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Re: <nettime> ICANN's new role
t byfield on Mon, 29 Oct 2001 05:14:14 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> ICANN's new role

Nettime's_roving_reporter forwarded:

     > Date: Sat, 27 Oct 2001 18:24:41 -0400
     > To: ip-sub-1 {AT} majordomo.pobox.com
     > From: David Farber <dave {AT} farber.net
     > Subject: IP: ICANN's new role: It's about keeping people from 
     >  being killed by terrorist plots hatched over the net says Mike Roberts

here's the writeup i did for ICANN Watch[1]:

----- Forwarded

     What a day...
     Posted by tbyfield on Sunday, October 28  {AT}  01:18:07 MDT
     Contributed by tbyfield
     In an exquisite conjuncture, two recent messages -- one to a
     General Assembly mailing list, the other to the At Large Study
     Committee forum list -- reveal the extent of the moral
     putrescence that's consumed ICANN's increasingly dictatorial
     staff. As if we really needed any more revelations.
     In a message to the General Assembly ("ga-full") list,[2] GA
     Chair Danny Younger sadly recounts how ICANN's staff has refused
     to allow alt-root provider New.net to sponsor the GA session
     scheduled for the upcoming ICANN meeting. Why? In the words of
     ICANN's potentate Stuart Lynn, "we place bounds around whom we
     accept as sponsors. And new.net does not fit the package." That's
     a curious way to restate the sponsorship policy presented in
     ICANN's meeting-related information site:[3] 
          Starting with the Marina Del Rey 2001 meeting, there will be a
          new format for sponsorship opportunities for this ICANN meeting.
          This is in response to feedback that we have received from the
          constituencies and the community. It is our hope that this will
          offer proper visibility for those who chose to support our
          meeting, while preserving its neutrality for all participants.
     Justifiably callused ICANN Watchers might be tempted to read
     "neutrality" as ICANNese for "kowtows to ICANN," but no (not yet,
     at least). The ensuing explanation of this "new format" is
     limited to utterly banal details of implementation: 
          All sponsors will have their logos appear on the ICANN website
          and during breaks on the meeting screens. A table will be
          provided for distribution of literature for sponsors only.
          Additional recognition of sponsorship is listed below in the
          description of each level. An organization that is not a sponsor
          will not be permitted to distribute materials in the meeting
          Three levels of sponsorship are available:
          Top-Level: US$15,000 - Booth/table in meeting area for entire
          Second-Level: US$10,000 - Booth/table in meeting area for one
          Third-Level: US$5,000 - Signage on coffee break tables
     So what's the basis for this rejection of New.net sponsorship?
     Exactly what Lynn said: a diktat of ICANN's staff ("we"). This
     diktat overrules the GA, which had accepted New.net's sponsorship
     offer. So much for the fig leaf of "feedback" from the
     This would be outrageous if it didn't fit so perfectly blandly
     into the numbingly dull pattern wherein ICANN's staff continually
     and actively obstructs the efforts of its component bodies to
     function with any degree of freedom.
     And it might be a minor issue in itself, but it needs to be
     viewed in context -- and that context was set forth quite starkly
     less than a day earlier by the zombie process of ICANN's past,
     ex-CEO Mike Roberts, in a message to the ALSC-Forum list.[4] It's
     impossible to adequately capture the fanatical, thanatotic zeal
     with which Roberts embraces the proposition that Bush's signing
     of the deeply disturbing "USA-PATRIOT Act of 2001"[5] "brings the
     Internet and its developers, providers and users directly into
     the new war on terrorism."
     And just what the [expletive deleted] does ICANN have to do with
     that war?  Well, had ICANN actually devoted itself in a balanced
     way to its three purviews (domain names, IP numbers, and protocol
     parameter and port numbers), one could, I suppose, argue that
     there must be some relation between legitimate interests of state
     and, say, the byzantiniana of IP allocation. But it hasn't:
     instead, it has expended the vast, vast majority of its energy on
     making DNS safe for intellectual property claimants (like these
     ones[6]). And ICANN has done so at the expense of other
     absolutely legitimate interests -- for example, the venerable
     idea that language is a common weal and therefore cannot and
     should not be reduced to neo-totalitarian cultural politics of
     one word, one meaning, one root.
     Not that such high-minded issues are all that relevant, though,
     because that's not the case Roberts makes. Instead -- for the
     THIRD time now -- he has unilaterally declared that the brunt of
     this "new war" will be felt in the region of ICANN's At Large.
     That is, in the single, slender possibility that ICANN's board
     might be infiltrated by -- gasp! -- workaday people elected
     through a democratic process. The threat Roberts so heroically
     seeks to stave off isn't "terrorists" -- it's democracy. And you
     needn't take my word for it: you can read his own
     concussion-inducing elbow-jerk salutes here[7] and here[8] (ICANN
     Watch commentaries here[9] and here[10]).
     For a guy who gets his jollies issuing pronunciamentos about how
     "there is going to be much less interest in who is represented by
     whom on the Board" and "other populist notions about any old
     terrorist around the globe getting to vote on how to run the
     DNS," he sure seems to be awfully -- indeed, desperately --
     interested in who's on the board and who gets to vote. Not that
     that's new, mind you: leaden, bombastic opposition to democratic
     fluidity was a leitmotif of his rule.
     Just how much of a stamp Roberts left on the organization he all
     but founded becomes clear in the kind of tawdry policy-creep
     that, most recently, led his successor to snippily declare ex
     cathedra that New.net "does not fit the package." And it can't be
     overemphasized just how pathetically shrill that move is, because
     it boils down, as ICANN's own "new format" for sponsorship
     states, to nothing more than having a logo "appear [ha!] on the
     ICANN website and during breaks on the meeting screens" -- a
     ditch ICANN dug for itself when it decided to pimp out the faces
     it presents to the world.
     Again, this would be trivial, were it not for its place in a
     long-term pattern and, even moreso, in the current context:
     ICANN's scurrilous exploitation of the 11 September events to
     justify an all too familiar "emergency" usurpation by the
     structural equivalent of a junta^W^W^W^W^W^W I mean an "informal
     Program Committee"[11] chair led by an equally familiar figure --
     an authoritarian who skulks around waiting for an opportunity to
     reassert his authority and pursue the same old bleakly monologic

----- Backwarded

what i didn't point out is the curious question of who "cap'n mike" is 
addressing. obviously, his screed was aimed at the At Large Study Com-
mittee's critics. but, if that's the sum total of his anticipated aud-
ience, why then would he include this retrospective digression:

     It's different now for ICANN.  What started out as your
     typical ritual White House privatization effort; one that
     parroted the young Clintonites' "Agenda for Action" of 1993;
     the Al Gore "Information Superhighway" speech; that provided
     a last hurrah for Clinton advisor Magaziner at the end of
     the second term. A sly political move that solved, or maybe
     solved, the National Science Foundation's honest mistake in
     giving Network Solutions and SAIC a billion dollar monopoly.
     That is not the ICANN of post-Sept 11.

'typical,' 'ritual,' 'parroted,' 'sly'? these words, which all but rep-
udiate *his own past efforts*, most definitely aren't intended for ALSC
critics in any simple or transparent sense: if anything, in making this
kind of admission in that milieu, he's handing ammunition to people who
*know* the depths of ICANN's cynicism.

a better explanation, i think, is that he's keenly aware this his words
are a much broader performance--and the extended audience he's address-
ing includes the bush administration, which might just take an interest
in WTF is going on with the net's 'governing body.' hence the backstab-
bing of the 'young' clintonites, in particular of gore and magaziner.

roberts is painfully aware that ICANN has made and continues to make so 
many enemies that the situation is ripe for coalitions of the strangest
bedfellows: bush flaks who'll soon be looking to pin intelligence fail-
ures on clinton et al., an FBI running amok in its efforts to sniff the
entire net for any hint of dissent, 'intellectual property' zealots who
are desperate to trojan their enforcement agenda into 'emergency' legi-
slation--and, of course, constituencies of every size and shape who are
eager to fuck ICANN over but good. much as the US medical establishment
is more than a little worried that a wave of influenze will send the US
population into an anthrax-addled panic, roberts is worried that a DDOS
attack on the rootserver level, for example, might just lead to a spec-
tacular inquisition into ICANN. 

i didn't mention this in my writeup but one anonymous respondent pretty
much did:

     You may have missed who Mike Roberts is talking to
     in that message. He is clearly talking to the IETF
     geeks and the other low-lifes who show up at the
     ICANN meetings. He is essentially saying, "Clean
     up your act, you are being watched."
     Mike Roberts is terrified that "the watching" will
     result in serious investigations from high-level
     people about just what has been going on at
     ICANN. He can no longer get away with giving
     some clerk at the U.S. Department of Commerce
     a snow-job about Internet technology.
     Mike Roberts will be able to package himself to
     appear to be a military-like leader. Unfortunately,
     the current "war" is not against people who look
     like General Patton, but instead, against people
     who walk around in robes, like Jesus Christ.
     Mike and Stuart need to "package" the people
     who attend the ICANN meeting and support them.
     Military will be in, robes and sandals will be out.
     Jon Postel did not have fit in the package, you
     now see where he is.

and another anon respondent hit the nail on the head:

     What we need is a lawsuit against ICANN with sufficient 
     sticking power to last into the discovery phase.

     Then it's all over.

not that what followed ICANN would be any prettier, mind you. it's 
only a shame that ICANN's been crying that particular wolf for too
long, and it's worn pretty thin.

[1]  <http://www.icannwatch.org/article.php?sid=430&mode=thread&order=0>
[2]  <http://www.dnso.org/clubpublic/ga-full/Arc08/msg02851.html>
[3]  <http://www.icann.org/mdr2001/#sponsors>
[4]  <http://atlargestudy.org/forum_archive/msg01113.shtml>
[5]  <http://www.epic.org/privacy/terrorism/hr3162.html>
[6]  <http://www.wartimeliberty.com/article.pl?sid=01/10/14/1756248>
[7]  <http://angua.rince.de/icann-europe/2001/09/msg00004.html>
[8]  <http://www.dnso.org/clubpublic/ga-full/Arc08/msg01832.html>
[9]  <http://www.icannwatch.org/article.php?sid=369>
[10] <http://www.icannwatch.org/article.php?sid=370>
[11] <http://www.icann.org/mdr2001/program.htm>

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