Month of December, 2009
Yesterday, President Obama issued an executive order on classified national security information that declared that “No information may remain classified indefinitely.” The order is “part of a sweeping overhaul of the executive branch’s system for protecting classified national security information,” which includes overturning Executive Order 13292 of March 25, 2003. That order, put in place by President George W. Bush, allowed the leader of the intelligence community to veto decisions by an interagency panel to declassify information. This order also establishes a new National Declassification Center at the National Archives (sec3.7) which, according to the AP is expected to speed the declassification of “more than 400 million pages of Cold War-era documents” that are currently backlogged.
[Thanks Think Progress!]
Carl Malamud posed this question over on twitter: "What if our national cultural institutions all worked together on a common problem, attracted White House support?" In his post on the O'Reilly blog, "A National Scan Center: A Public Works Project", Malamud scopes out the issues and calls for Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, the Government Printing Office, the National Archives and Records Administration, and the National Technical Information Service to come together and make the compelling case for funding a 5-year $500 million effort to create a National Scan Center. Here here Carl!
In the U.S., we face a similar deluge of paperwork that we faced in the 1930s. A huge backlog of paper, microfiche, audio, video, and other materials is located throughout the federal government. Little money has gone from Congress for digitization, and bureaucracies have resorted to a series of questionable private-public partnerships as a way of digitizing their materials. For example, the Government Accountability Office shipped 60 million pages of our Federal Legislative Histories (the record of each law from the initial bill through the hearings and conference reports) off to Thomson West, but didn't even get digital copies back. Another example is the recent failed effort by the Government Printing Office to digitize 60 million pages of the Federal Depository Library Program, an effort they tried to get through as a "zero dollar cost to the government" effort with the private sector.
There are no free lunches and there are no "no cost to the government" deals. The costs involve the government effort to supervise the contract, prepare the materials, and ship them, and in both the GAO and GPO cases, the government wasn't getting much back for its effort. What the government and the people usually get is a lien on the public domain, preventing the public from accessing these vital materials. Similar efforts are sprinkled throughout the government. I testified to Congress that I had learned that the National Archives was contemplating a scan of congressional hearings with LexisNexis under similar circumstances, and many may be aware of the questionable deal the Archives cut with Amazon where my favorite online superstore got de facto exclusive rights to 1,899 wonderful pieces of video.
Nowadays you will find that there is hardly a day that goes by in which google is not in the media spotlight. Topics having to do with Google are limitless.
In today's New York times, Op-Ed Contributor Adam Raff, a co-founder of Foundem, an Internet technology firm, is asking people to demand that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) work toward "search neutrality." The premise of his argument is that in order to ensure equal access to the infrastructure of the Internet, FCC needs to impose regulations not only on Internet service providers but also on search engine companies. Raff points out:
Today, search engines like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft’s new Bing have become the Internet’s gatekeepers, and the crucial role they play in directing users to Web sites means they are now as essential a component of its infrastructure as the physical network itself.
I think Raff is making an important argument here: search engines are a key part of the Internet's infrastructure. When we consider search engines as infrastructure it puts the Internet into a public utility dimension like electricity, telephone etc. If that's the case, then the public has a right to input into how search engines should work. I don't think there is any neutral search engine (sponsored links anyone?!) but it's worthwhile to think about search engine as public infrastructure.
Currently Google controls over 70% of the search market and over 95% of Google's revenue comes from ad revenue. So it's clear that search results are not all about relevancy but are related to how Google can generate more profit through the placement of ads. If search engines were part of the public Internet infrastructure, then what would it look like? Can we find a model somewhere? How about libraries as a model?
I can't believe Project Censored has been doing what they do for 34 years! That is, the media research program has been teaching Sonoma State University students and the public about censorship, the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and the importance of a free press in the US by researching important national news stories that are underreported, ignored, misrepresented, or censored by the US corporate media. I hope everyone reading this will purchase or donate a copy of Top Censored Stories of 2009/2010 to their local library. And also please consider donating some $$ to this worthy cause.
Note: FGI has no connection to or affiliation with Project Censored. We just love their work!
Top Censored Stories of 2009/2010
- 1. US Congress Sells Out to Wall Street
- 2. US Schools are More Segregated Today than in the 1950s
- 3. Toxic Waste Behind Somali Pirates
- 4. Nuclear Waste Pools in North Carolina
- 5. Europe Blocks US Toxic Products
- 6. Lobbyists Buy Congress
- 7. Obama’s Military Appointments Have Corrupt Past
- 8. Bailed out Banks and America’s Wealthiest Cheat IRS Out of Billions
- 9. US Arms Used for War Crimes in Gaza
- 10. Ecuador Declares Foreign Debt Illegitimate
- 11. Private Corporations Profit from the Occupation of Palestine
- 12. Mysterious Death of Mike Connell—Karl Rove’s Election Thief
- 13. Katrina’s Hidden Race War
- 14. Congress Invested in Defense Contracts
- 15. World Bank’s Carbon Trade Fiasco
- 16. US Repression of Haiti Continues
- 17. The ICC Facilitates US Covert War in Sudan
- 18. Ecuador’s Constitutional Rights of Nature
- 19. Bank Bailout Recipients Spent to Defeat Labor
- 20. Secret Control of the Presidential Debates
- 21. Recession Causes States to Cut Welfare
- 22. Obama’s Trilateral Commission Team
- 23. Activists Slam World Water Forum as a Corporate-Driven Fraud
- 24. Dollar Glut Finances US Military Expansion
- 25. Fast Track Oil Exploitation in Western Amazon
This year will probably be remembered (among other things!) as the year of the e-book-reader device hype. We've seen new Kindles, the B&N Nook, the FBReader, applications for book reading on iPhones and other handheld devices, and more. And, of course, there is the elephant-in-the-room of the Google book scanning project. (I find it so odd that so much of the popular press refers to the Google "Library" when it is clearly a Google book store.)
It will be a while before we know if the digital age will turn into the end of sharable books (see: Welcome to the library. Say goodbye to the books), but we certainly should be tracking the development of the advantages and disadvantages of e-books and e-book readers.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation is helping us track how these developments affect privacy:
- An E-Book Buyer's Guide to Privacy, Commentary by Ed Bayley.
EFF has created a first draft of our Buyer's Guide to E-Book Privacy. We've examined the privacy policies for the major e-readers on the market to determine what information they reserve the right to collect and share.
State Dept Series Falls Farther Behind Schedule, by Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News (December 22nd, 2009).
The U.S. State Department’s official Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series had another disappointing year in 2009 with only two softcopy volumes published to date, including one released last week on "Global Issues, 1973-1976."
...a third FRUS volume on "Foreign Economic Policy, 1973-1976" [should] appear before the end of the year, and at least one other in January 2010.... There are four Vietnam volumes alone that should be published in 2010.
White House boosts social media apps, by Doug Beizer, FCW.com (Dec 15, 2009).
An application produced at Princeton University that makes it easy to search the Federal Register is an example of the applications White House officials want to see created, McLaughlin [the deputy federal chief technology officer] said. The application, named FedThread, also lets users to sign up to receive alerts about items published in the Federal Register based on keywords.
..."We can make a lot of government data available, but it doesn't really do much good unless apps developers translate it into Web sites, mobile applications or platform apps that really are useful."
Well now he's expanding FedFlix to include public domain videos from the National Archives. He's released 41 videos into the public domain in this way, but has put together an Amazon Wish List in order to expand public access to public domain video content from the National Archives. If you see anything you'd like to buy the public domain, they'll take your DVD and upload the video to YouTube, the Internet Archive, and to public.resource.org's own rsync/ftp public domain stock footage library. So why not add a gift of the public domain to your favorite person's/people's stockings this year? We'll all be glad we did!
The Wall Street Journal has a very nice visualization tool Tracking the Nation's Bank Failures. I wish they cited their sources and said something about their methodology and made the data they used available. For some odd reason, that is just not part of what newspapers regularly do yet.
Gabriela Schneider, the Communications Director of the Sunlight Foundation, writes:
David Brisson marked the completion of his fall internship at Sunlight today by posting a recap of his independent research project. Since it digs into FOIA, I thought you all would appreciate it: http://blog.sunlightfoundation.com/2009/12/18/can-the-internet-save-foia...