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  1. #1
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    Default Whom Do You Trust?

    COMMENT: Whom Do You Trust?

    Dear A-Letter Reader:
    Now and again when I am called on to make public remarks to a new
    group I note, somewhat tongue in cheek, that I come to the table with
    three impediments; I am a lawyer; I used to be a member of the
    US Congress; and that makes me a former politician. (Three strikes
    and you're out, Bob?)

    Comes now what is billed as a "worldwide poll" calling itself the
    largest international poll ever undertaken. Commissioned by the BBC
    World Service, the Gallup pollsters interviewed more than 50,000
    people in 68 countries, which is said by extrapolation to represent
    the views of 1.3 billion people worldwide.

    The question being, "Who do you trust?' you almost can guess the
    inevitable outcome.

    Worldwide, politicians represent the least trusted occupation in the
    survey, scoring only 13%. Religious leaders are the most trusted
    (33%), followed by military/police leaders (26%), journalists (26%)
    and business leaders (19%).

    When I was a youth I seem to recall that a similar US poll showed
    that on questions of trust, politicians were also at the bottom, ahead
    of only used car salesmen. Thus the poster with a picture of Richard
    Nixon with the legend reading: "Would you buy a used car from this

    The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language reflects
    these findings, listing two definitions for "politician" - "One who is
    actively involved in politics, skilled in government" or "a schemer who
    tries to gain advantage in sly or underhanded ways." In a similar vein,
    Roget's Thesaurus lists synonyms of office seeker, demagogue and

    Small wonder that Pres. John F. Kennedy once remarked: “Mothers
    may still want their favorite sons to grow up to be President, but they
    do not want them to become politicians in the process.” Pres. Ronald
    Reagan used to ask jokingly: "Do you know how to tell when politicians
    are lying?" His answer, with a rueful grin: "When their lips are

    The problem with politicians, as I see it, is not so much them as it is

    Those elected to office may be too faithful in their representation of
    their electorate. Too many of the few citizens who bother to vote (about
    35% of those who could), want instant gratification, immediate solutions
    to every problem. Too many think government can and should do it all.
    "What have you done for me lately," is the public cry. De Tocqueville
    was right in predicting that once Americans discovered they could elect
    leaders that would buy their votes with other peoples' money, democracy
    would become a farcical bidding war. Now we are there.

    The politicians so disliked in that BBC poll are those who pander to the
    avaricious greed de Tocqueville saw then and we see now. Power goes
    to the highest bidder and the bets are paid with taxes or borrowed cash.
    Yet is anything likely to change? In the US both parties are alike in
    all the worst ways; spending, debt, destruction of our liberties.

    In America the disaster that was Hurricane Katrina was met by the
    disaster of bungled government at every level. Yet politicians now
    scream for more of the same government that could not deliver. And
    no doubt stupid people will swallow that old bait yet again.

    "His public life is an endless series of evasions and false pretenses,"
    wrote H.L. Mencken about "the politician under democracy." That
    was almost a century ago.

    Has anything changed? Or do the people get what they deserve --
    "representatives" that are much like the voters who choose them?
    Look in the mirror.

    That's the way it looks from here.
    BOB BAUMAN, Editor

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    Breaking America's grip on the net

    After troubled negotiations in Geneva, the US may be forced to relinquish control of the internet to a coalition of governments

    Kieren McCarthy
    Thursday October 6, 2005
    The Guardian

    You would expect an announcement that would forever change the face of the internet to be a grand affair - a big stage, spotlights, media scrums and a charismatic frontman working the crowd.

    But unless you knew where he was sitting, all you got was David Hendon's slightly apprehensive voice through a beige plastic earbox. The words were calm, measured and unexciting, but their implications will be felt for generations to come.

    Hendon is the Department for Trade and Industry's director of business relations and was in Geneva representing the UK government and European Union at the third and final preparatory meeting for next month's World Summit on the Information Society. He had just announced a political coup over the running of the internet.

    Old allies in world politics, representatives from the UK and US sat just feet away from each other, but all looked straight ahead as Hendon explained the EU had decided to end the US government's unilateral control of the internet and put in place a new body that would now run this revolutionary communications medium.

    The issue of who should control the net had proved an extremely divisive issue, and for 11 days the world's governments traded blows. For the vast majority of people who use the internet, the only real concern is getting on it. But with the internet now essential to countries' basic infrastructure - Brazil relies on it for 90% of its tax collection - the question of who has control has become critical.

    And the unwelcome answer for many is that it is the US government. In the early days, an enlightened Department of Commerce (DoC) pushed and funded expansion of the internet. And when it became global, it created a private company, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) to run it.

    But the DoC retained overall control, and in June stated what many had always feared: that it would retain indefinite control of the internet's foundation - its "root servers", which act as the basic directory for the whole internet.

    A number of countries represented in Geneva, including Brazil, China, Cuba, Iran and several African states, insisted the US give up control, but it refused. The meeting "was going nowhere", Hendon says, and so the EU took a bold step and proposed two stark changes: a new forum that would decide public policy, and a "cooperation model" comprising governments that would be in overall charge.

    Much to the distress of the US, the idea proved popular. Its representative hit back, stating that it "can't in any way allow any changes" that went against the "historic role" of the US in controlling the top level of the internet.

    But the refusal to budge only strengthened opposition, and now the world's governments are expected to agree a deal to award themselves ultimate control. It will be officially raised at a UN summit of world leaders next month and, faced with international consensus, there is little the US government can do but acquiesce.

    But will this move mean, as the US ambassador David Gross argued, that "even on technical details, the industry will have to follow government-set policies, UN-set policies"?

    No, according to Nitin Desai, the UN's special adviser on internet governance. "There is clearly an acceptance here that governments are not concerned with the technical and operational management of the internet. Standards are set by the users."

    Hendon is also adamant: "The really important point is that the EU doesn't want to see this change as bringing new government control over the internet. Governments will only be involved where they need to be and only on issues setting the top-level framework."

    Human rights

    But expert and author of Ruling the Root, Milton Mueller, is not so sure. An overseeing council "could interfere with standards. What would stop it saying 'when you're making this standard for data transfer you have to include some kind of surveillance for law enforcement'?"

    Then there is human rights. China has attracted criticism for filtering content from the net within its borders. Tunisia - host of the World Summit - has also come under attack for silencing online voices. Mueller doesn't see a governmental overseeing council having any impact: "What human rights groups want is for someone to be able to bring some kind of enforceable claim to stop them violating people's rights. But how's that going to happen? I can't see that a council is going to be able to improve the human rights situation."

    And what about business? Will a governmental body running the internet add unnecessary bureaucracy or will it bring clarity and a coherent system? Mueller is unsure: "The idea of the council is so vague. It's not clear to me that governments know what to do about anything at this stage apart from get in the way of things that other people do."

    There are still dozens of unanswered questions but all the answers are pointing the same way: international governments deciding the internet's future. The internet will never be the same again.,00.html

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