Tag Archives: government

FCC’s Tom Wheeler proposes Title 2

Tom_Wheeler_FCCLast week, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler — who has deep roots in the cable TV and wireless phone industries — proposed a surprise: broadband carriers, both wired and wireless, should be regulated as common carriers under title 2 of the Telecommunications Act so that they provide uniform broadband service to all consumers. In addition, the FCC proposed that the definition of broadband should be upgraded to 25 Mbps. (It has been 4 Mbps.) Consumers will benefit from these actions.

As a compensatory gift to the cable TV companies, Mr. Wheeler proposes that there should be no last mile (the distribution cable from the carrier’s central office to the customer premise) unbundling. (The phone companies were ordered years ago to unbundle their last mile — that’s what allows companies such as DSL Extreme to offer low cost DSL service over the local carrier’s twisted pair.) AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast spend tons of money on lobbyists. They’ll expect to receive favors from Congress in return for their largesse, so Mr. Wheeler’s proposal will be in for rough sledding when it hits Congress.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

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Nation’s new cyber security chief just another windbag

President Obama recently appointed Michael Daniel to the position of “cybersecurity czar”. Michael Daniel official photoWho’s he? Techdirt reported that White House’s Cybersecurity Guy Proud Of His Lack Of Cybersecurity Knowledge Or Skills. Cybersecurity analyst Robert Lee, writing in Forbes, points out that It Does Matter That The White House Cybersecurity Czar Lacks Technical Chops. I agree. This supposedly high-tech administration is over-run with MBAs and lawyers who are dilettantes in technical matters. They don’t understand even the fundamentals of technology, so they can’t see through shuck.

Exhibit A is FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, who was a lobbyist for both the cable TV and cell phone industries(!). He was also a major Obama political campaign consolidator.

Click for Obama windbag video
image by Politizoid

Then there’s the IRS, whose managers and IT staff seem to have no clue about disaster recovery planning or routine data recovery procedures. Or are they merely trying to hide evidence of criminal behavior?

For an administration that boasts of its techno-hipness, the appointment of one more windbag to a position that requires technical expertise is pathetic.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Mayday PAC’s goal: return Congress to the people

Would you like to change our government so that it works for its citizens, rather than its corporations? Have a look at mayone.us. Harvard Law School professor Larry Lessig has created Mayday PAC (Political Action Committee) to change the American political landscape. Their FAQ states

image

The Mayday PAC is a super PAC. That means it spends the money it collects independently of any political campaign. But the ultimate aim of this super PAC is to end the dominance of super PACs in our elections.

We want fundamental reform that will change the way elections are funded. The first step towards that goal is to elect a Congress that will enact fundamental reform. Once we have that Congress, we will then consider the constitutional reform that will secure fundamental reform.

Mr. Lessig has consistently objected to government’s over-reach. Last year he denounced federal prosecutors for their overzealous prosecution of information access advocate Aaron Swartz.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Kingsbury Commitment, 1913

Today is the 100th anniversary of the Bell telephone system’s regulated monopoly.

Bell System 1900 logo
Bell System logo in 1900

Until December 1913, the Bell system, under the leadership of Theodore Vail, had aggressively absorbed smaller independent telephone companies. It refused to grant competing phone companies access to its growing network, which crushed small would-be competitors. It had also acquired Western Union, which controlled the telegraph industry. Bell dominated both the domestic telegraph and the domestic telephone markets.

In 1913, the U.S. federal government was considering nationalizing the growing Bell phone system (Britain had nationalized its phone system in 1912) or breaking up Bell’s monopoly. Clearly, the government would take antitrust action of some sort, so AT&T negotiated with the Justice Department. On December 19, 1913, AT&T Vice President Nathan Kingsbury sent a letter to the Attorney General in which AT&T agreed “to divest itself of Western Union, to provide long distance services to independent exchanges under certain conditions, and to refrain from acquisitions if the Interstate Commerce Commission objected.” (Wikipedia)

1913’s Kingsbury Commitment allowed AT&T to operate as a monopoly until Judge Greene broke them up in 1984. They had a good run.

Inside Bell during its 1984 breakup

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

NSA’s “all-encompassing, indiscriminate dump of phone metadata”

From today’s L.A. Times editorial:

In a powerful opinion released Monday in Washington, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon castigated what he called an “almost-Orwellian technology that enables the government to store and analyze the phone metadata of every telephone user in the United States.” Yet Leon also noted that the government had not cited “a single instance” in which the data had stopped an imminent attack.

A few months ago I noted the NSA’s poor ROI.

Finally, someone in government is doing their job! I had hoped that Congress would exercise oversight of the NSA, but the Judicial branch has beaten Congress to the punch. Note that Judge Leon is a George W. Bush appointee.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Innovation Act of 2013

The US House of Representatives has passed “The Innovation Act of 2013” (H.R. 3309) by a vote of 325 to 91. It’s expected to be passed by the Senate.

The bill, introduced by Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), is aimed at stopping the abuse of patents by “patent trolls”. The bill

  1. allows 3rd party companies to step into a patent infringement lawsuit
  2. allows discovery in a patent infringement case only after the judge examines the patent claim
  3. requires that a patent infringement lawsuit plaintiff pay the legal costs of a successful defendant

The Innovation Act is an improvement, but the Patent Office needs to overhaul the patent system. It must stop granting stupid weak patents for pre-existing art and somehow the federal courts of Eastern Texas need to quit being a haven for patent troll lawsuits. Maybe the average East Texas juror isn’t smart enough to understand the issues in tech patent cases?

National Law Review article: The Top Ten Things You Should Know About The Innovation Act of 2013 (For Now)

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Benefit Corporations

In the last few years a new type of business corporation has appeared — the benefit corporation. The Wikipedia definition begins with,

A benefit corporation or B corporation is a corporate form in the United States designed for for-profit entities that want to consider society and the environment in addition to profit in their decision making process.

From www.benefitcorp.net/quick-faqs:

Benefit corporations:

  1. have a corporate purpose to create a material positive impact on society and the environment;
  2. are required to consider the impact of their decisions not only on shareholders but also on workers, community, and the environment; and
  3. are required to make available to the public an annual benefit report that assesses their overall social and environmental performance against a third party standard.

I like item 2. It seems to me that in addition to a responsibility to its shareholders, a corporation has a responsibility to its customers, employees, and society. Here is a partial list of Benefit corporations. Patagonia, Inc. is notable in this list.

B Corps

b corp logoBenefit corporations may, if they choose, become certified B Corps. In 2010, Maryland was the first state to officially recognize B Corps as a distinct legal entity. Last July, Delaware joined 13 other states that recognize the B Corp. B Corps must be certified by B Lab, an independent organization. According to Benefit Corp vs. Certified B Corp,

A certified B Corporation has achieved a verified minimum score on the B Impact Assessment (80/200). While benefit corporations are required to publish an annual report assessing their overall social and environmental performance against a third party standard, that report is not required to be verified, certified, or audited by a third party standard organization. . . . Certified B Corporations have been certified as having met a high standard of overall social and environmental performance, and as a result have access to a portfolio of services and support that benefit corporations do not.

B Lab’s website, in Why B Corps Matter, states

Business, the most powerful man-made force on the planet, must create value for society, not just shareholders.

The Benefit Corporation is an interesting concept. Will it endure, or become just a footnote in the long history of business and commerce?

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Lavabit CEO discusses his surveillance nightmare

ListenLeo Laporte yesterday aired a live audio interview with Ladar Levison, CEO and founder of Lavabit.

Ladar-Levison-FacebookLast month, Mr. Levison made the headlines when he shut down his Dallas-based secure email service immediately after providing his company’s SSL keys (effectively, the company’s master keys) to the FBI in compliance with a federal court order. He posted this message on Lavabit’s home page:

I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit.

Levison expects his case to eventually reach the Supreme Court. Some snippets from yeesterday’s interview:

Law enforcement is necessary. It’s a difficult job. Surveillance is supposed to be difficult. When it’s easy, we have a police state.

I’m not anti-government. I’m pro-freedom.

Lavabit defense fund

The horses have fled

ListenI listened to an October 10 Cato Institute Event during which Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), who authored the original Patriot Act, declared that ‘There has been a failure of oversight’. He’s authoring the “USA Freedom Act”, which (finally!) reins in the NSA, FBI, and other agencies who’ve violated the Fourth Amendment.

Patriot Act poster by ACLUOn his website’s October 10 news page, Congressman Sensenbrenner states,

I can say that if Congress knew what the NSA had in mind in the future immediately after 9/11, the Patriot Act never would have passed, and I never would have supported it. We have to have a balance of security and civil liberties. What the NSA has done, with the concurrence of both the Bush and Obama administrations, is completely forgotten about the guarantees of civil liberties that those of us who helped write the Patriot Act in 2001 and the reauthorization in 2005 and 2006 had written the law to prevent from happening.

Here’s a good Guardian article on Sensenbrenner, the Patriot Act, and the “USA Freedom Act”.

Sensenbrenner’s awakening is fine, but he’s closing the barn door after the horses have fled. Non-American governments and companies are moving their data and services off of servers that are surveilled by US agencies and/or controlled by US courts. I don’t blame them. The NSA’s over-reach is killing the whole “cloud” idea — who in his right mind would move his data off of his own computers to servers that you know are being read by the US federal government?

Congress slept rather than oversee the NSA and FBI and now it’s waking up to its responsibilities. It’s too late, boys. The world is moving in a different direction and the US with its arrogant and naïve agencies isn’t aboard that train. You had your chance and you blew it.

Meanwhile, back in the trenches

Three movements are underway by computer security techies:

  • Internet tech organizations are moving the Internet out from under US oversight
  • Improvement of Internet security, eliminating any third parties in authentication protocols
  • Creation of a secure Internet ver 2.0. It may or may not be built upon the existing TCP/IP foundation.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Thanks for nothing, NSA.

ICANN, The World Wide Web Consortium, IETF, and other organizations are unhappy with NSA’s spying on users of the Internet. They plan to move the functions of ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) out from under US oversight.

Wired magazine reported in NSA Leaks Prompt Rethinking of U.S. Control Over the Internet’s Infrastructure that,

The leaders who run the internet’s technical global infrastructure say the time has come to end U.S. dominance over it.

Among other things, they were concerned “over the undermining of the trust and confidence of internet users globally due to recent revelations of pervasive monitoring and surveillance.”

Last week, Venturebeat.com published an article titled ICANN, W3C, and other orgs say U.S. is ‘undermining the trust of Internet users’.

One unintended consequence of the NSA and FBI’s lying, spying, and violation of citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights is that whatever governance the U.S. had over the Internet will be lost. It’s likely that China, Russia, Iran, et al will rush into the breach. This is not good news for an open Internet.

Thanks, creeps.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Big Government = Big Brother

Last month, Lavabit suddenly shut down its secure email service, with this brief explanation from its founder to its 400,000 customers:

I have been forced to make a difficult decision: to become complicit in crimes against the American people or walk away from nearly ten years of hard work by shutting down Lavabit.

lavabit-logoLast week, a federal judge unsealed documents which allow Ladar Levison, Lavabit’s founder and CEO, to finally speak candidly. The press provided a podium for Mr. Levison.

This is another story whose conclusion is that our federal government — in this case the FBI — has done its best to prevent American citizens from having any privacy. Rather than defend the Constitution and its Bill Of Rights that these guys swore they’d protect, they try to find ways to nullify it.

Do you find this depressing? Read on.
When presented with a demand to (1) turn over Lavabit’s security certificate to the feds and (2) allow them to tap Lavabit’s pipe to and from the Internet, Mr. Levison was free to say “No”. He had to shut down his service, but he could tell the feds to take a hike.

Larger corporations with publicly traded shares (this includes banks) don’t have that freedom. We can assume that AT&T, Verizon, Google, Facebook, Apple, et al, when presented with similar government demands, have caved. Their shareholders would demand it. (We KNOW that AT&T caved.) Therefore, that cozy closed hasp padlock symbol in your browser’s address bar means nothing when visiting a US-based company’s website. The federal government can see everything.

Sorry. It just gets more depressing.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Your tax dollars at work

fcc-down

It’s not hard to just maintain a web server(s). Here is just one more reason to clean house in Washington. Raus!

Let’s start at the FCC . . . right after we sweep out the dolts who tried to prevent our WW2 vets from visiting their memorial.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

Good Grief, More illegal NSA snooping

This is getting old. The NSA again demonstrates that

NSA logo parody
By EFF designer Hugh D’Andrade
  1. It’s violating US Citizens’ fourth amendment rights
  2. It’s lied about warrantless phonetapping: Not only is it capturing a phone call’s “metadata”, it’s capturing the phone call itself
  3. Its internal controls are inadequate
  4. It’s unable to manage:
    1. its unconstitutionally purloined data
    2. its employees and contractors.

 

Read Friday’s Arstechnica article titled On his first day of work, NSA employee spied on ex-girlfriend.

Congress needs to take control of this rogue agency now. Then they need to charge Intelligence chief James Clapper with contempt of Congress for lying about this surveillance during sworn testimony. The administration should fire him without benefits. I suspect that neither Mr. Obama nor Mr. Holder has the integrity to do that.

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© Russ Bellew · Fort Lauderdale, Florida, USA · phone 954 873-4695

12th anniversary of 9/11/2001

photo: National Park Service
photo: National Park Service

They must have seen it coming
When they turned to face the fire.
They sent us down to safety,
Then they kept on climbing higher.
. . .
Now every time I try to sleep
I’m haunted by the sound
Of firemen pounding up the stairs
While we were running down.

– chorus of Tom Paxton’s The Bravest

Listen to The Bravest.

Tom’s recording of The Bravest in MP3 form is available in an on-line player on Tom’s website. (It’s the second selection from the bottom.)

Father Mychal Judge
Father Mychal Judge
FDNY Chaplain
WTC victim 0001

Who was this amazing man? Video documentary