There are “very powerful forces that have lined up against the open internet on all sides and around the world,” says Brin.
Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin cited a wide range of attacks on “the open Internet”
Google’s search engine was created when most of the Web’s information was open and available to anyone willing to capture it. In today’s more restrictive environment, Google co-founder Sergey Brin and CEO Larry Page may not have even tried to start the company. “The kind of environment that we developed Google in, the reason that we were able to develop a search engine, is the Web was so open,” Brin told The Guardian. “Once you get too many rules, that will stifle innovation.”
In an interview published Sunday, Google’s co-founder cited a wide range of attacks on “the open Internet,” including government censorship and interception of data, overzealous attempts to protect intellectual property, and new communication portals that use web technologies and the internet, but under restrictive corporate control. There are “very powerful forces that have lined up against the open internet on all sides and around the world,” says Brin. “I thought there was no way to put the genie back in the bottle, but now it seems in certain areas the genie has been put back in the bottle.”
Not coincidentally, these forces map directly onto three of Google’s biggest headaches as a business in the past few years. There’s no way for Google’s servers to crawl Facebook’s pages or Apple’s smartphone apps for information. YouTube’s video clips, Google Books and other key initiatives have had to grapple with both the media industries and government court rulings or legislation. And besides having to withdraw from China to Hong Kong after a series of attacks and new censorship rules, Google has been compelled to hand over user information to the U.S. government, sometimes without being able to legally notify those users. “If we could be in some magical jurisdiction that everyone in the world trusted, that would be great,” says Brin. “We’re doing it as well as can be done.”
Brin lists several other threats to the open Web (and to Google):
– Smartphone apps, as led by Apple: “all the information in apps — that data is not crawlable by Web crawlers. You can’t search it.”
– Facebook, where data goes in but never comes out: “Facebook has been sucking down Gmail contacts for many years.”
– SOPA and PIPA, which Brin says would have led to the U.S. using the same content-screening technology it has criticized China and Iran for using.
With SOPA and PIPA, says Brin, fears of piracy had reduced the media industry to “shooting itself in the foot, or maybe worse than in the foot.”Still, there’s a profound audacity in Brin bundling Internet censorship in regimes like China, Saudi Arabia and Iran, which restrict user access to the web, with Facebook and Apple’s platforms, which restrict Google’s. There may be a continuum of control and closure of the Internet that connects repressive governments at one end and overbearing corporations at the other. The fight over the SOPA/PIPA legislation, where entertainment and technology companies, along with their users, fought it out in the halls of Congress, doubtlessly lies somewhere in between. But Google is likewise doubtlessly a part of that continuum, not apart from it. Because of its origin and the nature of its business, Google’s prospects are inexorably tied to the fate of the open Web. But we have to resist the urge to make the two identical. Google isn’t just a Web-crawling search company anymore.
Right wing radio talk show loons love to call Barack Obama an elitist and worse but that may be a hard argument to make this fall. President Obama has already urged his likely opponent, Mitt Romney, to release 12 years of tax returns. Romney is in no hurray to oblige. Why? Romney is filthy rich and has faced charges throughout the Republican primary season that he could not possibly relate to the average American. Marc Thiessen, a former White House speechwriter for President George W. Bush, wrote in his column Monday that Mitt Romney is giving the Obama campaign ammunition for their “secrecy” attacks on him by not releasing tax returns prior to 2010. “Whatever is in his earlier tax returns, Romney is better off releasing them and enduring some more bad press than giving Team Obama more fodder for its ‘what is Mitt hiding’ campaign,” Thiessen wrote in the Washington Post.
“On taxes, it is simply inexplicable why the Romney campaign still cannot get a handle on an issue they should have seen coming years ago. Did they learn nothing from the tax-return debacle he went through during the South Carolina primary? Romney had a double-digit lead until he fumbled the tax issue in not one, but two, Republican debates. His evasive answers, and refusal to commit to releasing his returns, drew boos from the GOP crowd and helped Newt Gingrich win an upset victory.” “Even Republicans are starting to ask: What could possibly be in his old tax returns that is worse than creating the impression he has something to hide?”
Thiessen is right. Romney suffered a lot of political damage in January as he struggled to deal with the tax return issue. Finally, after coming under duress, Romney released his 2012 returns in Januaryand plans to release his 2011 returns later this year, though his campaign disclosed Friday that he filed for a six-month extension. Both President Obama’s reelection campaignand Democratic interest groupshave pressed Romney to release returns for many more years, up to more than two decade’s worth. Top White House adviser David Plouffe told Bloomberg Newson Friday that Romney submitted 23 years of returns to Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) presidential campaign in 2008 during the vetting process for vice presidential candidates. “Just release them,” Plouffe said.
But Romney adviser and spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said in an e-mail to The Huffington Post that their campaign is holding firm on their decision to release Romney’s returns only for 2010 and 2011, pointing out that Democratic Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts released only two years’ returns in the 2004 presidential elections during his unsuccessful challenge to Bush. “John McCain released two years of tax return information. John Kerry released two years. We are going to follow their example,” Fehrnstrom said.
President Obama enjoys a 9 point lead over Romney in the latest CNN poll at least, in part, because he is more likable. Romney has a credibility problem that not releasing his tax returns plays into. Of course, Romneys tax returns have nothing to do with the economy or jobs but they do create discussion over whether he can relate to the average American and that is something President Obama will try to drive home again and again.
President Barack Obama holds a nine-point lead over Republican challenger Mitt Romney thanks in part to the perception that the president is more likeable and more in touch with the problems facing women and middle class Americans, according to a new national poll. A CNN/ORC International poll released Monday also indicates a large gender gap that benefits Obama, but the public is divided on which candidate can best jump-start the economy.
According to the poll, 52% of registered voters say if the presidential election were held today, they would vote for the president, with 43% saying they would cast a ballot for Romney, the former Massachusetts governor who is making his second bid for the White House. The poll was conducted Friday through Sunday, a few days after former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania suspended his bid for the GOP nomination. Even though former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas continue their long-shot bids for the nomination, Romney is now generally considered the presumptive nominee.
The survey indicates women voters back Obama over Romney by 16 points (55%-39%), virtually unchanged from an 18-point advantage among women for the president in CNN polling last month. The poll was conducted two days after Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Hilary Rosen created a controversy by saying that Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life.” “That remark may have little long-term effect on women voters,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “By a two-to-one margin, the women surveyed saw President Obama as more in touch with the problems facing American women today.”
Half of those questioned say that Obama is more likely to stand up for what he believes, with only 29% saying that about Romney. Nearly half say that Romney is more likely to change his position on the issues for political reasons, just 39% saying the same thing about the president. Obama has double-digit leads over Romney on likeability, honesty, confidence, values, leadership and almost every other characteristic tested, with one important exception. “Obama and Romney are essentially tied on who is more likely to get the economy moving again, and that may provide Romney an opening to chip away at Obama’s current overall lead,” says Holland.
According to the poll, Obama holds a 48%-43% margin over Romney among crucial independent voters. The survey also indicates s generation gap, with all age groups, except those 65 and older, backing Obama. And the poll points to an income divide, with the president holding a 20-point lead over Romney among those earning less than $50,000 per year, while those making more than that figure divided between the two candidates.
Obama’s likeability and strong performance on personal characteristics helps explain why three-quarters of his supporters questioned say their vote will be a vote for Obama, not a vote against his opponent. By contrast, more than six in ten Romney supporters say their choice will be mostly be a vote against Obama. “That’s a significantly higher level of anti-incumbent voting than polls found in previous years. In 2004, for example, 55% of Democratic nominee John Kerry’s supporters said their choice of Kerry was really a vote against President George W. Bush. The question for 2012 is whether Romney has to provide his supporters with more reasons to vote for him in order to win, or whether a negative anti-Obama message is enough, given that historically high level of anti-incumbent voting,” adds Holland.
Two-thirds say they have made up their minds, with just 29% saying they could change their minds between now and November. As for handicapping the election, right now Americans don’t think Romney has a good chance of winning the White House. Only 35% said Romney will be victorious in November. “That is certainly not a prediction of what will happen, of course, but it is worth noting that in the last four presidential elections, the public was able to correctly pick the winner in polls taken in the spring or early summer,” adds Holland.
Even though Santorum is out of the race for the White House and Romney is the all but certain nominee, the battle for the GOP nomination technically continues. According to the survey, 57% of Republicans say that Romney is their choice for the GOP nominee, with 19% backing Gingrich and 18% supporting Paul. The CNN poll was conducted by ORC International April 13-15, with 1,015 adult Americans, including 910 registered voters, questioned by telephone. The survey’s overall sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.
Back in February, I projected that if the election were held in the winter, the President would coast to re-election. This was based on public opinion polling in several swing states. This CNN poll reinforces what I have been saying since last year that barring some unforeseen surge by Romney, the race is the President’s to lose. Those of us in the middle on this election are saying loudly that we are more apt to vote for the President we know than the candidate that we don’t. It’s not so much excitement about four more years of President Obama as it is our lack of confidence in Mitt Romney and the reality that he really cannot change anything.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — (DMN) – The Supreme Court on Monday turned aside jailed Enron executive Jeff Skilling’s second appeal, upholding his corporate corruption fraud conviction. The justices without comment rejected call to take another look at the scope of a conspiracy charge — so-called “honest services” fraud. The high court two years ago had given Skilling a temporary victory when it upheld the continued use of the popular federal prosecution tool but limited when it could be used against business executives and politicians. Lower federal courts were ordered to re-examine whether the trial judge should have allowed the jury to consider that charge. A federal appeals court subsequently ruled again for the government, prompting the latest Supreme Court appeal.
Skilling, 58, is currently in federal prison. He was convicted of 19 counts of fraud, conspiracy, and insider trading relating to the collapse of the Texas-based energy services giant in late 2001. His lawyers claimed all 19 convictions should be overturned because he was improperly accused of withholding his “honest services” from Enron’s shareholders, a violation of federal law dealing with fiduciary responsibilities. He had been a longtime executive at what became the world’s largest wholesaler of gas and electricity, with $27 billion traded in a single quarter at Enron’s height. Skilling was named CEO in February 2001, but resigned under pressure six months later as the company began to collapse financially. Thousands of investors and company employees lost their savings and their jobs in a case that became emblematic of corporate corruption cases during the past decade.
Skilling and Enron’s top executive, Kenneth Lay, were accused of spearheading a massive campaign to mislead investors and shareholders with an aggressive investment strategy aimed at suppressing the company’s shaky financial footing. Both men were convicted in May 2006. Skilling was sentenced to more than 24 years in prison and fined $45 million. Lay died in July 2006 before being sentenced. Skilling’s conviction was twice upheld by a federal appeals court. In a related part of his original appeal, the high court had said he was given a fair trial in Houston, where Enron was based, upholding that aspect of his conviction.
His attorneys told the court 60% of prospective jurors said in their initial questionnaires they would be unable to set aside their biases. They also claimed during the so-called “voir dire” part of the trial, in which the jury is selected, the judge spent an average of only 4.5 minutes on each prospect. Skilling also said local media attention should have led to change in venue. But when it came to the “honest services” fraud, the justices in 2010 said the Justice Department failed to make its case against Skilling. “The government did not, at any time, allege Skilling solicited or accepted side payments from a third party in exchange for making these representations” about the energy services company’s financial health. “It is therefore clear, as we read (the law), Skilling did not commit honest-services fraud.”
The court gave no explanation why it decided not to review his latest appeal challenging the conviction. Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in considering the appeal, since she had been at the Justice Department when the original case was argued at the Supreme Court. The 2010 high court rulings were a mixed bag for the Obama administration and the Justice Department, which was allowed to continue pursuing corporate fraud prosecutions, but under somewhat limited circumstances. Congress could now be asked to step in and clarify when “honest services” prosecutions can be used.
The “honest services fraud” argument also has been used to convict ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, onetime HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, and former governors Don Siegelman of Alabama and George Ryan of Illinois. Rod Blagojevich, who was impeached and forced to step down as Illinois governor, also faced the same charge at one time. Groups such as the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers have argued the law can invite abuse by headline-grabbing prosecutors. And some legal experts have said it was being increasingly misused by federal prosecutors as a “catch-all’ statute, added to an indictment when evidence of serious criminal conduct may be thin. The case is Skilling v. U.S. (11-674).
For the past couple of weeks, the reporting on anything North Korea has reached a crescendo for the simple reason that foreign journalists have had some unprecedented access to what is arguably the most secretive society on the planet. The news has been noteworthy, the North Koreans tried and failed to launch a satellite into orbit and the world got it’s first look at the North’s new leader. With coverage of the rocket launch and birthday party have come countless opinions and analysis on all issues North Korean. Once again, we are all drawn to the Korean peninsula which still remains in a state of war, technically. An area where the last vestiges of the Cold War are still a stark reality. We watch the news from Pyongyang hoping for some insight into the thinking behind the reality of the worlds last Stalinist state.
The issues in North Korea are not as bilateral as you might think. It’s not all about what we want that matters to her neighbors. North Korea is a menacing neighbor. Isolated by decades of sanctions designed to reign in it’s military ambitions, the Pyongyang government is known for saber rattling with sometime reckless abandon to get what it needs from the rest of the world and it works over and over and over again. But why? Why are we all content to allow Pyongyang to continue on this uncharted course?
The world’s two biggest players in the region, the United States and China both have reasons for wanting a stable government in Pyongyang. Often to the chagrin of our allies, the reality is that what is best for the region, for better or worse, is what’s best for us. The United States and China fought a proxy war on the Korean Peninsula that ended in a cease-fire in 1953. A heavily fortified border separates the two Korea’s, north and south. For China, stability in Pyongyang means not having U.S. troops on China’s southern border and for the United States, it means not having to engage in expensive nation building and humanitarian aid to an impoverished nation.
Reuters reports that North Korea’s new leader delivered his first major public speech on Sunday as the impoverished state celebrated the centenary of its founder’s birth, calling for a push to “final victory” despite a failed rocket launch two days earlier. A jowly Kim Jong-un, clad in black and the third of his line to rule North Korea, read monotonously from a script in Pyongyang’s central square after goose-stepping soldiers and sailors showcased the North’s military power in a parade in spring sunshine. Smiling and joking with generals on a podium after the speech, Kim watched as the country’s missiles paraded past, a reminder that despite Friday’s embarrassing failure to successfully launch a rocket, North Korea packs a punch.
In a move that indicated Kim would stick to the “military-first” policies that have put North Korea on the verge of nuclear-weapons capacity, he lauded respectively his grandfather, Kim Il-sung, and his father, Kim Jong-il, as the “founder and the builder of our revolutionary armed forces”. North Korea is believed to be readying a third nuclear test, based on intelligence satellite images and a past pattern of rocket launches followed by tests. “Let us move forward to final victory,” the 20-something leader urged tens of thousands of military and civilians as they applauded his more than 20-minute speech, the first time a North Korean leader has delivered a major public set-piece address.
Thousands of goose-stepping soldiers held up colored cards to spell out Kim Jong-un’s name and the words “strong and prosperous”. The crowd waved artificial pink flowers, celebrating the two dead Kims who ruled the nation in an event that was hosted by one of the country’s top generals, Ri Yong-ho. South Korea’s Yonhap news agency and YTN TV later cited military sources and analysts as saying the North unveiled at the parade a new long-range missile, presumed to be a ballistic missile with a range of to 6,000 km (3,700 miles). The missile appeared to be longer and with a bigger diameter compared with others the North has revealed. “In order to enhance the dignity of Songun (military-first) Chosun (Korea) and to accomplish the task of building a strong and prosperous socialist country, we have to make every effort to reinforce the people’s armed forces,” Kim said.
Given Kim Jong-il’s years of silence, North Korea specialists said the speech was likely another attempt to remind people of happier days under Kim Il-sung, a revered and avuncular figure the new ruler closely resembles. “It shows a new governing style for the Kim Jong-un era,” said Koh Yu-hwan, a professor at Dongguk University’s department of North Korea studies. North Korea departed from its usual practice of not telling its population about embarrassing failures when state television on Friday broadcast news that a rocket had failed to put a satellite into orbit. Critics say that the long-range rocket launch was part of a bid to develop a ballistic missile capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to hit the United States.
The state that Kim inherited in December after the death of his father boasts a 1.2 million-strong military but its population of 23 million, many malnourished, supports a puny economy worth just $40 billion annually in purchasing power parity terms, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. Analysts say the wretched economy means Kim is tied to the policies of his late father who oversaw the development of the state’s nuclear and missile ambitions. The United States has vowed to prevent North Korea fulfilling those ambitions, although in reality there is little that can be done to one of the most sanctioned nations on earth that is backed diplomatically by China. “We will continue to keep the pressure on them and they’ll continue to isolate themselves until they take a different path,” President Barack Obama said in an interview with Telemundo, a U.S. television network.
The small economy is matched by North Korea’s limited diplomatic influence. It has few friends other than China, whose strategic interest is in keeping a buffer between it and South Korea which has U.S. military bases. But even China sounded increasingly exasperated in the run-up to Friday’s rocket launch as North Korea ignored its pleas for restraint, despite aid pumped in by Beijing, and its diplomatic protection at bodies like the United Nations. Without real weight in the international arena, North Korea is forced to rely on bluster reinforced by periodic rocket launches, nuclear tests and attacks on South Korea, such as one in 2010 when it shelled an island, to get the world to pay attention, analysts say. That is likely to mean it will stick to the same script. In 2009, North Korea followed a failed attempt to put a satellite into orbit with a nuclear test.
Intelligence satellite images showing a tunnel being dug at the site of two previous tests implying that North Korea either wants to remind the world of the possibility, to prompt a return to aid for disarmament talks, or is preparing a test. “Internationally, now they have to do a nuclear test, preferably using uranium, just in order to show that they should be taken seriously,” said Andre Lankov, a North Korea expert at South Korea’s Kookmin University. While North Korea confessed on Friday that its rocket had failed to deliver a satellite into orbit, it also continued to churn out reams of propaganda aimed at bolstering the legitimacy of Kim Jong-un and his claim to power based on his bloodline. “Kim Jong-un is unlikely to be losing power over the launch, as the elite and the military need his legitimizing and mythical presence in order to pacify the North Korean population,” said Virginie Grzelczyk, a North Korea expert at Nottingham Trent University in Britain.
Kim Kyu-won writes for a North Korean blog that New North Korean leader Kim Jong-un stunned observers with a 20-minute speech at a Sunday event in Pyongyang to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his grandfather Kim Il-sung’s birth. Analysts interpreted the speech as a move to show himself as willing to appeal to and communicate directly with the people in his government in an open and public-friendly manner. This contrasts with his father Kim Jong-il, who rarely spoke to the public.
Speaking Sunday morning in Pyongyang’s Kim Il-sung Square, Kim declared that the country’s songun (military first) policies would continue for the time being. In the speech, Kim said, “What was once a weak country [North Korea] has now transformed into a political and military power. “If we intend to succeed in the great endeavor of building a strong and prosperous socialist state, our first, second, and third steps are to strengthen the people’s military in every way possible,” Kim continued. Kim also stressed the importance of economic development. “We must tend well to the precious seeds planted by Comrade Kim Jong-il for the sake of building a strong and prosperous nation and improving the peoples’ lives, cultivating them so that they blossom into a glorious reality,” he said.
Regarding inter-Korean relations, Kim said that “anyone who truly wishes for the country’s unification and the peace and prosperity of the Korean people will join hands in working together.” Kim’s approach stood in contrast with those of senior North Korean officials, who tend to read prepared statements in a stiff manner. The leader was seen moving his body throughout the speech. Afterwards, he engaged People’s Army politburo chief Choi Ryong-hae and Chief of General Staff Ri Yong-ho, who had been standing to his left while reviewing the massive military parade, in questions and conversation.
Kim was also seen several times smiling broadly and making large movements with his hands and body. Following the review, he smiled and waved at North Koreans calling out his name as they moved by either side of the seat of honor. During his speech, Kim Jong-un appeared to resemble his deceased grandfather in his tone and mannerisms. In contrast, the only public speech by Kim Jong-il came at a 60th anniversary ceremony for the People’s Army on Apr. 25, 1992, where he called on the people to “glorify the heroic soldiers of the Korean People’s Army.” “It calls to mind Kim Il-sung’s political style, with the openness and the attempt to connect with the public,” said Jang Yong-seok, a senior researcher at the Seoul National University Institute for Peace and Unification Studies. “Kim Jong-un is still lacking in charisma and the ‘patriarch’ image, so it looks like he opted for this approach as a way of getting closer to the elite and the public quickly,” Jang added.
Meanwhile, France’s AFP reported in a Sunday article with a Pyongyang dateline that North Korea carried out a large-scale ”Day of the Sun“ (Kim Il-sung‘s birthday) event in spite of last week’s failed rocket launch. The piece quoted foreigners living in Pyongyang as saying that thousands of people had worked at cleaning, building improvement and landscaping in downtown Pyongyang in the two months leading up to the event. The article also quoted Korean Peninsula expert Masao Okonomi, an honorary professor at Japan’s Kyushu University, as saying that North Korea had become the subject of international mockery after inviting large numbers of foreign journalists for its failed rocket launch.
The AP reported that six million North Koreans, or one in four, require food aid, while quoting Unification Minister Yu Woo-ik as saying that the country likely spent $850 million (roughly 964.3 billion won) on the rocket launch. But Yuri Karash, an expert with the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics who is currently visiting Pyongyang, told Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency in an interview Friday that the rocket development likely cost around $50 million to $60 million (57 billion to 68 billion won), although it was difficult to judge because North Korea does not have a market economy.
The United States policy toward the North has been to support our allies in the region. While North Korea does not yet pose a direct military threat to the United States, it does pose a threat to United States interests in the region. The reality is that U.S. foreign policy is frequently hamstrung by alliances and regional issues but the reality is this. Nothing has worked in dealing with North Korea. Decades of debilitating sanctions have not stopped Pyongyang from developing nuclear weapons or rockets. They have them both. Our policy of containment succeeds in one thing, eliminating any conversation or real effort at reforms and change. It’s arguable that current U.S. policy is setting us on a dangerous course toward another potential quagmire on the Korean peninsula and/or a humanitarian crisis that serves no one.
China is not going to support Korean unification under a U.S. supported government and the United States is not about to allow China an even bigger foothold on the contentious Korean peninsula. So what is the answer? A stable Pyongyang allowed to sit at the world table. Economic reforms and a free market that makes it’s current military regime irrelevant. The current course is not working…it never has and to keep pretending we are containing North Korea is a joke that we cannot afford.