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The Practical Nomad

Edward Hasbrouck's blog

Published: 2016-09-19T16:47:39-08:00

Last Build Date: 2016-08-10T12:49:29-08:00


Computer "outage" disrupts Delta flights


An outage of some computer systems or components on Monday led to cancellations and delays of Delta Air Lines flights. Once planes and crews are out of position, it takes time to get them back to where they are needed. New crews and/or planes may have to be sent out if the original planes and/or crews have exceeded their safety time limits for periodic equipment maintenance or crew rest. Only today, Wednesday, are Delta flights getting back on schedule and back to their normal capacity. Last month Southwest Airlines flights were similarly cancelled, delayed, and disrupted for several days after a computer system component failed. What caused the problems with Delta flights? The "outage" that affected Delta operations has been attributed to an equipment failure that cut power to some components of Delta's computer system. But neither the nature of the problem nor the specific component(s) that were affected have been clearly identified. My guess is that the equipment that lost power was part of the interface between some components of Delta's in-house IT systems including its departure control system (DCS) and flight management system, and the Worldspan computerized reservation system (CRS). Was this a result of problems with Delta's reservation system? No. Other airlines that use Worldspan had no problems. One thing we know for certain is that this was a problem internal to Delta's own systems (or those of some other Delta service provider) or related to the Delta-Worldspan interface, not to any core or shared Worldspan functionality. Where would you point the finger of blame? I don't yet have enough information to be sure, but the underlying cause is likely to turn out to be a combination of (1) over-reliance on technology (see more on that below) and (2) the inability of airlines like Delta to make a clear, long-term commitment either to outsource their operational IT systems or keep them in-house. The interface between in-house and outsourced IT systems that failed only existed because Delta chose take some parts of its systems in-house while outsourcing others. Prior to that, Delta's IT systems had been integrated, first wholly in-house and then wholly outsourced to a single company, Worldspan. Delta has an unnecessarily complicated relationship with Worldspan. Worldspan was originally developed in-house by Delta, but was spun off and eventually acquired by Travelport, a holding company which also bought the competing Galileo/Amadeus CRS. Throughout that time, Delta's systems continued to be operated by essentially the same team of people in the same facilities. But recently, Delta has taken some IT functionality in-house, while continuing to outsource database hosting to Worldspan. Given the changes back and forth between Travelport's Worldspan division and Delta over operational and legal responsibility for elements of the airline's IT systems, it's scarcely surprising that the interfaces grafted on to connect but separate Worldspan and Delta (a digital corpus callosum between the halves of its logical brain) are among the least well-tested and most vulnerable components of the complex and formerly unified system. Was this a result of airlines using "old-fashioned" computer equipment? No. There's no basis to claims like the headline today in the Wall Street Journal, Delta Meltdown Reflects Problems With Aging Technology. One of the biggest advantages of "mature" software and systems is that they have had time for bugs to manifest themselves and be corrected. Legacy systems are often kept around and preferred because of their reliability. The major CRSs are no exception, and one of the many reasons most airlines outsource reservation hosting and other functions is the extreme reliability of the CRSs. Can modern airlines operate flight even when their computers are down? Yes. Delta could, and perhaps should, take lessons from the best practices of more reliable airlines like Ethiopian (long one of the world's standouts for operational efficiency and reliability). As I've written about before, I travelled w[...]

Burning the U.S. flag



[On the lawn of the U.S. Capitol, gagged with a U.S. flag, at a press conference with Joey Johnson and others on 21 June 1990, as Congress was voting on whether to amend the U.S. Constitution to outlaw the "desecration" of the U.S. flag.]

Nobody could seriously argue that Joey Johnson's right to burn a flag outside the Republican National Convention is anything other than well-established law.

But instead of respecting that right, a Cleveland prosecutor and police are trying to frame Joey Johnson for something he didn't do, in order to punish him for what he and others did in exercising their right to express themselves by burning a U.S. flag -- just as a Dallas prosecutor and police did in 1984.

Here's what happened last week, some of the back story I was involved in that you won't learn if you only read news reports and/or court records, and why Joey Johnson deserves our support now just as much as he did more than three decades ago.

House votes down proposal to defund the Selective Service System



This week, during consideration of the annual funding bill for the Selective Service System and miscellaneous other agencies, the U.S. House of Representatives:

  1. Yesterday, voted down (294-128) a proposed amendment to completely defund the Selective Service System; and then

  2. Today, approved (217-203)an amendment that forbids the use of any of the money appropriated for the Selective Service System for Federal Fiscal Year 2017 "to change Selective Service System registration requirements" (such as to require women as well as men to register for the draft).

The effect of these two votes is likely to be limited. But in their current context, they are not a good sign for opponents of conscription and war, and confirm the need for continued, expanded, and more visible resistance to draft registration.

The no-fly list and the no-gun list


[The proposed No-Fly, No Buy law currently under debate in Congress would add the Terrorist Screening Database as a third source (yellow arrow at center right of flow chart) of entries in the "No-Gun" list, in addition to Federal and state felony convictions and certain misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence. Everything else on this diagram already exists and would remain the same. Click the image above for a larger version of the flow chart, or click here for a full-page PDF with a key to the acronyms.] Last month, some (Democratic Party) members of Congress held a sit-in on the floor of the House of Representatives to try to pressure their (Republican Party) colleagues to agree to allow a vote on what was described as a "gun control" bill. The sit-in ended after the House adjourned for its 4th of July holiday without bringing the bill to a vote. But the bill remains pending as Congress reconvenes. I'm a pacifist. I support gun control. Having guns around doesn't make me feel safer, no matter who has them. I've never owned or used a firearm. I don't want, and don't knowingly allow, any guns in my home, for any reason. Speaking only for myself, and not for any of the organizations with which I'm associated, I would vote to repeal the Second Amendment rather than trying to play games with its language about "a well-regulated militia". I'm a firm believer in nonviolent direct action and a supporter of extra-legal tactics like sit-ins as a useful and often essential way to bring about political change, including revolutionary change, with or without the cooperation of the government. So why do I think that that the Congressional sit-in was at best misguided, and that this is a dangerous bill that would set an even more dangerous precedent, regardless of the good intentions of some of its supporters? The bill at issue in the House, like the similar bill still pending in the Senate that I wrote about last year in the Identity Project blog, has been described as "No-Fly, No-Buy". It would prohibit anyone on the U.S. no-fly list, and possibly also anyone listed in the Terrorist Screening Database (TSDB) as a "suspected" terrorist, terrorist supporter, or terrorist sympathizer, from buying a firearm. To put it another way, these bills would add everyone on the no-fly list or in the government's "suspected terrorist" file to the no-gun list. This is a people-control measure, not a gun-control measure. It is one more step away from punishment of criminal acts and toward pre-crime policing and imposition of sanctions based on predictions and blacklists. And it would do nothing to improve the "no-gun list" that we already have. Yes, the US already has a "no-gun list". I'm on it, for all the wrong reasons, along with 25 million or more other people.[...]

Senate approves "Defense" bill including expansion of draft registration to women


[Poster by Yolanda V. Fundora]

Today the U.S. Senate voted 85-13 to approve a version of the proposed National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (S. 2943) including a provision which, if also approved by the House of Representatives and signed into law by the President, would extend draft registration to women. (Bernie Sanders and Barbara Boxer were the only Senators absent from this vote. So far as I have been able to find, Sen. Sanders has made no public comment on this issue.)

As had happened in the House of Representatives, the Senate voted to approve the bill as a whole, without a separate vote on on whether to make changes to Selective Service registration. The version approved by the Senate would expand registration to women, while the version approved by the House would not.

Op-Ed: Dump draft registration, don't extend it to women


[My "Open Forum" op-ed on Selective Service registration in the San Francisco Chronicle, online 4 June 2016, print edition 7 June 2016, page A8. Original version on the sometimes-paywalled Web site; PDF. If you agree, here's a leaflet about what you can do to help.] Congress is now debating amendments to a pending defense bill to either extend Selective Service System registration to women or end it entirely. Congress should drop this costly and inevitably futile attempt to extend draft registration to women, and end draft registration altogether. The debate was prompted by the change in policy that allows women in combat. If all combat assignments are open to women, then it follows that there is no longer a basis in military policy for requiring men but not women to register. If Congress does nothing, pending court cases are likely to produce a ruling that the men-only draft registration requirement is unconstitutional. Those who believe in treating women and men equally include those who would register both men and women for the draft, and those who wouldn't require anyone to register. Missing from this debate has been whether it will even be possible to get women to register. President Jimmy Carter's proposal to reinstate draft registration in 1980, after a five-year hiatus, initially included men and women. Some of the strongest opposition came from women. The National Resistance Committee was founded at the Women's Building in San Francisco within weeks of Carter's announcement. Carter's rationale for bringing back draft registration was to prepare for U.S. intervention in Afghanistan in support of the fighters who were then referred to as "mujahedeen," and who later became the Taliban and al Qaeda. (The U.S. government put me in prison in 1983-1984 for refusing to agree to fight on the side of the Taliban and al Qaeda.) In the early 1980s, the government tried to scare young men into registering by prosecuting a handful of vocal nonregistrants. But the show trials backfired. They called attention to the resistance and made clear that there was safety in numbers. Enforcement of draft registration was suspended in 1988, and never resumed. Young men today have to register in order to be eligible for student aid and some other government programs, but there's no attempt to verify their addresses. The only audit of Selective Service, in 1982, found that 20 to 40 percent of addresses on file already were outdated. Noncompliance has made registration unenforceable and the registration database useless as the basis for a fair or inclusive draft. Any realistic budget for the expansion of draft registration to women would need to include the cost to track down, prosecute, and imprison those who resist. Young women have the same reasons as young men to oppose draft registration, and will undoubtedly have other reasons of their own. A petition to end draft registration entirely, started last month by a draft-age San Francisco woman, Julie Mastrine, got more than 10,000 signatures in its first week. The petition quotes the young feminist writer Lucy Steigerwald, "You don't stop the runaway truck of U.S. foreign policy by throwing a man in front of it, and you definitely don't stop it by throwing a man and a woman, just to make things equal." The federal government doesn't do well at acknowledging that its power is limited by the willingness of the people to carry out its orders. But draft registration has failed. The only realistic choice is to end it. Edward Hasbrouck is a travel writer and human rights activist in San Francisco. His website about the draft, draft registration, and draft resistance is at[...]

How can we make airlines respect our privacy?


A decision last week by a California state Court of Appeal in a case involving an airline smartphone app highlights the legal impunity enjoyed by airlines that invade their customers' and passengers' privacy. Delta Air Lines' mobile app collects all the information travellers provide when they buy tickets, reserve seats, or check in for flights: credit card numbers, travelling companions, special meal requests that can provide a clue to their religion, special service requests that can indicate invisible medical conditions, and so forth. It also collects other information, such as real-time location and movement tracking through access by the Delta app to the GPS and other location information in your phone. How much of this data is sent to Delta? There's no way for travellers to know, since the data transmission channel from the app on your phone to the airline is encrypted. What did Delta do with this data about its customers and passengers? We don't know that either. Airlines use as much data about travellers as they can get for marketing and operations, and have been trying to get permission from the US government to use any or all of this data, and/or information about customers obtained from third parties, to "personalize" ticket prices and fees for checked baggage and other services. But the Delta app was launched and operated for years with no privacy policy at all, leaving travellers to speculate why the airline wants a log of each app user's movements, or how it uses or shares this data. How much of this data is made available to government agencies or other third parties? Delta doesn't say. Unlike many other online service providers, no airline has ever published any sort of transparency report about how often the government asks for information about its customers, or how the company has responded to those requests. California's Attorney General, in her capacity as chief enforcer of the state's consumer protection laws, sued Delta in 2012 for violating the California Online Privacy Protection Act, which "requires commercial operators of websites and online services, including mobile and social apps, which collect personally identifiable information from Californians to conspicuously post a privacy policy." It's worth noting that this law doesn't restrict companies' ability and legal "right" to spy on their customers, invade their privacy, or rat them out to their private enemies or competitors or to the police or other government agencies. All California law requires is that each company subject to the law post some sort of privacy policy saying what data they claim to collect and what they claim to do with it, and not get caught lying to customers about their practices. In the absence of audits by investigators with subpoena power, of course, companies are unlikely to get caught no matter what they do. The lawsuit against Delta Air Lines was the first action brought by the state of California to enforce this law, which was enacted in 2003 and took effect in 2004. It was an entirely appropriate choice of an especially large, sophisticated, and egregious corporate violator of the law. It was also, I suspect, a popular choice by a politically savvy official with her sights on higher elected office. Most people want, and would expect, consumer privacy laws to be applied to airlines. Delta initially told the California A.G.'s office that it "intended" to provide the information that was supposed to be in its privacy policy, but then decided to stonewall. Delta argued successfully both in the trial court and before the Court of Appeals that it doesn't have to have any privacy policy or reveal its personal data collection, usage, or disclosure policies to its customers. The Federal "Airline Deregulation Act of 1978" has preempted any state regulation of these practices, Delta said -- and state judges agreed. Only the U.S. Department of Transport[...]

Inquiring minds want to know how to avoid the draft


If you click on a Google search result, Google passes the text you originally entered in the search box through to the search result Web site. The same is true of most other search engines. Marketers use this data to analyze what queries bring visitors to their Web sites, but educational, political, informational, and personal Web site operators can also make use of this information to understand what visitors are looking for. I don't often see lists of search engine queries posted publicly, but I find them an interesting window into what's on people's minds. My interests aren't easily pigeonholed. I write and have written -- many of the pages on my Web site that people most often get to from search engines were written many years ago -- about several topics that aren't obviously related. Depending on what I've been up to, or what's been in the news, I might get a lot of visitors looking for information about what to do if an airline goes bankrupt, what foreign languages are most useful for world travel, how to tell if your passport has an RFID chip (if it's a currently valid US passport, it does), the reality-TV show The Amazing Race, or self-determinationn and human rights in Kashmir. I have pages consistently in the top search results for each of these. What varies from month to month is which questions netizens are asking. This month, for example, I've gotten about a thousand visitors to a section of my site that normally gets only a few dozen visitors a month, because it includes some archived documentation, apparently not available anywhere else, about the obscure and abandoned "SavaJe" Java-based alternative operating system for the Psion netBook, an ahead-of-its time but also long since abandoned 1990s mobile computer with both a touchscreen and a keyboard. The SavaJe OS, and what devices it ran on, became an issue last week in the trial of a multi-billion dollar lawsuit by Oracle against Google. Questions about Selective Service and draft registration are a perennial source of traffic to my site. This month, with Congress debating whether to extend draft registration to women or end it entirely, questions about how to avoid the draft have brought more searchers to my site than queries on all other topics put together. Some of these queries appear to be from parents concerned about their children. Others appear to be from students looking for answers to homework questions, writing papers, or preparing for debates. But most of these queries appear to be from draft-age young people wanting to know what will happen to them if they don't register for the draft or don't go into the military if they are drafted. Notably, very few of them are asking whether, or why, they should or shouldn't support the draft or draft registration. If someone wants to enlist, I might try to talk them out of it. But I've never seen any point to trying to convince anyone not to want to be drafted. Nobody wants to be drafted. By definition, the government only needs to draft you if you haven't chosen to enlist. The queries that bring people to my Web site bear this out. People aren't asking about my beliefs or opinions about the draft or war, or for counseling or advice about their own beliefs. Nor are they asking for reasons why they might or might not want to register for, or submit to, the draft. It appears that most of them already know they don't want to go into the military and don't want to register. They want factual information about whether threats of prosecutions for failure to regiser are credible (no -- enforcement of draft registration was abandoned in 1988), what will happen to them if they don't register (lifetime ineligibility for some government programs if they turn 26 without ever having registered), and how they can avoid being drafted if they did register (move without telling the Selective Service System your new address[...]

House removes authorization to order women to register for the draft from its version of pending "Defense" bill



[Front ranks of the West Coast mobilization against any draft or draft registration for women or men on Market Street in San Francisco, 22 March 1980, Photo by Chris Booth for Resistance News. Click image for larger version.]

The U.S. House of Representatives voted today to remove (see page 3) a provision that would extend Presidential authority to order women as well as men to register for the draft from the House version of the pending National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017.

This doesn't mean that the threat to extend draft registration to women is over, but it does mean that Congress has probably succeeded in punting its decision of whether to extend draft registration to women or end draft registration entirely past the November election and into the next Presidential administration.

More resistance is needed now, and will be needed in the next year or more, to put an end to draft registration.

Here's what happened today, and what it means:

The Amazing Race 28, Episode 12


Shenzhen (China) - Guangzhou (China) - Los Angeles, CA (USA) - Santa Barbara, CA (USA) The final three teams on The Amazing Race 28 managed to make their way back to the USA this week, despite not being allowed to bring their smartphones or any any other Internet-connected devices with them on the "reality" television show. This season the cast of The Amazing Race 28 was selected entirely from YouTubers and other "social media stars". In the first couple of episodes, they worried about whether they would suffer from Internet and social media withdrawal during the race, as well as how they would find their way around the world without a smartphone and GPS for guidance. Today's reality of travel, of course, is that these concerns aren't unique to social media professionals. More and more people are coming to rely on smartphones for navigation and travel information as well as for their sense of community and connection to a stable world (or at least to Facebook) regardless of where they are. If there's one key takeaway from this season of the race, it's that -- at least from what the TV editors allowed us to see -- the things the racers feared never became a problem. They sometimes found it inconvenient not to have their smartphones handy, but they discovered that it was possible to use paper maps or ask local people (who as often as not looked up answers on their smartphones) for directions and information. And they appeared to be too busy being where they were ("Wherever you go, there you are!") to be bothered by the fact that they weren't someplace else on the Internet. After the first few days on the road, when they talked quite a bit about their fear of Internet withdrawal, it was hardly ever mentioned again. If these people whose professional working lives revolve around Internet "social media" can disconnect from the Internet and travel around the world without Internet-withdrawal trauma, you can too. Even if you don't plan on going cold turkey from Facebook or your phone while you are travelling, it's worth thinking about how you will cope if you find yourself in a place whether the Web or cloud-based services you have come to rely on aren't available because the Internet is unavailable (or, more commonly, the Internet is too slow to be useful for some of your purposes), or you don't have your smartphone. If you travel enough, it's a question of when, not if, this will happen. Maybe the Internet will be so slow that trying to download maps or check your e-mail just times out. Or your phone will be lost, stolen, or broken someplace where replacing it is prohibitively expensive. Murphy's Law says this will happen in a place and at a time you weren't expecting it and hadn't made any special preparations. Before you find yourself in this situation, think about how you would cope with it. Some apps and types of data are especially likely not to work well, or at all, or not to be accessible, if the Internet connection is too slow. There are many places, for example, where the Internet is too slow to use online maps or translation services. Even if you usually rely on these services, install offline navigation and translation apps as a backup, and/or carry a paper map and a phrase book or pocket dictionary. If you aren't sure whether an app stores its data on your phone or in the cloud, or whether it works offline, test it in "airplane mode". I've been in quite a few places in recent years where connections were so slow that a Web browser would time out before a web-mail page finished loading. Don't count on having Web-based e-mail available on demand when you need it. Download any essential data (the address and confirmation details of the place you plan to stay, for example) to your phone, or print it out or write it down. What would you do if suddenly you didn't have [...]

Senate & House "Defense" bills would extend draft registration to women



[Lesbian Anti-Draft Action contingent in the West Coast mobilization against draft registration, 22 March 1980, followed by a group with the banner of the Oakland Feminist Women's Health Center. Photo by Chris Booth for Resistance News. Click image for larger version. Straight feminists and many other women were also among the 20,000+ marchers in San Francisco and a similar number that same day in Washington, DC.]

Yesterday the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee joined its counterpart committee of the House of Representatives in adding a provision to the pending "National Defense Authorization Act" (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2017 that would extend the authority of the President to order women as well as men to register for the draft.

Because this is considered a "must-pass" bill, this provision will now become law along with the rest of the bill unless the proposal is amended on the floor of either the House or the Senate (or both) to remove it before the full bill is approved, or unless the President vetoes the entire bill (which is unlikely).

It's time for lobbying against draft registration -- and for organizing and resistance.

[Leaflet: What's happening and what can we do? (printable PDF (one sheet, two-sided); editable Open Office format)]

I presume, although I don't know for sure, that the text of the provision added to the Senate committee version of the bill is the same as that which was added to the House version. The Senate committee decision was made during a closed "markup" session, and I don't know if the record of how each committee member voted on this provision is or will be made public.

To understand what will happen next, you have to get down in the weeds of Congressional procedure, and understand the dynamic surrounding Congressional debate and voting on this question.

The Amazing Race 28, Episode 11


Bali (Indonesia) - Shenzhen (China) [Highrises under construction in 2005 along the north (Shenzhen) side of the channel separating the Hong Kong "Special Administrative Region" from the Shenzhen "Special Economic Zone". The area of the New Territories on the Hong Kong side of the channel (behind me) is open farmland, much of it rice paddies. The smog was even worse than it looks in this photo.] The instructions given to the teams at the start of this week's episode of The Amazing Race 28 were to, "fly to Shenzhen, the Silicon Valley of China". Shenzhen isn't Silicon Valley, though. There is still some manufacturing in Silicon Valley, mainly of military hardware that the Department of "Defense" requires to be made in the USA. But Silicon Valley today is more about software and the design of hardware that is made elsewhere, often in China. And when it comes to electronics, "made in China" most often means "made in Shenzhen" or the surrounding Pearl River Delta region. The iPhones and Macbooks designed in Sunnyvale are mostly assembled in Shenzhen. Why Shenzhen, and not someplace else in China or another poorer country with even cheaper labor? Shenzhen is one of the most expensive cities in China, along with Beijing and Shanghai. Things aren't made in Shenzhen if they could be built elsewhere. But Shenzhen has by far the world's largest concentration of manufacturers of electronic components and accessories, tools, equipment, facilities, suppliers of ancillary services, and workers with specialized skills. Do you need electrical connectors? Of course we have them in stock. We make them here. What size do you need? What type? How many thousands? Do you need custom circuit boards fabricated ASAP? No problem. Our manufacturing plant is just down the road. We specialize in rapid prototyping. Does your injection molding machine or CNC machine tool need repairs? In Shenzhen, the technician is likely to be dispatched from within a few miles, not from someplace hours away. And there is undoubtedly a stockpile of spare parts nearby as well. Shenzhen's factories and workers' dormitories are notoriously skittish about allowing in foreign visitors who might see signs or hear stories of sexual harassment, dangerous working conditions, and other forms of exploitation and abuse. But you can get a hint of what's being made in Shenzhen in the consumer electronics trade shows and electronic component bazaars, many of which are open to the public even if they only sell in wholesale quantities. Just remember that most of these aren't end products for sale, but inputs used in the making of other things.. Whatever your new idea in consumer electronics, the path of least resistance that gets your gadget to market fastest with the least seed money leads to Shenzhen. Shenzhen is to electronic hardware as Los Angeles -- with its set builders and warehouses of props and people who keep antique cars mainly to rent them out for use in period films -- is to the film and television industries, or Seattle and Wichita are to aircraft manufacturing, or Detroit used to be to automobiles. You could make these specialty products somewhere else, but you'd have to be much more self-reliant or take the time and invest the money to recreate an entire industrial infrastructure to do so. Cheap labor is what attracted foreigners to set up factories in Shenzhen, at first mainly under Hong Kong overseers, after China's central government designated the then-village of Shenzhen as the country's first "Special Economic Zone" for foreign investment and export-oriented manufacturing in 1980. Today, it's the self-reinforcing industrial ecosystem of electronics manufacturing that drives Shenzhen's continued dominance in spite of what is, by Chinese standards, the [...]

Can you opt out of having your home listed on TripAdvisor?


I heard from my brother that I was quoted on the front page of the Boston Globe earlier this week, in a story by Megan Woolhouse about a couple who run a restuarant in their home and are trying to get it removed fromt TripAdvisors's listings: "A five-star rating on TripAdvisor, but he wants out": Al Ballard and his wife, Linda, own a homespun restaurant in their sprawling Victorian in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains.... For more than a year, they have tried -- and failed -- to get their restaurant removed from TripAdvisor... The Colorado restaurant scores five stars on the site. But Ballard said he feels captive to the effort it takes to monitor his reputation on TripAdvisor. "We just don't want to be a part of it, but we can't get away from them," said Ballard, 70. "And the truth of the matter is no one can get away from them." TripAdvisor spokesman Kevin Carter said the company does not remove listings of any establishment open for businesses. No matter how disgruntled an owner may be over complaints about a rude staffer or tacky furnishings, it's typically there to stay. Carter defended the company's practices, saying TripAdvisor helps countless small businesses increase their visibility. But Edward Hasbrouck, a travel writer and industry consultant in San Francisco, said many businesses feel as if they've been forced to surrender control to such sites, which can call the shots. "TripAdvisor has enormous power and they can do whatever they want," Hasbrouck said. "They don't have to be democratic, and they don't have to be fair." There's more to the story, and the quote from me that made it into print was necessarily only a snippet from a long discussion I had with the Globe's reporter, Megan Woolhouse. Tripadvisor spokesperson Carter "defended the company's practices, saying TripAdvisor helps countless small businesses increase their visibility." But that's arrogant and patronizing. You don't "help" people by doing things to them that they don't want. There are services called "advertising agencies" that help promote restaurants and hotels. There are services called "travel writers" and "guidebook publishers" that help consumers choose hotels and restaurants. TripAdvisor is neither. Its fiduciary duty is to make money for its shareholders, not not to "help" either consumers or the businesses listed and reviewed on TripAdvisor's Web site. According to the Globe, TripAdvisor "said it does not comment on specific profiles of companies and users due to privacy concerns." But that's a perversion of the privacy meme (albeit one often invoked by government agencies). Presumably, (1) the Ballards contacted the Globe because they wanted to get publicity for their problem with TripAdvisor, (2) the Ballards would have been willing to sign a waiver of any right they had to object to TripAdvisor talking about their complaint, and (3) no such waiver would likely have been needed, because the U.S. has no privacy law that protects people like the Ballards against most collection, use, and disclosure of personal information by companies like TripAdvisor. That brings me to one of the things I said to Ms. Woolhouse that didn't make it into her story in the Globe: At least in this case of an in-home business where information about the business is per se personal information about the proprietors (who are also the sole staff of the "restaurant", Ms. Ballard as cook and Mr. Ballard as waiter), what TripAdvisor is doing probably wouldn't be legal in Canada or the European Union. In those countries, and many others, it would be a violation of fundamental and legally recognized privacy rights to display personal information about individuals on a public Web site without their opt-in consent. TripAdvis[...]

Young women organize against draft registration


Less than a week after the House Armed Service Committee voted to attach an amendment to a pending "must-pass" Defense Department funding bill that would authorize the President to extend draft registration to women, more than 12,000 people -- mostly women -- have signed a petition started by a draft-aged young woman in San Francisco to tell Congress, Don't Force Women to Register for the Draft, Dump the Draft Entirely. Sign the Petition: Tell Congress: "Don't Force Women to Register for the Draft, Dump the Draft Entirely" "Some believe forcing everyone to register for the draft will cause Americans to think twice about going to war," says the author of the petition, the activist and media professional Julie Mastrine. "But it's become very clear that Congress votes in the interest of defense contractors and other moneyed interests, not U.S. citizens, when making decisions to go to war. I can't imagine a more tragic loss of liberty than forcing a citizen, whether male or female, to fight in a war with which they may disagree. Equality is a moot point if personal choice and bodily autonomy must first be eliminated to achieve it." "Women should be allowed to serve in combat roles just as men are [but] it is immoral to force people to go to war, no matter their sex...While this amendment may make things equal, bodily autonomy should be taken into account and military service should be based on choice," the petition states. "Our bodies are not communal property, and we should NEVER be compelled to fight in a war we may disagree with." The petition quotes and takes its title from an article last week by the columnist and blogger Lucy Steigerwald, who pointed out that, "Anger over the draft helped to end the Vietnam war only AFTER 60,000 Americans and 2 million Vietnamese died. You don't stop the runaway truck of U.S. foreign policy by throwing a man in front of it, and you definitely don't stop it by throwing a man and a woman, just to make things equal." The petition calls on members of the House of Representatives "to vote NO on forcing women to register for the draft and to introduce legislation [such as the bill already introduced, H.R. 4523] ending the draft requirement for both sexes." If the Department of "Defense" [sic] authorization bill including the amendment on women and Selective Service becomes law in its current form, women ages 18 through 25 could be required to register. But the "petition" isn't limited to young people or to women, although most of the signers appear to be women. The petition is worded broadly enough to allow it to be signed by people with many different reasons for opposing registration and the draft. It's was started by a libertarian and is open to both secular and religious pacifists, but you don't have to be a libertarian, a pacifist, opposed to all wars, religious, anti-religious, young, or a woman to sign the petition -- anyone opposed to the draft and draft registration, for men or women, can sign.[...]

"Millions of Female Felons"? Government admits resistance made draft registration unenforceable


[Editorial cartoon by Mike Keefe, Denver Post, 1982] We won -- and now, thirty years later, the government has finally admitted it. It's not often that government officials admit to failure in the face of popular resistance. When they do, it's an occasion for celebration. Draft registration was reinstated in 1980, supposedly to prepare for possible deployment of US troops in Afghanistan on the side of the Islamic fundamentalist warlords and "mujahideen" who were then fighting against the USSR. The US government put me in prison for refusing to agree to fight on the side of the people who would later become the Taliban and Al Qaeda! It's no wonder that people of my generation, or later generations, have no faith in the ability of the US government to decide for us in which wars, or on which (if any) side, we should fight. Today in U.S. News & World Report, Steven Nelson has the most significant piece of reporting about draft registration and the Selective Service System in decades, asking questions that journalists, politicians, and the public should have been asking years ago. It's been obvious -- to anyone who wanted to look -- that resistance forced the government to abandon the attempt to enforce draft registration in failure in the 1980s, after show trials of a handful of the "most vocal" nonregistrants. But this is the first time that responsible Selective Service officials and former officials have confirmed this on the record. In 1984, the New York Times published a letter to the editor I wrote from the Federal Prison Camp in Lewisburg, PA, under the headline, On the Failures of Draft Registration: "The issue for Congress and the American people is the failure of draft registration: After almost four years of registration, a million of those eligible haven't registered," I wrote. "In such circumstances, it is absurd to think that reinstatement of the draft is a realistic possibility, and it is dangerously naïve to make foreign policy commitments that will require a draft." In response to my letter, Rep. Gerald Solomon (the author of the "Solomon Amendments" conditioning eligibility for Federal student loans and other programs on compliance with draft registration), denounced me and other draft resisters as "yuppies", while Selective Service System spokesperson Wil Ebel wrote to the Times that, "Edward Hasbrouck's letter assailing draft registration is woefully in error. Perhaps we should not expect an incarcerated individual to have accurate and up-to-date information, but your readers should not be deluded by Mr. Hasbrouck's misrepresentations. Draft registration is not a failure." It was clear, even without any official announcement from the government, that the Department of Justice gave up trying to enforce the draft registration requirement long ago. In today's story in U.S. News & World Report, Ebel "says he can't recall the precise discussions that led to abandonment of new cases" against nonregistrants." But the lack of prosecutions of any more nonregistrants since 1986, and the testimony in today's story by other current and former Selective Service officials, make clear that I was right, and Ebel was wrong, as long ago as 1984: Draft registration was and still is a failure for the government -- or a victory for the resistance, depending on which side you're on. (Former U.S. Marine platoon commander in Vietnam and later FBI Director Robert Mueller, who prosecuted me in Boston as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, "did not respond to requests for comment" from U.S. News & World Report. William Weld, who as U.S. Attorney and Mueller's boss was also involved in getting permission from Washington to have me indi[...]