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Archive for September 26th, 2008

DorobekInsider: Godspeed to Kurt Kelman

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I just saw that Steve Kelman posted on his FCW.com blog, The Lectern, about the death of his father, Kurt Kelman, who passed away last night. He was 89.

From Steve Kelman’s post:

Kurt Kelman… was an immigrant. Born in Vienna, Austria, he was 19, and just graduating from high school, when Hitler took over the country in 1938. He immediately decided to leave. A few months later, he got a train ticket to Basel, Switzerland, just over the German border, but with no passport, he would have been unable to enter the country legally. Just over the German border, he jumped off the train as it rounded a bend, and walked into the city to a refugee organization, which took him to a small village to hide. Turned in to the police by a suspicious local farmer, he was put in jail (he didn’t have any money to pay a fine) and then expelled, fortunately to France and not back to Germany.

Read the rest of Steve Kelman’s remembrance here.

Written by cdorobek

September 26, 2008 at 12:47 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

DorobekInsider: BlackBerry or spouse? Hmmmm

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Just a Friday pre-weekend item: So if you only could choose one — your BlackBerry/iPhone or your significant other, which would you choose?

Well, for one-third of the people in at least one survey, the answer was obvious: their smart phone!

The Economist’s Gullivar travel blog has this item:

A NEW survey conducted for Sheraton Hotels & Resorts finds that over a third of smart phone users would pick their BlackBerry over their significant other if they absolutely had to choose one to live without. Gulliver has covered PDA addiction before, noting that users show signs of addiction “similar to alcoholics“, but this survey result has to represent some sort of new low. The 35% number wasn’t the only depressing survey result, but if you’re a heavy CrackBerry user, you already know the rest:

The vast majority of people (84%) say they check their PDAs just before going to bed and as soon as they wake up, 85% say they sneak a peak at their PDA in the middle of the night, and 80% say they check their e mail before morning coffee. A whopping 87% of professionals bring their PDA into the bedroom.

(And yes — the photo is from BlackBerry events going on around DC right now. This one happened to be outside the Regan Building. The BlackBerry and its team of assistants were pointing people to BlackBerry’s government Web site, blackberrygov.com. The photo is taken with my iPhone… but I have both an iPhone and a BlackBerry.)

Written by cdorobek

September 26, 2008 at 9:12 AM

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DorobekInsider: Why feds may not be able to use YouTube

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Many federal agencies post videos to YouTube or other video sharing sites, but that might not really be… legal might be too strong, but… maybe not inaccurate. But don’t panic yet!

YouTube, of course, is the big playing in online video, hosting nearly one-third of videos posted online. That is largely because it is so easy to use — and then for others to post videos.

Well, it turns out that the YouTube terms of service apparently conflict with federal laws.

We all have seen “terms of service.” Most of us see it as that part of the registering process that you quickly pass over by quickly agreeing. We agree because, essentially, we have no option. (FYI: This site has a summary of YouTube’s terms of service.)

Apparently some wise people were smart enough to read the YouTube terms of service and there is this mind-numbing provision (italics added by me; ALL CAPS added by them):

You agree that: (i) the YouTube Website shall be deemed solely based in California; and (ii) the YouTube Website shall be deemed a passive website that does not give rise to personal jurisdiction over YouTube, either specific or general, in jurisdictions other than California. These Terms of Service shall be governed by the internal substantive laws of the State of California, without respect to its conflict of laws principles. Any claim or dispute between you and YouTube that arises in whole or in part from the YouTube Website shall be decided exclusively by a court of competent jurisdiction located in San Mateo County, California. These Terms of Service, together with the Privacy Notice at http://www.youtube.com/t/privacy and any other legal notices published by YouTube on the Website, shall constitute the entire agreement between you and YouTube concerning the YouTube Website. If any provision of these Terms of Service is deemed invalid by a court of competent jurisdiction, the invalidity of such provision shall not affect the validity of the remaining provisions of these Terms of Service, which shall remain in full force and effect. No waiver of any term of this these Terms of Service shall be deemed a further or continuing waiver of such term or any other term, and YouTube’s failure to assert any right or provision under these Terms of Service shall not constitute a waiver of such right or provision. YouTube reserves the right to amend these Terms of Service at any time and without notice, and it is your responsibility to review these Terms of Service for any changes. Your use of the YouTube Website following any amendment of these Terms of Service will signify your assent to and acceptance of its revised terms. YOU AND YOUTUBE AGREE THAT ANY CAUSE OF ACTION ARISING OUT OF OR RELATED TO THE YOUTUBE WEBSITE MUST COMMENCE WITHIN ONE (1) YEAR AFTER THE CAUSE OF ACTION ACCRUES. OTHERWISE, SUCH CAUSE OF ACTION IS PERMANENTLY BARRED.

Federal agencies only play in federal courts.

There are some other problem language, but… from what I understand, that is the big one.

I’m hearing that the folks at GSA and YouTube’s parent, Google, are trying to work something out for federal agencies that will resolve the conflicts. I have queries into GSA.

Mostly related: The executive branch isn’t the only one dealing with these kinds of issues. Congress has apparently been struggling with issues as well, Roll Call reports.

Less than a week after the Senate passed its own regulations for using YouTube videos, the House Administration Committee tried to do the same — and ended up with an emotionally charged hearing and a breakdown in negotiations.

The issue itself is almost mundane: House rules prohibit Members from using outside Web sites such as YouTube, but many openly violate the rules and post such videos on their official Web sites.

Both House Democrats and Republicans agree the rules need to be updated. But formulating them and negotiating the language has already taken more than a year.

Staffers had hoped to piggy-back on the Senate’s resolution and agree on language before Thursday’s business meeting, but they came up short.

Roll Call has a interesting column by Soren Dayton, a manager for New Media Strategies, who also blogs at conservative Web sites TheNextRight.com and Redstate.com.

On June 24, Rep. Mike Capuano (D-Mass.) sent a letter to House Administration Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.) urging the committee to update its guidelines governing Member Web sites. WhileCapuano’s proposal improved the status quo, it ignores the current practice by House Members.

A much simpler principle would have sufficed: What matters is what you say, not where you say it. That would reflect the reality of current practice and be appropriate to the “new” media and the changing economics of the “old” media. Furthermore, these answers are implied by a letter by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio), as posted on the Speaker’s office blog, The Gavel…

Let me briefly summarize Capuano’s proposal, its problems, and a simple content-based solution. That solution would allow Members to communicate with the public using today’s Internet tools. Capuano made the proposal as head of the franking commission, which operates under the House Administration panel.

Continue reading Dayton’s column here.

Written by cdorobek

September 26, 2008 at 8:07 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

DorobekInsider: The Wall Street crisis could impact the government too

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We have all been watching the mess on Wall Street — and I think most people in government sit back and think, “Thank goodness I’m a fed and I don’t have to deal with this stuff.”

Unfortunately, in today’s hyper-connected world, what happens on Wall Street has ramifications on Main Street… and around the Beltway. (Ah — the world is flat!)

We seemingly hate to say it, but… it seems we just don’t know.

In my own mind, I keep going back and forth on the potential impact of this to government.

But here is some reading/listening on the subject.

* Michael Lent, the editor and publisher of Government Services Insider, wrote a excellent column for the current issue of Washington Technology headlined, Five ways the financial crisis makes things tougher for contractors. The headline could have just as easily have read, “Five ways the financial crisis makes things tougher on agencies,” to be honest, particularly given that agencies are increasingly dependent on contractors to get their jobs done.

I should note that we had Lent on Federal News Radio’s Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris on Thursday. You can hear him for yourself here. [.mp3]

His five ways:

1. Regulation — in general — is now in, with gusto, easing passage of more rules.
2. The bailout will infect the discretionary budget, snuffing growth in some areas.
3. Financing for M&A deals will be constrained as “deleveraging” proceeds on Wall Street.
4. Small businesses will suffer a continuing credit pinch.
5. Boards of directors will be compelled to proactively surveil management.

One of the somewhat scary parts of this situation seems to be that the longer it goes on, the less we seem to know. For example, last weekend, when Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson was on the Sunday news shows talking about the $700 billion package, my immediate thought was that this would have a huge impact on agencies. Why? Because, just as Lent says, the debt would essentially choke the government spending.

But — and we all hate this phrase — we just don’t know. Elsewhere on Federal News Radio, on InDepth with Francis Rose, our mid-day program, Rose spoke to Henry Aaron, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the former Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. His point: We just don’t know what this will mean. [You can listen to the interview with Aaron here. (.mp3)] It depends how much the government pays for these troubled debts… and how much it can then sell them for.

Meanwhile, CNet’s Dan Farber says that we should get ready for a new wave of consolidation, at least in the information technology world.

Global domination. That is the dreamy aspiration, mostly unspoken, of CEOs around the world of companies large and small. Market share domination is probably a more accurate description of the goal. In times of economic distress, companies with the stronger balance sheets are like sharks in the water, seeking to gain market share through acquisition or attrition. With the dawning of a new era of government regulation, spawned by the current and ongoing financial meltdown and the Enron generation, the sharks are circling but keeping an eye on antitrust regulators.

While tech spending doesn’t exactly correlate to the credit crunch, IT purchases are expected to slow down over the next three quarters, according to Forrester. Advertising spending in 2009 could be curbed if the economy spirals downward. Of course, no one knows which direction the gyrating stock market and spending patterns will go. If the $700 billion government (taxpayer) handout brings more confidence into the markets, the outlook will be better. But the majority of companies lacking strong financials or sales pipelines will be looking for reasonable exits or ways to conserve cash while the economy sorts itself out.

One other piece that is worth reading. (Hat tip to Federal News Radio’s Francis Rose.) Over the weekend, WP money columnist Robert J. Samuelson provided insights into one of the big questions coming out of all this economic mess: How did we get here in the first place?

His column, headlined The Confidence Game , is worth a few minutes.

It’s all about confidence… Every financial system depends on trust. People have to believe that the institutions they deal with will perform as expected. We are in a crisis because financial managers — the people who run banks, investment banks, hedge funds — have lost that trust. Banks recoil from lending to each other; investors retreat. The ultimate horror is when everyone wants to sell and no one wants to buy. Paulson’s plan aims to avoid that calamity.

Written by cdorobek

September 26, 2008 at 6:47 AM

Posted in budget, Industry

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