ISIS’ spokesperson is a kid from Calgary who wants to “paint the White House black.” In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris Campbell asks one question none of the “officials” seem to care to ask: Why? Why are foreigners flocking to the Middle East to fight alongside ISIS? Why is Saudi Arabia so keen on getting involved? How far does Obama really want to go? Find out inside. Read on…
If you’ve ever wanted to expose some heinous crime against humanity, here’s your chance. In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris Campbell shows you how to make sure the world accesses to your leaks, even if something happens to you. Chris also shares why this is probably a terrible idea. Read on…
America has about 4% of the world’s population, yet houses 25% of the world’s incarcerated. What’s going on here? Chris Campbell digs deep into the industry to figure out the truth. While many blame the private prison industry, the real culprit, says Chris, begins right outside your door. Read on…
When Obama first announced U.S. airstrikes in Iraq, most people have no idea that it was to destroy U.S. military equipment in the hands of ISIS. How did ISIS get U.S. weapons? Chris Campbell blows the story wide open in today’s Laissez Faire Today. Read on…
Every 37 seconds, an American is arrested and criminalized because of one racist and ridiculous law. Join Chris Campbell as he takes you back to when marijuana became illegal… why it’s hurting America… and why you should fight to end the prohibition. And it’s not so you can smoke it. Read on…
An ancient guide has been in hiding… until now. As it dusts itself off, some early adopters are calling it “the definitive text on self-discipline, personal ethics, humility, self-actualization and strength.” And, according to Chris Campbell, it could be the only thing you need to thrive in our day-to-day life of modern chaos. Embrace it, and become the hero of your own story. Ignore it, and risk living a whimper of a life on someone else’s terms. Read on…
Think it’s impossible to escape Obamacare? Think again. Laissez Faire Today reader David F. shares how he did it and how you can do it too. Don’t see another doctor, take another pill, or shop around for better medical insurance until you read his story. Read on…
“What… is… that?!”That’s what one colleague asked when she saw this on my desk…My face, according to 3-D printing“My face,” I said. “What does it look like?”“Uh…”OK, sure. It’s a rough depiction. Eh. It’s pretty choppy…And, as you can see, the glasses didn’t really take well… making for an eerie sunken eye look.Didn’t really turn […]
“While I heartily subscribe to your premise of pursuing one’s dream,” one reader, Donald J., wrote, “there are alternate perspectives worth considering.”[We’re listening… go on.]“Some wiseguy once said that life is what happens to you while you’re waiting for something better to come along. Milton put it a little more poetically in one of his […]
“Where were you when it happened?” How many times have we been asked -- and asked -- this question since 2001? Today, Chris Campbell asks us to pose a different question: What can I do today to making Sept. 11 another turning point in my life? And then, of course, taking that first step. Read on…
Chris Campbell got more than he bargained for during Sunday brunch. In a packed restaurant, he learned about a hidden sex boom that’s taking the world by storm. You won’t believe how much money ordinary Americans are making in this boom. It’s so much…you may even consider cashing in yourself.
“Nowadays to be intelligible is to be found out.” — Oscar WildeIn the wacky world of American politics, if you as an employer have a religious objection to paying for your employees’ contraceptives, it is you who is contemptuous of religious freedom.As the New York Times editorial board lectured a judge who thinks otherwise, “the […]
Socialism is the big lie of the 20th century. While it promised prosperity, equality, and security, it delivered poverty, misery, and tyranny. Equality was achieved only in the sense that everyone was equal in his or her misery.In the same way that a Ponzi scheme or chain letter initially succeeds but eventually collapses, socialism may […]
Six months ago, I stepped out from the shadows of the United States Government’s National Security Agency to stand in front of a journalist’s camera. I shared with the world evidence proving some governments are building a worldwide surveillance system to secretly track how we live, who we talk to, and what we say. I […]
I opened a new bottle of probiotics this morning, and it had one of those circular seals on the top. You know, the one that reads, “Sealed for your protection.”And that seal got me thinking… how much protection do we need? How much security is enough?How much homogenization, pasteurization, disinfection, national security, etc…. do we […]
Last spring, Barack Obama told the graduating class of Ohio State University:“Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems… They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because […]
In the Huffington Post last week, Glenn Greenwald, Slate contributor Ryan Gallagher, and Ryan Grim had an investigative piece reporting that the NSA had been tracking the online porn-viewing habits of several Muslim leaders whom it viewed as radicals. A top-secret document shows that the agency was considering exposing these firebrands’ Internet dalliances as a […]
Americans are still trying to get a handle on the full extent of the government’s domestic spying activities, including the recent revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting and storing the email address books of ordinary Americans using online messaging services. Many users of such services are looking to tech executives for […]
A few months ago at a demonstration against the president of Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, a Canadian citizen made the following claim: “We don’t have guns, we are not Americans, we are civilized.” A few days before, in early July, a train of the company had run away and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing […]
From the Tongue-In-Cheek Department of Laissez Faire Books…Washington, D.C. — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, announced that her committee will hold a “major review into all intelligence-collection programs.” This surprising declaration followed the revelation, through documents leaked by government whistle-blower Edward Snowden, that the NSA has been listening to the […]
From the Tongue-in-Cheek Department of Laissez Faire Books…Washington, D.C. – The complex negotiations aimed at bringing a long-term solution to the federal government’s expenditure and debt problem have produced an unconventional proposal. “Although the solution only focuses on a tiny fraction of government expenditures,” declared President Barack Obama, “it is a step in the right […]
I’ve just spent a harrowing weekend reflecting on Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, the pamphlet that came out in January 1776 and turned the public toward seeking independence from Britain. I say harrowing because the distance between the ideals found in this pamphlet and those of today’s America is so vast as to be nearly unrecognizable.The […]
It was a wild ride last week in the world of the Deep Web, that section of the Internet that requires special tools to access. The feds took down the site called Silk Road and claim to have arrested its founder and administrator. The news streams were filled with lurid tales of derring-do in this […]
Want to know just how invasive the state is going to get in the United States?Well, take a look across the pond.In terms of the large, invasive state, we English are way ahead of you guys. We’re a good 50 or more years further down the road to serfdom.Nineteenth-century Britain was about as glorious a […]
A tense drama unfolded this week with the virtual shutdown of vital government agencies: the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the National Labor Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as many other such federal agencies. Without them, the Founding Fathers could not have imagined the republic.Even if fewer […]
Three months after Edward Snowden’s leaks began to reveal the extent of the U.S.’ mass surveillance program, “serious people” are beginning to make the case that it’s time for the outrage and indignation to subside and give way to a “national conversation” about the future of surveillance. So has the moment come for us to […]
A sixth-grader has been suspended for drawing an inappropriate picture. The drawing did not include any gun, but showed a checkpoint backed up by a SWAT team carrying flower pots while an unarmed drone hovered above.The suspended girl, whose name is kept secret at the request of her family, said she “just wanted to draw […]
The second part of this two-part article reveals an untold part of the story about how they were stopped last time. And shows how, if not again stopped, how it could lead to a fundamental loss of civil rights and freedom on the Internet.
The offending legislation was barreling down the track, seemingly — even in the eyes of the big Internet companies — unstoppable. According to Seamus Kraft, a former Congressional aide intimately involved with stopping the attempted hijacking:
“Enter Team Issa, just before Thanksgiving 2011. A markup for the legislation had been scheduled for mid-December. We had three weeks to interdict a scheme that had been in the works for years. And the schemers had all the money and all the guns.
“Team Issa decided that its only hope was to alert the world — and allow a counterforce to mobilize and tell their government how crippling passing this legislation would be. We went into a whiteboarding session — me and three developers — walked into a room and walked out two days later, bleary eyed.
“What we had developed, nicknamed Madison, is something that would allow everyone to participate, constructively, in the writing of bills. Basically, we hacked together a way that brings in everyone who had been shut out of the process.”
An upshot of that event, not so incidentally, is OpenGovFoundation.org, underwritten mostly by the Knight Foundation and headed by Kraft, bringing constituent light into the legislative and rulemaking process. For his work Kraft was dubbed one of “the 20 most innovative people in democracy 2012” by Techcrunch.com). Kraft:
“We used this program during the legislative markup. Bills live or die by their markup. We broadcast a stable video stream of the proceedings… while following line by line. We used it to give other user proposals thumbs up and thumbs down. Everything from a Congressional markup was modeled online. And we used it to identify who was taking what out and who was putting what in… tearing away the shroud of secrecy and injecting accountability.
“Citizens actually could participate and make their voices heard. At last, someone authentically had invited all the stakeholders into the room. Rep. Issa and other champions, notably Chaffetz and Polis, used this mechanism to ask hard questions and access the know how. It was revolutionary.
“Issa and his allies — backed, online, in real time, by real experts — threw everything they had at the proponents during two marathon days of hearings. Issa proposed amendments to this high-handed bill that the proponents just couldn’t even respond to.
“The proponents hadn’t anticipated sustained or sophisticated opposition. Here they were, in front of the whole world, confronting egregious injustices baked into the proposed legislation.
“Issa kept hammering the committee all day Thursday and Friday. By the end of the day Friday, when it was clear that Issa was just warming up, the chairman suspended the markup. Congress recessed for Christmas.”
That recess gave the forces of Freedom for the Internet (and of speech, the press, and assembly), of whom Aaron Swartz was by the most credible accounts the most important leader, time to rally. Big players, like Wikipedia, Reddit, and Google, began to organize for a Jan. 18, 2012 Web uprising. The snowball started by Aaron Swartz over a year before had become an avalanche.
Issa and his allies provided the Freedom Fighters a clean focal point. Kraft:
“Jan. 18 was chosen because Issa, as chairman, had scheduled a Government Oversight Committee hearing to bring in the experts for that date. With Wikipedia preparing to close shop that day, Google draping its logo in black, and so forth, much of the Internet would be dark… or loudly protesting. But the video stream of the House of Representatives would be live. The combination could have caused the largest “viral video” in history.
“SOPA’s proponents knew that such a campaign could finish them off — forever. They chose a tactical retreat. The bill was formally determined, by leadership and the committee chairman, to be killed a few days before the scheduled hearing.”
The Irresistible Force of the popular will met, and merged with, the Immovable Object of a handful of courageous lawmakers. So ended SOPA.
At least, so ended SOPA 1.0. A sequel, it appears, has been greenlighted by the Motion Picture Association or its constituents. Now creep back those who scheme to take the wild, fertile, and free Internet, throw barbed wire around it, and turn it into a hunting preserve for Hollywood and record companies.
About six months before he died Aaron Swartz recited a truly chilling anecdote. It reveals something about what’s really going on: a desire by those with power to crush liberty.
From a rush transcript published by DemocracyNow.org of Swartz’s keynote address at Freedom to Connect:
“I was at an event, and I was talking, and I got introduced to a U.S. senator, one of the strongest proponents of the original… bill, in fact. And I asked him why, despite being such a progressive, despite giving a speech in favor of civil liberties, why he was supporting a bill that would censor the Internet. And, you know, that typical politician smile he had suddenly faded from his face, and his eyes started burning this fiery red. And he started shouting at me, said, ‘Those people on the Internet, they think they can get away with anything! They think they can just put anything up there, and there’s nothing we can do to stop them! They put up everything! They put up our nuclear missiles, and they just laugh at us! Well, we’re going to show them! There’s got to be laws on the Internet! It’s got to be under control!’
“Now, as far as I know, nobody has ever put up the U.S.’s nuclear missiles on the Internet. I mean, it’s not something I’ve heard about. But that’s sort of the point. He wasn’t having a rational concern, right? It was this irrational fear that things were out of control. Here was this man, a United States Senator, and those people on the Internet, they were just mocking him. They had to be brought under control. Things had to be under control. And I think that was the attitude of Congress. And just as seeing that fire in that Senator’s eyes scared me, I think those hearings scared a lot of people. They saw this wasn’t the attitude of a thoughtful government trying to resolve trade-offs in order to best represent its citizens. This was more like the attitude of a tyrant. And so the citizens fought back.”
Aaron Swartz is dead now, at age 26. He took his own life after having been tyrannized by the United States Department of Justice, hounded by a prosecutor as merciless as Inspector Javert of Les Miserables infamy. Chairman Issa has written to Attorney General Holder: “The suggestions that prosecutors did in fact seek to make an example out of Aaron Swartz because Demand Progress exercised its First Amendment rights in publicly supporting him raises new questions about the Department’s handling of the case.”
One last time — and perhaps with even more potentially powerful ramifications — Darrell Issa’s integrity — the Immovable Object — joins with the Irresistible Force of the spirit of the people’s paladin, Aaron Swartz. Perhaps Swartz’s death will unleash a more explosive force for freedom than Big Government’s agents foresaw. “You can’t win, Vader. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”
Meanwhile, evidence shows Big Hollywood and the Big Record Industry, again conniving with Big Government, to appropriate the Internet: SOPA 2.0. If they succeed… we — hello Sir Tim — might as well change the Web’s name to C2P2: “Concentration Camp Penny Pritzker.” Let Anonymous take note.
Stopping SOPA, thereby keeping our Constitutional rights protected on the Internet, was a near thing. If Issa had not, by pure chance (or Providence), been a member of the relevant committee; if a scheduling conflict had kept him from the hearing; if he had just missed the cue; if he did not chair another committee giving him clout… the Internet might now, effectively, belong to Sony, Time-Warner, Disney et. al… protected, for them, by a minefield of embedded felony statutes under the pretext of “property rights.”
Let us hope that the more affluent beneficiaries of freedom of speech, of the press and of assembly — the founders of Google, Paypal, Twitter and Facebook, for example — take note — and honor the memory of Aaron Swartz. These entrepreneurs flourish, as we all flourish, from an equitable balance of property rights and civil liberty.
Let us pray Silicon Valley doesn’t get caught napping again. Next time could be the last time. Much of free speech, in practice, could be relegated from the Web to… taggers.
The Bill of Rights — including freedom of speech, the press, assembly — on the Web as elsewhere — is far too precious to take for granted.
Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.
No to SOPA 2.0.
— Ralph Benko
Article originally appeared here.