Tag Archives: Computing

WichitaLiberty.TV: Being safe online

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: Dave Cunningham of Flint Hills Group joins Bob Weeks and Karl Peterjohn to discuss online threats and how to remain safe. View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 158, broadcast July 16, 2017.


If you aren’t getting email from Voice for Liberty

Troubleshoot why you aren’t getting email from Voice for Liberty or other senders.

From time to time people ask me if I’m still sending email newsletters from the Voice for Liberty. The answer is yes, I am. But some people tell me they aren’t receiving them, even though I have verified that the emails are, indeed, being sent. So if you aren’t receiving your email from the Voice for Liberty or other senders, here are some troubleshooting steps. (I usually send Friday morning, but sometimes also on other days.)

Spam. Just what is it?

Most email programs or systems filter spam, that is, unwanted email, so it doesn’t reach your inbox. But there is not a clear definition as to what is spam, and spammers are continually innovating in order to bypass spam detection methodologies, just so you won’t overlook that Nigerian prince who wants to send you ten million dollars. So sometimes email that you want to receive is mistakenly marked as spam, and you may not see it. (Amazingly, sometimes Gmail — a service provided by Google — marks email sent from Google as spam.)

Most systems have a spam or junk folder — or something similar — where spammy messages are placed. If you view that folder, you may find that email from Voice for Liberty, along with other desirable email, is there. If so, you can usually whitelist that email. That’s telling your email system that this email is not spam, and that future email from the sender should not be treated as spam.

How to do this varies among email systems. In Gmail there’s a “Not spam” button. Other systems have a “Safe senders” list. Sometimes your contact list serves as the whitelist, so you need to add a sender to your contacts. (The email address Voice for Liberty emails are sent from is bob.weeks@gmail.com.) This helpful article from Constant Contact, the company I use to send the email newsletter, provides specific instructions for many email systems.

Gmail categories, or tabs

A few years ago Gmail added a feature that automatically sorts email into categories or tabs like Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums. An article on LifeHacker titled Everything You Need to Know About Gmail’s New, Super-Confusing Layout explains.

The problem may be that emails you want to receive are being sorted into a tab that you’re not paying attention to. If so, there are several things you can do.

  • On a desktop browser, you can drag an email to a different tab, like Primary.
  • Or, you can pay more attention to the tabs other than Primary.
  • Or — and a lot of people do this — you can switch off the categorized and tabbed feature. This article from Google shows how to do that.

Did you unsubscribe, perhaps accidentally?

It may be that sometime in the past you unsubscribed to emails from the Voice for Liberty, perhaps accidentally. If so, please be aware that I am not able to restore your subscription. (Constant Contact, my service provider, prohibits this in order to reduce spam.) If you think this is the case, here’s what you can do.

  • Click on this link and subscribe. You should receive a confirming email.
  • Or, send an email to me, and I can re-send your confirming email.

Has your email address changed?

If your email address has changed, click on this link and subscribe with the new address.

Check your spelling

Sometimes people subscribe by supplying email addresses that I’m pretty sure have spelling errors. So if you’ve subscribed but have never received email from Voice for Liberty, just subscribe again. Click on this link to subscribe. You should receive a confirming email.

If you’ve having other problems, send me an email, and I’ll try to help. If I receive your email, that is.

Cato Institute: A discussion of net neutrality

From Cato Institute, a discussion of net neutrality.

The debate continues over whether “net neutrality” is the equivalent of old-school utility regulation of telecommunication firms. The President and others are now asking the FCC to treat telecom firms in the same ways telephone companies were treated decades ago. Berin Szoka, president of TechFreedom, comments.

View below, or click here to view at YouTube.

WichitaLiberty.TV: Wichita’s missing water, sales tax, Gidget, smartphone activism

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: A former Wichita mayor wonders what happened to Wichita’s water supply. Then, I’ll introduce you to Gidget, a Kansas blogger I think you will enjoy. Then, how can you use your smartphone to help candidates and causes? View below, or click here to view at YouTube. Episode 56, broadcast August 24, 2014.

WichitaLiberty.TV: Tech advice for activism, then a lesson in economic development in Wichita

In this episode of WichitaLiberty.TV: A few tips on using your computer and the internet. Then, how to be informed. Finally, a look at a recent episode of economic development in Wichita, and what we can we learn from that. Episode 47, broadcast June 15, 2014. View below, or click here to view on YouTube.

I’m concerned about Google

As someone who uses and relies on many Google products, I’m concerned when the company’s CEO says “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

This quote is attributed to Google CEO Eric Schmidt in 2009. Tim Carney has more in the Washington Examiner at Even law-abiding people should oppose surveillance.

“If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know,” Google CEO Eric Schmidt said in 2009, “maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

This line was creepy enough coming from one of President Obama’s confidants and fundraisers. It takes on added weight now that the Washington Post and the Guardian have reported that the National Security Agency’s Prism program, in the days before Obama was sworn in, tapped into Google’s servers, gaining access to every message sent or received over Gmail.

Google spokesmen, like spokesmen from all the tech companies, deny participating in any such program. So Americans are left to wonder: Was this corporate-government collusion? Was this federal hacking or infiltration of corporate servers?

Congress should reserve the right to protect our wireless future

From Erik Telford
Wireless technology is great. Only a few years ago, most Kansans were using their phones to call, and perhaps even text, now mobile devices are essentially small computers in the palms of our hands — capable of almost anything.

According to Nielsen research, about 44 percent of U.S. mobile subscribers now own smartphones.[i] In Kansas, there are more than 2.4 million wireless subscribers[ii] and nearly 450,000 of those subscribers have data plans with full Internet access for more than 1 million high-speed mobile devices as of December 2009.[iii]

With mobile devices capable of almost anything, Kansans are finding more ways to use them — from uploading pictures during a concert at the Sprint Center to updating their Facebook status about K-State’s football team to checking into their favorite Wichita restaurant on Foursquare.

However, in what is becoming an all too familiar occurrence, some of these efforts are unsuccessful because we just can’t seem to connect online in a stadium or arena full of people. This is just one localized example of how the looming spectrum crisis could become a widespread reality — crippling innovation and investment in one of our country’s most vibrant sectors.

Thankfully, Congress is currently considering legislation that would help avoid the looming crisis by freeing up more spectrum through an auction process. Spectrum auctions are widely supported by both Republicans and Democrats; however, as with most things — the devil is in the details.

As the agency in charge of spectrum auctions, the FCC is pressuring Congress to give the FCC complete control over the auction design process. While the FCC’s request seems somewhat innocuous, if allowed, it could have dangerous consequences.

Recent actions by the FCC suggest it would use its power to limit which companies will get to participate in the auction, effectively determining the winners and losers.

Some members of Congress, support the FCC’s request and argue that proposals that would restrict the FCC from imposing eligibility conditions on auction participants “could have a deterring effect on fostering competition and maximizing auction proceeds to pay for a public safety network and deficit reduction.”[iv] The argument that fewer auction participants would result in more competition and more revenue, however, just doesn’t make sense.

The FCC’s desire to impose conditions to increase competition and encourage innovation is not only counterintuitive; it is unnecessary. As the FCC’s own data demonstrates, the wireless market is already fiercely competitive. Nearly 90 percent of Americans have a choice of five or more wireless providers.[v]

In, Kansas, consumers in communities both large and small have a number of options for wireless services. Consumers in Salina and in Wichita can choose from six or more wireless providers.[vi] In Garden City, subscribers can choose from seven or more wireless companies.[vii]

Furthermore, eligibility restrictions could prevent companies like Sprint, Verizon and AT&T from acquiring more spectrum, which could prevent them from deploying 4G service to other communities outside the Kansas City market due to spectrum constraints.

As the expert agency, the FCC is right to ask for some flexibility with the auction design process. Congress, however, should reserve its right to protect our wireless future by preventing FCC overreach and ensure that all companies can participate in the auction process. It’s only the fair choice to make.

[i] Nielsen Wire, “Android and iPhones Dominating App Downloads in the U.S.” November 29, 2011
[ii] Federal Communications Commission, 15th Annual Mobile Wireless Competition Report, Table C-2: FCC’s Semi-Annual Local Telephone Competition Data Collection: Mobile Telephone Subscribership, in Thousands,” p. 248, June 27, 2011
[iii] Federal Communications Commission, 15th Annual Mobile Wireless Competition Report, Table C-5: Mobile Wireless Devices Capable of Sending or Receiving Data at Speeds Above 200 kbps and Subscribers with Data Plans for Full Internet Access as of December 31, 2009, in Thousands,” p. 260, June 27, 2011
[iv] Sen. John Kerry, Press Release, “Democratic and Republican Senators Urge Smart, Inclusive Spectrum Reform,” January 9, 2012
[v] Federal Communications Commission, 15th Annual Mobile Wireless Competition Report, “Estimated Mobile Wireless Voice Coverage by Census Block, 2010,” p. 6, June 27, 2011
[vi] Cell phone provider coverage as found by zip code on http://www.wirelessadvisor.com/
[vii] Cell phone provider coverage as found by zip code on http://www.wirelessadvisor.com/

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Monday December 26, 2011

Kansas computer security. This month the Kansas Legislative Division of Post Audit released an audit looking at how well five Kansas state government agencies kept their computers up-to-date. The audit found: “Three of the five agencies had significant vulnerabilities because of inadequate workstation patching processes, and all five could make some minor improvements to their patching process.” Patching refers to the process of keeping software updated. The most important updates, or patches, concern security vulnerabilities that have been discovered and fixed. Some of these vulnerabilities are serious and can lead to computers and networks being compromised. The report is at State Agency Information Systems: Reviewing Selected Systems Operation Controls in State Agencies.

KPERS. Wichita financial planner Richard Stumpf contributes a piece to the Wichita Eagle on the problems with Kansas Public Employee Retirement System (KPERS). He paints a bleak picture of the plan’s finances and proposes a tax increase, writing: “I am recommending that Brownback propose a 25 percent tax increase to fund employees’ retirement plans. The commission wouldn’t cut spending. I refuse to recommend taking more money from classrooms to pay this bill. The only remaining option is a tax increase.” … As bleak as is this picture, it’s not as dark as it should be: Stumpf says the debt in KPERS is “nearly $9 billion.” More realistic analysis puts the figure much higher. Adjusting for unreported investment losses and using a realistic assumed rate of return of six percent, Kansas Policy Institute says the shortfall would be $14.1 billion. More shocking is an evaluation of state pension funds conducted by the American Enterprise Institute which uses market valuation methods. This evaluation puts the shortfall for Kansas at $21.8 billion. … Stumpf notes this: “So far this year, the stock market is up about 1.3 percent. Since KPERS is based upon an 8 percent assumed rate of return, earning 1.3 percent this year is equivalent to losing 6.7 percent.” The full editorial is at Richard Stumpf: Unions, Legislature lack guts to fix KPERS.

Kansas Treasurer makes grand circuit. One of the jobs of Kansas Treasurer Ron Estes is to safeguard unclaimed property and seek to return it to its owners. Estes and his staff have now visited all 105 Kansas counties, holding unclaimed property return events in each. The office says that in 2011, 65,913 claims totaling $14,433,929 have been returned to Kansans. The office is holding $230 million in unclaimed property.

Huelskamp considered objecting. The payroll tax measure passed last week in the U.S. House of Representatives was passed using “unanimous consent.” This means that there was no voice or roll call vote taken, and members did not need to be present. But if even one member had been present and had voiced an objection, the measure would have failed. Appearing on CNN, U.S. Representative Tim Huelskamp, who is in his first term representing the Kansas first district, said he considered making such an objection, but could not get to Washington from Kansas in time: “Actually, I did. Problem was by the time we were notified that the unanimous consent agreement would be offered, where I come from in Kansas, I can’t get to Washington quick enough on this short notice. So that was an option, we did think about that, but there’s no way to fly in on time to make that happen. Back on the pledge to America, we talked about 72 hours where big things like this would give us an opportunity to reel read the deal, actually read the bill. And in this case they decided to not follow that rule as well.” … Huelskamp said he was disappointed with the House leadership team, noting Congress has not cut spending, did not stand up to the president on the budget ceiling debate, and did not pass a balanced budget amendment. Noting the lack of delivery after the election of a conservative majority to the House, Huelskamp wondered “what difference did it make?” He described the payroll tax measure as one of numerous losses this year.

Obama’s regulation. Wall Street Journal Review & Outlook: “To answer the most basic question — has regulation increased? — we’ll focus on what the government defines as ‘economically significant’ regulations. Those are rules that impose more than $100 million in annual costs on the economy, though there are hundreds if not thousands of new rules every year that fall well short of that. According to an analysis of the Federal Register by George Mason University’s Mercatus Center, the Cabinet departments and agencies finalized 84 such regulations annually on average in President Obama’s first two years. The annual average under President Bush was 62 and under President Clinton 56.” The Journal notes the deception used by the Obama Administration as it tries to portray itself as not regulation-hungry: “Cass Sunstein, the director of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, has been shopping around lower numbers that selectively compare Mr. Obama’s first two years favorably with Mr. Bush’s last two. Administrations are typically most active on the way out, and in any case the Bush regulatory record is nothing to crow about. But Mr. Sunstein’s numbers are even more misleading because they only include the rules that his office reviews while excluding the prolific ‘independent’ agencies such as the Federal Communications Commission. This means that if Congress tells, say, the Securities and Exchange Commission to write a new rule, it doesn’t enter Mr. Sunstein’s tally. So it omits, for example, some 259 rules mandated by the Dodd-Frank financial reregulation law along with its 188 other rule suggestions. It also presumes that Mr. Obama is a bystander with no influence over his own appointees who now dominate the likes of the National Labor Relations Board.” … After presenting more evidence of the growth of costly regulation under Obama, the Journal concludes: “The evidence is overwhelming that the Obama regulatory surge is one reason the current economic recovery has been so lackluster by historical standards. Rather than nurture an economy trying to rebuild confidence after a financial heart attack, the Administration pushed through its now-famous blitz of liberal policies on health care, financial services, energy, housing, education and student loans, telecom, labor relations, transportation and probably some other industries we’ve forgotten. Anyone who thinks this has only minimal impact on business has never been in business. … Mr. Obama can claim he is the progressive second coming of Teddy Roosevelt as he did in Kansas last week, or he can claim to be a regulatory minimalist, but not both. The facts show he’s the former.” The full article is Regulation for Dummies: The White House says its rule-making isn’t costly or unusual. The evidence shows otherwise.

The failure of American schools. The Atlantac: “Who better to lead an educational revolution than Joel Klein, the prosecutor who took on the software giant Microsoft? But in his eight years as chancellor of New York City’s school system, the nation’s largest, Klein learned a few painful lessons of his own — about feckless politicians, recalcitrant unions, mediocre teachers, and other enduring obstacles to school reform.” Key takeway idea: “As a result, even when making a lifetime tenure commitment, under New York law you could not consider a teacher’s impact on student learning. That Kafkaesque outcome demonstrates precisely the way the system is run: for the adults. The school system doesn’t want to change, because it serves the needs of the adult stakeholders quite well, both politically and financially.” … Also: “Accountability, in most industries or professions, usually takes two forms. First and foremost, markets impose accountability: if people don’t choose the goods or services you’re offering, you go out of business. Second, high-performing companies develop internal accountability requirements keyed to market-based demands. Public education lacks both kinds of accountability. It is essentially a government-run monopoly. Whether a school does well or poorly, it will get the students it needs to stay in business, because most kids have no other choice. And that, in turn, creates no incentive for better performance, greater efficiency, or more innovation — all things as necessary in public education as they are in any other field.” … Overall, an eye-opening indictment of American public schools.

Markets: exploitation or empowerment? Do markets lead to a centralization of political and economic power, or do markets decentralize and disseminate wealth? In an eight-minute video from LearnLiberty.org, a project of Institute for Humane Studies, Antony Davies presents evidence and concludes that markets and free trade empower individuals rather than exploit them.

Kansas and Wichita quick takes: Sunday October 24, 2010

Surprise endorsement from Wichita Eagle. Today the Wichita Eagle endorsed Republican Mike Pompeo over Democrat Raj Goyle in the race for the Kansas fourth Congressional district. Surprising. Still, the Eagle editorial board can’t help reveal its preference for big, expansive government by taking a few digs at Pompeo, describing his free-market, limited government views as “overly idealistic at times.” Continuing, the Eagle wrote “For example, he believes that there wouldn’t be a need for farm subsidies or economic development incentives if there were lower tax rates and a friendlier and more stable regulatory environment. That’s not the real world.” The Eagle editorial board said that Pompeo is “too ideological and wouldn’t seek practical political solutions.” Well, are the “practical” solutions imposed on us by the current federal regime working? I would say not. Other evidence of the Eagle’s unbelief in the power of freedom, free people, and free markets was noticed in its failure to endorse Richard Ranzau for Sedgwick county commission, in which the Eagle mentioned his “inflexible anti-tax, free-market views.” The Eagle prefers “nuanced” politicians.

Who is Raj Goyle? On today’s episode of KAKE Television’s This Week in Kansas hosted by Tim Brown, guests Randy Brown and Ed Flentje discussed the fourth district Congressional race race, and Goyle in particular. The reliably liberal [Randy] Brown said that Goyle made a mistake in not voting for the statewide sales tax increase, which Brown characterized as a “responsible thing to do.” This, he said, caused people — including Democrats — to view Goyle as a political opportunist, and Goyle lost a chance to distinguish himself from his opponent. Flentje said “he does appear to be quite flexible,” which elicited hearty laughter from the panel. He continued: “It’s hard to figure out exactly where he is … he’s trying to address overwhelming Republican advantage in registration. He’s been for the most part a good legislator, campaigns aggressively, but he’s going uphill … I kind of feel for him.”

Who is Sam Brownback? “Most agree that Sam Brownback will be elected governor on November 2, but what kind of governor he will be is less than clear. Even after nearly a quarter century in Kansas politics and government, his divergent political lives prompt voters to ask: Will the real Sam Brownback please stand up?” H. Edward Flentje, political science professor at Wichita State University, through State of the State Kansas. Flentje appeared on today’s episode of KAKE Television’s This Week in Kansas to discuss this column. Fellow guest Randy Brown said “In terms of being a political opportunist, he strikes me as the classic person who tells whatever group of people he’s in front of what they want to hear.” Flentje disagreed with this. The column traces Brownback’s evolution in both the personal and political spheres, and does ask the question “So, will the real Sam Brownback as Kansas governor please stand up?”

Kansas candidates score free TV. “Democratic incumbents Chris Biggs and Dennis McKinney are riding a $100,000-plus wave of television advertising their Republican opponents denounce as thinly veiled self-promotion and an abuse of office that should be stamped out by the Legislature.” More by Tim Carpenter at Topeka Capital-Journal. We shouldn’t be surprised at this, as a look at the Kansas agency websites headed by elected officials shows them using these sites as campaign billboards year round.

Jim Powell political advertisement on Facebook

Politicians advertise on Facebook. Here’s an example of a politician running for office that uses Facebook for advertising. With Facebook ads, you can target who your advertisement is displayed to in great detail.

Putting a price on professors. The Wall Street Journal covers an effort in Texas to evaluate the worth of state university faculty members from a financial viewpoint: “A 265-page spreadsheet, released last month by the chancellor of the Texas A&M University system, amounted to a profit-and-loss statement for each faculty member, weighing annual salary against students taught, tuition generated, and research grants obtained. … The balance sheet sparked an immediate uproar from faculty, who called it misleading, simplistic and crass — not to mention, riddled with errors. But the move here comes amid a national drive, backed by some on both the left and the right, to assess more rigorously what, exactly, public universities are doing with their students — and their tax dollars.” The article notes some dismal statistics of the type we’re used to hearing about K through 12 education: “Just over half of all freshmen entering four-year public colleges will earn a degree from that institution within six years, according to the U.S. Department of Education. And among those with diplomas, just 31% could pass the most recent national prose literacy test, given in 2003; that’s down from 40% a decade earlier, the department says.” Credit goes to the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a state-based think tank that is often at the forefront of the fight for fiscal responsibility.

Pretending the union money doesn’t exist. From RedState: “Desperate Democrats have been hyperventilating for the past month over money being spent by corporate and other groups, notably the Chamber of Commerce and Americans for Prosperity, to run campaign commercials. To conservatives, running commercials to attempt to persuade voters in advance of an election is known as ‘free speech,’ and turnabout is fair play after corporate money went heavily for Obama in 2008, but let’s play along here; how much of an advantage does the GOP have here? … That’s right, three of the five largest campaign spenders this year are not business or pro-business groups but unions affiliated with the Democrats and dominated by public employees.”

iPhone screen

We forget the blessings of technology. As I write this I am plugged into my iPhone. I carry it with me wherever I go. I would rather leave home forgetting my wallet than my iPhone. As it is more than just a telephone, it also holds my music, as seen in the accompanying depiction of its screen. The ability to carry with me — wherever I travel — examples of the great works of music, in this case Beethoven violin and piano sonatas, is something that is truly remarkable. More than that, it’s a miracle. Now when I check in to a hotel, it’s not uncommon to find a clock radio where I can dock or plug in my iPhone and listen to my music as I unpack and prepare for the day’s events. The back of my iPhone reads “Designed by Apple in California. Assembled in China.” If not for this international cooperation, would the miracle of the iPhone — and other similar technology — be affordable, or even possible?

Sedgwick County updates agenda information system

Recently Sedgwick County implemented a new system for making its commission agendas and accompanying background material available online.

Previously, only the agenda itself was available online. Agendas contain just a brief description of each item to be handled at meetings. If citizens wanted more information about an item, they had to travel to the courthouse to obtain a printed copy of the agenda report. This document, which might be several hundred pages in length, contains detailed information about each item. It’s the type of information that citizens need if they are to be informed about the matters the commission will consider at each meeting.

The new system makes this information available online. It also handles the minutes and video of past meetings. You can access the system through the Sedgwick County website. Navigate to the County Commission page (the drop-down box at the top right is easy and always available.) Then in the stack of links at the right of the screen, click on Commission Meetings.

Now if you click on any meeting on or after August 25, 2010, you’ll be in the new agenda system.

Using the new system, I found that it took a few moments to become familiar with the way the system organizes the agenda information. Once you get used to it, you can move around the agenda and examine supporting documents easily. Background material is usually presented in small chunks as pdf documents, and it’s easy to print just the few pages that you might be interested in.

The system also allows the public to enter comments, presumably to be read by commissioners or staff before meetings. In a nod to social media and other networks, you can share agenda items on Facebook, Twitter, and other systems. (Sample tweet: PURCHASE OF REAL PROPERTY LOCATED AT SECOND STREET AND ST. FRANCIS IN WICHITA, KANSAS. Presented by: Ron Holt, bff. http://t.co/gl22l3U)

Besides the public face of the system, it will also be used internally by county staff and commissioners to handle agenda paperwork more efficiently.

A fact sheet on the new agenda information system promotes its cost savings, estimated to be $15 per week in reduced usage of paper. The benefit to citizens, however, is access to agenda background information without making a trip to the courthouse. These trips were necessary, as my several recent requests to have background information emailed to me were always declined.

While this system may save $15 per week in paper, it was undoubtedly an expensive system to purchase and implement. According to a county budget document, the five-year cost of this project is $142,594. That doesn’t include internal resources devoted to this project and its ongoing support.

Its goals are more ambitions than what was required to provide citizens with the agenda background information, which was the one area where Sedgwick County was deficient. Many governments, such as the city of Wichita, have made this information available by simply posting the entire agenda report. That’s a simple solution that has worked, although not with all the functionality that the new Sedgwick county system provides.

Internet regulation, or net neutrality, would harm investment, says former official

At a luncheon event in Wichita, Bruce Mehlman of the Internet Innovation Alliance told an audience that increased regulation of the internet — the principle known as “net neutrality” — would harm capital investment in broadband internet service.

Mehlman was formerly Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Technology Policy and now serves as co-chairman of the Internet Innovation Alliance and as partner in a Washington lobbying firm.

Mehlman laid out some of the facts of broadband internet: all the varied things businesses and people do with the high-speed transmission of data, the fact that broadband internet has been rapidly adopted, and the rapid growth of digital content.

Today, 66 percent of American adults have a broadband internet connection at home. 95 percent have access to at least one broadband service offering, if they chose to subscribe.

He cited a just-released Pew Internet & American Life project which found that 21 percent of American adults do not use the internet. Of these non-users, 48 percent indicated lack of relevance, 21 percent cited price as the reason, 18 percent said it was usability that kept them offline, and only six percent said access was the reason why they don’t use the internet.

Mehlman said that these measurements are an indicator of the success of broadband internet adoption.

The big policy battle for 2010, Mehlman said, is net neutrality. The basic principle of net neutrality is that “companies providing Internet service should treat all sources of data equally,” according to the New York Times. Internet Service Providers (ISPs) would not be able to manage their networks in terms of providing faster service to those who agree to pay, and they would not be able to block any content.

Some of the things that net neutrality would do, Mehlman said, include the following: ISPs would have to be transparent with rules and policies, they would not block or degrade certain types of internet traffic, there would be government-defined “reasonable” network management, there would be no “express lanes,” and there would be limits on service tiers and pricing plans. These concepts would also be applied to wireless broadband service.

Advocates of net neutrality are particularly concerned that ISPs may block or slow service for some types of traffic. Mehlman provided three examples of attempts at this. In each case customers objected, and the ISP quickly reversed course.

He noted the irony of Google — a company that has been a leading advocate of net neutrality — objecting to the creation of preferred classes of internet traffic, when a major component of Google’s business model is customers paying for preferential treatment of their advertisements placed on Google.

Mehlman asked the audience to note the contrast between two heavily-regulated industries — telecommunications and cable TV — and a lightly regulated industry — information technology, which is the category that broadband internet and most information services fall into. Telecommunications and cable TV, throughout their history, have evolved slowly, and had exhibited little of the innovation that is characterized the internet and other information services.

A recent court decision ruled that the FCC had no authority to regulate information services. So the FCC now has two choices. One would be to persuade Congress to let the FCC regulate the internet. The other would be to redefine the internet from an information service to a telecommunication service, reclassifying it as a “Title II” service.

This last option has been described by industry analyst Craig Moffett as the “nuclear option.” The additional regulation that Title II designation brings would fuel investor uncertainty, and probably lead to a dramatic reduction in capital investment in broadband internet. Innovation would likely suffer.

The event was sponsored by Americans for Prosperity-Kansas, Mid-American Communications Alliance, Wichita Independent Business Association, and Kansas Policy Institute.

Wichita event: The future of innovation and investment in broadband

The FCC has proposed reclassifying the Internet as a public utility to get total regulatory control. How can you help stop the FCC Internet takeover?

Learn about the efforts to keep the Internet in the free market during a free lunch seminar, “The Future of Innovation & Investment in Broadband” next Thursday at the Wichita Petroleum Club. Hear from Bruce Mehlman, co-chair of the Internet Innovation Alliance and former Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Technology Policy in the George W. Bush administration, on efforts to expand broadband access and how to keep the Internet in the free market.

Registration is free when you RSVP, but seating is limited. Register by 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 6, for a chance to win a $500 Apple Store gift card!

The event is from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm on Thursday August 12, at the Wichita Petroleum Club, on the ninth floor of the Bank of America Building at 100 N. Broadway (north side of Douglas between Topeka and Broadway) in Wichita, Kansas (click for a map and directions)

This luncheon is sponsored by Americans for Prosperity-Kansas, Mid-American Communications Alliance, Wichita Independent Business Association, and Kansas Policy Institute.

Registration is free when you RSVP by clicking on action.mocomm.org/rsvp. Learn more by calling Susan Estes of AFP at 316-681-4415, or by email at sestes@afphq.org.

Kansas Republican online efforts lag

If online political activity has any value, Kansas Republicans aren’t providing much. Many Kansas Republican websites and online outreach efforts are stale and lagging behind in providing timely and quality information.

As of today, the most recent post on The Kansas Trunkline (promoted as “The Official Blog of the Kansas Republican Party”) is dated November 30, 2009. That’s coming up on three months old. If blogs have any defining characteristics, one is frequent updates with timely material. That’s not happening here.

This blog is promoted on the front page of the Kansas Republican Party website. That site doesn’t fare much better with regard to timely updates. The most recent news item is from January 25. The Twitter feed displayed there has four posts for all of 2010. The site doesn’t have accurate information about who is — and how to contact — the executive director of the party.

On the Kansas Republican Party’s Facebook page, the most recent post is from December 1, 2009. The Kansas Young Republicans Facebook page, however, does better.

Even efforts using cutting-edge technology from campaigns aren’t doing better. SamForGov — that’s Sam Brownback’s campaign application for the iPhone — has an event from November 2, 2009 as the latest campaign event. Under “Campaign Updates,” the only item is a news release from September 3, 2009. The front page of the app still displays an invitation to Kansas Days. That event took place nearly four weeks ago.

Some local Kansas Republican Party organizations do better. The Johnson County Republican Party seems to be up-to-date with useful information. The Sedgwick County counterpoint doesn’t fare as well.

The Kansas Democratic Party has a revamped blog that allows for “community bloggers,” although so far only one has signed up. The blog has 10 posts so far for February. Not exactly a fount of information, but better than the stale Republican blog and websites.

There’s a saying: “You are who Google says you are.” Google, of course, finds relevant websites based on what people say they’re looking for. But when Google (and other search engines) returns these websites with their stale news and out-of-date events, people lose confidence in the organizations that created the sites. Having visited once and finding little of value, people are not likely to return again.

This is the case if Google even returns these sites in response to searches, as freshness and frequency of updates is thought to be a major factor Google uses in deciding which sites to display to users.

As a Republican activist, I urge those in charge of these sites to make a commitment to providing fresh, timely, and relevant content. Part of how to accomplish this is to avoid delegating responsibility for the websites and blogs to “tech guys.” That’s because when it takes communication with technical support — and the possibility of receiving an invoice — to update a website or blog, the hassle factor means it doesn’t get done.

Instead, party leaders, staff, volunteers, and activists need to know themselves how to update websites and blogs. This requires that these sites be built upon technology platforms — like WordPress blogs, for example — that allow for and encourage end-user updates and maintenance. It also takes a commitment by leadership and staff to be trained, and then ongoing disciplined effort to keep the sites updated.

Why Obama is wrong about net neutrality

“Net neutrality” sounds like a noble concept, doesn’t it? But it’s another example of one political position co-opting language in a way that mislabels the underlying agenda.

In this case, net neutrality is a struggle over who should control the Internet. Some describe the contest as between government and free markets, while some think it’s between two competing set of corporate interests.

It shouldn’t be a surprise as to who President Obama believes should control the Internet.

Other resources on this topic:

Save the Internet
‘Net Neutrality’ Is Socialism, Not Freedom
The Durable Internet: Preserving Network Neutrality without Regulation
AT&T, Google Battle Over Web Rules
Net Neutrality: A Brief Primer

I’ll help you with technology

I hate to see activists struggle with technology. Whether it’s creating and managing a blog, using Facebook or Twitter, or just using computers and the Internet effectively, I’d like to help.

Crossloop is a tool that lets people work together remotely. By using it, you’ll be able to see my computer screen, and I — with your permission — can see yours. Working together this way, we can resolve many problems quickly.

If you’re a center-right or libertarian activist and need help, contact me. It’s free. You’ll have to do an easy download of some software, but you don’t have to create an account or supply any personal information.

Click on www.crossloop.com/BobWeeks to get started.

Articles of Interest

Capitalism, CFL bulbs, green indoctrination, bailout constitutionality, Facebook, Twitter

‘The Road to Serfdom’ revisited: Markets display uncertainty over future of capitalism itself (Scott S. Powell in the Washington Times) Discussion of how government interventionism in the economy is not helping. “President Eisenhower called it ‘creeping socialism.’ Nobel Prize winner Friedrich von Hayek called it ‘The Road to Serfdom.'”

Do New Bulbs Save Energy if They Don’t Work? (New York Times) Many customers are not happy with compact fluorescent light bulbs. Short life for the expensive bulbs is a common irritation.

‘Green Hell’ Coming Soon to a Life Like Yours (Human Events) A review of a new book that merits reading. “Be prepared the next time your child comes home from school with some nice ‘green’ project or attempts to lecture you about how you ‘should’ be doing more ‘sustainable’ activities to ‘save’ the Earth. You will be ready to confront teachers, political leaders, neighbors, and annoying aunts with the astounding new book by Steve Milloy titled Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them.”

Bailing Out of the Constitution (George Will in the Washington Post) Is the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 — that’s the $700 billion bailout of banks from last year — constitutional? Perhaps it isn’t, argues Will. It has to do with the Vesting Clause of Article I says, “All legislative powers herein granted shall be vested in” Congress.

Is Facebook Growing Up Too Fast? (New York Times) Facebook will soon have 200 million members. All are not happy, evidence being the recent controversy over a redesign of some of its most important aspects. There’s also the “coolness” factor: can kids like a social network that their parents are now using?

When Stars Twitter, a Ghost May Be Lurking (New York Times) “In many cases, celebrities and their handlers have turned to outside writers — ghost Twitterers, if you will — who keep fans updated on the latest twists and turns, often in the star’s own voice. Because Twitter is seen as an intimate link between celebrities and their fans, many performers are not willing to divulge the help they use to put their thoughts into cyberspace. … It is not only celebrities who are forced to look to a team to produce real-time commentary on daily activities; politicians like Ron Paul have assigned staff members to create Twitter posts and Facebook personas. Candidate Barack Obama, as well as President Obama, has a social-networking team to keep his Twitter feed tweeting.”

Wichita City Arts tech studio proposed

Randy Roebuck, in a presentation at the Wichita city council workshop, promoted the idea of a “digital oasis” in Wichita. It would be a place where people can go to get free help with technologies such as cell phones and computers.

He told of how an Apple Genius Bar does things like this. Council member Jim Skelton asked who runs an Apple Genius Bar? Apple Computer Corporation, of course.

Later council member Paul Gray continued with questions based on Skelton’s. Why not an Apple Genius Bar in Wichita? Why is the city competing with private business? City officials insist they are not trying to compete with private business. Instead, it’s a resource for training and education.

Council member Jeff Longwell said this idea is “on the right path,” as long as it doesn’t cost a lot.

Lavonta Williams said this will attract a different group of people to downtown Wichita. She said it’s something we need.

Mayor Carl Brewer mentioned that not everyone who would want to use a facility like this might not be able to afford its cost. He didn’t mention that someone else should pay for them, but that’s what this program will do.

“It’s part of creating an environment where we have everything that anybody could possibly want. … If the private sector’s really wanting to get out there and they’re willing to invest their dollars and they want to start their business, we should let them.”

This illustrates the mayor’s — and several other council members’ — vision of an expansive city government, providing for citizen needs all the way through arts, entertainment, and now computer tech support.

Then there’s the mayor’s language that we (Wichita city government) should let the private sector do something. I really hope the mayor misspoke here.

This is a bad idea. It seems to me that there may be people in Wichita city hall with too much time on their hands if they have time to come up with ideas like this.

View the video of the portion of the city council workshop where this presentation was made by clicking on Wichita city council workshop, March 24, 2009.

The slides shown to the council members aren’t available on the city’s website, to my knowledge. I captured them from video, and they may be viewed by clicking on Wichita City Arts tech studio presentation.

Read Wichita Eagle reporting by clicking on Cyber Alliance plans to offer free technical training. reporting on KWCH is at Wichita Considers “Digital Oasis”.

Pew Internet and American Life Project Redesign

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has redesigned their website. This organization has been a valuable source of information about the Internet and how people are using it.

As an example, here are some of their recent research reports:

Twitter and status updating: “As of December 2008, 11% of online American adults said they used a service like Twitter or another service that allowed them to share updates about themselves or to see the updates of others.”

Adults and Social Network Websites: “The share of adult internet users who have a profile on an online social network site has more than quadrupled in the past four years — from 8% in 2005 to 35% at the end of 2008.”

When Technology Fails: “Half (48%) of tech users need help from others in getting new devices and services to work, and many experience tech outages when there is a glitch with their home internet connection, computer, or cell phone.”

Articles of Interest

Obama’s budget, Citigroup rescue, Twitter, climate change, lobbying.

The Era of Even Bigger Government: There is very little to be happy about in Obama’s first budget (Veronique de Rugy at Reason) Does the Obama budget work? According to this author, some of the accounting tricks used in the past are gone, but dissembling remains: “To cut the size of the federal government, one actually has to, you know, cut programs. While Obama’s overall numbers do show a spending decrease between 2009 and 2010, he actually increases many categories of spending, which remains far above 2008 levels in any case. In fact, his ‘cuts’ are basically the results of 2009 bailout payments not being extended into 2010. The bottom line is that there is very little to be happy about in Obama’s first budget. It simply expands the Bush policies of bigger government and increased centralization, which threatens to permanently transform America’s culture and economic outlook by making more and more Americans dependent on government.”

Latest Citigroup Rescue May Not Be Its Last (New York Times) “The big question, of course, is this: Will this plan, the third since October, be the one that finally works? Will it shore up this $2 trillion behemoth? Or is the outcome that the banks and the government are so desperately trying to avoid — nationalization, under whatever guise — only a matter of time? Wall Street’s judgment was swift and brutal. Citigroup’s share price, which a little over two years ago was flying high at $55, plunged 96 cents to a mere $1.50.”

What Are You Doing? Media Twitterers Can’t Stop Typing (New York Times) A look at the popular service Twitter and how some news media personalities use it.

The Doomsday Bias. American Spectator article describing testimony of Dr. John P. Holdren, nominated for chief White House Science Advisor. “Holdren’s particular brand of science is infected by what we can only call a doomsday bias.”

Liberal Groups Are Flexing New Muscle in Lobby Wars (New York Times) Just a short few years ago, Democrats were railing against the lobbying efforts of Republicans. But now: “When Newt Gingrich’s Congress was moving full-speed in its efforts to shrink the government more than a dozen years ago, Ralph G. Neas, an indefatigable champion of liberal causes, threw up his hands and declared that his side had been outmaneuvered. … Recent days have found Mr. Neas in a new perch … this time, he is supported by his own phalanx of big business backers, including the Exelon power company and Giant food stores.” It’s a mistake to assume that business is against bigger government and in favor of free markets. As Milton Friedman said: “Naturally, existing businesses generally prefer to keep out competitors in other ways. That is why the business community, despite its rhetoric, has so often been a major enemy of truly free enterprise.”

What is Seen and What is Unseen: Government “Job Creation” (Foundation for Economic Education). A nice explanation of unseen consequences of government action and how this concept applied during the New Deal. “Barack Obama and his advisers should take a lesson from history: the New Deal and its public-works projects were a disaster, and it would be remiss to think they should be given another try. As Bastiat explained, government doesn’t create wealth; it only diverts it. When wealth is in the hands of the government it inevitably tends to serve political ends rather than consumers. FDR’s New Deal policies are a testament to that, and if they are repeated in response to our current economic crisis, it will only hinder the recovery.”