The New Revolutionaries Take to the Internet: The Tale of WikiLeaks and Julian Assange

WikiLeaks raises some of the most poignant questions of our time about the power of cyber warfare, the role of hackers, and the future of the Internet. It is not a coincidence that Madame Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has created a whole new effort to explore and fight cyber terrorism. In fact, WikiLeaks and Assange may represent the first of the wholesale anarchists using today’s information highway to do battle. Consider that instead of taking to the streets in protest, this generation may take to the Internet to wage their battles and carry their message. We are living a time represented by the power of Facebook that links over 500 million people together. And if this is true, we may have unleashed a whole new generation of cyber warlords on the world’s information centers.
Many of our brethren are writing about democracy, liberty and the freedom of information pivoting off what they believe WikiLeaks stands for. Julian Assange has been elevated to the “Man of the People” as filmmaker Michael Moore contributes to his bail fund, and the Huffington Post sets up a whole section devoted to whistleblower Fantasy Land. You know, we all need something valiant to believe in during the difficult days of Obama. The obnoxious wealthy are dancing on the heads of US lawmakers. The banks are still doing the Texas two-step, and the Middle Class continues to suffer in silence with simmering rage. There are two deeply divisive wars. China is rising and scaring the heck out of us. The liberals of the Democratic Party continue to act like toddlers, and Sarah Palin is making hay laughing all the way to her off-shore accounts. So Julian Assange, or whoever is backing him, could not have picked a better moment of discontent. They are evoking new archetypes of good and bad in a world that is increasing grey.
Assange is the anti-hero. He has been personified as a man with no country who is a metrosexual kind of guy willing to risk it all to uncover the truth. Yet, we don’t really know much about this man, or what makes him tick. Is he really the wizard behind or the curtain, or there really someone or something else pulling the strings. Is he a hacker extraordinaire, or just a man that is a brilliant online community organizer? In fact and most importantly, what does it mean to be a hacker? Are hackers by definition anarchists, or is it just Julian that wants to topple the establishment at any cost. Or are there droves of these cyber-sleuths trolling the black lands of the Internet looking for back doors into silos of information? Remember Assange was a cryptologist of sorts which is the super duper folks that develop the ways to tunnel into software code. And it may be fair to assume that these same hackers were probably responsible for the DOS (Denial of Service) attacks on Visa, Master Card and others. And if this is true then who is really pulling the strings since these were very, targeted attacks on specific corporations that shut out the money flow for WikiLeaks? The bottom line is that we still don’t know how the WikiLeaks information is gathered and/or obtained. Does it come from this new breed of whistleblowers, such as Private Manning that had a rare blend of tech talents and access? If so; does this new breed even resemble our beloved archetypical whistleblowers circa Daniel Ellsberg, or even Erin Brockovich? And I ask again, have we grappled with the ramifications of an Internet that is locked down in response to WikiLeaks? Are we ready to usher in a new age of restrictions? This sadly will make the debate around net neutrality seem like child’s play if cyber war erupts.
Please note that this post appeared earlier in the day in the Huffington Post.

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Speak Out California Is Back Up And Running!

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This post originally appeared at Speak Out California.
One day your website is yours, and the next day it is someone else’s. Organizations, businesses and regular people are at the mercy of a confusing deregulated system.
A little over a week ago the Speak Out California website suddenly disappeared, and viewers instead saw a website full of advertisements.
We had no way of even knowing what had happened. It was just a surprise. One day typing “speakoutca.org” into a web browser took viewers to our website, the next day it took viewers to an ad site that someone else managed.
Some of us are more sophisticated and internet-savvy than most citizens so we were eventually able to track down some information. I’m not going into details here, except to say that no one at Speak Out California received any notice that this was going to happen. It took several days to even track down where the domain name (this is what internet addresses like speakoutca.org are called) had been registered, who had registered it, and contact info for the registrar. Then it took several more days to restore the domain name to us and get it working again.
Here’s the thing: the only way we were able to get this name back and get the site operating again is because some of us are much more internet-connected than most people. Most people would have no idea where to even start to look for information and help solving a problem like this.
This is certainly not an uncommon problem. My wife had a business named Dancing Woman Designs with a website at dancingwomandesigns.com, and then one day she didn’t. She received no notice, nothing. It was just there one day and gone the next and if she wanted it back it was going to cost her. It was going to cost her a lot. And so she doesn’t have dancingwomandesigns.com anymore and that address takes you to an ad site. A whole business that took years to get going and build is history now. It was wiped out in a minute because someone was able to get the web name.
A larger business is more likely to have the resources to hire the necessary experts to fight something like this. But it can be an expensive proposition and it can take time.
This is the difference between regulation and deregulation. Regulations protect regular people. Deregulation enables and protects scammers, schemers, and cons. The Internet is largely unregulated and is full of scammers, schemers and cons. Most of the businesses and organizations on the internet are good, honest, credible and legitimate but regular people are also left completely at the mercy of numerous cons, scams, schemes and rip-offs and the burden is on us to find a way to tell the difference.
We got Speak Out California back up and running. It only took us a week and a little money. But we are sophisticated, internet-savvy and connected — and lucky. Hmm … maybe some new legislation is warranted.
Click through to Speak Out California

Tax Internet Sales — Just Like Local Stores

This post was originally written for Speak Out California
Have you ever bought something online, had a problem, and tried to reach the company’s customer support line? Could you even find a phone number to call? If there was a phone number to call did you reach a phone tree or a person? Were you on hold for a long time? If you ever did reach a human, was the person in the United States or did they at least speak English (or Spanish) clearly enough to be able to help you?
A local store employs people in your town, boosting the local economy. The local store either owns or pays rent for their space, which means they pay local taxes to support police and fire services and schools, etc. The local store has people who can help you when you have a problem.
But buying something from your local store usually costs a bit more. This is because they pay to have actual employees to help you, pay rent, pay to maintain a building, etc. And, finally, the goods cost a bit more because you have to pay sales taxes when you shop at your local store.
The state of California, in its wisdom, has chosen to provide a huge tax subsidy to anonymous internet businesses, at the expense of your local retailers. You pay sales taxes locally, but not online.
Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t the state want to promote local stores, local employment, local police and fire services, local schools and a prosperous local economy? Shouldn’t the state be promoting a thriving local economic ecosystem? Instead the state provides a huge competitive advantage to anonymous internet businesses.
With a huge budget deficit, with the Governor calling for 10% across-the-board cuts in your children’s schools, police patrols, fire protection, parks, and all the other things our state government does for us, the state still hands the anonymous internet businesses a huge competitive advantage over our local retailers by letting them no charge sales taxes.
You owe it to yourself and your local community to find out if YOUR Assemblymember or Senator supports a requirement that internet companies charge the same sales taxes as your local businesses charge.
Click through to Speak Out California.

They’re Going To Ban BuzzFlash

UpdateWE WON! Go read.

The Republicans are trying to “deregulate” the Internet. They’re about to allow the big telecommunications companies to decide which websites their customers (YOU) can and can’t see. This is what “Net Neutrality” is about. If you are against letting big companies decide what websites you can see, that means you are in favor of Net Neutrality.
MAKE NO MISTAKE about what this will mean. In the 1980s the Republicans “deregulated” radio and television by getting rid of the Fairness Doctrine and allowing a few big companies to buy up all the stations, and now you can’t turn on the radio without hearing that conservatives are good and liberals are bad. And you will not ever see a representative of organized labor on your television telling you about the benefits of joining a union. In the South the ONLY viewpoint you ever hear is the Republican Party viewpoint. MAKE NO MISTAKE about what “deregulating” the Internet will mean. It means they will ban BuzzFlash, and DailyKos, and Digby and any other voice that speaks out against the corporate takeover of your country.
Here is what you can do today. Matt Stoller has a post up at MyDD with a list of members of Congress to call TODAY. Matt says

Urge them to support the bipartisan Sensenbrenner-Conyers Net Neutrality bill (HR 5417) in the Judiciary Committee on Thursday — and to support it without amendment. Saying without amendment is key.

Here is the list:

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