Saturday, February 5, 2011

Rant: Federal Government

My opinion of our government (Federal, State and Local) is that government best serves as a model of incompetence hidden by inefficiency, and those are the good days. At worst we have a fascist police state in everything except the name, supported by tyranny of the majority in the form of 'democracy'. The government wants control. Politicians thrive on it. Bureaucrats exercise it. The hoi polloi suffer from it, mainly due to a combination of apathy and a desire to be controlled. One recent example of the latter involved travelers stranded in Chicago on Lake Shore Drive during the great Groundhog Day Blizzard of 2011. An example of the former is Senator Joe Lieberman's legislation calling for a master switch for the Internet.

Return of the Internet 'Kill Switch' by Ed Brayton
After failing to pass in the last session, Sens. Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins plan to reintroduce a bill that would give the president the authority to pull the plug on the internet in cases of emergency.
The deal is that if The Anointed One decides that an emergency condition exists, Himself can turn the Internet off, much like a long-suffering father switching off the giant flat screen television in his errant child's bedroom. Of course, this being an entire nation of adults watching porn, there are a few restrictions. Lieberman issued a press release of sorts in which he begins by stating most emphatically that his bill does not just give The Anointed One the authority to turn the Internet off like president of Egypt Muhammad Hosni Sayyid Mubarak did recently. His bill is different in any number of ways.

Fourth, when invoking these authorities, the President must notify Congress, and the emergency measures cannot be continued beyond 120 days without congressional approval.
Oh, well, since The Anointed One must notify Congress (no more TV, kids!) and since the Internet won't be shut down for more than 120 days unless Congress approves, well then - there you are! Naturally there will be no judicial review of this activity. We don't want to bother the court system with actions that are necessary to maintain a free State.

Reading various sources on the Internet about this noisome piece of legislation reveals that many writers really don't get the picture.

Could the U.S. shut down the internet? By John D. Sutter
Technically, the United States could do the same thing Egypt did to block internet access, Faris said. [Robert Faris, research director at Harvard's Berkman Center for Internet & Society.]
The government would have to call four or five top internet providers and order them to disrupt Border Gateway Protocols in a way that shut down the majority of American internet traffic, he said. Others said the government would have to deal with the country's thousands of internet providers in order to fully clamp down on internet access, which would be logistically difficult.
But that's unlikely to happen here, experts said.
For one thing, the internet in the U.S. is bigger. There are more companies involved, more data at play and more locations where the internet comes in and out of the country.
Moreover, U.S. law would prevent such an authoritarian shutdown.
The experts are less than correct. Yes, the United States is bigger, the Internet is larger and more companies are involved. The Federal government is correspondingly larger as well, and very likely is proportionally larger than Egypt's government.

United States law might prohibit the Internet being shut down, but authority would make that a fairly moot point. After all, certain recreational drugs are illegal but I notice that the drug law hasn't slowed down the drug dealers.

Masses will protect Internet rights By Nicholas Slayton
If they want to get their message out on the Internet, they will.
It took Google and Twitter less than a week to launch Speak2Tweet and connect the disconnected Egyptians with the outside world.
Imagine if they dedicated their entire staffs to restoring a cut off United States, with the raw hardware and machines available.
Working with American youth, it would be an unstoppable movement for connection.
Mr. Slayton writes a convincing argument, but I don't think it holds much water. He makes an argument for Google, etc. without realizing that the programming staff of Google will be ordered to cease and desist at best, and some key players will very likely be in jail for safekeeping. The major players (Google, Yahoo, et. al.) will all be on holiday for 120 days by order of The Anointed One. Now what?

Jason Hiner thinks the experience in Egypt should teach the United States something. This, in the face of prohibition and the Volstead Act, which was supposed to teach the United States government something and failed to do so.

Takeaways from Egypt: Kill the kill switch and decentralize the Internet By Jason Hiner
I see two big takeaways here:
1. US citizens should mobilize to defeat the current government proposal for an Internet “kill switch”
2. We need to reverse some of the momentum toward a centralized Internet, or at least devise a peer-to-peer connectivity alternative
Mr. Hiner is getting the picture, sort of. Yes, the US citizens should be writing or calling their elected officials screaming bloody blue murder about this incredible crap, but the vast majority will not. Apathy and the Nanny State citizen mentality (NSS) is what will allow this crap to become law.

Since Mr. Hiner's second point deals with the major players giving up a certain amount of their control, it can be forgotten. Yes, it's a good idea, but it will never work. Greed prevents it. That said, setting up some kind of peer to peer network as an alternative to having The Anointed One close the company down might fly. It appeals to self-preservation and maintaining control, both of which are good, self-serving arguments.

Someone raised the question of the need for an Internet kill switch as well as the method used to shut Egypt's Internet down, which Michael Duff addressed nicely.

Duff: Does the president need an Internet kill switch?
By Michael Duff
Mubarak’s thugs didn’t need a fancy control room, and they didn’t need to understand how it worked. All they had to do was call up the people who ran the telecommunications companies and demand that they shut it down.
Mr. Duff wrote an article that is truly worth reading, and he gets a large part of the picture. Lieberman, Collins and The Anointed One claim they need an Internet kill switch in the name of National Security. The Internet in the United States is a valuable national asset and is vulnerable to attack from our enemies, or so the argument goes. Never mind that such an attack would be aimed at shutting the Internet down, so switching it off would be the same thing as an unconditional military surrender in, say, Iran. Do that and the Taliban would likely declare a new annual religious holiday. What Mr. Duff understood was the method used to shut down the Internet in Egypt, which is either being carefully ignored (Armed thugs? What armed thugs? Those are security personnel. They're here to help us. They just carry guns because they have to. It's for our own good...) or the publishers behind most of the other stupid articles are being leaned on to print something else. Something other than the obvious truth.

If the United States really does need to protect the Internet from attack, then the government should begin by looking at t little history.

A long time ago England was having trouble with noisy, aggressive neighbors. In the name of National Security, a new law was passed:

Medieval Bow and Arrow - The Archery Law 1363
In 1252 the 'Assize of Arms' was passed which decreed that every man between the age of 15 to 60 years old were ordered to equip themselves with a bow and arrows. The Plantagenet King Edward III took this further and decreed the Archery Law in 1363 which commanded the obligatory practice of archery on Sundays and holidays! The Archery Law "forbade, on pain of death, all sport that took up time better spent on war training especially archery practise". Henry I later proclaimed that an archer would be absolved of murder, if he killed a man during archery practise!
Remember, for all intents and purposes they didn't have firearms back then. Their AK-47 was a long bow and a quiver of arrows. This worked pretty well for England. When the country was invaded, instead of a bunch of helpless farmers the invaders found a somewhat disorganized group of archers who could engage at 300 yards before advancing to the rear and engaging again. This was a fairly nasty surprise if you were invading, but provided a nice turn of events for the defenders. Some years later the barbaric, ungrateful, rebellious colonies recognized a similar inalienable right:
A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
In World War II Japan knew about this and as a result decided to 'postpone' an invasion of the United States until after the US surrendered unconditionally to the Japanese Empire. Well... it was probably a good decision on Japan's part. Everyone with a gun would have fought, and those that were not armed would be carrying a Japanese rifle is short order.

I don't think our immediate neighbors are going to invade, at least not officially. A case can be made for Mexico and an informal invasion, but I'm not going to go there today. Canada doesn't want much to do with us, which is fine by me. That said, the Archery Law and the Second Amendment serve as examples of what works. If the United States Federal Government really wanted to protect the Internet, it would take a portion of the military budget and allocate it to cybernetic warfare. Begin by funding the hackers, the best defense being a good offense. Spend a few more bucks and develop cybernetic security teams and countermeasures. Allow the people who use and develop the Internet in the United States defend it, both passively and aggressively. That's is PeeCee speak for defense (passive defense) and attack or counter attack (aggressive defense).

No, The Anointed One does not need an Internet kill switch. In fact, The Anointed One needs to stand aside and let the people of the United States defend it. If Congress wants to help, let Congress do what Congress does best: spend money.


flask said...

we've been giving up civil rights in favor of security theater for longer than you've been alive.

why bother to get ranty NOW?

Mad Jack said...

Because, that's why. Because even though few people read my diatribe, it's something, and doing something is better than nothing.