Parental Alienation Syndrome

This is not the best way to deal with a child who’s been turned against her father by a vindictive mother.

But it’s understandable. Kim Basinger made this message public, and for that she should lose custody of young Ireland Eliesse Baldwin. She won’t, of course, because courts love their mamas, even the crazy ones. She’s done this sort of thing before and got away with it:

Channeling her inner Pete Doherty (and apparently in need of a lawyer as good as his), actress Kim Basinger may face 60 days in jail and a $12,000 fine when she makes an appearance in court tomorrow on 12 contempt of court charges.

Basinger is accused of breaching a custody agreement she shares with ex-husband Alec Baldwin, who claims she failed to notify him when she was out of town and also failed to inform him when their daughter, Ireland, suffered an injury that required medical attention.

Baldwin’s response is here. He’s too mealy-mouthed.

Parental Alienation is no joke.

The anguish of regulation

Note: This post isn’t clear. I’m trying to say that the notion of “layering” in network protocol design doesn’t mean there’s some kind of firewall of ignorance between layers. In layered architectures, protocol layers advertise services to their higher-layer consumers, and notions of regulation built on the notion of layering have to take that fact into account. Crawford misunderstands protocol layering and attempts to build a regulatory framework on the back of her mistaken idea.

Some of the fans of network neutrality regulations are sincere but misguided, such as law professor Susan Crawford. She’s in a lot of anguish about how to sell the regulators’ agenda*:

If the only economic and cultural justifications you have for the need for a layered approach to internet regulation (an approach that treats transport differently from applications) are (1) the explosive innovation that competition among applications would produce and (2) the appropriate mapping between the “actual” architecture of the internet and the regulatory approach to be taken to it, you’ll lose.

But she never questions whether the “layered approach to regulation” is a good thing or even a well-understood thing. I see this a lot among the legal academics, who seem to base most of their regulatory model on a defective model of protocol layering. Lessig is the prototype for this misunderstanding, as he wants to extract architectural features from the Internet of the Past and use them to constrain the development of the Internet of the Future.

I work with layered protocols, and have for more years than I can remember, so please allow me to explain what layering means in real network systems. We divide network functions between abstract layers (physical, link, network, session, application) so we can mix and match combinations for real systems. So the IP network layer can run on the Ethernet link layer or the WiFi link layer, and work pretty much the same. And we can run Ethernet over a fiber-optic physical layer or a copper pair physical layer, and have it work pretty much the same. ]

The key here is understanding what “pretty much the same” means. Each protocol at each layer has its own constraints, and higher layers have to be able to accommodate them. For example, Ethernet packets can’t be more than 1500 bytes long, but WiFi packets are bigger and ATM packets (cells) are smaller. So IP needs to know what the size constraints of the link layer are so it can adjust to them and operate efficiently.

The way this is done is through a service interface between the network layer and the link layer that allows the higher layer protocol to discover the capabilities of the lower layer protocol and behave accordingly. So while these two layers are defined and built separately, they’re intimately connected through a shared interface that allows them to operate together smoothly.

At the link layer, many protocols have the ability to offer different services, each appropriate to a different set of applications. WiFi, for example, has a voice service that handles short packets that need to be transmitted and received at regular intervals differently than long packets that are less sensitive to delay but more sensitive to corruption and loss. The network lingo for this selection of services is Quality of Service or QoS. Note that it’s not really correct to say that Voice QoS is “better” than the bulk data QoS called “Best Effort,” it’s simply different. It would not be in your interest to use Voice grade QoS for downloading files from Netflix, even if those files contained movies, because it actually constrains total bandwidth. You essentially trade off moving a lot of data for moving a little very quickly.

The tragedy of the Internet is that the IP layer doesn’t have good facilities for selecting QoS options from the layers below it, and his makes it difficult for applications to get the service they need from the network top-to-bottom and end-to-end. So we bypass IP in real systems through something called a “Control Plane” and tell the Link Layer how to fit QoS around the data that need it.

But the main point is that the segregation of functions into protocol layers doesn’t mean that each layer doesn’t know what the other layers are doing. In fact, the layers must know what their options are and how to use them, even though they don’t need to know how the other layers make these options available. So the layered approach to protocol design doesn’t preclude diversity of services, it in fact facilitates it by sharing the important information and hiding the unimportant details.

In the real world, a layered approach to regulation would begin by identifying service options and the means for requesting them. The neuts don’t get this and begin by banning service level communication between layers. That’s what “just move the bits, stupid” means. It’s bad network design and it’s bad regulation.

*Crawford blocks referrals from this blog. She’s at:

Baiting the blogosphere

Declan McCullagh is Cnet’s chief political correspondent and an ardent champion of civil liberties, EFF-style*. He runs the Politech e-mail list, a place where such stories as the Little Red Book hoax are given wide currency and writes a column on civil liberties for Cnet, which most recently consists of a hysterical misconstruction of the telephone harassment provision added to the Violence Against Women Act. I’m no fan of VAWA, which is mainly a barrel of pork to fund “feminist” advocacy groups and has very little to do with reducing violence, but McCullough’s interpretation of the harassment law is completely ridiculous:

It’s no joke. Last Thursday, President Bush signed into law a prohibition on posting annoying Web messages or sending annoying e-mail messages without disclosing your true identity.

In other words, it’s OK to flame someone on a mailing list or in a blog as long as you do it under your real name. Thank Congress for small favors, I guess.

This ridiculous prohibition, which would likely imperil much of Usenet, is buried in the so-called Violence Against Women and Department of Justice Reauthorization Act. Criminal penalties include stiff fines and two years in prison.

Well actually, it is a joke, as Cal Lanier explains:

Jeff Jarvis and others are upset about a story declaring that President Bush made it a crime to write annoying comments on the internet. But perhaps the ranters didn’t read the source material.

Section 113 of the Violence Against Women Act adds a parameter to the telephone harassment law’s definition of “telecommunications device”: include any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications or other types of communications.

The definition already excludes “an interactive computer service”, defined as any information service, system, or access software provider, which should eliminate Internet postings from consideration, unless I’m missing something.

Here’s the important part of the new definition: includes any device or software that can be used to originate telecommunications .

If that doesn’t ring a bell, you probably aren’t familiar with the battle to define VOIP (voice over internet protocol). The previous law assumed that all phone calls would be made via a “telecommunications service” using a “telecommunications device”. The FCC has consistently found that VOIP is an unregulated “information service”, thus exempting it from all sorts of fees and services. A VOIP call may be functionally indistinguishable from a landline or cell phone call. Legally, though, it’s not a telecommunications service and doesn’t require the use of a telecommunications device. Adding the new text to the definition removes a potential loophole and ensures that VOIP calls will be treated just as any other telephone call.

and Orin Kerr concurs:

This is just the perfect blogosphere story, isn’t it? It combines threats to bloggers with government incompetence and Big Brother, all wrapped up and tied togther with a little bow. Unsurprisingly, a lot of bloggers are taking the bait.

Skeptical readers will be shocked, shocked to know that the truth is quite different. First, a little background. The new law amends 47 U.S.C. 223, the telecommunications harassment statute that goes back to the Communications Act of 1934. For a long time, Section 223 has had a provision prohibiting anonymous harassing speech using a telephone. 47 U.S.C. 223(a)(1)(C) states that

[whoever] makes a telephone call or utilizes a telecommunications device, whether or not conversation or communication ensues, without disclosing his identity and with intent to annoy, abuse, threaten, or harass any person at the called number or who receives the communications . . . shall be [punished].

Seems pretty broad, doesn’t it? Well, there’s a hook. It turns out that the statute can only be used when prohibiting the speech would not violate the First Amendment. If speech is protected by the First Amendment, the statute is unconstitutional as applied and the indictment must be dismissed.

This isn’t the first time McCullough has gone over the deep end on a story like this, and not the first time that bloggers have fallen for it, esp. those who suffer from Bush Derangement Syndrome.

Silly bloggers.

*The EFF is an ersatz civil liberties organization that’s more concerned with virtual rights than real ones. They’re more worried about the fact that the Patriot Act enables the Justice Department to look at your library records, which they don’t actually do, than with the fact that Title IV-D of the Social Security Act enables child support agencies to data-mine bank accounts and utility records, which they do, and to imprison debtors without right to counsel, even innocent ones, as they also do. I have very little respect for rights groups who think it’s more important to collect child support than to defeat Al Qaeda; crazy, I know. The boy who cried wolf

The nation’s left knee didn’t take long to start jerking. Here’s what the professional hysterics at Moveon. org want you to do:

In nominating John Roberts, the president has chosen a right wing corporate lawyer and ideologue for the nation’s highest court instead of a judge who would protect the rights of the American people. Working for mining companies, Roberts opposed clean air rules and worked to help coal companies strip-mine mountaintops. He worked with Ken Starr (yes, that Ken Starr), and tried to keep Congress from defending the Voting Rights Act. He wrote that Roe v. Wade should be “overruled,” and as a lawyer argued (and won) the case that stopped some doctors from even discussing abortion. That’s why we believe: “The Senate must not confirm right-wing corporate lawyer John Roberts to the Supreme Court.”

Clue: You can’t judge a man’s judicial philosophy by the arguments he made for his clients as an advocate. In the case of the Roe v. Wade comments, that client was the US government, representative of all of us, including the Berkeley hippies that run Moveon.

If Bush was to nominate somebody really bad, the arguments would be the same and nobody would pay any attention. Perhaps that’s why Bush put up Roberts, to flush these peckerwoods out.

Lessig’s new suit

John Dvorak speaks truth to power:

Will someone explain to me the benefits of a trendy system developed by Professor Lawrence Lessig of Stanford? Dubbed Creative Commons, this system is some sort of secondary copyright license that, as far as I can tell, does absolutely nothing but threaten the already tenuous “fair use” provisos of existing copyright law. This is one of the dumbest initiatives ever put forth by the tech community. I mean seriously dumb. Eye-rolling dumb on the same scale as believing the Emperor is wearing fabulous new clothes.

His assessment of CC is actually quite charitable.