Monthly Archives: June 2005

US Drops ICANN/DNS Bombshell (on WSIS?)

The US Department of Commerce has announced an unexpected new policy regarding the Domain Name System (DNS) and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

In previous pronouncements, the US had indicated that the US would someday release its ultimate control over the “root” — the file that contains the master list of authorized registries and thus determines which TLDs show up on the consensus Internet and who shall have the valuable right to sell names in them. That day would come if and when ICANN fulfilled a number of conditions spelled out in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

Today’s announcement says the opposite: the US plans to keep control of the root indefinitely, thus freezing the status quo. Nothing will change immediately as a result. But the timing is weird, coming as it does only a short time before the forthcoming meeting of the UN-sponsored World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS).

Five years ago, in Wrong Turn in Cyberspace, I wrote (footnote 42, reformatted slightly):

Whether and under what circumstances DoC would turn over the root to ICANN has been the subject of somewhat contradictory pronouncements. In the White Paper, DoC stated, “The U.S. Government would prefer that this transition be complete before the year 2000. To the extent that the new corporation is established and operationally stable, September 30, 2000 is intended to be, and remains, an ‘outside’ date.'” White Paper, supra note 15, at 31,744. More recently, DoC assured Congress that it intends to retain its rights over the DNS:

The Department of Commerce has no intention of transferring control over the root system to ICANN at this time [July 8, 1999]. . . . If and when the Department of Commerce transfers operational responsibility for the authoritative root server for the root server system to ICANN, an [sic] separate contract would be required to obligate ICANN to operate the authoritative root under the direction of the United States government.

Letter from Andrew J. Pincus, DoC General Counsel, to Rep. Tom Bliley, Chairman, United States House Committee on Commerce (July 8, 1999), National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

Meanwhile, or at best slightly later, DoC apparently assured the European Union that it intends to give ICANN full control over the DNS by October 2000:

[T]he U.S. Department of Commerce has repeatedly reassured the Commission that it is still their intention to withdraw from the control of these Internet infrastructure functions and complete the transfer to ICANN by October 2000. . . . The Commission has confirmed to the US authorities that these remaining powers retained by the United States DoC regarding ICANN should be effectively divested, as foreseen in the US White Paper.

Commission of the European Communities, Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament: The Organization and Management of the Internet International and European Policy Issues 1998-2000, at 14 (Apr. 7, 2000) (emphasis added), Information Society Promotion Office. Recently, DoC assured the GAO that “it has no current plans to transfer policy authority for the authoritative root server to ICANN, nor has it developed a scenario or set of circumstances under which such control would be transferred.” GAO Report, supra note 28, at 30. ICANN meanwhile stated on June 30, 2000, that “[s]ince it appears that all of the continuing tasks under the joint project may not be completed by the current termination date of the MOU, the MOU should be extended until all the conditions required to complete full transition to ICANN are accomplished.” Second Status Report Under ICANN/US Government Memorandum of Understanding (30 June 2000), § D.4, (June 30, 2000).

Since then, every time the MOU with ICANN has lapsed, the US has observed that the terms were not met — but extended the agreement. And every time, ICANN has said that it’s just about to meet all the necessary conditions any day now…although it never does. And in fact, ICANN has come closer and closer, although one or two major, perhaps insurmountable, obstacles remain (agreements with the root server operators and especially agreement with the ccTLD operators).

Thus, the ambiguity remained. Most recently, in fact, Commerce had sent signals suggesting it was leaning in ICANN’s favor, notably an announcement that the current MOU extension would be the last one — leading me and other observers to think the fix was in for turning ICANN loose.

But today, in a surprise statement by the Commerce Department, the US government took out the ambiguity — and said it intended to keep its authority over the root. In the short and medium term, the implications of this statement are political, not operational as the status quo for operations remains unchanged.

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Posted in Internet, Law: Internet Law, Politics: International | 8 Comments

New Wifi Technology!

Just what the doctor ordered for weak wifi signals! WiFi Speed Spray (“Numbers don't lie!”). I can use it to make a thorough study of the Wikerpedia, the new online competitor to the Wikipedia.

The toxicity stuff is a bit of a worry, though.

Posted in Completely Different | Leave a comment

Miami: Home of the Monkey Thieves

How did I miss this when it happened?

Baby Monkey Stolen From Primate Expert's Florida Home: MIAMI — Three masked men in capes stole a baby owl monkey Thursday from the home of a primate expert, police said.

Men. In. Capes. Stole a rare monkey. In the Redlands (one of the last little-developed areas here, about 30 minutes to the south).

Then again, other news reports say the masked intruders wore “black robes” which suggests they are judges rather than caped crusaders. I suppose that's marginally more plausible. Although if you are a judge, you can monkey around on the bench, so why steal one? (Sorry your Honor, I couldn't resist.)

(original story spotted via Majikthise who has an entire blog category for Monkeys, Apes, and Prosimians … don't miss the slow loris)

Posted in Miami | Leave a comment

Correction: Situation at VA is Even Worse Than Normal

I rarely link to audio, but this morning's NPR segment on the VA is worth a listen just to hear VA Secretary Jim Nicholson do a champion demonstration of what Wallace (of Wallace & Gromit) calls prevaricating around the bush.

The Senate is voting today on a $1.5 billion extra appropriation for VA health care. The VA based its inadequate request in the current budget on the amount it needed in 2002, i.e. planning for medical care as if there were not a war in Iraq. Similarly, when the administration asked for a supplemental appropriation for Iraq — having left it out of the budget to be able to claim the deficit was smaller than everyone knew it actually was — Democratic Senator Patty Murry proposed adding more money for the VA. The administration said it wasn't needed.

In the NPR clip, a Republican senator asks Secretary Nicholson why the VA couldn't see this medical funding budget gap coming. Nicholson, in a truly idiotic move, said his department didn't get caught by surprise — they've known about it since April — but just didn't tell Congress!!!

Yesterday Sen. Murray asked Nicholson if, having said there was no problem when she proposed the extra money for the supplemental appropriation [and, I might add, having repeated that lie two months ago], Nicholson is willing to say that we have a problem now. All he'd say is “we have a situation”. It's worth hearing.

I suspect this is worse than incompetence: This shortfall may not be unexpected at all. I wouldn't be surprised if it were intentional. By not appropriating money in the regular or even the supplemental Iraq appropriation, the administration avoided having to admit they expected any casualties in Iraq — much less estimating how many there might be. (It also kept down the bottom line number in the supplemental.) And, in the classic Washington Monument Ploy, they could rest easy in knowledge that Congress would surely pony up the money when asked.

I hope that every veterans group in the nation gets to hear about this.

UPDATE: The Post says the VA is actually short $2.6 billion for medical care

Earlier VA scandal item: Back to Normal at the VA

Posted in Politics: The Party of Sleaze | 4 Comments

Context

It's nice to see big newspapers like Knight-Ridder actually giving context — in the second paragraph of a story, no less!

Bush spells out strategy for war in Iraq Calling the operation in Iraq “difficult and dangerous,” Bush said “the lessons of September 11” require Americans to stand firm against an enemy that ignores the rules of conventional warfare. Although Bush has acknowledged that there's no known link between Iraq and the Sept. 11 attacks, he implied a connection with repeated references to Sept. 11 and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network.

That's much more straightforwad than the NYT version:

Using language that infuriates his opponents who say there is no link between the Iraq war and Al Qaeda, he specifically cast the battle in Iraq as part of the bigger conflict that began with the Sept. 11 attacks, which he mentioned explicitly five times and alluded to at others, and invoked the specter of Osama bin Laden.

So far as I could tell, the speech was pretty much empty of actual new content. Here, at least, the NYT seems to agree without pussyfooting around:

The speech offered no new policies or course corrections, and for the most part was a restatement of the ideas and language that he has been employing for two and a half years to explain the war and assert that it is an integral part of a broader struggle to protect the United States from terrorism.

It was, in essence, a repeat of a speech he delivered 13 months ago, when he assured the nation during an appearance at the Army War College that while the job of achieving stability in Iraq would be hard, he had a plan – and the United States had the will – to see it through.

Certainly the “because” section wasn't much:

We accept these burdens because we know what is at stake.

We fight today because Iraq now carries the hope of freedom in a vital region of the world, and the rise of democracy will be the ultimate triumph over radicalism and terror.

And we fight today because terrorists want to attack our country and kill our citizens, and Iraq is where they are making their stand.

And that CIA report suggesting Iraq was breeding and training terrorists more quickly than the US is defeating them? Never mind.

Posted in The Media | 1 Comment

A Very Unusual Defense Strategy

That will be some jury deliberation:

Boing Boing: Don't like my driving? Call 1-800-flesh-eating-hemadrones: A California man facing life in prison for crashing his car into a UPS truck will not dispute that his actions resulted in the death of the driver when his trial opens Monday in Nevada County Superior Court. Instead, Scott Krause's defense will argue that the defendant believed he was trying to escape man-eating subterranean beings when he ran into Drew Reynolds' truck on Jan. 6, 2004.

… In three court-ordered evaluations, the defendant stated he was fleeing subterranean beings he called “hemadrones” when he carjacked a commercial vehicle near a Nevada City, Calif., gas station and then crashed into Reynolds' service vehicle.

“Everything had to do with his escape from the hemadrones,” said Nevada County District Attorney Michael Ferguson. “According to the defendant, he was afraid they were going to put him in cargo and ship him to China to be eaten.”

Posted in Law: Criminal Law | 1 Comment

Bush Speech Scorecard

My brother offers what is in effect a scorecard for Bush's speech this evening.

White House Briefing: Beware the cut-and-run straw man tonight, when President Bush delivers a prime-time speech about Iraq with troops from the nation's largest army base as his backdrop.

To the extent that Bush acknowledges the growing public opposition to his leadership of the war at all tonight, it may well be to disparage those who would “cut and run” rather than “stay the course.”

According to the latest polls, Americans are not saying that U.S. troops should leave instantly. They're saying they feel the country is bogged down in a war that was a mistake in the first place, they're saying they feel misled by the president and have lost confidence in him, and they're saying they want to know the way out.

They're not saying abandon the troops; they're saying support the troops. They're not saying dishonor the dead, they're saying stop the dying. They're not saying let the terrorists win; they're saying they don't think that victory in Iraq will have a major impact on terrorism elsewhere.

[Press Secretary Scott] McClellan said Bush will not announce any change in course, but he did offer that the president would “talk in a very specific way about the way forward.”

Or, if you ask me, it could just be a media event, devoid of substance…

Of course, even if Bush does not engage the growing unease about the war and just rephrases his previous assertions, he will still come out ahead if the press coverage highlights the new sound bites — rather than explaining that he failed to address the mounting concerns of the American public.

Incidentally, tomorrow at 1pm you can chat with Dan about how it all went as he'll be Live Online at the Washington Post site. His chats are fun to watch.

Posted in Dan Froomkin | 2 Comments