Tuesday, December 12, 2017

CQ White Paper on ARRL Secrecy and Censure

The ARRL's recent actions regarding board elections, the code of conduct for board members and the public censure of a sitting director have prompted concern and editorial comment by CQ in the December 2017 and upcoming January 2018 issues. The following White Paper provides excerpts from both.


A CQ White Paper:
What is the ARRL So Afraid Of?
 

 A string of recent actions by the ARRL board of directors has aroused concern among many members, as well as others in the amateur radio community, about its apparent desire to implement top-down control from Newington, to keep its deliberations secret and to stifle dissent, even among board members. We share those concerns.

CQ has commented on this subject editorially in the past, and new actions have prompted us to comment again in both our December and January issues. While our December editorial is already online in our digital edition, the January editorial will not go online until January 1. Since the board's recent censure of one of its members for criticizing the board policy against criticizing its policies is currently being widely discussed in the amateur community, we felt that we needed to participate fully in that conversation now, not a month from now.

The following are excerpts from CQ's December 2017 and January 2018 "Zero Bias" editorials. The December issue closed prior to the board's censure action in mid-November. We begin with an excerpt from December's "Zero Bias":


ARRL: Circling the Wagons

Just what is the ARRL is afraid of? The League's top leadership appears to be continuing and expanding its efforts to centralize decision-making in Newington and to closely control the flow of information about the organization and its activities. In doing so, it is changing the nature of the organization and depriving members in certain divisions the opportunity to choose their representatives.

Historically, ARRL leadership volunteers around the country have been given a significant amount of autonomy in how they carry out their roles and in the relationships they build with local and regional leaders of served agencies. The staff in Newington served primarily as a resource, offering assistance as needed and guidance as requested. This made a lot of sense, as needs varied in different areas and a "one-size-fits-all" approach would not be effective.

Over the last year-and-half, though, that model of decentralized decision-making has been changing, as the League's new leadership has worked consistently to consolidate power and stifle dissent ... (Last year,) the League board's Elections and Ethics Committee disqualified a sitting director from seeking re-election, apparently based on actions taken after the ballots were already in the mail. Rather than cancelling the election and putting out a new call for nominations, however, the League simply declared that the director's opponent – a former director who had been defeated two years earlier for re-election – had been elected, although it was never clear just who elected him. Members in that division were never informed that their incumbent director had been disqualified, or why. It is noteworthy that this director was a strong proponent of greater openness in League decision-making; and the actions taken to keep him from seeking re-election were taken in secret.

This past January, the ARRL board codified that secrecy when it adopted a new "Policy on Board Governance and Conduct of Members…" This new policy required that directors and vice directors publicly support all actions taken by the board – even if they opposed those actions prior to their adoption – and prohibited them from disclosing any individual director's vote on a matter – even their own vote – without express board permission.

Next, this summer, the Elections and Ethics Committee was at it again, this time disqualifying a sitting vice director from running for director and again not telling the division's membership. Rather, there was only a cryptic statement in a news release that the incumbent director had "qualified for re-election." We have learned that the vice director was disqualified for allegedly failing to disclose a conflict of interest, but that when he asked for specifics about that supposed conflict, his requests were ignored. In addition, he requested a hearing by the full board on the disqualification – as he is allowed to do under the ARRL by-laws – but his request was denied. To the best of our knowledge, he has not yet been told what the alleged conflict was that prompted his disqualification.

Finally, as Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria ravaged various parts of the Caribbean and US coasts, local ARRL Public Information Officers were essentially told not to talk with the media about ham radio activities but rather to direct all media inquiries to ARRL Headquarters (which, at the time, was without a media relations manager). In addition, headquarters shut down the League's public relations reflector, which had been a very useful tool for PIOs to compare notes and for Newington to provide guidance in their dealings with the media.

The impression one gets here is of an organization that perceives itself to be under siege and is circling the wagons to more effectively defend itself. But from whom? Who is the enemy? Its members? Its leadership volunteers who have devoted thousands of hours of personal time and more to carrying out their assigned roles? Its own elected officials who might not agree with actions taken by the majority of their colleagues? People seeking elected office who might disagree with the top leaders?

Just who is the enemy and what are the folks in Newington and on the board's executive committee so afraid of? And why all the secrecy? These are questions that League members need to ask themselves and their elected representatives; and they need to make sure they are not denied the right to vote for who those elected representatives will be. It's happened twice in the past year and a half; it's likely to happen again. How long will the members allow it to continue?

On November 14, the ARRL board voted, in a special meeting by teleconference, to censure Southwestern Division Director Dick Norton, N6AA, for allegedly publicly criticizing the board's policy that prohibits directors from criticizing board policy. The following is an excerpt from CQ's January "Zero Bias" editorial, addressing that decision and its impact.

Criticized for (Allegedly) Criticizing a Ban on Criticizing…

It's beginning to look like we're living in a ham radio version of a third-world dictatorship, at least as far as our national association is concerned. Last March, we took the ARRL to task for adopting a new code of conduct for board members. Among other things, it prohibited directors and vice-directors from publicly criticizing board actions and/or from disclosing individual votes on specific matters - even their own votes! - unless the board has specifically voted to make the votes public (got that?). At that time, we criticized this move toward institutionalized secrecy, noting that secrecy breeds suspicion and that, in a membership organization, the dues-paying members have a right to know what their elected representatives are doing on their behalf and with their money.

We later got an editorial "slap on the wrist" in QST for wondering just what goes on in League board meetings that requires such secrecy, noting that the ARRL is essentially a big ham radio club, not the National Security Council.

Now, it seems that longtime Southwestern Division Director Dick Norton, N6AA - who voted against the adoption of this code of conduct last January - has been formally censured by the League board for allegedly criticizing the code and its mandate of secrecy "at a public Amateur Radio gathering," an action reportedly taken in response to a complaint by an unidentified League member. (Other members attending the same public gathering reported that this never happened and that, in fact, Norton said he supported the League's policy.) The vote, taken in a special telephone session on November 14, was 11-to-3, with one abstention. (The full report of the meeting, including individual votes, is at <http://bit.ly/2jOJ3Zu>.)

The board said that Norton, by allegedly stating his opposition to the new policy, was "criticizing publicly the collective action of the Board of Directors adopting said Code of Conduct and drawing the Board's collective decision making into disrepute." The board resolution continued to say that Norton's criticism of this policy had "caused harm to the League" and constituted "unacceptable behavior as an ARRL Board member."

Bull.

This action by the League board - not any statements by an individual member - is what is causing "harm to the League" and "drawing the Board's collective decision making into disrepute." This is America, folks. Our nation is built on traditions of free speech and the freedom to dissent, to publicly criticize the government and to speak truth to power.

Imagine if votes in Congress were secret and members could be censured for speaking out in opposition to a bill once it had been passed and signed into law. This is the equivalent on a smaller scale.

No, the ARRL is not a government body, so the free speech and dissent protections of the Bill of Rights do not strictly apply. But it is, in theory at least, a democratic organization governed by the members' elected representatives. The members have an absolute right to know how their representatives are voting on matters that come before them. How else would you know whether your representative is voting in your best interest and whether you should vote to re-elect that person when his/her term is up?

(Interestingly, it has been pointed out to us that a majority of the current League board members have not actually been elected, but rather have been either appointed to fill a vacancy or put into/kept in office by virtue of potential opponents being disqualified from running, sometimes on very questionable grounds and, again, shrouded in secrecy.)

We will say this again, at risk of being censured ourselves: The ARRL is not the National Security Council. None of the matters that come before the League board are so sensitive that they require absolute secrecy. Prohibiting dissent, and prohibiting elected representatives from discussing their views and their votes with their constituents is un-American. Elected representatives should, in nearly all cases, be elected rather than appointed ... Excessive secrecy and punishment for dissent are undemocratic and un-American; they should not be tolerated by the members of an organization that operates in that manner.

Click here to view the complete text of our December editorial which is also, of course, in the December issue of CQ. The full text of the January editorial will be posted at the beginning of January and published in the January issue of CQ.

CQ Amateur Radio, 17 West John Street, Hicksville, NY 11801
www.cq-amateur-radio.com



Monday, November 27, 2017

ARRL Board Censures Director


Longtime ARRL Southwestern Division Director Dick Norton, N6AA, has been publicly censured by the League's board of directors for allegedly telling members that he opposes a board policy that prohibits directors from criticizing board policies. Last January, the board adopted a code of conduct for its members that included a prohibition on speaking publicly about votes on issues before the board and on criticizing board actions. 

According to the ARRL, Norton repeatedly violated this and other provisions of the code, even after being warned to stop. His actions, the board ruled, drew "the Board's collective decision making into disrepute" and "caused harm to the League." The resolution stated that "Mr. Norton is admonished by the Board that no further, similar behavior will be tolerated." Several amateurs who attended the meeting at which this criticism supposedly occurred have denied that it ever happened, and said that Norton presented the policy in neutral terms and said that he supported it.

Federal Appeals Court Affirms Dismissal of W3JY's Suit Against ARRL


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has upheld a District Court ruling that threw out a
The Third Circuit US Court of Appeals courtroom in
Philadelphia (US Courts photo)
lawsuit against the ARRL by Joe Ames, W3JY, the former Eastern Area Manager for the National Traffic System and former Eastern Pennsylvania Section Manager. Ames had sued the League for defamation after it removed him from his NTS post for allegedly making commitments on behalf of the ARRL's message-handling system to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) without authorization, and posted an article explaining the action on its website. 

 
According to "Law360," a federal judge dismissed Ames's suit last summer on the basis that the statements in the article were "true on their face." Ames appealed and the third circuit agreed with the district court judge in November, noting that "(t)ruth is an affirmative defense to a defamation claim under Pennsylvania law."

FCC Chairman Thanks Hams for Relief Work in Puerto Rico


FCC Chairman Ajit Pai (FCC photo)
Amateur radio operators were among the many people and groups praised and thanked for their help by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai during a two-day visit to Puerto Rico last fall. According to RadioWorld, Pai came to the U.S. territory for a first-hand look at recovery efforts still under way more than a month after the island was ravaged by Hurricane Maria. 

According to the report, "Pai praised the efforts of the individuals and companies that have been a part of the recovery effort, including amateur radio operators, broadcasters, cable operators, fixed wireless companies, wireline carriers and mobile providers." The hurricane wiped out virtually all of Puerto Rico's electrical and telecommunications infrastructure.

FCC Denies Reconsideration of Petition for Greater Advanced Class Privileges


The FCC has turned down a petition for reconsideration filed by Jeffrey Siegell, WB2YRL, after it denied his original petition to grant Extra Class CW privileges to Advanced Class license holders. The Virginia amateur's logic behind the request was that all holders of Advanced Class licenses (which have not been issued since 1999 but may be renewed) have passed Morse code exams, while Extra Class licensees no longer need to prove code proficiency in order to earn all amateur operating privileges.

The Commission said in its initial denial, and reiterated in its November decision not to consider the petition for reconsideration, that back in 1999, it specifically rejected suggestions to automatically upgrade Advanced Class licenses to Extra Class, "concluding that it would be inappropriate for these licensees to 'receive additional privileges without passing the required examination elements.' " 

The current decision said the question had been revisited in 2005 and that the basic reasoning behind it had not changed then and has not changed now. "Consequently," the decision continued, "we conclude that the (Mobility) Division correctly dismissed your petition for rulemaking, and we deny your petition for reconsideration." The Mobility Division of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau has responsibility for amateur service rules under the current FCC organizational structure.

ARRL to Seek Expanded HF Privileges for Technicians


Even though the FCC has refused to consider giving more operating privileges to Advanced Class hams, the ARRL is hoping it will agree to consider expanding the HF privileges currently available to Technicians. 

According to the ARRL Letter, League officials will be working on specific proposals for additional HF phone and digital privileges for Technicians, to be presented to the board of directors for consideration at its January meeting. The League's Entry Level Licensing Committee has been looking at ways to further increase the appeal of amateur radio.

Fox-1B Satellite Launched, Now AO-91


AMSAT's newest amateur satellite - Fox-1B (also known as RadFxSat) - was launched on November 18 from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and successfully entered orbit and started transmitting. It has been designated as AMSAT-OSCAR 91.
 
According to the AMSAT News Service, the cubesat carries a scientific package - developed by Vanderbilt University - designed to measure the effects of space radiation on electronic components. It also includes an amateur FM transponder with an uplink on 70 centimeters and a downlink on 2 meters.

K6WAO Elected AMSAT-NA President, Announces New Satellite Program


The board of directors of AMSAT-NA has elected Joe Spier, K6WAO, of Reno, Nevada, as the amateur satellite organization's new president. He succeeds Barry Baines, WD4ASW, who stepped down after nine years at the helm. The AMSAT News Service says Spier has previously served as the group's executive vice president and VP for educational relations.
 
Immediately after assuming office, Spier announced the next phase of AMSAT's cubesat program, abbreviated GOLF for "Greater Orbit, Larger Footprint." Tiny cubesats typically are launched into low Earth orbit and have limited coverage areas. The goal of the GOLF program, according to ANS, is to use and build on proven cubesat technology for satellites to be launched "to a wide variety of orbits, including LEO, Medium Earth Orbit (MEO), Geosynchronous Orbit (GEO), Highly Elliptical Orbit (HEO), or beyond."

ARRL Launches International Grid Chase


Building on the success of its 2016 National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) program, the ARRL has launched a year-long grid square competition. The goal will be to make contacts during the course of 2018 with stations in as many Maidenhead grid squares as possible, using all amateur bands except 60 meters. 

The program requires the use of the League's Logbook of the World (LoTW) online contact confirmation system. Grid squares will not need to be exchanged on the air, since each station participating in LoTW enters its grid locator into the system upon registration. Full details are in the December 2017 issue of QST.

Hams on TV (Good and Bad)…


(From CBS.com)
Ham radio continued to pop up on TV dramas in November, but was not always shown in a good light. An episode of NCIS used ham radio as a key plot element, but unfortunately portrayed amateurs as societal misfits. 
 
On a more positive note, one of the major characters on MacGyver revealed that his long-deceased father had been an amateur, telling MacGyver that "my dad would have liked you … as long as you didn't take apart his ham radios." MacGyver responded, "You know how much I love taking apart ham radios!" Perhaps we'll get to see him do that on a future episode!

YASME Foundation Announces 2017 Awards


The YASME Foundation in November announced the presentation of five Excellence Awards and one supporting grant for 2017. The awards recognize significant contributions to amateur radio.

According to the ARRL Letter, the five Excellence Awards go to:

   - the Dayton Amateur Radio Association for its smooth transition of the Hamvention® to a newhome on short notice;
   - Paul Verhage, KD4STH, and Bill Brown, WB8ELK, for their ongoing leadership of amateur radio high-altitude ballooning programs, and through them, introducing hundreds of students to amateur radio;  
- Nathaniel Frissell, W2NAF, and Magda Moses, KM4EGE, for establishing the Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation (HamSCI) program and sponsoring the Solar Eclipse QSO Party, which YASME says was the largest amateur radio experiment ever conducted;
  - the WSJT Development Team, led by Joe Taylor, K1JT, for their ongoing advancements in digital communications; and
  - Dale Hughes, VK1DSH, for his work representing the interests of amateur radio at the 2015 World Radiocommunication Conference, where 60 meters was designated as an amateur radio band worldwide.
  
 - In addition, Gary Pearce, KN4AQ, received a supporting grant to help cover his expenses in producing and distributing videos through his Ham Radio Now podcast.

Milestones: CQ Hall of Famer Mario Ambrosi, I2MQP, SK




Mario Ambosi, I2MQP, president of Italy's national amateur radio association (ARI) and a 2005 inductee into the CQ Amateur Radio Hall of Fame, became a Silent Key in November. Ambrosi was an active contester and DXer as well as being a prolific author and Editor of ARI's magazine, Radiorivista.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

CQWW DX Contest Propagation Update – Focus on the Low Bands



CQ Propagation Editor Tomas Hood, NW7US, updates us on expected propagation conditions during both the SSB and CW weekends of the 2017 CQ World Wide DX Contest…

CQ WW DX SSB Contest conditions look poor to fair, and somewhat unstable

Poor to Fair Conditions Expected

Here is an updated forecast made a week in advance for the general propagation conditions expected during the 2017 CQ World Wide DX SSB Contest weekend of October 28-29.  Based on the 27-day recurrence tendencies of solar and geomagnetic conditions, we predict poor to fair conditions on both days. Expect the contest to start weak, but to improve slightly as Sunday dawns.

Daily 10.7cm solar flux levels are expected to be around 85 during the contest weekend, so the higher HF bands will be barely productive, with our workhorse remaining 20 meters.  The geomagnetic Planetary A-index is expected to be variable between 10 and 15. The lower frequencies will be more productive, and will allow for weak signals to be heard on higher frequencies when an opening exists on some given path.

Remember that at any time during the contest, if there are sunspots present, a flare may occur.  When flares erupt, it could cause a radio blackout on the Sun-facing side of the Earth.  These last between ten to sixty minutes, depending on the strength and location of the flare.  We don’t expect much solar flare activity. However, as we witnessed recently, a sunspot region may still suddenly develop, and unleash a flare or two (or more).


We're still a month-plus away from the CQWW CW Weekend, but here's how things are looking as of now…

CQ WW DX CW Contest conditions look fair, and stable

Fair Conditions Expected

Here is an updated forecast in late October for the general propagation conditions expected during the 2017 CQ World Wide DX CW Contest weekend of November 25-26.  Based on the 27-day recurrence tendencies of solar and geomagnetic conditions, we predict fair conditions on both days. Expect the contest to start fair, but to improve slightly on Sunday.

As with the SSB weekend, daily 10.7cm solar flux levels are expected to be around 85 during the contest weekend, so the higher HF bands will be barely productive, with our workhorse remaining 20 and 40 meters.  The geomagnetic Planetary A-index is expected to be between 5 and 8; stable. The lower frequencies will be more productive, and will allow for weak signals to be heard on higher frequencies when an opening exists on some given path.

Remember that at any time during the contest, if there are sunspots present, a flare may occur.  When flares erupt, it could cause a radio blackout on the Sun-facing side of the Earth.  These last between ten to sixty minutes, depending on the strength and location of the flare.

For very last-minute updates, visit NW7US's Facebook page at:

New Ham Bands Occupied and Busy


The two newest ham radio bands – 2200 and 630 meters – are open for general amateur use and are
already being well-used. It appears that the first approval letters from the Utilities Technology Council (UTC) – which must sign off on notices that individual hams intend to use the bands – arrived on October 13, and some stations immediately got on the air. Amateurs wishing to use these bands must notify UTC and wait until an approval letter is received or until 30 days go by with no response before getting on the air.

Location of the 630 & 2200-meter bands/
in relation to surrounding spectrum.
CQ MF/LF Editor John Langridge, KB5NJD, reports that a record-setting 630-meter QSO of just over 7457 miles (12,002 kilometers) was completed on October 17 between Larry Molitor, W7IUV, in Quincy, Washington, and Roger Crofts, VK4YB, of Queensland, Australia using the JT9 digital mode. John says the previous record was 7333 miles (11,802 kilometers), set in 2016 between VK4YB and Steve McDonald, VE7SL, in Mayne, British Columbia (630 meters has been authorized in Canada for several years).

Meanwhile, the ARRL Letter reports that some denial letters have been received as well, including at least two amateurs who had been operating on the new bands under experimental licenses without reports of interference to power line carrier (PLC) systems, which share these frequencies in some locations. The FCC rule granting US amateurs access to these bands prohibits operation within 1 kilometer of power transmission lines on which PLC is in use.

On a related note, the ARRL says updated amateur frequency charts showing the new bands are now available for download, in several formats, from <http://bit.ly/2xhkUjF>.