes for electronic privacy – CNET

Open Access to Government
Obama: “The Bush Administration has been one of the most secretive, closed administrations in American history. Our nation’s progress has been stifled by a system corrupted by millions of lobbying dollars contributed to political campaigns, the revolving door between government and industry, and privileged access to inside information-all of which have led to policies that favor the few against the public interest. An Obama presidency will use cutting-edge technologies to reverse this dynamic, creating a new level of transparency, accountability and participation for America’s citizens.

[…] will appoint the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the 21st century. The CTO will ensure the safety of our networks and will lead an interagency effort, working with chief technology and chief information officers of each of the federal agencies, to ensure that they use best-in-class technologies and share best practices.

[…] Lifting the veil from secret deals in Washington with a web site, a search engine, and other web tools that enable citizens easily to track online federal grants, contracts, earmarks, and lobbyist contacts with government officials.”

McCain: “I find it astonishing that the Supreme Court of Mongolia has an official web site, but the US Supreme Court still does not. It is critical to make as much information as possible available to the public over the Internet.” When asked about his personal use of the Internet, McCain responded, “Not nearly as well as I should. My wife Cindy is a whiz.”

Modernizing Communications Infrastructure and Education
Obama: “will emphasize the importance of technology literacy, ensuring that all public school children are equipped with the necessary science, technology and math skills to succeed in the 21st century economy […] restoring the basic principle that government decisions should be based on the best-available, scientifically-valid evidence and not on the ideological predispositions of agency officials”

McCain: [Should we spend government funds to address the digital divide?] “No, I wouldn’t do it directly, but there’s lots of ways that you can encourage corporations who, in their own self-interest, would want to provide — would receive tax benefits, would receive credit, and many other ways for being involved in the schools and upgrading the quality of the equipment that they have, the quality of the students, and thereby providing a much-needed, well-trained work force.”

So far, most American corporations have demonstrated that their self interest lies with doing business on the cheap using overseas labor, not in investing in education.

Employing Technology to Solve Problems and to Increase the Country’s Competitive Edge
Obama: “America should lead the world in broadband penetration and Internet access. As a country, we have ensured that every American has access to telephone service and electricity, regardless of economic status, and Obama will do likewise for broadband Internet access.

[…] supports doubling federal funding for basic research, changing the posture of our federal government from being one of the most anti-science administrations in American history to one that embraces science and technology. This will foster home-grown innovation, help ensure the competitiveness of US technology-based businesses, and ensure that 21st century jobs can and will grow in America

[…] will invest $150 billion over the next ten years to enable American engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs to advance the next generation of biofuels and fuel infrastructure, accelerate the commercialization of plug-in hybrids, promote development of commercial-scale renewable energy, and begin the transition to a new digital electricity grid.

[…] committed to improving the information and communications technology used to support public safety from the antiquated 1970s and 1980s-based technology currently used by agencies around the country to a modern system that will enable us to respond to emergencies and natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.

[…] make the Research and Development tax credit permanent so that firms can rely on it when making decisions to invest in domestic R&D over multi-year timeframes.

[…] giving the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) the resources to improve patent quality and opening up the patent process to citizen review will reduce the uncertainty and wasteful litigation that is currently a significant drag on innovation.

[…] will reinvigorate antitrust enforcement, which is how we ensure that capitalism works for consumers.”

McCain: “I have been a leading advocate in the Senate for seeking market-based solutions to increasing broadband penetration. We should place the federal government in the role of stimulator, rather than regulator, of broadband services, remove state and local barriers to broadband deployment, and facilitate deployment of broadband services to rural and underserved communities.”

However, the companies providing broadband services often do so as municipally granted monopolies, making a “market based solution” non-sensical.

Q&A With Senator Barack Obama On Key Technology Issues
Technology Voters’ Guide: John McCain – CNET

What’s Your View?
Will the US be better off with corporations setting public policy based on their own self-interest in “market based solutions”? Or does it make sense for government to act in the role of serving individual citizens first, providing oversight and setting standards and that companies have to comply with?

Incidentally, both Obama and McCain support making the moratorium on Internet taxes permanent, and both recognize that global climate change issues require prompt action, not simply further study.

I really like to hear from readers. Comment in the Forum or email me with your ideas.

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  • blacktalonz

    Daniel. Thank you for these rare articles that prove you’re not infallible after all.

    You are so deadly correct on technical matters that sometimes I think you’re just not human.

    It’s these little gems that helps me to realize that even you are sometimes full of horse manure.

    Thanks for the chuckle.

  • jfatz

    UrbanBard in 3… 2…

  • http://www.kimhill.com kimhill

    Well, you happen to like Obama better than McCain, and you also like Apple better than Microsoft. Don’t make the mistake of extending that to “McCain is like MS, and Obama’s like Apple.” Someone else might say that McCain’s long-time “maverick” reputation makes him more like Apple. IMO this is all pretty facile and flimsy.

  • http://web.mac.com/lowededwookie lowededwookie

    To rely on corporations to control the uptake of technology is ludicrous at best.

    In the 80’s and 90’s the New Zealand government sold off a lot of New Zealand’s infrastructure to corporates including the rail and telecommunications. We ended up being extremely worse off for it.

    Lately however the current government has pulled a reversal and has shafted Telecom (call them Microsoft of New Zealand telecommunications) and ended up doing to Telecom what the British government did to British Telecom and split them into 3 separate entities. Recently the government awarded the gigahertz range required by Vodafone and Telecom to Vodafone and Telecom but stipulated as part of the agreement that they MUST reserve part of that band so that a third cell company can come in and setup shop. As a result the competition in the telecommunications sector in New Zealand is increasing, hopefully leading to faster speeds and much better costs for data plans.

    New Zealand even just bought back its rail system from overseas corporations in an effort to run a public transport system owned by the people to stave off the petrol price impact that has been created solely by the oil companies (come on, do people really believe that the cost of petrol is related to cost of oil when the cost of a barrel can go down but the petrol price rises???).

    All in all the government NEEDS to control the infrastructure but hand the services to the corporates. I really think the Patent system in America needs to be abolished though because it’s the biggest joke on the planet next to Microsoft.

    Oh and Blacktalonz I find your comment to be somewhat devoid of rational argument. In fact I find your comment to be devoid of anything. Why is Daniel’s post “full of horse manure”? You completely fail to explain anything.

  • droughtquake

    I happen to believe that Daniel is right. I think a major duty of a government is protecting a minority from the tyranny of the majority — or protect the people from multinational corporations that squash competition in the name of efficiency.

    Whatever happened to the antitrust laws that split Standard Oil and the phone company?

  • Metryq

    “and begin the transition to a new digital electricity grid.”

    Huh? What is digital electricity? Did Westinghouse and Edison know about this when they were duking it out? What’s next, HD electricity?

  • albertop9


    I do celebrate that you’re able to see and willing to show your readers what is indeed the big political picture beyond that of the industry you usually analyse so brilliantly.

    @ BLACKTALONZ. Thank you for a token comment that proves conservatives are not rational beings after all.

    You cons are so deadly short-sighted and incapable of lateral thinking and objective reasoning, regardless of your education, that sometimes I think you’re just not human.

    Thanks for the evidence.


  • PerGrenerfors

    “Windows Everywhere”

    ’nuff said.

  • Silver_Surfer1931

    I don’t believe that Daniel has ever professed in any of his articles that he is infallible. While I agree with you that this article does not have the usual balance that Daniel provides even though it’s implicit in your rebuttal, this does not make him full of equine fecal matter.

    It would be extremely helpful to the rest of us if you could enlighten us by providing counterpoint arguments to each one of his points.

  • oomu

    I agree with Daniel Eran Dilger.

    free market would be to stop anti-competition enterprises and promote tools allowing competition, new enterprises and access to the public.

    I miss the time where IBM could be thwarted and At&t separated.

    I miss good economy, progress and choice.

  • kent

    Apple is a classic successful capitalist enterprise. It is a testament to what free people can do if allowed to benefit from their efforts and risks. Obama and McCain are both okay with strong restrictions on capitalism. They have indicated they would favor the government taking the profits of oil companies and putting them to their use. In other words, theft. How would Apple fare in the future if political leaders said they were making obscene profits (their margins are much higher than Mobil or Shell Oil) and so Obama decided to take a signficant portion and put that money to other use – like alternative technologies that did not have the harmful side effects (e.g. car wrecks associated with iPhone users web surfing while driving). This would be very bad for Apple and for the country. But it is exactly what these candidates have proposed for the oil industry, which by the way is more fundamental to our existence than Apple Computers. Apple could not exist without the oil industry. It is important that both parties be brought back to a respect for the goodness of all of our industry and respect for the private property rights associated with industry – that is stockholders risk is not to be undermined by politicians of either party arbitrarily deciding what products are OK and what profits are “reasonable”. Any politician who can do this can steal anything else you own with fancy language. So beware both of these candidates.

  • trekkie

    So Does that make Hillary Clinton Linux? A strong following of people like it, are extremely vocal, and have a scorched earth policy of either ‘you’re for us, or you’re against everything we stand for’ even though part of Mac is open?

    Couldn’t resist.

  • jpmrb

    Daniel i think you’re the brightest analyst of all computer-things in the universe! And i also think that the Obama meme as Mac guy is unadulterated bull. Ok, now we know you’re going Obama. Oh, sweet surprise!
    Well i would not touch a windows PC with a ten-foot barge pole, but i would not touch Obama either, even with thick rubber gloves. As for McCain… let’s stay polite. Which leaves, horror of horrors… Hillary! All the way, the best and the brightest. Now, little Obama people, that’s “Think Different” for you! (Daniel, you’re still the greatest though!)

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    McCain’s problem at the moment is he seems to have forgotten why independents in New Hampshire and elsewhere loved him a few months ago.

    He’s just as much a Republican maverick as Obama is breaks the Clinton Democrat mould.

    The trouble is: you can just tell how much out of touch he’s feeling now. Obama can swim circles around him in technology politics because Obama’s advisors are indescribably more competent and of course because McCain’s been through and forgotten more ages of technology most of us have yet known.

    The more McCain aligns himself with the corpse of Bush policy, the harder it is for independents to like him. Sadly, he seems to be doing that right now just to “play it safe”. If he doesn’t change his tune big time before November, it’s advantage to the Democrat … even if they are Hillary and a whole new generation are burning effigies thanks to being robbed!

  • Doxxic

    I can follow how Obama represents Apple values rather than Microsoft values and McCain vice versa. I also recognize how the rising of Apple versus Microsoft feels like the Rising of Obama versus… Bush actually. But I think that’s all there is to say about it, really.

    It’s not like one is good and the other is evil. It’s not like Democrats are Apple and Republicans are PC. Let’s not forget that Microsoft had their golden age under Clinton.

    It’s just that these days both in technology and politics a new generation is getting their act together, being smart, eager and focused, while the old generation’s story has quickly become muddy and worn out.

  • JohnWatkins

    Admittedly, I tend to vote Democratic and I have ended up being an Obama supporter (originally supported Edwards.) Although I admire McCain for many reasons (especially his past efforts at across the aisle cooperation) he seems a bit off sometimes and I just can’t understand his recent abandonment of most of his more centrist ideas and adoption of the stands of the more right wing part of the Republican following.
    I’m not sure how anyone can read Daniel’s article recounting the candidates policies on important issues and think it is particularly biased. Most of the content of the is article is taken straight from the candidates’ websites or from their voting records. What more do you want? Should he reiterate their spin?
    To me just one issue is revealing – Net Neutrality. How can anyone be against it? The idea of paying for bandwidth depending on its content is absurd – right out of Orwell. The argument against net neutrality sounds like double speak to me.
    I take a similar view of the unprecedented (in my lifetime) concentration of media in so few hands. How could we have let this happen. If you are blind to the harm this had done our society in the last 30 years, you must not want to see.
    By all means, vote for whomever you want. But please make your decision based on the larger issues and the principles behind them rather than on the primitive impulses firing out of your parasympathetic nervous system produced by years of Murdochesque conditioning by NewsCorp and their minions.

  • dicklacara

    Well said! Especially your last point.

    @John Muir
    The reason that Obama can swim circles around McCain is that Obama is a Blank Slate– he has no record… it’s just talk.

    Daniel illustrated this many times in the article:

    1) McCain has some good ideas, but, wherever possible, Daniel dug up a McCain vote/action that contradicted them.

    2) Obama has high-sounding ideas and no record of doing anything (but talk) to contradict them (or to promote them).

    I consider myself a conservative, and generally that best matches with the Republicans. However, I lived in Arizona the last time McCain was up for election. I refused to vote for him then as I consider him a smarmy politician with no backbone or principals.

    I will not vote for McCain nor Obama nor Hillery.

    That said, Daniel, I think you do yourself and your readers a disservice whenever you abandon your excellent journalistic principals and try to foist your politics on your readers.

  • Blad_Rnr

    Here we go again. Daniel is on a political rampage. The real issue is: what in the world do we expect from our politicians? I don’t trust any of them. None of them. They are so entrenched in the system they will never get away from it. Does anyone reading this article REALLY think any of them are going to bring us back to a limited government? I think not. The Democrats have had the majority in the Senate and House for 18 months and all they do is follow Bush’s lead, then they complain about it. Spineless is what I call it.

    And would someone PLEASE tell me what Obama has done in Illinois? Seriously. I would like someone to explain to me why he would make a great President. Because I don’t see anything concrete in his limited time spent in the IL Senate.

    Daniel, please stick to what you know and what you are truly great at. Because if your attempt here is to sway us to vote for Obama, then it just isn’t working.

  • Blad_Rnr

    One last item. The rise of oil prices has little to do with corporate greed, and has more to do with a falling, worthless dollar. If the government continues to think they can sell T-Bills at sub par interest rates to foreign governments, then we will continue to lose ground with other currencies. No matter what, there is no free lunch. We either pay higher prices for gas or we have inflation. Both affect our entire economy.

    We can thank the US Government for taking us off the gold standard back in the early part of the 20th century, which allowed them to print money at will, aka fiat currency.

  • krelldoggy

    Daniel – I’ll echo other comments here and urge you to stick to technology market analysis. I like to read your stuff because you are upfront and don’t try to hide your bias yet you have a lot of useful insight on markets.

    In your political comments I’m missing the “useful insight” part…

  • http://www.jphotog.com ewelch

    I respect McCain as a true American hero for his years spent as a prisoner of War in Vietnam. But let’s get serious. The guy is just another four/eight years of Bush.

    He used to be a Maverick. But the heavy hand of the right has turned him into more of the same.

    You can disagree with Daniel on whether these metaphors are perfectly accurate or not (that’s obviously not his intent, but people have to have their straw men!), but you can’t possibly deny that much of what he said is simply repeating what the candidates said. His interpretation of what they said is another thing altogether.

    Agree or disagree, some of you seem to think that your position is the only possible point of view that is logical or legitimate, and you resent you respect goring your ox. Get over it.

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    @ Blad_Rnr

    Oil is soaring in other currencies too, besides the admittedly super-shrunk dollar.

    Oil is skyrocketing thanks to China, India and a very large section of the global population advancing to the point of needing it. Industry, transport, heating, lighting … we’re moving very quickly forward in many ways. But we *really* need alternative power sources now more than ever.

    You’d be surprised just how little the United States has to do with this particular issue. America consumes far less oil than we in Europe and now the booming developing world of China, India et al.

  • geoffrobinson

    As a conservative, I can explain why most conservatives are sympathetic to Microsoft. People on the left, influenced by Marxist rhetoric and ideas, tend to badmouth and be suspect of corporations. Especially corporations that are successful.

    So when a conservative sees people trashing Microsoft, they see just another person dumping on a productive, successful company.

    But, for example, Judge Bork supported Netscape in the 90s. But conservatives who don’t follow this see people dumping on Microsoft just like they see people dumping on Wal-Mart. They just chalk it up to general dislike of corporations based on Leftist assumptions.

    Now, as to the question of whether you want to trust markets or governments. Markets, hands-down.

    First, there needs to be respect for rights. I don’t want the government coming in telling people what they should be doing with their own property.

    Government cannot foresee consequences for their policies. Take network-neutrality. If you draft a law that says you have to treat a 911 Skype call the same as stealing MP3’s, that’s a bad idea.

    And speaking of self-interest. Corporations through rent-seeking or unions or other groups try to get the government to tilt the scales in their direction. I trust free markets a heck of a lot more than an interventionist government that has no expertise and caters to their constituencies.

    Nothing wrong with having constituencies. But when combined with a busy-bodied, meddling government it has bad results.

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    Another oil anecdote:

    An American journalist recently pointed out on a BBC show I was watching that back at home people are up in arms about $3-4 a gallon gas.

    The price in Britain has been over £1/litre for months now. That’s well over EIGHT dollars per gallon. Yet people are just resigned to it.

    No one here pretends our little economy and our dinky faux-SUV’s (increasingly popular yet still smaller than most cars in America) really have much effect on it. Not when a billion people are on the verge of buying their first cars in Asia.

    Mind, resignation to defeat is a British character fault which isn’t exactly one to be proud of. As the journalist joked!

  • Splashman

    “A lot of people read and appreciate my tech articles. From that, I logically conclude that I will be imputed credibility regarding my political views.”

  • http://scottwhite.blogspot.com/ kibbled_bits

    Don’t try to justify hundreds of years of British over taxation with recent changes in environment. That seems like an easy out.

    As for this issue goes Net Neutrality is the only issue I agree with Barak on.

  • Blad_Rnr

    @ John Muir,

    Good points, John. Oil is really an issue of supply and demand, not so much greed. But the weak dollar is not helping.

    We all need to resign ourselves to the fact that oil is not a political issue. It is an economic one based on a fairly free-market economy. No politician is going to provide us cheaper oil. They do need to stop the tax breaks and handouts to the oil companies, however.

    But the weak dollar is a political issue: governments determine how many dollars are printed and how they spend the money they collect. It is surprising how no one seems to care about our currency debacle. It certainly doesn’t seem to matter to most Americans, unless they are selling a lot of goods overseas and reaping a windfall right now.

  • Murrquan

    Name-calling, accusations of cluelessness, and dozens of people going off on their own rants. Yep, it sounds like the fallout of a political blog post. ^.^

    Personally, I’m grateful for this article, because it helped to confirm my suspicions about McCain … as well as made me consider the possibility of voting for Obama!

    I agree with the conservatives that less government involvement is good, and I don’t like the idea of spending tax money on “research” and things. That’s why I don’t like the Republican party, though — they say one thing and then do another, giving government positions and subsidies to their corporate friends once in office. Seriously, follow the money!

    Speaking of which, I wouldn’t mind knowing who the biggest contributors to Obama’s campaign are …

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    @ Blad_Rnr

    That’s kind of the idea behind floating currencies. The more your trade balance leans one way, the more your paper money valuation shifts the other. A basic tenet of monetarism, far as I recall. Something curiously both in and out of fashion these days.

    China’s currency is under the opposite pressure: it needs to shoot up in value, but their government truly does force the market with very old fashioned rules as to what Chinese are allowed to do with their RMB. Once that issue is overcome (it’ll happen, globalisation is a steamroller to such things) we’ll see some interesting effects. Also on the cards is a move to pricing oil in Euros instead of the USD.

  • JohnWatkins

    @John Muir
    I always find it curious that people keep clamoring for oil to be priced in Euros rather than dollars. What difference could it possibly make? The Euro and the Dollar are both floating currencies. We’ll all still be paying the same price for oil.
    Perhaps it will make charts easier to draw?

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    @ JohnWatkins

    My understanding is that oil is priced for a few months in the future. It’s wonky I know, but when traders bid for oil they’re actually buying it in a given number of weeks, so the trading currency’s fluctuation does actually come into it during that projected time!

    Note: I am not a trader. Just take a natural geeky interest in such things…

    Fundamentally though: it is indeed true that the currency oil and other commodities are priced in should be just a technical point. If the dollar hits half a Euro, it’s still half a Euro, whatever oil and gold and silver have to say.

  • JohnWatkins

    @ John Muir
    Makes sense. Well soon after they change it over the Euro will probably get wonky. Perhaps We can make Blad_Rnr happy by pricing it to the gold standard. Or perhaps we should shift all curencies over to the oil standard! ;-)
    (Actually it might simplify things. Prices for goods and our paychecks would too. But every month we’d have to work 10% more hours!)

  • JohnWatkins

    Sorry meant to say:
    (Actually it might simplify things. Prices for goods would stay the same and our paychecks would too. But every month we’d have to work 10% more hours or get fired!)

  • ericdano

    Terrible article. Terrible. Daniel, stick with tech things. Drawing these broad conclusions based on what a politician is saying is insane. How many times do they actually do what they say? Pretty much never.

    If you keep writing trash like this, I’ll stop reading your articles.

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    @ ericdano

    How hard is it to hit the spacebar in your RSS reader when you see politics in the headline? It’s right there between the command keys…

    @ JohnWatkins

    As for gold standards, or indeed oil standards like you joke, they force a dependency on some material or another which we cannot all access as equally as we can paper money.

    Saudi Arabia would be the new Spanish Empire – holding the great cash reserve of the world in its hands.

    And China would become the new … China!

    Back in the 1700/1800’s China was a massive exporter. (History likes to repeat itself.) The west traded for silk and porcelain and all manner of fine things we hadn’t worked out how to make for ourselves … but the Chinese became increasingly picky about how they were paid. Eventually it came down to gold alone, and of course all our currencies were based on gold or silver, so the effect was a horrible and gigantic train wreck in slow motion.

    Britain came up with a cunning idea. We held Afghanistan and India at the time and so had a corner on the opium market. How about getting the Chinese hooked on that?

    Thus began the opium wars, where we used military might to humiliate the Chinese and force (initially) cheap narcotics on their population in the hope we could balance up our trade deficit!

    What a nightmare. History’s such a merry lesson…

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    We only just got around to giving Hong Kong back eleven years ago.

  • tundraboy

    I am sooo tired of conservatives claiming that they are for free markets when what they really mean is they want corporations to be free to dominate, manipulate and monopolize markets using any means available including the unethical and criminal. Such a market, my dear stupid friends, may be a lot of things but it is certainly not ‘free’.

    I am for free markets too, and I want the government to keep them free by adequately punishing offenders like Microsoft when they get convicted for criminally coercive actions that lead to the obliteration of the competition and the acquisition of monopoly power.

  • http://www.thecarbonlesspaper.com johnnyapple

    There’s no way that we’ll move away from the need for combustible fuel powering most of our transportation. The need for bio fuels will continue to increase but does not have to come at the expense of taking away from cropland for food. That’s already a significant problem.

    A research scale photobioreactorproject at MIT filters smokestack emissions from their natural gas power station through clear tubes of green algae. The CO2 is absorbed rapidly by the algae and the resulting emissions are oxygen and nitrogen. The algae is then processed into bio crude which can then be refined by existing fossil crude refineries. The remaining organic material can then be distilled into ethanol and finally the high protein meal that’s left can be used as livestock feed. There’s virtually no waste. The carbon is used twice so total emissions are cut in half. It’s pretty amazing stuff. The yield per acre of bio fuel from algae is about 30x that of land based crops.

    The MIT research is easily exceeding all expectations. If biofuels can compete with fossil fuel it can both bring down the cost of fossil fuel and reduce overall carbon emissions by a significant amount. This won’t happen over night but the $150 billion pledged over the next ten years on alternative energy, along with a great deal of interest by venture capitalists will get us there sooner.

  • http://www.thecarbonlesspaper.com johnnyapple

    A YouTube link to the MIT story.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EnOSnJJSP5c

  • http://johnsessays.blogspot.com John Muir

    @ tundraboy

    Regulation certainly has its place (and I count myself as an economic conservative). The problem though is who scrutinises the regulators?

    Daniel points out that a huge problem in America is the effect of big money *lobbying* politicians at the top. Campaigning is expensive – so there’s a huge opening for corruption there as McCain has done much about in particular – but the worst situation of all is what happens permanently in Washington where ludicrous moves happen on a regular basis, little noticed by the people at large.

    How did Microsoft get off without being split into bits at the peak of the Netscape fiasco? Politicians let them do it. If money speaks louder than words – which it does – then politicians are the ones who’ll distort the market for big business, whether by inactive laissez faire or by regulating for their own corrupt interest.

    It’s not an easy system to resolve. Ergo the centuries of argument.

  • rwahrens


    “…governments determine how many dollars are printed…”

    No, they don’t. the US stopped printing money to control the money supply in the early 2oth century.

    The money supply is controlled by the Federal Reserve through the use of various interest rates and charges for lending money to member banks. They also control it through controlling the amount of demand deposits required to be kept on deposit with the Fed on a daily basis.

    Printing money to control the money supply is old fashioned technology, slow and expensive. One must not only spend money to print it, it must be protected at all points, distributed physically, and recalled in much the same manner when it comes time to contract the money supply.

    Modern methods are faster, relatively cost free, more reliable and more quickly reversible when necessary.

    Physical money is released into the economy through the Fed to its member banks on a dollar for dollar basis, daily, as old and worn-out money makes its way through the system, in order to prevent the release of physical money from affecting the money supply as an economic control mechanism.

  • kent


    You say, “I am sooo tired of conservatives claiming that they are for free markets when what they really mean is they want corporations to be free to dominate, manipulate and monopolize markets using any means available including the unethical and criminal. ”

    Where did you come up with this? I find the government regulations to be unethical and criminal. How about government policy throwing money at corporate farmers like ADM so they can make ethanol, subsidized at $.50 per gallon since it is such a swell alternative fuel, and then food prices skyrocket creating famine in 3rd world countries, and oh, by the way, the environmental impact of ethanol is worse than oil. How about idiot environmentalists putting extreme wilderness sites off limits to drilling while our country imports oil. I suppose it is OK for other countries to endure environmental risks for our benefit but we can put all our resources off limits and regulate refineries out of existence. How about governments mandating scores of blends of gasoline adding ridiculous costs to the distribution of oil and thus putting real disproportionate burden on the little guy, all in the name of “government knowing better”. Government said silicon breast implants caused cancer until it put the silicon industry out of existence. Then it studied the science and said “Nevermind”. Personally I am sooo sick of liberals who know nothing about creating value or how business operates arrogantly using government to tell businesses what to do and thereby destroying jobs, wealth and freedom.

  • PerGrenerfors

    Usually I look forward to reading the comments as much as reading the articles. Political topics are, however, disappointing.

    But I found this gem in Kent’s post:
    “Government said silicon breast implants caused cancer until it put the silicon industry out of existence. Then it studied the science and said “Nevermind”. ”


  • http://Animalinternet.com billiam

    @ albertop9 #7
    “..a token comment that proves conservatives are not rational beings after all… You cons are so deadly short-sighted and incapable of lateral thinking and objective reasoning…”

    Albert, are you truly filled with so much hate that you can’t see how ignorant your words make you sound? Objective reasoning is based on just that, reasoning. Not feelings. You sound like a 7 year old – filled with passion but dumb as a bag of hammers.

    You can thank conservative presidents for freeing the slaves and defeating Communism. As for the Dem presidents, well, they did some important and lasting things too. Thanks for the national park system. Oh, and teaching young people that it’s okay to lie under oath.

  • gprovida

    I applaud the choice of issues by Dan and the framework by which he contrasts the deep opposing views of the candidates and the parties.

    The issues and need for net neutrality, true privacy [look at the Europeans who can testify to dangers of its loss], rule of law [look at Guantanamo], transparency of government operations [think Chaney/
    Bush Oil Company meetings and Iraq and Global Warming decisions and policies], and Government support of education [should be passionate issues for the IT community] are important and urgent for all citizens.

    Obama [and Clinton] have taken these issues on directly as core to an open and democratic society. There is a domain for private organizations, but these are not them.

    John Adams 2nd President and Patriot observed, “Laws for the liberal education of youth, especially of the lower class [read poor] of people, are so extremely wise and useful, that, to a humane and generous mind, no expense for this purpose would be thought extravagant.”

    This was enshrined in Mass Constitution. In other words, it is the obligation of Government to advance the [technical] education of its citizens/youth, not leave it to some vague “corporate interest or charity.”

  • Jim F.

    Well – is it me or is the John McCain link the only one on DE article. I think that the hammering folks have provided DE on anti-McCain-ness could be misplaced. If that is true (anti-McCain) then where is the “Obama for Prez” link?

  • earth2kelly

    @billiam #44

    Lincoln was a flaming liberal of his day. He was one of the first american presidents to believe that gov. spending was good for financial expansion. You can thank that liberal idea for the trans-continental railroad and countless river bridges paid for with tax money. Do you really think that any conservative in those days cared one witt about freeing slaves?

    And no serious historian would say that Reagan or Bush defeated communism. They fell from their own inefficiencies. Truman sealed their fate with his policy of containment and every prez that followed did their part to continue that policy.

    Dan- I thank you for your roundup of the two candidate’s positions relating to the tech industry. Maybe some of you McCain supporters could do us a favor and explain why his policies are good for America.

  • TripleHead

    I know that you are a ‘dyed-in-the-wool” liberal and hate Republicans. And I know you would love to connect your favorite corporation with your favorite political leanings,while trying to connect the dots between the corporation you hate to the political party you hate.

    I DI notice that you blantantly omitted that the Democratic Party selected Microsoft as the ‘official software and HD Web content provider’ for the Democratic Convention.


    I guess we now know why it is called the “left” coast…

    I love your tech analysis and pieces. I just wish you’d leave the politics out of here. I don’t come here for that.

  • droughtquake

    I’m sure Daniel will be willing to give all of you who hate this column a full refund. Oh, that’s right, it’s free! You aren’t paying to read his opinion and you are always able to skip a column if it upsets you so much!

    @ TripleHead

    The column is about the candidates, not the political parties. Daniel did mention the brands of cell phones used by the two candidates though.

    ps Those of us who actually live on the West Coast don’t call it the ‘left coast’.

  • TripleHead

    While we’re on this political rant, let me say a few things about that:

    I would LOVE to see a woman president someday – but Hillary ain’t the one. The first woman president is going to have to be a woman like Margaret Thatcher to win.

    I would LOVE to see a black president someday – but Obama ain’t it. The first black president is going to have to be someone like Colin Powell or Martin Luther King to win.

    Now, let me tell all you ever-lovin’ liberals a scary story.

    The Democrats are going to lose this election. Impossible, you say? Well, I have a little theory about how things just may turn out.

    Hillary getting the nomination at this point is just a numerical improbability, but IF Hillary gets the nomination, there are probably too many folks, on both sides, that see Bill as too much of a liability, and will vote against the Bill and Hillary show, no matter who that is. John McCain wins.

    If Barack Obama gets the Democratic nomination, I think Hillary is going to do everything in her power – covertly, of course – to make sure that Obama loses the election to John McCain.

    Why, you ask? Because, if Obama gets elected president, then Hillary will not be able to run in the 2012 election. Obama would obviously run for re-election, and I think that Hillary knows this and she sees this as her only chance at the White House. She will see to it that enough Democratic votes go to McCain so she can run against McCain (or whoever) in 2012. John McCain wins.