Friday, June 29, 2012

Hollywood Threatens Internet Freedom


Today's the big hearing. We told you that we're beating back Hollywood's attempts to take over the Internet again.

Today's court hearing on the MegaUpload case will decide if Hollywood will be able to use the courts to undermine Cloud storage and social media platforms. Will you help us fight back (again)?

If you haven't yet, please click here to sign on to our legal brief, and make sure the court understands that millions of Internet users will be impacted by the judge's decision.

Whether you've signed or not, please use these links or forward the email below to urge your friends to get involved right away. If you're on Reddit, please post a link to, or vote up any such links that have already been posted. We need as many people as possible to sign on to the brief so that the judge understands the broad impacts of his decision.

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For more background, or to forward to your friends, here's the email we sent yesterday:


It's us versus THEM again.

Hollywood attorneys are trying to use the courts to circumvent Congress and implement a backdoor SOPA/PIPA scheme.

Fight Back: YOUR FILES ON Google, Dropbox, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, YouTube, Flickr, etc. and even your emails are in jeopardy.

We need to make sure the judge understands that his decision will affect millions of people.

Demand Progress is fighting back in the courts and standing up for Internet users. We are taking on the United States and the MPAA. Please click here to support our legal brief -- the court will be hearing the case THIS WEEK.

BACKGROUND: One day after the Internet staged a massive blackout to protest Congress's Internet censorship legislation (SOPA/PIPA), the United States responded by seizing millions of ordinary user files hosted on the popular website

With an aim of shutting down Megaupload and other Cloud-based hosting services (like Dropbox, YouTube or even your email provider), the government is trying to claim website operators should face decades in prison for the misdeeds of some of their users.

But while they pursue trumped up criminal charges against the companies' founders, they are shutting down dozens of websites, and leaving ordinary Internet users without any way of retrieving their files.

Please click here to sign on as a supporter of our legal brief: The judge will be hearing the case THIS WEEK, and we need to make sure he understands that his ruling affects millions of us.

Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak called the case against Megaupload a "threat to innovation". Wozniak likened the Megaupload site to a highway and those who shared pirated movies and songs to speeding motorists.

"You don't just shut down the whole street because somebody is speeding," he said.

Numerous laws on the books already give copyright holders plenty of avenues to stop actual infringement, but that's not enough to satisfy Hollywood's lawyers and lobbyists.

And get this: The prosecutor in the case, Neil MacBride, previously served as the Anti-Piracy Vice President of the Business Software Alliance, where he represented the intellectual property interests of countless multinational corporations.

Now Hollywood's lobbyists, represented by the Motion Picture Association of America, want him to make it nearly impossible for ordinary Internet users to get their property back.

Please click here to sign on to our legal brief, and make sure the courts understand that millions of Internet users will be impacted by the judge's decision.

And please use these links or forward this email to urge your friends to get involved right away -- we need as many people as possible to sign on to the brief so that the judge understands the broad impacts of his decision.

If you're already on Facebook, click here to share with your friends.

If you're already on Twitter, click here to tweet about the campaign: Tweet

One last thing -- Demand Progress's small, dedicated, under-paid staff relies on the generosity of members like you to support our work. Will you click here to chip in $5 or $10? Or you can become a Demand Progress monthly sustainer by clicking here. Thank you!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

California Police Are Electronically Tracking All License Plates

Los Angeles County police depts. -- and most likely cops across America -- are electronically monitoring wherever you drive, using a computer network that tracks license plates on streets and highways.

So says Jon Campbell, who reports in the L.A. Weekly (June 21, 2012):

Using a vast and automatic electronic tracking system that is all but unknown to the California public, on the day of Robles' murder, police in Los Angeles County cities had made a detailed record of the alleged getaway vehicle's movements.

The information came complete with GPS coordinates — even photographs.

In a situation evoking the hit movie Minority Report, the suspects were being watched even before they were considered suspects.

L.A. Weekly has learned that more than two dozen law enforcement agencies in Los Angeles County are using hundreds of these "automatic license plate recognition" devices (LPRs) — units about the size of a paperback book, usually mounted atop police cruisers — to devour data on every car that catches their electronic eye.

The L.A. County Sheriff's Department and the Los Angeles Police Department are two of the biggest gatherers of automatic license plate recognition information. Local police agencies have logged more than 160 million data points — a massive database of the movements of millions of drivers in Southern California.

Each data point represents a car and its exact whereabouts at a given time. Police have already conducted, on average, some 22 scans for every one of the 7,014,131 vehicles registered in L.A. County. Because it's random, some cars are scanned numerous times, others never.

Read the rest of Campbell's report.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dirty Tricks at the 2012 Libertarian Party National Convention

Dirty tricks are the usual fare at Libertarian Party conventions -- state and national. They've included false rumors against Mary Ruwart during the 2008 national convention, disruptions and dirty tricks during the 2010 California LP convention and again in 2011, attempts to price out povertarians from the 2006 CLP cruise convention, and other instances too numerous to list.

Kudos to Massachusetts LP activist George Phillies (right) for exposing some of the sleazy tricks at the 2012 national LP convention. In his Liberty for America newsletter (May/June 2012), pages 8-9, Phillies reports the following:

"I have been attending National Conventions since 1998. More often than not the party establishment has worked very hard in more or less subtle ways to optimize the likelihood that their friends would win elections. However, in all that time the superficial process was usually mostly honest. The 2012 Convention stands out as an exception to that generality. Unprecedented steps were taken to maximize the likelihood that the governing clique would retain control of the party.

"The most dramatic abuse of power was, of course, barring the delegation appointed by our Oregon affiliate from the convention floor. One of their would-be delegates was Wes Wagner, who was a National Chair candidate. Readers may look for a comparison with 2000 and the Arizona state party, but in 2000 there had actually been an LNC vote not appealed to the Judicial Committee determining who our Arizona affiliate was. The recognized affiliate was seated. The recognition decision made no sense, but it had been made. In 2012, the recognized affiliate was not seated.

"Floor fees were another substantial mechanic for tilting the convention in favor of the Gang of Ten. Various Californians have been well known for their snide comments about party radicals as 'povertarians'. What better way to discourage libertarians of limited means from voting than charging them for the privilege?

"The convention site, an expensive hotel on the outskirts of Las Vegas, did nothing to incent attendance by the same povertarians. After the convention I took my tax accountant, who had just saved me a considerable sum of money, to a restaurant near the Vegas Strip for dinner. Cab fare each way was $60; a first rate dinner for two was $80. That was still cheaper than a dinner for two in one of the hotel’s quality restaurants.

"Readers who have never attended an LP National convention will not have seen the massive leafletting, in which various candidates and positions try to sell their views to the delegates by distributing fliers, trifolds, and on at least one occasion CD disks. Those leaflets are how you reach voters.

"Friday evening, in an unprecedented attack on our voter outreach, the Convention Committee had the tables stripped bare of fliers. I had soon before put out my Treasurer literature. Chuck Moulton had his literature on voting patterns. The Wagner campaign had put out its literature. Wes Wagner’s five fliers were there. All gone!

"All that literature vanished. Post facto, the Convention committee generously gave people a chance to sort the literature out of the trash. Of course, there had been cups of coffee, etc., dumped on some of it.

"Come Saturday morning, the folks advocating for the election of Rutherford, Redpath, Mattson, Gary Johnson, Brett Pojunis, Jillian Mack, etc., showed up with their very impressive, very glossy flier. Somehow, the unprecedented great literature purge had happened before they distributed.

"We now reach the LNC elections. On the third ballot, Mark Rutherford visibly lost to NOTA. Rather than eliminating Rutherford, acting convention chair Bill Redpath claimed that the candidate eliminated was the one write-in vote. The effect of this absurd decision, contrary to all precedent, was a vain attempt to save Mark Rutherford from defeat.

"Now knedlerization enters the English language. After ballots two and three had found Rutherford losing to NOTA, Ohio State Chair Kevin Knedler started screaming, claiming that there was extensive vote fraud, and demanding that the Secretary poll individually the members of several delegations. His performance, analyzed as a theatric display, was spectacular. In my state delegation, there was feeling that he had just eliminated his chances for re-election to the LNC, and had likely taken down everyone associated with him.

"Polling individually is a very slow process; the delegates had to line up in alphabetical order so that the Secretary could ask each of them how they voted. It was apparent to some respected people within the California delegation that during the poll the people voting were not the same as the people who had actually voted earlier, and we were seeing a re-vote rather than a re-count. There was a poll of California, the largest delegation on the floor, after the second ballot. Further calls were ruled out of order as dilatory.

"However, polling had its effect. It postponed most officer elections until Sunday, when it might have been hoped by the Gang of Ten that the povertarians would have left early. They didn't.

"In officer elections, candidates and their nominators have always spoken from the podium, so that everyone could see who was speaking and who was supporting them. Not this year. This year, candidates spoke from the floor, so that voices boomed out across the room, and no one could tell who was speaking. Except, in a futile act of favoritism (she lost) Alicia Mattson was allowed to speak from the podium in support of her candidacy, while every other candidate had had to speak from the floor.

"You are seeing here massive corruption to rig the convention, and it was our good fortune that massive corruption was defeated.

The May/June 2012 issue of Liberty for America is filled with other great news reports. I don't know that the issue is available on any website, but you can download a PDF copy here.

Phillies will also send you a free pdf subscription of his Liberty for America, filled with libertarian news. To subscribe, go to Liberty for America and click the Subscribe button.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Internet Defense League Fights Threats to Free Speech

Some libertarians believe that censorship can only be practiced by a State.

That may (or may not) be the correct definition of "censorship," but as a practical matter, large corporations (indeed, all huge concentrations of power) do pose serious threats to free speech.

When a few huge corporations own and control a major share of the world media, and increasingly, of the internet, then freedom is imperiled.

Some libertarians claim that the State causes all media monopolies; that monopolies can never occur in a "true free market." I'm not convinced about that.

Either way, I think libertarians should beware of both State and Corporate (whether free market based or not) threats to internet free speech. I thus direct you to Josh King's article on ("How to Protect Free Speech, June 16, 2012):

The Stop Online Piracy Act may have been shut down at the eleventh hour, but free speech on the Internet continues to come under attack. In addition to "son-of-SOPA" (which we will surely see in the coming year, under a different name), the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and a host of proposed regulations at the state level have taken aim at the open Internet.

In response to these threats, the Internet Defense League is launching in the coming weeks. Building on the efforts that brought SOPA to a screeching halt, the league aims to fight against bad laws and restrictions on online expression, wherever they may arise.

As general counsel for Avvo, a social media startup that offers an expert-only Q&A forum and profiles and ratings of lawyers, doctors and dentists in the U.S., I've seen firsthand how those with the means to do so will exploit any opening possible to try to silence speech they do not like. I've responded to hundreds of lawsuit threats and lawsuits against Avvo on grounds ranging from privacy to commercial misappropriation to unfair competition to copyright or trademark infringement — all for activity that is soundly protected by the First Amendment.

The takeaway is simple: any attempt to regulate speech online — whether in service of "stopping piracy" or "defending against cyberattack" — must be ruthlessly interrogated for how it will be abused. Because it will be abused. Those with censorious impulses will push the four corners of the law as far as possible to silence speech they don't like.

It is depressingly common to see the mere threat of a lawsuit cause a withering of speech online. It's vitally important that we recognize and call out the certainty that even well-intentioned laws that impact expression will be used as a bludgeon against the open expression of information and ideas online. In addition to opposing SOPA and its ilk, here are three areas where companies can take a stand to protect free speech on the Internet.

Read the rest of King's important article:

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Stewart Flood Exposes LNC Control Freaks

Libertarian Party watchers have long suspected that a group of pro-war/Republican Lite control freaks (sometimes dubbed The Starr Chamber after former LNC treasurer Aaron Starr) have conspired to dominate or manipulate the LP.

Their goal was to advance their petty power and pro-war/ Reform faction policies.

Their methods included purges (e.g., Angela Keaton, Lee Wrights, Rachel Hawkridge), takeovers of state LPs (e.g., Nevada, Oregon), and slick gamesmanship in misusing Robert's Rules of Order.

Now, the May/June 2012 issue of George Phillies's Liberty for America has published Stewart Flood's following exposé:

Former LNC Member Stewart Flood writes on Independent Political Report the comments currently numbered 525, 532-535 [Ed: here are only short bits from much longer posts. Emphasis added here.]

"Now that I [Ed: Stewart Flood] am not on the LNC, I believe it is time to set some of the record straight, and blow the lid off several of the greatest conspiracies the Libertarian Party has seen...

"The Starr Chamber is not gone. They have quite a few members on the LNC and they will do their best to follow the marching orders they have been given. Yes, they actually hold secret meetings...

"I am no longer on the LNC, so I have no reason to not admit that there are secret meetings where a majority of the LNC decide in advance how to vote and where motions are written and given to members on cue cards. Mr. Starr was usually the chair of the meetings that I attended. He continued to do this (over my objection) after he was defeated in his re-election bid for office...

"Remember, I know the real plan. A few other people have figured it out on their own without being told. It is really quite clever, but this convention was a major setback for them. I have never supported or agreed with what they want to do to the party...

"The major hooded key holders of the inner circle are gone, leaving only five or six of their pawns on the LNC.

Flood does not state this group's goal. But from my own observations, these people are mostly Party Cultists, supporters of Wayne Allyn Root, and generally pro-war.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Ron Paul Gets 10.2% in California GOP Primary

In California's 2012 Republican presidential primary, Ron Paul pulled 147,893 votes -- 10.2% of the total -- and placed second in a field of six candidates.

The final tally as reported by the Secretary of State are:

Mitt Romney .... 1,151,197 -- 79.6%

Ron Paul ..... 147,893 -- 10.2%

Rick Santorum ..... 75,802 -- 5.2%

Newt Gingrich ..... 54,944 -- 3.8%

Charles E. "Buddy" Roemer, III ..... 9,714 -- 0.7%

Fred Karger ..... 6,482 -- 0.4%

In the November 2008 general election, in which any registered voter could vote, Paul pulled 17,006 write-in votes, despite his desire that people not vote for him. Last night, in a race wherein only registered Republicans could participate, and in which Paul was on the ballot, he got 147,893 votes.

Make of that what you will.

The Libertarian Party's primary election results were as follows:

Gary Johnson ..... 5,244 -- 49.4%

Barbara Joy Waymire ..... 1,669 -- 15.7%

Scott Keller ..... 949 -- 8.9%

Bill Still ..... 538 -- 5.1%

R. J. Harris ..... 523 -- 4.9%

Roger Gary ..... 456 -- 4.3%

James Ogle ..... 443 -- 4.2%

Carl Person ..... 414 -- 3.9%

Lee Wrights ..... 379 -- 3.6%

Joy Waymire is a nice lady, but I assume she only did as well as she did (placing second) because hers was the only female name on the ballot.

It happened before, in California's 2008 Libertarian presidential primary, to Christine Smith. Smith won that primary, only to be trounced at the 2008 LP national convention, culminating in her infamous meltdown.

Facing a slate of mostly unknown candidates, registered Libertarians (who are less informed than are LP convention-goers or pledge-signers) will often vote for the coolest name (by whatever standards they have). Top LPC vote-getter, Gail Lightfoot, has theorized that her female, Native American-sounding name, has helped in her runs for office.

I assume that Lee Wrights would have done better had this primary been held before the LP national convention. Wrights lost then and threw his support behind Johnson. Wrights likely polled last in this primary because his supporters heeded Wrights's call to support Johnson.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Libertarian Party's 2012 Antiwar Ad

Former Libertarian Party presidential candidate, and current LP Vice Chair, L. Lee Wrights has long tried to rebrand the LP as the antiwar party. Toward that end, he has donated this antiwar ad to the LP.

According to Thomas Hill:

The national LP has accepted our video as a gift from the Wrights 2012 staff. A blog post with more information will be posted at later today.

The main goal of the Wrights campaign was to make sure that the LP presidential nominee would have a strong anti-war message.

Both the Johnson campaign and the national LP appear to be committed to the message of peace.

I believe Lee Wrights has had some influence on both.

Hill's above comment (#1) can be found at Independent Political Report.

Friday, June 01, 2012

Gary Johnson on Afghanistan, Libya and Non-Intervention

Gary Johnson's foreign policy is a confused and confusing mixed bag. Some of his proposals are specific and positive, others vague and troubling.

He's clear about wanting to end some current wars and decrease the Pentagon's budget, yet he also leaves the door open for future interventions and foreign aid.

In a Huffington Post article (May 25, 2012), Johnson says:

We should bring our young men and women home -- and vow to never again fight an 11-year war when our mission was complete in six months.... It took [Obama] three years to bring our troops home from Iraq. And Afghanistan? We're still there, ten years, too many lives and hundreds of billions of dollars longer than necessary.

Johnson advocates an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. He thinks we should have left earlier. But as he later makes clear, he still supports the initial invasion.

[W]e spent hundreds of millions launching missiles into Libya to topple the leader of a sovereign nation. Gaddafi was not a guy I would want running my country, but we took him out with no clear understanding of what -- or who -- might follow.

Johnson sounds ambivalent about the Libya intervention (as were many conservatives). He implies that he's uncomfortable with Obama's Libya war, but that he might have supported it if the outcome were assuredly beneficial, but that we had "no clear understanding" of the possible outcome at that time.

Americans are looking for a non-intervention choice [in the 2012 election], and there is one. I opposed the Iraq war from the beginning.

That's good, but it doesn't make Johnson a purely non-interventionist choice. Rather, it means he was non-interventionist on this war.

Every politician is non-interventionist regarding at least some conflicts. A Libertarian candidate should clearly and specifically go beyond that.

There was no threat that required an invasion [of Iraq], and there are a host of unintended consequences -- from an empowered Iran to a loss of standing with long-time allies.

Not specifically bad, but vague and troubling between the lines.

Johnson worries about "an empowered Iran." Does this mean he thinks a war against Iran is likely more justifiable in the future?

Also, what does he mean by "a loss of standing with long-time allies"? Does he mean that some of our "allies" are displeased with the U.S.'s invasion of Iraq? Perhaps, but which nations does he mean?

The Israeli government (if not all Israelis) lobbied for a U.S. invasion of Iraq. Britain and the Anglo nations (Canada, Australia, New Zealand) were enthusiastic allies of America's invasion.

The "Arab street" likely opposed America's war, but Arab states were at least nominally backing the U.S.

While the U.S. suffered a "loss of standing" in the eyes of many people across the globe, I truly don't know which nations Johnson means by "long-standing allies"?

I supported going in to Afghanistan to uproot al Qaeda. We did that, quite successfully, in a matter of months. The Taliban was humbled and al Qaeda scattered to the winds -- all within a year.... A President Gary Johnson would have declared mission achieved in 2002 and brought our troops home.

Johnson supports ending the Afghan war now, yet he still supports the initial invasion. Contrast this with former LP presidential candidate (in 1996 and 2000) Harry Browne's proposals after 9/11, which focused on ending U.S. interventions and warned against invading Afghanistan.

I pledge to reduce military spending by 43% -- to the disbelief of those who refuse to let go of interventionist, nation-building foreign policies.... if we stop playing offense and focus on defense, a 43% cut in military spending is not only feasible, it will still leave us as the preeminent military power on the globe.

This is good as far as it goes.

Do we need hundreds of thousands of American troops in Europe and Japan? Can we not get by with only enough nukes to eradicate mankind 8 or 10 times? Do we need to have a military base in every nook and cranny of the world?

Johnson specifically cites Europe and Japan as places from which to withdraw U.S. troops. That's good -- but what about U.S. troops in the Arab states, such as Saudi Arabia? Johnson implies that he might have other nations in mind for withdrawal, but I wish he were more specific.

I advocate the use of strategic alliances to allow military obligations and needs to be more equitably shared.

I don't like the sound of "military obligations." Does the U.S. have military obligations to other nations? What does Johnson mean?

We are bankrupt. We cannot continue to bear the burden of protecting the entire world.

True. We cannot protect the "entire world." Not that the U.S. ever tried to protect the entire world, just those nations with economic value or powerful lobbies.

The only foreign aid we should offer is that which, in fact, produces savings and a positive cost-benefit for America.

I don't see how giving money to foreign nations can create "savings" for the U.S. Rather, every beggar nation (no matter how rich) will say, "Subsidizing us will save money for you!" Johnson is providing a "libertarian" talking point as cover for foreign welfare clients.

A principled policy of non-intervention does not require pledges to never ever send the military into conflict beyond our borders. I would like to think America would act to stop a Holocaust.

The Holocaust is an emotional button, often pressed to end debate. Yet this century has seen many Holocausts (e.g., Rwanda, Uganda, Bosnia, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Persia, and the former USSR), albeit by other names. There will be more. If Johnson wants the U.S. to stop them all, then he wants the U.S. to be the world's policeman -- an empire, with all the requisite costs in treasure and blood. If he only wants to stop some of them, then by what principles will he pick and choose?

Johnson has advocated keeping Gitmo open, and offered confusing statements on foreign policy in general.

Read Johnson's entire Huffington Post article.