Why Tech Folks Need To Buy Tickets To Biden's Sillicon Valley Tour.

When folks list the friends of tech in Washington DC, they do not generally include Vice President Joe Biden.  To the contrary, whether it's repeating the standard Hollywood line that anyone who opposes tech mandates coddles pirates, or corralling the head of the Justice Department, the FBI, and Homeland Security to hold a private meeting for Entertainment CEOs, there has never been any doubt where Biden comes down when Hollywood and Silicon Valley cross swords.

For this reason, Silicon Valley folks might be tempted to skip out on
Biden's Silicon Valley Fundraiser Stop for Senator Barbara Boxer. To the contrary, this is why Silicon Valley CEOs need to show up -- in droves.

Some wise wag once declared "half of life is showing up." That applies in spades in policy. Most people think folks in Washington are predecided on every issue based on campaign contributions. But my ten years experience as a policy hacker here in DC has taught me that most people in DC try to do the right thing on most issues -- for varying definitions of "right thing," which includes protecting businesses in your districts and so forth. The biggest problem in DC is actually trying to get policymakers to notice your existence and pay attention when you talk to them, especially if you are delivering something contrary to their expectations.

Even worse, folks in Washington don't get out much. By and large, the Emperors of China's Qing Dynasty locked away in the Forbidden City had more contact with the real world than the average policy Mandarin in Washington. This produces a predictable result. Decision makers in Washington DC make decisions based on what they think they know about the real world, which comes from those people willing to make the time and effort to show up and provide information. Special interests that get this, like the entertainment industry, therefore spend a lot of time and effort blasting their version of reality at decisionmakers through a variety of means. That is why we have the amusing sight of Mickey Dolenz of The Monkeys playing a concert on Capital Hill to lobby for passage of the Performance Rights Act (backed up by 3 sitting members of Congress). It may seem silly and cheesy, but it works in terms of winning over law makers who may not know jack about the issue, but they got to play with a former member of The Monkeys who told them this bill was important so please vote for it. And if you never hear from anyone opposing it, why wouldn't you vote for it?

As it happens, I'm supportive of the Performance Rights Act, but the same method works for pushing things like the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and other things that generally piss off the tech community. Think of it as a dedicated denial of service attack by special interests on policymakers. Special interests willing to spend money like water effectively block access to the right people by overwheliming them with inputs. Even if the inputs are pure garbage, they are the bulk of what gets through -- in no small part because of everyone else gives up in disgust. So policymakers become convinced that the garbage coming in actually reflects the state of the world, and make decisions accordingly.

Which brings me back to Joe Biden and his visit to Silicon Valley on July 8. Biden out of the Forbidden City and on tour in the provinces is a gift beyond measure to anyone trying to penetrate the usual obscuring cloud of lobbyists blocking access in DC.  Those who pay the fee for the fundraiser will have a chance to get in an unfiltered remark or two about what bugs them, and Biden will have to smile and nod politely because, hey, it's a fundraiser and he needs your vote.

Obviously, the more tech people who show up to send the message, the better. And the more unified and simple the message, the better and more effective it will be. This is not a time for nuance. Nor do you "waste" your one shot by repeating what the tech CEO in front of you said and trying to introduce something else. This is a straightforward application of the "Alice's Restaurant Rule of Public Policy." If one person says it, it's an outlier and you ignore it. If two people say it, it's special interest so ignore it. If 50 people say it, it's a bloody national trend.

Which is why tech folks who care about reigning in the power of Hollywood to impose tech mandates need to show up on July 8 to prove to Boxer and Biden they exist and that the Hollywood view of the world that pits noble entertainment companies against evil pirates and terrorists needs some amending. You need to walk up to them, sing a bar of the tech policy version of Alice's Restaurant, and walk out. In this case, the refrain goes like this: "Carly at least has tech experience. You seem Hell bent on destroying the tech industry with over-enforcement and crap like ACTA in the name of stopping piracy. I create jobs, I'm not a pirate, and unless my concerns get  respected, I'm voting Republican."

Fifty tech execs walking in, singing a bar of that song, and walking out, will make a difference. Oh, it won't turn things around overnight -- especially with Biden scheduled to make a trip with Boxer down to Los Angeles the next day for another fundraiser where the entertainment industry will trot out the star power. But it will be the first step in getting Biden and others who buy into the Hollywood's pirate story to start asking whether real life is really like that.
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Love Jack White, he's a great guitar player and does a lot with a little (if that makes sense). I feel he really loves what he does, which shows in how many projects he takes on at once.

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