Wednesday, April 17, 2013

When public infrastructure goes private

Mr. Hiltzik,

I found your article very interesting:

What I don't understand is why, after bringing the U.S. Postal Service into this discussion, you fail to advocate the obvious...

The United States Postal Service should be providing us with internet service which would result in lower rates for users while providing revenue the U.S. Postal Service needs and it would have the advantage of saving and creating jobs.

A publicly owned national fiber-optic data network is what we really need.

Alan L. Maki

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Minnesota Public Radio... all the democracy corporate money can buy...

I Am Attacked on Minnesota Public Radio by Kerri Miller and John McCarthy without the right of response...

I called into a morning program on Minnesota Public Radio that featured as one of its guests John McCarthy, the rich white man who heads up the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association.

After making two points I was cut-off while making the third point at which time the host of the program opened the microphone up to John McCarthy to attack me until he was done with his lies.

If Minnesota Public Radio was the least bit interested in democracy and fairness I would have been provided the opportunity to respond to McCarthy and the viciously anti-labor and racist remark made by the program host that, "no one is forced to work in the casinos."

In fact, two circumstances by themselves and combined do force people to work in these loud, noisy, smoke-filled casinos at poverty wages and without a voice at work and without any rights under state or federal labor laws.

Circumstance #1:

The faltering economy. Tens of thousands of people are out of work. Economic necessity forces people to work in these casinos. Offer casino workers a job elsewhere at real living wages with good working conditions and their rights protected by state and federal labor laws and these casinos will be left without anyone to staff them.

Circumstance #2:

Racism. Racist hiring practices make it practically impossible for most Native American Indians to get jobs outside of the casino industry. The statistics and facts bear this out. In all the counties and their townships and cities in, near and around where the Indian Reservations of White Earth, Red Lake and Leech Lake are located, there are fewer than 20 Native American Indians employed in these public sectors out of thousands of workers. Because Affirmative Action is not being enforced in accordance with state and federal law, and the townships, cities and counties aren't even required to have Affirmative Action policies and programs in place, these racists don't have any Affirmative Action programs in any of these townships, cities or counties. Racism forces Native Americans to seek employment in these unhealthy smoke-filled casinos where they have no rights, receive poverty wages with no or little benefits and no voice in the workplace.

In fact, when it comes to Native American Indians they are forced to work in these casinos because Circumstance #1--- unemployment and Circumstance #2--- racism are both dominant and determining factors since unemployment rates on these three Indian Reservations range from a low of 60% to a high of 85%.

How can anyone be so arrogant and callous to argue with complete disregard for economic and racist factors that "no one is forced to work in these casinos?" Yet, this is just what Minnesota Public Radio's Mid-Morning host, Kerri Miller, argued. And then she proceeded to arrogantly and undemocratically not allow me to respond while turning the microphone over to John McCarthy to viciously attack me; again, without allowing me to respond.

Now, the facts are such that Minnesota Public Radio has intentionally ignored the plight of casino workers because the casino managements are now underwriting MPR programming to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.

And, where do these underwriting funds originate from? Indian Gaming revenues. Racist Indian Gaming which is controlled by a bunch of racist white mobsters who own the slot machines and table games and those like John McCarthy who dole out campaign contributions to the politicians who in return assure them of cheap labor.

John McCarthy and Kerri Miller refused to address the issues I raised:

1. Why don't these casino operations pay taxes as it just happens that if they were taxed like any other business Minnesota would not have any budget problems plus the Indian Nations would receive more than they are presently receiving from gaming revenues?

2. Why didn't John McCarthy or Kerri Miller respond to the fact that 41,000 casino workers are forced to work in loud, noisy, smoke-filled casinos at poverty wages without any rights under state or federal labor laws and without any voice at work. Why no explanation as to why this situation exists in the first place?

3. Why didn't John McCarthy or Kerri Miller address the fact that the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association spends tens of millions of dollars contributing to the campaigns of everyone except Native American Indians and there isn't one single Native American Indian sitting amongst Minnesota's more than two-hundred state legislators?

Of course, Kerri Miller, the host of Minnesota Public Radio's Mid-Morning Program did not ask John McCarthy about the ethics of him owning Tony Doom Enterprises, a big-business making millions in profits as a result of selling campaign advertising materials to the very politicians he funnels the campaign contributions to through the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association. If this isn't a racket I don't know what is.

I leave it to people to draw their own conclusion as to whether I should have been allowed to respond to the anti-labor and racist response of Kerri Miller and the following vicious attack on me personally by John McCarthy who is such a coward he doesn't dare debate me on these issues but then goes on to attack me for "posting malicious, vicious and nasty things on my blog here" without substantiating one single one of his accusations.

Furthermore, John McCarthy told Kerri Miller that he "knows" me; another outright lie.

People should take a drive by John McCarthy's home and ask why he is living high on the hog as a direct result of his racist role in the impoverishment and ill-health of the Indian people. John McCarthy lives just outside of Bemidji, Minnesota in a two-million dollar estate at 8925Cove Drive NE, Bemidji, Minnesota. Take a drive out to see John McCarthy's estate and then drive through the Leech Lake, Red Lake and White Earth Indian Reservations to see how casino workers getting paid poverty wages have to live or check out the dirty, filthy, rat infested apartment complex in Warroad, Minnesota that Floyd Jourdain and the Red Lake Tribal Council reserve for the members of the Red Lake Nation who work in the Seven Clans Casino Red Lake who have to pay over half of their poverty wages to live there.

Why doesn't Minnesota Public Radio report on any of this? The reason is obvious; John McCarthy and the casino managements and the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association are bribing MPR into silence just like the politicians have been bribed to enable this horrendous and most disgraceful situation to come into existence and continue where poverty is the only thing that flourishes so a few mobsters owning the slot machines and table games can profit.

For those who don't care about the plight of casino workers and enjoy gambling and the cheap meals served, keep this in mind:

* The Minnesota Department of Public Safety who is supposed to be monitoring slot machine compliance checks fewer than 150 slot machines a year in all of Minnesota.

* Food served in the casinos is not inspected by federal or state inspectors nor is the condition of the places where the food is prepared.

* And for those staying in the casino hotels/motels there has been no building inspections by local or state building inspectors.

As for John McCarthy's claim made on Mid-Morning that all the casinos have been built and constructed by union workers this is an outright big fat lie. I challenge John McCarthy to produce the union contracts. In fact, union business agents and stewards are not even allowed on these construction sites.

And casino workers, like the 5,000 employed by Stanley Crooks at his Mystic Lake Casino empire are forced to sign statements stating that they agree, as terms of their employment, that they will not engage in union organizing knowing they will be fired.

In fact, Stanley Crooks has fired over 200 casino workers from his Mystic Lake Casino empire in the last three years simply for "blogging about working conditions." And not a peep of any of this from Minnesota Public Radio. How come Kerri Miller is allowed to voice her anti-labor and racist views from a radio network funded by tax-payers in addition to casino managements without any restrictions or retribution?

One would think that an industry created by politicians at tax-payer expense while generating tens of billions of dollars annually in profits would require a bit of scrutiny from Minnesota Public Radio but all this industry gets from MPR, its management, program hosts and reporters is unconditional praise.

Kerri Miller doesn't even ask one of Minnesota's leading politicians or John McCarthy who speaks for this dirty, corrupt and disgusting casino industry why it is that these casinos have been allowed to circumvent the ban on smoking applicable to all other places of employment in Minnesota.

How much is it costing Minnesota tax-payers to have 41,000 Minnesotans working in loud, noisy, smoke-filled casinos where casino workers are fired without compensation of any kind if they develop coughs and begin to lose their hearing?

Perhaps Kerri Miller should invite someone from the Indian Health Service, the Minnesota Heart and Lung Foundation or the American Cancer Society to explain the impact of second-hand smoke on casino workers' health and lives and the impact to their families.

John McCarthy is concerned about all the "nasty things" I have to say about him, the casino managements and the Minnesota Indian Gaming Association along with the politicians he bribes and then profits from, again, here on my blog... well, let's talk about the real nasty things John McCarthy brings to Minnesota--- smoke-filled workplaces, poverty and racism.

And if these nasty things and the nasty people like John McCarthy don't get talked talked about here on my popular blog, where do they get talked about? On Minnesota Public Radio? Ha!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

FaceBook... democracy is good--- just don't use it to promote peace and worker's rights

An interesting notice I received from FaceBook administrators:

"Block! You are engaging in behavior that may be considered annoying or abusive by other users.You have been blocked from adding friends because you repeatedly misused this feature. This block will last anywhere from a few hours to a few days. When you are allowed to reuse this feature, please proceed with caution. Further misuse may result in your account being permanently disabled. For further information, please visit our FAQ page."

So much for using FaceBook in exercising democratic rights!

This in the world's greatest bastion of democracy... the good old U.S.A.

American democracy, the Constitution and Bill of Rights... the greatest contributions ever made to humankind... just don't try to use these rights to promote peace and worker's rights.

And now I get this notice trying to post my thoughts about this "BLOCK" on making friends on FaceBook:

Status Too Long. Your status update is too long. The maximum status length is 420 characters, but it is 825 characters long.

FaceBook banned me before; now FaceBook is trying to stifle what I have to say. Previously, FaceBook tried to ban me for sending out peace and social justice messages to friends. Now, if I was posting racist messages of bigotry and hate there would be no problem... only in America.

FaceBook also informed me that my account would be closed if I continued to refer to Barack Obama as a "Dumb Donkey."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Chinese censors block Obama's call to free the Web

Apparently Barack Obama has never bothered to find out how "e-democracy" funded with tax-dollars and subsidized with foundation grants and contributions from well-heeled Democrats and the Blandin Foundation operate by excluding through banning progressive voices attempting to engage in dialog, discussion and debate.

As far as "human rights" go... perhaps Hu should talk to Barack Obama about the plight of two-million people employed in the Indian Gaming Industry in this country dominated by a network of highly profitable casino operations overseen by a bunch of mobsters forcing people to work in loud, noisy, smoke-filled casinos at poverty wages without any rights enjoyed by other workers under state, federal or international labor laws and protections.

Or, perhaps Hu should discuss with Barack Obama why his Administration is refusing to enforce affirmative action policies and guidelines to overcome the shameful and disgraceful institutionalized racism that reach up into the highest levels of private industry and government permeating and saturating every single aspect of life in America.

Hu should call on Barack Obama to free our country from Wall Street's rule which places profits before people when it comes to the Internet and every other human endeavor.

There is no end to Barack Obama's arrogance and hypocrisy as he marches to Wall Street's drummer.

Obama should consider himself very fortunate Hu didn't ask him: Where's the change?

One prolific blogger,

Alan L. Maki

By ALEXA OLESEN, Associated Press Writer Alexa Olesen, Associated Press Writer – Mon Nov 16, 2009

BEIJING – President Barack Obama prodded China about Internet censorship and free speech, but the message was not widely heard in China where his words were blocked online and shown on only one regional television channel.

China has more than 250 million Internet users and employs some of the world's tightest controls over what they see. The country is often criticized for its so-called "Great Firewall of China" — technology designed to prevent unwanted traffic from entering or leaving a network.

During his town hall meeting in Shanghai on Monday, Obama responded at length to a question about the firewall — remarks that were later played down in the Chinese media and scrubbed from some Chinese Web sites.

"I'm a big supporter of non-censorship," Obama said. "I recognize that different countries have different traditions. I can tell you that in the United States, the fact that we have free Internet — or unrestricted Internet access — is a source of strength, and I think should be encouraged."

Obama may have been hoping to set a personal example for China's leaders when he said he believes that free discussion, including criticism that may be annoying to him, makes him "a better leader because it forces me to hear opinions that I don't want to hear."

One prolific blogger who goes by the name of Hecaitou said that a transcript of the exchange posted on the portal Netease was taken down by censors after just 27 minutes. A full Chinese-language transcript of the event was later posted on the official Xinhua News Agency Web site but required four clicks to locate the relevant section.

Only local Shanghai TV carried the event live. It was streamed on two popular Internet portals and on the White House's Web site, which is not censored, though both the video and audio feeds were choppy and delayed inside China.

The People's Daily online briefly summarized Obama as telling the crowd that the Internet has "enormous power in assisting information dissemination," but made no mention of his comments on censorship.

China has the world's most extensive system of Web monitoring and censorship and has issued numerous regulations in response to the rise of blogging and other trends. But the Web remains far more open than the country's tightly controlled print and television media, which is the only source of news for the vast majority of Chinese.

Yang Hengjun, 45, a blogger and novelist based in the southern city of Guangzhou, said he was impressed by Obama's frank admission that some free speech irks him, and by U.S. laws that are intended to keep the government from censoring criticism.

"You see, freedom of speech in America is not given to the people by the president but is something that the people use to supervise their government and president, to protect themselves," Yang wrote in an essay titled "Why do I Blog? Obama has answered that question." Posted online late Monday, links to the essay were spread via Twitter.

Because Twitter is blocked in China, Yang and others use proxy servers to get around the controls.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Teaching Journalism with a Mission / The Internet: It's not a truck, It's a town square

15 September 2009
Robert Jensen : Teaching Journalism with a Mission

Can journalism schools be relevant in a world on the brink?

By Robert Jensen / The Rag Blog / September 15, 2009

Journalism schools have much in common with the mainstream news media they traditionally serve. As the business model for conventional corporate journalism collapses and digital technologies reshape the media landscape, journalism schools struggle with parallel problems around curricula and personnel.

As I begin my third decade of teaching journalism, I hear more and more students doubting the relevance of journalism schools -- for good reasons. The best of our students are worried not just about whether they can find a job after graduation but also whether those jobs will allow them to contribute to shaping a decent future for a world on the brink.

Can journalism and journalism education be relevant as it becomes increasing clear that the political, economic, and social systems that structure our world are failing us on all counts? Do these institutions have the capacity to see past the problems of falling ad revenues and outdated curricula, and struggle to understand the crises of our age? Can journalists and journalism educators find the courage to grapple with these challenges?

The question isn’t whether journalism and education are important in a democratic society but whether the institutions in which those two endeavors traditionally have been carried out can adapt -- not only to the specific changes in that industry, but to that world in crisis.

My answer is a tentative “yes, but” -- only if both enterprises jettison the illusions of neutrality that have hampered their ability to monitor the centers of power for citizens and model real critical thinking for students.

Journalism’s business problems provide an opportunity for journalism education to remake itself, which should start with a declaration of independence from the mainstream media and a renunciation of the corporate media’s allegiances to the existing power structure. Our only hope is in getting radical, going to the root of the problems.

Toward that end, I proposed a new mission statement to my faculty colleagues in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin. I argued that by stating bluntly the nature of the crises we face in today’s world and breaking with our longstanding subordination to the industry, we could offer an exciting alternative to students who don’t want to repeat the failures of our generation.

It quickly became clear that while some colleagues agreed with some aspects of the statement below, only a handful would endorse it as a mission statement. Some disagreed with my assessment of the crises we face, while others thought it politically ill-advised to criticize the industry and corporate power so directly. But nothing in that discussion dissuaded me from my conclusion that if journalism education is to be relevant in the coming decades, we must change course dramatically.

So, I offer this mission statement to a broader audience as one starting point for debate about the future of journalism schools, which must be connected to a discussion about the fundamental distribution of wealth and power in the larger world. Journalism alone can’t turn around a dying culture, of course, but it can be part of the process by which a more just and sustainable alternative emerges.

Journalism for Justice /
Storytelling for Sustainability:
News Media Education for a New Future

Schools of journalism must recognize that our work goes forward in a society facing multiple crises -- political and cultural, economic and ecological. These crises are not the product of temporary downturns but evidence of a permanent decline if the existing systems and structures of power continue on their present trajectory.

These failing systems produce too little equality within the human family and too much devastation in the larger ecosystem. We face a world that is profoundly unjust in the distribution of wealth and power, and fundamentally unsustainable in our use of the ecological resources of the planet. The task of journalism is to deepen our understanding of these challenges and communicate that understanding to the public to foster the meaningful dialogue necessary for real democracy.

The best traditions of journalism are based in resistance to the illegitimate structures of authority at the heart of our problems. From Thomas Paine to Upton Sinclair, Ida B. Wells and Ida Tarbell, the most revered journalists have had the courage to take a stand for ordinary people and against arrogant concentrations of power. But today, commercial journalism is constrained by diversionary and deceptive claims to neutrality, leaving journalists trapped in a corporate-defined and -directed subservience to the status quo. Increasingly we live with a journalism that rarely speaks truth to power and routinely echoes the platitudes of the powerful. Even when journalists raise critical questions, too often it is within the parameters set by the wealthy and their political allies.

In a world in which an increasingly predatory global corporate economy leaves half the population living on less than $2.50 a day, can we ignore the call for justice? In a world in which all indicators of the health of the ecosystem that makes our lives possible are in dramatic decline, can we ignore the cry of the living world? Mass media have a moral responsibility to produce journalism for justice and storytelling for sustainability.

As the journalism industry faces a broken business model and struggles for solutions, there are great opportunities to reshape journalism to serve people and the planet, following the traditions of the spirited independent journalists of the past and present. The curriculum for this should not only offer training for a job but also inspire a collective search for the values and ideas that can animate a just and sustainable society. We invite you to join us in this exciting time for journalism. By remembering the inspirational lessons of our past and facing honestly the problems of the present, we help make possible a new future in which justice and sustainability define not just our dreams but our lives.

A note to critics: Some might argue that this mission statement threatens to “politicize the classroom.” This kind of complaint is based on the naïve notion that a curriculum in the humanities and social sciences can be magically constructed outside of, and unaffected by, the distribution of wealth and power in the larger society. The choices that go into all teaching -- from the identification of relevant problems, to the selection of appropriate materials, to the analyses offered in lectures -- are based on claims about the nature of a good life and a good society. The important questions are whether instructors are open with students about how those choices are made and can justify those choices on intellectual grounds. In other words, there is a politics to all teaching, but good teaching is more than the assertion of one’s politics.

When a department constructs a curriculum that supports the existing distribution of wealth and power, challenges rarely arise. Perhaps the most politicized departments on any college campus are in the business school, where the highly ideological assertions of corporate capitalism are rarely challenged and the curriculum is built on that ideology. In a healthy educational institution with real academic freedom, we should encourage a diversity of approaches to complex questions. This mission statement identifies problems and suggests we consider the systemic and structural roots of those problems without asserting simplistic solutions. Such an approach honors the best traditions in journalism and scholarship, offering a path for struggling with difficult questions rather than dictating simplistic answers.

[Robert Jensen is a professor in the School of Journalism of the University of Texas at Austin and a board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center. His latest book is All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice (Soft Skull Press, 2009). Jensen can be reached at His articles on The Rag Blog are here and his writing can also be found here.]

The Rag Blog

The Internet:
It's not a truck, It's a town square

The Internet is a platform for speech, debate, creativity. And it is neutral. And government has a role to play in making sure it stays that way.

By Senator Al Franken / October 7, 2009

As you know, I got to the Senate a bit late.

But I didn’t get here too late. Because we’re debating issues of major consequence right now -- health care, the economy, the course of the war in Afghanistan. And one of the issues you don’t hear about as much -- but one that will impact our lives, our economy and, yes, the future of music -- is Net Neutrality.

Several years ago, in the middle-to-late 90s, I went and gave a speech to the folks at DARPA, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. I remember asking what cool things they were working on.

One guy took me aside and told me he was working on an unmanned aerial vehicle the size of an insect. I was really excited about that, though I’m pretty sure it didn’t happen. But they did succeed in creating the ARPA-net forty years ago. And the ARPA-net grew into the Internet... which is almost as cool.

And today, the Internet is the town square. Thomas Jefferson famously said that given a choice between government without newspapers and newspapers without government, he “would not hesitate to prefer the latter.” If he were here today, I think he’d see the Internet in much the same light.

Now, fortunately, we don’t have to make that choice because the Internet is a platform for speech, debate, creativity. And it is neutral.

And government has a role to play in making sure it stays that way. Let me add that this is the fundamental political philosophy that I bring as a senator to so many of our national challenges. It’s not government’s job to make sure that everyone gets to the finish line, but government does have a role to play in making sure everyone can at least get to the starting line.

That’s how the Internet developed. The FCC treated the Web as a common carrier similar to the phone – meaning that anyone had the right to access it however they wanted so long as they weren’t breaking the law.

But as high-speed Internet became available, the cable and telecom industries convinced the FCC to change the rules -- to give corporate Internet service providers the power to use “network management” as code for “finding ways to squeeze more cash out of their networks.” As a result, the freedom and openness that are the Internet’s hallmarks are being seriously challenged.

Moving at the same speed

Right now, a blog loads just as quickly as a corporate Web page. An e-mail from your mother comes through just as smoothly as a bill notification from your bank. An independent bookstore can process your order as quickly as Barnes & Noble. A garage band can stream its songs just as easily as a multi-platinum superband like REM can.

But recently, business executives from top ISPs have declared their interest in offering “prioritized” Internet service to companies that can pay for it. In other words, a company like Microsoft or Amazon could pay for its content to be delivered over a high-speed network -- relegating a blogger or a mom-and-pop business to the slow lane.

That would transform the Internet from a free, open and competitive playing field into a “pay-for-play” arena in which citizen bloggers, nonprofits and small businesses are simply muscled out by major media conglomerates. That would transform the World Wide Web into a system of separate and unequal networks.

Censoring the Net

And it raises two major issues, as I see it.

First, it raises the issue of censorship. Once service providers are in the business of deciding what kind of content moves at what speed, they come very close to deciding what kind of content moves at all.

Second, this is about entrepreneurship and innovation. Great innovations only take place on an even playing field, where the little guys can go head-to-head with the big guys. If we change the rules of the game to benefit the big guys, innovation will suffer.

So the issue here isn’t only what might be blocked, but what might never be developed in the first place. Let me talk for a minute about each.

First, censorship. Take a look at Iran. In Iran, every Internet provider uses filters to control the Web sites and e-mails that users can access. They use a technology called “Deep Packet Inspection” to filter every e-mail, Facebook post and Tweet that anyone sends, and –- in real time – block content that’s deemed objectionable.

You might say, “Well, that’s a terrible situation, but it’s happening in Iran, and we are not Iran.” No, we’re not Iran, but that isn’t stopping several companies from taking the same or similar technology for a test drive.

First, you may remember that in 2007, Verizon refused to allow the pro-choice group NARAL to send text messages to its supporters – even though they had signed up to receive them. Verizon’s explanation was that it had the right to block “controversial or unsavory” messages. Like, for example, that a woman should have control of her reproductive system.

A second example: Comcast has used Deep Packet Inspection to block lawful peer-to-peer applications.

And you may remember that during a live Webcast of a 2007 Pearl Jam concert, AT&T killed the audio for a few beats. Turns out the missing lyrics were critical of President Bush.

ISPs want to profit from a closed Net

Stifling openness on the Internet isn’t always about censorship. In the future, it could simply be a product of business at work – of ISPs turning a profit. The chief technology officer for BellSouth recently said, “I can buy a coach standby ticket or a first class ticket... I can get two-day air or six-day ground.” He asserted that the Internet should be the same way.

The CEO of Verizon made the same point when he said, “We need to make sure there is the right economic model... we need to pay for the pipe.” And one provider proposed a system where consumers could pay a cheap monthly rate for light Internet use, a higher fee for heavier use... but with an exception for people who accessed only the content created by that network provider.

That’s a business motive, but it has the effect of limiting speech, and as far as I’m concerned, free speech limited -- or free speech delayed -- is the same as free speech denied. Because the truth is that the Internet is the town hall of the 21st century.

In the 1997 decision Reno v. ACLU, Justice Stevens wrote:

“Through the use of chat rooms, any person with a phone line can become a town crier with a voice that resonates farther than it could from any soapbox. Through the use of Web pages, mail exploders, and newsgroups, the same individual can become a pamphleteer.”

I serve on the Judiciary Committee, and on my fourth day in the Senate -- my first hearing on that committee -- we were dealing with the nomination of Judge (now Justice) Sonia Sotomayor.

I asked her specifically about whether she thought the American public has a compelling First Amendment interest in ensuring the Internet stays open and accessible. And if I could paraphrase her answer, it was “yes.” As noisy and messy as it may be, the Internet is a democracy. And because of that, it is a critical part of our democracy. But without strong legislation prohibiting ISPs from regulating content, that may not always be the case.

Let me add that among the people who would be hurt the most are rural users, who, like many in my home state of Minnesota, often only have access to a single ISP. If that rural ISP decides to favor or cut special deals with big companies -- or with the companies that ISP also owns –- then rural users would only receive the viewpoints that the ISP favors. ISP profit margins should never come at the cost of a free and open Internet.

The economic future of our country

While ISPs may benefit from a closed Internet, we all lose. And it’s not just the material that could be slowed or censored. It’s innovation itself.

In America, we think that an individual with a big idea is just as worthy of competing as a company with a big market share. But the loss of a neutral Internet means that the market is no longer competitive. It’s no longer a meritocracy.

Consider the case of YouTube. YouTube was founded in 2005 above a pizzeria in San Mateo, California. At the time, the most popular video application was something called Google Video -- an app that most people came to realize was slow and clunky.

Because it was so well designed, YouTube quickly gained a user base, and gradually overcame Google Video. As we know, Google actually bought YouTube and retired Google Video.

This all happened because YouTube and Google Video competed on the same playing field, accessed the same Internet, and, in a meritocratic system, consumers saw that YouTube was better. But in a world where Google could pay an ISP for “premium” access, Google Video could have secured priority status, leaving YouTube on a second-tier track. YouTube would have loaded too slowly to win viewers. We’d be stuck with Google Video.

Again, what’s at stake here isn’t just what could be taken away. It’s what could never be created in the first place.

The Internet has been a tremendous platform for innovation and entrepreneurship. Guaranteeing its continued success isn’t just about giving consumers better apps; it’s about the economic future of our country.

The FCC takes on Net Neutrality

Now, I know many of you in the music and entertainment industry are concerned about where Net Neutrality fits in with your efforts against piracy. Having spent much of my life as a writer and entertainer, I own copyrights, too, and I share your concerns.

But Net Neutrality is and must be explicitly a matter of protecting lawful content, applications and usage. Whether we do it through statute or regulation, ISPs must and will retain the right to combat unlawful usage of the Internet.

Now, how we do that technologically is an enormous question. You may remember when Sen. Ted Stevens insightfully pointed out that the Internet “is not something you just dump something on. It’s not a truck. It’s a series of tubes.”

In making that statement, I think Sen. Stevens illustrated why some members of Congress might not be the right people to answer this technological question. That’s why it is good news that the FCC is now taking the lead on this battle.

Recently, Chairman Julius Genachowski announced that the commission would be issuing pro-Net Neutrality regulations. The commission rules will emphasize nondiscrimination –- barring ISPs from favoring or disfavoring particular Internet content or applications –- and transparency, requiring ISPs to be open about their network management practices. And Genachowski’s right.

An ISP should not be able to prioritize certain traffic over other traffic. A company cannot pay to have a “fast track” over the Internet.

And we need to be serious about transparency. ISPs should have to disclose to consumers any practices that may affect communications between a user and an application, content or service provider. This ensures that when ISPs do take actions that slow down one content provider and speed up another, users will find out.

We also need to acknowledge that sometimes, it is citizens, and not the government, that are in the best position to protect the Internet. We need to empower Internet users to file complaints directly with the FCC, and to allow them to recover damages in certain cases.

Finally, and I think the FCC will agree with me on this one, we need to give the experts at the FCC the flexibility they need to solve this complicated problem.

So rest assured, even though Sen. Stevens is no longer here to lend us his “tube” expertise, I will be standing ready to work with knowledgeable leaders in Congress -- Sen. Dorgan, Sen. Snowe, Congressman Markey, and Congresswoman Eshoo -- to make sure we get it right.

For the first time, it looks like we might actually do this. The FCC is on board, and so are critical leaders in Congress.

Obama on Net Neutrality

In addition, President Obama has consistently voiced support for Net Neutrality. Recently, he put Net Neutrality at the top of his national innovation agenda. So although previous efforts to pass Net Neutrality have failed, we now have both a president and an FCC chairman who strongly support the cause.

This is not to say that this debate is over and won. Some of my colleagues have already introduced legislation to block Net Neutrality efforts. And just last week, a Washington Post editorial declared that “federal regulators should not be telling Internet service providers how to run their businesses,” and that Net Neutrality will “micromanage what has been a vibrant and well-functioning marketplace.”

Ignore for a moment the irony that a leading newspaper would come out against a bill whose purpose includes protection of free speech, and let me say that Net Neutrality is not a matter of needless government intervention. It is a necessary response to verifiable instances of ISPs discriminating against users based on the applications they use or the content they access, and of ISPs voicing their support for a separate and unequal Internet.

It is a 21st-century reiteration of one of our most important constitutional rights –- the right to free speech. And it doesn’t interfere with the free market. It protects the free market.

A century ago, President Teddy Roosevelt wrote, “Above all else, we must strive to keep the highways of commerce open to all on equal terms.”

He may have been writing in a different time, and addressing different technology, but his purpose is just as relevant today.

[From a speech delivered by Sen. Franken at the Future of Music Coalition Policy Summit at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.]

Sen. Al Franken on keeping a neutral net

1 Make/read comments:

Alan L. Maki said...

Nothing is "neutral" under capitalism... money controls.

Franken is evading a most important question.

He points out that tax-payers have pretty much subsidized the development and building of the Internet... well, what tax-payers finance, tax-payers should own and control.

The sensible thing to do would be to place the Internet under the control and management of the United States Postal Service and make the United States Postal Service the one and only Internet Service Provider which would provide the American people with real affordable access to the Internet. Since one of the most widely used tools of those using the Internet is e-mail, this makes complete sense to bring the Internet under public control through the United States Postal Service... why should these corporations profit from the investments made by the United States tax-payers and then turn around and charge an arm and a leg for our access to this Internet?

This is the only way to assure web neutrality... public ownership is the key to good, reliable, affordable, democratic access to the World Wide Web by Americans.

Alan L. Maki

58891 County Road 13

Warroad, Minnesota 56763

Phone: 218-386-2432

Cell phone: 651-587-5541


Check out my blog:

Thoughts From Podunk

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

E-Mail Surveillance Renews Concerns in Congress

June 17, 2009

E-Mail Surveillance Renews Concerns in Congress


WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency is facing renewed scrutiny over the extent of its domestic surveillance program, with critics in Congress saying its recent intercepts of the private telephone calls and e-mail messages of Americans are broader than previously acknowledged, current and former officials said.

The agency’s monitoring of domestic e-mail messages, in particular, has posed longstanding legal and logistical difficulties, the officials said.

Since April, when it was disclosed that the intercepts of some private communications of Americans went beyond legal limits in late 2008 and early 2009, several Congressional committees have been investigating. Those inquiries have led to concerns in Congress about the agency’s ability to collect and read domestic e-mail messages of Americans on a widespread basis, officials said. Supporting that conclusion is the account of a former N.S.A. analyst who, in a series of interviews, described being trained in 2005 for a program in which the agency routinely examined large volumes of Americans’ e-mail messages without court warrants. Two intelligence officials confirmed that the program was still in operation.

Both the former analyst’s account and the rising concern among some members of Congress about the N.S.A.’s recent operation are raising fresh questions about the spy agency.

Representative Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey and chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, has been investigating the incidents and said he had become increasingly troubled by the agency’s handling of domestic communications.

In an interview, Mr. Holt disputed assertions by Justice Department and national security officials that the overcollection was inadvertent.

“Some actions are so flagrant that they can’t be accidental,” Mr. Holt said.

Other Congressional officials raised similar concerns but would not agree to be quoted for the record.

Mr. Holt added that few lawmakers could challenge the agency’s statements because so few understood the technical complexities of its surveillance operations. “The people making the policy,” he said, “don’t understand the technicalities.”

The inquiries and analyst’s account underscore how e-mail messages, more so than telephone calls, have proved to be a particularly vexing problem for the agency because of technological difficulties in distinguishing between e-mail messages by foreigners and by Americans. A new law enacted by Congress last year gave the N.S.A. greater legal leeway to collect the private communications of Americans so long as it was done only as the incidental byproduct of investigating individuals “reasonably believed” to be overseas.

But after closed-door hearings by three Congressional panels, some lawmakers are asking what the tolerable limits are for such incidental collection and whether the privacy of Americans is being adequately protected.

“For the Hill, the issue is a sense of scale, about how much domestic e-mail collection is acceptable,” a former intelligence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because N.S.A. operations are classified. “It’s a question of how many mistakes they can allow.”

While the extent of Congressional concerns about the N.S.A. has not been shared publicly, such concerns are among national security issues that the Obama administration has inherited from the Bush administration, including the use of brutal interrogation tactics, the fate of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and whether to block the release of photographs and documents that show abuse of detainees.

In each case, the administration has had to navigate the politics of continuing an aggressive intelligence operation while placating supporters who want an end to what they see as flagrant abuses of the Bush era.

The N.S.A. declined to comment for this article. Wendy Morigi, a spokeswoman for Dennis C. Blair, the national intelligence director, said that because of the complex nature of surveillance and the need to adhere to the rules of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret panel that oversees surveillance operation, and “other relevant laws and procedures, technical or inadvertent errors can occur.”

“When such errors are identified,” Ms. Morigi said, “they are reported to the appropriate officials, and corrective measures are taken.”

In April, the Obama administration said it had taken comprehensive steps to bring the security agency into compliance with the law after a periodic review turned up problems with “overcollection” of domestic communications. The Justice Department also said it had installed new safeguards.

Under the surveillance program, before the N.S.A. can target and monitor the e-mail messages or telephone calls of Americans suspected of having links to international terrorism, it must get permission from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Supporters of the agency say that in using computers to sweep up millions of electronic messages, it is unavoidable that some innocent discussions of Americans will be examined. Intelligence operators are supposed to filter those out, but critics say the agency is not rigorous enough in doing so.

The N.S.A. is believed to have gone beyond legal boundaries designed to protect Americans in about 8 to 10 separate court orders issued by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, according to three intelligence officials who spoke anonymously because disclosing such information is illegal. Because each court order could single out hundreds or even thousands of phone numbers or e-mail addresses, the number of individual communications that were improperly collected could number in the millions, officials said. (It is not clear what portion of total court orders or communications that would represent.)

“Say you get an order to monitor a block of 1,000 e-mail addresses at a big corporation, and instead of just monitoring those, the N.S.A. also monitors another block of 1,000 e-mail addresses at that corporation,” one senior intelligence official said. “That is the kind of problem they had.”

Overcollection on that scale could lead to a significant number of privacy invasions of American citizens, officials acknowledge, setting off the concerns among lawmakers and on the secret FISA court.

“The court was not happy” when it learned of the overcollection, said an administration official involved in the matter.

Defenders of the agency say it faces daunting obstacles in trying to avoid the improper gathering or reading of Americans’ e-mail as part of counterterrorism efforts aimed at foreigners.

Several former intelligence officials said that e-mail traffic from all over the world often flows through Internet service providers based in the United States. And when the N.S.A. monitors a foreign e-mail address, it has no idea when the person using that address will send messages to someone inside the United States, the officials said.

The difficulty of distinguishing between e-mail messages involving foreigners from those involving Americans was “one of the main things that drove” the Bush administration to push for a more flexible law in 2008, said Kenneth L. Wainstein, the homeland security adviser under President George W. Bush. That measure, which also resolved the long controversy over N.S.A.’s program of wiretapping without warrants by offering immunity to telecommunications companies, tacitly acknowledged that some amount of Americans’ e-mail would inevitably be captured by the N.S.A.

But even before that, the agency appears to have tolerated significant collection and examination of domestic e-mail messages without warrants, according to the former analyst, who spoke only on condition of anonymity.

He said he and other analysts were trained to use a secret database, code-named Pinwale, in 2005 that archived foreign and domestic e-mail messages. He said Pinwale allowed N.S.A. analysts to read large volumes of e-mail messages to and from Americans as long as they fell within certain limits — no more than 30 percent of any database search, he recalled being told — and Americans were not explicitly singled out in the searches.

The former analyst added that his instructors had warned against committing any abuses, telling his class that another analyst had been investigated because he had improperly accessed the personal e-mail of former President Bill Clinton.

Other intelligence officials confirmed the existence of the Pinwale e-mail database, but declined to provide further details.

The recent concerns about N.S.A.’s domestic e-mail collection follow years of unresolved legal and operational concerns within the government over the issue. Current and former officials now say that the tracing of vast amounts of American e-mail traffic was at the heart of a crisis in 2004 at the hospital bedside of John Ashcroft, then the attorney general, as top Justice Department aides staged a near revolt over what they viewed as possibly illegal aspects of the N.S.A.’s surveillance operations.

James Comey, then the deputy attorney general, and his aides were concerned about the collection of “meta-data” of American e-mail messages, which show broad patterns of e-mail traffic by identifying who is e-mailing whom, current and former officials say. Lawyers at the Justice Department believed that the tracing of e-mail messages appeared to violate federal law.

“The controversy was mostly about that issue,” said a former administration official involved in the dispute.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Some thoughts about "e-democracy" and Obama's broadband boondoggle

Note: this is my response to some queries asking me why I think censorship is so prevalent with the business "e-democracy" which passes itself off as some kind of community service compliments of the philanthropic community and foundations.

I am surprised they haven't started holding "Un-democracy" forums, conferences and seminars.

The "e-democracy" groups have about as much to do with democracy as Mussolini had to do with founding the Red Aid Societies in Italy to help the victims of fascism.

No doubt the "e-democracy" moderators would have followed Tom Pain around taking down his broadsides condemning British occupation.

I think "e-democracy" has been established by a bunch of foundation people looking to make money off of Obama's broadband proposal.

Another bunch of bottom-feeders feeding at the public trough under the guise of promoting democracy--- e-democracy; or, electronic democracy.

I think "e-democracy" is the tool they established to build support for Obama's broadband proposal from which a few people will be making hundreds of thousands, millions and billions upon billions of dollars in everything from consultants to charging fees for broadband use.

What we see here is Democratic Party hacks like Marc Asch bringing pressure on people like Rick Mons to control the "discussions" on "e-democracy."

I will no longer make any posts to "e-democracy" groups because I won't lower myself to submitting to this kind of censorship in the name of moderation.

These "e-democracy" people are every bit as corrupt as the Democratic Party itself whose "leaders" have gone all out to prevent those of us pushing for peace, for single-payer universal health care, against the peat mining in the Big Bog and undermining efforts to halt the sulfide mining.

The "leaders" of the Democratic Party went to great lengths to remove me from the MN DFL State Central Committee representing Roseau County. They announce the date, time and place for the County Convention where the State Central Committee members are elected.

Well, come the day of the Roseau County DFL Convention and about 90 of us waited, and waited, and waited--- for almost two hours for someone to open the door to let us in... there was a sign on the door to the Roseau Electric Co-op's "Community Room" which said: Roseau County DFL County Convention Today at 9 A.M.

After two-hours, Lee Soltis, the County Chair, drives up and says... "I am so sorry. I forgot to take this sign down and put up the notice that we changed the location."

I tell you this, because this is the way the MN DFL operates. And, when they decide that some question, issue or person interferes with their agenda they go all out to censor and suppress their views and prevent them from participating in their "one big tent for all."

Marc Asch was part of a group in the MN DFL which got Yahoo to close down my e-mail; they tried to bully and badger my ISP to drop me (previously my then ISP, Wiktel--- admittedly--- participated in allowing the FBI and Homeland Security to monitor my e-mails).

The Internet is not this great big world of "democracy" it is cracked up to be.

What I find very ironic is that these people have come up with a name like "e-democracy" to hide their dirty deeds behind.

You will note that this Laura Waterman Wittstock who posted to this tea party discussion is one of the biggest and wealthiest supporters of the casino industry in the Democratic Party... and here she is, talking about human rights... brought into the discussion by Joan Vanhala the queen of the Foundation Philanthropists.

What about the human rights of 40,000 casino workers in Minnesota employed in smoke-filled casinos at poverty wages without any rights under state or federal labor laws who are forced to sign statements that they will not engage in union organizing as a condition of keeping their jobs.

Does Laura Waterman Wittstock care one bit if these casino workers end up with agonizingly painful cancers and heart and lung problems the result of breathing second-hand smoke in these casinos day-in-and-day-out? What a phony shyster this Laura Waterman Wittstock is in milking the foundations and the philanthropists in the name of human rights.

If you haven't discovered how the MN DFL operates yet, the longer you are involved in the sulfide mining issue, the peat mining issue, socialized health care issue, peace and reordering priorities--- you will find out soon and become their target, too; and be treated in the same manner as the rest of us who refuse to play their dirty games where big money is the goal--- and make no mistake, the MN DFL is as corrupt as politics gets--- whether money from mining or money promoting broadband or casinos is involved, these people go after the money; the people, the environment and democracy be damned.

Rick Mons told me that he didn't find anything racist or anti-communist on the Minnesota Tea Party site when their site is so full of hate it is impossible not to see.

E-democracy has rejected about thirty of my postings now on a variety of topics.

I have a whole pile of e-mails here... 18 as of right now... from people who tried to post on this Tea Party topic responding for the first time and their posts were not allowed by Rick Mons. Most are just asking very pertinent questions without any of the rhetoric contained in my postings--- but, my postings are done in this way on this topic in order to engage these people--- and provoke them into stating their real motives--- in real debate.

This Rick Mons hides all of his censorship behind "it's not a Minnesota issue" and "no personal attacks;" pretty much catchalls for anything he wants to censor.

I find it really mind-boggling... the same people who yell, "personal attack" on e-democracy will go on these right-wing talk shows and quite literally call me every single name you can think of and then they come back to e-democracy and cry "personal attack."

If it is democratic dialog, discussion and debate you are seeking--- you won't be finding it on e-democracy... what you will be able to do is slip a few things in once and a while as you do... but, that will be about it... and I think that is really good you do this.

Anyways, this is my take on what is going on with e-democracy... it is nothing but a front for these corrupt Democrats to build a base to enable them to enrich themselves and their friends off of all the "broadband money" soon to be coming down the pike--- actually, some already is with the "stimulus" funds.

I wouldn't be surprised to find if there isn't a whole lot of money these people are already making off this e-democracy compliments of local, state and federal tax-payers; but, I don't have any research to prove it--- I just look at the kind of operation they have going and it reeks of some kind of government pork-barrel funding and is being handled in a very typical pro-business government way like any other pork-barrel funding.

I am guessing these kinds of boondoggles are going on across the country--- whether mining, forestry or broadband... these people are motivated by profits... nothing more. To them the destruction of democracy is no different than polluting a pristine river or your drinking water which will be the result of sulfide and peat mining.

E-democracy? More like another shady Bernie Madoff deal.

Alan L. Maki
58891 County Road 13
Warroad, Minnesota 56763
Phone: 218-386-2432
Cell phone: 651-587-5541

Check out my blog:

Thoughts From Podunk