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The Hidden Danger

Date: 15 January, 2008

By: Chief

Imageeople of all sorts have been talking over the last few years about the decline of newspapers. Specifically newspaper circulation. It seems that just about every newspaper is taking some pretty severe financial hits. This is due to the loss of circulation — the number of papers either sold or given away. Which means fewer people reading the advertisements.

Newspaper companies earn their money buy selling advertising space. Whether that ad is a full page or merely a single listing in the classified section is moot. It is advertise or die. And it appears that more and more advertisers are pulling their ads away from newspapers and placing them on the television, radio and now — the web.

Over the last couple of years newspaper executives have been crying the blues because of this upstart, this latest evil, which is raiding their previously held monopoly position on mass media communication and its circulation power. 'It's all Google's, Craigslist and Youtube's fault' they cry. 'And these bloggers, why, they must be stopped. They are destroying our power, our position, our monopoly — our source of money' they whine. All I can say is "would you care for a little cheese with that whine?" No? Then quit your whining.

The truth is that newspapers are in a pretty severe decline right now and have been for several years. Regrettably, I suspect that this trend will continue for a while. I don't for a minute think that newspapers will die, though if they do the cause will be by suicide. Not by the web, T.V. or radio. No, their demise, should it occur, shall be by their own hand. And that would be dangerous for us all.

The danger

The Internet is fragile. Not so much because of malware, trojans, logic bombs and the like but because of who controls the domain name system and the "A" server. None other than the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC). A governmental agency. Nothing like the fox guarding the chicken coop I always say. Quoting the DOC statement of policy:

"In recent years, commercial use of the Internet has expanded rapidly. As a legacy, however, major components of the domain name system are still performed by, or subject to, agreements with agencies of the U.S. Government.

"1) Assignment of numerical addresses to Internet users.

"Every Internet computer has a unique IP number. IANA, headed by Dr. Jon Postel, coordinates this system by allocating blocks of numerical addresses to regional IP registries (ARIN in North America, RIPE in Europe, and APNIC in the Asia/Pacific region), under contract with DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Project Agency). In turn, larger Internet service providers apply to the regional IP registries for blocks of IP addresses. The recipients of those address blocks then reassign addresses to smaller Internet service providers and to end users.

"2) Management of the system of registering names for Internet users.

"The domain name space is constructed as a hierarchy. It is divided into top-level domains (TLDs), with each TLD then divided into second-level domains (SLDs), and so on. More than 200 national, or country-code, TLDs (ccTLDs) are administered by their corresponding governments or by private entities with the appropriate national government's acquiescence. A small set of gTLDs do not carry any national identifier, but denote the intended function of that portion of the domain space. For example, .com was established for commercial users, .org for not-for-profit organizations, and .net for network service providers. The registration and propagation of these key gTLDs are performed by NSI, under a five-year cooperative agreement with NSF. This agreement expires on September 30, 1998.

"3) Operation of the root server system.

"The root server system is a set of thirteen file servers, which together contain authoritative databases listing all TLDs. Currently, NSI operates the "A" root server, which maintains the authoritative root database and replicates changes to the other root servers on a daily basis. Different organizations, including NSI, operate the other 12 root servers. The U.S. Government plays a role in the operation of about half of the Internet's root servers. Universal name consistency on the Internet cannot be guaranteed without a set of authoritative and consistent roots. Without such consistency messages could not be routed with any certainty to the intended addresses.

"4) Protocol Assignment.

"The Internet protocol suite, as defined by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), contains many technical parameters, including protocol numbers, port numbers, autonomous system numbers, management information base object identifiers and others. The common use of these protocols by the Internet community requires that the particular values used in these fields be assigned uniquely. Currently, IANA, under contract with DARPA, makes these assignments and maintains a registry of the assigned values."

Do you see the problem? How about the operation of the:

" 'A' root server, which maintains the authoritative root database and replicates changes to the other root servers on a daily basis."

Yeah, that problem. To put it another way the DOC and the DOC only controls the Internet. As such, should some web site, blog or what have you on the Internet really tic off some one within the federal government that very same web site, blog or what have you could very easily disappear from the Internet with a few strokes on a keyboard. It brings censorship to a whole new level. A few strokes on the keyboard — world wide blackout.

I am not in any way saying that will happen. But I am most certainly saying it could happen. Actually I'm rather surprised King George the Bush hasn't been caught doing it.

'Why it is an issue of national security don't you know'. No I don't know and neither does anybody else, Bozo.

That is the danger folks. Plain and simple. That is also why We the People cannot afford to have newspapers die out. He who controls the flow of information controls all.

Now newspapers got themselves into this mess and, as such, they need to pull themselves out of it. But to help them out I've put a little list together of a few things newspapers need to do, and do quickly, in order to slow the hemorrhage of lost advertisers:

LBJ (President Johnson), once he had learned that Walter Cronkite ("the most trusted man in America" ) during an editorial report about the Tet Offensive said the Vietnam War was unwinnable, stated "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost America."

He was right. And that is what the papers need to bring back in order to survive and prosper — trust.

If they fail then the papers shall be committing suicide. And that is dangerous to us all.

[Ed. note: This story has been updated.]

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