June 5, 2005


Silicon Valley Goes to Washington: A free-trade accord with Central America is the latest priority for a sector that once steered clear of Capitol Hill. (Jonathan Peterson, June 5, 2005, LA Times)

A traveling corps of Silicon Valley executives descended on Capitol Hill last week, touting the Central American Free Trade Agreement as vital for the success of U.S. technology products in a global economy.

In the eyes of some CAFTA supporters, the weight of that message was amplified considerably by the people relaying it.

"Members pay special attention to the high-tech community," said Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), a champion of the hotly contested trade deal that may reach the House floor in June. He added, hopefully: "They're key to the passage."

At least, they would like to be. The escalating struggle over trade is just the latest uphill fight for an industry that once steered clear of Washington but has now poured hundreds of millions of dollars into its goal of becoming a player in the capital.

High tech spends more than $80 million a year on lobbying — sixth among major industries and up from 17th in the late 1990s — according to the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity.

Tech lobbyists even have their own name for Franklin Park, the downtown block surrounded by the Washington offices of Microsoft Corp., Dell Inc., EBay Inc. and others: Silicon Square.

It is the GOP's great fortune that Democrats did not understand a single lesson of the Clinton years.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 5, 2005 10:28 AM

People who think that corporations control politicians because of the direction the money flows must also think that cows control farmers because of the direction the milk flows.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 5, 2005 11:42 AM


Ever work on a dairy farm?

Posted by: oj at June 5, 2005 11:47 AM

David - ironically as OJ notes your example reenforces OJ's argument.

Gotta wonder how Dem Senators from CA (Boxer, Feinstein) and Cantwell from WA (who made her fortune - before losing it - in high tech) can defend going against high tech.

Posted by: AWW at June 5, 2005 1:10 PM


They will just say "Republicans bad. Make much evil. Bush drink blood of homeless babies" and the tech industry will forgive them. I work in the industry and I've had this discussion.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at June 5, 2005 2:58 PM

look at the reaming billg received at the hands of the clinton justice department (he actually broke down in tears at one point) and he is still a democratic supporter.

Posted by: at June 5, 2005 8:30 PM

Most engineers (mechanical, electrical, chemical, power, mining, nuclear, aerospace, and so on) are Republican, either by habit or by passion.

Many computer folks seem a bit more agnostic (esoteric?) and probably quite a lot of them don't vote. The famous ones (the rich ones) are probably almost exclusively Democrats, because they have been wined and dined and sought after by the (social) alphas who rejected them back in high school, but now envy them. And people like Warren Buffet fit that category as well.

Posted by: jim hamlen at June 5, 2005 11:12 PM

maybe the difference is that most engineers work in the world of the 'concrete' while s/w is a purely abstract realm. also, s/w isn't really mature enough to qualify as true engineering yet.

Posted by: cjm at June 6, 2005 10:13 AM


The abstractness is part of it, but not the whole thing. IMHO it comes down to the fact that most programmers are "magic" programmers who have in fact little understanding of the concepts and technologies with which they work. As I've noted before, I am respected and despised for being the go-to, solution generating guy when 90% of time my solutions are just re-hashes of previous work. So working in the field conditions practioners to believe they can make designs work even if they have no idea what they're doing, kind of like social scientists but (unfortunately) ones with analogous experience. As OJ documents frequently for the social scientists, they think they're discovering new and fascinating things when they're really just re-discovering variants of long known principles.

The other thing is that in software, you can always throw in another kludge to deal with the problem of the day. For more physical engineering, there are much more stringent limits on things. For example, if you're building a bridge you can't just always slap on another brace or suspension cable. Imagine what bridges would look like if you could. That's the state of most software. When it gets bad enough we call it "bit rot". At that point, the standard solution is to throw it away and start over. So the natural response of most programmers when faced with system failure isn't to step back and consider basic principles (e.g., conservatism) but to slap yet more software on it or dump the whole thing and start over (modern liberalism).

Bottom line, Boxer, Feinstein and Cantwell can just issue a "patch" and everything will be fine.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at June 6, 2005 1:39 PM

OJ: No, but I am a carnivore.

In any event, it has now been scientifically proven that my high genetic intelligence is due to the fact that neither I nor any of my ancestors has ever farmed.

Posted by: David Cohen at June 6, 2005 8:24 PM

Yes, had you ever worked a farm you'd know the cows run it.

Posted by: oj at June 6, 2005 8:33 PM